PREPARING TO ENGAGE THE WORLD THROUGH SIMPLICITY

Matthew 6:19-34

Another key practice for integrating our faith with our lives is to simplify. We often times over complicate our lives to the point there is no room for God. In this sermon, we will see the importance of simplification and what we need to do to uncomplicate our lives.

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PREPARING TO ENGAGE THE WORLD THROUGH FASTING

Isaiah 58

Before you listen to this sermon, I highly recommend reading Isaiah 58. In that passage of scripture, God, through the prophet Isaiah lets His people know what He thinks about their practice of fasting. The next discipline we will be looking at to help us better integrate our faith with our lives is fasting.

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PREPARING TO ENGAGE THE WORLD THROUGH MEDITATION

Matthew 12:43-45

In this sermon, we will be looking at the spiritual discipline of meditation. Eastern meditation seeks to empty one’s mind and center one’s life on one’s self. On the other hand, Christian meditation seeks to fill one’s mind with the things of God and center one’s life in the middle of God’s will.

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PREPARING TO ENGAGE THE WORLD THROUGH STUDY

Ephesians 4:11-16

People study the Bible for different reasons. Some simply to gain knowledge. Others seek to validate what they have already come to believe or to prove someone else wrong. Still others search the Bible when they get themselves into difficult situations and want God’s word to fix things for them. If you are one of these people, I would suggest that you may want to reexamine your motives. In this sermon, we will examine what the goal of Bible study should be.

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PREPARING TO ENGAGE THE WORLD THROUGH PRAYER

Acts 4:23-31

When we think of spiritual disciplines, we may think of those exercises that have been used to escape the world. But as disciples of Christ we are to be moving our spiritual lives from cloisters, closets and church buildings into the world around us. As in all things, we can study something to death but if we are not going to put what we learn into practice there will be no growth.

Spiritual growth is a product of spiritual exercise. Depending where you are in your spiritual growth or health will determine what areas you need to work on, remembering that they are all important. In this sermon, we will begin by looking at the first and I believe the most important spiritual discipline and that is prayer.

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“IT’S ALL HEART FROM HERE”

I Timothy 4:6-16

The Christian walk is not always easy. It seems like the more we walk by faith the greater the obstacles to overcome. As Peter said, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (2 Peter 5:8) As Paul instructed Timothy, it is imperative for us to, “discipline (train) yourself for the purpose of godliness.” It’s easy for us to be “good Christians” when we are sitting on our padded pews, surrounded by fellow believers, shut off from the outside world in our air conditioned church buildings. But, as disciples of Christ, we are to be engaging the world not seeking to escape it. Spiritual fitness is necessary for us to be turning the world upside down as the first century church did. If spiritual disciplines are the exercises by which faith and life are reintegrated to produce our wholeness with and in God, they cannot be optional. Spiritual discipline is the heart of spiritual transformation, and spiritual disciplines are the cardiovascular exercises that make transformation possible and our spiritual lives healthy ones. If you are content with keeping your Christianity a spectator sport, then you will probably not want to listen to this sermon. But it you are ready to make a difference in the world around you and start living your faith then maybe this is the sermon you should be listening to.  

Note:  I began this sermon by showing a clip from the movie “Facing the Giants”.  You can find it by going to youtube and typing in facing the giants death crawl.  

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LIVING A WORRY FREE LIFE

Matthew 6:25-34

In this sermon, we will examine what Jesus has to say about living a worry-free life in a troubled world.

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“SING AND BE HAPPY”

John 16:16-22

In John 16:22, Jesus said to His disciples, “…but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice and no one will take your joy away from you.” He didn’t present this as a suggestion but as a fact, “NO ONE WILL TAKE YOUR JOY AWAY FROM YOU.” So, how is that going for you? Do you feel so blessed because of what Christ did for you that joy and happiness is constantly bubbling out of you? Well, is it? If you are like me it hasn’t always been easy to keep your happy on. In this lesson, we will be looking at twelve things that happy people do.

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A TRANSFORMED MAN

Acts 4:1-22

In the previous sermon, I focused on how important it is for us to be “craving the word of God”. If we are to grow as disciples/disciple makers and help other disciples grow so that they can fulfill Christ’s calling to make disciples, we need to know the teachings and commands of Jesus.  We should always be approaching the word of God with humility. Too often we search the Bible to validate things we have been fed and the views we already hold. God gave us His word so that we can know Him and His will, to better understand ourselves and the world around us and most importantly to be transformed. In this lesson, we will be looking at the transformation of Peter and hopefully see why he was “turning the world upside down.”

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CRAVING THE WORD OF GOD

1 Peter 1:22-2:3

An important part in disciple making is to teach them to obey everything that Jesus has commanded us to do (Matthew 28:20). This makes it imperative that all disciple/disciple makers know Jesus’ teachings and commands. We may not be able to sit at the feet of Jesus as the first disciples had but we do have His teachings written down for us in His book. So, in this sermon, we will be asking ourselves why we are reading the Bible, why God gave us His word, and will suggest the best way to approach the word of God.

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“RENEW MY SPIRIT”

2 Corinthians 5:10-6:2

As disciples of Christ, we are to join together with other believers, helping one another to overcome what ever may be holding us back and to challenge one another to grow into more effective disciple makers. In this sermon, we will look at what it is that may be keeping us from doing what we have been called to do and how we can overcome that obstacle.  

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Five Minute Focus: A Mighty God

Last night I was reading Noah’s story, and of course, it felt much more realistic with the storms raging outside at the same time. The thunder shook the house, the lights flickered and at that moment I was awed by the awesome power and magnificence of our God. God can take many roles in our lives—friend, savior, father, but in all, He is Lord: King. Many writers in the Bible talk about fearing the Lord, and in looking at Noah’s story and countless other examples in the Bible, it is clear to see that we do need to have a healthy fear and respect our God. As the storms continue to rage on today, take five minutes to reflect on our God as leader, Lord, who is mighty and all-powerful. Do you fear and respect Him?

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“LET THE LOWER LIGHTS BE BURNING”

Matthew 5:13-16

The church is to be letting its light shine, as Jesus said, “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” I think we all get that and see why that can be important, but what does that look like in a practical sense. In this sermon, we will be looking at how we can be the lights Jesus is calling us to be.

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Five Minute Focus: A Lesson From Sarah

Trusting God to fulfill what He says He will complete in your life: do you struggle with this, because oftentimes I do. Sarah, Abraham’s wife did also, even to the point where she laughed when God promised her the gift of a child. She didn’t have the capacity to understand the great plan that God had both for her and her unborn son, and was filled with skepticism. How often do we laugh at God’s promises because we doubt His ability to perform even the smallest miracles in our lives? Take five minutes today to put your faith and trust back into the power of the Lord, because He will do exactly what He says He will do. Even though both Sarah and Abraham doubted God, Isaac was born to them and became the father of many nations–just as God promised.

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Five Minute Focus: Heavenly Father

I’m getting my first dose of parenting–well–with being ‘mom’ to three exchange students in their early twenties that stay with me in my house. There isn’t too much of an age difference between us, but as we go through life’s events together, there are moments when I am proud of their accomplishments, where I give them important life advice, and would sincerely sacrifice whatever needed to ensure their safety. In reflecting on my instincts to parent these young women, I have come to realize that these sentiments are exactly what our heavenly Father feels towards us as His children. He rejoices when we turn to Him for His counsel, is proud of us when we accomplish a gain for His kingdom, and has already sacrificed His one and only Son so that we may have an eternal life and relationship with Him. Take five minutes today to focus on God as your heavenly Father who cares and loves you more than you are capable of loving and caring for your own children. In knowing that, how can your relationship with your heavenly Father grow deeper today?

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YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE

Galatians 6:1-10

The focus of this sermon is on another key element in understanding how we can better fulfill Christ’s command to make disciples.

