Support this ministry by using the companies and products you see on this blog

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Whenever You're Uncertain Remember That God Knows Everything

This is the manuscript of the sermon I preached at Christ Church, Los Angeles on September 30, 2018. 

When times of heartache and trouble come our way, we begin to trade things that we have never doubted for the uncertainties and unknowns that may or may not even exist. When things seem to be coming apart remember that God is not causing those things but He may be allowing them, and if He’s allowing them it’s to accomplish His purpose in you, not to punish you. Never trade what we know for what we don’t know. To hear the sermon click the YouTube link at the end of the manuscript.

Every time something bad happens, a disaster, a death, an illness, or a financial catastrophe, many people either ask “Why would God allow this to happen” or why did God do this”?  Why are we struck with a debilitating illness in the prime of life, why does one of our children die young, or why do we lose a job right after we sign a big mortgage?  What about facing foreclosure because we haven’t been able to find a job? Why is your spouse stricken with a chronic illness ending in death?  When these things happen in succession we search for answers.

Christians and non-believers alike might wonder, “What do you think they did to deserve cancer?” If someone’s wife walks out, insensitive churchgoers might think, “If he had been a better spiritual leader, his wife wouldn’t have done that.” If a teenager is rebellious, hardened onlookers might privately reflect, “If that kid’s parents had been more involved, this never would have happened.”  When we are going through a tough time, or have a tragic loss our well-meaning Christian friends say “This was God’s will,” and that, “we don’t always understand why God does what God does, but we must accept God’s will.” What a terrible thing to say at that time! I don’t believe that it is God’s will that we face disaster.  I haven’t been able to find anywhere in the Bible that God wants His children to suffer.  As a matter of fact;

1 Thessalonians 5:9 (NLT)  For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.

When things happen that don’t appear to make sense, or go against what we think is good, we Christians say God did it or allowed it.   I’ve heard that very thing more times than you think.  We say that God does or allows bad stuff because we don’t understand how a God that we believe loves us, can allow us go through situations that stretch our abilities as human beings to handle or understand.  
Being a Christian doesn't exempt you from suffering.  Jesus Himself assured us that there will be trouble in our lives.
John 16:33 (NKJV)33  These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
1 Peter 4:12-13 NIV Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
The Bible also tells us that no matter the situation we are never alone.
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
That means He’s with you in the good times and the bad times.
 Hebrews 13:5 NIV 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.”
Psalm 34:19 NIV The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;
That sounds good, however when troubles lingers and even more trouble comes we may start to wonder if anybody hears or really cares.  When it gets to that point we need to be reminded that God who made those promises that we read before, really does love us.
1 John 4:7- 11 NIV Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
That says that God really does loves us.  
He’s also left us some reminders of that love,
Reminder #1 Creation

 The creation itself should remind us of how all powerful God is.  It is also evidence that He exists. The very fact that he created the universe and then allowed us to be masters over the earth should remind us that there is somebody out there who is bigger than we are.
Romans 1:20 (NLT)20  For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
The next time you see a sunrise, remind yourself, God is faithful.
The next time you see snow-covered mountains with their peaks pointing toward the sky, remind yourself, God is faithful.
The next time you see flowers that have burst into bloom, remind yourself, God is faithful.
The next time you hold a new born soft-skinned baby in your arms, remind yourself, God is faithful.
     Next time you feel down remind yourself that God created you in His image and as I said a couple of weeks ago you are God’s greatest masterpiece
These things about God’s creation remind us of how big God is, His faithfulness, and proof that He loves you.

