Cause and Effect Part 2

No Repentance without Remorse

2 Corinthians 7: 8-10

Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Last Sunday we began a new series entitles cause and effect.  Cause and effect is the understanding that certain actions or events result in other actions or events.  For example…

If you play with fire you will get burned.

If you play in the dirt you will get dirty.

If you play in the rain you will get wet.

If you go to work you will get a pay check.

If you don’t go to work you will lose your job.

If you pay your bills your utilities will stay on.

If your don’t pay your bill your utilities will be shut off.

If you work hard you can achieve your goal.

If you don’t work hard you will not achieve your goal.

If you believe in God you will go to heaven,

If you don’t believe in God you will go to hell.

You see, cause and effect!

I explained to you that we would be talking about a couple different cause and effect scenarios throughout the month of April.  Last week we looked at the life of Sampson.  One of the physically strongest men in the Bible.   We discovered that there is no strength without struggle.  I shared with you that I believed that Sampson’s true strength did not come from his hair, but from his faith.  Sampson was able to gain strength in the midst of his struggle because he belonged, he behaved, and he believed.  Now today we are going to look at a different cause and effect scenario.  There is no repentance without remorse.  Let’s talk about that for a moment.  

How can you truly repent if you do not feel remorse for what you have done?  

How can you turn away from what you don’t regret doing?  

Better yet, how can you turn away from what you enjoy doing?  

It is hard to turn away from what we enjoy doing.  That is why so many of us are still doing it.  

It is hard to turn away from what we enjoy doing.  Why do you think it took some of us so long to turn away from it and give our lives to the Lord.  

The problem is church that many church people want to act like they have been saved all of their lives.  They want to act like they never struggled with anything.  They don’t drink, smoke, or chew, and they don’t hang around people that do.  The issue with that family is that they can be so heavenly bound that they are no earthly good.  And to truly have an impact on the kingdom you have to understand that there is no repentance without remorse.

For this scenario we are going to look at a portion of the second letter that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. 

Shall we look at the text…

Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance.  For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.  Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Now this is Paul’s follow up letter to the church in Corinth.  In the first letter he emphasized the authority that God has over their lives as believers as well as addressing the following subjects:  Christian unity, morality, the role of women, spiritual gifts, and the resurrection.  He was both chastising them and encouraging them at the same time.  You know how that is?  When someone is telling you about yourself and at the same time trying to make you feel better at the same time.  They say stuff like you’re not doing the job right, but they like your hair.  What does my hair have to do with the fact that I am not doing the job right.  Or they open up with a positive before they drop a bomb on you.  Like i really enjoyed your presentation today, but your zipper was down during the entire presentation.  Or they say do you want the bad news or the good news first.  Deacon Freeman hit me with this one a while ago when we were having technical difficulties with our WiFi…  

But back to my point.  Obviously this letter struck a cord or two with some of the believers in the church, so Paul is trying to smooth things over.  Now don’t get it twisted. Paul is not apologizing for what he said.  He is not back peddling or trying to take back what he said.  He meant what he said and he said what he meant.  He was only trying to give them a better understanding of what he was trying to convey to them.  And this is where we pick up in our text today. Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.  Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but

worldly sorrow brings death.  

I know I’ve read this text three times this morning, but I really want you to see what Paul is telling the church.  He is saying I know my letter made you feel bad.  I know my letter caused you pain.  I know my letter caused you remorse. But I do not regret it.  I know it hurt you, but you were only hurt for a little while.  You were only licking your wounds for a little while.  You were only down for a little while. Well, I may have regretted it a little bit, but now I am happy.  I am not happy because I made you feel sorrow, or that I made you feel remorse.  I am happy because your sorrow or your remorse led you to repentance.  You were sorrowful as God intended.  So you were not harmed by us.  God used us to cause godly sorrow that will bring repentance which leads to salvation.  Which is much better than worldly sorrow that leads to death.  Look at your neighbor and say, “You can not have repentance without remorse.”  You need remorse to lead you to repentance in order to have salvation.  Somebody say cause and effect.

Now in order for remorse to cause repentance the following three things must happen.  And these three things must happen whether you are saved or unsaved.

First we must be confronted.  Paul confronted the church in Corinth.  He told them about themselves.  Every now and then we have to be told about ourselves.  And truth be told, we do not like to be told about ourselves.  Now we love to tell others about themselves, but leave us alone.  We need someone to hold us accountable.  We need to hold others accountable as well.  I think that is one of the biggest problems in our world today.  Nobody wants to be held accountable.  And no one wants to hold anyone else accountable.  We just want to make excuses.  He didn’t comply.

He was resisting.

I thought he had a gun.

I feared for my life.

He had on a hoodie.

I didn’t think they lived in the neighborhood.

I felt threatened.

He has a record.

He was high.

He smoked weed three years ago.

Excuses! Excuses! Excuses!

I am so tired of excuses that is why we need to be confronted.  We need to be held accountable for our actions.  In order for remorse to cause repentance.  We must be confronted.

Not only must we be confronted.  Secondly, we must be convicted.  Once confronted you must be convicted.  This is when the spirit makes you aware of your wrongness and you feel remorse.  Anyone ever feel convicted before.  I mean you really feel remorse for sin that you’ve committed.  You can’t eat, sleep, or get the thing off your mind because you feel so bad about what you’ve done.  This is true conviction.  This is true remorse. That is why you cannot go into sin with the mind set that God will forgive you.  Yeah, I about to go rob this back, but its all good I know God will forgive me.  Because without true conviction, without true remorse your petition for forgiveness is not genuine.

First, we must be confronted.  Secondly, we must be convicted.  Thirdly, we must be converted.  Once we are confronted, we can be convicted, and then we are ready to be converted.  We are truly ready to repent.  To turn away from our wicked ways and be the man or woman that God has called us to me.  We are ready to change.  Have you every been stuck on stupid and waiting on dumb for so long that once you were confronted, you were instantly convicted and you knew without a shadow of a doubt that you needed to be converted.  You needed to repent.  You needed to turn away.  And the moment you did your life changed for the better.  Because God came in and gave you the power to walk right, talk right, and to live right.  Let me share this story with you and close out this sermon.

Robert Robinson

Source: reported in R Kilpatrick, “Assurance and Sin” in RC Sproul (editor), Doubt and Assurance (Baker, 1993)

Robert Robinson was an English clergyman who lived in the 18th century. Not only was he a gifted pastor and preacher he was also a highly gifted poet and hymn writer. However, after many years in the pastorate his faith began to drift. He left the ministry and finished up in France, indulging himself in sin.

One night he was riding in a carriage with a Parisian socialite who had recently been converted to Christ. She was interested in his opinion on some poetry she was reading: Come thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing thy grace, Streams of mercy never failing, Call for hymns of loudest praise.

When she looked up from her reading the socialite noticed Robinson was crying.

“What do I think of it?” he asked in a broken voice. “I wrote it. But now I’ve drifted away from him and can’t find my way back.”

“But don’t you see” the woman said gently, “The way back is written right here in the third line of your poem: Streams of mercy never ceasing. Those streams are flowing even here in Paris tonight.”

That night Robinson recommitted his life to Christ.

I don’t know about anyone else in the room, but I am so excited the the steams of mercy are never ceasing.  

That no matter how far we may drift we can always come home.  

No matter how many times we fall we can always come home.  

No matter how many mistakes we make we can always come home.   

No matter how many times we mess up we can always come home.

Your grace and mercy brought me through

I’m living this moment because of You

I want to thank You and praise You, too

Your grace and mercy brought me through

Thank You for saving a sinner like me

To tell the world salvation is free

There were times when I, I just didn’t do right

But You, You watched over me

All day and night

Your grace and mercy brought me through

I’m living this moment because of You

I want to thank You and praise You, too

Your grace and mercy brought me through

Justice demanded, that I should die

But grace and mercy said, “oh, no, oh, no, oh no

We’ve already paid the price”

You see, I once was blind, but thank God I can see

It was because grace and mercy came along

Came along and rescued, rescued me

Your grace and mercy brought me through

I’m living this moment because of You

I want to thank You and praise You, too

Your grace and mercy brought me through

Amazing grace how sweet the sound…

Amazing grace shall always be my song of praise…

Is there anybody here excited about his grace and his mercy

Is there anybody here excited about the fact that there is no repentance without remorse.

Well if you are not excited, let me tell you why you should be excited.  That feeling of guilt, sorrow, and remorse is God’s way of letting you know that it is time to come home.  The remorse will lead to repentance, and the repentance will lead to salvation and or recommitment.  That is why Paul was happy that he made them feel sorrow.  And that is why you should be excited if you’re feeling remorse, because remorse will lead you to repentance, and repentance will lead you back to God!  There is no repentance without remorse.

Cause-and-Effect: No Strength without Struggle Part 1

Judges 16:25-30

25 While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them.

When they stood him among the pillars, 26 Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.” 27 Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. 28 Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, 30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

I believe that it was in English class when we began to learn about cause and effect.  The understanding that certain actions or events result in other actions or events.  For example if you put bread, peanut butter, and jelly together you will get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  If you put lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables together you will get a salad.  If you put wind, rain, and lightning together you will get a storm.  If you put an parentless house, music, alcohol, and teenagers together you will have a party.  That someone will call the police on.  And then someone will be in trouble.  Every cause has an effect just like every action has a consequence which is exactly what I’d like to talk about the rest of the month.  Different cause and effect scenarios.  And the first one that I would like to visit is this.  There is no strength without struggle.  In order to get stronger you have to struggle.  That is why weight training makes people stronger.  It is a struggle to lift weights.  It is the tension between the weight and the ability of the muscle.  The more a person struggles the stronger they get.  That is why so many people do it.  They understand that the struggle will make them stronger.  Have you ever hear the story of the boy and the butterfly? There is a little boy that is walking in the forest and he sees a butterfly that is struggling to get out of its chrysalis.  The boy felt sorry for the butterfly so he helped the butterfly get out of its chrysalis.  The boy was expecting the butterfly to fly away, but it didn’t.  The butterfly was having problems flying.  What the boy did not know was that the struggle to get out of the chrysalis was a necessary process for the butterfly to through in order to strengthen its wings.  The butterfly needed to go through this wing strengthening process in order to fly.  And it is the same way in life.  The problem is that most expel do not want to go through the process.  Most people do not want to go through the struggle.  But if you want to get stronger you have to go through the struggle.  How many of you can testify to the fact that because of your struggles in life you have become stronger?

The cancer made you stronger.

The divorce made you stronger.

The bankruptcy made you stronger.

The rehab made you stronger.

The physical therapy made you stronger.

The break up made you stronger.

The layoff made you stronger.

The arrest made you stronger.

The drama made you stronger.

This pandemic made you stronger.

I think somebody in the room and on FB Live knows exactly what I am talking about. That’s the cause and effect I’m talking about, our struggle makes us stronger.  There is no strength without struggle.

That is why we are talking about Sampson today.  The epitome of human strength in the Bible.  Let me share his story with you…  I would like to argue today that Sampson’s true strength did not come from his hair, but it came from his faith.  And in order for us to get stronger from our struggles.  In order to see this cause and effect we must do the following three things.

1.  We must belong.

2.  We must behave.

3.  We must believe.

Derek Redmond Finishes at the Olympics

It was the summer Olympics of 1992. It was the quarter finals of the 400 meter sprint. British athlete Derek Redmond was one of the favorites for the gold medal. A lifetime of training had brought him to this moment. The starters gun fired and the athletes burst out of the blocks.

Halfway through the race Derek Redmond was leading. Then disaster struck. His hamstring went out and he collapsed on the track. The agony on his tear streaked face was both physical and mental. It was a crushing blow.

Medical attendants ran to assist him. Derek waved them away. He came to race and he was going to finish. He got to his feet and started hobbling down the track.

The crowd was mesmerized. Officials didn’t know what to do. And then an older man ran onto the track. He brushed off officials who tried to stop him. He ran up beside Derek and placed his arms around him.

The man was Derek Redmond’s father, Jim.

“You don’t have to do this son” Jim said.

“Yes I do” Derek replied.

“Then we’ll finish this race together” came the response from Derek’s father.

Arm in arm, with agony on Derek’s face, tears on his father’s, Derek and Jim continued down the track. Derek buried his face in his father’s shoulder. His father’s strong shoulders carried his son physically and emotionally. Jim waved away officials who tried to stop them.

Finally, accompanied by a now roaring crowd, standing on their feet and applauding, Derek Redmond crossed the line. It became the defining moment of the Barcelona Olympics.

I just want to know is there anybody in the room, on YouTube, free conference call, or FB Live that is excited about the fact that you can receive strength in your struggle because your Heavenly Father will come to you in the midst of your struggle?  

He will meet you right where you are.  

He will pick you up and turn you around. 

He will take you and make something beautiful out of your life. 

He will make the impossible possible.  

He will make a way out of no way. 

All because we belong, we behave, and we believe.

And if we are honest this morning, I mean really honest this morning there were many times in our lives that we were struggling and God showed up and showed out in spite of the fact that we were not behaving.  And this act of God’s grace and mercy is what lead us to believe and therefore belong in the first place.  That is why I am so glad that he may not come when we want him to, but he is always right on time.  So do me a favor and put your hands together for an on time God.

Put your hands together for…

The creator of heaven and earth.

The bright and morning star.

The Lily of the Valley.

The Balm of Gilead.

The Refuge from the storm.

