Ok, I know I’ve been doing this every other day. It may be like that for a while. Anyway, I’m turning in early tonight and won’t get back to the blog until Monday, but I first want to say how much today’s sermon impacted me. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, do so. It’s incredible. It really, really hit me. I know I’ve been saying that a lot with Matt’s sermons, but each one seems to hit me harder than the last.
I’ll explain more on Monday. The link to the sermon is at the bottom of Thursday’s notes. Do yourself a favor and check it out. One note of warning, the copy I downloaded had some sound issues about 2/3 of the way through. It’s a little distracting, but not terribly so and it’s still worth your time to check it out.
Greetings! I took yesterday off from blogging, but I’m back today. Today’s sermon was Short Cuts Cause Short Circuits. This was simply an excellent sermon. There have been times in my life where I really feel God is trying to get my attention and this is one of those times. I was really impacted by what Matt had to say here and saw clear, immediate application to my own life.
Matt’s overall point is that we should not take short cuts around God’s law and God’s plan to get what we want or what we think we need. The example he used was when satan tempted Jesus by offering him all the world if he would just bow down and worship him. What a strong temptation! Jesus could have all the worship, all the glory, all the power over mankind without the cross! No pain! All the greatness and he wouldn’t have to suffer for it! Think about the temptation of that offer. Satan is the ruler of this world, if he offered the throne to Jesus, he would become the ruler of this world. Wouldn’t mankind be better off in that situation? No more wars, no more strife, no more evil dictators. Jesus would rule all and would do so with goodness, fairness and justice if he did this one little thing. Why, he’d be crazy not to, right?
Jesus knew that wasn’t God’s way and he wasn’t about to take a shortcut. The ends do not justify the means. Jesus quotes scripture back to satan, turned his back on him and ordered him out of his presence. Jesus chose God’s way in spite of the suffering in brought him. Matt pointed out that God cares more about our character than he cares about our happiness. That is a powerful statement and one many modern American Christians don’t really grasp. Maybe I should say it again: God cares more about our character than he cares about our happiness. Developing character often means refusing to do that which would make us temporarily happy. Developing character often means doing that which will make our lives harder and less comfortable. That’s the way it is.
Matt drew several parallels between Jesus’ temptation and our lives today. Want the pleasure of sex without the work of finding a Christian mate and committing to her? Sleep with that girlfriend! Look at that web site! Read that magazine! Move in with that girl! Want the security of a husband without waiting for a man with whom you will be equally yoked? Marry that non-Christian! Date that CHINO (Christian in name only)! Why not cheat on your taxes? The government takes your money and gives it to abortion clinics anyway! Take that money back and give some of it to the poor! Why work to earn more money? It’s just an evil, secular government.
And so on.
None of those short cuts are God’s way. They violate his commands for us and if we believe the lie, we will eventually find that not only have we disobeyed God by leaving his path, but the short cut never took us to the place satan said it would anyway! It only takes us to destruction and misery.
Following God takes patience to do things his way. We will often be tempted to find a way around that, but we must fight that temptation. Our character is much more important than our happiness and if you sacrifice the first for the latter, you will just end up losing both in the end anyway.
Tomrrow’s sermon will be Sacrifice is the Plan.
Today’s sermon was Who’s Got the Plan?. I enjoyed this one a lot. It really hit home with me. This message dealt a great deal with our attitudes towards God.
For one, we are to seek to follow God’s plan, rather than asking God to bless our plan. I’d like to hear Matt talk more on this. Understanding God’s plan is often difficult to do. He touched on it a little but by saying we need to be willing to step out in faith and try things, while keeping our hearts open to God and our eyes open in general to see if what we are doing matches up with God’s plan.
Also, he talked about how we are to react when God doesn’t do what we expect, or when He doesn’t follow our plan. This is what really hit me. I can get really frustrated with God when something happens that I think He should have prevented or when something doesn’t happen that I think He should have taken care of. Matt stressed that our attitude should not be one of grumbling like the Israelites did under Moses, but should be one of acceptance and obedience to God. We shouldn’t pretend to be happy when we are disappointed, but we should be willing to bow before God and say, “Not my will, but yours. I understand that you have closed this door, please help me to follow You through the one You open for me.”
