Art’s Sermons — June
I lived in Kansas City, Missouri for a year and a half after I got out of college. Carol (my wife) said I was discontented there. She was right.
I’m going to ask you something very private. Raise your hand if there was or is a time in your life that you were discontented.
There is a joy stealer
and a joy Giver
and Joy Keepers.
The joy stealer is the devil
The joy Giver is God.
The joy keeper is the believer who doesn’t allow the joy stealer to steal the joy that the Joy Giver has given to him or to her.
In Scripture, “joy” is greater than “happiness”. Joy comes from God.
Happiness comes from human circumstances.
Life has its mountain tops and valleys.
We love the mountain tops and despair and dread the valleys.
Some people say, “God won’t give me more that I can handle.”
That is not what that scripture says. It is a misquote and a revision of 1st Corinthians 10:13.
That scripture is continually misquoted. It says,
“ God will not let you be TEMPTED beyond what you can endure.”
In the Greek that is the passive present of the word for “temptation”. James 1:13 says,
Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God, for God tempts no one.’
That form of “tempt” is the same as in 1st Corinthians.
God wants no credit for the temptations that come our way or when the Joy Stealer is at work to to steal the joy God has wonderfully planned for you.
We can go through times where we are so thankful. We can go though times when we think that we are the most blessed person on the face of God’s earth today.
Some — some don’t feel that. Little things can steal the little gratitude they have.
People with habitual discontentment have a hard time with gratitude. They tend to get stuck in the “I” of themselves or stuck in the moment of “right now.”
They see the glass half empty and not half full.
Joy keepers say, “Hey, there’s still a half glass.”
Joy dumpers say, “That’s it ?!”
The discontented say, “There’s not enough sugar in this tea.”
Joy keepers say, “It’s interesting. Thank you, Lord.”
If we don’t see joy, a discontented spirit can set in. And others will always know it about you before you do.
But God knows it first. Because it grieves Him.
God didn’t make you to bring misery on your life or to be miserable around other people.
I knew a guy named Bob Wolfersberger. In WWII he was captured by the Japanese and was one of the prisoners that endured The Bataan Death March. One day I said to Bob. “You always see the best side of things and people. Have you always been that way?”
Bob said, “I’ll tell you how I learned that Art.” He then began telling me about that 3 day march where the Japanese made the American prisoners take off their boots and socks and walk on pavement that Bob said could fry an egg. The prisoners received no food or water on that 3 day forced march.
(I had asked him to tell me about those 3 days, which he did.) But then he said, “What isn’t usually known is that for those of us who survived those 3 day the Japanese then sent us to hard work camps. I went to the interior of China. No one knew that we were there.
You lived on broth. It occasionally had a small piece of meat or vegetable in it. Every day we had to walk to the work site. It was always outdoors. You had no breaks. If you would stop working, the guards would beat you. And there were no sick days. If you had the flu or broke an arm, you had to go to work because they would walk you to the grave pit and shoot you.
After about three weeks of this I made a decision. I must learn to be content or depression would set in. I remembered 1 Timothy 6:6 and 7. It says, ‘Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.’
So, I decided that I would learn to be content in that circumstance. One evening, I talked to the other fellows who were in the same squalid bunking area that I was about this. And, I talked with them about praying every evening for each other and for our families. They bought in and from then on we did that. For the next 3 and one half years. We learned to see the presence of God in a flower that we would see. In a warm day. In a piece of meat in the broth.
There was one of the Japanese cooks who would occasionally secretly give us the sign of the cross. We had a Christian among us. And when he could he would add an extra something to the broth. We learned to be content in the circumstance. Until the Americans came to get us at the end of the war. And I still try to live every day like that. But, that is where and when I learned to be content and to seek out joy.”
See, it is important to learn to live joy.
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Philippians 4:11
Paul wrote those words while in prison.
If I go around feeling discontented, one is never going to approve of anybody else and especially those who want to love you the most.
The most contented people I know are those who have peace with others and with themselves. Only God can give inner peace. “Peace of the Spirit.”
And the peace of God, which transcends [goes beyond] all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds from distractions that want to take away our peace.
People who have God’s peace — nothing rattles these people— they all have the same line, “It’ll be all right.” — not, “it’s all right”, but “it’ll be all right”. That is God’s peace.
I knew a man whom I will call Carl. He was a fine man. His wife was in a hospital in Pittsburgh with a brain cancer. At this time she was given about two weeks to live. She and Carl had had a good marriage. They were in their 40’s.
Carl came to see me in my study at this time. I had seen his wife different times in the hospital. And as we talked, he told me about the prognosis of his wife. I sat there for a few seconds after he finished. And I said, “You know Carl, after she passes, if that happens like the specialists say is going to happen, I can see you getting all over those doctors, and administrators. Telling them that they could have done more. Or, that they should have treated her differently. You are going to get mad.” He just looked at me. Not unkindly. And finally he said, “That is exactly what I have been planning since they told me. I was going to get all over them.”
