Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Are You Satisfied?

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst." - 1 Timothy 1:15 NIV

If everything around your position, your job, your life came to a screeching halt, would you be satisfied with who you are?

Now I know this seems to be a weird question because most people would be genuinely upset.  Losing a job is not easy or fun.  Having life slap you in the face can be frustrating.  Not being what you were can feel emptying....

So I go back to the question.  Are you satisfied with who you are?  It is not a loaded question unless you struggle with titles, job identity, or social identity.

I struggled with this lately until I read an article that asked if I was satisfied with just being a Christian or was I stuck in my title as a pastor.  If I am not satisfied being just a follower of Christ, the basis of my faith, then being a pastor would never make me me.  My title is not who I am but just an acknowledgement of what I am doing. 

So I have been learning that just being a Christian is more than I need in my life because as the verse says, Christ came to save sinners not titles.  When I can accept that, then my title does not make me who I am...Jesus does.

What does this question mean to you?  How have you allowed your title to dictate who you are?  What do you need to change in order to be satisfied with you?  How does your position or title acknowledge what you are doing?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Unwavering Trust

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord , the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.
Isaiah 26:4 NIV

I am riding on a bus this morning headed to a local science museum with my son's class.  I have ridden on school busses all my school life and many times with my kids.  In all those times I cannot remember once questioning the safety or the functionality of the bus...

I believe in the mechanics to keep the bus moving, the driver to make to correct decisions, and those who are on the bus to not distract the driver.

If it is so easy to trust life in this situation, then why is it so difficult to trust an all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present God in all situations?  Why are we so ready to question God?

Isaiah encourages us to trust in God always or forever.  Something to think about.

What is keeping you from trusting fully in God today?

Friday, December 2, 2016

Hurt Happens but Hope Endures

"Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." - Psalm 42:11 NIV

There is something to be said about hope.  It is the one thing that truly motivates us to keep going when our world is falling apart.  The problem exists, however, in defining what hope really is.

For the author of the Psalm (King David), misery had tried to overwhelm him.  Cut of from his place of worship, whether from being chased away by Saul or from the insurrection of his son Absalom, David was deeply hurt and feelings of depression were beginning to emerge.

Have you ever felt that way?  Silly question for most of us.  There are times when we all have experienced a crushing blow in life whether it be from the death of a loved one, sickness, financial upheavals, or  heartbreak in relationships.  Hurt happens.

Without hope, hurt and misery drown out the good in life.  We drown, or at least feel like drowning, because we cannot see beyond the moment, beyond the scope of our pain.  Without hope, living seems useless and others just seem to pile on the meaningless platitudes of thoughtful but useless encouragement - at least that is how we receive it because the pain deflects the true kindness of strangers. The pain tells us we cannot have joy or ever experience happiness....

But David does something here that the pain refuses to allow us to do - he asked why.

Why, my soul, are you so downcast?  Help comes to those who decide to stop listening to the pain and start listening for hope.  It takes time, energy, and effort, but it is possible.

We have to listen for hope.  For those who seek God through the beautiful relationship we can have with His Son, they have found hope.  Solid hope that cannot be moved.  Life changes.  Miseries change.  Sources of happiness change.  But God remains constant.  His hope is eternal.  So when we decide to stop listening to the pain and stop believing the lie that tells us we can never have real hope, we can start hearing the still voice of God - a quiet voice of assurance and peace that calms our disturbed souls.

No wonder Jesus sought solitude in the mountains.  He was listening to His Father's voice.  No wonder David took control of His disturbed soul, he knew he could hear the voice of God regardless of where he worshipped.

For those seeking to help others enduring the pains of hopelessness, learn to cry with them and celebrate with them.  Show them hope through  kindness and with gentleness.  But remember that you also need to have a quiet place to experience the voice of God who gives enduring hope.

Seek God and all He has to offer today and forevermore.  Be still and know He is God.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Culture Shift Series - Sermon 1

Sermon Series: Culture Shift – a Study in Daniel
Sermon Title: Ever Changing World We Live In - NOTES
Sermon Passage: Daniel 1 (NIV)

INTRO: With so many changes in our culture, it’s important for us to maintain a strong foundation in our faith and in our beliefs. In this series, we follow the life of Daniel as he was constantly tested by the dark and broken culture around him.

