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Sermon of the Week 
Tuesday, December 19 2017

Show Me The Way To Bethlehem

To me, Bethlehem represents that place we never intended on ending up, but somehow, some way we got there. It’s as though in spite of all our planning and preparing for another direction and another place, there were forces at work that had another idea about our lives.

Let’s start by asking, how did you get to where you are today? I’m sure none of us could begin to recount the millions of events, people and circumstance all through our journey, that got us to this place and this time in our lives, and yet, here we are… We could have ended up in a thousand other places, but HERE WE ARE!

Two cowboys come upon an Indian lying on his stomach with his ear to the ground.   One of the cowboys stops and says to the other, "You see that Indian?" "Yeah,"   says the other cowboy. "If you’ll notice, he's listening to the ground and he can hear things for miles in any direction."

Just then the Indian says "There’s a Covered wagon, about two miles away.  It has two horses, one brown and one white. There’s a Man, woman, child, and all their household effects in the wagon."

"Wow, that’s Incredible!"   says the cowboy to his friend. "This Indian knows how far away they are, how many horses, the color they are, who is in the wagon, and what they have in the wagon. I am amazed that he can tell all that by listening to ground! "The Indian looks up and says,"It ran over me about a half hour ago."

Well, life is full of surprises, and along with the plans we have planned, it’s those very unplanned events that have usually brought us to where we are. The Bethlehem story, would have been altogether different, if it weren’t for some unplanned surprises. One of those surprises is in…   Luke 2:1 “There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.” SURPRISE!!!

Caesar Augustus was the greatest of the Roman emperors, greater even than his granduncle, Julius Caesar. It was said that when he came to Rome it was a city of brick, and when he left it was a city of marble. He reigned as emperor for 41 years. His greatest single act–that would have the most lasting effect on world history–was to call for a census of the empire. It’s the kind of thing governments have been doing every since. 

When the time came to take the census in Israel, it meant that the Jews would have to return to their ancestral hometowns. That would explain why Joseph and Mary had to return to Bethlehem at a most inconvenient time–in the ninth month of Mary’s pregnancy.

So, Merry Christmas, Caesar Augustus. You played a part you never knew and paved the way for the birthday of the King of Kings. 

As a matter of fact I want to take time to thank all the folks and situations that taken all together, brought you to exactly where you are today, doing what you are doing at this time in your life, and perhaps, for you being the person you are now….The truth is, we have all been on our own unique journey filled with unplanned events, to our own Bethlehem.

Joseph was a good carpenter, but probably knew nothing about bringing babies into the world. I submit to you that there was another woman there in the manger, and that Mary probably had the help of a local midwife there in Bethlehem, to assist with the birth of Jesus in the lowly stable. How could this lowly midwifehave known that she would be called upon to bring the Son of God into this world. What an unplanned event she was brought into, the first one to introduce the Messiah to the world. She was called upon because the local folks knew she had done this before, probably often and would have sent for her.  

It makes me think that the Messiah is looking for some midwives to help Him to be born into the lives of those who need some help, in making that important life changing decision.                                                                         How wonderful that there are some among us who are known for assisting Jesus to be born into many people’s lives. We think of Billy Graham, the TBN network, 700 club, Reinhart Bonke, and we could go on and on…. But what if each of us made the history changing decision to be God’s mid wife in the world, to see Jesus born into the lives of families, friends, neighbors and those many folks without Christ in our city….

Philip Yancey has a line in his book, “The Jesus I Never Knew”, where he puts it this way: “The God who came to earth came not in a raging whirlwind nor in a devouring fire. Amazingly, the Maker of all things shrank down, down, down, so small as to become a single fertilized egg barely visible to the naked eye, an egg that would divide and redivide until a fetus took shape, enlarging cell by cell inside a nervous teenager. Growing in her womb toward the time of birthing…. Scripture tells us that He ‘made Himself nothing . . .and He did it to give us everything”!

This Bethlehem story tells us that as folks are going about their daily tasks, just living life…. Working, playing, interacting and just doing their daily stuff….suddenly God shows up, and GOD INVADES the natural order of things with the supernatural!HEY THERE’S AN INVASION GOING ON! It’s those times when things begin to develop that take us to another level and we are launched onto an uncertain path that takes us in an uncertain direction…..that changes everything forever!

The road to Bethlehem is about never giving up….There is no way they could have known, that what was being done in the palaces of Ceaser, would touch the lives of this teenage girl and the man she was espoused to, but they persisted in spite of all the surprises,.                                                                                                                                              I wonder how many times, things that didn’t look spiritual at all, none the less, positioned and located us in such a way, that God moved thru them, to bring about Spiritual transformation and a Holy birthing!

So many have heard the call of God on their journey to their own Bethlehem, and because they refused to give up…they ended up as a Martin Luther King Jr…. a Paul Crouch, a Pat Robertson, a Joel Osteen, T.D Jakes, or maybe a little woman who anointed and washed the feet of Jesus. The apostles were fishermen, carpenters, a doctor, and a couple of religious zeolots…. Who ended up changing the world!

Perhaps you didn’t know that when he was 15, actor Jim Carrey had to drop out of school to support his family. His father was an unemployed alcoholic musician and as the family went from “middle class to poor,” they eventually had to start living in a van. Carrey didn’t let this stop him from achieving his dream of becoming a comedian: He went from having his dad drive him to comedy clubs in Toronto to starring in mega-blockbuster movies and becoming known as one of the best comedic actors of an entire era.        

Benjamin Franklin dropped out of school at age ten. That didn’t stop this determined young man from his journey of learning and self-development. He taught himself through his constant reading and studying, and eventually went on to invent the lightning rod and bifocals. He was a world traveler, and Oh yes, he became one of America’s Founding Fathers, who helped compose and sign, the Declaration of Independence! And my favorite picture of him is on the $100.00 bill!!! *….Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his entire lifetime and it wasbought because his brother’s girlfriend felt sorry for him. It was sold for 80 dollars. Today that same painting sold for 82.5 million and is exhibited at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. Van Gogh is considered one of the greatest artists of all time, and even though Van Gogh made no money while he was alive, he still painted over 900 works of art. Each one of these paintings are now worth millions. Even though his persistence went unnoticed when he was alive, Van Gogh proves that you can’t judge your success by what you see at the moment.

