Category: Sunday Sermons

Props to Peter

Sunday Sermon 1.16.21

What would compel a person to step out of a boat that is in a storm?

As a sailor, who enjoys sailing the coastline of Southern California, this question gripped me, “Why would anyone leave a boat in the middle of a storm?” Consider it, why?

The foundation story for this question is found in Matthew 14:22-34, where Peter, a new follower of Jesus, aboard a fishing boat (sail boat) was, along with his other disciple buddies caught in a fierce storm. Here are the conditions on the lake, when we pick up the story:

  • it was dark at night
  • they were far from land
  • they were being pounded by high waves
  • there were strong, opposing winds

The men on board this boat were not having a good time! In fact it was dire for them.

Again, from my own personal experience, were I aboard Lady Debra in these four conditions, I would be absolutely terrified! Which is why I was wondering why leave the boat? What could ever be so motivating that you would actually step INTO these conditions without the protection of the boat?

(I can honestly say that each of these four conditions are ones in which I would NEVER sail. I don’t sail at night and get concerned when the sun is setting and we are still out. I choose to sail, nearly always, with land in sight. High waves and strong winds are no-no’s for me. Absolutely not, no way, not me on my boat!)

The boys were in a very difficult situation that did not look good at all. The best thing coming was dawn.

As the story goes, “Just before dawn, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake”. Matthew 14:25 Or put another way, “walking on the waves.”

Now we have some good news appearing. Jesus is showing up in the midst of the storm, walking on top of its waves. A lot could be said about this, but let’s focus on the disciples, who responded with terror, thinking he was a ghost, and crying out in fear. Matthew 14:26 To them, Jesus showing up like this seemed to add to the terror of the moment. Oh no, a ghost too, we’re gonna die! We’re dead.

Jesus wasted no time, and spoke to them across the waves and in the wind and said,

“Be brave and don’t be afraid. I am here.”

Matthew 14:27 TPT

These are reassuring words, for sure! We will come back to them.

Peter, upon hearing Jesus’ words responded with a statement, that on its face, to me seems odd. He said,

“Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” (and waves and winds, in the darkness a long way from shore)

Matthew 14:28

Herein lies, our opening question. Why in the world would anyone leave a boat and step into the storm surrounding it? That’s crazy!

Well, I thought of 3 reasons why someone might do that –

  1. the ship is sinking – escaping it may save my life (remember Titanic?)
  2. suicide – taking a permanent solution to a temporary problem
  3. delusional – extreme conditions at sea causing me to see ghosts

Clearly, none of these apply to Peter and the gang. So why step out into those conditions? Why?

I can vividly imagine these conditions on the lake and the guys in the boat. I can vividly see the waves overwhelming the boat and the winds opposing their every attempt to right the boat. I can imagine the panic of darkness in this storm all the while knowing there is no land in sight or even near. This is real in my minds eye. This is horrific.

And yet Peter steps out of the relative safety of the boat and into the uncertainty of this dark storm. Why? What motivates him?

In one way, Peter’s statement back to Jesus is not unlike what many of us have said; Peter said, “if it’s you…”.

How many times have you said or heard said,

  • God, if you’re real…
  • God, if it’s really you…
  • God, if you’re in this…

That part I get, I understand because I have done it, said it. How ’bout you?

But Peter’s “conditional statement” If it’s you… then tell me to come to you…” puzzles me.

In math, the conditional statement formula is, p ➡ q. P equals the hypothesis, q equals the conclusion and the arrow shows the logical connection.

To me, I fail to see the logical connection between the two. It is not logical to come to Jesus on the high waves in this storm, yet it for sure is a conditional statement. So, what’s the connection? Why did he leave the boat and step willfully into the dark storm?

When Jesus responded to Peter’s statement, he did so by simply saying to him, “Come, join me.” Matthew 14:29

Peter made the connection and stepped into the stormy waves, not the glassy lake. Peter stepped into the roaring winds, just as the new day was dawning. Peter left the little safety he had in the storm tossed vessel in blatant defiance of all things logical. Yet, for him it made totally, logical sense to step towards Jesus on the turbulent sea.

Why?

Remember what Jesus told the guys when they first saw him on the water?

“Take courage. I am here. Don’t be afraid.”

Matthew 14:27 NIV

THAT statement is the key! THAT statement is Peter’s motivation! THAT statement was Peter’s reason for stepping into the storm and towards Jesus! THAT statement!

Peter was familiar with part of THAT statement. He’d heard about it for his whole Jewish life.

He’d heard how his ancestors had at one time called their God Elohim, (this is a title, not a name) until Exodus chapter 3, when God revealed to Moses His name as “I AM”. Exodus 3:14

He’d heard how I AM had delivered the Israelites from 400 years of slavery, sent plagues and judgment to Egypt, parted the Red Sea, delivered them from enemies, armies, threats, disease, judgment and so much more.

He’d heard that I AM was the source of all power and eternal in nature. How I AM was self-sufficient, self-sustaining. How I AM was and is and will be forever the same omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God of the universe.

He knew the name I AM. He’d heard it his whole life. He believed in I AM as the God of his ancestry.

NOW, Jesus, the one he had chosen to follow, was standing before him, declaring to him, “I AM. Don’t be afraid. Come to me.”

Peter now saw Jesus as the Almighty, omnipotent, self sufficient, name above all names, God who is in control of all things. THAT was his motivation for stepping out of the boat and into the storm. THAT was his solid ground he stepped onto when he left that boat.

How could he go wrong stepping towards I AM? There was no fear, no hesitation. When I AM says “Come to me” you step towards Him. Confident. Sure. Unflappable. Secure. Certain. Comfortable. Unshaken. Doubtless. Peaceful.

Even though “I AM” or the “tetragrammaton” appears over 6,000 times in the Bible this one, for Peter was his moment of truth. The dawning of a new day for Peter’s understanding of who he had committed his life to follow.

Although scribes through the ages could not say I AM out loud, nor fully spell it out, here was Peter walking towards the great I AM, fully able to express himself before Him and be accepted, cared for and destined for greatness

I AM brought proper perspective to Peter. Peter saw that, when he saw Jesus as the great I AM.

