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.

Living the Dream (In the “dash”)

Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for good to them that

love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

A few years ago Bishop Clarke was preaching a sermon

series entitled dreamers, world changers.  During this series I

couldn’t help but think of Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream, 

And if he were alive today would he be satisfied? I’ve thought 

about this over the past year or so and wondered would he feel 

that his dream had been fulfilled?  Would he think that his dream 

had actually come true?  I personally don’t believe that

he would.  As a matter of fact, I think he might be a little

disappointed.  So ask your neighbor are you living the dream?  

Here is a little snippet from MLK’s I have a dream speech.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.  And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.  

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. 

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.  

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!  

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.  I have a dream today!  

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” I have a dream today.  

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, and his dream was bigger than speeches.  

His dream was bigger than parades.  

His dream was bigger than getting the Nobel Peace Prize. 

His dream was bigger than being recognized by the president. 

His dream was bigger than having a holiday named in his honor.  

It was his hope and belief that all people would be treated equally.  And we have come a long way, but there are still some roads to travel, some hills to climb, and some waters to cross.  This was evident in the shooting death and no charges being filed in the Michael Brown case in Ferguson in.  This was evident in the strangling death and no charges being filed in the Eric Garner case.  This was evident in the shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge.  This is evident in no charges being filed in the Breonna Taylor case.  This is evident in the shootings of Cassie Gooding and Andre Hill.  This is evident in the racism that still has its strangle hold on our country.  That’s why Will Smith’s words were so on point when he said racism isn’t getting worst, it’s getting filmed.  This is evident every single time some people open their mouths!  We have come a long way, but yes, we still have some roads to travel. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 and he was assassinated on April 4, 1968.  And on his tombstone you will see the date that he was born, a “dash” and the date that he was killed.  Now we have no control over how or when we are born or how and when we will die, but we do control our dash.  Martin Luther King Jr. lived his dash to the fullest.  He was only 39 years old when he was assassinated and look at all that he accomplished. He was committed to making this world a better place.  So my question to you today is what are you doing with your dash?  Are you living the dream or are you doing your own thing?  Martin Luther King Jr. and many, many, others died in order for us to live the dream, and we cannot squander that dream away by not doing anything with our dash.  Look at your neighbor and tell them please don’t waste your dash.   You see in the text today Paul is addressing the Christian church in Rome in the form of a letter.  He was letting them know that all things, not some things, but all things work together for the good of those that love God.  The good, the bad, and the ugly things work together for the good of those that love God, and to them that are the called according to his purpose.  

Every situation.

Every circumstance.

Every victory. 

Every defeat are working together.  

Every beating.

Every killing. 

Every incarceration.

Every unjust treatment is working together.  

Every vote cast.

Every law passed.

Every valley crossed.

And every mountain climbed is working together.

So knowing this how are you living the dream.  What are you doing with your dash?

Now 27 years ago, now wait a minute, did I just say 27 years ago.  I am way too young to be saying 27 years ago.  Wow!  Anyway 27 years ago I was blessed with a Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship, and I had my own dream.  I was going to Slippery Rock University to become a gym teacher!  I was going to play kick ball, dodge- ball, basketball, freeze tag, floor hockey, and volleyball every day.  I was going to wear sweat pants and tennis shoes to work every day! Well I never became a gym teacher. You see sometimes your dream changes.  My dream changed quite a bit.  When I decided not to be a gym teacher I decided to be a regular education teacher.  Then I was going to be a regular education and a special education teacher.  Then I was just going to be a special education teacher because that is the area I earned my degree in.  Yes I am going to be a special education teacher.  But hold up, wait a minute.  I just started dating my future wife, Shannon and I am not really sure if I want to teach special education.  I think I’ll go back to school and get my master’s degree in early childhood education, because I seen Kindergarten Cop with Arnold Schwarzenegger and now I want to be a kindergarten teacher.  So all though my dream shifted a bit here and there, I still became a teacher.  Seven years in kindergarten and I am in my 14th year of first grade.  It took me seven years to get to first grade.  But I love working with the little guys for a number of different reasons, but the most important reason is because I am always the tallest person in the room, but the beautiful thing is that I am living the dream.  I’m teaching at a great school in a fairly good school district. I’m living the dream.  I married the most beautiful woman in the world.  And now we’re  living the dream together. We have two amazing and rather handsome boys.  We’re living the dream! We have been blessed over the past 21 years with employment, a roof over our heads, a church and pastor to look after our spiritual needs.  We are living the dream.  And we are able to live the dream because of the way that Martin Luther King lived in his dash.  We are able to live the dream because Romans 8:28. All things work together for the good of them that love God… 

You keep saying that your living the dream, but what does that mean exactly?  Good question, I am so glad that you asked.  You see, I believe that God has blessed every individual in this room with a purpose.  There is something that you and only you are supposed to do in this world.  And because of the battles that Martin Luther King Jr. and many civil rights leaders and activists fought and won there is nothing stopping you from fulfilling your purpose and living the dream that God has place in your heart.  

Living the dream is taking advantage of every opportunity that is given to you.  

Living the dream is registering to vote because people died in order for you to vote and every vote does count.  

Living the dream is going for whatever is in your heart no matter what stands in your way or what people might say.  

Living the dream is graduating from high school.  

Living the dream is going to college and earning that degree.  Living the dream is going to trade school and making something out of yourself.  

Living the dream is entering the military and serving your country.  Living the dream is getting that first job.  

Living the dream is buying that first new car.  

Living the dream is owning your own home. 

Living the dream is starting your own business.  

Living the dream is serving the Lord in every area of your life.  Living the dream is you living your life in such a way that the sacrifices that were made for us in the past were not made in vain and your life brings glory to The Lord!

That sounds great Pastor Brian, but how do I live the dream.  How do I live in my dash?  I am so glad that you asked.  I will give you three ways that you can live the dream in your dash and then I will bid you good day.

The first thing that you need to do to live the dream in the dash is focus.  You have to focus on your dream.  Focus is defined as the center of interest or activity, the center focal point, the center point, the center of attention, the hub, the pivot, the nucleus, the heart, the core, the cornerstone, the emphasis, the concentration, and the priority!  You have to have a laser like focus on your dream.  All things can’t work together without focus.

You cannot afford to be distracted. 

You cannot afford to be sidetracked. 

You cannot afford to veer off course.  

You cannot afford to procrastinate.  

You cannot afford to take your time.  

You cannot afford to let your mind wonder.  

You have to stay focused on your dream.  

You see that is what happened to Peter.  When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, he was the only disciple that had the guts, the audacity, and the courage to get out of the boat.  Does anyone in the room today have the courage to get out the boat?  Does anyone in the room have the audacity to abandon ship, to think outside of the box, to travel the road less traveled?  Look at your neighbor and say, abandon ship!  And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.  

But the minute that Peter was distracted by the storm. 

The minute Peter started to worry about his surroundings.

The minute Peter’s mind wondered.

The minute Peter took his focus off of Jesus he began to sink into the water.  You have to keep your focus on your dream.  The good news is that when Peter began to sink into the water, Jesus was right there to pull him out.  

Now how many times has Jesus pulled you out of the storm?  

How many times has Jesus pulled you out of a life or death situation?  

How many times has Jesus picked you up, turned you around, and placed your feet on higher solid ground?  

He promised that he would never leave us or forsake us.  So you can stay focused on your dream.

You focus in three areas.

You focus on you fitness.

You focus on your finances.

You focus on your family.

Not only do you need focus to live the dream in your dash you also need fortitude to live the dream in your dash. Fortitude is to have courage in pain or adversity, bravery, endurance, resilience, mettle, moral fiber, strength of mind, strength of character, strong mindedness, backbone, spirit, grit, and steadfastness.  In other words, it means that you keep on keeping on.  It means that you do not let anything or anybody stand in your way.  

There are going to be obstacles.  

There are going to be stormy days.  

There are going to be trials.

There are going to be tribulations.

There are going to be some valleys to cross and mountains to climb, but you have to have a made up mind that you are going to do whatever it takes to reach your dream.  That which does not kill you can only make you stronger.  And with God on your side nothing is impossible.  When I think of fortitude I am reminded of the story of Jacob.  Jacob fell in love with Rachel and told his uncle that he would work seven years to earn Rachel’s hand in marriage.  After the seven years his uncle tricked him and presented him with his oldest daughter Leah instead.  So Jacob worked another seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage.   If that is not fortitude I don’t know what is.  He worked fourteen years to live his dream and marry the woman of his dreams.  And we can’t even wait 14 minutes to get our food in a restaurant without getting an attitude.  We can’t even wait 1 minute and 40 seconds for a bag of microwave popcorn to pop.  We can’t wait 14 days for our package to arrive.  I know that your dream has not come to pass yet, but hold on and be patient.  God is not through with you yet.  You have to have fortitude to live the dream.

You need fortitude in three areas.

Fortitude in your fights. 

Fortitude in your failures. (Failure is the father of success)

Fortitude in your feelings.

So lets recap for a moment.  In order to live the dream in the dash you must have focus.  In order to live the dream in the dash you must have fortitude.  And last but definitely not least you need faith to live the dream in your dash.  Now faith is defined as complete trust or confidence in someone or something, belief, confidence, trust, conviction, strong belief in God or in doctrines of religion based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.  But I like the definition that is in the book of Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.  Faith is knowing that you know that you know that you know that God is going to come through for you.  When I think about faith I am reminded of the woman with the issue of blood.  Her faith was so strong that Jesus felt it, and she just touched the hem of his garment.  Imagine what would have happened if she actually touched Jesus?  Is your faith strong enough to be felt by God because if you are ever going to achieve greatness in life, if you are ever going to have true success in life, if you ever want to truly live the dream you have to have faith.  

You need to have faith in three ways.

Faith that God is for you.

Faith that God can find you.

Faith that God can fix you.

If you are ever going to live the dream in your dash you have to have faith.  Faith that the same God that created you. 

The same God that saved you.

The same God that picked you up, and made something beautiful out of your life is the same God that will bless you to live the dream. But you need faith like 

Harriet Tubman      Henry Box Brown   George Washington Carver Garrett Morgan       Rosa Parks          Thurgood Marshall     Ruby Bridges                                        Jackie Robinson      Mae Jemison           President Barak Obama    Martin Luther King Jr.           You have to have faith.  

But this is what I love about God, even when our faith is weak, God is still faithful. 

I can never repay you lord for what you’ve done for me.

How you loosed my shackles and you set me free.  

How you made a way out of no way.

Turned my darkness into day. 

You’ve been my joy in the time of sorrow. 

