In Praise of Virtue

EXODUS 20 – 1 And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them… “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God… “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy… 12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

GALATIANS 5 – 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Today as we come to worship we recognize Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts and the values they promote.

The Boy Scout Law says a Scout is: Trustworthy / Loyal / Helpful / Friendly / Courteous / Kind / Obedient / Cheerful / Thrifty / Brave / Clean / Reverent.

The Boy Scout Oath or Promise says:                                                                             On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

The Boy Scout Motto is: BE PREPARED.

Robert Baden-Powell (founder of the Boy Scouts) explains that BE PREPARED means you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your DUTY.

We applaud the virtues that are promoted by the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts.

And this morning I want to speak “in praise of virtue”, under three headings:

  1. Most of the world’s religions promote virtues that are remarkably similar. We believe this indicates our common origin as persons created in God’s image. (Genesis 1: 26, 27)
  1. We should seek to live by these virtues, building lives of integrity and godly character. And we should teach these virtues to our children. (Exodus 20:1-17) (Galatians 5:22-26)
  1. None of us can live fully virtuous lives. We fall short of moral perfection, but God still offers us eternal life through Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:23; 6:23)

So let’s begin!

  1. Most of the world’s religions promote virtues that are remarkably similar. We believe this indicates our common origin as persons created in God’s image. (Genesis 1: 26, 27)

 

Buddhists and Muslims and Jews and Christians and even Atheists promote some of the same virtues.

The first century Pali Canon of Buddhism lists 10 virtues: Generosity, Proper conduct, Renunciation, Transcendental wisdom, Diligence, Patience, Truthfulness, Determination, Loving-kindness and Serenity.

The 11th century Muslim scholar Al Ghazali wrote: “Declare war on thirteen enemies you cannot see – egoism, arrogance, conceit, selfishness, greed, lust, intolerance, anger, lying, cheating, gossiping and slandering…”

And in his “Manifesto for Atheists,” British atheist Alain de Botton has suggested “Ten Virtues for the Modern Age”: Resilience, Empathy, Patience, Sacrifice, Politeness, Humor, Self-Awareness, Forgiveness, Hope, Confidence.

Jews and Christians follow the Ten Commandments, which were read at the start of today’s message.

And Christians believe that the fruits of the Spirit (identified by St. Paul and also read at the start of the message) are virtues God wants to plant in each of us so we can achieve the potential for which we were created.

Some would say that, since all religions promote similar values, there must be little difference between them. Perhaps (they say) there are many roads that lead to God.

Traditional Christians (and I am one of those) respectfully disagree. We would say that the religions of the world represent the human longing for God, humans reaching out for God as best they can.

We would say that Judaism and Christianity represent God reaching down to humanity, reaching down to rescue and redeem us.

And, as traditional Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan. What began with Adam and Noah and Abraham and Moses was brought to its full realization in Jesus Christ.

The reason almost all religions promote similar virtues is because all of us were created in the image of God. Even though God’s image in us has been broken because of sin, we still all see the value and importance of honesty / and patience / and fair play / and other virtues.

So, first, most of the world’s religions promote virtues that are remarkably similar. As Christians, we believe this indicates our common origin as persons created in God’s image.

  1. Then secondly,

We should seek to live by these virtues, building lives of integrity and godly character. And we should teach these values to our children. (Exodus 20:1-17) (Galatians 5:22-26)

In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we read about Joseph, son of Jacob. His brothers hated him and ultimately sold him as a slave into Egypt. Joseph became a slave in the house of Potiphar.

In Genesis chapter 39 Joseph was tempted to do evil. His master’s wife tried hard to entice him into sexual compromise. He strongly resisted her advances.

Many today would call Joseph a “Goody-Two-Shoes” because he resisted evil. Today (as often in the past) we live is a culture where many scoff at the righteous and call them “sissies” or (in Canada where I come from) “Dudley Do-Rights” for resisting temptations of the flesh and spirit.

