A LIFE IN CONTROL IN AN OUT OF CONTROL WORLD

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stormy-waters

TEXT: Daniel 1:6-2:45

INTRODUCTION:

As I reflect back on my life, there was a time that it seems that my world was out of control. It was when I resigned from work and entered full-time ministry, without really knowing what will happen to me. I just followed God’s voice, but not seeing a very clear direction that I must take.

I left my parents’ house and lived at the church’s parsonage for me to really have a focus on the things that I must do as a full-time pastor. It was a total transformation of lifestyle. I need to cook for my own food, unlike living in with your parents, “Voila! Food is served!” I need to budget my depleting resource that time, for I have not received any allowance from the church. I cant even buy new shoes or clothes, because every time I’ll be thinking of buying one, I need to think of my food for the next days or else I’ll be forced to fast. I felt my life was out of control!

It’s a total turnaround of my life!

Transition:

But my change of lifestyle was nothing compared to Daniel and his friends when they were taken as hostages from Jerusalem to Babylon. Daniel and his friends determined to live their lives in control in an out of control world.

Daniel is a good example of what you can do to live your life in control in an out of control world.

1. DANIEL RESOLVED NOT TO COMPROMISE HIS BELIEFS. (Daniel 1:6-21)

Daniel stood tall for God in a godless culture. He confronted culture and planned his life to stay true to his convictions. Daniel and his friends faced false teachings and false god, head on. The Babylonians did all they could to turn Daniel and his friends away from their Hebrew faith. They even changed their names:

• Daniel means “God is my Judge” – (Belteshazzar – Bel’s Prince)

• Hananiah means “Yahweh is gracious” – (Shadrach – Command of Aku)

• Mishael means “Who is like God?” – (Meshach – Who is like Aku?)

• Azariah means “Yahweh has helped” – (Abednego – Servant of Nebo)

Bel, Aku, and Nebo were Babylonian gods.

All during his life, Daniel refused to accept the Babylonian identity. He never forgot that he was Daniel. He always referred to himself as Daniel and not as Belteshazzar.

He refused to live as a Babylonian and would not eat the meat ordered for them by the king. All the meat and wine in the king’s household was first offered sacrificially to the Babylonian gods. According to God’s law, for Daniel to partake of the meat would be to participate in idolatry. Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine. Daniel 1:8

Daniel challenged the chief official to give them the test for ten days of eating nothing but vegetables and water to drink. After ten days they were healthier looking than those who ate the king’s royal food.

Daniel also had the test of truth. For three years he was indoctrinated in pagan Babylonian thinking and education. His professors told him over and over that the Hebrew God was dead. Only the Babylonian gods, Bel, Aku, and Nebo live. Daniel remained true to his faith in God.

This story is so familiar and so bathed in the aura of Sunday School story time that it’s very easy to miss the great risk that Daniel was taking here.

Illustration:

In an article that I read, an eighteen-year old teenager received a call from the US President himself.

The young man is handsome, talented, intelligent and shows great promise, he simply cannot afford college because his family is poor. He graduates from high school only to spend one miserable day after another flipping hamburgers at the local McDonald’s.

Then out of the blue, something amazing happens. He comes home one day, sweating and smelling of French fries, and his Mom meets him at the door. She says, “Son, the President is on the phone for you.”

“Sure, Mom! That really cheers me up,” he says.

Then his Mom says, “No, I mean it. The President of the United States is on the phone—for you.”

And it is true. The President is on the phone. “Son,” he says, “I hear you have the intelligence and the grades but you just don’t have the money. I’m going to make it up to you.”

The young man nearly faints as he listens to the President’s offer: A full scholarship to the best university near Washington, D.C. The President says the he can even live in the White House, eat with him, and get a Secret Service escort to and from school.

And upon graduation, the young man will be awarded an ambassador’s position in the diplomatic service. Suddenly this obscure young man is going to have all the world can offer. His potential will be realized and his dreams will be fulfilled!

But there is one slight hitch. The President says that because the young man is being groomed for a job in the State Department he should begin practicing diplomacy now. “We hear that you are a committed Christian. That’s great. A little religion is good for anyone. However, we get a lot of different people from different places and religions coming through the White house. We don’t want to embarrass or upset anyone. So I want a promise from you that you will never read the Bible, pray, or attend church as long as you live in my house or work in the foreign-service.”

Picture yourself as that young person. What would you say? Would you make that promise? Removed from the actual situation and the pressures of reality, it’s very easy for us to say today that we would not take up that offer. But is it really that simple?

The costs involved in making a serious commitment to following Christ are sometimes very high. Verse 8 tells us that Daniel responded by resolving not to compromise: “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way” (1:8).

Well, how can you resolve not to compromise?

Think of Christ. He was tempted just as Daniel was. And yet he never compromised. Instead Jesus eventually paid the price of all of our sin. Jesus paid the penalty for all of our falls into isolation, indoctrination, and immorality. He now invites us to place it all at the foot of the cross.

Your motivation not to compromise your faith is an expression of gratitude to Christ for all that he has done to bring you into a right relationship with the Father. Christ died to secure a place in heaven for you. The least you can do in gratitude to him is to resolve not to compromise your faith.

Illustration:

A friend of mine had his faith tested recently. He was working for a big company with a good supervisory position. He is a new Christian and is trying to have a Christian home.

A couple of months ago his boss partnered with a “normal” businessman (not a Christian), who quoted saying that all Christians are weak and religion are for weak people. The following day, his boss asked him if he is a Christian and what he can say about his faith. Within a few weeks after he made that statement to his boss he was fired along with other Christian employees.

Friends, there is often a price to pay when we remain true to our convictions as a Christian, but we must resolve not to compromise our beliefs.

I am so convicted to tell you that even if your situation seems to be out of control and yet you’re standing firm on your convictions, God will surely honor your conviction! (Never mong ideny kung sino ka at kung ano ang pananampalataya mo! Wag mong ikahiyang ikaw ay isang Kristyano dahil lang sa isang pabor, dahil lang sa promotion, dahil lang sa negosyo…kahit na sabihing uunlad ka sa iligal, etc., anong sabi ng Bible, “What profits a man if he gains the whole world, but forfeit his soul.” Hindi approval ng tao ang hanap natin bilang mananampalataya, i-reject ka man ng mundong ito, ang mahalaga ay accepted ka at approved ka sa mata ng ating Panginoon! Kapag tinanggihan mo ang isang bagay para sa pangalan ng Panginoon, Sya rin ang gagawa ng paraan para ang pangalan Nya ay maitanyag sa pamamagitan mo!) Many are the stories we heard that though they lose a work, a friend, a job, a business, because of their belief in God, God has replaced what they lose with something greater! Even if your world seems to be falling apart, and out of control, NEVER EVER COMPROMISE YOUR BELIEFS IN GOD!

2. DANIEL USED HIS MOST POWERFUL WEAPON – PRAYER. (Daniel 2:1-30)

Read: Verse 1-12

Daniel’s response is in verses 17-18: “Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.”

Simply put, when the world is out of control, Daniel fell to his knees. DANIEL PRAYED! Although he secured extra time from the king, that reprieve was not to cook up an escape plan. It was so that he might immediately gather those who love the Lord and fervently pray. Daniel understood that a humanly impossible situation, uncontrollable situation, can only be resolved with divine intervention.

Let’s pause here for just a moment and think about this. Someone once said, “We’re all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations!”

When Daniel’s world is out of control, he saw an opportunity. When Daniel heard the king wanted not only an interpretation of his dream but also the recounting of the dream itself, Daniel thought, “Wait a minute, this is a great opportunity for God to work.” It was impossible and urgent: All the makings for God to do a great work for his own glory!

The truth is that we don’t think like that. Instead, we begin to look for a way we can take care of our problems ourselves.

So we lie awake at night and toss and turn, saying to ourselves, “How am I going to work this one out?” rather than saying, “Lord, this is your specialty! Take over and do a work here that will glorify your name!”

But there is something else about Daniel’s response you must not miss here. In verse 17 we find that after Daniel talked to the commander of the king’s guard, he then went to his three friends. The word translated “friends” in verse 17 is from the Hebrew word that means “to tie a knot, to join together.” Daniel’s heart was tied in a knot with his three friends.

Picture this: Daniel came walking through the door. His three friends were sitting there watching 24 Oras or TV Patrol or News 5 Headline about the king’s threat and the predicament of the wise men, and Daniel said, “Well, guys, we’re facing a pretty serious situation. It is so serious that if God doesn’t come through, we don’t continue to live.”

After Daniel’s friends heard all the details of the situation, they slipped out of their chairs and on to their knees before God. They probably forgot all about dinner. They may have not even slept that night. They may have prayed all night.

When a situation is really urgent, it’s amazing how insignificant all the other things in life are.

There are very few fellowships that ever get closer than those fellowships that are tied together with the strings of prayer. When you have a need in your life, don’t go it alone. Don’t play tough. Instead, learn to share that need with someone else. Tie a knot with a friend. Bind together. Covenant to pray together.

Daniel and his friends set aside the things of this world so that they might, according to verse 18, plead for mercy from the God of heaven so that they might not be executed.

It probably doesn’t strike you as significant that Daniel’s first response to his crisis was prayer. We all tend to think of Daniel as one of the great Fathers of the faith who is supposed to pray like that. But I want you to realize today that if anybody had a reason to skip prayer as a first option, it was Daniel.

He had many other options. For one thing, he was brilliant, ten times wiser than the wisest man in Babylon. So he could have used this extra time to figure out some solution to his predicament.

Daniel also had power. He was now in the king’s service. He had learned to manage the politics of the royal court. Maybe he could pull some political strings, call in some favors, twist an arm, or use the “good old boy” network.

Yet, in his crisis, when things are beyond his control, Daniel chose prayer first!

Transition:

Too often I’m afraid we fail to follow Daniel’s example in our crises, no matter how spiritually mature we may think we are.

God’s abilities are beyond our imagining. His ways are beyond our knowing. His solutions are beyond our doing. That is why when things are beyond/or out of control, we must always seek HIM first in PRAYER.

So why don’t we follow this example of Daniel and seek God in prayer more often? The answer is painfully simple: Because we usually forget how truly helpless we are apart from God.

We continue to believe that our own efforts are what really make things happen. In the business world, in our families, even in the church, we believe our activities and programs and planning are the cause of successes or of failure. So, when things are out of control, when our world is falling apart, we all instinctively turn to ourselves. We’re so accustomed to depending on our own resources that we neglect seeking God’s supply when we need it the most.