Hope for my tomorrow.

Peace in the time of storm.

Strength when I’m weak and worn! 

You’ve been so faithful. 

Is there anybody here that is thankful for the faithfulness of God. Well stand to your feet and put your ten stringed instruments together and give God praise.  I know it may not be what you want to do, but since you’re here you mind as well praise him anyway!  

Oh magnify the lord with me.

Let us exalt his name together!   

From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same the name Jesus is worthy to be praise! 

So I will praise him in the morning.

I will praise him in the noonday.

I will praise him in the evening.

I will praise him when the sun goes down.

I will praise him when I’m up.

I will praise him when I am down.

I will praise him in the good times.

I will praise him in the bad times.

I will praise him on the mountain.

I will praise him in the valley.

I will praise him when I am sad.

I will praise him when I am happy.

As a matter of fact if you’re happy and you know praise the Lord.

If you’re happy and you know it praise the Lord.

If you’re happy and you know than your life will surely show it.

If you’re happy and you know it praise the Lord!

Remember you do not have control over how or when you or born or how or when you will die, but you do control over what you do with your dash. I choose to live the dream, and I hope that you do too.  You live the dream by having focus.  You live the dream by having fortitude.  And you live the dream by having faith!  Knowing that all things work together for the good of those that love God and are called according to his purpose.

Armed and Dangerous Part 5

Ephesians 6:10-18

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Any preacher will tell you that a good sermon needs a good introduction to grab the congregation’s attention and pull them into the message, and as I prepared the sermon I realized that I have been introducing this sermon since the beginning of the month.

On the first four Sundays of the month we talked about the six pieces of the full armor of God.  

The first Sunday we talked about.

The belt of truth. 

The truth sets us free. 

The truth sets others free.  

And the truth frustrates the devil because we are free.  

The breastplate of righteousness.  

Righteousness fixes us.  

Righteousness fortifies us.  

And righteousness fine tunes us.  

The second Sunday we discussed the gospel of peace.  

Peace focuses us.  

Peace fulfills us.  

And faith fascinates us and others.  

On the third Sunday we discussed the shield of faith and how faith protects, faith provides, and faith produces. 

On the forth Sunday we discussed the helmet of salvation, and how salvation gives us proper placement, purpose, and a practice. 

And the sword of the spirit which is the word of God, our only offensive weapon.  The word proves, the word is proactive, and the word prevails.  And the reason the word can do all this is because the word is God.  Now we spent the four Sundays getting armed.  Now it’s time to get dangerous, but just before we get dangerous there is another piece of equipment that you need.  And it is a very important piece.

Finally, Paul adds the Power of Prayer to the Full Armor of God: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:18, NIV)  According to Zavada, Every smart soldier knows they must keep the line of communication open to their Commander.  God has orders for us, through his Word and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Satan hates it when we pray. He knows prayer strengthens us and keeps us alert to his deception. Paul cautions us to pray for others as well. With the Full Armor of God and gift of Prayer, we can be ready for whatever the enemy throws at us.  And many of us seem to believe that prayer has to be sophisticated and proper.  But you just need to have to have a little talk with Jesus and tell him all about our troubles… Just talk to your God and keep it real.   But it is extremely important that you stay in constant communication with the God of your salvation in order to keep your relationship strong and your armor fully operational.  So this is how we should pray.

Pray deliberately.  You have to pray deliberately, meaning you have to pray on purpose.  Deliberate means purposeful; willful, intentional, premeditated, voluntary, referring to something NOT happening by chance. Deliberate is applied to what is done not hastily but with full realization of what one is doing: for example, a deliberate attempt to score a touchdown.  This is how we should pray, deliberately.

With a premeditated assurance that God will answer our prayers.  

Intentionally with the full intent of God being true to his word.

Willful, having a willing spirit to talk to God about any and everything.

Voluntarily, prayer is something we should choose to do, it should not be forced, unless it’s a force of habit.  We must pray deliberately!  But not only do we pray deliberately.

We Pray directly.  I am so glad that I can go to my father and talk to him myself. I don’t have to go to a priest and confess my sin and have him or her pray for me.

I don’t have to have my mother pray for me.

I don’t have to have my father pray for me.

I don’t have to have my grandmother pray for me.

I don’t have to have my grandfather pray for me.

I don’t have to have my friends pray for me.

I don’t have to have the pastor pray for me.

I don’t have to call in or pay for some tv evangelist to pray for me.  It is so nice that I can ask others to pray with and for me, but I don’t have to.

I can go directly to my God and pray for myself.  I can go directly to the source.  Which leads me to my last point about prayer.

Because I pray to him deliberately, and I pray to him directly I can pray to him dependently.  Knowing without a shadow of a doubt that God will never let me down.  He will never fail.  He will meet me at my point of need.  I can pray dependently because I am praying to a dependable God. Is there anybody in the room that is excited about the fact that you can pray to a dependable God.

A God that won’t let you down.

A God that will never leave you or forsake you.

A God that told us to seek and we shall find.

A God that told us to knock and the door shall be open.

A God that told us to ask and it shall be given to us.

A God that told us not to worry.

A God that clothes the birds of the air and the grass of the field.

How much more will take care of his children according to his riches in glory?

A God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and if we are his children I do believe that we can dependently pray to our dependable God.

A God as I mentioned in my e-blast this week is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  We can pray to our dependable God.

I saw this on FB one day and it seemed perfect for today.  Remember this when in spiritual warfare with the devil.  The eagle does not fight the snake on the ground. It picks it up into the sky and changes the battleground, and then it releases the snake into the sky.  The snake has no stamina, no power, and no balance in the air.  It is useless, weak, and vulnerable.  Unlike on the ground where it is powerful, wise, and deadly.  Take your fight into the spiritual realm by praying.  When you enter the spiritual realm God takes over your battles.  Don’t fight the enemy in his comfort zone.  Change the battle ground like the eagle. And let God take charge through your earnest prayer.  You’ll be assured of a clean victory. Pray without ceasing.

So now that you are armed, are you ready to become dangerous?  Or are you like the Jews who went about trying to cast out demons in Acts 19:13-16.  They would say in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches come out!  One day the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” and then the demon possessed man overpowered them all and gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.  In other words you have to know the Lord and the word for yourself.  Now we have talked about the full armor of God, the necessary tools to fend off the attacks of the enemy.  Because of God’s sacrifice we have the necessary ammunition to defeat the devil.  But we do not have to sit back and wait for the enemy to attack.  Every now and then we have to go into the enemy’s camp and take back all that he has stolen from us.  We have to take it back.  

You want your joy. 

You want your children. 

You want your husband.  

You want your wife.  

You want your sanity.  

You want your health.  

You want your life.  

You want your sobriety.  

You want your place in the kingdom.  

But the only way that you can take is back is if you are armed and dangerous.  

You cannot stand on your mom’s relationship with God.  

Or your father’s belief in God you have to know him for yourself.  

We all have known an older saint that loved the Lord, but we can not get by on their love for God.  

We must know him for ourselves.  

That was the problem the Jews had in Acts.  They did not know the Lord for themselves and they thought they were dangerous, but they were not.  There is nothing worse than seeing a person that thinks they are tough until they run into someone that is really tough.  As children of the most high God, we cannot afford to be caught off guard.   

That is why you have to keep your armor updated.  

You have to keep your armor clean.  

You have to take care of your armor by staying in constant communication with God through his word and through prayer.  

But now that you are armed you must also be dangerous.  You have to get ready to go into battle.  And remember you are not fighting against flesh and blood.  You are fighting against the authorities, rulers and powers of the dark world.  So you have to be armed and dangerous.  Okay Pastor Brian I see where you are going with this.  I have my armor, but how can I be dangerous?  I am so glad that you asked.  

In order to be dangerous you must know the word of God.  We spent some time with this last Sunday when we discussed the sword of the spirit.  You cannot fight the enemy if you do not know the word of God.  There is an acronym for bible that goes like this, basic instructions before leaving earth.  The word of God has everything that you need.  Any situation and every circumstance is addressed in the Bible.  But you cannot get by repeating a few common verses that you’ve heard over the years.  You have to open the book and study it for yourself.  You have to make a daily habit of opening the Bible and reading it everyday.  We talked about the sword of the spirit last Sunday, but a weapon will do you no good if you don’t know how to use it, or if you’re afraid to use it.  It does not matter if it is:

A gun

A knife

A stun gun

A bat

A staff

A can of mace

A pair of nunchucks

If you don’t know how to use it, what good is it?

So the only way that you will know how to use the word of God, is if you open it and read it for yourself.

In his word you will find the following three things.

God’s wisdom.  James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). Why do you think Solomon asked for wisdom?  He had God’s attention.  God told him to ask for anything that he wanted.  He could have asked for gold, silver, diamonds, cattle, sheep, donkeys, camels, or women.  He could have asked for whatever his heart desired, and he asked for wisdom.  I believe that Solomon knew that there was no way that he could rule the people of God without wisdom.  So how much more could we use wisdom in our everyday lives.  I don’t know about you but I need God’s wisdom in my life.  Life is tough and I can’t do it on my own.  I need God’s wisdom, and God’s wisdom can be found in his word.  But not only is wisdom found in his word, you find God’s will in his word.

God’s will.  You see here is where sin is conquered in our lives.  We seem to believe they sin is lying, cheating, stealing, fornicating, committing adultery, jealousy, and lust.  But those are just results of sin or acts of sin.  Those are symptoms of sin.  Sin is choosing your will over God’s will.  That is what happened to Adam and Eve in the garden He told them that they could eat of any tree in the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  But they allowed Satan to trick them and chose their own will over the will of God.  Sin is choosing to do what you want to do instead of what God desires us to do.  You see God doesn’t force us to follow his will.  He gives us free will to choose his will and it is Gods hope that we choose wisely.  That is why we need to know his word so that we will have his wisdom to know his will so that we can do things God’s way!

God’s way, is the last thing that God’s word shows us.  How many of you have tried things your way and messed everything up?  Things never seem to work out the way we plan when we do them our way.  For some reason our way ends up in disaster.  Every time you try to fix it you make the situation worse.

You tried to fix the marriage or the spouse.

You tried to fix the drama on the job.

You tried to fix the friendship or the friend .

You tried to fix the ministry.

You tried to fix your kid.

You tried to fix the situation or the circumstances and it didn’t work out because you tried to do it your way instead of God’s way. Do you know why God’s way always works and your way doesn’t?  Because God’s way is always about love, your way more times than not is about you.  That’s why we call it your way.  Your is the possessive form of you.  Meaning that everything that comes after your belongs to you! So stop trying to do it your way and do it God’s way.  And you only know God’s way by getting in his word, gaining his wisdom, and submitting to his will!

