Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Journey of Your Life

The Journey Of Your Life

Psalm 84.5-7
Blessed are those whose strength is in You,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.

There are different kinds of journeys in life. We take vacations. We make special trips, like trips to historical places or to the city. Those who have gone on mission trips have gone on a journey, Missionary Journeys like Paul, the apostle. A trip to the Holy land is referred to as a pilgrimage. 

We call the grief group online, The Blessed Hope Grief Journey.
There are the journeys of an education, the journey of learning a trade, apprentice and journeyman, master.

But life itself is a journey. I like what our District Superintendent said last week about wanting to help people age well and really enjoy and serve the LORD in the latter part of their journey.

The Word of God presents life as a journey. No other passage as the one we are looking at this morning captures the journey of life  like this one.

Pilgrimage is the Christian’s life journey to the Kingdom of Heaven or the way that God has set for us.

It begins with the word "Blessed" One of the beatitudes. You have the ones Jesus began His Sermon on the Mount with and then there are others in the scriptures.  This word comes from a root word which means to make progress, to go on and be happy.

Life can be a crescendo of glory. If you walk with the LORD, serve Him with all your heart, live by faith, share that faith with others... what Solomon said in Proverbs 4.18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.

This passage as we have seen in our Bible Reading this week and in the Bible Studies shows that the path to heaven is filled with blessings but also has it shares of difficulties and struggles and pain.

We fight the good fight of the faith Paul  tells us in his letter to Timothy, his son in the Gospel. I Timothy 6.12

Life is a journey. Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. The focus of those whose main concern is the spiritual, eternal Kingdom Of God.

Let's look at this journey of life.

1. The Blessings of This Journey -v.5

Our Strength is in the LORD.
He had all power and all authority in heaven and on earth. Our strength comes from Him.
It comes from walking with Him in communion, from drawing strength from His Word and His Spirit and prayer.
He enables us to move.  
‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.' Acts 17.28

Our Hearts are set on pilgrimage.
To exalt, to lift up to sing

Our journey, our pilgrimage
By following Jesus our lives are brought to a higher plane, a higher level
This is why we are above many of the consequences of personal sin.

It is an upward journey. We are marching to Zion, an old hymn, based on these verses:

Come we that love the Lord,
and let our joys be known;
join in a song with sweet accord,
and thus surround the throne.

We’re marching to Zion,
beautiful, beautiful Zion.
We’re marching upward to Zion,
the beautiful city of God.

Upward... Heaven, The Highway Of Holiness in this life, above living in sin, above the low base places where sin abounds, above doubts and fears.

The blessings along this journey also include singing. Pilgrimage also means as we stated to lift in song. Another old song:

Singing I Go

Singing I go along life’s road,
Praising the Lord, praising the Lord,
Singing I go along life’s road,
For Jesus has lifted my load.

The passing days bring many cares,
“Fear not,” I hear Him say,
And when my fears are turned to prayers,
The burdens slip away.

He tells me of my Father’s love,
And never slumb’ring eye,
My everlasting King above
Will all my needs supply.

While this journey is filled with blessings, sometimes Joy Unspeakable and it is an upward climb there are also valleys along the path that leads to heaven.

2. The Valley of Baca Becomes A Place of Springs. -v.6

Baca = "weeping"
a valley in Israel
Many identify it as the Valley of Achor or Rephaim

We go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death
We go through Valleys which make us weep.

Tears are the “bitter water” flowing out as a result of distressful circumstances, while the sweet water from the spring is to quench people’s thirst. It means when we are walking in the way of the cross, our tears do not flow in vain; they will eventually become a source of blessing. When we cooperate with God, accepting all circumstances with a heart of thanksgiving, and not resisting God's plan for us, our tears shall become sweet spring water. 
We have talked about many who have done this.

When we have learned our lessons, we shall be a source of comfort to those who are going through sufferings. Like the autumn rains becoming pools to quench the thirst of birds and animals. This is a picture of “sweetness coming after bitterness”, as in the story of Ruth.

Death can come expectedly or out of the natural order. It can swoop in and leave us very changed. Crushing experiences bring out sweetness or bitterness. Make it sweet!

Walt Disney
Let's never forget that this all began with a mouse.

Autumn rains... traditionally dry season

As we walk with the LORD we are refreshed in our most difficult times and then we eventually refresh others. We find by doing that we are refreshed.

3. Along The Way -v.7

Strength is given for each day and situation.
Promises of strength

Our strength will equal our days. Deuteronomy 33.25

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41.10

I am the LORD, there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you.  Isaiah 45.5

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. Isaiah 58.11

Isaiah 40:29 
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Psalm 18:32 It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.

