Saturday, February 27, 2010

One Life – No Limits


Open your Bibles to Psalms, Chapter 8. Psalms 8

Without regard as to your age or stage of life, no matter the color of your skin or the size of your bank account, despite your youth or lack of experience, I am here to tell you today that if you are a child of the King you have a life without limits.

Now I am not saying that you can do anything you want to without qualification. But what I am saying is that you can do anything God wants you to without limitation.

The One True and Living God, Creator of the world and Sovereign Lord of the universe is your Father and He has made you in His Own image and in His Own likeness and has given you dominion over all the works of His hands.

Throughout history people from all walks of life have embraced a truth beyond the limitations of their natural life and, spurred by faith, covered by grace, they have gone on to accomplish what others saw as impossible.
One such person in our modern history was a black woman born in 1820 as a slave who was owned by a white plantation farmer. She worked as a field hand, a woodcutter, a cook and house maid. When she was 24 years old she was allowed to marry a free black man named John Tubman. However, five years later it was determined that she would be sold to another plantation and would thus be separated from her husband, her children and her family.

Not desiring to live her life within the confines of her natural limitations, in 1849 she took a chance and ran alone into the darkness, finally making it all the way to Philadelphia and freedom. Once safe she could not get the plight of her family and her people off her conscious. But how could she make a difference in their lives? After all, she was black, she was a woman, a runaway slave, and she had no means with which to support herself let alone any way to free others. Pre-civil war in the US had its limitations.

She decided to take her mother’s first name, Harriet, so as not to be so readily known, and leave the safety of her new found freedom in a bold attempt to provide that same freedom to others who were still enslaved.

Just because she had arrived did not mean that she could stop!

A year later, in 1850, Harriet Tubman left her Philadelphia home and traveled back across the battle lines to lead her sister and two children to freedom. This would be the first of 19 increasingly dangerous forays into Maryland in which, during the next decade, she conducted more than 300 fugitive slaves along the ‘Underground Railroad’ and on safely into Canada. Her extraordinary courage, ingenuity, persistence and iron discipline made her the most famous conductor of fugitives in that period, and earned her the title of “Moses of her people.” Rewards offered by slaveholders for her capture eventually totaled $40,000.00.

From 1862 to 1865 she continued to work as a laundress, a scout, a spy, and a nurse, serving the cause of the Union Forces in South Carolina. She became known to everyone as “General Tubman”. After the civil war she settled in Auburn, New York and began taking in orphans and the elderly. It looked to many like she had done enough … but not to her …

You see, just because she had arrived, did not mean she should stop!

Some 30 years after her service in the Union Forces, the US Congress passed a private bill providing $20.00 per month as a federal pension for her Civil War exploits. Harriet Tubman died on March 10, 1913 at age 93. However, her works and her legacy continue to outlive her earthly struggles. This was a woman who did not allow her limitations to limit her.
Harriet’s life epitomizes the fact that we have but one life and our one life is limited only by the limits we place upon ourselves.

Without regard as to your age or stage of life, no matter the color of your skin or the size of your bank account, despite your youth or lack of experience, I am here to tell you today that if you are a child of the King you have a life without limits.

The One True and Living God, Creator of the world and Sovereign Lord of the universe is your Father and He has made you in His Own image and in His Own likeness and has given you dominion over all the works of His hands.

Just because you may have arrived, does not mean you can afford to stop!

Have you found Psalms 8 yet? If not, then turn to the middle of your Bible and go left just a little … you’ll find it – let’s read the whole chapter.

Psalms 8 KJV
1 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
3 ¶ When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

If you have ever wondered why you were born or what your purpose is in this life, let this Psalm of David be your answer.

You were created to have dominion!
Dominion is the right and the power to govern and control.
You are not meant to be limited by the circumstances of your life …
You are not destined to be out of control, but rather in control …

Life may deal the cards but you decide how the game is played … and it will be played according to God’s rules and God’s rules say – you win!

How can you actually take the limits off your life … how can you get above your current situation or past circumstances … how can you get in control? Well, I’m glad you asked!