The true and living God.

The worthy lamb.

The worthy lamb that was slain.

The worthy lamb that was slain and rose again.

The redeemer.

The deliver.

The healer.

The way maker.

The mind regulator.

And here is another cause and effect scenario.

When the praises go up the blessings come down.

So go ahead and praise him.

I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.

I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart.

I will enter his courts with praise.

I will say this is the day that the Lord has made.

I will rejoice for he has made me glad.

Cause and effect.

There is no strength without struggle.

We must belong.

We must believe.

We must behave.

Early in the Morning!

Mark 16:1-6

16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 

Now many of you know that I am an early riser.  I wake up every morning during the week at 4:45 a.m. so that I can go for a run, work out, to exercise.  Even when I am not working out I wake up early.  Even when I try to sleep in I just can’t do it.  When I tell Shannon I’m sleeping in she looks at me like I’m crazy because she knows that I can’t do it.  I can’t help myself.  I have to get up and get the day started.  I have to get up and get moving.  I have to get up and do something.  What’s that old saying?  The early bird gets the worm.  I don’t know about getting the worm, but I like to get up and get to it. And I believe in general that we all need to wake up and get to work.  Now I am not necessarily talking about waking up from physical sleep, but in life we need to wake up and get to work.  Too many people are sleep walking through life.  Just going through the motions.  Just letting life ass them by.  Instead of living life, life is living them.  Instead of making the most of life, life is making the most of them.  They have this whatever happens will happen attitude.  This laissez-fare attitdude.  This que sera sera attitude, which is Spanish for what will be will be. And they need to wake up, and the need to wake up early.  In other words, they need to wake up sooner than later.  Because there is work to do.  This is what the text was about today.

16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 

So early in morning on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices so that they might anoint Jesus’s body.  As they walked to the tomb that asked one another who will roll away the stone from the tomb? But when they looked up they saw the stone, that was very large, was already rolled away from the the tomb.  As they entered the tomb they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right hand side, and they were alarmed! He said, don’t be alarmed you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He has risen!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid him.  So as early as Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome got up early in the morning to get to work.  They got up early in the morning to anoint the body of Jesus.  But Jesus got up even earlier, because he was gone before they arrived.  He got up early from that grave because he had work to do.  He still has work to do.  And we have work to do so we have to get up early too.  What work do we have to do?  I am so glad that you asked?

We have to spread the word.  We have to get up early so that we can spread the word.  We have to let the world know that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever… believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.  But not only do we need to spread the word that he give his son.  We need to spread the word that his son bore our sins on the cross and died so that we could live.  He paid our debt for sin, and he did so in the most painful way possible.  He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.  He did the time for the crimes that he did not commit.  He is the sibling that took the whooping for something he did not do.  We have to spread the word that three days later he rose with all power in his hands and that’s what we celebrate today.  We have to spread the word.  Christ has risen.  He Got up.  Some people cannot wait to spread the latest news.  Well this is news that needs to be shared.  We must spread the word.

But not only do we need to spread the word.  We have to serve the world.  Just like Jesus did the night he was betrayed, at the last supper, when he disrobed, tied a towel around his waste, filled a basin with water, got down on his knees, and washed his disciples feet.  We must serve the world in the same way.  And I know there s someone out there thinking I ain’t washing nobody’s fee.  I don’t like feet.  Do you think Jesus enjoyed washing the disciples dirty, filthy feet?  I think Jesus understood that you may not enjoys how you serve, but you still have to serve.  For example you don’t always like doing some of the things that you do, but you enjoy the results.  You may not like getting up in the morning to help out at a shelter.  But you like the results.  You may not like working long hours at the food pantry.  But you like the results.  Do you think that Jesus enjoyed being bothered all the time to heal this, to touch that, to come here, to go there, to say  this as to say that?  I am sure there were times that he just did not feel like doing it, but he served anyway because he liked the results.  If Jesus can serve we should have no problem serving and I told you on Thursday that we serve earnestly, we serve with excellence, and we serve with excitement.  We must serve the world.

We spread the word.  We serve the world.  And last but not least, we have to shout the worship.  If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times.  There is a difference between praise and worship.  Anyone can praise God.  You do not even have to be saved to praise God.  Praise is just telling God thank you.  But only children of God can worship him.  Because those that worship Him but do so in spirit and in truth.  And the only way that you can worship him in spirit and in truth is if his spirit resides in you.  We must shut the worship.

We worship the king of kings and the Lord of lords.

We worship the Alpha and the Omega.

The beginning and the end.

The author and finisher of our faith.

The great I am.

The bright and morning star.

The lion of the tribe of Judah.

The lamb that was slain.

The risen savior.

The savior of the world.

We have to shout the worship!

Philip’s Egg

Philip was born with Downs Syndrome. He was a pleasant child, happy it seemed, but increasingly aware of the difference between himself and other children. Philip went to Sunday School faithfully every week. He was in the third grade class with nine other eight-year olds.

You know eight-year olds. And Philip, with his differences, was not readily accepted. But his teacher was sensitive to Philip and he helped this group of eight-year olds to love each other as best they could, under the circumstances. They learned, they laughed, they played together. And they really cared about one another, even though eight-year olds don’t say they care about one another out loud.

But don’t forget. There was an exception to all this. Philip was not really a part of the group. Philip did not choose, nor did he want to be different. He just was. And that was the way things were.

His teacher had a marvelous idea for his class the Sunday after Easter. You know those things that pantyhose come in . . . the containers that look like great big eggs? The teacher collected ten of them. The children loved it when he brought them into the room and gave one to each child. It was a beautiful spring day, and the assignment was for each child to go outside, find the symbol for new life, put it into the egg, and bring it back to the classroom. They would then open and share their new life symbols and surprises, one by one.

It was glorious. It was confusing. It was wild. They ran all around the church grounds, gathering their symbols, and returned to the classroom.

They put all the eggs on a table, and then the teacher began to open them. All the children gathered around the table. He opened one and there was a flower, and they ooh-ed and aah-ed. He opened another and there was a little butterfly. “Beautiful!” the girls all said, since it is hard for eight-year old boys to say ‘beautiful.’ He opened another and there was a rock. And as third-graders will, some laughed, and some said, “That’s crazy! How’s a rock supposed to be like new life?” But the smart little boy who’d put it in there spoke up: “That’s mine. And I knew all of you would get flowers and buds and leaves and butterflies and stuff like that. So I got a rock because I wanted to be different. And for me, that’s new life.” They all laughed.

The teacher said something about the wisdom of eight-year olds and opened the next one. There was nothing inside. The children, as eight-year olds will, said, “That’s not fair. That’s stupid! Somebody didn’t do it right.”

Then the teacher felt a tug on his shirt, and he looked down. “It’s mine, Philip said. It’s mine.”

And the children said, “You don’t ever do things right, Philip. There’s nothing there!”

“I did so do it right!” Philip said. “I did do it right. The tomb is empty!”

There was silence, a very full silence. And for you people who don’t believe in miracles, I want to tell you that one happened that day. From that time on, it was different. Philip suddenly became a part of that group of eight-year old children. They took him in. He was set free from the tomb of his differentness.

Philip died last summer. His family had known since the time he was born that he wouldn’t live out a full life span. Many other things were wrong with his little body. And so, late last July, with an infection that most normal children could have quickly shrugged off, Philip died.

At his memorial service, nine eight-year old children marched up to the altar, not with flowers to cover over the stark reality of death . . . but nine eight-year olds, along with their Sunday School teacher, marched right up to that altar, and laid on it an empty egg . . . an empty, old, discarded pantyhose egg.

Why?  Because the tomb is empty!

I just want to know if there is anybody in the room excited about the fact the the tomb is empty.  And because the tomb is empty we have new life.

We’re saved because the tomb is empty.

We’re alive because the tomb is empty.

We’re favored because the tomb is empty.

We’re children of God because the tomb is empty.

We’re blessed because the tomb is empty.

We’re healed because the tomb is empty.

We’re delivered because the tomb is empty.

We’re set free because the tomb is empty.

We’re victorious because the tomb tomb is empty.

We have won because the tomb is empty.

We will wear a crown because the tomb is empty.

We will put on a robe and tell the story because the tomb is empty.

We will see him face to face because the tomb is empty.

We will hear him say well done good and faithful servant because the tomb is empty.

And most importantly because the tomb is empty HE LIVES!

Because he lives I can face tomorrow.

Because he lives all fear is gone.

Because I know he holds the future. 

And life is worth the living just because he lives.

Oh I’m so glad he lives, he lives.

Christ Jesus lives today.

He walks with me and talks with me.

Along life’s narrow way.

He lives, he lives, salvation to impart.

You ask me how I know he lives.

He lives within my heart.

Early in the morning He got up.

Early in the morning He got to work.

Early in the morning we must get to work too.

We must spread the word.

We must serve the world.

We must shout the worship.

Check Your Cheering Section

Matthew 21:1-11

21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,

    ‘See, your king comes to you,

gentle and riding on a donkey,

    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]

“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Matthew 27:22-23,  “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.They all answered, “Crucify him!”23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

There are a number of sports fans around the world.  

There are many professional sports team fans.  

There are semi-professional or amateur sport team fans.  

There are college sports team fans.  

There are wrestling fans.  

There are movie star fans.  

There are musical artist fans.  

And then there are Philadelphia Eagles fans.  

We have a fan base unlike any other.  

We are the fans that booed Santa Clause.  

We are the fans that through snowfalls at visiting fans.  

We are the fans that stand by our team until they lose, and then its time time to trade, fire, and remove every coach, player, and manager associated with the team.  We are die hard cheerleaders for the midnight green and sing fly eagles fly until our throats get soar.  But the moment things don’t go the way we think they should go we are ready to jump ship and toss the entire organization out the window.  This should not surprise you because most teams’ fan bases are the same way.  The reason why is because all fan bases are made up of people and people are fickle.  

One minute they love you and the next they hate you.  

One minute they are at your beckon call.  The next minute they won’t answer your call.  

One minute you are on every talk show.  The next minute they don’t want to talk you about a show.  

One minute they are lifting you up.  The next minute they are bringing you down.  

One minute they are singing your praises.  The next minute they are plotting your downfall.  

One minute you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread.  The next minute they won’t give you a piece of bread.  

All because people are fickle.  This is exactly what happened in our text today and pretty much throughout the gospels.  

As long as Jesus was turning the water to wine.  

Healing the lame.  

Raising people from the dead. 

Healing the blind.  

Casting out demons.  

Multiplying food to feed the multitudes.  

Entering a city on the back of a colt.  

He was okay.  

He was being cheered on.  

He was being praised.  

But the moment a bad word was mentioned about him his cheerleaders turned on him.  They threw their pom poms down and turned their backs on him.  You don’t believe me?  Let’s look at the text.

21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,

    ‘See, your king comes to you,

gentle and riding on a donkey,

    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]

“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Matthew 27:22-23 22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.They all answered, “Crucify him!”23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

One minute Jesus was the man.  The next moment they were asking for the release of a murderer named Barabas and screaming crucify him!

I think many of you know exactly how Jesus must have felt.  Some of you know exactly what Jesus experienced because you have experienced it yourself.  Your cheering section has turned on you.  Your support system has ghosted you.  Your team has bailed on you.  Your family and friends have walked away.  Your co-workers don’t include you. One minute they all had your back.  The next minute you turned around to look behind you and everyone was gone and you were all by yourself.  

That is why it is more important than ever that you check your cheering section.  You need to know who’s in the crowd cheering you on. You need to know who is truly cheering you on and who is plotting your downfall.  And remember it was not just the crowd that turn on Jesus.  His disciples turned on him as well. So not only do you need to be checking on those screaming your name in the crowd, but you also need to be checking on the ones that are close to you.  Here are three reasons why you have to check your cheering section.

You have to check your cheering section because everyone cheering is not concerned about you.  You think because they are cheering for you that they are concerned about.  News flash they don’t care about you and are not concerned about you.  The only thing that most people are concerned about is what you can do for them.  And how you make them feel.  The moment you stop doing for them and making them feel good they are out the door in New York minute.  That is what I love about God.  He cares about our every care and He is concerned about our every concern.  We must check our cheering section because everyone cheering for us is not concerned about us.

You have to check your cheering section because everyone cheering is not in your corner.  I like to compare this point to a boxer and his or her corner.  In the boxer’s corner is the trainer, the manager, and the cut man.  All three are in the boxer’s corner for a specific reason.  They are in the corner to support the boxer.  They are in the corner to push the boxer.  They are in the corner to guide the boxer.  They are in the corner to make sure the boxer has the best chance of winning.  They are in the corner because they are on the boxer’s team.  Could you imagine if the trainer was not guiding the boxer?  Could you imagine if the manager was not supporting the boxer?  Could you imagine if the cut man was not properly treating the boxer’s wounds?  It would be a hot drop mess.  And you have some people in your cheering section that are not supporting you.  That are not guiding you.  That are not pushing you to win.  That are not properly addressing your wounds.  As a matter of fact you have a couple folks in your cheering section that are causing your wounds.  They are cutting you every time they get a chance.  How do you say?  They criticize you.  They put your down.  They demoralize you.  They spread lies about you.  They tell you that you’re not going to make.  In the words of the great theologians, the O’Jays. They’re smiling in your face…  You have to check your cheering section because everyone is not in your corner.

