Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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10 Reason to Rejoice – Part 1

Deuteronomy 16:9-17

“9 Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. 10 Then celebrate the Festival of Weeks to the Lord your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the Lord your God has given you. 11 And rejoice before the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites in your towns, and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows living among you. 12 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and follow carefully these decrees. 13 Celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress. 14 Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. 15 For seven days celebrate the festival to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.16 Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the Lord empty-handed: 17 Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.”

In Deuteronomy 16 we see Gods call to come and celebrate. It is interesting to note that God had to tell His people to celebrate, it’s not our natural default. Many of us get caught up in complaining instead of choosing to celebrate. The first celebration that is mentioned came at harvest time but their thanksgiving wasn’t just tied to the harvest but to the One who made the harvest possible.  After a summer’s worth of work and waiting the time had come to gather the harvest in. This was a time to celebration the bounty and the blessings of God. The credit belongs to the creator not the creation, for without His help there would be no harvest. Out tendency is to take the credit for self since we are the ones doing the work, we do the hard work of tilling the ground and clearing the weeds but then why are there weeds? Because of man’s sin, we want recognition for the weeding but do we take responsibility for the disobedience and sin? We may be the ones who plant the seed but He is the One who created it. Its easy to claim the credit but when we do we end up worshipping self. This was not just a onetime celebration but a series of three feasts. Our culture has more in common with once a year annual celebrations, like our Independence Day, or our birthday. We tend to gear up to celebrate for one day and then abruptly stop, we are not used to a lifestyle of celebration. So why the call for continual celebration? First it reminds us of the size of our God, God is so big that you can’t just celebrate what He did once a year. His works and His wonders will never fit into one celebration. Who or what are you celebrating and how often, are you living a life of celebration? Our tendency is to blame God for the bad and boast about the good. Does your celebrating involve giving the credit to Christ or claiming it for yourself?  Second we are a people that easily forget and without a regular reminder we would not remember and rejoice. Now this was not just a call to celebrate but a command, verse 16 said that they MUST appear, today we have allowed celebration to be an optional part of life but it’s really obligatory. As Christians how much of our lives do we spend complaining and how much celebrating? In reality we have lots to celebrate and little to complain about, yet we often get them reversed. We have a big God but so often we give priority to our problems instead of praise to our provider. We need a proper perspective when it comes to praise and taking time to celebrate has a way of calibrating our hearts. Scripture tells us that heaven regularly rejoices, in Luke 15 we find three story that remind us to rejoice. It is here that we learn about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son who were all found. The result was rejoicing, so let me ask you how much of your life revolves around rejoicing? How often do you call your family to come together and celebrate? The first thing we need to know is what does celebrating God look like? First God’s call to celebrate involves:

  • Giving

The call to celebrate involves an invitation to give back to God. We celebrate by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessing the LORD has given. It’s not based on what others are doing but what God has done for you. Many of us have convinced ourselves that we can’t afford to give because from our perspective we really don’t have much but have we ever stopped to count our blessings? More often than not it’s not from a lack of blessing but from a lack of counting our blessings. As the old hymn says, “Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.” This is a gift of the heart not the head, based on blessing not obligation. Do you have a giving heart or a grumbling one? Our rejoicing is a recognition that it is God who has blessing us. A heart that holds back is basically saying that God does not bless. But when we rejoice we reveal the heart of God the one whose first act after creating us was to bless us, Genesis1:27-28, “So God created human beings[a] in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them” One of our greatest enemies to gratefulness is entitlement. Entitlement breeds an expectancy of rights without responsibility. Let’s get one thing clear God doesn’t owe you a thing but He has given you everything. Celebrating is about count your blessings not your burdens. So many of us are tempted to withhold our praise because we have based our giving on the bounty of the harvest instead of on the heart of the Giver, God. Are you withholding, or complain, have you stopped giving because of this and that, look the word of God says GIVE because of God. Its not about the amount it’s about the Almighty, 2 Corinthians 9:7 says that we “should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” So many of us give reluctantly because we have rationalized our rejoicing, it’s a decision of the heart not the head. When we refuse to give back to God we refute the message of Bible, that God is a God of blessing. Not only is our gratitude of giving back to God being destroyed by the enemy of entitlement, but it is being murdered by materialism. Today serving is being suffocated by stuff. We have become a people of plenty, whose needs are more than gratified, notice I said needs not wants. Think back with me to last Christmas and those you sought to buy gifts for. Your biggest problem was probably not so much figuring out where to get the money to buy the presents but what to buy for people who have everything. In truth the answer to that problem should have been self-evident. What do you buy for those who have everything? NOTHING, but how many of us had the guts to do that? Most of us just wondered up and down aisles searching and hoping that somebody somewhere had invented something new that nobody needed so we could buy it for people who have everything. This is not an absurd description of a reasonable world, it is a rational description of an absurd world. In a world mesmerized by materialism stuff has become what we serve and celebrate. We wait anxiously for the next new phone, tablet or piece of technology, we celebrate its launch, even being willing to line up for hours to get our hands on it. Yet we are unwilling to listen to God’s Word for even an hour. In our technological trend God and his blessings have become an antiquated idea that seems to belong to another time. But when we give back to God a portion of what He has blessed us with we are witnessing to the World who we really worship. Are you living a life of celebration, how much of a giver are you. Do you spend more time giving or grabbing? What if today you would count your blessings and then choose to be a blessing?