But not only do you need to know the word of God you also have to be willing to do the work of God. That is why in Matthew 9:37 Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. You have to get off the bench and get into the game.  You cannot go through life being an innocent bystander.  Eventually you have to get some dirt on your hands.  Some grit and grime underneath your nails.  Some mud on your clothes. You say you believe.  You say you have faith, but faith without works is dead.  If you are going to be armed and dangerous you have to be willing to do the work of God.  There are three things you need to do the work of God.

You need your wallet. Bring the tithe into the store house.  We have to be willing to support the work of God with our financial resources.  

The lights don’t stay on by themselves.  

The gas doesn’t stay on by itself.  

Ministry does not take place without cash!  

In order to do the work of God you will need to use your wallet.  And if you don’t love your money more than God this should not be a problem!  That’s why Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 6:21,  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  

In other words, if you treasure money that’s what you will work for.  

If you treasure the hottest new fashions that’s what you will work for.  

If you treasure the latest new gadget that’s what you will work for.

If your treasure is popularity that’s what you will work for.

If your treasure is your latest sexual conquest that’s what you will work for.  

But your treasure should be the things of God, and then that’s what you will work for.  You do the work of God by using your wallet.  But not only do you need your wallet to do the work of GOD.

You need to know your worth to do the work of God.  And your worth is not based on your wallet.  How much you can or cannot give?  Your worth is based on the simple fact that God loves you and God chose you to do his work!  Do you know how incredible that is? God chose you.  I remember playing pick up basketball at the park and being the last one picked, or not being picked at all and having to call next.  I remember not being picked to play kickball, dodgeball, or baseball.  I remember not being picked to hang with the cool kids.  I remember how bad I used to feel when I didn’t get picked. But I also remember how well if felt to be picked after I raised my game.  This is what’s so great about God we have done nothing or can ever do anything to warrant God choosing us, but in spite of ourselves he chose us and would choose us every single time.  You have to know your worth.  God loves you so much that he sent his son to die for you!  And by knowing this, you will know your worth and when you know your worth then you can do the work of God.

Last but not least you do the work of God with Your witness. Your witness is you telling your story. Your testimony of the goodness of the Lord and all that he has done for you.  

But your witness is more than you sharing or telling your story. 

It’s how you live your life.  

It’s how you treat people.  

It’s the way you carry yourself at work.  

It’s how you handle yourself when the going gets tough and the tough gets going.  

It’s about what comes out of you when the pressure rises and life squeezes you because it is not what goes in you that defiles you but what comes out the defiles you.  So your witness should always be an example of the God of your salvation leading and directing your life.  You do the work of God with your witness!  You must do the work of God to be dangerous!

In order to be dangerous you must know the word of God, you must be willing to do the work of God, and last but not least you must be willing to worship God.  Now I know that we often use the words praise and worship interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.  That is why we call it praise and worship. If they were the same thing we would just call it praise and praise, or worship and worship.  You see praise is a way to give thanks to God, and I know that we can all agree today that God deserves every ounce of our praise.  But here is the difference between praise and worship.  Anyone can praise God.  

A sinner can praise God.  

A backslider can praise God.  

A prostitute can praise God.  

A crack head can praise God.  

A whoremonger can praise God.  

Anyone can praise God, but only Christians can worship GOD.  

Only those in the fraternity of the twice born can worship God.

Only those of us that are born again can truly worship God.  

That is why in John 4: 23 and 24 Jesus says, Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  That is why you have to be a Christian a true believer, born again to worship God.  Because once you give your heart to the Lord his spirit enters your body and resides in your heart and gives you the ability to worship him in spirit and in truth.  So we worship God in three ways.

Worship God willingly, just like we pray willing we worship God willingly.  Worship cannot be forced or it will be fake.  That is why a worship leader should not have to beg the church to worship with them.  All they have to do is begin to worship God and the true believer will just join in the worship or will already be worshiping because as children of God we are willing to worship Him because we understand that he desires us to do so. That is why he created us in the first place.

Worship God without wanting anything in return.  This is really not a true give and take relationship besides the fact that God is always giving to us and we are always taking from him.  But worship gives us an opportunity to give a little bit back to the God of our salvation without expecting anything in return.  

We don’t worship God so he will bless us he’s already done that. 

We don’t worship God to heal us.

We don’t worship God to fix our marriage.

We don’t worship God to save our children.

We don’t worship God to get the promotion.

We don’t worship God to get the job.

We don’t worship God to get the desires of our heart.

We worship God because we love him.

We worship God for who he is.  Because of who you are…

We worship God willingly, we worship God without expecting anything in return, and we worship God with all of your heart, soul, and strength.

In other words you worship God with every ounce of your being.  You don’t want no part time lover and neither does God.  In the words of that great theologian John Legend all of me wants all of you!  God wants all of you.  

He wants your mind, body, and soul.

He wants your head, shoulders, knees, and toes

He is not satisfied with your left overs or your sloppy seconds.  God wants the first fruits of your labor.  That is why he was pleased with Able’s sacrifice and not with Cane’s because Able came with the right attitude.  Able understood that his sacrifice was an extension or sign or an example of his love for God.  So all of his heart and soul and strength went into his sacrifice to make it acceptable to God.  So what kind of worship are you giving to God today.  Is it forced?  Is it fake?  Are you just going through the motions?  Are you just doing what you see others doing?  Or are you making yourself dangerous by truly worshipping God?

Because once you fall before the Lord in worship there is nothing and I mean nothing that the enemy can do to you that you won’t be able to handle, that you won’t be able to overcome, because now you are dangerous, and when you are dangerous you can rebuke the enemy and he will flee.  So worship the God of your salvation.  I once heard that true worship is to kiss the face of God.  God desires for us to worship him.  Does anyone want to kiss the face of God today?  That’s why we sing we worship you in the spirit.  We worship you in the truth.  We worship you in the spirit we worship you in the truth.  We don’t worship God for what he has already done, we don’t worship God for what he is doing right now, and we don’t worship God for what he has yet to do!  We worship God for who he is!  So when you are armed and dangerous there is nothing that can stand between you and your God.  

So worship the King of kings!

The Lord of lords!

The bright and morning star!

The lily of the valley!

The balm of Gilead!

The rose of Sharon!

The great I am!

The God of your Salvation!

The prince of peace!

The high and lofty one!

The friend that sticks closer than a brother!

The almighty!

The deliverer!

The way maker!

The mind regulator!

The protector!

The provider!

The one and only true God!

The living God!

The will in the middle of the wheel!

The alpha and the omega!

The beginning and the end!

The author and finisher of your faith!

And as we worship him lets get ready for battle.  Put on the full 

armor of God because the enemy is on the prowl.  The enemy is 

about to attack.  The enemy is coming at you with everything that 

he’s got, but you can say to the devil, hit me with your best shot I am armed and dangerous.

Drag my name through the mud.

Talk about me if you want to.

Play with my emotions.

Try to mess my family.

Quit messing my finances.

I don’t care what the doctor says.

Like timex I’ll take a licking and keep on ticking.

Who cares what they say about me.

Try to tempt me.

Try to get under my skin.

Try to take me out.

Question my faith.

Bring up my past.

Try to tell me that I’m not good enough.

And sometimes it seems like the devil has thrown everything at you but the kitchen sink, and I’m crazy enough to tell the devil to throw the sink as well because then he’ll have nothing left to throw.

And I am armed and I am dangerous anyway so it really doesn’t matter what the enemy does.  

Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the devils schemes.  And once you have your armor you have to become a dangerous threat to the enemy’s camp.  You become dangerous by knowing the word of God, doing the work of God, and worshipping the God of your salvation.  Are you armed and dangerous?  Good day SCC I hope the Lord blesses you real good. 

But mostly I hoped that you put on the full armor of God and become extremely dangerous!

Grab your belt of truth.

Grab your breastplate of righteousness. 

Grab your gospel of peace.

Grab your shield of faith.

Grab your helmet of salvation.

Grab your sword of the spirit.

It is time for battle.

It is time to fight.

It is time for war.

It is time to get armed.

It is time to be dangerous.

So let me hear your war cry.

Shout unto the Lord with a voice of triumph.

You are armed and dangerous! 

Armed and Dangerous Part 4

Ephesians 6:10-18

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

The last few weeks we have talked about the first four pieces of the full armor of God.  

The belt of truth. 

The truth sets us free. 

The truth sets others free.  

And the truth frustrates the devil because we are free.  

The breastplate of righteousness.  

Righteousness fixes us.  

Righteousness fortifies us.  

And righteousness fine tunes us.  

The gospel of peace.  

Peace focuses us.  

Peace fulfills us.  

Peace fascinates us.  

And last week we talked about the shield of faith.

Faith protects.

Faith provides.

Faith produces.

This week we are going to talk about the last two pieces of the full armor of God, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit.  Let’s get to work.

According to Jack Zavada, the fifth piece of armor is the Helmet of Salvation, which protects the head, where all thought and knowledge reside. Jesus Christ said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32, NIV) The truth of salvation through Christ does indeed set us free. We are free from vain searching, free from the meaningless temptations of this world, and free from the condemnation of sin. Those who reject God’s plan of salvation battle Satan unprotected and suffer the fatal blow of hell.  1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us that believers “have the mind of Christ.” Even more interesting, 2 Corinthians 10:5 explains that those who are in Christ have divine power to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (NIV) The Helmet of Salvation to protect our thoughts and minds is a crucial piece of armor. We cannot survive without it.  You have to protect your mind.  It is through the mind that sin creeps in.  First you start to think about the sin.  Then the desire to commit that sin grows stronger and stronger until it is almost impossible to ignore.  Then you commit the sin.  It is a vicious cycle that continues over and over an over again.  Isn’t that what happen to Amnon and Tamar…  

That is why you have to guard your mind.  

That is why you cannot do what everyone else does.  

You cannot go where everyone else goes.  

You cannot watch what everyone else watches.  

You cannot listen to what everyone else listens to. 1 Peter 2:9 says, But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  You have to guard your mind with the helmet of salvation.  

Salvation gives us three things.

Salvation gives us proper placement.  Before salvation we were out of the arch of safety that God provides for his children.  When you become saved you are adopted into the family of God.  We become his children and he becomes our father.  Our proper placement is in the family of God and this only occurs through salvation.  And being in proper placement saves us from what are sin deserves.  What are you talking about Pastor Brian?  The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.  By being in proper placement our sin debt has been paid by the blood of Jesus Christ.  Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.  

