When Faith Is Hard | Week 2: Faith That Works

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How many of you have ever played the “if only” game. “If only” we had “a better job” life would be better. “If only” we had more money. We all tend to think “If only” we had whatever it is, our life would be so much better. You need to read this through the lens of your “If only”, through the lens of your greatest need. Let’s set the background for our study. The King of Israel, the King of Judah, Jehoshaphat, and the King of Edom joined forces to destroy the King of Moab. Three against one, so they thought, “We’ll get an easy victory here.” But often in life, things don’t go as planned.

Anyone know what we’re talking about? Think you’ve got it all figured out and, “whoops,” your plans go awry. We had everything all lined out and BOOM…COVID-19. That’s what happens with these three kings. Instead of winning easily they find their troops stranded in the desert completely out of water. They have a very significant need. This story teaches us this principle…

Your greatest need becomes a blessing when it drives you to depend on God. 

Your greatest need, your “If only” becomes a blessing when it drives you to depend on God. Our story begins in 2 Kings, chapter 3, verses 9-12.

“So the king of Israel set out with the king of Judah and the king of Edom; After a roundabout march of seven days, the army had no more water for themselves or for their animals with them. “What,” exclaimed the king of Israel, has the Lord called us three kings together only to deliver us into the hands of Moab?”

We thought we’d win easily but now God has screwed it up. We don’t see them asking God if they should do this in the first place. Now that it turns out to be a bad plan, they blame God and expect Him to bail them out.

“But Jehoshaphat, asked, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?” An officer of the king of Israel answered, “Elisha, son of Shaphat, is here. He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.”

He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah. There it is right there in the Bible, “Wash your hands!” Elijah was a great prophet who did great and miraculous things. Elisha is his apprentice, so Jehoshaphat thinks maybe Elisha can help us. When the nation of Israel was in a great drought, Elijah called on God for help and God sent rain from a cloud that started out the size of a man’s hand and grew into a big storm that watered the whole land. So these three kings think, “If Elijah could make it rain then maybe Elisha can make it rain.”

“Jehoshaphat said, “The word of the Lord is with Elisha.” So the king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.”

The three kings go to battle against the Moabites and think they’re going to win easily. Instead, they find themselves out of water and in dire need. The problem is they did not seek God’s guidance regarding this war, and now that they’re in trouble they want God’s help. “Oh no, we’re in trouble. Is there anybody who’s really in good with God? Maybe Elisha the prophet can help us out.”

Elisha had done some miracles of his own. He had parted the waters of the Jordan River. He spoke to a polluted spring of poisonous water and healed the water so you could drink from it. When a gang of hooligans were threatening him and making fun of his bald head, Elijah summoned two bears out of the woods to eat his attackers. This is not made up, you should read your bible. And you should never make fun of a guy with a bald head…just saying.

So the kings ask Elisha, “Can you help us out?” How does Elisha respond? He responds with a bit of an attitude. Elisha says, “Okay kings, you ignored God and went out on your own and now you’re in trouble and you want God’s help.” Elisha learned this from his mentor, Elijah, who was the king of attitude. One time Elijah went up against 450 false prophets of the false god, Baal. Elijah said, “Let’s have a little contest to see who the real God is. We’ll build a couple of altars. We’ll get two bulls. You sacrifice a bull to Baal, I’ll sacrifice a bull to God. You call on your god to send down fire from heaven to consume your sacrifice. I’ll call on my God to send down fire from heaven to consume my sacrifice. We’ll see whose God answers.”

The false prophets started praying to Baal to “Send fire. Send fire.” But nothing happens. They work themselves up into a frenzy crying out to Baal. They start cutting themselves drawing blood to get Baal to act. Nothing happens. Elijah starts laughing and mocking these false prophets. “Maybe you should shout louder. Maybe your god’s deaf. Maybe your god’s on vacation. Maybe your god’s in the bathroom and can’t hear you.” Again, this is not made up, you need to read your bible it’s in there.

Elisha does what Elijah did, he cops an attitude in verse 13.

“Elisha said to the king of Israel, “Why do you want to involve me? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.” 

You hear his attitude?

“No,” the King of Israel answered, “because it was the Lord who called us three kings together to deliver us into the hands of Moab. Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord All Mighty lives, whom I serve, if I didn’t have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, I would not pay any attention to you.”

The King of Israel and Edom were not good and godly kings. But Jehoshaphat had been a pretty good and faithful king, a godly king. So Elisha says to the King of Judah and Edom… “If weren’t for Jehoshaphat…I wouldn’t even pay attention to you two. But because Jehoshaphat’s here… I’ll help you out. You need a prophet… I’m your prophet.”

Then in verse 15, Elisha makes a demand. He says, “But now bring me a harpist.”  If you want me to prophesy, I need some worship music. This was not an uncommon practice for prophets to do. God inhabits the praises of His people.

Worship helps your faith grow and connects you to God.

Now the three kings think this is great because, “Elisha’s going to tell God to send rain. The harp music is playing this is going to be good.” But does Elisha give them a word of encouragement? No, he gives them a ridiculous command in verse 15 and 16.

“Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him. And he said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Make this valley full of ditches.’”

The kings go, “Wait, we thought God was going to make it rain. Our troops are about to die of thirst, and you want them to do manual labor under the hot desert sun? Elisha says, “Yeah, I want them to dig ditches, irrigation ditches to trap water.” Because your greatest need becomes your greatest blessing when it drives you to depend on God.

“For this is what the Lord says. “You will see neither wind nor rain yet this valley will be filled with water and you, your cattle, and your other animals will drink.”

God says, “I’m not going to make it rain here. I’m going to make it rain somewhere else and then bring the water here through irrigation ditches, so dig Me some ditches!” God’s ways aren’t your ways. God doesn’t always meet the need the way we think He will or should. “This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord.”  You have no idea how powerful, how strong, how mighty God is. At the snap of a finger God can do this. And by the way, that other thing you wanted that whole defeating Moab thing, “He will also deliver Moab into your hands”  but first, I want you to dig some ditches.


We’re talking about faith that works, faith that does something. Faith that believes that God is going to act, so we act and take a step toward God believing that God is going to take a step toward us. Let’s look at two principles of faith that works. The first principle is..

Only God can send the water, but sometimes he wants you to dig a ditch.

Just as the body is dead without breath so also is faith dead without good works.” James 2:26

Only God can send the water but He wants to see your faith. Did the God of the universe really need these guys to dig a ditch? No, but He’s saying “You show me your faith and I’ll show you my faithfulness.” God loves to see our faith. You see faith in our actions. In the Gospels, you see it again and again. When Peter was on the boat and saw Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee, he said “Jesus, tell me to come and I’ll come.” And Jesus said, “Come.” What did Peter do? He got out of boat! The other 11 disciples stayed in the boat… you didn’t see any faith. God wants us to participate in His miracles.

There’s a man with a withered hand. What does Jesus say to him? He says, “Stretch out your hand.” Jesus could have just healed his hand but He said, “I want to see your faith so stretch out your hand.”

There was a lame man who couldn’t walk for 38 years. Jesus tells the man, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk. I’m going to heal you but I’m not going to pick you up. I want to see that you have the faith, so get up.”

There was a guy who was blind from birth, Jesus picks up some dirt and spits in it to make mud. He smears the mud on the guys eyes and says, “Go wash your eyes in the pool of Siloam.” God says show Me your faith and I’ll show you my faithfulness.

Too many people want God to show them His faithfulness but they’re not willing to show God any faith. Show Me your faith and I’ll show you my faithfulness. You want to quit smoking? Throw your cigarettes in the garbage and say “I’m showing some faith. I’m getting rid of these things. I’M DIGGING A DITCH BY FAITH.” You want to heal a damaged relationship? Forgive someone before they even ask for forgiveness. Treat someone with love when they are being ugly to you. What are you doing? You’re digging a ditch.

You want your kids to serve Jesus and be strong Christians? Read the Bible and pray with your kids. You want some spiritual water in your kid’s life? Dig a ditch, be a godly parent. You want God to bless your finances? Then tithe, give God the first 10% of whatever you make. Tithing demonstrates our faith and our dependence on God. You’re digging a ditch. And then He demonstrates His faithfulness.

The second principal of faith that works…

Real faith believes big but is willing to start small.

Too many Christians are not thinking big enough. “We serve a God who can do exceedingly and abundantly more than all you can ask, think or imagine.”  It’s time to think big because we serve a big God. But when you think big you’ve got to be willing to start small. How do you dig a ditch? One shovel full of dirt at a time, you start small.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10

You start with what is in front of you. Only God can send the water, but He wants you to dig the ditches. You say, “God, we believe you can.” And then you start where you are with what you have. God loves it when we participate in His miracles because then He can see our faith.

The next morning about the time for the offering of the sacrifice, there it was – water flowing from the direction of Edom! And the land was filled with water.” 2 Kings 3:20

You have a significant need in your life, and you think…”If only”. Your greatest need becomes your biggest blessing when it drives you to depend on God. Only God can send the water but He wants you to dig the ditch. Real faith believes big but is willing to start small.


Ask yourself these three questions.

Question 1.  What is your “If only…” – What is your greatest need that can become a great blessing if you depend on God? Identify the need and make a conscious decision to turn it over to God. Jesus asks the question: “What do you want me to do for you?” Answer that question.

Question 2.  What “ditch” do you need to start digging? What action is God asking you to take to demonstrate your faith? Jesus told the lame man, “Get up. Pick up your mat and walk.” Jesus told Peter to get out of the boat. Elisha told the Kings to start digging ditches.

Question 3.  What small step can you take today? Don’t be afraid to start small. Jesus replied, “Truly, I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed…Nothing will be impossible for you.” What’s the groundbreaking step you need to take?

It’s time to dig a ditch!


Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “Faith That Moves” “You don’t have to understand fully to obey immediately. Those God uses the most are the ones who hold on to the least.” Did you obey God in area this week? Any more observations from your discussion last week?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

  • Your greatest need becomes a blessing when it drives you to depend on God.
  • Only God can send the water, but sometimes he wants you to dig a ditch.
  • Real faith believes big, but is willing to start small.

Discussion & Application

  • During this message, did a time of need come to your mind? How did that time drive you to depend on God?
  • Work through the three questions with your group and help one another with the answers.
  • Question 1: What is your “If only”? Jesus asked: “What do you want me to do for you?”  Mark 10:36 (NIV)
  • Question 2: What “ditch” do you need to start digging? Jesus said, “Get up. Pick up your mat and walk.”  John 5:8 (NIV)
  • Question 3: What small step can you take today? Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed… Nothing will be impossible for you.”  Matthew 17:20 (NIV)

Prayer Focus

Ask how you can pray for and support one another this week.

Next Steps

Grow your faith with commitment to God by reading the following Bible passages this week.

  • Day 1: 2 Kings 3:1-20
  • Day 2: 2 Kings 3:21-27
  • Day 3: James 2:14-26
  • Day 4: Zechariah 4:1-14
  • Day 5: Luke 11:1-11
  • Day 6: Colossians 3:18-25
  • Day 7: Hebrews 11:1-40

 

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When Faith Is Hard | Week 1: Faith That Moves

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Today, we are beginning a series on the life and faith of the Old Testament prophet named Elisha. If you have found that you’ve been hitting a plateau in your faith, allow this series and teaching of God’s word to build your faith.

The story starts with a prophet named Elijah. Elijah was one of the great prophets of the old testament, bold, daring, full of faith. He defeated the prophets of Baal, called down fire from heaven, turned on and off the water supply controlling a drought and raised a child from the dead. God asked Elijah to call Elisha to be his replacement,

Elisha actually performed more recorded miracles in scripture than anyone, with the exception of Jesus Christ. What’s interesting is that he wasn’t the son of a priest, or some sort of outward spiritual giant. He was an ordinary guy who was living at home with his parents, working on a farm when God called him.

He lived during the 9th century B.C. in a time when Israel was divided, there was great tension. Many people were worshiping the false god of Baal and God raised up this ordinary guy, and did something extraordinary through his life.

Our scripture focus is 1 Kings 19: 19-21:
So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?” So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

Imagine the monotony of what it would be like to plow behind a yolk of oxen every single day. You may feel a little bit like Elisha, doing the same thing day in, day out. Maybe you are going to the same job, working with the same people, and it feels very monotonous. Maybe you’re at home a lot right now, staring at the same laundry and dishes and you feel drained. It is so easy to lose your passion.