Here's some quotes I found about success…. 

Jay London… Your window of opportunity sometimes involves a rock.                                                             A. H. Weiler…Nothing is impossible if you don’t have to do it your self..                                                   Darrin Weinberg… Before you start climbing the ladder of success, be sure you have it propped against the right wall.

If you were to ask one of the locals, “How far is it from the gates of Jerusalem to Bethlehem”?. He would tell you that it is about eight kilometers or just a two hour walk to the sleepy little town where Christ was born. Sometimes things seem to take forever, but as you look back, it’s amazing how quickly it happened. At 74, I look back at some points in the journey that seemed to never end, and now I’m amazed at how the time has flown. The older you get the faster it flies… and the hurrider you go the behinderyou get.                                                                                                     Why make mountains out of molehills? We can’t be like the man who was making a big deal of washing the dishes… He said, ‘I washed the forks, then the spoons, then the knives, then I washed the plates and saucers, after that I did the cups and glasses…. And that was just putting them in the dishwasher!  We call that much to do about nothing!                                                                                                                                                                                                                          An NFL player, gets a lot of bumps and bruises on the way to the playoffs…. But he keeps moving forward, because his eyes are fixed on the purpose for which everything else is preparing him in his skill level and his endurance. He’s not a champion because of winning the big games, but he becomes a champion through the journey to that goal. The journey is shaping and molding him into the champion he becomes and there comes a point where he realizes that it wasn’t about the big games, it was about the personal journey.It’s about what you do after football!

There’s A lot of history tied to that two hour walk called the Bethlehem road. It was in Bethlehem that Rachel was buried, and it was to Bethlehem that Naomi and Ruth returned, and where Ruth married Boaze and became part of the linage of Christ. King David was born and raised in Bethlehem and the prophet Micah wrote in….                                                                                          Micah 5:2 “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village in Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come forth from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.”                                                                                                                   On your journey to your personal Bethlehem, you will find a lot of great inspiration and direction from so many who have gone before you. We can benefit from the history of our Bethlehem, or we can ignore it and we’re doomed to repeat the parts that are not so good… We need to learn from the mistakes of others, because we can't possibly live long enough to make all the mistakes ourselves.

The Bethlehem road is a two lane highway, which not only brought a carpenter and his virgin wife, pregnant with child to it’s manger stable on that starry night, but when you take that road back to Jerusalem, it brings you to Calvary’s hill.                                                                                      “How far is it from Bethlehem to Calvary?”   Compared to the Millenniums that have come and gone since God spoke the world into being, the thirty-three year life span of Jesus is a relatively short period of time. There is only a short lifetime between singing angels, shepherds and wise men, to cursing soldiers with cat of nine tails at the Savior’s whipping post, (for by His stripes we are healed).  

It’s Just a few short years from swaddling clothes and a babe in manger straw,  to a crown of thorns…. from dimples and stubby fingers to blood stained cheeks and nail pierced hands. And yet as close as it might be, it is a sad fact of life that not enough have made that all important journey from Bethlehem to Calvary.                                                                                                                                                Yes, it’s just 2 hours from Jerusalem to Bethlehem… but from Bethlehem to Calvary, is a journey from Christmas trees, bells and bangles, to Easter Lillies, a cross and a tomb. But one cannot find the real power of Christmas, separated from that place called Calvary…. Whether society wants to admit it or not, When they celebrate Christmas, they are joining in the celebration of the Messiah’s birth. Our Father’s road map will always take us from a stable manger to Calvary’s hill where the wood that built a manger is transformed into an old rugged cross. 

It was Dr. Seuss who wrote….“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!” 

Every advertisement for Christmas keeps the name of Jesus in front of people. And while local stores may not play “Victory in Jesus” or “Power in the Blood”…they proclaim the birth of Christ to everyone in the store with “Silent Night”, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, and “It came upon a midnight clear”…. Christmas without Calvary is like a snowman in August, it’s just a puddle….

There’s a cross in the cradle. A Christ child in a manger is a safe place,  because a baby makes no demands on our life. But a crucified, resurrected Savior, requires that we make a decision about Him, to accept what He offers, or to walk away and refuse His gift of forgiveness and salvation. You see, without Calvary, there would be no Bethlehem celebration, because Jesus would have been just another fake…. A good, wonderful person, but just a fake. 

A guy bought his wife a beautiful diamond ring for Christmas.After hearing about this extravagant gift, a friend of his said, "I thought she wanted one of those sporty four-wheel-drive vehicles." "Oh yeah, She did," he replied. "But when I checked, a fake Jeep is harder to find?" Thank God Jesus is the real deal….and there is coming a day when the world will see and know!

Jesus Laid Aside His Godhead….And when He was born in Bethlehem, He chose to leave His divinity, and become flesh. He chose to live with the same limitations that you and I have. He told the disciples that the glory He had with the Father, was available to them also. He said that He did nothing of himself, but that it all came from the Father in Heaven. Jesus said that the Father showed Him what He was to do, and as He obeyed, the Father’s glory was what made the difference. The mystery of the incarnation is that He was fully man, while being fully God.                         The story of Christmas is a mystery of integration, where the life force of God entered the seed of a woman. God the Son, chose to lay aside His God part, as an example and as sin’s remedy for each of us.

So, the big question is… how can Christ, dying on a cross, cleanse my soul from it’s sin, 2000 years later? That’s simple…..He’s not dead! He’s alive and after leaving us as the heirs of His kingdom, He came back to be sure that we receive what He left for us.                                       Hebrews 7:25 tells us…“Wherefore He is able also to save all of those totally and completely that come unto God by Him, seeing He forever lives to make intercession for them”.                                                                                                                

Why should we be content to stay in Bethlehem when there is so much waiting for us just a 2 hour walk down the road? After all Bethlehem holds the promise of eternal life but it’s Calvary that holds the actual gift of eternal life.