That is why I am so glad that 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!  

Salvation puts us in our proper placement.

Salvation gives us a positive purpose.  So after salvation gives us proper placement, it gives us positive purpose.  Purpose is defined as the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.  Or, an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.  There is something that you and you and you and you were created to do in the kingdom of God, a positive purpose.  What God has for me is for me and what God has for you is for you.  The problem is we are always looking and envying and craving after, and yearning for, and being jealous of someone else’s purpose.  Negating the fact that God has already created you for his designed purpose.  

I know you want to preach, but God hasn’t called you to preach.

I know you want to sing but God hasn’t called you to sing.

I know you want to teach but God hasn’t called you to teach.

I know you want to lead but God hasn’t called you to lead.

I know you want you to do what you want to do, but that is not how God operates.

He has called us all to serve, so serve in whatever capacity God has called you to serve because salvation has given you a positive purpose. 

Salvation gives us a practical practice, now your practical practice is how you live out your purpose.  You see a lawyer has a law practice.  A doctor has a medical practice.  An architect has an architectural practice. And as a Christian you should have a Christian practice.  The practice is  practical in the sense that you actually do what a Christian is called to do, not just talk about what a Christian should do.  This includes prayer and praise!  Because prayer and praise will help you live out your positive purpose once you are in your proper placement!  You have to practically practice the life of a Christian, it just doesn’t come automatically it has to be practiced.  I used to hear all the time that practice makes perfect.  I actually heard one of my students say it the other day.  I don’t agree with that, the only one that is perfect is God.  So practice won’t make you perfect but it will definitely make you better!

Put on the helmet of salvation so you can be in your proper placement, God can give you a positive purpose, and you can begin your practical practice.

The sixth piece of armor is Sword of the Spirit, Zavada explains, which is the only offensive weapon in the Full Armor of God with which we can strike against Satan. This weapon represents the Word of God, the Bible. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV) When Jesus Christ was tempted in the desert by Satan, he countered with the truth of Scripture, setting an example for us. Satan’s tactics have not changed, so the Sword of the Spirit, the Bible, is still our best defense and offense against the enemy. Commit the Word to your memory and to your heart. And the word will do the following three things.

The word proves.  The word proves without a shadow of a doubt that God loves us.  The entire Bible is a love story of God’s love for his creation.  

How he continually forgives us.

How he continually takes us back. 

How he continually protects us.

How he continually provides for us.

How he continually saves us.

How he continually makes ways for us.

Because the word continually proves he loves us.

For God so loved the world…

And because he loves us I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, his love is what makes the sword of the spirit such a powerful offensive weapon.  

That’s why we sing love lifted me.

Love lifted me. 

When nothing else can help. 

Love lifted me.

The sword proves!

The word is proactive.  To be proactive means serving to prepare for, intervene in, or control an expected occurrence or situation, especially a negative or difficult one; anticipatory: being proactive is getting prepared for the inevitable.  It it’s why we should get physicals and why we should do routine maintenance on our cars.  To prevent or slow down what will eventually happen.  Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did, when our expected outcome or situation was death, when he came to the world as a man, lived a perfect life, took our sins upon himself, and got up on an old rugged cross to die so that we could live.  That is the epitome of being proactive.  While we were yet in sin God sent Jesus to die for us.  

While we were in the club dropping it like it was hot.

While we were sinking deep in sin.

While we were making that late night call.

While we were sneaking onto the internet to that adult site.

While we were stealing supplies from work.

While we were cheating on our taxes.

While we were lying to your boss.

God sent Jesus to die.

The word is proactive. 

The word proves.  The word is proactive.  The word prevails.  The battle is not ours it belongs to the Lord, and if the battle belongs to the Lord we have the victory, we prevail! 

Do you know why the word is so powerful? 

Do you know why the word is such an effective offensive weapon? 

Do you know why the word always wins? 

Because the word is God!  John states it clearly, 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.  That is why the word prevails because the word is God!

That is why when the devil came to tempt Jesus after his forty day fast in the wilderness he responded with the word…. 4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,

    and they will lift you up in their hands,

    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]”

7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]”

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. So if Jesus needs the word and he is the word how much more do we need to know the word for ourselves?  If you want to prevail you need the word!

So when the enemy strikes you can say no weapon formed against 

me shall prosper.  

When the enemy attacks you can say I am more than a conqueror 

through Jesus Christ who loves me.  

When the enemy strikes you can say I can do all thing through 

Christ that strengthens me.  

When the enemy attacks you can say greater is he that is in me 

than he that is in the world.  

When the enemy strikes you can say the prayers of the righteous 

availeth much!

You have to carry with you the sword of the spirit!  Which is the word of 

God!

You have to put the word on it after you win the battle.  After you defeat the enemy.  After you are victorious or even before battle is won.  

You can say I will bless the Lord at all times and his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  

I will bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is with in me. 

Bless his holy name.  

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 had made me glad.  

Has he made anyone glad today?

Oh magnify the lord with me.  

Let us exalt his name together.  

In the words of my Bishop is there anybody here that’s wants to praise 

the God of your salvation?  

Is there anybody here that knows that God is good all the time and all 

the time God is good?

Is the anybody here that knows that God is truly worthy to be praised?

Is there anybody here that knows God can do anything but fail?

Is there anybody here that loves the King of kings and the Lord of lords?

If so stand to your feet and put your hands together and give God praise for the full armor of God.

Praise God for the belt of truth.

Praise God for the breastplate of righteousness.

Praise God for the gospel of peace.

Praise God for the shield of faith.

Praise God for the helmet of salvation.

Praise God for the sword of the spirit.

Now you are armed, but are you dangerous?  Come back next Sunday if the Lord allows, and I’ll tell you how to become dangerous.

Armed and Dangerous Part 3

Ephesians 6:10-18

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

As we have seen in many caught on camera incidents since the rise of technology and social media even if you are not armed and dangerous, you may be considered armed and dangerous and your life could end just because of the color of your skin. Andre Hill, Casey Goodson, Freddie Gray, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, Trevon Martin, Breonna Taylor, and the list goes on and on and on.  And especially now with all that’s going on in our nation.  When law and order tactics only apply to one group of people.  When domestic terrorist can storm the capital building without any fear of any consequences to their actions.  

When the world all around us appears to be going to hell in a hand basket.  I read an article about the black capital police officers that were at the capital last Wednesday, and how the people that stormed the capital building called them the “N” word as they chased them down.  But its not about race, and President Trump did not encourage this type of behavior.  I stand here today to tell you that we have to continue to arm ourselves. God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and of a sound mind.  That’s why it is more important than ever to make sure that you are wearing the full armor of God.  We have to get armed to be dangerous.  We cannot be dangerous unless we are armed.   

We can’t be caught off guard.  

We can’t be caught unprotected.  

We can’t be caught slipping.

We can’t be caught lollygagging.

We can’t be caught slacking.

We can’t be caught procrastinating.

We have to get armed so that we can be dangerous.

The last couple of weeks we talked about the first three pieces of the full armor of God.  

The belt of truth. 

The truth sets us free. 

The truth sets others free.  

And the truth frustrates the devil because we are free.  

The breastplate of righteousness.  

Righteousness fixes us.  

Righteousness fortifies us.  

And righteousness fine tunes us.  

And last week we discussed the gospel of peace.  

Peace focuses us.  

Peace fulfills us.  

And peace fascinates us.  

And today we are going to talk about the shield of faith.

According to Jack Zavada, no defensive armor was as important as a shield. It fended off arrows, spears, and swords. Our fourth piece of armor is the Shield of Faith, which guards us against one of Satan’s deadliest weapons, doubt. Satan shoots doubt at us when God does not act immediately or visibly.  Do you know what Satan does the minute you are down?  

He kicks you.

He starts to whisper in your ear.

Your God hasn’t come through for you yet.  

God doesn’t love you anyway. 

Look at all the stuff you have done.

Look at all the stuff you’re doing right now.

How could God possibly use you?

Why don’t you just give up on God?

That is why I am always encouraged by the story of Job when he states, though he slay me, yet will I trust him.  

And if you’re not careful you might actually buy into the enemy’s lies.  Zavada states, But our faith in God’s trustworthiness comes from the unassailable truth of the Bible. We know our Father can be counted on. Our Shield of Faith sends Satan’s flaming arrows of doubt glancing harmlessly to the side. We keep our shield held high, confident in the knowledge that God always takes care of us, God always looks out for us, and God is faithful to his children.  Our shield holds because of the One our faith is in, Jesus Christ.  And the great thing about faith is that even when our faith is weak God is still faithful.  God has never and will never let us down.  I have never seen the righteous forsaken of his seed begging for bread.  

Is anyone in the room grateful for God’s faithfulness?  

Think of all the times he has made the impossible possible for you.  

Think of all the times that he has had your back.  

Think of all the times that you should have died.  

Think of all the times that he has forgiven you, and welcomed you back with open arms.  

Think of all the times that he has made ways out of no ways.  God has been faithful.  

So just think of what you could do if you raised the level of your faith.  And you hold your shield of faith with the confidence of knowing that your God is able to do anything but fail. 

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father.

There is no shadow of turning with thee.

Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not.

As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

And great is thy faithfulness.

Great is thy faithfulness.

Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed thy hand hath provided.

Great is thy faithfulness.

Lord unto me.

Here are three things that faith does.

Faith protects.  When I look back over my life and see all the Lord has brought me through my soul cries out hallelujah!  Because I know what God has protected me from.  

Dangers seen and unseen.  

Life or death situations.  

MYSELF!  

Come on y’all, how many times has God protected us from ourselves?

The car accidents we walked away from.

The diseases we were healed from.

The heartache we avoided.

The disaster we side-stepped.

The mess we somehow managed to overcome. 

The test we tiptoed through.

Our faith in God has protected us.

Can I get a witness?

Faith provides.  For some reason I’ve always enjoyed talking about the provision of God.  Maybe because of where I’ve been and where I am now.  I have not forgotten where I come from.  I see all the Lord has done for little old me in 44 years.  And God has been good to you too, and I am sure that many of you have the same testimony.  Just like Joseph.  No matter what situation he was in God always provided for him.  

When his brothers were about to kill him, God  provided him with a pit.  

When the slave traders sold him, God provided him with a Potiphar.  

When they threw him in prison for crime he did commit God provided him with a prison guard that favored him.  

When Pharaoh needed someone to interpret his dream God provided Joseph with the proper interpretation.  

God is Jehovah Jireh, the Lord will provide.

Has God provided for anybody in the room or online today?

Has he made ways out of no ways?

Has he put clothes on your back?

