Monday, December 11, 2017

It's a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life
Apparently I’m in a cinematic phase since this is the second week in a row we’ll be using a movie as our theme! While we won’t be focusing too heavily on George Bailey, Clarence Odbody, or Zuzu, we will be diving a little deeper into the wonderful life God tells us He will give us if we will care about the same things He cares about.  He doesn’t leave much room for misinterpretation and at the end of this study you will be given an opportunity to tap into His blessings TODAY.

Isaiah 58:10b
“…then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.”

Things to think about:
·      Sometimes we wonder why God doesn’t seem to be hearing our prayers or blessing us like we are expecting. God is an “IF/THEN” God meaning that many of His promises are linked to something we need to do in order to avail ourselves of His promises.
o   Does this sound counterintuitive at all to you?
o   Can you think of any of His if/then promises?
o   Are you in one of those places where God doesn’t seem to be hearing you or acting on your behalf?
·      What if I could promise you:
o   Hope when things look their darkest
o   Healing
o   To be called a friend of God
o   To be called blessed and righteous
o   To have an inheritance in eternity that God has been preparing since the creation of the world
o   To have your prayers answered
o   Proof your faith is genuine   
o   To have peace
·      Can you guess what might be the common thread to access all of these promises God makes in His Word?
o   Isaiah 58:6,9 - Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
o   James 2:15-16 - Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 
o   Matthew 25:35-36 -  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
§  What stands out to you about these verses?
§  Why do you think God puts such an emphasis on taking care of the poor?
·      Revelation 3:17 - You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 
·      James 2:5-7 - Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love him?  But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?  Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of Him to whom you belong?
§  Have you ever been really poor?  In light of Revelation 3:17, would you agree or disagree that we are all poor in God’s sight?
§  What has been your experience in personally serving the poor?
·      Now let’s look at some of the companion pieces to these “IF” statements:
o   Isaiah 58:8-9 - Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
o   Isaiah 58:10-11 - then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
 The Lord will guide you always;
    He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
o   James 2:18 - Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
o   James 2:22-23 - You see that his (Abraham’s) faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 
o   Matthew 25:34 - “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
·      How has the Lord gotten your attention this morning?
·      Which one of His promises sounds especially attractive to you today?
·      I said at the beginning I’d give you the opportunity to get in on His promises today, so here it is:
o   In our hometown of Cincinnati, City Gospel Mission serves over 10,000 individuals per year providing food, shelter, counseling, clothing, and most importantly, the Good News of Jesus Christ.
o   Use this link to see the kinds of things they can use all year-round but especially during this season of giving to serve the poor, the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the hopeless
o   If you have never volunteered serving the poor, it is a priceless experience.  City Gospel has many ways to serve and I can promise you it will be a blessing to you.
If you're reading this and you're not from Cincinnati, please find a local mission where you can be used to make a difference.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Make My Day

Is there anything better than an old school Clint Eastwood movie??  He’s so quotable but my all-time favorite line is, “Go ahead, make my day!”  Well, the things that make Harry Callahan’s day and the things that make God’s day are definitely not the same.  Fortunately, God doesn’t leave us guessing as to what makes His day.  The even better news is that it is well within our ability to put a smile on God’s face! Let’s look at our Scripture below and see just what makes God’s day.

Psalm 147:11
The LORD is pleased with those who worship Him and trust His love.

Things to think about:
·      I’m re-reading The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.  Like many of you, I first read it when it was published several years ago when many churches got organized around 40 Days of Purpose.    
·      Day 9 is titled “What Makes God Smile?” 
o   Pastor Rick states that our first purpose is to please God.  This chapter is on how to do that.  He uses Noah as an example who did this very well.  For more on this, see our study back in January, Yes and Noah.
·      Looking at our verse from Psalm 147, we see that there are two primary avenues that are pleasing to God:
o   Worship Him
o   Trust in His love
·      Worship
o   When you hear the word “worship”, what first comes to your mind?
§  a certain song or maybe style of music?
§  prayer
§  meditation
§  thanksgiving
o   Worship is actually so much more than these things!
§  Worship is giving to God every moment, thought, word, action to please Him
§  Romans 12:1 (Message) – “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. “
§  What are everyday, ordinary life ways you can think of to worship God?
·      At work, at home, at church, in your neighborhood
·      Which of your talents can be used to worship God?
·      How do we sometimes NOT worship God in our everyday, ordinary lives?
o   Trust in His love
§  God put a stake in the ground (literally a cross) to show YOU how much He loves YOU
·      For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
§  How can we show God that we trust in His love for us?
·      Obedience is the key here.  Our sin nature and the world around us conspire to pull us away from trusting in His love for us.
·      What are things you can think of right now that would clearly demonstrate to God your trust in His love?
o   Forgiving someone as He has forgiven you – Eph. 4:32
o   Giving back a portion of what He has given you – Deut. 16:17
o   Loving His children to show unity to the outside world – John 17:23
o   Reallocating your schedule to make more time for God’s priorities – Hebrews 4:9
o   Spending less time worrying about things and more time thanking Him for already handling it – Psalm 55:22
·      What if anything is holding you back?

So let’s make God’s day today by worshipping Him with our very lives and trusting in His love for us by being obedient to the better things He has commanded us to do.