The Light of Hope – Isaiah 9

Winter is the darkest time of the year. So many people feel hopeless. More people are depressed and commit suicide during the holidays than any other time of the year. Yet, in the dead of winter, God gave us a holiday, a celebration of light! As we continue the series on light, we will look at Isaiah 9. Isaiah’s message is a message of judgment – God must judge sin. But it is also a message of hope – God has taken that judgment on Himself, sending His son Jesus to die for the sins of the world. The key verse is verse 2, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness.” Looking at the first six verses of this chapter, we’ll see that light turns…

 

Misery into Miracles

The last verse of Isaiah 8 reads, “they will look toward the earth and see only distress, darkness, and the gloom of affliction, and they will be driven into thick darkness.” Chapter 9, which ultimately is a chapter on the judgement of Israel, begins with hope. “Nevertheless, the gloom of the distressed land will not be like that of the former times… But in the future he will bring honor to the way of the sea, to the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations” (v. 1). In the middle of a bad chapter, there is a message of hope. You may be going through a bad chapter in your life, but there is hope! Hope is always about joyous expectation. Hope is what you are looking forward to. Hope says my future will be better than my past and where I am going is better than where I have been. Hopelessness reigns in the world today. How do we find light amidst darkness? Notice the reference to Galilee. Jesus performed the majority of his miracles and ministry around the sea of Galilee. Jesus came preaching, teaching, and healing. God can turn your misery into a miracle. On HGTV they have demo day before they can rebuild.  Miracles come out of difficulties, challenges, obstacles, impossibilities! Jesus is the light of the world.

 

Sadness into Singing

Verse 3 talks about joy and rejoicing. When God brings you out of darkness into light you can’t help but praise Him. Praise is not only an instrument of worship, but a weapon of war. God inhabits praise. In Psalm 27, David says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— whom should I dread? When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh, my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell. Though an army deploys against me, my heart will not be afraid; though a war breaks out against me, I will still be confident… I will offer sacrifices in his tent with shouts of joy. I will sing and make music to the Lord” (v. 1-3, 6). When God drowned Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, the children of Israel sang the song of Moses (Ex. 15). Give God the sacrifice of praise! God is turning sadness into singing!

 

Bondage into Breakthroughs

“For you have shattered their oppressive yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor, just as you did on the day of Midian” (v. 4). Whatever binds you, God breaks. What are you in bondage to? Alcohol, drugs, pornography, lust, other strongholds of sin? Are you wondering if there is any hope? Jesus walked the shores of Galilee and set the captives free. God does not halfway deliver his people. He wants to take you to the Promise Land, the victorious Christian life. The devil will keep coming after you, like Pharaoh after the children of Israel. But God led them through on dry ground and drowned the enemy. When you walk with Him daily, He will deliver you daily. You can be free!

 

“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (v. 6). Wonderful, He is awesome. Counselor, He gives us guidance when we are in the dark and don’t know what to do. He is the Mighty God who can speak “peace be still” to the storms of life. Eternal Father, He is the father who will never leave you or forsake you. He is the Prince of Peace. The angels announced the birth of Jesus with the words, “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” The government is on His shoulders. God has it all under control. Whatever burden you are carrying, He can carry you. His shoulders carried the cross, government, and they will carry you. Let the light of Jesus be your hope and hope for those around you.

 

 

The Light of Beginnings – Genesis 1

On Sunday we started a new series on light. Light is a major theme of the Bible and is first mentioned in Genesis 1. Genesis, as its name implies, is the book of beginnings. In it we find the beginning of the universe, man, sin, salvation, nations, Israel, faith, worship, family, and society. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” God had no beginning and He has no end, but creation had a beginning just like you and I had a beginning. God can make something out of nothing. He takes what is formless and dark and changes it into something beautiful and bright. How does God deal with the darkness, disorder, and deadness of our lives? The answer is Jesus! 

