I have heard it said whatever you do on January 1st is what you do the rest of the year. If that is true, it is a blessing that January 1st falls on Sunday. We have an opportunity to visit the church of our choice (if you live in a place that allows such freedoms). My goal for this year is to be much closer to God: to try my best to not get in his way and to seek his direction before I go on my own. We often pick a direction and then ask the Lord to bless our decision but what if we asked him first about what direction to go?
“What do we have to fear when the Lord is with us?”
Scripture lesson: Psalm 27 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Triumphant Song of Confidence Of David. 1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold[a] of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh— my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall. 3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident. 4 One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. 5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock. 6 Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord. 7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! 8 “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, Lord, do I seek. 9 Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation! 10 If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up. 11 Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. 12 Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence. 13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
When I am asked to attempt to fill in for the Pastor, it is always a challenge. First I need to be prayed up and I need to be read up. I know there are so many times that my actions and words are not from the Christian inside of me but instead from the devil. On good days sometimes they catch me when the Lord has a hold on me and I am at least on the track to being the person I am supposed to be. We are a witness to others what the Lord is doing in our lives or we are a witness to the control we have allowed the devil to get over us directly or indirectly. Jesus is the only Perfect being that has ever been on this earth. It is our goal, our mission to walk as Christ walked on this earth. I have to be read up. I read through my daily readings and I read up on lessons preachers, teachers, and Christian friends inspire; various books on Faith and understanding the Bible. I am praying, Lord, what do you want this message to be about? Please ensure it is your words and not mine. I know that if I came in here and the Holy Spirit descended on this place and I spoke nursery rhymes, if the Lord wants you to hear his words, then nothing I say will matter. I am not envious of our Pastor’s work and efforts each week to give us a Spirit filled lesson. It is hard work. Maybe I am a little jealous of his Seminary education. I know no Hebrew nor do I know any Greek. I am but a lay person hoping I get it right and that it is in keeping with the Spirit. So as I often say, what I get right, that is God and what I get wrong, that is me.
Let us pray. Lord, May the Holy Spirit come upon this building and we hear Your Words Lord, not mine. Amen.
There’s a hiker who’s hiking in the woods one day when he comes upon an angry bear. The bear stood up on its hind legs and growled ferociously, clearly preparing to charge. In panic, the hiker started to run, but the bear followed close on his heels. Finally the hiker came to a cliff. So he dropped to his knees and asked God to please make this bear a good Christian bear. To the hiker’s amazement, the bear suddenly stopped growling, fell to his knees and folded his paws together in prayer! “Thank you, Lord!” exclaimed the hiker. “Thank you, Lord!” exclaimed the bear, “for this meal I’m about to receive!” I bet that guy was pretty afraid.
How do you define fear? Merriam Webster defines Fear as such: : to be afraid of (something or someone) : to expect or worry about (something bad or unpleasant) : to be afraid and worried
To hear the political candidates talk the world is a pretty dark place. Regardless of which candidates you are for, Our political candidates are kind of like that Bear that is charging, please Lord, make them a Christian. To see the nightly news or the news headlines of our papers, the world is full of so much evil. It is such a dark and scary place because it is not a Christian World. We no longer live in a Christian world. For many of us, Christ’s influence on those around us ends when we walk out the front door of our homes or our churches. Some of us are lucky to work with fellow Christians or be friends with Saints within our mitts. A world without our Savior, Jesus Christ, is a scary place. But the world we are to live in has a risen Savior. I heard a preacher say, why are we shocked at how Non-Christians act? Well, they are Not Christians. We should probably be more surprised by how Christians act. In other countries Christians are being persecuted and threatened and even killed. We are lucky that we live in a country where we are free to worship. But are we free? I would argue that society is persecuting us indirectly. Unlike other places in the world where it is obvious and so easy to see, here we are being persecuted indirectly. When the enemy can’t reach us directly, he can find ways to turn society against us. It is amazing how freedom of speech is free until we express a Christian viewpoint. We are all to strive for Perfection but as Human beings, we can not ever be perfect, instead we are to seek to be mature Christians, mature disciples. A disciple is a student or follower, as students we are ever to be learning and striving to be like our Teacher, Jesus Christ, who shows us the Christian ideal.
Romans 8:38-39 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. How can we live without fear in this modern world? We have unrealistic fears. When I was little I used to walk along the road between my grandma’s house and my parents house. It wasn’t very far but much like now how it is getting dark so early, it would often be dark when my parents were home and I would leave grandma’s headed home. Across from my grandmother’s driveway on the other side of the road there was this dirt road with pine trees lining the sides of it. Looking down that road it appeared to be darker than the darkness around me. I often imagined Bigfoot was going to come out of those woods after me. I would often force myself to walk slow home so that I could try and overcome the fear. But sometimes my mind played tricks on me and I just had to run home. Was my fear irrational, yes; but I was still very afraid.
