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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mike Novotny » Mike Novotny - Keeping My God Connection

Mike Novotny - Keeping My God Connection

Mike Novotny - Keeping My God Connection
TOPICS: What's the Point?

"Do you remember me"? I looked at her kind of familiar face and tried to smile and nod, but inside, the alarm was going off in my brain. Mayday, mayday, this is about to be very, very awkward. I wanted to so badly, but there's something I need to confess to all of you today as a church and those of you who are watching at home. All of you, because there are so many of you, are super hard to remember. I really want to, I really try to, I know that your name matters, and your story matters, and your highs matter, and lows matter. I love meeting you, introducing myself to you, getting to sit down with you. But one of the curses about being so blessed with so many people is that it means even the most basic things become really, really difficult to remember.

I tried, do you know there's a printed church directory? It's the only thing that sits next to my computer on my office desk, and every week, I page through it and I try to remember all 700 names, and then I scroll through all the guests that I've met, those of you who aren't members of our church family, and I try to memorize all of those. And then there's all of you who I don't have on the list just yet that I meet for first time on a Sunday morning. And that's just the name part, and it's super hard to remember. So if you all could just do me a favor, and go to your favorite tattoo artist this week, and just first and last, just right on your forehead, in Jesus' name, amen. And if you have the same problem that I do, like you want to remember things, you know that it's important, but it doesn't all stick in your brain for the first time.

Alright, quick confession, pop quiz. How many of you here find it much easier to remember faces than names? Yeah. Is that you? Anyone here ever had that moment where you introduce yourself to someone and literally, ten seconds later, your brain is saying, "Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no. I honestly just don't remember ten seconds ago". How many of you frequently have to totally guess at your username and password? Yes, me too. Students, be honest, how many of you have ever gotten to school and you realize that you didn't remember your lunch, your homework, your uniform, your stuff, yeah? Parents, how many of you ever been at home and you realize, "I forgot my kid? I was supposed to pick them up, and they're texting you like, 'Where are you at mom and dad?'"

Alright, here's the real one, couples, if you're dating someone, how many of you have ever forgotten a birthday, or an anniversary? Yes. Jesus forgives many things, but sir, you are in trouble. Oh, it's so dangerous. Like we know these things matter and we want to remember them, but even the really important things are hard to not forget. Now, why am I telling all of you that in church? Because the exact same thing is true when it comes not just to names, and passwords, and home works, and pickup times and dates. The same thing is true with the most important parts of our faith. Just because God matters more than anything, just because his word is powerful, and active, and life-changing doesn't mean that the first time we hear it, we're instantly going to remember it.

In fact, there's this passage from Deuteronomy 6, way back in the days of Moses, 3,500 years ago, where Moses said this to God's people. He said, "Be careful that you do not forget the Lord". That's a pretty big thing to forget, wouldn't you agree? He didn't say, "Oh, be careful you don't miss point number nine of seventy-two on the things that I've just taught you". He started with the biggest, most basic thing. "You people be very, very careful that you don't forget God himself". And the passage reminds me of a truth I want you to write down because it's so important. It's the problem that you and I, and so many of us wrestle with, here it is, that people of faith forget. Even though we don't want to, even though we don't try to, it happens, we forget God and what God wants, and what God has said, and what God has done.

Now, I've been a Christian for just about 40 years and I found that there's really two seasons of life where I tend to be really forgetful, and maybe you've been here. I tend to be forgetful when things are really good, and I can also be very forgetful when things are not good. Which is my way of saying, I can always be forgetful. Sometimes, life is so good, right, there's so much to do, you're healthy, you're strong, you're running, you have the job, the friends are messaging you. There's, you know, your romantic life, and there's your financial life, there's opportunities, there's sports. When life is really good, sometimes you're so busy that like life flies by and you forget. You forget that God, and what God loves, and what God values, and what God prioritizes when your life is said and done, that is the stuff that will matter the most. But in the blur of constant blessings, in the midst of a really good, fast-paced life, it's easy to forget.

And then, there's the bad times. There's this part about pain, it's in its very nature that pain will take almost all of your attention, right? Something bad happens, you get the news that things are falling off at work, maybe you suffer the pain of just mental health struggles, you're anxious today, you're super depressed today, someone dies, you're betrayed, you get a bill in the mail that you didn't expect. When pain happens we just... All the things we learned in church go out the window instantly and... our hearts just get captivated by the scary thing, this unnerving thing, this really difficult thing. Has this happened to you before? It's like, you could be in church, and you could be learning that there is a God, and he is a God of love, and he puts people in place for a purpose that what you're going through it's no accident.