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Five Minute Focus: Looking Towards the Future

On my way to work the other day, I was listening to radio programming about human trafficking. It got me thinking about an article I read last summer about the FBI rescuing over 3600 children from sex trafficking over an 8 week period. I remembered that the majority of those children were not even reported missing. Psalms 127: 3 says that children are a heritage from the Lord—they are the future. It’s my experience that many adults oftentimes avoid relationship building younger generations and then wonder why the world continues to spiral downward deeper into sin. Maybe you think that you aren’t up to date enough to connect with a teen, or perhaps we will take out our cell phones and ignore you. As a 26 year old (to some of you, still technically young 🙂 ), I can assure you that we long to connect with you—we hope that you will share your wisdom and experiences with us. So, I encourage you to take five minutes today and pray for young people all over the world. Pray for the young generations both in and out of our church, and to think about a young person that you can attempt connect with. The bible says we should train up a child in the way he should go, the future of the church depends on us caring for the next generation. For who will continue to share Christ when we are gone?

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Five Minute Focus: Hot Water

Well, my water heater decided to leak and flood my basement over the weekend. The plumber still hasn’t come to fix it, so therefore, I have to turn the water to the house on and off to get what I need in order to avoid making the problem worse. As I explained what was happening to my three exchange students, their eyes became large with fear, "How will we brush our teeth and wash off our make up" one of them exclaimed. Another asked, "How will we take a hot shower?" After laughing a bit at their state of shock, I simply said, we will make it work. And work we have had to do: heating pots of water on the stove in order to do dishes, hauling out tubs full of water from the basement, and driving to my parent’s house for a nice warm shower. Even though we haven’t quite solved the problem, it’s been made obvious to my girls and I how much we take for granted. When we are in our comfort zones, oftentimes we forget or don’t thank God enough for the simple, wonderful things like hot water. Take five minutes today to just focus on thanking God for the blessings He has given you, both big and small.

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Five Minute Focus: Never Underestimate

I didn’t get much sleep last night. I was disappointed, frustrated, and confused over a situation. I didn’t understand, and was wondering what God was up to. A lot of times, when things don’t go our way or how we wanted, we can be quick to be angry at God. However, many times in the bible, God tells us to wait on Him–that our timing is not our own, and that His understanding is beyond ours. I think that if I would have trusted in that last night, I wouldn’t be so tired today. There is a song lyric that says, ‘never underestimate my Jesus.’ Have you underestimated Jesus’ power and ability lately? Take five minutes to place your trust and confidence back in His plan for your life. I definitely will be.

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Five Minute Focus:On Those Final Days

I watched a movie yesterday where the police were called judges and depending on your actions at that moment, delivered your conviction without trial. Most punishments included the loss of life. This movie got me thinking about man as being born into sin and that Jesus has every right to sentence us on the spot to eternity in hell for the things that we have done. However, He has provided a way out by sacrificing His one and only Son on the cross so that we might spend eternity with Him. One day, we will meet the great Judge. Take five minutes today to think about what you want that experience to be like. Is there enough evidence for Him to ‘sentence’ you to heaven saying, “well done, good and faithful servant?’

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“LOVE NEVER FAILS”

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

The church in Corinth was filled with talented people. God had given them a whole array of gifts and abilities and they felt driven to use those gifts and abilities for God. But as you read through First Corinthians you get the impression that they really didn’t like each other that much. They argued over who had the best gifts (12:4), and over who had been baptized by whom (1:10-17), and were even in the habit of suing one another (6:7). They were a church that was religious, talented and purpose driven but they had forgotten how to love. In this sermon, we will examine what is truly needed to be a church that can “turn the world upside down”.

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Five Minute Focus: Happiness vs. Joy

What’s the difference between happiness and joy? According to the world, happiness is gained by stuff, fame, and achievement. Sadly, though, happiness is fleeting. Joy on the other hand, is so much deeper. It’s a rooted satisfaction of knowing that no matter good or bad, the Lord has already won all battles, all struggles. We can bank on that and it’s never going to change. If we wholeheartedly place our trust in God, joy will follow. Today, I challenge you to take five minutes to choose between worldy happiness or the everlasting, ever satisfying joy that comes from knowing and having a deep relationship with our Father.

Psalm 16:11
Psalm 19:8
Psalm 43:4

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Five Minute Focus: How Great is Our God

A great empire, 600,000 Israelites, a mass exodus, rivers of blood, swarms of locusts, great pillars of fire, manna. Have you ever really thought about the account of Moses? Taken it at its face value in truth—not just a children’s story? It is an incredible demonstration of the insurmountable power and greatness of God. In addition to this example, there are countless other instances in the Bible where God reveals His strength and glory. Take five minutes today to think about the wonderful fact that the God of Moses is the same God that we worship today. He is relentless, He cannot be defeated, yet He is love and He cares about each and every one of us on a one-on-one basis. How great is our God!

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Five Minute Focus: Focus

Have you ever gone bowling with a rowdy group of friends who try to distract you right before you throw the ball? They might tease you, or touch the ball–just so that you can pitch it right in the gutter and get a bad score. This is a friendly example, but there are many occasions in our lives when others attempt to throw us off or put us down. They might hurl insults, tell us we are not good enough, maybe you have gotten to the point where you are even telling that to yourself. Isaiah 26:3 says that you will keep in perfect peace, those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You. Take five minutes today to shift your thoughts to the image of Christ, hold his likeness in your mind, focus on Him. Don’t allow others to pull you away from Him, don’t hurt because of others’ harsh words. Remember that Jesus loves you unconditionally, focus on that today and seek His peace.

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LIVING OUT OF THE OVERFLOW

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 

I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that I forgot to turn the recorder on until I was ten minutes or so into the sermon. The good news is that it will download really fast and it won’t take as much of your time to listen to it. This lesson is a continuation of my thoughts on discipleship, this one focusing on what is a disciple maker.

 

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Five Minute Focus: Running Away

Finally, my cat succeeded to squirt between my feet and run out into the freedom of the world beyond the house. All last week she was bound and determined to get out and finally succeeded. In her days being ‘trapped’ inside, she would stare with such longing out the window, wanting to be a part of what was happening in the world beyond the glass. She got a rude awakening. Rain and cold filled her day, traffic roared down the main road, and there were other vicious animals out there. Later on that night, I heard her desperately calling from the back porch. When I opened the door, she rushed in, and curled right up to me, as if she was apologizing for what she had done. Sometimes we get tempted to run away, things seem better on the other side, more adventurous, but my friends, remember that without God, life is a muck and mire of devastation and fear. Take five minutes today to come back to the Lord. Allow Him to care for you and to help get your temptations under control. He loves you and provides for you always. No matter how we sin, He is waiting to receive you back into His arms.

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Five Minute Focus: Yearbook Christians

Remember that golden time during the school year when we each received a fresh-off-the-press yearbook? What was the first thing we would do—flip through all of the pages and find pictures of ourselves, right? Sometimes, we would get to the back cover feeling pretty satisfied that we were represented thoroughly or disappointed by the ugly portrait in our class section. Either way, it was all about us. Sometimes when Christians read the bible or participate in church activities, they come with a yearbook Christian mentality: how can this serve my purpose or be about me? While the Bible offers many areas of comfort and guidance geared to us in different moments in our lives, it is ultimately about illustrating the glory and grace of God, first and foremost. Take five minutes to focus on your relationship with Christ; are you treating it as a ‘what can God do for me’ or ‘what you can get out of it’ type of circumstance? For some insight on the matter, read Luke 9: 23-26. God calls us to get our noses out of the latest yearbook, and deny ourselves daily so that we can pick up our crosses and follow Him.

