Faith

Faith – Matthew 7

Continuing our “New Year, New You” series, we will look at the Sermon on the Mount. In just 111 verses Jesus teaches what it means to follow Him and have faith. There is a new kingdom, a new people, a new commandment, a new covenant not written on tablets but written on our hearts, etc. Jesus makes all things new! Only your spiritual life has the power to change the other areas of your life.

Examine Your Words

In Matthew 7:21 Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven….” Talk is cheap. It is easy to learn a religious vocabulary, memorize a Bible verse, or sing a Christian song. Many people called Jesus “Lord” out of respect, but their hearts were far from Him. It takes more than a verbal confession to go to Heaven. Romans 10:9 says we must also believe in our hearts. We will all give an account one day for the words we’ve spoken (Mt. 12:36). Are you judgmental of others? Do you criticize others? Talk about others? For many it is a way of life. No human can judge or determine the motives of others. Don’t jump to conclusions or make hasty judgments when you don’t have all the facts. Stop setting yourself up as judge and jury. Stop playing God in the lives of others, rather, judge yourself! “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith…” (2 Cor. 13:5).

Examine Your Ways

A religious vocabulary will not save you and neither will religious works. Jesus also said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’” (Mt. 7:22). There are going to be a lot of surprised people on judgment day from all religions and denominations. Faith is not based on your performance. God does not love us based on our performance review. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Rm. 5:8). You can’t do anything to make God love you more or to make Him love you less. He loves us with an everlasting love. Faith in Christ is internal. It is not about being a better person. It is about having faith in God and He makes us a new person. Look at Matthew 5:21-28. Jesus took the commandments of not murdering and not committing adultery a step further. He looks at the heart and tell us to not even be angry or look lustfully. The change we need is from the inside out. Real faith is the difference between a tube of toothpaste and a balloon. Toothpaste changes shape from the outside in. A balloon changes shape from the inside out as the owner breaths into the balloon. 

Examine Your Will

In the end of Matthew 7:21 Jesus says, “…but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” We see here God’s will versus man’s will. Are you living a selfish life or a selfless life? Life is filled with choices. Which way will you choose? There are two gates- straight and wide, two ways narrow and broad, two destinations- heaven and hell, and two groups- few and many (Mt. 7:13-14). What is saving faith? Buddhism – ceasing desires and keeping the eight-fold path. Hinduism – effort to rid self of bad karma live in unity with divine. Islam – good deeds outweigh the bad / martyrdom. Judaism – keeping the law. New Age – gaining new perspective seeing all is one and one is all. World religions are all about human achievement. Christianity is all about divine accomplishment. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it isthe giftof God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Jesus concludes His sermon with these words: “Therefore everyone who hearsthese words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Mt. 7:24). “House” hererepresents your life.  All of us are building either on Christ the solid rock or on religion and humanism which is sinking sand. A few chapters later Jesus says He came for the sick, not the healthy (Mt. 9:12). We are all sick! We all have our issues. Jesus can handle your sin. He knows everything about you and He still wants you to follow Him.Only people who know they need help… find it. Turn to Jesus and put your faith in Him today.

Family

Family

According to a newsflash on my phone this week, Wednesday was the last day most people stuck to their New Year’s fitness plan. That’s why our “New Year, New You” series isn’t about a new resolution, but a new life! Only your spiritual life has the power to change the other areas of your life. We’ve talked fitness and finances. This week we’ll look at family. In the new year, you need to make sure you’re connected to the family of God. There are four things that we as a church want every member of our family to live out. We call it Life Track. These four things will help get your life on track and stay on track.

Know God

You were made to know God. He is personal and relational. He has made Himself known through Jesus and the way you know Him is through spending time in the Word and time in prayer. Matthew 4:4 says, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” The Bible is all about Jesus. Get alone with God in a place away from the distractions. You don’t know a person until you know their ways. You can’t know the ways of God apart from the Word of God. Also, spend time in prayer. Paul prayed. Jesus prayed. How much more do you and I need to pray. When you sing, teach, preach, etc., you get what those can do. But when you pray, you get what God can do!