Why not “live a little”? Why not “sow some wild oats”? Why not “try it, you’ll like it”?

This morning I want to stand against the idea that “real men” cannot be virtuous men. I want to stand against the notion that being a virtuous man is somehow sissified or weak or watered down.

Today I want to stand against the widespread notion that “Real Men” must be dabblers in unrighteous behavior. It is a lie of the evil one that goodness must be boring. It is a foul lie that there is more pleasure in unrighteousness than in goodness.

Men, our sons and grandsons need mentors in virtuous living. They need to see men who are truth-tellers. They need to see men who transparent about challenges and short-comings in their own lives, men who don’t hide behind the mask of machoism.

So, secondly, We should seek to live by virtuous lives, lives of integrity and godly character. And we should teach these values to our children.

  1. And third, None of us can live fully virtuous lives. We fall short of moral perfection, but God still offers us eternal life through Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:23; 6:23)

So let’s begin with St. Paul’s words in Romans 3:23: “…all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Say it with me: “I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

None of us is faultless within ourselves. We think and say and do things that reveal our inner brokenness, our self-centeredness.

And three chapters later St. Paul says, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, dying in OUR place for OUR sins, God offers us eternal life as a free gift.

We cannot earn it by our good deeds or shining virtues. We cannot earn it by self-sacrifice, or pouring out our lives for others.

But we can accept eternal life as a free gift from God through His Son Jesus.

The band MercyMe has written the song “Flawless”:

No matter the bumps, No matter the bruises,
No matter the scars, Still the truth is
The cross has made, The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt, Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain, Still the truth is
The cross has made, The cross has made you flawless.

There’s an equation that some of you have heard me use before. This equation helps us understand how God’s free gift works.

It’s not “Faith + Works = Salvation,” but rather: “Faith = Salvation + Works”…

So I urge you this morning: Put your trust in Jesus Christ. Receive God’s free gift of salvation through the cross. Allow God to build the character of Jesus into your life,more and more.

Allow the Holy Spirit of God to work in YOU, to build these virtues into YOUR life, for HIS glory.

And all God’s people said: AMEN!

Resisting Temptation

 

(Brook Hill UMC – Oct. 25, 2015)

(from the series “God’s Messages – They Ain’t Spam”)

Matthew 4:1-11 (NIV) 1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ” (Psalm 91:11-12)

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” (Deuteronomy 6:16)

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” (Deuteronomy 6:13)

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

 

Every day most of us are bombarded by messages. Billboards urge us to eat All-Day Breakfast at McDonald’s. Yard signs urge us (I saw this sign yesterday) to vote for Bernie Sanders. Television commercials urge us to drink Bud Lite in the new Redskins or Ravens beer cans. My email invites me to buy a Creo Food-Stacking tool from The Daily Grommet. Last night Facebook was trying to sell me a T-shirt that says “Made in Canada – a Long Time Ago.”

In the midst of all these messages God also speaks to us. He speaks to our hearts by His Spirit. He speaks to our minds and hearts by His Word.

God says to us (through the prophet Isaiah): “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” (Is. 45:22)

He says to us (through His Son Jesus): “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mt. 16:24)

In the midst of a thousand voices, we must hear – we must obey – the Word of the Lord.

This morning we look at the topic of temptation, and how to resist it. The scripture we use is Saint Matthew’s account of Jesus being tempted by the devil.

And we’ll look at this subject under three headings:

  1. The Bible teaches that Satan is real.
  2. Satan tempted Jesus directly, but usually tempts us indirectly, through our own self-centeredness.
  3. Knowing scripture can help us resist temptation.

So, here we go!

  1. THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT SATAN IS REAL.

In this passage, and in more than 50 other scriptures, Satan is identified as a real being.

A 2011 Gallup poll showed that nine in 10 Americans believe in God.

But a Barna Group survey that same year found that only 43% of Americans believe the devil to be a “living entity,” as opposed to a symbol of evil.

