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Fear is nothing to be afraid of!

The person who says he fears nothing, is a liar hiding behind bravo.

We all have fears, even people with the deepest faith in God.

Fear is doubting you have the strength to overcome!

The best way to overcome your fears is to acknowledge them.  Most people are ashamed of their fears and doubts.

I have several friends who are embarrassed that they are afraid of lightning.  When a storm comes, they hide inside a safe shelter.  This is not a bad decision on their part.  Most likely they will never be struck dead.  Their fear serves them well.

On the other hand, I am not afraid of lightning, I love to watch it flash and strike the ground all around me.  I will move out of safe shelter for the thrill of having a better view of lightning.  If I am struck dead by lightning, know that is was my false bravado, not the lightning that killed me.

Living with fear is part and parcel of living in faith.

A good bit of fear goes a long way in building your life.

Consider these proverbs:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. (3)

If your fear of the Lord is wrestling your faith-in-yourself to the ground, that’s a good thing.

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  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, and 15:33.

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Come to me with empty hands and an open heart, 

ready to receive abundant blessings. (1)

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I have a hard time receiving gifts because either my pride or my expectations are too high.

I do not believe I am alone.

A friend wanted to say thank you to me earlier this week with a simple gift.

In gratefulness, I should have accepted it and say, “Thank you,” but I did not.  My pride was a hinderance.

In exasperation he told me to at least take it and give it away to someone in need.  It was only then when I accepted the gift.

He wanted to say thank you and I frustrated him with my pride.

Shame on me!

I wonder how often I have done this to God?

We expect God to bless us in specific ways. When He does not come bearing the gifts we expect, we act like He is a burden to us.

God has a specific gift for us.

The gift is Himself!

Unfortunately, we frequently reject the gift of Himself because we want a specific blessing rather than Him.

Jesus taught, 

“Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (2)

I wonder how many times has God come to me with a gift and I have rejected Him?

Sometimes, I am amazed God keeps blessing me.

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  1. Young, Sarah (2004-10-12). Jesus Calling: Seeking Peace in His Presence (p. 123). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
  2. Matthew 6:8

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Christ didn’t die just to pay the penalty for sin;

He died to transform us. (1)

Monday evening she told me with great enthusiasm about her conversion experience at worship on Sunday morning.  She had been living a wild life, drinking abundantly and sleeping around frequently.  

A friend invited her to church and she went.  During worship she was convicted by the Spirit and came forward, giving her life to Christ.  

She was still buzzing with excitement, joy, and peace as she conveyed her story to me on Monday evening.

Six weeks later on another Monday evening she told me the same story.  Since her first conversion she had fallen away.  But yesterday, she went to worship with her friend and the Spirit convicted her again.  She was grateful to be forgiven of her sins.

Six weeks later, then again, after another 42 days … She told me her good news!

Each time I rejoiced that she had repented, confessed, asked for forgiveness, and received it at the throne of God’s mercy.  

Once grace was received, she’d turn her back to God and returned to her tired and worn out ways of drinking hard and sleeping fast.  

The same friend, the same church, and the same Pastor heard her confession and proclaimed God’s grace to her, just as they should.

“But …”  it seemed that no one ever told her more about the other gift which Jesus held in His hands for her.

Thus she lived, chained in bondage to her addiction and hunger for love.  When the addiction and the hunger caused her too much pain, she’d rebound to Jesus as if He and she held onto a bungee cord.  She held on for dear life, He because he had bound Himself to her with His inseparable love.

She never stayed long enough by His side to hear the rest of the story about how He wanted to free her from her bondage to the flesh.  

Jesus wanted more for her! 

He wanted to transform her so she could break free from her past which so presently consumed her.  

Every time when she ran from His arms of grace she would hear Him say, “I have come that you might have life …”

She was always out of ear shot when He finished the sentence “… and have it abundantly!” (John 10:10)

I pray that she finally stayed long enough, to hear that Jesus had more for her than forgiveness of sins.

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(1) John MacArthur, Truth for Today : A Daily Touch of God’s Grace (Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman, 2001), 128.

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Easter Sermon Notes

Remember What He Said

Scripture: Luke 24:1-8 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, 54-58

To listen to this sermon, click here on April 9 and click on link for sermons

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I. Don’t you remember what I said ….

A.  Words we have all heard

B.  Luke 24:5-6 – The 2 men/angels to the women at the tomb

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

He is not here!   He has risen!