Has he put food in your belly?

Has he put a roof over your head?

Has he given you a job to go to?

Has he given you a car to drive?

Has he given you a bus pass to use?

Has he given you a family to love?

Has he given you friends to count on?

Turn to a neighbor and say faith provides!

Faith protects.  Faith provides.  Faith produces.  In Bible Study this week we talked about how James stated several times that faith without works is dead.  Not that your works save you.  We know that we are saved through faith.  What James was saying that if you have faith, that faith should produce works.  In other words, if you say you have faith in God, that faith should prompt you to do works.   That faith should produce something. 

And what you produce should be good!  

So what does faith produce?  I’m so glad you asked.

In a teacher it will produce a good lesson.

In a parent it will produce good children. 

In a child it will produce good old fashion obedience.

In a person it will produce good character.

In a deacon it will produce good service.

In a trustee it will produce a good stewardship. 

In a preacher it will produce a servant after God’s heart.

In a leader it will produce good leadership.

In a church it will produce praise and worship.

Oh you just missed your cue to praise and worship the God in which you claim to have faith in.  Faith provides, faith protects, and faith produces.  And right now your faith should be producing a praise.  

Put your ten stringed instruments together and give God praise for the shield of faith!

Produce a praise for the God of your salvation.

Produce a praise for the God of your healing.

Produce a praise for the God of your life.

Produce a praise for the king of kings.

Produce a praise for the Lord of lords.

Produce a praise for the great I am that I am.

Produce a praise for Jesus Christos.

Produce a praise for the lamb that was slain.

Produce a praise for the Prince of Peace.

Produce a praise for the God who walks with you, and talks with you, and tell you that your are his own.  And the joy you share as you tarry there.  No other has ever known.

Let me close with this story…

Whose Side is God On?

During the US civil war Abraham Lincoln met with a group of ministers for a prayer breakfast. Lincoln was not a church-goer but was a man of deep, if at times unorthodox, faith. At one point one of the ministers said, “Mr President, let us pray that God is on our side”. Lincoln’s response showed far greater insight, “No, gentlemen, let us pray that we are on God’s side.”

Lincoln reminded those ministers that religion is not a tool by which we get God to do what we want but an invitation to open ourselves to being and doing what God wants.  If that is not faith I don’t know what is.  That is the problem with our nations right now.  Everyone thinks that God is on their side, when the truth other matter is the only side that God is on is HIS side, and the only side that we should be on is God’s side.  So with that being said I have one question for you.  Who’s side are you on?  If your answer is God’s side than pick up your shield of faith and hold high.  If you’re on God’s side…

Let the world know that for God I live and for God I die.

Let the world know as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

Let the world know that great is he that is in me than he that is in the world.

Let the world know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Let the world know that God so loved the world…

Let the world know all things are possible.

Let the world know the devil is a liar.

Let the world know that God is a healer.

Let the world know that God is a protector.

Let the world know that God is a provider.

Let the world know that God is a producer.

If we are on God’s side we let the world know all this by our faith! 

Take up your shield of faith.

Armed and Dangerous Part 2

Armed and Dangerous Part 2

Ephesians 6:10-18

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Painting Peace

There once was a King who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The King looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he really liked and he had to choose between them.

One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror, for peaceful towering mountains were all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.

The other picture had mountains too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky from which rain fell and in which lightening played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the King looked, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest… perfect peace.

Which picture do you think won the prize?

The King chose the second picture. “Because,” explained the King, “peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.”  This is the type of peace that Paul refers to in Ephesians when he talks about the Gospel of peace.  Let’s go to work.

Ephesians 6:15 talks about fitting our feet with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of Peace, the third piece of armor. According to Jack Zavada, Terrain was rocky in the ancient world, requiring sturdy, protective footwear. On a battlefield or near a fort, the enemy might scatter barbed spikes or sharp stones to slow an army down. In the same way, Satan scatters traps for us as we’re trying to spread the gospel.  Remember Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  The Gospel of Peace is our protection, reminding us that it is by grace that souls are saved. We can sidestep Satan’s obstacles when we remember, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV)  Fitting our feet with the readiness of the Gospel of Peace is described in 1 Peter 3:15 like this: “… always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…” (NIV) Sharing the gospel of salvation ultimately brings peace between God and men (Romans 5:1).  So while you go out to spread the good news Satan is going to throw obstacles in your way, but remember that no weapon formed against you shall prosper.  

The weapon will be formed.

The enemy will attack.  

The bills will keep coming.  

The pressure will continue to rise.  

You will lose loved ones.

We will have to battle disease.  

We will have heart ache.  

But the weapon will not prosper because we are more than 

conquerors through Christ who loves us.  You have to fit you feet 

with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. And these three things will happen.

Peace focuses us. When you have peace you can focus on what really matters because you are not worried about stuff that really does not matter or stuff you have no control over.  Think of all the time you waste on things that do not matter or things you have no control over.  

Why are y’all getting quiet on me…

Nobody in here wastes time worrying about their favorite sports team.

Or who got voted off of dancing with the stars or big brother.

Why he or she got the promotion over you?

Why the next door neighbors left their garage door open?

What’s going on in Mr. and Mrs. Jones’ marriage? 

Not that you’re concerned, you’re just being nosy.

Or why did pastor give them the leadership position? 

Peace focuses us so we do not have to worry about stuff that does not matter.  And when we are focused there isn’t much that we cannot accomplish.  

David defeated Goliath because he was focused on God.  

The Israelites defeated Jericho because they were focused on the lord.  

Peter was able to walk on water when he was focused on Jesus. But the minute he started to worry about the wind, and the waves he began to sink.  

Jesus was focused on the cross, and what he came to do.  That is why he was able to say, Father forgive them for they know not what they do.

Peace focuses us.

We can focus on our faith.

We can focus on our family.

We can focus on our future.

Peace focuses us.  Peace fulfills us.  When we have the peace of God we have everything we need.  That is why Paul said in Philippians 4:11-13,  11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  I believe this strength comes from the peace of God.  Is anyone in the room fulfilled by the peace of God.  The peace of God fulfills us!

Peace fulfills us emotionally.

Peace fulfills us physically.

Peace fulfills us spiritually.

Most people that are not fulfilled because they do not have peace.  When you do not have peace your mind is never at ease.  You are always worrying about this or that.

You are always wondering about that or this.

But when you truly have the peace of God, you will be fulfilled not matter what your circumstance or your situation is.

Peace focuses us.  Peace fulfills us. Peace fascinates us and others. Paul also says in Philippians 4:7, And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  The simple fact that you, that I, that we made it through what we made it through is nothing but proof that the peace of God transcends our understanding.  

Think about that for a moment.

In the midst of the storm you had peace.

In the midst of the divorce.

In the midst of unemployment.

In the midst of a pandemic.

In the midst of folks storming the capital building.

In the midst of social injustice.

In the midst of racial discrimination.

In the midst of chemo.

In the midst of dialysis.

In the midst of bereavement.

You had peace, and that peace fascinates us.

Peace fascinates our intellect.

Peace fascinated our imagination.

Peace fascinates interests.

Has anyone in the room been fascinated by the peace of God?

Let me share this story with you that I found on FB.

There was a survivor of a shipwreck washed up on a small uninhabited island.  He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and everyday he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming.  Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect himself, and to store his few possessions.  Then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling all the way to the sky.  The worst had happened; everything was lost.  He was stung with grief and anger. God how could you do this to me!  He Cried!  Early the next morning he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island to rescue him.  He asked, how did you know I was hear?  Asked the weary man of his rescuers.  We saw your smoke signal they replied.  It is easy to get discouraged when things are going bad, but we shouldn’t lose heart because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain and suffering.  This is the time that we should have peace because God is always working behind the scenes.  Remember the next time your little hut is burning to the ground, it just may be a smoke signal that summons the grace of God.

So don’t worry about the cancer it’s just a smoke signal.

Don’t worry about being unemployed.

Don’t worry about the argument. 

Don’t worry about the court case.

Don’t worry about the friction in the friendship. 

It’s just a smoke signal. 

And, After all the hell you went through you should have lost your mind, but God.

After the blow you just took you should be off your rocker, but God.

After the storm you just went through you should be going crazy, but God.

After the abuse you suffered you should have been committed to a psychiatric institution, but God.

After all the drama you endured you thought about committing suicide, but God.

And you look in the mirror wondering how in the world did you make it.  People all around you are wondering how in the world are you standing and you know that it is the peace of God that passes all understanding. And you can give the Lord a but God praise because you know that if it had not been for the lord on your side you would have gave up a long time ago.

You would have thrown in the towel.

You would have packed your bags and bounced.

You would have taken you ball and went home.

You would have gone postal.

But the peace of God.

Greater is He that is in me than that is in the world.

I’m sorry but I need y’all to give a but God praise.

I was down to my last dime, but God.

I was given an unfavorable diagnosis, but God.

I lost my job, but God.

I almost lost my life, but God.

My marriage was or is on the rocks, but God.

My children were out of control, but God.

My life was on a downward spiral, but God.

I did not know how I was going to make it, but God.

Give the king of kings and the lord of lords a but God praise!

Let’s get armed so that we can be dangerous.

Armed with the belt of truth.

Armed with the breastplate of righteousness.

Armed with the gospel of peace, and give God praise!

If you don’t praise him the rocks will cry out.  And I don’t know about you but God has been too good to me to let a rock cry out in my place. That is why the Psalmist said let everything that has breath praise the lord.  So inhale, now exhale, you just qualified yourself to praise.  

You just passed the test.  

Your audition went well.  

In other words, if you are breathing you should be praising.  

From the rising of the son to the going down of the same the name of Jesus is worthy to be praised.

Armed and Dangerous Part 1

Ephesians 6:10-18

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

On Monday afternoon two men were shot by a person in a black SUV near Robinson and Cottage Streets. The 24-year-old driver was shot in his side and arm, while the 27-year-old passenger was shot in the hand and left elbow. They are both being treated at the nearby Hospital. Police have obtained an arrest warrant for a suspect they believe fired shots at two men sitting in a car on Monday afternoon.  Columbus police are searching for Robert Bobby Watson, 21 years old.  Watson is facing numerous charges including assault with intent to murder. Police have not yet determined a motive and said the suspect should be considered armed and dangerous. If anyone has information on the suspect they are asked to call 911.  The suspect is considered armed and dangerous.  We hear stories like this all the time on TV shows, the radio, and the news, and it happens so much that we are not even fazed by it.  We have become numb to these types of stories.  Do you know that over 144 people were shot and killed in Columbus in 2020.  And I am sure that there are more than that because this does not take into account the ones that were shot by police officers.  Someone gets shot, stabbed, or attacked and we just go on with our lives. People commit terrible crimes every day because the are armed and dangerous.  They are robbing folks because they are armed and dangerous.  They are beating folks because they are armed and dangerous.  They are terrorizing neighborhoods and schools because they are armed and dangerous.  They are killing folks because they are armed and dangerous.  And in many cases black men are being killed because some police officers and others think that they might be armed and dangerous just because of the color of their skin.  But I would like to submit to you today that every single child of God should be armed and dangerous.  