I liked Matt’s statement that we are not to “play God.” He used that as a double entendre. We are not to set ourselves up as God to follow our own plan, but neither are we to “play” (as in manipulate) God, misusing His Word to justify our own agenda, or to put Him to the test. He uses the second temptation of Jesus to illustrate this point. Satan told Jesus to follow an easier path to Messiahship by throwing himself from the temple, trusting that God would protect Him. Jesus refused, knowing that this was not God’s plan and that He was not to put God to the test. He was not to “play God” in either sense of the phrase.
A good message. Tomorrow’s is Short Cuts Cause Shortcircuits.
I’m going to do things a bit differently this time. Rather than a different pastor each day, I’m going to go straight through one of the series by Matt Massey from NorthStar Vineyard Church. As I’m gearing up for work again this fall, my notes will be shorter than before. This series is about being a hero and it takes place from March 12 - April 23.
I already covered the first entry in the series called “The Guiding Principles” in my sermon notes from June 20th, so you can check that out if you want.
Today, I listened to the second installment, “Our Soul Provider.” I really enjoyed this. I think what struck me the most is the idea that we often put ourselves in the role of God. When I’ve heard that before, that often seemed like such an arrogant thing that nobody really did, until I really thought about it more today. It’s not that we think we rule the universe, but that we put ourselves in the role of god of our lives. I think that’s what Matt really meant when talking about walking around going “I am God!” We want to rule “our” lives our way and do what we want with “our” things, ignoring that all we are and everything we have is God’s not ours. That is when we say, “I am God!” It’s not that we want to rule the universe, we just want to rule our lives, but that isn’t what the Christian is supposed to do. We are supposed to submit all of who we are to God and let Him be God of our lives.
This was a great message. I got a lot out of it. I look forward to the rest of the series. Tomorrow’s sermon is “Who’s Got the Plan?” Please feel free to download these sermons and post your own comments. Everything’s free!
I do not have a sermon for today. Instead, I listened to NPR’s reading of The Declaration of Independence, which can be found here.
I don’t think I have to add any commentary to it, except to express how profoundly thankful I am to live in a country where I am free. Our nation is blessed as no other nation has been in the history of the world. Yesterday’s sermon was about grace and how it compels us to do good works. As Christians, we are to live lives that consistently express thanks and awe for what Christ did for us and what we were given on the cross. As Americans, I hope that we can similarly conduct ourselves in a manner that expresses our thanks for what we have been given by God and by our forefathers who offered up their lives for their posterity. As Christ said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” As each generation comes of age, it is the duty of its citizens to govern this nation in a manner worthy of the sacrifice which gave it life.
In closing, I’d like to quote the final lines of The Declaration of Independence.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
I jumped ahead through Tom’s sermons and this week I listened to Rich in Grace So We Can Do Good Works. Tom reads from Ephesians 2. Tom spoke a lot about God’s grace and what it means. Tom presents God’s grace and God’s justice as two unopposable forces. He also draws a connection between grace and works. He reminds us that we do not earn God’s grace through our works, but the grace God has shown us compels us to do good works in response to it. Tom describes grace as one of God’s great ironies, a paradox.
Tom says that grace isn’t fair. If you are under the law, and you keep the law perfectly, you are blessed. If you break it, you suffer. Under grace, the One who kept the law perfectly suffered in order to bless those who broke it. It isn’t fair and we are to be thankful that it isn’t.
Tom then presents an interesting image. He compares God’s grace to an escalator that takes us from earth to heaven. We must get on the escalator as an act of faith, but it is what takes us there. He describes this escalator as one that is stronger than our occasional change of direction. When we sin and go in the wrong direction, God does not kick us off, but continues to raise us up to him. Grace isn’t fair and it’s the only way we get home.
Back on works, we do not work for grace, but grace works through us. Tom draws a connection between the word grace and our expression of thanks, pointing out that prayers of thanksgiving are sometimes called “saying grace.” The good works we do are an expression to God of thanks for the grace he has given us. Tom then goes on to compare grace to a family heirloom or treasure that must be passed on to the next generation. This is the business of the church.
We are called to serve. This is an expression of thanks, but it is also a way of sharing God’s grace with others. We are to do this with a good attitude and likewise, we are to share it with people who didn’t earn it, just as God shared his grace with us, though we were undeserving. We may not be rewarded or recognized for our service and it doesn’t matter. Grace isn’t fair and thank God that it isn’t.
