Monday, July 27, 2009

Joy in Adversity (Hard Times)

Question: What would joy look like in bad times?? Here are some scriptures that deal with joy in the midst of adversity. We can only imagine what that joy actually looked like - physically.

Ps. 126:1-6 Vs. 5 & 6 in particular. A song of assents sung as the people came up to the temple. Even if are in tears, if you stay with the Lord, you will reap in joy.
We can be confident that in the end we WILL have joy and can have this joy even in the midst of adversity. God can and will deliver in this life, or for sure, in the next life.

Matt. 5:11-12 Heb. 12:1
When Christians are persecuted and respond well, people will notice and turn and come to know Christ.

Acts 5:40-42 - adversity didn't dampen their duty.

2 Cor. 6:3-5 If it's questionable, we leave it alone for the sake of the ministry.
2 Cor. 6:10 sorrowful, yet rejoicing.

2 Cor. 12:8-10 - not seeking these adversities, but if in God's wisdom, He will expand His kingdom thru these adversities, then Paul was good with going through it. However, we are not talking about self-inflicted, or self made pain. Injuring yourself in the name of Jesus and then declaring "I'm suffering for Jesus" is not what this is talking about.

1 Thess. 1:6 Even though they knew thy would suffer, still they welcomed it with joy. Not giddy, smiley, silliness, but content in knowing the outcome was in God's hands.

Some other scriptural examples.

Heb. 10:32-34 1 Pet. 4:12-16, 19

It's difficult to put a physical look on the joy that was experienced in the midst of these trials, but knowing the joy of the Lord makes it easier to picture.

The Joy of the Lord

Neh. 8:1-3 & Neh. 8:5-12 Verse 10 will be the focus.

Definition of joy: a sense of well-being.

I. Webster's definition of joy: the emotion exited by the aquisition of or expectation of good. A feeling we get when we've experienced something good or expect good.

Synonyms: delight, pleasure, happiness, gladness.
May be: A. excitement, thrill
B. gaiety, gladness, cheer (fullness)
C. peace (fullness), tranquility, quiet contentment

II. The word joy covers a wide spectrum of emotion.

A. Mountain-top joy: exhilaration, exultation, jubilation, ecstasy, an almost uncontainable feeling of excitement
B. Valley joy: ie: joy expressed in the midst of hard times, trouble, sorrow, etc.
- tranquility, peace, serenity, quietness of soul, a sense of well being in spite of circumstances.
C. Everyday joy: the pleasant sensation/feeling you get from a sunny morning, a good cup of coffee, a child's smile, a friendly greeting, watching geese go ever, etc.

III. Joy comes in such a variety of expressions! (responses)

Verbal: yell, shout, scream, squeal, or ooooo, aaahhh, ooohhhh, ummmmmm
Visual: jump, leap, handslap, dance or slump, recline, melt
Could be quiet smile or loud laughter; noisy/still explode/relax exhilaration/satisfaction shouting/weeping

BUT: JOY!!! is good!!!!

The joy of the Lord = a sense of well-being that comes from knowing God.

Whether: A. knowledge of Him
B. faith/confidence in Him because of who He is.
C. experience/encounter with Him. Has the element of permanence, unchanging, more depth, should have more impact.

#1. Christians ought to have it. Because:
A. it's a result of knowing, experiencing, trusting God
B. it's close kin to hope (in which we should abound)
C. it's a fruit of the Spirit Gal. 5:22
D. hundreds of scriptures admonish us to rejoice, etc. Ps. 100:1-2 98:4-6 Phil. 4:4

#2. Our joy should have (more) depth (than the world's joy)
This is more than happy. James 1:2-4 Rom. 5:3 Christians should have much more than temporal joy.

#3. All Christians have experienced it.

#4. Many Christians have lost it (in part). This is easily done.... because:
A. we're human
B. we live in a fallen world
C. life is full of joy-sucking experiences and people
D. even Christian life is often routine, humdrum

#5. To lose the joy is to lose our strength. Neh. 8:10
ie. strength to continue, endure, persist, resist, serve, continue on .. in the Christian walk.