Find Community

When you come to know God, it is personal, but it is not private. We were made to have a relationship with God and other believers. He adopts us into His family, makes us a citizen of His kingdom, and places us in a body called the Church. There were no solo Christians in the New Testament. The pattern is gathering together and growing together. Acts 2:46 and 5:42 both reference the early church meeting in the temple and in houses, large groups (temple) and small groups (houses). “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecc. 4:9-10). The church dropout rate is five times higher for those in worship only. You may drop out of church, but it is harder to drop out of community. Don’t let excuses stop you from joining a group and growing together with other believers!

Serve People

For a community to work and accomplish its purpose, the members must participate. They have to use their God-given gifts to serve others. We glorify God when we leverage the abilities He has blessed us with to serve others.  We serve when we love the church and love the community. At salvation, we are all given a spiritual gift. We should never be envious or jealous of another person’s gift. We want to help you discover who you are in Christ and encourage you to join the Life Team. Consider your spiritual gift, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences and find a place to serve the church and the community around you. God has placed you in your neighborhood, school, company, etc., to be salt and light. Fulfillment only comes when you are doing what God put you on this earth to do.

Leave a Legacy

Life on earth is short, but you can do something with your life that will outlive you. No one left a bigger legacy than Jesus. We join His legacy and work when we go on mission and give to the mission. We are called to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20). Go on mission locally and globally having intentional gospel conversations. Be missional in your living and also in your giving. Giving yourself to God results in a life of generosity (2 Cor. 8:2-5). God is the greatest giver. Legacy is not JUST about dying and leaving money! It is about living a legacy and pouring into the next generation right now. 

If you want to get your life on track and stay on track, to be a part of something bigger than yourself and something that is going to last for eternity, Liberty is the place for you! Connect with the family of God.

Finances – Luke 16:1-13

As we continue our “New Year, New You” series, remember our theme verse: “…Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). Similarly, 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a newcreation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Last week we talked about spiritual, emotional, and physical fitness. When you think of fitness, the temptation is to only focus on the body, however, we are created in God’s image. We are not a body with a spirit, but a spirit with a body. To be fit, we must focus on all three areas. This week, we’ll see that no church or Christian can be spiritually healthy if they ignore finances. There are more than 600 references to prayer in the Bible, almost 500 references to faith, but over 2,350 references to money. Jesus talked more about finances than heaven and hell combined. There is no discipleship apart from stewardship. Your spiritual life is connected to your finances. You can fake prayer, Bible study, worship, etc., but you cannot fake stewardship. Your bank account will tell all. Your life story is written in your bank statement. It reflects your time, goals, priorities, convictions, and relationships.

Financial Accountability

Luke 16 is about money. In verses 1-2 we read about a steward who wasted his master’s goods. The master asked him to give account. These verses follow Luke 15:13 which is about the prodigal son who wastedhis inheritance. He wasted what His father had given him. Are you wasting what your Heavenly Father has given you? We are not owners. We are stewards. God owns it all. We brought nothing in this world and we take nothing out. One day we will give an account of what we have done with what He has given to us. It is not how much you make, but how you manage what you make. Wasting money drains you. There is no pressure like financial pressure. So many of us buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t even like!The enemy tells us we need things… and we impulsively spend. Christians are influenced by the lies of the enemy! Money makes promises it can’t keep. It promises identity, happiness, security, etc. Our identity is in Christ! Jesus brings joy and security!

Financial Responsibility

Luke 16:10 says, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much….” The key is to be faithful with what you have. There is no distinction between spiritual and financial. One of the most spiritual things you can do is be wise financially. Tell your money where to go or you will wonder where it went.Practice the 10-10-80 rule. Give a tenth (a tithe, 10%) to the local church. Then, save 10% and live off the remaining 80%. So many people are giving 0%, saving 0%, and are living off 120%. In verse 8 Jesus points out that the children of this world are better at seeing opportunities and making the most of them than the children of God. Unbelievers often work harder, plan better, save more, spend less, invest more wisely, than believers do. Are you wise with your money? Pay off your debt. Have an emergency fund. Update your giving and saving plans.