Turn with me to the place in the New Testament where the Apostle Paul writes about this very thing and let’s see what he has to say about it … Paul quoting Psalms 8 says:

Hebrews 2
6 But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?
7 Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:
8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.
9 But we see Jesus …

The simple answer to living the limitless life God affords is to keep your eyes focused on Jesus instead of on those things which want to limit you.

Without regard as to who you are, storms of life will come. However, you have a Savior in the midst of every storm.

Even in the days when all seems well and you may actually be walking on water, you still need to keep your eyes focused on Jesus, the limitless one. Remember Peter’s experience?

Matthew 14
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.

When Peter got his eyes off Jesus and onto the storm, he began to sink. Peter’s faith was never in the fact that he could walk on water but rather in the fact that he could always go to Jesus. If it was really Jesus, Peter knew he could get there – but – it required keeping focused on Him and not on the current storm.

It was the same with the man in Mark 9 who had the son possessed with a demon … he also needed to focus on the cure, not the curse. For him, Jesus was the cure! If he just believed, the possibilities would be unlimited.

Mark 9
23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

How about you? Are you having a difficult time believing that you are not limited by your age, stage or situation of life? Are you more focused on your gender, your color, or your past than you are on Jesus?

Just because it’s a difficult time does not mean it’s over … and … Just because you have arrived, (and are already walking on water), does not mean that you can afford to stop (keeping your eyes on Jesus).

Instead of telling God how big your problem is or how limited your situation is, tell your problem or your situation how big and how unlimited your God is.

Keep your eyes on Jesus and keep the possibilities limitless! One life – No Limit!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

One Life – One Love Relationships


Today, all across the United States and in many parts of the world as well, it is Valentine’s Day. So, for all you sweethearts out there, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Key Scripture: 1 John 4:19 We love Him because He loved us first.

While I was studying the Bible this week, preparing for this morning, I was interrupted several times by what I have come to know as the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So, before we get into the heart of our message today, allow me to pass on to you what I understand the Lord wants someone who is listening this morning to know. If this applies to you, take it as a word of admonition and encouragement from God.

“It won’t help you to hate America, it won’t help you to hurt America … it will only hurt you and it will hurt everyone else who is affected by your actions.”

“It won’t help you to hate your spouse, it won’t help you to hurt your spouse … it will only hurt you and it will hurt everyone else who is affected by your actions.”

“It won’t help your to hate your job, your boss, or your friend turned enemy … it won’t help you to hurt them … it will only hurt you and it will hurt everyone else who is affected by your actions.”

“It won’t help you to hate God, it won’t help you to try and hurt God by not listening to Him or by not being His friend … it will only hurt you and it will hurt everyone else who is affected by your actions.”

“Someone who is listening to me today is about to make a terrible mistake - Stop the hate; Stop the hurt; and let your healing begin.”

Now, let’s pray!

For some reason I have this gift of loving people right off the bat, at first sight. I can’t explain it but it works for me. Perhaps God gave me this peculiar gift so that I could be a better Pastor and representative of His Kingdom. And, I can’t help but imagine that many of you have this same gift working in your life.

In fact, I think we all have it. However, it may have gotten lost in some of you through the years and covered up under a pile of life experiences, personal disappointments, or adopted skepticisms. Allowing your past to dictate your future can lead you to pre-judge others unfairly.

Whatever happened to innocence … to just liking others right off the bat and for no good reason.

For those of you who have been around for a decade or two, you can pretty much predict what I am going to say in response to about any comment you make during a conversation. I am a fairly consistent guy, relentless in my chosen pursuits, patient to the core and reasonably predictable.

Each service I make the same rounds if at all possible, circling all over the church, past every room, upstairs and downstairs, visiting each department from the nursery to the musicians, walking, talking and touching almost everyone I see, as much as time will allow. I am usually one of the last ones to leave.

Often my conversations with others will conclude with a hug or a handshake and the comment “I love you”, to which some are in the habit of replying, “I love you more.” Anyone whom I have known and conversed with for a decade or two can pretty much predict what I will say next: I say, “but I loved you first!”

The reply I have gotten most often through the years is something like, “yes, you are probably right …" I don’t know if I am just hard to love at first sight or what, but I sure am glad that I grow on people … and, I work pretty consistently on getting the people I love to love me back.

