1 year ago
Every time I read a verse that says “But God,” it is great news that follows. To the left of ‘But God’ in Sacred Scripture appear some of the worst human atrocities, characterized by disobedience and rebellion. To the left of ‘But God’ is hopelessness, darkness, and death. But to its right, following ‘But God,’ readers of Sacred Scripture will find hope, light, and life. With humanity some things are impossible. With God’s intervention, all things are possible. The story of Sacred Scripture becomes one of grace, righteousness, and justice.” God doesn’t just redeem us for Himself. He redeems our stories for Himself as well. And what the enemy means for evil, to destroy our faith, God uses for good. Joesph from the Old Testament is an amazing example of this great truth.
As we begin our new sermon series –– “But God” our first event in Genesis conveys to us the extreme importance of the conjunction “But God.” To the left of/before ‘But God’ in chapter 8 verse 1, in chapters 6 and 7, you encounter the worst human atrocities, characterized by willful disobedience and rebellion against God. The story in chapter 6 and 7 is filled with hopelessness, darkness, and death. But to the right of chapter 8 and verse 1 following ‘But God,’ you find restoration, hope, light, and life. Our world really needs “Good News” in this season of so much ugliness and darkness. Our nation needs to hear the clarion call of “But God” to bring the message of hope, healing, reconciliation, and restoration to a lost and dark culture.
There are things that people detest when it comes to dealing with humanity. Near the top of the list would be the dislike of being taken advantage of by another person. Particularly, if it involves their money. Everyone has their story of how and when it happened to them. In some stories the culprit is a person that you love and care about. Other stories involve friends, acquaintances and even strangers that tried or did dupe you, because of your goodness and trust in them. In fact, the Sacred Scriptures are replete with examples of people taking advantage of others. Let’s examine the first “But God” event that we encounter, when it comes to someone taking advantage of another. How you respond and what you focus on, determines your victory or disappointment.
Today’s message provides us with an intriguing story featuring the protagonist and the antagonist. We were introduced to the two main characters Laban and Jacob, in last weeks message. Today, we move to Genesis 31 and discover that the opportunity for devastation has accelerated to an alarming and elevated place. Jacob the protagonist and Laban the antagonist have reached the boiling point. Both of them are absolutely convinced that a great injustice has been done against them by the other. Laban is the pursuer and Jacob is the pursued. Had it not been for two “But God” moments in this narrative, blood would have been spilled on the hillside of Gilead and a family destroyed forever.
One of the most disappointing aspects when coming to the end of one’s life journey is acknowledging what you hoped for, prayed for, and expected to happen did not come to fruition in your lifetime. This was certainly the case with Jacob. Jacob lived a long and prosperous life. He lived to be 147 years old. Throughout his life he had encountered the promises of God being fulfilled time and time again. “He knew in whom he believed and he was confident in the faithfulness of God.” Every follower of Jesus must serve and follow Him because of the faith and confidence that they have in Christ Jesus the Lord.
Everyone has their story that someone has done them wrong. Some of the stories are devastating and it is impossible to see how any good could possibly come from it. Humanity has always been short-sighted when it comes to understanding why things happen. If we cannot see an immediate connection or grasp the reason why, we have the tendency to apply some type of healing ointment and forget it and move on. We lose sight of any perspective that these events could have implications in the future. As people of faith and followers of Jesus Christ the Lord, we don’t believe in coincidence, we believe in God’s divine order––“The footsteps of righteous people are ordered by the Lord.” Joseph had a ”But God” moment at the death of his father concerning how he was done wrong and how it would relate not just to his future, but also to the people who would become the nation of Israel.
More times than one cares to remember, some type of enemy has been in hot pursuit to make your life difficult and painful. Each of you can testify of events that you are trying to prevail against, and overcome to be victorious in life. You are praying to God requesting that, “You will rise victorious and for your enemies to be scattered.” The Bible is replete with examples of the enemy trying to defeat and eliminate the Old Testament believer and the New Testament follower of Christ. We join with David the protagonist in today’s message and proclaim, “But God.” “But God” should be a powerful declaration in your testimony to God’s faithfulness in your life. How many times would the enemy have prevailed and won had it not been for your “But God” moment, when your circumstances intersected with God’s promises. Many of you are anticipating a “But God” moment today, and I am believing that you will receive it.