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Five Minute Focus: Fishers of Men

I really enjoy fishing, even though I haven’t had a chance to go in over a year. I’ve been wanting to for a while, especially when I see everyone else enjoying themselves out in boats on the cranberry marshes. Yearning to go fishing again has made me thinking about how God has called us to be fishers of men. In the boat or on the shore, I do all of these things and have all of these techniques and baits for catching fish. I’m prepared to catch the big one, but how is my tackle box of tools for spreading the word of God to men? Am I as motivated to catch people for Christ as I am that 50 pound catfish in the very depths of the lake? Take five minutes to focus on how God is calling you to be a fisher of men. Are there some empty places in your tackle box that need to be filled, or perhaps you have been doubting your ability to take the chance to talk to others about your faith? Maybe this means spending some more time in bible studies or learning some apologetics, or perhaps finally taking the chance to go out into the lakes of this world and casting Jesus’s net for the first time. Remember…God qualifies the called, He doesn’t call the qualified!

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Five Minute Focus: Sin

I wasn’t paying attention the other day when I was in my garden, and of course, stepped on a huge thistle with my bare foot. Days later, I’m still in pain and trying to locate the clear thorns that have lodged themselves in my foot. I keep thinking to myself, ‘how in the world can something so small cause so much pain and tenderness!?!’ In many ways, sin can be like the thorns in the bottom of our feet. We label it as small and insignificant, perhaps even try to ignore it, but as it is neglected, it can fester and cause great suffering. The only way to get it out is to dig at it, which of course hurts, but in the end you have been released from a vicious cycle of hurt. Perhaps there have been some sins that you have been neglecting or avoiding to address with God, that are either starting to or are inhibiting your life? Take five minutes today to seek God wholeheartedly with the mindset of asking Him to start a forgiveness process. It might be a little raw and sore at first, but God has a plan for your life and doesn’t want to see you walking through it crippled and in pain due to sin.

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Five Minute Focus: Renown of Christ

Do you know what the word renown means? Here are a few synonyms to help you out if you are unsure: celebrity, glory, distinction, eminence. On my drive to work each morning, I listen to the National Public Radio news and other discussions. Even though the news is often heavy and weighs on my heart, I do feel that it’s important to know what is going on in the world. After an hour and a half of listening, I plop into my office chair with one big question running through my mind–how have we all lost ourselves that the world has now come to this? I pray a little bit before starting my computer and I hum a few verses of a song that always manages to touch and re-focus my heart. The lyrics go like this: there is a season for everything, there is a reason for all things here on earth, every second of every moment seems to have its worth, rest assured that life’s not in vain for all things work here for His fame. Time has come to raise our hearts as one and glorify the God of everything, we live our lives for the renown of Christ, oh, we are children of the sovereign King! You see, no matter what happens in this world, we need to get back to living our lives for the renown, or glory or distinction of Christ. Take five minutes to think about restructuring your life around living for the purpose of magnifying God. The lyrics of this song are from MercyMe’s "Time Has Come." Take a short listen to help inspire the change God wants for you in the way you live your life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eygwCydJCwQ

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Five Minute Focus: Choosing to Heal

I’m sure that we can all think of a time in our lives when we have been hurting, weather due to a loss of a loved one, a nasty divorce, denial from a raise at work, or even being ignored by a friend. In the end, it may be something that you can work out or it may completely knock you off your feet and you’re not able to get up again. No matter how painful, Jesus presents us with a choice. 1 Corinthians 10: 13 says that when we are falling, he will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear and more importantly – – he will provide a way out so that we may endure. So, what’s your choice? When we fall, Jesus is there holding his hand out to pull us out of the muck and the mire of hurt, but we need to make the decision to reach out and actually take his hand. When we hurt, it’s tempting to instead turn to other things such as drinking, drugs, or just slipping away into a depression. Take a few minutes today to reach out and grab on to Jesus’s promise that he provides a way to healing and renewal — that He has an amazing plan for your life if you make the choice to walk His narrow path with Him. Sometimes healing is not pretty or fast, but if we allow and accept His love and guidance, there is no place too deep or dark for God to help you out of.

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GROW AS YOU GO

Ephesians 4:11-16

Jesus left His disciples with the command to make disciples who would then make disciples who would then make disciples and on and on it was to go. The presumption then is that these disciple makers are disciples themselves. One of the reasons we may not be turning the world upside down like those early disciples may be in how we answer the question, “What is a disciple?” In this sermon we will begin to look at discipleship by answering that question.

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Five Minute Focus: Forgiveness

How many times are we to forgive someone? The Bible says seventy times seven, or in other words, as many times as it takes. However, it doesn’t mean that we don’t hold the other person accountable when they say "I’m sorry." Oftentimes we are too quick to dismiss others’ apologies with "no problem" or "It’s okay, it’s not a big deal" when how that person acted towards you actually was very hurtful. Jay Adams, in his book concerning nouthetic counseling, notes that it’s important to acknowledge the other person’s apology, to talk about how you felt, and to work together to change so that whatever was hurtful so doesn’t happen again. Take five minutes today to think about what it means to biblically forgive others. Is there someone on your heart that you perhaps need to apologize to or forgive? Are you ready to make the changes necessary to grow from either asking for or giving forgiveness?

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Five Minute Focus: Faith and Deeds

James 2:26 says that as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. What does this mean to Christians in the 21st century? Does it mean that we must earn our way to heaven by solely deeds alone? No, it’s quite the opposite. Jesus calls us to have a relationship with Him first and foremost. When that relationship is healthy, serving God naturally transposes itself into the realm of serving others. Or, in other words, we develop ‘servant hands’. Just as Jesus washed the disciples’ feed out of His love and kindness towards his brothers–so too should we be naturally looking for opportunities to help others as Jesus did. Take five minutes today to reflect on your relationship with Jesus and how He is calling you to serve others. Are you in the process of developing and utilizing your ;servant hands’?

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RESPONDING TO THE SNARKY

About a month ago I heard one of our young people say to someone, “You don’t have to be so snarky.” Having never heard that word used before I asked her what it meant. She said that it meant rude or mean. Ever curious, I looked it up on the internet and sure enough it is a word. Well at least according to the “Urban Dictionary” which states that it is a shortened version for a “snide remark”. Now we have all been in those situations where either we say something snarky or someone else says something snarky to us. Often times are response is to continue the snarkiness which accomplishes nothing but hurt feelings, anger or at the very least an “Oh Yeah? Well I show you!” kind of an attitude.

Recently I witnessed, on a Sunday morning (of all times) in the church building (of all places) a snarky conversation. What I observed in the aftermath of this snarky situation is that it seemed one of the snarkers didn’t even know that he had been snarky while the other snarker took the snarky comment to heart and was offended. It is just a guess on my part but I believe that both parties felt justified in their snarkiness. So I started to wonder if Jesus had anything to say about how we are to respond to the snarky. As I was pondering this, my phone rang (a Holy Spirit thing) and another person called asking for prayers because when he had been confronted with some snarky comments, he responded in anger and frustration and with, yeah you guessed it, snarkiness. His comment to me was that the irony of it was that he had just been reading Luke chapter six when this incident happened, so he said, “I should have known better.” So, I opened my Bible and there it was, Jesus dealing with the snarky. Okay, He didn’t use the word snarky but I think it’s what He meant and if He had that word He would have used it, possibly, maybe, well anyway here’s what He said:

Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you (snarky), and insult you (snarky) and scorn you name as evil (snarky) for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets (be snarky to them).” Luke 6:22-23 (NAS)

Now don’t get me wrong here I am not trying to make light of how you feel when you’ve been snarked (because that, in itself, would be kind of snarky) but Jesus is real clear on what we as followers of Jesus need to do. First, don’t be snarky yourself. Snarky and love shouldn’t even be in the same sentence together unless of course you love to be snarky. If that’s the case, then you might just want to do some serious soul searching. Secondly when you are being snarked don’t respond by being snarky in return but consider yourself blessed, be glad and jump for joy. When we are truly doing things for the “sake of the Son of Man”, Satan will do everything and anything he can to derail your faith. So maybe what we all need to do is consider the amount of snarkiness we are receiving to be in direct proportion to what we are doing in the name of Jesus. So bring it on you snarkers. The snarkier you are the more blessed I am and don’t be surprised when I start leaping for joy.