FCFocus: God favors people whose ways are pleasing to Him, therefore, we should seek to please God with our lives.
  • We should be prepared to please God. 
  • We should be willing to please God. 
  • We should be available to please God.
To better understand how God favors those willing to please Him, we need to answer three questions. First…

I. Are we preparing to please God with our lives?
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god. 

  • Nebuchadnezzar comes to what is left of Israel and conquers the city of Jerusalem. He ransacks the temple and takes some of the golden articles for his own treasure. 
  • National upheavals are major life changes. The United States has dealt with many life changes of its lifetime: Revolution, Civil War, Civil Rights, and World Wars. We have faced slavery, communism, fascism, and now terrorism. Through each life change we have had to learn to adapt and change. 
  • National changes affect the lives of all the people. We either adapt or we lose our national character. 
  • Every election brings more changes and ideologies. Everyone wants to be the one with all the answers, and sometimes too many changes without time for adjustment can cause unrest. And no, this is not a political sermon. 
  • In this ever changing world that we live in, if we are not prepared for the changes, then our national character will be carried away just like what happens to Judah. The articles taken from the temple symbolize how far the people of God had been separated from God. They had stopped being prepared, and now they were suffering the consequences. 
  • Now, we can prepare for anything – disasters, death, financial difficulties, and family changes. But are we willing to make an effort to be prepared? 

3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility-- 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king's palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king's service. 

  • The young men from Israel were forced from their homes and moved to a foreign land. They had to learn a new language, new customs, and new lifestyles. 
  • These men would become servants, advisors, and counselors. They were educated so they could communicate the king’s wishes to the people from whom they belonged. 
  • Sometimes we do not have a choice when change comes, but we do have a choice to be prepared. These men were chosen because of how they had been prepared – educated, healthy, and wise. We may not know everything, but we can learn. We may not have all the abilities, but we can stay healthy enough to accomplish them. We may not have all the answers but we can become wiser in how we answer. 
  • Life changes. Some life changes are very difficult while others are easy. But life is not a promise of easy. 

6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. 

  • Even though many men were taken to become a part of the king’s court, some of them were prepared. Daniel and three others were ready. 

As God favors those who are preparing to please Him, we need to ask the second question….

II. Are we willing to please God with our lives?
8 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. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you." 

  • Daniel knew being prepared for life first meant honoring God. So he refused to eat anything that was not a part of his faith practice. 
  • The key to being prepared for anything begins with our faith. When everything falls apart around us, will we blame God or grab hold tighter? 
  • Daniel could have blamed God but all of Israel received the blame for leaving their faith practices. It seems unfair until you look a little closer. 
  • Yes, the nation fell because they left God, but certain individuals began to emerge from the rubble. These people had chosen to remain faithful to God and now God was showing favor to them. 
  • For Daniel, God caused the official to show favor and sympathy towards Daniel. God was caring for Daniel because Daniel chose to hold tight to his faith in God. Daniel knew the ride was going to get bumpy so he held on tighter. 
  • It’s like riding the Scream Machine at Six Flags. You know that is one of the bumpiest rides in the park next to the Mine Train. That roller coaster will throw you all kinds of different directions after it tries to leave you in the air after it drops of the hills. A lot of people like to let go and raise their hands in the air and scream. Not ME. I hold on for dear life because I do not want to be separated from the one thing holding me on to the tracks. You can let go all you want but I am holding on. 
  • The same is true of my faith. You may choose to let go of God and try to ride the ups and downs in life without God, but not me. I am holding on tight because I know for sure He cannot be shaken and He cannot be moved. Life may change every day all around me, but my God does not change and He is ever faithful. Folks, it is time to hold on to God because the culture is changing.
Finally, as God favors those who seek to please Him, we should also ask…

III. Are we open to pleasing God with our lives?
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. 

  • Daniel had been preparing. This is why he was not afraid to have his faith challenged or tested. He and his friends asked for ten days. There wasn’t anything special about ten days. But ten days would be enough to see if their faith was more than enough to help them through the changes happening to them. 
  • I do not want to say ten days is a good way to challenge your faith. I know of a young lady who was an atheist who came to a college Bible study with a friend. The leader of the college group gave her a copy of the Book of John from the Bible and asked her to simply pray and read. She was to pray, “Jesus, if you are real, please show yourself to me this week.” She agreed to. After a few days she contacted the Bible study leader and said she wanted more of Jesus in her life. She committed her life to Christ, prepared herself, and now serves as a missionary in India. 
  • The official agreed to Daniel’s terms. Ten days, what could ten days do? They were being trained for three years. Ten days was not long enough for them to even starve to death on vegetables. My kids would starve but not me. 

 15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. 