Financial Generosity

As we continue through the passage (v. 9-13), we read about true riches and how we can’t serve both God and money. True richesare the things on earth that will last forever – people, souls. We can use what we have to impact eternity – a carto bring people to church, a houseas a gathering place for teens or a group, a pool to reach kids, a business to fund the cause of Christ, etc. Lost people matter to God. You either love money and use people or you love people and use money to reach them. “Money” in this passage (also translated “mammon”) is talking about Money, with a capital “M”. The god of riches that is opposed to God. It’s root meaning is “to entrust.” God entrusted to you what you have, and the enemy wants you to trust in the gift rather than the Giver. The enemy controls people’s lives through money. It is not a sin to be wealthy or to enjoy what God has given you. It is a sin to have the world’s attitude toward wealth. God calls us to walk by faith. Money calls us to walk by sight. God calls us to be humble. Money calls us to be prideful. God calls us to set our minds onthings above. Money calls us to set our minds on things below. God calls us to live for eternity. Money calls us to live for temporary things. Jesus did not say you cannot have God and money. He said you cannot serve God and money. But, you can serve God with your money! Generosity is about lifestyle. What step can you take today to honor God with your finances?

Fitness – 1 Thessalonians 5:23-34

Happy New Year! As we begin 2019, we will begin a series called “New Year, New You.” Our theme verse is Revelation 21:5 – “…behold, I make all things new.” Many people make new year’s resolutions at the start of a new year, but did you know that only about 14% actually keep them? That’s why I’m not talking about a new resolution or turning over a new leaf. I’m talking about a new life. Every day God gives us is a gift. We have only one shot at life and we want to make it count. For the next few weeks, we are going to focus on the major areas of life so that we can start 2019 on the right path with a winning plan. Today we’ll talk about fitness. It is not just about losing weight or going to the gym. We need a holistic approach. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 says,“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”

Spiritual Fitness (“spirit”)

To start the new year off right, the greatest change needed is not external but internal. If God does not change you, there is no power to maintain it. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” Start with spiritual growth. It will be the best year of your life if it is the best year of your life spiritually. God has a plan and purpose for our lives (Jer. 29:11). He has a plan for your life this year and for this day. We should start every day close to Him. Talk to God daily. Spend time in His Word. God wants to have a Word with you! We need God’s supernatural favor, grace and power on our lives. We need God to open doors for our future. We need His guidance and protection from Satan, other people, and ourselves. God can do more in a moment of prayer than we can do in a lifetime. If your body or emotions call the shots for you, life is a mess. Only when the Spirit calls the shots does your life become fulfilling.

Emotional Fitness (“soul”)

Notice the order of 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body….”As your spiritual life goes, so goes the rest of your life.  God wants to bring peace to your chaos! The soul is your mind, will, and emotions. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” There are things we need to be careful to guard against – negativity, peer pressure, a bad attitude, ingratitude, entitlement, comparison, discontentment, skepticism, criticism, cynicism, unforgiveness and a root of bitterness. Stop aiming at and dwelling on the wrong thing. Repent, turn around, and aim at the right things! Psalm 42:11 says, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” That is the answer. Hope in God!

Physical Fitness (“body”)

Your entire life is connected. You can’t compartmentalize your life. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. We should treat it that way. Paul urges us, “…offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Rom. 12:1). We are to live fully for God. How we present our whole lives, spirit, soul, and body is an act of worship. The world worships the body. Christians worship God with our body. Earlier in 1 Corinthians 6 Paul references sexual immorality and food when it comes to our body (v. 12-13, 18). Stop anything that masters you. We should remove anything that hinders us from being all God wants us to be (Heb. 12:1). Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Have self-control, be under the Spirit’s control, and have self-discipline. Your body matters to God. Your body does not exist for you, but for Him.

