Archive for June, 2011

Class of 2011, your class motto is “as long as we have memories, yesterday remains. As long as we have hope, tomorrow awaits.” Hope is a little magical word. It’s one of those things that you don’t talk about a lot, but that you use every day.
I hope to graduate in time. I hope you feel better. I hope to get a good job. I hope this guy doesn’t talk a long time.

What is hope?
“Hope is a vision for better days that changes us in the present.” Hope looks around the corner to tomorrow or the future. Hope is a picture in your mind of what things could become. Hope also motivates us for today. For example, if you hope to graduate in time, you will work hard to pass all your classes. If you hope someone feels better you might do something nice for them to lift their spirits or to help them in some way. And if you hope to get a good job, you will work hard and apply at good jobs.

To better understand hope, I want to introduce to you the prophet of hope, a man named Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a real figure of history. Around the year 627 B.C., when Jeremiah would have been about a junior in High School, God came to him and said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as prophet to the nations”
He had a rough time. No one would listen to him. He only saw two people turn to God even though he preached his whole life. He warned the nation of Judah that God would punish them if they did not repent and turn from their wicked ways and return to God. The people thought they were safe because they were God’s people.
Have you ever had an attitude of invincibility? You might think that nothing really bad could ever happen to you. Or that your family will always take care of you no matter what trouble you might get into. Or that you think you are a good person so you don’t really deserve anything bad to happen to you. If we are honest, I think every one of us would admit that we live from time to time with privilege. And we could think of reasons why bad things shouldn’t happen to us.
The people weren’t “safe” because they lived in Israel. The Assyrians invaded and by 722 BC, over the course of about 20 years, the Jewish people were held captive in the Assyrian capitol of Babylon.
3 different ways Assyria could have treated the Jewish peope:
1) Killed them all
2) Make them slaves
3) Force them to integrate into the Assyrian society.
God told the people to make Nineveh their home, to settle down, have kids, and plant gardens. It’s also crazy that God told them to “seek the welfare of the city” and to “pray to the Lord on its behalf.” I wouldn’t want to do that, but that was God’s instructions for the people.
God wanted them to hope for a return, though.

1. Hope is about a promise. (Jer. 29:10-11)
God’s promise to the people is that he will bring them to their land. He wanted them to realize that this was not the end for them, but that they have a bright future ahead of them.
In the same way, you will suffer setbacks in your life.

Remember these three things:
-Bad things will happen.
-You will get through the rough times.
-Learn from the bad things.

Dale Carnegie, “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”

2. Hope brings risk.
There was risk for Jeremiah as he followed God’s lead, and there will be risks for you as you follow God’s leading.

Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
I would add: Do one thing every day that takes faith.

3. Hope is about a person.
The people in Jeremiah’s time were hoping for a deliverer – a Messiah. In Jer. 33:15-16 this person is called a “righteous Branch” from the line of David. And his name is “the Lord is our righteousness.”
God’s plan for you about having a future with hope isn’t to make you the center of your own life. The best plans that God has for you is to make him Lord of your life.
One of my favorite pastors said, “If you want to ensure that your life becomes a tragedy, become the hero of your own story.” The Bible teaches us that we are all sinners separated from God. And just like the people that Jeremiah preached to, we need a Savior. And like them, we need to repent, to turn from our sins by asking forgiveness through Jesus’ death and resurrection and victory over sin.
Hoping in yourself or the things of this world will only fail you. This world is temporary and it will let you down. Hope for things not seen and fully trust God.

