Relationship Not Romance (The Heart Of Christmas #3)

ChristmasMistletoeKissPastor Barry/ The Gathering: Relationship Not Romance (The Heart of Christmas #3)      To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

Springboard: That’s What Christmas Means To Me by Stevie Wonder (songwriters: Allen Story, Anna Gordy Gaye, George Gordy) 

Romance Jeremiah 17:9-10, Matthew 6:33-34

Like the famous song by Stevie Wonder, That’s What Christmas Means To Me,  romance is what Christmas means to many!  That emotional excitement or attraction that a person feels for    another is elevated with fire, snow and mistletoe!  This kind of romance is a popular topic in our culture. Music, movies, plays, and books capitalize upon our human fascination with romantic love and its seemingly endless expressions.

The Song of Solomon is a book filled with romantic demonstrations of love between a bride and groom. Since God included this book in the canon of His inspired Word, we can safely say that romance is acceptable and even applauded by our Creator in the context of a pure and committed marriage relationship; however, romance for the sake of romance can be destructive. Most romances begin with the delightful sense of “falling in love,” which can be intoxicating. The act of “falling in love” produces a chemical deluge in the brain similar to that experienced with drug use. The brain is awash in adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin (the feel-good chemicals), which cause us to want to return to the source of that feeling. Because of our brain’s response, romance can become an addiction.  Feasting on “emotional porn” ( the depiction of the emotionally sensational) such as romance novels, sexually themed TV shows and movies, pornography, and even “romantic” social media posts, sets us up for unrealistic expectations in our real-life relationships. 

Researchers estimate that the human brain can only sustain that intense “in love” feeling for a maximum of two years. Ideally, a couple has worked on deepening their love and commitment during that time so that, when the intense feelings of being “in romantic love” taper off, a deeper love takes its place. However, for those “addicted” to romance, this tapering-off signals that it is time to find another person who will induce the same euphoria. Some people diagnosed with “relationship addiction” may, in fact, be addicted to the feelings produced by “falling in love.” Thus, they attempt to recreate that feeling over and over again.

Romance can be either negative or positive depending upon whether we let those emotions rule our lives. When we are pursuing our feelings, we can get into moral trouble. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” The popular saying “follow your heart” is terrible advice. When we follow the passions of our hearts, we are easily led into deception, sin, and regret. Instead of pursuing romance, we should pursue a relationship with God. He alone knows what we really need to be satisfied and He promises to give those things to us if we seek Him first (Matthew 6:33-34).

Relationship 2 Timothy 2:22, Romans 8:5-8, Psalm 121:1-8

Oh that youth would pursue God with the same time and energy that they pursue romance.  Just think of the troubles they could avoid!  Even those who are no longer youthful should take the Apostle Paul’s advice to the young man Timothy; that is to pursue godliness over youthful lust (AKA Romantic feeling). The Apostle goes on to tell his church in Rome the importance of such a discipline.  When a mind is set on what the flesh desires without the control of the Holy Spirit disaster is unavoidable (Romans 8:5-8)!  This is why one should pursue a relationship with God before any other human relationship (friendship, lover,    father, mother, sister, brother, employer, employee, etc.).  God knows us better than we know ourselves. When we put our relationship with God first every other relationship will be better!  His word will light our path through life:

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105  We need the Lord in our lives more than we know.  He is where our help comes from and God knows we need it (Psalm 121:1-8)!

What Christmas Means To Him John 3:16-18, 6:48-64, Hebrews 11:6, Psalm 32:5

The best way to find the heart of Christmas is to discover the heart of God (John 3:16).  When all the glitter and twinkle is taken away from Christmas what remains is a feeding trough (a manger) in a stable.  In that trough is the food that God provided for every one of us animals. (Biologically, humans are classified as animals: Mammals/ Homo sapiens). Yes, I said animals and that is not only a scientifically correct term but an accurate term when we look at the declining critical thinking and morality of our species today.  What Christmas means to God is feeding time for any who would come and eat the spiritual food that He provided.   