Like God wanted you here to teach you something really... Like you can say amen to that, you can sing the closing song of praise to that, but then when you walk out of church and real life hits you, and it was like the sermon didn't even happen. You're afraid, you're looking at the comments on social media, and now, you're angry. Someone gives you attitude at home, and it's just, it's like, you're praying and even you're a person of faith, quickly forgets. That sometimes happen when certain people walk into the room that you don't really get along with, like you could be reading a devotion in your Bible at home about the importance of love, right? Just be loving, and love is kind, and love is patient, and loves not easily angered, and you say, "Yes, yes. That's the kind of person I want to be," and then that person shows up.

And like every verse of scripture just gets squeezed right of your body, and you're tense and you're moody, and you're passive, or you're aggressive, or you're passive aggressive, and you know that it matters, right? You know just to love people even if they're your enemy, to turn the cheek, to show them grace, but we forget. If you're a person, or you're a family that struggles with anxiety, this is huge, isn't it? Anxiety, when it comes on strong, it just makes you forget, God's got the whole universe in the palm of his hand. The nations are like a piece of dust. He's not anxious about it, but when you feel anxious, you get so focused on the what ifs, and you forget about the one who holds all the what ifs in the palm of his hand. If you battle depression, and you're in like, the darkest valley, you just get so self-critical, and feel so unlovable, and you forget that God has made a promise that he will journey with you into the darkest valley, the valley of the shadow of death.

You don't have to be afraid, even in those moments because he's right there with all of his people. Right, the biggest things of life, the love of God, the forgiveness of Jesus, the way we treat people. We know, here and now that this matters, but when life happens, we so quickly forget. So, here's the big question I want to wrestle with today. How do you remember? If that happens to you, if it happens to all of us, even with the most important things, how do you not forget? Is there anything we can do, or is this just the human condition, and we're always going to be forgetful, well and then you die, and God will fix it. Well, today, we're going to find and answer in the book of Esther.

So, jump with me into Esther 9, where we read these words. It says, "Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor. Therefore these days were called Purim, from the word pur. Because of everything written in this letter and because of what they had seen and what had happened to them, the Jews took it on themselves to establish the custom that they and their descendants and all who should join them should without fail observe these two days every year, in the way prescribed and at the time appointed".

Alright, I notice things in my Bible like they were to observe the days. What else did Haman say? "They established the customs". Mordecai, I mean. "They should without fail observe these two days every year in the way prescribed and at the time appointed". This was like official, we're all going to do it, and when we do it, we're not going to forget the great things that God has done for us. And they called this brand new Jewish holiday, Purim. Grab a pen, let me help you understand what that is, the Hebrew pur, P-U-R simply means, lot. You've heard of casting lots before? A pur was the name of like a little stone, or a piece of pottery that they would write, you know you could put a name on it, or a month on it, and ''IM' in Hebrew is just like "S" in English, it's plural.

So, if pur is lot, Purim means lots. So, in the story of Esther, when they were trying to pick which month this big battle would happen with the Jewish people, they had all the months maybe on little pieces of pottery, and among those Purim, those many pieces, they picked one and it decided the date when the big battle would happen. And so, Mordecai decided, well, since, you know, we were delivered and rescued from our enemies in the process of picking a Purim, let's capitalize the "P" and this will be our brand new, official holiday. And now, here we are, not in 480, 470 B.C. we're on 2020's A.D. and did you know that to this very day, 2,500 years later, Jews around the world still Purim?

In fact, they Purim pretty hard. Actually, stumbled upon this when I was in Israel just before COVID started. I remember we're setting up to watch this... Record this video and a bunch of kids, like in Halloween costumes started walking past. Princess, and the little cowboy. Like what exactly is this? And then, some dude, I think he wasn't wearing a shirt, had this big 80's style boombox, and it was like ten in the morning. He's like, pumping EDM dance tunes, like, what is happening right now? And then, they told me it's Purim. And two days every year, whether you're a religious person or not, you take time off work, you donate to charity, you feast with your friends, you exchange gifts, you party, you celebrate, but it's been two and half millennia since the book of Esther happened and yet, Jews today still remember.