God loves you and so do I, Dana

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Five Minute Focus: Who’s On First?

I really love the game of softball–I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s because I get to spend time playing with a group of people that I enjoy being around. I usually sign up for the church league softball team every summer, but this year I’m taking a break for a while. While cleaning in my house, I found the new glove I bought last year and I started thinking about last season. While there were many good times to be shared, there were moments when my team or another team became frustrated, angry, or even prideful in the game. I recall one friend telling me that his team was in danger of being expelled from the league almost every year due to poor sportsmanship. In the broader scope of things, when we let the events of a game or any emotional situation overrule how God has commanded us to act towards others–we need to take a step back and determine who is really first in our lives. Is it us and our emotions or God? Take five minutes today to think about areas in your life where you are allowing your emotions to overrule your relationship with Christ and your decision making process. Many of these areas surpass the competitive nature of a ball game, for example, rage when another driver cuts you off on the highway, a long-held grudge against another person, or disappointment in a failed expectation. No matter the emotion–remember that God is greater than what you are feeling and wants to help you overcome it.

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A “DAY BY DAY” DEVOTION

Acts 2:36-47

It is easy to fall into the habit of just “doing church” – attend services, give some money, volunteer some time. We can become so programmed, that we totally lose sight of the meaning behind what it means to be the church. In this sermon, we will be looking at the characteristics of the early church. It is my prayer that if we can better emulate them than we too can start “turning the world upside down”.

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Five Minute Focus: Learning from Man’s Best Friend

Whenever I come home from a long day of work, I look to one of the windows in my house and see an excited, smiling face peering out at me. My dog, Mattie, is always there waiting in great anticipation for my return. Once I am home, she never leaves my side and is always looking to please or gain affection. In thinking about Mattie’s mannerisms, we can reflect on our relationship with Christ. Are we excitedly anticipating His return? Are we constantly longing for His presence, seeking His love for us? Whenever I leave for work in the morning, or even go out to the mailbox, Mattie becomes overwhelming sad to be separated from her care taker. Her eyes become downcast and her little ears droop, as she wants nothing to do with being apart from me. Mattie’s devotion to me makes me love and appreciate her as my furry companion. Jesus calls for this same love, longing, attachment, and commitment from us, as His followers. Take five minutes today to focus on your devotion to Christ. Does your heart long for Him?

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Five Minute Focus: Remain Teachable

I was reading an article recently that was geared towards twenty-somethings and one piece of advice that it gave was to remain teachable. It suggested finding a mentor, such as a pastor, teacher, or someone in your life that will walk alongside you during your journey with Jesus. Part of remaining teachable is finding someone who will hold us accountable. Jesus calls us to confess our sins to one another so that we may live in peace. Staying connected with those who are spiritually strong and wise with the Lord will help all of us to remain open to the lessons God has for us. However, if we close our ears and harden our hearts in pride, we will miss out on the many blessings Jesus has in store. Take five minutes today to think about choosing a mentor to connect with and how you can embrace being a more teachable person.

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Five Minute Focus: By Faith

Hebrews 11 defines faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Confidence and assurance are strong words that demonstrate a relationship of absolute trust in our Lord. Hebrews 11 continues on to outline many acts that were completed only by great faith: Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac, the walls of Jericho crumbling, Moses passing through the Red Sea. Without possessing great faith Moses, Joshua, and Abraham would not have received Jesus’s victory. Keeping these men in mind, let me ask you: what does your faith in Jesus look like today? Are you confident in knowing that He has a plan for your life? Do you have the assurance in His promise that allows you to follow that plan? Or are you doubting, afraid of what the future holds, nervous to let God in every corner of your life? Take five minutes today to think about faith, can you find the confidence and assurance that Jesus longs for you to have in Him? Read Hebrews 11 to find out what happens when we have complete faith in our Lord.

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Five Minute Focus: Early Morning Sunrise

Recently, I’ve had to learn to wake up at around 5 a.m. during weekdays. It’s definitely not my choice, but I slog out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and head outside for morning chores. On a rare occasion, I have a bit of time to sit on the back porch. From my vantage point, I watch the sun poke out from the trees and listen to all the birds singing their morning anthems. I look at all that surrounds me and think to myself–surely God is alive! Romans 1:20 says, for since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, even in our backyards, we can see the power, glory and evidence of God. Perhaps lately your life has been too busy or too painful that you cannot see Jesus’s strength and love for you in your surroundings. The thought is simple today. Take five minutes to look for God around you. Maybe you will find Him in a child’s laugh, the warmth of the sun’s rays on your face, in the beauty of the stars on a clear night, or perhaps on a chilly 5 a.m. summer morning.

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Five Minute Focus: Giving Motives

I just finished reading the story of Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi, and there are many great concepts in their story for us to think about. Ruth always seems to get the most attention out of all involved, but today I want to focus on Boaz’s heart. Boaz was a man of means and had much wealth–especially in his fields. He was a hands-on sort of man, not sitting in an office directing his affairs from afar. When Boaz was in his field, he saw Ruth, even though she was family, he extended assistance to her. There were no questions asked and Boaz didn’t seek glorification for his actions. He even told his work man to throw extra barley pieces on the ground just to make sure that she would have enough. Many times we can get so caught up in making money or being successful, that we forget that God has bestowed these great gifts upon us–not so that we can keep them to ourselves, but to give to others. Boaz wasn’t looking to gain anything or benefit in any way when he helped Ruth. So, let me ask you two questions today: how are you using what God has given you to help others and are your motives for giving aligned with Christ or the world? Take five minutes to reflect on your ‘giving life,’ does it look like Boaz’s?

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TURNING THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN TOO

1 Timothy 6:11-16

This sermon is a continuation of last week’s sermon. In that sermon, I expressed my concern about the modern church not only not turning the “world upside down” but is itself being “turned upside down” by the world it’s supposed to change. With this lesson, we will begin a look at what the first century church was doing that we are not doing today.

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“TURNING THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN”

In Luke 24:44-49, we have Luke’s account of the great commission. It is where Jesus tells His followers to go out and win the lost world to Him. And as we know they took that commission very seriously. Starting with the day of Pentecost, they began to have a tremendous impact on the world. As it states in Acts 17:6, even the church’s enemies had to admit that they “had turned the world upside down.”

The modern church is not only not turning the world upside down, but is itself being turned upside down by the world it’s supposed to change. So why is this happening? What is it they had in the first century church that seems to be missing in the 21st century church? In this sermon, we will begin to look at some of the reasons why.  

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“WHY DO YOU LOOK FOR THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD?”

Let’s face it. We are all looking for something but the great tragedy is that it is often right in front of us and we just can’t see it. In this sermon from Luke 24:1-43, we will notice some things that just might help us to see and find what we are looking for.

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“WHEN DARKNESS REIGNS”

Every day, I was with you in the temple courts, and did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour – when darkness reigns.” Luke 22:53 (NIV) That darkness that Jesus speaks of did reign and would until He had accomplished what needed to be done for the salvation of mankind, when light would reign. As Jesus makes His way to the cross, He will see the faces of those who will dwell in the darkness, but others who will begin their journey into the light. Many today continue to allow darkness to reign in their lives instead of the light of Christ. In this sermon, we will see what Jesus sees; those who choose the darkness over the light but also those who will begin to see the light that Jesus came to bring.

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“FATHER, IF YOU ARE WILLING”

Luke 22:39-46

Prayer is one of the most powerful tools we Christians have and prayer can give us the power to change the circumstances of our lives. I believe that, I’ve seen that and I know that it is true. But I also know that there are going to be times when prayer will not change what’s about to happen. In this sermon, we will look at Jesus’ prayer where He asks for something that He already knows His Father’s answer will be no.