Christ is that food (John 6:48) and He referred to Himself as such. In fact He is also our drink (John 6:55) and without that food and drink we will die in our sin and be lost forever.  We can eat all kinds of other food and drink all kinds of other drink, in all kinds of places but nothing else can ever sustain us.  No other relationship, no other person can feed us like Jesus. Most people would cringe at the thought of being referred to as food and drink for another, but Jesus embraced it (as illustrated in communion: Luke 22:19-20).  In fact it was His earthly mission to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). 

There is a requirement to eating at “the Lord’s table”.  1.) You must believe and receive Christ alone as your Lord (Master) and Savior (Hebrews 11:6, Romans 10:9-10).  2.) You must recognize that you are a beast without Christ and come humbly to Him in repentance and gratitude (Psalm 49:12, James 4:7-10, Psalm 32:5).  Are you hungry… Come and eat!

No Romance Matthew 7:13-14, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Make no mistake about it; the Heart of Christmas is no romance.  It is a relationship with God. The walk of faith with Christ is not just a “feel good experience”, although undoubtedly there will be such times.  In fact Jesus called it a narrow path that few take (Matthew 7:13-14). He promised persecution on that path (John 15:20) and even death to the “old self” (Galatians 2:20). Yet His food (a relationship with Him) promises to make us new and give us a new purpose of bringing others into relationship with Him (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Yes, we eat and then bring others to the manger and this is the heart of Christmas!

Advertisements

Presence Not Presents (The Heart of Christmas 2)

ChristmasChildPrayerPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church:  Presence Not Presents/ The Heart of Christmas 2  To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGCHURCH.COM

Sermon Springboard: Santa Baby by Eartha Kit

 Presents Matthew 6:19-24, 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19, Proverbs 23:4-5                                            Phil Springer and Joan Javits were being ironic and funny when they wrote Santa baby for Eartha Kit in 1953.  At any rate it became a Christmas holiday hit!  But do we know people like the material girl in the song? How material and superficial are you at Christmastime?  How material and superficial are you at anytime? 

There are many warnings in the Bible about giving in to greed and longing for riches. Jesus warned us against it; “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”(Luke 12:15). Jesus reminds us that one cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6 19-24). In contrast, Jesus became poor for our sake (2 Corinthians 8:9). He did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:43–45).  

Greed and a desire for riches are traps that bring ruin and destruction. “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil(1 Timothy 6:9-10, 17-19).  In Ephesians 5:5, The Apostle Paul called a greedy person an idolater (a person who worships a false god) who had no inheritance in the kingdom of God.

It is the love of money, and not money itself, that is the problem. The love of money is a sin because it gets in the way of worshiping God. Jesus said it was very hard for rich people to enter the Kingdom of God. When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life, Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Matthew 19:16-22). By instructing him to give up his money, Jesus pointed out the young man’s main problem: greed or a love of money. The man could not follow Christ because he was following money. His love of this world interfered with his love for God.

Greed refuses to be satisfied. More often than not, the more we get, the more we want. Money or wealth is not the problem. The problem is our attitude toward it. I have known people without much to be far more greedy than those who have plenty. A greedy poor man will do anything to be rich, while a greedy rich man will giveaway nothing to be free.  When we place our confidence in wealth or are consumed by a desire for more, we are failing to give God the glory and worship He deserves. We are to serve God, not waste our time trying to become rich (Proverbs 23:4-5).  If we are a Christian it is God’s kingdom we are to build and not our own—it is His will that is to be done and not ours (Matthew 6:9-10). 

If Christmas, or life for that matter, is all about presents (what you are getting or what you feel you are entitled too), then you are not experiencing the heart of Christmas or Christianity.

 Presence Luke 2:13-14, John 14:15-21, 25-27, Psalms 16:7-11                                                 The heart of Christmas is not presents but the presence of God with us.  When the angels announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds the proclamation was “peace to those on whom God’s favor rests” (Luke 2 13-14).  God’s favor does not rest on everyone but only upon those who make Him Lord (Master).  

