Friday, May 31, 2013

"Intermediate Heaven" ?

Went to a bible study at highland church. They were showing presentations from material on "intermediate heaven" by Randy Alcorn. The idea of it seems ridiculous to me. A place between the New Earth, and this world that we stop to meet Jesus. Seems very similar to the idea of "purgatory" in Catholicism. Fictional, made up. I was taught in college that when someone dies they're instantly brought into the presence of Jesus. I really can't find much scripture to back that up. The idea of "sleeping" until judgement day seems much, much, much more plausible.

hold the line against the night

Let it be written in the books of forever, across the porcelain halls of the grounds of the new Jerusalem, that in the dark time, as we stood in the twilight of the human race, we stood for truth. We stood for liberty. We stood against tyranny. We exposed evil. We shared the gospel courageously. We lifted up and sacrificed our very lives for the cause of Christ.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

ULC Sunday Sermon Podcast: From Self Examining to Sharing with Others

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Good morning everyone!  Are you having a good morning?  Are you finding some peace with that walk with God?  I certainly hope you are.  It's a beautiful day here in Wisconsin.  Thankfully we haven't had any tornadoes here, like those in Oklahoma recently.  We'll get that topic soon, but first I want to share something with you that's been on my heart recently.

It seems that once we start down this road of faith we can start to inwardly accuse ourselves.

I know, I'm jumping right in, without going into all the technical stuff.  But this is something I want to talk about right away before I start the service, because it's on my heart right at this moment.

Because I get confused.  And I get upset.  I'm struggling with some tough decisions I have to make, and it's hard. Because I want to make the right decisions so desperately.  I really feel I need to make the Godly decision.  When we start this we consciously start to try and do what God would want from us in any given situation.

But I see myself going way too far with it.  I get on my knees, and ask God for a sign or for the ability to make the right decision.  But let's face it, a lot of decisions we're gonna face are not cut and dry.

It's mucky, and theres good points on both sides and bad points on both sides.  So it isn't easy, and it's not like God comes down off the throne and gives us a verbal answer to these situations.  A lot of my frustration on this is that God isn't being as clear as I would desire.

I want an answer, I want a clear answer, and I want that answer now.  Isn't that how it is as human beings?

Meanwhile, in the agonizing of making these tough decisions that inner voice of accusation just runs rampant over my thoughts and choices.  Pretty soon I'm feeling guilty, and ashamed, and upset, lost, depressed and just plain miserable.

That's the point I'm trying to hit here before we start: Don't let yourself be victim to an inner voice of accusation.  That inner voice that fills you with shame when you make a questionable decision.  You aren't quite sure, you think it might be the wrong decision, and suddenly that inner voice is just beating you down.

Well that isn't of God.  And that's what I try to answer that voice with.   I found a really powerful graphic on the internet that I'd like to share with you here, it reads:

So that's really just how it lines up.  Don't you ever believe that the angry voice in your head just playing a mistake over and over and over, and condemning you for it.. is how a Christian is suppose to feel.  Absolutely WRONG.  We can feel convicted when we make a mistake or sin.  But it's not something that will be played over and over again with negative self talk.  That is not of God!

 Alright, rant over.  As you probably know, this is Universal Life Church.  We are a Christ based ministry, but we accept those all of faiths to learn more about our savior.  We're a very accepting church.  We're not gonna condemn you because of your choices or tell you that God doesn't like you.  Because we know he does like you.  He likes you because you're part of his chosen people.

If you'd like to find our group on Facebook do a search for Universal Life Church 62648.  That number is our identifier within the ULC community.  And that goes into where we operate, which is on the internet.  We run things from our facebook group where we post sunday sermons, wednesday bible studies, and sunday teaching lessons in audio format or text.  We also offer encouragement to church members through the group.  So if you'd like to be a part of that, please find us on facebook and join up.

Thank you for being here for our Sunday sermon.  Thanks to Lead Pastor Dustin Milam for all his work at the church and the clinic in Kentucky.  Thanks to the new deacons and our minister for their continued work.

So before we start, let's go to God in prayer this morning and ask him to join us here:

Heavenly Father, please hear our prayer.  Join with us today as we praise your name.  Work on our hearts Father, and make us holy, one brick at a time.  Keep us on this path, and comfort our hearts.  Help us to work on ourselves, and then learn to help others.  And Father please lift up those who have been affected by the destruction in Oklahoma.  We ask that you take them under your wing, and give them special attention in this difficult time.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

I'd like to mention something that was recorded recently, an interview in the rubble with an old woman in Oklahoma.  I don't watch the news very much, just because of all the fear being pandered, but an old friend of mine brought this story to my attention.  I've included a link to the interview on Youtube within the text of the sermon, so please feel free to watch it yourself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUc1ZgXiQGs

So there was this older woman, and sky news was interviewing her about the tornadoes.  Her house was utterly and completely destroyed.  You could see the broken timber and splintered pieces of the house all around her.  Yet as they interviewed her she seemed strangely serene.  They asked her what it was like, and she said her plan had always been to go in this bathroom for cover from the tornado.  She was sitting on a stool in the bathroom.  She felt the stool come up through the floor and boom, the house comes down around her and shes sitting in the rubble.  And she had a little dog, and tried calling it.  But the dog didn't come.  The interviewer asked this old woman if she could comprehend what had happened.  And she replied, "I know exactly what happened.  This is life in the big city."  And she seemed so calm about it.  But she was sad, because she lost her dog.  And just after she had said this, the interviewer noticed something moving in the rubble.  And it was her dog.  They came over and pulled it from the rubble.  The woman was beset with relief.  The first thing she said, pulling the dog from the rubble was "bless your little bitty heart."  And next she said, "Thank you God."  Then she said, "I thought God just answered one prayer, to let me be ok.  But he answered both of them.  Because this was my second prayer, " She said looking down at her dog. 