 

The Glory of Jesus

The Bible is a book about Jesus. Every chapter, character, and command points to Him. Our theme verse for this series is John 8:12: “Jesus spoke to them again: ‘I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.’” Genesis 1:2 reads, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep….” I believe God created the earth in this way to show what our lives are like without God. Life without God is empty, dark, and meaningless. God spoke, and order came out of chaos. The word of God brings order to your life where there is chaos. Genesis 1 is clear that creation is the work of our triune God. God did not create us because He was lonely, but out of a love relationship. It is also clear that God is not detached from creation. A repeated phrase is “God saw….” God did not create you and forget about you. He sees you. God creates and sin de-creates. Life unravels and falls apart without God. Jesus, The Word, came to recreate and redeem creation. Wherever sin has brought darkness in your life Jesus says, “let there be light.”

 

The Guidance of Jesus

Throughout chapter 1 we see that God had a plan for every day and He has a plan for us every day. He worked. He created. He was productive. We are created in His image. God has a plan and purpose for our lives. You may have a big decision to make today and you don’t know what to do. God will give you light to direct your path. He gives us daily direction and guiding light. His word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path (Ps.119:105).  Just like the wise men were guided by the light, God orders our steps. He knows what is going on in your life and if He guided you into it, He will get you through it. You are not the result of chance, evolution, accident, or mistake. God planned you, formed you, created you, ordained you, and He will guide you step by step! God did not bring you this far to leave you now. Never doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light. He will never leave you or forsake you!

 

The Gospel of Jesus

When we give our lives to God, He puts His light in us. “You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16). In a world of darkness, we bring the light of the Gospel. In a world of chaos, we bring the Gospel of peace. In a world filled with bad news, we have the good news. The world is so dark politically and culturally. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Let your light shine. The hope of the world is the local church. You are the light at your school, home, and workplace. People say, “I am the only Christian where I work. Pray for me another job.” The darker the place, the more they need your light! Jesus is the sun and we are the moon. The moon does not have light of its own. It reflects the light of the sun. That is what we do. We reflect the light of Jesus. Are you going be a half-moon, a full moon, or a total eclipse?

 

When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, a strange thing happened. The earth became dark in the middle of the day. He took upon Himself the chaos, darkness, and emptiness of our lives so we could have eternal light and life. He makes us a new creation, old things are passed away, and all things are becoming new. He makes all things new! If your life is unraveling because of sin, turn to Jesus, trust in Him, and He will make all things new. He can make something out of nothing!

 

Psalm 92 – Give Thanks

Psalm 107:1 and 136:1 both say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever.” Giving thanks is more than being thankful. It is something you do. Action is involved. Paul said to “give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18). So often we are not what we ought to be because we forget who we are in God. Giving thanks to God helps us remember how good He has been to us and helps keep our focus on Him.

 

The Beauty of Thanksgiving

In Psalm 92, we see various aspects of Thanksgiving. Verses 1 and 2 remind us to be thankful not just for what God does for us, but first and foremost for who He is. He is the Lord. His name is above every name. He is the Most High. He is faithful. He is loving. Worship always begins with God. It focuses on His name and His nature. How should you start your day? Looking forward in faith. How should you end your day? Looking back on His faithfulness. The Psalms teach us to thank God for His lovingkindness and faithfulness. His lovingkindness is better than life. His love endures forever.

 

The Band of Thanksgiving

Psalm 92 is called a Sabbath Song. It was used for public worship on the Sabbath, but it carries over to private worship daily, day and night. Reading verses 1-3 together we learn that worship focuses on God for who He is, and it also involves singing and instruments. Worshiping God with instruments is good and biblical. Four times in this Psalm we read the word “works.” Worshipping God involves singing, but it also includes service. Serving is an act of worship! Worship is vertical, verbal, visible, and volitional.

 

The Battles of Thanksgiving

Verse 9 talks of the Lord’s enemies perishing. Verse 11 reads, “My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries; my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes” (NIV). Thanksgiving and praise are not only instruments of worship, but they are weapons of war. Note from this verse that we see and hear. The fall of our adversaries is all God’s doing. It is His work on our behalf. The battle is the Lord’s. What the Psalmist anticipates is the ultimate defeat of all our enemies: sin, Satan, this evil world, death, hell, and the grave, because of Jesus who crushes the enemies of God and His people. Before going to the cross, Jesus took the bread, broke it and gave thanks. Because of the cross and resurrection, we have victory.