When you realize the great I AM is in control and calling you to come close to Him, you come close to Him, regardless of stormy circumstances, dark times, opposing winds or overwhelming waves. It makes perfect sense and is the only logical thing to do.

THAT would compel many to leave the boat and step into the storm.

So I say, “Props to Peter!” (Lord, help me.)

Go with God.

When Things Don’t Go As Expected

Sunday Sermon 1.9.21

The previous year, 2020, has provided for all of us more than ample situations or events that most certainly did not go as expected. Were we to have a race writing things down, the only thing slowing us down would be our ability to write fast and the fact that no one would really want to win the race.

And here we are only nine days into the new year and that list just keeps growing. So many things are not going as expected. Not even close.

Shoot, here in my house, we were expecting a wonderful two week visit over the holidays with our son and his new wife – we got that and more – Covid. All four of us! So we actually got a plus three week visit instead.

Here’s the thing, when your life belongs to Jesus, God uses things intended to harm you for His good.

“You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.”

Genesis 50:20

It sometimes is a hard pill to swallow, but He really does “work all things for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

All things means just that – all things!

Personal issues, relational issues, family, work, school, politics, church, community, health, financial, supply, housing, pets, neighbors, business, government, all things!

He works in each and every situation, always, to bring good from it for us. He is God, that is who He is and that is what He does.

“No weapon, (plan or purpose, idea, threat, legislation, edict,) formed against thee shall prosper…” Isaiah 54:17

When faced with the unexpected, watch what God can and will bring from it for you. Take a look at these few bible characters to get you going:

Joseph – the earlier quote from Genesis came from his lips after his brothers dashed his dreams by selling him into slavery in Egypt. There, after many years in prison, he eventually became the Egyptian vizier, 2nd in command. His dreams fulfilled and his brothers bowing down to him.

But consider how many times things did not go as expected for him. Goodness! Our hearts bleed when we recall so many injustices and seemingly bad outcomes for him. Beaten by brothers, abandoned, sold, forgotten, imprisoned, mistreated, ridiculed, forgotten again, promoted, falsely accused of rape, imprisoned again, promoted again, respected, empowered, honored, restored to family, blessed his family and the nation.

Joseph’s life is a vivid example for us of how all things really do work for good. All things are not good, but God is able to work them for good for you, and Joseph.

Consider another – Noah. Noah was living in a horribly wicked and violent era; so bad in fact God had it with the world. Seriously. You know the story. Noah built a floating barge under God’s direction and then God sent animals to Noah to fill the barge. Noah, his family (wife, three sons and their wives) all boarded the barge and God opened the windows of heaven and fountains of the deep, and rain as never before seen, flooded the earth and destroyed all mankind.

Did things go as Noah expected? Well, first off, he had never even seen rain before, so right there we have the unexpected. How ’bout the length of time for this rain stuff? Expected? How ’bout after the rain stopped and the flood waters covered even the highest mountains? How ’bout living in an indoor zoo for over a year, with your family??? Expected?

Noah certainly faced the unexpected and he too experienced the faithfulness of God. From that time aboard the barge, God worked for the good of Noah, eventually resulting in a blessing for he and his family and an agreement with Noah’s name on it – the Noahic Covenant; which turned out as a blessing for future generations around the world.

Abraham/Isaac– When this father and son went up to the top of the mountain with all the supplies and tools to make an offering to the Lord, do you think their expectations included Isaac being tied and laid on the altar? Could a father imagine holding a knife over his son, ready to slice his throat as he would an animal?

Why would a father do such an unexpected thing?

“Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”

Hebrews 11:19

What followed? God worked it for good and revealed a ram, just out of sight to be used as the offering. Issac was untied as were his fears and faith in his dad, not to mention Jehovah God. Oh, and remember what God said to Abraham, “Now, because you have not withheld your only son Isaac, I will bless you and you will be the father of many nations and your offspring will be more than the sand on the sea shore and stars in the sky.” Genesis 22:12, 17

I have several more to share. But stop and think. When things don’t go as expected, what is really happening for you?

Is all lost? Are hopes dashed? Is faith gone? I hope not, but if any of those are close, then this word today is vital for you. When you hit a wall, an unexpected and firm obstacle, God is still at work on your behalf, bringing to you a bigger, broader purpose than what you see in the immediate. He is working whether or not you see what he is doing.

What is faith after all? “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:6

In the face of the unexpected, faith sees God working. We walk by faith, not by sight.

Joseph, Noah, Abraham and Isaac all looked beyond what their eyes saw. They looked beyond the immediate and to the One who was at work for them preparing them for the good which would eventually be forthcoming.

We could add to those men Moses, who went from basket, to burning bush, to bondage to being broke free. Did he face the unexpected, you bet. Did he have faith God was working, sometimes.

How about Rahab? This one was a business woman who happened to offer protection to some spies, and was rewarded by being the only family saved when the city was destroyed. Unexpected? Faith? Yep!

John the Baptist began his life the result of a prophetic word. He was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was even born and grew up being a voice that called the Jews to return to the Lord and His ways. He was all in serving the Lord, all the time. Bold. Brave. Brazen.

Did his life all go as expected? He was beheaded, probably not expected.

But was God at work for good even in THAT situation? It did turn out for good for him, he went immediately to heaven. And it turned out for good for the disciples and for us too. His life God used for good, even though the enemy meant his death for evil.

One last bible character, Peter. The unexpected fisher of men. The unexpected walker on water. The unexpected insightful friend, (YOU are the Christ!). The unexpected voice of Satan, (Get thee behind me, Satan.) The unexpected ear cutter-offer. The unexpected denier. The unexpected witness at the tomb. The unexpected preacher at Pentecost, saving 3,000! The unexpected healer, deliverer, teacher, prayer, leader. The unexpected martyr.

