Tuesday, August 20, 2019

“He’s got the whole wide world in His hands”

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The Better Dream - Jeremiah 32:40 - Toon van den Hoorn
 
Good day, brothers and sisters. I’d like to read a few verses from the Bible with you. I want to start with Jeremiah 32:40. It is very short and to the point.
  “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me”.
 
Read it again for yourselves, and make it personal.
“I will make an everlasting covenant with you”. God says.
“This means that I will not turn away from you and that I will help you. I will put my fear into your heart”.
And by fear He means He will put respect for Him into your heart, so that you will look to God in awe, and not turn away from Him.
 
I think that’s wonderful. For myself and also for you. Whether you are young or old.
 
I have some more verses I want to read. Passages from the book of Revelations.
“I looked and behold there was a door open in the heaven and the voice like the sound of a trumpet said: Come up here and I will show you everything that is going to happen.
I saw a throne and someone on the throne.
I saw a book roll in his right hand and I saw a lamb, standing as though it had been slain.
I saw how he opened the book roll, one seal after the other.
And finally I saw a new heaven and a new earth.
And I heard a loud voice coming from the throne saying: Behold the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them and they shall be His people and God himself will be with them. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying, nor pain any more (so be happy). And He says to you: “See, I make all things new.”
 
And then one more verse in Luke 21:34: “But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down
 
The sermon today consists of three points.
1: Your dreams, and dreams that don’t come true
2: There is still pain and suffering
3: The better dream
 
I’ll begin at the beginning with the first point. It is very personal. For me too.
“What do you dream of”. What is your dream? Think about it. Whether you are young or old. And if you are old, do you still have a dream? Think about it.
 
People often dream about being happily married, or having bright, intelligent children, or enjoying good health, or having enough money to enjoy life, or a good job, having a successful career, or being successful in their work for the Lord. And because it is our dream, we think it is the best thing that could happen in our lives. We even pray for it to come true.
 
And if your dreams do come true and you are satisfied with these things that you have been dreaming of, then you will never thirst for the best things the Lord has for you. Then you will never really worship him properly. Because you enjoy the blessings you receive more that the Lord who gives the blessings.
 
And if these dreams don’t come true, and that can happen, because I’ve experienced that myself, then that hurts. I don’t know if any of you have ever experienced this, butI have. And you can try to reduce the pain by pushing it to the back of your mind, for example. And when asked you can say, “Yes everything’s alright”, and we pray and we carry on as if nothing’s wrong.
That is in itself not wrong, but if that is just a way of hiding the pain, then it’s worth thinking about it more. You can numb the pain by working hard, or going out a lot, or imposing self-discipline.
But if combating the pain is the sole purpose of your life, then you will suffer, and your relationships with others will suffer too. And the pain will not go away. Even if you do try to hide it away or pretend it’s not there.
  
That brings us to the second point: Suffering and pain.
 
In this life there is still pain and suffering for you and me. When you read Hebrews chapter eleven then you may think that people who believe don’t have to suffer. That all their dreams come true.
But if you read it properly and you come to the second part of verse 35, then you see what can also happen.
We read there: ‘Some were tortured, refusing to accept release’. Do you know why? It says: ‘so that they might rise again to a better life.’ To share in the better life: deeper in your life with the Lord.
 
It continues in verse 36: “Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, and they were killed with the sword.”
 
Well, if we were confronted with that then I’m sure we’d think, Lord how can I prevent that happening to me?
 
But if you give it some more thought, and go deeper with the Lord, then you’ll see that the writer to the Hebrews is actually saying, and I think that’s what’s so wonderful, he says: They too have kept their faith. Wonderful isn’t it? You can learn from this, when people say  “Well if this all happens there and they can keep their faith, then I believe even more. And you find yourself thinking “Lord, amidst all this pain, I still thirst for more from you.
 
Paul writes: “Who shall separate us, shall separate ME, from the love of Christ.
Whoor what can separate me from that? From the love of Christ. Yes, what?
And that’s how you keep your faith. Don’t let yourself be separated from the love of Christ, then you keep your faith. And do you know why? Because the love of God makes your heart become lighter.
 