Mary Ellen Chase said  “Christmas, is not a date on the calendar,it is a state of heart and mind. ” 

Luke 2:8 tells us that some shepherds were in the fields outside the village that night, guarding their flocks of sheep. . What an announcement They received! They ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. But what about those Christmas  shepherds? I hate to malign the shepherds but I tend to think of them as flash in the pan believers. They had this great choir of angels who told them about the Christ child, and if anything should move you to action I would think this would. Luke 2:17 tells us that the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.

But that’s all Luke wrote, we don’t hear anymore about the shepherds, no aged shepherd 33 years later, are recorded making their way to the cross to worship at the feet of Christ, as they saw the promise told them by angels fulfilled. None of the disciples of Jesus were shepherds, there were no shepherd witnesses at the trial of Jesus. No, they stayed in Bethlehem, for them it was too far to travel that 2 hours to get to Calvary. When the thrills, and angel singing stopped they just melted back into the hills. They had a historical experience, it was something that happened long ago, but never maintained and kept current. 

The reason the Christian faith and the Christian Church has survived and flourished over the past 2000 years is because there are some who after the angels have gone, the visions and thrills have subsided, and the heavens are still, and life is life again, they still believe and stick fast.

Then there are the words “No room in the inn” that are part of the Christmas story…. When the gospel of Luke records the arrival of Mary and Joseph and the unborn Jesus in Bethlehem, as they come to the inn, it doesn’t say that there was no room in the inn….. It says that there was no room for THEM in the inn. How would you like history to record that YOU were the one that rejected Jesus. And yet this guy has lots of company, for he is just one of multitudes who could never get their heads around the amazing mystery of the incarnation!                                                      But just two hours away at Calvary, it will never say that there was no room for anyone…. There is always room for more, at the foot of the cross, for as many as will come….For all who are willing to make the journey!

You see the truth is, the Bethlehem inn keeper just didn’t care…. He was busy, he was distracted, he didn’t understand the importance of the moment he was in….But no one can ever be able to say, that there is no compassion at calvary. The sacrifice made there is self explanatory! 

We know that Joseph died at some point after Jesus was 12 years old, because that’s the last mention of him….but out of all of the people that were there that first Christmas, there is only one that we know for sure followed Christ from Bethlehem to Calvary and that was the young virgin who was his mother. Her life was changed forever by the child that she gave birth to that day. For her, every moment of every day would be changed from that point on. It’s the difference in just knowing something and having it birthed in you.                                                                                     You see Mary’s experience was not just a Bethlehem Christmas experience, or a commitment of someone caught up in the celebration. She was 100% committed to the child she called Jesus. And that is what He is looking for today. He wants us to come to the manager with the same attitude as Mary, who was in it for the long haul. Because it’s only when we are completely convinced of who Jesus is and what He offers all of us, that we will be able to make the trip from Bethlehem to salvation’s birthplace at Calvary.

Bethlehem was the birthplace of the Savior, but Calvary was the birthplace of salvation!

Satan will try every way possible to keep us from going from Bethlehem to Calvary. He will use people who disappointed you and let you down, he will use religions that said one thing but did another, he will use circumstances and life itself to seduce your perspective. Listen, Stop remembering what God has already forgotten. Just because the past keeps tapping you on the shoulder doesn't mean you have to turn around and stop moving forward.   

It was at Calvary, that He bore our offences, it was there that the power of sin was defeated, and a person without sin puts Satan out of business. It was there that the power of death was broken. And if we no longer fear death, then what else is there to fear!                                                              Christmas is beginning of the journey, and Calvary sets us free, so that what was done in Jerusalem gives us confidence, courage, boldness and assurance in Key West, Florida!!!

If the Son has set you free, then you are free indeed!!!                                            Let’s stand together and sing that beautiful Christmas song we sang earlier…. “Oh come let us adore Him, Oh come let us adore Him, Oh come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord….

For He alone is worthy, For He alone is worthy, For He alone is worthy, Christ the Lord”…..

Posted by: AT 08:44 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, December 19 2017

Making a list checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice, Santa Clause is coming to town…..

My mom used to remind us of that old Christmas song of condemnation and negative messaging…..

I remember, my brother actually got a bag of charcoal one Christmas, because mom said he had been so bad… Of course, after he did some tearful repenting, they brought out his presents which they had hidden. 

We can all be thankful for grace that gets us what we need, not what we deserve, or we’d all be in deep trouble…

Two little boys were talking about Christmas. One said, “ We went out in the woods and got a real tree this Christmas”. The other boy said “My folks got us an artificial tree this year.” The other little guy asked, “Does that bother you?” “Oh No,” was the response, “just as long as the gifts are real.” Well, praise God, His gifts are real, and they have no end in sight!

At the heart of my message today is a story about someone who didn’t have much to look forward to because everyone around her was in the same shape as herself and had very little as well. If our story were taking place at Christmas, it would have been a bleak one indeed….

There was a famine in the land, and no one had enough for their own needs so forget about giving to someone else…. 

Let’s look at this situation in 1 Kings 17:8 “And the word of the LORD came unto Elijah, saying, v9 Arise, get you to (Key West) Zarephath, which belongs to Zidon, and dwell there; behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain you. v10 So he arose and went to (Key West) Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray you, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. v1 And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, “and bring me, I pray you, a morsel of bread. v12 And she said, As the LORD God lives, I have not a cake, but only a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering sticks, that I may go in and prepare it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die”…….  

When’s the last time you asked someone how they were doing and they said, well, I’m going to have a little lunch with my son and then we’re going to die……WOAH!

Now let me pause here and say first of all….if you think this prophet is being a little hard on this woman because he would dare accept a gift from someone who had so little to give… then you need to understand the difference in pity and compassion. 

If Elijah had only pitied the woman, he would have probably refused to take the bread… but compassion is about changing the situation, not just feeling bad about it, and Elijah had come to change it not just feel bad about it. Compassion involves empathy that not only sees the need for a change but becomes personally part of the change. By asking for part of the little she had, he was entering into her condition, and personally identifying with her. God had already given him the miracle remedy before he set out for her house. And He knew what she did not know, but they both had to come into agreement to believe and act on the remedy before they could see it come to pass.

A patient was talking to his doctor who was a Christian. He said "As I understand it, Doctor, if I believe I'm well, I'll be well. Is that the idea?"  The doctor said "Well, yes, scripture says to believe it and you’ll see it" 

"Then, based on that, if you believe that you have been paid, I suppose my visit is all paid for." 