SO....... can it be recovered?? restored??

RECOVERING THE JOY (some suggestions)

First: #1. Identify joy (it's more than "happy")

Then: #2. determine what you've lost (do an honest self-assessment)

#3. follow David's example Ps. 51
Pray for restoration, repent, return Rev. 2:4-5
If you've lost the joy, undoubtedly you have something to repent of.

#4. act according to what you know (not what you feel)
Remember: joy is NOT your God!!! Joy is A goal, not THE goal. The goal is the Lord Himself!

#5. pursue Christ.
A. the joy of the Lord NOT found in "joy", but in "the Lord".
And: B. the LORD is found in Christ. "I am the way, the truth, and the life....."

#6. Rejoice. Phil. 4:4 "Just do it". 1 Thess. 5:16
We say, "if I find joy, then I can rejoice"
He says, "if you rejoice, then you'll find joy"

#7. Keep walking. Psalm 30:4-5 (summary verse)
Point: those who stay true to the Lord can anticipate discovering (or receiving) the joy of the Lord.

John 16:20-22

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dealing with Discouragement

Message today is taken from the book of Nehemiah. The Jews had been exiled to Babylon and after King Cyrus decreed that any Jews who wanted to return to Jerusalem could go, many of them did so. They were back in Israel almost 100 years and had re-established towns and homes. However, the wall around Jerusalem had not been rebuilt.

Nehemiah, King Artexerzes' cupbearer, got word that the wall had not been rebuilt due to lack of necessary supplies and money, and so was allowed to go back to oversee the project. The king provided him with supplies and monies to get the wall built.

Building the wall - all went well for the 1st. half. Neh. 4:6

Then: Neh. 4:7-23 Neh. 6:15 & 16 - the job finished

Verse 10 is a key verse - internal discouragement.

There are many lessons and applications in Nehemiah. One is:

Dealing with Discouragement.

Question: Why people lose heart. (some parallels with Nehemiah)
#1. The task is so big - also so constant, never ending! In Nehemiah, the job eventually got finished. As Christians, the work never ends. We must keep going, building, following.

#2. The workers are so few. Jerusalem had 25, 000 people before the fall. When they returned, there were only about 6,000. Matt. 9:36-38 There will always be a huge task and a huge need.
#3. the willing workers are often overworked. (which leads to discouragement!)
#4. the workers get tired - physically, psychologically, emotionally - which leads to more physical tiredness.
#5. There is constant opposition - from without 1 Pet. 5:8
#6. There is so much rubble. Neh. 4:10 Trash, debris that hindered the work. The same is true for the Christian worker. It's often not the job that discourages but the picky little petty remarks and problems that shouldn't even be problems that a worker comes up against time after time.
#7. There are nagging questions (doubt) - does this matter? is it necessary? Am I making a difference?? Life's busy enough without adding un-necessary work!!!

Point being: there is a lot of reasons to slow down or sit down.

BUT, Nehemiah's reply and approach was:

#1. Remember the Lord Neh. 4:14 This reminder was so common in the Old Testament because we humans tend to forget WHO we are serving. Col. 3:23 & 24 Who is your LORD? Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love ME?" Not, "do you love sheep."

#2. Review the benefits. Neh. 4:14 b ie: family, community, nation.
On one hand, I benefit. On the other hand, I'm motivated by others benefiting.

#3. Resist the opposition. (whatever form it takes) physical? relational? mental? spiritual?
1 Pet. 5:8, 9, 10
Take a stand against the discouragement.

#4. Rally together. The tendency of the discouraged is to pull away, isolate themselves. Which is exactly opposite of what is really needed. We need the support and encouragement of others.

#5. "Get to work"
On one hand, God offers and expects us to rest.
but this is a time of refreshing, not of retiring.
Example: Elijah at the end of 40 days - Jer. 12:5

Note: A. The Lord works with you Haggai 2:4
B. The work stengthens you. John 4:34

When we get discouraged, God says get to work. Rest for a time to get refreshed, and then get back to work. The answer is never to RETIRE.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Blessings - Good Gifts From God

Focus of last Sunday's sermon:

Psalm 33:12 - What's a blessed nation look like? Deut. 28:1-13

This week we're looking at blessings on a more personal level.