Illustration:

In Tom Peter’s book In Search of Excellence he mentions a psychological study where adult men were asked to rank themselves on their “ability to get along with others.” 100% of the men ranked themselves above average. 60% ranked themselves in the top 10% of the population, and 25% of the men humbly thought they were in the top 1% of the population.

What did Peters conclude from all this? He wrote: “We all think we’re tops. We’re exuberantly, wildly irrational about ourselves.”

The reason we don’t pray is that it costs. It costs honesty. You have to be honest with God and say, “I am inadequate. I need your help in this situation.” As long as you feel self-sufficient, prayer will have no meaning for you because you think you’ve got it all together.

Prayer is a declaration of your dependence on God. It doesn’t mean that you become irresponsible about your duties and plans. It’s simply acknowledging your dependency.

It’s saying, “God, apart from you, all my actions and plans mean nothing. On my own I can’t fix this. I can’t put it together again, heal this wound, correct this fault, or clean up this mess. Lord, you must take control if any good is to result. Use me if you will, but you must do what I confess I cannot do alone, despite my position, my intelligence and my connections. Lord God, I trust in you alone.”

Illustration:

Jack Miller was an author, pastor and seminary professor. God taught Jack the vital importance of this truth I am sharing with you today. In a letter to a friend, Jack wrote these words, “Please pray for my habitual tendency to trust in myself and what I can do.”

Great men and women of God have always recognized the temptation to depend on themselves. We should all recognize that weakness in ourselves.

When your world is out of control, be very careful not to become so busy taking care of the problem that you forget to use God’s weapon placed in your hand—PRAYER! Amen.

3. DANIEL KNEW THAT GOD IS IN CONTROL.

Daniel knew God. You may know a lot about God. You may know parts of the Bible. But, do you know God? Daniel knew God. Living and serving God meant more to the teenager Daniel than having the approval of his Babylonian peers. Knowing God meant more than living in comfort and having fame. Putting God first in your life means more than having a plaque on your desk that reads, “God first.”

Daniel knew that God was with him. His God was not left behind in a temple in Jerusalem. His God was not some limited deity. Remember this, if you allow Satan to succeed in keeping your mind confused about God, he will control your life and succeed in corrupting your faith. Daniel knew that God is always in control. He sang out in praise to God Daniel 2:20-23. (read)

Daniel teaches us a couple of lessons:

• Life is out of our control.

A man who battled cancer for two years testified: “The things that matter the most to us in life are the things we control the very least.”

Someone else said: “Life is meant to bring us a succession of experiences to show us our need of Christ.”

The object of Daniel’s faith was the omnipresent-always present, omnipotent-all powerful, omniscient-all knowing, and immutable-changeless God.

• No matter what happens, trust God.

Illustration:

A reporter once asked Albert Einstein’s wife if she understood the theory of relativity. She replied, “No, but I know Albert, and he can be trusted.” Can you say the same thing about God? “No, I don’t understand what God is doing in my life right now. But I know God, and He can be trusted.”

The tendency of most Christians is to use God to solve their problems. God wants you to use your problems to find Him. Otherwise we tend to use God rather than worship Him.

CONCLUSION:

Your infinite God cares for you. In the midst of time and eternity God comes to you. He tells you that you matter to him. In our vast universe God knows your name. He cares for you.

Illustration:

Scientists tell us there are many galaxies in the universe. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is an average size, 140 billion star system shaped like a spinning pin wheel. It is a mere 100,000 light years in diameter and 1,000 light years thick. Just think, if we could travel at the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second, we could travel from one side of our galaxy to the other in 100,000 years. Scientists predict there are billions of these stay systems in the universe with an average of ten million light years apart.

No matter how big or vast the galaxy may be, God loves you so much that he sends His Son, Jesus, to demonstrate how great is His love for you!

With the Psalmist we can sing out in Psalm 46:1-3: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, through the waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

To live your life in control in an out of control world: (Summarize)

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CROSSING THE JORDAN

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TEXT: Joshua 3:1-17

INTRODUCTION:

Life can be tough!

• Reported attempted suicides increases annually.
• Drug use is epidemic, much of it an attempt to manage the pressure of life.
• Our land has so much alcoholics and many more that cannot face the day or night without a few stiff drinks or a six-pack.
• Many are depressed and taking downers just to go to sleep.

Each of us, from time to time, runs up against a problem that resists every effort we make to create a solution. My heart aches as I share in the challenges our people faces.

• Some are having problems in their marriages/relationships;
• Some are fighting habits that hang on to them like a pitbull.
• Others bring the story of a mountain of debt that has accumulated.

I’ve listened to older people telling of lonely days and the fear of being incapable of caring for themselves. There are myriad stories from those who are trying to cope with chronic illness, bad job situations, grief, or stresses that are pushing them to the limits of their endurance!

Christians, we live in a world were the Devil does his best to kill and destroy. Our status as God’s children does not exempt us from the curse of sin. Christians wrestle with the same temptations, get the same cancers, face the same tough bosses, and live in the same economic conditions as everyone else.

Here’s our word of hope – WE ARE NOT EXEMPT FROM THE PROBLEMS, BUT WE HAVE RESOURCES FROM GOD TO CARRY US THROUGH! The Word tells us, “God can do anything, you know–far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” (Ephesians 3:20, The Message)

Transition:

Today, in the book of Joshua reading the story of God’s people who were taking possession of the Promised Land. Here we find lessons and principles for crossing our Jordan’s and possessing our “Promised Land”

In the 3rd and 4th chapters, we come to the place where Joshua is to lead the people into Canaan. Talk about pressure, Joshua had it! God pointed him in the direction of Canaan and said, “Go!” That was great, except for one thing. Right in front of Joshua and Israel there was a river, and it was flowing full to its bank – at flood-stage!

• What would he do?
• How could he obey?
• Could he go forward?

This Bible story has rich lessons of encouragement for us. Here’s the basic principle that I want you to take home today – I want you to right this down…OUR IMPOSSIBILITIES ARE GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES!

Let me first give you the MEANING of the crossing (3: 1-4)

The Lord declared, “Now is the time for occupation of Caanan!” There was a TRANSITION to be made! They were confronted with a definite moment of choice that would change Israel from a wandering nation to a settled nation, from a people living in hope of a promise to a people living in possession of the promise!

The ’crossing over’ was much more than moving the camp from one side of a river to the other. It was a time of commitment, a time of ending one era and entering another. To further complicate matter, a definite sense of uncertainty accompanied the crossing. On the other side of the river were walled cities, defending armies, and even ’giants’ – well equipped warriors. 40 years prior Israel had been presented with the same choice to make a transition and they refused! This time, Joshua was ready to move them forward.

If we would realize the Promises of God in our lives, the very first thing that you and I must be ready to do is to move ahead obediently into transitions – EVEN WITH ALL THE UNCERTAINTY THAT COMES WITH CHANGE.

Transitions are often traumatic and always require great faith in order to realize their full promise! How well do you do change? It is inevitable that change will come, but how you experience it, is YOUR DECISION!

What are some of those transitions?

• Childhood to Teen years — a transition too many of us ignore or treat lightly, which might partially explain why so many lives fall apart in that time of life!
• Teen to Career and Marriage — lots of questions, lots of uncertainty, lots of optimism
• From couple to family, then back 25 years later to couple! — very interesting time, accompanied by all kinds of physical changes, too
• Midlife transition from success to significance — midlife crisis is no joke!
• Preparing for the end of life, accepting our mortality!

Some of these transitions are driven by time, others by experience. Our kids grow up, our bodies age – and nothing can stop the transitions that come with the passage of time. But other transitions present themselves to us through things like: an unexpected job offer, a first heart attack, a separation, or the death of a parent. The fact is this – CHANGE IS INEVITABLE. Whether it is change we choose or change presented to us.

The question is – will you cower in fear of what lies on the other side of the crossing or move forward in confidence to enter a new place of promise?

Our text helps us to prepare for crossings, for those transitions by showing us a pattern of action.

1. FOLLOW!

Joshua focused the attention of the Israelites on the Ark of the Covenant.

Do you know what the Ark was?

The Ark was the visible symbol of the presence of God among the people of Israel. Customarily the ark was set in the Holiest of Holies in the center of the Tabernacle of worship. Only the high priest of Israel went into that room to present sacrifice before the Lord.

“Focus on the presence of the Lord,” he told the people, “for he is the One who will lead us into Caanan.”

Transition/Application:

As we prepare for the transitions, we must be centered on the Presence of the Lord and ready to FOLLOW.

No longer do we look to a visible symbol of God’s presence among us, we have the Spirit in our hearts! God has a plan, a way for you to make it through that difficulty that has you frustrated. But will you humbly let Him lead? Are you willing to follow his leadership in your life?

• He knows the way to reach that husband that seems so resistant to Christ.
• Teen- He knows how uncertain you feel about the future and wants to lead you to the right college, the right marriage partner, the right career!
• He knows the way for you to cope with that cancer, even using it to create new intimacy with Himself.
• He has a plan for the second half of your life as you desire to do something with more significance than making money.
• He has a plan for that business or work that you’re having.
• He has a plan for your marriage as you’re preparing for the challenges of parenting or as you move into the time of the ’empty nest.’

He is an eternal God and knows the very details of your life, that even if you’re facing an obstacle today, that scares you, remember what the Bible tells us, that, “though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you will fear no evil, for He is with you.”

But, will you take it to him, focusing in on his presence and ready to be obedient as He leads you today?

The significant point of the story, and even of the whole book of Joshua, is that GOD GOES FIRST. The Ark enters the water ahead of the people. The priests walk out and stand in the middle of the river “ahead of the people” (vs. 14). And then the people follow, they obey, they step out in courage and cross the river.

And that is exactly what you need to do in your life. You need to know that the Lord has promised to be there with you. You need to trust in him. Complete trust. When the Lord reveals something in Scripture to you, you need to trust it. And you need to follow it.

2. CONSECRATE!

The Israelites were directed to get their hearts ready by renewing their understanding of their unique place as the ’people of God!’ “Let’s move into a state of high consciousness of the Lord’s law,” Joshua said.

The command, “Consecrate,” meant they were to observe special dietary restrictions, to abstain from drinking wine, to put off any celebrations. Such a command had been given before at the foot of Mt. Sinai in preparation for the giving of the Law.

Transition/Application:

The Bible describes us as “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God,” (1 Peter 2:9, NIV) It is clear that our holiness is not earned, merited – in any self-created. It is the work of God in us, and yet we are always called to make the choice to be God’s own, to live in awareness of His Presence, and to avoid unworthy actions that would diminish His reputation or offend Him.