"Not necessarily”, said the doctor. 

"But why shouldn't faith work as well in one case as in the other?", the patient asked him. 

"Oh my, there is a huge difference, in one situation we’re talking about having faith in God and in the other it’s about having faith in you."

It’s not about what you think, or say, it’s about what God has said... It’s not about what you feel, it’s about what God has said…. It’s not about what is easy or comfortable, it’s about what God has said.

The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not provide…. God had told the prophet that the woman would sustain him… (notice it doesn’t just say “feed him a meal” but SUSTAIN him) now this meant that he would be there for a while and what was needed for a miracle was already in her house if she would use it. (Your miracle substance is in your house)  You have the stuff of miracles right now! It also meant that there would be enough to make it through the famine, which was over an extended season. 

You already have the seeds of your miracle. Your miracle is already there waiting to be loosed, but you must activate it by corresponding action. You already have the seed of what you need, but you must invest it in the soil of faith. It’s not what you have in the barn, but what you have in the ground that produces your harvest. The seed you have doesn’t put a demand upon the soil until you plant it. Then a divine process goes into effect and the seed does what you could never do. Every seed is a prophecy of the harvest that is waiting to come. But the harvest is not released until the seed is planted. 

Our money, our time, our talents are all seeds that contain the promise of an amazing harvest, but they must be planted so the process can take place and your harvest can manifest.   

Many times Winnie and I have brought our tithe to church, not knowing how we were going to buy groceries, or pay the bills. But over  our 54 years, God has never failed. Yes, we had to trim down at times, and set priorities, until the divine supply began to flow. But God has always come through when we put Him first. What is health worth, what is knowing your kids are serving God and will be at that family reunion in heaven, worth, what is it worth to know that your children have learned to live a life of faith and trust in God, and become God chasers themselves. You can’t put a price on that kind of harvest!!!

1 Kings 17:13 “And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as you have said, but make me a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after that, make for yourself and for your son. v14 For the LORD God of Israel has said, “The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth”. v15 And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. v16 And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, spoken by Elijah”. 

She activated the gift that keeps on giving….So, this widow woman had to walk this thing out, for the gift to be hers. Wait a minute, pastor, it says that she had just enough for her and her little boy. That’s right, it’s not faith if you can see it….faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen…. 

The Greek word for believe, is “pisteuo” which is experiential belief, or belief with hands and feet on it! We like to talk about the God of the impossible, until we get into an impossible situation, and panic sets in….

You can believe that Ibuprofen will clear up your head ache, but until your belief, puts it in your mouth, it does nothing for you. You can believe that you need to put gas in your car, but until you go to the pump and pay the gas station and put it in the tank, it won’t do you much good. 

The gift that keeps on giving, was set in motion, when the widow believed for her miracle enough to make a cake for the prophet even before she and her son had eaten. Immediately the grip of the famine over her life and her son’s was broken. The power of death was broken ….. God said, I know the plans I have for you to give you a future and a hope! 

I want you to look at a prayer promise that God gave by Divine inspiration to Solomon as the temple was being dedicated and God’s glory came down and filled it with His presence. Here’s what God spoke through Solomon… some time before the account of the widow, which we read about today… look at what God spoke before the famine even came..

1Kings 8:37 “If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be a plague of caterpillar, if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be; v38 When prayer and supplication is made by any man, or by your people Israel, which shall examine his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house (the manifest glory of God) v39 Then hear from heaven, Your dwelling place, and forgive, and perform it….”

(Somebody needs to write that down today and start operating in it)     God has promised to handle it before you even got there!!

In A. J. Cronin's best-selling novel, "The Keys of the Kingdom." Part of the book is about a young doctor's struggle to believe. He is a sensitive, compassionate person, but he struggles with his belief in God. He goes to China to do what he can to help the victims of famine and plague. Eventually, the doctor himself becomes a victim. On his deathbed he speaks to his best friend, a missionary priest. But, even now, he remains a nonbeliever. "Funny," he says to the priest, "Here I am in this awful state, and I still can't believe in God." And the priest answers simply, "You may be struggling with believing in God, but can you just accept that He believes in you." 

God has great plans for each of us, and sometimes, all we need to do is believe that He believes in His plans that He desires for us, and surrender to His ways and His thoughts and accept that!

A new pastor was coming to make a house call at Emma’s house, and her mother gave Emma some instructions: She said, "If he asks your name, say Emma Jane. If he asks how old you are, say you are eight years old. If he asks who made you, tell him that God made you." Sure enough, the pastor did ask her those three questions in that order. Emma answered the first two correctly. But when he asked the third question, as to who made her, she hesitated, and then said: "Mama told me the man's name, but I've already forgotten it."                   

Well, child of God, don’t forget that the one who made you is totally committed to you, and His plan for you is fantastic. He knows you better than you know yourself and He has made a tremendous investment in your future….He sent his only Son to give you access to all He has. When you are having a struggle, believing in Him, always know that He believes in you…..

We’ve all heard that time and tide wait for no man….This week we heard that someone we know had passed away at a fairly young age. My first response was to wonder if they had received Christ as their personal savior. Life is too short and eternity too long to never know how much God believes in us, if we only believe it and receive it. 

How many times have I heard someone say that they had just talked with a person that week and now they are gone. How many depart from this life every week without knowing that God is for them, but no one ever let them know that in the midst of their spiritual famine of life, a miracle was waiting within their grasp but they never received the gift that keeps on giving!

The little widow woman in our story almost missed it, because of her words…. She said, “I don’t have a cake, but only a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering sticks, that I may go in and prepare it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die”.

Never the less, she went and in her very dire situation, she gave out of what she had.  

God will never ask you for what you cannot give. He sees what’s beyond your place of lack and your “not enough”. 

But sometimes Satan makes sure the right choice is the hardest choice you ever make…He likes to make it look impossible….to do the right thing that will change everything!                                                                              A Sunday school teacher was carefully explaining the story of Elijah the Prophet and the false prophets of Baal. She explained how Elijah built the altar, put wood upon it, cut the steer in pieces and laid it upon the altar. Then how Elijah commanded the people of God to fill four barrels of water and pour it over the altar. He had them do this four times. "Now, said the teacher, "can anyone in the class tell me why the Lord would have Elijah pour water over the steer on the altar?" 