 If you are in the fraternity or sorority of the twice born you should be armed and dangerous.  

If you are born again you should be armed and dangerous.  

If you have accepted the Lord into your heart you should be armed and dangerous.  

If you have confessed with your mouth that Jesus is the Lord of your life you should be armed and dangerous.  

In other words if you are saved you should be armed and dangerous 

What are you saying Pastor Brian?  We all need to be strapped, packing heat, ready to bust a cap, ready to spread some lead?  No, not at all but I am suggesting that you get armed and that you become extremely dangerous with the full armor of God!   Shall we look at the text?  In the text today Paul is writing the sixth part of his letter to the church in Ephesus.  He tells the people 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Now as I prayed, prepared, and researched for these messages I found a great deal of useful information describing the full armor of God.  My main source of information was an article I found on learningreligions.com entitled Armor of God Bible Study by Jack Zavada, and I am so excited to share it with you over the next month.  And if you pray for me as I preach and teach I really do believe there’s a blessing in the house.  

Someone will be healed.

Someone will be delivered.

Someone will be changed.

Someone will be challenged.

Someone will be encouraged. 

Someone will receive confirmation.

But you have to be armed and dangerous. 

According to Zavada The Full Armor of God, described by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:10-18, is our spiritual defense against attacks from the enemy.  Now if we were to leave home every morning dressed in a suit of armor, we would feel and look pretty silly. Fortunately that’s not necessary. The Full Armor of God may be invisible, but it’s just as real, and when used properly and worn daily, it provides solid protection against the Enemy’s attacks.  The good news is that none of these six pieces of the Full Armor of God require power on our part. Jesus Christ has already won our victory through his sacrificial death on the cross. We only have to put on the effective armor he has given us.  

Aren’t you glad that the power of the armor does not come from man?  

We are so fickle we’d turn off the armor because someone got on our nerves, or bought the outfit that we wanted.  

Or we’d turn the armor off just because we felt like it or we were in a bad mood with a jacked up attitude.  

We’d be negligent with our resources forget to pay the bill and the power would be shut off.  

So thank God for Jesus that he paid the ultimate price in order for us to have the full armor of God.  So lets talk about this armor!  This morning we are going to discuss two pieces of the armor.  The belt of truth and The breastplate of righteousness.  Let’s begin!

The Belt of Truth, which is the first piece of the Full Armor of God, is described by Zavada like this.  In the ancient world, a soldier’s belt not only kept his armor in place, but it might be wide enough, as a girdle, to protect his kidneys and other vital organs. Just so, the truth protects us. Practically applied to us today, you might say the Belt of Truth holds up our spiritual pants so that we’re not exposed and vulnerable!  Jesus Christ called Satan the “father of lies”, and deception is one of the Enemy’s oldest tactics. We can see through Satan’s lies by holding them against the truth of the Bible. The Bible helps us defeat the lies of materialism, money, power, and pleasure as the most important things in life.  The world wants us to believe that money, power, pleasure, and materialism are what truly matters in life.  

I have to wear the latest fashion.  

I have to be driving the freshest and newest ride.  

I need to be a part of this club or organization to prove that I have arrived.  

I need to be making this much money 

I need to live in this neighborhood 

And it is even effecting our young people and they are judging other kids based on what they are wearing or not wearing (what are those).  But, the truth of God’s Word shines its light of integrity into our lives and holds together all of our spiritual defenses.  Jesus told us “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV) In other words, the truth shall set you free.  The world is constantly portraying evil as good.  It has become so twisted that many people see the most despicable things as all right.  We see it everyday on TV.  We hear it on the radio.  Fantasia has a song called I’m sleeping with the one I love.  At first I thought that’s nice you’re sleeping with the one you love, hopefully it’s you husband, but as I listened to the song I realized that the song was glorifying an affair because she says the man she’s with is good, but he’s not good enough so I’m sleeping with the one She loves… so the song is a modern day version of the woman at the well because neither one of these men seems to be the singer’s husband.  People just doing whatever makes them feel good despite the consequences of their actions, but of course I am not talking about anyone at SCC!  

No one in here is getting high or drunk.  

No one in here is going to the club or party and kicking it all night long.  No one in here is getting busy without a wedding ring.  What’s Beyoncé say…. 

No one in here is moving from one partner to another.  

No one in here is just doing what they want to do, however they want to do it, whenever they want to do it.

You need the belt of truth so that you can show the world the truth of Jesus Christ.  Here are three things that happen because you’re wearing the belt of truth

The truth will set you free.  

When we realize the truth that Jesus Christ loves us in spite of our mess, this sets us free.  

When we understand the truth that while we were yet in sin God sent Jesus to die for us, this sets us  free.  

When we come face to face with the truth that God has forgiven us of all the stuff we’ve done, this sets us free.  

And when we are free, this truth will set others free.

The truth will set others free.  You see what happens is others see all that you have gone through and the freedom you now possess because of the truth of God in your life, that they want what you’ve got.  They want to experience what you experience.  They want to feel the way that you feel.  So in a sense you have to be like Harriet Tubman.  Once Harriet got her freedom she went back to the plantations to help free others.  So once you receive freedom from this life of sin by the truth of God’s word you must go out and share your story in order to help others get to freedom as well.

The truth frustrates the enemy because we are free.  He is the father of lies.  And he uses lies to keep you in bondage.  Just like the slave masters controlled slaves by twisting the word of God to meet their needs.  Now if a slave owner got upset after a slave or slaves were freed how much more will the devil be frustrated that the truth of God has set you and others free.  Because once you know the truth you are a threat to everything that he has planned.  

I don’t know about you but I like the idea of frustrating the enemy.  

I like the idea of messing up the enemies plans.  

I like the idea of getting on the enemies nerves.  

I like the idea of jacking up satan’s plans.  

That’s why I will continue to put on the belt of truth!

The next piece of armor is the Breastplate of Righteousness, which guards our heart.  According to Zavada, a wound to the chest can be fatal. That’s why ancient soldiers wore a breastplate covering their heart and lungs. Our heart is susceptible to the wickedness of this world, but our protection is the Breastplate of Righteousness, and that righteousness comes from Jesus Christ. We cannot become righteous through our own good works. There is nothing we can do to become righteous.  When Jesus died on the cross, his righteousness was credited to all who believe in him, through justification. God sees us as sinless because of what his Son did for us.  When God looks at us all he sees is the blood.  

He does not see the liar.

He does not see the cheater.

He does not see the gossip.

He does not see the fornicator.

He does not see the adulterer.

He does not see the mistake. 

All God sees is the blood!  Is anyone grateful for the blood?  Accept your Christ-given righteousness; Let it cover and protect you. Remember that it can keep your heart strong and pure for God.  You have to protect your heart at all cost.  Because Jesus paid it all.  All to him I know.  Sin had left a crimson stain, but he washed it white as snow. You have to protect your heart with the breastplate of righteousness. This is what the breastplate righteousness does for us.

Righteousness fixes us.  Remember how jacked up we were before the righteousness of God fixed us.  One of my favorite songs is he took me and made something beautiful out of my life.  

Is that anyone’s testimony today?  

Did he pick you up and turn you around?

Did he place your feet on solid ground?

Where you lost and now found?

Did he look beyond your faults and see your needs?  

Did he clean up what you messed up?

His righteousness fixes us.

Righteousness fortifies us. Fortify means to protect or strengthen against attack; surround or provide with defensive military works.

2.  To furnish with a means of resisting force or standing strain or wear.

3. To make strong; impart strength or vigor to.

4. To increase the effectiveness of, as by additional ingredients.

5. To strengthen mentally or morally.

6. To confirm or corroborate.

In other words, His righteousness builds us up.  

His righteousness improves us.  

His righteousness strengthens us.  

His righteousness gives us a strong foundation on which to stand on.  

On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.  All other ground is sinking sand.  His righteousness fortifies us.

Righteousness fine tunes us.  So after his righteousness fixes us and fortifies us, it fine tunes us.  Now have you ever heard an instrument that was out of tune.  It just doesn’t sound right.  It does not make the beautiful music is was created to make because it needs to be fine tuned.  Or your car is not running the way that it should run because it needs to be fine tuned.  Or you computer is not operating correctly because it needs to be fine tuned.  After you and I are fixed and fortified every now and then we get out of tune.  We get off track, and we are not running the way God intended us to run and we need fine tuned.  

God’s righteousness fine tunes us by taking us through a storm. 

God’s righteousness fine tunes us by making ways out of no ways.  

God’s righteousness fine tunes us by reminding us that He is the reason we live move and have our being.  Is anybody in the room bedsides the man holding the microphone excited about the fact that God’s righteousness fixes us, God’s righteousness fortifies, and God’s righteousness fine tunes us.  

You must put on the breastplate of righteousness!

You must put on the belt of truth!

Let me share this story with you.

How Many Beans in the Jar? (On Faith and Truth)

Christian writer Tim Stafford tells of an unusual approach to teaching about religious truth adopted by a pastor he knows. You might expect this, for the pastor, Stephey Bilynskyj, holds a Phd in Philosophy from Note Dame University! Whenever he runs a confirmation class the pastor takes a jar full of beans with him. He then gets the students to guess how many beans are in the jar, and writes down their guesses on a notepad. Pastor Bilynskyi then asks the class members to list their favorite songs, writing them down alongside the bean estimates. Pastor Bilynskyi then returns to the bean guesses, revealing the actual number and then whose guess was closest to being right. After congratulations have been offered attention is then refocussed on the song list. “And which one of these is closest to being right?” Pastor Bilynskyi asks. Invariably the students argue that when it comes to “favorite songs” there is no right answer. It’s purely subjective, a matter of taste. It’s at that point that Pastor Bilynskyi asks “When you decide what to believe in terms of your faith, is that more like guessing the number of beans, or more like choosing your favorite song?” Always, Bilynskyj says, he gets the same answer: Choosing one’s faith is more like choosing a favourite song. Bilynskyi disagrees, and though he still confirms those who hold this view, does his best to try to argue them out of it!