Reminder #2:  The People We Meet

God uses what we may consider chance meetings or encounters to benefit us later.  God had plans for you before you were born. There are no mere coincidences. You’ve never met anybody by accident. Like the prophet Jeremiah
Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT) “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
Psalms 37:23 NLT The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Think about some relationships that you had when you were in school.  Not those where you stayed in close contact but people that you haven’t seen for years or have never seen ever again, maybe a teacher, a coach, or just another classmate.  Think about the impact on you and your life of something they said, an introduction to someone else, or an example you follow today.
The way I plan my day and week is the result of something that a man taught me over 40 years ago when I worked for Bank of America.  My love for studying the scripture is because I met a group of guys in San Jose over 40 years ago.  I don’t even remember their names but the result of meeting and studying with them is why I am doing what I do today and using the spiritual gift of teaching that the Holy Spirit gave me.
When you doubt whether God cares about you and loves you think about the people that he has placed in your life over the years.  If I just sit and think back about some of the difficult and stressful times I’ll remember somebody doing something, or saying something or giving me something, seemingly out of the blue that helped get me through.  That wasn't just a coincidence that was a reminder that God loves me.
Reminder #3:  Jesus - The Greatest Reminder
Jesus is the greatest reminder of all of God’s love.  When we realize that God gave His Son Jesus so that He could pay the ransom for mankind and take the punishment of sin we know that God loves us.  Jesus came and willingly laid down His life as our sacrifice He then sent the Holy Spirit by and through whom we are able to live a life that is pleasing to God.
When you wrestle with anxiety and stress especially in situations where you have no control remember all that He went through for you.  Remember the agony in the garden of Gethsemane, the humiliation at His trial, the beatings and finally His crucifixion.   It looked as if He had no control over any of this but on the third day He rose from the dead to show that God never lost control.  Jesus is the Greatest Reminder that God loves you.

The Certainties Of God
When times of heartache and trouble come our way, we begin to trade things that we have never doubted for the uncertainties and unknowns that may or may not even exist.

You lose your job and your mind immediately races to I’ll never get hired again. But that’s an uncertainty. Don’t trade the fact God is your provider for uncertainties that may or may not be the case.

Matthew 6:31-34 NIV So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

You get cancer or some other serious illness and you assume that you will die from it.  You don't know that for sure, that's an uncertainty. Don’t trade that for the fact that God is a healer God may heal you miraculously, or through doctors and medicines.

Psalm 103:2-5 NIV Praise the Lord , my soul, and forget not all his benefits—  who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,  who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,  who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Proverbs 3:7-8 NIV Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.  This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.

We're not just talking physical healing here but spiritual healing as well.  You may have made a terrible mistake and feel that it’s something that's unforgivable. That's an uncertainty.  What is certain is that, through and because of the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice, God will forgive those who believe in Him, you no matter what.

1 Peter 3:18 NIV For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

Psalm 32:1-2 NIV Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.

Isaiah 43:25 NIV “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

Psalm 103:8-12 NIV The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;  he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;  as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

No matter what uncertainties are going on in your life here are some things that are certain. 

Certainty #1—Suffering is universal and unavoidable.

Suffering comes in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you're where you are from—Jesus suffered and He was from eternity, after all—it doesn't matter how much you have or don’t have. Suffering is unavoidable.  We live in a fallen world; we all suffer. No one is immune to it. But we can use suffering as an opportunity to grow in our relationship with God. 

James 1:2-8 NIV Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 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. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Certainty #2—Suffering is not a judgment for sin.

This is perhaps the biggest lie we believe when we go through times of suffering. When we experience difficulty in life or go through a trial of some kind, it is very easy to think that God is judging us for our sin.

As believers, this could not be further from the truth. We may suffer due to the consequences of sinful decisions we make. If we choose to rebel against God or make a decision that is contrary to his Word and outside his will, we will reap what we sow.

Galatians 6:7-9 NIV Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

And sometimes the consequences of reaping what we sow are severe. God disciplines those he loves and chastises those whom he considers sons and daughters.

Hebrews 12:5-6 NIV And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,  because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

But God does not send suffering as judgment for our sin. Jesus took our judgment with Him to the cross.

Certainty #3—Suffering is temporary.