Although I say, “I loved you first”, with a quick passing glance, it is for me nonetheless the truth. I am a lover at heart and it seems so natural and so easy to me to love people at first sight and for no good reason … other than perhaps God placed this love in my heart and I choose to let it live. Sometimes it is almost overwhelming and I feel my face light up when I see you. I don’t know what to call it but love! I think I love you … even if I don’t know you --- it’s a gift!

What do I mean when I say the word love? Allow me to use the scriptures to explain how love feels and how love acts, and perhaps how we can know if we are letting love live in and through us.

1 Corinthians 13 (The New Living Translation)
1 ¶ If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

I’ve met these people … but hey, I love them anyway …

2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.
3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
4 ¶ Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud
5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Hating those who hurt you – or,

Hurting those who hate you …

Neither one will help you

Unforgiveness and/or vengeful pursuits make you the victim of your own doings and torture your soul.

1 John 4
7 ¶ Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.
8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him.
10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.

19 We love Him because He loved us first.
20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates their fellow man, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?
21 And He has given us this command: Those who love God must also love others.

So … Let the love of God live in you and love like God loves – meaning:

1. Love others first
2. Love others for no good reason
3. Don’t let life teach you otherwise

Begin building meaningful relationships today.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Joy of the Lord

As long as I can remember, I have always been a happy person. Even to this day if you see me in the store or on the road you will generally see me with a smile on my face. Even this past week I had breakfast with one of our area associate pastors and the waitress wondered if I was a morning person to which I responded, “nope, just a person”. In fact, I have been so happy that years ago, when I was in the military, one of my commanders had me tested for drugs just for being too happy. But that is the middle of the story, so let’s start with a scripture first and a prayer.

1 Peter 1:6
6 so be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while.
7 These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

There are three main areas were joy seems to get taken away. Let’s take a brief look at them and then I’ll tell you a story about someone who had these areas tested.

Things that will rob your joy:

1. Other people
2. Tragedies
3. Insecurities and past/present failures

How can we combat these joy robbers? When it comes to other people, I know a guy who knows a guy that will take care of them for a small fee. No, but let’s look and see if there is a scripture for how to have joy in spite of other people.