From our text, I am prepared to assert that in times of transition we need to become even more conscious of God’s Presence. Even holy people can renew their consecration.

One way is the DISCIPLINE OF FASTING! If you’re not familiar with the concept, to fast means to abstain from some normal part of life for a spiritual purpose. We might abstain from rich foods, eating a plain diet as we seek God. We might engage in a total fast, taking no food in order to pray intensely. We might set aside entertainment – TV, music, games – to focus on God. The NT even refers to a married couple setting aside sexual intimacy for a time in order to focus on prayer. Fasting is not to impress God! Fasting is not to force God to act, like a hunger strike! Fasting is a time to focus, to listen intently to God.

Another way to consecrate ourselves, is to CREATE SPACE IN OUR LIVES FOR EXTENDED TIME OF WORSHIP & PRAYER. Transition times should be marked by pauses in daily routines when we retreat to meditation, to quiet times of listening, to earnest discussions with other Believers about God’s work.

God moves among holy people. The Bible says, “Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will accept…Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.” (Romans 12:1-2, NLT)

These acts of renewing our commitment, of making a new consecration, prepares us to follow Him through the transitions into new places. The more you consecrate yourself, the more discerning you can become…You can easily hear the Voice/prompting of God in your life…You can easily understand His direction and even unknown circumstances that you will face in your time of transition…You can even find strength as you face obstacles and detours in your pursuit for the things He wants to accomplish in your life.

Consecrating is a way of making a new declaration of dependence on our Lord and the power of His Holy Spirit.

3. MOVE OUT!

The day for stepping out arrives. Israel strikes her tents. The Levitical workers took down the Tabernacle. The priests step forward and shoulder the Ark. The sacred shofar sounds – announcing- “Move out!”

An awesome procession begins. I can hear the shuffle of a million feet, the bleating of sheep and goats. I can almost taste the dust as it rises. Down the center avenue of the camp towards the water’s edge the priests march. The river was overflowing its banks. It was an impossible barrier for a 1/2 million people.

What would happen?

Try to imagine what it must have been like to be the priests at the front of the group carrying the ark. You are walking towards a river with no bridge, no way across. According to the Bible, it was not until their feet touched the water’s edge that the Lord stopped the flow!

Transition/Application:

Ever met one of those people who are always preparing, but who never ‘moved out?’

• There’s the guy who proposed to his fiancé 5 years ago, but still won’t set a date to get married;
• The person who’s always preparing himself/herself for a job, but not really applying for a job (too lazy);
• A Christian who would always attends seminar about business, how to manage a business, attending symposiums, etc., but is not really determined to start his own business, not really believing God that God will bless him;
• The Christian who talks about doing ministry, but never steps up and actually does it!

Transitions demand a moment of decision when all the preparation leads to putting it on the line and MOVING OUT! There is always this principle to be aware of: “The greater the potential for reward that is created by the choice, the greater the risk.”

But are we really risking if we’re following God’s Presence and living a life of consecration? Sure we are! Israel was entering the Promised Land under God’s guidance. They had all the promises written down and stored in memory – BUT they still have to possess the land. There would be battles, there would be difficulties. Mute testimony to that fact lay just a few miles ahead in the form of a fortified little city called- Jericho!

There comes a moment to commit to the process, to step out, to risk it all. In those moments we discover who God is, and understands the depth of His love for us. Sometimes even more exciting is the opportunity to find out who we really are!

It may take some moments approaching desperation, moments when it is time to get our feet wet, but if we are living in the promises we can step ahead knowing that the Lord will make the way.

I urge you to make the kind of commitment to the things of God from which there is no retreat. As we move out to live in the new place of God’s provision, let’s be done with human efforts and solutions of men. Let’s proclaim our total dependence on the Heavenly Father and our readiness to do what he directs.

The prophet Isaiah gives us God’s word: “When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end– Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you…” Isaiah 43:2-3, The Message

Let’s take sight of the promises and complete the crossing. The source of our true confidence is summarized in this wonderful passage – “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, NKJV) (HINDI KAILANMAN TITIGIL AT MAPAPAGOD ANG DIYOS SA PAGTUPAD NG KANYANG PANGAKO SA IYONG BUHAY, WAG KANG SUMUKO, WAG KANG PANGHINAAN NG LOOB, MANATILI KANG MANAMPALATAYA AT IHAKBANG ANG PANANAMPALATAYA MO…MAARING BUMAGSAK KA NA, SO WHAT, ALALAHANIN MO NA MAGING ANG PAGBAGSAK NATIN AY KAYANG GAMITIN NG PANGINOON UPANG GAWIN NYA ANG KANYANG NAIS SA ATING BUHAY! LAGING GINAGAWA NG DIYOS ANG BAHAGI NYA, GAWIN MO ANG BAHAGI MO – HUMAKBANG KA, MANIWALA KA, MANAMPALATAYA KA, YAKAPIN MO ANG KATOTOHANANG, YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD AND YOU WERE MADE FOR GREATNESS!) Move out!!!

For a final word, let’s look at one more text today – read Joshua 4: 4-9

4. MEMORIALIZE GOD’S WORK.

We need to establish memorials of the special times of God’s provision, not so that we can live in the past, but so that the miracles of yesterday can strengthen the foundation for the faith we need to face the challenges of the present day.

MEMORIES CAN HELP US TO HAVE CONFIDENCE IN WHAT GOD CAN DO. (DARATING SA BUHAY NATIN NA PALAKI NANG PALAKI NANG PALAKI ANG MGA PROBLEMA NATIN…MAARING PABIGAT NANG PABIGAT NANG PABIGAT ANG ATING MGA PASANIN, ANG MGA ALAALA NATIN NG KABUTIHAN AT HIMALA NG DIYOS SA ATING MGA BUHAY AT MAGSISILBING PAALALA KUNG SINO AT ANONG KLASENG DIYOS ANG ATING PINAGLILINGKURAN.) As you remember all of what God has done, your faith is strengthened, it boost your confidence, not on yourself, but in God, and you eliminate fear and doubt in your heart and mind. The memories of God’s continuing provision in our lives strengthens other Christians as well. Take time to make memorials.

• Keep a prayer journal.
• Everyday think of all the things that you can be thankful for.
• Share your testimony.

CONCLUSION:

Transitions will come! Life is not static. God points toward tomorrow, and sometimes all we see is an impossible situation. Remember, what I said in the beginning of this sermon, OUR IMPOSSIBILITIES ARE GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES!

As you prepare for your crossings, your transitions, take a lesson from Joshua:

• FOLLOW! Focus on where God, by the Spirit, is leading you.
• CONSECRATE your life, renewing your commitment to Him, listening carefully for Him.
• MOVE OUT! Don’t go just half-way toward the challenge and give in to the temptation to quit. Look to the promise. Take courage from the Word. Join with others in pilgrimage!
• MEMORIALIZE! Remember the former victories and build your faith in the God who is at work in you today.

Cross your rivers and possess your Promised Land! Amen

A FORGETFUL LOVE

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TEXT:                         1 Corinthians 13:5

“..It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (NIV)

INTRODUCTION:

In the middle of that list of what love is, Paul says that ‘Love – keeps no record of wrongs’ (v5). In other words what he is saying is that, as well as being patient, and kind and a whole host of other things – love is also forgetful!“Love – keeps no record of wrongs” Love is forgetful!

Now we all know that forgetfulness is generally something we all try to avoid. Forgetfulness is something we tend to consider as a ‘curse of old age’.

Illustration: The forgetful couple

Did you hear about the married couple in their 80’s who were having problems remembering things, so they decided to the go the doctor for a checkup. The doctor tells them that they are physically okay, but they might want to start writing things down to help them remember.

Later that night, while watching TV, the old man gets up from his chair. His wife asks, “Where are you going?” “To the kitchen for a drink,” he replies. She asks, “Will you get me piece of cake?” The husband says, “Sure.” She gently reminds him, “Don’t you think you should write it down so you don’t forget it?” He says, “No, I can remember that!”

Then the woman says, “Well, I’d like some strawberries on top. You’d better write it down because I know you’ll forget it.” The man replies, “I can remember that! You want some cake with strawberries.”

She adds, “I’d also like whipped cream on top. Now I’m certain you’re gonna forget that, so you’d better write it down ok.” Irritated, he says, “I don’t need to write it down woman! I can remember that! Cake with strawberries!  And whipped cream!” He then grumbles into the kitchen.

After about 30 minutes the old man returns from the kitchen and hands his wife a plate of bacon and eggs.

She stares at the plate for a moment and says, “Where’s my toast?”

Illustration: I am not forgetful

Three ladies were discussing the travails of getting older. One said, “Sometimes I catch myself with a jar of mayonnaise in my hand, while standing in front of the fridge, and I can’t remember whether I need to put it away, or start making a sandwich.”

The second lady chimed in with, “Yes, sometimes I find myself on the landing of the stairs and can’t remember whether I was on my way up or on my way down.”

The third one responded, ” Well, I’m glad I don’t have that problem. Knock on wood,” as she rapped her knuckles on the table, and then said, “That must be the door, I’ll get it!”

Transition:

Oh the curse of forgetfulness. Of course, it isn’t just the older generation that tends to suffer with forgetfulness – we can all be guilty of it and forgetfulness isn’t something that is usually thought of as a positive trait in someone’s character.

Have you ever said to someone you would ring them, and didn’t? Have you ever said to someone ‘don’t worry, I’ll do that, I’ll take care of it, I’ll make sure it happens’ – and didn’t. Let’s face it we are all guilty of operating on the level of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. We may have all the good intentions, we may have all the right motives, we may even have the desire – but they just don’t happen! And out comes the excuse, “I forgot.” And in our humanness we have forgotten to ‘do things’ and ‘say things’ more times than we care to remember.

Sometimes when we forget it causes pain to someone. Sometimes when we forget it creates mistrust between us and someone else. Sometimes when we forget it causes other people to doubt our honesty, to doubt our integrity, to doubt our trustworthiness. And they will stop relying on us to meet a need, to meet their need.

And that is why often we think of forgetfulness as a weakness, as a problem. And more often than not that is true. But THERE IS A TIME WHEN FORGETFULNESS BECOMES AN ABSOLUTE NECESSITY. Paul says that ‘Love – keeps no record of wrongs’ He says that love is forgetful.

That’s the challenge of the Christian faith. That’s the challenge of the type of love that Jesus Christ calls us to have for one another. Our challenge is to forgive and forget. We don’t keep records of wrongs. God does not keep that score in heaven and we’re not supposed to keep that score here. It’s the way of God and it’s the challenge for Christians like you and me.

