More than Conqueror’s

More than Conqueror

  1. What is a conqueror
    1. Possible examples: Ghenghis Kahn, Alexander the Great, Atilla the HunAugustus Ceaser
    2. Movie examples: Achilles, Col. Hal Moore, Ben Hur, Maximus
    3. Reference: Romans 8:31-39
    4. My notes:
      1. Despite the rise of the minority rule, society still expects men to be warriors, fighters and like the movie examples given earlier.
        1. If I was born in the days of old, do you know what I would have been? Not a blacksmith like I would like to think I would be, not a bard, not a shepherd… I would be cannon fodder, a soldier put on the front line to die for his general so the army can save the best troops for last… why? Because I can’t have kids. No other reason. In the societies that the world likes to compare us to, I would have died as a teenager in a war or pointless battle because of how I was born.
      2. The reality is – we are not fighters in the romanticized historical sense, we are not brave warriors of medieval proportions. We have no arch rival threatening to overtake our kingdom… but we do have a personal demon… our own Grendel to fight (Beowulf)
  • These are horrible stereo types, the worst of all is the opposite of this. We find it in sitcoms and commercials – the man idiot. Incapable of a coherent thought, the man idiot is the punchline of ads and shows.
  1. No, we are not the chiseled and refined Leonities of Sparta. We are not the buffoon that doesn’t know how to pump gas in his car.
    We are men, in a world where everything you can say and do, can and will offend someone.
  2. We now walk a fine line between standing up for what we believe in and just going along to get a long, or rolling with the punches. We post bravado on Facebook, we bluster and spout our talking points in a crowd, but at night, we lock the doors and windows because we fear the consequences of offending the wrong minority or government official.
  1. So what is a conqueror?
    1. A wise man.
      1. In todays society, it is not about being bigger or stronger, or better looking, or owning the most toys… No, todays conquerors are those who can outwit the enemy.
      2. Not all enemies need to be conquered.
        1. In the days of the famous Greek philosophers, the hay day of Athens, there lived a man named Diogenes. Some called him Diogenes the Dog because he lived on the steps of the great temples, a bathtub for his home. He used to walk around in the middle of the day with a lamp lit, he would say that he is looking for one honest man.
          Today, he is Diogenes of Sinope, the Father of Cynicism.
          One day, Alexander The Great visits Athens. He brings with him his entire army. Most people think he is there to conquer, and he probably was. As he walked the streets of Athens, he comes across the mad philosopher, now living in a barrel. Out of curiosity and for amusement, he stands in front of Diogenes, casting a shadow down upon the little man in his barrel and declares that the fate of Athens lays in the words of Diogenes response to this question “What do you want? I will give you anything at all, but whatever I give you, I will also take from all of Athens in payment”.
          Diogenes looks up at him, squints and proclaims “I have nothing to ask but that you would remove to the other side, that you may not, by intercepting the sunshine, take from me what you cannot give.
          With those words, Alexander the Great turns away and leaves Athens.
          You see, Diogenes knew there was no way to physically defeat Alexander and his army. The only way Alexander could give Diogenes the sun, was to leave.
        2. Gianaval – During the Spanish Inquisition, there in the Alps at the top of a mountain lay the protestant town of Rora. All of 30 men lived there with their families. When the Inquisitor, Incomel came to offer them the ultimatum of covert of be destroyed, they politely refused (no kicking the messanger into a pit) and began the fortification of their small town. Gianaval the town leader scowered the Bible for military tactics and put together a battle plan to defend the town. Over the course of 3 months, the 30 men and families defended the town of Rora against 3,000+ soldiers, siege weapons and the curses of Incomel and his superior, Corbis.
    2. How do we know we are conquerors through Jesus Christ?

a.      You Will Know Them by Their Fruits
Matthew 7:15-20
15
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

  1. Despite our struggles, desour set backs, we keep moving forward
  2. We need to conquer ourselves
    1. For the next generation
    2. For those of the same generation that are new to the faith
      1. They are following us
      2. We are taking them to church
      3. They are looking to us

 

 

  1. How do we prepare to be a conqueror?
    1. What then is wisdom? Is it knowledge to defeat an enemy? No, wisdom is knowing who and what the enemy is and what you need to do with them.
      1. Wisdom comes from fearing God
        1. Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
        2. Proverbs 3:7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.
        3. Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
        4. Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.
          1. Final Example:
            Ender’s Game – ““In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them…. I destroy them.”
            In the science fiction story, Ender is a childhood military tactician with an Einstien level of intelligence. His enemy is an alien invader who nearly wiped out earth. His target is the alien homeworld. He has within his arsenal, the ability to use a weapon one time that could destroy the planet. His dilemma is simple – should he? Does he possess the right to doom an entire world? On his way to the homeworld, he encounters the queen of the aliens in a dream. He doesn’t understand the message she is trying to convey, because she is giving him the secret to defeating her own people. It is not until after he destroys the enemies planet does she speak to him again. You see, she knew her people had lost their way, their desire to expand had become a blood lust for conquering, and they had gone from basic survivalists to a plague. She helped Ender, out of love for her own people. She knew they had to be stopped and she would have to start over again.
            Sometimes even those we come against, know they need to be conquered for their own good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The Ultimate conqueror – God and his chosen people
    1. There is a Theology of War interlaced throughout the Old Testament.
      When you are to go to war, over what circumstances, conditions and threats.
    2. The Old Testament records 19 losses, 8 civil wars, 8 cycles and 40 wins.
      1. A cycle is when the nation of Israel turns from God, so God brings an enemy to conquer them, then the nation repents and God delivers them from the enemy.
  • I view these wars, this devastation, this genocide, this theology of war in a way similar to Ender’s Game. God loves his people. God knows what is best for his people. Much like the queen who allows her people to lose their homeland so they will stop their doctrine of war, so God allowed the people of Israel to be destroyed again and again to bring them back to the fold, so when they return to god, when they rebuild, they return to God.
    1. But what about the losers? I struggled with this for many years. God ordered that not just men, but women and children be killed. Why would God do that? God loves his children, all of them. So in order that the children of Israel could survive, he ordered the destruction of every remnant of every civilization that has come against Him.
      1. Do we see Chaldean temples today? Or Babylonian towers? No… they are gone, completely eliminated.
      2. God destroyed them, because he also loved them. He could no longer allow them to stand against him.
        1. God is the ultimate conqueror because he conquers out of love for his people and with wisdom that can only come from Him.
      3. Be Prepared
        1. “I don’t pretend to know it all, but I believe God works in patterns, patterns that intersect with other patterns, patterns that occur in different variations. And I believe one of these patterns is to provide opportunities for transcendence.