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9 God’s Will involves an Attitude of Gratitude

1 Thessalonians 5:18

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

One of the great conundrums of our culture is that we are the most privileged and prosperous people on the face of the planet yet we are not content. We may have more of everything except for happiness. In the book “The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse.” Gregg Easterbrook draws upon three decades of wide-ranging research to make the persuasive assertion that almost all aspects of Western life have vastly improved in the past century and yet today, most men and women feel less happy than in previous generations. As a nation we have bought into the belief that more means merrier, but if that is true then why are so many miserable? Consuming doesn’t bring contentment, having doesn’t equate to happiness. Somewhere in the mad dash for more we have missed the simple message of 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” God’s Will for His people involves taking time to be thankful. When it comes to God’s Will many of us want to know where we are to live but God tells us how we are to live. His Will encompasses not just our actions but also our attitudes. Thessalonians teaches us the truth that thankfulness is not tied to our circumstances, we can rejoice regardless of the challenges. So how do we keep from becoming part of the progress paradox and living out a thankless life? What we need is a change of focus from what we don’t have to what we do. We live in a culture built on consuming; commercialization is everywhere and no matter where we go we are constantly confronted with what we don’t have. This call to consume causes us to focus on what we want instead of what we have. In the constant craving for more we miss the joy of where we are and what we already have. We are being constantly reminded of what we don’t have in the hope that we will rush out to get it. The call to consume capitalizes on our lack of content, and works very hard to make sure we are never content, because content people don’t make good consumers. But many of us have lost touch with the Scripture that says: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’ Hebrews 13:5. You are either going to focus on God or greed. People who focus on God recognize that when they have Him they have it all, but those who focus on greed will always want more.  Greed is the constant groining for more, no matter how much stuff it is never satisfied. In 1 Timothy 6:9-10 Paul warned Timothy, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Greed kills gratitude, destroying our desire for the things of God. Greed is the opposite of contentment, it refuses to be satisfied because it always focuses on what we don’t have rather than the blessings that we do. Second we need to change our focus from getting a blessing, to being a blessing. Are you focused on getting or giving? One of the things crippling the church today is that we have brought our consumer culture into the Christian community. Most Christians have a Me mindset instead of a ministry one, as a result we are making church about me and not the Master. We judge worship based on what we like instead of whether the One we were supposed to be worshipping liked it. Look salvation is all about you but service is not. Belonging to Christ is not about the benefits it’s about being a blessing.  We need to move from getting to giving, what are you giving to God? Re you a consumer Christian or a contributing one? Where are you giving of your time talents and treasures? Who are you being a blessing to? Only when you invest your life into the lives of other people do you find fulfillment. We need to move from getting all the blessings we can to being a blessing. There is no fulfillment in self-centered living, a meaningful life is not found in more but in ministry. Jesus said we find life when we learn to give it away,  “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” Matthew 10:39). Are you giving your life to God and living for others, or selfishly serving self? When we live to love others we find life but when we live for self, our lives shrivel away. Jesus also said “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” Mark 10:43-45. Jesus as the Son of God could have demanded to be served, but instead chose to serve others. One of the blessings of serving others is that it gets our minds off of us. It’s hard to feeling sorry for yourself when you are focused on serving. Look when you go and visit people in a nursing home or hospital it puts your problems into perspective. It’s not long before you find yourself being  grateful for God grace instead of grumbling and groaning. In Mark 5 when Jesus dealt with the demon possessed man by healing him, the man wanted to follow Jesus and be with Him. But Jesus told the man to go back to his village and tell them about what God had done. Jesus reminds us that true healing puts us on a heading to service. Sometimes our healing will only find its completion as we ministered to others. Jesus always tried to get people to change their focus from themselves to the needs around them. Until your life is being used by God in some form of service you will not find lasting satisfaction. Lastly we need to learn to change our focus from earth to eternity. This life can be beautiful but it can also be bitter, there are pitfalls and problems. If this world was all there was then we would have reason to despair, but Paul reminds us: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” 1 Corinthians 15:19. We serve a God who has overcome the world and a Savior who is preparing a place for us in paradise. We not only have a home we have the hope of heaven. Paul who experienced countless beatings and imprisonments reminds us in 2 Corinthians: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. . . Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” 2 Corinthians 4:8, 16-18. Are you focused on the temporary or the truth, on what is or what will be? Are you living with the hope of eternity in your heart?