Towards the end, Tom describes his experience with a group called Amor Ministries, which builds houses for the impoverished in parts of Mexico. I once did a summer project with Amor and it was a life changing experience for me as well. You can’t begin to imagine how absurdly wealthy we are until you see true poverty. We don’t have true poverty here in the US. You may think we do, but we don’t. Not on any real scale like they do in parts of Mexico. It is unreal and yet, they are happy. I saw two little girls down there singing Yo tengo un amigo que me ama into an old water barrel. They liked how their voices sounded as they echoed around and they were giggling and laughing the whole time, enjoying themselves far more than the average American kid playing with his X Box. They were content and happy. They had Jesus and his grace was sufficient. I think about that day a lot. I hope one day to find sufficiency in God’s grace as they did.
Mark’s sermon this week is called Things My Mother Used to Say, most likely a Mother’s Day sermon. He came up with several typical things that mothers often say and then exposed Biblical truths behind each of those sayings. It is a cute sermon, but it does not suffer any lack of truth because of it. Mark uses Proverbs 1:8 as a jumping off point.
Here are the four quotes from his mom with the truths behind each one.
1. “Make sure you wear clean underwear because you can be in an accident.”
The truth behind this statement: Life is so uncertain and things do not always go as we plan.
Mark asked us if we are living how we thought we’d be living with the spouse we thought we’d have and the exact number of kids in the exact house at the exact job we always imagined. For almost all of us, the answer is “no.” That doesn’t mean our life is worse than we expected, just that it is different. Mark quotes James 4:13 here.
We must be prepared foe those things for which we are not prepared. Jesus’ return is preeminent among these things. Similarly, we must be prepared for our death. We must make sure our relationship with God is good now. We must continually work on and develop that relationship and not put it off or let it die.
2. “Don’t sit too close to the TV or you’ll go blind.”
The truth behind this statement: The culture and values of this world will pollute and blind us if we expose ourselves to it too much.
We live in the world, but should not be influenced by it. Jesus warns us against this in Matthew 6:22. As our own culture becomes more and more corrupt and pervasive, this becomes more and more important to follow and more and more difficult to do. We must be very careful as to how much worldly media we take in and I am as guilty about this as anyone. This is a lesson I really need to learn.
3. “Clean up your plate because there are starving children in the world. ”
The truths behind this statement: Waste and greed are vices to be avoided. Don’t take for granted that which you have been given and (most importantly) finish what you start. Do not quit. Never, never, never give up.
Jesus exemplified this attitude as he did not give up. We see in john 19:30 that this allowed him to say, “It is finished” as he hung dying on the cross. Paul demonstrated a similar attitude in 2 Timothy 4:7 and Galatians 6:9. We see an example of a church that did not follow this command in Revelation 2:4.
4. “Go ask your father.”
The truth behind this statement: It’s always good to ask our Heavenly Father for anything and about anything.
Proverbs 3:5 tells us to not lean on our own understanding. James 1:5 tells us to ask God for wisdom who will give it to us. God invites us to come to him. He wants us to want him, to need him, to rely on him and to trust him. It is always good to go to the Father. You know, I really like that. It’s so simple, but it’s true. It is always good to go to the Father. Even when we don’t feel like it, it is always good to go to the Father. Even when we are tired, it is always good to go to the Father. When we are ashamed of a sin we have committed, it is always good to go to the Father. When we are angry and depressed, it is always good to go to the Father. Even when everything is going well, it is still always good to go to the Father.
Today’s sermon from Northstar Vineyard is called Identity Complex, part two in a series called Identity Theft. For my notes on part one in this series, click here. David Smith preached this sermon.
Part of David’s theme is that we often feel that being a disciple of Christ is not “good enough.” We turn to other things for our identity, which is a type of identity theft, because it keeps us from focusing on our true identity as Christ’s disciples. So, we turn to our jobs, our hobbies, out social status, our families etc for our identities. Those can all be good things, but they aren’t our identities. This can be problematic because if we feel that we excel in the above areas, deriving our identity from those things can lead to pride. If we feel we do not excel by the world’s standards, deriving our identities from those things can lead to frustration, depression and a misunderstanding of how God sees us. David says we often try to make our identities more complex because “disciple of Christ” does not seem interesting or flashy enough.
