Monday, February 12, 2007

Past Sermons up til 2/4/07

Here are sermon notes of some sermons given between our last entry and February 4, 2007. If they are not in order, I am sorry. Remember, they are taken from loose outline notes of the pastor. No video or audio available...

Seek the Kingdom First--February 2007

Text: Matthew 6:33; John 12:24

I am beginning to think that we need an act of submission not just to future afflictions but to blessings as well. I know it sounds crazy, but I think it is true. Hear me out on this one. We often rather sulkily reject the good God offers us, because it is not the good we wanted at the moment and we expected something else. on every level of our experiences we always have some arbitrary standard we go back to, whether it be a myth we saw on TV (like Ward and June Cleaver and the Boys being the perfect family) or some memory we have of the "good ol days." These serve to cut down our current experiences. But these other evenets have their own blessings, even if they don't hold up to these "standards". I believe we could see and learn from them, if we only opened our eyes to them.

God shows us a new facet of glory with each experience, yet we refuse to look at it bcause we're still looking for some other one. And of course, we don't get that. We go looking for it to be just like the first time, just like the perfect time, and we don't get that. We can't have that perfect Christmas when we were kids, because we aren't kids anymore. We can't have that perfect family because it was a TV show. We can't. it is like watching Star Wars for the 30th time.

I am a huge sci fi fan. I love Star Wars. However, the 30th time I watch Star Wars, it is not hte same as the first time, so long ago. See, I am enthralled by Darth Vader; he is such an imposing and interesting character. However, each time he first comes striding onto the scene in Star Wars, it is not like the very first, frightening, amazing, adrenaline filled time when I was a kid. My dad is probably happy about that, because way back then I was sitting on his lap as a child and lost control of my faculties and let's just say it wasn't soda spilled on his lap.

Now, I could be sad about that....woe is me, the thrill is gone, boohoo. However, each time I watch the movie, I notice something different. See, I know it is not going to be like the first time, amazing as it was. It is not like the first time, but what you get can be in tis own way as good as the first.

This applies especially to our spiritual devotional life. many people cry that the first stirrings and passions of their conversion have died away. They think, sometimes rightly, but not always, that their sins account for this. They may even try to recapture those good ol days by getting stuck in a ritual or a reading. However, the question must in some casees be, were those initial passionate feelings ever intended to last?

Think of the evolution of a romantic relationship. Those initial flames of passion may dim, but they are replaced by an evolution of other things. You get the understanding, the friendship. Things evolve and change. In some cases, those feelings of passion were so intense they could have been unhealthy. So they evolve. They aren't destroyed, they just evolve and change, or some new feeling comes which is just as good.

It would be wrong to say that there is any prayer which God never grants. But the biggest candidate can be expressed in this way: do it again, or do it over. And how should the Infinite repeat Himself? All space and time are too little for Him to utter Himself in them once!

The tragedy is that these golden memories become torments when we make them into standards and norms. They should be food for us, nourishing us and encouraging us to dig deeper, to persevere, to give praise. They can be nourishing, enchanting, and wholesome if we accept them for what they are: memories. properly bedded down in a past where we do not miserably try to conjure back, they will ssend up wonderful growth. Leave the bulbs alone, and the wonderful new flowers will come up. However, dig them up and hope that by sniffing and touching and gripping them tightly that you can get last year's blooms, and you will get nothing. It is like one of our verses says, "unless a seed should die..."


We Love to Praise Early 2007

Text: Hebrews 13:15; 1 Peter 2:9

We like to praise what we enjoy because praise doesn't just describe the enjoyment or the fun, it completes it. For example, lovers keep telling one another how beautiful they are not just out of compliment, but to complete their delight in each other. Think of it this way. Have you ever been frustrated because you you couldn't give praise or share the virtue of a good author because of the company you were in, or ever been frustrated that you can't discuss the beauty of the beautiful view you are taking in because the rest in your company just don't see it? Or the frustration at not being able to share and appreciate a good joke because the other person doens't get it or whatever? Our enjoyment of good things is not complete until we give praise to them. This is true even when are expressions are not adequate, as they often are and most of the time are.

If we could praise to perfection, imagine how complete the delight would be! Then, the object or thing would have een fuly appreciated and our delight would have attained perfect development. The worthier the object, the more intense this joy and delight would be. If it were possible to do this, then the soul would be in complete beatitude.

It is along this route of thought that I find it easiest to understand the Christian idea that "Heaven" is a place where the angels are now, and men hereafter, are perpetually employed in praising God. this does not mean, as it can so sadly suggest, that it is like being in church. No offense, but our services, in their practice and in our power to participate, are just attemptes at worship, never fully a hit and most often times a miss. We are not riders but pupils at driving school.

Why should we praise? Read 1Peter 2:9. Also, think back to our description of perfect enjoyment. We don't have complete fulfillment until we praise our love, and don't we love God?