That was really powerful to me when I saw it.  And it's still powerful to me.  The interviewer seemed to expect the woman to be frantic and lost, but she wasn't.  Even after her house had been utterly destroyed, she had peace about it, because she was ok.  She knew God had saved her.  And she knew that these kinds of troubled arent things we need to freak out about.  They're things we can have peace about, because God loves us.  She knew her first prayer had been answered.  And she testified to the camera person.  But God wasn't done there.  God's love is bigger than even the huge miracle of protecting her life.  God is abundantly loving.  He not only saved her life, but he saved her dogs life.

And what I'm telling you now, isn't something I would have to tell that old woman.  It's something she already knows in her heart.  And it gives her complete peace in the storm of life.  How many of us have lost it when we got in a fender bender or made a mistake at work?  Do you remember how you felt during it?  Lost, upset, afraid, confused?  Just to name a few?  Well this woman may have been afraid when that tornado brought down her house around her... but in the aftermath she wasn't running around the wreckage yelling and frantic.  She didn't search high and low for her dog for hours in wreckage that could harm her.  She took in the situation peacefully, had some faith in all of it, and God saw that.  He saw that woman, and said I'm not just gonna save your life from this natural disaster, I'm bringing your dog with too.  That's the kind of God we have.  A loving God, named Jehovah, who actively cares for us. And is personal to all of us.


If you thirst for justice.  Which is something I thirst for, you won't find it on Earth.  But you will see it in God.  And his justice is done, sometimes on Earth, and sometimes after death. 

I thought I'd tell you a little bit about me. Just a bit, I don't want to go into too much detail.  But I'm your Pastor, and you ought to know a little right?  So here we go: I'm left handed,

I stutter sometimes (like Moses) and

I've had about 7 concussions in my life.

So if my sermons don't make any sense, now you know why.  If I ramble endlessly, that can be my excuse.

The title of the sermon today is "From Self Examining to Sharing with Others."   The last two weeks we've been working on getting right within our own minds. 

proverbs 16:32 says New Living Translation (©2007)
Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.

And we've gone over several Bible verses in the past few weeks that emphasize self examination.  He who conquers himself is greater than one who concurs a city" is a way I've heard that proverb paraphrased.  

Let's go over something again.  The story in the news about the old woman in the Oklahoma tornado.  She trusted God and received peace of mind from that.  Most of the time I can spot someone who doesn't have that from a mile away!  I was hanging out with a friend of mine, and he told me that once when during high school, he was getting off the bus, and boom a car flies through and he goes flying off the windshield.  And instead of the person running over to help him, this guy starts freaking out at him, saying it was his fault, and just frantic!  Rambling on about how he needed to call his insurance agent!  Absolutely no concern for a human being he just injured, by flying past a bus with it's lights on, indicating kids are getting out.

Looking at it now, a lot of us would never want to be that person.  Because from our perspective thats just a rotten way to react!  But how often in the past have we had an emergency, and the first thing we thought about was ourselves.  How often, when someone dear to us has died have we cried and worried over the fact of what we're going to do without them around.. and having to deal with the funeral and family, instead of worrying about their family, and their salvation, and how others will cope?

We tried living a life run on our selfish will.  We were in charge and we didn't need any God!  Remember that?  Was that ever you?  I'm so self sufficient.  I've got a good job, I'm gonna prosper, gain wealth and prestige and power.  I'm taking the world by storm!

But now we look back, and see where that took us.  It took us into selfishness.  Which lead to fear.  Which lead to temptation.  Which lead to sin.  We were rudderless.  And eventually we recognized that.  And started searching.  Maybe we'd heard of Christianity or been raised in a condemning church.  So Christianity was the last thing we wanted to explore.  Buddhism, taoism, naturalism, new age, auras and chockras, zodiac stuff.  We explored it all, step by step, but it was all empty.  And finally, as it got worse and worse, we realized that the truth had been right in front of us all along.  That instead of wandering lost through the wilderness, like the tribe of Israel after the exodus, we could've just stepped right into the promise land, if we'd just pushed past our fears, doubts, and misconceptions about Christianity and the Bible.

And now we don't have to be those people we see everyday.  Stressing in the car.  Dead in the eyes.  A constant frown on the face.  Miserable, while trying to maintain a reputation of self reliance.  We know those people, and we see them everyday.  And aren't we glad we don't have to be that way anymore?

Now, when the storm hits, the tornadoes rolling in, we can sit down on a stool, and just wait it out, knowing that our God will protect us.  We can have a little peace about life.

We receive that peace through faith in God.  We're seen a righteous through our unwavering faith in God.  And the only way to that close connection with God is Jesus the Christ.  The Christ that bore the weight of your sins personally on the cross.

And now that we're working on ourselves day by day, that peace and connection with God grows and flourishes.  We grow up tall like a tree and bear fruit. 

Matthew 12:35  says: "A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him."

So we've got ministers of good in the world and ministers of bad in the world.  And we want to be the ministers of good, don't we?  We want to bear good fruit.

1 Peter 2:1-5

New International Version (NIV)
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

So we go from the topic of self examining to sharing with others.  Self examination doesn't stop.  But at some point sharing does start.  Let me encourage you to pray for the opportunity to minister to others.  If God wants you to do that, the opportunity will present itself.  This is the great commission, the great responsibility of every Christian on the planet.  Matthew 28:18-20 says "

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus Christ is with us and it is our duty to him to minister to others.  This starts with our family.  Then continues with our friends.  It also means encouraging and talking with the congregation about Biblical truth.  And beyond our family, friends, and congregations, it does mean ministering to strangers as well.

This doesn't necessarily mean going door to door, or walking around a college campus asking students if they think they're going to heaven.  Which is misleading, because we're going to the New Earth, not heaven, though some will rein with Christ in heaven.  We can go door to door, and we can walk around college campuses, I'm not discouraging that.  But a lot of times we can just be in casual conversation and the opportunity to bring it up comes.  We have to push past the fear, and doubt, and just start talking about it.

It's a duty we have as Christians.  We must make disciples of the world.  How great is it to bring people to the next life with you?  It's a wonderful thing.  It's a gift from our creator.