 

The Blessings of Thanksgiving

There are so many blessings that come when we give thanks! Verse 10 says, “You have lifted up my horn like that of a wild ox; I have been anointed with the finest oil.” Oil in scripture is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. We need to regularly be filled with the Holy Spirit. So many people burn out. They lose the joy of their salvation. The joy of Lord is our strength. When your strength is small and you are feeling run down spiritually, ask God to give you fresh oil. Not only will God give us strength, but He also gives stability to the righteous. Verses 12-14 talk about palm and cedar trees that are thriving and bearing fruit. The palm trees in this passage are date palms, which not only produced fruit, but the leaves were used for fences and roofs. The cedar tree grows as high as 120 feet, and its branches extend out to a circumference of 30 feet. They are truly a majestic sight that symbolize great strength. Sometimes we forget how long it takes for a tree to sprout out of the ground. You may work a long time before you see results. Don’t grow weary in well doing. You will reap if you faint not. The tree first grows downward before it grows upward. It is a picture of stability. In addition to growing roots, we are also to grow upward and outward. We are called to rise above the people around us, our circumstances and obstacles, and long to be with and spend time with God. Just like a tree’s branches grow outward, providing shade for others, we do not exist for ourselves. God has called us to branch out and be a blessing. Our faithful God gives us fresh oil, makes us like a flourishing tree, and makes our years fruitful. Plant your life in the house of God. There is no greater cause than the cause of Christ and His church.

 

 

 

Psalm 37 – Moving from Aggravation to Appreciation

Do you ever get frustrated, irritated, or agitated? For all those getting ready for family gatherings this week, this message may help! Psalm 37 teaches us how to move from grumbling to gratitude. Verse 1 begins saying, “Do not be agitated….” As we look at this chapter, we’ll see that moving from aggravation to appreciation is a choice. There is a definite progression in this passage. One virtue births another.

 

Trust

“Trust in the Lord and do what is good…” (v.3). You can’t fret and trust, grumble then say, “But Lord I am trusting you.” You either choose to grumble or you choose to trust God. If you know God, you know you can trust Him. God said do not fret, do not get agitated. We have to choose to refuse. Faith and fretting are mutually exclusive. Where there is fretting, there is no faith, and vice versa.  Faith isn’t passive. We also have to do good. Doing good is just as important as trusting in the Lord. Trusting God means leaving God with the things that are beyond your control. The things that you can do, do good. Do right!

 

Delight

Trust brings delight. Verse 4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” To delight yourself in the Lord means to delight in His word, His will, and His work. The reason why many Christians don’t delight in God, is because they do not know Him very well. They don’t spend time with Him. That word “delight” literally means “to take pleasure in.” What do you take pleasure in? Your career, health, spouse, etc. will pass away. The Lord and His work will not! When you delight in the Lord, your desire will be His desire. Live to please Him and it will set you free from fretting over other people.

 

Commit

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act…” (v.5). Look at the progression! If you trust, you will delight. If you delight, you will commit. The Hebrew word “commit” literally means, “to roll over.”  Some problems only God can solve. When we commit to God, we take the burden off of our own shoulders and roll it over onto Him. When we commit all of our works and all of our ways to the Lord, we are told “and He shall bring it to pass.” Commit your plans to God and leave the results to Him.

 

Rest

The opposite of agitation is relaxation. You can’t rest in Him if you are not waiting for Him. Verse 7 tells us to “be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for him.” Be faithful. Don’t move too quickly. Don’t rush things. Don’t make hasty decisions. Be quiet and patient. Perspective comes when we are still and silent and think it through. Why do we trust God, delight in Him, commit our burdens to Him, and not rest in Him? Because we pick them up again! We have to daily die to self. Rest is a blessing.

 

Hope

“…Those who put their hope in the Lord will inherit the land” (v. 9). God has an inheritance for His children (see also v. 11, 18, 22, 29, 34). The wicked have only temporary pleasure on earth, but God’s people have eternal treasure in heaven. There is nothing like the hope of heaven. God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecc.  3:11). Salvation changes your perspective of earth versus eternity. There is more to life than this life. This world is not our home, Heaven is! If your investment is there, your heart is there.