First, you must open yourself up to others.

Next you must open yourself to yourself.

Finally, you must open yourself up to God. To His design.”

-Jeanne Cavelos

  1. We have to face ourselves
  • We need to get help – pastoral, counselor, therapist
  1. Get right with God – have honest conversations, not just prayers
  2. Get right with those you have wronged – make amends
  3. GET INTO THE WORD! – Read Nehemiah & Jeremiah
    1. Unless you do these, you will be in a vicious cycle
  • Humble yourselves.
    1. No mock bravado, no self righteousness, no arrogance, no false humility
    2. Never follow a man who is not leading with a limp

 

 

 

 

  1. An additional characteristic of a conqueror
    1. Humility
    2. A Teachable Spirit
      1. If I have to bring up my least favorite example – here it is: Braveheart.
        1. William Wallace first have to travel to live with his uncle who taught him to use his head before he could use a sword
      2. You can’t do this on your own
      3. You have to have a band of brothers to walk with
        1. What will it take for your to change your acquaintances into friends? Or Friends into brothers?
        2. Mutual enemy brings people together
  • Recovery community – NA AA SA Celebrate Recovery –
    1. You carry each other
    2. You dont fight alone
    3. You have to be willing to put yourself out there
  1. Are You living as a conqueror?
    1. Not if you are doing it alone
    2. Do not try to overcome yourself by yourself
    3. Not if you are not bearing fruit
  2. Prayer time – Break out – Challenge
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Weakness

Weakness

  • Two weeks ago, Russ taught a lesson on digging ditches based on a historical battle from the Old Testament.
    • When I found out I was teaching on March 2nd, I thought I would build upon this and do an overview of every battle fought in the old testament. I found a great timeline, edited it to fit on four pages and was going to hand it out.
    • The whole lesson was going to be on wins & losses and everything in between…
    • You see, from the time of Moses to the end of the Old Testament, there was 8 civil wars, 19 losses, 40 wins and 8 cycles.

 

  • What is a cycle?
    • A cycle involves Israel forsaking God, God specifically handing Israel over to be defeated by an enemy, Israel returning to God and then God acting to rescue them.

 

  • Sounds like our lives doesn’t it?
    • We are winning more than losing, so when a tough battle come us, we think we can handle it on our own and we turn our backs on God… a sign of weakness, not strength.
    • Sure enough, God allows us to act on our own free will and make mistakes.
    • After we get our butts handed to us, we start the foxhole prayers and eventually, hopefully we turn back to God, who rescues us from ourselves.
    • But in the end, God wins.

 

  • I was writing a sermon
    • I realized on Tuesday that I wasn’t writing a Bible Study, I was writing a sermon
    • It stopped being about a specific verse and it became about encouragement
    • I was going to bring in the greatest warriors of the Bible and then I started researching them…
      • Sure, you have David, Samson and all of the major warrior kings and action heros….
      • Then I came to the conclusion, the guy with the highest body count, the dude that inflicted the maximum amount of damage and changes the course of the world… not a nation, but the entire word…. Was not a mighty muscle built action hero… but the greatest screw up in the Bible….
    • Moses
      • Moses life was one act of weakness after another. From losing self-control and killing an Egyptian, to having to use Aaron to speak on his behalf to not having enough faith to lead the people into the promise land… this guy is the guy who changes the world.. and was the biggest, weakest screw up of all time.
      • He also did an immense amount of good because he allowed God to use him in his weakness and through his doubt and fears.

 

  • Great Sermon
    • Last night, I had dinner with a mentor and I laid out my Bible Study to him… and he replied: “Great Sermon! Now why are we meeting tonight, it’s not about Bible Study.”
  • Reboot
    • The last time I met with him, he ended our conversation with the words “Guard your heart”
    • I thought I was doing a good job of that, until Thursday.
    • Thursday morning I got a phone call from the Parole Officer assigned to my Little Brother… there was a meeting Thursday evening , and if he didn’t show up, they were going to put out a warrant for his arrest… he is only 17.
    • He didn’t show, in fact, he was on the run until Monday night
    • I spent hours on the phone and in meetings trying to strike bargains with the judge, lawyers and everyone involved in his case. It consumed me, trying to save his butt… it exhausted me and made me weak.
    • Friday, I went to go visit the baby we were going to adopt. I created a custom oil just to anoint the child and found verses to pray over her. We spent an hour visiting with the mom and baby. I held her, Prayed over her, I talked to her, I anointed her, I blessed her and then I returned her to her mom and walked away….. exhausted and weaker
    • Friday night after we got home… the news of Rusty hit my phone…. And Mysti and I cried ourselves to sleep… exhausted and completely unguarded.
    • By the time Prayer circle was over Sunday, I was raw… and at 10pm, I lashed out at friend of mine… the next morning, the Words of Proverbs 27:6 came hitting home.

 

Proverbs 27:6

  • Over the last few weeks, we have seen this verse pop up in various messages and lessons:
    • “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are” Proverbs 27:6
    • Nothing like knowing you have a few wounds coming right up.
    • I knew Monday morning that I had placed a giant bulls eye in front of me, and that I wasn’t going to move an inch.
    • I knew I was weak and I had acted out of weakness and pride.
    • Monday morning, I took a phone call, and was wounded by a friend, and for that call, I am ever grateful.
    • But I didn’t know what to do after that… so I called my mentor, and after work yesterday, we each drove 45 minutes to meet each other at a greasy spoon diner in Charles Town WV.
    • By the time the meeting was over, I had thrown out my whole study on wins and losses and Moses and this morning, I started over… this time, the message is about Weakness.