But C.S. Lewis believed in Satan. Lewis was an intellectual, a professor at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He is the author of 74 books, including the Chronicles of Narnia and “The Screwtape Letters.”

In his original preface to “The Screwtape Letters”, Lewis warned of:

“…two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.” One error “is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”

Lewis concluded that the devils “are equally pleased by both errors…”

And in his 2nd preface to that same book, 20 years later, he wrote:

The commonest question [I am asked] is whether I really “be­lieve in the Devil.” Now, if by “the Devil” you mean a power opposite to God and, like God, self-existent from all eternity, the answer is certainly “No”. There is no uncreated be­ing except God. God has no opposite. No being could attain a “perfect badness” opposite to the perfect goodness of God; for when you have taken away every kind of good thing (intelligence, will, memory, energy, and existence itself) there would be none of him left.

The proper question is whether I believe in devils. I do. That is to say, I believe in angels, and I believe that some of these, by the abuse of their free will, have become enemies to God and, as a corollary, to us. These we may call devils. They do not differ in nature from good angels, but their nature is depraved. Devil is the opposite of angel only as Bad Man is the opposite of Good Man. Satan, the leader or dictator of devils, is the opposite, not of God, but of [the archangel] Michael.

And (for what it’s worth) Pope Francis believes in the devil. A recent article by a Catholic priest on the CNN website says:

“His tweets and homilies about the devil, Satan, the Accuser, the Evil One, the Father of Lies, the Ancient Serpent, the Tempter, the Seducer, the Great Dragon, the Enemy and just plain “demon” are now legion.

…Francis refers to the devil continually. He does not believe him to be a myth, but a real person…

The Pope has stressed that we must not be naïve… Francis has been warning that whoever wants to follow Jesus must be aware of the reality of the devil. The life of every Christian is a constant battle against evil, just as Jesus during his life had to struggle against the devil and his many temptations.

…Francis wishes to call everyone back to reality. The devil is so frequently active in our lives…, drawing us into negativity, cynicism, despair, meanness of spirit, sadness and nostalgia.

[The Pope says] We must react to the devil… as did Jesus, who replied with the Word of God… one cannot dialogue [with the Dark Prince]; one can only respond with the Word of God that defends us.

(Rev. Thomas Rosica, July 20, 2015)

In reporting on the life of Jesus (in the four letters of Matthew, Mark and Luke and John), the Bible gives us about a dozen places where Satan is identified by name and spoken of as a real being.

So the Bible teaches that Satan is real.

  1. SATAN TEMPTED JESUS DIRECTLY, BUT USUALLY TEMPTS US INDIRECTLY, THROUGH OUR OWN SELF-CENTEREDNESS.

The Bible says that “each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” (James 1:13-14)

So often when we’re tempted, it’s through our own inner desires, our own inner yearnings.

Why do 70% of Christian men and 30% of Christian women say they struggle with Internet pornography?

Why can’t you resist going back to the buffet and getting three or four helpings of those candied yams? That’s not the enemy directly at work – it’s our own desires.

In the scripture we read, Satan directly tempted Jesus.

He said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” It looks like the enemy was trying to get Jesus to even doubt His identity as the Son of God.

If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from the top of this temple.” The enemy was appealing to Jesus’ vanity and pride, for surely such a miraculous sign would have caused many people to begin following Jesus.

But Satan had never dealt with a man like Jesus. In John 14:30, Jesus told his disciples: “…the prince of this world is coming, and [he has] nothing in me.

But the enemy has something in us! Our lives have been broken by sin, and our self-centeredness and pride often consume us.

Since the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden, humans have been largely self-focused and self-centered.

Every time I preach at Brook Hill, I want to preach the best sermon ever preached. And I want that sermon to be used by God to help and encourage and teach God’s people.

But if I’m honest, hidden somewhere in the middle of those motives, is the motive of pride. I want people to think well of me. I want to polish my own apple. I want to be seen as a capable preacher, someone worth listening to.