And don't be discouraged if someone doesn't take the message.  You've planted a seed that can't be unsown.  They can't unhear what you've told them.  And if you've ministered to them humbly, they might just look back on that conversation in a tough moment and think, hey, yeah, that person who talked to me really seemed to have a lot of peace about that Christ thing.  They really seemed non-judgemental and happy.  I want that.

So that's something that people will really take more notice of than your words.  They'll take notice of your example.  And theres no faking that example.  People have good intuition about true peace and serenity.  If you have that, that Christ within, it will shine through.  

But for a lot of us we have trouble ministering to others.  And maybe that's because we don't care enough.  Experience has made us jaded toward our fellow man.  Isn't that the case with some of us? Maybe we have trouble loving others, not because we're bad people.   But because our society has hurt us in the first part.  Remember what Jesus great command was?

Matthew 22:37-39

New International Version (NIV)
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]
Maybe we can't fulfill loving our neighbors because of what we measure it by: Loving ourselves.  Maybe we've forgotten even how to love ourselves, and thus we give our neighbors the same love we give ourselves: none.

And once again, that's an issue of self examination.  If we can learn to love ourselves, and see ourselves the way God sees us, as his children, made perfect through Christ, maybe we could learn to love ourselves.  And then love others in turn.

So let me encourage you to start that process.  We've worked on ourselves.  Now we can help others effectively.

I want to thank you for listening in on our Sunday service here at ULC Online Church. Next week we're going to talk about having passion for the Christian journey.  Passion like David had when he danced before his God. And we'll talk about love being the greatest motivator for this walk with Christ.  Have a great day, and go in peace.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

New Day Retreat





As many of you know I spent this weekend in Rhinelander at a retreat for my physical home church.  I had such a wonderful experience I thought I would share some of it on my blog here.  You know in the world at large I can often end up very busy and strained to keep everything moving at a pace that seems like it's appropriate.  I can run, run, run trying to bring in the flock as fast as possible.  And doing that I can often miss the most important experiences, and most memorable moments.

I spent a great deal of time roaming in the wilderness before my heart was humbled enough to give my life over to Jesus.  In that time I learned full the difficulties of the world around us, that many do not see in the church.

Experience is rather equipping.

Being on the grounds was great.  Because we didn't have to lock the car.  I didn't have to worry when I left my belongings on the deck with the others.  I knew they were well.

The retreat was just blooming with spring.  I walked around the grounds constantly, listening to Life & Limb.

Honestly, I had trouble just settling down and relaxing.  Constantly I was thinking about ULC and my responsibilities there.  I constantly thought about work starting.  I kept picking up my text book for Old Testament Survey.

But it was great to spend time with my Mother.  It was good to make amends, and set our relationship on the path to rightness.

Thankfully I didn't bring my laptop.

There were about thirty core members of the New Day Christian Church ministry that were roaming about the grounds.  There were about eight or nine cabins mingled about the woods on the banks of a beautiful lake.  Ducks and loons wandered about the waters.  A large dining hall and meeting building built of north wood sat atop a hill near the entrance.

The kids, which made up about half of our group, ran about the woods constantly chasing each other around and doing kid stuff.

My mother and I stayed at the Doug Roberts meeting center.  There were eight rooms all filled with New Day members, my mother and I were on the ground floor.  It was a beautiful building, well kept, just off the water.  We sat down by the water when we first got there, just relaxing and staring out across the lake.  We talked about the Bible and the 12 steps, and just learning to live a Christian worldview.  And that wasn't hard to see.  And it wasn't hard to see that it was right.  There was a genuine peace across the camp.  It felt safe.  It felt right, because we knew all of us believed in the same savior and the same God.
Pastor Aaron and his wife stopped by, and we followed them up to eat dinner on Friday night.  At dinner I got some insight on his methods of ministry.  Good advice for my own ministry.  After that we came back.  I was sitting in the living room of the Roberts cabin, and Pastor Aaron came in.  He sat down by me with his guitar, laid out some sheet music, and we sang some songs.  It was fun.

I used to jam out with people when I was in college at the UW, but I hadn't done it in years.  It had been a major passion of mine for sometime.  The group sat out by the water and we had a wonderful bon fire.  I was very tired, but it was still nice.

I have a hard time relaxing, and an even harder time socializing.  This became clear to me at the bon fire Friday night.  I've always had a hard time connecting with others, and just being, but it was clear then.  But I took it as it was.  I just kind of sat back, and listened to everyone.  I enjoyed watching them having a good time.  But I felt burdened by the ministry, and just starting to come into it.  As I am now.

It's hard.  It's very hard.  I'm learning ten things at once, it seems these days, all at the same time.  These are important things to learn, but it is also incredibly taxing on my mind and body.  God is training my soul and body, I can see that much.  It's a very difficult learning process though.  I'm a man of solitude, or so I've become in recent years.

This is a process that pulls me far, far from my comfort zone.  Such is uncomfortable.  Very, very, very.. very, uncomfortable.  But I'm adjusting.  I just get tired.  I lay down a lot, and just try to settle down.

As much as the retreat was a chance to relax and get it away, it was a hard look inward at what my past did to me and the work that is still to be done.

I went for a jog at nightfall Friday, after putting out the fire.  Everyone had gone inside.  I jogged along, listening to the crickets chirping and the frogs singing.  I've always been transfixed utterly by the night.  It is powerful and beautiful to me.

Saturday was a rest day.  I was very tired once again, but still managed to go for several walks with my mother.  We got to talk about a lot of important things from the past and for the future.  It was nice.  I came back and just laid down around 3 pm and slept right through dinner.

Once again there was a bon fire, and the whole New Day crew was there.  Pastor Aaron and I once again got a chance to talk a bit.  He told me some about the history of New Day.  He told me about how several founding members including himself had all gone to the same high school.  I talked about being raised Catholic and the impact it had on my walk with Christ.