God’s presence can only be with one who is born again (John 3:3).  One of Jesus’ titles is “Immanuel,” which means “God with us”(Matthew 1:23).  When Jesus came into this world, He was truly, literally “God with us.” Even now God is with the believer because when Jesus went away He sent His Spirit to be with us (John 16:7) always.  He has not left us as      orphans ( John 14:15-21, 25-27).  He lives within us, teaches us all things, reminds us of everything He has said. He has filled the believer with His presence and peace.   Because God is with us: 1. We know that we will never be separated from His love (Romans 8:38-39). 2. God’s presence assures us that we can accomplish His will for us (1 Chronicles 22:17-19). 3. God’s presence overcomes our fear, worry, and dissatisfaction (Hebrews 13:5). 

John 5:11-12 tells us it is Jesus who indwells us: “This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” This “life” is the presence of God within us.

A Psalm of David (Psalm 16:7-11) beautifully reflects the presence of God in the life of one who puts their hope in the Lord.  He is filled with joy in the presence of the Lord. Are you? 

The Heart of Christmas—The Heart of Life Romans 15:13                                               Have you ever been so full of junk food that you rejected a good meal, so full of liquid that you couldn’t eat, so full of yourself that you had no friend, so full of want that you couldn’t enjoy the simple and best pleasures of life?  If you are full of greed then you cannot be filled with God’s presence and the hope that accompanies it.  “Stuff” does not last, nor does anyone wish they had more of it on their death bed. The Heart of Christmas and the heart of living are found only in the presence of God with us.

…set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Colossians 3:1b-4 

If you are full of “stuff” (or the constant driving desire for it) then don’t be like the rich young ruler who left Christ in search of more.  There is nothing more to be had than the presence of God in your life and the Hope of His salvation for your eternity.  Pray for forgiveness and allow God to transform your life as you allow Him to transform your heart and mind. Joy and peace is on the way for those who trust in the Lord.

Mary’s Song (Heart of Christmas 1)

Mary&BabyJesusPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church:  The Heart of Christmas 1  Mary’s Song                      To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGCHURCH.COM

Reading from Luke 1:26-38 

Confirmation  Luke 1:39-45, Isaiah 7:14                                                                                          When the angel “left her” (Luke 1:38b) there is no doubt that Mary gasped and said something like”did that really just happen?”  We must remember, Mary was no super Hero.  She was    ordinary just like you and me. So what is one to do when visited by an angel or confronted with a vision or calling from God?  After all there are good angels and bad angels (demons). In fact the scriptures say that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 11:14 

Historically speaking “angels” have not always been so reliable regarding truth.  Muhammad’s revelation was an event described in Islam as taking place in 610 AD, during which the Islamic prophet was allegedly visited by the archangel Jabril (Gabriel), who revealed to him the beginnings of what would later become the Quran (ironic since the same angel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary).  The emergence of the Book of Mormon is also said to have been delivered by an angel on September 21, 1823. According to founder of the Mormon religion, Joseph Smith, the angel Moroni appeared to him with golden tablets (never revealed) and told him that “God had a work for [him] to do” (Joseph Smith—History 1:33). Long before either one of these religions began (Islam was founded 600 years after Christianity) the Apostle Paul would proclaim that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light”(2 Corinthians 11:14). 

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! Galatians 1:8 

Mary did not simply take an angel’s word for it as Muhammad and Smith did.  She sought confirmation from God’s word as we should also do (John 8:32, 17:17, 2 Cor-inthians 10:5, 2 Timothy 2:15, 3:16, 1 John 4:1).  1.  Mary confirmed what the angel Gabriel told her with scripture.  The angel had said to her that “The Lord God will give him (Jesus) the throne of his father David and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” As any good Jew, Mary knew the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament.  She knew that God had promised a   Messiah who would save his people and that he would come one day through the genealogical line of David.  Mary and Joseph were both in that lineage.  She likely also knew the Bible passage from Isaiah 7:14 which said that the Messiah would be born of a virgin.

Mary also knew that Jewish law said that a matter must be established by two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15b). a. Mary was the witness of an angelic visitation which she saw and heard, b. she also knew that what the angel said was biblically accurate, but she needed a third witness to establish the absolute truth of the angel.   2. Mary confirmed what the angel Gabriel told her by testing his word. She traveled to Elizabeth’s house to see if she was pregnant as the angel had said (Luke 1:39-45). c. Not only did Mary see that Elizabeth was pregnant but her baby d. leaped within her and e. Elizabeth proclaimed “blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”  God had confirmed Mary’s word from the angel well over what the law required and the baby Jesus growing within her continued that confirmation. 

