Thursday, December 29, 2011
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Guest Sermon Series
Rev Robert D. Shofner, Jr.
St. John's UCC Boonville
Merry Christmas! Now that is finally here, let’s look back over the past few weeks. Think about it ... did the thought of Christmas ... and all the parties, and shopping, and cooking, and wrapping up presents, and setting up the decorations ... and everything else that just had to get done ... did the thought of Christmas make us feel humbug-ish ... or humdrum-ish ... or humbled?
The way we answer that has a lot to do about we feel about the different gifts that are a part of Christmas. When we focus on the gifts we have to give, a lot of times we feel pretty humbug-ish. (All that time and money and the kids went through their presents in 12 seconds flat!) When we focus on the gifts we hoped to receive from other people, then maybe we're going to feel pretty humdrum-ish. (We opened them up and thought, "Is that all there is?") But when we focus on the gifts that God has given to us ... because there really is a reason to the season ... when we focus on God's great gifts to us, then we can truly feel humbled. There's a humbling awe that God could love us that much.
The good news is that no one gives us greater presents than God. In fact, it says in James 1:17, "Every good action and every perfect gift is from God. These good gifts come down from the Creator of the sun, moon, and stars, who does not change like their shifting shadows." God gives perfect gifts. Ever receive a gift and we open it up and say, "Wow! This is perfect!"? The Bible says all of God's gifts are like that. And He just keeps on giving. Romans 8:32, "He did not spare his own Son but gave him for us all. So with Jesus, God will surely give us all things." The sacrificial and generous giving that God has shown us when He gave His only Son for us ... the Bible says God wants to show us that same giving each and every day.
Now, should we have to sum up God's giving nature, His ability to give and give what no one else can ... we can sum that up with one word, "grace." In fact, the word "grace" and the word "gift" or "give" in the New Testament are the same words. God's gift to us is grace, and God's grace to us is His gift. And there's no better gift than God's grace. John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." This is what Christmas is all about! What a perfect gift. And when we open it up, some of the most awesome things happen in our life. So this morning we're going to look at God's great gift in our lives.
Number one - we are lavished with grace. That's one thing we really want to understand. The Bible says we are lavished with grace! And that means we can make the choice to live abundantly. To live abundantly. Ephesians 1:8, " ... the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." We probably don't experience that too often. The idea of something just being poured out on us, more than we can ever fully understand. It's a quintuple scoop cone of gourmet ice cream, okay? That's being lavished ... it's more than we can imagine, or eat. But with God's grace, we can never get too much of it. When something is lavished on us it means we're given something more than what we could ever dream of, but what we've always wanted. And God's says, "I want to give my grace, that gift of myself, to you." In abundance.
Now, oftentimes when somebody offers us a gift unbelievably large, we're unbelieving about it. The offer of a big gift can really make us doubt. Got a card for my birthday that said, "For your birthday I decided to get you a million dollars." I knew I wasn't going to open it up and find a check for a million dollars ... darn it all! But God has this lavish gift of grace ready to pour out on us, and we think, "Could that really be for me?" Yes, it is. Yes, it is! And when we finally accept God's gift, it changes the way we look at life. That's the real gift this year, a different way of looking at life, based on the grace that God has given us.
We can live life fearfully, we can live it selfishly, or we can live it abundantly. We can look at the world around us and what we don't have, and live our lives fearfully. Pulling in, living in fear of what we might lose. We can listen to the desires of our heart and mind and begin to live selfishly. Or we can focus on God's gift, and discover the joy of living abundantly. No longer pulling back because of our fear, or overreaching wildly to fulfill every desire, but abundant life. It's a new way of living!
John 10:10, Jesus said, "The thief's purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness." We don't want to live fearfully or selfishly. Jesus came so that we could live abundantly.
Now, let's look at how to turn this into more than just "positive thinking" rhetoric. Let's look at how to do this ... how to live abundantly. There's a principle we want to understand. There's no such thing as abundant living without abundant supply. Just won't work. For instance, should I say, "Go ahead and spend as much as you want at the mall today," ... you'd think I was crazy, or just got a new credit card! ... because you know there's not an inexhaustible supply behind all that spending. The ability to live an abundant life comes from the abundant grace of God. When we realize how abundantly He has supplied His grace to us, we can live an abundant life, because His grace supply never runs out! 2 Peter 1:2 (NIV), "Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." It comes from knowing Him and who He is. We're lavished with grace ... so go ahead, live abundantly.
Number 2 - we're saved by grace, so live eternally. Live eternally. Ephesians 2:8, "I mean that you have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God." We've been saved by God's grace, so we can live eternally. What's that mean ... "saved"? It means three things ... it means to be forgiven, to be fulfilled, and to be set free. And God doesn't save us for a few moments or days or weeks. The salvation He gives to us is eternal. We were headed for certain death and separation from Him for eternity, and because of His great love for us, He came to us and forgave us, fulfilled us, and set us free ... for eternity. That's a great gift!
