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Posted on: March 13, 2019

Lent Series Week Two - GIVING UP EXPECTATION Gen.12:1-4; 15:1-18

Lent Series Week Two – GIVING UP EXPECTATIONS Gen.12:1-4; 15:1-18

Max Lucado once noted that “we all have a way of completing this sentence: ‘If God is God, then….’  ‘There will be no financial collapse in my family.  My children will never be buried before me.  People will treat me fairly. My prayers will be answered.’ And when these expectations go unmet doubt sets in.  We tell God show me and I’ll believe, He says believe and I’ll show you.”

Expectations are a major part of this world.  There isn’t a time that goes by when things aren’t expected of you.  Before you’re even born, there’s the expectation that you’ll be a boy, or a girl, that you’ll be healthy, that there won’t be any problems.  You’re expected to crawl, walk, and be potty-trained by a certain age.  And once school starts, then there’s expectations.  You’re expected to excel, to get good grades, to outdo your classmates.  You’re expected to finish school, go to college, and get a job.

Parents expect their children to follow the rules, to be responsible, and to take care of them later in life.  And what about those expectations that young couples have as they’re dating or engaged.  When they fall in love, they “know” how marriage will be.  We have expectations of everything. 

And then there’s our expectations of God. We expect him to give us everything that we ask of him. We expect to live a life devoid of pain or suffering. When things don’t go as planned, how often do we get angry with God?  

As we turn to our text from today, what expectations do you think Abraham had for his life?  I know it’s hard to do, but put yourself in his shoes.  You’re a young man; most of life is still ahead of you.  And then one day, God comes down and tells you that He has a plan for you. Abraham, leave behind everything you have, everything you’ve ever known, and follow Me.  That’s the essence of what God said to Abraham that day.  And it’s similar to how Christ called His disciples.  Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.

Abraham responded the way God knew He would. But even a casual student of the scriptures  knows how Abraham’s life turned out.  He became rich in terms of those days.  His offspring filled the earth, and he can count Jesus Himself among his descendants.  He also lived a long life, dying at the ripe old age of 175.

But the casual reader of the New Testament knows the disciples did not meet the same end.  As Jesus told them, they paid the price for following Him.  They were persecuted, beaten, imprisoned.  They suffered much in their lives.  All but one was killed for being a disciple of Christ.

The Jews also had an expectation of the Messiah. They expected a king, one who would overthrow Rome, then they would live these perfect lives, filled with peace, prosperity, all you could dream of. But how did the Messiah come?  When He rode into Jerusalem, did He have an army with Him?  No.  He rode in on a colt, nothing more than a young donkey.  And when He was before Pontius Pilate, did He strike Him down to claim His victory?  No.  Instead, He allowed Himself to be struck.

More often than not, when we set our expectations, we set them too high.  Sometimes we don’t even set them with the right priorities or beliefs.  As we go about this Lenten season, give up your expectation of what life and God have in store for you.

Abraham followed God's call to leave his homeland and travel to the place God promised his descendants, even though he didn't know how it would all work out. When Nicodemus is talking to Jesus, he has a hard time understanding what God's grace is really about because he is used to thinking in terms of religious structure. Sometimes we just can’t know what’s going on or what’s coming next. God doesn't guarantee any future circumstances or uninterrupted prosperity, but we can trust that God will be with us through whatever circumstances we face and that God will work with us to make the best result out of even the most hopeless of places.

Don’t try to figure out God’s master plan.  Don’t aim to know what God has in store for you.  As humans, we’re simply limited in our understanding.  The more we concern ourselves with things we can’t understand or things that leave us worrying about the future, the less we actually are able to live as God’s children.

When you fail to trust in God to take care of you, when you take your eyes off the present, you miss the opportunity to live.  You miss the chance to serve God by helping others.  You miss opportunities to share the message of salvation which Jesus gave for all people.  But you also miss the opportunity to truly see all that God has blessed you with.  You miss out on the gift of forgiveness, that your sins are no more.  You miss out on the loving brothers and sisters God has surrounded you with.  And you miss out on seeing His love for you, a love so great “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”  

Cast aside your expectations, and instead trust in God and count the blessings He’s already given you.

Posted on: March 12, 2019

Lent Series Week One - GIVING UP CONTROL Gen.3:1-7; Luk.4:1-13

Lent Series Week One – GIVING UP CONTROL Gen.3:1-7; Luk.4:1-13

Traditionally Lent is a 40-day period marked by penitence. True penitence is the idea of truly facing our sin, acknowledging them as sin and grieving for those sins and what it cost Christ to pay for those sins on the cross. This leads then to repentance, turning away for our sin to God and the righteousness He offers us in Christ.

