Sermon "Skill in Your Hand & God in Your Heart"

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Put on Your Helmet!

"But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation." 1 Thessalonians 5:8

Do you realize how important our brain is? It is the central control system of our whole body. No matter what our body is capable of, it can't do anything unless the brain tells it to do it. And not only is it the command center for the physical functioning of our bodies, it is also the central processing center for all of our thoughts, ideas and memories. The Lord saw it as being so important that He made sure the space between our ears and behind our eyes is well protected by our hard, thick skulls (some thicker than others of course).

Soldiers for thousands of years have also known how vital the head is to the body. That's why the main target for taking out an enemy has always been the head. It sets up high and is easy to hit, and if struck with enough force will cause an immediate shut down of the whole body. And conversely, a soldier knows how important it was to protect the head. That is why helmets have been the main feature of a soldier's armor ever since man knew how to shape metal to fit the head.

The Apostle Paul when writing his letter to the church in Thessalonica wanted to use a metaphor that the people would understand. So when teaching about the hope of salvation, he referred to it as a helmet.  So what is salvation?

The Hebrew word for salvation is "Yashua" (Joshua). It is the same word rendered in Greek as "Jesus". It means to save, rescue, or set free. You see, all of us are sinners, including you and me.  I know we might look around at others and think we're not that bad, but we're still sinners. We are either doing bad things, or saying bad things or thinking bad things, or all three. And the Bible says the penalty of that sin is death, which it means spiritual death. It is like we have been charged with committing sins, and when we die we will face the righteous Judge; and without a doubt we will be found guilty, because we are. Our punishment will be a sentence to suffer in hell...forever. But even worse than that is we will forever be separated from God.

But God loves us so He wanted to give us a way out. He sent His Son Jesus to the cross to receive our punishment and to save us, rescue us, and set us free. That is salvation! And St. Paul said that knowing you are saved is like having on a helmet to protect you. So if you have on the hope of salvation, you can rest your mind in knowing that when this is all over, your sins have been forgiven and you will go to Heaven to be with the Lord. When the enemy starts to throw doubt and fears and worry at your head, you are protected in knowing that you are saved and God is on your side. When the enemy says you have nothing, you can know that "Christ will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory." When he tells you that you can do nothing, you can know that you can "do all things through Christ who strengthens you." When he tells you that you will never be nothing, you can know that you are a part of "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation..."

So are you wearing your helmet? Do you have a certainty settled in your heart and mind that you believe in Jesus and you have accepted his saving grace through faith in Him? If not, you better make sure you put it on because the enemy will attack, and his first strike point will be your mind. Protect yourself! Put on your helmet!

If you want to put on the helmet of salvation, but you're not sure how, you can simply ask God through a prayer. There is a prayer for salvation at the top right of my blog site here that you can pray. If you would like for me to pray that prayer with you, email me at!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Watch the Game Tape!

Genesis 3:1 "Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"

With the NFL playoffs quickly approaching, many of the teams are feverishly preparing for their next game with the hopes of making it to the super bowl. And in that preparation, not only are there plans being made, plays being run, and weights being lifted, but there are also videos being watched. See what every owner, coach and player knows is that to prepare for the game, you have to know who you're playing. So teams are spending countless hours reviewing tape to see how their next opponent plays, what are their strengths and weaknesses, and what to expect on the field from them.

Well, there is an even greater opponent that we face who is not after just some title or a championship ring. He is after our very lives. He goes by many names including satan, the devil, lucifer, beelzebub, the evil one, the adversary, father of lies, prince of this world, evil spirit, the tempter, accuser of the brethren, angel of the bottomless pit, power of the air, ruler of darkness, god of this world, wicked one, and that old serpent. And we certainly don't just go up against him on Sunday afternoons and Monday nights. We face him everyday. Yet, most people know so little about him, and that lack of knowledge makes you vulnerable to defeat. So let's review the tape.