 

Give

“…The righteous one is gracious and giving” (v. 21). We are in a giving season from Thanksgiving to Christmas, yet, more people commit suicide during this season. It is not that they have more problems, but they feel their problems more. They are more fretful and restless. The church is not a place for ourselves. We are here for those who are not yet here. Live your life in such a way that your life makes a difference. We can make a difference and leave a legacy (v. 26, 28). Yes, it includes your money, but it is more than your money. Give yourself to God. David is the author of this Psalm. In verse 25 he looks back over his life and sees how God has proven Himself over and over – “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous abandoned or his children begging for bread.”

 

Psalm 1 – The Blessed Life

This Sunday we started a new series called Psalms of Thanksgiving. The word “psalms” means praise or song. The book of Psalms is the Hebrew hymnbook. God inhabits praise. Wherever He shows up His blessing shows up. Today, we will look at Psalm 1 and what it says about living a blessed life.

 

God’s Way

Psalm 1:1 says, “How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers!” Blessed is the Hebrew word for happy. If you are happy it is because you have been blessed, and if you are blessed, you are happy! Happiness is what everyone is looking for. There are only two approaches to life – man’s way or God’s way. Sin is a downward spiral. If you listen to fools you will start to think like a fool. When you start thinking like a fool you will act like and live like a fool. Notice the term “pathway.” People often think we are all travelling a neutral road. At some point on that road there is a fork where we must decide if we’ll go God’s way or not. There are not three paths. The Bible makes it clear that there are only two paths. The broad road where everyone appears to be happy, but they are really miserable, leads to death. The narrow path has its share of hardships and difficulties, but is filled with happiness, peace, and joy, that leads to life everlasting. We are all on the wide path until we choose to follow Jesus. There is no neutral ground. You will miss God’s blessing if you walk the wrong path. Don’t let others rob you of a blessing!

 

God’s Word

Verse 2 says, “Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.” We go to the written Word to encounter Jesus, the living Word. Luther said, “We go to the Bible as the Shepherds went to the manger to find Christ.” The Bible is a book about Jesus. In the Old Testament, He is predicted. In the Gospels, He is revealed. In Acts, He is preached.  In the Epistles, He is explained.  In Revelation, He is expected. Why do you need to be in the Word every day?  You can backslide going to church, singing, preaching, praying, and witnessing. The only thing you can do and not backslide is stay in the Word. You will either get out of sin or sin will get you out of the word. “Meditate” here is talking about bringing Scripture to mind throughout the day.  Meditate is the same word as plot/imagine in Psalm 2. It means to fix your mind. Hide God’s Word in your heart so that you night not sin against God. Dwell on the Bible not your burdens. Dwell on the Word not your worries!  Bring every thought under the influence and control of God. Take every opportunity to experience God’s blessing.

 

God’s Wealth

He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (v. 3). God’s prosperity includes money, but it is more than money. God will prosper you with a life that really matters. God desires to bless His children. Never be jealous of someone else’s blessing. God has enough blessings for all His children. His well never runs dry! God plants and God prospers. A tree does not plant itself. God plants us where He wants us to live and serve. Bloom where you are planted. The tree has a constant supply of water by the river. It is a picture of the Holy Spirit pouring in us to produce His fruit in us. He gives us what we have for His glory. God blesses us to be a blessing! Don’t let your blessings become an idol. Don’t spend all your life trying to make a dollar that will burn up in the end. You are not carrying it with you. What matters most in life is God and people. Be generous with your time, talent, skills. Let your life bear fruit that will last forever. Let it bear seed that will produce further fruit.

 

There is a judgment day. “Therefore the wicked will not stand up in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin” (v.5-6). The righteous prosper and the wicked perish. Which way are you going?

