During the sermon my daughter turned to my wife and said, “This sermon isn’t PG-13.” But this isn’t a PG13 world is it? No, this is a R-Rated world. And if we’re going to survive we need some tools to help us. One of the tools God gives us is grace, grace that James tells us is greater then all our sins.
Our Administrative Assistant, Erica LaGrander has a secret to getting rich. She wrote this on the white board in the office…
Is so easy, and somewhat natural for us to start with what we don’t have. When we start with what we don’t have we fail to see God’s constant blessing in our lives. But when we start with all the things we have in Christ then we have countless reasons to rejoice and worship him.
This past week, in his pastoral epistle, Pastor Brian, reflecting on the onslaught of tragedies assaulting our world today, wrote,
“What in the world is going on? Never before in my lifetime have such shocking news, distressing media coverage and chaotic events been so frequent…
My mind today has gone to the book of Lamentations…. It reminds us to cling to God in times of sorrow and confusion. Immediately following the praise for God’s new mercies and His great faithfulness are these words of hope and promise: ‘The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord’ (3:25-26).
While we quietly and confidently wait for God’s deliverance, when our salvation is complete, let it drive us to Him.
What in the world is going on? I am not quite sure, but I do know this…Our God is good! Great is His faithfulness! All that God has been today, He will be tomorrow. He loves you today. He will not love you any less tomorrow. You blew it today? Guess what? His mercies are new tomorrow. You get a fresh start! Let Him be your portion; your all in all.”
And in this hope we sing, “come Lord Jesus come…”
We often talk about the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus but if we’re honest with ourselves, we often feel that our relationship with him is anything but personal. God often seems distant to me, but still James says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) So is God distant or are we failing to draw near? There should be a visceral aspect to our faith. An aspect in which the transcendent God we worship draws near to us in our daily lives. When Jesus came he was called, Immanuel, which means? [God with us] There’s a promise to James exhortation, we only need to draw near and he will draw near to us. His life will become our life. His story will become our story. His song will become our song.
"And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” - Exodus 14:13-14
Often, we fail when we face spiritual conflict simple because we fail to let the Lord fight for us… Whatever battles you're facing this morning, you don't need to fear, you just need to stand firm knowing that your salvation and victory has already been in Christ, because he has worked for you!
"God specializes in comebacks… God can do the impossible. If our eyes are on what man can do, it will lead to discouragement and unbelief. When we focus on what God can do, even when we face defeats, we are never defeated. The cross is the ultimate comeback. Only 3 days later, Jesus came back to life!” —Pastor Brain
"…The Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." 1 John 4:14-16
"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
So who’s sick of winter? Here’s a picture that should resonate with any New Englander…
Here’s another picture that should resonate with any New Englander, and also, give a glimmer of hope…
This painting is called, Spring Beauty, 1943 by Andrew Wyeth. Wyeth lived and painted the vast majority of his paintings in Maine. In this painting the colors are mute and cold, dead leafs are laying around the roots of a slumbering tree, the presence of winter and death dominates this painting, but at it’s center, there’s a tiny little glimmer of hope, a tiny little spring flower rising up from the winter ground. In the coming weeks, we’re going to see little hints of spring, just like this, springing up all around us.
You know, we reside in a living illustration… Our theme verse for the journey of prayer is Hosea 6:3, "Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Spring is going to come, its just around the corner, this is sure! We can live through Tuesday’s pending snow storm in this hope! But the Lord is also coming, as sure…"as the spring rains", and there is even greater hope in that for us this morning.
In the Epistle this week, Pastor Brian drew some spiritual application from the Pat's amazing Super Bowl comeback… "God specializes in comebacks. And with God they don’t have to take a long time. With a second on the clock, God can do the impossible. If our eyes are on what man can do, it will lead to discouragement and unbelief. When we focus on what God can do, even when we face defeats, we are never defeated. The cross is the ultimate comeback. Only 3 days later, Jesus came back to life!” —Pastor Brain
And when we come together to worship and come together to celebrate communion, we celebrate ultimate comeback that we have in Christ. In Colossians 3:16, The Apostle Paul says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."