Though it doesn’t make it easier in the moment, it’s good to remember that all suffering is temporary. Scripture says that we will suffer “a little while”

1 Peter 5:10 NIV And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV 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, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Romans 8:18-21 NIV I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

At times we may think we’ll never see light again. When we’re in the middle of suffering remember that it's temporary.  It may last for years and we may even die in suffering but it’s still temporary. There's a time limit.    Just as Jesus was on the cross for six hours and in the grave for three days, there is a set limit to our suffering. It is temporary.

Suffering is inevitable, it’s not judgement for sin, and it’s temporary.

Certainty #4—God empathizes with me in my suffering.

Psalm 34:17-18 NIV The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Matthew 11:28-30 NIV “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

He empathizes because He experienced the same kinds of suffering we experience.

Hebrews 2:14-18 NIV Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

 Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Certainty #5—God loves me and has not forgotten me.

It’s so easy to forget this truth when we are enduring hardship or are confronted with a tragedy of some kind, but here is the certainty from God’s word;

Romans 8:35, 37-39 NIV Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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.

Suffering is inevitable and unavoidable, it’s not judgement, it’s temporary, God emphithizes with you, and God has not forgotten you. These things are certain.  Finally,

Certainty #6—When we suffer, it’s okay to ask “Why?”

“Why?” isn’t always the most helpful question, but it is usually the most human. We even saw that with Jesus in the garden when He asked three times if there might be another way other than the cross.

Matthew 26:39, 42-42, 44 NIV Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

It’s also okay to not understand why we are having to endure suffering. God’s ways are not our ways.

Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord .  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

And even if God explained what we were going through and gave us his reasoning, it’s likely we wouldn’t understand, let alone agree with it.

Asking “Why?” does not show a lack of faith.  It’s acknowledging that God alone has the answers to questions we desperately desire answers to.

When things seem to be coming apart remember that God is not causing those things but He may be allowing them, and if He’s allowing them it’s to accomplish His purpose in you, not to punish you.
Romans 8:28-30 NIV And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Let’s never trade what we know for what we don’t know.
I want to end with a prayer that I read just last night.

Father, Your Word says that we overcome not by might and not by power, but by Your Spirit. So, I lean into You, believing that You are at work in the unexpected adventures in my life. I trust in Your goodness, no matter my circumstance. I stand on the integrity of Your character, especially when I face the impossible. You are good. You do good. And You are working in all things for my good.
You came to set me free, so I believe You for freedom, hope, healing, rescue, and deliverance. I choose to believe that impossible is where You start. Miracles are what You do. I believe in the name of Jesus for signs and wonders and miracles in my life. I believe for the supernatural in every area of my life — in my marriage and parenting, in my ministry and career, in my friendships and community.
God, You are greater than anything I face. I refuse to fix my eyes on the obstacle and enemy, but instead elevate my gaze to You. I will speak Your words of life and truth, agreeing with You alone, believing You are who You said You are and will do what You said You will do. You are faithful. You will come through. That’s who You are. That’s what You do. By Your grace, I will live by faith. By faith, I believe You will fulfill Your purpose for my life — that I will reach the destiny You planned for me all along — and I will give You all the glory in everything I do as we travel there together.
In Jesus’s name I pray, amen.

The one thing that we know is that God loves us and the greatest reminder of that love is Jesus.  God’s Son which He gave to become a sacrifice for our sins so that we can be forgiven and come into the relationship that God desires for everybody which is eternal life with him. Then we will never have to ask why.  Until then even though we go through periods of suffering He’s with us.  These things are reserved for those who believe in Him, in Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit.  The only requirement is that you acknowledge the fact that you need Him, that you believe in Him and His sacrifice, and His Word says that you will be saved.

Romans 10:9-13 NIV If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Sermon Audio

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Your Waiting Time Is Not Wasted Time

Photo by Anaya Katlego on Unsplash

This is the manuscript to a sermon preached at Christ Church, Los Angeles on September 16, 2018.  While we often have to wait for an answer to our prayers that waiting time doesn't have to be wasted time.  The sermon is adapted from my blog post, "Your Waiting Time Doesn't Have To Be Wasted Time". In the sermon I talk about what's involved in waiting on God, and end with some skills that we need to develop so that our waiting time won’t be wasted time.  To hear the sermon click the YouTube link at the end of the manuscript.