To help in this idea of turning from the old life and turning to God we are encouraged to“give things up for Lent.” The idea is that we will give up something important to us; maybe something that controls us in some way or leads us to sin and we spend that time, that energy, focusing on God and on others. It can be so much more than giving up chocolate to lose weight—for self-gain.
Since this is a time when many people choose to give things up, I will be running a Series called “Giving It Up.” Based on Matthew L. Kelly’s Lenten Series, we shall look at seven things that God wants us to give up not only during this lent but forever, so that we can paint a portrait of him this lent. The seven things God wants us to give up are; We give up: Control, Expectations, Superiority, Enemies, Our Lives, Popularity and Death. 
Giving Up Control

Right off the bat, I know that word “control” tends to have some negative connotations. If we say we like to be in control, we often get labeled as “control freaks” or “micromanagers.” While that could fit, I don’t think that we have to like control to that extreme in order to say that we like to be or at least feel like we are in control. I know that I prefer to be the driver in a car… Being a passenger makes me uncomfortable, because I am not able to react to the situation. I like to be able to control the car if something happens.
Control issues are nothing new. We humans have dealt control issues with from the beginning of time even with our first parents Adam and Eve. The first humans God created; created in His own image no less had control issues. God creates this perfect world for them to live in; a beautiful garden. In this garden is everything they need to live a perfect life; a complete life; a happy life. They have everything they need to thrive; they never need to want for anything. God gives them everything he has created. It’s theirs. He only gives them one rule. 

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'" "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Gen. 3:1-7
Adam and Eve had trouble trusting that God does know best, and that following God’s will is in their best interest. Aren’t we the same? Faced with the temptation to try to become more like God, to know just a little bit more, to gain just a little bit more control over their lives, they made a decision that ultimately separated them from God. And in the end they did not gain control over their lives but simply gave control over to Satan.
We see it throughout the Old Testament Scriptures – between Israel and God. God provides; he blesses the Israelites and after a time, they forget, they try to take control of their lives, they mess up, and they suffer the consequences. The cycle repeats itself over and over and over again.

 Am I the only one here that can relate to this?! I know that I have been guilty of making my plans and then stubbornly sticking to them even when I know that God is pulling me in a different direction. I often choose to do the things that give me immediate gratification instead of a greater reward sometime later. I try to maintain control instead of giving control to God in my life.

Adam and Eve provide a good example of what not to do. Now let us focus more on the positive, and to look at what we should do.
Jesus’ time in the wilderness Luke. 4:1-13:
Jesus spent forty days and forty nights without food and he was tempted by the devil. He faces three different temptations, all of which tempt him toward taking over some sort of control, to act in his own self-interest.
a)    Jesus is first tempted to take control of the situation:
Jesus is hungry. He’s famished, he’s starving. He hasn’t eaten for at least forty days. The tempter invites him to perform a miracle and turn stones into loaves of bread so that he can eat. At what must have been a time of great physical and emotional weakness, Jesus is tempted to use his status as the Son of God to meet his own needs and to secure his own survival.
Knowing that he is capable of doing something to meet his immediate needs and satisfy His own desires, Jesus chooses not to. He knows that if he did perform a miracle, it would have been for the wrong reasons.He rather trusts in the Father to provide.
How many us want out of our wilderness and hunger and instead of recognizing that God wants to meet us there and help us grow in it. We want the quick escape, an easy out.
b)    In the second temptation, Jesus is tempted to test and control God:
The devil tells Jesus, “Prove that you are the Son of God by jumping off the top of the temple. If God will really protect you, then you will be just fine. The angels will catch you and lift you up.” Once again, Jesus knows that it would be possible, but it would be pointless testing of God.
How many of us put God to the test. If you heal her I will go to church…if you pass this test by giving me what I want then I will serve you.
c)    Then in Jesus’ final temptation, he is tempted to control the world:
The devil promises that every single kingdom of the world could be his. All he has to do is turn away from God, to worship the powers of the world rather than God in heaven. Faced with all of these temptations in the wilderness, Jesus held strong to God’s will for his life. Rather than serve himself, the world, or the powers of sin and evil, Jesus chose to serve God.
Our Wilderness
Most of us also find ourselves in the wilderness at times. Times when we are tempted, where we feel like the power of temptation and sin in our lives is pushing us further away from God.
In Luke, the wilderness is a place of temptation, but it was also a place where Jesus would go to pray. Isn’t that fascinating? We all have a unique opportunity to withdraw to the wilderness for the next 40 days. I pray that as we are giving things up and taking things on for Lent…that we find a place where we can pray and experience God’s presence.
But I also know that these Lenten practices can be a place where we are tempted. We will be tempted to say, “This is harder than I expected. I’m not sure that it’s worth it.” Or to say, “I just don’t have the extra time to read my bible, or pray, or listen every day.” But God asks us to let Him be in control. We need to remember to take the time and offer space for the holiness of God to enter our lives.
Let us allow our 40 days in the wilderness to be an opportunity to let God be in Control!

