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BEGINNING EACH DAY WITH YESTERDAY'S CLOSING BLESSING

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

13 SEPTEMBER 1992

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Hosea 4:1-3
5:15
6:1-6
1 Timothy 1:12-17

Homily:

There is a magnificence in the way of God's grace.

He always encourages us to go forward, doing better today and tomorrow than we did yesterday.

And He's constantly showing us His mighty works, so that we would remember what He has done and not forget about His ever-presence, and that we would serve Him.

Sometimes, however, we are so preoccupied, that we don’t even see them.

So, this morning, we will begin our day remembering yesterday's closing blessing.

Note our preparation verse for this morning from 1 Timothy 1:17; for though it is a benediction, it is also a good way to remember the Lord our God as we begin this day.

17. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hymn:  Immortal, Invisible

Homily:

Since God is all spirit, we cannot see Him as we see other things around us; but in the things around us, we can see the creation process of God.

And when we are willing, we can see the changes He brings about in our lives.

I say, "When we are willing," because it is an attitude – our attitude – that brings this change to the foreground.

The change is not brought about by our attitude; it is the result of God's love.

Our attitude, and our willingness in receiving God's love, is the factor that allows us to see it; and it is the key to making this day better than previous days.

Natalie Sleeth wrote a little hymn entitled Each New Day, and in it she speaks of our willingness to make each new day better than past days.

Hymn: Each New Day

Confession and Assurance:

Have you ever walked into a room that hasn't been used for even a few days, and find that it has already become dusty, and perhaps has some cobwebs as well?

Well, the temple of God can also have the same problem, if it is not used many times each day, and cleaned regularly.

It is our willingness to use the temple of God – ourselves - as God's temple – that keeps it clean.

So, let's begin this new day by putting behind us all the past days we wasted or lost; live this new day, and use it in God's love.

Take a moment in silence to ask the Lord's forgiveness for the days we have lost, and to help us use this one and future days properly.

Prayer:

Homily:

Now that we have cleaned away the dust and removed the cobwebs from our hearts and minds, let's see this new day in the light of the blessings we have received from yesterday.

Join in the words and music of Morning Has Broken, and reflect upon God's love in the beauty of His creation; for it is a blessing of yesterday to be built upon today.

Hymn:  Morning Has Broken

Homily:

Unfortunately, not everyone sees this beauty, or God's love.

Even among believers there are those who have wasted or lost many a day, and who have not received or shared God's love with others.

The book of Hosea speaks of this very point.

Hosea is a love story, a sad one; a story of God's love for His people and their failure to receive it.

But, in it is the hope and promise of God's forgiveness and restoration, and all that God really wants from us.

Let's begin at Hosea 4:1-3.

1. Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Israel,

Or we might also say, "Listen to the word of the Lord, O church of My Son Jesus."

For the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land,
Because there is no faithfulness or kindness
Or knowledge of God in the land.

2. There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing, and adultery.
They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed.

As we look around the world, isn't this also an accurate description of today, as it was of the world in Hosea's day?

So God tells the people what has become of the new days, because they have not brought forth the blessings of the previous days, and built upon them.

3. Therefore the land mourns,
And everyone who lives in it languishes
Along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky;
And also the fish of the sea disappear.

All of this is coming to pass more and more each day.

But all is not lost; in fact, nothing has to be lost for the believer.

We can turn things around.

We can make a difference, and God is there to help us all the way home.

We just have to remember to begin this new day, and our tomorrows, with a blessing from yesterday; a blessing that comes to us over and over again from many past days.

Hymn:  Because He lives

Homily:

The presence of Christ within us helps us to face all our tomorrows.

But if we as Christians don't continue to face each day with the assurance of Christ in our hearts, then the staying power against the forces of evil is removed from our societies, and evil gets stronger, and affects more people.

This is because God allows us to dig our own pits of destruction by killing our fellow human beings, torturing and killing animals, and destroying the environment in which we all live.

Listen to what the Lord says in Hosea 5:15.

15. I will go away and return to My place
Until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face;
In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.

Why wait for affliction to overcome us before we turn to the Lord, when we would avoid most of it by staying with Him.

It all seems very obvious, but we so often forget.

The Lord only wants good for us, and the beautiful world He created, and He waits for our return; but in the meantime, He often has to remind us and get our attention.

Note verses 6:1-3.