This is where Elisha was, but notice he was being faithful with the task at hand. God loves to reward those who are faithful, with the little, mundane things. When you are faithful with a little, He can trust you with much. So, even though it might not have been Elisha’s favorite thing to do, even though it could have been incredibly draining physically and emotionally, he was faithful. Then, in the middle of his faithful daily routine, God sent something new to take him from where he was into a moving place of faith and impact.

What did it mean when Elijah threw his cloak around Elisha? This cloak would have been like a coat made of animal skin or fur and was considered a covering. When Elijah put his covering on Elisha, he was symbolically saying, “that which covered me will now cover you. The mantle on me, will now be the mantle on you. As God has been working through me, now God is going to work through you.”

Now, apply this story to your life. There are two two principals of a faith that is moving and growing. You can be an ordinary man and respond to an extraordinary call.


Two Principles of Faith

  1. You don’t have to understand fully to obey immediately.

When God calls you to do something, you don’t have to understand all the details to obey immediately. When Elijah put his cloak around Elisha, what did Elisha do?

Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.” 1 Kings 19:20

Notice he didn’t pray about it. He didn’t have to do a list of pros and cons. He didn’t have to consult his counselor. All he did was say, “God, I don’t know the details, but since I believe you’re in on this, I will obey immediately.”

Now, you know one of our mottos at Rock Brook is ‘Pray First’, but sometimes, you don’t need to pray about it. Sometimes you don’t pray, you just obey. You don’t have to pray about it and question God, until He’s given his full answer.

We have a desire to understand fully before we’ll make a move. But God is often strategically vague in his directions about your future. You want details, and God would look at you often and say, “You can’t handle the details. If I showed you everything, you wouldn’t show up. I’m just showing you the next step.”

God often will guide even with just one word. Just one powerful word, and that needs to be enough to go on. In the Old Testament, whenever God was giving Moses direction, you could summarize the directions in one word. “Moses, go.”

Go.

“Abraham, go. Go to the land I will show you.”

In the New Testament, Jesus was walking on water. Peter said, “Jesus, if that’s you, tell me to come.” And Jesus gave him one word. What was the word? He said “come.”

You may hear one word from God. Your marriage may be struggling right now and you’re thinking about cashing it in, and you hear one word and that one word is “stay.” You don’t have to understand completely to obey immediately. You stay.

You or someone you love might have a health situation and it doesn’t look good, and God gives you one word and it’s “trust” and you hang on that word and you obey.

You may have a business or ministry idea and you’re trying to figure out all the ‘hows’ and ‘whens’ and you’re trying to understand it all while God is saying, “just start.” You don’t have to understand it all first.

Maybe you’ve been around the church or watching for a while and you’re kind of starting to grow with God but you’re still observing. And God may give you one word, “commit.”

You may be praying about the future of your family and you hear the word “adopt” or “foster.” You’re like, “wait, wait, what age and from where, domestic or international? Boy, girl? I don’t understand.” You don’t have to understand everything to take the next step.

You may be dating someone and God has not given you peace about the relationship. Your one word may be “break-up.” You don’t have to understand everything to do what God tells you to do.

2. Those God uses the most are the ones that hold on to the least.

So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant. 1 Kings 19:21

These were the animals that brought Elisha his livelihood. The bible says he slaughtered them and made a bonfire out of the plowing equipment. Then he set out to follow Elijah and he became his servant.That is a faith that moves and grows. It’s almost like he’s saying, “I’m burning plan B. There is no plan B. There’s only obey God.”

Often times in scripture, when people are so moved by God they make big moves of commitment to follow him. Whenever Jesus encountered Peter for the first time Peter was having a bad fishing day. Jesus told him to throw his nets down on the other side of the boat. Peter said, “Master we’ve been working hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I don’t understand, but I’ll do it.”

And he caught so many fish, the nets started breaking. Peter falls down, “Whoa, who are you? This is amazing; I am a sinful man. You’re the Lord,”

And Jesus looked at him and said, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will fish for people.” And scripture says something that is just as crazy as the “burn the plows and kill the cows.”

So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:11

Contextualize that to your life. Leave you job, your comfort, you neighborhood, and everything to follow Him. At some point God is going to speak to you and give you a plow burning faith. God is going to call you to leave where you are and go where He wants you to go. There are some times when you’re so convinced that you just burn the bridge back, because you’re not turning back because something has happened in you and you’re never going to be the same. You can’t go back because God is calling you forward.

Here are a few examples of people in our church that have been called by God:

  • A couple lived in another town and had very successful jobs and loved where they lived but God was leading them to move so they could serve their parents in their old age.
  • A strong Christian family loved to go to their lake house in the summer. One day their nine year old daughter asked, “Why don’t we love God in the summer?” At that moment they realized they didn’t serve anybody, make a difference, or worship in the summer. The summer became about their enjoyment. They sold the boat and the lake house.
  • A man was struggling with pornography and while he was able to overcome for awhile, his devices because a stumbling block. He eventually got rid of all of his devices except for a flip phone and an open desktop computer.
  • A man used to drop his kids off at Rock Brook for Kids but knew he was being called to serve there as well. He put it off for long enough, but eventually decided to sacrifice his time and scheduling conflicts and now he is a part of kids salvations, teaching them, and instilling in them the things of God. He is making a mighty, eternal impact.

Maybe today the Holy Spirit is reminding you to be faithful and consistent with the mundane things, or the little things in your life, so you can be ready for God to give you more. Maybe for you there is a sin holding you back, and the Holy Spirit is leading you to burn that plow. Maybe for you God has set something on your heart and called you to it, but you have yet to make a move.

You don’t have to understand fully to obey immediately and those that God uses the most are those who hold on to the least.


Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “The Blessing of Honor.” Did you prioritize, praise or protect anyone to honor them this week?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

Elijah’s call on Elisha teaches us two principles of faith. 1) You don’t have to understand fully to obey immediately. 2) Those God uses the most are the ones who hold on to the least.

Discussion & Application

  • Pastor Ryland ended the message with some examples of those who made changes in their life to move forward in what God was calling them to do. What examples of commitment to God have you witnessed in your life?
  • How do you know when God is leading you?
  • Describe a time when you obeyed God even though you did not fully understand His direction. What resulted from your obedience?
  • What is God asking you to do that you need to obey immediately?
  • What else stood out to you about this message and encounter between Elijah and Elisha.

Prayer Focus

Ask how you can pray for and support one another this week.

Next Steps

What is one step of obedience you can take this week to respond to what God is asking you to do?

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The Blessing of Honor

blog.001This weekend’s all about honoring mothers. Our church has a culture of honor. It is certainly biblical. Have you ever noticed the first proverb and last proverb are about honor? Of the 31 chapters of the book of Proverbs, the first nine of them are making a case for wisdom. Making a case why it’s so important and showing different scenarios where it’s needed. Then in chapter ten the proverbs really begin.

“A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.”  Proverbs 10:1

If you read the verses on relationships in the proverbs it says the fool does this one thing…the fool despises. The fool has relationships they despise. Despise means to be in contempt of, to scorn, to disdain, to consider worthless and unworthy of honor. If you want one relational principle that can change your life; it’s the principle of honor.

Proverbs 31 honors the wife of noble character. Honor her. We want to honor every mom and woman of character who invests in others.

“Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” Proverbs 31:31

In other words, brag on her in public. We really are a culture of honor in our church and in the mid-west we have a culture of honor, but it’s a quality that’s leaving our country and people’s lives. In the name of Jesus we need to keep this quality of honor. What does honor mean?

Honor means to have value, worth, and weight. You add weight to that thing. You put value on that thing. It would make sense then when dishonor means to take lightly. It’s the opposite of weight. You didn’t put the value on it that it deserved. We need to learn, out of God’s word, this principle of honor. This is difficult because you have people in your life who you feel like they don’t deserve honor because of how they’ve treated you. But that’s not where honor begins.

Honoring begins with God’s claim on them. Not with how you see them, but how God sees them. God can see every person in their complete depravity, and in their perfect dignity at the same time. He can see everything you’ve done and at the same time see who you are in Christ. He sees all the mistakes and all the potential. Thank God, He sees us that way. Friend, if you knew how much God really loves you, it would transform everything about your life. He has made us in His image and has a claim on our lives.  Honoring begins with seeing other people the way God sees them. Why does this matter? Because God created everyone, He loves everyone, Christ died for everyone.

“From one man (Adam) he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.” Acts 17:26 NLT

So God has made all the nations and determined who they are and where they live. One area we can lose sight of honor in our culture is in how we see diversity. Diversity matters to God. God loves diversity. Where there is despising of diversity, where there is racial prejudice, it’s wrong because it dishonors God. Racial prejudice questions God’s creation. It was His idea to create the differences. When we have racial prejudice, we are saying, “God, you made a mistake. You should have made everyone to look and be just like us.”  You can hear the arrogance in that viewpoint.

We all came from the same source, anyway Adam and Eve. You did not choose when you were born, the color of your skin, who your parents are, your background, the culture, the nationality. It’s difficult to understand why people get prideful about where they’re from, what nationality, the color of their skin, or really anything else about them. You didn’t have any choice in it. It doesn’t say anything about your character. You just happened to be born to a certain family at a certain time. What a foolish thing to be prideful about. What a foolish thing to look down at someone else about.

Any time we think less of God’s creation, we’re forgetting who made us.

“What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?”  1 Corinthians 4:7 NLT 

You may secretly think you’re better than others. You’re not. It’s all a gift from God and we honor people because of who God made them to be. Here’s another principle about honor that you’ll learn in scripture…

Honoring benefits me too. Honor isn’t just for the person on the receiving end, but also for the people on the giving end. It has more of an affect on us than it does on them. The way you treat your mom, dad, boss, government leaders, spouse and family to the degree that you honor them determines how much you can receive from them.

It was said of Jesus in Mark 6 that when He went back to His hometown that He couldn’t do many miracles there because people saw Him as average and normal. Not as the Son of God all powerful. The way they saw Jesus determined how much they could receive from Him. How you honor God determines what you receive from Him. How you honor people determines what you can receive from them.

“Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise—“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:2-3

If you honor them it will go well with you. Wow. God takes this seriously. There’s no contingency of their parenting. You don’t have to say what they did was good. When you’re in a courtroom with a judge, you say, “Your honor” to them, regardless of how well you know them or who they are. You honor the seat they sit in. Here’s a third thing about honor….

Honor is decided not deserved. Meaning, we are not going to wait for you to deserve it.

Honor is given.

We’ll give it anyway. If you buy into this, coming your way is coming the honor test. If you buy into this, you’re going to have a chance to honor someone who you don’t feel deserves it. Try something…give it to them anyway. They don’t have to have received it. You can make the choice without them receiving it.

“Submit yourselves [because they deserved it? No.] for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. [How?] Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”  1 Peter 2:13-17

During this time, the religious and government leaders were not good people. They didn’t have a good king at that point. They didn’t have to like the king, they didn’t even have to obey him. In fact, God says not to obey an authority when it goes against the gospel. But they could do that in a respectful way.

You’re going to have to do that in all your relationships by the way. You’re not going to agree with someone all the time about everything. We don’t agree with ourselves all of the time, let alone everyone else. While you’re going one way to follow God there’s going to be times your friends, your family, your sister, your brother, or your parents are going to go a different way. There’s a place where Jesus says that His presence will divide family.

You’ll have someone in your life choose a lifestyle that you and your faith don’t agree with. If it doesn’t agree with your God, don’t align with them. Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise your convictions to be compassionate. You don’t have to agree with someone to honor them. This is a biblical principle for you.


On Mother’s day, what a great day to renew this principle of honor.

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”   Romans 12:10 

Honor everyone. Put the weight and worth above yourself. How do you do that? You honor someone anytime you…

1. Prioritize them

When you put God first, you honor Him. When you put others before yourself, you honor them. When you put your family above your own interests, you honor them. When you make time for someone, you honor them. When you’re in line at the grocery store and there’s only so much of the product you’re looking for, but you don’t cut in line, you let those before you go first. When you don’t fight and argue, but you let others ahead. That’s honor. Proverbs 3 tells us how to honor God.