 A little girl in the back of the room raised her hand with great enthusiasm. Yes Suzy, why was it…"To make the gravy." Suzy answered!

Well, when doing the right thing has cold water being poured on it, and no matter what you do, it doesn’t get any easier….

MAKE SOME HALLELUJAH GRAVY!!!!

It’s a tremendous shift in a Christian’s life when they are less about what God can do to them and more about what God can do through them!

John Wesley was a great English preacher of the 1700’s. He was considered a rather spiffy dresser. One Sunday morning he wore a bow tie that had long ribbons that hung downward. After the sermon was over a lady walked up to him and said, "Brother Wesley, are you open to some criticism?" He said, "I suppose so. What would you like to criticize?" She said, "The ribbons on your tie are entirely too long and inappropriate for a pious man of God." And she took out her scissors and cut them off. A hush fell over the people standing there as Wesley calmly asked, "Now may I borrow the scissors for a moment?" As she handed them to him, he said, "Ma’am, are you open to some criticism?" She answered, "Well, I suppose I am." He said, "All right then, please stick out your tongue."

Trouble comes when our tongue is in motion before our mind is in gear! You can block the gift that keeps on giving by the words you speak…. I’m not saying that any of us can earn of deserve what God has for us, but our words are like lighting rods that can attract or repel the provision which is prepared for us. There is no way the widow could have gotten her self out of her dead end situation except by accepting that God had a way where there was no way…. Even when she didn’t understand…She let her actions do her speaking…. And history was changed because of those actions….

Psalms19:14 “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer”.

The angel that showed up for Daniel, said in Daniel 10:12 “Your words were heard, and I am come for your words”. 

Jesus said, in Matthew 12:34 “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. v35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. v36 But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof. v37 For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned”.

The prophet Samuel was one of the greatest prophets of the bible. But at the beginning of his story, his mom was barren and could not have children. She prayed and asked the lord that if He would give her a child, she would give that child to the Lord. An incredible prayer for a barren woman. When he was 12, she took Samuel to the temple to serve the priest and she ended up giving the gift that keeps on giving. Samuel was a prophet to kings and kingdoms. She gave a little boy, the world got a prophet! 

It is in giving that we unwrap the principle of multiplication…..it is then that the kernel within the seed, begins to release the harvest season that is contained within it…

I’m sure at the feeding of the multitude, when the call went out for food to feed the crowd of hungry folks that day… as the disciples were going through the crowd, the little boy with his lunch of five loaves and two fish, waved at Peter and said, here take this, it’s not much, but the master can have it…. And it became the gift that keeps on giving…

\But the rich young ruler who met with Jesus, it says went away sorrowing because he was not willing to trust that Jesus had a better way and a better plan for his life, that far exceeded his earthly riches. Believe me, those who withhold what God has asked for will come to a time when they will be sorrowful when they see what could have been.

When we to start believing right and begin to receive the right principles and we begin to activate it, we enter into the gift that keeps on giving…. 

God’s word tells us in Luke 6:38 “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you measure out it shall be measured to you again (by this principle)”. 

There is no diminishing or decreasing here… there is only multiplication…

Let me give you another scripture….

Matthew 13:23 “But he that received the seed is he that hears the word, and understands it. He is the good ground which bears fruit, and brings forth, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold”. 

I see no diminishing or decline there, only increase!

Jesus said broad is the way that leads to destruction, but narrow is the way that leads to real life. He’s telling us that this kind of principle of increase will mean that there are some things we will have to walk away from…. Things that may be good for others but not for us.                                     Not everyone is going where you’re going, and they won’t be there with you when you arrive. Some of your friends won’t be going where God is taking you…. Some of your family won’t be willing to go with you, and it is easy to get side tracked by soul ties, and heart strings, and the pull of the flesh… Jesus tells us that we won’t get there without denying ourselves of some gratifications, and pleasures. He says the love of money will trap many, and unhealthy loyalties will keep many from entering….

But here again, look at the result for those who are willing…..                            Mark 10:29 “And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that has left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, v30 But he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions, and in the world to come eternal life”.                                                                 The Lord is telling us that when we walk in the principle of increase, we can expect to receive the gift that keeps on giving!

He wants to multiply everything you give to Him with His conditions, and His instructions, which produce His results!

God said to Adam….I will multiply you…

God said to Noah….I will multiply you…

God said to Abraham….. I will multiply you…

God told Isaac….I will multiply you….

God told Jacob… I will multiply you….

Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever”. 

He is the gift that keeps on giving…..

I have mentioned before that a prayer I pray often as I face the day, is 

“Lord, take me, bless me, break me, and give me away”…..

We are no longer victims or slaves to the world’s diminished returns… we have been adopted as sons and daughters. He has redeemed us from the world’s grip upon us, and made us heirs and joint heirs in Christ! We are the head and not the tail, we are above and not beneath. We have experienced a shift of power and a repositioning in our lives. We have a new source and a new linage, The blood of royalty flows through our veins. We are seated in heavenly places in Christ, above principalities and powers and rulers of the darkness. We have been translated into the kingdom of His light. 

Lamentations 3:22 “It is only the LORD'S mercies that we are still here, because his compassions fail not. v23 They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness. v24 The LORD is my portion, Oh, my soul… therefore will I hope in Him”. The will of God will never take you where the grace of God has not already provided…. Grace gives you what you don’t deserve and mercy protects you from what you do deserve!

And it’s new every morning…. Regardless what happened before, it’s new today, it never gets stale, never wears out, it never expires… it’s new every morning! 

Start each day by renewing the gift that keeps on giving…. Activate your covenant, this is the first day for the rest of your life!!

Posted by: AT 08:40 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, December 12 2017

Well, here we are, on the after glow side of Thanksgiving…. Still savoring the great and bountiful amount of food that we swore we would not eat this year. Still basking in the after glow of family and friends coming together for fellowship and catching up. Still reminiscing over the good fortune that is ours in enjoying God’s faithfulness that brought us here this far….