Mary’s Song Luke 1:46-56,6:43-45, 14:11, Romans 10:9-10                                                     This is the song or poem that Mary wrote following the greeting that she received from  Elizabeth, her cousin, when she went to visit her. 

Mary was a girl of only 15-16 years old and engaged to be married. She was now suddenly a single unwed mother in a religion and culture where that meant ostracism or death. Cruel Romans occupied her land and a ruthless heathen king ruled the region. Mary staying with her cousin for three months (Luke 1:56) also says a lot about her family dynamics. Likely they had given the same initial reaction that Joseph gave to her when she told him about the news of her pregnancy (Matthew 1:19). Regardless of all these things Mary is filled with Thanksgiving!  We too can learn from Mary to give praise as we face difficulties and trials in a fallen world. Here are three things we can learn from Mary:

1. Mary models a mind filled with the Scriptures.                                                           Mary expresses her knowledge of the Psalms, the prophets and Hannah’s song (God granted Hanna a child :1 Samuel 2: 2- l0). Mary was well trained in the scriptures from her childhood.  Out of the abundance of her heart, she spoke, ( Luke 6:45) her mouth was filled with the language of Scripture. Whatever books we love, whatever books we study, the Bible should be our book of books. Mary was full of God’s word…what are you full of?

2. Mary models a heart of humility.                                                                                     Mary acknowledges herself as a sinner and therefore her need of a Savior. Mary also refers to herself a servant of the Lord and never expresses pride in her position (Luke 14:11).

3. Mary models an attitude of thoughtfulness and thankfulness.                              True thankfulness is always a matter of faith over circumstance. Mary models an attitude of gratitude. This is to be our response in all circumstances too (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Mary recalled God’s past dealings with his people and ascribed it to her faith in him for the future. Bible history is not just a story to Mary it is her story! Mary believes and Mary is confessing her faith in this song.  Let us declare our faith as she did too! (Romans 10:9-10) 

What Ever Happened to Mary? Acts 1:12-14, 2:1-4, John 3:3,6-7                                           By all scriptural accounts, Mary never saw the resurrected Jesus. The last we read about Mary in the Bible is in Acts 1:14.  She was there on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-5) and was filled with the Holy Spirit. Church legend says that she lived in the house of John until she died (John 19:27). There is no Biblical record of Mary ascending into heaven (she was ordinary).

Although Mary was chosen by God for a unique assignment, she had to receive salvation by faith in her Son just as we all do (Romans 3:23Ephesians 2:8–9Acts 4:12). Mary is now in heaven with all believers who have died in Christ, not because she gave birth to Jesus but because she trusted in His shed blood as payment for her sin                     (1 Thessalonians 5:9102 Timothy 2:11).  We all must be born again to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Mary’s song, or the Christmas story for that matter, won’t make any difference to you unless you believe what Mary said. Her song says that Jesus is Messiah, the Savior of the world. To believe on Him is to have eternal fellowship with Him.  Mary believed… Do you?

 

Faithfully Thankful

thanksWhat Is God Thankful For?  Hebrews 1:2-3

Is God thankful? A persons initial impulse might be to answer with a fairly certain “Yes.”  One might not know exactly why they think this is so, but the thought process might be formulated roughly as follows: Being thankful is nice, God is nice, therefore God is thankful.

Theologically and Biblically speaking this thought process should go a bit deeper…

The difficult question is how God could be thankful given His omnipotence and                 omniscience.  He doesn’t need help with anything. He isn’t dependent on anything.  He’s God.  So it would seem that if He were going to pray before a meal, as it were, He would be thankful to Himself.  But then why give thanks?

There are a many Biblical instances of Jesus expressing thankfulness to the Father.  Since Jesus is the exact representation of God’s nature (Hebrews 1:3) we can truly say that God is thankful, but for what ?  Is He thankful for you and me?