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops.” Proverbs 3:9

This is not a only a money principle, but this is a first principle. You are doing this right now. You said, before I do anything else this week, I’m going to put God first, put church first, and worship. The message translation puts it this way.

Honor GOD with everything you own; give him the first and the best.” Proverbs 3:9 MSG

Whenever you put God first in something, you honor him. Today, you put your mom before others, it honors her. That’s what these special days are about. Mothers Day, Memorial Day, Fathers Day, it’s a day we set aside that we all put that person before others. Yes, we are to honor them often in our lives, but it’s special when everyone takes a day to prioritize them. Another way to honor someone has to do with how we speak to them and about them.

2. Praise them

Honor has a language. You lift people up. Not only when they’re around you, but even when they walk away.

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.”  James 3:9-10

God puts value on them and you devalue them, He takes it personally just like we would if someone talked about someone close to us.

“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”

This should not be…Does that sound like your mom? This should not be. Honor has language. How you speak of others matters.

We need to honor people with our mouths.

We need to stop the gossip. As a husband and a son today, I want to challenge you to have the things you say about your wife and your mother be encouraging, even when they’re not there. Don’t fall for some trap to put them down at work, put them down in small group, don’t speak death over your relationships and then be surprised when they die. Speak life and know that it will make a difference.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”  Ephesians 4:29-30

We can’t afford for the Holy Spirit to be grieved in our life. We need Him more that we’ve ever needed Him before. Honor has a priority and a language. Prioritize them. Praise them.

3. Protect them

Anything of real value, you protect it. This is an action step. You don’t just speak it, you do it. After the flood receded, the Bible says that Noah planted a vineyard, made some wine, got naked and drunk. One of his three sons walked in and saw him. He, then, went out to his brothers and said, you’ve got to see dad. He was mocking his dad. Noah was a good man who did a bad thing. The other two bothers got a blanket over their shoulders and walked in backwards so they couldn’t see him and covered him up.

They protected his weakness. They didn’t cover up his sin. We don’t need to cover up sin, but we do need to protect weakness. We know what you did and we’re not hiding it, but we’re not going to let you get hurt anymore. We’ll stand with you and see you through this. You’ll overcome and be better. The devil’s not going to finish what he started here, we’ll protect you. That’s how you protect somebody.

Let’s take it one step further. You should also protect the honor of the name of Jesus. In a culture that is laughing and picking on Christianity we will not be disrespectful, but we will stand up for the honor of the one we serve. We will take a stand for Jesus Christ.

“He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” John 7:18

The motivation for this message today is you.  It’s not even the person on the receiving end. Maybe this week you could say something to your parents or your boss, to express your honor. Even if you don’t like the way they’re doing things, that you’d honor them. Test it…see how much better it will make your life.

The more I value something the more I value from it. You get what you give. The more I value my job, the more I value from it. The more I value my church, the more I value from it. The more I value God, the more I value from God. You get what you put into it.


 

Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “TAKE YOUR STAND.”

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

Honor is important to God because when we show honor to someone, we recognize God’s claim on them—they are made in His image and are eternally important to Him. By showing honor, we add value, worth or weight to someone. We show honor by prioritizing, praising and protecting others. Honoring someone not only agrees with God’s claim on them, but it also blesses us.

When we dishonor someone, we take God’s claim on them lightly. It’s important to remember that, while respect is earned, honor is given. It’s a choice to see someone from God’s perspective and treat them accordingly.

Discussion & Application

  • Prior to this message, what was your view of honor? How has this message helped you understand why we honor one another?
  • What are some examples of how we can prioritize people as an expression of honor?
  • Read aloud James 3:9-10: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” James 3:9-10 What are ways that we can embrace the language of honor and praise one another?
  • How can we protect the people in our lives just as two of Noah’s sons did when they found him naked and drunk in his tent?

Prayer Focus

Pray that God would help us to put other people first and honor the people in our life. Ask God to help you see others from His perspective—how to show them honor based on who they are in Him and not what they deserve.

Next Steps

Speak words of life and take hold of Ephesians 4:29-30 which says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”  Ephesians 4:29-30

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Eternal Realities | Week 4: Take Your Stand (Spiritual Warfare)

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:10-11 NIV

You have a spiritual enemy. His name is Satan, he hates God, he hates that you give Him glory. His motivation is get glory away from God so he is plotting and scheming to hurt you.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12 NIV

There is another realm. Another reality. Your battle is not against other people. Your battle is against the powers and the principalities of this dark world.

We live in a physical world; and yet, there is a spiritual world that is just as real. You’ve felt it. Deep down, you know this. Embrace this truth.

We have to learn this important principle, that what we see with our physical eyes in the physical world is not all that there is.  There is a spiritual world that is just as real, and even more powerful than what takes place in the physical world.  Where forces of good faces the forces of evil, where the Kingdom of Light wages war against the kingdom of darkness.

We call it spiritual warfare. For the Christian, spiritual warfare simply means this:

Spiritual warfare is the leveraging of everything that God promises against everything that opposes God’s purposes.

You take your stand with the promises of God, to leverage them against what the enemy is trying to do to oppose God’s work in your life and those around you.


What You See Is Not All There Is

We learn a few important principles about these battles from scripture. In fact, if you’re going through a battle right now. You need to remember this:

You are not alone in your battles

In fact, there’s an interesting account recorded in scripture. In the book of 2 Kings, chapter 6, starting in verse 15 there is a story of when Israel was at war against the king of Aram. There was a servant, who was in a dialogue with a man of God.

“When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. ‘Oh, sir, what will we do now?’ the young man cried to Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:15 NLT

The man was afraid. He looked out and he saw the enemy forces everywhere. There were horses and warriors. There were all sorts of troops, and he felt they were way out numbered.

“’Don’t be afraid!’ Elisha told him. ‘For there are more on our side than on theirs!’ Then Elisha prayed, ‘O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!’ The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.” 2 Kings 6:16-17 NLT

God gave him a glimpse into the spiritual world and he realized there were God’s angels and warriors everywhere. He was not in the battle alone. And we have to remember, there’s more than the eyes can see.

The reality of the spiritual world teaches us another important principle, and this one’s about prayer.

Your prayers are far more powerful than you know. 

There may be times when you pray and you feel like nothing’s happening. But recognize that your prayers are far more powerful than you know.

There’s a great example of this from the Old Testament. One time, Daniel was praying and apparently nothing had happened. Then one day an angel came to deliver this message to him. The account is recorded in Daniel, chapter 10, verse 12. 

“Then he continued, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.'” Daniel 10:12 NIV

From the first day Daniel prayed, God heard the prayer and God was working even though Daniel didn’t even know it.

“‘But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.’” Daniel 10:13-14 NIV

Can you imagine this? Daniel prayed, and as soon as he prayed God heard his prayer. He released His angels, and for twenty-one days they did battle against an evil spirit.  Then Michael, the archangel, appeared and was able to hold off the evil spirits so the other angel could go to Daniel and say, “God has answered your prayer.” 

There’s a very real battle going on right now.


What Are the Devil’s Schemes?

Let’s briefly look at five specific things from scripture that the devil does to scheme against you…

  • He blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4)

Without God we easily succumb to the devil’s schemes. We can become so mired in the affairs of this world that we completely lose sight of God. He tries to blind your minds, so you do not hear the truth.

  • He steals God’s word from you (Matthew 13:19)

There may have been different times in your life where you would have heard something about God, or you would have heard His word, and it did something inside of you. Then, you got up the next day, or were distracted by something and all of those spiritual thoughts were gone. Life goes back to normal and you’re wondering, “What was that? I can’t even remember what it was.” Where did it go? Why did it vanish?  Jesus tells us why it vanished – Satan steals away the word of God.

  • He sets traps to ensnare you (2 Timothy 2:26)

The devil will use any point of vulnerability in your life to try to tempt you. If you’re trying to purify your mind, next thing you know there’s some image that creates a lustful thought. You want a healthy marriage, but some other guy or woman starts talking to you. If you’re trying to get out of debt, there’s more opportunities for debt. Wherever you’re weak, that’s where he attacks.

  • He fights to stop the work of God in your life (1 Thessalonians 2:18)

For example, if you get a vision from God to do something, watch how Satan will try to block you. You’ve got spiritual opposition, the forces of darkness trying to stop you from doing what God has called you to do. Why is it that 2000 years later and we still don’t have the gospel preached to every people group on the earth? Because it’s not easy and our enemy is trying to stop us.

Look how plainly this is spelled out in scripture:

“For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way.” 1 Thessalonians 2:18

  • He plans to destroy you (1 Peter 5:8)

We’ve got to get serious about fighting this battle spiritual battle. You can defeat temptation. You can be saved. You can have the truth and it can set you free. You can be freed from the traps. Why? Because…

The devil is subject to our God.

He trembles at our God. He already had one fight that lasted a second once God got in. When you align yourself with God, you become just as victorious as God is with the devil.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4


Take Your Stand

We’re going to fight this. The Bible says you’re in a fight. We need to learn how to fight.

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 NIV

Strongholds comes from a greek word that refers to any lie of the devil that keeps you trapped in slavery. The word demolish means to violently cast down.

There’s nothing really passive about it. You gotta buckle up and strap on, dress for battle, and realize there’s a part of your Christianity that is communion with God but there’s another part that’s in confrontation with an enemy who wants to destroy you.

Your life. Your marriage. Your parenting. Your identity. Your confidence.

Take your stand… fight your fight.

So we have to fight with these weapons. What are those weapons and how do we use them?

1. The Name of Jesus

Many of our songs just boast on the name of Jesus. Why? Because names have power.

Cancer is a powerful name. Debt is a powerful name. Addiction is a powerful name. Virus is a powerful name. Depression is a powerful name. 

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11 NIV

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 NIV

Call on the name. Use the name. Sing the name. Worship the name of God.

The demons have to line up at the name of Jesus. This is why we pray in Jesus name. It’s powerful because some people are praying in the name of another God. When we pray in Jesus name, we’re saying this prayer is powerful now, and we’re saying Jesus is the only way to God.

Declare His name is higher!

2. The Word of God

The word of God has power. All throughout the scriptures it talks about the word of God as a metaphor of a sword. A sword is an offensive weapon. It’s the only offensive weapon listed in the armor of God.

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:14-17 NIV

That’s what Jesus did when the devil came for Him. In all three occasions he responds to the devil with scripture. The Bible isn’t there just to be your lucky charm or to give warm fuzzies. It’s a weapon. Treat it like one. Quote it. Change the verses into the first person and use them as a weapon that you need to use against your enemy.

3. The Power of the Cross

The cross was to save you from your sins. But that wasn’t all of it. After Jesus died on the cross, He went to the depths. He stood the devil face to face and tells him He just paid for everything so hand over the keys!

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Revelation 1:18 NIV

The cross of Jesus didn’t just pay for sins, it conquered death. Whatever the devil can throw at you, Jesus has already won.

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Revelation 12:11 NIV

Share your testimony. You are saved. You are delivered from every attack of the devil. God has forgiven your sins. God stepped in and saved you. Healed you. Redeemed your life from the pit. Crowns you with love and compassion. He satisfies your desires with good things. Placed your feet upon a rock. Transformed you. Renewed your strength.

It’s time to take your stand – Jesus has already won the battle!


Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “Rise Above It (The Realities of Heaven)”

Any more thoughts on the discussion from that message and not being discouraged by trouble, distracted by temptations and focusing energies on what will last?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

What if you were fighting the wrong fight and focusing on the wrong thing? This week we wrap up Eternal Realities by discovering how to use our energy on the right fights and take our stand for things that will last.

Get started with scripture. Read Ephesians chapter 6.

Discussion & Application

  • Focusing on Ephesians 6:14-17… Discuss practical ways to use the weapons we have to fight against the schemes of the devil.
  • Describe a time when you realized God was doing something spiritually that you couldn’t see with your natural eyes. (Maybe God was warning you, or speaking to you, or prompting you to do something.)
  • We studied several of the devil’s goals: blinding minds, stealing God’s word, trapping you, fighting against God’s work and destroying you. What has your enemy done to hinder God’s work in you recently?
  • The Bible is one of our greatest weapons in spiritual warfare. Talk about times you have used the Word of God in an attack from the enemy. Share with the group any verses that are your “go-to” verses when you are facing struggles in your life.
  • What is an area of your life right now where you need to claim and speak God’s Word so that you can gain victory?

