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Deuteronomy 6:4-9: 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Luke 4:18-19 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Silent Prayer

What if 2017, the Year of the Family for us here at TVCOG, what if it was the year of the Lord’s favor? What if it was the best year for our families? What if it was the best year for us as individuals? What if we could declare it the year of the Lord’s favor for others?

Proclaiming freedom for those imprisoned in some way, announcing recovery of sight for the blind, helping people who are oppressed find victory, and assisting people in experiencing God’s favor…I wanna live like that!

The musical group, the Sidewalk Prophets, sing a song by that title. Here are the lyrics:

Sometimes I think
What will people say of me
When I’m only just a memory
When I’m home where my soul belongs

Was I love
When no one else would show up
Was I Jesus to the least of those
Was my worship more than just a song
I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You
If love is who I am
Then this is where I’ll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back
I want to live like that
I want to live like that

Am I proof
That You are who you say You are
That grace can really change a heart
Do I live like Your love is true
People pass
And even if they don’t know my name
Is there evidence that I’ve been changed
When they see me, do they see You
I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You
If love is who I am
Then this is where I’ll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back
I want to live like that
I want to live like that

I want to tell you that God is interested in the way you and I live, and not just because He has standards and desires that we obey, but God is interested in the quality of your life.

Jesus said in John 10:10: (NKJV) 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Abundant life! God is pro-life! He is a life-creator, a life-giver, a life-support, a life-lifter. God wants you to experience Him in fullness. He wants you to be acquainted with His supernatural power. He wants you to live forgiven and free. He wants you to have a sense of accomplishment. He desires for you to conquer and live victoriously. He wants your family to succeed. He wants you to live satisfied and content, and beyond that, He wants to bless your life so that you wake up asking, “Why is God so good to me? How is it that I get to live THIS life?”

I didn’t say He wants to give you a problem-free or pain-free life, but I can tell you with confidence He wants to give you a blessed life. God is a quality enhancer. He is a game changer. He is a peace giver and a dream creator. He will open doors that no man can shut for you, and life with Him is way better than any life without Him. Do you want all He wants for your life? I wanna live like that!

Not only is He interested in the quality of your personal life, but He is extremely interested in the quality of life you can help others live. As He helps you live your best-possible life, He is expecting that a by-product of you living well will mean that others do as well. We are to do the ministry of Jesus. The ministry of Jesus according to Luke 4 is a prison-opening ministry. The ministry of Jesus is a healing ministry. The ministry of Jesus is a proclamational ministry whereby we help other people know there is victory in Jesus. Oh, somebody help me this morning. There is victory in Jesus! Helping other people discover their best possible life? I wanna live like that!

I want to suggest three ways you can embrace the desires that God has for your life this morning.

  1. Speak Life

    It pleases God when we speak His Word. Proverbs 4:20-22 (NIV) 20 My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. 21 Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; 22 for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.

    Remember, our scripture of the month tells us we are to talk about the Word of God as we move through the day. We are to teach it to our children when we get them up, when we take them to school, when we discuss life’s problems, and when we tuck them in. Why? Because God’s Word is life-giving. “Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life!”

    We also need to make sure our words are seasoned with life-giving instruction and encouragement to other people. Author John Trent tells the following story: Mary had grown up knowing that she was different from the other kids, and she hated it. She was born with a cleft palate and had to bear the jokes and stares of cruel children who teased her non-stop about her misshaped lip, crooked nose, and garbled speech.

    With all the teasing, Mary grew up hating the fact that she was “different”. She was convinced that no one, outside her family, could ever love her … until she entered Mrs. Leonard’s class. Mrs. Leonard had a warm smile, a round face, and shiny brown hair. While everyone in her class liked her, Mary came to love Mrs. Leonard.

    In the 1950’s, it was common for teachers to give their children an annual hearing test. However, in Mary’s case, in addition to her cleft palate, she was barely able to hear out of one ear. Determined not to let the other children have another “difference” to point out, she would cheat on the test each year. The “whisper test” was given by having a child walk to the classroom door, turn sideways, close one ear with a finger, and then repeat something which the teacher whispered.

    Mary turned her bad ear towards her teacher and pretended to cover her good ear. She knew that teachers would often say things like, “The sky is blue,” or “What color are your shoes?” But not on that day. Surely, God put seven words in Mrs. Leonard’s mouth that changed Mary’s life forever. When the “Whisper test” came, Mary heard the words: “I wish you were my little girl.” (John Trent, Ph.D., Vice President of Today’s Family, Men of Action, Winter 1993, p. 5.) What a transforming moment for that little girl! A moment she surely would have dreaded would become a moment she would cherish for a life-time. That is the power of our words!

    Dads and Moms, I wish there was some way that I could communicate to you the incredible blessing which affirming words impart to children. Children of God, I wish there was some way to prove to you today that words of life can change the lives of people around you for the better. Proverbs 15:4-The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Be generous with life-giving words.

    For the young people growing up in this place, oh how I long for you one day to look back on your time here, and be able to confess that this was a place where you knew you were loved, where you knew you were special, where you knew God intended something great for your life, where you knew you could admit your struggles, where you knew you mattered, where it was safe to be real, and where your dreams were nurtured and your soul was fed and where you were secure and confident because people told you they were praying for you! Hear me! You have a future. You have a destiny. You can do anything you dream up with God’s help. If He has willed it and you want it, you will conquer it in Jesus’ name!

    I speak life over this house today. I speak life over our families today. I speak life over our health today. I speak life over our finances today. I speak life over the places in our hearts and minds that have bought death and destruction. We are God’s people. We life people. We will live! Glory to God!

