Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sermon Series Wrap-up: Empty Your Cup



Over the course of the month of July and part of August, Pastor Pope gave a series of sermons all connected to the theme Empty Your Cup. We as human beings and as Christians tend to pick up a lot of things, both physical and figurative, as we move through life, and we carry those things with us whether we know it or not. We may not think that such a habit affects us, but it does, often more significantly than we understand. Everybody can understand that if you are burdened by things, releasing that burden may free you from undue strain on your life. So the concept of emptying your cup or freeing yourself is something that can be universally accepted. However, as Pastor Pope pointed out, from the standpoint of a Believer, emptying your cup has a deeper meaning. It can mean throwing off your burdens, but it also requires taking things a step further. Sometimes we need to release, not only our burdens and the things we don’t like, but also the things we like and cling to so much that we put them before our pursuit of God. Philippians 3:9 says:
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
Paul is saying that he lost everything in his pursuit of Jesus, but in that pursuit he realized that everything that he lost was like trash compared to what is gained by coming to know the Lord. So we don’t need to empty our cups solely to unburden ourselves, we must do it to make space in ourselves and our lives for Jesus and Godly things.

Most Believers probably understand the truth of this to some extent, still even Believers have difficulty letting go of the things of the world and giving in completely to Jesus. Why is that? Pastor Pope gave a few reasons. The first was pride. Pride leads to a stronger belief in ourselves than in Jesus. What reason would someone have to give up anything if they believe they have already reached perfection? Pastor Pope used the story about the praying Pharisee and tax collector (Luke 18:9-14) to highlight the point. The Pharisee believed that he was “holier than thou,” and it showed in his prayer. His pride allowed him to think that he was better than the tax collector and that he was safe from reproach, but Jesus thought something different.
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Luke 18:14
Being able to empty your cup requires humility, and that is the antithesis of pride. Another problem is that we often don’t understand the value of the gifts Jesus gives us. We cling to the other things in our life because we know what those things bring to our lives. We know the Bible says following Jesus brings us eternal life, but that can be a concept that’s hard to grasp especially when we know Believers die physical deaths every day. We also know that following Jesus doesn’t necessarily make our lives in this world simpler or easier all the time. Sometimes it may actually make things harder for us. So it’s easy to see why some rather drag along their worldly attachments rather than trading them for the things of God. However, as believers we need to be more spiritually minded. The joys of this world are fleeting. God promises more. He promises life after the physical death. He promises us a peace beyond understanding. Most importantly, he promises us a relationship with Him that opens the door to all those other gifts. As we mature spiritually, we should come to see that when we empty our cups of their worldly fillings, we aren’t losing anything. We are making a way for ourselves to be filled by everything that a relationship with God can provide. The best thing about all of this is that if we don’t understand what making that space for God can do, all we have to do is open ourselves to the possibility, and God will show us what we need to know.
Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind: if anything you think otherwise, God will reveal this even to you. – Philippians 3:15
By emptying our cups and accepting a relationship with God we can be fulfilled in a way that exceeds anything that we can find in this world. We all seek peace in this world and the next. As Pastor Pope noted, a Christian based definition of peace reads:
Peace is a tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ and therefore fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort it is.
That’s what emptying your cup can do for you. It can put you in a state where you are content and unworried no matter what your circumstances. What in this world can do that for you? Is there anything else you can carry with you that will provide for you in such a way? If not, then why wouldn’t you be willing to get rid of all the things that can’t give you such amazing peace in exchange for the one thing that can, a pure and sincere relationship with God.

Chris Lawyer
Sermons By Everett Pope
Image Courtesy of www.markhowelllive.com


 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Lessons from John the Baptist