Prayer Focus

God has blessed you with spiritual armor and weapons that are not of this world. Your armor doesn’t cover your backside. Other believers help cover you. Spend some time covering each other in prayer.

Next Steps

As you pray this week, remember that prayer is not just communion with God, but also confrontation with the devil. Pray about the areas in your life where the devil may be attacking you that have become strongholds you are battling. Pray in the name of Jesus to fight against the devil in these areas.


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Eternal Realities | Week 3: Rise Above It (The Realities of Heaven)

We have many sources of stress in our lives. Jesus promised it would come. Some think God promised things would go well for you in life on earth and nothing would go wrong. Actually, He says…

Jesus: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

God’s solution is that you would have peace in the midst of the storm. God gives you the capacity to have an experience that actually does not reflect the circumstance you are in. One of the passages that is just beautiful is Psalm 62.

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.” Selah  Psalm 62:5-8

In these days, there’s a place you can go where there is rest for your soul. This passage highlights two main culprits of stress. Maybe you’re feeling them.

“Common people are as worthless as a puff of wind,and the powerful are not what they appear to be. If you weigh them on the scales, together they are lighter than a breath of air.” Psalm 62:9

The people we would call successful, that success is a lie. The people you think are happy because their earthly success made them happy…it didn’t. They’re probably as miserable as you. Bottom line though is if you weighed the average person and the successful person on a balance, they have the same condition. Their time is short. They are a mist.

The first culprit of stress is TIME.

A lot of our stress comes from trying to manage our time and how we try to control our time. Our time management is getting rocked right now. People are burning out, busier than they’ve ever been. Others are going crazy with time on their hands.

The second culprit of stress is MONEY.

We’re nervous about money. We’re scared, we’re stressed. It’s consuming our thinking. It’s the number one fight in a family. People actually leave God over this issue.

“Don’t make your living by extortion or put your hope in stealing. And if your wealth increases, don’t make it the center of your life.” Psalm 62:10

Don’t think wealth will make you happy. Godliness with contentment is good gain. Money will not make you happy. Money will not make you secure. There is no such thing as financial security. So, how you how to rise above those stresses and actually find peace, and find what the psalmist calls the rock in the midst of the storms and stresses?

Colossians 3:1-2 says it this way…

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at Gods right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”

We get our eyes fixed, as much as possible, on the unseen. Keep our hearts set on heaven. Lower your expectations of earth. Earth is not heaven. If you raise that expectation of earth to where everything has to work out here, you’ll stay stressed. When someone dies it’ll drive you crazy. “Well, I wanted them here.” But if you understand eternity, you say, “Well, I’m going there.” This perspective changes everything. Don’t put your hope in the wrong place. Lower your expectation of earth. Raise your expectation of heaven.

The reason we don’t get excited about heaven is we have a faulty image of it. We don’t realize how cool, how exciting, how incredible, how so much better than earth it’s going to be. Nothing is perfect on this planet because sin has broken the planet. What is heaven? Heaven is a real place. It’s not a state of being. It’s an actual place. It’s not some disembodied condition where you’re going to float around without a body. It’s not nirvana. It’s not nothingness. It’s not a dream-like state. It’s not something intangible and ethereal. It’s not a feeling. It is a real place.

The Bible doesn’t speak of heaven as a metaphor. The Bible actually measures it. Jesus took everything He said about heaven and hell literally. He showed us that on the cross. So, heaven is a real place.

“For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. 20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” Philippians 3:19-20                                      

What does this passage teach us about heaven?

Heaven is your real home. Jesus said to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moths or rust can’t destroy it, and where thieves can’t break in and steal it.” If heaven were just a state of mind, of being, consciousness, you couldn’t store anything up there. But He says you can store up treasure in a place designed for you – heaven. There’s more to life than just this life. You’re going to spend a century here at the very most, but that’s it. And really that’s a good thing. Because you don’t want to live in an imperfect place forever. You want to live in a perfect place forever. You’re going to spend to infinity and beyond in heaven. This passage says your citizenship is in heaven. What a great reminder it would be if believers carried a green card with them, because this is not your ultimate citizenship. You’re only here for a limited time. God says your ultimate home is in heaven. 

Heaven is where God lives and rules. Jesus Christ lives there. Things are under His control. It says when Jesus ascended, He went to heaven and sat down at the right hand of God the Father. Throughout the Bible heaven is called “the dwelling place of God…the house of God.”  It’s called, “the city of God.”  Thirty-one times Jesus calls it “the kingdom of God” or “the kingdom of heaven.” It’s where God not only lives but He rules. You’re not going to have to deal with dictators, or people making heaven something it’s not supposed to be. God will rule there and He will keep evil things out.

Heaven is a place where we will have renewed bodies. In heaven, you will be you. You don’t become another creation when you go to heaven. You won’t be a god. You don’t become an angel. You’re going to be a human being. You. Adopted into the family of God. God wants you to be part of His family. You will have a perfected body. In heaven there are streets, trees, water and homes. It is a physical place. And you will have a physical body.

“No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. 4 And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever. 12 Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”  Revelations 22:3-5, 12-13

What will we do in heaven? 

We will honor Christ. We will worship in heaven. Whenever scripture peels back the curtain on heaven, there’s always a song. We will sing every day. But that’s not the only way we honor God.

We will be assigned work we enjoy doing. This is a difficult area of our life. Work is hard. On top of that we lose jobs. We get overwhelmed in our jobs. We work with bad people and gossip. Some spend their whole life looking for a perfectly satisfying job. Lower your expectation of earth. Can we find fulfilling work on earth? Yes. But it will always be tainted. However, in heaven, we will reign with God. We will be assigned work that we will enjoy doing, because God understands your shape better than you do. You will be given assignments in the kingdom of God. Now, the difference is, this isn’t going to be frustrating work, it’s going to be fulfilling work.

Jesus once tells a parable and he ends with saying “Well done, good and faithful servant! You’ve been faithful with a few things; I will now put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” God says, when you get to heaven, I’m going to put you in charge of something, but it’s going to be based on how well you managed what you were given here on earth. If you’re faithful in the little that I gave you on earth, I’ll give you more fulfilling work in heaven. It’s a reason to be faithful with what we’re given here.

We will be rewarded for our faith, hope and love. When you read the Bible, it’s a little confusing until you understand that there are going to be two judgments for eternity. There’s one judgment for eternal destination. There’s one judgment for rewards. One’s a bad judgment and one’s a good one. If you have trusted Christ with your life you get to skip the sin judgment automatically.  That’s good news. Jesus already faced that judgement for you. Trust in him.

Salvation in heaven and rewards in heaven are two different things. Salvation is by grace. You can’t earn your salvation; you can’t work your way into heaven.  The only way you’ll ever get into heaven is through the grace of God. Put your faith in God’s forgiveness, His goodness, His grace. But the rewards are the things that God’s going to give back to you for making your life count for eternity.

You can waste your life, and there a lot of ways to waste it, you can spend your life, there are a lot of ways to spend it, or you can invest your life.

The greatest use of life is to invest it in that which will outlast it. That’s called living in light of eternity.

So, it’s valuable when you press in to know Christ more. You fast, pray, stay consistent in your pursuit and desire of Him and you love and respect the word of God. You help other people know Him. You’re leading small groups, connecting with people deeply and helping them find freedom in the name of Jesus. You’re sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. There’s a reward for enduring trials and hard times yet, you hang on to Jesus.

You’re going to be rewarded in heaven for the times you wanted to give up but didn’t. The Bible says, you will be rewarded in heaven for your endurance, for your resilience. What you believe about eternity will impact how you live your life today. So, how should we live if we’re going to Heaven?

If you know you’re going to heaven, you need to understand that it completely changes your value system. All of a sudden, we’re no longer living for here and now. We want to store up those rewards by our actions, generosity, thoughts, decisions, words, kindness, putting up with criticism and by responding to evil with good.  We’re not living for now. We’re living in light of eternity.

God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! 12 I dont mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…” Philippians 3:9-13

Don’t be discouraged by trouble. When you live in light of eternity, when you live in light of heaven, trouble just doesn’t bother you as much anymore. The guy who wrote this he’d been beaten, shipwrecked, put in prison, gone without food and clothing. He’d been persecuted. He’d been left for dead. He says, “These small troubles…” It’s all a matter of perspective. The trouble you’re going through right now, it’s not going to last. Even if it lasted your entire lifetime, it’s not going to last. Don’t be discouraged by trouble.

Don’t be distracted by temptations. Remember you’re just passing through so don’t let the sins of this world catch you off guard. Right now, people are falling for temptations and traps left and right. Drinking is way up. Churches are closed and liquor stores are open. New dating apps and hookup apps are going wild. Friends, the mark of maturity is the ability to delay gratification. Have you noticed that little kids don’t know the difference between “no” and “not yet”?  They don’t know that “not yet” does not mean “no.” Often times we act like a three-year old. We go into debt because we just can’t wait until we have the money. We take things on we shouldn’t and do things with the wrong timing. We dishonor the marriage bed because we just can’t wait until a wedding. Anybody who’s going to make anything of themselves has to learn delayed gratification. Don’t be distracted by temptation.

Focus my energy on what will last. What’s going to last? People. God’s purposes. His ways. The Church. Heaven. Focus your eyes and your energy on what will last.

“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:14

We need to start living in light of eternity and start thinking more on banking in heaven instead of banking here on earth. Because this is not all there is. Praise God. Jesus offers more than a better now He offers a better place.


 

Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “The Realities of Life” — Did anyone read the book of Romans? Any more thoughts on the discussion from that message?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

Life is full of stresses. But God doesn’t offer us only a better now, he offers us a better place. Heaven is the absence of everything bad, painful and evil and the presence of everything good, pleasing and glorious. What you believe about heaven impacts how you live now.

Read Philippians chapter 3

Discussion & Application

  • What are some misconceptions you’ve had about heaven?
  • Did any of this message reframe how you think about heaven? What are you looking forward to most?
  • What do you think it looks like to live believing your citizenship is in heaven?
  • How does your specific view of heaven change the way you live on earth? Which of the three points on how to live if you’re going to heaven do you need to be reminded of most?
  1. Don’t be discouraged by trouble
  2. Don’t be distracted by temptations
  3. Focus my energy on what will last

Prayer Focus

Ask the group for how you can pray for and support one another this week. Maybe this prayer could guide you or spark your prayer time. Be bold and pray with power: God, we love You. Thank You for preparing a place in heaven for us. Thank You for sending Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. Teach us to seek You and Your will on earth as it is in heaven. Help us to share the hope we have with others. Amen!!

Next Steps

What actions will you take in response to this message series?

Who can you talk to about your eternal hope?

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Eternal Realities | Week 2: The Realities of Life

Eternal Realities -what does that mean? The Bible tells us that everything you see is temporary and that eternal realities are things you don’t see.  The material or physical is not the only reality. We can’t see God, we can’t see the angels, we can’t see our souls, we can’t see God’s Holy Spirit, and we can’t see heaven.  Yet, the Bible says those things are going to last forever.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT

“1For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. 10 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 NLT

The point that the Apostle Paul is making here is that spiritual realities are more real than physical realities and we need to focus on what is real. The realities of life and the universe are all found in God’s word. So, let’s just take a moment and look at five spiritual realities.

Five Spiritual Realities

  1. God created you and loves you.

You were made by God and you were made for God. Until you understand that, life isn’t going to make sense. Because life is all about God and it’s all for His Glory. Even more, not only does He love you, He has given you the capacity to learn to love Him back, to get to know Him back.

2. You were made to last forever.

One day your heart’s going to stop and that is going to be the end of your body, but it certainly won’t be the end of you. The bible says that you and I, as human beings, were created in the image of God, which means God put us in eternity.

He has planted eternity in the human heart.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

That’s why regardless of how good things are for you on this planet or how bad things are, there’s still a longing in you and at some point in your life you think, there’s got to be more than this. The truth is there is more, much more. In fact, life is preparation for eternity.