Remember how He told you …

C.  The women had already forgotten

When reminded by the angel

=> 24:8 Then they remembered His words

D.  Regarding His death and rising

Matt 16:21, Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34, and Luke 9:22

Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

E. Regarding His Resurrection

Matthew 22:31-32

I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. I am not God of the dead, but of the living.

John 11:24

I am the resurrection and the life.

II. Paul writing to the Corinthian Church

A.  1 Corinthians 15

Reminds us of the reason for the season

What are we celebrating today

Everyday within the church

The resurrection of Jesus

B.  He reminds them to believe in 15:1

The good news that I proclaimed to you, 

which you in turn received, 

in which also you stand, 

And by which you are saved,

C.  ==> theological discourse on the resurrection …

3 sections in 1 Corinthians 15

1. 1-11 – The Truthfulness of the Gospel

2.  12-24 – The Resurrection of the Dead

3.  35-58 – The Resurrection of the Body

D.  Crescendo of chapter 15 is reached in verses 54-57

When he speaks of the victory of the cross

Listen to Paul’s summary about

what the resurrection of Jesus means for us:

Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory?  

Where, O death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, 

and the power of sin is the law. 

But thanks be to God, 

who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

E.  The resurrection of Jesus represents the two victories of the cross

Over two powers/realities which deeply affect our daily lives

1.  Over the power of sin to cause our spiritual death

2.  Over the power of physical death to end our life

III. The Resurrection gives us victory over Sin

A.  Sin has incredible power over us

In Romans Paul tells us about the realities of sin

Romans 3:23 – All sin and fall short of the glory of God

Romans 6:23 – The wages of sin is death

B.  While we like to argue about what sin does to us,

We all know deep within our souls

What sin does to us, to our relationships, to our lives

And to our relationship with God

C.  Sin destroys life,

it weighs down life,

it takes life away,

it kills life

D.  While we may bravo in our sin when committing it

We regret our sin when is shatters our life

E.  Examples of sin destroying life

1.  Zacchaeus – the tax collector

Cheated and greedy, loathed by the people

Found forgiveness and restoration in Jesus

2.  Former Illinois Governor – Rod Blagojevich

Now serving 14 years for corruption as governor

Affect on his 2 daughters

I will guarantee you sin is weighing him down

3.  The Woman caught in adultery

Leaders wanted to stone her to death

Have you ever been in room

When spouse reveals/confesses adultery to spouse and family

Looks could kill – pain, anger, grief

Weeping of regret for sin … Weighs down heavy

4.  Even unintended sins ==> deep regret

Elderly priest – Good Friday – ran over 5 parishioners,

killed one, imagine the weight on him

9 year old playing with gun kills his twin –

Imagine the weight on his shoulders

and father who left gun loaded and available

F.  Anyone who says sin is

without consequence without victims is deceived

G.  Every sinner prays for a do-over

All of us in this room have done something we regret

It hurts … It pains … It weighs us down

H.  The wages of sin is death

But because Jesus died for us

Took on the death of our sins

And because he rose from the dead

The death of our sins has been removed

==> why Paul proclaims

Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory?  

Where, O death, is your sting?….

But thanks be to God, 

who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I.  At Easter … because of Jesus’ death resurrection

We celebrate the forgiveness of our sins

The removal of the wages of sin from us

J.  This news, this fact, causes many in the church

to move from lamenting

to singing and rejoicing

Examples:

1. African-american spirituals:

2. The American spiritual

3.  Those whose lives have been broken by sin

shame us in our ho-humness of Easter Hallelujahs

Friday at Rockford Rescue Mission

Weeping, wailing, dancing, shouting

Genuine joy … lives saved by God’s grace

K.  If it weren’t for Easter … The resurrection

We couldn’t sing these songs

IV.  Resurrection gives us victory over death at the end of this life

A.  As believers and by God’s grace

We share in Jesus’ resurrection

John 11:25-26

Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

B.  I have spent much of my ministry with people as they deal with death

C.  Death not only ==> grief and sadness

it also ==> anxiety, worry, fear in all of us

What comes after death?

Is death the end?

Is this all there is to life?

D.  Jewish faith places emphasis on remembering

Because no belief in an after-life

Jesus teaching about resurrection, an after life

was something people had never heard

People do not simply live on in the memories of others

there is life after our physical, earthly death

E.  Easter – Jesus’ resurrection

Is more than Jesus telling us

It is Jesus proving for us that

There is more to life on earth

than death at the end of the day

F.  Paul said in Philippians 1:21

For me to die is gain, for me to live is lost

G.  Jesus’ resurrection becomes

The resurrection of our bodies after death

The gift of life eternal

The communion of the saints

H.  Life in and of itself is hard

For most people in most cultures

Negro spirituals sung while toiling in the fields as slaves

Joyously sing of resurrection and better heavenly world

Three most moving ones are:

The Gospel train’s comin’ 

Swing low, sweet chariot

Soon and very soon.