You have to check your cheering section because everyone cheering is not connected to you.  I know you want everyone to be concerned about you.  I know you want everyone to be in your corner, because you are under the illusion that everyone is connected to you.  I hate to be a bearer of bad news, but everyone is not connected to you.  And to be honest this should make you happy.  Because you can not, and should not be connected to everybody.  Everybody is not good for you.  We all have that person in our lives that every time we are around them it brings out the worst in us.  We don’t need to be connected to them.  And here’s another fact to consider, everybody does not want to be connected to us.  Why do you think the Sadducees and Pharisees tested Jesus so much?  They wanted to prove that he was not the Messiah because they did not want to be connected to him.  We have to check our cheering section because everyone cheering for us is not connected to us nor do we want them to be.  God places certain people in our live for a certain time and season.  The problem is we want to stay connected to people past their season in our lives.  This causes unnecessary problems that we could and should avoid.

So that’s all fine and dandy Pastor B.  Now we know why we should check our cheering section, but how do we check our cheering section?  I am so glad that you asked.  Here are three reasons how you check your cheering section.

You check your cheering section with conversations.  You can easily tell in conversations if someone is against you or for you.  It is in their words.  It is in their tone.  It is in there facial expressions, gestures, and hand movements.  This is what we call nonverbal communication.  We just ignore the signs.  How many people have fallen victim to ignoring the signs?  You are talking to someone who says something crazy.  And you say to yourself, did they just say what I think they said.  You know that they said it, but you ignore it.  Then when they start to act all crazy like the crazy thing they said you want to act surprised.  There is an old saying.  When someone shows you who they are, believe them.  We must have conversations to check our cheering section. 

You check your cheering section with courage.  Now many people believe that courage is the absence of fear, but courage is the ability to act in spite of fear.  So why do we need courage to check our cheering section?  Well you need courage to check your cheering section because you might not like what you find.  We need courage to check our cheering section because the results may not be what we expected.  We need courage to check our cheering section because the outcome may seem impossible.  It’s like taking your car to get an oil change.  You are hoping to just pay for an oil change.  Then the service guy comes over to you and says we need to rotate your tires, change your breaks, flush your fluids, and tune your engine.  Your thirty dollar oil change just cost you $1,500.00.  It takes courage to get an oil change because you never know what they will find.  Just like it takes courage to check your cheering section.  

You may find out that your best friend is not your friend at all.  You may find out that you father never believed in you.  

You may find our that your spouse does not support you.  

You may find our that the church doesn’t like the way you sing, play, teach, preach, or fry chicken.  You have to check your cheering section with courage.

You check your cheering section with conversations.  You check your cheering section with courage. And last but not least, you check your cheering section with commitment.  No matter what the outcome your must be committed to completing what you started.  You may start checking your cheering section and notice the the more you check the more people you lose.  But you must be committed to the process.  When it is all said and done your cheering section may be cut down to 1-3 folks.   It may be cut down to just you and God.  I don’t know if you know this or not but you plus God makes your the majority.  So everything is going to be alright.  You have yo check you cheering section with commitment.  You have two keep going no matter what.  You are going to have to get rid of some dead weight.  You are going to have to throw somethings overboard so the ship doesn’t sink.  You are going to have to leave some people behind.  Everyone cannot go where you are going.  Everyone cannot handle your success.  Everyone is not ready for what God has in store for you. So you have to be committed to check your cheering section.

You see Jesus didn’t have to check his cheering section because he knew what each and everyone of them would do. He knew that the same ones that were praising him and shouting Hosanna, blessed be the one the comes in the name of the Lord would be the the same ones that would holler crucify him.  

Jesus knew that his disciples would run out on him.  

Jesus knew that Judah would betray him.  

Jesus knew that Peter would go from cutting off a soldiers ear for him to denying him three times.  So he did not have to check his cheering section because he know what they would do, but we don’t know and that is why we must check our cheering section. But despite who’s in your cheering section you must understand that God has you covered.  And God has us covered in three ways.  I will share them with you and then I will let you go.

God has us covered with his control.  Never forget that he has the whole world in his hands.  God is in total control.  He never sleeps.  He never slumbers.  He sits high.  He looks low.  Nothing catches him by surprise.  We can rest in the fact that he has it all under control.

In the midst of a pandemic, he is in control.

In the midst of violent shootings.

In the midst of social injustice.

In the midst of political unrest.

In the midst of drug addiction and an opioid epidemic.

In the midst of prostitution and human trafficking.

In the midst of racism and discrimination.

In the midst of miscarriages, loss, and depression.

In the midst of infidelity, lying, and abuse.

In the midst of unemployment, stimulus checks, and insecurities.

God is in control and we are covered by His control.

God has us covered with his compassion. Compassion is the sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others.  Now we all know someone who has a great deal of compassion.  A parent.  A grandparent.  An aunt or an uncle.  A spouse.  A coworker.  But there is no one with the compassion that God covers us with.  

He feels for us.  

He cares for us.  

He understands us.  

He is tender-hearted toward us. 

He has warmth for us.  

He is concerned for us.  

He is sensitive toward us.  

He is sympathetic towards us.  

He is gentle toward us.  

He is kind to us.

He is benevolent toward us.

He has mercy on us.  

He tolerates us.  

He is lenient with us. 

God covers us with His compassion.

God has us covered with his crucifixion.  This is what this is all leading up to.  It is funny how they thought they did this to him and he allowed it to happen.  Because he has always been, and forever will be in control.  But he allowed it all to happen because of his compassion for us.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.  That whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.  But he gave his son to die.  To be sacrificed. To be crucified.  In order for us to be covered by his blood.  Is there anybody here excited about the blood.

It soothes my doubts and calms my fears.

And it dries all my tears.

The blood that’s gives me strength.

From day to day.

It will never lose its power.

It reaches to the highest mountain.

It flows to the lowest valley.

The blood that give me strength.

From day to day.

It will never ever lose its power.

I know it was the blood.

I know it was the blood.

I know it was the blood for me.

One day when I was lost. 

He died upon the cross.

I know it was the blood for me.

God covers us with his crucifixion. 

Jesus is Gonna Win Reported by Bernard Travaieille in Illustrations Unlimited

While a student at theological college in the United States Bernard Travaieille was playing basketball with some friends. They were using the court at a nearby school, where a friendly old janitor would patiently wait until they had finished their game before locking up. One day Bernard noticed the janitor was reading the bible. In fact he discovered the old janitor was reading the Book of Revelation.

Bernard was surprised. It was a difficult book to interpret even for highly trained bible students! “Do you understand it?” asked Bernard.

“Oh yes, I understand it” the janitor replied.

Now Bernard was really intrigued. Here was this book that baffled scholars, that was the focus of every conspiracy theory known to humanity, and this old man, a janitor with little formal education, claimed to understand it!

“You understand the Book of Revelation?! What do you think it means?” asked Bernard.

The old man looked up at him and very quietly said, “It means that Jesus is gonna win.”

And because Jesus is going to win it means that we are going to win.  So it does not matter who’s in your cheering section because we are going to win.

It does not matter what it looks like.

It does not matter the situation.

It does not matter the circumstance.

It does not matter how bad it looks.

It does not matter how far you’ve fallen.

It does not matter how many times you messed up.

It does not matter what the test says.

It does not matter what the doctor’s report is.

It does not matter what they say about you.

It does not matter what they do to you.

It does not matter if you lose the job.

It does not matter if they walk out on you.

It does not matter if they turn their back on you.

Because you are going to win. 

And don’t worry about your so called cheering section here on earth.

There are hundreds of thousands of angels rooting for you.

Cheering you on.

Screaming your name.

Dancing and shouting in your honor.

And the most important cheerleader of all is Jesus Christ himself.

Sitting on the right hand side of God.  

Interceding for you and I.

I don’t know about you, but I am excited about the whole thing. So the only cheer you need to be worried about is this one

Hip Hip Hooray.

Jesus loves me anyway.

Jesus!

Jesus!

Loves you!

Loves you!

One minute they were cheering him on.  The next minute they where yelling crucify him.  You have to check your cheering section.

Without Risk there is no Reward (Part 3)

Daniel 6:10-23

10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”

The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”

13 Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” 14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.

15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”

16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.

19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

Well it is time to bring this series to a close.  We have spent some time getting to know these four Hebrew boys by the names of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  In week one I shared with you that these four Hebrew boys risked their diet and received the reward of being promoted in a foreign land, and these rewards were structured, prepared them to serve, and surpassed their expectations.  Last week we just talked about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and I told you the story of the fiery furnace and how they risked death for what they believed in and reaped the rewards of God showing up, God showing out, and God showing who He is.  And this week we are going to focus on Daniel and how he risked his deliverance for what he believed in.  

He risked his deliverance for what he valued.  

He risked his deliverance for what he felt was of the utmost importance to him… prayer!

Shall we look at the text, there is a new king in Babylon and his name is Darius…

*Just like the astrologers and enchanters could not wait to tell on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  The presidents and princes could not wait to tell on Daniel.

*But isn’t it funny that the three Hebrew boys were condemned for not bowing down, and Daniel was condemned for bowing down.  The difference being that the three Hebrew boys refused to bow down to a false God and Daniel refused not to bow down to the only God!

*Then King Darius made a decree…

Now what I love about this story is the fact that Daniel risked his deliverance for prayer.  After he heard this decree, he prayed in his house, in a room with the windows opened facing Jerusalem where everyone and anyone could see him and prayed three times a day!  He did not do it to be seen.  He did it because he did not care who saw him.  There is a big difference there…. All that mattered to Daniel was that he prayed to his God three times a day.  

And we don’t even want to pray before we eat. 

We don’t want to pray before we go to sleep.

We don’t want to pray when we wake up.

We don’t want to pray during the day.

We don’t want to pray when things are going good.

And we definitely don’t want to pray when things are going bad.

We don’t want to pray for our family .

We don’t want to pray for our friends.

We don’t pray for our community. 

We don’t pray for our government.

We don’t pray for our leaders.

We don’t pray for our enemies.

We don’t pray for those less fortunate than us.

But if we would just grasp this concept of prayer the sky is the limit to our relationship with God.

If we are ever going to move forward we must do so on our knees.

Prayer does three things for us.

Prayer keeps us corrected by God.

Prayer keeps us connected to God.

Prayer keeps us concerned about the things of God.

That is why it was so important that Daniel continued to pray.  And he risked his deliverance to pray.  

I mean he could have just prayed in private.  

Went out into the woods, or in a closet, or in a cave, or in a stable, but no way, no how. Daniel did what he always did and went into his room with the windows opened towards Jerusalem and prayed three times a day.  He risked it all to pray.  And because he made this risk he was rewarded for it.  He was in a lions den for hours and not one lion laid a paw on him.  When the king came to check on him the next morning he said my God has sent his angel, and hath closed the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me.  I was innocent before God and I am innocent before you.  I have even seen artist interpret this story with Daniel actually lying with the lions as if they were the best of friends.  So just like Daniel when we risk our deliverance the following three things will happen.

God will save us, just like God sent his angels to close the mouths of the lions he saves us from a life of sin and death. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift us God is eternal life.  I haven’t quoted it in a while so in case you forgot, for God so loved the world…  He sent his son the save us, and because he saves us he does the following three things.

God shields us.  When he saves us we become his children. We are adopted into the kingdom of God and he shields us.  God protects his children.  He covers his children.  How many times have you scene examples or experienced it yourself?   When danger or harm was upon your children and you covered them or shielded them from harm.  Either you wrapped them in your arms, placed them behind you, or laid on top of them in order to shield them from all harm and danger.  If we can do this as frail human beings.  How much more can God cover his children?

Not only does God shield us, God sharpen us.  When a knife is dull it needs to be sharpened so it can be used the way that it is intended to be used.  Have you ever tried to use a dull knife to cut a tomato?  It’s not as easy as it seems.  (Cutco) The sharper the knife the easier the cut.  And it is the same thing with us.  

Life dulls us.  

Situations dull us. 

Circumstances dull us. 

Sickness dulls is.  

Drama dulls us.  

Church folks dull us. 

Coworkers dull us.  

Friends dull us.  

Family dulls is.  

And every now and then we need God to sharpen  us.  That is why Daniel prayed three times a day.  He needed to be sharpened.  That is why we need to stay in consistent communication with God so that we can be sharpened.  That is why we have to get into his word so that we can be sharpened.  God sharpens us!

God shields us.  God sharpens us.  Then God shepherd us.  He leads us and guides us the way that he wants us to go.   He leads us in the path of righteousness for His names sake.

The problem is that we don’t want to follow his lead. 

The problem is that we want to do what we want to do.  

The problem is we want to be the shepherd.  

But sheep can’t shepherd.  

Sheep can’t lead.  

Sheep have to follow.  

Know your role and let God shepherd you.  

Let God lead you!

Daniel would not have achieved or accomplished all that he did if he had not let God shepherd him.

God shepherds us.

So first God will saves us and then God will set us.  He will put us in our proper place.  In the perfect will of God.  I don’t know about you but I need to be in the perfect will of God.  And I’ve told the story and why I believe that being the interim pastor at the first church of God in Washington Court House was the perfect will of God for my life.  Because if I was not their interim pastor I would not have been prepared to become your pastor.  How do you think that Daniel was elevated so high in a foreign land?  He was in the will of God.  He was in his proper place.  And God set him.  And when God sets you he does these three things.