Weakness – I need people to look up the following verses:

  • Exodus 15:2 “The Lord is my strength and my defense[a]; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”

 

  • Psalms 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”

 

  • Isaiah 12:2 “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense[a]; he has become my salvation.”

 

  • Isaiah 30:15 “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”

 

  • Matthew 11:28-29 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

 

  • Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

 

  • I Corinthians 1:25 “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

 

  • 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

  • 2 Corinthians 13:4 “For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.”

 

  • 2 Thessalonians 3:3 “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”

 

  • Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

 

  • 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

 

 

We are going to start at the beginning of the Bible… maybe not in chronological order, but at least in the order of the books…
Who has Exodus 15:2?

  • Exodus 15:2 “The Lord is my strength and my defense[a]; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”
    • This is my man, Moses… he knew he could not do this on his own… he knew where is strength came from… does he say “My friend is my strength? Or my family is my strength? NO. He turns straight to God, the Lord, and acknowledges him as his strength and defense. He uses the word, salvation.
    • When we feel week, we must first acknowledge is and know that God is our strength.
  • Psalms 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”
    • Next major screw up… another man of weakness… David. What does he say about the Lord?
    • The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him
    • The Lord is strength and defense (shield) but he also TRUSTS God… something we all struggle with… It’s hard to trust God when your world is crashing down around you. It’s even harder to sing his praises when we are weak… but there is strength in it… Read the verse backwards: My heart leaps for joy and I sing his praise when I trust in him and he helps me, because the lord is my strength and shield.
  • Isaiah 12:2 “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense[a]; he has become my salvation.”
    • Variation on a theme isn’t it? Break it down: God is my Salvation. I will trust and not be afraid. The lord and the lord alone are my strength. Did you notice how he ends the verse? He has become my salvation.
    • Why do we think that when we are weak that we can strengthen ourselves by our own power?
    • It is spelled out for us… that our strength comes from God.
    • This is another verse you can read backwards.
  • Isaiah 30:15 “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”
    • Now we add an element to the whole picture – and the first kick to the gut….
    • Rest and quietness… what was Sundays sermon on?
    • Yeah… Isaiah gets it right…. But you would have none of it….
    • Isn’t that were we live most of the time, determined to do things on our own because of pride?
    • We wont let God be our salvation because we are too busy trying to save ourselves… making ourselves weaker.
  • Matthew 11:28-29 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS
    • Now we jump to the New Testament. I’m going to use the NASB translation for this one, so what you have an I do are slightly different.
    • Jesus, God, Our LORD is calling to us to come to him in weakness
    • Lets break this one down, what are we supposed to do when we are weak?
      • Come to Jesus, why? Because he will give us _____
      • Take up his yolk – RUSS, what does that mean?
      • Learn from Jesus.
      • What Is Jesus? HUMBLE!
      • Dump the pride! Be HUMBLE!
      • You will find rest.
      • Stop trying to fix yourself by your own power.
    • Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
      • The last five days, this verse has hit home.
      • I have found myself in a wordless prayer
      • I want to read to you from something I wrote in June of last year….
      • When you pray, you pray three different ways: spoken, non-spoken and what I call primal. You have your most basic prayers, the ones taught to you as a child “Now I lay me down to sleep” and you have your foxhole prayers “dear God, if you save me from the zombie apocalypse, I promise I will never watch another episode of The Walking dead ever again”. You have the prayers said around the table or in a social setting. You have the heartfelt, genuine prayer, the one that is because you care about someone or something. And then you have the non verbal prayers… the ones where your heart is seeking that higher power, yet the words are not forming… and finally, there is the primal prayer. I consider the primal prayer the one that often defines who we are and where we go. It starts out as a conversation in your head between you and yourself. We have all had them… we know we don’t have the answers, yet we start seeking out solutions, we try to rationalize our decisions, our plans, our hopes, our shattered dreams. When we have exhausted all of our resources, when we have outwitted ourselves and we have finally gotten to the core of what it is what drove us to this point… all we have left is God. And it is here that God meets us, because you see, God created us to be connected to Him, and he wants you to talk to Him… and so from the devastation and desolation of the darkest hardest parts of our hearts… comes this blessed silence… this beautiful nothingness… and in this moment, our souls are connected to the creator, and we begin to pray… with no words, no intentions… Just our soul touching His.
      • This is where we were on Friday… there just wasn’t any words left… all we had was God…
    • I Corinthians 1:25 “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
      • I love this… The things we do not understand about God are smarter than we ever will be… we spent billions and years trying to explain how God does what he does and it only leaves us with more questions.
      • When we find a foot hold into the heart of creation (like the Higgs Boson particle) The GOD particle… we are humiliated because nothing works like WE think it should.
      • When we are weak, we need to acknowledge that we cannot understand how to be strong, how to fix things, how to stand back up… we need to bow down and accept that we must turn to God
    • 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
      • I had this verse thrown in my face last night… I was asked if I was giving myself any grace or if my weakness was due to me trying to be strong for everyone and everything….
      • I wasn’t giving myself any grace…. So the question came up – So you are more powerful than God?
        • How could I answer that? OF COURSE NOT… yet there I was, there I have been, trying to be more than God by denying his grace for me…. But the verse clearly states: for my power is made perfect in weakness
        • Therefore I will boast all the more gladly…. That I may rest… for the sake of Christ, I am content with weakness…. When I am weak, I am strong….
      • The irony is, I was going to give you a message about being strong, about battles and victories, and now here I am talking about weakness…..
    • 2 Corinthians 13:4 “For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.”
      • I just get caught up in the last part of that verse…. We will live with him by the power of God.
    • 2 Thessalonians 3:3 “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”
      • What is God?
      • What will he do?
      • Who will he protect you from?
      • Who won’t he protect you from…. Yourself when you are determined to walk away…. He never forsakes us, but sometimes he lets Provers 27:6 come alive in our lives.
    • Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
      • Jesus understands, because he was there… and when he was weak, did he give up? No, he sought out his Father and scripture… how did he beat the devil in the desert? Not with Godly powers, but with Godly words.
    • 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
      • This is where I am going to leave it…. We need to give it to God

 

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Infertility update

Friday night, I held her for the first time… It took everything I had not to break down and cry right then and there, but I kept it together.
She was only 12 hours old…. on the way to the hospital to meet her, I stopped by a shop to build a custom oil for anointing her. I made my mixture, found the verses that aligned with her name and went to the hospital.
I held her in my arms… I stared into her eyes, I prayed over her, I touched her her forehead with oil, I read verses to her, I told her…
I told her about how special she was, because I had never met a child who has touched and changed so many lives BEFORE they were born… I prayed, I anointed, I blessed… we all help hands, we prayed and I left….