  • satan is subtle: God describes satan the serpent in Genesis 3 as being subtle. He didn't jump out at Eve with red tail wagging and pitchfork poking. He slithers in quietly and unassumingly so that he can get in close enough to strike. So expect him when you least expect him and look for him where you never thought he'd be.
  • satan is a tempter: he will try to draw you away from God with temptations. In Matthew Ch. 4 he even tried to tempt Jesus by promising Him power and riches. But Jesus taught us by example by using the greatest offensive weapon we have, the Word of God. He threw scripture in satan's face by quoting from the book of Deuteronomy three times. 
  • satan can do a lot but he can only do so much: in the book of Job, God told satan he could touch Job's life but he couldn't take Job's life. satan didn't protest or try to go any further than what God would allow. That lets us know that though satan is powerful, his power is limited, and it is our omnipotent God who holds all power in His hands.
  • satan is a liar: satan told Eve that if she ate of the forbidden fruit, she would not die, but that her eyes would be opened and she would become like a god. What a liar! In fact, in John Ch. 8, the bible says that "... He was a murderer from the beginning and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him...he is a liar, and the father of it."
So before you go back on the field, review the game tape. Understand who you are facing on the other side of the ball. But not only that, make sure you are on the winning team. Jesus is the owner, coach and MVP of my team. How about yours? No matter how many devils you may be facing, with the Lord on your side, the outcome has already been decided for your life and YOU WILL WIN! Don't believe it. Watch the game tape!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Waiting on God!

  "And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward." Genesis 40:4
Joseph, the dreamer from the Old Testament, was the favored son of his father Jacob and the chosen man of God that would later save His people Israel. But favor usually draws haters, and the jealousy of his brothers landed him in a pit and ultimately into slavery in Egypt. His master Potiphar did like Joseph and put him in charge of his whole household. It was there that Joseph also found favor with Potiphar's wife, albeit ungodly, who desired to sleep with him. Long story short, Joseph resisted, Potiphar's wife lied, and Joseph found himself in prison. So much for being chosen of God. Joseph at this point had faced the hatred of his brothers, the desire of some of them to kill him, the bottom of a pit, slavery in a foreign land, and now a prison sentence for something he did not do.

But, just as in the way that only God can do, the Lord made the best out of Joseph's bad situation. Because of God's favor and his gift of interpreting dreams, the captain of the prison guards took a liking to Joseph and basically let him be in charge of the rest of the prisoners. Yet, he was still in prison. And it would be at least two years that Joseph would have to wait on God.

I have been in seasons of my life where one trouble was followed by another, and no matter how much I prayed, the only option God gave me was to wait. And I must say that the greatest testing of my faith has come in times of waiting. Waiting on an answer, waiting on help, waiting for the next stage...waiting on God.

But in my many seasons of waiting, I have also come to find that those times of the greatest testing of my faith have been the greatest times of the strengthening of my faith. Look at just a few of the many examples in scriptures. Noah built a boat while waiting for the rain in order to see God use him to save his family and civilization as we know it. Abraham had to wait for about 20 years to finally see the son God promised him be born. Mary and Martha had to wait on Jesus so they could see their brother Lazarus raised from the dead. Joseph had to wait in prison a couple years before who saw God elevate him to second in command in all of Egypt so that he could save his family from famine.

So how long you been waiting? Maybe God is using this time of waiting to prove to you what the Prophet Isaiah said, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength..."(Isa. 40:31). I know the wait gets hard, and you may feel like your faith can't pass the test. But be encouraged that you don't have to wait alone. God is always with you. And also know that no matter how long it has been, God is always worth the wait!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Who is the Real St. Nick?

"Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me." Matthew 19:21

It's amazing how we have certain traditions that we hold so dear in our culture, and have such long and deep roots in our lives, yet we rarely wonder where they came from. Like, it's Christmas morning 2012, and many a children have jumped out of bed to see what Santa has left them. I am 41 years old, and I can still remember that magical feeling of seeing what that jolly Old St. Nick had left. But now that the magic has somewhat faded, I am left wondering where that tradition comes from? Ever been curious of how Santa Claus got his start? Well, just in case you are, let me share with you what I found!