There are some Hebrew words that most of us have become familiar with. We know names, such as ‘Joshua’—means “God saves” or “David”—means “beloved” or “Hanna”—means “Grace.” Culturally, we all know the term “shalom”—which means “peace.” And then there is “Shalom, ya’ll”! Which is Southern Hebrew! 

My message today will be about the Hebrew name “Ebenezer” which means “ This far, the Lord has brought us or helped us”….and isn’t that what Thanksgiving season is all about! It’s about remembering God’s goodness and faithfulness….

Speaking of remembering…. There was a woman who had a baby at the age of 85. (The oldest woman to have a baby is 101, and the record before that was close to 100)…Anyway, The neighbor lady across the street was thrilled to see the baby and mama return home from the hospital in perfect health. She knocked on the door and heard the new mama call out, "Come on in, It's open." So she went on in. She asked the older lady if she could see the baby and the older woman replied, "The baby is sleeping, but would you like to have some tea and cookies while we’re waiting”. An hour later, she asked again if she could see the baby, “it’s has been an hour and I’m sure it’s awake and hungry by now." With that the older woman replied, "I know you have been here for quite some time and have showed remarkable patience with me. The truth is I keep hoping the baby will wake up and start to cry so I can remember where I put it!"                        (She’s really needing an Ebenezer)……

My text today is 1 Samuel 7:12 "Then Samuel took a stone, and set it up between Mizpeh, (observatory or watch tower) and Shen, (to alter or to change) and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." 

Sometimes you have to get away from everything to get up into the watchtower and get a clearer view of what brought you to where you are. Jesus did that at the beginning and the ending of every day. And when you do, it will alter or change how you function in the present or the now of your life. It will result in your own personal Corpus diem, or seizing the day!

The account which is described in our text today, took place over eleven hundred years before the time of Jesus. The people of Israel had conquered much of the Promised Land, but it hadn’t been easy. The young nation was still surrounded by many powerful enemies. In fact, just twenty years before the event at Mizpeh, we come upon another Hebrew word, which marked one of the darkest days in ancient Israel. 

That word is a Hebrew word…“ Ichabod”, it means “The spirit of the Lord has departed”. And we are reminded that in so many lives there is an “Ichabod” before there is an “Ebenezer”….     Paul even tells us, when someone refuses to acknowledge the Lord, and ignores the very servant who tries to rescue them…to let Satan have them for a while and let them see what it’s like to be left to their own devices, strength and resources….(that’s Ichabod)

Look at it in 1Corinthians 5:5 “Deliver such as this unto Satan for the purging of the flesh, that the soul and spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus”. 

Israel had a form of godliness but they were no longer looking to Jehovah, they were trusting in a box, the ark of the covenant. Their religion had become a series of memorized confessions, of rituals and superficial forms and observances. It was no longer part of the values which they took into their daily life choices. 

In a single day, Israel not only suffered a terrible military defeat but also lost the Ark of the Covenant into enemy hands. The Ark was the symbol of God’s presence with them and among them. It was the worst disaster imaginable. Israel soon regained the ark. But nothing was the same again. The terrible memory of that day would continue to discourage the nation for a generation. They were learning to never again take God’s presence for granted…. 

Now, twenty years later, Samuel, the great prophet of the nation, calls a meeting of the nation’s leaders. He tells them that if they want to experience the blessings of God, they need to return to their faith in him, because they had begun to look to other things as their source. Times had been hard. But they would never be any better until they turned to God. The entire nation responded positively. At Mizpah, the nation gathered in prayer to seek God’s blessing again.      *…..Just at that moment, the Philistine army, the dreaded enemy, saw an opportunity to attack while Israel’s warriors were in worship and repentance.

Satan will attack with a vengeance when we commit ourselves to come back to worship, repentance and obedience to God….Butwhat makes the difference is that God is on our side.          If God be for us what can stand against us… The good news is that God lets Samuel discover the treachery and the soldiers form battle lines. 

The Philistines are turned back in defeat. A great victory is won for Israel!

The monument which they built there would declare to everyone who looked upon it that something very important had happened there. And the reality of it would be there and yet it would be with them wherever they went and what ever they did… EBENEZER!

It was about EBENEZER, when David was in a conversation with king Saul as he was about to face the giant Goliath and declared…. Perhaps we would see more of what David saw, if we did more of what David did… He was quick to raise his Ebenezers and give God all the glory and connect what God has done, to what He is now willing to do!                                                                                                                                                     1Samuel 17:34 “Your servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock v35 And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. v36 Your servant slew both a lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. v37 David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.” THAT’S AN EBENEZER

The God that spoke covenant to Abraham, has he not spoken to you? The angel that wrestled with Jacob at Peniel, has he notwrestled with you? He that stood in the fiery furnace with the three Hebrew children, has he not walked through some fiery coals at your side? O Yes, yes, yes, He has indeed manifested himself unto us as he has to all of these who came before. 

Our Ebenezer is the deep calling to deep which challenges us to never forget that what He has done, He will still do!!.                                              

Haven’t you enjoyed His choice favors? Haven’t you received of His grace and favor?                                 Hasn’t He satisfied yourmouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's?.. Haven’t you like David, been made to lie down in green pastures, and led by the still waters?                 Isn’t He here even now to restore your soul?!!!

Like Noah, we too can raise up altars in celebration of the one who has delivered us from the flood of destruction…. Like Abraham, we too can build altars and call it "Jehovah-jireh”,unto the one who has spared our sons and daughters more times than we could know…. We too, like Jacob, can build an altar and name the place Bethel, for the presence of the Lord was there and we knew it not…

(Just a side bar here), in the Latin, Bethel is referred to the “axis mundi” or where heaven connected with earth… Someone else was a forerunner, who stepped out in faith and trusted God, and we are the beneficiaries of their sacrifice and their journey. They set up markers that we can use as guidelines as we make our own journey and set up our own memorials…..  