God sheds his light.  He gives you insight into the things of God.  He opens your mind to the limitless possibilities of life with God.  He enlightens you.  Has God ever opened his word to you?  A verse, a chapter, or a book.  Or he sheds his light in a certain situation or circumstance.   He sheds his light!

God sheds his light and God shares his love.  He just doesn’t say that he loves us he shows us that he loves us!  And I’ve told you this many times before, you can say that you love somebody all you want, but they will never really know that you do until you show them.  And I know someone is thinking how does God show me he loves me?  

He woke you up this morning.

You have air in your lungs.

You can blink your eyes.

You have use of your limbs.

You have clean water to drink.

You have clothes on your back.

You have food in your belly.

Do I need to go on?  God shares his love.

He blesses you.

He saved you.

He delivered you.

He healed you.

He got you through.

He made a way.

Do I need to go on?  God shares his love.

He brought you from a mighty long way.

He took you and made something beautiful out of your life.

He picked you up.

He turned you around.

He placed your feet on higher ground.

Do I need to go on?  God shares his love.

God sheds his light, God shares his love, and God shreds our enemies.  After Daniel was removed from the lions den the king brought those men which had accused Daniel and cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives.  And the lions overpowered them and crushed all of their bones.  They were shredded! Is anybody excited about the fact that the battle is not yours it belongs to the lord.  He will take care of your enemies….  Have you ever seen what happens to the enemies of God?

Numbers 24:8 God brought him forth out of Egypt, he hath the strength of a unicorn, he shall eat up the nations of his enemies, and shall break their bones and pierce them with his arrows.

Deuteronomy 20:14 … and  thou shall eat the split of thine enemies which the Lord thy God hath given thee.

2 Kings 2 17:39 but the Lord your God ye shall fear, and he shall deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.

Psalm 3:7 arise, O Lord; save me, O my God for thou has smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone, thou has broken the teeth of the ungodly.

God shreds our enemies, because our enemies are His enemies.

First God will save us.  Then God will set us.  And thirdly, God will surprise us.  He gives us more than we deserve, or better yet not giving us exactly what we deserve, and that really surprises us.  

Instead he gives us more than we ask for. 

More than we dare to dream. 

More than we can even imagine.  

He surprises us with his grace and with his mercy!  

Think about that for a momen.

Did you ever expect to be in church?

To be saved.

To be healed.

To be delivered.

To be free.

To be sober.

To be faithful.

To be used by God.

God surprises us, and he does so in three ways…

God shakes us.  He gets our attention.  Has God ever gotten your attention before.  You were in a situation or circumstance that literally shook you to your core.  And God was like do I have your attention now.  

The time you almost died in the car accident, you survived, but the car did not.

The time you almost got caught doing what you should not have been doing.

The time when you drank too much or smoked too much or indulged too much and it scared you or shook you.

I am sure that Daniel was a bit shaken when he entered that lions den and seen all of those ferocious beasts, but then he remembered his God.  The one whom he prayed to three times a day.  The one that elevated him in a foreign land.  The one that delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego out of the fiery furnace.

Every now and then God will shake us to get our attention.

So God shakes us.  Then God shines his light through us.  Think of the testimony that Daniel had.  He was able to show the world that if you have faith.  If you believe.  If you pray.  God will deliver you.  And it had a tremendous impact on everyone around him.  Bishop Clarke preached about this a few years ago.  He had been preaching about becoming a better you and one of the ways to do that is to let your light shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  But in order to do this you have to be willing to allow yourself to be humbled so that it is God’s light shining and not yours.  That people are not so impressed with you, but with the God in you.  God shines his light through us.

God shakes us.  God shines his light through us.  Last but not least, God showcases his power.  Not only did God send an angel to close the mouths of the lions, but he caused the king to make a decree that every Dominion of his kingdom tremble and fear the God of Daniel for he is the living God, and steadfast forever. And his kingdom which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.  He deliverers and rescues them, and he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.  And Daniel prospered through the reign of three kings in a foreign land, Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, and Cyrus the Persian, and none of these kings were believers, but God used them to show case his power.  

This is an excerpt from an article entitled, a call for Christian Risk by John Piper.

Christ calls us to take risks for kingdom purposes. Almost every message of American consumerism says the opposite: Maximize comfort and security – now, not in heaven. Christ does not join that chorus. To every timid saint, wavering on the edge of some dangerous gospel venture, he says, “Fear not, you can only be killed” (Luke 12:4). Yes, by all means maximize your joy! How? For the sake of love, risk being reviled and persecuted and lied about, “for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12).

There is a great biblical legacy of loving risk-takers. Joab, facing the Syrians on one side and the Ammonites on the other, said to his brother Abishai, “Let us be courageous for our people . . . and may the LORD do what seems good to him” (2 Samuel 10:12). Esther broke the royal law to save her people and said, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Shadrach and his comrades refused to bow down to the king’s idol and said, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us . . . But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods” (Daniel 3:16-18). And when the Holy Spirit told Paul that in every city imprisonment and afflictions await him, he said, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course” (Acts 20:24).

“Every Christian,” said Stephen Neil about the early church, “knew that sooner or later he might have to testify to his faith at the cost of his life” (A History of Christian Missions, Penguin, 1964, p. 43). This was normal. To become a Christian was to risk your life. Tens of thousands did it. Why? Because to do it was to gain Christ, and not to was to lose your soul. “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

In America and around the world the price of being a real Christian is rising. Things are getting back to normal in “this present evil age.” Increasingly 2 Timothy 3:12 will make sense: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Those who’ve made gospel-risk a voluntary life-style will be most ready when we have no choice. Therefore I urge you, in the words of the early church, “Let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:13-14).

So we can risk our diet here.

We can risk death here. 

We can risk deliverance here.

We can risk being talked about here.

We can risk being hated on here.

We can risk failure here.

We can risk kindness here.

We can risk helping someone here.

We can risk love here.

We can risk sharing the gospel here.

We can risk being vulnerable here.

For here we have no lasting city.

We risk it all for the city that is to come.

We risk it all to walk through the pearly gates.

We risk it all to tread the streets of gold.

We risk it all to sing with the hallelujah chorus.

We risk it all to receive our crown.

We risk it all to tell the story of how we made it over.

We risk it all to hear him say well done good and faithful servant.

We risk it all to say some glad morning when this life is over.

We risk it all to say to a home on God’s celestial shore.

We risk it all to say when the shadows of this life our gone.

We risk it all to say like a bird from prison bars has flown.

We risk it all to say just a few more weary days and then.

We risk it all to say to a land where joy shall never end.

We risk it all to say I’ll fly away oh glory I’ll fly away.  When I die hallelujah bye and bye I’ll fly away.

We risk it all to say praise the Lord, I’m heaven bound.

We risk it all to be in his presence.

Because our true reward is to see him face to face.

Whom you ask do we want to see face to face?

The king of kings.

The Lord of lords. 

The alpha and the omega.

The beginning and the end.

The author and finisher of our faith.

The creator of heaven and earth.

The bright and morning star.,

The lily of the valley.

The balm of Gilead.

The high and lofty one.

The great I am that I am.

We get to see Jesus, the savior of the world.

Jesus the friend that sticks closer than a brother.

Jesus the lamb that was slain.

Jesus, the son of the living God.

That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!

Is there anybody in the room willing to risk it all to see Jesus?

Is there anybody here that wants to be like Daniel?

is there anybody here that wants to be like those three Hebrew boys?

Better yet, is there anybody her that wants to be like Jesus?

Without risk there is no reward.

Without Risk There Is No Reward (Part 2)

Without Risk there is no Reward! 2

Daniel 3:4-18, 24-25

Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

At this time some astrologers[b] came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! 10 Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”

13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Now last week we began this new series, without risk there is no reward and I shared with the the story of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  I told you the story about how they refused to eat the king’s meat and drink the king’s wine, and chose to eat vegetables and drink water instead.  And after 10 days they were found to be healthier and more nourished than all the other men.  They took a risk and reaped the rewards of being elevated in a foreign land, and these rewards were structured, prepared them to serve, and surpassed their expectations.  

Last week we talked about how the Hebrew boys risked their diet.  

This week we’re going to talk about how the three Hebrew boys risked death.  

Last week they risked their lifestyle.  

This week they risked their lives.  

Last week they risked their meals.  

This week they risked their manhood.  

And they risked it all for what they believed.  

They risked it all for their faith.  

They risked it all for their God.  

What are you willing to risk for your faith?  

What are you willing to risk for what you believe?  

What are you willing to risk for your God?  

There is a a professional football player who took a risk for what he believed in a few years ago.  He decided that he would kneel during the national anthem instead of stand, as a peaceful protest to bring attention to the enormous amount of police brutality and wrongful shootings and deaths against African Americans and other minority groups as well as other racial injustices that have gotten out of control in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  He was well within his rights as an American to protest in this manner.  He did not break any rules of the NFL or any laws of the land.  He was just standing up or should I say kneeling down for what he believed in.  This act of peaceful protest has been a controversy in the media for years.  People can agree or disagree all they want, but the sad thing is that this great and talented professional athlete is sitting at home without a job all because he took a stand.  Or should I say because he was black and took a stance because I guarantee if Kolin Kaperknick was white the conversation would be totally difference.  But because he is not white and he took a risk he is no longer in the NFL.

Not because he broke a law.  

Not because he broke one of the leagues policies.  

Not because he took an illegal substance.  

Not because he was selling drugs.  

Not because he beat his wife.  

Not because he was caught on camera using the “n” word.  

But because he took a stand for what he believes.  

So again I ask you, what are you willing to risk for what you believe.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to risk their lives for what they believed.  And I think there are a few things that we can learn from their story.  Let’s look at the text…

So that’s all fine and dandy for the three Hebrew boys, but that was a long time ago.  Times have changed!  This is 2021.  I live in America and nobody is making me bow and worship anything.  Are you sure about that?

We don’t worship Facebook?

Twitter?

Instagram?

Pintrest

YouTube?

The Bachelor?

The bachelorette? 

Big Brother? 

American Idol?

Beyoncé?

Jay Z?

Bruno Mars?

Taylor Swift?

The NBA?

The MLB?

The NFL?

Former President Donald Trump or Barack Obama?

We have idols all around us, and whether we want to believe it or not our lives are at stake.  So ask your neighbor are you willing to risk it all for God?  Are your willing to risk your life?  The three Hebrew boys did and if you do, these three things will happen.

First of all God will show up.  I love this because Jesus literally shows up because the king jumps to his feet and says didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace.  Then why do I see four men unbound, and one looks like the son of God.  Is there anybody in the room that can testify to the fact that God will show up.  He may not come when you want him, but he is always right on tim.  I am sure that we can all share a story or two or three or twenty about how many times God has shown up on our behalf.  

The times we didn’t know how we were going to pay that bill.  The times we didn’t know how we would feed our children.  

The times we didn’t know if we’d see the next day.  

The times we thought we would never make it.  

We know all about God showing up.  So imagine how God will show up when we risk it all for him!  This is what happens when God shows up.

When God shows up we are in his presence. I don’t know about anybody else, but I’d rather be in the presence of God than presence of the rich and the famous.  

I’d rather be in the presence of God than the presence of the Queen of England.  

I’d rather be in the presence of God than the president, past, present, or future.  

Although I enjoy and miss going to Buckeye football games.

I’d rather be in the presence of G-O-D than in a crowd of 110,000 people screaming O-H-I-O!  

And the reason why is simple.  Can’t no body do me like Jesus.  Can’t nobody do me like the Lord.  In other words in his presence…

I am safe.

I am secure.

I am loved.

I am protected. 

I am better than I am without him.n

I am on track.

I am in good company.

I am provided for.

And I am sure that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were excited about being in the presence of God.

Anybody in the room excited about the presence of God?

Holy Spirit you are welcome here.

Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. 

Your glory God is what our hearts long for.

To be overcome by you presence, Lord.

Because when God shows up we are in his presence and when we are in his presence we receive his prevention.  Now what in the world are you talking about.  Well prevention is the act of stopping something from happening or arising.  And how many times has God stopped something from happening or arising in your life?  

The car accident.

The drive by.

The beat down.

The drama.

The argument. 

Unemployment. 

Homelessness. 

Starvation.

Divorce.

Separation.

He prevented the three Hebrew boys from burning up and dying in a fiery furnace.

What has he prevented from happening or arising in your life?

So when God shows up he brings his presence and his prevention, and because of his presence and prevention we have peace.  In the words of that great theologian Alicia Keys…

Some people want it all.

But I don’t want nothing at all.

If ain’t you baby.

If I ain’t got you baby.

Some people want diamond rings.

Some just want everything.

But everything means nothing.

If I ain’t got you.

And that is exactly how I feel about the peace of God.  

I’m stress free if I have peace.

I’m worry free if I have peace.

I can relax if I have peace.

I can stand in the midst of the storm.

I can be cool calm and collective.

I can stay calm when all hell is breaking loose.

You did not see the three Hebrew boys freaking out.

Throwing a fit.

Losing their minds.

Going off.

Cussing and fussing.

Being disrespectful. 

Being hostile.

In the midst of being thrown into the fiery furnace they were as cool as the other side of the pillow. 

Why?  Because God showed up bringing his presence, his prevention, and his peace.  And we all know that God provides a peace that passes all understanding.

So first of all God shows up and then God shows out.  Now Jesus making an appearance in the fiery furnace is God showing up.  