Once again, I took a walk that night and wandered through the night transfixed by the night sky and the listened to music.

Sunday was wonderful.  Mother and I awoke, sat down for a brief breakfast.  Then we went downstairs into the meeting room for our Sunday worship service.  Aaron, and several of the music team sat down with acoustic guitars and we sang some wonderful songs.  It was really on that Saturday night, when we were all sitting around the campfire talking about the church I felt a part of a true spiritual family under God.  It was a communion between brothers and sisters I could hardly explain, but it felt like a preview.  A piece of what the next life will be like.

Once again I found myself in that holy place in my heart as we sang songs that morning.  The core family of New Day, singing all together..  it was wonderful.

The last song we sang was called "All The Way Home."  It felt very fitting.

'You lead me with your fire,
by night you keep your hand on me,
You lead me with your clouds,
by day you lead me on my way,

All the way, all the way, all the way home

All the way home I'm dreaming,
All the way home I run,
All the way home I'm laughing
All the way home, here I come"




Thursday, May 16, 2013

ULC Sunday Sermon Podcast: Self Examination Continued: Steps to Take (With God, I can!)


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Good morning ULC church.  I hope you're having a great morning.  I'm honored to be here with all of you as we sit down to talk about our creator, our savior, and how we can apply the truth of the Bible to our lives.

I'd like to give a special shoutout to those listening from the Clinic in Kentucky.  We've had several new staff join the congregation recently and I'd like to thank them for the work their doing.  Jared Morris has joined as a Deacon on staff to manage and coordinate efforts at the church.  Jared will be posting Sunday School services every Sunday afternoon.  Erma Felix has joined us as a Deacon to help us coordinate fundraising and for general management.

Thanks to Minister Leah for her continued work on the Wednesday Bible studies, thanks to Tracie Wagenen for her work on the group and a special thanks to Lead Pastor Dustin for all he's done in the service of God.

Pastor Dustin will be doing a special Pentecost service this afternoon, scheduled to be posted to the group at 6:00pm EST.

So as most of you know we're an online church.  A lot of people wonder how exactly that works!  Well, how it functions is by the power of the internet.  We have a website under construction, but for now everything goes through our Facebook group.  If you're hearing this service from elsewhere around the inner webs, and you'd like to join the Facebook group and get active with the church, you can find the church by searching Facebook for "Universal Life Church 62648" The number "62648" is our identifier within the ULC community, a broad network of churches around the country.  We post a Wednesday Bible study, a Sunday sermon which you're hearing now, and a Sunday school service in the afternoon.  The staff is also always available for encouragement and support.

If you'd like to speak to us personally, please go to the group description in the "About" tab and add one of us on Facebook.  We accept all friend requests.  We can communicate via Facebook chat or if you'd like to speak over the phone that can be arranged as well.

There is a lot of criticism out there for the idea of an online church, and believe me I understand the concerns.  ULC should not be the end all be all for each members spiritual walk.  I highly encourage the congregation to find a physical home church in their area, and attend regularly for that physical act of worship to God.  But a lot of us don't have access to a truly accepting church in our area, so we come together here to worship our Father.

Alright, now that all the technical stuff is out of the way, let's get into the meat and potatoes here, which is Jehovah's perfect word, the Bible.

Let's start by asking God to join us here in our hearts and minds.

Our Father, we acknowledge you and thank you for being with us.  We thank you for choosing us to be your children.  We thank you for sending your son Jesus Christ to take on the fullness of our sins and wipe them our for all time.  Father, be with your children.  Open our hearts and wash us clean.  Help your congregation to serve you faithfully, and to fully realize the truth of your place in the center of all that is, and was, and will be.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

So last week we started a series called "Self Examination in the Christian Life."  I hope that's something we've all been holding close to our hearts, and asking our heavenly Father to work into our lives.

We know we owe a lot to God, the creator of the universe.  We owe him our existence, our health, our prosperity, all the good things in our lives, gifts from God.

My grandmother recently slipped and broke her hip, and I went to see her in the hospital after it happened.  I remember seeing her there and talking to her.  She kept saying "Jesus, it's Jesus.  If we can just all get to Jesus, everything will be ok."  Talk about a woman who is finishing her faith strong.  On this bed, tubes in her arms, tired, in pain, on all these medications, shes still talking about Jesus.  A few days later she had been transferred to a rehabilitation facility.  She asked me if I remembered when I got her the wind chime she keeps hanging at her back patio.  It had been many years ago when I'd gotten it for her.  She said that when I was deep into the troubles of my past, she would watch the wind chime blowing in the wind.  And would think of me.  She knew that when it was really blowing around hard, I was having a hard night, that I was in danger.  For years she watched it.  Every night she would watch, terrified that the wind chime would blow off it's hook and fall to the ground broken.  But no matter how hard the wind was blowing, no matter how much it got knocked around, it still held its place.  One day she had seen me stop at her house, sad, lost, troubled.  She got on her knees, angry, disappointed, and just fed up and said, "WHEN JESUS, WHEN!"  Not long after that, she saw me restored, with Christ within, and ever since the wind chime has seemed quite calm.

Many of us, without knowing it maybe, have been saved by the insistent and persistent prayers of their grandmothers and families.  God may allow us to be shaken, brought low, humbled, but many prayers may just save the most troubled us all of us, from detaching and falling to pieces.

Today let's dive into a bit more on self examination.  Let's get a little deeper into it.  Because with God in our lives, the holy spirit working in us, and Jesus Christ as our best friend, walking with us... nothing can stop us.

So the thought I want you to take into your heart today the most is: With God, I can.  I know we can often look at all the demands of a Christian life and say wow, that's a lot to do.  People come up to me and say "Justin, I'm just not that special man.  I can't dig into all that.  I'm a sinner, and if I start working on all that it's gonna mess everything up!"