Blessings in the Bible are defined as good gifts from God - something good, beneficial, positive, helpful .... bestowed (conferred) on you by Him. These may be physical - health, strength, beauty, possessions; relational - spouse, children, neighbors, etc.; emotional, mental - peace, confidence, boldness, wisdom; spiritual - reconciliation, salvation, forgiveness, eternal life, rewards.

#1. We are all blessed. John 1:16

#2. We all want to be blessed. (this according to our own definition of blessing - the way we want to be blessed.

#3, God wants to bless. Matt. 7:9-11 But, He wants to bless according to His definition.

#4. something is a blessing only if it draws us to God.
It must have positive, eternal consequences.

With that foundation, here's a few other things we can learn from Scripture about blessings:

#1. Something doesn't have to look like a blessing to be a blessing. Example: Jacob's limp. Gen. 32:22-31
Paul's thorn: 2 Cor. 12:7-10
Therefore, the Beatitudes - Matt. 5:3-6, 10-12
God only wants to bestow that which is good for us, our family, and those around us.

Remember: the Jewish religious leaders rejected Christ because he didn't look like Messiah.

Ron Dunn often said, "the blessings of God often come wrapped in the rags of a curse."

#2. What's intended as a blessing can become a curse.
Luke 12:16-21 Examples: Solomon's wealth, Israel's prosperity and ease. Matt. 16:26 - Be careful. It is no longer a blessing if it is separating us from God.

#3. What's intended as a curse can become a blessing.
Example: Joseph's trials - 13 years worth Gen. 50:20
Peter's denial Luke 22:31-32

#4. We can't always distinguish between the two
Examples: How often does: financial hardship result in a closer walk with God
personal tragedy result in knowing Christ
mental crises result in a stronger relationship
unwanted pregnancy results in a precious child or grandchild

#5. It's not necessary that we do. Rom. 8:28, 31 Nobody is asking us to categorize whether something is a blessing or a curse. BUT, it really doesn't make any difference anyway. If God is for us, what difference does it really make.


#1. Whether something is a blessing or curse is measured (ultimately) by it's eternal outcome. Does it draw, direct, connect you to God?
Does it result in positive, eternal consequences?

#2. Whether something is ultimately a blessing or a curse is largely determined by you. God will work to transform it into a blessing. Question: will you allow Him to work? and work with Him?
He will do His part, but He has also given us free will to choose.
Deut. 30:15-19 On one hand we can't always choose the situations, circumstances, things that happen in our lives.
However, we can choose how to handle them and that to do with them.

#3. When God would most bless the world, He did it through the person of Christ - He still does.
These principles, truths, and applications work for all people
BUT, you find the greatest fullness, broadest application, best results when applied through Jesus Christ - as Savior and as Lord.

Again: You Choose!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Christian Roots of America

Question: Is the United States a Christian nation?
Answer: It depends upon the definition of what makes a Christian nation.

Christianity is not the official, established religion by the government. It is not demanded.
Not all citizens are Christian. About 77% of the American people claim Christianity as their religion.
Citizens are not required to embrace and practice Christianity.
Christian profession is not necessary to hold office or a position of leadership. However, this was not always the case.
And, the nations (as a whole) does not always model Christian behavior. Rom. 3:23

However, if the definition is "a nation founded on Christian principles, whose values, society, and institutions have been largely shaped by Christianity", then, yes we are a Christian nation.

Some examples of statements in early documents and by early founding fathers, presidents, leaders, etc. : Rom. 1:19 Gen. 1:27