How do we begin to enjoy that gift? Notice this principle. For a gift to be enjoyed, it must be received. Pretty simple. For us to enjoy a gift, we want to first receive it. And for some of us, this Christmas will be the best ever, because we'll receive the best gift ever. God's gift of eternal life. Just ask Him for it.
When we do start enjoying His great gift? Many people think we only get to enjoy it after we die. That's just not true. 1 Timothy 6:12 says, "Hold tightly to the eternal life that God has given you ..." Notice the words "has given." Not "will give you someday," but "has given" you right now. It says to hold tightly to it ... enjoy it ... live it right now … celebrate our new life!
In my first church, working as a student pastor, there was this little guy who cornered me during Coffee Hour, and he said, "Bob, Bob, Bob! Are you coming to my birthday party?" I didn't have anything lined up for the afternoon, so I said, "Sure, I don't have any plans for today. What time is it?" He said, "No, no, no. It's not today. It's in 5 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days." "Okay, let me write that down. I'll be there. Thanks for telling me." The next Sunday, during Coffee Hour, "Bob, Bob, Bob! Are you coming to my birthday party?" "Yes, I am. In 5 months, 2 weeks, and 2 days. I'm going. Let me erase the pencil, and write it in pen. It's a for sure." The next Sunday, during Coffee Hour, "Bob, Bob, Bob! Are you coming to my birthday party?" Well, I knew this was going to happen. I brought a birthday hat and a party horn. I whipped them out of my briefcase and said, "Look! I'm ready! I can't wait!"
Then I asked his mom, "Hey, what's the deal? I've never seen anything like this. I've never seen anybody this excited over celebrating a birthday." And she told me something I'll never forget. She said, "Mark is a foster child. And Mark has never, ever had a birthday party."
And I think of Mark when I look around and see Christians who don't celebrate. Friends, we've got reasons to celebrate. We want to quit acting like spiritual foster children, and claim the heritage we have in God and celebrate our inheritance of eternal life.
Question. Can knowing what's in our future change the way we feel and act today? Of course it can! Let's suppose you haven't had a job in 6 months, and the unemployment insurance is running out. But just last week you sat down and signed a contract to start a new job the first of the year. Now, do you think you'd wait until January to celebrate the new job? No way! It's party time, right now! And the fact that we know we have an eternity secure in God changes the way we feel and act today. Or, at least it should! The fact that we have eternal life ... does that mean we have to wait to get there to celebrate it? No way! We want to celebrate it today, and every day, right now. It changes the way we look at life.
Here's something we can do to help reinforce this point. Take a 3x5 card, and on one side of it, write the word "today" and on the other side write the word "eternity." Put it in your purse or wallet or pocket ... and any time you face a worry or a problem, take out the card. First, look at the side that says "today." Think about that problem and how terrible it is in the light of today. Really make yourself miserable! Have fun with it, okay? Then after you've done that for five or ten minutes, turn the card over, and think about that problem you're facing in the light of eternity, and see how it changes your attitude. The truth is, when we look at a lot of our worries even in the light of next week it would change our attitude. And when we begin to look at them in the light of eternity ... what a difference it makes! Live eternally.
Number three, we are molded by grace ... and so live responsibly. Some of us may be thinking, "Great! Don't talk to me about responsibilities! I'm overwhelmed by responsibilities!" Maybe you're a single parent. Maybe you're struggling to hold down two jobs ... or keep a business going. Ever feel like ... "I'm just trying to do what's right!"
Reminds me of the story about the Kindergarten teacher who loved to help her little students get all bundled up to go out into the snow and cold at the end of the school day. One day she sat down in front of one of her students, pulled out a pair of boots ... the kind with laces all the way up! ... and started to diligently lace up the boots ... about a ten minute job, struggling with this squirmy little girl. She finally got them all laced up ... the little girl hopped to her feet and announced to the teacher, "These aren't my boots." So the teacher unlaced them and pulled them off and put them back in the closet. Then her little student looks up at her and says, "Those are my big sister's boots, but my Mommy makes me wear them!" Ever feel like that? Just trying to do the right thing?
Want some new energy for that worn-out life? Look at Ephesians 2:10 (NIV), "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." We are created, molded by God's grace in Christ Jesus, to do good works. But sometimes we just get so tired. That's because we're doing everything on our own. We want to learn to relax and let God's grace mold us to live responsibly. We want to learn to quit trying so hard and start trusting in God's grace.
1 Corinthians 15:10 (NIV), "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them - yet not I, but the grace of God that was within me." Paul found a new energy working within him. God's grace. And God's grace is meant to be the creating, energizing, directing influence of our lives. We don't want to be self-made men and women ... we want to be grace-molded persons.