As you start 2019, do something! Feeling guilty about areas of sin in your life will not change anything.  Take action. Stop talking about yesterday and tomorrow. Deal with today. Take steps today to work on your spiritual, emotional, and physical fitness.

The Light of Life – John 1:1-14

You can’t know the answer to something until you know the problem. Before we look at what John 1 has to say about light, I want you to understand what Scripture says about our spiritual condition. We are all born with a sin nature. Ephesians 2:1 says we are “dead in trespasses and sins” apart from Christ. You may have heard salvation described something like this: “I was drowning in a sea of sin and Jesus came by in a boat, threw out a lifeline, and pulled me onboard and saved me.” That sounds good, but it’s not the gospel. The gospel is that you weren’t just drowning in a sea of your sin, but you were dead, floating face down, and Jesus walked on the water, came to you when you could not come to Him, picked you up, carried your dead body back to the shore, and breathed eternal life into your lungs. John 1:4, our theme verse for this week, says, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” Jesus came into the world to bring light and life because we all came into the world spiritually blind, dark, and dead.

 The Light Revealed

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created” (John 1:1-3). Everything God wants to say to man is found in Jesus Christ. He is preexistent and coexistent with the Father. He created all things and all things are held together by the power of His word. He wasbecause He is,and He isbecause He was. There never was a time He did not exist. You cannot know God apart from Christ, as Jesus is the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Jesus said, “Me and my father are one.” God did not create Jesus, Jesus always was.Immediately after John explains this, he says Jesus is light and life (v. 4). “That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it” (v. 5).Your concept of God will make or break your faith.When you hear a noise in the dark you are afraid. As soon as you turn on the light, you have courage and confidence. You may be going through things that are dark and scary. God will be your light in your darkest hour. He will be your confidence and you do not have to fear. Darkness cannot overcome light. The devil tried to overthrow God but could not. In the end, Light wins and darkness loses.

 The Light Rejected

Verses 10-11 say that when Jesus came, He was not recognized or received by the world. John 3:19 says, “…people loved darkness rather than the lightbecause their deeds were evil.” Jesus is the true light. There is light in none other. There are fake lights in the world, but Jesus is not merely alight, He is the light. What a joy to be a preacher of the gospel, to preach the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He is the truth. Whatever I read in Scripture to you about Jesus is true. You will never be tricked or deceived. The world is deceptive, but Jesus is true. Each person must decide for themselves what to do with this truth. Either you receive His light in your life or reject His light and stay in darkness. Ultimately, those who reject Jesus will spend eternity in a place called Hell, separated from God.

 The Light Received

“But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name” (v. 12). Light will change you if you will receive it. Saul is an example. Saul was not a godless man. He was a devoutly committed religious person. However, he was on the wrong path. He was on his way to put men and women in prison for following Jesus. While he was on his way he was blinded by a light. That light changed Saul to Paul, murderer to missionary, church hater to church planter. He had no idea all that God had in store for him at that point! When the light gets in you, it changes you. God has a way of turning our lives around. He can stop you in your tracks and turn your life around. Nothing could have stopped Saul but the light of God. God knows what it takes to bring you to your knees. Stop fighting Him.  You can’t fight the light. The light shows things as they really are. It shows all imperfections. Jesus came to bring the light down close to us, so we can see what we are really like on the inside…dark and dead. The good news is that Jesus is light and He is life to all who receive Him!