Relationships – God

Today, we will wrap up our series on Relationships by looking at Hebrews 8. Ultimately, the most important relationship any of us has is with God. Hebrews 8 begins, “Now the main point of what is being said is this…” (v. 1), and then the writer points to Jesus. Our relationship with God affects all other relationships. Jesus summed up all the commandments in two: love God and love others. The vertical impacts the horizonal. If you want your relationships with others to work, you need to work on your relationship with God. They are inseparable. What is required to have a relationship with God?

 

A High Priest

The second half of verse 1 says, “We have this kind of high priest….” To have a relationship with God, we need a go-between. There is only one mediator between God and man. That’s Jesus, the main point. The whole message of Hebrews is Jesus is greater, superior. He is King of Kings, Prophet of Prophets, Minister of Ministers, High Priest of all Priests. What we need is not religion but relationship, not death but life. We have everything we need in Jesus. He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).  On the cross He said, “It is Finished.” He did not say He was finished. You do not have to clean up your life to come to Jesus. Come just as you are and He does the rest. Verse 2 refers to Jesus as a minister. Jesus, in an atmosphere of worship, continues to intercede for us. He pleads our cause every time the devil accuses, and He never tires of praying for us.

 

A Heavenly Place

Verses 2-5 talk about the “true tabernacle” in Heaven. The earthly temple and tabernacle were just copies, shadows of the real thing. A copy is good, but it’s not as valuable as the real thing. Think about it. If your loved one is deployed, you may keep a picture of them as a reminder. When they get home, you don’t hold on to the picture. You hug the real thing! There is a real place called Heaven. It’s as real as the address you live at on earth. It’s a place where He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and there will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain.

 

A Horrible Past

We’ve all sinned and fall short of God. Verse 7 says, “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second one.” Today, we are under the new covenant. We can be saved from our sin because of what Jesus did on the cross. There are eight covenants mentioned in Scripture: Edenic, Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Land, Davidic, and New. These are covenants God made with sinful man. Some characteristics of covenants are – bloodshed (animals sacrificed), name change (God changed Abram’s name to Abraham), an outward sign (a rainbow), a meal (a wedding reception), and a gift (parties would exchange gifts). When it comes to us, Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Lk. 22:20). We can enter into a relationship with God because Jesus’ blood paid for our sins. When we do that, we bear the name of Christ, Christian. There is an outward sign to show others we’ve been changed, baptism. We are promised eternity in Heaven and the first thing we are going to do there is eat at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Finally, when we become God’s, everything He has belongs to us. We get His righteousness, peace, victory, etc.

 

A Holy Promise

Verse 6 says Jesus “is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been established on better promises.” The law condemned but it could not convert. The law was not given to merely be obeyed; it was given to reveal we can’t do it. This new, final covenant will never be broken. It all depends on God, not on us. Notice the number of times God says “I will” in verses 8-10. Our salvation is not based on a merit system, all that we can DO. It is based on what Jesus has DONE. All we have to do is believe. The new covenant is inward not outward. It is a relationship not a ritual. Verse 12 says, “For I will forgive their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins.…” The new covenant is about irrevocable forgiveness. It’s not that God is forgetful, but He chooses to forget because grace chooses to forgive. He holds it against us no more. A covenant is an unchangeable agreement between God and man that stipulates the relationship. Define the relationship. Do you have a relationship with God?

 

Relationships – Marriage

Next in the Relationships series we will look at what the Bible has to say about marriage.

 

Priority

Genesis 2:24-25 says, “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh. Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame.” That is a great definition of marriage! Two become ONE. They are not naked and afraid, but naked and unashamed. Marriage is one man, one woman, worshipping one God, in one church, living in one house, sleeping in one bed, sharing one bank account, loving each other for one lifetime. Just like we read about singleness in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul also talks a good bit about marriage in that chapter. First he says, “it is good for a man not to use a woman for sex” but that each man and woman should have sexual relations with their own spouse (v. 1-2). If she is your girlfriend, she is not your wife. If he is your boyfriend, he is not your husband. We aren’t to exploit, use, or abuse people. Marriage turns ME into WE. It’s not HIS and HERS, but OURS. Your spouse should be priority. Don’t give your best to work, hobbies, your kids, etc. Give your best to your spouse. Surrender your rights and take up your responsibilities. Verse 3 says that “a husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband.” The context is sex. I heard a preacher say one time, “Desire can light a fire but only duty can keep it burning.” Marriage is not always picture perfect. It is not based solely on desire but on duty. Go to work. Come home and work. You have to work at your marriage! It is not about what we get out of it, but what we give to it. Marriage is where romance meets reality. It requires givers not takers. This is the delight of duty! Are you trying to please everyone? We are not called to that! We are to please God and our mate (v. 33-34).