Let me encourage you today, let go of that kind of attitude.  "With God, I can."  It doesn't take a special man, it takes a special God.  It takes a God personal to each of us.  A God that's out halfway across the world in Bangladesh helping a boy to get ahold of a Bible.  It takes a God at that same moment guiding police to a house in Russia to save girls who were stolen from their homes.  It takes a God whom at the moment is also down in the Phillipines, and in Greece, France, Chile, Canada, and right here with us.  This powerful God of ours, he's with each of us, at the same time, at the same moment.  Don't let yourself be fooled, that your problems are too big and powerful.

Think of it the other way around, the factual way: My God is too powerful for my problems.

Isaiah 41:10-13 NLT says"
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand."

That's right.  God said, through Isaiah, do not be afraid.  He strengthens us, and guides us.  And this last line, he holds us up with his victorious right hand.  Jesus Christ already defeated the devil.  He smashed the head of the serpent.  The battle is over, and our savior won.  The battle was won over 2,000 years ago.  Your part in it: accept the sacrifice.  Accept it.  Truly accept it.

I want to ask you something, and I want you to be completely honest with yourself as you reflect on it.  Do you truly believe, through and through, all in all, that there is a God named Jehovah?  That there is a man named Jesus, who is the son of God, and died for your sins?  Do you believe this truth?  Or does it seem more like an old story, something foreign and far away?  

You don't have to answer me, but you ought to answer yourself.  And stop, don't even start with any inner shame or guilt.  There's no room for judgement here.  I refuse to judge you, I completely refuse to.  Because it's normal to have questions about it.  It's normal to have doubts.  What's not normal is standing still though.  We've got to move forward in that.  So if you're one of those people struggling with that, let me encourage you to delve deeper into it.

I totally understand it, because we're taught from elementary school on that science and investigation is the way to do things.  We're brought up with the saying "You only live once" and grab all you can, step over people, climb the social ladder.  It was beaten ruthlessly into my head as a child, "hypothesis" "prove, and disprove" The last thing I was suppose to do was take anything on faith, aside from faith that evolution is fact.  Which we know, is just a theory.  A flawed theory at that.  

My friends, this isn't just some weird old story book.  Time after time historians and theologians have matched up the factual history of the planet with the factual events in the Bible.  There was and is a nation of Israel.  Babylon is where we now see Iraq.  History supports and shows evidence of the great flood.  These are facts.  But how many facts do we really need?

How long and how far do we have to research before we can say, you know what, I can see it between the lines.  Those moments when God is showing through.  And you know what, I'm going to make that leap of faith.  I'm going to trust that God is true, God is real, that Jesus did live on Earth, and that he did die for the sins of man kind.  

Nowhere in the Bible does it say "Figure it out" But it does say over and over, Trust God.  Have Faith in him. 

With God, I can.

If you're struggling with it, let me encourage you to pray on it, every night before bed.  Ask God to make it real for you.  He will, but in his perfect timing.  So wait patiently.  The God of your fathers, and grandfathers, and great grandfathers, and great great grandfathers is with you.  And his name is Jehovah. 

Jehovah - Jireh: The Lord Who Provides
Genesis 22

Jehovah - Rapha: The Lord Who Heals
Exodus 15:22-26

Jehovah –Nissi: The Lord Our Banner
Exodus 17:8-15

Adonai (Lord, Master)
Yahweh (Lord, Jehovah)
Jehovah-Raah (The Lord My Shepherd)
Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There)
Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness)
Jehovah Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You)
El Olam (The Everlasting God)
Elohim (God)
Jehovah Shalom (The Lord Is Peace)

You see how there is one individual, one personal entity that can be all things, to all people.  That's your heavenly Father.

We talked briefly last week about journaling, and just watching our minds, how we think, and our actions, and searching out for flaws or repeating sins.

There are basic things we can do to just improve our conscious connection to God.  So ten things we can consider doing, and implementing.  Let me encourage you to choose a few you think you could include in your daily life.

1. Regularly attend Church services.
2. Regularly attend a Bible study.
3. Regularly attend Support groups, and I'll go into that more in a bit.
4. Listen to Audio sermons while driving or jogging or while at home.  Plenty are available free on itunes.
5. Listen to Audio Bibles.  I've seen these at dollar stores for a buck.  Not such a big investment.
6. Sit down and read our Bible, alone or with family.  Find a translation you connect with!  Personally I love the New Living Translation and The Message translation.  Both speak in highly contemporary language which really cuts through all the thees and thows.  Find one you like!
7. We can purchase a daily readings book, it's a great way to start the day off.
8. Get together once a week with a close friend and discuss Bible truth!
9. Attend extra events at local churches.  Many have support groups, bible studies, church picnics, regular meals, singles groups, and so on.
10. Talk to God.  Talk to him wherever you go, in your head, on your knees, all throughout the day.  When we grow closer to God, God grows closer to us.  

So those are great things to do.  These are basic things we can do to improve our daily walk.  And with these things comes a constant contact with God and an inner peace most only dream of.  But right at the center is that we owe this kind of devotion to God.  And if we truly believe the Bible is the word of God, and that it's instructions are sound, then we know for certain that this walk is the most important thing in our lives.  Honor that fact, and honor him who created you.

With God, I can.  You aren't alone in this.  You aren't tackling your problems alone.  Grace is with you.

But say we have hang ups, or troubles keeping us especially disconnected.  Maybe we're depressed, or addicted, or suffering troubling thoughts. 

There are plenty of great tools out there that can target our needs more directly.  So three things that can be good for targeting more serious addictions and troubles.

1. We can seek pastoral counseling.  This is a great way to get a second view on what we might need to work on, and to help see the Christian perspective and worldview more clearly.

2. We can regularly attend support groups.  From experience I know the models of 12 step support groups to be entirely Biblical.  There are plenty of support groups out there, check the newspapers or the internet for ones in your area.  Some examples are as follows: Alcoholic Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Nicotine Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, Smart Recovery, Emotions Anonymous, Al-Anon, and many others.  So if one of those hang ups is keeping you from your creator, give it a try.  Like it says, it's anonymous, so no worries about reputation.  The only reputation we really need to worry about is the one with our creator anyway.