But is it really possible? Is it possible to remember people without remembering their sin? Is it possible to remember people without remembering the wrongs that they have committed, against the world, against society, against you?

  • What do you think of when I say the name Brutus? – He was the one who stabbed Caesar.
  • What do you think of when I say the name Judas? – he was the one who betrayed Jesus.
  • What do you think of when I say the name Pilate? – He was the one who washed his hands and said ‘I’m going to let you kill him – I want nothing to do with it’.
  • What do you think of when I say the name Herod? – He killed all the babies trying to kill Jesus.
  • What do you think of when I say the name Hitler, or Stalin, Idi Amin, Sadam Hussein or Robert Mugabe.

We remember people we always remember the mistakes that they made, the hurts that they caused. That’s the way we are. We keep those records. Not only do we keep them but we make sure that they are written with permanent ink – and in triplicate! It’s hard for us to forgive and forget. But love, true Christian love, keeps no record of wrongs. True Christian love is forgetful. Now it might not be easy – I’m not suggesting that it is for one moment – but it is possible.

Anyone ever seen the movie ’50 first dates’? It’s based upon a woman who forgets every morning what happened the day before. Each day is new without any regret, hurt or bitterness from the day before.

Sometimes I think God wants us as Christians to treat hurt like that. In fact that is exactly what the bible teaches, but we all know how difficult that is to implement. Ever heard someone say, “Oh I forgive you, but I’ll never forget.” We, as humans, are prone to forgetting good things and remembering bad things, especially with those who are closest to us. We always believe that the closest to us have the greatest capacity to hurt us. This passage clearly states an aspect of love that challenges us to not keep a record of wrongs. “But God, you don’t know what they did to me!” Yes he does and you have no excuse if you have genuinely been changed by His love.

So how do we develop a forgetful kind of love?

1.    UNDERSTAND THAT TIME DOES NOT HEAL WOUNDS.

Someone once wrote this lyric, “They say that time heals all wounds, but I beg to differ.” Such a true statement because we all know that many years could go by without some wounds being really healed.  So how do we sort this out?

A fact must be understood that ONLY GOD CAN HEAL ALL WOUNDS.  Whether emotional, psychological, or physical, only God can heal you of all those hurts. You might tell me, “What about counseling, Pastor?” Counseling is a tool that we have which helps people work with God to bring healing to past hurts that have been ignored or undealt with. But you and I must realize that only the love of God can transform us, He alone can turn our bitterness into understanding and love.

Illustration: (It was love not time that made us forgive our father…)

If you’re here this morning and you have made the choice that you are not going to forgive or get past something until you let some time go by then I challenge you with this word of warning from Matthew 6:14-15 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

God doesn’t ask us to forgive when we’re ready, He would say we must because of what we’ve been forgiven.

Only God can help you with that record of wrongs, not time.  God wants to do that work in you this morning and know Him as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4, “…the God of all comfort;” He wants to help you love others, but it starts here.

2.    PRACTICE THE PRINCIPLE OF FORGIVENESS.

If we are to ever implement this facet of love it begins with forgiveness and our ability to do so without regard for personal pain.

Paul, in his letter to the church in Ephesus says, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”

This wisdom is something we all know, but we don’t always put it into practice. Imagine what Jesus’ reaction to Peter could have been when he saw him after the crucifixion. He abandoned him and betrayed him. Imagine Jesus walks into the room and is excited to see everyone and then he sees Peter. With a glare he tells Peter that he’s forgiven him, but he hasn’t forgotten. One thing that we see in the life of Jesus is an ability to just let things go. Regardless of what happened to him, no matter how hurtful or painful, he was able to show a love that is so uncharacteristic. Not only was he able to forgive, but he did it immediately and never brought it up again.

When you find yourself in an argument with someone you’ve known for a long time, do you bring of past mistakes? If so, you’re not being loving.  Love keeps no record of wrong.  The Bible tells us love covers a multitude of sins.  It is loving to overlook a past sin.

Switchfoot, a Chrisitian band, has a song lyric that applies here.  It goes something like this: “I dare you to move like today never happened”. Just imagine living like yesterday didn’t happened.  How might our behavior be different?

Self-check:  Am I holding anything against another?  Am I storing up everyone’s wrongs to bring up in the next argument?

Illustration:

A husband asked his wife, “Why are you always reminding me of my past mistakes? You told me you would forgive and forget.” She answered, “Well, I don’t want you to forget that I have forgiven and forgotten.”

In love we forgive and in humility we forget because this is what God has demonstrated to us through salvation. Psalm 103:12 says, “…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

Let me share with you a practical application or practice about forgiveness…

There are three (3) steps of forgiveness:

  • RELINQUISH YOUR RIGHT TO GET EVEN.

Paul wrote in Romans “Never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it.”  (12:19 LB) You don’t hurt the other person with your resentment, you only hurt yourself.

Three reasons to forgive others:

—God has forgiven you.

—Bitterness makes you miserable.

—You are going to need more forgiveness in the future. The Lord’s prayer says: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

  • RESPOND TO EVIL WITH GOOD.

“Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” – Jesus (Luke 6:27-28). “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

  • REPEAT THE PROCESS OVER & OVER AGAIN.

Remember the discussion Jesus had with Peter? “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times? No not seven times, Jesus replied, but seventy times seven.”

Remember the Lord forgave US so we must forgive others. Don’t try to forgive on your own power. You see our human tendency is to make a list…We like lists. That’s all Peter was doing, making a list.

Make your list. List the number of times God has forgiven you.

  • Ever spoken an angry word with the intent to hurt? By the standard of heaven, you are guilty of verbal assault.
  • Ever been silent when Jesus was mocked? Don’t we call that treason?
  • Ever gone to church to be seen rather than to see Him? Hypocrite.
  • Ever broken a promise to God? Deceit.
  • Ever been dishonest with the stewardship of the things God has entrusted to you? That’s cheating.

A worthy list. Don’t we deserve to be punished? Yet here we are. I don’t see lashes on our backs, or shackles on our feet. Apparently, God has not kept a list of our wrongs.

I HAVE BEEN IMMERSED IN GRACE, SUBMERGED IN MERCY, I MUST SHARE IT!

3.    LEARN TO LET GO.

The challenge for us this morning is to begin going through our hurts and bitterness. “Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes.” In order to be free, we must learn how to let go and to release the hurt. Refuse to entertain your past and even present pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life.

People who struggle with this often have to go through a process, once challenged by God’s love, where they go through their past and sort through lots of old hurt and bitterness. This means opening the door to your ammunition shed and pulling out every bullet and bomb. (Talikuran mo na lahat ng mga pwede mong isumbat, sabihin, ipagduldulan…). The only way to disarm them is to give them to God and, in obedience, forgive those represented. As you let go, you free yourself to make forward movements in God’s love.

This will be a love experience for you as you make God’s love enough to deal with your past and hurts. Now as you let go of these things you have to grab onto something else like promises of a future! ‘“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11 Why hold on to that grudge or hurt, wherein God has a plan for your life? Remember that there’s always something best that God has in store for you and me…never ever forget that.

CONCLUSION:

“Jesus taught us how to forgive out of love, how to forget out of humility. So let us examine our hearts and see if there is any unforgiven hurt, any unforgotten bitterness!” – Mother Teresa

There is so much wisdom in this statement and I believe that God is searching hearts this morning by His spirit. There are those here this morning that have years of hurt, unforgiveness and bitterness. You want to step into God’s future for your life, but this will always keep you back. As God makes you more like Jesus and challenges you to love like He does, then this is an inevitable step. The beautiful thing is that it’s not done through will power, but through His power. God will enable you to do this. He will heal your wounds, give you a forgiving heart and help you sort through the past so that you can comfort others. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Rom. 8:28) Only God can work all things for good, make miracles out of messes and hurts!

TRUE LOVE IS A FORGETFUL LOVE!

THE GOD-MAN MEETS THE SINFUL WOMAN

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TEXT:                                    John 8:1-11

INTRODUCTION:

Opening Illustration:

Aaron Patterson, Sentenced to die for the 1986 murder of a Chicago couple. In one of his last official acts as the Governor of Illinois, George Ryan pardoned Aaron Patterson on 10 January, 2003.

It’s the stuff of movies. The appeal goes before the governor. The prisoner waits on death row as the day of reckoning draws near. Then the word comes that the Governor has set the prisoner free.

In most cases we presume the one with the power to set the convict free has some reason to believe that they might be innocent. But what about a pardon for the one caught red-handed? What about a pardon for the guilty?

That’s exactly what we read about today. The religious leaders bring to Jesus a woman caught in adultery–a capital offense. There are the three characters right there, The religious leaders, Jesus, and the woman. What I’d like to look at with you this morning is, each of these principals and see, what their response to the situation at hand says to us today.

Let’s begin with:

1.   THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS DEMANDING PUNISHMENT. (vv. 3-5)

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

These people see the situation as black and white. SHE’S GUILTY, SHE MUST DIE. There’s no concern here shown for the woman. In fact the text says that their whole reason for bringing her to Jesus was to trap Him. They parade the woman out and make her stand humiliated and terrified before the crowd. And we must ask also where is the man?

The motives of these men were anything but pure yet they stretched out accusing fingers. Jesus initially ignores them and gets down to write in the sand. We don’t know what he wrote but I have my guess that it went something like this…(reveal “Thou shalt not commit adultery” animation will run automatic until “Punishment” comes back up) The Pharisees press him and continue to ask him, “C’mon Jesus, what have you got to say?” Jesus says, “Let him among you who is without sin cast the first stone”

Then he knelt to write again we don’t know what he wrote. But the text says that as he wrote they began to leave one by one. First the older ones left. I wonder if as he wrote Jesus paused to look at one straight in the eye, and then wrote again. As he continued to write the younger ones left. When Jesus had finished writing, there was no one left to accuse the woman.

Transition:

What does this exchange say to us? Well first of all it shows us that we must never forget the fact that each of us are sinners. The Scripture says plainly that all have sinned and no one is righteous. Sometimes as we look at the sins of the world around us it’s easy to think ourselves superior. Saddam Hussein? Why that guy deserves what he’s got coming. Yes, he does and you do too. And so do I.

Secondly, this says to us that though the world may accuse us, Jesus is in our corner. He doesn’t excuse our sin. He doesn’t say it’s unimportant–it was important enough for Him to give His life. But he cares for us and he is not the accuser. Accusation is the work of the enemy, we should neither participate in it directed toward others nor be fooled by it directed toward us. Though we deserve punishment, Christ is not the accuser, He has a different role.