The fact that the three Hebrew boys were tied up when they were thrown into the furnace but unbound when Jesus shows up is God showing out.

The fact that the three Hebrew boys were not burned in the fiery furnace is God showing out.  

The fact that the three Hebrew boys’s clothes were not damaged by the flames was God showing out.  

The fact they they came out of the fire not smelling like smoke was God showing out.  

The fact that they survived being in the fiery furnace was God showing out.  

The fact that Jesus was walking around in the fiery furnace was God showing out.  

I don’t know about you, but my God is all that.  My God is all that, a bag of chips, and the dip on the side.

He could have just pulled the Hebrew boys out of the fire.  

He could have just spoke their deliverance into existence.  

But he showed up and showed out by walking with the Hebrew boys in the midst of the fire.  And isn’t that exactly what God does for us?  

The minute things heat up he’s right there with us.

The minute things get tough.

The minute things get rough.

The minute the hills get to hard too climb.

The minute the valley gets to low too get through.

The minute the river is too wide to cross.

That’s when God steps in and shows out and goes through with us.  He shows out in three ways.

God shows out personally.  Meaning he shows out just for me.  He shows out just for you.  Because of our personal relationship with God he shows out for us.  Now many of us know how we respond to someone in need whom we have a personal relationship with.  

For our friends we will show out.  

For our church we will show out.  

For our family we will show out.  

For our children we will show out.  

For our spouse we will show out. 

So how much more will our father in heaven show out personally for each and everyone of his children?

Just for me.  

Just for me.  

Jesus came and did it just for me.

God shows out personally and then he shows out publicly.  He is not ashamed of us so we should not be ashamed of him.  I am sure that there were a number of observers at this fiery furnace event.  Especially the haters that turned the three Hebrew boys in, in the first place, and God makes this public appearance.  He shows out and let’s the world know that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego belong to him and he will protect his children.  When people know that you belong to God, if they have any sense they will treat you a little differently.  

They will show you a little respect.  

They won’t do certain things around you.  

They’ll stop cussing around you, drinking around you, doing drugs around you.  That is if they have any sense.  Because when Jesus shows out for you in a public way people know that you are his.

God shows out personally, God shows up publicly, and God shows out powerfully.  He shows out personally, he does it just for you and me.  Then he shows out publicly to show the whole world who he is and that we are his.  Then he shows out powerfully.  With his mighty hand.  With his omnipresence.  He is everywhere at the same time.  That is why he was able to walk in the furnace with the three Hebrew boys and deliver them.  He is omniscient, he knows all and sees all.  That is why he could make it to Babylon in time to save the three Hebrew boys.  And he is omnipotent.  Having all power in his hands.  And it was with this power that he rescued the three Hebrew boys and its is with this same power that he saves you and me.

It’s with this same power that he delivered us.

It’s with the same power that he picked us up.

It’s with the same power that he turned us around.

It’s with the same power that he placed our feet on solid ground.

It’s with the same power that he healed us.

It’s with the same power that he freed us from the bondage of sin.

Is anybody in the room excited about the fact that God shows out powerfully!

First God shows up, then he shows out, then he shows who he is.  And this is such a pivotal point in the text because King Nebuchadnezzar and the rest of the babylonians heard about the God of the the Israelites.  

They heard the rumors.  

They heard the stories.  

They new of this so called God.  

His reputation had proceeded him.  

But they did not actually know him.  But after these three Hebrew boys and the fiery furnace they they knew exactly who he was and what he was capable of doing.  Because seeing him caused the king to stand to his feet look in the furnace and say.  I thought there was three men in the furnace, but I see four, and one looks like the son of God.  Then he gets the Hebrew boys out and he says if the people of any nation or language say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego they will be cut into pieces, and their houses turned into piles of rubble.  For no other God can save this way.  He showed who he was.  And he does this in three ways.

He showed who he was through his positions.  We all know and believe that God is three persons in one.  The father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.  We refer to this as the Holy Trinity.  And in this story God shows who he is in all three positions.  Jesus the son,  is in the furnace.   The king acknowledged the father when he looked in the furnace and said the fourth one looks like the son of God.  You cannot have the son without the father.  And only the Holy Spirit could have kept the three Hebrew boys in the midst of this drama.  And you all know exactly what I am talking about.  God uses his positions to show us who he is.  Sometimes he’s a father and he loves us and takes care of us.  He disciplines us and protects us.  Then other times he’s the son.  He’s the brother we never had.  He walks with us and talks with us.  He intercedes for us.  He died for us.  And then he is also the Holy Spirit and he leads us.  He guides us.  He directs our paths.  He shows us who he is through his positions.

He shows us who he is through his positions and then he shows us who he is through his posture.  Posture is a position of a person’s body when standing or sitting, a particular way of dealing with or considering something, an approach or attitude.  And I know the three Hebrew boys where so glad that God had the attitude and approach to stop by and pull them out of that fiery furnace.  They were so glad that he sits high and he looks low.  And because he sits high and looks low, he never slumbers or sleeps.  He is always in the right position with proper posture to assist us whenever we need him. 

Which leads me to my last point, he shows who he is in person.  He is always in the right position, with proper posture, in order to move on our behalf in person.  This is what he did for the three Hebrew boys.

Like I said earlier he could have spoke their deliverance. 

He could have snapped his fingers and the fire would have went out.

He could have sent a heavy down pour to put out the fire.

He could have soften the king’s heart.

He could have turned the soldiers against the king.

He could have sent a host of heavenly beings to protect the three Hebrew boys.

But he showed up in person and said.  

No way!

Not today.

Not on my watch.  

And there was one other time in particular when Jesus showed us who he was by being in the right position, the the proper posture, in person.  

That day over 2000 years ago.  

That day we will celebrate in a couple of weeks.

That day that we call Good Friday in spite of the fact that it was bad for our God.  It was bad for his son.  

That day when he hung on that old rugged cross for 6 long hours after being beat.  

After being whipped.

After being spat upon.

After having his beard ripped out.

After being mocked.

After being ridiculed. 

After being shamed.

After being abandoned.

Took this posture and died so that we could live. 

They took him off the cross.

And buried him on Friday.

He laid their Friday night.

He laid there all day Saturday .

And early Sunday morning he got up with all power in his hands.

And he is still showing us who he is by being in the right position, with proper position, in person with his arms wide open waiting to receive us.  I am telling you church.  The reward is worth the risk!

My favorite part of this story comes in verses 17-18, When a Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego say, If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  And that’s the attitude we all should have when it comes to risk and reward.  So my question to you this morning is do you have an even if he does not attitude this morning?

Are you going to risk it all today, even if he doesn’t? 

Are you going to write that business plan?

Are you going to apply for the loan?

Are you going to apply to school?

Are you going to ask for the help that you need?

Are you going ask her out?

Are you going to say yes when he asks you out?

Are you going to share your story?

Are you gonna answer the call?

Are you going to go out on a limb?

Are your going to be the parent God has called you to be?

Are you going to be the spouse that your spouse needs you to be?

Are you going to rise above the hate?

Are you going to ignore the drama?

Are you going to give him glory?

Are you going to lift up his name?

Are you going to give him praise? 

Are you going to give him worship?

The point of the matter is this beloved, we have to come to a point in our lives that even if we don’t get what we want from the Lord.  

Even if we don’t get what we think we need from the Lord.  

Even if we don’t get our desired outcome from the Lord.  

Even if he does come the way we expect him.  

That we understand that if he never does another thing for us he has already done enough for us to praise him the rest of our lives.

We understand that God is in control.  

That God is sovereign.  

That God knows what he is doing.  

That God’s ways our not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts.  

That all things work together for the good of those that love God and are called according to his purpose.

This is a concept that the three Hebrew boys were confident in.

They believed before Paul told the folks in Philippi, for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.  In other words, if I live I’m with God and if I die I’m with God.

If I make it I’m with God, if I don’t make it I’m with God.

If I succeed I’m with God, if I fail I’m with God.

If if get up I’m with God, and if I fall I’m with God.

If I’m healed I’m with God, and if I’m not healed I’m with God.

If I get married I’m with God, if I stay single I’m with God.

If the marriage works I’m with God, if the marriage falls apart I’m with God.

If I get the job I’m with God, if I’m unemployed I’m with God.

If my dreams come true I’m with God, if my dream turns into a nightmare I’m with God!

No matter what the situation or the circumstance, I am with God. More importantly he is with me.  He has my back.  So go on and take that risk.  I guarantee it’s worth the reward.

God will show up.

God will show out.

God will show who he is.

Without Risk there is no Reward (Part 1)

Daniel 1:5-20

5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your[a] food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

When I was in college there was a young lady that I would see on occasion walking across the quad, in the cafeteria, in gospel choir practice, or in the student union.  And every time that I would see her my heart would skip a beat, my pulse would race, and my palms would get all sweaty.   So one day I finally got up the nerve to ask her out, but I camouflaged the invitation as a meeting of friends.  She still had no idea how much I was into her.  But anyway, I asked her if I could cook dinner for her, and she said yes.  So we set a time and I was on cloud nine, but I was as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  The day came and I prepared a meal.  I cleaned my dorm room and got everything in order.  At the appointed time I walked to her dorm and picked her up.  As we walked to my room we had a casual conversation. When we got to the room I open the door and to her surprise there was a candlelight dinner waiting for her, Kenny G playing in the background, and a romantic scene set before her eyes.  As we ate there was a knock on the door, and one of my friends delivered a dozen red roses.  I think my intentions were becoming clear to her.  So we ate, we watched one of the greatest movies of all time (Braveheart), and we danced.  At the end of the night I walked her to her dorm, gave her a hug, and handed her a poem that I had written for her.  And then I said one of the corniest lines in history, “in the words of Babyface, when can I see you again?”  Well the line must not have been too corny because I did get to see her again.  We became really good friends.  She became my girlfriend.  Today she is my wife of 18 years.  The mother of my children, and my very best friend.  But I said all that to say this, if I would have never taken the risk to ask Shannon out, I would have never reaped the rewards of this blessed life that we share together.  She is and shall forever be my boo!  And this is relevant to almost every area of our lives.  There is no reward without risk.  But many people don’t take risks.  Many people think that the risks are just not worth the rewards.  Let me share with you three reasons why people don’t take risks.  Now this is my A-B-C, not my 1-2-3.

First of all people don’t take risks because they like to play it safe.  They like to keep it close to the chest like the servant that decided to bury his talent opposed to investing it or putting it in the bank to earn interest.  He played it safe and missed out on his blessing.

Secondly people don’t take risks because they are skeptical.  They don’t trust the system or they think somebody is out to get them.  These are the type of people that ask a lot a questions.  Talk real big, but never do anything.  

These are the people that sleep with one eye open. 

They are suspicious of everything.  

They are conspiracy theorists and talk about the man and how big brother is watching.  

They are skeptical.

And thirdly, people don’t take risk because they are scared.  They are simply afraid.  

They don’t want to be fooled. 

They don’t want to be hustled.  

They don’t want to be bamboozled.  

They don’t want to be hoodwinked.  

They don’t want to be taken advantage of.  

They don’t want to be embarrassed.  

They don’t want to trust.  

They are scared.  

But God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and of a sound mind.  

But there truly are not any rewards without risk and many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

You took a risk to go back to school.  

You took a risk to start that business.  

You took a risk when you got married.  

You took a risk when you went to that job interview.  

You took a risk when you applied for the loan.  

You took a risk when you went to that new barber.

Your took a risk when you went to that new hair dresser. 

You took the risk when you did the big chop and went natural with your hair style.

You took a risk when you gave your life to Christ and now you are reaping the rewards and this is exactly what happened in our text today.

When King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem he gave strict instructions to bring back, to capture, to kidnap the best of the best.  The brightest of the brightest.  The cream of the crop.  

And among these men were Daniel, whom they called Belteshazzar, Hananiah, whom they called Shadrach, Mishael, whom they called Meshach, and Azariah, whom they called Abednego.  These men were placed under the care of a Eunuch named Ashpenaz.  And the Eunuch was instructed to give all the men a daily portion of the the king’s meat, and the kings wine in order to nourish them for three years so that they could stand before the king. Now among these men were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  And Daniel purposed in is his heart not to defile himself with the king’s meat or the king’s wine.  Somebody say risk. Now Daniel had already found favor with the prince of the eunuchs, and the eunuch noticed that Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not eating the king’s meat or drinking the king’s wine.  And the eunuch attempts to persuade them to eat, but they refused.  Then Daniel said to the prince of the eunuchs please test your servants for ten days, give us nothing but vegetables for food and water to drink (this is where we get the Daniel fast from).  Then compare our appearance with the young men that eat the king’s food, and you can treat us according to what you see.  So he agreed and tested them in ten days.  At the end of ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than the young men that ate the king’s food.  So the Eunuch took away their choice food and gave them vegetables to eat and water to drink.  These four men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning.  And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.  At the end of three years, the king talked with them and found none equal to Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  So they entered the king’s service. Somebody say reward!  In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

So as you can see the risks are worth the rewards.  So what’s so great about these rewards? I am so glad that you asked.

The rewards are structured.  What in the world are you talking about Pastor Brian.  The rewards are set up in such a manner that they meet us right at our point of need.  Structure means to construct or arrange according to a plan.  To give pattern or organization.  We serve a God of order and he even orders our rewards.  The scripture said that God gave them knowledge, and skill in learning and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.  He structured their rewards. You have to have knowledge before wisdom and you have to have the skill to learn which leads to wisdom.  So these rewards are structured in three ways.

