How's Your Heart?

Friends

When is the last time you had a “heart checkup”?  I know what you are thinking; is he talking about physically or spiritual?  Well, maybe both, but for this message I am talking about our spiritual heart.  The question needs to be asked “Am I available for God to use me?”  You and I need to look deep in our heart and answer that question.

In my personal Bible study the other day I was reading the 36th chapter of Ezekiel, when I got to verse 26 it jumped off the page at me, “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”  (NLT) Jesus is in the business of changing hearts.  It is absolutely true!

How about your heart?  How does your heart look to God?  What does He see when He investigates you?  Are you moving in the right direction in these all-important heart areas?  Or do you need some spiritual surgery?

God wants you and I to be people after His own heart.  For this to happen, you must confess any sins and ask Him to soften us and change us on the inside.  We must spend time with the Lord each day no matter what.  We have to talk with Him openly and honestly from our heart.  We must share our burdens with Him.  We must seek His face and obey Him no matter what life throws at us.  Never forget, Jesus wants to be your closest friend.  His hands are extended to you right now.  The question you need to answer is will you take them?

When I think about the subject of the heart, my mind always goes to David.  1 Samuel 13:14 GWT “The Lord has searched for a man after His own heart.”  Are we searching after God’s heart?

There are 5 things we can learn from David about the heart issue.  God sees past the outward appearance.  He sees down into the heart.  The reason He chose David to lead His people was because of David’s heart.  What was His heart?

•He had a loving heart

David loved God sincerely and supremely.  He did not play at his worship.  He really had a desire in his heart to walk with God and please God.  His heart was completely His.  Please read Psalm 103.

•He had a modest heart

David never lost sight of the fact that he was nothing and God was everything.  He never started believing his own press clippings.  He knew all his success came for God.  Please read 2 Samuel 7:18.

•He had a dependent heart

David depended on God, not himself.  He sought God early and often throughout the day.  Please read Psalm 63.

•He had a thankful heart

David gave praise and thanks to God regardless of His circumstances.  He knew God was worthy of praise even if everything seemed to be falling apart around him.  Please read Psalm 34.

•He had a remorseful heart

When he sinned, he came to God with genuine repentance and sought the Lord’s forgiveness.  Please read Psalm 51.

Is your heart soft and tender and broken before the Lord...or is it like hard ground?  In the book of Hosea 10:12 NLT, “Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.”

Every day we should look at the condition of our heart.  Is it soft or hard?  Think about this: Do the things that break God’s heart, break your heart?  God’s heart breaks over sin...does yours?  God’s heart breaks for those who are lost and on the highway to hell...does yours?  God’s heart breaks over injustice, indifference, abuse...does yours?

G.K. Chesterton said “We do not want, as the newspapers say, a church that will move with the world.  We want a church that will move the world.”

Do we care enough about people to do whatever it takes to tell them about Jesus?  Paul did. He wrote in 1 Corinthians 9 that he became “a servant to everyone [to] win them to Christ. … Whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with him so that he will let me tell him about Christ and let Christ save him.”

God wants us to love people that much — enough to reach out to them with the gospel in a creative way.  We need to use every available method, at every available time, to reach every available person for Jesus Christ.

Are you available to God anytime?  Or are you in the driver’s seat? Or can He take the wheel without you becoming resentful?  As a servant, you don't get to pick and choose when or where you will serve.

Being a Christian means giving up the right to control your schedule and allow God to interrupt it whenever He wants to.

If you will remind yourself at the start of every day that you are God's servant, interruptions won't frustrate you as much, because your agenda will be whatever God wants to bring into your life.  Servants see interruptions as divine appointments for ministry and are happy for the opportunity to practice serving.

Nothing is more important to God than his Son, Jesus.  God wants everyone, everywhere to know that Jesus saves.  The worldwide communication and travel access we have today was not possible when Jesus first gave His command in Mark 16:15 above.  We are the first generation in human history that can go anywhere in the world within twenty-four hours.  God’s instruction regarding everyone and everywhere is not restricted to people having certain skills or abilities.  God is looking for our availability, not our ability.  And our availability for God must start with our heart: we must have a heart like Jesus.  

This coming Sunday morning we are going to look and see what practical steps we can take to develop a heart like Jesus.

Make Every Day Count!

Barry

Please come Sunday!  Don’t stay home!

Oh Peter, Where Are You?