As I'm studying, I have realized John the Baptist has to be second to Moses in being in being the humblest man of all time. Just look at his life. He didn't want for anything to be specifically known about him, and he lived that way until the end. He lived in the wilderness, homeless. Consider that his main mission was to make the way for Christ. He was a forerunner; he had to pave the way for someone else. When Christ arrived, John the Baptist continued to stay his pace. He knew that as Christ increased, he needed to decrease. John faded into the background. He even lost his own disciples and he encouraged them to follow Jesus. Not only that he was beheaded, and then after all that, Jesus said paraphrasing, it said in Mattew 11:11 that no one born a woman is greater than John yet the least in the kingdom is greater than he...What!!We would look at that say that John's life didn't mesh up to anything, but it did as he shows us a perfect example of what it looks like to be selfless. It means if nothing good has to come your way from all the work you've done, and you still have nothing in the end. Imagine losing your friends, knowing that the least in the kingdom is more worthy than you, and dying by yourself in the hands of those who oppose you. John experienced all that, but he understood that you run your race and give glory to God. John's life shows he was willing to give up everything literally for the cost of Christ. Absolutely everything. Be like John the Baptist. Praise God today and be selfless.
Written By Colby Stewart
Edited By Chris Lawyer
Image Courtesy of bibleblender.com

How to Have the Peace of God



With so many tragedies around us, we are in desperate need of a word from God as it relates to today's topic. The media is seemingly consumed by stories of mass murders, political unrest, daily and senseless violence, health scares, and many other generally bad reports.  There is a word from God that can calm the raging sea of worry that comes with being flooded with so much negativity. To know God is to know peace, but without God there is No peace.

What is peace? Peace can be defined as: the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is. We all have people we love right now who are in situations that cause us to be a little more than concerned. We know that it can’t always be that way.  Eventually circumstances will change, but, in the meantime, that moment of struggle may as well be an eternity. When faced with such circumstances, we tend to do the only thing we know to do, and that is let anxiety flood our hearts and minds. We are overly concerned about the things that are not going our way. The scoffer might say,”Can there really be peace? Is it realistic? Is it attainable?” This kind of questioning can rob us of our joy. But, this is also why we choose joy. JOY is what the Bible commands us to display in Philippians 4:4-9 and the following verses.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

6 Be anxious for nothing,

but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving,
Let your requests be made known to God;

7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
In this passage, peace is promised to us by God. God, who cannot lie, has promised the believer peace. Not only is peace promised, but there is also the promise that our hearts and minds will be guarded through Christ. Think of the goalie in soccer or hockey. If Jesus were the goalie, his teammates need only concentrate on scoring a goal. Why? Because with Jesus on guard, the opponents must get past him to score, and we know that's not possible. If He is guarding your hearts and minds then what could infiltrate your heart and mind that would lead you to worry?  The answer is in this command, “Be anxious for nothing!” Nothing?  Nothing.  Nothing! These are the levels of emotions we go through as we think on this grand idea about not having to worry. Let's move to the next verses.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever

things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever

things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything

praiseworthy-- meditate on these things.


9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me,

these do, and the God of peace will be with you
The peace of God is maintained when we continuously acknowledge the presence of God. Once we believe that God is always with us, then we can begin to think the thoughts that He would have us think. Those are all positive thoughts. However, compliance with the command to "meditate on these things" requires more than mere positive thinking. It means taking on a mindset that focuses on the things above. For example the things that are really noble, just, pure, lovely and praiseworthy are all things that come with focusing on God.

The peace of God is possible, but it is only possible when we have peace with God. Peace with God gives us access to the peace of God. Peace of God is promised and can be maintained by practice. If you have peace with God through Jesus you can have the peace of God in your life. You do not have to worry. Are you a worrier or a warrior? God does not want you to worry. He wants you to depend on Him and trust Him. God wants you to experience peace that is supernatural and not understood by the world. You must prioritize joy, humility, prayer and meditating on things that are praiseworthy. You must become a doer of the word and not only a hearer. The God of peace will be with you! Today, you must seek God for this peace, especially if you are worried at all that your trials are not His will for you.
 
Everett Pope
Image Courtesy of www.natestevens.net




Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Comforter



With everything happening in the world today, it is understandable that some might come to despair. The recent events in El Paso and Dayton may cause some to believe that we really aren’t safe anywhere. That is a disturbing idea with which to wrestle. While such thoughts may be a little exaggerated, it cannot be denied they bear some truth. As humans, our lives are fleeting. Mass shootings are scary, but the truth is that people lose their lives every day with far less spectacle. That is how it’s always been, and we have to understand and appreciate just how short and fragile life can be. These big events do force the masses to contend with mortality in a way that differs from the deadly car accidents or the all too common homicides that happen every day, and those rooted in the Lord can see that there are lessons to be learned from all of it.

