Sunday, November 23, 2014

Audio Version of God's Indescribable Gift

God's Indescribable Gift

II Corinthians 9.6-15

We are called to be thankful by the LORD. We are instructed in the Word of God that all the good things we enjoy here on earth are a result of the Gracious Hand of God upon us, a lovingly Heavenly Father Who withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly.

We ought to be the most thankful people on earth in America but often we appear to be very ungrateful. As believers we are not to be conformed to this world. We ought to be giving thanks continually, in all circumstances. That comes from the renewing of our minds.

Thanksgiving is an action as well as an attitude.

This passage focuses in on God's Indescribable Gift and how the gift of His Son, Christ Jesus causes the grace of giving to operate in our lives.

1. The Seeds We Sow. vs. 6-11

God provided the earth.
God provides the seed.
God causes it to rain and the sun to shine.
God makes the seeds grow. 
I Corinthians 3.6-7
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

He is LORD of the Harvest. Matthew 9.38

We will reap proportionately.
What about sacrificial giving?
v. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Pumpkin seeds. You can roast them and eat them or you can set them aside (or  a bunch of them) and have them to plant next year. Say you plant 100 seeds. You will multiply your seeds you have by 100 times as much.

The harvest in giving is our needs being met but spiritually growing in Christlikeness. It is a win win. 

Generosity begets spiritual growth. Watching a church I was at for a meeting this week load up their cars with Samaritan's Purse Christmas Shoeboxes... good people in that church who pray for me, care about me spiritually. 

2. Our Giving to the LORD and Others Is a Direct Reflection of Our Spiritual Lives. v.7

Giving is from the heart.  That is where the decision to give is made, to give and how much.

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  
cheerful =  hilaros. 

Walking with the LORD is a life of joy and peace. Our giving is to be joy filled. 

Much of our walk with the LORD is quiet, private, secret prayer... giving is an overflow of the heart which results in Thanksgiving to God.

3. God Gave Us the Greatest Gift Imaginable. v.15

He gave us His Son. John 3.16

His Son Gave up Himself for us. Ephesians 5.25 Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.

Thanks Be To God

His Indescribable Gift 
Unspeakable above all others, In Command of everything else

God, our Father in Heaven, demonstrates how we should give by giving His one and only Son so we could become His children. We need to look at the manager and the cross when it comes to our giving, when we are tempted to hold back... Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold! 

As little children
We would dream of Christmas morn
Of all the gifts and toys
We knew we'd find
But we never realized
A baby born one blessed night
Gave us the greatest gift of our lives

As the years went by
We learned more about gifts
The giving of ourselves
And what that means
On a dark and cloudy day
A Man hung crying on a cross
All because of love, all because of love

Interestingly as Paul writes to the Corinthians about the offering for the church in Jerusalem, he ends with speaking of God's gift, Christ's sacrifice.
How could anything compare to that?!

As the hymn, When I Survey The Wondrous Cross says,
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Give Thanks to God. Give Him your all. Sow generously.
God has been good to us: The bill for the furnace we put in last year has been paid off!  Praise God for His faithfulness showing up in your giving to Him! We owe some money from it to our roof fund which we borrowed from. And we need to add to that and at the same time help our brothers and sisters in Haiti. 

Together with God we build. That was the theme of what took place here in the 1960's and 70's when this building went up. I've told you the story before. Let me tell it again. I just told that story to the new mayor of Brightwaters and his wife, who happens to be one o the Girl Scout leaders of a troop that meets here in our building.

When this building was being constructed so was one in upstate NY, a chapel, which I would come to pastor in 1979. It grew and we built. Miracles happened there.  Plans drawn up, reached a wall. City said we didn't enough parking spaces, Oil company said we could rent, there was this piece of land adjacent to us, neighbors said they would never sell.  I asked, I asked for a gift and they gave it. The land given by Olean American Tile- Thanksgiving 1982 Al Heinz, the builders, the check mailed to us.

Homeless ministry- Joe Infranco's building on Main Street- how I met Rudy. 