Friends

Have you ever thought about what real faith looks like?  When I talk to people about faith and we talk in honest terms, I often hear some things people struggle with.  People who are trying to live a life of faith sometimes say “I am really trying to make this thing work but it’s wearying.  I am constantly trying to do the right thing and say the right thing and be in the right place and do all the things I am supposed to do.  I really want to do it, but I feel like I’m wearing myself out trying.”

Then I talk to other people who are considering living a life of faith.  They are not a person who has faith in Jesus yet.  They say “I don’t know.  I look at people who say they are living this life but it does not seem that attractive to me.  For one thing they all look so tired.  They look truly weary and I am not sure I want that.  For another thing it does not always look real to me.  There is this Christian subculture thing where they say things I don’t understand or believe.  Sometimes it feels like they are just kind of painting a smile on.” 

Let me just say to you as we talk about faith, before you throw it out because you are so tired, or don’t consider it because you’re looking at others who look tired, make VERY sure that what you are looking at is the real thing. There is a phony sort of faith that smacks of Reality TV!

I know most of you know this but for some of you it may be a revelation; everything on reality tv is not real.  There, I said it. Much of it is scripted -to get ratings, to get you to come back each week and tune in. Now some of you will know right away that the WOW moments in these shows are scripted, and you think, “Nah! That’s not real.”  And sometimes people look at a life of faith and think “Nah! That’s not real.”  Sometimes as a follower you are trying to script your Christian life, instead of living it as God directs it. When that happens, you can bet that others are looking at you and thinking “Nah! That’s not real.” 

For the past six months I have been doing a lot of looking at the life of Simon Peter, one of the first followers of Jesus. He was a famous follower of Jesus, in a time when becoming famous meant living a real life of unscripted moments. He lived a real kind of faith.  In the words of Jesus himself, Peter had real faith; He called Peter “the rock” and told him “On this rock I will build my church…”   (Matthew 16)

This coming Sunday we are going to be looking at Peter’s life and learn from him what real faith looks like.  Get ready to see a life of struggle, of doubt, of ups and downs and even failures. But he never gave up, he never tried to script his life in the direction he thought it should go. He trusted faithfully in the life that God had planned for him. Through every test, through every storm, his faith developed and grew.

Remember that when you are tested; these challenges in life are what develops your faith.  Does failure mean that God is done with you?  NO!  God is going to help you through the different struggles because He wants you to grow strong in your faith walk and to help others grow strong too!

One of the amazing aspects of Peter's life is his recovery by God's grace from one of the most public failures, and one of the deepest personal embarrassments of all time.  Peter is forever on record for denying that he even knew Jesus not once, not twice-but three times.

Peter's testimony gives us an example of God’s forgiveness and restoration. When we mess up, God gives us a second chance (and a third, and a fourth…do you see a pattern here?)  Peter is a great hero for any believer who has ever failed.  He is the premier example in God's Word about hope; hope for a new start, hope for complete forgiveness, and hope in the God of the ‘second chance.’

Start at the beginning when Jesus calls Peter along the shores of the Sea of Galilee in Mark 1:16-20, Peter could easily be observed as loud, brash, direct, and hard to intimidate.  He was probably strong and big.  As a businessman he was very good at what he did and appeared to be a successful fisherman.  Those around him looked upon him as a natural leader who drew people's loyalty.  But from Christ's perspective this man he chose was also selfish, unclean, outspoken and stubborn; all that combined to make him a bully.

But Jesus changed Peter!  As we read the chapters that capture Christ's ministry with the disciples we see that once Jesus began to teach Peter, and whenever Peter was in Christ's Presence, he was different.  Jesus transformed his life, and as a result, Peter was to go out proclaiming that life transforming message.

Peter had walked with Jesus every day, continuously exposed to the wonders of God in a human body.  Imagine being with Jesus who never lost His temper, was always righteously indignant over things that took glory from God; who never cared about Himself, but instead gave Himself to everybody else; who was totally consumed with helping others, even to the point of fatigue; who loved everyone impartially; who possessed such power that He could raise the dead, heal any sickness, give sight to the blind, and hearing to the deaf. Can you even imagine what that was like???

Peter was being tutored by Jesus every day.  But sometimes in weakness, forgetting about Christ's Presence, Peter would go back to what he was like before.  This is the battle you and I face daily.  That is why you and I must totally trust God and walk by faith daily. 

Please come Sunday and let’s walk with Peter to see how he grow his faith.

Make Every Day Count!