When we are brought into God’s presence by the experience of someone else, it is known as                 “The spirituality of memory”…We too can sing the song of Moses' which the Israelites sang as we set up a monument by our Red Seaexperiences….                                                                                                                       As we remember and revisit those experiences which others have had, we ourselves become attuned to receive more of the same. The old song says “what He’s done for others, He’ll do for you…It is no secret what God can do”….                                                                                                                       When we testify to others, we are inspiring them to enter into our “axis mundi” with God and receive from the spirituality of memory. When we live our lives in a manner that folks can witness our faith in the midst of the challenges of life… we are inviting them into the spirituality of memory as they observe our “axis mundi” victory against all the odds….When folks observe a life that is changed by the power of God, a life that no one gave a chance….they are brought into faith to believe for their own “axis mundi” by the spirituality of memory….

God said in Joshua 3:7, “as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.”                                                              

God must love stones because He made enough of them! Perhaps that’s the stony ground Jesus spoke about, in His parable of stony ground. It seems that the Lord recognizes the tendency of the natural man to quickly forget… All around us there are symbols of the faithfulness of God, and we can all build our monuments as we raise up a healthy, Godly marriage, or a Christian family, a circle of caring, nurturing friendships, a community of mutual support and trust, or the Church founded upon His truth and power!

                                                                                                                                                                                                In the book "The Hidden Price of Greatness ,There is the story of a single woman, who became a missionary to China, but when the Japanese army invaded during WWII, she was forced to flee. But she loved the orphans she worked with so much that she couldn’t bear to leave them behind. So, with only one assistant to help her, she led more than 100 children over the mountains to reach freedom.

" The author tell us the story of the struggle which Gladys Aylward fought within herself. It was a struggle which threatened the success of the entire mission. And during Gladys’s harrowing journey out of war-torn Yangcheng, she grappled with despairlike she had never know before. After passing a sleepless night, she faced the morning with no hope of reaching safety. But a 14 year old girl in the group reminded her of one of the stories which she had shared with the orphans from Scripture… the story of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea.

"But I am not Moses," was Gladys response. "Of course you aren’t," the girl said, "but the God of Moses, is still our God!" 

What saved Gladys Aylward from plunging into the depths of despair surrendering to a defeatist mentality, was “remembering.”

Our Ebenezer stones are anchored in the present, but they face two directions…..and one of those directions is the past….Some can look back at 50 years of serving the Lord, some at 25, some at 10 and some at only 1 or 2…..but whatever the span of that past… never-the-less, it casts it’s shadow through some times of lack and want, as well as sufficiency -- through some sickness, as well as through health… in some times of honor as well as dishonor….in times of joy, as well as sorrow….in trials and in triumphs….in failures as well as successes…. It’s all part of our “hitherto”..                                                        There are times that we never really understand why some things happened.. No matter how you look at it, it doesn’t make sense and it won’t until we get to heaven…. 

It’s like the guy who heard a rumor that his father, grandfather and great-grandfather had all walked on water on their 21st birthdays. So, on his 21st birthday, he and his good friend headed out to the lake.  "If they did it, I can too!" he insisted. 

When he and his friend arrived at the lake, they rented a boat and when they got to the middle of the lake, his friend wished him a happy 21st birthday and he stepped off of the side of the boat... and nearly drowned. Confused and shamed, he headed for home. When he arrived back at the family farm, he asked his grandmother for an explanation. He said "Grandma, why can’t I walk on water like my father, and his father, and his father before him, on their 21st birthdays?" The grandmother took himby the hands, looked into his eyes, and explained, "That's because your father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were born in January... you were born in July, dear."

Some things you just never understand…..

We often think that giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $l00,000 bill and laying it on the table—and saying ‘Here’s my life, Lord. I’m giving it all.’ But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $l00,000 for dollar bills. Then He calls upon us to go through life putting out a dollar here and a dollar there. To Listen to a child’s troubles instead of saying, ‘Get lost.’ To go visit someone who’s alone….To be a friend to someone who doesn’t have any…. ToGive a cup of water and a piece of bread. Usually giving our life to Christ isn’t done in great and glamorous actions. It’s done in all those little acts of love, one dollar at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it’s harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul.”

I am told that Dr. Martin luther King Senior, shared that his mom loved the story of the Samaritan woman who only had a little meal and oil left, but the prophet asked for a little cake first. He shared with his family what his mom had instilled within him…. Always thank God for what you had left…. If you have suffered loss in your life, thank God for what’s left…. If someone has stolen from you, thank God for what’s left…. If you have experienced physical difficulties, thank God for what’s left…. What’s left can be the stuff of miracles! When the widow woman baked a cake for the prophet, she was acknowledging her dependence upon God and His faithfulness….When we give our tithe, what’s left will supply our needs…for it is blessed of God!

Jesus fed 5000 with what was left of a boy’s fish and chips lunch                                                                        When we set up our Ebenezer stones, they also face towards the future…..Bhecelebration of the blessings past, are the launching pad for blessings that are yet promised to come.

It is in this place between the past and the future, that we declare Romans 8:32. Underline this in your Bibles. Memorize it for the times when life goes sour. Understand that God wants to remind us for now and eternity….“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all— how will he not also, along with him, freely and graciously give us all things?” 

Just as the periscope of a submarine breaks through the surface of the water that incases the vessel, and looks into that which is above the water and surveys a different level…so likewise the “Hither to” of the Ebenezer stone breaks into that place called the future, and we can view the same faithfulness of God, which has always been true of the past.

And what is it that we see……More trials, more joys; more temptations, more triumphs; more prayers, more answers; more toils, more strength; more fights, more victories; more slanders, more comforts; more lions and bears to be fought, more warfare and more overcoming for God's Davids, more deep waters, more high mountains; more troops of devils, and more hosts of angels. So that the victory shouts of the past will echo into the future….”Hither To, Hath The Lord Led Us”.

That moment when healing is realized, becomes an Ebenezer that you carry with you…. That moment when you really know that God was with you making it all happen, becomes an Ebenezer that goes with you into other situations and circumstances…. All the things that could have gone wrong but didn’t because God was there, causes an Ebenezer to be lifted as you go on your way, praising God that “Hither to, the Lord has led us”…..

There is a parable of Two men who were carrying sacks on their chest and their back. The first man was asked about his sacks. He replied, "In the front sack are all the good things I've done. I like to see them, so quite often I take them out to show them off to people. And in the sack in the back? I keep all my mistakes and all the hurts and offences done to me. They're heavy and they slow me down, but you know, for some reason I can't put them down."