The Light of Hope – Isaiah 9

Winter is the darkest time of the year. So many people feel hopeless. More people are depressed and commit suicide during the holidays than any other time of the year. Yet, in the dead of winter, God gave us a holiday, a celebration of light! As we continue the series on light, we will look at Isaiah 9. Isaiah’s message is a message of judgment – God must judge sin. But it is also a message of hope – God has taken that judgment on Himself, sending His son Jesus to die for the sins of the world. The key verse is verse 2, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness.” Looking at the first six verses of this chapter, we’ll see that light turns…

Misery into Miracles

The last verse of Isaiah 8 reads, “they will look toward the earth and see only distress, darkness, and the gloom of affliction, and they will be driven into thick darkness.” Chapter 9, which ultimately is a chapter on the judgement of Israel, begins with hope. “Nevertheless, the gloom of the distressed land will not be like that of the former times… But in the future he will bring honor to the way of the sea, to the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations” (v. 1). In the middle of a bad chapter, there is a message of hope. You may be going through a bad chapter in your life, but there is hope! Hope is always about joyous expectation. Hope is what you are looking forward to. Hope says my future will be better than my past and where I am going is better than where I have been. Hopelessness reigns in the world today. How do we find light amidst darkness? Notice the reference to Galilee. Jesus performed the majority of his miracles and ministry around the sea of Galilee. Jesus came preaching, teaching, and healing. God can turn your misery into a miracle. On HGTV they have demo day before they can rebuild.  Miracles come out of difficulties, challenges, obstacles, impossibilities! Jesus is the light of the world.

Sadness into Singing

Verse 3 talks about joy and rejoicing. When God brings you out of darkness into light you can’t help but praise Him. Praise is not only an instrument of worship, but a weapon of war. God inhabits praise. In Psalm 27, David says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— whom should I dread? When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh, my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell. Though an army deploys against me, my heart will not be afraid; though a war breaks out against me, I will still be confident… I will offer sacrifices in his tent with shouts of joy. I will sing and make music to the Lord” (v. 1-3, 6). When God drowned Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, the children of Israel sang the song of Moses (Ex. 15). Give God the sacrifice of praise! God is turning sadness into singing!

Bondage into Breakthroughs

“For you have shattered their oppressive yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor, just as you did on the day of Midian” (v. 4). Whatever binds you, God breaks. What are you in bondage to? Alcohol, drugs, pornography, lust, other strongholds of sin? Are you wondering if there is any hope? Jesus walked the shores of Galilee and set the captives free. God does not halfway deliver his people. He wants to take you to the Promise Land, the victorious Christian life. The devil will keep coming after you, like Pharaoh after the children of Israel. But God led them through on dry ground and drowned the enemy. When you walk with Him daily, He will deliver you daily. You can be free!

“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (v. 6). Wonderful, He is awesome. Counselor, He gives us guidance when we are in the dark and don’t know what to do. He is the Mighty God who can speak “peace be still” to the storms of life. Eternal Father, He is the father who will never leave you or forsake you. He is the Prince of Peace. The angels announced the birth of Jesus with the words, “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” The government is on His shoulders. God has it all under control. Whatever burden you are carrying, He can carry you. His shoulders carried the cross, government, and they will carry you. Let the light of Jesus be your hope and hope for those around you.

The Light of Beginnings – Genesis 1

On Sunday we started a new series on light. Light is a major theme of the Bible and is first mentioned in Genesis 1. Genesis, as its name implies, is the book of beginnings. In it we find the beginning of the universe, man, sin, salvation, nations, Israel, faith, worship, family, and society. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” God had no beginning and He has no end, but creation had a beginning just like you and I had a beginning. God can make something out of nothing. He takes what is formless and dark and changes it into something beautiful and bright. How does God deal with the darkness, disorder, and deadness of our lives? The answer is Jesus! 

 The Glory of Jesus

The Bible is a book about Jesus. Every chapter, character, and command points to Him. Our theme verse for this series is John 8:12: “Jesus spoke to them again: ‘I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.’” Genesis 1:2 reads, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep….” I believe God created the earth in this way to show what our lives are like without God. Life without God is empty, dark, and meaningless. God spoke, and order came out of chaos. The word of God brings order to your life where there is chaos. Genesis 1 is clear that creation is the work of our triune God. God did not create us because He was lonely, but out of a love relationship. It is also clear that God is not detached from creation. A repeated phrase is “God saw….” God did not create you and forget about you. He sees you. God creates and sin de-creates. Life unravels and falls apart without God. Jesus, The Word, came to recreate and redeem creation. Wherever sin has brought darkness in your life Jesus says, “let there be light.”