Psalm 27:14 (NKJV)  Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!

You may be praying for something that hasn’t happened yet.  Maybe it’s for you, a friend, or family member to be healed of an illness, maybe it’s for a financial blessing, maybe it’s for a new job, maybe it’s for a spouse, whatever it is it hasn't happened and you are wondering if it will ever happen.  Yes, you have faith in God and His promises but it’s so hard to wait.

Waiting doesn't mean just sitting around and doing nothing but waiting on God is active as we exercise faith in Him, and while we wait we should never forget that God is with us while we are waiting.

Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

While we wait God may be working to put things in place for the perfect time.  Waiting teaches us patience and patience ends in perfection.

James 1:2-4 NLT Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

I am learning to wait patiently on God’s timing.  I’m not there yet but I’m getting better.

What does waiting on God involve?

Waiting Means Resting

Resting in the Lord requires patience.  That doesn’t mean doing nothing because patience is active.  Patience requires an act of your will.  You must determine yourself that you will wait on the Lord.  It doesn't happen automatically.  

Psalm 37:4 (NKJV)4  Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Just three verses later it says.

Psalm 37:7 (NKJV)7  Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.

Delighting yourself in the Lord  means that your thoughts are constant towards God and that everything you do is in obedience to Him.   When you delight in something, your thoughts are constant towards it; you think about it all the time.  That signifies a mutual relationship.  We delight in the Lord and He gives us our heart’s desires.

Part of delighting ourselves in the Lord is waiting on His timing.

Waiting Means Listening

Actively listening for further instructions instead of running headlong toward our idea of a solution.  We listen by reading and studying God’s word, talking to other believers, listening to the Holy Spirit during our quiet times with God.  When we get further instructions then we follow them even if the instructions are to continue waiting.

Psalm 143:8 (NLT)8  Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.

Waiting Means Accepting

When we wait we must accept what God is doing in our lives.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.6  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

We also need to realize while we’re waiting that God is working everything together for our good, like it says in

Romans 8:28 NLT And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Waiting means resting, listening, and accepting.  

Waiting Also Means Surrendering

Some of us may have to give up what seems like an immediate need and then resist the temptation to set our own timeline.  Surrender the timing to God.

Ecclesiastes 8:6 (NLT) for there is a time and a way for everything, even when a person is in trouble.

Waiting Means Anticipating

Our waiting is purposeful anticipation that God will accomplish His purposes for our lives.  God said that His word or His promises will always accomplish what i
He sends it to do.

Isaiah 55:10-11(NLT)10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to,  and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

That’s the same as saying “...that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

When we rest, listen, accept, surrender, and anticipate then our waiting time is not wasted time.

Waiting Time Is Not Wasted Time

 “In life, God will always work sovereignly, strangely, and slowly.” “He will take time, but He will not waste time.”

Today we have become accustomed to things happening quickly. Fast food. Online check-ins. Call ahead seating at restaurants. One-hour photo processing. These are great conveniences but they are minor in the grand scheme of things, and they certainly haven’t helped us learn how to wait on the big things.

We’ve been praying for a new job, for healing from a dreadful disease, for a financial blessing, praying for our children to stop being knuckleheads, praying for God’s wisdom for some decision we think we need to make, and we don’t understand why it’s taking so long for Him to answer. We don’t understand why we are having to wait.

But those who want to experience an extraordinary life will learn the value of waiting on God’s timing.

Waiting time does not have to be wasted time.

Throughout the Bible we have examples of some extraordinary people who had to wait. Abraham had to wait .

God first revealed to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations when he called him to leave his country and go to the land God would show him.