I then said, “You can’t do that. I’ve been down there at hospital room. I saw the care. I witnessed one day how they were planning their treatment. Carl, they have done what they can do for her. They want her to get better, too. Not as much as you do, but they care. Let me pray for you about this.”
And that is what we did. His wife died about two weeks later. I felt so badly for Carl. And he went on to thank the medical staff for their great care of his wife.
About a month later, Carl came to see me again. He said, “Remember the afternoon that you prayed for me right here?” “Sure I do.” “I didn’t tell you then, but as you prayed for me I began to shake. Internally. Uncontrollably. I realized that God was doing this. And I didn’t have any idea why. Until after you said, “In Jesus’ name. Amen.” Then I knew. I suddenly had this peace, even knowing of my wife’s condition. I haven’t felt any peace since Viet Nam. For the past month it has remained. God healed me. He took away my anger, my discontentment, my hostility.”
The devil is the joy stealer of all time. He’s like a boxer.
Like the fight between Mohammed Ali and Jurgen Blin. In 34 fights Jurgen Blin had never been knocked down or had a fight stopped because he couldn’t go on. In the first four rounds of that fight it was fairly even. Then, I started to watch Mohammed Ali’s strategy, as this was a replay of a fight that took place in the 70’s. Mohammed Ali constantly jabbed at one spot right below Blin’s right eye. Same place every time. Ali kept focusing on that some spot even though the guy was coming at him with some vicious shots. In the 6th round you could see a deep bruise under Blin’s right eye. That was the spot Mohammad Ali was affecting —concentrating on affecting. Trying to make Bin lose his concentration knowing that Ali would come at that spot time after time. Jurgen Blin started getting desperate and making a few wild punches. He knew that if the eye got bad, they would stop the fight and he would lose. Suddenly, Mohammad Ali unleashes a very quick blow to the same spot. Jurgen Blin’s leg buckled. His legs buckled again, and he started swingy wildly. Mohammad Ali took one more swing at him. Lights out ! Mohammad Ali just backed out of the way.
That’s how the devil attacks those susceptible to discontentment — he keeps going after the same spot that he knows will eventually buckle you and put you on the ropes of defeat for awhile. Then he’ll go for it again . Trying to steal the peace God wants to give you.
That spot might be something
about your spouse
about your work
about your money or lack of it
about your health
You name it,
Or you’ve been there
Or you are there now.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 1 Timothy 6:6-9
“SHALL”, not “should”. “Shall” means you have contentment.
Everything besides food and clothing and shelter is extra. Everything else is extra. Everything else is blessing. Jesus says,
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
We can only feel that if we have contentment that brings us God’s peace.
Our daughter, Erin Moffat, went on a couple of mission trips to the very poor in Jamaica. She visited a couple of churches and helped with a Bible School in each one. She said, all of those children had only one set of clothes. Every day they wore the same ones. They were always washed and clean clothes. But one set. And she would marvel that those children, some of whom lived in a one room shack, were the most contented people she had ever been around. They understood contentment. They could have thought differently. But they knew that, “Godliness with contentment, is great gain.”–to us, for us, and to Almighty God who witnesses who we are and what we are.
Jesus is Lord
Real Faith — A Pure Heart
Would you like to know God better? Do you ever wish you had more faith— stronger faith? There are people in the Bible who had more faith, some were growing, some were slipping. Do you struggle with doubt?
Everyone who is a committed believer goes through DRY times. Times when God feels absent— or at arms length— or at times very far away — somewhere, but not near you.
Then, there are people not in the faith of Jesus Christ who feel that they would like to have faith, but it’s a mystery to them. Others, think that if God is real or cares about them, that He would appear, speak to them — not realizing that faith in Jesus Christ is a two way relationship. Faith is us stepping up and out for Jesus.
- You want to have more faith
- You want to conquer doubts, that happen sometimes
- You want to have that personal relationship with Jesus Christ that is so real and wonderful
- You want to know the Holy Spirit’s presence even when you don’t feel His presence
Then, this message is for you.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Pure in heart means your eyes get opened—opposite to your eyes closed to the presence and the work of God.
What does it take to be pure in heart?
There are 4 steps.