First, the rewards are steady.  In other words, they keep on coming.  They are consistent, continual, frequent, repeated, recurrent, 

recurring, intermittent.  There is a regular flow of rewards. 

Lamentations 3:22-23 states, Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.  The rewards are like the energizer bunny they keep coming and coming and coming. 

But not only are the rewards steady but the rewards stack up.  Its blessings upon blessings upon blessings upon blessings.  He did not just give Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego knowledge.  

He gave them skill.  

He gave them learning.  

He gave them wisdom.  

And he gave Daniel understanding of visions and dreams.  

And he gave them favor with the king.  

He gave them prominent positions in the kingdom of a foreign land!  In a foreign land in which they were originally prisoners.

Blessings upon blessings upon blessings upon blessings.  

Does anybody know what I’m talking about this morning?

Every time I turn around he’s making a way!

The rewards are steady, the rewards stack up, and the rewards stand the test of time.  They are like a Chevy Deacon Freeman, built to last.  Like a rock!  How could these rewards not stand the test of time when our hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness?  I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name.  On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.  All other ground is sinking sand.  The rewards stand the test of time.

First the rewards are structured and secondly the rewards prepare us to serve.  You see the rewards are not just for us.  The rewards prepare us to be used by God.  Or in the case of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego the rewards prepared them to serve the king.  And they did so to the best of their abilities.  I think we forget that we are here to serve and not to be served.  If we are Christians which means Christ like or following in the footsteps of Christ.  We should be serving.  Jesus said I did not come to be serve but to serve.  That is why he gave us the example or ordinance of foot washing.  Because if Jesus, the Son of God, God in the flesh could wash the disciples nasty, dirty, stinking feet.  We should have no problem serving.  That is why we are going to love God and love people.  Because that’s what we’re supposed to do.  We are prepared to serve because of three reasons.

We are selected for the rewards.  Just like Daniel and the three Hebrew boys were selected to serve the king.  We all were selected as well.  In other words we were all chosen.  We talked about this last week, but I just want to know if there is anyone in the house today that is excited about the fact that God selects us.  The king of kings and the Lord of lords chooses you.  He chooses me.  And I remember what it feels like not to be chosen.  So I give God praise for selecting me.

So we are selected for the rewards and then the rewards supply us.  He will supply all of our needs according to his riches in glory.  Isn’t that what happens to the Hebrew boys.  God supplies them with food, water, shelter.  

They are in a foreign land.  

They could be locked up.  

They could be on the street.  

They could be begging. 

But God supplies all of their physical needs and then blesses them with knowledge, learning, skills, wisdom, and understanding of visions and dreams.  Think of all the ways the Lord supplies us!  Has he supplied you with anything today?  Give God praise for the supply.  As a matter of fact, God has supplied you with more than you need!  So give God praise for the overflow!

We are selected for the rewards, the rewards supply us, and then the rewards surround us.  Think about this for a moment.  I already told you that they were in a foreign land.  

They were immigrants.  

They where illegal aliens.  

They were refugees.  

They were P.O.W.’s prisoners of war!

But because of the rewards of God they found favor with the king and they were surrounded.  

They were protected.  

They became the king’s chief advisors and no one could touch them. 

They were surrounded.  

They had clout and power.  

They were surrounded.  

They were in protective custody.  

They were surrounded.  

And I don’t know about you but I am so glad that God surrounds me.  

He surrounds me with his love.  

He surrounds me with his presence.  

He surrounds me with his power.

He surrounds me with his grace

He surrounds me with his mercy

He surrounds me with his peace

He surrounds me with his joy

Is anybody excited about the fact that God surrounds us

First the rewards are structured.  Secondly the rewards prepare us to serve, and last but not least the rewards surpass our expectations.  I am sure that these Hebrew boys were expecting the worse.  I mean they knew that God was able to do anything but fail.  But I would bet, if I was a betting man, a half dollar, that never in a million years did these boys think that they would be elevated in Babylon the way that they were elevated.  

All because they took a risk and decided not to defile themselves by eating the king’s food.  

They took a stand.  

And if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.  Well these four Hebrew boys took a risk and the rewards surpassed every one of their expectations.  That is why Paul told the church in Ephesus, “Now unto him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that is within us.”  The rewards surpassed their expectations for three reasons.

They were set apart.  By choosing not to defile themselves by eating the king’s food this set them apart from the other men.  By not eating the food the Bible said that they looked healthier and more nourished then the other men.  This set them apart.  And if you are going to be used by the king you have to be set apart.  You have to be different.  You have to be unique.  That is why Peter says in 1 Peter 2:9 you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.  That you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. We must be set a part.  

Because when we are set apart we can be set up. You see when Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were set apart they were set up to be used by the king.  

They were set up to advise the king.  

They were set up to assist the king.  

They were set up to help the king.  

They were set up for knowledge.  

They were set up  for learning.  

They were set of for skill. 

They were set up for wisdom.  

They were set up for understanding.

What is God setting you up for today?

And because they were set a part, they were set up, and because they were set up they were able to set the stage.  What are you talking about preacher?  Well anyone in show business knows how important it is to set the stage.  

The scenery has to be just right.  

The props have to be just right.  

The lights have to be just right.  

The sound has to be just right. 

And then the show will be just right.  

Well because these four Hebrew boys were set apart they were set up and able to set the stage, because once they found favor with the king they were able to show him the God that they serve.  All because they took a risk.  They reaped the ultimate reward of sharing their faith.  So you’ve been set apart. You have been set up.  They stage is set, and the show must go on.  It’s time to share your faith.  Take the risk and reap the reward of introducing someone to God.  I guarantee the reward is worth the risk!

Let me share a story with you…

Life as a single mother was never going to be easy, yet she had chosen to go down the path less travelled. Most people choose a life of ease and comfort, but not Amaya. At every step of the way in her life, she had to choose between two things, and none of those decisions had been easy.

Growing up with a single mother, Amaya understood the scrutiny that particular group of women faced. Her mother had been her strength and she had been her mother’s strength. When she decided to adopt baby Mira, her mother had stood by her as a rock.

For the last five years, she had divided her time between her home and office. Working in the corporate world was a necessity, even though her passion and interest lay somewhere else. The recent recession, however was threatening this stability in her life. The company was talking about lay offs and the first to go would be the Marketing Department. She was a mid-level executive, and had no leverage to save her job unlike the top-level executives. She had predicted that this letter would arrive any moment now.

Her instincts hadn’t been wrong. However, the company was considerate enough to provide a severance package. The money from the severance package would support her little family. Her mother needed a knee operation and Mira was growing up and she wanted her daughter to have the best of everything.

That day when she went home, she sat down with a tired sigh. Her mother brought her a cup of tea, and asked, “What is the matter? You look unusually tired.”

“I just got laid off, along with fifty other people in the office. “

“You are a talented girl. I am sure you will find better opportunities.”

“But the market Maa. The recession is affecting every big company. Remember Ahana, Rohit and Siya? They were laid off last week too. I don’t know what to do next.”

“Amaya, have you thought about what I told you last week? Maybe it is time for you to create your own path. Take this as a sign that you are meant to do other things in life.”

A tired Amaya just nodded her head, not wanting to dwell on it at the moment. Later that night, sleep eluded her. Maa’s words echoed in her head. Maybe it was time to think seriously about starting her bakery. She had been baking cakes for all of her close friends and even some of Mira’s classmates.

After spending the entire night tossing and turning, she had made up her mind. She was going to use half the money from the severance package to officially launch her business. No one was happier than Mira that morning, her mommy was going to bake cakes, what could be more fun than that.’

Five years later, The Bake Shop had become a force to reckon with in the baking business. The risk Amaya had taken had paid off. Even though the first six months had been a struggle, her business had eventually taken off. Word of mouth meant she did not even have to spend money marketing. She put all her time and energy into learning new techniques and perfecting old ones. Her biggest joy was Mira, who had already started learning how to bake. She had inspired her daughter and that was her biggest achievement.

Now I don’t know what your dream is but without risk there is no reward.

I don’t know what you’re hoping for but without risk there is no reward.

I don’t know what you’re praying for but without risk there is no reward.

I don’t know what you’re waiting for but without risk there is no reward. 

I don’t know the desires of your heart but without risk there is no reward.

I don’t know what’s holding you back but without risk there is no reward.

I don’t know why you’re playing it safe for but without risk there is no reward.

I don’t know what you’re skeptical about but without risk there is no reward.

I don’t know what you’re scared of but without risk there is no reward.

If you want the reward you have to take a leap of faith.

If you want the reward you have to think outside of the box.

If you want the reward you have to step outside of your comfort zone.

If your want the reward you have to take the risk.

If you don’t believe me let me show you. 

Come here Noah, he took a risk and built an Ark when it had never ever rain before and he saved his family, the animals, and generations to come.

Come here Abraham, he took a risk and left his father heading towards a promise land that he never heard of.  Was told that his wife would conceive at the age of 90, he continued to take a risk by having faith. And that son was born.  Then God said sacrifice your son.  And he took another risk and went to sacrifice his son, but God provided a ram in the bush and because of his risk he is known as the father of our faith.

Come here David, he took the risk of fighting Goliath, and reaped the rewards of becoming the greatest king in history.

Come here Moses, he took the risk of going back to Egypt after committing murder and going to Pharaoh and saying let my people go, and leading the Israelites out of captivity.

But it was not just the men who took risks….

Come here Hannah, she took a risk of praying so hard that the priest thought she was drunk, and God blessed her with a son.

Come here Ruth who took a risk and stayed with her mother-in-law after her husband died and married Boaz,  their kinsman redeemer

Come here Esther, who went to the king, and said if I perish let me perish and saved her people from destruction…..

And this is just a few from the Old Testament. 

Come here Peter who had the audacity to step out of the boat and walk on water.

Come here Paul who risked preaching the Gospel after condemning Christians and wrote most of the New Testament.

Come here James who took the risk of not standing on the fact the he was Jesus’s brother but knew that faith without works is dead.

Come here Stephan who took the risk of preaching so hard that the Jewish leaders stoned him and in the midst of his persecution saw the heavens open up and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.

Come here Jesus who risked his life to reap the reward of winning our souls

So you can’t tell me that the risk is not worth the reward.

So if you want that job you better take that risk.

You want that house.

You want that degree.

You want that business.

You want that position.

You want that promotion.

You want that car.

You want to start that ministry.

You want to accept your call. 

You want to witness on your job.

You want that marriage.

You want that friendship.

You want your healing.

You want to be used by the Lord then you are going to have to take that risk.

You have nothing to lose, but you have everything to gain.  Without risk there is no reward!

And here is the best part, even if we risk it all and fail, Jesus is right there to catch us, and just like he did for Job, he will give us double for our trouble.

We have noting to lose.  

The reward is worth the risk!

Love Your God

Love Your God

Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

One of the most creative r and b musicians of my time has been and still is Musiq Soulchild.  His first album Aijuswanaseing had so many great songs on it like:

Girl Next Door 

You and Me

Just Friends

143

My Girl

And many other songs that were great as well.  One of my favorite songs on the album was a track called Love.  But what I did not know was that Musiq originally wrote it as a gospel song and the title of the song was God.  The record label did not want a gospel track on his album so he changed the title to love because God is love.  So every time you hear the word love in the song it is actually supposed to be God.  I find that so ironic because every time I would listen to the song I would think to myself this would be a great gospel song.  The gospel group trinity 357 actually recorded the song as a gospel song later.  This is how the song should have gone.

Love.

So many things I’ve got to tell you.

But I’m afraid I don’t know how.

‘Cause there’s a possibility.

That you’ll look at me differently.

Love,

Ever since the first moment I spoke your name.

From then on I knew that by you being in my life.

Things were destined to change ’cause…

Love,

So many people use your name in vain.

Love,

Those who have faith in you sometimes go astray.

Love,

Through all the ups and downs, the joys, and hurts.

Love,

For better or worse I still will choose you first.

Many days I’ve longed for you, wanting you.

Hoping for the chance to get to know you.

Longing for your kiss, for your kiss, for your touch, for your feel, for your essence (your beautiful essence).

Many nights I’ve cried from the things you do.

Felt like I could die from the thought of losing you.

I know that you’re real.

With no doubts and no fears, and no questions.

Love,

So many people use your name in vain.

Love,

Those who have faith in you sometimes go astray.

Love,

Through all the ups and downs, the joys, and hurts.

Love,

For better or worse I still will choose you first.

At first you didn’t mean that much to me, no.

But now I know you’re all I need, oh.

The world looks so brand new to me.

Now that I found love.

Everyday I live for you, yeah.

And everything that I do I do it for you.

What I say is how I feel so believe it’s true.

You got to know I’m true, love.

Love,

So many people use your name in vain.

Love,

Those who have faith in you sometimes go astray.

Love,

Through all the ups and downs, the joys, and hurts.

Love,

For better or worse I still will choose you first.

I thought it was so fitting to begin this sermon with that song since February is the month of celebrating love and we have been talking about love all month long.  The second Sunday in February we started our love series by talking about loving ourselves.  I shared with you that this may be one of the hardest things to do because sometimes we do not even like ourselves let alone love ourselves.  There are four reasons why we need to love ourselves.  

We love ourselves because God commands it. 

We love ourselves because God created us. 

We love ourselves because God is committed to loving us. 