When events, big or small, raise feelings of fear and hopelessness in us, where can we turn for refuge? For Believers, God’s Word should always be seen as a viable option. The Bible is packed with knowledge and information that we should find of use in nearly every situation. However, even then, one must temper expectations. If someone is expecting the Bible to give an easy answer and simply say “Everything will be alright,” that person might be disappointed. Jesus told his followers that things would get much much worse before they got better.
For then there will be great distress unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again. “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. – Matthew 24:21-22
A whole book in the Bible, Revelation, is dedicated to the prophecy that describes what has been called the “End Times,” the period in time to which Jesus alluded. None of this should be surprising to seasoned Believers. People have been acutely aware of the doom and gloom portended in parts of the Bible for generations. Throughout the years, every cataclysm, every war, every great source of misery have all led many to wrongly conclude that those end times had finally arrived. If none of those great trials and tribulations were what Jesus was warning about, then how bad must the future events be? If the great plagues of the past, the world wars, genocides, and extreme natural disasters that have claimed so many over the years do not rise up to the level of what Jesus spoke, how dire will humanity’s situation be when the chosen time finally comes?

To dwell on such questions in the midst of hardship and trauma would certainly not help the psyches of anyone trying to contend with the harsher elements of our world, and truthfully too often in the history of our Faith people have gotten bogged down in obsessing over the negativity promised in the Bible. There was a time in the U.S. when many of the most prominent Christian figures focused almost solely on the promised bad. These so-called “Fire and Brimstone” preachers did their best to scare their parishioners into righteousness.

While what they preached may have been Biblically sound, they were misguided in the message they were sending. No one who believes in Jesus should ever dwell in fear or worry. Yes, Jesus spoke of a time to come when things would get bad, but he also pointed out that those who follow God will always have his protection and care. Jesus warned of impending doom so that we would be prepared not because he wanted us to live our lives paralyzed by fear over what is to come. In fact, Jesus made it clear that worrying over what tomorrow holds is a pointless endeavor.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of your by worrying add a single hour to your life? – Matthew 6:25-27
Jesus wasn’t just telling us not to worry about the big things to come. He was telling us to not even worry about the things we have to contend with from day to day. We are to understand that God will provide for us and will ensure that whatever happens will work out for the best for all of those who follow him. Still, it takes a tremendous amount of faith to throw off the worries and concerns of the world. The pursuit for needs like food, clothing, and shelter is ingrained in us. Rising above that would be a difficult task indeed. Still, over the course of our lives, if we remain faithful and observe what happens around us through the light of that faith, we will be able to see God at work, and his great works should only serve to strengthen our faith.

Not only that, but God understands how we feel. That’s part of the reason why he sent Jesus to us. Jesus was a human and went through everything humans do. So, while he never succumbed to fear, doubt, and worry, he knew what those things felt like. He knew how to rise above them, and he knows how to help us do the same. He is our advocate. He lived for us. He died for us. He rose for us, and even now his Spirit is inside of everyone who believes. When the time of his sacrifice approached, he knew what his fate would mean to his followers. He knew the worry it would cause for his disciples. He was the one about to be tortured and killed, but he still took the time to comfort them.
Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. - John 16:19-22
Jesus said those words to comfort those that loved him, and though they were spoken a couple thousand years ago, they still ring true today. The Lord understands that there is much in this world that grieves us, but there will be a time when that grief ends. Jesus will come back for those that love and believe in him. From that day the miseries of this world will be just a thought of the past, and that should be a comfort to all who believe.
Chris Lawyer
Image courtesy of christiantruthcenter.com

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Proverbial Wisdom


The Bible isn’t just a book of fables and tall tales as many see it. Those who want insight, particularly Believers, should view it as a presentation of practical knowledge that we can apply to our everyday lives. It’s common today for people to want small and easily digested tidbits of content. So reading some portions of the Bible does not appeal to them. Those parts are important and we should all strive to delve deep into the Bible to really begin to understand everything it has to offer. That said, the Bible does have little tidbits of information that can be readily applied to anybody’s life to make a difference. In fact, it has a whole book of such bits of insight – Proverbs.