To the woman caught in sin:

2.   JESUS OFFERS PARDON. (vv. 10-11)

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.

 Here was the one man who met the qualification he had laid out–“without sin,” but instead of giving out punishment, Jesus chooses pardon.

  • This is what GRACE is: A pardon she did not deserve.
  • This is what MERCY is: a punishment she did deserve withheld.

“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus said.

The words of Jesus that burdensome morning were gifts of forgiving grace. Guilt was not in doubt. The distraught woman had been, after all, caught “in the very act” according to her accusers. (I have occasionally wondered if they were hiding in a closet and under the bed, or peeping through a bedroom window, to have “caught her in the act.”) Those men of caustic judgment and hollow spirits had one thing right. She was indeed guilty — guilty of sin, guilty of disobedience to God’s greatest desire for her life, guilty of trashing her own worth, guilty of violating the best for which God had created her.

Pummeling epithets and pulverizing stones paled in comparison to the consequences of sin and guilt in the woman’s life. That long ago morning in the courtyard of Jerusalem’s temple, Jesus spoke to a helpless and hopeless soul that needed forgiveness. To her He offered the gift of forgiving grace. “No longer condemned,” He said. “No longer condemned.” It was freedom from the condemning consequences of sin and guilt. Ah what we would do to know that sweet release.

If we only had enough money, could do enough good or had the ability to reinvent ourselves, we surely would pay the price, do the deed and take a new lease on life. If only we could. But we cannot. So like the guilty woman before Jesus, we too stand in need of God’s forgiving grace. Grace which cannot be purchased, grace which cannot be earned, grace which cannot be garnered through self-effort, but which can be had only and simply through the gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

“And can it be that I should gain an intr’est in the Savior’s blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain? For me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, should die for me?” (“And Can It Be,” v.1, Charles Wesley).

The words of Jesus to the woman before Him were gifts of healing grace. Sin’s ugliness had carved its unmistakable swath through her feelings, memories and habits as well as her soul. She gingerly eyed the One who had given to her the unexpected gift of grace. Without fully understanding how or why, she nevertheless knew the gift was hers. She knew heart-deep and soul-sure that she was forgiven, but there was something more that needed His grace. Beguiling feelings, seducing memories and calamitous habits lingered. How could she ever be truly free from the past?

Often sin’s patterns cut deeply into life. Some struggle well beyond the receipt of God’s forgiveness with consequences formed while meandering through the days and years of wayward living. Feelings, memories and habits fashioned while pursuing wrong-headed ideas, and unworthy gods are tenacious and long-lived. Along with the woman before Jesus, many are in need of God’s healing grace.

  • Grace that will set life free from the pull of delinquent feelings.
  • Grace that will abate desires aroused by recalcitrant memories.
  • Grace that will transform entrenched patterns of behavior.

As was true for her, God’s offer of forgiving and healing grace comes to us — grace that is stronger than any feeling, any memory or any habit.

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay fast bound in sin and nature’s night; Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; My chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth and followed Thee.” (“And Can It Be,” v.3, Charles Wesley).

Illustration:

Richard Hoefler’s book “Will Daylight Come?” includes a simple illustration of how sin enslaves and forgiveness frees. A little boy visiting his grandparents was given his first slingshot. He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit his target. As he came back to Grandma’s back yard, he spied her pet duck. On an impulse he took aim and let fly. The stone hit, and the duck fell dead.

The boy panicked. Desperately he hid the dead duck in the woodpile, only to look up and see his sister watching. Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing. After lunch that day, Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” But Sally said, “Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today. Didn’t you, Johnny?” And she whispered to him, “Remember the duck!” So Johnny did the dishes.

Later Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing. Grandma said, “I’m sorry, but I need Sally to help make supper.” Sally smiled and said, “That’s all taken care of. Johnny wants to do it.” Again she whispered, “Remember the duck.” Johnny stayed while Sally went fishing. After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally’s, finally he couldn’t stand it. He confessed to Grandma that he’d killed the duck. “I know, Johnny,” she said, giving him a hug. “I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you. I wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.”

Transition:

No matter how grave your sins may be, Jesus has paid the price for you. He didn’t go to the cross so that He could hold it over your head, but so that he could release you from its bondage. It was love, not hate, that transformed the life of this woman…

Which brings us to the last part of the story. The part that deals with the woman herself

3.   THE WOMAN WAS GIVEN A PURPOSE. (v. 11)

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

The words of Jesus to the woman before Him were words of transforming grace. His final directive, “Leave now your life of sin,” was in no wise a curt dismissal. “Don’t ever sin this sin again, and, while I’m thinking about it, don’t ever let me see you here again,” certainly was not the intent of His heart or final word. The record is silent. She was there and then she was gone. The Bible gives no clue as to how her story turned out. Before she left, however, Jesus said to her words of transforming grace, “What is past is past. What is behind you is behind you. Let God’s forgiving, healing, transforming grace shape who you are and who you become.” That was His last word to the graceless woman who had unexpectedly experienced God’s needed grace.

Jesus offers the pardon to be sure, but he doesn’t just leave it at that, he also gives her life a new purpose. I don’t think these word are just an admonition, I think there is power in these words. He’s not just pardoned her, he’s empowered her to live above the level of her own sinfulness–He’s offered her new life, abundant life.

Toward the world Jesus pointed her again, to the very world from which she had minutes earlier arrived. It was a world she knew well. The streets were the same streets. The bed was the same bed. The neighbors were the same neighbors. The vegetable market was the same market. The town’s shaded well was the same well. The pressures were the same pressures. The temptations were the same temptations.

Back into that world Jesus sent her, a world where everything was the same — except her. Into the world from which she had come and which she knew so well, She would be an instrument of God’s forgiving, healing, transforming grace to others. In her would be seen the meaning of the Christ-life and the power of the Spirit-life. In relationships to her and through conversations with her, something of the love, acceptance, patience and forgiveness of God would be experienced. Into her familiar world she would go as a living testament of God’s desire and ability to transform life.

Transition:

The forgiveness and grace of Jesus doesn’t just free us from the burden of past sin it frees us from the burden of future sin by empowering us to fight it out.

We are going to be living testimonies of the power of God in our life…the grace that can transform us…a testimony to all the people that the love of God can change a person’s life.

That is our purpose!

Remember this is the same Jesus who said to the cripple in last week’s message “Get up and walk,” who spoke those words with power. He didn’t expect the cripple to do it by his own power but by his own decision, in the same way this woman was not expected to live a sin-free life by her own power–Jesus empowered her with His word “Go now and leave your life of sin.” But like the cripple she had to do so by her own decision.

CONCLUSION:

Illustration:

Karl Menninger, the famed psychiatrist, once said that if he could convince the patients in psychiatric hospitals that their sins were forgiven, 75 percent of them could walk out the next day! (Today in the Word, March 1989, p. 8.) 

THERE IS POWER IN FORGIVENESS! Jesus gives life purpose, He transforms us from the inside out and speaks into our life with authority and with purpose “Go now and leave your life of sin!”

When I hear a story like the one I began with today about the pardoned murderer Aaron Patterson, I wonder what that person is going to do now. For the last 16 years he’s been a prisoner. Now the governor has pardoned him and in the photo we saw he was walking on the street as a free man. But free for what? What’s he able to do now? His bondage has likely crippled him in many ways. The same is true of the bondage of sin.

But thank God when we are pardoned by trusting in what Jesus did by dying on the cross to pay for our sin, he doesn’t just set us free, he empowers us to be free. He fills us with purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgments:

 

– Guy Caley

– Today in the Word, March 1989, p. 8.

– “And Can It Be,” v.3, Charles Wesley

– Books of Illustrations

 

 

 

 

 

THE GOD-MAN MEETS THE ROYAL MAN

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TEXT:                           John 4:46-54

INTRODUCTION:          

 If I tell you there’s a city called Manila and it has this thing called the Rizal Monument would you believe me? Why? Because you believe the testimony of those who have been there, millions who have posted pictures of themselves in front of the thing on their personal web sites and social media pages.

Now, what if someone told you there is a place in Manila that’s identical to Tagaytay? It would depend who told you and how much you trust their authority.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “I have to believe that Jesus was (and is) God. And it seems plain as a matter of history that He taught His followers that the new life was communicated in this way. In other words, I believe it on His authority. Ninety-nine percent of the things you believe are believed on authority… The ordinary person believes in the solar system, atoms, and the circulation of the blood on authority–because the scientists say so. Every historical statement is believed on authority. None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Spanish Armada. But we believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them.” (C.S. Lewis “A Grief Observed”)

In our encounter with Jesus today we find a royal man who comes to Jesus BECAUSE OF THE INFORMATION HE HAS HEARD ABOUT HIM. He comes not altogether knowing what to believe but simply knowing that He has a need that no one else can fill. In this story we are able to watch the faith of this man grow as a result of his encounter with Jesus.

It is a faith that begins as:

1.    A TENTATIVE FAITH. (vv. 46-48)

Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 48″Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

So far all the man knows is what people have said that Jesus has worked miracles. He doesn’t know for certain what he believes but he’s reaching out to Jesus, because his need is great.

Illustration:

There’s an old story about a traveler in the early days of the west. When he came to a large river, he discovered there was no bridge.

Fortunately it was winter and the great river was sheeted over with ice. But the traveler was afraid to trust himself to it, not knowing how thick it was. Finally with infinite caution, he crept on his hands and knees and managed to get halfway over. And then he heard–yes he heard singing from behind. Cautiously he turned, and there, out of the dusk, came another traveler, driving a four-horse load of coal over the ice, singing as he went!

THE ROYAL MAN HAS COME TO THE SOLID ROCK, BUT HE IS NOT READY TO REST HIS WEIGHT UPON IT, OR TO SIMPLY PUT HIS TRUST IN HIM. It’s clear that Jesus understands that this is not someone who’s coming to Him to put his trust in him as Messiah and Savior–but that’s OK, Jesus takes him where he’s at in his faith.

Transition:

This is a picture of us too, we come to Jesus, trembling, hurting, not knowing, not understanding, BUT HOPING. Jesus takes us where we at. But, thank God He doesn’t leave us where we at.

He takes us a step further to…

2.    A TEMPORAL FAITH (vv. 49-50)

 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.

 Notice that the man doesn’t seem to have patience for Jesus’ enigmatic reply about needing signs to believe. It’s as if the Lord has invited him into a dialogue about eternal things like those he had with Nicodemus and the woman at the well, BUT THE MAN IS TOO FOCUSED UPON HIS IMMEDIATE PROBLEM. Jesus doesn’t seem to be rattled by this though. Jesus promises to give the man what he asks for and the text says that the official took Him at His word and departed.