 

Privacy

“A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does” (1 Cor. 7:4). Paul is not saying that you have the right to demand and the other must comply. Never use this verse to demand, but only to give away. The first sentence would be no surprise in Paul’s day. Men treated women like property. Women had no rights. But the next sentence was totally counter-cultural in a misogynistic society. He flipped it to mutual submission, satisfaction, and fulfillment. This gave wives equality, equal say and authority. Ladies, if he is beating you, harming your body, don’t just call on Jesus, call the police! A husband and wife are life partners. “Miss” Tammy and I are in this together. There are no secrets and there is no restricted access. Tammy has access to everything of mine – my phone, computer, etc. In Ephesians 5 we read that a husband is to love his wife unconditionally. Love is not conditional – “You can have this but not that.” In marriage you share the bed and bank account! 1 Corinthians 7:5 says we are not to deprive our spouse. Stop depriving each other. Again, it is not about getting but giving.

 

Permanency

The world views a marriage license like a hunting, fishing, or driver’s license that expires in a few years. Dating is, “I can still dump you,” but marriage is, “I am not going anywhere regardless of what has happened.” 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 makes it clear that God’s plan for marriage is for life. You can’t kick out your spouse when you are tired of them or move on to someone new when your marriage feels old. It is hard for God to bless your present season when all you are doing is trying to get out of it. God can’t bless a lack of commitment. The Hollywood perspective of marriage is romantic. The Holy Word perspective is realistic. Paul says there will be trouble in marriage (1 Cor. 7:28). Relationships are complicated. Men and women are wired differently. You are going to be miffed, aggravated, and irritated. Remember though, no spouse gets up every morning with the goal of seeing how many things they can do to drive their mate crazy. Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath. Recognize it, stop and apologize. No marriage is perfect or 100%. Marriage will not keep you from ever being lonely, being tempted, or having problems. Don’t try to make it something it’s not. Marriage is good but it is not God. Marriage cannot give us what only God can give us. Don’t make an idol out of any earthly relationship. Marriage is “till death do us part,” not “till he does this or till she does that.”  What are the conditions to your love?  Remember that God loves us unconditionally and we love because He first loved us.

 

 

 

 

Relationships – Singleness

We are in a series on Relationships. We are all born into a family, then we made friends outside the family. The next stage is singleness. We are all born single. Today, almost 50% of adults are single. They’ve either never married, are divorced, or are a widow or widower. If you are married, you were single first and there is a good chance you may be single again one day. We can all learn from this topic.

 

The Significance of Singleness

In Genesis 2:18, God said that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone. God’s command to Adam and to Noah was to be fruitful and multiply. Malachi 2:15 says that God seeks godly offspring. Marriage and children have always been the blessing of God. This is how the people of God were growing. Singleness in the Old Testament was discouraged. However, look at Isaiah 53:8-10 and 54:1. For those who struggle with not having children because of singleness or because of infertility, this is a picture of reproduction that supersedes natural childbirth. Jesus wasn’t single, yet He would have many children. “Godly offspring comes through spiritual regeneration not physical procreation.”