Consider this analogy when contemplating God’s thankfulness for you and me: a young child draws a picture for their father.  The father bought the crayons.  The father “created” the child.  The father sustains the child by caring for him.  And yet, the father thankfully delights in the crudely drawn picture.  Why?  Because he loves the child.  And the child freely loves him.  And because of that, the father says “Thank you.”

Let Our Thanks to God be Faithfulness  Micah 6:6-8

A crudely drawn picture surely delights a mother and father’s heart, but what really makes parent’s hearts soar is when their child exhibits skills, character traits, morals and talents that they have instilled in them.  When our children remain loyal to us and our teachings and put that loyalty into consistent practice our hearts swell with thankfulness!  In a similar way God is thankful when we show faithfulness to Him and His teachings regardless of what the circumstances or consequences may be.

God spoke through the prophet Micah once to show His people what He truly desires from us mortals. In essence it is our faithfulness.  Faithfulness is a better gift than bowing down at His throne, than numerous offerings, or even our“firstborn” for the sin of our souls.   God has clearly shown us what is good and what He requires of us (Micah 6:8): 

To Act Justly:  To live with a sense of right and wrong based on scripture.  In other words to FOLLOW Christ and His teachings.

To Love Mercy: “Love mercy” contains the Hebrew word hesed, which means “loyal love” or “loving-kindness.” Love for Christ and ones fellow man equals service.  To do unto   others as you would have them do unto you (Luke 6:31) is to SERVE as Christ has served you…even in your sin and rebellion when you were against Him.

To Walk Humbly:  “Walk humbly” is a description of the heart’s attitude toward God. He is exalted while we are debased, He is Shepherd while we are sheep, He is leader and we are followers.  He is a faithful Father to us and to walk humbly with Him is to be a FAITHFUL child to him.

A Thankful Heart Follows, Serves and is Faithful to the one to whom he appreciates.

It is God who has been ever following you despite your sin, serving you through His sacrificial love, and faithfully delivering His promises to as many as would receive Him. 

What is God thankful for?  What you bring to him in appreciation!

Let us now act out our love for him as we humbly bring him thanks in all things, Amen.

 

 

 

 

GIVE THANKS (in Suffering)

VetCriesThe Gathering/Pastor Barry   GIVE THANKS (Part 2 of 2)  Veterans Day  to hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGCHURCH.COM

Give Thanks To A Vet (and His/her family)

Today is Veteran’s Day— a public holiday held on the anniversary of the end of World War I (November 11, 1918) to honor US veterans and victims of all wars. This year marks 100 years since the end of that war.  Today we should all give thanks!  Thanks to all who have served in the military, who have died in war and who currently serve in our military today.  We should give thanks because without a military we would all be slaves of some other nation. Know this friends— what we give thanks for other brave souls suffered and died for. Many still continue to suffer today.  Many family members still suffer at the loss of these loved ones that you and I never knew. Some of these now live crippled, blind, deaf, or paralyzed because of their sacrifice for us and this nation.  So today thank a vet if you know one.  Thank a gold star family if you know one.  Thank a military man or woman if you see one.  Give thanks to God for them and their sacrifice—and always remember there is no gain without suffering and pain and one can hold no right without a fight.  And this is my rallying point for today’s message.  

When Life Hurts Romans 5:3-5, John 14:16-17, 26-27, Psalm 23

Life hurts sometimes and it is no respecter of persons. Jesus even said: 

He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike Matthew 5:45b 

Rather you are a “good” Christian or not you will experience pain, suffering and heartache.  Yes, sometimes we bring such things upon ourselves by making bad choices, but simply read your Bible and you will see, suffering comes to everyone at some time and although it is terrible to go through, the results of suffering actually improve us if we continue holding onto Jesus through it.  Romans 5:3-5 says that tribulation produces perseverance, character and hope.  James 1:2-4 tells us that “trials of many kinds tests our faith and makes us mature. Suffering can also humble us and teach us to love. It also teaches us to be empathetic with others and to be thankful for what we have. Suffering also helps us to better relate to Jesus. The Apostle Paul said that he wanted to know Christ —the power of his resurrection and the sharing in his    suffering and death (Philippians 3:10-11).  Paul knew what we must all learn. The only way to know Christ and experience his resurrection power is by suffering and dying!