The feeling of inferiority is a psychological plague that has affected humanity since the beginning of time. We first encountered the inferiority complex plague in Holy Scripture in Genesis chapter three, when Satan challenged Eve and informed her that she was inferior to God. He told her that if she would eat the forbidden fruit, God knew that she would become like Him. The consequences of Eve and Adam’s choice has been devastating and produced a paradigm shift for all humanity.
One of the most difficult things to do is to step back and disassociate yourself from circumstances that you are involved in. Detaching yourself from the event runs contrary to the natural DNA of humanity and does not fill like a normal and natural response. The more critical and difficult the situation, the more you feel that it demands your attention and involvement. Stepping back and/or being still and waiting is even more difficult for those who have the “I can fix this mentality.” How many times have you attempted to “fix it” only to make the situation worse. This is why you find it difficult when God tells you to be still and wait! Hurry up and wait rattles you to your very core. However, the benefits of recognizing that the battle is not ours, but God’s and giving the battle to Him produces greater results than you realize.
Since the beginning of time humanity has compared and contrasted the rich and the poor. People from the earliest age have been led to believe that the rich are superior and the poor are inferior. The spirit of elitism continues to thrive today. Why has wealth or the lack of it, always defined us? It is not the amount of money that you have in the bank that defines you, but it is the content of your character that demonstrate to others your true worth. I would rather be rich in character and poor in wealth, than rich with money and devoid of Christ-like character. It is not those who begin the race, but those who complete the race and finish well. By the conclusion of his psalm, Asaph brings us to our “But God” moment––when your situation intersects with God’s promises.
As people mature in their understanding of life by living a few decades on planet earth, they begin to recognize the phenomenon of the natural order of withering and fading. There is only a few things that God has given us or anything developed by the hands of humanity that does not wither/deteriorate or fade/dissolve. How many times have you made the statement, “I cannot believe how quickly their health has deteriorated.” Or, “I cannot believe how quickly that color has faded.” Withering and Fading is a natural part of living and dying. If almost everything that you know and experience is withering and fading away, (here today and gone tomorrow), how are you to manage living? Life is so fluid and filled with so many inconsistencies, it seems everything that this nation once held sacred and believed to be unmovable, is attempting to be destroyed. With all of the uncertainty abounding, where do you place your anchor of hope and trust?
How many times have you been backed into a corner, facing a situation that you believed was impossible to overcome. You get agitated, frustrated and angry as to why this has happened to you. After all, you are a really good person, you go to church, you are kind, helpful, and do not interfere in other people’s business. But you do readily admit that you could be better and do better. The proverbial question is how? How can I be better and do better? It is obvious that after 6,000 years of recorded human history things are not getting better. Things are declining very rapidly and we are on a collision course. The signs of destruction and deterioration are every where. It is impossible to miss them. It should be apparent to everyone that humanity cannot bring about and accomplish the changes that are needful and necessary in society without help. It is imperative that we/humanity recognize that our help comes from Jehovah God, the only true and living God and beside Him there is no other! With humanity, this is impossible ... BUT GOD!!
As you navigate your way through life dealing with hardships, difficulties, and uncertainties, how many times have you said, “If I could just find God and talk with Him. If I could get an audience with Him and present my case.” You have your brief prepared. Your words are arranged for maximum impact and you are ready for your day before God’s throne. You are certain that you already know the words with which He will answer you based upon your prepared argument. You are absolutely confident that when God hears your oral presentation, He will fully understand the reason you did what you did and you will appear to him as pure gold. You just have one problem––You don’t know how to find God. When you go forward, He is not there. When you go backward, you cannot perceive Him. When He is moving to the left, You cannot behold Him and when He turns to the right, you cannot see Him. You need instructions on how to proceed in finding God. You want your day in His court. So you ask, “Does anyone know how to find God? I want to contact Him and schedule a date on His court docket.” As a matter of fact, I do know how to find God and will help you find Him in today’s message.
Racial prejudice has been around for almost all of the over 6,000 years of recorded human history. In every geographical region of the world, there has been and continues to be racial prejudice and injustice. Some people are prejudiced and dislike others because they are different. They dislike people because they have relocated to their region from a different region. Some will not assimilate with people because of their difference in religion, philosophical worldview, political affiliation, ethnicity as well as the color of someone’s skin. I certainly do not embrace racial prejudice or racial injustice in any form. I possess a strong Follower of Christ World View as to what is right and wrong and how everyone should be treated. Unfortunately, prejudice in any of its forms will not be eradicated on planet earth until Jesus Christ returns to establish His Father’s eternal kingdom. However, as followers of Christ we must anticipate a “But God” moment where the promises of God intersect with the prejudices of life. In Sacred Scripture we have such a moment.