3. God has prepared two eternal places: Heaven and Hell.

Heaven and hell are both real, literal places. Heaven is not an accident. It is a prepared place. Jesus said, “I’m going to prepare a place for you.” Where Jesus is, you get to be too. You don’t have to stay on a planet that is broken with sin. Instead, you get to spend eternity in a place of freedom and perfection with Jesus. But, hell is also a real place.

“…Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25:41

Satan rebelled against God and hell was prepared for him and his angels. Hell wasn’t originally intended for human beings. If you choose to rebel against God – just like Satan did – and you choose to reject God and instead say, “I’m going to be my own god, I’m going to do what I want to do, be what I want to be, say what I want to say,” then you choose to go where Satan goes.  

4. You get to choose where you will spend eternity.

It’s your choice. This is the same kind of choice that God gave to Israel in the Old Testament. Back in the book of Deuteronomy, God says this to the people of Israel, “Today, I’m giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse. You’ll be blessed if you obey the commands of the Lord your God. Or you’ll receive a curse if you reject Me and be your own God. In heaven, God has the right to say, “If you want to come to heaven here’s how you get here. Through Jesus Christ.”

If I reject His condition for entering heaven, He’s not being unloving, I’m being foolish.

5. There’s no second chance after you die.

You get to choose where you’re going to spend eternity. But you have to choose now while you’re alive, not after you’re dead. There’s no purgatory. Purgatory is not in the Bible. The Bible says, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”  The Bible also says, “They will go away into eternal punishment. But the righteous will go into eternal life.”The reality is there are two places.

What we’re talking about today is your eternal destiny.  If there’s anything that the cross teaches us, it’s that Jesus wasn’t inconclusive on the subject of heaven and hell. The human mind wants to default to a universalistic point of view and hope that at the end of the day we all make it. That this amazing God that we love and serve will somehow work it all out for everybody at the end of the day. To that point-of-view is a cross that stands in history. That cross tells us some important things that Jesus believed about eternity.

What the Cross Tells Us

  1. There is something to be saved from.

The cross teaches us that Jesus is a savior but if there is a savior then there must be something from which to be saved. So the question then is, what did Jesus save you from? When we talk about God we normally lean towards His grace, mercy, kindness, patience, forgiveness, greatness, and perfection. But there is also His wrath, and without the wrath of God there is nothing to look forward to, because the earth would not be cleansed of evil.

Jesus saw this title wave of God’s holiness coming to cleanse the earth of it’s sin, and He gave us a way to be spared. So that in Jesus we can be hidden and covered by His righteousness, so that when the wrath of God comes we are in the shelter of His wings. We are under the covering of the blood of Jesus, of a savior who gave His life in our place, who took on our sin and absorbed the wrath of God. 

6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! So we get saved from something and the something we get saved from is the wrath of God. 10For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” Romans 5:6-10 NIV

There will be no holding God to any questions the day of righteousness. Here comes the righteousness of God unbridled and everything in its wake is going to get covered. Even before the cross, John the Baptist said what it was all about.

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” John 3:36

So if Jesus didn’t believe the day of the righteous wrath was coming, and all evil and sinfulness would be cast out of God’s presence, why would he put his life in our place?  His belief in heaven and hell compelled Him to put Himself in peril at the highest degree. On the flip side of that, Christ has come, and out of the tomb erupted life, hope, and all kinds of opportunity for us to come and receive Christ’s covering for our sin. So in the same moment, when the holiness of God is fully released on the earth we will be covered by what Christ has issued for us when His blood was shed for us on the cross. 

2. Unchecked sin leads to a gruesome death.

Hell is a place where people go to pay the penalty for sin, it’s where they go to pay the wage, death.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 NIV

If the wages of sin were simply being a bad person, Jesus could have just come to earth and been a good teacher and then ascended into heaven. But we no that’s not the whole story. There was an incarnation, a crucifixion, a resurrection and an ascension. The cross represents the death Jesus died in our place

3. No on can make it to God on their own merit.

Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross, to save us from the wrath of God. If there is a way to get to heaven apart from that, is Jesus not the most foolish person who’s ever walked the face of the earth? Jesus did not believe in another way or a back door when he said it is finished on the cross. 

4. Hell is avoidable.

In scripture, everywhere hell is mentioned, you see God’s grace overwhelming the conversation. You see God saying, I’ve made a way, His name is Jesus. Receive Him. Accept him. Believe in Him. Cling to Him and avoid death. This is God’s heart for us. God doesn’t send people to hell, He saves them from hell. You have to step over the cross and step over a savior to go to hell.

5. Heaven is worth it.

Jesus thought the cross was worth it. It’s what made Him full of joy, endurance, patience, forgiveness and everything else!

For the joy set before him he endured the cross” Hebrews 12:2

Jesus saw the joy of being seated at the right hand of God the father. The joy of making a way so that you could be where He is, and so He endured the cross.

“And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. 13I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:11-13 NLT

God is clear that he doesn’t want anyone to perish. But you either agree with God or you don’t. Put your hope in Jesus, and choose life in Christ and trust in Him.

Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “Resurrection = Hope” — Has any part of being totally forgiven, not fearing death and having an eternal home stayed with you?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

After a looking at 2 Corinthians 4:16–5:10, we looked at five realities of life:

  • God created you and loves you
  • You were made to last forever
  • God has prepared 2 eternal places
  • You choose where you’ll spend eternity
  • There is no second chance after you die

Jesus was not inconclusive about the subject of these eternal realities, especially heaven and hell. Next week we’ll talk more about heaven, but take a moment to read a couple of these passages in scripture on the subject of hell: Matthew 10:28-33; Matthew 13:37-43; Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 9:42-48; Luke 16:22-26; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 14:9-11.

Discussion & Application

  • Growing up, what was your view of heaven and hell? What was your family’s view?
  • What stood out to you in this message? Any observations or questions regarding the five realities of life?
  • The most conclusive message Jesus ever gave us on the eternal realities of heaven and hell is the cross. Jesus is a savior. What are some of the things he saved people from? (The book of Romans was written to help answer this question. Romans 5:6-10 is a helpful passage on this.)
  • Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Are you leaning whole heartedly on Jesus, or do you still believe that some kind of good work or lack of bad works will please God and get you into heaven?
  • God made a way, doing everything possible to save people from hell including immense suffering. Why do some believe God is loving and others believe he is unloving?

Prayer Focus

Ask the group for how you can pray for and support one another this week. If you haven’t believed in Jesus work on the cross to give you eternal life, why not now? Share with your group or family that you want to make that decision.

Next Steps

If you’ve never done so, read the book of Romans in the New Testament. You could read the whole book in a week by reading two or three chapters a day. The Bible Project’s overview video of Romans is helpful for the context, purpose and time period.

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Easter | Resurrection = Hope

The greatest things we can have and give to someone else in these days is hope. The resurrection of Jesus turned the first followers of Christ from fearful people of despair into courageous people of hope. They began to spread the message of hope everywhere because when they saw Jesus had come back to life, it changed everything.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the HOPE to which he has called you…” Ephesians 1:18 NIV

You’ve got eyes on your face. You also have eyes in your heart. We all see the same things, but we see them differently. We filter the world through the things we’ve experienced, the worries we have, the good things that have happened to us, the bad things, the wounds we carry and the disappointments in our life. We pray that God’s light would flood your heart and life, in order that you may know His hope. That hope is found in the resurrection.

When Jesus Christ was crucified in 33 AD, there were only about 120 followers that were true to His message at that time. Today, 2,000 years later, 2.3 billion people in the world, claim to be a follower of Christ. How in the world did that happen? How did this little band of poor people 2,000 years ago expand into billions? In a word, the resurrection. It’s the most significant event in all of history.

Now, understand the difference between resurrection and resuscitation. They are not the same. People get resuscitated all the time. If you faint, we’ll resuscitate you. If you go into a coma, you can be resuscitated. There are people whose heart stop beating for a certain number of beats, you may be resuscitated.

Jesus’ resurrection means He was crucified by far the most brutal, torturous form of capital punishment ever invented. They beat Him, shoved a crown of thorns into His skull. They scourged Him. They made Him carry a heavy cross up the mountain. They lie Him down and nailed His hands to the cross. They didn’t want Him to suffocate on the cross, that would be too easy, so they bent His legs nail His feet so he’d have to push himself up to breathe. Death on the cross took a long time. They took a spear and they stuck it in His side to make sure He was dead. He was buried in a tomb for three days and then He came back to life. Only Jesus Christ has done that. That’s not resuscitation. That’s resurrection.

That single event changed all of history. What it did is it turned the first followers of Christ into the most hopeful, resilient amazing people the world has ever seen. Followers of Jesus are still the most hopeful people on the planet today. We have far more hope than anybody else in the world because of what Jesus Christ did at the resurrection. Anyone can have this hope. Let’s look at some legitimate reasons God gives us to have hope.

1. The first reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is we have been completely forgiven.

Jesus repeatedly said over and over, “I’m going to be handed over to be killed and on the third day, rise again.” If He didn’t come back to life, then we have every reason to doubt that His death means anything for us. But He did, and now the cross means something powerful for us.

“He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” Ephesians 1:7 NLT

His death frees you from weight, shame, condemnation, ultimately you having to die for sin. But Jesus said, “I came to die for your sins, so you don’t have to die for them.” The cross was brutal. Why would Jesus go through that? Who killed Jesus? Who is to blame for Jesus being on the cross? It wasn’t Judas, the betrayer. It wasn’t Caiaphas, the high priest. It wasn’t Pilate, the Roman governor. It wasn’t even the crowd who turned on Him and said “Crucify Him! Give us Barabbas. A man who was guilty.” It wasn’t the Roman soldiers.   

The first answer is this, God did. It was His plan when He sent Jesus to earth.

“6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. 9 He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. 10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants.” Isaiah 53:6,9-10 NLT

It was God’s plan. Yet, now notice the change in tense. “When his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of descendants.” In other words, there will be people who will follow Him. The first part is in past tense and then it goes to future. This passage was written 700 years before Jesus Christ. This is a prophecy and Isaiah, in 700 BC, is telling and predicting exactly what’s going to happen to the Messiah, the Savior, the son of God who comes to Earth, and this happened exactly how it happened. It’s the whole reason He sent Jesus to earth. If Jesus hadn’t wanted to give His life for us, it wouldn’t have happened.  Jesus said I came to earth to die. It was for that purpose.

The second answer to who put Jesus on the cross is this: we did. If we could save ourselves, do enough good things, follow God’s law, break our sin nature, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die on the cross for our sins. He was doing it so we could be saved. Even on the cross in all of that pain He wasn’t thinking of Himself, He was thinking of us. He cries out, “Father! Forgive them…”

“He was handed over to die because of our sins, [It was our penalty he was paying] and he was raised to life to make us right with God.” Romans 4:25 NLT

Completely forgiven. There’s someone reading this who, you’ve never truly known you’re forgiven, or you’ve never truly felt forgiven. You feel like if anyone knew the real you, you would be hopeless. God knows the real you. He sees it all. It’s not about you anymore. It’s about the name and the work of Jesus Christ. It’s about a cross that once and for all settled the judgment that hung over your life and now there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Be free.

2. The second reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope, we’re no longer afraid to die.

Jesus broke the power of death. Yes, without Christ, we are left for dead and we should be afraid. But Christ has conquered the grave. The individual sins that you’ve committed, that’s not even the whole issue.   Before you know Jesus Christ and are covered by His blood, any good thing you do, God could not care less about, because we’re spiritually dead. God wants you to know and trust in Jesus so the power of the resurrection can have an impact on your life. Jesus broke the power of the fear of death. The fear of death is a universal fear. Everybody has it, all over the world.

But what did Jesus do? He came back to life. If Jesus Christ had not resurrected from the dead, you would not even know that there’s life after death. You might be able to look at some evidence from creation, like the pattern and cycle of nature…actually, nature, science, anthropology, psychology, ethics, philosophy, all give us evidence of an afterlife, but you wouldn’t know. You’d have nothing to prove it. So, Jesus Christ proved it. He came back said, I’ve conquered death. There is greater life after death, and that’s good news.

Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” John 11:25 NLT

There’s hope. One of the things that’s difficult to explain without the resurrection is the sudden change in the disciples because at the crucifixion and after, they’re all scared to death. They’re running, they’re defeated, they’re depressed in despair. Three days later they’re ready to take on the Roman Empire. What happened? They had seen Jesus. They were eye witnesses. Paul lists just a few of the eyewitnesses.

“Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all… I also saw him.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 NLT

For 40 days He has multiple meetings with a lot of different people, friends. This is what’s called definitive evidence. Conclusive proof. Having hundreds of eyewitnesses would stand up in any court, anywhere in the world. This is why the church exploded. Within years, there were 30,000 members of the church just in Jerusalem, then it had grown to nearly a half a million, and it exploded all over the Roman empire. Why? Because of the resurrection, there were so many eye witnesses.

So, the Roman Empire started what was called the great persecution. For the first 300 years of Christianity, it was illegal to be a Christian. If you made the decision to say, I’m going to become a follower of Christ, you are more likely to be fed to the Lions in the Coliseum, crucified yourself or beheaded. Why did people become followers? Because of the hope. Do you know all but one of the original disciples were murdered; John was the exception. Stephen was stoned to death. James was beheaded. Peter was crucified upside down. Paul was in prison in Rome, and then he was executed. Read the last words of Paul right before he goes to the execution, “I fought the good fight. I finished the race. I’ve kept the faith.”

Christians were fearless in the face of death. Why? Because they knew there was more to life than just here and now. You know what baffled the Roman empire was how unafraid Christians were to die. Paul says it like this.

“For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” Philippians 1:21 NLT

He says, “Either way I win. If I’m alive, I’m just going to live my purpose, the purpose that God created me for. If I die, I just get to go to heaven sooner. I can’t lose.” What do you do with a guy like that? There’s someone reading right now who is terrified of dying. And it’s greatly affecting the life God is giving you now. You don’t have to be afraid. Anyone who believes in Christ, will live even after dying. Do not be afraid.

3. The third reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is we have an eternal home waiting for us.

We know as followers of Jesus; death is not the end. It’s just a transition to better things. The last of Jesus 12 disciples to die was a guy named John. He was the only one not murdered because the killings wouldn’t take. So, they exiled John to a prison colony on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean. There he wrote the last book of the Bible, which is called the Revelation. It is a vision God gave him of what the end times and heaven are like. What is heaven going to be like? Well, in a word, it’s indescribable.

It’s going to be beautiful. It’s going to be amazing. Why? Because look at the earth. This is a broken planet. This is a fallen planet. Nothing works perfectly on this planet, and yet there’s still a lot of beauty. Sun rises, sun sets, mountains, farm land, forests, and this is an imperfect planet. Imagine what a perfect place is going to be like with all the sights, sounds, tastes and the colors where it’s absolutely perfect.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT

The more we see the earth with all of its abuse, affairs, assaults, rapes, violence, racism, prejudice, war, terrorism, and pandemics; the more we need trust Jesus and look forward to Heaven. And the more we should be ready for it.

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” 1 John 2:15-17 NLT

To make it through this life, you need hope. Not just a wishful thinking, but a hope you can be certain of. You can’t be good enough to get this hope of an eternity in heaven. You need a savior. That’s what Jesus came to be. If Jesus didn’t need to die on the cross for you, then it was a total waste of his blood. There’s only one way. Before Jesus went back to heaven, He said to his followers,

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:1-6 NLT

You need Jesus Christ. The way, the truth, the life. You need an eternal home, an eternal reward that’s driving your purpose and mission. How you’re living your life? Disconnected from God? Going through the motions without meaning and hope? God knew that on Easter Sunday, 2020 you’d be reading to this. Whatever circumstance you find yourself in right now, God loves you and has been preparing you for this moment.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17 NIV

God knew you couldn’t save yourself. And He loves you. He did it for you. Believe.


Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last series, “Getting To Know God.” God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, immutable and sovereign. What do you think you will remember most from that series?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

The resurrection of Jesus turned the first followers of Christ from fearful people of despair into courageous people of hope. They began to spread the message of hope everywhere because when they saw Jesus had come back to life, it changed everything. This Easter we’ll ask why the resurrection still makes followers of Jesus the most hopeful people on the planet today.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the HOPE to which he has called you…Ephesians 1:18 (NIV)

Discussion & Application

  • Read Romans chapter 4. The first reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is we have been completely forgiven. What stands out to you about this? How does it impact you? Do you believe you have been completely forgiven?
  • Philippians 1:21: “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” The second reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is we’re no longer afraid to die. How has your fear of death changed as you know God better?
  • Jesus promised: “I am going to prepare a place for you…” The third reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is that we have an eternal home waiting for us. How does knowing your eternal home and reward is waiting for you in Christ change how you live now?
  • What are some other reasons the resurrection gives us hope? His power… His love… His purpose in our lives… Can you think of some more?

Prayer Focus

Ask the group for how you can pray for and support one another this week. Who in your life needs the hope of the resurrection? Pray for them.

Next Steps

Write out a thank-you note to God. Thank Him for loving you first, forgiving you, for sticking to His promises in the past. Thank Him for the promises that give you hope for tomorrow and an eternal home in heaven.

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Getting To Know God | Week 5: Letting God Be God

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Our God knows everything (omniscience), He’s everywhere (omnipresence), He’s almighty (omnipotence) and He’s unchanging (immutability). This week we’re looking at another character quality, God’s sovereignty. God’s sovereignty is a natural consequence of His omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, and immutability.

“Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.” 1 Chronicles 29:11 NIV

Sovereignty simply means that God is in control. He’s in control of everything because He created everything. Anything man makes comes from resources God created. When He wants to overrule it and do a miracle, He overrules it. The Bible says everything is moving toward a focus, that there is a plan, a purpose, a climax that history is moving toward.  God is in control of our lives. You might not always live like it, but deep down you know…

Scripture says that God’s sovereignty decided when and where you were going to be born. It’s God who marked out your appointed time in history. The Bible says God has decided already which natural abilities and gifts you were going to have; you didn’t deserve or earn. The fact that God is sovereign essentially means that He has the power, wisdom, and authority to do anything He chooses. Whether or not He actually uses that control in any given circumstance is a completely different question.

We tend to assume that, if God is not directly, overtly, purposefully driving some event, then He is somehow not sovereign. That’s a cartoon version of sovereignty depicting a God who must do anything that He can do, or else He is not truly sovereign. But God does not operate that way all of the time. Do you always exert the full measure of that control? No. Sometimes you let a child run with a decision you wanted them to make differently. Sometimes you let an employee run with an idea you don’t love. Same with God. He is in control of His control.

God is not the only one with power and authority in our world right now. Satan has some power and authority in the current world system in which we exist. Satan rebelled, was cast down to earth, and he’s powerful. The Bible calls him the god of this age, or the prince of this world. Meaning, he has some dominion, by tempting people and commanding demons, but he is not equal to God, and he’s under the sovereign control of God. But God has made it clear that there is only one way to escape the power of Satan’s dominion, and that is through God’s son, Jesus Christ.

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14 NIV

Obviously, the enemy knew this plan for Jesus to come and live the perfect life we could never live and to die our death in our place, to pay for sin and to rise from the dead defeating death and the grave. Satan used all the power he had to try and stop him. He tempted Jesus so that Jesus couldn’t be a sinless offering, it didn’t work. There’s only one King. That’s King Jesus. Not prince Jesus, King Jesus. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The name above every name. This is why Jesus speaking of the cross He was about to bear, declared victory:

“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” John 12:31 NIV

Jesus had the last word when He spoke on the cross, it is finished. Jesus has the last word in your life. And now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. So, when the enemy comes to lie to you about who you are, you can remind him that there is one who is completely sovereign and our hearts are set on Him and our mind will stay on Him and through the power of His name our hope will not be shaken.


Pause and have a SELAH moment focusing on the sovereignty of God.


If God is in control of everything, do we even have a choice?  Is there really any freedom?Yes there is freedom. But it is limited.  There are boundaries, parameters of which you cannot go beyond. Because you are a human being you have freedom of choice, but there are limitations. Let’s say you are going to take an ocean liner to cross the ocean. While you’re on this trip, you could have many choices you’re free to make; you could get on the first deck, the second deck, or the third deck. You could watch movies, sleep, eat food, play shuffleboard, or swim. You could do many different things — lots of freedom on the boat but there is nothing you could do that would alter the ultimate destination of that ocean liner. 

The Bible says God gives you freedom to choose the way you want to live, the way you want to act, but once you make those choices you are no longer free. You are not free to choose the consequences. God set up a cause and effect universe. You reap what you sow. God says if you do certain things then certain things are going to be the result.

Because God is in control, our plans have a limit.  You’ve heard the phrase, “The sky’s the limit” but the fact is the sky isn’t the limit. God is.  He decides what are the limitations in your life. 

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 NIV

We need to be flexible in our plans. Let’s give you a wrong attitude and a right attitude when it comes to living with this. Wrong Attitude: Presumption When we say, “We don’t need God and we can figure it all out. We’re not going to pray about anything.”  We just assume that everything is going to go the way it’s intended to go, that’s presumption. The Bible says that since life is uncertain, we should not presume on it. 

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” James 4:13-15 NIV

A mature person is bendable to God’s plan. Mature people of faith hold their plan with an open hand. Right Attitude: Cooperation People used to write at the end of letters the initials, “DV” which stands for Deo Volente. It means, “God Willing.”  “We’re going to come see you Lord willing. We realize that ultimately our plans may be changed.” That’s a good attitude.

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NLT

Make plans but let God lead you. Since God is in control our plans have a limit. 

Because God is in control, our problems have a purpose. Life is not a series of random events that have no meaning. There are many things that happen in life that are not God’s will. Sin is not God’s will.  He doesn’t cause sin. He doesn’t even cause all your problems.  He doesn’t have to. You bring enough problems on yourself.  And other people bring enough problems on to you.  He doesn’t have to cause problems in your life for you to grow from them.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. 7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

8 You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. 9 The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:3-9 NLT

God is so good, so powerful, and wise that He’s transforming what was meant for evil into something positive to conform your character to Christ. God allows —He permits—problems. God could have kept Paul out of prison at Philippi, but He let him go to prison.  He allowed it.  As a result, the jailer became a Christian.  God could have kept Jesus from going to the cross, not have to have the crucifixion. But He allowed the crucifixion so He could do a resurrection. Don’t blame God for all the evil in the world.  God is redeeming us.

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Job 1:21 NIV

Job says, everything I have comes from God anyway.  He gave it to me; He can allow it to be taken away.  It is His right.  If you lost everything the way Job did, how would you respond? 

Joseph is an example of how you handle it when people hurt you intentionally.  Joseph was his father’s favorite son. All of his brothers got very jealous and they sold him into slavery. He was taken to Egypt and sold as a slave in a man’s house. The man’s wife tries to seduce him. He won’t give in so he’s accused of rape.  He’s put in prison and he spends years in prison, dwindling away.  Joseph had to be saying, “Where is God in all of this?  What did I do to deserve this?”  If we were Joseph we’d be saying, “Why, God?” But he was exactly where God wanted him to be. 

God was in control and God was working through circumstances and situations. He didn’t cause it but He allowed the brothers to sell him in to slavery.  Later on, Joseph rose to a position of prominence in Egypt and there was a great famine.  Because of his wisdom both Egypt and Israel were saved. Later he came face to face with the very brothers that tried to hurt him.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20 NIV

We need to look past the pain and try to find God’s purpose behind the pain. Some things in life we’re never going to know. But God has a plan and God is a good God. He’s in control. In 2 Corinthians, God says the temporary problems you are going through right now are minor compared to the reward you’re going to be given on the other side for how you handled them.  Paul says, “We don’t look at the temporary problems we’re going through.  We keep our eyes on the eternal things.  The things that really count.  The things that matter.” Look past the pain.  Your problems have a purpose.  And your plans have a limit. 

Because God is in control, our prayers have an impact. It’s not a waste of time to pray. The Bible says because God is in control our prayers have an impact.  Prayer works. Because God controls everything, He has the ability to answer your prayers.  If God were not sovereign then prayer would be a waste of time.  God is in charge of everything so He can change things. 

“(God)… is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” Ephesians 3:20 LB

The point is, prayer can do whatever God can do.  Over twenty times in the New Testament, the Bible says, “Ask.”  God says “Ask and I’ll show you great and mighty things that you don’t know.” Prayer does have an impact.