That is pride. At its worst, that is vanity. God, forgive me! Cleanse my heart again! Make me pure in Your eyes.

So Satan tempted Jesus directly, but he usually tempts us indirectly, through our own self-centeredness.

  1. KNOWING SCRIPTURE CAN HELP US RESIST TEMPTATION.

The Word of God is our sword in the spiritual fight! We should be reading it every day.

We should look for opportunities to study it, to memorize it, to get it our hearts and minds. It is the best weapon in resisting temptation.

(1) For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15) It’s a comfort to know that Jesus has been there. He faced every temptation that you or I will face.

(2) Because [Jesus] himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18) So Christ is able and willing to help us. When we ask Him, He gives us strength to resist and overcome.

(3) I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16 – NKJV) As we actively focus on loving the Lord and walking in obedience, we will be able to resist temptation more easily.

(4) For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age (Titus 2:11–12) God wants to help us and give us victory in our struggles with sin.

(5) Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5–6) Lord, help us to live in synch with Your Spirit! Help us daily to offer our minds to You, to submit to You as our Governor.

(6) “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) As we allow God to remake us, to renew our minds, He will transform us more and more into His likeness.

(7) “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Romans 13:13–14 NKJV)  Father, help us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ! Give us spiritual power to live holy lives, lives that please You!

(8) Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31) Lord, help us to remain often in Your Word, to live there, to abide there!

(9) “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) We will not be tempted beyond our ability to withstand. The Father gives us the power to overcome the wiles of the enemy.

PRAYER: “Lord, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the power of the evil one…”

Jesus Christ, Our King Victorious

(Brook Hill United Methodist Church – November 22, 2015)

Revelation 19:6,11-16 (The Message) Then I heard the sound of massed choirs, the sound of a mighty cataract, the sound of strong thunder: Hallelujah! The Master reigns, our God, the Sovereign-Strong! 

11-16 Then I saw Heaven open wide—and oh! a white horse and its Rider. The Rider, named Faithful and True, judges and makes war in pure righteousness. His eyes are a blaze of fire, on his head many crowns. He has a Name inscribed that’s known only to himself. He is dressed in a robe soaked with blood, and he is addressed as “Word of God.” The armies of Heaven, mounted on white horses and dressed in dazzling white linen, follow him. A sharp sword comes out of his mouth so he can subdue the nations, then rule them with a rod of iron. He treads the winepress of the raging wrath of God, the Sovereign-Strong. On his robe and thigh is written, King of kings, Lord of lords

Revelation 11:15 (The Message) 15 The seventh Angel trumpeted. A crescendo of voices in Heaven sang out, The kingdom of the world is now the Kingdom of our God and his Messiah! He will rule forever and ever!

This weekend Hood College presents music from Handel’s “Messiah” as they have for many years.

Their selections include the “Hallelujah Chorus”, whose words are from the scripture we just read, in the older King James Version:

“Hallelujah! For the Lord God the Omnipotent reigneth! The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. King of kings, and Lord of lords!  Hallelujah!”

These strong words tell of the day when Jesus’ Kingship is fully manifested. This morning I want to think with you about that day.

Today is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the liturgical year.

Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of a new liturgical year.

On this Christ the King Sunday, I’m asking you to think with me about Jesus our Victorious King, under four headings:

  1. Jesus Is Our King Victorious.
  2. Jesus’ Victory and Kingdom are Real, but Only Partially Manifested.
  3. It Makes a Difference for Us that Jesus is Both Victor and King.
  4. We Will See the Day when Jesus’ Victory and Kingdom are Fully Manifested, and This Moves Us to Give Thanks.

So here we go:

  1. JESUS IS OUR KING VICTORIOUS.

(a) Because of His lineage as the only begotten Son of God, Jesus is rightful king of the universe.

Colossians 1:15-17 (New International Version)  15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together… 

When we look at Jesus Christ, we see God as we can see Him in no other human.