 The Guidance of Jesus

Throughout chapter 1 we see that God had a plan for every day and He has a plan for us every day. He worked. He created. He was productive. We are created in His image. God has a plan and purpose for our lives. You may have a big decision to make today and you don’t know what to do. God will give you light to direct your path. He gives us daily direction and guiding light. His word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path (Ps.119:105).  Just like the wise men were guided by the light, God orders our steps. He knows what is going on in your life and if He guided you into it, He will get you through it. You are not the result of chance, evolution, accident, or mistake. God planned you, formed you, created you, ordained you, and He will guide you step by step! God did not bring you this far to leave you now. Never doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light. He will never leave you or forsake you!

 The Gospel of Jesus

When we give our lives to God, He puts His light in us. “You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16). In a world of darkness, we bring the light of the Gospel. In a world of chaos, we bring the Gospel of peace. In a world filled with bad news, we have the good news. The world is so dark politically and culturally. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Let your light shine. The hope of the world is the local church. You are the light at your school, home, and workplace. People say, “I am the only Christian where I work. Pray for me another job.” The darker the place, the more they need your light! Jesus is the sun and we are the moon. The moon does not have light of its own. It reflects the light of the sun. That is what we do. We reflect the light of Jesus. Are you going be a half-moon, a full moon, or a total eclipse?

When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, a strange thing happened. The earth became dark in the middle of the day. He took upon Himself the chaos, darkness, and emptiness of our lives so we could have eternal light and life. He makes us a new creation, old things are passed away, and all things are becoming new. He makes all things new! If your life is unraveling because of sin, turn to Jesus, trust in Him, and He will make all things new. He can make something out of nothing!

Psalm 92 – Give Thanks

Psalm 107:1 and 136:1 both say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever.” Giving thanks is more than being thankful. It is something you do. Action is involved. Paul said to “give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18). So often we are not what we ought to be because we forget who we are in God. Giving thanks to God helps us remember how good He has been to us and helps keep our focus on Him.

 The Beauty of Thanksgiving

In Psalm 92, we see various aspects of Thanksgiving. Verses 1 and 2 remind us to be thankful not just for what God does for us, but first and foremost for who He is. He is the Lord. His name is above every name. He is the Most High. He is faithful. He is loving. Worship always begins with God. It focuses on His name and His nature. How should you start your day? Looking forward in faith. How should you end your day? Looking back on His faithfulness. The Psalms teach us to thank God for His lovingkindness and faithfulness. His lovingkindness is better than life. His love endures forever.

 The Band of Thanksgiving

Psalm 92 is called a Sabbath Song. It was used for public worship on the Sabbath, but it carries over to private worship daily, day and night. Reading verses 1-3 together we learn that worship focuses on God for who He is, and it also involves singing and instruments. Worshiping God with instruments is good and biblical. Four times in this Psalm we read the word “works.” Worshipping God involves singing, but it also includes service. Serving is an act of worship! Worship is vertical, verbal, visible, and volitional.

 The Battles of Thanksgiving

Verse 9 talks of the Lord’s enemies perishing. Verse 11 reads, “My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries; my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes” (NIV). Thanksgiving and praise are not only instruments of worship, but they are weapons of war. Note from this verse that we see and hear. The fall of our adversaries is all God’s doing. It is His work on our behalf. The battle is the Lord’s. What the Psalmist anticipates is the ultimate defeat of all our enemies: sin, Satan, this evil world, death, hell, and the grave, because of Jesus who crushes the enemies of God and His people. Before going to the cross, Jesus took the bread, broke it and gave thanks. Because of the cross and resurrection, we have victory.

