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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Life, Values, Experiences - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Life, Values, Experiences - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Life, Values, Experiences - Part 2
TOPICS: Generations

It's an honor to be with you today. Our topic is the importance of community. It's a real challenge. How do we instill in each following generation the values of our lives? For those of us who are Christ followers, it's a biblical worldview, but it's more than that. It's the value of worshiping together. It's the value of keeping a Sabbath. Don't really care about when or how you do that, but there's a day a week that belongs to the Lord. Those ideas have to be given from generation to generation or they're easily lost. It's a challenge for every generation to hold those truths. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most of all, open your heart to what the Spirit of God is inviting you towards today. Enjoy the lesson.

How is it that spring break and fall break have become more sacred than Easter? How has that happened to us? Don't talk to me about the secular world. If we spend more money and more energy on breaks than we do holy days, our priorities are struggling. And again, you're in church on New Year's Eve, or you're watching livestream and I'm sure there's something more exciting like Times Square, but the principle, you see, we have to share it with our friends. We've got to become agents of change. We don't wanna sit smugly in our self-righteousness. We've got to get on our knees and say, "Lord, this is us on our watch. We've allowed this to happen and to flourish".

I'm not against spring break or fall break. I'm telling you they've become more sacred than honoring the Lord. We forget what God has done for us. Teach the children why Christmas is important. Teach the children why we have these breaks from school. Teach the children why we get a day off of work. Tell the story. Don't leave the burden just at church. Church should help, we should add momentum, we should give some resources to facilitate that, but parents and grandparents, this is you. We haven't done a great job with this. I read the surveys, I hear the message coming to us that the younger generations don't want anything to do with church, and they lecture pastors like it's their fault.

Now, pastors may have some culpability, I'm not gonna try to defend that, but it begins in the home. It really does. And we wouldn't dare to have the awkward conversation of saying something like, "Well, you wouldn't make moral choices that are against a biblical worldview". And a lot of that emerges from something as simple as we just haven't even cared enough to say that the holidays are really holy days, more than they are about new clothes or a present or a trip or your favorite food. Or it's "my time". It would be, what is it we're remembering about God's engagement, involvement, in our lives? There is a cultural assault on the values of our lives and particularly upon our young people. Now, that has to be considered and countered, and the holy days are a wonderful way to do that.

I'm not against trees with lights on them, I'm not against fat guys in red suits. Doesn't bother me in the least. I'll sing "Rudolph" and "Jingle Bells" and I'm all in. But I'm not confused about the reason for the day. In fact, many years ago, and it's been many years ago, there was a segment in the congregation that was against all that stuff. And I remember the Christmas we put up a tree and decked, I did it as a part of a sermon, we put a tree in there. I mean, they were sharpening knives. You know, I know there's pagan orientations around trees and Druids worship trees, and I'm not worshiping a tree.

But I remember living in Jerusalem where they don't celebrate Christmas, and it wasn't welcome, and if you did, there was punishment. And I walked, we walked to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. It's only about five miles, it wasn't, but when you got to Bethlehem, for hundreds and hundreds of years, the Christian Arabs lived in Bethlehem. And when you got there, the Christmas music was playing and there were lights and it felt like almost Tennessee. And I thought, "I'm not gonna be Scrooge". I'm not confused about the reason, but I don't have to be angry at the secular culture. You with me? But teach the children why we have holy days, why New Year's Eve could be a sacred day. Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the high holy days. What if we use New Year's Eve as the holy beginning of a new year? What a radical thought.

Deuteronomy 6:6: "These commandments that I give you today, they're to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children". Well, how do you do that? "Talk about them when you're at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates". Now, the ultra orthodox community have taken that very literally. Have you seen pictures where they have leather bands wrapped around their hands and they have little boxes on their foreheads? If you stay in a hotel in Israel there's a mezuzah on the door. There's a prayer, literally, on the doorframe in all those public rooms when you come and go. But underlying all of that is the assignment to impress upon your children who God is and what he expects of us. That's the first assignment in parenting. It's more important than "don't eat sugar". Now I'm meddling.

There's a fourth benefit from the holidays. It helps us protect one another. We need the strength that comes from the community reinforcement. We believe there is a God. We believe that Jesus was his Son. We believe in the incarnation. We believe in the virgin birth, so we'll celebrate his birth. I know it didn't happen on December 25. I understand that that holiday was borrowed from the winter solstice. Okay, I'm celebrating the birth of Jesus, not more sunshine. You know, we get sidetracked on some goofy things. We need the strength that comes from that. I believe Jesus died on a cross, physically. I believe his dead body was placed in a tomb and that he was raised to life again and we will celebrate that in a few months, like we don't have good sense. We'll turn the volume up on that every way we know how. People say, "It looks like you're having a party," yeah!