The unexpected result? This man is now listed as one of “these men who have turned the world upside down.” Acts 17:6

Walking by faith, each of these persevered through difficult situations for them. They looked beyond what they saw to a God who was at work on their behalf. The wall was not all they saw. The problem was not all they saw. The impossibility was not all they saw. The unexpected did not deter them or their faith.

When things don’t go as expected, where do you put your faith?

Please allow me to close with a recent personal, account.

My husband had to have surgery on his L4, L5 in his spine. He prepped and was ready for the in one day, out the next expected hospital stay. Seven days later, after having unexpected drug interactions, and him being unresponsive, The Rapid Response Team was called.

During his unresponsiveness, from where we were, we thought we were loosing him. It was terrifying.

But later we found out, during that time of his unexpected, unresponsiveness, he was having an out of body experience, hovering above his body, watching all that was happening to him in his room. He was talking to an old man. Den asked the man, “So I guess now is the time I get to choose whether to go or stay?” The man, whose face was only a bright light, firmly told him, “I will tell you when it’s time!”

Those words sent Dennis back to earth, into his body and into a responsive state. Those words changed his life forever. The medical team, to this day still cannot explain what happened or why.

Den was released from the hospital the next day! Less than 24 hours from when we thought we had lost him. In fact, we had gained a totally new man, spiritual fervor and dedication stronger than it had ever been. His fire and passion for life and the Lord burning brighter than it ever had. God had once again, according to his promise, been working in all things for the good of Den, for us. From this unexpected event, has come Dennis’ greatest freedom, joy, and empowering; and one of my greatest joys and desires.

Covid free and facing the unexpected together with faith.

We serve a God of the impossible. All things are possible with God and our faith will remain anchored to Him, not to events. For when circumstances appear to be harm to us, He intends it for good. He is at work, he never stops working for the good of those who love him.

When things don’t go as expected, have faith and keep going. He is at work for your good.

Go with God.

Fill Your Sails

Sunday Sermon 1.2.2021

Earlier this week I felt impressed to create and share this image –

It is a message that I cannot shake off or ignore. I believe it is a call for us all, for the new year.

Our life is like a sailboat.

It is designed to sail, to catch the wind and navigate the lakes and seas, and then return safely to dock. It is not designed to stay tied up dockside, sheltered from the wind.

Don’t get me wrong, we have spent many wonderful times at the harbor, in the slip entertaining, laughing, talking, playing, and sharing aboard our sailboat. In fact, we have spent more time dockside than sailing. But that is not what the boat is designed for. She was made to sail.

Such excitement overcomes me when I make preparations to actually go sailing. Gauges are checked, items secured, unnecessary items removed, motor started, sails checked, and untied, lines checked, etc.

Then, using the motor, we back out of the slip and head for the open ocean. Before leaving the harbor, we face into the wind to hoist the mainsail, and then continue out of the harbor. Once beyond the jetty, we cut the motor, unravel the jib and allow the wind to fill both sails. We are now sailing.

aboard Lady Debra
click to play video

The wind is the power that drives the boat along. I steer the ship based on the direction of the wind, power of the wind, and our desired destination.

Without the wind, we go nowhere. Or facing the wrong direction in the wind, we also go nowhere. “Luffing” on a sailboat means your sails are not full and the wind is not being harnessed properly.

A friend of mine and I had been out for several hours and we had tacked to return back home. As anxious as we were to return, the wind was not cooperating. There was very little wind, and we were getting nowhere fast. To top it off, we would be loosing daylight soon. Although we were loving sailing, it was now time to use the motor; for without it, we wouldn’t make it back in daylight. (which is a rule of mine)

A sailboat, has a motor, but it’s primary power is from the wind. That is the way of it’s design. The sails are used for receiving the wind, embracing the wind and thereby powering the vessel. As the sails fill up the boat moves. The sails must fill in order for the boat to advance.

If the sails don’t fill, the boat is not fulfilling it’s purpose.

Lady Debra, under motor, not sail

The mainsail and the jib (front sail) are intended to fill with the wind. In this picture, you can see, they are not even up, much less filling with wind.

Here’s the Sunday sermon part, my friends.

Jesus told his disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the gift that the Father had promised. He told them that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit, and that baptism would endue them with power. Acts 1:5,7

On the day of Pentecost, the power showed up in the form of a strong, blowing wind that filled the house where the 120 were sitting. All of them heard it and then saw dancing fire flames on one another’s heads. Acts 2:4 says that all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.

When we are born again, our spirit is regenerated, reborn, made alive. We are a new creation in Christ Jesus. We are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Our spirit is alive now, within us.

Our spirit is like the sails of our sailboat. The wind of the Holy Spirit comes to fill our sails and empower us. The power of the wind (Holy Spirit) fills us, drives us, empowers us and allows us to advance. Without the power of the wind (Holy Spirit) we get nowhere. Our sails are “luffing”, we are floundering, without direction or power.

But the Holy Spirit blows on us and fills us we are thereby empowered to heal sicknesses, diseases, and drive out evil spirits. That is what we have been commissioned to do. That is our purpose. That is our call and our destiny. That is what Jesus authorized us to do.

We have been called to cast off the bow lines, leave the safe harbor, and hoist our sails to catch the powerful winds of the Holy Spirit that are blowing.

Mark Twain had it right.

It is time to allow your sails to be filled and experience the exuberance of sailing under the direction of the Holy Spirit, going where he leads and doing what he directs. Trusting him to use you where ever you are.

Your sailboat, life is meant for sharing. Everything that you have gone through, experienced, struggled with, lost to and gained victory over is meant to be shared with others. Your Christian life of peace, prayer, Word and worship is meant to be shared.

This horrendous pandemic with all of its ramifications has provided a ripe seedbed for hungry people, seeking truth, life and hope -all of which you have and have been commissioned to share.

I call forth 2021 to be a season of sailing under the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. A season of leaving the safety of the slip and venturing into the exuberance of a purpose filled life affecting others for the Kingdom of God.

That is what you, oh great sailboat were designed for!

Hoist up your sails and let the Holy Spirit fill you a fresh for an exciting 2021.

Go with God.