You see… my wife and I were supposed to have adopted her, but on December 23rd, the baby daddy filed for custody and the mom was forced to parent the child we were going to adopt.

We have been fighting male infertility for 8 years.
We did every test, tried every cocktail of drugs, did ever procedure we could…
We became foster parents until we couldn’t…
We did 5 rounds of IUI with two different sperm donors… and discovered that my wife also has non-diagnosable infertility.

In the end we decided to go for private adoption because the baby mom knew we couldn’t have kids, and she wanted her daughter to have a good stable loving family. She chose us, but the bio-dad derailed the entire process.

Monday, our home study was officially approved and accepted and we join the masses of waiting families.

I guess that brings everyone up to date on our story.
I hope your journey goes better than ours!

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Notes from Hope

  • We always have hope…. WHY?!… The B.I.B.L.E…
  • Jeremiah 29:11
  • Definition of Hope and faith
  • History of Hope!
    • Creation of the gods… none of which offered men hope… until God
    • All of which were creations of man given life to control the masses… no hope, except for those in control
      • So we have God… first he offers us a life of perfection – we blow it!
      • Next we corrupt the world so much that he has to flood the world, but he give Noah hope – a rainbow
      • Then we have the ten commandments – what is the first?
        • NO OTHER GODS!
        • Our God gives us hope
      • Throughout the history of Gods people, there is always hope, no matter what happens, there is always Hope.
    • God is Hope.
    • If God is for us, who is against us? —Romans 8:31
      • Your parents may have neglected you
      • Your friends may have abandoned you
      • Your employer may have used you
      • Your spouse may have forsaken you
      • But God is for you
        • Of course, you will have many who oppose you. But hope comes as you realize it doesn’t matter who is against you if God is for you, becausenobody beats God.
        • God is bigger than the boogie man….
      • Romans 8:35 & 37
      • God gave us the ultimate hope… Jesus
        • 1 Peter 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
      • Pastor Mike Q&A
        • What is your relationship with Jesus right now?
      • My story… my lack of hope.
        • Married 8 years, no kids, tried everything, tested for everything.
        • Both in Big Brothers Big Sisters, did foster care, tried IUI and IVF
        • ADOPTION
          • If you have never adopted or you were adopted, you have no idea what it takes to become a parent.
          • We were informed in October of a baby due in February
            • In 2 months, we found an agency, got a loan and completed the home study
            • It takes most people a year to accomplish that
          • December 23, we were informed that it was not going to happen
            • The most miserable Christmas … my hope was gone
            • I stayed miserable until December 30th… at Bible study… Matthew Fanning delivered a message on living in bitterness and holding ourselves hostage, and I was brought face to face with myself.
          • What was my relationship with Jesus at that moment?
            • He was there… “He pulled away the mirror to see us face to face. He cast away all fear and crowned us with His grace.”
          • That’s how it goes isn’t is?
            • We fight, we get set back, we lose and we try again… and each time, we don’t try as hard as the first time, and eventually… we stop trying… we give up… we walk away from hope… we walk away from God and we walk away from his Son, Jesus.
            • In a moment of utter despair this week when we got an email confirming that the adoption was off…
              it was official, and yet in that moment where I thought all hope was lost….
              Jesus spoke to me in three simple words… “I Adopted You.”
          • Ephesians 1:3-6
          • Romans 8:15 – Abba = Daddy
          • “I. Adopted. You.” Those were the word I had least expected. It was the opposite of everything I thought I knew. It is the opposite of how adoption works.
            • When you enter into the adoption system, you put together a parenting profile… basically it’s a matchmaking system that you as a potential parent have no control over…. The biological parents have to choose you, and they judge you based on the perception of perfection.
            • With Jesus, it is just the opposite… he is the parent, looking for us… and he is not looking for perfection, he is looking for the most broken, battered, bloodied, burned out and hopeless…
              • He comes along side of us and he whispers in our ears… I want to adopt you…
              • All we have to do is say yes!
            • Call up prayer team
              • Misty start playing “Oh how he loves us”
              • “He is jealous for me, love like I hurricane I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy. When all of sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me. OH, HOW HE LOVES US, OH How he loves us.”
            • Do you need hope? Do you need something that you can hold onto? Are you ready to have an everlasting hope? Are you ready to be adopted into Gods family? He isn’t just longing for you, he is furiously longing for you! The furious longing on God is calling out to you, and all you have to do is say yes to him!
            • Bow your heads and close your eyes… I want you to take a huge breath, and repeat after me… Abba, I belong to you…. Again! Abba, I belong to you…. Abba, I belong to you! Daddy! I belong to you!
            • If you have never asked Jesus into your heart, and you feel him calling to you now… say this prayer with me.
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Defend Your Walls!

Nehemiah 4:10-23 Defend Your Walls!

Recap on where we are and how we got here.

The Walls of Jerusalem were destroyed 160 years prior to these events, in those years, the enemies of Israel have run amok over the city.

Nehemiah, upon hearing this, goes into a period of deep grief and mourning and by the grace of his king is given an unlimited budget and has been sent 900 miles away to supervise and organize the Rebuilding…

Enemies from every corner are converging to destroy and wall

And two guys names Sanballat and Tobiah are trying to dissuade them, originally by mocking them, but when that didn’t work…

 

7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry.

8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.