 Is he trusting in Jesus at this point? Yes but not fully. He’s trusting him for one thing–the healing of the child. We know he’s not got a full tank of faith at this time because a couple verses later the text clearly says he began to “believe” after the healing is confirmed. But he is trusting in Jesus for this one thing, FOR THE HEALING.

 That is what we call a temporal kind of faith. Temporal faith is, trusting the Lord just for the things of this life. Anyone who’s taken a test they haven’t studied for knows this kind of faith.

There are a couple of problems with this faith though:

  • When the crisis is passed, the need for the faith goes away.
  • If the Lord doesn’t answer according to our plan, we can loose faith altogether.

Illustration:

Atlanta Tycoon Ted Turner, founder of CNN, TBS, TNT and various other enterprises, has more than once incited the ire of the US Christian community. Once he described Christianity as “a religion for losers” and another time he asked Catholics at CNN whether they were “Jesus freaks” when they arrived for work on Ash Wednesday with crosses on their foreheads.

What you may not know about him is that he wasn’t always so anti-Christian. In fact he revealed in an interview with the New Yorker magazine in April 2001 that he had once planned to become a missionary, but he turned his back on Christianity after watching his younger sister die a slow and painful death from an immune system disease when he was a teenager. He told the New Yorker, “I couldn’t understand how someone so innocent should be made or allowed to suffer so.” (Mark Riley, Sydney Morning Herald, Aug. 25, 2001)

This is the problem with temporal faith; temporal faith is dependent upon “what have you done for me lately.” It’s not the kind of faith that Christ desires in our life; he doesn’t want us to trust in him just for the things of life–He wants us to trust him WITH our lives, beyond our lives. That’s the point of the statement earlier “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders you will never believe.” It’s not a rebuff–It’s just that He wants more for us.

He wants us to experience…

3.    A TRANSFORMING FAITH. (vv. 51-53)

While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.” Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed.

Earlier the text said that he had taken Jesus at his word, now it says that He and his household believed. What’s the difference? Well now it’s not just a belief that the boy will be healed–that no longer requires faith, it’s a fact. Now He has become a BELIEVER, he believes that Jesus is who He claims, the Messiah, Savior, now trusting in Jesus he has passed from death to life–it’s no longer just about the earthly life of the boy it’s about eternal life.

Verse 54 calls this not just a miracle but a “miraculous sign”the power Jesus holds over this particular life (the life of the boy) is symbolic of Jesus ultimate power of life.

Every time people will be having an encounter with Jesus, He promised eternal life to those who put their trust in Him. Here the royal official and his family become partakers of the living water and receive life everlasting, by believing in Jesus.

Illustration:

Jean Francois Gravelet, the great Blondin, was the first tightrope walker to appear at Niagara Falls. On June 30, 1859 the rope was in position and at five o’clock in the afternoon Blondin started the trip that was to make history. As he began his ascent toward the Canadian shore, he paused, steadied the balancing pole and suddenly executed a back somersault. Never content merely to repeat his last performance, Blondin crossed his rope on a bicycle walked blindfolded, pushed a wheelbarrow, cooked an omelet in the center and made the trip with his hands and feet manacled. And then, he announced that on August 19 he would cross the gorge carrying his manager, Harry Colcord, on his back. (http://www.niagara-info.com/historic.htm)

He later confessed that the trip had been a nightmare, but on that day, Harry Culcord had demonstrated absolute faith. He didn’t just believe that Blondin could make the trip, he entrusted his life to him.

Transition:

Jesus is asking us not just to hand him the things of our life, He invites us to crawl upon His back, to trust him with our very lives. Nothing less will do.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “I would recommend you either believe God up to the hilt, or else not believe at all. Believe this book of God, every letter of it, or else reject it. There is no logical standing place between the two. Be satisfied with nothing less than a faith that swims in the deeps of divine revelation; a faith that paddles about the edge of the water is poor faith at best. It is little better than a dry-land faith, and is not good for much.” (C.H. Spurgeon, sermon entitled “Is God in the Camp?”)

Jesus cares about all the things of your life, your health your family, your job, school, relationships. He demonstrates His care for the officials need by healing the boy. But he’s interested in so much more. He wants to make your life richer and fuller in the here and now, but He wants to make your life perfectly full by making it an everlasting life with Him. He wants to do something greater in your life…more than the present things you are looking at…Greater than the miracle of supplying your needs, of answering your prayers, of healing your body, He wants you to have eternal life…a life with Him throughout eternity.

CONCLUSION:

Today we remember the sacrifice that Jesus made to secure his promise of eternal life for each of us. In order to make the promise a reality Jesus paid the price of death for us all. He took the penalty for our sins in His own body. He shed his blood so that our debt would be paid. Before he went to the executioner, he celebrated a final meal with those closest to him and instructed them that they should repeat this meal regularly, symbolically to remember the sacrifice that he made.

Today we celebrate that last supper. If you have trusted in Jesus for eternal life, you are free to join us in that celebration. If you haven’t, why not do it today. Simply say in your heart, “Jesus I thank you for paying the price for me, now I trust in you with all of my life, now and forever.” And then join us in this meal of remembrance as a new believer in Jesus.

COMMUNION

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgments:

 

– Guy Caley

– Book of Illustations

– Sermonsillustrations.com 

THE BEAUTY OF HURT

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ImageTEXT:                                                Job 7:4 and Job 7:20,

INTRODUCTION:

Most Christians do two things: Say it is not right to question God and to question God. Who among us has not felt like asking, “God, why are you using me for your target practice?” The question exposes one of our deepest needs- a sense of purpose in pain, some kind of meaning to our apparently meaningless blows.

Are we just here, like seaweed, to be battered and blown by the winds and waves of trouble, or are we placed here, like boats, with power to travel through storms, with rudders to chart our course, and with a destination? Are we alone in the water or is there a God who placed us here for a reason and pain and seemingly unanswered prayers in times of pain, are part of some larger plan for good?

When God called Paul He told him all that he would suffer for his name (Acts 9:16. And, oh how he suffered – stoning, shipwrecks, sharp pain, slander, and beheading. But from the fire itself, he cried out, “We are not alone. There is a plan in this madness. In all things” he says, “God works for the good of those who love Him and are called to be a part of his purpose and designs” (Rom. 8:28 Amplified Version)

If we approach horrible or hurtful events philosophically, looking mostly for answers, we are doomed to be disappointed.

Is God the author of the death of my child? Does God allow it?  Or do things just happen and God is there to help when it does? Who knows the origin?

We must approach such things practically and relationally. As a human being, we are part of a suffering world, and therefore, should say, “Why not me?” Who am I to be spared? Jesus was not. Paul was not. Most human beings are not. But as children of God, we can go on to ask, “Why me, Lord?” in a more POSITIVE WAY. We do that when we ask God to help us find the good we can dig out of the bad.  Robert Schuller says, “Within every adversity lies a sleeping possibility.”

Today we look at some beautiful things God can do with our hurts if we let Him.

1.    HURT CAN DRAW US NEAR TO GOD.

We humans may go to God to accuse God, to bargain with God, to shake our fist at God, to bow before God and accept the good with the bad, to ask why or to tell Him we will not question Him – but we go! The very fact that we say, “Why me, Lord?” means we have been driven to God and to a deeper level of communication with Him. (Ito ay tanda na ng ating paglapit sa ating Panginoon…dahil alam nating Siya lang ang pwedeng makasagot sa bigat ng ating mga damdamin o pasakit).  

Illustration:

When the storm hit the ship Jonah was sleeping in, the Bible says, “All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god” (Jon. 1:5). I love the story of the plane where the pilot told the passengers an engine was on fire. One man yelled frantically – “Do something religious – somebody!” A Catholic pulled out her beads. An Episcopalian pulled out his prayer book. The unchurched put their face in their hands and prayed. And a Pentecostal (Word of Hope member) took off his hat and took up an offering. When the ship is sinking or the plane is going down, THOUGHTS TURN NATURALLY TO GOD.

The New American Standard Bible says, “God CAUSES all things to work together for good.” The New International Version says, “In all things God WORKS for the good of those who love him.” Things do not work together for good, all by themselves. They do this when we put everything in God’s hands, and ask Him to teach us the life lessons we need and the ministry we may find in life’s hurting places.

Jesus disciples also encountered just such a time in their lives. They had all come from various walks of life before they met Jesus. Maybe for some of them, life was good, and for others life was bad. But for the past three-and-a-half years that had been with Jesus and life had been good. They had seen countless miracles, healings, deliverances, walking on water, calming the storm, feeding the 5,000, and even raising the dead. They had spent the past years listening to the greatest teachings ever spoken. Further, because they expected that Jesus would literally overthrow the Roman government and set up his kingdom in Jerusalem, they were excited because Jesus had gained popularity and they were on the inside of the movement. I’m not saying that everything was perfect for the disciples, but by-and-large life was going good for them. They had no reason to expect that in the very near future all of their expectations and hopes would fall apart. They had no idea of the crisis they were about to be put through, that Jesus would be arrested, beaten, tried, and crucified.

However, Jesus knew what was about to take place, and he wanted to prepare them for what was ahead. So, he explained to them what was about to happen. And this conversation that Jesus had with them prepared them better to accept the changes and the uncertainty that was about to come upon them.

Now, none of us likes change. None of us likes uncertainty and then eventually would hurt us…We’re always going to have a certain level of worry when we know that hard times are ahead of us. However, we can by examining Jesus’ discourse with the disciples, learn how to get through those times without worrying. John 14:1, “Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me.”

Now, Jesus knowing the future which lay before his disciples, gave them encouragement to get them through. He says “You trust in God, now trust in me.” And this is really the foundation for finding peace to get through these tough, hurtful times. All of the other things that he said to them were hinged upon this one secret. TRUST IN HIM.

Philippians 4:6,7 “6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

This verse tells us not to worry about anything, but to pray. And I find the focus here interesting. It doesn’t say that if you don’t worry but pray, God will instantly change all of your circumstances so there’s nothing left to worry about. That’s not trust. That’s faith. And faith is necessary. Sometimes God does want to miraculously change your circumstances. But if that’s how it was every time, then when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, then God would have said, “Okay, I’ll make another way. You don’t have to go to the cross.” But as we know, that isn’t what happened at all. There was no change in Jesus’ circumstances because of that prayer, and yet that prayer wasn’t wasted or a failure. Instead, I believe it was in that prayer that Jesus found the strength to do what was necessary – to go to the cross. It was his Trust in God that led him to pray, “Your will be done.” And it was this trust that gave him peace.