Everything in the heavens was made by Him: The star called Deneb can be seen in the night sky. It is the most distant visible star. It has been estimated to be as far as 3000 light years away from us. If that is so, then a light-beam which left that star in the time of King David is actually arriving on earth today. (Amazing!) And friends, Jesus made that star Deneb.

And everything on earth was made by Jesus: You have an average of 37.2 trillion cells in your body, and about 200 different types of cells (Smithsonian Online). Jesus knows each cell. He created each of them. He keeps them functioning at this hour and at every hour of your life.

Everything started in Christ and finds its true purpose in him. Everything is held together by Him. He is the rightful king of the universe, and the rightful Lord over all.

He knows you. Do you know Him?

So, because of His lineage as the only begotten Son of God, Jesus is rightful king of the universe.

(b) By His death and resurrection, Jesus has defeated death and all the dark forces of the universe.

Colossians 2:13-15 (The Message) …Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.

Let’s think about what this means:

When God created humans, He made us in His image. Then Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and their disobedience brought a kind of captivity to Planet Earth.

Our first parents’ sin brought death into the human race. First, physical death. And also spiritual death – separation from a holy God.

Sin brought spiritual darkness into world. Ultimately, it brought war into Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria. It brought ISIS into the world, with bombing in Paris and Beirut.

Sin brought addiction to America. It brought broken relationships to Frederick and right into Brook Hill Church. Sin brought illness and disease into your family.

But Jesus came to bring deliverance. He came as a human, with flesh and blood, just like us. He knew pain and sorrow and hurt and grief.

When He died, he took all the sin, all the pain, all the darkness into the grave with Him.

Then He rose again – HE ROSE AGAIN! SET FREE FROM THE BONDS OF DEATH! VICTORIOUS OVER THE ENEMY!

When He died and rose again, He overcame the powers that held us captive. He defeated the devils and all their dark schemes. He overcame sin and death. He made a way for us to reconnect with our Father God.

So I declare to you that JESUS IS OUR KING… VICTORIOUS!

  1. JESUS’ VICTORY AND KINGDOM ARE REAL, BUT ONLY PARTIALLY MANIFESTED.

If you are a believer in Jesus, He has forgiven all your sins. But you still struggle with sin and temptation.

If you have an addiction or an unhealthy compulsion, Christ can set you free from that destructive behavior, but you will still need to live your life “one day at a time.” You may still need to build your life on the wisdom of the 12 STEPS in your ongoing recovery.

As a follower of Jesus, your broken relationships can often be rebuilt, but sometimes the wounds and misunderstandings seem to make reconciliation impossible.

Jesus’ victory is real, but the wars on earth rage on, with an untold sum of human misery.

Why is that? Why is Jesus’ victory real, but only partially manifested?

I wish I had a magic answer for you. I wish I had a slick algorithm that could clear this up for you in 0.17 seconds. But there’s some mystery about it. Are you good with that?

Jesus gives us some clues about this mystery in His 15 kingdom parables (or stories). Here are two of them:

Matthew 13:31-33 (New International Version)  31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” 33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Let’s think about this:

Jesus says that his kingdom is a living, growing thing, like a mustard seed. It began very small indeed, with the birth of a baby in Bethlehem. It continued with His life of love – helping people, serving people, healing people, teaching them.

The kingdom of Jesus reached a greater manifestation when He died and rose again.

And now, for 2000 years it’s been working its way from person to person. The kingdom continues to grow, sometimes slowly, until now (and who knows what the number really is?) there are an estimated 2.5 billion Christians, about 1/3 of the earth’s population.

It takes a long time for a teaspoonful of yeast to work its way through 60 pounds of flour!

So Jesus’ victory and kingdom are real, but only partially manifested.

  1. IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE FOR US THAT JESUS IS BOTH VICTOR AND KING.

And that difference is HOPE. Pastor Wade spoke of HOPE last Sunday. Hope is an anchor for our souls:

Hebrews 6:19 (Living Bible)  19 This certain hope of being saved is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls, connecting us with God himself behind the sacred curtains of heaven…

So we do not DESPAIR, as many do today. It gives us HOPE when we remember that Jesus is our King, and He is Victor over sin and death.