 The Blessings of Thanksgiving

There are so many blessings that come when we give thanks! Verse 10 says, “You have lifted up my horn like that of a wild ox; I have been anointed with the finest oil.” Oil in scripture is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. We need to regularly be filled with the Holy Spirit. So many people burn out. They lose the joy of their salvation. The joy of Lord is our strength. When your strength is small and you are feeling run down spiritually, ask God to give you fresh oil. Not only will God give us strength, but He also gives stability to the righteous. Verses 12-14 talk about palm and cedar trees that are thriving and bearing fruit. The palm trees in this passage are date palms, which not only produced fruit, but the leaves were used for fences and roofs. The cedar tree grows as high as 120 feet, and its branches extend out to a circumference of 30 feet. They are truly a majestic sight that symbolize great strength. Sometimes we forget how long it takes for a tree to sprout out of the ground. You may work a long time before you see results. Don’t grow weary in well doing. You will reap if you faint not. The tree first grows downward before it grows upward. It is a picture of stability. In addition to growing roots, we are also to grow upward and outward. We are called to rise above the people around us, our circumstances and obstacles, and long to be with and spend time with God. Just like a tree’s branches grow outward, providing shade for others, we do not exist for ourselves. God has called us to branch out and be a blessing. Our faithful God gives us fresh oil, makes us like a flourishing tree, and makes our years fruitful. Plant your life in the house of God. There is no greater cause than the cause of Christ and His church.

Psalm 37 – Moving from Aggravation to Appreciation

Do you ever get frustrated, irritated, or agitated? For all those getting ready for family gatherings this week, this message may help! Psalm 37 teaches us how to move from grumbling to gratitude. Verse 1 begins saying, “Do not be agitated….” As we look at this chapter, we’ll see that moving from aggravation to appreciation is a choice. There is a definite progression in this passage. One virtue births another.

Trust

“Trust in the Lord and do what is good…” (v.3). You can’t fret and trust, grumble then say, “But Lord I am trusting you.” You either choose to grumble or you choose to trust God. If you know God, you know you can trust Him. God said do not fret, do not get agitated. We have to choose to refuse. Faith and fretting are mutually exclusive. Where there is fretting, there is no faith, and vice versa.  Faith isn’t passive. We also have to do good. Doing good is just as important as trusting in the Lord. Trusting God means leaving God with the things that are beyond your control. The things that you can do, do good. Do right!

 Delight

Trust brings delight. Verse 4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” To delight yourself in the Lord means to delight in His word, His will, and His work. The reason why many Christians don’t delight in God, is because they do not know Him very well. They don’t spend time with Him. That word “delight” literally means “to take pleasure in.” What do you take pleasure in? Your career, health, spouse, etc. will pass away. The Lord and His work will not! When you delight in the Lord, your desire will be His desire. Live to please Him and it will set you free from fretting over other people.

 Commit

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act…” (v.5). Look at the progression! If you trust, you will delight. If you delight, you will commit. The Hebrew word “commit” literally means, “to roll over.”  Some problems only God can solve. When we commit to God, we take the burden off of our own shoulders and roll it over onto Him. When we commit all of our works and all of our ways to the Lord, we are told “and He shall bring it to pass.” Commit your plans to God and leave the results to Him.

 Rest

The opposite of agitation is relaxation. You can’t rest in Him if you are not waiting for Him. Verse 7 tells us to “be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for him.” Be faithful. Don’t move too quickly. Don’t rush things. Don’t make hasty decisions. Be quiet and patient. Perspective comes when we are still and silent and think it through. Why do we trust God, delight in Him, commit our burdens to Him, and not rest in Him? Because we pick them up again! We have to daily die to self. Rest is a blessing.