I started adult life early relative to most. I was married at 18, enlisted in the Air Force, and left for basic training 10 days after our wedding. After 3 months of being in the military, TK got pregnant with our first child, Jordan, all while I was going to school for radiology from 4 in the morning to 6 at night. Life was busy, but we were too young to notice which brings up a good point. God’s word says it is easiest to bear the yoke in your youth. Since most all of us are getting older, start today whatever it is that God has called you to do. It only gets harder as you get older. That was a free one, but you will have to break it down later. Let’s get back to the story. The military moved me and my pregnant wife to California to complete my clinicials for nine months. During that time, we made many lifelong friends. The baby came two days before my 20th birthday. On my birthday, I received orders to go to Japan. This was a shock to us and neither one of us wanted to go. I remember my wife of just over a year holding our baby setting up in our bed and crying as I told her that we weren’t moving closer to home like we had planned, but leaving the country for 3 years with this new and scary weight of being parents. She was willing, but I crumbled. I’ve always been good at getting what I want; at least what I think I want. So I told God, if he wanted me to go to Japan, He’d have to stop me from getting my orders changed. I started reading regulations, talking to my superiors, who told me it was impossible. I found a loop hole, and started making phone calls all over the world to classmates and airmen within my rank and skill level. I found a guy in Pensacola, Fl, who was a class before me and had orders to Tyndall AFB, Panama City, but didn’t want them. I then made more phone calls to the AETC and the PACAF majcoms, in efforts to devise this swap. I faxed affidavits, called commanders and after 3 weeks of night and day non-stop work, I got it changed. We were going to Florida. From 10000 miles away from family to 604 miles away from our hometown. I had done it. Must have been God, He didn’t stop me. Little did I know I had just entered into a nice sized fish that would take a little over 3 years to get out of? We settled into our 50 year old house, with the 22 coats of paint, and a waiver about the possibility of lead paint being used on the 1st couple of coats. TK and I were happy. We only had one car, so I’d rollerblade the 2.6 miles to work when Traci would need to go out for something. We were poor, but happy. Why not, life was good. I loved my career, my wife, my kid and our 800 sq ft home. We were content. After three months of being there it came time for my 1st evaluation ever. I was excited because I knew it was going to be great. I had finished my next skill level 6 months early, was about to take my National registry 1 year ahead of my peers and had started volunteering in the lab when the radiology department was not busy to help out and learn more. I had also become the Treasurer of the Hospital’s booster club. I was always early to work and had a smile from start to finish. I would often times take the weekend shifts for my co-workers so they could have the time off. Tk and I had moved and reorganized 27000 x-ray files, finding over 100 misfiles on my weekend shifts. As I sat down in front of my supervisor’s desk I couldn’t help but smile. My supervisor was a not a happy man. He had been in 13 years, hated his job, marriage and as much as anything, me. “You see Airman Hammonds”, he said with a scowl on his face, “that’s your problem, you are just too happy. It makes me sick, I want to throw-up with your can do attitude and willingness to always do anything.” He continued on by telling me he had 13 years of taking x-rays and he rated me against his abilities, not my peers and since he didn’t make good scores on his evaluations than I was going to make worse scores than him because I wasn’t any better than he was at radiology. What a gut check. I was devastated. No one had ever wronged me like this. Although he wasn’t able to give me low scores because his supervisor wouldn’t let him, he had dealt me a blow that would lead me down a horrible road with alcohol thinking that would help me be happy and deal with his continuing debasement and threats. I had let him rob me of my joy. Traci can tell you how bad it got. One day, near the end of our time at that base, he brought me in for an evaluation and told me if I ever told anybody about his infidelities in his marriage he would kill my wife and daughter. I walked out of the office, called Traci and had her leave the base and go stay with her Dad and came back in and addressed the situation the way any man would. Not too long after that, the Air Force told us that we could move anywhere we wanted to. Traci and I both felt we needed to go back to the start, so back to Travis AFB across the whole United States we traveled. Never again, I said, as I was baptized by my dad in our old church on the way to California. It was a new start for us. The people at Travis loved us. I immediately was promoted and became the manager over all the off-shift radiology personal. I was an E-4 and had E-5’s working for me. God had promoted me. Life was good, but money was tight, so I took a part-time job. I ended up taking 2! One of them was at Children’s in Oakland. After a few months of working there, I found myself in a whole new world. It was a trauma and oncology center for 18 year olds and below. The things I saw people do to children there, the inhumanities and tragedies still come up in my mind to this day. I will not go into detail as I could break the hearts of most of you and that’s not why God allowed me to see those things. I will give you this: the