Source: Reported by Tim Stafford, Christianity Today, September 14, 1992

So what are you trying to say pastor?  The truth of God can not be like your favorite song list because you’re favorite song list can change. Unlike the number of jelly beans in the jar.  That number is fixed. It does not change just like the truth of God which leads to righteousness never changes.

And I was just wondering if there is anybody here excited about the fact that you have access to the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness.

If so stand on your feet. 

Put your ten stringed instruments together and give God a ridiculous praise.

Praise him for his belt of truth.

Praise him for his breastplate of righteousness.

Praise him for the access to this armor.

Praise him for the ability to use this armor.

Praise him for allowing you to be armed and dangerous.

Is Your GPS On?

Is your GPS on?

John 14:1- 6

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Has anyone ever been lost before?  You were going on a trip and took a wrong turn somewhere along the way and ended up in the middle of nowhere.  I am sure that many of us have ended up on a dark dirt road just praying that we would not run out of gas because we were in no mans land!  I know I  have been there before.  I just knew that I was going the right way and ended up lost.  Many years ago on the way home to Pittsburgh we had to pick up my nephew from California University of Pennsylvania…  

I think it was last month, me and Noah were watching an episode of the Wonder Years…  

But people do not like to admit that they are lost, especially men.  Whether it is on a real road or on the road of life.  We will just continue on the wrong road or path acting as if we are going the right way.  Someone will ask, are you lost?  

No, I’m not lost. 

I’m just taking a short cut.  

This is a scenic route!  

I wanted to try a different way! 

I just want to drive and see where the road take me.  

We studied this month how over 2000 years ago the wise men came looking for Jesus.  They did not get lost.  They followed the North Star to find Jesus and worship him.  They presented him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh because he is the king of kings, the great high priest, and the savior of the world.

But with today’s technology it is very hard to get lost.  There is a device call a GPS that can keep you on track.  GPS, stands for global positioning system, and has become extremely popular as a personal navigation system. Elements used to create the GPS were developed as early as 1959, but it would be several decades before the technology was fully operational. Today, GPS units are readily available and affordable to the public. Although it was developed for military purposes, civilians can also enjoy GPS technology. A number of companies produce GPS units for the public, and a number of cars, boats, and other vehicles are equipped with them.  Today most cellular phones and smart watches have GPS functions on them.  What I love about the GPS is that if you do not follow the guide’s directions or miss a turn the system will redirect you so that you can reach your destination.  So when you do not know the way this device will show you the way, and take you to your destination.  Even if you mess up and miss your turn or take the wrong turn the GPS will redirect.

Has anyone ever needed redirected before?  

You were on the right path.  

You were on the right road and somewhere along the way you took a wrong turn.  

You made a bad decision.  

You chose the wrong path.  

You trusted the wrong person.  

You played to close to the fire.  

You tempted fate one too many times.  

You messed up.

You made a mistake.

You stuck your foot in your mouth.

You lost control.

Well I stopped by this morning to let someone know that there is a way to get back on track.  

There is a way to get redirected.

No matter how many wrong turns that you’ve made.

No matter how lost you are.

There is a way to reach your destination.  

Ask your neighbor, is your GPS on?  

Shall we look at the text?  In the text today John, the apostle whom Jesus loved is explaining a conversation between Jesus and his disciples.  In the previous chapter, John 13, Jesus told his disciples that he will be leaving soon, they will look for him and he will be gone in reference to his crucifixion.  Now in the 14th chapter he is trying to comfort the disciples.  Letting them know that they will be okay.  Explaining to them the purpose of his father’s plan.  He tells them not to let their hearts be troubled, but trust in God and him.  He told them you believe in God, now believe in me.  In my father’s house there are many rooms.  If it were not so, I would have told you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you.  I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.  Thomas said to Jesus, Lord we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way.  Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the father except through me.  In other words, Jesus was giving his disciples directions.  They just had to use their GPS’s.  He was showing them the way.  They just had to turn on their GPS.  I know what you’re thinking.  The disciples did not have a Global Positioning System.   And you are correct, they actually had something better, the Holy Spirit.  And in order for you to reach your destination your GPS must be fully operational as well.  Now don’t look at me in that tone of voice.  

I know you’re not into all that technology.  

I know you can just use a map.  

I know you can just use map-quest, but map-quest is a computer program hooked up to a GPS.  Why do I need to turn my GPS on?  I am so glad that you asked.  Here are three reasons why your GPS needs to be on and then I will bid you good day.  

The first reason your GPS should be on is because you need to know the way.  You cannot get anywhere in life if you do not know the way.  I could not be with you today if I did not know the way to Second Community Church, but if I don’t know how to get here after being here over a year… Houston we have a problem.  We have been to places that we did not know how to get to.  In those cases we would just place the address into our GPS, and let the device lead us to our destination.  I would let the device show me the way!  But I am not talking about the way to a church, or the way to the store, or to the way to Big Mamma’s house in South Carolina.  

But I am talking about the way to salvation.  

The way to spending eternity with God.  

The way to living the life God has called you to live.

The way to your purpose.

The way to redemption.

The way to freedom.

The way to your calling. 

The way to heaven.  

It’s a highway to heaven.

None can walk up there.

But the pure in heart.

It’s a highway to heaven.

Walking up the king’s highway

You must know the way.  And the text tells us today that the way to heaven is through Jesus.  That means that you need to know Jesus.  You need to accept him into your heart, surrender all to him, and follow his direction.  But knowing Jesus is the way is not enough.  You also need to know the way.  Meaning that knowing the way also means knowing Jesus.  And you get to know Jesus by studying his word.  Meditating on the word night and day.  You have to open your bible.  You have to read it and concentrate on what God is teaching you.  Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.  You must know the way, which is through Jesus and you must know the way, which is Jesus.

The second reason that you need to turn on your GPS is so that you can go the way.  Isn’t it so much easier to go the way, when you know the way?  So you would think!  

If I know how to get to the store it should be easy for me to go to the store.  

If I know how to live saved it should be easy to live saved, right?  But God never said that it would be easy.  God said that he would never leave us or forsake us!  Usually when you put your destination into a GPS a map appears and shows your starting point and your ending point, but then it gives you directions to your final destination and all you have to do is go the way that it tells you.  We know the way to the father is though Jesus, so all we have to do is be like Nike and just do it! But we do our own thing.  Sometimes as soon as we find out the way, we go the opposite direction because we feel that we are not ready to follow Jesus, or worthy to follow Jesus.  If we waited until we were ready or worthy to follow Jesus we would never get saved.  We are a stubborn people and we want what we want when we want it, but God is not Burger King and you can’t have him your way.  You know the way and you must go the way, which is his way!  Jesus states this clearly!  No one can get to the father unless they go through me!  You must know the way.  You must Go the way.  And the only way to go is through Jesus.  Meaning, you must believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is the savior of your soul.

The third reason you need to turn on your GPS is so that you can show someone else the way.  Once you know the way, and go the way, it is extremely important that you show others the way.  God did not give you this great gospel to keep to yourself.  You must share your story, use your gifts, and live a life of integrity that will lead others to Christ.  

Not to you, but to Christ.  

Not to church, but to Christ.

Not to Pastor Brian, but to Christ.

No to religion, but to Christ.

Not to tradition, but to Christ.

Not to the movement, but to Christ.

Not to dressing a certain way, but to Christ.

Not to acting a certain way, but to Christ.

You have to catch a fish before you can clean it.  So you must show people the way, and then you can teach them the traditions, history, and movements of the church.  Then you show them how to dress and carry themselves as Christians. But then again, How does a Christian dress?  Sometimes we focus too much on things that are not important.  We have to keep the main thing the main thing.  We cannot be so worried about what someone is wearing that we don’t consider how they are feeling or what they are going through.  

People need to know the way today more than ever.  Look at all the craziness that is going on in the world today.  

All of the horrific and terrifying tragedies in our world.

COVID-19!

Police Shootings!

Social Injustice!

Racism and discrimination!

Black on Black crime!

White on White crime!

Plots to kidnap governors! 

Natural Disasters!

Human trafficking!

Transition of presidential power!

The racial unrest in our nation!

Sexual assaults in High school!

Cyber bullying, and the list goes on and on!

People need to know the way.  

People need to know Jesus. 

People need to get their affairs in order, and I am not talking about wills and insurance.

I am talking about getting your soul in order.

I am talking about getting your name written in the lamb’s book of life.

I’m talking about getting your mind right.

I’m talking about using the good sense that the Lord has given you and accepting him as your Lord and Savior.

I am talking about knowing the way, going the way, and showing the way.

Look at your neighbor, and tell them to turn on their GPS.  I have been telling you throughout this message to turn on your GPS.  And I know that you have been thinking, what does the global positioning system have to do with knowing the way, going the way, and showing the way.  Well I have a confession to make.  When I was telling you to turn on you GPS I was not referring to the Global positioning system.  I was referring to the God Praising System.  In order to really know the way you must praise God.  In order to go the way you must praise God.  And in order to show someone else the way you must praise God.  So everyone in the room do me a favor and turn your GPS and give God some praise.  Turn on your God Praising System and praise him.  From the rising of the sun, to the going down of the same the name of Jesus is worthy to be praised.  So on this last Sunday of 2020 lets give God praise for getting us through an unprecedented time of a global pandemic, social unrest, political upheaval, uphill battles, and outright bigotry and hatred that is far from over.  

Yet we are still standing.  

In spite of it all God has blessed us.  

In spite of it all God has kept us.  

In spite of it all God is still using us.  

In spite of it all God is still pushing us forward. 

In spite of it all God is still allowing us to minister.

In spite of it all we are still worshipping in our homes because we understand that the building is not the church, we are the church.

In spite of it all we are going to give God praise!

So turn on your GPS, your God praising system, and praise the God of your salvation.

The savior of the world!

The lily of the valley!

The balm of Gilead!

The lord of lords!

The king of kings!

The author and finisher of our faith!

The beginning and the end!

The bright and morning star!

The great I am!

The deliverer!

The provider!

The mighty God!

The protector!

The healer!

The way maker!

The mind regulator!

Because once you turn your GPS on and you find the way.  Then you know the truth, which is the simple fact that God is real and he loves you so much that he sent his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  And when you know the truth you know the life.  Because Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Now how many of you have been on vacation, or you have seen someone on a movie or television show sitting on the beach with a chilled beverage in their hand.  They are comfortable and relaxed and the utter the words, “this is the life!”  Well I have news for you baby if you do not have Jesus in your life you have no life at all.  So tap your neighbor and tell them, turn your GPS on.  Turn on your God Praising System because this is the Life that God has called you to.  