Number five, the holidays reinforce our faith. See, there's a battle in our soul. Biblically speaking, our soul is our mind and our emotions, our will. Now, you and I both know that's a battlefield. Do you really believe that? That battle rages in all of us. It does in me; I'm pretty confident it will in you as well, in our emotions. Look at 1 Peter 2: "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world". It's a very powerful phrase. I've had the privilege of traveling a good bit and living in some other places in the world and I like to go and see and travel. Not as much these days, church is a little confining, but once upon a time. And there were strange foods people eat, you know, and the street food in the Philippines is balut, fertilized chicken eggs. Not a blessing.

You know, as much as I loved to go, I understood that I didn't, I'd walk down the street and, again, this was years ago. They'd be hollering out the windows from someplace, if I was in the remote areas, "Joe, hey, Joe". G.I. Joe. But I knew that I was... I wasn't... I remember we were up in the mountains, hiking, when I took my shirt off and they all pointed and laughed. They hadn't seen anybody as pale as this hillbilly from Tennessee. But I had a little blue passport that said at some point I was coming back to another culture. And when I learned as much as I could about the people and their cultures and their holidays and their foods and I ate in their homes, and slept in the nipa huts, and I did my best to be a part. I understood that my citizenship was someplace else. And that's the imagery that Peter's using. He says we're aliens and strangers in the world and we have to abstain from sinful desires which war against our soul. You see, the gatherings of family and friends, at least theoretically, of likeminded people around these holy days, is to strengthen us, to remind us, to embolden us, to hold our place in the midst of a world that wars against those ideas.

The beginning of the sights and sound of worship to me are all wrapped up in that Exodus narrative, the plagues, the fear, the hush that would come over the community. Moses has said, "What? We're making bricks with no straw"? Somebody shut him up. He's gonna get us all killed. The first signs were of frustration and not understanding and anxiety and this isn't working and who does he think he is and why did we ever listen to him? And then the plagues began. And before they're done, the plagues aren't bothering the Hebrews, but they're decimating Egypt. And you hear the cries of the Egyptians and I suspect a rather eerie silence over the Hebrews until you get to Passover night and death comes through the land, and the wails, the fear, the abject terror.

Can you imagine if the firstborn in every home died tonight, what the emotions would be in the morning? And then the sound of the Red Sea parting. Do you think they ever forgot that? Don't you think they told that story a few times around the fire? "What did you think when you heard it"? And I promise it wasn't on mute. The sound when the water collapsed on the Egyptians. They celebrated. They had suffered so long, when the Egyptians drowned, they danced. The chariots were floating in the water and they're dancing. Mary and the women are dancing. And within 72 hours they were at Mara; it means bitter. They came to an oasis and they couldn't drink the water, so they said, "We should have stayed in Egypt". They still got mud on their sandals from crossing the Red Sea. "We should have stayed in Egypt".

They get a tabernacle and they have to learn to worship and what it means and then they get a temple eventually but that's gonna be hundreds of years down the road. But a part of that journey were the sights and the sounds of worship. And we've got to gain some traction on this. It isn't about style. It's understanding who we worship, and that worship is the center of our lives. Not music; honoring God. Worship is about giving honor to God, respect to God, reverence to God. We shouldn't need vocalists and a band to worship the Lord. When we're together with other likeminded people, you should have to say, "Now, y'all gonna have to stop for a little while. We need to read the Word".

We should be so filled with gratitude for what God is doing, or we could be so filled. It's our strength. We enter his gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise. Psalm 81:3 says: "Sound the ram's horn at the New Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our Feast". The ram's horn is the shofar. Someone gave me this one as a gift. I just brought it so you could see it. I don't intend to try to blow it. My lungs are better this week. I'm not gonna rupture one. If you know how to blow a shofar and you do it well, it sounds like you're choking a goat. If you don't know what you're doing, it sounds like the goat is choking you. And because I've spent a lot of time in Israel and amongst the Christian community that loves Israel, I've seen many, many variations on shofars and services. It's just a general rule: when I see somebody with a shofar in a holster, looking for an opportunity to call God's people, I think of the phrase my grandfather taught me: "Big hat, no cattle".

You see, we don't need something to draw attention to ourselves. The point of worship is to bring our attention to the Lord. I think what is helpful for you to understand is that the shofar was used for many things. It was a signal that it was a new moon, we're turning the calendar again. When Herod built the magnificent temple in Jerusalem, the one that was there in Jesus's day, one of the corners of the temple was, it was the place of trumpeting where they could blow the shofar as a signal for the whole community to know it was the beginning of a holiday or a new moon or a Sabbath, in the way we would send out a group text or an Amber Alert. It was a means of communication. They were used in battle when Joshua and the crew walked around Jericho for seven days. At the end of the seventh day, it said the priests were to blow the shofar and the people were to shout.