There have been times in the life of every person that you felt like you were a worthless nobody. You have been selfish and greedy, you always put your needs and wants above others. You have been really bad more times than you were decent. Your life has been filled with all manner of vice, you are ashamed and embarrassed by your choices and actions. You have tried to hide behind a hypocritical robe of righteousness for a large part of your life. Attempting to project something you did not possess. You have wondered how anyone could love you. You do not believe that you deserve the wonderful things that have transpired in your life. In short, you haver reigned and ruled as the king or queen among sinners. To the non-follower of Christ it presents a hopeless picture of an unregenerate person who deserves nothing but God’s wrath. Humanity would be hopeless and forever lost if it were not for a “But God” moment when ones’s sin and degradation intersect with the promises of God. There is a great need for a “But God” moment to completely change and transform your life. You need to be born again, born from above. I have great news for you today. You are loved and you are redeemable. There is a God, the only true and living God, who knows that you are worth knowing, worth loving, and worth being. You don’t deserve it, “But God.”
Being an educator and having earned a doctoral degree as well as having taught graduate courses in many countries of the world, I appreciate the pursuit of knowledge and greatly endorse it. Humanity takes great pride in boasting of her achievements. The late Napoleon Hill said, “Whatever Your Mind Can Conceive And Believe, It Can Achieve.” Humanity has elevated itself to god status because of the great increase in knowledge. I wonder if we are really as smart as we think we are? Some people like J. H. McKenna, Ph.D Senior Lecturer, History of Religious Ideas, U of CA Irvine posits that God Is Unconvincing To Smart Folks Because People are Smarter Than A Non-Existent God. Well, I may not be the brightest crayon in the box but I am smart enough not to believe that! The Sacred Scriptures have much to say about the perceived brilliance of humanity when compared to the wisdom of God.
In this message, I want to addresses the believers need to be filled with the wisdom of God. In theses difficult and trying times, the follower of Christ must have the “mind of Christ” to successfully navigate through the difficulties and hardships the enemy has placed before us. Know with certainty that spiritual warfare is raging and intensifying and it is Satan’s desire and mission to destroy you. He is like a lion stalking his prey to “steal, kill and destroy.” Having the “mind of Christ” operable in your life through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit is essential for every follower of Christ. Without the “Mind of Christ” functioning in your life, living a victorious life is impossible. Thank God you can expect and anticipate a “But God” moment when your need for clarity and understanding intersects with God’s provision and promise of Divine wisdom.
What is it about celebrities that cause people to admire them and place them on a pedestal? From athletes, singers, actors and politicians to name a few. Why do some seek their opinions about various aspects of life including what is moral and immoral?
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good! This is a favorite and heartfelt saying of my African brothers and sisters that I hear as I travel the African continent. I have experienced their deep appreciation for the blessings and presence of God, while at the same time being in great personal need. They understand that there is something deeply spiritual and comforting that emanates from those who possess and understand the power and the purpose of living with a “Spirit of Thanksgiving.” I have learned a great deal from them about thanksgiving over the decades of my ministry with them. I believe it would be a great help to us as individuals, as ministries, and as a nation if we took a step back and reflected upon the need to reignite the “spirit of thanksgiving” within us. I do not mean this as some cliché because it is the Sunday prior to our great Thanksgiving holiday. I say this because I truly believe that the citizens of this exceptional country need a great healing. Such a healing that can fill our hearts with true thanksgiving can only come from a “But God” moment that would allow our urgent need for healing to intersect with the promises of God. I am trusting and believing God for such a moment. Will you join me?
Last Sunday began the Advent season, it provides everyone with the reminder that we are sinners and we are in need of a Savior. As a society, we no longer talk about sin and the consequences of one’s choices. We downplay and marginalize the effects of sins on people and the culture at large. If there is no right and wrong, darkness and light, sin and righteousness, Holy God and an evil devil, humanity has no incentive to look beyond itself for redemption. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian who was jailed April 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned and hanged two years later on April 9, 1945 for opposing Hitler said, "The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.” Humanity needs a “But God” moment when their troubled, poor and imperfect souls intersect with the provisions and promises of a Redeemer Savior, Jesus Christ the strong Son of God. I have great news for you! A redemptive “But God” moment is available to you if you are willing to receive it.