9 But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.

 

Now, so you do not think this is going to be a message about just a wall, let me establish this simple analogy – the wall is our lives. Every time I talk about the wall, I want you to think about a couple of things…

 

1 – what is your greatest obstacle in life right now (work, porn, drugs, alcohol, pills, school, peer pressure, family, an affair, finances)

2 – who is bringing you down? Family, ex the wrong friends, bad boss, corrupt co-workers, classmates,

2.5 – what have you lost because your walls are destroyed

3 – who is trying to help you – sponsor, recovery community, family, significant other, a mentor

 

Did you ever read chapter 3? Brad preached on it and went through the list of who did what. It’s a massive list that gives you an idea of the scope of the project. Its not a list of names. Look at the size of the wall. Look at the number of people involved. Its massive.

 

Not to elevate ourselves but can I give you a real world example of this real quick?

Grace Downtown. That’s where you are right now. It wasn’t always here. It used to be part of a much larger church. That church was Grace Community Church. Starting in March of this year, the church came under attack from every side, much like what the people in our story are about to experience. The difference is that Grace’s walls fell, there was a great fire, and the people were broken up into tribes and scattered. We survived and became independent and we rebuilt! But this was not without a small army of volunteers. We had to start with our gates. We built the Band Gate, the Tech Gate, the Cafe gate, the Administration Gate and the Childrens Ministry Gate.
Folks, these workers are weary, they need help, they need your help. They need your help to defend the gates. If you feel led, come to talk to me or any member of the prayer teams and we will get you plugged in. This church needs you.

 

With these things at the front of our minds, lets open our hearts and our Bibles to Nehemiah 4:10

I have found that the best way for me to read and understand the bible, is to read a section and then go back and break it down  verse by verse, so that is what I am going to do!

*read entire section*

 

 

10 Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”

 

11 Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”

 

12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever

you turn, they will attack us.”

 

13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.

 

14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

 

15 When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.

 

16-18 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.

 

19 – 20 Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall.  Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”

 

21 So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out.

 

22 At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.”

 

23 Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.

 

We need to rebuild our lives, no matter how much you have it together right now, there is something that you are missing, something that you have lost along the way, something you thought you can never have back, something that is a part of you. For some of us, its getting our families back, for others, its getting clean, for others still, its becoming independent again… for all of us, its drawing closer to God… and this is where we need to realize that before all things, we need to get our spiritual house in order before we can fix anything else!

 

When Nehemiah first found out about the wall being ruined and that his people, after 160 years did not rebuild it –
First… he wept, he grieved and he mourned.
Second… he prayed and sought God

Third… he went to work

 

Now, I am going to repeat myself a lot. But when I am done, you will never see this book the same way again. Not because I’m a great teacher, but because what God put into this section is truly incredible.

So lets break it down one verse at a time.

10 Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild.”

Stop right there. Think back to how this started. Your life is the wall. How many of you have found yourself in this situation?

Something catastrophic happens, a job loss, a death of the loved one, falling into addiction, relapse, or you have fallen so much, so many times, that your original network is gone…

“There is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild.”

 

What do we need to rebuild? Our faith and our lives!

Have you been there? Are you there now? Have your decisions destroyed all that you have built? Is there so much rubble, that the people who you originally had with you took a look at it and “whelp, enough of that” and declared you done for?

That’s what’s going on here.

The people who set out to rebuild the walls, they had laborers to help but after a little while, even the laborers became overwhelmed.

 

11 “Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.” 

 

I don’t know about you, but there are thousands of enemies in our midst just trying to kill off our ambitions. The task of rebuilding, its mind numbing… and think about this – in the case of Nehemiah, the wall was so damaged that the rocks were burned. Yeah, that’s right, the rocks were burned… we are talking fires of over 5,000 degrees. All I know, is that I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere near there the day that Jerusalem fell.

In the case of our lives, it doesn’t matter what you are doing, so long as your doing it for God… people will come after you.

These attacks often come from the least expected places. Sometimes its sarcasm from a loved one, other times its a mentor who is no longer available. More often, I am finding people turning to alternative beliefs.
These are not from God! They are from the enemy who is trying to destroy you from the inside.

You do not have to literally die, many of these sources are not trying to really kill you, they just need to stop you from doing any good.

Virginia has the most custom license plates of any state. I drove past one that said 1COR412. Took me a while to realize it was averse. I got home, looked it up and my mind was blown – this is what it said –

And we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure
I can’t think of a better New Testament verse to go with this story.

 

What do we need to rebuild? Our faith and lives!

What comes against us? The enemy!

 

12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.” 

 

Simply put, the people were scared. They only had part of a wall, they had only begun the process and here they were, surrounded by enemies. So scared in fact, that over ten people, independent of each other, come over to Nehemiah and are in full panic mode.

You know this feeling, this is the feeling the enemy tries to give you when you are putting your life back in order, and you have just gotten started and WHAM! you look up and you are surrounded by opposition.

 

How do you handle this? Cower? Give in? Run away?

NO! It’s not the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on! That rabbit’s got a vicious streak a mile wide!
These are people, and they also are acting in fear… fear that you might just succeed in getting the job done.

So what did Nehemiah do?

 

13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 

*GET RILED UP*

Now were talking! Imagine what the enemies must have thought originally… their mocking didn’t work, so they decide to go with intimidation… every time they looked into the city they see people working, building, repairing… they think this is going to be an easy victory, and they next time they look… there are faced looking back at them… lots of faces, angry faces… faces that have helmets on and bows drawn at them, with spears at the ready and swords at the side….

 

 

So here he is, he knows he cannot face the enemy alone, so despite being outnumbered, out gunned and in a strategic disadvantage, he rallied his workers to defend the wall when he was at the most weak!
Learn from Nehemiah! Do you know where you are the most weak? Who is there to help defend you while you start to rebuild? Utilize your resources, use your network!

 

14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” 

 

Remember the Lord. Remember the Lord. Remember the Lord. He is great and awesome.
Do you know what the enemy fears? God. Not you, but God within you. The enemy, your enemies fear God in your life.

I cannot stress this enough – the enemy has no fear of you – the enemy fears what God can and will do through you. 
Look at the order this is placed in –
He looks over things – he surveys the situation.
He calls up his network, his friends, his family, his mentors, his elders, his spiritual advisors and he declares!