Psalm 46.1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

We will appear before the LORD at this journey's end.
Part of the joy of this journey is what God has waiting in the end. We know what we are journeying to and how much of our life there will be a reflection of our living for the LORD here.

The judgment of Christ.

The rewards in heaven.

Eternity with Him.

Glad Reunion.

Wonderful surprises.

Faith will become sight.

No more death, crying or pain.

If you are feeling a little bad about your journey...
* One of the world’s greatest missionaries, David Livingstone consecrated his whole life for evangelizing in Africa. He lived a life of poverty and self-sacrifice, opened up the African continent to the gospel, sowing much seed, and was used greatly by God to awaken England for missions. Yet during his 23rd year on the mission field, Livingstone expressed an awful doubt believing that his ministry had been all in vain and that the mission societies were bearing no fruit after 23 years of labor. Although, in his earthly years of ministry, his labor seemed outwardly to be fruitless and ineffective, but as he persevered in being faithful in the work that God had entrusted him to do, Livingstone became a seed that fell to the ground and died, bearing much fruit in opening the mission door to Africa. Multitudes were saved because of the seeds that he sowed.

Life can be a crescendo of glory. We can be shining ever brighter until the full light of day. Maybe you have been struggling a bit. Maybe this morning God is speaking to your heart about your own journey. We can change courses. We can set our hearts with the Spirit leading to journey the rest of the way as the LORD wants us to.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Forgetting or Being Rescued

Forgetting or Being Rescued
Genesis 41.41-51; Acts 7.9-10

Genesis 41.51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52 The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

Acts 7.9 “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.

to deprive, to cause to forget

to pluck out, draw out, i.e. root out
to choose out, select, one person from many
to rescue, deliver

to take for oneself, to prefer, choose
to choose by vote, elect to office
out of, from, by, away from

For Joseph, in the beginning his sufferings had to do with him. He was 17.
Looking back over the centuries, God had much greater plans, greater than Joseph's time, all the way into our time and beyond. Joseph in his adult life came to understand the plans of God. In Genesis 50.20 he lets us know he understood.

It is amazing that Joseph did not become bitter and angry with his brothers for what they did to him. It was a horrible ordeal and after he got to Egypt it got worse.

Joseph had put a period when it came to his troubles and his family, calling them his father's household. The door was shut or so Joseph thought. But God puts commas where we out periods and He loves to write last chapters. 

As far Joseph knew from the time his brothers sold him into slavery until he met up with them when they came to Egypt his relationship with them was over. 

Each time he would think about how he got to Potipher's house or how he ended up in prison for a crime he did not commit his mind would go back to that day when they threw him in the pit and then pulled him out and sold him into slavery.

He had no idea he would see them again. When he was released and promoted he felt that sealed the deal. He looked at his new family and his new position and forgot his brothers. But God had other plans. God always does.

1. It is Natural to want to forget our bitter times.
For Joseph it was 
Being hated by his brothers
Psalm 105.17b Joseph, sold as a slave.
18They bruised his feet with shackles,
his neck was put in irons

Sold as a slave to go down to Egypt by his brothers.
The Ishmaelites were their cousins!
Their grandfather Isaac and Ishmael were both sons of their great grandfather Abraham.  

His dreams were gone (or so he thought).
He ended up serving well and then being falsely accused.
He ended up in prison. 

Genesis 39.20b But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the LORD was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

Joseph handled the injustices in his life very well. He made the best of a horrible situation. We do not hear him complaining. There is no resistance. He doesn't even proclaim his innocence when he is falsely accused. He submits to the whole process. Quite an amazing man.

When we react in that way, we leave the door open for God to work...

2. It is Supernatural for God to use the bitter times for His Glory.
David and Joseph were teenagers when they got the "Word" they would be leaders of the nation and rule supremely. 

David by anointing by Samuel
Joseph by dreams 

Both experienced suffering which resulted in separation from family. God called them aside. He worked inside their hearts. He allowed their hearts to be broken.

I firmly believe that David and Joseph being separated from their families at such a young age caused them to depend upon the LORD more, to lean on Him and taught them to learn how to stand alone. 

God always has higher purposes in our sufferings.

Let's go with the Supernatural. That does not mean being taken out of suffering but rather God working through it producing His fruit in us, making us what He wants us to be.

3. It is God's Way to Rescue us, but not always immediately.

"LORD, don't You care if we are going to drown?" Mark 4.38

Joseph had given up on his dreams. His family bowing down to him.
He had given up on his family.
"all my father's household."

God had not given up on them.
God had not given up on Joseph. 
God has not given up on you.
God has not given up on this church. Next week our DS will be here. It will be a very unique service. Let's hear what God is saying.