3. Read Biblical books on the trouble in your life.  One I highly recommend is The Bondage Breaker by Neil Anderson.  In fact Neil has many books targeting various hang ups, like fear, addiction, voices, and so forth.  If you'd like to get recommendations for books that might help you, please get in contact with someone on our staff.

All of these things are footwork.  Footwork that we have to do, to stay in the right mindset in our faith.  As long as we do the footwork, God will grant us the grace required, and the intuition, and the prompting.  Philippians 1:30 (NLT) says "We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it."  Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter to the Phillipians.  The Phillipians were being persecuted as well.  So remember, we will have troubles and trials in the future, but we aren't in this alone.  We can lean on each other for support, and lift each other up.  And most importantly we can look to God for support.

Truly, with God, I can.

Thank you taking time out of your day to listen to this sermon brought to you by Universal Life Church.  It's been my privilege to try and translate some of this Biblical truth into application in our daily lives.  Humble yourselves my friends, my flock, and seek out the God of your fathers.  Be with him in this powerful journey of faith.  Be that honorable man or woman, be that leader.  Be the hero, the brave one, the warrior for Christ.  And join us again next week as we go into helping others through our spiritual gifts.

Let's close out in prayer.  If you'd like to pray this with me inside your head or out loud, please do.  This is a prayer to take Jesus Christ as our personal savior and commit ourselves to living a life as he did.  Let me encourage you to take this step of faith, and if you've already taken this step, feel free to join in and reaffirm that promise in your heart.  Repeat after me:

Heavenly Father ----
I'm a sinner, and I acknowledge that I need you------
I believe Jesus Christ died on the cross------
For my sins personally-----
And paid the price for my inequity-----
I commit my life to serving you Father----
In Jesus Name we pray, Amen----

Once again thanks for listening, and have a blessed sunday!








 

 

 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

ULC Sunday Sermon Podcast - Self Examination in the Christian Life (5/12/3013)

ULC Sunday Sermon Podcast [Click Here to Listen]


Introduce ULC Church.  Thanks to Dustin Milam, Leah Pederson, and the rest of the staff.

Shout out to Clinic listeners.

Prayer to ask God to join us.


Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD.

-Lamentations 3:40

Self Examination is the topic I'm going to be discussing today.  And it's more than just a topic for this sunday.  It's a topic for every sunday.  It's a topic for friday too!  And it's a topic for saturday, and thursday, and monday, and all the days of the week.

Self examination is a primary concern in the Christian life.  We're called to change ourselves completely.  And let's not kid ourselves, change isn't easy.  But it's powerful, it's rewarding.  When we give our lives to Christ, which we know is the biggest issue to Biblical christianity, God starts to work on us and change us.

Your Father loves you.  He loves you so much it's hard to imagine.  And I've often struggled with that, and seen people struggle with it.  God's love for us can be a huge motivator in this process.  But we need to understand how far it goes.

I'd like you to close your eyes if you can, and imagine something with me.  And what we're imagining is the truth.

Imagine yourself wherever you are in your minds eye.  See your body and self, wherever you are.  Now I want you to visualize a cloud, or aura of white light surrounding you.  That's God's love for you.  It's always with you, caring for you and protecting you.  This is a fact, as we know scripture is actual fact.  Now scope out in your minds eye, and see the building your in, or the general area.  See it, and now see God's loving white light surrounding that entire area.  It's there.  It's really there.  Caring for the land, the sky, the space in between and the people in that place.  But God's love doesn't stop there.  Scope out for me again, and imagine the town your in.  See it from a bird's eye view.  Look down on it, all the cars flying about, traffic lights, buildings, and fields.  Now see the truth, there it is, God's love, God's light hovering about this entire landscape, caring for it, caring for the people, always accessible, always right with everyone, every plant and animal, every piece of concrete, and hanging light fixture.  It's there.  Believe it.  Scope out for me again if you will.  And see the entire country from orbit.  Our entire country of the United States, or wherever you reside.  There it is.  Millions upon millions of people going about their lives, airplanes, motor vehicles, factories, commercial districts, cities, and states.  And yes, there it is, God's love, his light, his protection and care lighting the entire country from california to florida and everywhere in between.  There it is, caring for this nation.  But no, my friends, no, it doesn't stop there.  Scope out again in your minds eye, eyes closed, and see the entire planet, Earth, where humanity itself resides.  Everything, every country, every ocean, from down deep in the reefs, to up high in the mountains, and floating amongst all of it.. Is God's love.  His light, his energy.. his presence.  It's there, and it's real.  The power of his love is real.  But we aren't done yet folks, scope out again with me.  To the entire solar system, planets, the sun, the moons, the asteroid belt.  And there it is, amongst all that, all the empty space, the serfaces of every planet.. is God's love, that white shining light caring for all of it.  God is in control in this solar system!  But you guessed it, we still aren't done.  Imagine, if you can, the entire galaxy, the milky way galaxy, in which our humble planet resides.. and there it is again, God's light caring for all of it!  And now the universe.. hundreds of galaxies, billions of planets.  God's love extends beyond that.  It extends further than even our entire known universe.  Yes, it goes on past that!  And this is the limit of what as humans can imagine.  But I want you to see that love and light going even further . It's past the universe, into parallel dimension and realities, and further, it's infinite.  It just continues on, forever.  And it's not moving, it's always been everywhere.  All the time, for all the time, and always.  That's how much love God has for the universe he created.  And it's how much love he has for you personally.

Go ahead and open your eyes.  And realize looking around you, that God's love and light is right in the room with you, within you, and around for, expanding outward everywhere.  That's how powerful your God is.  But we don't need to refer to him as just "God" because to you, personally, whos listening now.  He's your Father, he's your Dad.  Your Dad is the CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE.  He has you in the palm of his hand, and hes caring for you.  So love him back, as much as you can.

So as we're going through this process of self examination, remember, you aren't doing it alone.  Your Dad is guiding you through it.  And he has more than enough to make sure it happens as it should. 