 Hope

“…Those who put their hope in the Lord will inherit the land” (v. 9). God has an inheritance for His children (see also v. 11, 18, 22, 29, 34). The wicked have only temporary pleasure on earth, but God’s people have eternal treasure in heaven. There is nothing like the hope of heaven. God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecc.  3:11). Salvation changes your perspective of earth versus eternity. There is more to life than this life. This world is not our home, Heaven is! If your investment is there, your heart is there.

 Give

“…The righteous one is gracious and giving” (v. 21). We are in a giving season from Thanksgiving to Christmas, yet, more people commit suicide during this season. It is not that they have more problems, but they feel their problems more. They are more fretful and restless. The church is not a place for ourselves. We are here for those who are not yet here. Live your life in such a way that your life makes a difference. We can make a difference and leave a legacy (v. 26, 28). Yes, it includes your money, but it is more than your money. Give yourself to God. David is the author of this Psalm. In verse 25 he looks back over his life and sees how God has proven Himself over and over – “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous abandoned or his children begging for bread.”

Psalm 1 – The Blessed Life

This Sunday we started a new series called Psalms of Thanksgiving. The word “psalms” means praise or song. The book of Psalms is the Hebrew hymnbook. God inhabits praise. Wherever He shows up His blessing shows up. Today, we will look at Psalm 1 and what it says about living a blessed life.

God’s Way

Psalm 1:1 says, “How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers!” Blessed is the Hebrew word for happy. If you are happy it is because you have been blessed, and if you are blessed, you are happy! Happiness is what everyone is looking for. There are only two approaches to life – man’s way or God’s way. Sin is a downward spiral. If you listen to fools you will start to think like a fool. When you start thinking like a fool you will act like and live like a fool. Notice the term “pathway.” People often think we are all travelling a neutral road. At some point on that road there is a fork where we must decide if we’ll go God’s way or not. There are not three paths. The Bible makes it clear that there are only two paths. The broad road where everyone appears to be happy, but they are really miserable, leads to death. The narrow path has its share of hardships and difficulties, but is filled with happiness, peace, and joy, that leads to life everlasting. We are all on the wide path until we choose to follow Jesus. There is no neutral ground. You will miss God’s blessing if you walk the wrong path. Don’t let others rob you of a blessing!

 God’s Word

Verse 2 says, “Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.” We go to the written Word to encounter Jesus, the living Word. Luther said, “We go to the Bible as the Shepherds went to the manger to find Christ.” The Bible is a book about Jesus. In the Old Testament, He is predicted. In the Gospels, He is revealed. In Acts, He is preached.  In the Epistles, He is explained.  In Revelation, He is expected. Why do you need to be in the Word every day?  You can backslide going to church, singing, preaching, praying, and witnessing. The only thing you can do and not backslide is stay in the Word. You will either get out of sin or sin will get you out of the word. “Meditate” here is talking about bringing Scripture to mind throughout the day.  Meditate is the same word as plot/imagine in Psalm 2. It means to fix your mind. Hide God’s Word in your heart so that you night not sin against God. Dwell on the Bible not your burdens. Dwell on the Word not your worries!  Bring every thought under the influence and control of God. Take every opportunity to experience God’s blessing.

God’s Wealth

He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (v. 3). God’s prosperity includes money, but it is more than money. God will prosper you with a life that really matters. God desires to bless His children. Never be jealous of someone else’s blessing. God has enough blessings for all His children. His well never runs dry! God plants and God prospers. A tree does not plant itself. God plants us where He wants us to live and serve. Bloom where you are planted. The tree has a constant supply of water by the river. It is a picture of the Holy Spirit pouring in us to produce His fruit in us. He gives us what we have for His glory. God blesses us to be a blessing! Don’t let your blessings become an idol. Don’t spend all your life trying to make a dollar that will burn up in the end. You are not carrying it with you. What matters most in life is God and people. Be generous with your time, talent, skills. Let your life bear fruit that will last forever. Let it bear seed that will produce further fruit.

There is a judgment day. “Therefore the wicked will not stand up in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin” (v.5-6). The righteous prosper and the wicked perish. Which way are you going?