4. God is the God of the Ultimate.

In loving us. He has lavished His love upon us.
In maximizing His purposes in our suffering.
In using us for His glory.

It wasn't just about Joseph and David. It was about God's people... and they grew to love the people of God, to forgive, to be an example.

And not just for their generation but for generations to come...
Psalm 71.18 Even when I am old and gray,
    do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
    your mighty acts to all who are to come.

God takes those who are broken and places them in positions and places where He can work His will and wonders out for His glory.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

God Is In Control

God Is In Control

Psalm 66.7 He rules forever by His power,
    His eyes watch the nations—
    let not the rebellious rise up against Him.

We need to be reminded in these days that God is in control.

Tomorrow night's Presidential Debate at Hofstra will be the most viewed presidential debate in history.  The issues are huge. We have terrorism and unrest in places we never would have dreamed of. We can feel that things are out of control and in some realms they are but...

This is My Father's World
Last Verse:
This is my Father's world. 
O let me ne'er forget 
that though the wrong seems oft so strong, 
God is the ruler yet. 
This is my Father's world: 
why should my heart be sad? 
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! 
God reigns; let the earth be glad! 

The Psalms are among other things a medicine for the soul.  They speak to our inner being.  They can bring calm and assurance from the LORD. The Psalms give us the path upward, out of discouragement and troubling thoughts. They point us to Christ.

Psalm  66 reminds us that God is in control of our lives, the world and the future.

Our concerns lie in these realms. The world, our own lives and the future.

1. In The World

* There is Missions in This
Myrna- More Christians than communists in China today. The surest way to make something grow is to persecute it. There are missionary aspirations in this Psalm for the future, the time we are now in.

 *There is God's Involvement in the World's Affairs

He is the world's Watchman.

Psalm 66:7. He rules by His power for ever — The same power which God possessed and exerted for his people in the Old Testament, He still possesses today and is as able and ready to act for them as ever He was. He has demonstrated that to us over and over again. 

He rules by His power for ever - The idea is, that He does this constantly; in each age and generation. He never has ceased to rule; He never will. His dominion extends from age to age, and will stretch forward forever.  That unchanging power, His people may have faith in and take refuge in.

His eyes behold the nations — He sees all their secret and subtle devices, and can and will defeat them, when He sees fit. 

let not the rebellious exalt themselves] A warning to those who obstinately resist God’s will (Psalm 68:6, 18) to humble themselves rather than a prayer to God to humble them (Psalm 9:19).  God’s reproof of Sennacherib by Isaiah (Isaiah 37:23), “Against whom hast thou exalted thy voice and lifted up thine eyes on high?”

Let not the rebellious exalt themselves — Lift up their hands against God or His people. 
The wicked should fear.
His eyes behold the nations - All nations; all people. He sees all their conduct. They can conceal nothing from him. They should, therefore, stand in awe. The wicked have much to fear from One who sees all that they do, and Who has power to crush and destroy them. 

Sovereignty forever

Christ is coming to reign and anyone who resists that is in rebellion.

"they shall not be exalted in themselves for ever;''

The prowess displayed at the Red Sea is undiminished: the divine dominion endures throughout eternity. His eyes behold the nations. Even as He looked out of the cloud upon the Egyptians so does He spy watch His enemies, and mark their conspiracies. His hand rules and His eye observes. He oversees all and overlooks none. Let not the rebellious exalt themselves.

His eyes behold the nations. The root meaning of the word hku is au to shine, to examine with a bright eye; to inspect with a piercing glance, and thence to behold, for either good or evil, as Proverbs 15:3: "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." Here it is taken in an adverse sense, and means, to watch from a watch tower, to threaten from a lofty place. Ps 37:32: "The wicked watcheth the righteous; "and Job 15:22: He is waited for "from the watch tower for the sword; "that is to say, the sword is drawn above the head of the wicked, as if it threatened him from the watch tower of God. But, at the same time, there is also a reference to God's looking from the pillar of fire, and of cloud, upon the host of Pharaoh in the Red Sea. Ex 14:24.

His eyes behold the nations; the antichristian states. He sees all the idolatry and wickedness committed in them; and his eyes will be as flames of fire to destroy them, when the time is come. The allusion is to God's looking through the pillar of fire and cloud upon the Egyptians in the Red sea, and troubling them. Exodus 14:24
Over the whole world; for Christ will be King over all the earth in the latter day, Zechariah 14:9

Right now - The Great Commission is in effect Go into all the world and preach the Gospel, make disciples of all nations.
Jesus began those words with "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me..." This verse reflects those words... He rules forever by His power,
    His eyes watch the nations..."

God is watching and working powerfully all over the world.