  • But at the end of ten days, something was different. Because the young men had chosen to please God with their lives, ten days made them healthier and better nourished than all the others who ate the king’s food. 
  • It did not take ten days for God to do a miracle in their lives. It took a decision to honor God, and God favored the decision. Their health improved immediately the moment they chose God over the shift in the culture. 
  • We live in a day that is trying to tell us that living for God is an ancient myth and that we are wasting our time. Culture says the Bible is just a good book, Jesus was just a good person, and that faith is just an old pastime. Our nation’s culture is trying to disassemble faith through liberal theologies, science, and political force (don’t believe me – try praying on a school campus or try teaching creation or try sharing your faith in public). Culture is slowly building up steam to ridicule all walks of faith. 
  • What will your ten days look like? 
  • Notice that Daniel did not immediately call out the official and start quoting the Ten Commandments. Daniel did not throw God in the official’s face. Daniel simply asked to become an example. 
  • When culture begins to creep into your life, will you cling to God and let your life become an example? 
  • When life happens and you lose a job, will you cling to God? When you lose your home, will you cling to God? When you move away from everything you ever knew, will you cling to God? When you only have a few quarters left in your pockets, will you cling to God? When people question you faith, will you cling to God? 
  • Faith is not an economic exchange between you and God. Faith is trusting God when answers are not clear, time is not on your side, and life seems too much to handle. 
  • When life changes happen you cannot promise to be more faithful if God will….When we do this, we usually get in the way and mess up what God is doing. 
  • Faith is promising to remain faithful as your journey with God through the life change because you know God wants the best for you. When we do this, God begins to unfold a greater plan for our lives if we are willing to listen. 

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. 

  • These four young men, who choose to please God with their lives, received from God. They received knowledge and understanding and learning. They became so important that they could not be replaced. 
  • As for Daniel, God had more in store for him. Daniel would become one who understood dreams and visions. He would use this over and over throughout his lifetime. 
  • Pleasing God with our lives takes work, patience, and diligence. That is why Jesus sent the Comforter – the Holy Spirit. The Spirit teaches us and guides us. The more we understand of God, the more sensitive to the Spirit we become. The Spirit of God gifts us with gifts that allow the church family to function. 
  • As culture changes around us, we need to be the example that stands out as the healthiest and the best nourished. We do this by knowing our God, by practicing our faith, and by spreading the good news about Jesus. 
  • We can if we choose to please God. 


 Let me close with the last part of Daniel chapter 1:
18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. 

  • Notice that the king could not find an equal to the four who choose to please God. Ten days of faith led to ten times the understanding about life. That was just the beginning. 
  • How much is our life affected by our choices to please God? Some of you tell me stories of how God is favoring you whether it is through favor with a boss or through relationships with family. These are the stories we should be sharing. God affects our lives through our faithfulness to Him. God deserves the glory. 
  • Faith Community Church started as an idea. In fact, it started as an idea that I did not want – not because I did not trust God but because I did not think God would use me in this capacity. But I choose to please Him and see where He was leading. He put this idea in my heart. He began to put it in the hearts of others. He opened the doors of this building. He opened the way through financing so much of what you see. We did not have the money for those chairs. We prayed, and the Assembly of God district said they had some chairs we could use. To God be the glory for great things He has done and is doing and is yet to do. 
  • Sometimes we have to get involved with culture if we are going to make a difference. The four young men joined the king’s service and they became a great influence on culture. 
  • Are we putting ourselves in the right places to make a difference? Are we serving in the right places, working in the right places, and giving to the right places? 
  • To please God, we should be prepared, be willing, and be open to pleasing Him. 

 21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

What God Has Prepared

However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him— 1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV

For many kids, waking up on Christmas morning is a treat. Most try to sneak around to find the treasures under a tree which hold their name.  All night they had been dreaming and trying to imagine what wonderful excitement awaits them.  Unable to imagine any longer they wander out hoping to catch a glimpse.

Lovingly and carefully, parents around the world lay out gifts that were prepared for their children.  How truly we imitate the works of God without even taking a second thought.  When we love God, we act like Him.

You see, God carefully arranged the world as a wonderful mystery for His children.  Lovingly and carefully He created a world for His children to learn more about His love.  Just like kids awakening on Christmas we spend our years waking up to His love but people will miss it, if they are not in love with Him.

Lives of misery are experienced due to sin's hold on mankind.  Wretched existence emerges from those who fail to imagine the true love of God.  So in misery, they seek to make life miserable for all so they do not suffer alone.

But God seeks to remedy this misery through His love.  He offers hope, joy, and peace.  He offers Himself fully.  All we have to do is to receive His love offering and, in return, love Him.

Start acting like a kid again.  Start imagining the things God is preparing for you on earth and in heaven.  As one song says "How deep the Father's love for us."  Spend a little time in love with God and you will experience the deepest, richest, most pure love one could ever imagine.

What do you think?  Let me know, I would love to hear your thoughts on this.