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“THE TIME WILL COME”

Luke 21

In this sermon, we will be looking into a very scary story that has been made into good fiction over and over again. Matthew 24 and Luke 21 are two of the most debated passages of scripture. Everyone wants to know when “these things” that Jesus is describing are going to happen.

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CALLING YOUR OWN PLAYS

 

God has paid us the ultimate compliment. He allows us to make our own decisions, to call our own plays. He trains us, He advises us, He encourages us, He has even given us the play book and the ability to understand, to reason and to choose. However, there are times when we are faced with challenges, controversies and misconceptions that can keep us from calling the right play. In this sermon, we will learn from Jesus how to call the right play when faced with these challenges, controversies and misconceptions.

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THE EYES OF JESUS

Luke 19:41-44

In chapter 19 of Luke’s Gospel, as Jesus moves steadily toward Jerusalem and the cross, we are given some insight into how Jesus sees things. In this sermon, I talk about what Jesus sees and how we too can have “The Eyes of Jesus”.

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ALL THINGS POSSIBLE IN PRAYER

One of the many gifts that Christ has given us through His sacrifice was direct access to the Father through prayer. I don’t know about you but I didn’t grow up as a praying person. Oh sure there was the “Lord’s prayer” that I had memorized and there were the standard prayers that were said at meal times and at bed time. But the idea of actually having a conversation with God through prayer was not something that had ever crossed my mind or I was even aware of until after obeying the gospel. In this sermon from Luke 18:1-17, we will look at two parables from Jesus where He gives us some much needed insight on prayer.

 

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“ALL THINGS POSSIBLE”

Luke 18:18-34

It seems sometimes that what Christ is asking us to do the impossible. The goal of this sermon was to help us all see that “All Things are Possible”.

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“INCREASE OUR FAITH”

In Luke 17:10, Jesus tells His disciples that if they do the things they are commanded to do that they are to say, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.” (KJV) I don’t know about you, but I find this verse very troubling because there are plenty of times throughout the Bible where we are told what we should do and if we don’t we’ll be in trouble. So, what is Jesus getting at here? Since I want to be a profitable servant to God and I would think that would be something all disciples of Christ would want, in this sermon, I endeavor to understand what it is Jesus is telling us to do.

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AN UNDENIABLE TRUTH

In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The picture that is painted for us depicts a scene of the afterlife that many find difficult to accept. Many would like to believe that hell doesn’t exist and that everyone will go to heaven. But Jesus makes it abundantly clear that there is indeed a hell. That aside, what troubled me more was what I learned after asking myself this question, “What did this guy do to get himself sent to hell?” In this sermon, I shared what I learned. This sermon also comes with a warning that there may be elements of this sermon that may make you extremely uncomfortable.

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SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?

Luke 15:11-32

In Luke fifteen, Jesus’ response to the mutterings of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law is to tell three parables about lost things being found. Their accusation is that Jesus hangs out with and eats with sinners.  With that in mind this sermon focuses on the parable of the lost son and the choices we all make in life.   

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THE COST OF THE CROSS

Luke 14:25-35

 

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“GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER?”

Luke 13:22-31

In verse 23 of Luke 13, someone in the crowd following Jesus asks Him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” And as is typical with Jesus, instead of given a direct answer to a direct question He goes on to talk about “narrow doors”, “eating and drinking” and about a “feast in the kingdom of God.” The upside or downside, depending on where you’re sitting, is that He makes it clear that although everyone has been invited to and is welcome at the table of the Lord not everyone will be part of the “great banquet” in the end.

Note: There is a video at the end of this sermon. Although you will be able to hear the video, I would encourage you to go to youtube and watch the video titled “Used Mightily”.

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THE FEAR FACTOR

Luke 12:1-34

As we have been going through Luke’s gospel, we have seen that from the moment Jesus called individuals to follow Him, He took advantage of every opportunity available to prepare His disciples for the job ahead. Through those lessons, He has stressed that to be a follower of His one must have complete faith and trust that God will provide, complete commitment, complete attention to what Jesus is saying and a complete understanding. In the first thirty-four verses of chapter 12, Jesus gives His disciples another tool in helping them prepare for what is ahead.  How to overcome the fear factor.  

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“YOU JUST MIGHT BE A CHRISTIAN”

Luke 11:37-54

In Luke 11:37-54, we find Jesus holding the religious leaders’ feet to the fire so to speak. He exposes the kind of men they really are, which is in stark contrast to what they believe themselves to be. In doing so, I believe that He teaches us two valuable lessons. The first is how not to be like these religious leaders, and the second is the character traits of someone who might just be a Christian.

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“GO AND DO THE SAME”

Luke 10:25-37

My wife had asked our 11 year old grandson Mason to make her a bookmark.  On that bookmark he had drawn a man straddling a chasm.  On one side of the chasm was Satan and all things dark.  On the other side was an angel and all things light.  The man had a look of anguish on his face because he was caught over this chasm of indecision being pulled from both sides.  The caption said, “I shouldn’t have to decide.”  When Linda asked him what it meant he said, “A true Christian doesn’t have to decide because he already knows what to do.”  Too many of us are standing over that chasm of indecision and in this sermon we will examine what it is that may be keeping us from making the right choice.  

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WHEN WE GROW UP

Luke 9:57-62

I believe that many people want to follow Jesus but their perception of what that means may not be what Jesus expects from His followers.  From this passage in Luke, we are introduced to three individuals who want to follow Jesus, but their perception of what that means is evidently not the same as Jesus’ definition.   

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TAG! YOU’RE IT!

Luke 8:4-18 

In this sermon from Luke chapter 8, we will be looking at two parables from Jesus.  The first is the parable of the soils where He tells us the way His message will be received by others.  In the second parable of the lamp He tells us how the message will be spread and by whom and guess what? “You’re it!”  

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“DO YOU SEE THIS WOMAN?”

Luke 7:36-50

Too often in life we make judgments based on what we see on the outside without looking to see what’s underneath.  Simon the pharisee would look at a woman and only see someone who is a sinner and therefore someone who was beneath him. Jesus looks at the same woman and sees past what she is and what she has been, seeing what she can be.  

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“DO GOOD TO THOSE WHO HATE YOU?”

Luke 6:27-36

Of all the things Jesus has commanded us to do, loving our enemies is perhaps the most difficult.  In this lesson, we explore the how and the why of loving our enemies, doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us and praying for those who mistreat us.  

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“JESUS, FRIEND OF SINNERS”

Luke 5:27-35

Here’s a question for you.  What criteria would you use to decide who you’re going to hang with?  When we look at Jesus as He begins His ministry, we might question His choices.  Not only does He preach His message to sinners but He chooses to hang out with them as well.  

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The Metamorphosis of the Cross – By Al Cornell

Many people had seen victims spiked to crosses. If they hadn’t personally witnessed the horrific torture of crucifixion, they still felt its imminent presence in their society. Though crucifixion had occurred for a few centuries, Rome had brought it to the forefront as the common means of crushing rebellions and of executing odious slaves and foreign criminals. Citizens were exempt. The stigma of the cross was etched in the minds of the people.

The cross symbolized death. The cross was repulsive, disgusting, and vile. Victims suffered from impaling spikes, from shallow breathing and attempts to rise up for a deep breath, and from dehydration. They wasted away, spiked to timbers that displayed their drying blood. There were flies and hot days and cold nights and shame. The only consolation for most people stemmed from knowing that those so executed had been judged worthy of death.

Within that setting, the apostles, who had recently endorsed the concept that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God, heard him say, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matthew 20:18, 19). No wonder the glorious image of Messiah and the heinous image of crucifixion could not merge in their minds. By human reasoning you could not have both. And so, they wondered what he meant by that statement.

