It's important to preach like there's a broken heart on every pew. That's always been a phrase that stuck with me. Not everybody is having a tough time, but you can bet your buck that there's a good tenth of your church that's going through a hard season. There really is a broken heart on every pew.
HEAVEN knows the difference between SUNDAY morning and WEDNESDAY afternoon. God longs to speak as CLEARLY in the workplace as He does in the sanctuary. He longs to be WORSHIPED when we sit at the dinner table and not just when we come to His communion table. You may go days without THINKING of Him, but there's never a moment when He's not thinking of YOU.
You want to make a difference in your world? Live a holy life: Be faithful to your spouse. Be the one at the office who refuses to cheat. Be the neighbor who acts neighbors. Be the employee who does the work and doesn't complain. Pay your bills. Do your part and enjoy life. Don't speak one message and live another. People are watching the way we act more than they are listening to what we say.
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Pastoring the flock with words. I love that. We always have a prayer time in the middle of our service. We take about eight or ten minutes before I preach, after we've sung, and invite people to come forward for prayer. That's a tender moment to me. I don't preach much in that, but I like to speak to the people.
What you and I might rate as an absolute disaster, God may rate as a pimple-level problem that will pass. He views your life the way you view a movie after you've read the book. When something bad happens, you feel the air sucked out of the theater. Everyone else gasps at the crisis on the screen. Not you. Why? You've read the book. You know how the good guy gets out of the tight spot. God views your life with the same confidence. He's not only read your story...he wrote it.
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One of the secrets in life is that we really lead a better life when we're living for others than we do when we're living for ourselves, and I think that's the way for our creator intended for it to be, is that if we can live for other people, we really leave this world in a different way.
When we look at the love of Christ, we make a wonderful discovery. Love is more a decision than an emotion! Christ-like love applauds good behavior. At the same time Christ-like love refuses to endorse misbehavior. Jesus loved His apostles, but He wasn't silent when they were faithless. Jesus loved the people in the temple, but He didn't sit still when they were hypocritical.
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For all its peculiarities and unevenness, the Bible has a simple story. God made man. Man rejected God. God won't give up until he wins him back. God will whisper. He will shout. He will touch and tug. He will take away our burdens; he'll even take away our blessings. If there are a thousand steps between us and him, he will take all but one. But he will leave the final one for us. The choice is ours. Please understand. His goal is not to make you happy. His goal is to make you His. His goal is not to get you what you want; it is to get you what you need.
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Tragically, some people believe they are going to heaven when they die just because a few drops of water were sprinkled over their heads a few weeks after their birth. They have no personal faith, have never made a personal decision, and are banking on a hollow ceremony to save them. How absurd.
He came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. God tapped humanity on its collective shoulder, "Pardon me," he said, and eternity interrupted time, divinity interrupted carnality, and heaven interrupted the earth in the form of a baby. Christianity was born in one big heavenly interruption.
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You come before the judgment seat of God full of rebellion and mistakes. Because of his justice he cannot dismiss your sin, but because of his love he cannot dismiss you. So, in an act which stunned the heavens, he punished himself on the cross for your sins. God's justice and love are equally honored. And you, God's creation, are forgiven.
Off to one side sits a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor, perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him-and so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.
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Initially, when I first became a Christian and got into ministry, my thought was that God existed to make my life better and to take me to Heaven. Now I realize that it is not about me at all. It is all about God and that He did this to display His plan to restore the Earth to the Garden of Eden state.
Well, I think the main message is there is more to your story. There is more than what happens between the crib and the grave, and that is what I am really trying to speak to, this idea that all of life is this life and that there is nothing more than what we see and experience right here on this earth.
God rewards those who seek Him. Not those who seek doctrine of religion or systems or creeds. Many settle for these lesser passions, but the reward goes to those who settle for nothing less than Jesus himself. And what is the reward? What awaits those who seek Jesus? Nothing short of the heart of Jesus.
The Bible is the story of two gardens: Eden and Gethsemane. In the first, Adam took a fall. In the second, Jesus took a stand. In the first, God sought Adam. In the second, Jesus sought God. In Eden, Adam hid from God. In Gethsemane, Jesus emerged from the tomb. In Eden, Satan led Adam to a tree that led to his death. From Gethsemane, Jesus went to a tree that led to our life.
I Choose Love... No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves. I Choose Joy... I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God. I Choose Peace... I will live forgiven. I will forgive so I may live. I Choose Patience... I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I'll invite him to do so, Rather complain that the wait is to long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clenching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage. I Choose Kindness... I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for that is how God has treated me. I Choose Goodness... I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I accuse. I choose goodness. I Choose Faithfulness... Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My friends will not question my word. And my family will not question my love. I Choose Gentleness... Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it only be in praise. If I clench my fist, may it only be in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself. I Choose Self-Control... I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then when this day is done I will place my head on my pillow and rest.
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