Haggai 1:5

Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways."

This is the process of setting our personal to match God's will.  And how do we do that?  We get our ego, and our self out of the way, and consistently in our decisions think about what God would want us to do in any given situation.  

I really really hope this is a primary concern in your personal walk, becoming a better Christian, and if it's not, I'm hoping you're gonna adopt this concern as yours.

And I'll say that I do regularly attend support groups.  What kind of Pastor would I be if I preached a message on self examination and I wasn't actively examining myself?

I want us to be a church that focuses strongly on self examination.  That's a big one, and another big one is I want us to be a church that has no place for judgement or condemnation of our fellows.  And the third thing that's big is I want us to be a church that keeps our pride in check.  A church that remains humble.  Because it's through these principles that those suffering, and in pain, crawling to our doors will be welcomed and not turned away, or pushed away.

If we can't do those things, we don't really have any business being a church claiming to follow Christ.  Christ never turned someone away who was honestly seeking the truth.  He embraced them.

We're all sinners here.  You know that right?  Just because someone sins differently than you, doesn't give you the right to judge or condemn them.  Sadly I see this all the time in the religious communities in my area.  A person walks into a church suffering from the malady of drug addiction, and they're scorned.  Someone walks into a church suffering from sex addiction or anger, and they're hated and turned away.  I don't want that to happen at this church.  I want us to show such people limitless compassion and sympathy.  I know that isn't easy, but it's our charge, from Christ:  to love one another.

Easy to say, and easy to preach, but not so easy to do.

Many people will often try to put an image out there, of being perfect.  This doesn't help anyone around them, it only serves them.  And it tends to make others feel alienated and alone in their problems.  Let's be a church that openly discusses our issues and seeks support as we work on them.

But I digress, let's get back to the issue here.  Self examination and self improvement.  How do we work on these things?

We can learn a lot by journaling daily.  We can journal our thoughts and our actions.  We can also do this without paper, and consciously watch our actions and thoughts, and how they lead us throughout the day.

We can also review our day at night.  Psalm 4:4 says: Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.

Self examination helps us to serve our heavenly Father better!

God's word is so abundantly clear on this point:

Romans 2:1-4 NIV
1You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

We must let the holy spirit convict us when we need to make changes to ourselves.  It's a tough process, I'm not going to lie.  It takes a courageous person to tackle their own inner failings.  But it is a required service to our God, who gives us so much.

Let me encourage you to start praying in the morning and at night for guidance from the holy spirit.  Get on your knees before your Father, and ask for guidance in self examination.  When the holy spirit shows us a fault, we work on it.  

If we start to think we're missing things, we ought to go into scripture, the word of God, and read, read, read!  Scripture is useful in so much, and very much in identifying our flaws.

Self examination is indeed self evident in it's need in our lives.  We ought to always be striving to be better Christians.  It is the most important thing in our lives.  And if there is a question as to that fact, we need to ask God in prayer to work on our hearts.  2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT) says:

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.

Hebrews 3:12 says:

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.

This is our true walk with Jesus Christ.  Once we help ourselves, then we learn to help others.  But do not get on your soap box, and never get prideful about what you have learned.  A tell tale sign of someone attempting to share the message, who has not worked on themselves first, is pride, self importance, and ego.  It always shines through.  And those people end up alienating the ones they would seek to help.

A wonderful way to share the message is speaking from our own experience humbly.  Instead of "You need to do this"  Say it as "So this is what I did, and it really helped me."  It's simple truth that people learn and take on new ways much easier and more openly when we share a message from our own experience.  Then they can own the change, instead of it being forced upon them.  We can offer advice, and instruction if a person is willing, but always remember to do so humbly and without judgement.

I believe pride has become a major problem in the modern church.  We go from being lost, to being saved in Jesus, and we let that puff us up with pride.  How can we draw pride from something that we did not do?  Eternal life, and reconciliation with the Father is a free gift from God.  So the credit must always go to him who saved us.
For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:12
I was at a support group recently, a group where people share their problems with others to try and work through these issues.  A Pastor from a nearby church was attending to "observe."  However, when it came to this Pastor to speak, he had nothing to say about his problems.  I spoke to this Pastor afterwards and he made some passing remark about really want to help those poor guys.  And immediately I was reminded of this problem of pride in the church.  Pastors often see themselves as higher than the congregations they serve.  This is not so, and it's not Biblical.  I wanted to say to this Pastor that I think the men in that room are more courageous and humble than you'll ever be.  That attitude of maintaining an image of flawlessness when it is not so may come to harm your church in the future.

We all have things we need to work on.  Pastors and all.  And that's completely OK.  In fact, that is very good.  

Feel no shame for these things.  You are seen as perfect through Christ's perfection.  Philippians 3:8, 9 says:

". . . I count all things but loss. . . that I may win Christ, And be found IN HIM, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."

As scripture says we are those being made holy.  The verse I'm referring to is in Hebrews 10:14 and says  "For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. "

This implies a process.  So listen to that voice and let the holy spirit convict you to become a better person.

Confession is useful in weeding out character flaws.  Confess to trusted friends, family or clergy.  This wipes clean the past and assists in setting you on a course to redemption.

Self examination is a wonderful process!  Shocking as it may sound, it's FUN!  Because you see yourself growing as a Christian and others see it too.  Your inner peace grows.  Your conscious connection to God grows.  Your caring for others grows.  And eventually you find yourself with peace and happiness that comes from God within.  Once we have this we must remember it came from God, and we have nothing to boast about.  This protects us from harmful pride.

I know it can seem hard to work on ourselves, but we have a pretty big entity who is helping us at every turn with this process!  And that's the creator of the universe, your Father, Jehovah.  Ezekiel 36:26 says "And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart."

