Monday, September 18, 2017

HOPE - How Firm a Foundation



We have spoken before that perhaps the greatest poverty is a poverty of hope. Life can be unbearably hard with so many things out of our control. Whether physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, relational, or some other issue that confronts us, we need to believe that things are going to be OK. But there is a huge difference between sunny optimism and HOPE that has a true and lasting foundation. Let’s look at the four foundational corners of our great HOPE: Honor God, Obey, Pray, Expect

Psalm 37:3-7
Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;

Things to think about:
·      We all hope for many things – I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow, I hope my big sale closes, I hope Liverpool wins this week, I hope my children come to a saving faith, I hope, I hope, I hope.  Some things we hope for are trivial, some are crucial. Sometimes “I hope” is really a synonym for “I’m worried about”. 
o   What’s something that you’re hoping for this week/month/year?

Honor God
·      In our passage it says to, “Commit your way to the Lord”
o   Proverbs 1:7 in The Message states, “Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.”
o   The first step can often be the hardest step and in this case I believe for many people this is true.  First base in Christianity is saying I’m wrong, I need to be forgiven, and I can’t do anything about apart from Christ.
§  Is/was this true for you?
§  Why do you think some people choose to thumb their noses at God?
§  What would you tell to someone who feels they don’t need Him?
o   Why must HOPE begin with committing oneself to God?
Obey
·      “Trust in the Lord and do good.”
o   By definition, if we are Christians and seeking to genuinely please God, doing good is synonymous with obedience.
o   What are some ways you can think of to “do good”?
·      The other week we looked at how “Almost” obeying God is never good enough.
§  Why is obedience critical to having HOPE?
Pray
·      “Be still before the Lord”
o   In our hectic world, being still can sometimes be the hardest thing to do.  There is no shortage of things to engage, distract or amuse us.  We are programmed to multi-task, be successful, and stay connected.
o   The problem with all of that is it doesn’t leave a lot of time to just “be still before the Lord”
§  Do you find this to be a challenge or have you found success in this area?
o   When you are able to be still, do you find it often leads you to pray?
o   Philippians 4:6 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
§  Why is prayer important to our theme of HOPE?

Expect
·      Wait patiently for Him
o   Romans 8:24-25 – “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
·      The final piece of the puzzle is in our expectation that God will do something good!
o   It is honoring to God to expect goodness, the fidelity of His promises, and His love for you.

Romans 15:13 - May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.



Monday, September 4, 2017

Almost

Ivory Soap used to have a very famous slogan, “99 and 44/100% Pure.”  That’s pretty darn pure! And for soap, that’s good enough.  But for God, "almost" isn’t the standard.  God wants all of our being, not most of it.  That doesn’t mean that he expects us to be 100% perfect, but he is looking for 100% trust in Him.  99 and 44/100% of God plus anything else equals something less than God, and God doesn’t do impure.  Let’s look at how our Belief, coupled with our Behavior defines 100% of our Being.

Acts 26:28
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”

Things to think about:
Belief
·       In this passage of Acts, Paul has been arrested for teaching the gospel (especially the resurrection). Just like with Jesus, this incensed the Jewish leaders and they had Paul arrested.  Paul has been brought before the governor and then before the regional ruler, King Agrippa.  There, Paul gives his testimony.
·      Agrippa replies to Paul’s well-articulated testimony that he is almost persuaded.
o   Do you know someone who almost believes?
§  Jesus is a good teacher, a good man, one of the best in all history but…
§  There’s a lot I do believe about the Bible but I just can’t get over…
§  Christianity would make a lot more sense to me if…
o   Why is almost not enough?
·      Jesus said in Matthew 6:24 that you cannot serve two masters.  You can’t be mostly for God but also have a love for money.  You will end up loving the one and hating the other.
o   Why doesn’t a composite philosophy or faith work?
·      Jesus is really clear on this point in John 14:6 - “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." 

Behavior
·      Not only does God want us to fully trust in in Jesus, He also wants us to fully obey Him.
·      The classic example of partial obedience is found in 1 Samuel 15 with King Saul's response to God's direction.
o   The direction – “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”
o   The action – “But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.”
o   The rationalization - “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”
·      Why is Saul’s “almost” obedience not good enough?
o   When do we “but in” on God’s directions to do things our way and not His?
o   How can we recognize these situations and not deceive ourselves?
Being
·      When our Behavior aligns with our Belief then our Being is His
o   James 1:22-25, “ Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
o   Mark 12:29 - Jesus gives the greatest commandment – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
§  This is ALL we have to give and thanks be to God that is just enough!