In Proverbs 4:23 we read “keep your heart with vigilance”. Don’t let it be weighed down. There are so many things that can weigh heavily on you, in the visible world and in the invisible, spiritual world. You can become rebellious because of suffering and pain. Or hysterical because the problems are STILL not sorted.
 
But try to see all this as an opportunity to search deeper for the very best of the Lord. Then you’ll realise that you are thirsting after more of the love of Christ. More of His faith in your life. That you are longing for more of Him in the difficult situations. You long for a dream, a vision of how it will be with Him. Who or what can separate you, in your pain, from the love of Christ. Look for that love IN your circumstances of pain and suffering. Then you won’t push away the pain. You won’t say, “I have no pain”. You DO have pain, and sorrow, but that no longer separates you from the love of Christ. You feel that deep down inside you too.
 
In his second letter to the Corinthians in chapter 6 verse 4 Paul says:
“As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way”. Now THAT’s a wonderful thought too, isn’t? “Through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonment, tumults, labours, nights without sleep, hunger.” In everything we do, even in these difficult circumstances, we show that we are God’s servants.
 
And Paul, what is your dream?
Let’s look that up together. Two Corinthians chapter four verse seventeen. Two Corinthians chapter four verse seventeen. Paul says:
 
“For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient but the things that are unseen are eternal.
 
“This slight momentary affliction”, he says here. The slight affliction, Paul? Momentary? Yes, it IS, because it brings us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. Do you know why? Because it’s not the visible that’s important, but the invisible. Because the visible is temporary and the invisible is eternal.
 
Paul, he has a special bond with the Lord. I would like to experience more of that in these situations of suffering and pain. Jesus can’t just take your pain and suffering away. Maybe you even blame Him for it sometimes, but it’s not His fault if your dreams don’t come true. We would all like to have a gospel without suffering. A life without pain in relationships, in the church, in your personal life. Well, pain isn’t nice, but it does still exist, and the cause of all the pain and suffering is the separation that evil spirits bring about. Yes they cause separation.
They separate you from your deepest desire, your deepest love for the Lord. They make you want to look somewhere else for happiness.
And so you get new desires in the hope that this time they will work out, and you think to yourself, if this dream comes true, then everything will be all right. But it’s not really about your dream, is it? It’s about your heart. About your deepest desire for the Lord. If the pain is numbed and not worked through with the Lord, then other desires arise, and this can become addictive. Because if they don’t work out, then you go on to other desires. But the wonderful thing is that the Lord shows you who your enemies are. How they attack your inner being and put pressure on you. The Lord gives you the strength to conquer all this. When? “When you, or I agree to accept the suffering. If you accept that there are problems. Can you accept it if difficulties arise? Can you accept that?  And I don’t mean you accept a situation by saying, Oh it doesn’t matter, that’s just how it is, I’ll put up with it, I’ll be all right. No, I mean, can you go on living your life as God had planned, despite the difficulties. Because the Lord won’t change that difficult person just to suit you. Maybe there’s someone at work you don’t get on with. Or maybe someone close by. But God has poured out His love in your heart. And if you go deeper in that love then eventually you come to a love that endures everything.
 
However, it’s easy to SAY love conquers all. To SAY, God’s love is in me so therefore I can endure anything. But then I think to myself, Be honest with yourself, take a look at your life, your own personal life. And I have to admit that there are moments when I think, Well, Lord, that could go deeper, further with You. And I ask Him to help me, to help me for example, to free myself from that first impulsive reaction, that hampers my life.
And thus you grow further in all aspects in your life with the Lord. You grow further because He helps you with this pain and suffering.
 
You feel the pain in the deepest part of your being. And if you try to ignore the pain so that you won’t feel it any more, then all you’re really concerned about is yourself and whatyou feel. There are people, and think kindly of them because it is a sign that they are thirsting, but for these people everything revolves around THEMSELVES. They are always talking about all the various problems theyhave to cope with in their life.  They feel hard done by and sorry for themselves, and you hear it in their tone of voice.
 