Barry

What it means to believe in Jesus...

Friends

Jesus has Risen, He has Risen indeed!  For Christians, those should be some of the most powerful words ever spoken.  But, have you ever thought why the resurrection of Jesus is so important to our faith?

I want to share several reasons why.

First, the resurrection witnesses to the immense power of God Himself.  To believe in the resurrection is to believe in God.  If God exists, and if He created the universe and has power over it, then He has power to raise the dead.  If He does not have such power, He is not worthy of our faith and worship.  Only He who created life can resurrect it after death, only He can reverse the hideousness that is death itself. Only He can remove the sting and gain the victory over the grave, I love how Paul writes this in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 NLT, Jesus from the grave, God reminds us of His absolute authority over life and death. 

Second, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is also important because it validates who Jesus claimed to be, namely, the Son of God and that was the Messiah.  Jesus said His resurrection was the “sign from heaven” that validated His ministry. Look at Matthew 16:1-4  NIV, and the proof that He had authority over even the temple in Jerusalem, read John 2:18–22 NIV.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ, proved to hundreds of eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15:3–8 Living Bible), provides indisputable proof that He is the Savior of the world.

Third reason- the resurrection of Jesus Christ is important in that it proves His sinless character and divine nature.  The Scriptures said God’s “Holy One” would never see corruption (Psalm 16:10 NKJV), and Jesus never saw corruption, even after He died.  It was based on the resurrection of Christ that Paul preached in Acts 13:38-39 GNT,

“...it is through Jesus that the message about forgiveness of sins is preached to you; you are to know that everyone who believes in him is set free from all the sins from which the Law of Moses could not set you free.”

Finally, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not only the ultimate proof of His deity; it also validates the Old Testament prophecies that foretold of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection, Paul shares this with everyone who would listen, Acts 17:3 NIV, “explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead.  ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,’ he said.”

Christ’s resurrection also authenticated His own claims that He would be raised on the third day (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34 NIV).  If Jesus Christ is not resurrected, then we have no hope that we will be, either.  In fact, apart from Christ’s resurrection, we have no Savior, no salvation, and no hope of eternal life.  As Paul said 1 Corinthians 15: our faith would be “useless,” the gospel would be altogether powerless, and our sins would remain unforgiven.

The Word of God guarantees the believer’s resurrection at the coming of Jesus Christ for His church at the rapture.  Such assurance results in a great song of triumph as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:55 NIV, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

The importance of the resurrection of Christ has an impact on our service to the Lord now!  He is coming again!  

There is no doubt that Jesus physically rose from the grave, but do you believe it?  This week’s message discusses the idea of “What it means to believe in Jesus” 

The word “believe” in the Bible means more than simply agreeing in our minds that something might be true.  It means “trust”—that we believe so strongly in God that we are willing to commit our lives to Him and live the way we know He wants us to live.

Suppose you were walking along a path and you came to a bridge which crossed a deep canyon.  You might look at it and believe that it would hold you, and you might even see other people walking across it, so you know it would hold your weight.  But so far, your “belief” in the bridge is only in your head.  When do you really believe the bridge will hold you?  You only really believe it when you are willing to commit your life to it and walk across it.

It is the same way with Christ.  Yes, we can believe that God exists, but God wants us to come to know Him personally.  And He has bridged the gap between us by sending His Son to remove the barrier of sin and become that “bridge.”  To believe in Christ is to commit our lives by faith to Christ—to trust in Him personally as our Lord and Savior.  My prayer is that you will come to truly believe in Christ.

Is faith simply a frame of mind?  Some see it that way — a passive attribute of a Christian waiting to see what God has in store for you: a promotion, cancer, depression, betrayal, blessing, wealth, or injustice.  They might say, “I’ll just wait to see what God is going to do for me and go with the flow.”  But that’s foolish talk

Faith is active.  It’s not passive.  It’s a commitment!  Look at your lifestyle and see what kinds of actions follow because of it.  If you have got a faith that’s real, it can be demonstrated.

If you have been baptized you made a statement to God and the people around you. You said, “I’m in!”  But it doesn’t stop at baptism — not by a long shot!  What else do you do?  You start following the pattern of Jesus.  Faith is proven by how we live. And don’t misinterpret this.  Your salvation is not based on your works.  The things you do — your walking-around, everyday life — won’t get you into Heaven.  Your actions don’t make you a Christian; they show you’re a Christian.

Make Every Day Count!