  2. Support Life

    As Christians, I believe we are called to uphold the sanctity and dignity of every life from conception to the grave. I cannot read Scripture and come to any other conclusion. I believe we should invest in and support organizations that help pregnant women choose life even when it is incredibly difficult. I believe we should be there in practical ways for people who are at the end of their physical lives on this earth.

    Genesis 2:7 tells us that God created Adam and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and at that point, man became a living soul. A living soul. What God breathes into becomes sacred and should be cherished. We cannot take the life of another. We must not take our own lives. Instead, we must help people find the sustaining love, grace, and power of God that is sufficient in the crisis times of life. The Apostle Paul had so many reasons to want to check out of life. He was under constant pressure, constant threats, constant persecution, and was almost always in some kind of discomfort or danger, yet he said he discovered the sufficient grace of God to see him through times of trial.

    2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV) 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

    I believe we should come alongside and support people with illnesses that are compromising the quality of their lives. Those who have lost loved ones, those who go through the pain of divorce, they all need supported as they look to the future and a different kind of life than the life they had once imagined.

    Those who deal with drug and alcohol addiction, with gambling or sexual addiction or any other form of addiction need people who will hang in there with them for the long-haul as sometimes recovery takes years. If someone is truly seeking freedom, as believers we should look for a way to support that choice. I’m not talking about enablement or being taken advantage of, but helping people find a way out is Jesus’ stuff, and we are to be doing Jesus’ stuff.

    Maybe you could become a sponsor for someone in AA or become trained as a facilitator for the Christian Support Ministry called Celebrate Recovery. Offer to go with someone to a support group meeting. It is daunting to walk into a new place by yourself. Maybe you could volunteer with organizations that help support people as they walk out of a destructive lifestyle and into a new way of living.

    Those of you in the medical profession in some way, I want you to know how much I respect you and the calling you have followed or are following to support life and quality of life for the people you assist. Whether you are assisting them with their smile, their spine, or are providing surgery or general support for them to live their best possible life, you are in a strategic place to make an impact for the Kingdom of God. For whatever reason, our church is blessed with lots of people in the medical profession. Go the extra mile. Take the extra time. Give the extra care. Share Jesus as you do your job well. You will be remembered as someone who made a difference in a time of crisis.

    Support life. We need a lifestyle that supports life as we are proactive to teach preventative strategies for young people who have so much of their life yet ahead of them. Don’t even try alcohol to see if you like it! Don’t be fooled into thinking you can do the drug just once to see what it is like. We need to teach abstinence and help our young people learn to make decisions that will lead to life and godliness so they don’t find themselves backed into a corner with tough choices to make.

    We all need support from time to time. In order for all of us to live our best possible life, we are going to need people to lean on and rely on from time to time. Living well means not doing life alone. We all need friends and family and a helping hand from time to time. That is why our Heartbeat of the Valley Single Mom’s Support program has developed through Angie’s leadership. She has been there as a single mom and understands that life can be easier when you have some emotional, spiritual, and practical support.

    Allow this place to become a support family for you. Share your needs and reach out to share the needs of others. Support those who express their needs. Support those who are on our prayer list. Support those who are caring for others. Don’t underestimate what an act of kindness or spending time with a caregiver can do to give them the strength they need to continue to care for their loved one. This church needs to be a support house for all who are hurting or struggling no matter what the reason.

    Supporting life means we extend grace and forgiveness. For anyone who needs a do-over, a fresh start, a clean slate, God offers it. You can be healed from past mistakes. You can find hope to start again. God loves you. He wants you to get up and move into a better future than the past that has you bound.

  3. Share Life

    What a beautiful expression of this final point we have witnessed in the dedication of two new church members, Eli and Ruthie Holder. Craig and Sara Holder went to China to adopt these precious kids. They have chosen to share their lives with them. What an incredible gift. What sacrifice. What love. What a special calling! Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:5 that when we welcome a child in His name, it is as if we are welcoming Him!

    Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has a plan to give us a hope and a future. Craig and Sara have become part of that plan for Eli and Ruthie because they have chosen to share their lives with them.

    Several people in this church have had experience with being adopted or adopting children. Several now also have experience fostering children. I am hoping to have an informational meeting soon regarding the fostering of children for any who might be interested in learning more about how to share your life with a child in need. Jesus, Himself was raised by a foster father! Joseph took Jesus to be his son and raised him as such. What a holy privilege. What an impact he must have made on Jesus!

    We had the privilege of having an exchange student from S. Korea in our home several years ago, and just the day-to-day sharing of life enriched our lives greatly.

    I love Psalm 68:5-6. It speaks about the loving care of our Heavenly Father who calls us to share life with others: 5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. 6 God sets the lonely in families.

    The Body of Christ becomes extended family for those who need a father, those who need a mother, for those who need a brother or sister or grandparent figure. Part of our role, part of our responsibility is to share our lives with others who need family and friendship.

    Who is it that lives alone that you could invite to your lunch table after church on Sunday? Who is it that needs a father figure or mother figure that you could reach out to in order to help mentor them? Taking an interest in one of our students and going to support them at their game or recital, texting them to check in on them, remembering their birthday or investing in them in some other way as you give them time and attention is so transforming.

    We would love to see more small groups get going in homes as people would commit to sharing a weekly or monthly meal and Bible study together. I love that a group of moms with teens is forming to talk about parenting and to pray for one another. We are meant to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Sometimes it is as simple as taking an interest in someone else’s life, being there for them, and offering a listening ear.

    When we give a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name to someone in need, when we give of our resources to help someone else live better, we are sharing our life with them. Everything we have been blessed with is a form a life that we can use to be a blessing to someone else. James 1:27 is such a practical verse of Scripture. It simplifies what pleases God in regards to sharing life with others. Here it is: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

    Speaking life, supporting life, and sharing life. I want to live like that. How about you?


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