 

In the New Testament, right in between Jesus’ teaching on divorce and where he blessed the children, His disciples concluded that it is better not to marry than to have a bad marriage. Jesus then shocked them by saying some will choose to be celibate for the sake of the Kingdom (Matt. 19:10-12). Paul also talked about singleness. We know that he was not against marriage (1 Tim. 4:1-3, 5:14), and in fact, probably was married at some point. (He was a member of the Sanhedrin so scholars believe that his wife probably died and he was a widower.) However, Paul does give words of caution. In 1 Corinthians 7:7-9, he says it’s good to remain single but better to marry than to burn with desire. Passion and attraction are from God. No one says, “That is the ugliest person I have ever seen, I think I will marry them.” Fire can be good or bad, it all depends on the placement. In a fireplace it brings warmth, happiness, and light. In the middle of the floor, it will burn down and destroy your house. The only relationship that can keep the fire of passion contained is marriage. Later in that chapter, Paul says it is because of the “present distress” that he thinks it’s good to remain single, and that there will be added “trouble” for those who marry. Paul is being a realist. Marriage and singleness both have their own set of benefits and burdens. If you are single and you think getting married will solve all your troubles, think again! You are going to have a whole new set of troubles, being concerned about your spouse and your kids. Paul did not want singles to miss the blessing of singleness while waiting to be married. You can be frustrated in your singleness, or you can take advantage of the season and maximize your time for the Kingdom. The world acts like the solution to singleness is marriage and the solution to marriage is singleness. The Bible certainly shows the benefits of marriage and of singleness. Marriage is awesome. It is God’s plan, but so is singleness. Singles should not feel like they are missing out on something or are second-class citizens. Singleness is hard. So is marriage, college, grad school, work, and parenting!

 

The Door of Dating

From a young age, there is such pressure to find a date. You hear people asking children if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. It is like our identity is in our status. You can be single and be complete! Our identity is in Jesus, not people. I am not against dating God’s way, but I am against dating the world’s way. In Song of Solomon 8:8-9, an analogy is given of a wall and a door. Morally you are either a wall or a door. Don’t open the door of your heart to anyone or everyone. Dating the world’s way gives you the world’s results. Hook up, shack up, and break up does not lead to a great love life. The devil is a liar. 1 Corinthians 6:16-18 says sexual sin is like no other sin. You hurt yourself at the deepest level. Misplaced passion can be destructive in your life. Satan wants you to burn out and burn up, but God wants you to burn bright for Him. Fight fire with fire, not with shame. Our God is a consuming fire. Whether you are married or single, be on fire for God. God made us to give ourselves away, but His way – in marriage.

 

The Gift of Grace

When talking about marriage and singleness, Paul says, “…each has his own gift from God, one person has this gift, another has that” (1 Cor. 7:7). Singleness is not a curse. Marriage is not a curse. Both are a gift. The word for gift is the word grace. God’s grace is all-sufficient. It takes grace to be married, to come home to the same person every day, and it takes grace to be single, to come home to an empty house. Whatever your status, you have a gift and you have grace. Everything on earth passes away. Marriage is not eternal (Matt. 22:30). Keep eternity in mind. Use your marriage to advance the Gospel. Use your singleness to advance the Gospel. You may say, “Preacher that’s good, but it is too late for me. I’ve messed up. I don’t deserve a godly mate.” Jesus said, “Let him without sin cast the first stone.” We all need Jesus. God will remove the stain of shame. Grace is greater than all our sins.

 

 

 

 

Relationships – Friendships

Friendships
We live in a day of misunderstanding about friends. The world has dumbed down friends to be followers on Facebook. You may have many fans and foes, but you will have few friends. In John 15:12-16, Jesus says, “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you.”
 

The Categories of Friendship
We all have a variety of friendships – acquaintances, close friends, best friends. There are friends for a reason, like your neighbors or co-workers. There are friends for a season, like high school or college. You may not see them again, but they were there for a chapter of your life. These are not failed friendships! Thank God for the joy they brought you during that time. There are also friends of treason – they betray or fail you. There is no need to be angry over these. Jesus was closer to the twelve than He was his own family. Judas betrayed Him but He did not let that distract Him. When Peter denied Him, he forgave him.
 

The Choice of Friendship
In verse 16 Jesus said, “I chose you.” You know the old saying, “You don’t get to choose your family, but you do get to choose your friends.” Friendship is a choice. Proverbs 12:26 says, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Show me your friends and I will show you your future! Friends are like buttons on an elevator; they either take you up or they take you down. Wake up! We make wrong choices when we listen to wrong voices.
 