When my sister and I were growing up, there used to be a store that had a wall of Halloween costumes every year back when the costumes were the plastic onesie with the characters on the top and the rest was whatever color almost matched and the mask for each was made out of paper and had a thin elastic band that broke easily so you had to be careful. I was so excited to get home and try on my costume so I ran straight out of the car to my room down the hall. I didn’t even turn on any lights and I slipped on my costume. It was of a werewolf. I go back down the hall headed to the living room and my four year old sister sees me and is scared out of her mind. She was scared to go down that hall without all the lights on for the longest time. My folks were so mad at me. It wasn’t on purpose. I wasn’t trying to scare her but it happened that way. The world is bursting at the seams. We aren’t even friendly to our neighbors any more. Yours and my witness is on trial every day. Do our lives Witness that God is in control? Our lives are a witness to what we believe. If we truly believe in our Father in Heaven, what have we to fear? We are taken care of.
Psalm 46:1-3 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present[a] help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah
As A.W. Tozer said “While it looks like things are out of control, behind the scenes there is a God who hasn’t surrendered His authority”
Rev. Billy Graham said, “We have three enemies, the World, the Devil, and the Flesh”. If we truly place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will overcome our enemies and we have nothing to fear. How can we help others who are afraid? Bear Witness to others through our actions. Despite our circumstances, our Witness is how we show God is in our life. God is calling for us to be separated from the world. The time to return to God has come. If you are living in fear, give your fear over to God. Place your life in his hands and listen to His every word.
Isaiah 41:10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 10 do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
If worry has you afraid, do not worry.
Luke 12:22-26 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 22 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[a] 26 If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest?
Does the Election scare me, yes. Does what other countries are doing around the world scare me, yes. I know regardless of what happens if I cling to my faith, God will get us through every storm. In the end regardless of who is elected president or congress or even sheriff, God is in control. While his ways may not make sense to us, if we trust in him, we are going to be fine. When we are no longer on this earth, where will we be? In Heaven with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
When the world gets in such a mess, surely it must be the end of days. But Jesus told us two things, one, only God knows when the tribulation will happen and two, we are to be ever vigilant and be ready. If you were going on a journey, you would pack and be ready. And one day we are indeed going on a journey. So let’s pack our hearts with the love of Christ. Strive to be prayed up and ready to go. Go out and do what other Saints on earth already do, take care of the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the shut-in or the prisoner not just because it is the right thing to do but because there is no better way to show the love of Christ in our lives than through acts of faith. If you think about it, it takes courage to be a Christian. I, for the longest time, never mentioned my faith at work. In my head I am trying to have separation of church and state so to speak. But a mature Christian can not have a separation. They are intertwined. We shouldn’t make any decision without asking God first for his blessing and guidance. I want to be like Daniel, seeking God in every step of my life. That is a high goal but without high goals we are not growing. Are you ready to be tested? Can you be thrown into the Lion’s Den like Daniel? I so want to say yes.
1 Peter 3:13-14 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 13 Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear,[a] and do not be intimidated, Deuteronomy 31:6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 6 Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” Do not be afraid. Boldly proclaim your faith but more importantly Boldly live your faith. The King James Version of the Bible has “be not afraid” 29 times. God does not want us to be afraid. If you are in the hands of God, regardless of what happens, no matter how perilous, if we remain faithful, we will weather every storm. It may not be smooth sailing but the Lord said he would be with us. When you woke up this morning, you were able to get dressed and come to church. Now the Sun is out, it is a brand new beautiful day. As you sit in this church today you are surrounded by fellow Christian friends. There is strength in numbers.
As I was going over my notes this morning, a song came on Chris Tomlin “Whom Shall I fear” it goes.
“Whom shall I fear Whom shall I fear I know who goes before me I know who stands behind The God of angel armies Is always by my side The one who reigns forever He is a friend of mine The God of angel armies Is always by my side”
When I think about that, The God of angel armies is always by my side. Our Lord has an army of angels. What do we have to fear? The Lord protects us and is with us. That is such a beautiful sight in my mind.
Let us pray. Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you so much for blessing us where we are today. Allowing us to come to your house and worship. Be with us every step of the way and when we are weary or afraid, encourage us that you are there walking with us no matter how bumpy the path we take. Amen