His eyes are on the nations and His people bring light... The group from East Rockaway Church who went to Haiti and bought several goats for some families. I love it!

2. In Our Lives

There are times when we feel like things are out of control.
When tragedy comes.
When the enemy comes in like a flood.

What is going on in the world today
What is going on in nations affects us.

He overrules.
Romans 8.28 And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are the called according to His purpose. 

How He does this is amazing.
He is forever faithful.
He is the Master Weaver.
We see at this time just the backside of the tapestry.

God is in control...
3.Yesterday, Today and Forever 

He rules forever by His power

for ever= What is true for the past is true for the present and the future. God’s sovereignty is eternal. 
Psalm 145:13; Jeremiah 10:10

Jesus' death and life
Acts 7.51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”

Acts 4.27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against Your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what Your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, LORD, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak Your Word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the Name of Your holy servant Jesus.”

God is in control. We need to remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 16.
"I will build My Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."

Just completed reading Revelation. We win. God rules.  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Heritage of Those Who Fear Your Name

The Heritage of Those Who Fear Your Name

Psalm 61.5

God Himself is that inheritance.

Can anything be better than that?! His people are described as fearing the Name of God; they are reverent worshippers; they stand in awe of the LORD's authority; they are afraid of offending him, they feel their own unworthiness  in the sight of the Infinite One. To share with such men, to be treated by God with like that should result in endless thanksgiving. All the privileges of all the ones who have feared His Name are also the privilege of each believer.

We have responsibilities as believers. Conversation with Pastor Jerry that I am feeling more responsibility because of the younger pastors who are asking questions, looking to us. We all influence people. I saw that this week, being with friends on several occasions that I had grown up with. Make your influence good. Do not ever underestimate the influence of a life of faithfulness.

Generations are affected by our lives. My cousin did some digging and sent me genealogical records this week of our family back to the mid 1800's in Brooklyn. I thought of my grandmother who was born in 1902 and how she came to Christ and that side of my family was deeply affected (still is). I thought of my Dad's side of the family and how as far as we can go back they  walked with God all the way back to the 1700's. My Dad and Mom met and married and raised their three kids to know Christ. I look at their lives and see faithfulness, strong hearts for God. I think of someone who died a few years ago and I was told by a relative, "Well he was a Christian, not  a strong one, but he believed." 
You can determine today to be a strong one! Maybe the first, like my grandmother was, on one side of our family. Your decision could affect generations to come.

We have responsibilities but this morning I want to share about the privileges we have. Fear God's Name, be spiritually responsible and you will inherit the heritage of those who fear the Name of God.

1. The Privilege of Prayer
Calling upon the LORD

Approaching the throne of Grace with confidence and presenting our requests with thanksgiving.

Hebrews 4:16King James Version (KJV)
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Philippians 4.6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 

Seeing Him answer... conversation with Rudy this week, how we have seen God answer prayer.
When you see Him work... when answers come
Conversations in prayer times in Bible Studies.
Skilled sailors are not made sailing calm seas.

Intercessory prayer
Standing in the gap
Bridging the gap

2. The Blessings of Being an Heir Together With Christ.

Romans 8.14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.

*It gives us peace... children of God... children are taken care of by their parents... no cares or worries, with friends on the block I grew up on this week.

*It gives us Hope.

*It causes us to look beyond this life.

*It makes us expectant.
Grayson's birthday, watching the DVD of the announcement. Exciting.

*It raises the desire to be ready, watch, be alert and pray.

*It motivates us to tell others about Jesus.

The heritage of those who fear Your Name...
The privilege of prayer
The blessing of being an heir together with Christ
And finally this morning...

3. The Honor of Sharing in the Fellowship of His Sufferings

Philippians 2.10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

I Peter 3.15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

*It is our heritage.
Psalm 105.16He called down famine on the land
and destroyed all their supplies of food;
17and he sent a man before them—
Joseph, sold as a slave.
18They bruised his feet with shackles,
his neck was put in irons,
19till what he foretold came to pass,
till the word of the LORD proved him true. (13 years later)
20The king sent and released him,
the ruler of peoples set him free.
21He made him master of his household,
ruler over all he possessed,
22to instruct his princes as he pleased
and teach his elders wisdom.

*It is temporary

*It refines us.
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. I Peter 4.1

*It makes us like Jesus
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12.11

*It is a fellowship
Philippians 3.10 The fellowship of sharing in His sufferings

We share in the heritage of those who fear God's Name.

Psalm 103.1 Praise the LORD, Omy soul;
    all my inmost being, praise His holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, O , my soul,
    and forget not all His benefits—
3 Who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
4 Who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 Who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.