morbidity/mortality rate for our oncology patients was 90%. That means for every 10 children that came in with leukemia, 1 walked out. I would come home and sit on the couch for 30 minutes without saying a word to my wife and kid every time I’d work a shift there. I was trying to quiet the hatred and grief I’d had gathered that day. I had lost all my joy for helping people and having a good life. This time it was Tragedy had robbed me of my joy. This took its toll on me, this loving, compassionate Christian guy. I silently slipped back into drinking but God had a plan and he wasn’t done with me yet. I got orders again. This time it was to Korea, a remote assignment. I immediately thought about how I could get out of it but, God wouldn’t leave me alone. I knew I needed to go, but was afraid I’d lose my family in the process. I struggled with it for a month, but decided I couldn’t go on living the way I was, I wanted to be a better husband and father, a better man, but I couldn’t do it where I was at. I had started playing praise and worship with my guitar in my garage nightly. For some reason, I knew I needed to. After 6 months of this, it was time to leave. I brought my wife and child back to Beaumont and set them up at my parent’s house. Hugged my daughter, kissed my wife and told them that when I came home in a year I would be a better daddy, a better father, and a better man of God. With that, I left, November 3, 2003. I arrived in South Korea the next day, nervous, excited and lonely. I remember my first night there. I had nothing in my room, not even sheets or a pillow. Just some empty closets and a bed. I laid down on the stained mattress and prayed a simple prayer; God, I told my wife that I would come home a better husband, father and man for you and I don’t know how to do it, so I’m going to do the only thing I can and read Your Word every night. Please help me. And with that, I opened my Bible and began to read in Genesis. For the first two weeks, I would go to work, come home, go out to the bar, come back home and cry as I read my Bible until I fell asleep. God was beginning to get through to me and then one Sunday morning, it happened. I woke up. The spirit of God filled my room and told me to go to church. I put on my dirty clothes from the party the night before and left for the chapel. My plan was to sit at the back, unnoticed and leave before it was over. Well I got there to find out I was 45 minutes early and was just in time for their Sunday school class. I staggered in to the small room and sat at the table with 8 others staring at me. After 5 minutes one of them said that the teacher could not make it and wondered if anyone wanted to teach. Wouldn’t you know it, God told me to teach it. “Are you crazy God”, I said in my head, as they passed out the lesson. Again, he said “teach the lesson”. I was afraid to let it go a third time as I was sure someone else would hear Him. I raised my hand and said, “I can”, with my head down which didn’t help because I could feel everyone’s eyes on me. “Are you sure” someone said. I opened the handout and closed it back and said John 3, “no problem”. I taught from memory while all these well dressed officers looked on in confusion to see this half drunk and dirty Staff Sergeant Exegete the scriptures. I finally got to sit at the back of the church trying to avoid causing a scene, but God wasn’t through. He came to me and I cried the whole service; loudly cried. Did I mention it was a Lutheran service? I guess God has a sense of humor. After church the Chaplain, two ushers and a hand full of people formed a circle around me. They began to witness to me, which only made me cry louder. I finally managed to tell them I was saved and God was dealing with me about my sin. Two of the guys took me out to eat that day, probably thinking I was suicidal. I cried the whole meal. One of them mentioned a contemporary p/w service that night and they were in the band, but were short a bass player. God chimed in, “Play”. I told them I would play and they were shocked again. I didn’t need any sheet music as I’d played bass for a couple years in a Christian band. The next week they needed a drummer. “I’ll do it!” This time God didn’t have to speak. The following week the PW leader quit the night before the service, but I knew what God had done because I’d been teaching myself to sing and play for 6 months before I got there. God had a plan the whole time. I went back to my dorm room, grabbed my guitar and worship books and ran back to practice and became the PW leader for the base. God had prepared me for this very moment. There was no looking back. God had changed my life within 3 weeks. No more drinking, no more smoking, no more cussing, no more lying, cheating, stealing. Everything was gone, all by the time I finished reading Genesis. God had returned to be the Joy of my salvation. The Word will change your life. I called my wife so excited to tell her I had changed. She didn’t believe me and wanted nothing to do with me anymore. I had hurt her too much. This sweet beautiful gift from God wanted a divorce. If this would have come out 3 weeks earlier, I probably wouldn’t be here today. It would have ruined me, but God had a plan. He set me up for success. This was the ultimate test. The test of having Joy and Peace in the midst of other people hurting me, the tragedy of an impending divorce and the insecurities of my past failures, but God showed me how to have joy even though the sorrow was all around me. Daily I read my Bible, prayed, fasted and sought God for peace and guidance. I learned what David felt like when it says “he encouraged himself in the Lord. I was all alone and not in control. I would have to trust God with my most prized possession in life, my family.

