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!