Nicholas was born in an area near what is now Turkey some time about 300 years after Jesus lived. Christianity as a religion was young, fledgling and persecuted in most of the Roman Empire at the time. The area where Nicholas lived did know of Jesus, His salvation and His anticipated return thanks to the missionary work of the Apostle Paul. Nicholas was born to wealthy parents who believed in what they had been taught about Jesus, and had given their lives to Him. Nicholas lost his parents at a fairly young age, but the teaching of Christ they had planted deep in his heart were already taking root and changing his life. He was particularly captured by Jesus' words when He spoke to a rich you ruler in Matthew chapter 19 who inquired of Him of how to have eternal life. Jesus told the young man of great wealth to go and sell all that he had and give to the poor. The bible says that the young man went away sorrowful, because he didn't want to give up his wealth. Certainly we know that salvation comes from faith in Jesus, and not from works, but Jesus was testing his heart and his response revealed that he had already given his heart to the treasures that he owned.

Well, Nicholas' heart belonged somewhere else. He dedicated his life and his wealth to serving God by serving those in need. He spent his life spreading the love of Jesus and helping the needy, sick and suffering. And even though he suffered himself because of his faith by enduring ridicule and even imprisonment, he never gave up on the mission God had for his life.  He later became the Bishop of Myra, and after his death was recognized as a saint by the church, hence St. Nicholas. Many countries  still celebrate St. Nicholas day on December 6th.

Of course as the world usually tries to do with the things of God, over the years the legend of St. Nicholas was blended with the lore of other non-christian figures. St. Nicholas was merged with the traditional, European holiday figure of Sinterklass, from which we get Santa Claus. He was fabled to visit homes to leave gifts for good children. So now the reindeer sleigh, red suit and bag full of gifts have come to overshadow the life dedicated to Christ which was St. Nicholas.

If the real St. Nicholas had visited your home last night, he probably would have left you a reminder of how he tried to model his life after the giver of the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ. A Son who also was born of great wealth, had all the riches stored up in glory, but instead forsook them that He might come to this world and give to those who are needy, sick and suffering. So now if anyone ever asks, who is the real St. Nick, you can tell them that he was a child of God, who believed in the Son of God, and dedicated His life to serving the people of God.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Heart, the Head and the Hands

Psalm 119: 10-11 "With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee."

Who were are as a person is the sum of what we feel, think and do. You could say that we find our true selves at the intersection of the heart, the head and the hands. What we feel in our hearts, what we think in our heads, and what we do with our hands is all interconnected; one never acts independently of the other. Note that one part of our body not included in this triangle is the mouth. Its very easy to think one thing and say another, or to say one thing and do another. People do it all the time...You do it all the time.But the heart, the head and the hands are inseparable. 

The writer of Psalm 119 understood that not only are these three connected, but he understood that of the three, the heart is the foundation. He realized that what we do is a result of what we think, and what we think is the fruit of what's planted in our hearts. That is why he wrote that he sought God with his whole heart; and that he hid God's word in his heart so that he would not sin against God with his thinking or his doing. 

Often we want to make changes in our life, either because we are tired of our own behavior, or someone else is. So we try to work at changing how we think or changing what we do. We read books on positive thinking. We go through programs to change our behavior. But with our hearts at the root of all that we are, those tactics will in time prove to be fruitless. Think about how many times you wanted to change, or someone else begged you to change, and you promised to change, and for a little while you did change, but sooner of later you and they realized there really was no change at all. 

For your behavior to be transformed, your thinking must be transformed; and for your thinking to be transformed, your heart must be transformed. And the only One who can transform your heart is God. That's why King David cried out to him "create in me a clean heart..", because he knew that for his thinking to get right and for his doing to get right, his heart had to get right, which meant getting right with God.

How's your heart? Is it filled with love and kindness? Or is it filled with hate and sin? If you're not sure, look at your hands. Are they dirtied by the sinful things you've been doing? Think about your thinking. Is your mind filled with bad thoughts you just can't seem to get rid of? You can give your life to Christ, and its as easy as saying right now "Lord, I believe in You and I give my heart to You." Then watch Him draw you to His word in the Bible and start the process of changing your heart, your head and your hands.