This is the life that God predestined for you before the foundations of the world.  

This is the life that God ordained for you while he knitted you in your mothers womb. 

This is the life that you were meant to have.

This is the life that you have been praying for.

This is the life that you have been fasting for

This is the life.  

The life of salvation.  

The life of a Christian.  

The abundant life that God has promised us.  

The eternal life!  

Oh come and go with me to my father’s house. 
There will be no dying there.  

There will be no lying there.

No bombings there.

No weapons of mass destruction there.

No gun control issues there.

No explosions there.

No natural disasters there.

No shooting there.

No sexual assaults there.

No bullying there.

No disease there.

No cancer there.

No blindness there.

No canes there.

No walkers there.

No wheel chairs there.

No suffering there.

No homelessness there.

No starvation there.

No racism there.

No classism there.

No democrats or republicans or independents there.

Oh, come and go with me to my father’s house!

But you will have to turn on your GPS to get there.  

You will have to turn on your God Praising System so that you can know the way, go the way, and show the way!

Turn your God Praising System on!

Oh come let us adore Him!

The Gifts That We Should Give Part 3

Matthew 2:1-2, 11

Romans 12:3-8

I Peter 4:10-11

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. . . .

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” 

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Two weeks  ago we began a series entitled the gifts that we should give and we talked about giving our treasure because the wise men gave Jesus their gold to signify that he was and is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  

We give our treasure to support the ministry.

We give our treasure to sustain the mission.

We give our treasure because it is sovereignly mandated.  

Last week we talked about giving our time because the wise men gave Jesus frankincense signifying that he is the great high priest and just like the high priest Jesus gave his time so we should give our time too.

We give our time in seeking the Lord in his word.

We give our time in service to the world.

We give our time in sending up praise to the Lord.

This week I would like to talk about giving of our talent because that is exactly what Jesus did while he was here on earth.  We learned in Bible Study this week that the wise men gave Jesus myrrh which was strange because myrrh is an embalming spice, but the wise men giving Jesus myrrh signified that they had faith that he was their savior.  And the greatest talent that Jesus gave us was him sacrificing his life to save us, and because Jesus gave his talent we must give our talents as well…  Yes dying was a talent…  

Because he died we get to live.

Because he died we are healed.

Because the died we are delivered.

Because he died we are redeemed.

Because he died we are set free.

Because even though he died, he was able to defeat death, even death on a cross.  And this makes him our talented savior.  But he also displayed his talent in his miracles, his teaching, his preaching, his mentoring, his healings.  Jesus gave the world his talents and we should give our talents as well.

Shall we look at the text…

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. . . .

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” 

Now as we learned in Bible Study the last couple of weeks the significance in this story is not found in the wise men themselves, but in the gifts that they brought.  All we know about the wise men is that they came from the east following a star to worship Jesus.  We do not know if they were kings.  We do not know if they were wise.  But we do know treat they came bearing gifts.  Gold for their king.  Frankincense for their great high priest.  And myrrh for their savior.  This is what we know.  The gave to Jesus and Jesus gave and gives to us, and this is why we should give our gifts.  We talked about giving our treasure.  We talked about giving our time.  Now let’s talk about giving our talent.  And I know someone is thinking what gift, what talent to I have to give.  Well let me show you.

Paul tells the church in Rome For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.  

Paul was telling the church that we all have gifts, but don’t think to highly of yourself because of your gift.  Instead use your gift toy glorify God.

This next passage of scripture is special to me because it is the scripture that I would reference whenever I ministered through gospel rap.  Whenever someone would say to me that I should not do that in the church.  I would reference this text.  Because I truly believe that whatever gift you have should be used to glorify God and build up the kingdom.  

Peter says this in his letter, 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.  

Now there were some things that Peter and Paul did not agree on, but this was not one of them.  Both of them believed that we all have received gifts and talents from God, and by His grace we should be using them to glorify God.  We should be giving our talents.

We give our talents in three ways.

We give our talents to express to the pew the power of God.  In other words, we give our talents to the church.  We use our talents, our God given gifts in the church.  I truly believe that God has blessed us with gifts and talents to be used in the church.  To bless the body. That is why Paul tells the church in our text today that we all have one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function.  So the the functions that each of these members have individually bless the entire body.  And it is the same in the body of christ.  We are all a part of the body of Christ and we all have different functions in the body.  We all have different gifts and talents to fulfill our function or our purpose.

We express the power of God when we sing.

When we preach.

When we teach.

When we usher.

When we work the sound.

When we organize the event.

When we cook a meal.

When we send a card.

When we clean.

When we shovel the snow.

When we pull the weeds.

When we make a phone call.

When we dance.

When we play an instrument.

So what does giving my talent have to do with the power of God?  Let me answer that question with a few of my own.

How many times have you felt the power of God in a preached word?

How many times have you felt the power of God in a Sunday school lesson?

How many times have you felt the power of God in a song sung?

How many times have you felt the power of God in the way an usher treated you?

How many times have you felt the power of God in a phone call from a saint?

How many times have you felt the power of God in a card you received?

How many times have you felt the power of God in a praise dance you observed?

How many times have you felt the power of God in a meal that was cooked for you?

We use our gifts in accordance to the grace God has given us.

We use our talents to express to the pew the power of God.

We give our talents to expose the people to the passion of God.  This is how we give our talent and gift to the world so that they can see that God loves them.  There are so many people in the world that do not know and do not believe that God loves them.  I know this is hard for some of us to believe because we have experienced the unconditional love of God.  

We know for God so loved the world… 

We know that greater is he…  

We know that we can do all things…

But let’s be honest this morning.  We did not always know and believe that God loved us.  As a matter of fact, there was a time in some of our lives when we thought that there was no way that God could love us because we didn’t even love ourselves.  We did not like what we saw in the mirror.  But someone used their gifts and talents to expose us to passion of God.  This reminds me of a story of a conversation in a barber shop.  And in this conversation they were arguing about the existence of God.  And the barber says there is no God.  If  there was a God.  

Why is there so much violence?  

Why is there so much hate?  

Why is there so may killings?  

Why are so many people addicted to drugs?  

Why is there prostitution?  

Why is there abuse?  

Why is there COVID-19?  

If there was a God all this bad stuff would not be happening.  And the customer notices a homeless person with long unkept hair and a rough looking beard and he says to the barber there is no such thing as a barber.  Barbers do not exist.  And the barber says I am right here.  I just cut your hair.  I have been cutting your hair for years.  And the customer says, if barbers exist why is that homeless man out there with unkept hair and a rough looking beard?  And the barber says because he hasn’t come to me for a haircut.  And the customer said and that’s exactly why the world is in the state that it is in because people don’t come to God. And one of the many ways that people can come to God is by us giving our talents so the people can see the passion of God.

We give our talents to experience the pleasure of the presence of God.  So the first two points are about giving to others, but this last point is about giving to ourselves.  I know as men and women of God we often think that it is selfish to think of ourselves, but I want you to know this morning that it is imperative to think of ourselves as well.  Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself.  Well you cannot love your neighbor as yourself unless you love yourself.  Where are you going with this Pastor Brian?  When we are giving our gifts and talents.  When we are teaching, and preaching, and ushering, and cleaning, and cooking, and doing all the things that God has called and gifted us to do we experience the pleasure of his presence.  Does anybody know what I am talking about? 

Have you ever been ministering to someone and experienced the presence of God?  

Have you ever been serving someone and experienced the presence of God? 

Have you ever been used by the Lord and experienced the presence of God?  

Well I have, and I do not know about anybody else, but there is no place that I would rather be than in the presence of God…

I love my family.

I love my friends.

I love my job.

I love my church.

I love working out.

I love studying the word.

I love watching my eagles.

I love watching the buckeyes.

I love competition.

I love many things.

But there is nothing that I love more, than being in the presence of God, and this is what happens when we give our talents.  We experience the pleasure of being in the presence of God.

Let me share this story with you as I close.

The Cracked Pot

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the masters house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water in his masters house.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.”

“Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”

“I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your masters house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts.” The pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, “As we return to the masters house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again the Pot apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pots side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my masters table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”

Each of us has our own unique flaws. We re all cracked pots. But if we will allow it, the Lord will use our flaws to grace His Fathers table. In Gods great economy, nothing goes to waste. Don’t be afraid of your flaws. Acknowledge them, and you too can be the cause of beauty. Know that in our weakness we find our strength.

So I was just wondering the Sunday before Christmas if we have any cracked pots in the house or online.

Is there anybody here that is ready to give God your talents in spite of your cracks

In spite of your blemishes.

In spite of your flaws.

In spite of your short comings.

In spite of you mistakes.

In spite of your past.

In spite of your present.

In spite of your issues.

In spite of your circumstance

In spite of your situation.

In spite of your thoughts.

In spite of your feelings.

In spite of your lack of experience.

In spite of your wounds.

In spite of your scars.

Because you understand that if the Lord can use anything he can use me.

So take my hands Lord take my feet.

Touch my heart Lord speak through me.

If you can use anything Lord you can use me.

So since he can use me I am going to give my talents.

He gave them to me anyway.  So I mind as well give them back and use them for his glory.

That is what is so beautiful of that famous Christmas Carol the Little Drummer Boy.  A song that was never my favorite, but when I really thought about it we should all have the attitude of the little drummer boy.

Come they told me pa rum pum pum pum

A newborn King to see pa rum pum pum pum

Our finest gifts we bring pa rum pum pum pum

To lay before the King pa rum pum pum pum

rum pum pum pum rum pum pum pum

So to honour Him pa rum pum pum pum

When we come

Baby Jesus pa rum pum pum pum

I am a poor boy too pa rum pum pum pum

I have no gift to bring pa rum pum pum pum

That’s fit to give a King pa rum pum pum pum

rum pum pum pum rum pum pum pum

Shall I play for you? pa rum pum pum pum

on my drum?

Mary nodded pa rum pum pum pum

The ox and lamb kept time pa rum pum pum pum

I played my drum for Him pa rum pum pum pum

I played my best for Him pa rum pum pum pum

rum pum pum pum rum pum pum pum

Then He smiled at me pa rum pum pum pum

Me and my drum

Does anybody here want Jesus to smile at you today?

Does anybody here want to make Jesus happy today?

Does anybody here want to give there gifts today?

Well just like the little drummer boy even when you think you have nothing to give you do. 

We give our treasure.

We give our time.

We give out talent.

We give our talent to express to the pew the power of God.

We give our talent to expose the people to the passion of God.

We give our talent to experience the pleasure of the presence of God.