V.  These two victories of the cross

A.  The forgiveness of sins

The resurrection of the body

Are not victories everyone will celebrate

B.  Do not be fooled by sentimentality that says

the forgiveness of sins

the resurrection of the body

is for anyone

We love to say …

Pastor, you know 

the friendly neighbor, the nice lady down the street

their spouse, the caring coach, my good muslim neighbor

they’ll be heaven!  

Won’t they?

C.  We may wish it, but scripture teaches differently

Scripture teaches – Only for those who believe in JC

will share in the victories won by Jesus in His resurrection

D.  These victories are for those who believe

In Jesus as God’s Son, as Lord and Savior.

As the two angels at the tomb said to the two women:

Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee:

This is what Jesus said:

Mark 16:16

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned

John 3:16-18

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Jesus to Martha in John 11:25-26

Reveals the importance of belief

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. 

Do you believe this?” 

John wrote his gospel so we might believe and be saved

John 1:6-7  => belief

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.

John 20:30-31

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

VI.  The Easter Invitation

A.  Easter is a celebration

For believers and followers

B.  Not only is Easter a time for celebration

But it is a time for commitment

for recommitment

C.  Perhaps

You have taken the Lord for granted

Jesus died for me but I am going to do what I want

You have fallen away

Placed distance between you and Jesus

You know you have not been a faithful follower

D.  Now, today is the time

To commit yourself to the Lord

To accept Him as Savior and Lord

To recommit yourself to follow him

If you have not professed your faith in Jesus

as God’s Son, as your Lord and Savior …

If you have not repented and confessed your sins

asking for God’s forgiveness through Jesus …

Do so now, today

so that Jesus’ resurrection, His victories

Over the power of sin to cause your spiritual death

Over the power of physical death to end your life

will be yours

Do so now,

so that Jesus’ resurrection and forgiveness

will be your resurrection and forgiveness

Paul put it this way:

This is the good news that I proclaimed to you, 

which you in turn received, 

in which also you stand, 

And by which you are saved

That Christ died for our sins 

That Jesus was buried

That he was raised on the third day 

Just as He said,

in accordance with the Scriptures.

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The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter is the neglected day of Holy Week.  It is traditionally called Holy Saturday but it is usually a day devoid of any holy activity.

It has become a day for Easter Egg Hunts for children and baseball and softball tournaments for youth.  Malls are packed as families frantically buy Easter clothes.  There is a run on hams at the grocery store as families prepare for Easter Dinner with the clan.

The mourning and grief of Good Friday is lost in the business of worldly activities. 

Most churches do not have worship services.

I have renamed this day Somber Saturday.  There must be tears of sadness in heaven that we can so easily move from the Crucifixion of Jesus to the joys of everyday living.

I encourage you to take time today:

to remember the Crucifixion,

to confess your participation, and

to humble yourself before Him who died for the forgiveness of your sins.

The following prayer, They Crucified Him, is one which I pray on this holy and somber day.  It reminds me of His great love.  It humbles my heart into grateful remembrance.

Take time to pray:

Lord Jesus, we remember everyone, evil or good, who took part in your crucifixion.

  • The priests and Pharisees and elders who conspired to arrest you.
  • Judas your disciple, who betrayed you with a kiss.
  • The apostles who deserted you, yet bore witness to your glory on the Cross.
  • Malchus who was struck by Peter’s sword, yet was touched and healed by you.
  • The young man who followed you, yet fled naked from the crowd.
  • The high priest’s maids and servants before whom Peter denied the you.
  • Annas, the high priest’s father-in-law, who handed you over to Caiaphas.
  • Caiaphas, the high priest, who convicted you of blasphemy.
  • The chief priest, scribes, and officers who mocked, beat, and condemned you.
  • Herod who arrayed you in gorgeous apparel and treated you with contempt.
  • The soldiers who put a crown of thorns on you and pretended to worship you.
  • Pilate’s wife who begged her husband to wash his hands of you.
  • Barabbas, the robber and murderer, who was freed instead of you.
  • Pontius Pilate who delivered you to death.
  • Simon of Cyrene, a passerby, who was compelled to bear your Cross.
  • The women who wept, wailed, and lamented your death.
  • The soldiers who nailed you to the Cross and whom you forgave.
  • The crowd that scoffed you as one who saved others but could not save himself;
  • The thief who reviled him.
  • The thief who asked to be remembered in your kingdom.
  • The unknown man who heard your cry of desolation and ran to quench your thirst.
  • Your mother Mary who stood by the Cross as you were dying son.
  • The centurion who proclaimed you as the Son of God.
  • All the women who had followed you and ministered to you at your crucifixion.