Now we enter a new chapter. Repair on the House of God here and in Haiti.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Piercing Question

Luke 17.11-19

The Healing of the Ten Lepers
“Go away! You are unclean!” people cry to them.“Away! Away! Don’t touch us!” When they flee and wander about, people among the nations say, “They can stay here no longer.” -Lamentations 4.15

Thanksgiving is upon us.
Harvest Dinner today. Thanksgiving a week from Thursday.

Biblical History of Giving Thanks
Feasts of Israel
Psalms of Thanksgiving
Jesus Feeding the 5,000
The Epistles
Always, In all circumstances

American History
The Pilgrims left Plymouth, England, on September 6, 1620. Their destination? The New World. Although filled with uncertainty and peril, it offered both civil and religious liberty.

For over two months, the 102 passengers of the Mayflower braved the harsh elements of a vast storm-tossed ocean. Finally, with firm purpose and a reliance on Divine Providence, the cry of “Land!” was heard.

Arriving in Massachusetts in late November, the Pilgrims sought a suitable landing place. On December 11, just before disembarking at Plymouth Rock, they signed the “Mayflower Compact”—America’s first document of civil government and the first to introduce self-government.

After a prayer service, the Pilgrims began building hasty shelters. However, unprepared for the starvation and sickness of a harsh New England winter, nearly half died before spring. Yet, persevering in prayer, and assisted by helpful Indians, they reaped a bountiful harvest the following summer.

The grateful Pilgrims then declared a three-day feast, starting on December 13, 1621, to thank God and to celebrate with their Indian friends. While this was not the first Thanksgiving in America (thanksgiving services were held in Virginia as early as 1607), it was America’s first Thanksgiving Festival.

William Bradford, governor of the Plymouth Colony, proclaimed the first day of Thanksgiving in 1623: To all ye Pilgrims: Inasmuch as the Great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes and garden vegetables and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our consciences; now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at the meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the daytime on Thursday, November ye 29th of the year of our LORD 1623 and third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Plymouth Rock, there to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to Almighty God for all His blessings." 
1779- Three years after our independence was won, George Washington proclaimed Thanksgiving a National Holiday to be a day of public prayer and thanksgiving... for the favors of Almighty God, the Author of everything good.
October 3, 1863- 74 years later Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation: Observe this last Thursday of November as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the Heavens.
Fast Forward 151 years to today and shopping for things we really don't need becomes the focus for many in this land of plenty on what has become known as Black Friday Weekend.

Where are the other nine?
There was a piercing question (Jesus always asked and still does in fact piercing questions). You might be surprised at the number of questions He asked. His questions have a depth to them. Since He knows all things His questions were for the benefit of those He was asking. 

Luke 18:8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” 
John 6:5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 
Matthew 6:28 “And why do you worry about clothes?
 Matthew 12:48 He replied to him, "Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?"
Matthew 20.22 "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" 
 Matthew 16:26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
Matthew 7:3-4 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
Matthew 8.26 O you of little faith, Why are you  afraid?
John 7.23 Why are you angry with Me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath?
Matthew 26. 10 "Why are you bothering this woman?”
Matthew 16.13 Who do people say the Son of Man is?
Luke 24:38 He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 

Where are the other nine?
1. They did not come back to give thanks.
2.They went on their way. People who get healed do not necessarily follow Jesus. We think they will but many do not.
3. They were in a hurry to get back home.
In all fairness to them, they probably had not seeng their families in years. It had been a long time since they hugged their children. They had been isolated from family, home, friends, jobs.
Personally I know just a week away from my kids and grandkids and I cannot wait to see them! When I came back from Haiti in September I didn't unpack or anything. I went right to my daughter's house where they all were for my grandson's birthday and got hugged and gave hugs.
However, with these lepers, who were healed, the whole reason they were able to go back was because of Jesus and the healing He worked in their lives.
4. They quickly forgot the miracle God had done in their lives.
God help us!

There are a number of lessons here:
1. Jesus was showing those who would follow Him that there would be widespread ingratitude with people they helped, particularly in the area of healing. One of the challenges of the ministry is to see God answer prayer and bless people and watch them have so little time for Him in their lives, We are getting a little peek on how deeply this effects the LORD in this passage, yet He continues to work.