Many of the proverbs are not overly spiritual in nature. For example:
The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper. – Proverbs 19:8
That certainly can apply to how we deal with the Bible. After all, wisdom can be obtained through the consumption of the information within the Bible, and understanding of what God is trying to tell us will certainly lead to spiritual prosperity at the very least. However, that particular saying works just as well when considering more worldly matters. If we seek to learn and gain insight in our world and understand the things around us, then we can probably expect to see a positive impact in our lives.
Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. – Proverbs 13:10
The danger of pride is something of which we should all be wary. As this proverb suggests, pride is the cause of much of the discord we experience in our lives. However, the second part of the proverb is just as important. Those of us who think we know everything and can’t be told anything are foolish. As this proverb tells us, being open to advice from others with good insight is wise.
Let someone else praise you and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips. – Proverbs 27:2
We probably shouldn’t get caught up in seeking praise at all, but this verse makes it clear that praise should come from others, particularly outsiders or strangers (in other translations) not ourselves. This is useful insight. Someone we don’t know is more likely to give us unbiased feedback, so praise we receive from them is likely trustworthy. Further, if we spend all our time patting ourselves on the back, we can lose perspective, and it becomes much harder to avoid that pride mentioned in the previous proverb.

Proverbs is full of useful sayings, and many of them, whether we realize it or not, have entered our common vernacular. However, we have to be careful. Not everything that sounds wise or invokes God comes from the Bible. For example, we’ve all heard the saying “God helps those who help themselves.” Well, no Biblical figure ever said that. It’s actually a quote from Benjamin Franklin. While Franklin was certainly a great man in many ways, imparting Biblical wisdom was not his specialty. Many of us have tossed this saying around because it appeals to our need to feel in control. We like to believe that goodness will come from our actions and any help God gives us will come as a result of the good work that we’ve already done. However, that actually flies in the face of what the Bible teaches us. God actually wants us to come to him with our requests and desires.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Matthew 7:7
Based on what the Bible actually says, a more accurate stating of Franklin’s quote would be “God helps those who ask for his help.”

Not all of the Bible’s wise sayings are from Proverbs. Jesus gave us more than his fair share in the Gospels. One in particular, often called the Golden Rule, is especially important.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. – Luke 6:31
Imagine how much better the world would be if everyone lived by that simple rule. Surely, there are some sadistic and masochistic people out there that would endure pain just to see others suffer, but for the most part, people would be much more inclined to treat others well when they consider how they want to be treated.

The idea of reciprocity in how we all interact with each other wasn’t a new concept at that point in the Bible, but the perspective was a bit different. We saw it as far back as Exodus.
But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. – Exodus 21:23-25
That way of looking at things has typically appealed to us as humans very well. We seem to like the idea of bad being done to those who have done bad to us. Many of the world’s justice systems seem to be built on the concept. If someone kills one of our loved ones, we execute them. That’s only fair right? Well, Jesus commented on that too.
“You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also. – Matthew 5:38-39
Jesus changed the narrative a bit and turned the concept on its head. He wasn’t telling us that we should just let people beat us up as is often said by those that seek to misrepresent his meaning. He was moving us away from our need to seek vengeance for every slight we receive and telling us we should not seek to do something that is wrong because we were wronged. With the Golden Rule, Jesus is forcing us to turn the concept back on ourselves. Instead of solely seeking to force others to experience the bad they have perpetrated on us. We should put the good on others that we would like to experience. This should be an easier thing to do. After all, we can’t control the actions of others, but we can control our own actions.

Whether your mind is on getting to Heaven or simply navigating through the world about your daily business, God’s Word can be of service. Sure, there are commandments we need to follow and doctrine we must apply to our faith, but there are also simpler and more concise truths that may be just as important. In the end, it’s all meant to bring us closer to God’s will. Whether it’s the most complicated parable Jesus told or the Bible’s smallest gilded nugget of insight, we should embed it all in our hearts and minds.

Chris Lawyer
Image courtesy of joshuanhook.com