I remember having lunch one time in the second floor cafe, looking down, and seeing a bunch of young guys in yamakas, like frat boys, with arms around each other, full bottles of wine in their hand, red solo cups, they were Puriming and they were Puriming very hard. And then, I learned about these, ever seen one of these before? On Purim, Jewish people will read the entire book of Esther, start to finish, all ten chapters, and they have a custom that every time the name of Haman is mentioned, which I think is 54 total times, all the people in the congregation will Stamp their feet, "Ahh," yell and they'll grab one of these, it's call the gragger, and they will. Fifty four times. Parents, if your kids have trouble getting out of bed, I'm selling right here at the CORE two for ten, graggers. "Alright, son, I warned you twice" Ah! Boo!

And they shout the name of Haman. They actually make little cookies called, Hamantaschen, which is Hebrew for Haman's ears that they eat like they're devouring this enemy named Haman. They have custom, after custom, after custom, after custom. There are tons of people, millions of people in the nation of Israel and around the world, who even if they don't believe in God, even if they don't think this book comes from God, they know the people, and the plots, and the events of the book of Esther, way better than many of us who follow Jesus and believe the scriptures come from the Holy Spirit himself. So, my question to you is, how is that possible? If we value it as holy scripture more than other people, how do they know more than we do? And the logical answer is, the calendar. They have something intentionally built into the rhythm of their lives that doesn't let them forget. It's my big idea for today. The calendar is what helps us remember.

If you want to remember the things of God, if you don't want to forget the biggest parts of our faith, then the answer isn't just to say this is important, this is important. The answer is to build something into the rhythm of your life that will help you to remember. Alright, so, let's make this practical. How do you and I do that? Have to put a big pause button, kind of asterisk moment right now in the sermon, and I need to tell you that we need to be very careful answering this question because we don't want to add rules that the Bible does not have, okay? Over the years, some Christians, and some churches, and some denominations have actually created an official church calendar, or church year so they don't forget the day of Pentecost, or the baptism of Jesus, they invented the season of Lent, if you've heard of that before.

Good Friday, holy week, all those things are great, but they're not commanded by God. And so, you and I must not judge each other by the individual specifics of how we remember, right? Did you know that for about the first 300 years after the birth of Jesus they did not celebrate the birth of Jesus in December? So, if you want to remember that Jesus was born for you, in April or July, baby Jesus, is super chill with that, right? And if you don't want to worship on a Sunday morning, but a Sunday afternoon, or a Tuesday night, if your spiritual community chooses to gather in those moments that doesn't make God mad. Alright, so, let's not judge each other by the specifics. But there are two principles that I want to share with you today that have really run throughout the Old Testament and the New, and all of church history. Two things that you and I can put into our calendar that will help us remember.

Alright, write these two down, number one is a weekly worship service. A weekly worship service. If you don't want to forget about Jesus and everything he's done for you, one of the smartest, most biblical things you can do... The Bible puts it this way, "Let us not give up the habit of meeting together". Alright, every seven days, instead of trying to figure out, "Oh, do I have time or not? Do I feel like going to church or not? Has it been a busy weekend or not"? To build into your calendar every seven days, a gathering around God's word, with God's people. For some of you, you've done that your whole lives, some of you grew up like that and then you got to like high school or college, and you said, "I'm kind of done with that".

Some of you are kind of getting reconnected to church and you show up once, or twice a month. That's kind of the new average in America. What I'm encouraging you today, what the Bible actually is encouraging you is to make every Sunday a don't miss moment for the message about Jesus. And I'm not saying that to you because I want to just like take your time. I'm saying that to you because I've pastored people for 15 years and what I know is that it's very hard for them to remember. I'm guessing when you walk out these doors, there's not a ton of people who talk to you about your sinfulness and your salvation through Jesus, right? You probably don't go to your staff meeting on Monday, or your Geometry class and someone says, "Hey, everyone, I just want to let you know that even though we're bad, Jesus was so good to us, wasn't he"?

There are many... You're not like watching a show on Netflix, and the plot is really about the redemption that came through the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Like, that doesn't happen out in the world, it doesn't embrace or prioritize the gospel. So, what I want for you is the chance every week to hear about unconditional love. Like, to know whether it was a good week, a so-so week, a total trainwreck of a week, when your conscience is just reminding you of where you have fallen short. I don't want you to go seven straight days without hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Your heart, your soul, the joy of knowing that like, God is for you, he's not mad at you, he's with you. His face shines when he thinks about you. I want you, in the crazy broken world, and in your crazy, broken behavior to be able to come back constantly, and hear this one beautiful thing that Jesus died for the forgiveness of your sins.