When the second man was asked about his sacks, he answered, "The sack in front is large and I keep everything positive in my life in that sack. All the blessings I've experienced, all the great things other people have done for me. Sometimes it’s heavy, but it’s a weight that I enjoy carrying. This sack is like the sails of a ship. It keeps me going forward. The sack on my back is empty. There's nothing in it. I cut a big hole in its bottom. In there I put all the bad things in my life and all the bad things about others. They go in one end and out the other, so I'm not carrying around any extra weight at all."

When my biological mom, kidnapped the three of us kids, my life would never again be the same. The nightmare that became my new life wanted to dominate my future, but I had to come to a time when I cut a hole in that sack, and let it all fall out, so I would not carry it into all that was yet to come…..It could not be part of who now I was! I had to be able to say, that even though ithappened, and even though it happened to me,  it is not who I am!

Members of AA can tell you how long they have been sober to the day. They keep alive the memory of the last drink they took, and they live their new life from that marker which they have built, and with each new day, one day at a time, they move farther down the road of sobriety. AA doesn’t ask their members to count the number of years spent wasting their lives drinking before they became sober, No. They count the days spent walking in a new direction. All that went before is like putting it in a sack with a hole in the bottom and it is carried no longer….and it is no longer who they are….

We must all come to some “IF NOT” places of in our lives. There are times when our Ebenezer stone looks more like a grave marker than a monument to cause celebration! It is in these times that trust in God must stabilize us when we can’t understand why we’re there and why it’s all happening. Job’s response was “Though God slay me, yet I will still trust Him”!

Look at this with me in…                           

Daniel 3:16  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O king Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer you in this matter. v17 But if it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. v18  But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up”. 

When the three Hebrews stood before the king who was about to bake them like crispy chicken in his oven, they had to believe that the God who brought them to that place, had the power to get them to the next place….They could either save their bacon, or keep the faith….they said to the king: "Now we know that the God that we worship is able to deliver us." And that grew out of their experience. They had known God, they had experienced God in nature and they knew Him as the creator. And they had seen Him working throughout history, through spiritual memory. But more importantly, they had seen God, working I'm sure, in their personal lives. 

They never doubted God's power to deliver them.

On Black Friday stores marked a lot of merchandise down and their were a lot of bargains… Have we let the world lower our value…. have we allowed our own wants and desires to decide what we will go for… are we willing to settle for less than what Jesus paid for us….So the question is….What is our price tag, what will it take for us to sell out, save our hides, or cave in because of pressure. Our Ebenezer sometimes must have an ‘IF NOT’ attached to it…. If I have to go through that fiery furnace, if I have to forsake what I would rather have, if I have to do without, God will get me there a better way than I might have chosen myself…. 

Our faith is not an episode of “let’s make a deal” and it’s not a bargaining chip that we use to barter with God…It is our personal commitment to the will of God, that we will settle for no less than the Lord says we can have…Our faith declares “where He leads me I will follow”… as Joshua said, “No matter what others do, as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. 

JACOB raised an Ebezener stone between his land and Laban’s, to witness between them as they declared a time of peace, saying, “The LORD watch between thee and me while we are apart”

JOSHUA set up twelve Ebenezer stones in the midst of the Jordan to signal the LORD’s drying up of the river, and the children of Israel passing over into the land of promise..

You must love because love is of God. You must be just because the spirit of the Lord is justice and mercy. You must be honest because you know that the spirit of God is the spirit of truth. You must forgive, because God forgave you….

In all these things, we too, should take the pure gold of thankfulness, and the precious jewels of praise, and make them into another crown to place on the head of Jesus!!

Many of us who are getting some snow on the roof, some wrinkles in our leather, and some weird noises in our chasse….we’re a lot like the older lady who was visiting with her minister. He reminded her that at her age it was important to start thinking about the here after. “Oh, I do,” she assured him, “I think about it all the time. It seems like no matter what I do and where ever I go, I’m asking…“What am I here after?”

We’re talking about remembering, So I guess we could also say that we need to remember to forget!!! There are many things we need to forget if we are to move on…. Our grief and sorrow, needs to be forgotten and transformed to fresh insight and understanding, our hard and difficult times need to be forgotten and transformed into strength and character, and our failures need to be forgotten and transformed into wisdom for the journey. We are constantly challenged to transform grave markers into Ebenezer monuments of life and hope!

Poet Annie Johnson Flint wrote of this truth, “God hath not promised skies always blue, flower-strewn pathways all our lives through; God hath not promised sun without rain, joy without sorrow, peace without pain. But God has promised strength for the day, rest for the labor; light fo the way, grace for the trials, help from above, unfailing sympathy, undying love.”

Philippians 3:13 &14 “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven”.

Those who served in the military and even those who haven’t are familiar with the quiet notes of the bugler playing “Taps” at the end of each day as the melody of the bugler brings even the most chaotic day to a calm close. And it is fitting, that the same melody is sounded over the final resting-place of a fallen soldier. We know the melody, but few of us know the words to Taps.” “Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lakes, From the hills, From the sky. All is well,   Safely rest, God is nigh.”

That’s the memorial we need. God is nigh! He has not abandoned us. As He was with us on the mountains, He is with us in the valleys. He will be with us whatever the future brings, As we

walk with Him and believe in Him that He will always do what is right and He'll be with us even until the final conclusion of the ages. “Hither to, I raise my Ebenezer”!!!.... For I will never walk alone!                                                                          

May we continue to raise our Ebenezers, until we awaken in his likeness, and climb the starry staircase, with eternity’s songs, wearing the white garments of righteousness, as we gaze into the face of Jesus, with the society of saints, who bask in the endless glory of God, as we move through the fullness of “eternity, and enjoy the inexpressible wonder of “His perfect will be done His glorious kingdom come. 

Yes, as sure as God has helped us and brought us to this day, he will help us to the close. "I will never leave you, I will never forsake you, as I have been with you this far, I will be with you to the end." Here we raise our Ebenezer! Today, in this place, all of us can declare together: This far, our God has helped us! …We remember that what He has done, He will do again……

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