However, those contrasting images did merge. By the grace of God, the Lamb of God was sacrificed in that excruciating and shameful manner. By way of the cross, the holy and just God provided the sufficient sacrifice to make removal of sin a possibility.

The cross that symbolized death transformed into a glorious symbol of life. Rugged, bloody timbers have been replaced by molded, carved, and painted images that form jewelry, set atop communion trays, and are displayed on pulpits and tombstones.

Such an unexpected and dramatic change came to earth from heaven. In various cultures, people still attempt to reach up to God with insufficient sacrifices that can never atone for the sin problem. The only solution was handed down by the love of God.

At the right time, God accomplished the greatest metamorphosis of a symbol that could ever occur. But don’t let the beauty obscure the brutality. Don’t let the gild cover the gall. Don’t let the varnish vail the vile. Never forget what stands behind that symbol of salvation and makes it the glorious cross.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

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Welcome back to Facebook Tomah Church of Christ!!

Hello everyone, this is the webmaster here.

I appreciate the opportunity to serve my church community by being able to tinker with our website and Facebook pages.  I am not a master programmer but am usually someone that can get the job done, especially after a few cups of coffee and a few prayers.  Setting up a basic webpage is relatively easy, but can get complicated when you want to change or add features that are not built in to the webpage building software.  🙂

I recently noticed that our posts were not being posted to our church Facebook page.  There was a new way that the software we use to post blogs links up between my admin roles on our Facebook and  our website, and as I am pretty diligent at keeping my passwords and Facebook settings secure, I changed some of my local settings and that caused the feature to disable the way it links up.  I found that the reason, I still saw posts being shared was because Dana and a few others had been sharing the posts from the webpage directly to their personal Facebook pages, so I never caught it until now.

This may seem Greek as to how this all works, and believe me, sometimes it is, but I was able to notice and figure this out, and I assure will keep a closer eye on this.

To make up for this, I am going to have 10 day catchup.  1 Day for each of the 10 sermons that did not migrate over to our Facebook automatically.  I am going to start posting these sermons starting on the evening of 14th of January and only post them during the week.  I will make the first comment in them “The Missing Sermons”, and then the date they wee originally posted.  I am hoping to get Dana’s sermons out there for the world to see and hear!

I am blessed to seve you.

Thank you!!

Jeremy Bork

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“BEEN THERE, DONE THAT!”

Sometimes it seems the troubles and temptations of life are too overwhelming to overcome but the good news is that they can.  The Hebrew writer told us that “we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)  And our response to that is well of course He’s God, we’re not, so easy for Him hard for us.  But the thing we need to remember is that Jesus was not only God but man.  It may be difficult for us to grasp the concept but we need to let Jesus be as human as He intended to be and learn from Him on how to get through our times of troubles and temptation.  

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“A VOICE OF ONE CALLING IN THE WILDERNESS”

Luke 3:1-14

At some point in everyone’s life, they wonder, “what is my legacy?”, “how will I be remembered?” 0r “what is my purpose in life?”  If there was ever anyone who had a clear picture to the answers to those questions, it was John the son of Zechariah.  So as we take a look at the life of John, we just might find answers to our questions and know what are part is to be in God’s story.  

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LIVING IN PRAYERFUL EXPECTATION

Luke 2:21-35

One of the amazing things about God’s story is how He continually uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.  Some of the people we meet in God’s story we are familiar with because they stand out.  People like John the baptist, and the apostles and later on Paul, but the truth is God’s story is full of people that we tend to pass over and not think too much about.  For example, people like Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth and now in Luke’s gospel he introduces us to another ordinary person by the name of Simeon.  Simeon’s part in God’s story is in showing us what it means to really trust God so completely  that you can live in prayerful expectation.   

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ORDINARY PEOPLE

As the Gospel of Luke begins, he  will tell us the story about how God is about to change the face of history.  Not through the rich and powerful, but through ordinary people.  These are the poor, the oppressed, the nobodies, the invisible people of the world.  People going about their daily routines, doing the best they can to get through life.  But God will use these ordinary people to do extraordinary things.  

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GETTING OUR HOUSE IN ORDER

As the book of Revelation begins we are given insight as to what Christ is looking for in His church.  We are shown what is right but also what is lacking and what congregations need to do in getting our house in order.  

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PASSING THE TORCH

2 Timothy 4:1-8 

Death is an inevitability.  No one gets out of this alive,.  Some will see it coming and some won’t, but it will happen.  This isn’t something that we like to think about or talk about.  We would rather not deal with it right now, there will always be time, we think, but the truth is none of us know the date or the time.  The apostle Paul is sitting in a Roman prison with the knowledge that he will soon die.  In his second letter to Timothy, he reflects on his journey with Christ but also looks forward to what would happen after he is gone.  

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“CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG”

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

I once read an editorial that stated that there are 34,000 different identifiable groups calling themselves Christians.  I don’t know how he came up with that number but I do know that we Christians all have beliefs, practices and traditions that divide us even within denominational groups. This isn’t a new problem as this divisiveness was evident in the church almost from the beginning.  In Paul’s letter to the church that was in Corinth, he points out this problem of divisiveness and gives them the solution to this disunity by reminding them of the basis for their unity.   

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CHANGED PEOPLE CHANGING PEOPLE

Acts 2:36-47

Warning! This sermon is about change and if change is something you have been avoiding and are happy with the status quo then you will not want to listen to this sermon. At the end of the sermon I showed a video about a young man who exhibits how a changed person thinks and acts, demonstrating what it means to show Christ in your life. You can see the video on youtube.com and typing in “On the road teen repays father’s debt”

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AFTER WORDS

John 20:19-31

In the disciples minds, Jesus was dead and buried and all of their hopes, and plans died with Him.  They were gathered together, full of fear, worrying themselves sick about what they didn’t know and believing that death was the final end.  Even though Jesus had told them over and over again that what was happening was going to happen and that He would be resurrected, they just couldn’t see it.  There lives were thrown into chaos and peace was the last thing on their minds.  We understand this kind of feeling because we have all experienced those times in life when all our hopes, and dreams, and plans are changed because of some unforeseeable event like death, disease, loss of a job, a relationship ending, and the list goes on.  But as Jesus will tell them is His “after words” there is hope, there is a plan, there is a future and there is peace.   

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LAST WORDS

As Jesus hangs from the cross He surveys the crowd.  He sees those He loves and those who love Him.  He also sees the carnival like atmosphere with those mocking Him, passersby gawk as they travel in and out of the city with busy preparations for Passover.  As Jesus takes it all in, He struggles for the breath to speak His last words…

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“WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?”

Luke 9:18-27

I began this sermon by showing a Youtube video.  Whether you listen to my sermon or not I encourage you to watch this video.  You can access it by going to Youtube and searching for “The Real Jesus (dvd) – Who is Jesus?”  In this video you will hear various people’s belief as to who they think Jesus is and the video ends with the question, “What do you think?”  I believe it is an important question because what you think about Jesus will affect who you are now and where you will be later.  

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“THE SECRETS OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN”

Matthew 13:3-17

“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” was the message preached by John the baptist, Jesus and those that Jesus would send out.  So it would seem that knowing what the kingdom of heaven is would be kind of a big deal.  As a matter of fact, whether Jesus was teaching using parables or straight ahead preaching as He did in the sermon on the mount, He is teaching about the kingdom of heaven.  So in this sermon, we explore “The Secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven.”  

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“THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX”

John 4:7-26

In Jesus’ day, religion had become so mired in rules and tradition that people had lost focus as what God really wanted for His people.  Everyone had put themselves into a box of their own making or of one that others had convinced them was the right box to be in.  The truth is that there is only one box that God wants us to be in and that’s His universe sized box.  So, as Jesus begins His teaching ministry, He helps those he comes into contact with to see things from a new perspective which will help them to start thinking outside the box they find themselves in.  Note: At the end of the sermon, I will reference a video.  I recommend that you take the time and watch it.  You can find it by going to Youtube and then typing in:  This is discipling – This is church.