If you have watched any of the sideline outtakes from last week's game you undoubtedly hear Julian Edelman say, "Got to believe. Got to believe, boys." We already knew that Edelman was a great wide receiver, but did you know that he's also the Pats best cheerleader? "Got to believe. Got to believe, boys." But this begs the question, believe in what? Well, believe you can win! The Pats never gave up hope that they could win. They never stopped believing that the seemingly impossible was possible.
Now here’s the application for us: Our victory has already been won! All we have to do is—believe, proclaim and encourage—each other in the victory that Christ has already won for us! And that’s what we do when we sing together and that’s what we do when we celebrate communion, together.
I love this image of victory that the Apostle John gives us in Revelation 12. "And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, 'Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb." The Apostle Paul gives us a little more clarity in Romans 8 when he says, "Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us."
Christie Brinkley, once said, "I'd rather have a broken arm than a broken heart." [Yeah, that's right. I just quoted a supermodel] Why would she say that? Well, if you break your arm you have a reasonable expectation that it will heal. But a broken heart, that’s a little harder to fix. Proverbs 18:14 says, "A man's spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?" But here's the thing, Psalms 34:18 tells us, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." Are you brokenhearted this morning? Has your spirit been crushed? Well the Lord is near and it is in his power to heal.
"In our worship gatherings there are…true stories of all kinds, unfolding in real time…
- Blissful newlyweds.
- Lonely hearts, waiting for years to be placed in a family.
- A newly blended family.
- New parents holding a healthy newborn.
- Bereaved parents after burring their stillborn child.
- An infertile couple longing to conceive.
- An exhausted factory worker.
- The young graduate working his dream job.
- A terminally ill cancer patient, and her hoping-against-hope husband.
- A young widow.
- Abandoned spouses and children.
- Someone healed of an incurable disease.
- Exhausted parents of kids with disabilities.
- A rejoicing family together after years waiting for an oppressive government to release their children.
- A teen who’s endured nothing but persecution after publically professing Christ.
- The recovering approval junkie. [That's me]
- The ensnared addict.
- The single mom laboring long and hard at work and home."
Maybe one of those stories is your story this morning, but here's the thing, "we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” God redeems everything. He waists nothing. Therefore we can sing, "Perfect submission all is at rest, I in my Savior am happy and blest."
Myles Munroe once said, “Sight is a function of the eyes, but vision is a function of the heart.” This is why the Apostle Paul says, "I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might." (Ephesians 1:16-19)
May the eyes of our hearts be enlightened today! Enlightened to the hope we have in him! Enlightened to riches we have in him! Enlightened to the power we have in him! Enlightened to him!
I love what the psalmist has to say concerning the presence of God...
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! (Psalms 84:1-4)
"My soul longs—faints—for the Lord…" Can you honestly say that your soul was fainting for the Lord as you walked into this place this morning? Can you honestly say that? I’m not sure I can say that? Maybe my soul was fainting for a cup of coffee, but for the Lord? We have a tendency to let the temporal things of this world distract us from the eternal things of God. Our souls faint for a bass boat and fishing rod. Our souls faint for a cup of pour-over coffee and a wayfarer waffle. Our souls faint for "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions – on a sesame seed bun." But by the time we walk through these doors—we’re fainted out and in-between yawns we do our best to sing: "It’s your breath in our lungs so we pour out our praise."
There’s no judgment here—I am more guilty of this then anyone in this room! There’s no judgment—but there is an exhortation. An exhortation to calm our minds for a moment, to acknowledge that the very breath we breath is the breath of life that he has breathed into us. An exhortation to declare our dependency upon him. Then we can sing with the Psalmist: "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord…Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!"