I’m here to tell you, you can have Joy in the midst of your hardest moments in life. God is as the scriptures say, “the lover and the lifter of my head”. I was able to beat the worry and fear with the Word of God, and a deep personal relationship with the Creator of all things.

So let’s recap with some words on how to have joy in spite of each one of the areas.

1. Other people

Luke 6:27-31
27“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.

I fought back the way the world does and lost, and it cost me dearly. Let God fight your battles. He knows what you are going through and if you will listen to Him, you will know what you are going to. I will say that again. God knows what you are going through, and if you will listen to Him, you will know what you are going to. To have Joy, let God fight your battles.

2. Tragedies

Hebrews 12:2
2 we do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God's throne in heaven

We can’t control what happens in life always. There will always be tragedies, but we need to focus on Jesus. If Jesus can endure the shame and tragedy of the cross, we should be able to cast our burdens on him like the word says. Put your hope in Him.

3. Insecurities and past/present failures

Matthew 6:75
75 Suddenly, Jesus' words flashed through Peter's mind: "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." And he went away, crying bitterly.

Peter was able to recover and Jesus used Him greatly. He will use you greatly too. Let Him. Don’t think you’ve done too much to be restored. God will use you. It isn’t over yet. God is not finished with you. You are more in the will of God than you give yourself credit for. I was and you are too.

Psalms 126
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion; we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for them." The Lord had done great things for us; we are glad.

Joy is contingent upon faith and hope. Have you ever met those people who are dancing in there fiery furnace, or as Ken’s song goes laughing in the lion’s den. Those people just don’t know how bad it is. Maybe they are just in the fire with Jesus at their side untouched by the flames.

To have Joy you cannot look at your past or even your present mistakes, you have to focus on Christ looking in faith to a better tomorrow. My biggest insecurity at the end of my story was that I had done too much and had disqualified myself from being used by God. He corrected me one night as I prayed. He told me that I couldn’t disqualify myself; it wasn’t my choice, only He could count me out and I have never looked back since. When I fall, I fall forward. When you fall, don’t think that you’ve done too much and God is through with you. Fall forward, pick yourself up wash your face, and be like David and say, it is finished. Embrace God’s love, mercy and joy that are there for you.

Now today, I have joy from the faith and hope I have for my future in Christ Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith. These light afflictions are but for a moment. Psalms 119:71 Lord God, it’s good that I’ve been afflicted because I’m come to know Your statues. Get some faith for your future by putting God in it. See yourself doing something for God and you will be able to have Joy in the midst of the biggest struggles of your life. Nothing can ever separate you from the love of God. Forgive and be kind to others.

One Life, One Eternal Purpose

New Life Church On The Rock, Vidor
10 Year Anniversary

Thank Pastor Woolf for his exemplary leadership and vision.
Thank the Church Elders, Staff & Leadership for their example & support.
Encourage the Church to continue to have courage for the future.

Message: Determination

No matter your age and without regard as to how long you will live, you only have one life - One life, one story, one message, one faith, one family and one eternal purpose.

I remember being introduced to a Christian song in the 80’s written by a man named Tim Shepherd. The lyrics go something like this:

I am determined to be invincible
Till He has finished His purpose in me
And nothing shall shake me
For He’ll never forsake me
I am determined, to live for the King

We have but one life and one eternal purpose. If we are going to fulfill God’s eternal purpose we are going to have to be determined.

1 Corinthians 2:2 “I have determined to know nothing among you except Christ and Him crucified.”

You see, Success is more than a one step process and Success most often belongs to those who are willing to take the first step and able to endure the process. Success will require determination.

Determination is the ingredient which will hold us true to course when the winds of life and time blow contrary to our chosen path.

As I said, many times success demands we be willing to take the first step.
We are going to look at a New Testament account of some Believers who were definitely determined. Turn with me to the book of Mark, chapter 2.

Mark 2 NKJV
1 ¶ And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house.
2 Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them.
3 Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men.
4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.
5 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven you."

I would say that these four men were pretty determined that they were going to bring their friend to Jesus. They took initiative and found a way around every obstacle, without making excuses. They acted like people with a purpose … willing to take the first step and able to endure the process.

What were these four men determined to do? What was their demonstrated purpose for that day? To bring someone in need to the Only One who could meet that need … they worked hard and they worked together to bring their friend to Jesus.

Don’t you know these guys could have gotten into a lot of trouble! Perhaps they did! Not everyone at Jesus’ meetings agreed that He was the Messiah. Who knows, it is possible that these men could have faced community ridicule or public trial and it would have been reasonable for them to have been forced to pay for any repairs to the rooftop they destroyed.

Believe me when I tell you that their actions were not without some potential personal costs. Nonetheless, they were determined.

There is another account I want to look at this morning which comes from the New Testament book of John, chapter 4.