Messages of Comfort Part 4 Comfort in God’s Power

Sunday Sermon 12.26.20
The fourth and final part of a series from Isaiah 40

As we wrap up our look at Isaiah chapter 40 and the comfort it brings, let’s review.

Isaiah is writing to a nation in deep do do, who’s decisions had turned them away from God and toward certain judgment and doom. He had been warning them of their pending judgment and attempting to rally them back to God. News of oppression, doom and gloom just kept mounting until chapter 40 brings a dramatic shift to the book’s focus.

Like a shaft of light and hope piercing the skies, comes the declaration of chapter 40 and it’s opening first two words – COMFORT, COMFORT.

Resounding through the dark days rings crisp and clear hope, consoling comfort and encouraging vision. In the previous weeks, we looked at these comforting messages – “Comfort in Doom”, “Comfort in Obstacles” and last week, “Comfort and Good News”.

As we close this series, we end with a powerful picture of God’s great and amazing power. The section (verses 12-14) begins peppering us with 10 questions – check some of them out –

  • who has measured the waters in the hallow of his hand?
  • or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
  • who has held the dust of the earth in a basket?
  • who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord?
  • who can instruct the Lord or be his counselor?
  • who taught Him the right way?
  • whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him?

Each of these, gives us the perspective of a mighty, powerful Creator God. His hand holds and measures the oceans of the world. The extension of his fingers, from thumb to pinky measures the length of the heavens. He needs no counselor, advisor or teacher, for within the Spirit of the Lord we find all wisdom, insight, and knowledge.

We can and should find great comfort in the power of the living God. But by choice, we must focus on his power and his abilities, for if we don’t, we too can become discouraged and weary, just like Israel did, in the midst of national upheaval.

His power is over the nations, too. Isaiah reminds us in verses 15-17 that the nations are but a drop in the bucket, regarded as dust, so small they are to our amazing God. Every national crisis, government and situation is within his firm control and grasp. There is no nation or national crisis that he is not involved with. We must be reminded of this.

Our comfort and security come from seeing him, powerful and mighty “sitting on the circle of the earth” v. 22 From knowing that he is in control and there is nothing hidden from him or outside of his power and care.

Read these verses –

“Do you not know? Have you nor heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and his people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them like a tent to live in”

Isaiah 40:21-22

” He brings princes to naught and reduces rulers to nothing.”

Isaiah 40:23

It has always been a puzzling mystery why “God allows” certain things; that I will not argue. In fact, at a recent family gathering, we had just that conversation. We can develop our responses, answers and theories, or we can flounder for a meaningful response. But what I hope we will do, regardless of the outcome of our “why God allows” questions, I hope we fall back on HE IS IN CONTROL whether or not we see or feel it.

He is in control and in the blink of an eye or snap of his fingers he can change things, fix things, heal things, or judge things. He can show up in his power at any time, in any place, in any form that he wants and do the impossible right before our eyes.

In God’s power, I find comfort. True, therein lies a fair amount of fear and respect, but mostly comfort, that regardless of what my eyes see, he is at work!

Isaiah asks the nation of Israel –

“Why do you complain? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; and my cause is disregarded by my God?”

Isaiah 40:27

Are we foolish enough to think that our God doesn’t hear our complaints, whining, cries, requests? Do we really think he isn’t aware of our every situation and bent to hear our every prayer?

Isaiah encourages us to remember, that the Lord “will not grow tired or weary”. Isaiah 40:28

God is not like a man who wears out and grows weary. He never tires of hearing from us, responding to us and working all things in our life for good. He delights in bringing from our rubble and ruins hope, and building again within our heart a safe, strong place of trust in his ways and ability to get it done.

From Isaiah chapter 40, the message of Comfort in God’s power thunders from the heavens and resonates through every human heart on the planet.

We are reminded that even young people will get tired and weary (geesh, what does that say about us “older people”?) BUT –

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar… like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:30-31

In these days of national crisis, in the midst of waves of discouragement, let us remember to look up. Look to the power of the Almighty God to “lift us up where we belong”, to see things from his perspective, the eagle overview, and to draw from his power in our fatigue and discouragement.

His power is our comfort and his promise is to increase the power of the weak. (v. 29) So what do we have to loose?

Next time you’re needing a lift, remember God’s power is over all. Look to him, talk to him, allow him to lift and empower you.

Allow him to bring you comfort in his power.

Go with God.

Messages of Comfort – Part 3 Comfort and Good News

Sunday Sermon 12.19.20 The third of a four part series on Comfort from Isaiah 40

To quickly recap, as we approach Isaiah chapter 40 contextually remember, the nation of Israel had been facing the rigid edicts and judgments of the secular rulers surrounding them. For the previous thirty-nine chapters things were pretty grim and hopeless.

Then comes chapter 40, who’s first words resound, “COMFORT, COMFORT”. The tone and direction of the remainder of the book then shifts to promises of redemption, direction and purpose.

The whole shift starts with comfort, and that is the focus of this series.

Last week we were reminded of the comfort that comes amid the obstacles that we face, and the first week we saw how comfort comes in the midst of doom and gloom.

Today, we will look at comfort along side of good news. Yay, right?

Here’s the text:

” You who bring good news, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

Isaiah 40:9-11 NIV

Notice the theme in this portion is about good news and those who bring it.

It is interesting to note that twice in this passage the phrase “you who bring good news” is used. The Message paraphrase says it this way,

“Climb a high mountain, you’re the preacher of good news.

“Raise your voice, you’re the preacher of good news.”

Isaiah 40:9 The Message

What is Isaiah saying here?

First off, he is saying that there will be those who bring good news. He is declaring it. Could it be another people coming to bring good news? Could it be from within Israel herself? It could be argued for both.

Here’s the message though, those who do bring the good news get up to a high place, raise your voice, make it loud and clear, and don’t be timid in sharing it! Loud and proud shout out the good news for all to hear. It is much needed!

What is the good news that’s worth shouting from the high places for all to hear and find comfort in?

Here is your God!