  1. WE WILL SEE THE DAY WHEN JESUS’ VICTORY AND KINGDOM ARE FULLY MANIFESTED, AND THIS MOVES US TO GIVE THANKS.

Earlier we read the passage in Revelation 19:

The day is coming when Heaven will open wide. (And some of this imagery is both symbolic but also true.)

We will see Him riding a white horse, leading the armies of Heaven into battle. His eyes will be blazing with fire, and many crowns upon His head. (We sing a strong hymn of praise about this.)

His robe, soaked with the blood of crucifixion. A sword comes from His mouth to subdue and rule the nations. Does He have a tattoo? On His robe and on His thigh two phrases are written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS!

The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ, And He shall reign FOREVER AND EVER!

And for this we give thanks, in this Thanksgiving season, and always.

A God-Story from Cindy Champion

Be still and know that I am God.

About 12 or so years ago I was headed to the Women of Faith Conference at the Verizon Center. We had a group of 20+ ladies from Brook Hill going. We all met up to carpool. We rushed to drive to our hotel, and then make our way via the metro to the Verizon. Quite the feat for all of us busy moms. The car ride down was just buzzing with last minute phone calls with husbands, moms and babysitters, reciting the long list of to-dos to be accomplished in our 30 hour absence. I too called my husband several times, reminding him of the Saturday schedule of soccer games, a birthday party, and numerous chores to do.

We sat in Friday night traffic, rushed onto the hotel, checked in and soon needed to meet up for a quick dinner before leaving the hotel. I forgot something and headed down solo to the car. I got in the elevator, immediately the elevator traveled to the basement and the door opened only 10 inches. I was stuck. How could this be happening. Then a young woman appeared just outside the elevator door, she told me she called maintenance and someone would be here soon to help. She was so kind and said she would wait with me until help arrived. Through this 10 inch opening, she told me how she and her husband and 2 year old daughter were living in a room the hotel. Her husband was working construction. We talked about 20 minutes until the door finally opened to release me. During that time this young woman told me about the hope she had for a better life. They were from Texas, and were saving up money to move back home. She told me how they were working hard to start a new life.

I was so mad at myself. Here I had rushed through my day with no appreciation for the blessings in my life. I was so wrapped up in the busyness of my life, and here this young woman seemed so happy and hopeful. I was on what should be a joyous weekend sharing fellowship with some great ladies, but I was so rushed I was not enjoying it.

I believe God gave me the experience of that day first for me to be still, to take a moment to stop and slow down. To settle my mind so that I could be open to the experience of meeting this young woman, and hearing her wisdom. I think God wanted me to slow down, so that I would be open to the praise and worship that would occur at the Women of Faith Conference.

I also was very disappointed in myself. I allowed all of the busyness of my life to preoccupy too much of my attention. Busyness that truly was not all that meaningful. This brief 20 minute conversation with this nameless young woman, caused me to reflect on the blessings in my life. I sometimes think of that young woman and pray she did make her way back to Texas. God used her to help me slow down and be thankful. A true God moment.

First Place

First Place (lead sheet) D

Downloadable Lead Sheet: First Place (lead sheet) D

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First place, That’s what You deserve

Wounded for my sins, Broken for my hurt

First place, Healer of my wounds

Lover of my soul, First place

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How can I deny a love so deep and wide?

How can I refuse Your love?

How can I deny a love so deep and wide?

How can I refuse Your love?

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Your grace, That’s what I received

Long before I heard, Long before I knew

Your grace, Poured out over me

Mercy over me, Your grace!

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How can I deny a love so deep and wide?

How can I refuse Your love?

How can I deny a love so deep and wide?

How can I refuse Your love?

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First place, That’s what You deserve

You’re the one I love, You’re the one I’ll serve

First place, Ruler of my heart

Master of my life, First place!