DON’T BE AFRAID! REMEMBER THE LORD! 
Then he does the William Wallace thing, or maybe Mel Gibson did the Nehemiah thing – 
FIGHT FOR YOUR FAMILIES! FIGHT FOR YOUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS! FIGHT FOR YOUR WIVES AND HOMES!

FIGHT FOR WHAT YOU LOVE!

 

15 “When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.” 

 

Who does he say that thwarted the plot? GOD!
God made it known to His people what His enemies were up to.

Do you remember what God promises us? Let me tell you – For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
God gave Nehemiah the wisdom and the plan to place the people at the low points of the wall, where the enemy could clearly see that despite being in ruin and being rebuilt, this wall, this life was not going to go down without a fight.
And you know what the enemy feared? God within His people!

Because of the fear of God, the enemy gave up it’s plan and the people went back to work.

 

 

16-18 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.  

 

Nehemiah was no fool. He knew he was not allowed to be weak again, or even be seen as weak.

He divided his forces, half to defend, the other half to rebuild. He took his best warriors, his wisest strategists and applied their skills and abilities where they can be utilized to the fullest. He placed them behind the masons, the workers, the builders to watch their backs while they applied their trade.

 

The workers took no chances. To give you a visual of what this is like, because this is the crux of this whole message, I want to bring out a few props. First you have to defend yourself, so there is the crude, but basically effective Buckler. Great for pushing the enemy away and gaining a foot forward. Next we have the sword, the key to stay on the offensive. If we don’t, if we cease to advance, we lose! We can never stop moving forward! This is how Nehemiah built the wall, by constantly praying to God, communicating with God, putting his faith and trust in God. He had a sword in one hand, a shield on his back and a trowel in the other hand with a bucket at his feet!

 

This is how we are to live! This is how we are to rebuild! This is how we are to go above and beyond what we ever thought possible.
Nehemiah’s items were literal – ours are a metaphor! Have you ever heard of the armor of God?

We use the Shield of Faith to push the enemy away from us.

We use the Sword of Truth to stay on the offensive. Because with the truth, we never have to defend. The truth stands for itself, it is infallible. We use the truth to gain ground. We use the sword and shield to push back the enemy.

The trowel and the buck remind us that as we move forward, as we get stronger we build more and more. More connections, more networks, more partners, more supporters, more lives intertwined with our own until we have an army so vast, that we can defend our very own city from anything the enemy sends against it.

 

19 – 20 Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall.  Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”  

 

So where do we fight, and who do we fight for? We fight for each other whenever there is a call sent out.  Our weekly attendance is around 250 people between two services. Our Facebook page has a following of over 500. Our website is currently being built and when it is done, it will be a clearinghouse for all calls to service. It could be raising money for a missions trip, it might be a service opportunity to use your talents as laborers, teachers and musicians, or it might be an chance to serve at another chance church, or to get plugged in here at Grace downtown. Whatever it is, you will here about here before the sermon, you will see it on Facebook and you will find it at our website.

And remember wherever we go, God will fight for us!
Say that with me – God Will Fight For US! Louder now! GOD WILL FIGHT FOR US!

 

21 – 23 So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out.  At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.” Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.

 

I want to bring this to a close with these verses, not because they are the end of the chapter, but because they are more instructions on how to live. Think about the situation they are in… rebuilding the walls

They are rebuilding the walls to stay alive and to establish a safe and healthy life for their future families.

We need to rebuild that which we have lost in order to establish a safe and healthy life for our current and future families.

How? By mourning and grieving what was lost. Remember, weeping is cast for the night, but joy… joy comes in the morning.

Next, we pray, we pray and we pray some more. We talk to God, we talk to other believers, we talk to our mentors and sponsors and friends and families. We rebuild our faith and we increase our knowledge of scripture because the only thing… the ONLY thing the enemy fears, is God inside of us.
If you don’t believe me, look at all of history… almost every one of Israel’s ancient enemies has been obliterated! When is the last time you walked by a Chaldean temple or marvelled a Babylonian style building, or worshipped at the later of a Sumerian god? THEY ARE GONE! They provoked God, opposed God, fought God, and they lost! Why? Because God will fight for us.

Anyway… how do we fight? We fight with faith, we fight with truth and we fight with love. By ourselves, we cannot win. With God, we can never lose.

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him.”

 

When we can finally understand who our real enemy is, we can begin to understand him. When we understand him, we begin to love him, when we begin to love him, when we love him, we know that he must be destroyed.

 

 

 

So we gather together, as a church and as a family. We pray together, we sing together, we laugh together and we love together. We lift each other up when we are down and we defend each other when we are under attack.

 

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

 

Do you know what Gods plans are for you? Do you want to know His will for your life?

 

If you want to get started down this path, come and pray with any of our prayer team members. They will lift you up, they will plug you in, they will start you down the path of rebuilding your life.

 

It doesn’t matter where you are in life right now… you lost something along the way… you made a sacrifice you should not have.. you lost yourself or your loved ones. Your lost in addiction, porn, work, sports, or a bad relationship… take the first step tonight, or take the same step you have taken a thousand times over… come, come forward and pray with us… give it to God. Let us walk with you. Let us live with you. Let us love you.

 

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XKCD… in a sermon?!

margaret

I am one of those people who has essentially, grown up in the church. From as far back as I can remember, the church has been a huge part of my life. Be it going to Sunday school, Wednesday night services or youth group when I was a teen. I took a five year hiatus from the church from 2000-2005 because I was in my early twenties and knew everything. In that time, I allowed two decades of hurt and resentment towards the church define who God was for me.

Many of you here can relate. In some way, somehow, someone or group of someone’s from a church (not even at a church) has wronged you, insulted you, offended you and really, really hurt you. This hurt was so real that you turned it towards God and you blamed him for the actions of his people. Sound familiar? I want a sincere show of hands – how many people here have been hurt “by the church”? Be honest, it can even be by the person sitting right next to you. Hands again, who here has been hurt by a “Christian” or by a church member? Now we are getting somewhere. Now let’s drill down real quick while I have you thinking about it – How many of you who have been hurt, blamed God for it? Again, be honest. How many have said “God, you suck!” because of the actions of His people.