Isaiah 40:9

Look no further, lift up your eyes, God is here. God is present. You are not alone. He is with you. Here he is.

Fantastic good news to a hopeless and weary nation. Amazing reminder to a nation that God has not left them. Encouraging declaration in the midst of dark, confusing times. Israel and our nation, “take heart”, Isaiah is saying, the good news is “GOD IS HERE.”

We can declare “God is here” in our life, situation, family, job. We can bring that comforting good news to those around us. We can make it our passion and profession no matter what – “God is here!” We can be the ones who bring that good news into a situation and we can speak it to our weary and worn out hearts as often as we need.

When God shows up in a situation things change. When God shows up people change. When God is present (invited, chosen, & yielded to) look what he brings.

He comes in power, ready to take action. He is the creator of all and will come to take over, take charge, bring order back. He is the Master of the universe and all powers are subjected to Him, so when He comes, everything else must bow. (Isaiah 40:10)

He also comes bringing a couple of things with Him. He comes with payback and He comes with rewards. (Isaiah 40:10)

He is bringing with Him recompense or payback for his enemies. He will show up ready to make amends for the loss and harm suffered. When God is here, so is his promise of recompense. Don’t loose heart, God is faithful and is bringing payback for loss.

When he is present, he also brings rewards for those who love Him.

There are wages earned by those who love Him and the good news is that God’s presence is our payment. Him being with us, through it all, comforts us and is our reward.

But wait, there’s more. (that sounds like a commercial)

The comforting, good news is not only that he is here in power, but that he is here like a shepherd. He comes to his people tenderly, as a caring shepherd who would gather his lambs up in his arms and carry them close to his heart.

Note, the shepherd is hugging his sheep. Touching them, caring for them tenderly. There is no social distancing with Him. He is pulling them close and holding them tight. Speaking to them up close and personal. (without a mask on)

THAT IS GOOD NEWS and very comforting.

As powerful as God is, let’s never loose sight of His tender loving care and compassion for His people. God is love. All love, only love. Even His power is demonstrated because of love.

Today I pray you first of all hear the good news that “God is here” and then experience the comfort of His presence, care and powerful touch.

I trust too, that you will find opportunity to be the one who brings that much needed good news to others. Find that soapbox, be bold – “you’re the preacher of good news.”

Feel His warm embrace enfolding you, infilling you and rest in the assurance that He will take care of both payback and reward.

Find comfort and assurance in the good news today that, “God is here”.

Go with God.

Messages of Comfort – Part 2 Comfort in Obstacles

Sunday Sermon 12.12.20 This is the 2nd of a four part series from Isaiah 40 on Comfort

Look no further, here you will find COMFORT, encouragement, help and hope.

Regardless of the previous voices that you have been hearing, this voice, right here, is speaking comfort – freedom from pain or constraint and ease of grief or distress.

Busting into your world of distress, weariness, and discouragement is a resounding voice calling – “Make room for the Lord! Get ready. Give Him space.” Isaiah 40:3

Keep reading and I will show you how He comes to bring you comfort from:

  • depression
  • mountains of trouble
  • rough places
  • corruption

All of these situations are spoken of clearly in Isaiah 40.

Isaiah 40 represents a dramatic shift in the book and that shift starts with a comforting voice speaking into these obstacles in our life. Check it out.

To begin with, the comfort offered here comes from the arrival of the Lord. By that we mean, God’s presence actually showing up in your life and situation. Make space for Him, make way for Him, prepare for His presence in your life. He’s coming to bring you comfort.

Are you prepared for His presence to overwhelm you, right now, as you sit there? Make yourself ready, prepare your heart to receive the provision that comes with His presence. Stop, focus, breathe deeply, soak Him in.

When He arrives He promises to do several things. The first one mentioned in Isaiah 40:4 is –

“Every valley will be raised up”

Valleys are low places, depressions in the landscape. Many times surrounded by mountains and covered in shadows. Valleys can be lonely places, dark places, isolating places. Psalm 23 tells us there is a valley of the shadow of death.

These valleys represent depression. In the low places of depression, His presence will overshadow you. His presence will comfort you. His presence will raise you up. EVERY VALLEY WILL BE RAISED UP.

He wants you to be free of depression and hopelessness. He has a plan for you and a future. He knows your path and will walk with you through the valley to the other side. Make room for Him. Prepare for His presence. Place you hand in His and allow Him to lead you through your depressed valleys and raise you up.

Next He promises –

“Every mountain and hill will be made low.”

Those mountains of troublesome ideas, thoughts, and plans that are so big they can be scary… He will bring them down to size!

Mountains are huge obstacles and sometimes the thoughts within our minds are huge obstacles. Other times, the obstacle is a mountain of seemingly unsurpassable roadblocks. No matter what, whether facing the mountain and even the smaller sized hill, we can find His comfort.

In scripture mountains represent governments. So even when government seems like an obstacle, God promises to bring them down to size.

Remember Jesus told his disciples, “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move.” Matthew 17:20

I’m still working on that kind of faith. I guess I still don’t have even a tiny mustard seed worth yet, but I’m not giving up, and I am still believing. I will exercise my faith, to see His presence and comfort in the face of my mountainous obstacles.

The third promise He gives us is that He will make –

“the rough places plain”

Haven’t there been excessive rough places in your life? Rough situations, rough expectations, rough disappointments, rough relationships, rough, rough, rough. Geesh, we sound like a dog.

Bumps here and ruts there. Rough storms and issues to deal with.

Our comforting God assures us that He will make those rough, bumpy places smooth.

Just like He did for the disciples, in that boat, in the storm, He will stand next to you and speak to the storm, “Peace, be still”, and you will see smooth water where there were rough seas.

His comfort, peace and safety come when facing the rough obstacles.

Lastly, His comfort is promised when facing the obstacle of corruption. Look at what Isaiah says:

“and the crooked places plain.”

“Crooked” always represents twisted, and corrupt ways, ideas and people.

Scripture is full of judgment being called down on corruption. Corruption is never blessed or honored and even though it’s judgment may not come until the next life, it will surely come.