The point is that if you are like this, then everything revolves around you, you are the most important and not the love of God towards you and others. Some people feel sorry for themselves their whole life. The important point is, what can be renewed. What can change?
Sometimes people think like this: “Somewhere along the line the Lord has deserted me”. Or ‘satan is too strong’. Or “the gospel doesn’t work”.
And then the Lord says to them: Something has come between us. You have become separated from Me. There is no contact. You are a little distant. There is no fellowship. But do you want to experience more of my love? Do you want to go deeper with Me and with My love, that I want to work out in your heart?
 
Then you discover, when you hear that, and see the love of God, that your deepest wish is not relief from today’s problems, but a life brought about by grace alone. From God. With God. For God.
 
Just think about this. Are you content with your relationship with Him? Or do you want more? Do you want to experience more? “Lord there is so much more possible”. Are you still thirsting after this? Entrust yourself to God, because He wants to work in your life.
And then I pray, and maybe you do too, I pray Lord I feel deep down inside that you could be a better friend. I feel an almost irresistible urge to turn to other sources of pleasure that give me the comfort that you seem to withhold. And there are many other sources of pleasure Some are people. Others are things like sex, work, or money, power, success. But none of these things bring life. Only God can do that. Only God, on His conditions, can satisfy my soul. Please Lord, I pray, I ask you to make my best dream come true. A deeper relationship with you. A real relationship.
 
And when there is pain or sorrow, then you can say,  “I may have problems all around me, but I am not demoralised. I am being spiritually terrorised, but the Lord has not abandoned me. Lord, I am under pressure, but not crushed. Perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed, as we read in 2 Corinthians chapter 4 verse 8. And then the exile will come to an end. At last I come back home, no longer separated from God. And even then it’s not the exile or the coming home that is important, but pleasing God with joy, that’s the most important thing to me. That’s what I want to do, whatever my circumstances. Let that work in your inner being, in your pain and sorrow.
 
And that brings me to my third point. And that is that there is a better dream. A dream of heaven.
I’d like to read Psalm 68 verse 8 with you. A really wonderful text.
“the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain”
 
Here the psalmist says, Lord, while everything inside me is in turmoil, and while the earth quakes, and there is pain and sorrow, I see that the heavens pour down rain”.
That revives you. That makes you feel like the person you were meant to be. The person God created. The person that Jesus recreated. Then you come to a better dream.
Lord, what I want is a deeper relationship with you, so that I can hear your voice and understand what you are saying to me.
He is all you need. And until you realise that you will continue to experience less important desires as needs. And you put all your energy into fulfilling these less important desires. And you become an addict, always trying to fulfil unimportant desires just to make you feel good, and this keeps you away from the better dream.
 
The essence of our life with the Lord is not: He will solve all your problems and He will make all your dreams come true, because then if it doesn’t happen you will almost certainly become quite frustrated. The essence of being “in Christ” is: to enjoy Him, to worship Him, to find more enjoyment in Him that in somebody else. ……….(.And that is something you could discuss with each other some time. Knowing Jesus as the most wonderful person in your life).
 
Jesus had a dream too. It can be found in John 17:3: “Father, that they may know you. The only true God and Jesus Christ who you sent”.
You know, knowing Jesus is sometimes limited to the making of one single decision for the Lord. At conversion. But knowing Him is more than that. It is all about “How are you getting on? Are you going to carry on with this life of grace? Are you going to increase your knowledge of Him and grow? Will you open yourself up to Him amidst your pain and suffering? Do you have that better dream that an even deeper and more profound relationship with Him is possible? Lord, I long for your spirit to fill every fibre of my being, to lead me to a richer fellowship with you and to a deeper fellowship with others. I long for a radical change in my being so that I come to look more like you. That’s what knowing Jesus is all about.
 
