Sermons Archives: April 2016

Lessons from an Oven for My Heart

Posted on Apr 27, 2016 | Download

I was inside the oven. Just like Hansel and Gretel, except that I'd put myself there rather than being shoved inside by a witch. There I was, being overwhelmed by fumes from the chemicals of the oven cleaner I'd sprayed on because my oven is ancient and has no self-cleaning cycle. It was nasty. I tend to procrastinate when it comes to oven cleaning, which makes the task I avoid because it's gross even more disgusting by the time I get around to spraying it, waiting, and then wiping out the toxic greasy mess. Even though it’s unpleasant, it's something I do before Passover every year. God commanded the leaven to be removed from homes in ancient days, and declared it to be a command forever. While I'm not Jewish, I observe God's feasts. I’ve decided to follow the God of Israel and for our family, that includes (as it did for the mixed multitude that left Egypt and observed that very first season of bread with no leaven) the instructions for His Holy Days. We eat the frozen pizzas and cookies and use up the baking mixes in the days leading up to Passover. I lament the almost-full jar of yeast that gets thrown away because I should've planned better...again. Still, we get rid of it - because God told us to. Most scholars agree that in the Bible leaven is usually used as a metaphor for sin. The examples of leaven in Scripture paint a picture for us of staying away from behaviors that are contrary to God's word and God's will for our lives. We go through Passover avoiding all the yummy bread, instead eating the flat, yeast-less variety to remind us of the sin that we are also commanded to avoid. I wasn't thinking about this while I was cleaning out the oven, though. All my efforts were focused on the task at hand. Until something pressed so deeply into my heart and thoughts I couldn't escape it. Why don't I approach the "leaven" in my own life as diligently as I do the oven cleaning? Why am I so determined to rid that oven of every crumb, every spill, every bit of burnt-on cheese, and every trace of cleaner yet when it comes to my own life, I have a very different approach? I am willing to stretch and strain and end up with greasy black marks on my arms and brown chemical sludge on the front of my shirt to prepare my home for Passover. Why am I not willing to do the work, to endure the effort it takes, to dig deeper and reach farther when it comes to my own mess? I would rather do a bit of light duty cleaning on the outside. But real cleaning that requires elbow grease? No, thank you. We all come to a season where God says, "It's time. Time to get the leaven out. Time to clean house." We have to be willing to take an honest look at our messes and do the work to rid ourselves of the sin in our hearts. We have to want the leaven to be gone. We have to determine that whatever it takes, it's time to rid ourselves of what's built up, stuck on, and burnt on. If we're serious about walking with God, we have to be serious about reaching into the corners, however dirty they've become, and using heavy-duty cleaners until the job is done and all that's left is what God made us to be. It's not pleasant; it's messy and difficult but it's what we need to do. May this season of Unleavened Bread prompt us to clean out more than the leaven in our pantries and may we work as hard to be like our Messiah as we do to ready our homes for His feast.   Get rid of the old hametz (leaven), so you may be a new batch, just as you are unleavened—for Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.   1 Corinthians 5:7

God’s Seamless Workmanship

Posted on Apr 20, 2016 | Download

  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28 Was that really God’s plan? I’ve seen this verse used so many times to support statements like, “you were running late because God saved you from getting in a car accident.” But I think this Bible verse is misapplied in many ways. When people go through hard times they turn to this verse and say that “it will all work out because it was all part of God’s plan.” I don’t see this verse that way. That way of thinking can be a crutch that allows people to cope with poor decisions made by humans because it puts the blame and responsibility off of them and onto God. Applying this mentality to my own past, I could say that it was God’s plan that I married the wrong man, and all of the pain I went through was worth it to finally find the person I’m with now. And while I do have a beautiful marriage now, I would be wrong to think this way. It wasn’t God’s plan that I divorced. I didn’t have God at the center of my first marriage. To be frank, I didn’t have God at the center of anything in my life at that time. But I do believe that if God was in the center of that marriage, that marriage could have been saved. At that time in my life I would say “I must be doing something right, because God keeps blessing me.” I said this all the time, while continuing to live in sin. Looking back, I even said this after the Holy Spirit tried to convict me and lead me back to Him. He was telling me, “I’m fixing this for you, but I’m letting you know that this isn’t the way it was supposed to be.” God will never approve of you sinning and living a life in opposition to Him. I don’t believe that it was God’s plan for me to go through the things I put myself through. God is not the one responsible – it was my choice to marry the person I married, and it was my choice to do the things I did and take the path I took. God, with His abundant grace, and mercy, and love, took my bad decisions and worked them for my good and His glory. When God Saves Our Supper I was making dinner with Kora, my 11-year-old daughter, when she decided she wanted to cook a box of Mac ’n’ Cheese. The instructions said to boil and drain the noodles, and then to add the milk and sauce mix. She didn’t fully read the directions and added the sauce mix and the milk into the pot when it was still full of the water used to boil the noodles. I didn’t get upset with her, but had her step aside for me to finish. I was able to save the pasta and it tasted just as good as if she had followed the directions correctly. But just because I was able to save it doesn’t mean that it was ever my plan for her to “mess it up.” That’s how I see Romans 8:28. We need to be aware of when He steps in and “saves our supper” so that we can avoid some of the mistakes we keep making. His way is perfect and He works all things for our good. But it’s not His plan for us to ignore His instructions. It all works out perfectly and seamlessly because God is awesome in power. He makes it so seamless that it’s sometimes hard to imagine that it could ever have been any different. And just like me fixing Kora’s misstep, just because He fixes our messes doesn’t mean that it was His plan to have us mess it up all along. Sometimes horrible things happen to us and sometimes we make mistakes. The goodness of God is that He takes all of those things and makes them into something that will be for good. God wastes nothing. That is an awesome God!