Posted on: February 16, 2019

Sixth Sunday in OT Year C - WHAT IS YOUR GOAL IN LIFE Luk.6:17-20

Sixth Sunday in OT  Year C – WHAT IS YOUR GOAL IN LIFE? Luk.6:17-20

What is your top priority in your life? What is your number one goal? We all have different goals, different priorities, things that are important to us, things that we would like to achieve in our lives. Some of your priorities might include losing weight, staying healthy, advancing in your job, saving for retirement, raising decent children. Those are all good priorities. but as we think about our top priority in life, God wants us to look up – to look at something higher than staying healthy, something deeper than saving for retirement, more spiritual than just raising kids that are successful and stable in life and to focus on something else. Today, we’re going to talk about what that something else is, that top priority, and how it affects the way we look at the things that happen in our lives.

Jesus spoke about this in our Gospel for this morning. Jesus was able to look into the hearts of his listeners, and as he did that, he could see that many of them had worldly goals. They might have looked spiritual on the outside, because they were listening to Jesus, but on the inside, they were worldly. “My top priority in life is to make good money,” some of them were probably thinking. “My top goal in life is to rise to the top of my career.”

The Bible sets priorities that lead to eternal life
Let’s consider three of these priorities:

When God gave the 10 Commandments at Mount Sinai, He thundered these words: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:2-3). God does not want us to place anything before Him. His desire is that we worship Him and Him alone. He must come first in our lives.

The Bible tells the story of two sisters, Mary and Martha, who were loyal friends of Jesus Christ. When Christ visited them, they wanted to serve Him in the way each considered was most important. Serving others is highly commended in the Bible, and it is certainly not wrong to serve. But in this instance priorities were an issue. Listening to Christ’s teachings was even more important than food preparation.

We have to be honest with ourselves. Are we putting our personal relationship with God first, or are we allowing other aspects of our lives to come before the worship of the true God?

German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe grasped the importance of priorities. He said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

Priorities that are in error
The Bible records an incident in which Peter, James and John, who Christ was calling to become His disciples, had their priorities right: “So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him” (Luke 5:11). On the other hand, the Bible records examples of people who had distorted priorities, and who actually rejected Christ’s offer to become one of His disciples. Read Luke 9:57-62. Apparently, physical comfort and prosperity were of greater importance to some. For others, taking care of family matters was more crucial than supporting Christ in preaching the gospel.
None of their excuses were of themselves wrong. Is it wrong to stay with a father until he dies or to devote an extended period of time to saying farewell to family members? Certainly not! However, Christ was teaching an important lesson: God was not first in their priorities. Leaving God out of our planning is unwise (James 4:13-16).
What is godly, righteous character?

A well-known educator in religious matters, Herbert W. Armstrong, defines Godly character as: “the ability, in a separate entity with free moral agency, to come to the knowledge of the right from the wrong—the true from the false—and to choose the right, and possess the will to enforce self-discipline to do the right and resist the wrong.”

How do we enforce this?
Our will or God’s will?
When it comes to important decisions, choosing to do God’s will over ours. To be led by the will of God is to embody the character of God—to become like God.

Christ set the perfect example
Even when faced with a horrifying trial of physical pain and mental torment, Jesus prayed, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Overcoming our selfish nature and replacing it with God’s character should be our priority.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ taught some of the most meaningful principles of Christian living in the entire Bible (Matthew 5-7). One of these is: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

This verse not only summarizes the first two priorities—focusing on God and His righteousness—but it brings to our attention the importance of the Kingdom of God.

How do we seek His Kingdom?
Repentance and belief are the two foundational stepping stones by which entrance into this glorious Kingdom will be permitted. The reason we must repent is because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Romans 6:23 adds that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

To repent means we must change our normal way of thinking, which is against God. The Bible reveals that the human mind is hostile to God because it is not subject to the law of God. We thus need a change in thinking that will then lead to turning away from sin and keeping God’s commandments.