But it is satisfying here, in Isaiah 40, amidst this dramatic shift for the Israelites and thereby for us, that we are comforted by the fact that corruption will be made plain. Corruption will be exposed. Corruption will be judged.

These four obstacles have wormed their way into our lives: depression, mountains of trouble, rough patches and corruption. Yet, we are not without hope, consolation and comfort.

Make room in your life for the presence of the Lord. Prepare a place for Him to reside and in doing so you will find the comfort, strength and victory over these obstacles that you crave.

Don’t delay. This can be immediate and permanent.

And should you face these or any obstacles, keep exercising that faith muscle, so that you can reach the mustard seed size.

In the face of all of your obstacles, there is a voice calling to you, offering you peace and comfort.

In fact, “Tidings of Comfort and Joy”.

Go with God.

Messages of Comfort Part 1 – Comfort in Doom

This Sunday Sermon, is the first in a four part series that I have created on Comfort based upon Isaiah chapter 40.

As I look around at my family, friends, community, nation and world I see a tremendous need for comfort, consolation and encouragement.

Battered by uncontrollable edicts, changing norms, judgments, unresolved politics, and losses, people are worn down, frazzled, afraid, and even becoming hopeless. It has been difficult to find encouragement and keep ourselves propped up with positivity.

We are all in this struggle together. You are not alone in the adversity that you face nor in the weariness that accompanies it.

Therefore, today, and in the next three Sunday Sermons, I will share a message of COMFORT, because we all need the assurances and peace that come with comfort.

In the Bible book of Isaiah, the fortieth chapter begins with

” Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

Isaiah 40:1-2

Notice the double imperative that starts that text. COMFORT, COMFORT.

What we see here is a bold declaration of comfort, consolation and heartfelt pity.

Why?

Because for the first 39 chapters of Isaiah, it was all doom and gloom, judgment, and loss. In Jerusalem things were getting really, really bad. Things were constantly changing and moving from bad to worse. New leaders were showing up with prideful, arrogance and flexing their political and military muscles. Jerusalem was becoming more and more secular, oppressed and just plain worn out. It was looking very bleak.

Chapter 40 begins a new emphasis, a new direction and hope for the remainder of the book. Therefore, it is altogether appropriate to begin with COMFORT, COMFORT.

It is altogether appropriate to have comfort and doom side by side, because the message here is that comfort triumphs over doom.

It has been said, that the seeds of comfort take root in the soil of adversity. And it is true that you may not escape adversity, but you may find God’s comfort in it.

God promises to comfort his people. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”

To those in relationship with Him, who call Him their God, he promises to comfort. In Him they find peace, consolation, and tender mercies filled with strength and hope. They hear His loving voice reassuring them that their sins are forgiven and their hard service is completed. He promises double blessing and double comfort – COMFORT, COMFORT, because of the double price paid for their redemption.

The comfort He offers His own in the middle of grief, distress and doom is meant to be felt and experienced worldwide. His comfort is available to all.

So, let’s review -in the midst of doom and gloom Isaiah tells the people

  • God is speaking comfortably, to the heart, tenderly to you
  • the time for your release from doom has come
  • your debt has been paid in full
  • a great price (double) has been paid for your sins

How is that message any less important, timely or needed for us, today?

Reread those and be reassured that is God’s message to YOU too.

A dramatic shift occurs when we choose to focus on Him rather than on the doom of the day. Just like Isaiah’s shift in chapter 40, when we focus on God and His comfort and consolation rather than on trusting in the secular rulers of the day, things change for us too.

I trust you will find renewed faith to look to Him above all else and in doing so find new comfort, encouragement and strength to live in daily victory.

“Praise be to the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…”

2 Corinthians 1:2

John 16:33 -” I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

The God of all comfort wants to be your comfort. He will tenderly draw you close to Him and speak gently to your weary heart. See His love for you and power to lift you and change you with His comfort during these days of doom.

Isaiah 40 is packed full of truths that apply to our times, so I hope you will check back for the second installment of Messages of Comfort from Isaiah 40.

Next up – Comfort and Obstacles – Isaiah 40:3-8

I am wishing you tidings of Comfort and Joy this holiday season.

Go with God.

Broccoli Man

Sunday Sermon 11.28.20

As I am writing this, we just finished celebrating Thanksgiving a few days ago.

Thanksgiving is an important celebration for alot of good reasons, but I would like to suggest one – because we humans forget, we are forgetful. So to help us remember the good, positive and even bad and troublesome things, we give thanks, we intentionally choose to remember and not become a victim of forgetfulness.

We “forget” the pain of childbirth even though we swear it was so bad we will never forget.

We “forget” abuses of people and keep walking back into the same ole situation.

We “forget” the positive words and remember only the negative ones.

We “forget” the painful consequences of sin and remember the moments of pleasure.

We say we will never forget, and yet there is a generation who has never even heard.

We are a forgetful people.

The Bible uses the word forgot or one of its forms over 110 times. I’d like to share one of them with you.

” … and after looking at himself in the mirror, (he) goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like…”

James 1:23-24

In this passage, James is talking about a person who looks at himself in the mirror and afterwards goes away from the mirror and forgets what he looks like. Who does that? That’s crazy, right?

We all can remember what we look like, isn’t that why we generally don’t like even looking in the mirror in the first place? But no…

I used to explain this verse as a guy looking into the mirror, seeing he has broccoli stuck in his teeth, and walking away, doing nothing about it – sharing his broccoli smile with everyone he meets.

I sat next to a guy on an airplane once with twice this… pleasant flight…

But that’s not really accurate.

You see, in the context of what James is teaching, the mirror isn’t a glass, painted with Rustoleum Mirror Effect. He was not referring to a typical mirror, mirror on the wall.

He tells us that the mirror is actually The Word (of God), the Bible. (verses 22-25)

So here’s the picture James is creating for us – a man looks into the bible, reads it, sees an image of himself, and walks away from the mirror and forgets the image he saw.