Trust and faith are really similar words, almost treated as synonyms sometimes. But really they are miles apart. Faith is what moves a mountain or calms a raging storm. What I find more spectacular than Jesus calming the storm, was his trust in God that allowed him to be fast asleep in perfect peace while the storm raged all around him. Faith is knowing that God CAN change things. TRUST IS KNOWING THAT GOD WILL DO WHAT’S BEST! It’s trust that keeps you floating until the miracle comes.

God may allow hurts to come in our live for us to see the wonders of His grace. And because of His grace, God is drawing us closer and closer to Him. How does God in grace prosecute this purpose? Not by shielding us from assault by the work, the flesh, and the devil, nor by protecting us from burdensome and frustrating circumstance, not yet by shielding us from troubles created by our own temperament and psychology, BUT RATHER BY EXPOSING US TO ALL THESE THINGS, BY ALLOWING US TO EXPERIENCE ALL THESE, SO AS TO OVERWHELM US WITH A SENSE OF OUR OWN INADEQUACY, AND TO CLING TO HIM MORE CLOSELY.

This is the ultimate reason, from our standpoint, why God would allow our lives to be filled with troubles and perplexities of one sort and another — it is to ensure that we shall learn to hold him fast and to continually understand that though our strength and ways fail, HE NEVER FAILS!

Poem:

 

He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;

Tho’ disappointments come and hope burns dim,

He never fails.

Tho’ trials surge like stormy seas around,

Tho’ testings fierce like ambushed foes abound,

Yet this my soul, with millions more has found,

He never fails; He never fails.

He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;

Tho’ angry skies with thunder-clouds grow grim,

He never fails.

Tho’ icy blasts life’s fairest flow’rs lay low,

Tho’ earthly springs of joy all cease to flow,

Yet still ’tis true, with millions more I know,

He never fails; He never fails.

He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;

Tho’ sorrow’s cup should overflow the brim,

He never fails.

Tho’ oft the pilgrim way seems rough and long,

I yet shall stand amid yon white-robed throng,

And there I’ll sing, with millions more, this song–

He never fails; He never fails. – J.S. Baxter, Explore The Book.

2.    HURTS CAN DRAW US TO OTHERS.

 One of the good things God can do is to give us more love for others, and less selfishness.

 It’s amazing how selfish we are. We cling to our clan, our family, our friends, our church. When we see a street person, a wheelchair, a blind person, or any other of life’s walking wounded – we shy away. Why? Because they are different! They make us uncomfortable. We wish them well but do nothing to help them. It is only until life thrusts us into some great hurt that we join them. Our clan changes. We see life through their eyes, because we are looking from where they are.

 

Illustration:

 

Christopher Reeves, who played Superman, learned he wasn’t Superman when a fall from a horse left him paralyzed from the neck down. Michael J. Fox, diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, said goodbye to his television career. But he said, “Hello!” to finding a cure for Parkinson’s and to working with and for all who are afflicted. Christopher Reeves, like Fox, works with and for the paralyzed. (Manny Pacquiao and others)

 

Many people turn their hurts into helping others, and we, who know the Lord, can go a step further, and help them find the hand of God and the hope of heaven.

 

3.    HURT CAN DRAW US TO OUR BEST SELVES.

 Hurts can draw us to God, to others and finally to ourselves – to our best selves. We never know who we really are until we are tested.

 In the text, we find a man who is undergoing a severe testing of his faith – only Job, here, is unaware that he is the subject of a spiritual contest between God and Satan. The book of Job is called one of the most profound books in all of the bible for it confronts head on the toughest question of Christian existence, “Why do the righteous suffer and the evil prosper?” Or as every Christian person has cried out over the ages, “What did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening to me?” Have you ever asked God questions like that while you’re in a midnight situation that caused you to lose sleep?

 

  • Lord, I thought I was your boy…
  • Lord, I thought I was your girl…
  • You told me that you’d make my enemies be my foot stools…
  • You told me that I would eat the fat, drink the sweet and be merry…
  • . . . But here I am, “Tossin’ – n – Turnin, Turnin’ – n – Tossin’… Tossin’ and Turnin’ all night!”

 

You know the story, if you’ve studied your Bible, Job suffered a tremendous series of calamities that wiped out all that he held of value. In one tragic day Job lost all his possessions, and his seven children. Subsequently, he lost his health, and was afflicted with a terrible disease that left him covered with boils from head to foot.

 

To top it all off, his wife turned against him, and suggested that he curse God and commit suicide. But look at Job and learn… despite all of these pressures, Job trusts in the mercy and love, and grace of God and refuses to do what Satan is trying to get him to do – that is curse God and die!

 

I’ve come to tell somebody… you must never surrender to the devil’s plan! I know that sometimes life gets hard and hurtful, but tell your neighbor “You have too much to lose if you give up now!”

 

What we must understand is that in every trial of this Christian there are two (2) purposes in operation: Satan has his purpose, and God has his.

 

Satan’s purpose, here, was to use the pain of Job’s illness to afflict his body. Next, to use the well-intentioned comfort of his friends to irritate his soul (because his so-called three friends – Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar – were trying to tell him that he must have done something wrong and as a result, God was punishing him,) and thirdly, to use the silence of God to assault his spirit and to break his faith.

 

But God’s purpose (everybody say, “God’s purpose”) God’s purpose, here, is to teach Job some truths that he never knew before and to bring out the best in Job’s life:

 

  • To deepen his theology. (That though we are God’s children, we too will undergo trials in life)
  • To help him understand God much better – and
  • To provide a demonstration for all sufferers in all the ages, to bring them into an assurance that God knows what He’s doing!

 

Brothers and sisters, in the hurt you’re going through right now due to the many trials of life, you have got to believe that God is still in control and He knows what He’s doing! And when you recognize that God is in control, you can sleep at nights when the storms of life are raging!

 

  • When you recognize that God is in control…You can smile when you’re money is funny and your change is strange!
  • When you recognize that God is in control…You can hold your head up when situations have almost gotten the best of you!
  • When you recognize that God is in control…When you lay in bed at night and can’t count your sheep, you can count your blessings!

 

“Well, Pastor… if that’s so easy, then why didn’t Job do it?” Understand again, that Job didn’t know of the contest between Satan and God. He didn’t know that Satan had shown up in heaven and petitioned God for a chance to beat him down. The only reason we know is because we have the evidence of scripture. Job didn’t have that – that’s why he speaks as he does in verse 4 of chapter 7: He says, “I’m going through so much now that when I lie down, I say, when shall I arise, and the night be gone? Because I am full of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day.”

 

But you see, we have it better than Job had it. We have the assurance of God’s Holy Word! Yes… that’s why God gave us His word in complete form, because God knows that if Satan tried to do it to Job, (a man who was perfect) he’ll try to do it to you and me (who are far less than perfect). . . And so, the next time you find yourself ‘Tossin’ – n – Turnin’ and hurting, just speak to your spirit and say… “This ain’t nothing but a test, and I’m going to wait on God to bring me out!”

 

Paul says, “I know what it is to be poor or have plenty. . . I have lived under all kinds of conditions. Christ gives me the strength to face anything” (Phil. 4:12-13, CEV).

 

Illustration:

 

I saw a sign, “Christians are like tea. Their strength does not come out until they are in hot water!”

 

Poem:  Good Timber

 

The tree that never had to fight

For sun and sky and air and light,

That stood out in the open plain

And always got its share of rain,

Never became a forest king

But lived and died a scrubby thing.

The man who never had to toil

To heaven from the common soil,

Who never had to win his share

Of sun and sky and light and air,

Never became a manly man,

But lived and died as he began.

Good timber does not grow in ease;

The stronger wind, the tougher trees;

The farther sky, the greater length;

The more the storm, the more the strength;

By sun and cold, by rain and snows,

In tree or man, good timber grows.

Where thickest stands the forest growth

We find the patriarchs of them both;

And they hold converse with the stars

Whose broken branches show the scars

Of many winds and of much strife —

This is the common law of life. – Douglas Malloch, quoted in Resource, Sept./Oct., 1992, p 7.

 

 We don’t know ourselves, our potential, our courage, our faith, our strength in Jesus, until some crisis brings it out. Folks, life is a test and the lessons grow harder the longer we live and it is those people who overcome obstacles that we admire the most.

 

CONCLUSION:

 

None of this is automatic. The blessings come for those who love God in spite of pain and hurt. Hurt can make us better but it can also make us bitter.

 

  • It can drive us to God or build a wall between us and God.
  • It can drive us inward to discover hidden strengths or to self-pity.
  • It can drive us to love and help people or to be jealous of their good fortune and to actually hate them for having what we do not have.

 

Job’s wife, a sufferer too, who may have lost her faith, said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job. 2:9). Matthew Henry catches her meaning, “Is this a God to be loved and served?”

 

Illustration:

 

Mark Twain had little use for religion. When he told his daughter of a famous man he ate dinner with, she said, “Daddy. I’ll bet you know everybody but God.” His view of life proved it. He wrote that every year, millions who die, “scoff at the pitiful world and the useless universe and violent, contemptible human race.” Life’s sufferings, especially the death took his wife, drove him not just away from God, but against God. One of his last books was an attack upon Christianity. Twain wore his unbelief proudly; but beneath the pride was probably a lonely, broken heart. A poet puts it, “She set a rose to blossom in her hair/The day faith died/Now glad, she said, and free I go and life is wide. . ./But through long nights she stared into the dark/And knew she lied.” (Author Unknown)

 

We may never know why God sends or allows hurt to knock on our door; but we cannot bear the thought of life without Him or pain without purpose. And even if we do not get any answers, we know there is an answer, and we take His hand. And if we look closely, we see the scars of His sufferings on them. And if we look in his face, we see the One who said in extreme suffering, “My God, why?” His name is Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgments:

 

 

 

IT’S TIME FOR SOMETHING NEW!

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TEXT:                         Isaiah 43:18-19

INTRODUCTION:

How many of you here this morning, “Would like to have something new or a fresh start in your life?” Many of us here this morning have made many mistakes in our lives as Christians and as individuals. We have experienced many setbacks and failures throughout our lives. Sometimes we allow these mistakes, these setbacks and failures to enslave us to the point that we never enjoy the full life that God has given us to enjoy.

In John 10:10 Jesus said, “I come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” Then he goes on to tell us that there is an adversary, called the Devil, that seeks to still, kill and destroy that life. The Devil will remind us of our past in order to keep us from enjoying the life that God gave us to live. The Devil does not want you to have a fresh start in life or for you to experience something new.