1. John Adams (signer of the Declaration of Independence; judge; diplomat; one of two signers of the Bill of Rights; second president of the United States;
The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited.... What a Eutopia - what a Paradise would this region be!"
2. John Quincy Adams (sixth president of the United states; diplomat; secretary of State; U.S. Senator; U.S. Representative; "old man eloquent"
My hopes of a future life are all founded upon the Gospel of Christ, .... The hope of a Christian is inseparable from his faith. Whoever believes in the Divine Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures must hope that the religion of Jesus shall prevail throughout the earth. In the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior. The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity."
3. Thomas Jefferson - 3rd. President of the United States - similar quotes
4. James Madison - 4th. President of the United States - similar quotes
5. Teddy Roosevelt - "The teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally....impossible for us to figure to ourselves what that life would be if these teachings were removed."
6. Woodrow Wilson - America was born a Christian nation - American was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture."
7. Herbert Hoover - "American life is builded, and can alone survive, upon...the fundamental philisophy announced by the Savior nineteen centuries ago."
8. Harry Truman - "This is a Christian Nation."
9. Richard Nixon - 'Let us remember that as a Christian nation.... we have a charge and a destiny."

II. U.S. Congress
1. Charles Carroll, U.S. Senator - On the mercy of my Redeemer, I rely for salvation and on His merits, not on the works I have done."
2. Samual Huntington, President of Congress - "It becomes a people publicly to acknowledge the over-ruling hand of Divine Providence and their dependence upon the Supreme Being as their Creator and Merciful Preserver... and with becoming humility and sincere repentance to supplicate the pardon that we may obtain forgiveness through the merits and mediation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
And many others.

III. The Judicial Branch
1. Elias Boudinot
2. Gunning Bedford
3. Congress, U.S. House Judiciary Committee, 1854: Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle.... In this age, there can be no substitute for Christianity.... That was the religion of the founders of the republic and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants."
4. Gabriel Duvall - 'I resign my soul into the hands of the Almighty Who gave it, in humble hopes of His mercy through our Savior Jesus Christ."
And many others.

IV. Statements by non-Christians (Jews)
Jewish leaders, although firmly committed to their own faith, understand that by defending Chrisianity they are defending what has provided them their own religious liberty in America.
1. For example: Aaron Zeiman
(a Jewish author and head of a civil rights organization) delcares:
"Christian America is the best home our people have found in 2,000 years..... This remains the most tolerant, prosperous, and safest home we could be blessed with."
2. Dennis Prager, a Jewish national columnist and popular talk show host, warns: If America abandons its Judeo-Christian values' basis and the central role of the Jewish and Christian Bibles (its Founders guiding text), we are all in big trouble, including, most especially, American's non-Christians. Jus ask the Jews of secular Europe. ...... I believe that it is good that America is a Christian nation.."
3. Orthodox Rabbi Daniel Lapin of the Jewish Policy Center: I understand that I live ... in a Christian nation, albeit one where I can follow my faith as long as it doesn't conflict with the nation's principles. The same option is open to all Americans and will be available only as long as this nation's Christian roots are acknowledged and honored." In fact, with foreboding, he warns: "Without a vibrant and vital Christianity, America is doomed..."

V. Signers of the Declaration of Independence. 27 of the 56 signers graduated from seminary. 52 of the 56 were openly Christian.

VI. The General Public
According to the latest polls, of our own Citizenry, 77% claim to be Christian. 62% consider America a Christian nation.

President Obama's declaration that Americans "do not consider ourselves a Christian nation" is a repudiation of the declarations of the national leaders before him and is an unabashed attempt at historical revisionism. Of such efforts, Chief Justice William Rehnquist wisely observed, "no amount of repetition of historical errors... can make the errors true."


#1. Recognize your blessings.
You live in a privileged nation - not perfect, but very blessed
You are a privileged person
You don't necessarily deserve it!!

#2. Recognize your Blessor. Deut. 4:5-6, 9 Deut. 8:10-14, 17, 18
REMEMBER = both recognition and response
in other words: give thought and give thanks

#3. Guard these blessings
How?? Don't let anyone steal your recognition and response.

#4. Pass the blessings along.
How??? "teach kids" and successive generations.... about the blessings, the Blessor, their responsibility to do the same.

You can do this in.....
1. a generic way - "thank you God, Amen."
2. a more Biblical way. Recognize Him as Creator, sustainer, blessor, judge, "Father".
3. a New Testament Christian way - making Him Savior John 14:6
4. the ultimate way - making Him Lord. - setting Him on the throne of your heart and letting him be the boss of your life.