As Romans 8:39 says “nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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Being Led by the Holy Spirit

Posted: June 1, 2011 in Sermons

This is the outline to my sermon on Graduate Sunday at LEMC about being led by the Holy Spirit:

Intro: What does it mean to be led by the Spirit?
Crossroads, Choices, Decisions
-We want direction, guidance, assistance, hear his voice. I have wanted these things at many times in my life.
-Be Led by the Spirit

1. God speaks
1) The history of God speaking – Hebrews 1:1
-“many times” which means more than once, not just once and gone like Deists believe.
-“In various ways” – Humans have a limited understanding of God. We tend to think God will always speak in the same way. In the OT, he spoke in various ways.
a. God walked with Adam in the cool of the day.
b. God appeared to Moses in a burning bush. (Ex 3)
c. God spoke to Job in a whirlwind.
d. God did not speak to Elijah from a strong wind, even though one appeared outside the cave he was in (1 Kings 19). God wasn’t in the earthquake or the fire. He was in a gentle, blowing breeze.
e. Daniel 5, King Balshazzar was eating/drinking and fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall.
f. Nehemiah obeyed what God had put in his heart (Neh. 2:12).

2) Now God has spoken by the Son. – Hebrews 1:2
-John 10:27 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

3) Jesus has left “another” like himself – the promised Holy Spirit that will be our guide.
-John 16:13, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth…”

*The BIG IDEA then is that to be led by the Holy Spirit, to let him be our guide, means to walk daily with the Lord.

2. God speaks to those that have the Spirit.
Romans 8:9 – You do not belong to Christ if you do not have the Spirit. If you are in the realm of the Spirit then you have the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:14 – God speaks to his children.
-I hope you didn’t learn a list of do’s and don’ts at church. If all you learned was rules, then you will not be in church for very long. You can do religion anywhere. Anyone can make up rules to follow. I hope you learned that God desires a real and personal relationship with you.
-The image of a child with a parent speaks volumes. If a kid falls down and runs to mom or dad, the parent will be concerned and will kiss it to make it feel better. At ICI I learned that a wet paper towel can heal everything from a headache to a floor burn to a broken foot. It’s not about the curing, it was about the caring. It was about the relationship.
-As adults we lose this child-like relationship with God.
-That is funny, but if really happened then the kid wouldn’t have a relationship with his daddy. He probably wouldn’t even recognize his daddy’s voice, and if he did he probably wouldn’t even go to his daddy for help when he needed it.

*That is why I say that the BIG IDEA then is that to be led by the Holy Spirit, to let him be our guide, means to walk daily with the Lord. It’s about having a relationship with God.

3. God speaks through the Spirit in five different ways:
Side note: Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby is a great study for learning how to see and experience God at work.

1) The Bible – the primary way
Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
This tells me that God lights my steps and not my 10-year plan.
2) Through prayer – Phil 4:6-7 which is on the wall in my office.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
3) Our conscience
Romans 9:1 – “I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit—“
4) Circumstances – such as when you apply to 4 college but only 2 accept you.
5) Through the Church and wise advisors
Proverbs 15:22 “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

4. Obstacles to hearing God’s voice
-From Forgotten God by Francis Chan

1) Comfort – Maybe your life is too safe
*Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Comforter. Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable?

-Maybe God wants you to take a risk. Take a leap of faith.

*If we are never alone or feeling like we need Him, how much do we care or need to know God is with us?
-My personal experience of my first year of college was so hard. But I saw God during that year.

2) Volume – Maybe your life is too loud.
Multi-tasking is the new norm.
-Personal story: my new iPad.

Jesus didn’t have the same distractions that we have today, but he had distractions. In Mark 1:35 it says he withdrew to a quite place to be alone.
You need to find time to be alone. You need to find a quiet place to be with God.

3) Fear – Don’t be paralyzed by fear – Romans 8:15
You are a child of God. Take a chance and put your daily trust in Him.

5. How to avoid the obstacles
1. Relationship.
Read your Bible not as a to-do list or even to see “heroes” of the faith to emulate. Read it as a love letter.

2. Repent daily.
-Martin Luther, the 16th Century Reformer, “All of a Christians’ life is one of repentance.”
-Admit when you screw up. Confess your sins to each other. Confess your sins to God.

3. Walk with him daily.
-It’s not about rules; it’s about walking with God.

*That is why I say that the BIG IDEA then is that to be led by the Holy Spirit, to let him be our guide, means to walk daily with the Lord. It’s about having a relationship with God.