See, I don't think we think of worship as a conflict that brings victory over our enemies. So don't get caught up in trying to be unique. God is the one who's unique. I want you to know what the shofar is, but you don't need a goat horn to worship the Lord. Now, if it's a part of their culture and their... yeah, I got that, but, my time has gone. I brought you some prayers. I think it's important. Next session, God willing, we're gonna look at Zechariah and Malachi 'cause we just finished that. But I like to read through the book of Psalms and you can do it as a part of a monthly routine, and so I was going through the end of the book of Psalms this morning and some of the statements there were such amazing proclamations and prayers, I just wanted to bring 'em to you tonight.

I was looking forward to kind of a holiday gathering with you, and I wanted to give you some proclamations and prayers that you could take away to begin the New Year. We'll say 'em together but let me read the Psalm 141: "But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge, do not give me over to death. Keep me from the snares they have laid for me, from the traps set by evildoers. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by in safety". I like that as a proclamation over my life. You know, when you take your voice and say what God's Word says about you, you give it spiritual authority in your life. Can we make that proclamation together? Let's read it together.

Psalm 141:8-10: "But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge, do not give me over to death. Keep me from the snares they have laid for me, from the traps set by evildoers. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by in safety". Hoo, I like that for 2023. And in Psalm 143 there's a little bit of a guide to refreshing. You ever get tired or worn down? You know how to restore yourself physically or if you get the symptoms of a cold, what do you need to do? You want a little bit of zinc, you want your vitamin C. But what do you do spiritually to be refreshed? Well, Psalm 143 says: "I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and I consider what your hands have done". That's the Psalmist's language for a good news list. "I spread out my hands to you; and my soul thirsts for you like a parched land".

Some of you come from traditions where doing this in church would be, like, almost obscene. So, you don't have to do that here; do this at home. Go lock yourself in the bathroom and say, "Lord, I'm not ready to do this out there where they can see me yet". Why would you do that? Well, it says: "I spread out my hands to you". So, it's just a guide to refreshing. How about if we offer that as a prayer to the Lord? Will you read it with me? Psalm 143:5-6: "I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land". And in Psalm 144 there's a wonderful prayer for families, for the children especially, I thought: "Just let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants, And our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace". I like that. We're different. We're not all the same. But it's really not that confusing. And God has roles for all of us.

"Let our garners," that word, we don't use a lot. You can put "barn" in there. It's the same. Some of the translations do. "Let our barns be full, furnishing every kind of produce, And our flocks bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields; Let our cattle bear Without mishap and without loss, Let there be no outcry in our streets! How blessed are the people who are so situated; How blessed are the people whose God is the LORD"! That's a pretty good blessing for our families and ourselves in the New Year, huh? Can we say that together?

Psalm 144, verses 12 to 15: "Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants, And our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace. Let our garners be full, furnishing every kind of produce, And our flocks bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields; Let our cattle bear Without mishap and without loss, Let there be no outcry in our streets! How blessed are the people who are so situated; How blessed are the people whose God is the LORD"! And then I'll close with this. It's Psalm 146. Says: "Do not put your trust in princes".

I circled that in my Bible this morning. Folks, I've been saying almost everywhere I've been for two and a half years that politicians aren't gonna fix us, and people continue to be agitated with me. I'm not saying there's not a role for godly, God-honoring people in positions of authority. But the fundamental solutions we need are not coming through the political process. They will come from a change of heart in the people of God and then we'll get better politicians. "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing".

Here's the alternative: "Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them, the LORD, who remains faithful forever". And this is what the Lord will do: "He upholds the cause of the oppressed and he gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, and he frustrates the way of the wicked. The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD".

I'm gonna give you that as a prayer for in the morning. And if you'll stand with me, I'd like to say a prayer for you, if you'll allow me that privilege. I thank God for you. God's people are the hope we have, not because we're so amazing, but the one who called us is so amazing. He can take our cracked pots and then turn them into vessels where his glory can be made evident. What an amazing privilege we have to bear the name of Jesus, amen.

Father, I thank you for these men and women. I thank you for their lives and their willingness to present themselves to you on a holy day. Lord, I thank you that they would say no to other temptations and say yes to you. And I pray that that pattern, Father, would gain momentum in the weeks and the months ahead, that it would grow in our lives and it would grow in the lives of those that we interact with and those that we care about. Father, may our lives be filled with holy days. May we turn our hearts and our faces to you as never before. May our children and the young people amongst us see a joy in us, a determination to honor the Lord that will give them pause. We thank you for it.

Father, we thank you for this year and your faithfulness to us, and for the great honor of seeing a New Year open before us. Lord, we invite you into it. I pray that in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our cities and communities, in our nation, in our churches, that the name of Jesus will be lifted up, that you'll pour out your Spirit upon us, that we would grow in the fear of the Lord, a reverence for you, a respect for you, an honor for you. May we desire your approval more than we desire the approval of any other. Father, give us the courage to choose your truth. Awaken us, Father. Deliver us from deception. Deliver us from every expression of evil, and Lord, may we see your will done on the earth as it is in heaven, in Jesus's name, amen.

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