It seems everyone is asking God for some type of a sign. I’m sure you are as well and you join a plethora of people over time who have asked God for a sign. Abraham asked for a sign. Pharaoh demanded a sign. Joshua requested a sign and Gideon asked for multiple signs. The Pharisees sought a sign from Jesus to prove He was the Messiah, as did the large crowds that followed Him. Jesus informed the Pharisees and the crowds on two different occasions that their motives for seeking a sign were not pure or honest. Therefore, He informed them that, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign” (Matt 12:39; 16:4). Many people feel that if they are to advance in their journey with Christ Jesus, they need a sign to boost their confidence to continue their spiritual journey. David, in his time of need sought God for a sign as well. If your motives are pure and you are in proper alignment with God’s Kingdom, when you feel that you need a sign, you can anticipate your “But God” moment when your need for sign from God intersects with God’s message to you.
Who is expecting a gift this week? Just about everyone in the world, right? You never outgrow your childishness when it comes to receiving a gift. There is something magical and exciting about receiving a gift from someone. The anticipation of removing the wrapping paper and discovering what wonderful gift someone has chosen to give you is exciting. Everyone wants the newest and coolest item that is on the market. Unfortunately, that new and cool gift does not provide the result you had hoped for. The glitter fell off too quickly, the color rapidly faded. The intended results of sustained joy that you hoped for was not sustainable and you find yourself disappointed. Allow me to give you some very sound advice. Rather than looking for a new gift, why not consider the “old gift.” I can guarantee you the “old gift” that I am recommending to you will remain new and fresh every day of your life. The love, peace and joy that this “old gift” will provide for you is sustainable in both this life and for all eternity. You desire a gift and you deserve a gift, it just has to be the right gift. You have the opportunity for a “But God” moment when your desire for the right gift intersects with God’s promise to give you the greatest gift ever given. God has freely given and you must gladly receive. You need to only accept God’s gift of Jesus Christ and apply the provisions of “so great a salvation” to your life. My hope and prayer is that you will ask God for His “old” but yet “new gift” today. God’s gift will change your life.
Because you are God’s creation you are designed to live a joyous, fulfilled and purpose driven life through Jesus Christ the Lord. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons things don’t always unfold the way you want them to. As you navigate through life and the challenges it brings, you can sometimes feel so overwhelmed that you think you are a dead person walking. You may believe you have lost your purpose, passion and power, but you have not. You only need to rediscover, renew, and reposition yourself through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. God’s not dead and neither are you. He possesses the power to raise you up. What you need is a “But God” moment where your perceived deadness intersects with a living and powerful God who can empower you with purpose. The enemy loses again and “you are raised up and seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus the Lord” (Eph 2:6).
People have always used the term “I feel like I am in chains” metaphorically to describe situations and circumstances that causes them to feel bound and restrained. However, most people have no physical chains made of steel that hold them bound and motionless that prevent them from breaking free from their perceived bondage. The Apostle Paul understood through personal experience that true bondage comes from being in physical chains. Being chained physically does circumvent you from being mobile and moving freely to your next destination. Whether your chains are real or imagined, you are in bondage. Bound and unable to fulfill your calling from God––But it does not have to be this way. You are created by God to be free in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus declared, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36). I am reminded of the lyrics in the song “Praise the Lord”––The chains that seem to bind you, serve only to remind you that they drop powerless behind you, when you praise Him. So praise the Lord. As a follower of Christ, you will have good days and bad days but you’ll never have a day without God. You need a “But God” moment when your chains intersect with the liberating power of God’s Word. Such a “But God” moment is available to you today. I pray that you seize your opportunity.
Living life is an exciting adventure. You genuinely have no idea what will transpire from one day to the next. The great opening from Charles Dickens “The Tale of Two Cities” epitomizes our present times: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. One day things could not be better and the next day things could not be worse. No one is exempt from the hardships and difficulties that life brings. You struggle with the question of why and how come? What did I do to deserve this? Jesus informed you that, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt 5:45). Your greatest struggle is that you don’t possess the power to change the dynamics. Your only choice is to press on. You try to maintain a positive attitude and believe that things will change and get better. As a follower of Christ, you are expecting your “But God” moment when your season of darkness will intersect with the glorious Light of God’s promises and provisions. Never forget, it is not how you begin the journey of life and where it takes you, but how you finish at the end of your life. When your hope, trust and faith is in Jesus Christ, you can know with absolute certainty that you will finish with excellence because you have the “no matter what” mentality.