So why am I digging into this today? Why would I try to dig up and pull out all of the negative thoughts you have towards God’s people? Because God is bigger than them. God is bigger than the people or the church that has hurt you and God is bigger than you or I. Now it’s one thing to make this claim, it’s another to believe it and yet another thing to put it all in perspective and back it up with scripture to help it all make sense.

There are many books in the New Testament that are written as letters. Hebrews quite possibly is an actual sermon, try reading it out loud without breaking it up into chapters and verses… it sounds amazing. Some books can be read as historical, some as educational and some are there to kick you in the rear. The book of James is just such a book and the last 4 weeks that is exactly what it has done for me and many that I have heard from. My wife and I have been on a journey that for the last four years has been focused on the physical, but in reality, has been more of a condition of the heart, just as we have been talking about over these last four weeks. Today, I want to bring the heart to the forefront.

If you have your Bibles, turn them to James chapter 4:1-10, if you have a smartphone, use the Bible app, if you do not have the Bible app… get it! I promise it won’t spy on you, but it will bring you closer to God if you let it. With that in mind, let’s turn the page, open the app and I’m going to pray and I want you to pray also, that these words will come alive in you, that if scripture has always been words on dead wood in the past, that today will be different… *prayer*

            What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people,[a] don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us[b]But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”[c]

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

I want to read that last verse again… Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up… If only I had listened to that verse in the past… sure, I’ve read it, glanced over it, blew past it if need be… but I have always been one to try to lift myself up, and then get mad at God if I fail.

I want to pick apart these verses, break them down for you because I think they really address the concept of hurt and hurting, of lost and broken, of burned and burned out and as throughout scripture, if the Bible addresses a problem, it also gives you a solution. Let’s begin!

  1. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  

Where do our hurts come from? From fights and slights and unfair words and words spoken out of pride and anger? What of our pride and anger? How many times do we decide that we want to fight, or that we choose to be hurt because it means we acknowledge we have a personal agenda, or we have flaws or better yet, that we know we are wrong and refuse to admit it?
Think about your job, your home, your family life… how many times do we fight or quarrel because we are projecting our shortcomings onto others? How many times do we get frustrated with our boss or significant other or church because it is a reflection of our own brokenness?

  1. You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 

I could spend all day just on this verse… there is so much that is said here. What it comes down to, is pride… Some of you must think I’m mad right about now, because so many of us have been in a place where we desire something as simple as food or clothing, or we covet the car or house of someone we know… or we willingly choose to stay behind the self imposed barriers and safety and security of our addictions, be it drugs, alcohol or pornography. We choose to desire, we choose to covet because I SHOULD HAVE THIS! But we are not willing to do what it takes… we are not willing to give up part of us… to obtain it.
You do not have because you do not ask God. Or maybe we need to stop asking for the things we want, and acknowledge what we do have, and give thanks for it. There is nothing in this world that we desire that is worth killing for.

  1. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

OK, here comes the verse that we have all lived out. How many of us have walked up to the lottery machine, or bought a lotto ticket and told God… If you let me win this jackpot (not the $20) I will give you X amount… because in the inside, we are already spending the rest of the winnings on our pleasures, even if those pleasures are helping other people.
How many of us have asked for things that make sense on a moral, ethical and physical level, yet we are denied, because behind that request, there is the pride inside of us that whispers… if you get this thing, you will become a better person… We can spin it however we want, but if pride is the source of the request, we are in for a disappointment.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 

I love the super geeky stick figure comic, XKCD… a few weeks ago it featured a comic where there is girl standing in a field, and she says to God… “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. I know your listening. Are you scared God? Are you? You should be. Margaret is coming for you!”
That level of ambition to become a super villain is not what James is referring to here.

Ever hear the expression you cannot serve two masters, you must hate one and love the other? That’s what he’s talking about. If you love God, but serve the world, how is that any better than adultery? I’m not trying to make you feel guilty, I’m just pointing out that God loves us so much, he is so dedicated and loyal to us, that he would never, ever cheat on us, He would never side with the devil and say… you know that guy over there… yeah, not feeling like I’m gonna love on him today.. go head satan, he’s all yours!
That’s not God, that’s not how he operates. He loves us all the time, unconditionally. Regardless of what you did last night, last month or 2 hours ago, His love for you in unchanged. And that is what he expects of you. And if you proclaim that you love him, if you profess it and scream it from the mountain tops and yet your living just the opposite, how is that any different than being that stick figure?

5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?

Read that backwards… he has placed his spirit (your soul) in you and he longs.. jealously longs for a relationship with you. You are not an accident, you are not a mistake. God created you to live in a relationship with him. God. Wants. You. Repeat after me – God Wants Me. Again. God Wants Me!

Ok… so we have hit the turning point in this block of verses… We have discovered that our pride is causing us a lot of grief. I remind you again, God does not bring up a problem without giving us a solution. Verse 6 –

6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

But he gives us MORE grace. Ok folks, it’s that time again – repeat after me –
God. Gives. Me. More. Grace. Try again – altogether now – God gives me more grace.
Who does God want? What does he give us?
So we have the start to a solution – Grace.
But then he quickly circles back to the problem at hand – Pride.
And presents a solution – Humble yourself!
I love how the Bible works.
It’s like geometry with inductive and deductive reasoning… If this, then that.
You have an argument – God, I want this. God replies – If you want this, then do that. But unlike geometry, you don’t always get the answer you are expecting…

Here is what we will get – what we need. And these are the promises of God to ensure it.

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

I really can’t say it any more plainly – Submit yourself, humble yourself before God and the devil will flee from you. If you memorize any scripture, if you take anything to heart – take that verse.