Jesus promises that he will not leave us as orphans in our suffering, he gives us an advocate to help us and to be with us forever—the Spirit of truth (the Holy Spirit who lives within us) John 14:16-17.  King David’s Psalm 23 is proof of God’s promise.  It is God’s Spirit who reminds us that we truly lack nothing, when everything is falling apart.  It is God’s Spirit that makes us lie down in peace and receive his refreshment even when we are walking through the darkest valley.  It is God’s Spirit that calms our fear of evil and comforts us.  It is he who overflows our heart with praise in the midst of suffering and reminds us that we will dwell in his house forever. 

Give Thanks! 1 Thessalonians 5:18, 1 Peter 1:3-9

And so we can “rejoice always” and “give thanks in all circumstances” if we will “pray continually” being in relationship with Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Because there is no gain without suffering and pain—give thanks!                           Because tribulation produces perseverance, character and hope-give thanks!        Because trials develop faith and maturity in us—give thanks!                                     Because suffering humbles us, teaches us to love and makes us thankful—give thanks! Because as we share in Christ’s suffering and death he gives resurrection power—Amen! Because he will never leave us as orphans but will be with us forever— we praise God! Because his Spirit will make us lie down in peace and refresh us even though we walk through the darkest valley—we will praise the Lord!                                                          And we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever! —Amen

For these reasons we can give thanks in the midst of pain, suffering and even death. No matter what the trial, Jesus remains our living hope that will not fade away! (1 Peter 1:3-9)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

Nothing Shall Separate us Romans 8:35-39                                                                                

In all of life’s trials, tribulations and sufferings perspective is what we often forget. Helen Adams Keller was an American author, political activist, and lecturer.  She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Helen had perspective on suffering.  One of my favorite quotes from her is: “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet” ― Helen Keller 

1.  If you are going through some kind great suffering now then I urge you to get perspective.  Is there someone you may know —or know of— that is suffering greater than you?  Is there someone who is suffering like you and yet is not holding on to Jesus? Even in great suffering serving others in pain (in Jesus’ name) can be a balm of healing for your own.                                                                                                                                       2.  Finally keep your perspective on the eternal and not the temporal. No one or no thing can separate us from the love of Christ or the eternal promises we have in him.  In all these things (suffering) we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  (Romans 8:35-39)

Blessed be Your name, on the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering , blessed be Your name                                                       Every blessing You pour out I’ll  turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say                                                               Blessed be the name of the Lord — Beth & Matt Redman                                               BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD

 

 

GIVE THANKS 1

Harvest2The Gathering/ Pastor Barry        GIVE THANKS part 1 of 3                                                     To hear this message go to theGatheringHG.com 

The Thankful Are Wise Romans 1:21-22

As we concluded our Soul On Fire Series I admonished you to “Fear the Lord…for it is the   beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 9:10-12).  If fear is the beginning of wisdom then Thankfulness is the activity of wisdom.  In other words if you are thankful to God and are expressive of that thanks then you are wise. The Apostle Paul gave a strong warning to those who are not thankful to God (Romans 1:18-32).  The progression of a fool leads to condemnation and it all begins with not glorifying God or giving thanks to him (Romans 1:21-22)

Have you ever done something thoughtful or kind for someone and were acknowledged in no way at all, or worse yet treated with contempt for your kindness?  Of course we do not give something to someone only to be praised; however, it certainly knocks the joy of giving down a notch when there is no acknowledgement.  In time of course, we will simply find another place to give, but God isn’t like that.  He continues to give that we might eventually respond with a thankful heart.  When a person does not express thanks for what they should be grateful for darkness sets in, self-centeredness rules the heart and the mind becomes depraved (Romans 1:28). God’s kindness is intended to lead a person to repentance but because of stubbornness and unrepentance a fool stores up wrath against themselves (Romans 2:4b-5a). 