It is important that we do not rejoice too much in a healing or in authority over demons. It is more important- much more that we rejoice that our names are written down in heaven. That will not change. People who are healed seldom react appropriately. Extremes- desire to praise the instrument to indifference and forgetting.

2.This should cause some self examination in all of us.
After God blesses us are we quick to take His gifts and run, go on with our lives?
Are there things He has done for us that we fail to give Him thanks for?
Are there answers to prayer and blessings I am enjoying today that I need to step up and thank God for? Do I have an attitude of gratitude? 
There were actually three questions in this set that Jesus asked.
Were not all ten cleansed?
Where are the other nine?
Has no one returned to give thanks to God except this foreigner?
Dealing with prejudice and future ministry. Two of them would go to the home area of this man after the Day of Pentecost and lay hands on the believers there. 
Acts 8:14-15 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit...

Where are the other nine? Let's imitate this Samaritan:
Living of Life of Thanksgiving to God:
1. Refuse to fall into the all to easy habit of complaining. It is a rut.
2.Give Thanks immediately and don't worry about repeating yourself. 
These other nine should have returned like the Samaritan, immediately.
3. Thanksgiving must be sincere, from the heart, to touch God's heart.
Luke 17:15-16 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him—and he was a Samaritan. 
Sometimes we need to throw ourselves down at Jesus' feet.
Humility and thanksgiving go hand in hand. Show me a proud person and you will not see him thanking God for his blessings. Like Nebuchadnezzar, "Is this not the great Babylon I have built?!" Show me thankful person and you will see humility, an awareness that every good and perfect gift has come down from the Father in Heaven.
He praised God in a loud voice. Sing your lungs out!
4. When God grants you an answer to a fervent prayer be just as fervent in your response!  Even more! So often in times of bitter need we pray with intensity then the answer comes and we go on soon forgetting what God has done for us.
Luke 17:12-13 As He was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 
called= elevate continually

have (pity) mercy= help us, give aid to us- we are afflicted

5. Ask the LORD to make us sensitive and open our eyes to what He is doing in our lives. the gifts He has given and how blessed we are.

It is Thanksgiving time. It is a time to give thanks as a nation for our blessings. 

As George Washington said, a day of public prayer and thanksgiving... for the favors of Almighty God. the Author of everything good.

As Abraham Lincoln said, Observe this last Thursday of November as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the Heavens.

Family Gatherings a week from Thursday

Psalm 103.2

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Affliction and Grief In Judgement

Lamentations 3.33
For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.

There is a Proverb in Ecclesiastes that goes, (Ecclesiastes 7:2) It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. 

We don't look for affliction as a means of spiritual growth. When we are going through it we don't even look at it as a means to spiritual growth.
 But we should. 
James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

Affliction and grief were not part of God's intention and creation. It came after sin. It is a result of sin. But God uses it in our lives to make us more like Christ Who suffered for us. The LORD takes no pleasure in His judgements. 

Proverbs 3:11-12 My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline, and do not resent His rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in. Those He loves

Hebrews 12:9-11 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  Share in His holiness/ a harvest of righteousness and peace

Speaking of Jesus...
Isaiah 53:10-11 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the LORD makes His life an offering for sin, He will see His offspring and prolong His days,and the will of the LORD will prosper in His hand. After He has suffered, He will see the light of life and be satisfied; by His knowledge My Righteous Servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities. 

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be." ― C.S. Lewis

When it comes to suffering due to judgement this is suffering God calls upon us to avoid. God does not separate His love from His discipline. He is actually a supreme example of it for all father and mothers.

God's discipline is given to make us like Him. His judgement is reluctantly given. His mercy springs forth. Judgement is spurred on from man's sin. Mercy comes from the heart of God seeing man in a pitiful state.

Habakkuk's prayer: 
Habakkuk 3:2 LORD, I have heard of Your fame; I stand in awe of Your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. 

Jeremiah expresses it in this way:
Lamentations 3.33
For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.
It is not God's will, His Desire or what He prefers to bring grief and affliction to people. Yet He is just and must judge. He judges so things do not get worse. 
Spiritually, morally, mentally and physically sin begets suffering.