Genesis 12:1-3 NLT The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

Biblical scholars believe that Abraham was 75 years old then.

Fifteen years later, when Abraham was 90, God renewed his promise.

Genesis 15:1-4 NLT Some time later, the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.” But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord , what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth. You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.” Then the Lord said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.”

Ten years later, at age 100, Abraham and Sarah finally had their son.

Genesis 21:1-5 NLT The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. And Abraham named their son Isaac. Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born.

That’s a total of twenty-five years

Moses had to wait in  exile 40 years before going back to Egypt to lead the Israel from slavery

Acts of the Apostles 7:23-24, 30 NLT “One day when Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his relatives, the people of Israel. He saw an Egyptian mistreating an Israelite. So Moses came to the man’s defense and avenged him, killing the Egyptian. “Forty years later, in the desert near Mount Sinai, an angel appeared to Moses in the flame of a burning bush.

And then it was more than 40 more years before Israel finished their journey to the Promise Land, unfortunately Moses was not allowed to go into Canaan.  But He did accomplish God’s purpose for him in getting Pharoah to release them and finally get them to the Promised Land.  

David, after being told that he was going to be the king had to run and hide from king Saul for something like 15 years.

1 Samuel 16:13 NLT So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.

 2 Samuel 2:1-4 NLT After this, David asked the Lord , “Should I move back to one of the towns of Judah?” “Yes,” the Lord replied. Then David asked, “Which town should I go to?” “To Hebron,” the Lord answered. David’s two wives were Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal from Carmel. So David and his wives and his men and their families all moved to Judah, and they settled in the villages near Hebron. Then the men of Judah came to David and anointed him king over the people of Judah. When David heard that the men of Jabesh-gilead had buried Saul,

Think of old Simeon, the priest in the temple, who waited his whole life to see the promised Messiah. God had told him long before that he would not die until he had seen the Christ.

Luke 2:25-29 NLT At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised.

On that same trip to the temple there was a widow by the name of Anna who had waited a long time too.

Luke 2:36-38 NLT Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.

Jesus, when He was twelve years old amazed the people with His knowledge;

Luke 2:41-42, 45-47, 51-52 NLT Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart. Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.

But He didn't start His public ministry until He was thirty.

Luke 3:23 NLT Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his public ministry. Jesus was known as the son of Joseph. Joseph was the son of Heli.

Okay so sometime we have to wait. We said that waiting is active, it is an act of our will, it’s a decision that we have to make ourselves.  Waiting involves resting, listening, accepting, surrendering, and anticipating. 

Waiting Time Skills

Since we often have to wait there are some skills that we need to develop so that our waiting time won’t be wasted time.

1. Walk with God Daily

The path God calls us to walk is one of faith and obedience, not sight and independence.

2 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)  For we walk by faith, not by sight.

God is not in the habit of revealing His entire plan for our lives all at once. If He did, we would race forward without ever feeling the need to slow down, listen to His voice, and wait on His direction. While God does not unravel His entire blueprint for our lives, He can always be trusted to reveal to us the next thing we need to do.

Usually, God only reveals as much of His plan for your life as you need today. Do not worry about what He has in store for you in the next year, the next month, or even the next day.

Matthew 6:31-34 (NLT2)31  “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’32  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.34  “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

So develop the skill of walking with God daily.

2. Obey God Completely

“The Lord and I have a running argument. I constantly attempt to impress him with how much I know. He constantly seeks to impress me with how little I have obeyed.”

That’s what James had in mind when he encouraged Christians be “doers of the word”q
James 1:22-25 (NLT2)22  But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.23  For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.24  You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.25  But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

So develop the skills of walking with God daily, obeying Him completely then a third skill is to

3. Trust Him Absolutely

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT2)5  Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.6  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Tell Alexandria's story.

What about you? Are you where God wants you to be right now—even if it is in the waiting place? If so, He will provide. Not necessarily all at once, but day by day. Learn the lessons of Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus and trust the Giver of gifts more than the gifts themselves. Your waiting time will not be wasted time. 