The basis for fellowship with others and personal renewal is a living relationship with your Lord. Then you have a wonderful dream of being together, having intimate contact and fellowship. A relationship with Jesus that binds people together and changes lives. The greatest blessing for your life is not the blessing of a good life, so that you sit like a spiritual miser counting all your blessings. Because then being “in Christ” is reduced to a parcel of blessings. No. It is fellowship. A relationship. Meeting with the Lord. Being with Him. Jesus wants to bless you. I don’t know what you’ve got planned for today. How busy you are. He wants to bless you. Have you got time? Have you got time? God says. Sit down and let’s have some quality time together. Or are you so busy you just don’t notice. You don’t even hear him.
 
The deepest blessing is a deeper relationship with Him, where you thirst after Him and long to be with Him. Otherwise it’s just a ritual, a religion you’re busy with. Go to Him with all your heart. Jesus will stimulate the feeling of hunger and thirst in you through his Holy spirit. Don’t ignore that. Don’t smother God’s spirit. He will make you feel hungry and thirst for Him through His spirit. It often happens because of dreams that don’t come true. Then He helps you through your pain and tears to finally discover what your deepest desires are.
 
And then there is the person who prays: Lord the cancer is back. I’ve just lost my job, my partner has left me, I am angry and I feel awful. But I keep trusting you Lord. I long for you more than ever. That is my hope. That gives me joy amidst all this misery.
This person has a heavenly dream.
Someone else prays: “Lord I have a difficult marriage. I love my wife. I believe she loves me too, but it always seems so difficult. And now I get a dream from you: a vision of the loving husband that I can become, whether my partner changes or not. I can change through your love so that nothing can separate me from your love.
 
Then I have a dream and I see a church open and bubbling with life. With wonderful people, young as well as old. Young people, ready and waiting for everything the Lord has to give.
Older people who are not stuck in a religious rut.
They search in their deepest longing for the Lord and for His longing for them.
They hear him speak clearly.
In one single bible text he gives incredible depth.
They have the peace and calm in their lives to experience this. They open the seals of the book roll for their own life and in fellowship with others. They refresh one another. Bright and clear. They correct each other in love. The anointing of God’s spirit is at work there. There is worship and praise. They are also focussed on the outside world. They bring people in to this land of milk and honey.
 
I have this dream, and the devil mocks it and makes it seem ridiculous. He tries everything to drive a wedge in churches so that they fall apart. But the dream cannot be stopped. Everyone knows that. And every problem results in a deeper joy and fuller worship for the Lord.
 
With this dream in mind I say “Lord, you can still do a lot in my life. You can still do a lot in OUR lives. When there is a crisis then there seems to be so little of what we have learned. Lord give us, when we are up against one another, gives us so much of You in our hearts that we can still hold on to each other. I have a dream Lord, and I look forward to seeing that dream come true. That you can fill all of us, and work through us. Lord, I need to make some changes in my life. Let Your spirit work in me. Let it become stronger in me. Lord, touch me so deeply that it doesn’t matter what it costs. Lord that’s what you want. You are looking for people with a dream. People who have this sort of relationship with you so that they can feel your presence continually in them. Lord I want to be free from the former way of thinking. I want to let your spirit speak through me. To continually hear and see what you have to say to the congregation, and to me, in order to realise your dream. This dream is the most important thing in my life. Even if this dream is knocked out of my hand seven times, I will pick it up again and go on and follow this dream.                    Amen
Let us pray.
 
Lord Jesus, thank you for reminding us that we can have a deeper relationship with you.
Thank you for making us realise that there can be all sorts of ballast in our lives, so many dreams in which we hope for fulfilling, but that the most important thing is that our hearts be filled with you and your spirit. And that we may hunger and thirst for the fulfilment of a dream that concerns only You and your eternity. We bless each other so that we may shine in this end time. So that we may grow, and God’s love may become more and more visible in us, so that our faith may become stronger and our expectations greater of everything that you are doing and going to do in our lives. We bless each other in Jesus name. Hallelujah. Amen.

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