1) Wise Up
2) Clean Up
3) Give Up
4) Take Up
1) Wise Up—needs to be understood and it is the easiest. Faith has nothing to do with intelligence. (check out 1st Corinthians chapters 1 & 2 on this for an eye opener)
I used to be a teacher in Kentucky. One day I was driving along and I saw a former student of mine hitchhiking. This was back in the days where it wasn’t scary to pick up hitchhikers. This kid while in school was in special needs classes. If you would have said to him, “In the year 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue” he would not have been able to remember what he had memorized the next day. If he were asked to memorize times tables up up to five, he would have been lost. When I picked him up I said, “Hi John! How are you?” And he responded, “I’m great! I made Jesus the Lord of my life a few months ago and I’ve never been better!” Than he started quoting scriptures. One after the other. In fact, he kept telling me those scriptures until he said, “This is where I work.” And as he got out of the vehicle he said, “And there are more!”
Where did he he suddenly come up with this ability? There is no other answer than that the Holy Spirit gave it to him for scriptures.
Years ago I did a lot of reading in social biology which used to be called ethology. There is a bird in South Africa called The Weaver Bird. A scientist named Dr. Maurice did a study on the Weaver Bird. This bird weaves a particular type of nest, very intricately with silky grasses and reeds into a bulbous looking shape, where the birds enter the nest from the bottom rather than into the nest from the top. Dr. Maurice had these birds breed, hatched their eggs in a cage for four generations. They never saw silky grass or reeds. None of the materials found in the natural Weaver Bird’s environment. For four generations those birds saw no materials in which to build a nest. And they never even saw a nest of any type. Only the cage. With the next generation, Dr. Maurice built an environment in which the birds were still captive but where they no longer had a cage and where the silky grass and reeds would grow. Immediately, these 4th generation birds began building the same intricate nest of their ancestors. That nest is hardwired into the Weaver Bird’s brain.
The Bible tells us that the knowledge of God is hardwired into our brain.
19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1: 19-20
Thank God we have been given THE BOOK.
7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 1 Corinthians 2:7
Step one to a more powerful faith, “Wise Up” is to seek the Lord’s wisdom about Him. We’re looking at coming closer to having a pure heart for God. To have our eyes opened to see his work.
2) Clean Up
Jay Bruce is a member of 2nd Presbyterian and he doesn’t make it a secret that he once had a different life. His biker name is “Animal” which gives you a pretty good picture of his former life. Shortly after I met Jay he said to me, “Art, you would never know me today from what I used to be. I was a BAD actor.”
“Clean Up” means not only to clean up sinful patterns that I have. Clean up also involves any negative emotions that we experience. Negative emotions block faith from maturing.
Feeling constantly frustrated
Feelings of inferiority
All of these hinder faith. They put blinders on us. We see as the world sees. Missing the works of God. The pure heart of God.
There was a book written in the ’60 called, Your God Is Too Small.
There are Christians who see God with a small “g” as opposed to a capital “G”.
“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”
Believers, don’t settle for a small god who is not greater than anything we will ever face. Don’t settle for for a small God. Settle only for a God who can raise Jesus Christ from 3 days in the tomb and who will come again out of heaven to rise the faithful up in the air with Him.
How do you “Clean UP”?
Totally honest prayer. He knows it anyway. Tell Him you want to come clean, so that you can come out clean. Tell Him that you want to “Clean Up”. Tell Him that you want a pure heart so that you can see God — see His works in the world and in you and in our church. Let Him clean up the negative emotional blockages and bondages.
3) Give Up
What do you need to give up before you have a more powerful faith experience with Jesus Christ?
For some people it’s TV—to substitute what? Something productive.
Some people hold back their tithe.
Some people may have to give up an evening—
to attend a small group Bible Study
to start a small group for 18 to 25 year olds
to start some other small group.
See, Bible studies are the launching pad, not the destination. I do Bible Study for 9 months out of the year because I not only know that you need them. I need them and you too. The spiritual fellowship, growing in Jesus together, that teaching — that grows me. The Holy spirit’s closeness as we learn and pray together. It is a church within a church.
“Give Up” means giving up me, that the Holy Spirit will live close in me.
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
“Give Up” means letting the “I” die.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
4) Take Up
We have to “Wise UP”, “Clean Up”, “Give Up”, before we can “Take Up”.
Being pure in heart doesn’t mean that we are sinless, much as we might try to be. Pure in heart means that we want more than anything else to have the heart of God.
His heart becomes our heart
His calling our first response
His Word is our truth and
His Son is our LORD.
Take Up. Take up a pure heart. Desire with all of your heart to have that heart of God to recreate you— and you can’t do that yourself.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33
“Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today.
He has no feet but our feet to lead men on the way.
He has no tongue but our tongue, to tell men how He died.
He has no help but our help to draw men to His side.”
Maybe you are already a Christian, but Jesus isn’t real enough to you.
Maybe there is something you need to
Maybe you just want more of the Holy Spirit. Tell Him you want a pure heart, because you want more of Him.
Jesus is Lord.