I always thought the image the man saw of himself was “the broccoli man” – you, know, the one with sin, blemishes and tons of imperfections, including broccoli in his teeth. So of course, he’s gonna walk away and forget! He doesn’t want to remember what a sinner he really is. Duh.

Alas, again I was wrong.

Listen to what James is really trying to tell us –

“…You become like the person who looks in the mirror of the Word to discover the reflection of his face in the beginning. You perceive how God sees you in the mirror of the Word, but then you go out and forget your divine origin.

James 1:23-24 TPT

What broccoli man really sees in the mirror, the Word, is an image of his own divine origin, created in the image of God. In that reflection, broccoli man sees himself as God sees him, before the broccoli, before all sin, before the consequences of sin.

He sees the man created in the image, beauty and glory of God. No broccoli whatsoever. He sees the reflection of Jesus in him.

Now THAT’S amazing and confusing. Broccoli man looks into the Word and sees an image of himself that he doesn’t recognize. An image unfamiliar. A new creature.

In the mirror (the Word) broccoli man sees himself in God’s light:

  • God sees his heart and not his outer, physical appearance 1 Sam.16:7
  • as having a hopeful future Jer. 29:11
  • as a masterpiece for good Eph. 2:10
  • as a loved child of God 1 Jn. 3:1
  • as chosen, royal, holy 1 Pet. 2:9
  • as worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice Jn. 3:16
  • as a new creation 2 Cor. 5:17
  • as chosen, loved, compassionate, kind, humble, meek and patient Col. 3:12
  • as light the darkness Mat. 5:14
  • as a son or daughter and heir of all heavenly blessings Gal. 4:6-7
  • as being wonderfully made Ps. 139:13-16
  • as a friend of God Jn. 15:15
  • as a place where Jesus and His Spirit lives 1 Cor. 6:19-20

Holy Schmokes!!

THAT is the image broccoli man sees in the mirror. He can’t believe it. That is not who he lives with, who he struggles with, who he thinks about. That is not what plays over and over in his mind. That image is not one that sticks with him easily…

So as he walks away from the mirror (Word), it is not long before he forgets what he saw.

We are a forgetful people. We tend to easily forget the image in the mirror/Word that God is wanting to become implanted in our memory. Over and over God reminds us of how He really sees us. Time and time again, as we gaze into the Word/mirror we catch a glimpse of what He sees for us.

There are times of encouragement, confidence, and strength. Then we forget, wander away from the true image of who we are and who we are meant to be.

Not one of us will maintain the divine image of who he has meant for us to be without returning to the mirror, over and over and over and over. It is by the constant viewing of His image for us, and that image being mixed into our daily actions and thoughts, that helps us to actually remember who we really are.

You are so much more than what you see reflected in that glass mirror!

Turn to the mirror of the Word to see the truly valuable, beautiful, worthy, loved and chosen image of you, that He sees.

Don’t forget it. Work it into your thoughts, words, and lifestyle.

No more broccoli man. His image of you is way beyond that.

Lord, help us to NOT forget our divine image of who you have made us to be.

Go with God.

Overwhelmed? Discouraged? You’re not alone.

Sunday Sermon 11.14.20

1. Feeling tired and afraid, he said, “I’ve had enough!”

2. Overwhelmed with complete exasperation, ready to quit, yet emboldened.

3. Clouded in anger and self-pity.

4. Discouraged by feeling unsafe and gripped with bitterness.

5. Life, livelihood and family threatened.

6. Alone, poor, troubled, weepy and sorrowful.

7. Acquainted with sorrows and grief.

Can you identify with any of these feelings? Could they match anything you have felt lately? If they do, you are not alone.

Those statements are taken from seven different bible characters. Take a look at them again. Can you guess which person each statement identifies? I’ll wait…

Lets briefly examine each one.

  1. 1 Kings 19:3-5 – Elijah was afraid, said I have had enough and laid down and went to sleep.
  2. Exodus 32:32 – Moses was exasperated with the people’s sin, ready to quit yet he prayed for them boldly
  3. Jonah 4:3,9 – Jonah threw a pity party, and was angry with God
  4. Job 10:1; 30:15-17 -Job was filled with bitterness, hated his life, felt unsafe
  5. Psalms – David was chased down, his family affected and position lost
  6. Jeremiah 20:18 – Jeremiah never married, had no kids, was alone, ministered alone, was called the weeping prophet, and experienced trouble and sorrow
  7. Isaiah 53:3 – Jesus was a man familiar with grief and sorrow

How did you do?

More importantly, check out these men of faith and the truth about their discouragement and feeling overwhelmed. Amazing, right?

These guys are some of the greats. We love their books, and stories. And yet, they were just normal, human beings, filled with emotions, feelings, and personal struggles too. They battled their discouragement. They fought against being pulled under by their circumstances.

They weren’t anything but ordinary. (except Jesus, of course.)

In the fight with their feelings, they were honest with God, and held nothing back. They were real and raw in voicing their complaints, emotions, and prayers.

I remember when I was teaching, I was always amazed that people felt that they could not tell God their real feelings. To a man, (woman or child), through the years, in schools, jails, prisons, church, and family rooms, people felt they could not tell God they were mad, angry or hurt. They weren’t allowed to, He wouldn’t look favorably on them.

That is so wrong. God expects honesty from us. Open communication about everything.

Have you read the Psalms? Geesh, so many different authors venting feelings and fears. The prophets hid nothing in their expressions to God. They all were totally real with God and voicing their situation.

This week I was reading in the Psalms and came to Psalm 102. Here’s how it starts:

“A prayer for those who are overwhelmed and for all the discouraged who come to pour out their hearts before the Lord. “

Psalm 102 – the title, The Passion Translation

I was blown away!

Here we have in the very first verse such important information.

Remember, the titles of the Psalms, those italicized words after the chapter number and before our verse 1 are literally verse 1 in the Hebrew bible.

We would call its content the setting of the Psalm, and it is. But it is inspired, given by God, and God breathed.