1. Come, let us return to the Lord.

This means that before, we were with the Lord. Think of how much better we would be if we had continued each new day with the blessing of those previous days.

For He has torn us, but He will heal us;
He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.

These things are to attract our attention; so why do things in the first place that lead to our being wounded and torn?

We shouldn't need to be bandaged or healed, if we are in the Lord's presence, for he is our shield and protector.

But if we have drifted away, and now return,

2. "He will revive us after two days;
He will raise us up on the third day
That we may live before Him.

3. "So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth."

All this grace, and more, is ours if we stay steadfastly with the Lord.

Don't cause the Lord to mourn over us as a father over his wayward children, and as He does over Israel in verses 4-5:

4. What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
For your loyalty is like a morning cloud,
And like the dew which goes away early.

5. Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets;
I have slain them by the words of My mouth;
And the judgments on you are like the light that goes forth.

I can very much empathize with how the Lord feels, for I can see some of the same things in our congregations, and most definitely in the world around us.

And there are many times I also feel like one of His prophets speaking forth the Word of God.

But unlike the way Hosea writes about Israel, I usually experience mixed reactions.

I always try to present God's word in a way that will enlighten, encourage, convict, and continue to change us more and more into His image.

I try to help us become more loving and sensitive and compassionate.

And in this endeavor, I have most people tell me that my message helped them with a problem in their lives, or that they have more joy in their lives, or that they leave church feeling better.

Yet I have others who tell me just the opposite about the same message.

They say that I “beat up” on them, and they don't go away feeling good.

How can this happen with the same word?

If we feel that the word of God beats us up, and we don't feel better about ourselves after hearing it, then there is something in our lives that we must work at changing; for it is not I who convicts and chastises, but the Holy Spirit.

But if the so-called “beating up” convicts us to change, then the same Spirit fills us with joy, when we do change.

And if the message of conviction is not meant for us, then we shouldn't take it personally, but be encouraged that the world will be a little better place in which to live because the word of God is going forth.

It's as God tells us in verse 6:

6. For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice,
And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

All the Lord is saying to us is that He wants us all to live in love with Him, and with each other, and to look forward to a better tomorrow.

Homily:

One of yesterday's blessings upon which to begin our new day is God's amazing grace.

A grace that forgives you and me when we repent, and doesn't hold our sins against us, but encourages us to go forth and be a better person – the person God made us to be.

Hymn:  Amazing Grace

Homily:

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, verses 1:12-16, he speaks of how he received this amazing grace from God, and how it changed his tomorrows for the better.

Let’s take a look at this passage.

12. I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service;

See how Paul builds upon yesterday's blessing.

And as we look at the next verse, we see that he, too, was “beaten up” with God's word; but that he also received it with joy, and changed his life.

13. even though I was formerly a blasphemer and. a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief;

Here is the key to understanding why some people leave church feeling “beaten up” and others leave with joy.

Those who sin against God deliberately, and with a premeditated purpose, are those who feel “beaten up” by God's word.

Those who sin against God through ignorance, or forgetfulness, are those who receive His word with joy; for they have found a new and better way to live – a way that offers love and compassion.

And as Paul continues, there is no limit to this grace and love.

14. and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.

If we as individuals, and the world as a whole, would accept this simple fact, we would not have the problems we have today.

15. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.

Paul considers himself to be the greatest of all sinners.

That means that whatever anyone else has done is less than what he considers himself to have done; and if he can be forgiven and saved, and turn his life around, then so can all of us, and everyone else in the world.

When we accept this grace of God, it is the benediction of our former life; the blessing of yesterday upon which we are to build our todays and tomorrows.

And now is the time to live this changed life.

Why?

Paul tells us in the next verse.

16. And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

Do we hear what Paul is telling us?

Jesus Christ does not directly demonstrate His perfect patience, His perfect love, to us directly.

He does it through His disciples.

He does it through us who are true loving, compassionate, and peacemaking Christians.

This is why it is so important for us to come together as we are here today; and for us and our children, and our parents, as the case may be, to study God's word in Sunday schools and Bible studies, so that we learn and remember and are strengthened in our minds about the truths and blessings of yesterday.

For it is upon the blessings of yesterday that our future lies.

Receive these blessings.

Live them today and forever more.

Build upon them; don’t let them go.

Love one another.

Really love one another.

And love every other living being on this earth.

17. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hymn:  Tell Me the Story of Jesus

Benediction:

Your Comments are welcome

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