Saturday, July 20, 2013

Liberty Church Sermon: Gratitude in a Life with God 7/21/13

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.  2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (MSG)

Hi there Liberty Church :)

I'm hoping you had a beautiful and fun week.  If you didn't, I'd encourage you to have one this coming week.  Happiness often breaks down to a choice.  Choose to be happy, believe me, it makes the tough times a lot easier.

Matthew 5:9  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

I'd like to start with some reminders for daily maintenance of our spiritual conditions.  We know that it's important to have more than spiritual beliefs, we ought to have a spiritual experience, daily.  Just like brushing our teeth, eating, working, and relationships, spirituality takes daily work.  But it doesn't have to be work.  Because as we grow spiritually in our connection to God, we have so many rewards in our lives.  We're happier, healthier, wiser, and have peace and serenity.  No matter what comes against us, and much will come against us, we will always have that foundation of connection to God through Christ.

So you'll hear and read me mention these things constantly in the sermons.

1) Read a daily devotional in the morning - We take care of our bodies (shower, shave, brush teeth) in the morning, our minds need maintenance too.  Daily devotionals can be found at Christian bookstores, or just type it in on Amazon.  Invest in one, the day ahead is always better and it only takes 3-5 minutes.

2) Pray in the morning - Thank God for all you have.  Offer him thanks and praise.  Then ask him to be with you, and to build you up as you face down the day ahead.  We need God with us always, or we fall back into mindfulness of worldly things, instead of Godly things.  Again, it doesn't take long.  For me, I go on my knees, but whatever works for you.  Just talk to him, he wants to be part of your life!

3) Listen to Christian radio, Podcasts, or Audio sermons in the car - This is a great way to study in between places.  I live a good 12 minutes from town, and I don't want to just stare blankly at the road while I'm driving.  I bring an Ipod with me and listen to my favorite Christian speakers.  There are thousands of sermons to download free on Itunes, and another great website is Sermon Index.  If you have a smart phone, try searching for Apps with free sermons on them.  If you have a Christian radio station in your area, tune into that!

4) Study the Bible - We know from scripture, and what it says about itself, that it is useful for bringing about change in our hearts.  It's not hard to pick up and read, but if you have trouble concentrating, consider listening to audio Bibles.  They are free online, and usually also available at dollar stores.  Grab a translation that you really connect with.  Some of the newer Bibles I really connect with more, like the New Living Translation, The Message Translation, and the New International Version.  These are translations that tend to be less word for word translation, and more thought based translations.  If you like word for word consider grabbing the New King James Version or the English Standard Version.  The ESV is actually a word for word type translation that I really enjoy.

5) Meditate/Pray at night - Constructively review your day at night.  Avoid judging or self deprecation, but look at where you can improve!  Meditate on what you did well.  Then pray, and thank God for a good day.  Because every day with God is a good day.  Offer him praise, and ask him for the changes you require inwardly.  For me, it all starts at the heart.  My heart has to change and then the rest follows. 

Yes, I know I've said those suggestions about a thousand times, and I'm gonna keep saying it!  If you're doing those things, awesome amazing, and I bet you're reaping the rewards!

Wonderful, wonderful.

A life with God is a wonderful thing.  I've got to say that, I've got to know that.  His love and protection is a total refuge for my spirit.  And I can only keep what I have by giving it away.  I am greatly honored, and humbled, to be able to speak to you about our heavenly Father.  This is something I do not deserve, plain and simple.  But it is a gift, and despite not deserving it, I choose to receive it.  And I need to receive it well.  Paul called himself a good slave of Jesus Christ.  He considered himself a servant.  And that's what I am to you.  I'm here to serve you.

As Paul says it in Philippians 2:3-4
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others

This is from the New International Version, and it makes so much more sense to me in this translation than in some others.  In another translation it says " consider others better than myself."  I really couldn't get on board with that.  But when I realized what it meant was "to value" others above myself, it made a lot more sense.  It's just basically saying think about how you can help others, before you serve yourself.  And I think that tends to quickly become our first reaction if we actively try to do that throughout the day.  And it can just start with little things, like letting someone go ahead of you in line at the grocery store.  Or helping someone lost find where they're trying to go.  Those little things build character in us, and eventually we're making selfless acts for others.

And yes, we do personally get something out of it.  We get to feel good about ourselves.  Every time we screw somebody or hurt someone, it takes another chip off our self esteem and mental health.  Eventually we're miserable misers, when we just go around selfish and hurting others.  We know that's not the way to be.  So let's be good people.  As my grandmother said: It's nice to be nice.

A lot of us have been hurt pretty bad by the world, in a thousand different ways.  We've had significant others cheat on us.  We've had close family die.  We've been physically or mentally assaulted.  We've literally watched our hope for happiness and peace fade away slowly, and disappear completely.

It's good to grieve these things, it's OK to be sad for a while.  But don't live defeated forever because of troubles.  Two verses I'd like to look at:

(NIV) 1 Peter 4:12-14 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

Romans 12:2 (NIV)Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Constant troubles and trials and despair and struggle are common-place in this world.  But I don't think at any point, do we have the right to get all resentful at God about it.  Most of the people reading this live in the United States, and even if you don't, you're sitting in front of a computer.

Do you know that most of the world lives in mind numbing, soul shattering, body crumbling habitual misery and poverty?  Oh, you didn't.  Well, it does.  

Check out some very eye opening statistics here:

Did you know approximately 22,982,474 children have died due to abortion this year alone? They have a word for that, genocide.

So before we go into how tough my life is, or how tough your life is, and what a raw deal we got because our ex cheated on us, well.. just under 23 million people never had a chance to live at all, just so far this year.  And 20,000 people died today, God's children, people, died of starvation.  How many of them never knew Christ?  And it's only 6pm as I write this, still got 6 hours to go.  The ticker keeps rising.

I'm not trying to be a downer, in fact, I'm trying to build you up.  I'm trying to remind you just how lucky you are.  Gratitude my friends, gratitude.  The more we are grateful for, everyday, the more peace we will have.  The more we will come to cherish our lives, and cherish others.

I'd like to leave you with these verses from John chapter 14.  This is The Message translation, probably my favorite translation of all.  Read it closely, let it jump off the page for you, and realize just how powerful and epic this Christian journey is!

John 14:27-31
The Message (MSG)
25-27 “I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.

28 “You’ve heard me tell you, ‘I’m going away, and I’m coming back.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I’m on my way to the Father because the Father is the goal and purpose of my life.

29-31 “I’ve told you this ahead of time, before it happens, so that when it does happen, the confirmation will deepen your belief in me. I’ll not be talking with you much more like this because the chief of this godless world is about to attack. But don’t worry—he has nothing on me, no claim on me. But so the world might know how thoroughly I love the Father, I am carrying out my Father’s instructions right down to the last detail.
“Get up. Let’s go. It’s time to leave here.”

Have a wonderful week, go in peace