Letting God Heal Deeper

Posted on Apr 13, 2016 | Download

The last year has been a time of immense changes. My husband and I returned from a year living abroad, hoping to find jobs somewhere on the East Coast where I could use my newly acquired degree. After searching and applying and interviewing for months, I got a temp job instead. I was frustrated and full of despair – I constantly expressed fears to my family that I would end up getting “stuck in Texas.” The temp job became a permanent job and my husband and I moved into our own apartment in town. I resigned myself to the fact that we would probably be “stuck” for about a year, but then we could get out as fast as possible.   But God has changed my heart. My husband and I joined an amazing Life Group and found a community that encourages us “to live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received” (Ephesians 4:1). We began to pursue the Lord as a couple, praying and reading His Word together. God has lovingly convicted me and encouraged me in different seasons, but throughout it all, I can see that Tyler, Texas was His plan for us. God placed us in the exact right place at the exact right time to bring the most glory to Him. And now I have the opportunity to be a part of the message of hope that Soma has the privilege of delivering.   Throughout this year, Pastor Tony has reminded us of the words he received from the Lord for Soma for 2016: “Further and Deeper.” These words have served as an encouragement and rallying cry for me in the last few months. Last weekend, I attended a conference in Dallas that was focused on being rooted in the Gospel. I was excited to learn more about how to engage with the Bible, but didn’t really know what God wanted to do with me there. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I prayed that God would take me further and deeper in new ways.   In the first session, when the speaker gave a word about making Jesus the very center and core of one’s life, the Lord convicted me; further and deeper is not only about spending more time with and learning more about God and the Bible. Going further and deeper is about letting God have access to the deepest parts of you. The Holy Spirit brought to my mind a sin from my past for which I refused to accept God’s forgiveness. He asked me, “How can I be the center of your life when you are holding onto that secret sin so tightly?” I felt compelled to confess it out loud and let God into that part of my life. A tremendous weight was lifted off me and I felt real freedom from a heaviness that had plagued me for several years. The next day, the Holy Spirit dug deep again and reminded me of someone whom I had refused to forgive. I always felt justified in hating the person because they had done incomprehensible harm to someone I love. God broke the spirit of hatred in me and showed me that I cannot go deeper if I refuse to forgive. I am now working through this hurt with the Lord and hope that by His grace I will be able to forgive fully. As it says in Ephesians 4:31-32, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.”   God has responded to my prayer that He would draw me into a closer relationship with Him. He has begun to excavate the sensitive space inside my heart and is healing it with His love. My prayer for you is that wherever you are, you would go deeper and that your heart would be open to the amazing work of our God who wants to see His people set free.

Husband Love Your Wife

Posted on Apr 5, 2016 | Download

  The apostle Paul writes this word to both the church in Ephesus (Eph 5:25) and the church at Colossae (Col 5:19). How many married Christian men will read this scripture, nod their heads and smile, affirming in their hearts that they do love their wives? After all, as a husband they work hard to provide for the family, they are home most evenings to be with the family, they maintain the yard on the weekends, attend a church service with their family, and complete a list of “honey-do’s” on a regular basis.  If this were enough, why is divorce in the church at an all-time high?   Paul gives all husbands a command, not a suggestion, regarding their spouses. It is a behavior pattern based on faith that should be practiced at all times. It is not an easy task. In fact, for any married man this will be one of the most challenging scriptures in their walk with the Lord. So what does this command really mean? A Christian author and psychologist, Dr. Larry Crabb, in his book “The Marriage Builder” talks about loving wives through ministry. He says, “Men should serve their wives selflessly, in such a manner that they would have a greater revelation of the person of Jesus Christ.” So the journey begins. How do I serve my wife in ministry? The answer will be different for each man, but the joy is the journey of discovery. Treat your wife as you would treat yourself. Think of the eternal consequences: in ministry you have a chance to disciple your wife and bring her closer to the Lord. No man has greater love than this, than he lay down his life for his friend (wife). Can you think of anything more rewarding?   In his book, “The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted,” Dr. Gary Chapman also discusses the concept of loving your spouse. His foundation goes back to 1 Corinthians 13 and the principles of Christian charity. With our wives, we should be patient and kind (helpful) in all matters. How many times have we failed in this area? And we will fail again, but without despair let us seek the Lord and ask Him to guide us and teach us on a daily basis. We should not demand our way in a controlling spirit as we men are prone to do. How nice it would be if we displayed a positive attitude toward problems. Has any woman been edified by foul language and critical attitudes? We can practice humility, confessing mistakes and errors we make, avoiding the arrogance and pride of the secular man. Be slow to anger as the apostle James admonishes. If any of us have a vault in our heart that contains the hurts our spouses have inflicted on us, let us empty that vault (and keep it empty!). Give all of these hurts to the Lord or else a cancer of bitterness will begin to grow. Love our wives when they are their worst. Love our wives when they cheat on us. Love our wives when they desert us. Love our wives when they are unlovable. Any man can love a woman who loves him. Did not Christ love us when we were yet sinners? Husbands, are we not to be the representation of Christ to our wives? Fulfill the Great Commission in your home first and know that you have made a difference in eternity.