John 4 records Jesus and His disciples on a journey northward from Jerusalem to the Galilee. As they traveled through the region known as Samaria, they came to the city of Sychar, known in the Old Testament as Shechem, which is the current city of Nabulus in the Palestinian Territories, 2 days walk from Jerusalem.

Sychar, Shechem, or Nabulus as it is now known, is the city Abraham first came and built his first altar to God when he initially entered the land of Canaan. This is also the city in which Jacob lived after spending 20 years with his Uncle Laban in Syria. Here, Jacob dug a well, and the well still existed in Jesus’ days, and even until today. Just a few months ago I stood at that well and spoke to people who still come to be blessed by its fresh, cool waters.

When Jesus and His disciples arrived at Jacob’s well that day it was already about 3 in the afternoon, no one else was there. Since they were tired and hungry, Jesus sent the disciples into the city, perhaps a mile away, to get something to eat while He remained at the well.

The story continues that a Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water and Jesus asked her for a drink. She recognized Him as a Jew and questioned Him as to why He even talked to her since the Jews would have nothing to do with the Samaritans.

You can read the whole account from John 4, but basically Jesus responded to the woman and told her that if she knew who He really was that she would be the one asking for a drink from Him and, if she did ask, He would give her living water and she would never thirst again.

What was Jesus saying? … “I am the promised Messiah!”

Then Jesus told her about her life - The fact that she had been married 5 times and was currently living with a man who was not her own husband. She was amazed and convicted, she left her water pot, went into the city, and immediately began to tell others that she had found the Messiah.

John 4:29 "Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?"

Jesus’ disciples were amazed that He would talk to this woman however, Jesus had but one life, one opportunity, and one eternal purpose while upon the earth. Jesus was busy about His purpose … He was determined without regard to the personal costs. Jesus knew that His success would often require Him to take the first step. And, so He did with this woman.

What was Jesus’ purpose? – To bring sinners into a relationship with the Father God through them believing upon Him as Messiah.

Each Believer, including you and me, has that same purpose. We are responsible to bring others into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, Messiah of the Jews and Savior of the World.

This is what the four men did when they realized Jesus was Messiah … they brought their friend to Him that day in the city of Capernaum. And, this is what the Samaritan woman did when she realized Jesus was Messiah, the answer to all of their problems … she left her water pot, went into the city and began testifying that Messiah had come.

No doubt the people of that city knew the reputation of this woman and she stood to receive some ridicule and personal costs if she began claiming that she had found the answer to what everyone had been waiting for … but … she took the first step and hung with it until …

John 4:39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all that I ever did."

Some will believe because of your testimony, while others need to be brought closer so that they can hear Jesus for themselves.

John 4:41 And many more believed because of His own word.

Remember I told you that success is more than a one step process and that success most often belongs to those who are:

1. Willing to take the first step
2. Able to endure the process – basic determination - obedience

Isaiah 1:19 If you are willing and obedient, You shall …

Well, this is exactly the place your pastor, his family and this Church is today. All have a purpose and souls hang in the balance, waiting just on the other side of our obedience.

Our success will be more than a one step process and we must be willing to take that next step. There could be some potential personal costs and not everyone is going to believe our word about what we have heard. Nonetheless, we must be determined.

Pastor Woolf & Family – Thanks again for the tremendous vision and leadership for these past ten years. You have been exactly what this church and community needed. Soon you will leave this place for a new adventure in God’s ever expanding Kingdom. We know you will be stretched and be fulfilled. God chooses aggressive, decisive and determined individuals to lead the defining battles of life, and you are one. Be willing, be determined and be blessed, in Jesus’ name.

Church Elders, Staff and Leadership – We are facing this next season together as a team. Although we don’t have all the answers right now, we nonetheless have the faith and courage required to lead this congregation to a greater day because we know our purpose. Our purpose is souls!

Congregation – Be confident that the windshield is bigger than the rear view mirror and that our greatest day is yet ahead. We have but one life, one story, one message, one faith, one family and one eternal purpose. Together we will continue to be the church God is pleased with, a church filled with the love, kindness, courage & strength of Christ, a Word church with solid doctrine based on the one story God is telling, a famiy church with healthy growing relationships at home, in our communities and communities like ours and around the world.