But one last thing.  If you're listening to this and thinking wow, it seems like a really cool process to work on myself.  And I want to.  But I know that later on I won't feel so strongly about it and I won't carry out the process as I should.  I want too, but I'm too busy.  Well that's entirely OK, and it shouldn't be surprising.  Theres a lack of inner willingness, and that's very normal.  If that's the case for you, I want you to do one thing for me.  Get on your knees after this sermon, and go to your heavenly Father in prayer.  Ask him for the willingness and prompting to start work on yourself.  And if need be keep praying for it.  We have a generous Father, I have to believe he'll grant that request when the time is right.  His timing is perfect.

Thank you for joining us at this broadcast, I'm very glad you did, I hope you have a blessed day, and remember your heavenly Father is always with you, loving you and protecting you. Honor him in response.  Have a great day!

 

Friday, May 3, 2013

ULC Sunday Sermon Podcast 5/5/13 - Complete Forgiveness, God Moments, and Passages from Colossians

 Listen to the Audio Podcast [Click Here to Download]

Good Morning my dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

It's been too long, a full 7 days since we got together to worship. I want to welcome all of you to the service today. It's great to be a member of ULC church, an online church experience through the power of the internet. I'd like to send out a special greeting to those gathered at the SOUL clinic to listen today. We feel very blessed to have that ministry reaching out to those in need.

If this is your first time checking out ULC church I want to encourage you to just sit back and let yourself get into the spirit a bit. Have a listen, and just soak up some of the truth that lives in God's word. I'd like to encourage you to have a attitude of taking something away from this service that you can apply to your life, to have a better and more plentiful life out there in the real world. And as we live better, we have more to give to others and to our God in the world at large.

I'd like to pull some key quotes out of the book of Colossians that really jumped off the page for me. I ordered a copy of "The Message" Bible after reading a book about Jesus that I received from my sister for Christmas. The Message translations really seemed to jump off the page for me when I initially read it. So I've been using The Message for a lot of quotes that really come through in contemporary language.

I was sitting in one of the regular groups I attend, and it just seemed like I was being directed over and over, back to Colossians. I'd like to take you through some of the verses that really jumped out at me in the The Message translation of Colossians. But first lets ask God to join us.

Heavenly Father,

Please be with us here as we get into your word and go through some of the truth in your Bible. Please open up our minds to your truth and your love. Please guide us to the unique understanding you want us to have in these words. Help us to help ourselves and help others through this new understanding. Thank you Father, thank you so much for loving and caring for us. We praise you Father, and thank you for sending your son Jesus to die for us. In Jesus name we ask this, Amen.

Colossians 1: 5-8 The Message is as true among you today as when you first heard it. It doesn’t diminish or weaken over time. It’s the same all over the world. The Message bears fruit and gets larger and stronger, just as it has in you.

Col 1: 13-14 God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.

Col 1:22,23 You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message. I, Paul, am a messenger of this Message.

Col 2:6-7 6-7 My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

Col 2:8-10 8-10 Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.

Col 3 1-2 So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.

Col 3 3-4 Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

Col 3 5-14

5-8 And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.

9-11 Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.

12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

I want everyone to remember that we only have control over ourselves and what we do. We can't control other people, places or things. So if you've got family members or friends still struggling with the idea of God and Christ, try to recall how you were before you realized the truth. There was no one who could force you to understand what you understand now. Remember that when you get frustrated with their progress. No one could force it on you. God had to come to you in a unique way that you understood based on your experiences.

And we have a God who can and does do that. He loves us so much that he'll come to us on terms we can understand. And then it's just an explosion of understanding. And we get those Wow moments. When there aren't any words to explain how powerful the connection with God is. It's our job to build off those Wow God moments, and to build a foundation from that truth.

If we have the wow moment, and just... Head back into things of the flesh, then we're gonna stay where we're at. God can and does connect with us when we ernestly seek him, and then he starts working in our lives. OUR part of the work, is foot work. God works the miracle. He guides us to see and understand the things we're suppose to, but there is foot work we have to do to keep that journey going.

And if you're listening to this sermon, I'm glad, because you're already doing some of the foot work! We start to include God in our lives more and more. We pray to him in the morning and at night. We talk to him in our heads as we go about the day. We go to church events. We get baptized. We attend weekly Bible studies. We read the Bible. We read inspirational and self help books, as long as they're sound when referenced to the Bible. We attend support and 12 step groups to work on our problems, if we have issues with eating or emotions, or drugs or alcohol, or cigarettes or sex.

So we're talking about not trying to control everything. I segwayed into that by talking about when we worry about family and friends who haven't turned to God yet, BUT, that is also a principle that we need to apply within.

And a lot of us aren't too keen on working on ourselves. It's hard and its scary! But my friends, its worth it. Stop thinking your sins are so bad!

Remember whats said in 1 John 2

2 1-2 I write this, dear children, to guide you out of sin. But if anyone does sin, we have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus. When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good—not only ours, but the whole world’s.

So the issue of our sin is solved my friends. No matter what sins you've committed! And I know you think some are really bad! I tried to committ suicide when I was younger. And I was so scared God wouldn't forgive that sin. And then I asked a priest. And he told me what I'll tell you now: All sins are equally forgiven by the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ.

And I don't care what you sin is. God doesn't condemn you because you aborted a child. God doesn't condemn you because you raped someone. God doesn't condemn you because you smoked cigarettes. God doesn't condemn you because you killed someone drunk driving. God doesn't condemn you because you drink too much. God doesn't condemn you because you set someone up to take a fall. God doesn't condemn you for any of those sins once you have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and begun to try to live as he did! There no punishment for you. God doesn't want you to feel guilty about those past sins. God doesn't fold his arms and look down on you judgementally. Scripture says, he doesn't even remember once you've asked for forgiveness for them. So if you've got something on your heart, that you did, that you think is so bad God can't forgive you... I want you to get on your knees tonight, and ask God through Jesus Christ to forgive that sin.. Tell God you were wrong, and you're sorry. And then.. It's gone.

1 john 2:12

I remind you, my dear children: Your sins are forgiven in Jesus’ name.

1 john 2:6

Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.

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