The good news is, God says, “I want you to have a fresh start in life, I want you to have a new beginning, I want to do something new in your life.” Aren’t you glad that God wants to do something new in your life? Doesn’t it make you excited to know that God desire to give you a fresh start, a new beginning in life? What all of us here need this morning is a Fresh Start, a New Beginning with God. Last year some of you said, “I am going to grow in my relationship with God. I am going to pray more, read my bible more and get more involved in my church. I’m going to spend more quality time with my family.” The list could go on. The fact all of us here made some mistakes or we made some bad decision that hindered us from doing those things that wanted to do.

Well this morning the good news is according to Isaiah 43:18 “The Lord says, `Forget about what has happened before. Do not think about the past. Instead, look at the new things I’m going to do. ” Listen to what God is saying in this verse. Forget about what’s happened before. He says don’t think about the past. It’s over. The book’s closed on it.

We need to understand that God is far more interested in our future than He is in our past. Some people think that God is stuck on their past. That all He wants to do is remind them of the things that they have done wrong. God is more interested in your future than He is with your past. That’s where you’re going to spend the rest of your life. He says, “Forget about your past. Forget about the former things. Don’t think about it. Look at the new thing I’m going to do.”

Background:

Israel was being punished for their sins and rebellion against God. God wanted to give hope and encouragement to His people. He wanted them to know that even though they were being punished they were not being forsaken. God wanted His people to understand that the punishment that they were experiencing would not be the end of them. The fact is that God want to give them a fresh start in life, a new Beginning in life.

Israel no doubt was discouraged because they thought this was the end of them. They had gone too far, they had sinned and rebelled against God to the point that He would no longer be their God. Maybe they thought God would not deliver us again, it’s over. That is when they begin to remember the former things or past deliverances. Israel could remember past deliverances and past victories. They could remember when they were trapped by the Red Sea and had nowhere to go, how God made away for them. They could remember that when the enemy was about to overtake them how He provided protection for them. They could remember the former things, but they couldn’t see their future. That is why God said; “I am going to do something new.”

Maybe that is where you are this morning! You feel that you have made so many mistakes, you have failed God so many times and you have sinned it all away. Now God doesn’t want anything to do with you. You feel and believe that you have no future with God. The good news is, God is saying, “It’s not over, I have plans for your life. I am about to do something new for you. ”

The 1st step to embracing the new thing that God wants to do in your life is to:

1.    CHANGE YOUR FOCUS

v.18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” QUIT LOOKING BEHIND, START LOOKING AHEAD.

Application: If you are continually looking behind you cannot see where you are going.

If you are ever going to move on to new things in Christ you must learn that:

a.    You Must Never Depend Upon Past Victories To Sustain You.

 (“…Forget the former things.”)

Application: The children of Israel had many victories in their past:

  • Leaving Egypt
  • Conquering the Land of Canaan
  • Fighting of prospective conquerors
  • Survived a split in their country

But now they are in captivity. All their previous victories were doing nothing to set them free. They needed a new work, a new miracle, a new victory.

The question isn’t what has God done (“They are new every morning…”) – the question must be: “What is God doing in your life right now?” “What is it that you want Him to do in your life right now?”

Secondly, in order to move on to new things in Christ you must know that:

b.    You Must Never Allow Past Failures to Possess You.

“…do not dwell on the past.”

Application: The children of Israel had failed God miserably. Every time He blessed them with good things, they returned to Him evil things:

  • God gave them the Temple – they gave Him idol worship
  • God gave them truth – they lived and proclaimed a lie
  • God gave them His commands – they lived like they were suggestions.
  • God gave them wealth – they used it to abuse the poor
  • God gave them Himself – they gave Him nothing except rejection.

The children of Israel did not deserve to receive anything from God. Yet He still loved them and He earnestly wanted to help them change. Notice God’s Message: Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! God was not condemning them for their past, they could do nothing to change it. Instead God was holding out the hand of hope. He is in effect saying: “Forget about your past — I am giving you an opportunity to start over.”

Transition:

If you want to embrace the new things of God, you need to refocus your thoughts; that means you have to stop thinking some old patterns. Which memories are you still rehearsing that keep you from having a fresh start in life? The Bible says let go. Let go of those things. The more you hold on to that memory, the more you rehearse it, it continues to hurt you today. It cannot hurt you without your permission. You have to change your mind and let go and get rid of those painful, hurtful memories of shame and guilt and other things.

c.    You Must Never Live on Yesterday’s Faith.

Application: The children of Israel had experienced great spiritual blessings throughout their history. From the first Passover, to the crossing of the Red Sea, to the conquering of the Land of Canaan, to the building of the temple, the children of Israel had seen the hand of God at work in and through their lives. Yet their faith in what God had done was doing nothing to deliver them from their present situation. Their old faith was not sufficient enough to deliver them from their present problems. They needed new faith, a new vision for what God could do. They needed a new portion of the faith that had brought to pass all the victories from before.

In order to start acting in faith that means you’ve got to stop having a pity party. You’ve got to stop feeling sorry for yourself. “Poor me! I’m such a victim. Life is unfair.” Of course life is unfair! Whoever said it was fair? God never said that. This is a world filled with sin and because of that, life is unfair. But you have to go on with life anyway. You stop having a pity party and stop rehearsing the past, regretting the past, and you get on with the present and the future. The more time we spend regretting our past, the more of our future is wasted. The more time you spend thinking, “I wish that hadn’t happened! I wish I could change that. If only I could go back, reverse the clock and redo history,” and you’re rehearsing and regretting, you’ll not only make yourself miserable right now, you’re setting yourself up for more of the same thing in the future. The way you set yourself up for more failure is by focusing on past failures. Whatever you focus on you tend to reproduce in your life. “According to your faith it will be done unto you.”

What you need to do is learn from those failures. Let me give you the real secret of success. Every successful entrepreneur knows this. Real success is built on failure. Failure is the way you become a success. You figure out what doesn’t work. You never call it a failure in your life. Call it an education. You learn from past failures and mistakes and act in faith for the future. Some people will never act in faith because they have been paralyzed by the fear of past failures and mistakes.

What we need to do is learn from the past, act in faith for the future and look to God for guidance.

How do you get rid of fear of failure? Faith. ACT IN FAITH. Faith for today, not on yesterday’s provision, guidance, blessings or miracles…but step out in faith today, believing that God will do something great in your life today! Faith is not so much the absence of fear, as it is moving ahead in spite of your fear. Stop worrying about what others say or think. Proverbs 29:25 “Being afraid of people can get you into trouble.” The Living Bible says, “Fear of man is a dangerous trap, but to trust in God means safety.”

Hudson Taylor, pioneer missionary to China, said that Jesus’ words in Mark 11:22, “Have faith in God,” could be translated, “HOLD ON TO THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, former pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel, appreciated Taylor’s insight and said:

“Faith is holding on to the faithfulness of God and, as long as you do that, you cannot go wrong. Faith does not look at the difficulties…Faith does not look at itself or at the person who is exercising it. FAITH LOOKS AT GOD…Faith is interested in God only, and it talks about God and it praises God and it extols the virtues of God. The measure of the strength of man’s faith, always, is ultimately the measure of his knowledge of God…He knows God so well that he can rest on the knowledge. And it is the prayers of such a man that are answered.”

Always remember this: LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS FAIR, BUT GOD IS ALWAYS FAITHFUL!

The 2nd step to embracing the new thing what God wants to do in your life is to

2.    CLARIFY YOUR FOCUS.

DISCOVER WHAT GOD WANTS FOR YOU.

PERCEIVE [GR yada’, yaw-dah’ prim. root]: to know by seeing; care, recognition, acknowledge, aware of, understand.

What do you see when you view your life? Do you see possibilities or problems? Notice what God said: I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

The children of Israel had a choice. They could view their past and the problems of their present, or they could focus upon what God wanted to do in their lives.

In order to discover what God wants for you:

a.    You Must First See Yourself as God Sees You

The children of Israel felt as though they were getting just what they deserved because of the way they had lived. Some even believed that God would never have anything more to do with them. But they were wrong!!!

You may feel like your past has made your life a wasteland, but in God, your life can become a stream of life.

Romans 8:1,2 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

Colossians 1:21,22 21And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight

In order to discover what God wants for you:

b.    You Must See Your Possibilities as God Sees Them

I am making a way in the desert.

God is able to transform the desert areas of your life into fields of blessing and abundance. God can take a dried up useless life and transform it into a life of purpose and grace

The greatest step to embracing the new thing what God wants to do in your life is to

3.    COMMIT YOURSELF TO GOD’S PLAN

God had already set into motion the events and people who would lead Israel out of captivity and back into the land of blessing. BUT IT WAS STILL UP TO THEM TO DECIDE IF THEY WANTED WHAT GOD WAS OFFERING. If they refused God’s plan, if they refused to follow where God was leading, then they would be doomed to remain in their captivity.

Transition:

God has already set into motion a new direction and a new purpose for your life — will you follow Him?

Trust God to help us succeed. Depend on Him. We don’t need depend on ourselves. We’ve already proven that we can’t do it on our own. That’s why we’ve failed. Some people just don’t get it. They stumble and fall and then they get up and say, “I’ll just try harder!” It’s like you go up to a wall and bang your head against it and the wall doesn’t fall down. You try it again and Bang! Again. You keep doing it thinking, “Maybe it will fall over this time.” That’s the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting different results. If we keep doing the same thing then we will keep getting the same result. We can’t change who we are, only God can do that. I am not speaking about the outward man but the inner man. The real person is the hidden person of the heart. Success in life is not trying harder, but living smarter – GIVING GOD THE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

Our own understanding can often deceive us. What we “think” should happen. What we “reason” to happen. Yes, facts are facts, and if you are basing your understanding on that alone, you are limiting God. You see, GOD IS A GOD OF MIRACLES! A place where facts alone cannot explain. If we take the God-factor out of an equation, we will end up with less then what could really happen.

Zechariah 4:6 “You will not succeed by your own strength or power but by My Spirit, says the Lord.”

CONCLUSION:

“When someone becomes a Christian, They become a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!” God specializes in new beginnings. Jesus Christ has the power to do that. It’s called being born again, the chance to start over. God says, “I don’t want you to turn over a new leaf. I’m going to give you a whole new life.”

Psalms 95:7-8 “For He is our God, And we are the people of His pas-ture, And the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion…”

 

 

 

Acknowledgments:

 

  • Wayne Searls
  • Jim Mooney
  • Sermon Illustrations