We love ourselves because we are children of God. 

Then last week we talked about the importance of loving our neighbor.  There are five reasons why we love our neighbor.

We love our neighbor because God commands it.

We love our neighbor because it’s correct.

We love our neighbor because it’s courageous.

We love our neighbor because it’s contagious.

We love our neighbor because God commends us for it.

This week we are going to talk about loving your God. And another reason why I opened this message talking about Musiq Soulchild’s song…

Love,

So many people use your name in vain.

Love,

Those who have faith in you sometimes go astray.

Love,

Through all the ups and downs, the joys, and hurts.

Love,

For better or worse I still will choose you first.

Shall we look at the text.  

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

As I have been telling you the past couple of weeks Jesus had just finished checking the Sadducees and now the Pharisees were testing him.  One of the Pharisees asked Jesus which is the greatest command.  Without hesitation Jesus responds to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  In other words Jesus was telling the Pharisees and everyone else listening or reading this passage that we have to love God before we love anything else.  We must love God more than we love anything else.  We must love God with everyone once of our being.  We have to love God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, and with all of our mind.  So what exactly does that mean?  I am so glad that you asked.  I believe I shared this with you before, but its always good to review information every now and then.

We have to love the Lord our God with all of our heart.  

The Greek word for heart is Kardia, (kar-dee-ah) its where we get the term cardiology, the study of the heart.  Kardia or heart is the organ in the animal body which is the center of the circulation of the blood, and hence is regarded as the seat of physical life.  It is the center of all physical and spiritual life as well.  So Jesus is saying you must love the Lord your God with all of your spiritual and physical life.  

We have to love the Lord our God with all of our soul.

The Greek word for soul is psuche (psoo-khay) which means breath, the breath of life, the vital force which animates the body and shows itself in breathing of animals and man.  This is what God breathed into man after he created him.  The soul is the seat of feelings, desires, affections, and aversions.  The soul is the essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death.  The body dies but the soul lives on.  Has anyone seen the movie Soul?  It’s a Disney Pixar movies that depicts the life of Joe, a music teacher that is also a struggling jazz musician that finally gets his big break only to fall in a man hole and die minutes later.  Then his soul goes to the great before and through out the movie he realizes what life is all about, and he ends up getting a second chance.  Jesus is telling you to love the Lord your God the very essence of your being, to love God with all of your soul.

We have to love the Lord our God with all of our mind.

The Greek word for mind is dianoia (Dee-an-oy-ah) which means the mind as a faculty of understanding, feelings, and desires.  Mind, i.e. spirit way of thinking and feeling.  Thoughts, either good or bad.  So Jesus is telling you to love the Lord your God with all of your thoughts, feelings, desires, and understanding. 

Notice how Jesus states whether it is your heart, soul, or mind we are to love God with all of it.  All in the greek is holos which mean all, whole, completely.  In other words, God wants all of our hearts, all of our souls, and all of our minds.  He does not and will not except shared custody with he world.  He wants full custody.  And that is why we must love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, all of our souls, and all of our minds.

We have to love the Lord our God with all that we’ve got and I am going to give you six reasons why.

We love God because he commands us to love him.  Just like he commands us to love our neighbor and to love ourselves. We love God because he tells us to.  And I don’t know if you know this or not but God is a very jealous God.  That is why he also says you shall have. no other Gods before me.  (We are the same way…)  That is why he commands us to love him.  But here is where the rubber meets the road and why I personally love God so much.  Because although he commands us to love him he does not make us to love him.  The God we serve is a gentleman and he does not force himself on us.  He gives us free will and he wants us to choose him just like he chose us.  We love God because he commands us to.

We love God because we are his children.  We love him because He’s our daddy.  I know I told you a few weeks ago that we love ourselves because God the creator of the heavens and earth is our father and we our his children, but we also love God because he is our father and we are his children.  He is our dedicated and determined daddy.  In other words, he is not a dead beat daddy.  That is why I told you he does not want shared custody.  He is not trying to see us every Wednesday and every other weekend. He desires full custody.  We love him because we are his children.

We love God because he chooses us.  Now you already know how I feel about being chosen.  I have shared with you on several occasions how much I appreciate being chosen because I know what it feels like not to be chosen. God could have chose anybody in the world but he chose me.  God could have chosen anybody in the world but he chose you.  We love God because he chooses us.  Anybody excited about the fact that you are chosen?

We love God because he changes us. What did Paul say in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  In other words, he changes us.

A change has come over me.

He changed my life and now I’m free.

He washed away all my sins and he made me whole.

He washed me white as snow.

He changed my life complete and now I sit, I sit at his feet.

To do what must be done I’ll work and work until he comes.

A wonderful change has come over me.

A wonderful change has come over me.

Yes he changed (changed).

My life complete (changed).

And now I sit (changed).

I sit at my savior’s feet (I’m so glad he changed me).

To do (changed).

What must be done (changed).

I’m gonna work and work.

Until my savior comes (I’m so glad he changed me).

I’m not what I want to be.

Oh I’m not what I use to be.

I’m not the same way thank God

Thank God (I’m so glad he changed me).

He changed my walk, (CHANGE).

He changed my talk, (CHANGED).

He changed my life he even changed (CHANGED).

Changed my soul, I’ve come along way, in Jesus, I’ve come along way, in Christ, I’ve come along way, Thank God Thank God.

We love God because he changes us.

We love God because he challenges us.  This actually one of the ways that he changes us by challenging everything we believed before we met him.  

Remember you thought you had all the answers.  

You thought your way was the only way.  

You thought you had it going on.  

You thought that all you had to do was this. 

You thought all you had to do was that.  

You thought you had it all under control.  

You thought you had it made. 

You thought you had nothing to worry about. 

You thought things would go according to your plan, and God came in and challenged it all. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want anybody in my life that is going to agree with everything that I say.  I need someone to challenge me.  Because through the challenge I am changed from what I used to be to what God wants me to be.  That’s why I love him because he challenges us.

We love God because he charges us.  First, God commands us to love him. Then we love him because we’re his children. Next, we love him because he chooses us. After he chooses us he changes us, and we love him for changing us.  Which happens because he challenges us.  We love him for challenging us.  And now he charges us.  He charges not to just love him, but to love ourselves and to love our neighbors.  We love him because he trusts us enough to charge us to do the work of the kingdom. By charging us I mean he empowers us.  He endows us.  He anoints us.  And we all know it is the anointing that breaks the yoke.

It is the anointing that breaks the chains.

It is the anointing that delivers.

It is the anointing that makes ways out of no ways.

It is the anointing that heals.

It is the anointing that deals.

It is the anointing that makes you walk right.

It is the anointing that makes you talk right.

It is the anointing that makes you live right.

Anointing fall on me.  Anointing fall on me.  Let the power of the Holy Ghost fall on me.  Anointing fall on me.  We love God because he charged us.  Just like we plug up our phones, tablets, and computers we need to plug into God so that we can get charged up.  That is why coming to church and Bible study are so important because we need to charge up.  We love God because he charges us.

We love God because he commands it.

We love God because we are his children.

We love God because he chooses us

We love God because he changes us.

We love God because he challenges us.

We love God because he charges us.

I opened this sermon with song lyrics so let me close it with a few more.

I love you Lord, and I lift my voice to worship you.

Oh my soul rejoice.  Take joy my king in what you hear.

Let it be a sweet sweet sound in your ear.

I love you Jesus.  I worship and adore you.  I just want to tell you that I love you more than anything.

I love him, I love him.  I love the Lord today.  Because you cared for me in such a special way.  That’s why I praise you.  I lift you up, and I magnify your name.  That’s why my heart is filled with praise.

I really love the Lord.   I really love the Lord.  You don’t know what he’s done for me.  He gave me the victory.  I love him.  I love him.  I really love the Lord.

We must love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all of our mind.  He does not want a part or a piece of us he wants it all.  We have to love him completely. 

We have to love him like Joanie loved Chachie.

We have to love him like George loved Weezie.

We have to love him like Heathcliff loved Claire.

We have to love him like Tony loved Angela.

We have to love him like Nicki loved Victor.

We have to love him like Bo loved hope.

We have to love him like Reeva love Josh.

We have to love him like Martin loved Gina.

We have to love him like Jack loved Rebecca.

We have to love him like Sam loves Linda.

We have to love him like Buddy loves Katherine.

We have to love him like Phil loves Betty.

We have to love him like Ted loves Faye.

We have to love him like Dawn loves David.

We have to love him like Sam loves Latisha

And so much more!

We love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds because…

He commands us to.

We are his children.

He chooses us.

He changes us.

He challenges us.

He charges us.

Love Your Neighbor

Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Since February is the month of celebrating love we have been and will be talking about love this month.  Last week we started our love series by talking about loving ourselves.  I shared with you that this may be one of the hardest things to do because sometimes we do not even like ourselves let alone love ourselves.  There are four reasons why we need to love ourselves.  

We love ourselves because God created us. 

We love ourselves because God commands it. 

We love ourselves because God is committed to loving us. 

We love ourselves because we are children of God. 

That was last week.  This week we are going to talk about something different.

But before that.  Can we just talk about love for a minute?  I know we like to say the most precious three words in the world, “I love you.” But love is not just something that we say.  It is something that we do.  If I have told you once I have told you a thousand times love is an action word.  You can’t just say you love your neighbor your have to show that you love your neighbor.  The best way to do this is to L.O.V.E.  Live Our Values Everyday.  We have to be the person that God created us to be, and the best way to do that is to live a life that shows love to others.

This is what Jesus is telling the Pharisees in our text today.  Shall we take a look.  As I shared with you last week, Jesus had just finished putting the Sadducees in their place after they tries to test him.  The Pharisees did not want the same thing to happen to them so they got together to scheme, plot, and plan.  One of them an expert in the law had the audacity, gumption, and the unmitigated gull to ask Jesus a question about the law.  The reason that is so crazy is because He is the one that wrote the law.  That’s like questioning C.S. Lewis about The Chronicles of Narnia.  And he asks Jesus what commandment in the law is the greatest.  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  In other words Jesus was telling the Pharisees that the most important thing in the world is love.  To love your God, to love your neighbor, and to love yourself.  Last week we talked about loving ourselves and this week we are going to talk about loving our neighbor.

So the question then becomes, who is my neighbor?  This had me thinking about Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street.  Please won’t you be my neighbor.  Who are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood?  Who are the people in to your neighborhood?  The people in your neighborhood.  I hope you all know that when Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourself he is not referring to just the people that live next door to you.  Or the people in your apartment complex.  Or even the people in your neighborhood.  He is talking about every other human being in the world.  

So that could be your actual neighbor.

The person in front of you in line at Kroger.

The man working on your car.

The cashier checking you out.

The plumber working on your toilet.

The server bringing you your food.

The homeless man asking for money.

The kid that stole your daughter’s bike.

The homosexual couple that lives across the street from you.

The single father raising the kids on his own.

The drug addict trying to kick or not kick the habit.

The young man with his pants sagging.

The young girl that is looking for love in all the wrong places.

The coworker that never speaks to anyone.

The coworker that talks to everyone that won’t ever shut up.

Your boss or your supervisor.

The people you like and the people that you don’t like.

I think your get the point.  All these people are our neighbor and God expects us to love them all!  Here are five reasons we must love our neighbor.

It is commanded.  It is right there in our text after love the Lord your God…  Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself.  We covered loving ourself last week.  Now we can get to work on loving our neighbor because that is exactly what God has called us to do.  Or I should have said its exactly what God has commanded us to do.  Let me give you a PSA a public service announcement.  If God tells us to do something we should do it.  I know that sounds simple, but the truth of the matter is that it is really that simple.  There is no reason to to get deep and philosophical.  I keep telling people that God is not that deep.  God is not that deep because everyone cannot swim.  And he does not want us to drown.  It’s simple, the Lord says do and we do.  God says jump and we say how high.  God says go and we say go where.  Almost every single thing that happens in the Bible is a result of God’s people either doing or not doing what God tells them to do.  And here’s my issue church, we do what everyone else tells us to do, but we don’t do what God tells us to do.  Don’t look at me in that tone of voice.  You know exactly what I’m talking about.

We do what our parents tell us to do.

Our Spouse

As we get older we do what our children tell us to do.

Our doctor.

Our dentist.

Our financial planner.

Our friends.

Our family.

Our boss.

Our coworkers.

Our society.

Social media.

We must give that same respect to our God.  We must do what God tells us to do.  

We love our neighbor because God commands us to.

It is correct.  Loving your neighbor is the correct thing to do.  

It is what’s right.  

It is what’s proper.  

It is what’s accurate. 

It is what’s good.  

It is what’s expected.  

We have to treat people the way we want to be treated.  I do not understand why this concept is so hard for some people to understand.  This is certainly not how the Pharisees treated their neighbors.  They were always walking around quoting the law while not fully following the law, and at the same time judging others because they made mistakes concerning the law.  I mean think about it for a minute, they were upset because Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath.  They were so caught up in the law, they missed the miracle in their midst.  That will preach right there.  How many times have you been caught up in the unimportant things in life and missed the miracle in your midst.  Back to my point.  A man who had been lame from birth was healed by Jesus.  He entered the temple singing, praising, and dancing and all they were worried about was the fact that Jesus did it on the Sabbath.  Jesus was correct in healing this man on the sabbath because love is an action word.  

We must love our neighbor because it is correct.