Barry

Come Sunday and learn the how to of Faith!

The Tree Could Not Hold Him

Friends

Doesn't it seem that bad news is all around us?  It's always the top story on the news or the main headline in the paper.  But as followers of Jesus Christ, we know the best news we could ever hear… and we celebrate it this coming Sunday.

Millions and millions of Christians around the world celebrate Easter every year.

Easter is not about brightly colored eggs, wearing pastels, or enjoying a big meal, although it could include these.  Easter is about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

For some, Easter will be a great day, spent surrounded by family and friends.  But for others, it will be a sad day, because Easter is a reminder of a loved one who has died and is now desperately missed.

Easter is the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the grave. This is the event that conquered sin… it conquered death… and it made it possible for you and me to have a personal relationship with God!

At the heart of our faith: passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.  All of salvation history leads up to and goes forth from these saving events.  One-fourth of gospel record covers the events from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.  It’s as if someone hit the "Slow Down” button so we could focus on each event that took place when Jesus came to Jerusalem knowing that He was about to die on the cross.

If Easter had not happened, Christmas would have no meaning.  If the tomb is not empty, the cradle makes no difference.  If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then He really is just a misguided Jewish rabbi with delusions of grandeur.  If Easter is not true, then Christmas is only the story of an obscure baby born in an out-of-the-way village in a forgotten land 2000 years ago.  It is Easter that gives Christmas its meaning.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:14 NIV, “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also”

Christians around the world celebrate Easter, but for far too many of us the story has become boring and rote.  We have the basic facts down.  Jesus was arrested.  He was crucified.  And three days later, God raised Him from the dead.

It’s great news that Jesus rose from the dead.  But what turns that truth from black and white to living color is that one day — if you trust in Him — He will raise you from the grave, too.  That’s the promise of Easter.

Yet we miss something very important.  We miss what turns Easter from a one-dimensional holiday to a multi-dimensional, life-transforming way of life.

Death seems so cruel, so harsh, and so final.  That is what the disciples were feeling when they saw their Lord, whom they had left everything to follow, hanging on the cross.  They were devastated.  Death had crushed them.  But if they would have gone back in their memories, they would have recalled an important event and statement Jesus had made.

They would have remembered Jesus standing at the tomb of His close friend Lazarus. They would have remembered that Jesus did something completely unexpected: He wept (see John 11:35).  Jesus wept, because He knew that death was not part of God's original plan.  Humanity was not meant to grow old, to suffer with disease, or to die. But because of the sin of Adam and Eve, sin entered the human race, and death followed with it.  And death spread to all of us.  Jesus wept, because it broke His heart.

But standing there at Lazarus' tomb, Jesus also delivered these hope-filled words: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live" (John 11:25 NKJV).  Death is not the end. And the resurrection of Jesus Christ proves it.

If you have put your faith in Christ, then Easter means that you will live forever in the presence of God. Easter brings hope to the person who has been devastated by death.

We miss that the story of the Resurrection is not just Jesus’ story — it’s our story as well.  You see, you are a part of the Resurrection.  Jesus’ death and Resurrection did not just prove there was life after death.  The Resurrection proves you can have life after death, that there’s life beyond your grave.  Jesus says, if you trust in him, death becomes a transition, not an ending point.

Bottom line: One day your heart will stop. That will be the end of your body. But it will not be the end of you. God made you to last forever. That’s why you often have a feeling there’s more to life than this. Jesus made this amazing promise in John 11: 25-26 NIV:“I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die”

 

That’s quite a promise!  Jesus proved He could do it by resurrecting Himself.  Otherwise, we would have no reason to believe it.  If Jesus had not died on the cross and been resurrected more than 2,000 years ago, you would have zero chance of getting to Heaven — no hope of the afterlife and no eternal life.

The events at Easter are the only source of hope in this world.  Jesus Christ shed blood on the cross, His payment for your sin and for mine, and His resurrection from the dead gives you and me new life.  Eternal life forever, if only you believe (John 3:16: John 6:47; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Because of Easter, you and I don't have to be chained with the shackles of sin.  We are free to live the life God intended.  And one day we will live forever in a place called Heaven, created just for our pleasure.

Because of Easter, we can walk with the God of the Universe as if He is our friend.  So, this Easter, don't let it be all about the bunny.  Stop, worship the One who gave you life.  Jesus Christ.

Make Every Day Count

Barry

Come Sunday and experience the Risen Savoir, Jesus!