Let's pray.  Heavenly Father teach us to wait. Develop patience in us so that our faith become perfect.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to encourage us to rest, listen, accept, surrender, and anticipate that you will accomplish your purpose in our lives.  I pray that, through the work of the Holy Spirit in us that we develop and and continue to improve the skills of daily walking with you, obeying you completely, and trusting you absolutely.  Then Father when you call upon us to wait, our waiting time will not be wasted time.  In Jesus Name Amen. 

Sermon Audio

Sunday, September 9, 2018

God's Masterpiece

This is the manuscript to a sermon preached at Christ Church, Los Angeles on September 9, 2018.  In it I ask what is God's greatest masterpiece.  You might be surprised to know that, if you are a Christian or you become a Christian, you are God's greatest masterpiece created in His image. To hear the sermon click the YouTube link at the end of the manuscript.

The Inexhaustible Masterpiece

They say that students and lovers of art will spend weeks sitting before a single masterpiece by one of the great artists.  Some repeat this process year after year. To fully enjoy such a masterful work of art they need to immerse themselves in it for hour and hours.  There was a man who said that  he spent years studying a painting and that he was able to “discover some new beauty and a new joy”  every time.  
I enjoy a great painting or sculpture but it seems impossible to me that a person, even an expert or enthusiast, could spend weeks and weeks pouring over a piece of art and continue discovering something new, a “new beauty or joy.”  They say that they can find some new part of the painting, a certain stroke of the brush, a use of color or some other fine detail that others never see.
If there is that much beauty and intricate detail in a painting, a creation of man, how much truer of God’s creation.  A creation so vast we haven't discovered its full splendor much less study and observe it.  Which brings up the question; if the  creation is so expansive and magnificent, what does that say about the one who created it?  We can sometimes become so familiar that we don’t look beyond the creation to the Creator. 
God Almighty, the Creator, is much bigger than we could ever imagine.  In Job 11:7-8 God asked Job, “Do you think you can explain the mystery of God? Do you think you can diagram God Almighty?
God is far higher than you can imagine, far deeper than you can comprehend, Stretching farther than earth’s horizons, far wider than the endless ocean.” 
There is a depth to the nature of God that we have yet to see and enjoy.  If we had ten thousand years we would have only scratched the surface of the immensity of His glory.  God is an inexhaustible masterpiece.
Can our little minds comprehend how big God is?  Of course not but that’s the very reason we keep coming back. There is a newness and a freshness to God, not because there is something new about God but because we see Him and experience Him in a way we have not done so before. It’s as if we have discovered some new beauty and joy each time.
Sometimes the joy comes in the rediscovery of a beauty that we have all but forgotten, one that God has framed in a new setting providing an even greater appreciation.  As we grow so does our capacity for understanding and enjoying the person and work of our God. 

What Is God’s Greatest Masterpiece?

God is the inexhaustible masterpiece, but what would you say is the greatest of His masterpieces?
You could give many different answers to that question. Many would say that God’s greatest masterpiece is the sunset that paints the evening sky or the millions of stars that twinkle so beautifully each night. Others might point to the majestic mountain ranges or the mighty, rushing rivers. And some might say the flowers that bloom in the spring or the many amazing creatures that populate our planet.

You Are God’s Greatest Masterpiece

All of those masterpieces are  impressive, but none of them are the greatest that God has created. If you are a Christian you probably saw one of these works of art already today . . . that is, if you looked in a mirror. Yes, YOU are the greatest of God’s masterpieces.

Actually God’s greatest masterpieces have been created twice.

Here’s that first creation

Genesis 1:26-27 NASB Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Here's the second.

2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB ​Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Ephesians 2:8-10 NASB For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

You "are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. "

No, you probably didn’t look very beautiful or handsome when you got out of bed this morning. But when you looked into your mirror you were looking at God’s greatest work.