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“YOU GIVE THEM BOOKS AND THEY EAT THE PAGES”

Throughout God’s story, He has been doing everything He can to teach His people on how to be in a right relationship with Him as well as with each other. But as we have seen throughout The Story, no matter how many lessons are taught, the majority don’t seem to get it. I am reminded of the old saying, “You give them books and they eat the pages.” Although we have seen many examples of those who did understand and were in a right relationship with God, many others chose to reject God’s instruction through His Word and continued to do their own thing.

As we move forward in God’s story, God takes the next step by sending His Son from the upper story into the lower story to show His people how being in a right relationship with Him is supposed to work. As John makes clear in his gospel, when he states that, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” And then in verse 14, he tells us that “The Word became flesh…”. In the rest of those first 18 verses, he tells us why God, the Son, came down from the upper story to be with His people in the lower story. He is our light in the darkness, our way to become “children of God”, the source of truth and grace and the “One and Only” who has shown us God. But as John also tells us, although the light shines in the darkness, “the darkness has not understood it”. Even though God came and dwelt in the world, “the world did not recognize Him”. He had shown them how to become “children of God” through belief in Him but many chose to not believe and reject the source of “truth and grace”.

The problem has been and will always be that most will not make the effort to be part of God’s story and will instead chose to write their own story. God has made it clear from the very beginning that it is His story and we can either chose to be part of it or continue to reject it. Most have a Bible but instead of reading it have chosen either to rely on someone else to tell them what it says or they just don’t care what it has to say to them. The Word, Jesus, came to give those who will believe in His name, “the right to become children of God”.  If you are unsure as to whether or not you are a part of His family, all you have to do is to see and hear what He has to say to you through His Word. As the apostle Paul would right to his letter to the Romans,  “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes… (Romans 1:16) and “faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

 

 

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“A TREASURED POSSESSION”

Malachi 3:13-18

Throughout God’s story, He has been seeking to bring His people back into an intimate relationship with Him.  In the book of Malachi, we are shown what it will take to be in a good relationship with God.  And I also believe that these are essential elements for successful personal relationships as well.  

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WHO ME?

Esther 4:1-17 

One to the unique things about the book of Esther is that God is never mentioned, no one prays, no miracles happen and the book is never mentioned anywhere else in the Bible.  But through Esther’s story we see God in His “upper story” accomplishing His perfect work through people in the “lower story”.  In the end, the saving of the Jews is about the providence of God and His ability to accomplish His will through those who are willing to hear the call, step up and DO SOMETHING.  

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“CONSIDER YOUR WAYS”

Haggai 1:1-7

To do God’s will and His work in spite of opposition, fear, struggles and distractions is an act of faith.  And without faith it is impossible to please God.  As the Israelites returned to Jerusalem after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, their number one priority was to rebuild the temple and in doing so reestablish their relationship with God.  But in the face of opposition they made God’s number one priority their number two.  In this lesson, we will look at the importance of making God’s number one our number one.  

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“LIVING AS ALIENS”

One of the greatest challenges of being a kingdom person is remembering that you are always part of God’s kingdom even as you are living as aliens in the world.  In chapter 18 of The Story we meet four young men, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who exemplify how someone can be an alien in a foreign land but still remain faithful to God.  

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I WANT TO QUIT, BUT I CAN’T

There is nothing more frustrating than when you are talking to someone and it is obvious they couldn’t care less as to what you have to say.  When God called Jeremiah to be His spokesperson, He made it clear to him that no one was going to listen.  As is evidenced in Jeremiah 20:7-18, his frustration had reached a point that he wishes he had never been born.  He wants to quit but he can’t because the word of God burns inside him and he is compelled to let it out.  

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BONUS DAYS


Four weeks ago my day started out like any other day with things to do, places to go, and people to see. Everything going as it always does. It was a beautiful day so I decided to take the motorcycle into Tomah for Wednesday night Bible study. It was a good study and a good night of fellowship. Everything was as it should be, life as usual.

Life as usual ended when I hit a deer with my motorcycle on the ride home. As I go through the healing process, I look forward to the time when things will be “normal” again but more than just the usual.  As I look back on this accident, I see everything that has happened to be nothing short of miraculous. I had lots of bruises, road rash, three broken ribs and a collapsed lung but I am not dead. Not only am I still alive but I am completely ambulatory and did not suffer any brain damage or any of the other things that could and maybe should have happened. Every day since the accident I now count as a “bonus day”.

We never know how many days we have left and tend to live each day as if there were some guarantee that there will be another one. Well, there is no guarantee. What we do today may be the last thing we do in this life. All the things we want to do or know we should do will never get done because we believe there will be time to do it.

As a disciple of Christ, I need to be living every day as a “bonus day”. Giving each and every day to the Lord. Seeking to grow in my relationship with Him as I share the good news with those around me. Letting His light of love, grace, mercy and hope shine in and through me.  A day when I am doing those things that my Lord has called me to do and will bring glory to Him. 

The Lord bless you and keep you;

The Lord make His face to shine upon

you and be gracious to you;

the Lord lift up His countenance

upon you and give you peace.”

God loves you and so do I, Dana

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“CREATE IN ME A CLEAN HEART”

Psalm 51:1-13

In this next chapter of The Story, we find King David, the “man after God’s own heart” making some really bad choices.  His journey down this road away from God is a familiar one that starts with a desire to do something you know is wrong, convincing yourself it will be okay, doing it and then rationalizing to yourself that you were justified in your actions.  In David’s case, he was confronted with and was convicted of his sin.  David then begins his road to recovery from sin.  This sermon is not about sin (we already know what that is) but about how one can recover from sin.  

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WAITING ON THE LORD

Psalm 37:1-9

We have become an impatient people.  We want what we want when we want it!  We live in a world with a fast food mentality even in our relationship with God.  We would like a drive through window where we could drive up to the first window place our order and then drive up to the next window and get it. In this sermon from chapter 11 of The Story, through David’s example, we learn what it means to wait.  

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“HERE I AM”

A key factor in having and being in a good and successful relationship is good communication.  In chapter ten of The Story, we are introduced to some new characters, some listen, some don’t and one in particular demonstrates some selective hearing.  In this sermon, we will examine how our hearing or lack of it impacts our relationships with one another and with God.

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A Sliver of Light

The Book of Ruth

This sermon from the book of Ruth is to help those who have, at times in their lives felt lost, alone without a ray of hope.  

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“THEY FORGOT THE LORD THEIR GOD”

Have you ever felt lost, alone or abandoned and wondered why?  In this sermon from chapter eight of The Story, we see through the lives of the people, in the book of Judges, the source for this feeling and the prescription for the cure.   

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Tumblin’ Down Walls

As I was reading the account of the taking of Jericho in chapter seven of The Story, my first thought was, I wonder what these people were thinking. Let’s face it, quietly marching around a city once a day for six days and then on the seventh day marching around but this time making a lot of noise, does not sound like a good tactical plan for conquering a city. Of course we know that it was a good plan because it did work. The “walls came a tumblin’ down” and they took the city. And as we all learned in Sunday school the reason it worked was because it was God’s plan and His victory. But, I still wonder what all of those folks were thinking.

Among the Israelites, I would image some of their thoughts would have been, “Really? This is how we’re going to take control of the promised land? Marching and being quiet? This is the plan? You know Joshua is getting kind of old maybe he didn’t hear God correctly or maybe he is just hearing little voices that he thinks are God’s. Oh well, I’ll keep doing it because everybody else is but I sure hope somebody comes up with a plan better than this one.”

The people inside the walls of Jericho must have been watching all of this, shaking their heads and thinking, “Wow, these people are really weird. These are the ones we’ve been afraid of? Maybe there just trying to bore us to death.” 