How do we motivate ourselves to get things done? Well, we can use guilt ... or grace. Under guilt, responsibilities seem like terrible burdens. Yet under grace, responsibilities seem like wonderful opportunities. It's the difference between, "I have to do that to get God to love me." and "I want to do that because God loves me!" And grace is a much better motivator than guilt, because it won't wear us out!
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV), "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."
God's grace abounds ... and that means we live in a new kind of way ... responsibly. There's a principle here that we want to notice. The key to living responsibly is living responsively. Got that? The key to living responsibly is living responsively. Hebrews 10:24 says, "In response to all he has done for us, let us outdo each other in being helpful and kind to each other and in doing good ..."
God will never love us any more or any less than He loves us right now. And so what we do in life isn't to get Him to love us, because He does love us, but what we do in life is simply in response for the love, the grace, He already has for us.
How important is this grace, this gift, from God? Our last verse this morning, which also happens to be the last verse in the Bible. Revelation 22:21 (NIV), "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen." It ends with grace. What a great gift!
Christmas reminds us that we are lavished with grace ... so we want to live abundantly. We are saved by grace, so we want to live eternally. And we are molded by grace, so we can live responsibly. God's grace. What a great gift!
Heavenly Father, thank You for the greatest Christmas gift we could ever imagine, Your lavish grace. Help us to receive it, that we may live abundantly, eternally, and responsibly.
And the people said, “Amen.
Friday, December 16, 2011
It is really hard to believe this is the December Newsletter. My how the months have flown by. As I take time to look back, it has been such a thrill to see all that God has done. During 2011 so many people surrendered their lives to Christ. One that is such a joy to me and Trish is our twelve year old son, Joseph. While in Fresno, TX doing the singing in a revival service, he gave his life to Christ. What a thrill. God has blessed us so abundantly.
We just completed 9 days of Christmas In the Smokies and what an awesome time we had. Such tremendous blessings from all the artist, the great Christian Comedians, as well as the comedy skits. The chapel services were so great. Each service was so anointed. Every person who came out received a blessing and was a blessing. It was such a joyous time to see artist praying with others and sharing their testimonies with people. The spirit of the lord was there.
If you would like to attend in 2012, the dates are Nov. 26, 27 and 28 or Nov. 29, 30 and Dec. 1 or Dec. 3, 4 and 5. It will be held at the Main Stay Suites in Pigeon Forge, TN. The early bird gets the worm. Contact me soon for a great deal. We still have rooms available on the Caymen Island and Cozmuel, MX cruise, Mar. 5 - 10. sign up at www.sonshinepromotions.com
I am so excited to announce the release of my new project “Heart Collector.” This is an absolute wonderful project of songs from the Heart. Songs such as Man In The Mirror, I’ve Got My Foot On The Rock, JESUS, I Love You Son, Friends In High Places, Jesus Was A Country Man, One Drink and many more. The best writers, Shane Roark, James Elliott, Tom Burress, Becky Allen, Jason Todd Herod. You can get your copy in time for Christmas at www.ronbrewermusic.com
Thank you all for your love and support. Continue to call and request Tear Off the Roof. There are still a few dates available for 2012 so hurry and call. May we all continue to pray for lost souls and one another and for our nation.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours,
Ron, Trish and Joseph
Monday, December 12, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
Things not going like you’d desire? Well, take this advise: “don’t throw away your confidence; it will soon be appropriately rewarded” (ancient first century writing from a book called Hebrews).
I wonder if we realize that a lot of what we do and say tells others about our confidence level. I can readily think of ten tips on how to increase your confidence level starting right now:
Tip #1: Don’t get down on yourself ! – The more you talk about your perceived inadequacies, the more likely you will become bound by them.
Tip #2: Celebrate being you! – You are special, one of a kind, unique, and you have strengths as well as weaknesses.
Tip #3: Get more decisive! – Start saying yes or no and leave maybe out of any answer. Make up your mind on things and stick with the decision. Just do it.
Tip #4: Remove the words “I can’t” from your vocabulary! Yes you can!
Tip #5: Get a handle on procrastination! – Constructive forward movement gets your energy flowing and makes it easier to continue. So make a move, even a small movement, and keep building your movements into bigger movements.
Tip #6: List your positive points! - Take a pad and pen and write down your positive characteristics and skills. Review them and ask yourself how you can apply one or two of them today.
Tip #7: Volunteer for some group or ministry for two hours a week through the end of this month! – New responsibilities freely given will challenge your life and positively impact others.
Tip #8: Be a dream maker! – Picture yourself doing what you would love to be doing if money was no obstacle. Tell four people about this adventure.
Tip #9: Set some S.M.A.R.T. goals! – To be accomplished, goals must be (at least) specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. List a few steps necessary to reach two of your goals. Take a step forward today and do one of those steps.
Tip #10: Get into the action! – Act confident, dress confident, look the part, speak distinctly, shake hands with confidence, and walk with confidence. Feel confident!
Stan Parker – The A.I.M. Group: Coaching, Speakers Group, Corporate and Church Turnaround Projects. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.