Now, some people especially if they are about 14 or 15 think, "I know that, obviously. I've been hearing that everyday when my mom drags me to church and gets me out of bed. I would never forget that". But listen, I've run into people ten years down the road, and it's not that they don't know Jesus died on a cross. "What? Never heard that before". It's that battle in heart between shame and freedom, between being totally confident that you're good with God, and the doubts and questions of you hope you're good with God. That's real. "Faith," the Bible says, "comes from hearing the message".

And the message is heard through this word about Christ. And so, I want to encourage you, I want to nudge you, I want to challenge you, I want to invite you to grab your calendar and just put the repeating event, and when the phone ask, "well, when does it end"? You just write in, "When I die". Because every Sunday, God will bring you here for a purpose. It might be to teach you something new, it might be to remind you of something old. But in both cases, God just wants you to remember. Have you ever, Sunday church goers, do you notice how helpful this is? Is it just me, or does something happen like on Tuesday that makes me think, "We just talked about this on Sunday," right?

Like, a friend reaches out to you and you're like, "This is a crazy coincidence. Literally, we just sang a song about that. Pastor Michael had a reading about that". Like, you will be shocked at how practical the scriptures are when you're constantly connected to them. God will not let these services be in vain, he will use them for the purpose of blessing his people, weekly. And you know what's even better? Number two thing I want you to write down is daily. Some Christians call this a daily devotion, others call it their quiet time. If you have children in your home, there's never a quiet time, so you call it a kind of quiet time. This is when you just have this chance to connect with God on your own. No one's preaching at you, it's just your time to worship, to read, to study, and to pray.

There's some incredible ways to do this just incase you're new to it. Three to five times a year our church will promote a Bible reading plan. In a couple weeks, you're going find out an easy way to get on board if this is new to you. Some of you, like me, you just love reading straight through books of the Bible, about one chapter a day, taking notes, rereading them, meditating on them. Some of you signed up for the Time of Grace emails where I think at 4 A.M. every single morning, you get a written devotion, a video devotion, and other resources to kick start your day. Some of you use the Bible app. How many of you have the Bible app on your phone? Yeah, look at that.

And there's plans on forgiveness, salvation, the basics, anxiety, depression, divorce, reconciliation, raising kids, growing older, pain, suffering, confuse... And 84 other topics. So, you can literally find whatever you're dealing with a few clicks that's absolutely free. The YouVersion Bible app. There's so many ways for you and I to do it, it's difficult to get and stay into the habit, but I want to push you today. Do you think you could do it for just this week? Every single day, to just open the Bible even if it's for five minutes? I hope you can because life is beautiful, but life is not simple. And on Monday when you go back to school, that kid's going to walk into the room that you don't really like and how you treat him matters.

And maybe it's going to take the devotion you had just before you left the house that's going to remind you to treat him with grace, and with patience and with kindness. And maybe this Wednesday is the Wednesday you hear some really disturbing news, when the annual checkup isn't just another checkup, there's something that shakes your heart. When someone you thought you could trust violates your trust. When you look at your bank account, or your report card, you don't know how you're going to cope when the anxiety comes back hard. The truth is, I don't want you to have to wait until next Sunday for some good news that will give you great joy. The Holy Spirit does not want 24 hours to pass without the chance to comfort you and guide you, and teach you. And so, this might be revolutionary for you, but maybe before you open the Netflix, maybe before you grab the phone, maybe before you watch another TikTok video, what you could do is open the one book that has been changing hearts and lives for thousands of years. Let's pray:

God, today feels like New Year's Eve. Thinking about the future, making resolutions to be different people, but we all know how that works. It's easy to talk big in the midst of the emotion, it's really hard to do it when it's just us and the action. And so, we're asking for your Holy Spirit and for your people to rally together in this moment to help us create good spiritual roots, to devote ourselves entirely to these spiritual discipline. It's not because we always have to, God, but because we want to remember you. They're such beautiful things when we remember that you're present, that you're powerful, that you're patient, that you're loving, that you're gracious, that you're forgiving, that you remember the sins of our youth no more. We're so grateful for all those things, God and we don't want to forget. So, help us to do that hard work of starting new habits and maintaining them. Help us not just to think of our own habits, but of the habits of our church community. That we could spur one another on towards love and good deeds so that all of us here would remember your mercy and your love that we find at the cross of Jesus Christ. We pray all these things, God with hope because we're remembering today, who you are, the God who loved the world so much that he gave his one and only son that whoever would believe in that son would not perish in hell, but would have eternal life in your presence. So, we pray all these things today with joy (and all of God's people said), amen.

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