In the inspired “title” of Psalm 102 we see can understand that the verses that will follow are a prayer specifically for the overwhelmed and discouraged. Written clearly, by someone who was overwhelmed and discouraged.

He was not holding back whatever discouragement, bitterness, anger, frustration, or exasperation that he had. He was sharing it all with God. No holds barred. Just open, honest, heartfelt and teary sharing with his Creator.

Without even reading any more of the verses of Psalm 102, we can find encouragement in the title. Encouragement to pour out our hearts before the Lord, even in the midst of feeling overwhelmed and discouraged.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we don’t need the twenty-eight verse chapter. That chapter, as you can imagine, is packed with gut wrenching feelings, and emotions, truths and challenges. But that is not to be my focus today.

Today, the focus is to those of us who may be feeling overwhelmed and discouraged – we are not alone.

In fact, the great Charles Spurgeon, writes this about Psalm 102, placing it in what could be a very similar political circumstance

” It is a prayer of a sufferer – it has it’s own bitterness. This is a patriots lament over his country’s distress.”

We are not alone in our discouragement, in being overwhelmed. Whether it be in politics, education, religious freedoms, family relations or personal wholeness, multitudes have fought and are fighting these battles too.

So in the midst of whatever emotions that have parked on you, realize afresh that God wants to hear your voice pour it all out to Him.

He hears us. He cares. He has compassion. He understands.

In our weakness He is strong.

We can cast our anxiety on Him. 1 Peter 5:7 We can come to Him with any and everything. Matthew 1:28-30 His grace is sufficient and his strength is perfect. 2 Corinthians 12:9

We don’t have to be anxious and troubled. Luke 10:41-42 When we come to Him He will arm us with strength. Psalms 18:3

He has promised to never leave you and that includes even when you are overwhelmed and discouraged.

You’re not alone. God is ever present for you and with you.

You’re not alone in the feelings of discouragement, anger, tiredness, loss and fear.

Pour our your prayer to Him, and experience His strength, insight, peace and grace.

You are not alone.

Go with God.

But God

Sunday Sermon 11.7.20

Those two words are like a hinge. They open things up.

When I was teaching middle schoolers, I would often say, “I love the buts of the bible.” Of course, they laughed and leaned in to listen to what in the world I meant.

I explained, that no matter what was happening in the story, when you read the word “but”, things were about to change. Get ready. Then we’d look at examples.

But, what is even more exciting and powerful is the phrase “But God“. Because with God, a whole new world opens up; no more closed, dark, hard and constricting places.

It really doesn’t matter what the situation is before the phrase, because after the phrase it no longer is domineering. Think of it… blah, blah, blah BUT GOD, and now the pivot, the hinge, things change and open up!

Let’s consider a few bible examples.

The first, Noah. He found himself living in a wicked, violent, and evil world. Genesis 6:5-9 says that in Noah’s day, man’s heart was only evil all the time. So, God’s heart was deeply troubled and he brought judgment of the earth.

Noah was to build a giant, floating, farmhouse to carry pairs of animals and his family when judgment came. You know the story, judgment rained upon the world and lifted Noah and his ark above earth and he floated on the waters.

He was in that ark for one hundred and fifty days, that’s five months, when we read this powerful lil verse:

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.”

Genesis 8:1

But God changed things for Noah.

Another good example, most of you will remember is Joseph, Jacob’s son.

Remember, he was the dreamer, who kept sharing his lofty dreams with his brothers, who didn’t take too kindly to his self exaltation. Finally, having had enough of his big dreams, they plotted to fake his death, tell their dad he was gone and get on with their lives.

It worked. Joseph wound up being sold to merchants who took him to Egypt as a slave. There, he ended up serving in the palace and became a trusted servant to Potiphar.

While in Egypt, Joseph went to jail on false accusations, was released from jail and restored, even becoming Potiphar’s Prime Minister of the land.

Eventually, after many years, Joseph’s brothers had to come to Egypt and face him. They didn’t recognize him, but when he revealed himself to them, needless to say, they were frightened, and they had good reason to be. But look what Joseph said to his brothers –

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.”

Genesis 49:20

But God changed things for Joseph.

But God. A powerful hinge, a turning point, open door.

Last week, I was reading Psalms 64, about secret plots of evil doers, wicked conspiracies, cruel words, and unjust plans. The first six verses were like reading todays news. BUT, guess what popped up in verse seven?

But God will shoot them with his arrows; they will suddenly be struck down.”

Psalm 64:7

In verse seven, after six verses of craziness, is But God, and what God will do in spite of the wicked, evil, cruel and unjust actions. But God, the hinge, the change, the open door.

It was then, that I decided to write this post, realizing no matter what happened in the coming week, the hinge, change, and door that mattered is that phrase – BUT GOD.

As believers, there is always a BUT GOD. Our circumstances, world events, death or the enemy do not get the last word – God does.

There are ample verses to support this thesis. Here are some Old Testament references. Psalm 66:19; Genesis 39:21; 45:8; 32:42; 1 Samuel 23:14; 2 Chronicles 20:15; Psalm 49:15; 73:26.

Here are some New Testament verses: Matthew 19:26; Acts 2:24; Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 1:27.

Of course the bible is filled with stories of miraculous turn abouts, stories of divine intervention. I started a list, but you could too. Just think of the stories you know and see how the hinge, But God changed things.

But even outside of the Bible we can read stories of miraculous victories because of divine intervention. In spite of insurmountable odds and statistical improbabilities, the hinge of divine intervention – But God, changed things.

You can find such stories in the annals of every war of in the world. Go as far back as you like, stay current or don’t bother at all. But know, they are there, documented and clearly But God moments.

God is always the unseen thumb on the scale tipping things on your behalf. It matters little what hardship, trouble, impossibility, danger, defeat, or lack you face. The hinge, the turning point, the change comes with But God.

Therefore, we strive to stay focused above the battle, and beyond the immediate.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart.

We fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:16, 18

But God changes things for us, too. For you, for me, for all who focus on him.

But God, the hinge to open up and unlock new hope, perspective and victory.

Be encouraged today.

Go with God.