It is courageous.  Loving your  neighbor takes courage.  Especially if the particular neighbor is not well liked or seen as less than by others.  Sometimes loving your neighbor requires you to step out of your comfort zone, and this takes courage.  Sometimes loving your neighbor will involve you doing something that you have never done and this takes courage.  Sometimes loving your neighbor will cause you to put someone else’s needs or wants above your own and this takes courage.  

It takes courage to love your neighbor.

It is contagious.  What in the world are your talking about Pastor B?  I am talking about the fact that once you start loving your neighbor everyone around you will start loving their neighbor.  Then everyone around them will start loving their neighbor and so on and so on and so on.  The next thing you know we will have a world full of people loving their neighbor no matter what they look like.

No matter how much money they make.

No matter what their career choice.

No matter what their marital status is.

No matter what their political party is.

No matter what their sexual orientation is.

No matter what their stance on abortion is.

No matter what drug their addicted to.

No matter how much they’ve disappointed you.

No matter how hard it is we will love one another because it is contagious.

It is commended.  Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 25. 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

In other words, when you love your neighbor the Lord has a reward prepared for you.  But if you don’t he won’t!

The Lord God himself will commend us for loving our neighbors.

Let me close this out with a story called “A Party for a Prostitute.”

It was one of the most extraordinary birthday parties ever held. No it wasn’t in a plush ballroom of a grand hotel. No there weren’t famous celebrities, nor anyone rich or powerful. It was held at 3am in a small seedy cafe in Honolulu, the guest of honor was a prostitute, the fellow guests were prostitutes, and the man who threw it was a Christian minister!

The idea came to Christian minister Tony Campolo very early one morning as he sat in the cafe. He was drinking coffee at the counter, when a group of prostitutes walked in and took up the stools around him. One of the girls, Agnes,  lamented the fact that not only was it her birthday tomorrow but that she’d never had a birthday party.

Tony thought it would be a great idea to surprise Agnes with a birthday party. Learning from the cafe owner, a guy named Harry, that the girls came in every morning around 3.30am Tony agreed with him to set the place up for a party. Word somehow got out on the street, so that by 3.15 the next morning the place was packed with prostitutes, the cafe owner and his wife, and Tony.

When Agnes walked in she saw streamers, balloons, Harry holding a birthday cake, and everyone screaming out “Happy Birthday!” Agnes was overwhelmed. The tears poured down her face as the crowd sang Happy Birthday. When Harry called on her to cut the cake she paused. She’d never had a birthday cake and wondered if she could take it home to show her mother. When Agnes left there was a stunned silence. Tony did what a Christian minister should. He led Harry, Harry’s wife and a roomful of prostitutes in a prayer for Agnes.

It was a birthday party rarely seen in Honolulu – thrown by a Christian minister for a 39 year old prostitute who had never had anyone go out of their way to do something like this and who expected nothing in return. Indeed, so surprising was this turn of events that the cafe owner found it hard to believe there were churches that would do this sort of thing, but if there were then that’s the sort of church he’d be prepared to join.  

So my question to you this morning is what kind of church are we?  And I’m not just talking about SCC but the I am talking to the body of Christ.

Are we the type of church to throw a party for a prostitute?

Are we the type of church to have a baby shower for an unwed teenage mother?

Are we the type of church that doesn’t just shout pro-life but also believes that it’s our responsibility to help care for the child once it’s here?  You can’t be pro-life pro-life pro-life and then want to cut off programs that were created to help feed, house, and clothe those that are less fortunate than us.

Are we the type of church that impacts the community?

Are we the type of church that looks out for children?

Are we the type of church that is open and welcoming to all?

Are we the type of church that loves our neighbor?

This is my prayer for the kingdom. 

Loving Yourself

Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Happy Valentines Day Second Community Church Family!  I hope that you all have something special planned with or for the special someone in your lives.  I also hope that you don’t wait until Valentine’s Day to let that special someone know how much they mean to you.  If you really love them you should be showing them everyday, and not just on special occasions.  I know right now someone is thinking my special someone never does anything for me, but let me stop you right there and redirect your train of thought.  They may not buy you flowers, candy, and jewelry, but they are doing something.  

They go to work.  

They fix things around the house.  

They wash the clothes. 

They cook.  

They put gas in your car.  

They leave you the last piece of chicken.  

They give you the biggest piece of cake.  

They give you alone time.  

They help you grade papers.  

They listen to you complain.

They clean the house.

They make sure you have everything they need.

So they may not be doing candy, flowers, and jewelry, but they are doing so much more.  Flowers die, candy expires, and jewelry fades, but the the actions of someone that loves you are priceless and last forever.

Valentine’s Day, also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine,[1] is celebrated annually on February 14. It originated as a Western Christian feast day honoring one or two early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine and is recognized as a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and love in many regions of the world.

There are a number of martyrdom stories associated with various Valentines connected to February 14,[2] including an account of the imprisonment of Saint Valentine of Rome for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire in the third century.[3][4] According to an early tradition, Saint Valentine restored sight to the blind daughter of his jailer.[5] Numerous later additions to the legend have better related it to the theme of love: an 18th-century embellishment to the legend claims he wrote the jailer’s daughter a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell before his execution;[6] another addition posits that Saint Valentine performed weddings for Christian soldiers who were forbidden to marry.[4]

The Feast of Saint Valentine was established by Pope Gelasius I in AD 496 to be celebrated on February 14 in honor of Saint Valentine of Rome, who died on that date in AD 269.[7][8] The day became associated with romantic love in the 14th and 15th centuries when notions of courtly love flourished, apparently by association with the “lovebirds” of early spring. In 18th-century England, it grew into an occasion in which couples expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.[9] In Italy, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers “as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart”, as well as to children to ward off epilepsy (called Saint Valentine’s Malady).[10]

Since this is the month that we celebrate love, and we are focusing on loving ourselves and loving others this month.  I thought it was fitting to preach about love this month.  So today we are going to talk about loving ourselves.

Shall we look at the text.  In our text today Jesus had just finished putting the Sadducees in their place.  So the Pharisees got together, and one of them an expert in the law has the audacity, gumption, and the unmitigated gull to ask Jesus a question about the law.  And he asks Jesus what commandment in the law is the greatest.  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  In other words Jesus was telling the Pharisees that the most important thing in the world is love.  To love your God, to love your neighbor and to love yourself.  He also said that all the law hang on this.  Which means if you love your God with all your heart, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself you won’t have have any other gods before him.

You won’t make any idols.

You won’t take the Lord’s name in vain.

You will keep the sabbath day holy.

You will honor your mother and father.

You won’t murder.

You won’t commit adultery.

You won’t steal.

You won’t  bear false witness against your neighbor.

You won’t covet.

If you truly love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

With that being said, today we are going to talk about loving ourselves.  Jesus said in our text today to love your neighbor as yourself, but here is the wrinkle in the chitlin.  You have to love yourself before you can love your neighbor.  And some of us don’t even like ourselves, let alone love ourselves.  

So if we don’t like ourselves how in the world can we love our neighbor as ourselves.

If we are wallowing in self pity.

If we are dealing with depression.

If we are saturated in self hate.

If we are viewing ourselves as worthless.

If we think that we are no good.

If we consider ourselves unworthy.

How can we love our neighbors as ourselves?

And then there are those that have an unhealthy love for themselves.  The Bible says they think of themselves more highly than they ought to.  

They are conceited.  

They are stuck up and stuck on themselves.  

All they care about is me, myself, and I.  It is extremely hard to love your neighbor as yourself, when all you love is yourself.  You cannot even notice your neighbor let alone love them because your nose is turned so far up. 

Thinking you are all that and then some.  

Thinking you are better than everyone else.  

Well I hate to bust your bubble.  

You are not all that.  

You are not that cute.  

And you stuff stinks like everyone else’s.  

So I suggest that you check yourself before you wreck yourself.  Because if you do not humble yourself. God will do it for you.  And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be humbled by God if I can avoid it by doing it myself. 

But the bottom line is that we have to love ourselves.  Take a few minutes today and look in the mirror and ask yourself.  What is there not to love?  You are the creation of God.  He made you in His image.  In the image of God he created you.  So if you can love a flower, a tree, the grass, the birds, the sky, the moon, and the stars you should have no problem loving yourself because God created all those things just like he created you!

Here are four reasons to love yourself.  Yes you heard me correctly.  I have four points today.

Love yourself because God created you. I just mentioned it.  Psalm 139:14 I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this.  We have to remember that we were created in the image of God and in His likeness.  And we should love all of God’s creation especially yourself because he made you differently than everything else that he created.  What are you talking about Pastor Brian?  Well as we started learning in Bible study this week as we began our study of the book of Genesis.  God spoke everything into existence.  He said let there be and there was.  He did this with everything except for us.  When it came to us he created us with his hands.  He put his hands on us when he formed us out of dust, and then he breathed the breath of life into us. Making us exactly what he wanted us to be.  You were created are the masterpiece of the greatest artist in the universe.  You came out just the way he wanted you to.  You love yourself because God created you.

Next, you love yourself because God commands it. Ephesians 5:29 For no one has ever hated his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, as the Messiah does the church. Proverbs 19:8 To acquire wisdom is to love oneself; people who cherish understanding will prosper.  You nourish and care for your body because you don’t hate your body.  Hate is the opposite of love.  We also do those things because we love ourselves.  To acquire, to gain knowledge and apply that knowledge is to love yourself.  So every time you or I do something to improve ourselves like taking a class, reading a book, or going to a training we are loving ourselves and God commands us to do so.  Especially in our text when Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself.  He not only commands it but says its is one of the greatest commands.  You love yourself because God commands it.

Then you love yourself because God is committed to loving you.  Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Illegal Separation) Now think about that for a moment, if God loves us so much that nothing can separate us from His love, don’t you think that makes us worthy to be loved.  Now we say all that time that we love God because he first loved us, but shouldn’t we also be able to say that we love ourselves because God loves us too?  You love yourself because God is committed to loving you.

Lastly, you love yourself because you are a child of God.  Think about that.  If God the creator of the heavens and the earth considers you his child and loves you is that not reason enough to love yourself?  What else do you need to know?

Praise the Lord!  My heart with His love is beaming,

I am a child of God;

Heaven’s golden light over me is streaming,

I am a child of God.

Let the saints rejoice with my raptured spirit,

I am a child of God;

I will testify that the world may hear it,

I am a child of God.

Let a holy life tell the gospel story,

I am a child of God;

How He fills the soul with His grace and glory,

I am a child of God.

Saved from sin today, every band is riven,

I am a child of God;

Through the tests of life I have peace from heaven,

I am a child of God.

I am a child of God,

I am a child of God;

I have washed my robes in the cleansing fountain,

I am a child of God.

And because you are a child of God you should love yourself.  Let me close with this story.

You’re the Son of God by Tony Campola

Fred Craddock is a lecturer at Phillips Theological Seminary in the United States. He tells of a time he was on holiday in Tennessee. He and his wife were having dinner at a restaurant when an old man started talking to them, asking them how they were doing and if they were enjoying their holiday. When the old man asked Fred what he did for a living Fred saw the chance to get rid of him – “I’m a preacher.”

“A preacher? That’s great. Let me tell you a story about a preacher.” The old man sat down at their table and started to speak. As he did Fred’s annoyance was changed to one of profound humility. The old man explained that he was a bastard – in the literal rather than the figurative sense. He was born without knowing who his father was, a source of great shame in a small town in the early twentieth century. One day a new preacher came to the local church. The old man explained that as a youngster he had never gone to church, but one Sunday decided to go along and hear the new pastor preach. He was good. The illegitimate boy went back again, and then again. In fact he started attending just about every week. But his shame went with him. This poor little boy would always arrive late and leave early in order to avoid talking to anyone. But one Sunday he got so caught up in the sermon that he forgot to leave. Before he knew it the service was over and the aisles were filling. He rushed to get past people and out the door, but as he did he felt a heavy hand land upon his shoulder. He turned around to see the preacher, a big tall man, looking down at him asking, “What’s your name, boy? Whose son are you?” The little boy died inside, the very thing he wanted to avoid was now here. But before he could say anything the preacher said “I know who you are. I know who your family is. There’s a distinct family resemblance. Why, you’re the son, you’re the son, you’re the son of God!”

The old man sitting at Fred Craddock’s table said “You know, mister, those words changed my life”. And with that he got up and left.

When the waitress came over she said to Fred Craddock and his wife, “Do you know who that was?”

“No” they replied.

“That was Ben Hooper, the two-term governor of Tennessee.”

So the next time you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see remember you are a child of God.

The next time you’re feeling down.

The next time you’re feeling alone.

The next time you’re lost.

The next time you’re feeling rejected.

The next time you’re not at your best.

The next time you’re feeling defeated.

The next time you make a mistake.

The next time you fall down.

The next time you’re in a mess.

The next time you get bad news.

The next time things don’t work out.

The next time someone talks about you.

The next time they leave you out.

The next time they ignore you.

The next time you don’t know what to do.

Remember that you are a child of God.

And sing a couple of childhood vacation Bible school songs…

If anybody asks you who I am, who I am, who I am…

Jesus loves me this I know…

Jesus loves the little children…

Does anyone in the room want to love themselves today?

Well wrap your arms around yourself and tell yourself…

I love myself because God created me.

I love myself because God commands me to.

I love myself because God is committed to loving me.

I love myself because I am a child of God.