8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

How many of us have willingly allowed ourselves to drift apart from God and then get mad at him when he is not where and when you want him? Or better yet, circling back to how this whole message started – How many of you have blamed the church for a wrong because they acted just like… you? You who have willingly driven God away… you who longing and needing for God to be real and present and here!
Wash your hands and purify your heart, your double mindedness. There is a whole other sermon in this verse alone, but I want you to focus on the literal and the figural here. God is telling us to separate ourselves from that which is holding us back. It could be a bad relationship, drugs, alcohol, porn, work, sex or all of the above. Break from it, break from the world. Stop being that enemy of God. God loves you and he wants you to love him back, but doing these things isn’t showing God you love him… regardless, because of Grace, because of his son, he loves us still…

9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.

There is healing that comes when you finally give up your pride… When you lay your hopes, your dreams, your desires at His feet. When you walk away from that which you can never have… and yes, you mourn for it. You mourn for that which you covet, you mourn for that which you would kill for, you mourn for that which you took pride in, and how lay before His feet as a sacrifice. That which you took joy in, that which you sang over, that which you built your life on… give it over to God. Your success in business? Your artistic skills? Your good looks? Your brilliant mind? The things you take pride in? The things you boast in, the things you pound your chest and proclaim LOOK WHAT IVE DONE! Weep for them… for all they have done is glorify you and pushed away God.

Finally, verse 10: 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Humble yourself, worship God.

Now I want to share with you rapid fire, a couple of verses that you need to bookmark –

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Offer your bodies to Christ, humble yourself and live as a sacrifice to God. This is Worship. It’s not just the songs we sing on Sunday morning, it’s waking up every morning and begging God to use us! It’s going before God in all things and asking God “What should I do? Instead of telling God, I am going to do this! Or better yet, God, I am coming for you! Can you imagine the difference it would make every single day if we started out by asking God “How can I serve you today” instead of “God, how can you help me?”

Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

Draw near to God with a sincere heart, a humble heart and have faith in God that he will cleanse us of our iniquities, our sins, our guilt, our shame, our addictions. He told us to wash or hands… now let him wash our hearts!

Finally, I’ll conclude with this from Psalms 30:5 weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Giving up our pride and weeping and mourning it’s loss is just for the night… but joy, joy comes in the morning.

For those of us who have made an idol out of our dreams, our obsessions, our desires… I offer you this quote from a very wise woman –

“I think the trouble is, we have to give up the desires of our hearts in exchange for God. Otherwise we never even realize they are idols, because the desire of our heart is supposed to be God”

It’s really that simple… give up our desires for God, because God is supposed to be our desire. Because God is our desire. Because we were created with a desire to be in a relationship with God. Because God Wants You.

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K-Pax revised

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The fusion of luxury, safety and performance is a dream of many car owners. You often sacrifice performance for safety, or safety for luxury. Tonight however, I am driving the living incarnation of luxury, safety and performance fused into one awe inspiring machine. Dusk is falling as I cruise towards the Baltimore skyline. The machine that cradles my body is a stranger to me. We had never met prior to this night, although secretly, I had always admired her from afar. She is a Volvo… a gem of Swedish engineering. To be precise, she is a 2015 S60 GT6 AWD R-Design Polestar K-Pax. Only a few of her breed, pedigree and build exist. This is a machine unlike any I have ever driven before. This is a Volvo… that roars.

There is something magical about this machine. Maybe it’s the set of lowered coil springs, a rear sway bar, 19×8.5-inch BBS wheels painted in anthracite and wrapped in 245/35 R19 Pirelli P Zero tires, Brembo four-piston big-brake package, plus a high-flow exhaust system. Or maybe it’s the 340 hp and 370 lb-ft of torque that is reverberating throughout the custom exhaust package. As I fly down the highway, the thought crosses my mind that I am driving in unison with the vehicle. It has already become a natural extension of my body. There is no need to force my will upon its individual components, the car is responding to my needs, my desires and my commands before I realize I am making them. The night air becomes cool and crisp and I allow the sound of the exhaust to envelope every sense of my being until…

A gentile noise awakens me from my euphoria. The lane departure sensor has reminded me that I have started to drift to the left. A simple caress of my palm against the heated steering wheel bring the AWD system back on its original heading and we continue in bliss, just the night air and the roar of an exotic street machine. Traffic begins to appear and I am reminded of my destination. Baltimore. It’s been so long since I have toured its streets. In the mirror I see a BMW creeping up on me. I engage the active cruise control, tap on the brakes to adjust the speed, move to the middle lane and allow the BMW to match my posture on the left. The driver looks at me, stares at my machine and then dares to make eye contact with me. Years of desire long forgotten fill my veins and in the time it takes for him to blink, I bring to bear the full force of the K-Pax.

The engine screams, I roar. The R-Design sport seats grab hold of me as I push the car to an unnatural level of acceleration. The Polestar package works its magic, constantly adapting and adjusting to the onslaught of fuel I have commanded the engine to consume. Everything comes into play at once, the AWD system, the lowered suspension, the Pirelli tires and the mind numbing growl of the free flowing custom exhaust system consumes my every being. The BMW is behind me, the driver at a total loss as to what just happened.

Annihilating my opponent was not enough. My mind is set to discover the limits of the machines making. I loose myself in the blur of street lamps, tail lights and lines on the road. That is until the nightmare returns. There are three semi’s ahead of me, two in the middle lane and one on the right. I go to make my move and blow past them, but at the last second, one semi in the middle rear swings left to pass…. Before I can even press down on the brake pedal, the mystery of Volvo engineering takes over and the K-Pax clamps down on the Brembo brakes. The car never shakes, never shutters and never sways to the left or the right. The trailer remained in front of me, and… I am not flying through the air, I am alive.

The Volvo saved my life. The rest of the drive was quiet, peaceful. My attention focused on the style and elegance of the intuitive interior design. I press a button and tell the car to call my dad. Moments later, I am chatting away about the glory days of when we built the Javelin and so many other muscle cars together and how in awe I am of this glorious, beautiful, mind numbingly advanced street monster that is carrying me safe and sound to my destination. The sounds of my dads stories are sporadically interspersed with the gentile reminder that I am approaching the lines to the left and then the car adjusts itself to the flow of upcoming traffic ahead of me. As Baltimore approaches, the conversation with my dad concludes, the windows go down, the night air fills the cabin and I enter the city… just me and the sounds of the machine, growling with delight.

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