There is nothing beyond God’s control. Pray about it. God can control it. That is the power of prayer.  Some of you are thinking, “Since God is in control and He can do anything and He’s told me to pray, why don’t we get everything we ask for?”  Many reasons – God is not a genie. Do you realize what a mess our world would be in if God answered every single prayer of every person?  If God answered every prayer it would ruin us because we don’t know how to handle that kind of power. 

Often times there are competing prayers.  Christians pray in conflict. One Christian asks for one thing, another asks for the opposite thing. Because we don’t have total knowledge we often pray by mistake. The bottom line of why God doesn’t answer all requests is that God knows what’s best.  We need to be able to say, The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” The Bible says in I John 5:14-15 that when we pray according to God’s will then the answers come.  The attitude must become, “Lord, Thy will be done.”  This is what we want, but Thy will be done. Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Lord, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, Thy will be done.” 

There is no attribute that is more comforting to the Christian than the attribute of God called His sovereignty.  He is in control. Does it take trust? Does it take faith? Yes, but there is peace. Because God is sovereign, He has a right to call the shots in your life.  You wouldn’t even be alive if it weren’t for God.  If you’re not letting Him call the shots then you’re living in rebellion and that’s why life is frustrating.

The best decision we will ever make is to say, “God, You are sovereign. We want to cooperate with that. We recognize that You have a right to call the shots in our life and we want to cooperate with that.”  You will find so much fulfillment, meaning, purpose, satisfaction cooperating with the plan of God instead of fighting it.  We invite you to do that today. Let God Be God.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week, “Our Unchanging God” God’s love for us never changes. God’s Word never changes. God’s purpose for my life never changes. Any more thoughts or conclusions about that message?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

God is sovereign. Sovereignty simply means that God is in control. He’s in control of everything because He created everything. God is in control of our lives. Scripture says that God’s sovereignty decided when you were going to be born, and how long you are going to live. God has also decided which natural abilities you were going to have, you didn’t deserve or earn. Do we have any freedom? Yes, but it is limited. Because God is in control, our plans have a limit, our problems have a purpose and our prayers have an impact.

Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.” 1 Chronicles 29:11 NIV

Discussion & Application

  • What stood out to you in this message?
  • How is the fact that God is sovereign any comfort to you in the midst of what you’re facing?
  • Because God is in control, my plans have a limit. Read James 4:13-15. What might it look like to plan, yet cooperate with the purpose of God?
  • Because God is in control, my problems have a purpose. Read 1 Peter 1:3-9. What verse stood out to you the most? What does Peter encourage our response to trials being?
  • Because God is in control, my prayers have an impact. What are some reasons we do not pray? Has there ever been a time in your life when your prayer-life has been very vibrant? What made that time unique?

Prayer Focus

Ask the group for how you can pray for and support one another this week. Also, continue to pray for nations, state and community leaders. Pray for first responders and medical personnel.

Next Steps

Who can you encourage this Easter? How could you encourage them with the hope of Jesus Christ?

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Getting To Know God | Week 4: Our Unchanging God

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“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  James 1:17 NIV

We’re in a series about what God is like. The attributes of God. We’ve studied his omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence. This week, we are looking at what is called, God’s immutability. Immutability simply means God never changes. Everything else in creation changes except God.

“I the Lord do not change!”  Malachi 3:6 NIV


We’re going to take a Selah moment now and reflect on this. In this series we’ve just been taking a moment, before we make it about us, to worship God for who he is. We’re going to simply pause to think about and then worship the only one with immutability. God. He never changes.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  Hebrews 13:8 NIV


Today, we will look at how God’s immutability can stabilize us in the midst of all these changes and worries. They will add stability. They are things we can stay focused on in an ever-changing world.

1. GOD’S LOVE FOR US NEVER CHANGES.

We were created to be loved by God. God’s love is consistent and it is continual. One of the reasons we get frustrated with relationships is because people change.  They change from one day to the next.  “You’re not the man I married!” or “My sweet child has become this rebellious teenager. I don’t even recognize him anymore.”  That causes stress in our lives.

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”  Romans 8:35-37 NLT

POINT: We never need to doubt God’s love

No matter what happens, no matter what we do, no matter what we feel, God’s love for us never changes. We don’t measure God’s love for us by our circumstances. We measure it by the cross. We need to understand just how high, how wide, how long, how deep God’s love is.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:38-39 NLT

We always get into trouble when we doubt God’s love. So when tragedy strikes or when we pray and don’t get an immediate answer or when things don’t go our way, just remember God’s love for us hasn’t changed one bit. That is a stabilizer in life.

2. GOD’S WORD NEVER CHANGES

The Bible is not the easiest thing to read. But what we find as we learn God’s word, is that it’s unchanging. The overarching story, the accounts, the principles, are timeless.  It is always relevant, up to date, never obsolete.  Anything that man writes eventually becomes obsolete, dated. We need to build our life on something more stable, permanent and unchangeable than the current fad or therapy.

“Long ago I learned from your statues that you established them to last forever.”  Psalm 119:152 NIV

The Bible has stood the test of time because His word never changes. God has established the universe to operate on not only physical laws, but moral and spiritual laws that we cannot ignore.  If we ignore them, we have chaos. There are some things that will always be right and some things that will always be wrong.  It’s not a matter of opinion. Contrary to popular opinion God does not invent new rules for every generation. He has established them to last forever.

Satan’s temptation is always to get you to question God’s word. 

The first temptation:  Satan asks Eve, “Did God really say you couldn’t eat of that?”  He’s getting Eve to question did God really say you shouldn’t do… Today Satan still does this, but has put a little twist on the temptation. The phrase we’ll hear over and over again, “That’s your interpretation.”  When we pull up to a stop sign, how would we interpret that? How many ways can we interpret S-T-O-P. There’s no interpretation needed there. The fact is God’s word has not changed. It’s immutable.

Jesus: “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.  

26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”  Matthew 7:24-27 NLT

Jesus said there are two ways to build a house.  We can build it on sand or we can build it on a rock. If we don’t build it on a solid foundation the whole building will eventually tilt and fall over.  We’ve got to have a solid foundation for our lives. God is saying that if we build our lives on what’s popular today, what feels good today, on popular podcasts or streaming or social media, we’re building on shifting sands and we’re going to have an unstable life when the changes of life come.

If we want to have stability when the stresses of life come, we’ve got to build it on something that never changes.  God’s love for us never changes and God’s word never changes. It may seem hard, unreasonable, unpopular. But it is always the right thing to do.

Why do we spend more time filling our mind with the TV or reading the news—something we don’t believe—than filling our mind with the things we do believe, God’s word and God’s ways. It doesn’t make sense. Now, should we shut out all of that stuff completely? No, it’s good to be aware of what’s happening around us.

If we want to have stability in our life, we will fill our mind with scripture.

We don’t listen to the advice of our friends for right and wrong. They may be just as wrong as we are. But we build our life on something that will never, never change. If you want to have more stability in your life when you’re under stress memorize scripture — verses from the Bible.

Start filling your mind with things that never change and then when you need them God can bring them to mind. If you’re wondering what you should do in a situation, God will pop that verse into your mind.  You don’t always have a Bible with you.

When Jesus was out in the desert being tempted by the devil, he responded to temptation with scripture. Jesus didn’t have to pull out a Bible, He just simply said, “Satan, the Bible says ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” He had it memorized and it helped Him. The fact is if we want stability in our life, we’ve got to base it on these things that don’t change. We’ve got to build our life on rock.

3. GOD’S PURPOSE FOR OUR LIFE WILL NEVER CHANGE

No matter what happens to you, in you, through you, God’s purpose will never, never change.

God is at work in human history. What is the world coming to? It’s coming to the very climax that God has planned from the very beginning.  Many are saying the time we’re in is the end right now. The Bible doesn’t give us a time, it gives us some signs. And while we don’t know when the end is, those signs are good reminders to prepare. That’s what the New Testament encourages us to do, even when things are good. Fortunately, I’m on the winning side. If you’re a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, that’s good news. His purpose remains.

But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.  Psalm 33:11 NIV

Do your plans ever change?  How often do they change? Why do your plans change so much?

Two reasons: One, because you don’t have the perspective or foresight to know everything that’s going to happen. When you get more information and know something different it changes your plans. The other reason your plans change is maybe you don’t have the power to implement the changes you had intended to do. Ran out of time, money, energy, effort – whatever, so your plans change. Since God is omniscient—God knows everything—and since He’s omnipotent—God has all power—His plans never have to change.

What does that mean for our life? If God created us and loves us and has a purpose for us, what does this mean for our life? God does not have a Plan B for our life.  Think of the biggest sin you’ve ever committed, that thing you regret the most. Then think of the biggest disappointment you’ve ever had. Do you think God knew about those in advance before you ever did them?

Yes, He did. And he still went thru with creating you and still has a plan.

“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.”  Romans 8:28 NLT

That means no matter what has happened in your life your destination is still plan A. God has not changed His mind and God’s purpose for your life has not changed.  God knows everything that’s going to happen in your life and He’s fit it all in to work for good in your life. Even the mistakes and sins you commit that are wrong and bad,

          Here’s God’s purpose for us… To make us like Jesus

Right after Romans 8:28, it says God’s plan for your life is to become like Jesus Christ. That we would learn to think like He thinks and feel like He felt and act like He acts. How can we cooperate with this plan? It begins with salvation. For two thousand years there is only one way to get to know God and that’s through Jesus Christ His son. Jesus said “I am the Way” — “I’m not a good way, the best way, one way, — but the way”. God’s invitation to you has never changed.  He wants you to come to Him and establish a relationship with His Son Jesus Christ.

“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.”  Romans 10:9 NIV


How are we going to respond to life’s stressful changes?

We can’t prepare for them because they aren’t predictable. What’s going to be the source of stability in your life? Three things to remember when you’re under stress.

1.  God will never stop loving us. 

Never.  He won’t even love you less. You won’t understand all that is going on but no matter what He’s doing, He’s acting toward you in love. That’s a stabilizer.

2.  God’s word is always right.

The advice here in the Bible is the right thing to do, even if it’s unpopular or unpleasant it is always the right thing to do. That’s a stabilizer.

3.  God’s purpose for your life is bigger than your problems.

Problems can’t change God’s purpose.  It has not changed God’s purpose for your life and it will not change what He wants to do in your life.

“Those who trust in the Lord are as steady as Mount Zion, unmoved by any circumstance.”   Psalm 125:1

That’s what I call stability.  Security, stability, confidence come from being anchored in an unchanging God.  When everything around us is changing in this throw away society where nothing remains the same, there is one thing that never changes and that’s God and these aspects of His life.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week, “Where Is God When You Need Him?” God can lift you up, calm you down, help you out and see you through. How has practicing his presence by inviting Jesus into your life, being quiet, talking to God about everything and developing the habit of praise made a difference in your life? Any more thoughts or conclusions about that message?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

Too much change creates stress in our lives. When everything else is changing we look for some stability in our lives. So, the question then becomes: Is there anything in the world that is permanent?

Is there anything that is reliable that never changes?

YES! God is immutable. Meaning, God never changes. “I the Lord do not change!”  Malachi 3:6

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,who does not change like shifting shadows.”  James 1:17 NIV

Discussion & Application

  • How is the fact that God is unchanging any comfort to you in these days of constant change?
  • God’s love for me never changes. Read Romans 8:18-39. Why is it people doubt God’s love when they face the things mentioned in this passage? Why does the Apostle Paul say we don’t need to doubt God’s love in those times?
  • God’s Word never changes. What does it look like to follow Jesus’ instruction from Matthew 7:24-27? What are some practical ways to fill your mind with scripture?
  • God’s purpose for my life never changes. God uses two primary ways to achieve the purpose of becoming like Christ in our life: Our circumstances and applying God’s word to our life. How has God used past circumstances to grow your character?
  • How do you think God could use your current circumstances to reveal your character and grow your character?

Prayer Focus

Ask the group for how you can pray for and support one another this week. Also, continue to pray for nations, states and community’s leaders. Pray for first responders and medical personnel?

Next Steps

During these times, the church can be a light for Jesus Christ. We are a church on mission. How can you simply serve or check in on your neighbors and friends at this time?

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Getting To Know God | Week 3: Where Is God When I Need Him?

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Each week in this series of posts we’re looking at a different attribute of the nature of God. 