This verse speaks of the affliction and grief due to sin. It is the pain that results from sin. In the broader sense all affliction and grief is the product of living in a fallen world. However not all affliction and grief is due to personal wrong doing. Some is. Jeremiah is speaking about that.

God's judgement was call to repentance. A soul that feels utterly desolate will call upon God. We see this even in those who never knew Him when faced with tragedy. The cries heard in New York on September 11, 2001 were ones of shock and mercy. Never before in my life or since then did people outside the church ask me to pray like they did that day or the days after. The park at Union Station became very holy ground. People were walking around in silence and everyone took the Bibles and CDs we were handing out that day. Those  2 adjusters who visited our church from Texas, "Never before have I felt the Presence of God and the effects of evil so clear."

Yes, defiantly, a number of our leaders, said, "We will rebuild." I happen to hear one of our Senators say it on TV. Even the way she said it was defiant. It was so wrong. It was so inappropriate. It is what Israel did when God began to judge them.

1. Some suffering is through natural consequences.

This is part of God' Providence. He provides for natural consequences to warn the soul to stop and for others to see the effects of such living.
Bitterness' effects
Psychiatrist The real need is forgiveness. 
UK Daily Mail August 11, 2011
We all experience a bout of sour grapes from time to time, but experts are warning that being too bitter too often can actually make you ill.
Researchers who have examined the relationship between failure, bitterness and quality of life found that blaming others can lead to physical disease. 
‘Persistent bitterness may result in global feelings of anger and hostility that, when strong enough, could affect a person's physical health,’ says Carsten Wrosch, a professor in Montreal's Concordia University Department of Psychology and a member of the Centre for Research in Human Development.

Substance abuse
These are things we need to turn over to the LORD and ask for His help in them. Drugs and excessive alcohol consumption can ruin a person's physical body and destroy their ability to function mentally. 

There are things we may or may not be the cause of:
Mental Anguish
We see things or experience things in the world that trouble us.

Relationship Issues
Nothing can tear the heart up like a fractured relationship. A broken one can be like death in many ways.

Grief is a consequence of living in a fallen world.

2. Some suffering is through God withdrawing His Hand.

National Protection This was true of Jerusalem.

The justice of God's judgement is to awaken the people to their need of turning from their sin and back to Him as the center of their national life.

Enemies get their own way.
There are no visions from the prophets from the LORD.

This, as we said is done with reluctance, and without malice.
A surgeon inflicts pain but not willingly but because to bring about a cure he must. So it is with the LORD.

When we talk about freedom from sin we must be careful to distinguish between sin's penalty and sin's consequences. We are free from its penalty and power the moment we ask for forgiveness. Its consequences may be with us for a long time. Sin mars and scars. 

If we shoot off our mouth we can damage a relationship that will take time to heal.

If we abuse our bodies with tobacco we may have to wait a long time for physical restoration or we may have to wait for heaven before we are restored.  

God use the examples of others' consequences to warn us.
He uses His Word to warn us:
Proverbs 6:27-29 Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished. 

3. He always warns.
The prophets were about that work. From Isaiah to Malachi.
God is about that work Genesis to Revelation contains warnings.
It also contains examples of those who did not listen.

Are we listening?

Judgement is avoided by humbling ourselves. If we do that then God will not have to humble us.
II Chronicles 7.14
This is such a huge thing. Humbling ourselves is certainly not part of the natural man. We insist on being right. We defend ourselves. We take pride in what we know. Humbling ourselves is a supernatural thing. We need the LORD's help as we do it. It is an act of the will of man leaning upon the LORD for the ability.

There are personal judgments (things we face due to our own sin) and national judgements (National Sin).  For example, I believe the rejection of a day of rest in America is destroying bodies. God set this example. Jesus told us it was made for us. Yet the nation rejects it today. People are walking around exhausted, over worked, over active. Breakdowns physically and mentally are taking place, which could be greatly avoided by doing what the LORD said.

We pray for America.
Perhaps you need prayer for yourself or you are praying for someone else today.