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Can You Feel What I Feel

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It’s an odd thing to attempt to fill the role of a preacher.  Probably because there are so many differing ideas and concepts of what a preacher ought to be.  For me, it is odd because I don’t see myself to be different than anyone who sits in our sanctuary today.  There are several people here today who could put a message together and deliver it well on a given Sunday morning.  And the role is larger than that.  There are those who actively give care for others during the week.  God Bless you for that.  This past week a group of our folks delivered Christmas packages to our shut ins and others whose need was great.  This is a biblical expression of faith and it is wonderful to see it demonstrated.

We have had some of our folks experience the loss of loved ones during this past week.  Our prayers are with Lloyd Lebaron and Gaenel Adams in the loss of wife and sister, Jean.  Also Rose Arsenault-Howie in the loss of her father – our prayers are with you and your family.

Although there are many aspects of vocational ministry that are shared among the members of the congregation, some are singly owned by a pastor.  One is the idea that I should somehow have to stand before you and attempt to speak the words of God, His unique and particular message for a given Sunday.  And then to try to repeat that every seven days?  No other person in this room will answer for my mistakes – they are mine.  I do not want to misrepresent God by saying more than He would say or less.  Each week, I pray and ask Him for a sense of our need as a congregation and for direction in His Word.  And to the best of my ability I listen and then I work to present something to us, praying that it will be blessed and anointed.

I have sat in services listening to other pastors preach and the oddity of preaching is that in the same hour you can have one bored and another blessed.  Truth can put one to sleep and bring salvation to another.  It can make one person angry and deliver another from an angry spirit.  It really is a matter of what you want to hear.  What you are disposed to discover.  Paul charged Timothy to preach the Word

2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.[1]

And today, I believe that I have a message of truth, from the Word.  I believe that if God still chooses to use the office of the preacher/pastor then there is a message here that is uniquely for us – for you.  I’m hoping that you can listen beyond the human part of my being to hear the voice of God in a way that might help and guide you during this holiday season.

1.   Christmas is a time of celebration. 

You don’t have to feel guilty or apologetic about that.  It is a time for the redeemed to celebrate the goodness of God in the realization of an age old promise.  Jesus Christ was miraculously born of a virgin, God clothed in flesh.  He was an expression of love; heaven’s best offering to make a way to heaven that we can never make for ourselves.  It is in my mind, ultimate blasphemy to believe that there could possibly be any other way to get to heaven.

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”[2]

And if I am wrong and this is not blasphemy then God would be a fool to give His very best if there were any other alternative.  What a waste that would be.

2.   Our gain was based on His loss.

Christmas celebration from this perspective means that our gain was based on His loss.  My daughter was shopping the other day and she found $20 laying on the floor in the mall.  This is proof that it sometimes pays to look down at Christmas.  It also means that her gain represented someone else’s loss.  So it is at Christmas time and every day of the year, spiritually speaking.  My gain is God’s loss. 

And so the heart of God is near those who are reminded of loss during this time of year.  More so probably because it is doubly miserable to be unable to share in the happiness of others.

"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.” Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants." (Hebrews 2:9-16, NIV) [3]

Christmas was heaven’s loss for you who suffer loss this season.  Christmas was heaven’s loss for you whose hearts are light.  Everything that we enjoy by way of spiritual connection is based on heaven’s loss.

Not celebrate?

Your burden is too great to bear?

Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season?

Your tears seem to have no end?

Not celebrate?

You should lead the celebration!

You shoul run through the streets

to ring the bell and sing the loudest!

You should fling the tinsel on the tree,

and open your house to your neighbours,

and call them in to dance!

For it is you,above all others

who know the joy of Advent.

It is unto you that a Savior is born,

One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,

One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.

You are not alone,

For He is born this Christmas to you.

How much closer can God come to you today who mourn?  Jesus himself quoted from the prophecy of Isaiah to describe his own brief life’s mission.

" The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." (Isaiah 61:1-3, NIV) [4]

3.   He doesn’t tell you how to feel but He cares how you feel.

I have a heavy heart today and God does for those who mourn.  Grief, like a river is something that must find it’s own course and it runs differently in all of us, but I do believe today that we serve a God who cares how you feel.  He doesn’t tell you how to feel but he cares how you feel.

Look at the scripture again.

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted. . . . , to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

 

In the New Testament Paul writes:

 

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:6-7, NIV) [5]

So let me ask you today how you are feeling.  Let me ask you that because I believe that God would ask you that and I believe that He would want the answer, regardless of how grim it might be.