Spirit of God, My Soul Needs Reviving

Downloadable Lead Sheet (pdf): Spirit of God, My Soul Needs Reviving – Eb rev 2

Guitar-friendly Key (pdf): Spirit of God, My Soul Needs Reviving – D rev 2

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Spirit of God, My Soul Needs Reviving - Eb rev 2

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Spirit of God, My Soul Needs Reviving - D rev 2

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1) Spirit of God, my soul needs reviving

My mind needs renewing, fill me again

Spirit of Christ, my love needs restoring

My life needs reordering, fill me again.

Come Holy Spirit, Giver of grace

Lord, I surrender, Come take Your place

Spirit of Christ, my love needs restoring

Rule in my heart forever!

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(Verse 2 suggested by Betty MacPherson Johnson)

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2) Spirit of God, our souls needs reviving

Our minds need renewing, fill us again

Spirit of Christ, our love needs restoring

Our lives needs reordering, fill us again.

Come Holy Spirit, Giver of grace

Lord, we surrender, Come take Your place

Spirit of Christ, our love needs restoring

Rule in our hearts forever!

Holy Spirit, Work Within Me (tune: “Come, Thou Fount”)

Downloadable hymn sheet: Holy Spirit, Work Within Me (Nettleton) D

Downloadable hymn sheet (lower key): Holy Spirit, Work Within Me (Nettleton) C

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Holy Spirit, work within me,
Prideful, selfish as I am
Full of broken, vain ambition
Full of every rebel plan
Let the love and grace of Jesus
Be my focus, be my goal
Burn within me, cleanse me, change me,
Make me holy, make me whole.

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You are light and truth and beauty
Every good and noble dream
But you once walked earth among us
Tempted, tested as I am.
I surrender, I surrender
Be my beacon burning bright
Live within me, cleanse me, change me,
Be my Master, be my light!

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Holy Spirit, work within me,
Let the love of Christ shine through
Sweeten every ugly impulse
Till in me the world sees you.
Let your fragrance, let your beauty,
Let your grace flow from my soul
Burn within me, cleanse me, change me,
Make me holy, make me whole.

Holy Spirit, Work Within Me

Downloadable Hymn Sheet: Holy Spirit, Work Within Me (4-part)

In a lower key: Holy Spirit, Work Within Me (4-part) C

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Holy Spirit, work within me,
Prideful, selfish as I am
Full of broken, vain ambition
Full of every rebel plan
Let the love and grace of Jesus
Be my focus, be my goal
Burn within me, cleanse me, change me,
Make me holy, make me whole.

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You are light and truth and beauty
Every good and noble dream
But you once walked earth among us
Tempted, tested as I am.
I surrender, I surrender
Be my beacon burning bright
Live within me, cleanse me, change me,
Be my Master, be my light!

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Holy Spirit, work within me,
Let the love of Christ shine through
Sweeten every ugly impulse
Till in me the world sees you.
Let your fragrance, let your beauty,
Let your grace flow from my soul
Burn within me, cleanse me, change me,
Make me holy, make me whole.

Today I Fall Upon Your Grace

Download lead sheet here: Today I Fall Upon Your Grace

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You are my hope and confidence for this unsteady day

While other hopes are few and weak, which shine but fade away

I need a rock, an anchoring place

Today I fall upon Your grace.

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You are the ancient remedy, the everlasting cure

Deep in my soul I rise, convinced this remedy is sure

I need a rock, a healing place

Today I fall upon Your grace.

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You are the chosen sacrifice, You are the spotless Lamb,

There on a distant lonely hill You bore the sins of man

You are my Rock, my saving place

Today I fall upon Your grace.

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You are my steady Comforter, closer than my next breath

Your mighty arms will carry me beyond the pains of death

You are my Rock, my hiding place

Today I fall upon Your grace.

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words and music by Gary Hicks

copyright 2005, 2010, 2015