Too often in our walk with God, all that we are doing is marching along quietly, going through the motions, not sure why we are doing the things we are doing, but we keep marching along because that’s what everybody else is doing. Those that are not marching along with us look on and think, “Wow those people are really weird. What are they trying to do, bore us to death?”

If all we are doing is marching along, waiting for something to happen, then I don’t think we should be surprised when nothing does. We need to remember that God has a plan and when we follow His plan and trust in His power to win the battles of life, we can be assured of victory.

The world is filled with people who have constructed walls of their own making. People who have fortified themselves against the word of God trusting in their own understanding or relying on others to feed them what they need to know. There are also those use the word of God to put up walls that keep others out. Those walls need to come down. As disciples of Christ, we need to follow God’s lead and trust in His power, knowing that when we do the walls will “come a tumblin’ down.” It is only when those walls come down that true victory can be won.

God loves you and so do I, Dana 

 

 

 

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CROSSROADS

Deuteronomy 30:11-20

In the journey of life, we are always coming to crossroads.  Each time we make a choice, there are consequences.  Some, as we look back, were awesome, bringing us to a place we never knew existed.  Other times, the choice we made left us filled with regret, swearing to never go down that road again.  Sometimes we learn and sometimes we don’t.  

In this sermon from chapter six of The Story, we find the Israelites on their journey to the promised land.  This should have been an easy trip.  They had God to guide them, protect them and take care of them, but at each crossroad they chose a direction other than God’s.  

 

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THE GOOD OLD DAYS

No less than six times, in chapter 6 of The Story, the people longed for the “good old days”. It is always interesting to see how we cling to the familiar and comfortable no matter how damaging and unhealthy it may be. We tend to look back on our lives with a filter, subtracting the negative and only remembering the positive. And yes, I understand that we are supposed to forgive and forget and not dwell on past problems and troubles, but in the same token we shouldn’t make it into something that it wasn’t.

In the case of the Israelites, they were constantly whining about something, not seeing the blessings right in front of them but instead yearning for the “good old days”. Which if they were honest with themselves weren’t good at all. They had been slaves, crying out to God to be set free from their suffering. God heard them, “came down to rescue them”, delivered them, was with them, protected them, provided for them and was leading them to the promised land. They had everything going for them but still complained, looking back on their oppression as the “good old days.” So the question we need to ask ourselves is why?

I think that the problem is a fear of change. When we start going in a direction that is different than what we are used to and comfortable with it scares us. Even though we know in our hearts that there needs to be change we still cling to the familiar. People hang on to beliefs or organizations or whatever, not because it’s right but because it’s what they are used to. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. I am not advocating change for the sake of change, but sometimes we need to let go of old traditions and habits and beliefs for new ones that are more in line with the will of God.

When I have looked back on the “good old days”, I do so with regret because I relied on what I was being fed about the will of God rather than seeking His will through His word. Even as I began to see that I needed to change I resisted seeking familiarity rather than change. I thank my God for His patience as He waited for me to start looking forward instead of hanging on to the “good old days”. As disciples of Christ, we are to be forward looking people. Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) God is still leading His people to the promised land. The choice we all need to make is are we ready to follow or are we going to stay where we are hanging on to the “good old days”?

 

 

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When We say, “I Do”

 

Two people meet; there is an attraction; that attraction moves them to want to get to know that person better. As they get to know one another, their feelings and desires grow to the point that they can’t imagine their life without this other person. A proposal is made an accepted. A date is set and the planning begins. The day finally comes, friends and family gather, vows and promises are made and witnessed and they live happily ever after. Well, at least we’d like to think so, but the truth is that their relationship will most likely be filled with ups and downs and some of those vows and promises that they made will be broken. For some love will overcome but for others it may mean the end of the relationship.

When I have counseled couples who are about to get married, I try to impress on them that the vows and promises they will be making are the most important part of the ceremony. They are the foundation for a long and lasting relationship. Unfortunately, they are so focused on getting everything else “just right” that when they get to the point of saying “I do” it is just something that they say as a part of the ceremony. We focus on the place, the time, who to invite, where they will sit, the cake, the dress, the size of the diamond, the party afterward and the list goes on and on and on. But when the relationship dies, no one is going to care about dresses, or rings or cakes or any of those other things that seemed so important at the time. Instead they’ll sit in bewilderment wondering what went wrong.

God’s relationship with the nation of Israel was the same way. He had “come down to rescue them” (Exodus 3:8), delivering them from a life of slavery, promising to care for them, showing them through the Ten Commandments what it will take to be in a successful relationship. He promised to be faithful to those who would pledge their faithfulness to Him and when asked if they would they said, “Everything that the Lord has said we will do.” The problem is that they didn’t. Almost from the beginning they failed to keep their side of the agreement. Maybe they were caught up in the ceremony and it seemed like the right thing to say or their intentions were good but lacked the commitment to follow through.

Too often religion is more about the ceremony and getting everything “just right” when what it should be about is the relationship that God has desired to have with us since creation. God is looking for those who will love Him with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their strength. The same way that He loves you.

God loves you and so do I, Dana

 

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“HEAR, O ISRAEL”

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 

In the Ten Commandments, God is giving the Israelites something more than some random rules to follow.  In essence God is saying to them and subsequently to all who will choose to enter into His story from this point forward, “If you want to live with Me, there are some things you need to understand about relationships.”  So, God is giving guidelines as to  how we are to treat Him and how we are to treat others living down here in the lower story.  

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UNDERESTIMATING GOD

I have come to believe that the biggest problem that keeps us from getting out of the lower story and into God’s upper story has been that we (mankind) underestimate God.  Starting at the very beginning with Adam and Eve and with every one we’ve met so far in The Story and it will continue to be a problem in chapter four of The Story.

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THE NEXT RIGHT THING

 

Have you ever suffered for doing the right thing? Or maybe you just felt that life was unfair. In chapter three of The Story, Joseph was sold into slavery because his brothers hated him for being their father’s favorite son. That wasn’t fair. Then later he is unjustly imprisoned for doing the right thing, knowing that if he would have given in to Potiphar’s wife that it would have been a wicked thing to do to his boss and a sin against God, and that certainly doesn’t sound very fair.  

Down here in the lower story things can be and are unfair. Not everything we do is going to be well received or appreciated even if we are doing the right thing. Sometimes it is because we are doing the right thing that we are treated unfairly. The thing is that we still need to be doing the next right thing. Joseph understood something that we often forget in times of trouble, God was always with him. When sold into slavery by his brothers we are told that “The Lord was with Joseph” (Genesis 39:2) and later when he was put into prison it says, “The Lord was with him” (Genesis 39:21). 

I believe another important thing to remember is that Joseph was always with God. He could have been an angry, embittered, vengeful man but instead he chose to do the right thing and to do good and glorify God. I am not saying that there weren’t times when Joseph may have felt alone and abandoned or times when he asked himself, “Why me?” What I am suggesting is that instead of whining about it, he gave it over to God. He trusted that God could and would use him and any situation for good. Which is exactly what he would tell his brothers later in the story in Genesis 50:19-20. Although Joseph had to live in the lower story, he would do the next right thing because he could see how it was part of God’s upper story.  

When confronted with choices sometimes we can react on impulse and hope it was the right thing to do. At other times, we may weigh our options but chose to do what will be most acceptable to other lower story dwellers and hope that God will be good with our choice. Or we can do what Joseph did and think about what God wants and to do the next right thing.

 

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LET GO AND LET GOD

There are times when life seems out of control; an unexpected death, an unwanted diagnosis, a long term relationship ends and the list can go on and on.  During these times life seems unpredictable or arbitrary, we ask why me? Why now? Why does it have to be this way?  In Chapter three of The Story we gain insight into these challenges of life.  Through Joseph’s story we gain insight into the providence of God.  

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