I preached a sermon here, last year, titled God Created “You To Be A Good Works Machine”. 

In that I said the Greek word translated “workmanship” is “poiÄ“ma”, and it occurs in only one other place in the New Testament, and that is in Romans, where it is translated, “things that are made.”

Romans 1:20 NASB For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

Just as God brought about a new creation in Genesis, He did it again at your salvation.

That new creation has to get rid of some of the old things and replace them with other things.  

Colossians 3:8-9 NASB But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,

That's the old stuff.

Now here's the new stuff.

Colossians 3: 12-14 NASB So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

Each one of us is completely unique – there will never be anyone just like you. God knows all of us personally with all our strengths and weaknesses. 

David said in

Psalms 139:13-14 NASB For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.

God has a plan for us, even before we are conceived

Jeremiah 1:5 NASB "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations."
And according to Scripture, there is a unique and custom-designed plan that God has in store just for those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ.
If God were to reveal to you today how much He loves you, it would overwhelm you. It would devastate you to think of the love that He has for you in light of the way we all behave sometimes.
What He given us at this point is the down payment of the Holy Spirit, and that alone overwhelms us at times.
Ephesians 1:13-14 NASB In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NASB Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.
Then in
1 Corinthians 2:9 NASB but just as it is written, " Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard , And  which  have not entered the heart of man , All that God has prepared for those who love Him ."

Like I said you are God’s greatest masterpiece. A masterpiece, when talking about a poem or work of art indicates that it is perfect.
When I look at my life, I guarantee you that I don’t see perfection. When we see ourselves, we tend to see our flaws. We see so many things that need to change.
Yet God says,  that you are  His workmanship. “You are my work of art. You are my poem. You are my masterwork.”
God is not like a doting father who’s oblivious to his child’s faults. Rather, He is your all-knowing, yet all-powerful Father in heaven who can see what you will be when it is all said and done.
God can look at you and can see what you will become before you have actually become it.
We look at ourselves and say, “I don’t get it. This doesn’t look like a perfect person. This doesn’t look like a work of beauty.”
God sees you through the lens of Jesus’ work on the cross.

 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 NASB Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

That's how God sees you as the righteousness of God through Christ.

You are a masterpiece that is a work in progress. It is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. It is going to take all of your life on Earth. It won’t be completely finished until you get to heaven.
Then you will see that you indeed are a perfect work of art — God’s masterpiece.

What Happens When God Turns You Into His Masterpiece?

Here are 2 things that happen when God turns you into His masterpiece.

You are Forgiven

Do not let your past mistakes keep you from living the joyful life God wants you to have.   His love and grace  is bigger than any sin.
 2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

So If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9 NASB

The second thing that happens is

You Show Other People How Great God Is

You are a living, breathing testimony of God’s grace and love through Jesus Christ. God says He picked you to be part of a new family, meant to show the difference He can make in a life.
 But you are A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for  God's  own possession , so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  1 Peter 2:9 NASB

Your life is like a beautiful painting that gives recognition to its painter. As God’s masterpiece,
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;  nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 NASB

You Become the Light of the World

Jesus sets you free from the slavery of sin when you accept Christ. Sin won’t control you anymore. God gives you the Holy Spirit, who is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11 NASB

When you have the Holy Spirit, you will reflect God’s love, peace and patience through the fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 NASB But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

God has created you to be a masterpiece so that He could show you off! He has a plan and purpose for you. He wants you to be that showpiece everyone talks about. The next time you look in the mirror say it out loud for your brain to capture. “I am God’s masterpiece!”

In order to become God’s masterpiece there's something you have to do.  A man came to Jesus in the middle of the night and Jesus told him

John 3:3 NASB Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."

That man was Nicodemus and he asked Jesus how it was possible to be born again,  how to become a new creature if you will. Paul gives us the answer in Romans 10:9-10

Romans 10:9-10 NASB that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

Now is your opportunity to instantly become God’s Masterpiece. 

Sermon Audio