David references the book of Colossians. He points out that the people of that church were buying into a philosophy called “synchrotism” which contradicted the basic simplicity of Christianity in a false attempt to make it more complex and palatable. It blended all kinds of non-Christian ideas into the Christian faith in an attempt to make a “super religion” that was much more complex, but also false.
He starts in Colossians 1:26. The mystery Paul references here is described as (depending on your translation) the whole truth, the entire word of God, the Good News (v. 25). The mystery here stands on its own. It does not need outside sources and ideas. It should be added to or detracted from. It is also applicable to everyone. Paul then goes on to define this mystery as the fact that Christ is in us. This is the whole truth, the whole word of God. This is what should define us and where we should get our identity.
David then gives us several concepts we should learn from this.
1. We must embrace the mystery.
This truth is beyond human comprehension, yet we must accept it anyway. Even if being a disciple of Christ doesn’t seem like enough, it really is. That is who we are above all and we should take joy in that. As we accept that Christ is in us, we can allow him to grow within us and change who we are to make us more like him.
2. Don’t add to the mystery.
Christ is enough. We should not add to it with popular ideas and philosophies. One of the reasons we do this may be because those ideas, philosophies and goals replace the mystery.
3. To be mature is to be basic.
Maturity is often confused with complexity. Christians need to move beyond the basics of the faith, something Paul instructs in 1 Corinthians 3:2. However, moving beyond the basics to newer, deeper truths is not the same as rejecting the basics for false, more “complex” truths. We must grab and rely on the truth that Christ is in us and then live accordingly. As we grow and learn more we become more mature, but we never reject that initial, basic truth. We should never consider ourselves too good (or whatever) for the basics, whether that means the basic truths, or the basic actions and deeds of the believer. Jesus modeled these basics and we should do the same.
Hi everyone. I’ve been out of town visiting family for the past few days, so the blog hasn’t been updated since the middle of last week. Rather than updating everything retroactively, I’m just going to jump into the sermon discussion for today.
Also, I’m making a slight change in how I go through the sermons. Originally, I was going to stick with the sermons from the main pastors, but doing that may cause me to miss some of the sermons in a series that are given by associate and guest pastors. I decided it was more important to follow a series than an individual pastor, so each day will be dedicated to a specific church regardless of who preaches that Sunday.
Here is the schedule for the rest of this week.
David Smith, Identity Complex.
Mark Fugate, Things My Mother Said
Jimmy Wolfe ,Crash
Charles Stanley, InTouch Radio Program
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
Jesus tells us a parable about the grace of God. Right before this chapter, Jesus explained how people get into heaven by the power of God, not on their own strength or resources. Being rich in the resources of the world will not help you get into heaven, but can actually be a major impediment. Here he shows us that we do not earn God’s grace in the way that many religions say that we do. We all receive God’s grace, an unmerited favor completely separate from the work that we do, for we could never earn it anyway. God is the one who decides on whom he will shower his grace, not us.
Jesus Again Predicts His Death
And he does. Unlike his earlier prediction, we do not see the disciples’ reaction here. It is clear that Jesus was trying to drive this point home and later it becomes clear that the disciples never really understood it until after Jesus fulfilled this prediction.
A Mother’s Request
Here we see the disciples preoccupied with who is going to be first in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus points out that to be great in God’s sight, you must become a servant, not a ruler. Being a ruler and being endowed with earthly power are not impressive to God. Greatness comes from being a servant, something the world does not understand.
Two Blind Men Receive Sight
Here we see perseverance in prayer rewarded. This is a concept very foreign to modern American culture. We do not like being forced to wait to have our desires met. If God doesn’t answer a prayer the first time or first few times, we get upset and give up. Here, we see that if our prayers are not answered right away, the correct response is to pray even more loudly and desperately. We often forget to whom it is that we are praying. God is not the order taker at McDonald’s, nor is he a waiter and Denny’s working for our tip. He is the Holy Creator of the Universe and will answer our prayers on his timetable, not ours. If he wants to teach us patience by withholding his answer for a time, he is fully within his rights as God to do so and we are not to give up out of frustration and impatience.