Forget Not Psalm 103:1-5 

King David reminded himself (“my soul”) and his listeners to “praise the Lord and forget not all of his benefits”.  David then names just a few of those benefits:

He forgives our sins:  John 1:12-13, Romans 3:23-24, 5:8

He heals all of our diseases:  Isaiah 53:5, Revelation 21;3-5

He redeems our life from the pit ( from shachat (corruption, pit, grave) :                     2 Corinthians 5:17, 2 Corinthians 1:10, John 8:32

He crowns us with love and compassion: 1 John 4:7-9, Ephesians 5:2, Ezekiel 36:26

He satisfies our desires with good things: Matthew 6:33, Psalms 37:3-5

He renews our youth like the eagle: Isaiah 40:28-31, John 11:25-26

Despite the trials and tribulations of this life, these are six blessings that God gives to every one of his children.  These blessings begin when we accept Christ into our lives and carry on into eternity.  We must, like David, remind ourselves of these benefits daily and give God praise. 

Be Thankful! Colossians 3:15-17, Matthew 5:14-16

When we live in thankfulness to God, not forgetting his benefits, we live and act differently than those who do not know Christ.  When we appreciate the fact that God has chosen us to be his own and that he dearly loves us and has set us apart for himself, then we can be more compassionate to others.  We can be kinder, walk in humility and be more gentle and patient with others.  We can be forgiving because we appreciate that the Lord has forgiven us.  We can put on love because he first loved us (1 John 4:10). 

Remember that time you first fell in love.  You were spellbound and nothing could ruin your joy —then reality set in and you were miserable all the time!  But wait!  Misery came when you realized that human love breaks promises, acts unbecomingly and behaves selfishly, but this is not God’s love. We can truly thank God because he is never changing, and his promises are forever true.  We can be thankful and live with a heart of gratitude because God is always good to us–in good times and in bad times.  He has promised to go with us down every path. He will never leave us or forsake us. 

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

The Apostle Paul admonished us as believers to be thankful and let this message of Christ live in us.  His peace will be with us as we live in gratitude to him.  Then we will truly live as a light in a dark world (Matthew 5:16). We can only do this with an attitude of gratitude. 

Tell It! Psalm 9:1, Isaiah 40:28-31

King David wrote songs of praise and sang out his thanks to the Lord.  These songs were often used to lead his people in praise to God.  Praise is contagious!  We too are to tell others of God’s “wonderful deeds”.  We are called to sing his praises.  We are not to be quiet about our faith and love for Jesus.  We are to proclaim his praise.  We are to spread it around like seed in a barren field.

If you appreciate your salvation then make it known and share the way to be saved with others.  If you have been healed of a disease or an infirmity then speak about it and give glory to God!  If your life has been redeemed from the pit then let’s hear an amen and a hallelujah!  Reach out your hand to those still in that pit and let them know how blessed it is on the other side!  Is Jesus growing your love and compassion?  If you are not growing in these areas then you are not living in thanksgiving to God.  Praise the Lord and forget not his benefits!  Stop whining about what you don’t have. Open your mouth and give thanks for the abundant blessings the Lord has poured out in your life.  

Is Jesus satisfying you with good things?  Then somebody testify!  Are your desires for good things? Then rejoice in the new mind Christ has given you.  If your desires are still caught up in sin then thank God that he still strives with you.  Seek his forgiveness and let him renew you and give you wings like an eagle to pull you out of that darkness.

No matter what your circumstance is give glory to God. “Tell it!”  Praise him, thank him, forget not his benefits!  Those benefits are all around you like the wind pulling the eagle far above the cares of the world below.  God renews us when we give him praise.  As usual with the Lord, even our praise to him comes back as fuel to our spirits. “Those who hope in the Lord” will praise him too.  They will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”

FEAR

FearPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church     (Hear this message at THEGATHERINGHG.COM)

BOO!

It’s that time of year once again where everyone wants to be scared.  What is the obsession with fear?  In the US, Halloween continues to scare up some big sales. The US haunted house     industry makes over 300 million dollars per year and the National Retail Federation is predicting people will splurge a record breaking 9-point-1 billion dollars this year, on everything from costumes to candy by the time Halloween is over. This has nothing on the movie industry which capitalizes on fear all year long.

Scientifically speaking, some people love the feeling of being scared because the brain releases “feel good” chemicals like dopamine when we are terrified.  As soon as we realize that we’re not in fact going to die we can enjoy the arousal response — that’s when fear can be fun.  Thrilling sports or activities, roller coasters, scary movies and haunted houses are all sort of a way to escape from everyday stresses.  When we participate in such things we believe that we are coming out alive so the fear factor can be entertaining; however, when fear is realized as being real no one is having fun anymore. Real terror is terrible in the worst sense of the word. 