His omniscience, God is all knowing.

His omnipotence, God is almighty.

Today we’re going to ask, “Where is God?” How would you answer that question? Some would say that God is in heaven or He is in their heart. Some people believe that God dwells in church buildings. God is much more than a weekend service. That’s why we are much more than a weekend service.

The Bible says that God is all over the place. David says in Psalm 139 that we cannot escape from God’s presence.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”  Psalm 139:7-12 NIV

It’s mind boggling to think that God never has to go anywhere, because He’s already there.

“‘Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the Lord, ‘and not a God far away? 24 Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.”  Jeremiah 22:23-24 NIV

There is no place in the universe where God is not. Theologians call this God’s omnipresence.

Omnipresence: God is everywhere

God is not limited by space and place. He is not confined to any one location. That’s a hard concept for us to imagine because we are finite creatures with a body. It is impossible for us to be in two places at once. But it’s no problem with God, because God is Spirit.

God is not limited by the physical realm. So He can be in many places all at the same time. In fact, He’s everywhere.

It does NOT mean: God is everything

That’s pantheism. Pantheism claims that a tree is God, an animal is God, the sky is God, the sun is God, you are God. Pantheism is behind many cults and false religions like Hinduism and Buddhism to an extent. Don’t confuse the Creator with His creation. God is not everything but He certainly is everywhere.

“He is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’”  Acts 17:27b-28a NIV

Fact: God is always with me, I just need to recognize it

The air around you is filled with radio waves, television waves, wifi… We’re constantly surrounded by this stuff. But we don’t benefit from them until we connect to them.

In much the same way, God’s presence is constantly available, and if you can learn to tune in to the presence of God, it will benefit your life. 

There are lots of ways to recognize and sense His presence. Reading scripture, stepping out in faith, praying, sharing your faith, singing out to Him.

Worship music doesn’t increase the presence of God, it increases our awareness of the presence of God.

Before we practice the presence of God, we are going to take a Selah moment. Selah just simply means, “pause and calmly think about that”. Weigh the meaning of what you have just read or heard.


Before we make it about us, let’s rest in the fact that God is always with us. We’re going to stop and take just a moment to pause.

Here’s an instrumental playlist you can have playing while you sit in wonder and awe of a God who is completely and eternally omnipresent.


The Benefits of God’s Presence

God is with you. God is everywhere. That is a basic theological truth, but the natural reaction to a doctrinal statement like that is… so what? 

What difference does it make in my life? Especially in times like these? If God is truly everywhere, what does that mean for me when I’m lonely, worried, tempted or discouraged? God’s presence will make a difference in those four areas if you’ll let Him.

1. When I am lonely, God is my companion

“Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress.”  Psalm 25:16 NLT

We already lived in an era where there are more people in the world than ever before, yet there are more lonely people. Now we’re expected to social distance and quarantine. So many of us are feeling lonely right now.

We were working in an office full of people, now we’re working remotely. The reality is, there are many different kinds of loneliness. There’s the loneliness of the death of a spouse or friend. There’s the loneliness of a new school, of growing old, of child who won’t listen to you, the loneliness of not being understood or the loneliness of success. 

So what do you do when you face uncontrollable loneliness and you can’t do anything about it? You recognize God’s presence and remember that God is your companion.

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you!'”  Hebrews 13:5 NIV

God is always with you. When we face a challenge, we like to have somebody with us. Remember your first day of school and you wanted your mom to go with you? We like to have reinforcements. 

When you are lonely remember that God is my companion, because He says “I’m always with you.” What’s the benefit of this?

David got lonely sometimes. In Psalms David said:

“You will fill me with joy in your presence…”  Psalm 16:11 NIV

There is still joy to be had in God’s presence today. There are benefits to God’s presence. The first one is:

BENEFIT: God’s presence lifts me up

In the midst of these rapid changes and fears about tomorrow, and in the midst of our loneliness, God can, indeed, lift us up. He can lift the despair and spirit of heaviness. God lifts us up.

2. When I am worried, God is my confidence

God told Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt into the Promised Land. Moses started making excuses, and God gave one answer to his excuses. “I will be with you.”

God’s presence will be your confidence.

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”  Isaiah 42:2-3 NLT

Some of you are going through a fire right now. Some of you are going to go through a difficulty this week, but one thing you can be certain of, God is going through it with you. 

“I am always aware of the Lord’s presence; he is near, and nothing can shake me.”  Psalm 16:8 GNT

Are you always aware of the Lord’s presence?

BENEFIT: God’s presence calms me down 

God’s presence is a stabilizer, a stress reliever.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”  Psalm 23:4 ESV

Why fear no evil? Because God is with you. God is your confidence. God’s presence calms you down.

3.  When I am tempted, God is my counselor

God is ready to help. He is ready to help you make it through the temptation.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”  1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV

When God is with you, He provides a way out. Notice that this verse says that temptations are common. We all have the same problems and temptations. If there are common problems, it means there must be common solutions in God’s Word.

BENEFIT: God’s presence helps me out

He knows exactly the struggle going on in your mind. He sees it coming before I see it coming. He knows I’m walking right into it and He’s already preparing an escape route for you to get out of it.

It’s not just by will power but His power and He’s promised to help you. No matter what temptation we face this week, temptations of fear, of purity, temptations of injustice, God is there with us to help in that time of temptation.

“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.”  Hebrews 4:16 NIV

This is a time of need, but God already knows that. He knows it all. We’ve talked about the omniscience of God. God knows everything, God sees everything, because He’s there. 

He is omniscient because He’s omnipresent. He’s all-knowing because He’s everywhere and sees everything.

God is an eyewitness to every single thing we do. Maybe in this time of distance, you feel a little lost without a weekly gathering, or accountability or your sponsor or friend or whatever it may be. Lean on those relationships as much as possible still, but also learn to lean on God like never before.

4. When I am discouraged, God is my comforter

If you’re discouraged, God is with you. Is your heart breaking today? The Lord is close to you. Where is God when it hurts? The answer to that question is He’s with you. He feels your hurt, your discouragement and when you’re frustrated.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:18 NIV

We’re going through rough times right now and some of you are ready to give in or give up and throw in the towel. Whatever you are going through, God is going through it with you. You are not alone.

His presence is there because He wants to be your comforter. God is not some impersonal force. God is not some far off power. He’s very personal and He’s right there with you.

Jesus Christ experienced these things and more. He experienced loneliness, temptation and frustration, yet he conquered those things. He did not give in and did not give up. We can look to him and he has sent us a comforter. Jesus said in John 14,

“The Father will send you a Comforter who will never leave you.”

That comforter is the Holy Spirit. Some of you are listening to this and thinking of this as intellectual truth, information to fill your mind.

Others of you know from experience what I’m talking about. You’ve been through some deep waters in life and you have felt God’s presence in your life. He has comforted you and encouraged you. He has given you the strength to keep on going.

People can have all kinds of reactions in the hard parts of life. Reactions at funerals, hosptials, or job loss. How do people make it through these kinds of things without the Lord? The reality is, many don’t.

“The Lord saved me from death; he stopped my tears and kept me from defeat. 9 And so I walk in the presence of the Lord in the world of the living. 10 I kept on believing, even when I said, ‘I am completely crushed,’ 11 even when I was afraid and said, ‘No one can be trusted.’”  Psalm 116:8-11 GNT

BENEFIT: God’s presence sees me through

God’s presence gives you the motivation to keep on going. It renews your strength, lifts up your heavy heart and gives you a new vision. 

That’s what God’s presence can do to your life, but you have to connect to it. The key to overcoming discouragement is the phrase, “I walk in the presence of the Lord.” 

How do you do that?  God is present all around us but most people are totally unaware of it. How do you walk in the presence of the Lord?

Let’s finish with four ways to practice the presence of God.


How To Practice God’s Presence

1. Invite Jesus into your life

God is around you, God is by you and He wants to be in you. He wants to put His Spirit inside of you, so you can handle the stress. 

When you feel all the pressure of life pressing in on you, you must have an equal pressure from the inside enabling you to cope. 

Whenever people get under pressure they always begin to fill themselves with something to equalize the stress: food, work, alcohol, drugs…

They put something on the inside to equalize the pressure on the outside. Yet the Bible says clearly…

“Don’t get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.” 

As you are filled with God’s presence in your life it equalizes the pressure on the outside so you can cope. You can handle this stuff, it doesn’t have to cave you in. 

The starting point is to invite Jesus Christ into your life. What Jesus has done for us on the cross has made possible for us to come in the presence of God with freedom and confidence.

“Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.”  Ephesians 3:12 NLT

2. Be quiet 

Just be quiet and don’t talk. Many people are not experiencing the presence of God in this time because they’re too distracted. They always have their radio, TV or news or some feed going.

“Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10 NIV

Several times a day, “Tune in and drop out”. 

Tune in to God’s presence and drop out of the environment around you. Just say, “God, I realize that You are present with me right now. You are by me, with me, and in me”…

Take these little breaks during the day to be quiet and recognize that no matter where you are, God is with you. As you tune in to Him, you’ll begin to be aware that He’s always there but you have to be aware of it.

3. Talk to God about everything

The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians, “Pray without ceasing.” How do you do that? 

How do you get on with life and be continually in prayer? It’s talking about maintaining a continual conversation with God. Talk to Him about anything and everything. Your needs, your concerns, your thanksgiving.

“Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”  Psalm 62:8 NIV

Pour out your heart, out loud. Pray, out loud. Read scripture, out loud. Sing, out loud. You maintain an ongoing conversation with Him at all times because you recognize that He is omnipresent.

4. Develop the habit of praise

Praise means to thank God for who He is and what He’s done for you.

“Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.”  Psalm 96:2 NIV

We move into an awareness of God’s presence. Nothing will help you become aware of God’s presence in your life faster than developing the habit of praise. Nothing helps you tune in to Him than beginning to praise God. God is always around us, He’s always present, but sometimes we sense His presence more than at other times. 

He’s equally present no matter where you are, but sometimes we sense His presence more. We talk about entering His presence through praise. That simply means to tune in or connect.

Since God is everywhere, you can praise Him everywhere. 

You can do the same things you do in a physical church building on Saturday night and Sunday morning, at home. You will have the same experience of feeling close to God during the week that you do when we’re here together on Sunday morning. 

A whole new life is about to open up to you if you will become aware that God is always with you. It will lift you up, calm you down, help you out and see you through when you become aware of that.

To those of you who are tired, discouraged, frustrated, hurting, afraid, worried, sick, or depressed…God is with you. 


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week, “What God Knows About You.” How has knowing that God knows all about your failures, feelings, future, fear and faithfulness made a difference in your life? Any more thoughts or conclusions about that message?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

The Bible says that God is all over the place. There is no place in the universe where God is not. Theologians call this God’s omnipresence. The omnipresence of God simply means that God is everywhere. God is spirit so he is not limited by space or place. He is not confined to any one location.

Now, this does NOT mean that God is everything. That’s pantheism. Pantheism says, “A tree is god, an animal is god, the sky is god, the sun is god, you are god…” Pantheism is behind many cults and false religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. God is not everything but He certainly is everywhere. God wants us to recognize his omnipresence because when we do, we are empowered knowing God is with us.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”  Psalm 139:7-12 NIV

Discussion & Application

  1. Describe a moment or two when you felt more aware of the presence of God more than others. What were the circumstances? Worship? Change? Fear?
  2. Of the four benefits of God’s presence, which one do you feel you need most? Do you need God most to, lift you up, calm you down, help you out, or see you through?
  3. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that when we are tempted God will provide a way out. What might this look like? How has God empowered you to flee from or resist temptation before?
  4. Whenever people get under pressure, they always begin to fill themselves with something to equalize the stress. It may be food, work, alcohol, drugs or something else. They put something on the inside to equalize the pressure on the outside. What might this be for you, and why is it so great to be filled with the Spirit of God?
  5. Of the four ways to practice God’s presence, which one comes most naturally to you? Which one do you need to work on?

Prayer Focus

Ask the group for how you can pray for and support one another this week. Also, pray for nations, states and community’s leaders. Pray for first responders and medical personnel.

Next Steps

During these times, the church can be a light for Jesus Christ. We are a church on mission. How can you simply serve or check in on your neighbors and friends at this time?

 

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