He is comfortable with the expression of your pain.  That’s the essence of the scripture that we just read from 1 Peter.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

4.   He cares how you feel because He knows how you feel.

Other people, naturally will run away from your pain.  They can take it in small doses but not for long.  After a while when the shades of pain are drawn in your life and the world around you is dark, they will just stop asking how you are feeling.  But God never stops asking.  He never stops caring.  Why?  Because He knows what pain is like.  He chose to find out.

"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. " (Hebrews 4:14-16, KJV) [6]

So God’s love thrust Him chest deep in our pain.  He cares how you feel.  He knows how you feel.  Did you catch that scripture from Isaiah?  Let’s just look at it once again.

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted. . . . , to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

He has no intention to allow you to stay in pain and grief.  I would say that the Healer fully intends to bring you to a place where the darkness is dispelled and once again you can find a reason to rejoice.

You see, no matter how deep our pain is, God wants us to be able to find joy where it is to be found.  He doesn’t want us to see it where it is not but to find it where it is.

" And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:8-11, NIV) [7]

As much as there are people who suffer at Christmas there are those who rejoice and they should.  Not in all the stuff and the lights and that whole scenario.  There is real, adequate justification for rejoicing based on what God has done for us.

I think that God would have us appreciate the season for what it is.  To rejoice at Christmas does not mean that we are unmindful of the fact that some suffer.  I believe that those who suffer should not expect that that others should celebrate less.  I do not think that those who celebrate should expect those who mourn to dismiss their pain and put on a happy face.

5.   He doesn’t tell you how to feel but he does tell you how to think.

Look at the scripture from Romans 12.

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion." (Romans 12:14-16, NKJV) [8]

Be of the same mind.”  This is a scripture that addresses us all regardless of how we are disposed at this time of year or any time of year.

While the Bible may not tell you how to feel and it doesn’t – to my knowledge, it does tell us how to think.

I think that it calls for a mutual sensitivity.  It reminds us that we have to pay attention to one another, to ask God for a sensitivity that can guide our relationships.

Be sensitive to the fact that this Christmas is difficult for some.  Sensitivity is something that comes through in a person’s awareness.  There may be times when we say things that are awkward but the notion that someone is “aware” of what we are facing is often sufficient.  If somehow you can communicate to a person that you understand and you accept what they are feeling then you minister to them in Christ’s name.

And by the same token, if you are mourning, God wants you to be sensitive to the fact that others are not.  It is not superficial or frivolous or thoughtless for people to have the freedom to enjoy the season.  It is a God given gift and it is a place that He fully intends to bring you to once more.  So don’t judge or misjudge others when you are in pain.  No amount of pain justifies a lack of love and understanding for others.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice . . .  Be of the same mind toward one another.”

How do we this whether we are weeping or rejoicing?  Obviously we have to look beyond ourselves.  Whether a person is immersed in their pleasure or their pain, they have a way of taking center stage away from Christ.  The more I write myself into the saga of life as the central character, the more life loses it’s meaning.

The more self-conscious I am the less God conscious I am and it doesn’t matter what produces this state – pain or pleasure.

Why is it that we have such difficulty in the realization of spiritual resource?  I know of some who navigate the storms and squalls of life with relative ease when others are swamped in the shoals.

I'm not suggesting that people who feel pain have a spiritual deficit.  I am not suggesting for one second that your circumstances are not difficult

I am not suggesting that you should curb your celebrations during the holidays.  If you are able then I suggest that you escalate your celebration in worship to God and thankfulness for His goodness.

I do believe that God would have us to be deliberate in our thinking.  We have to choose the things that we allow our minds to dwell on if we are to live well.

" Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night." (Psalm 1:1-2, NIV) [9]

So let me ask you now, - how’s your thought life?  Are you deliberately centering on the best things or are you being clouded somehow for some reason?

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:4-9, NIV) [10]

God would never propose that we should do something unreasonable or something that would be beyond us. 

Lord help me to increase my God consciousness.  When anything else takes center stage then I am disconnected from the promise. 

"Don't look down."  If you are in the mall perhaps?  If you are clinging to a mountainside, perhaps not.  It has a paralyzing effect on the, fledgling climber.  Erin would have missed the $20 in the mall if she hadn’t looked down but the shepherds would have missed the angelic choir if they hadn’t looked up and the wise men would have been none the wiser if they hadn’t looked up. 

When the boat is rocking you find something that is unmoving as a reference point – if you don’t want to get sick.  Jesus, the Christ child and Savior is that unmoving, unchanging reference point.


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[1]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[2]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[3] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[4] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[5] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[6] The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995. Logos Research Systems, Inc.: Oak Harbor, WA

[7] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[8] The New King James Version. 1996, c1982. Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[9] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[10] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

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