The Confidentiality of Friendship
You can confide in a friend. If you tell everyone all your secrets, don’t be surprised when they talk about you. All the people you are with are not with you. Proverbs 16:28 says, “A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends.” If they talk about others to you, they will talk about you to others. Jesus taught the multitudes, sent out 70, traveled with 12, but only let 3 in His inner circle.
 

The Cost of Friendship
“No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” That is what Jesus did for us so we might be saved. Most friendships fail because of a lack of commitment. You don’t put the time and energy into it. Friendship is expensive. You must lay down your selfishness, pride, personal preferences. Making friends is one thing. Maintaining friendships is another. It is so easy to take friends for granted. Good friends keep their word and their promises. They don’t abandon you. Friends disappoint you and you disappoint them. The friends we keep the longest are the friends we keep forgiving.
 

The Circle of Friendship
Jesus said that we are to love as He has loved us. Tammy and I have a video called Circle of Friends. It was given to us by a couple who are friends for life, and has pictures of the memories we’ve made together. No matter how many miles or months are between us we pick right up where we left off. Friends for life know more about you than your blood kin. They are your best friends. No matter how many months or miles come in between, your friendship endures the test of time.
 

Every time you are around a godly friend they make you a better person. I married my best friend. She makes me better. The devil does not want you to have godly friends or to be in church. God created us to have friendships. Jesus is the ultimate example. He took the time, energy, and effort so we can too.

Relationships – Family

We started a new series on Relationships. Successful relationships don’t happen by accident.  What makes us most happy in life? More than money, success, or achievements it is relationships. Happiness was made to be shared. God never intended us to live life alone. We all long to belong because God made us that way.

Healthy Relationships make us happy and unhealthy relationships can make us miserable. Over the next five weeks we are going to talk about: family, friendship, singleness, dating, marriage, and your relationships with God. You were born into a family. Ephesians 3:14-15 says, “For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” You were not born knowing God, but He knew you. He knew you when you were in your mother’s womb.  Jeremiah 1:5, “I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born.” Psalm 139:14 says, “For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” The ultimate goal in life is a loving relationship with your creator. Your relationship with God will affects all your other relationships. It starts with God and ends with God.

The first relationship you had was with your parents. Below are the four areas of family that we looked at Sunday. Rules: Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, because this is right.” Obedience has to do with actions. Obey when young.  The goal is for them to obey God.  Children need boundaries and structure. God is a God of order. Is your home orderly or disorderly? Some parents are too authoritarian and do not exercise love. Other are too permissive and do not exercise discipline. A child’s spirit must be conquered not crushed. The ABCs of parenting: A- Authority over their attitude / actions. The family is not a democracy. Obedience is not optional.  B- Boundaries for their behavior. Don’t be the overprotective helicopter parent. Don’t be the permissive parent who avoids conflict at any cost.  Be a responsible parent who build fences around your family. C- Consequences with consistency.  This one is self-explanatory. Josh McDowell said,Rules without relationships lead to rebellion.”

Respect- Ephesians 6:2 says, “Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise…” Obedience has to do with actions. Honor is an attitude. The book Love and Respect says to set this goal: We must treat each other respectfully even when someone does something that is not respectable. Respect is the core of family relationships and harmony.

Roles- Ephesians 6:3 says, “So that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land.”  Your relationships can only be as healthy as you are and no other relationship shapes who you are more than family. What role did you play in your family growing up? Where you the problem solver, peacemaker, troublemaker, rebel, victim, rescuer, comedian, mediator?  We are all homeschooled whether we know it or not.  The home is the university of relationships.

Responsibilities- Ephesians 6:4 says,Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” This does not mean you are never to make a child mad. If you are a good parent your child will sometimes be angry with you.  This is a divine prohibition against verbal, physical, and sexual abuse against children. How often did you encourage one another in the family this week? How many times did you stir things up to anger? You are either bringing each other up or tearing each other down.

Family is complicated. Parenting is messy. You are going to make mistakes.  Jesus paid for all our sins we would ever commit, and every sin committed against us on the cross. The greatest need of the children born into our family is to be born again into God’s family.

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