To see what hte doctrine really means, we must suppose to be in perfect love with God. There is a Scotch verse that says man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever. But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is truly inviting us to enjoy Him.

And how do we continually praise God? Read I Thessalonians 5:17.


The Pain Issue--Early 2007

Text: James 1: 2-4, 12; Matthew 6:19-20

You know, I have come to the realization that our human spirit (not the Holy one) will not even begin to try to surrender its own self-will as long as all is well with it.

Error and sin have a similar characteristic--they are masked evils in that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence. However, Pain is different. Every person knows that something is wrong when they are being hurt. It is also impossible to ignore. We can laze around happy in our sin life and in our stupid nature; and anyone who has watched gluttons shoveling down the most exquisite foods as if they did didnt know what they are eating, they can admit that we can ignorne even the pleasures of our life. We ignore even the happy things, because we are too concerned about moving fast or getting ahead or what have you.

However, pain is insistent. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is like a super megaphone for a deaf world.

Here I am living my life in my ordinary and happily fallen and godless way, absorbed in hanging with my friends, or reading a new book or watching a new video; when suddenly a stab of pain hits me that threatens serious consequences, like chest pain; or a headline in the papers that threatens our immediate destruction, sends my whole sand castle falling to the ground. At first I am overwhelmed, and all those little happinesses look like broken dolls. Then, slowly at first, It ry to bring myself into the frame of mind I should be always. i remind myself that all these little things were never intended to have my soul, my heart; and my only real treasure is Christ and his salvation. Then, by God's grace, i succeed, and for a day or two become a creature consciously dependent on God and darawing my strength from the right and good sources.

Then, the moment of threat is withdrawn (say a medicine is taken to fix the pain, or the news story dies down), and my whole eing jumps back to the toys. I am even anxious to do what so many of us do, to banish from my mind the only thing that supported me under the threat because it is now associated with the misery of those few days. I want to put God in a box.

Now, the terrible necessity of trial is all too clear. God has had me for bu 48 hours and hten only by dint of taking everything else waway from me. Let Him but sheathe that sword for a moment and I behave like a dog when that hated bath is over--I shake myself dry adn look for the nearest mudheap.

And what about Christians in pain? Maybe we need a wakeup call, maybe we are blessed in the sense God is using us to show others. Either way, we need our pain in this world. Pain cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is hopeless. I pray to be remade, and that we all be remade. However, as trauma is needed to reshape and remake metal, so too it must be for us, for we are far more dense than metal.


New Things--New Year's Sermon 12/31/06

Text: 2Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:21-24; Revelations 21:5; reference verse Colossians 3:10

The new year is coming. This is the time of year when we are to cast off the old year and jump into the new. The time of reflection, renewal, and reaffirming, both as individuals and really as a Body of Christ here at the church. We make new plans for the coming year, figure out what went well, where we want to go, and how to get there.

In the secular sense, in some ways, we are to become new people. We get resolutions to become new people, to lose weight, quit this habit or do this new thing, change our wardrobes, etc. etc. However, what about becoming truly new things, a new person in Christ?

To become a new person in Christ, we must lose "ourselves." We must step away from all the stuff of us, and into Christ. His Will is to become ours and we are to think thoughts like Him. And if Christ is one, and if He is thus to be in us all, shall we not be exactly the same? That is what you may think, and many in the world think Christians are just wanting to be little robots, but that is not the case....

Suppose a person knew nothing about salt. You give them a pinch to taste and they experience a unique, strong, sharp taste. You then tell the person that in your country people use salt in all their food. This person will most likely say, "in that case I guess your food tastes exactly the same, because the taste of that salt stuff is so strong it will kill the taste of anything else." However, we all know the opposite is true. Far from kiling the taste, salt (when not used to excess) actually brings the flavor of food out...

It is like that with Christ. The more we get our selves out of the way, our worldly needs and such, the more truly US we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of little Jesuses, all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. he made them all. He invented all the different men that you and I were intended to be. in that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is when we turn to Christ, when I give myself up to Him, that I first begin to have a REAL PERSONALITY of my own, free from the expectation of the world.

The first step, though, is a real giving up of the self. We must give it away blindly, so to speak. Don't go to him for the sake of getting a personality but for just getting Him. As long as your own personality is what you are worried about, you are not going to Him at all. The real, new self will not come as long as you are looking for it. it will come when you are looking for Him. The same principle holds true for most things. Even in society, you will never make a good first impression on other people until you stop thinking about what kind of impression you are making.

Even in the arts and in writing, it holds true that the person who bothers about originality will never be original, but if you simply try to tell the truth you will, nine tims out of ten, become original without having noticed it.

The principle runs through all life. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, the death of your ambitions and favorite wishes everyday and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find ETERNAL LIFE. Keep back nothing. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, rage, ruin. But look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him, your REAL SELF and everything else thrown in.

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