Have mercy on them and me.  

Loving Father, we thank you that Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.  Instead he emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  Being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Lord Jesus today I bow my knee and heart before you in humble confession and quiet gratefulness for your sacrifice which is my salvation.  Amen.

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Not only must the inner sanctuary be kept right with God, but the outer courts as well are to be brought into perfect accord with God. (1)

In these words Oswald Chambers states the obvious, your outer life needs to match your inner life.  In many cases it does.

However, we have become so adept at constructing facades and wearing masks that our outer shell glistens while our inner being is decaying.

How many times have we heard individuals use these words to report astonishment that their neighbor was a the mass murderer?

    • He seemed so happy!
    • He was always friendly!
    • He never yelled at his kids!
    • His yard was in immaculate shape!
    • He’d have neighbors over for a cookout 2 or 3 times a summer!

Beauty and fame on the outside, ugliness and shame on the inside.  This is a curse.

I am frequently surprised by the people who are hurting the most.  Their external life shines and encourages others, while they weep and struggle on the inside.

Why do I miss seeing their agony?

I have a friend who is always smiling, always laughing, always thinking of others.  Inside he is weeping and wailing.  I would not have known this, but I kept watching him, I kept listening to him.  I eventually realized that he was uncomfortable smiling and laughing.  The smiles and laughter were meant to cover his pain.

His outer courts are in order, while his inner sanctuary is a mess.

He has yet to tell me what is tormenting him.  It breaks my heart to see him hurting so happily.  What can I do to help him?

Jesus said,

Come to me, 

all who labor and are heavy laden, 

and I will give you rest. 

Take my yoke upon you, 

and learn from me, 

for I am gentle and lowly in heart, 

and you will find rest for your souls. (2)

I will go to my friend with Jesus at my side.  Perhaps he will open the door and let Jesus in while I am there.

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  1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1993).
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Matthew 11:28–29.

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“Confession is one of God’s ways

of strengthening us in our faith.” (1)

I have always found confession to be a humbling experience.  Thus, when I read Hannah Smith’s declaration that confession strengthens our faith, I took pause.

My aversion to confession is natural, as I assume it is for all.  Three childhood sins remain vivid in my memory.

I forged a school note, twice, once with my Dad’s signature and then with my Mom’s.  After the second attempt at my crime, the school called home.  Since Dad was at work and Mom could not hear, my oldest brother had the delight of reporting the news of my sin to Mom.  I still remember my tears and shame when I had to confess to Mom face-to-face.  She responded with tender grace.

After a heated discussion with my other brother, I accidentally caused a sharp object to tear through a painting my Mom had been working on for months.  I waited in wretched fear of having to tell my Mom what happened.  To have died first would have been easier.  Surprisingly, she was thrilled to hear the news.  The painting had been a pain-in-the-_____ to her and she was glad to be done with it.  At least that is what she told me.

The third sin has yet to be confessed, unless a childhood buddy broke our blood-vow not of silence.  I was for confession, but my buddies were not.  Even then I knew secret sins eventually became known.  The sin?  My buddies and I caused a fire inside of a friend’s playhouse, burning the furnishings.  My buddies lived in fear that if we confessed, we would have been dead meat.  Thus the blood-vow which, I confess I just broke.

My Mom covered my sin and shame with her grace.  It was not what expected.  I still carry the shame of the third sin. Perhaps this is why I now more easily confess my sins.

I prefer grace to shame, even punishment is better than shame.

In his first letter, John writes:

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (2)

God greets our confessed sin with grace.

Confession does not lessen the severity of sin, but it does lighten the load of sin.  God, in His grace, removes the dead weight of our sin and restores us to life, temporal and eternal.

Sin does affects us, as this bit of poetry suggests:

Sin has been hammering my heart

Unto a hardness, void of love … (3)

Hannah Smith knew what she is talking about.  Sin confessed in shame finds strength when it is placed on the cross of God’s grace.

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(1) Hannah Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life  (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
(2)  The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Jn 1:8–9.
(3)  Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).

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