SIN SICK? Luke 6:45, Philippians 4:8

Bored one day, I was flipping through channels and was horrified to catch a scene from Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015), where Colin Firth’s character, ends up in a church      participating in a gigantic killing free-for-all. I watched for a minute in disbelief and then somberly changed the channel. Real life events like the Texas mass shooting, where 26 people were brutally killed by being gunned down in a church in 2017, and yesterdays killing spree that left 11 dead and 6 injured in a Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania makes sane people  wonder. What in hell is wrong with our entertainment values and do they influence people’s real actions?  I think they do.  In fact the Bible says “whatever a man thinks he is” (Proverbs 23:7a).  If out of a man’s heart he speaks (Luke 6:45) then how much more will he act out what is stored there?   As a Christian matures in his faith his character and values should too.  The Apostle Paul said:  if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things, then the God of peace be with you.  

With the above verse in mind let us continue on into the realm of real fear.  That is the stuff that you find no humor or thrill in–  those things that really cause you anxiety?  First things first…  If you have such fears then stop entertaining yourself with such anxiety producing trash and seek the peace of God as Paul instructed.

REAL FEAR Matthew 6:25-34, 11:28-30, Proverbs 3:5-6

Entertainment aside, what really scares you?  For me (at this time) it is the uncertainty of the upcoming city and state elections. The fear that the vote of the people or the lack thereof will bring in godless and evil people that will make disastrous decisions affecting our city, our state and our nation. Decisions that will ultimately affect the land and the people I love.  For others here it may be the fear of an uncertain future, death or illness, loneliness, or failing. For some it may even be the daily provisions that most of us take for granted.  Fear is real and crippling if allowed to control us, so what is a believer in Christ to do with it? Jesus said not to worry but to seek God first (Matthew 6:25-34) and to cast all of your  cares on him (Matthew 11:28-30, 1 Peter 5:6-7). King Solomon told us to trust God and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).   

Do you find all of this easier said than done?  Has someone said to you once before, “just let go and let God!” Did you want to hit them?  Now here is something that you will want to hit me for, but it is true even for me: “Fear, simply said, is a lack of faith”.  Faith and fear cannot exist together. Faith is described in Hebrews 11:1 as being “certain of what we do not see.” It is an absolute belief that God is constantly working behind the scenes in every area of our lives, even when there is no tangible evidence to support that fact. As unbelief gains the upper hand in our thoughts, fear takes hold of our emotions. As we believe God and his promises— fear flees and faith grows. 

REAL FAITH James 1:2-8, 1 John 4:18

Faith is not something that we make happen in ourselves. Faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9), and faithfulness is described as a fruit (or characteristic) that is produced in our lives by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23).  Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17) and doing what it says (James 1:22) no matter what.  Just as a baby is strengthened by the food he is given and eventually walks by responding to his parent’s call—so we grow in faith the same way.  Eat the word and follow your Fathers call. 

God is kind and understanding toward our weaknesses, but He requires us to go forward in faith, and the Bible is clear that faith does not mature and strengthen without trials. Adversity is God’s most effective tool to develop a strong faith. When you walk with God through fearful situations you will learn to obey his word and find that each trial becomes a stepping stone to a stronger and deeper faith (James 1:2-8). God always responds in love as you walk by faith and that perfect love drives out fear (I John 4:18).  Again, like the baby who learns to walk —no matter how many times he falls the call of love beckons him to try again on faith

GOOD FEAR Proverbs 3: 7-12, Proverbs 9:10-12

Proverbs 3:5-6 is a great memory verse when dealing with anxiety and fear but read on if you think that God wants you without any fear at all.  There is bad fear and good fear. It is wise to fear the Lord and shun evil.  We should fear what we would be apart from God—what our city, nation, and world would be apart from God.  Apart from God we would face judgment and wrath, but with God we need to fear nothing at all.  Therefore to fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  To any mocker I say, “You haven’t even begun to be wise”.