Sunday Morning | December 31, 2023 | Andrew Harrell | Louisville KY
Worship Pastor Andrew Harrell speaks to us from 1 Thessalonians 5:1-28, reminding us that even though the times seem to be increasingly dark and, if we dwell on circumstances, frightening, when we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, and begin with thanksgiving, we will have peace and confidence that God is in control.
At Valley View Church we are currently studying through the entire gospel of John, verse by verse. You can join us on Sunday mornings at 11 AM for worship. We are located at 8911 3rd Street Road, Louisville KY 40272.
Good morning, church. How we doing? Good morning. Good morning. I'll tell you, can we give this worship team a round of applause? I have the honor and privilege of getting to work with them every week, and I just love it. I mean, it's it's amazing. So we've got some people doing, some setting up behind. So to kind of get everything structured for today. Thank you, Jim. Can we give Jim---- he loves to be recognized. Jim loves to be recognized. I'll hear about this all week that I did that. But anyway, and thank you, Caroline, for getting that set up. She might need some help there, Jim. Thank you. When Pastor John asked if I would speak this morning, I really felt this message come- come up inside on making this more of a commencement message. When you hear a commencement message at a high school, it's usually the seniors are graduating, going into college, going into the workforce. Or if you hear that a college they're graduating and they're going into the next. But in order for us to really understand that we're finishing 2023, we're going into 2024, I think we need to reflect on some of the things that happened throughout the world this last year. So production, can we get some pictures up here and we'll kind of look at and walk through these. This is an earthquake that took place, took place in Turkey this year. Some of you probably didn't even know this. 55,000 people died in this earthquake. Let's see what else we've got on here. We've got obviously, we've seen politics, corruption and politics. It's been popping up on every side. This party, that party, this group, this saint, what else we got going on here? France. This happened in Paris. Thousand protesters were arrested in one night in a riot that just erupted in the city, it was mass destruction. Millions and millions of dollars. Let's see what else Groceries. How many of you have been shopping? Have you all seen prices? Look, I got three kids, and that box of cereal has gotten expensive. Grocery prices, Crazy. What else we got going on? Let's see here. Interest rates. Crazy. 20 year high. What's going on? What's up with that? What else we got? The war with Israel and Hamas-- praying for the peace of Israel like we're seeing scripture come alive. Revelations in time is lining up. What does this mean? Is it soon? Is it in the. Are we in the tribulation? Are we in the end time? So where are we? What else have we got? More natural disasters. Amazon right now is facing the worst drought that it's ever had in history. Not even There's no records of a drought this bad. We're seeing other other natural disasters throughout the earth. What else we got now? The war in Ukraine and Russia. They're still at it. Still going at it right now. It's it's crazy what all happened this year. So where are we? What's going on? What's the posture of the believer? Do we run and hide? Do we do we do we grab our shotguns and our tuna? Do we? You know, what is it? Well, one thing I encourage you is this is we are closer today than we were yesterday of his return. Amen. Can we all agree to that? And I'm going to tell you, it is my personal conviction, my personal conviction that we will see the greatest outpouring of his spirit and the last days when we're going to see mass salvation, crazy miracles take place. I believe that with everything in me. But the question is this how do we posture ourself with where we're at now? So if you've got your Bibles, open up to I Thessalonians Chapter five, Paul breaks this down. And what we're going to do is break down the posture of believers in where we're supposed to be today. I'm going to tell you right now, this is what we just experienced in 2023. I'm going to tell you something that is not going to maybe be completely encouraging, but just know this. We're on the winning side. In 2024 we're probably going to see a lot more stuff. It's just the reality. It's an election year. We're probably, you know, interest rates. Who knows where we're going to see that go. Grocery prices, everything. So in First Thessalonians chapter five, Paul breaks this down as the day of the Lord and where the posture of the believers are. I'm going to read this. I'm going to read down from verse one down to ten. But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say peace and safety, then sudden destruction comes upon them as labor pains upon a pregnant woman and they shall not escape. But you brethren are not in the darkness so that the day you should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of the light, sons of the day. We are not of the night, nor the darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as others do. But let us watch and be sober for those who sleep, sleep at night and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But let us who are the days sober put on the breastplate of faith and love and as the helmet of hope and of salvation for God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ who died for us, that we that whether we are wake or sleep, shall together with him. That is encouraging. Let me just tell you this. That is encouraging. Paul saying, Hey, look, here's what's going on. Don't be like the world. At that time, that message when he says be sober at night. What that was about was the ritual of that, that in the culture, in that church, the Thessalonians was was they would party all night be very do all kind of crazy sexual acts be drunk all night and totally to disconnect from reality and Paul is like, listen, listen he's going to come like a thief in the night and you need to be ready for his return. You need to have your heart postured and ready. That's why it's like keep the full armor of God on. Have you ever seen someone when they're ready, are watching? Have you ever been fishing or hunting? And you watch a hunter that's watching every movement of the woods looking, okay, where's that big buck coming up? Or where you're out fishing and you're, and you’re fishing off the bottom and you're just watching your line. You're watching your line. There's this intention, there's this focus. Paul's like, listen, you've got to be awake. You've got to be alert, you've got to be paying attention to what is going on. You need to be aware of the times, but you don't need to be consumed with it and just know if you're ready, you're fine, you'll be good. But you have your heart postured in that position. And when he brought up the whole point on being sober minded, this was really convicting to me. And let me tell you why. It's very easy to find things. And I'm not just talking alcohol sober. It's very things to medicate where you're not sober minded is very easy. That phone and social media, anything to numb out reality. And I'm going to tell you as a parent, I got convicted. Thank you, Holy Spirit. I got convicted where I had to start putting timers on certain apps because, you know, it's been a long day. It's been night. You know, your kids like, let's do this, let's do that. You're like, I don't want to do anything. You know, that kid's like, will you lay in bed with me? And you pull out your phone. You're just like, okay, go to sleep, go to sleep. And you're scrolling and you're scrolling and you're numbing out. You're not being sober minded. You're not being in tune with your child in that moment. Or I remember not too long ago we were watching a family movie and it was a movie I really didn't want to watch It’d been a long day and I'm sitting there and we're watching it, and a few minutes later I'm like, let's check my email. let's check Instagram, Let's check this. Let's check that. One of my kids go, Hey, you're going to watch this with us? It was very convicting. But that is an example of not being sober minded. It's even though Paul was referring to the way that they would party all night, pull these all nighters, be wild and crazy. There are things that we do, whether and there's good things that we do that we that that prevent us from being sober minded, even good habits. I love working out. I work out every day if I'm not careful, that is me not being sober-minded. That is me disconnecting, that is me checking out, whether it's food, whether it's other forms of addiction, anything we use to medicate our hearts, to disconnect this from the reality of where we're at is preventing us from being sober minded. So let's read on a little bit. So Paul was encouraging that the church being like, Look, you need to be aware of the times, but you also need to be like the wise virgins and not the foolish virgins of Matthew 25. If y'all know that story, the Wise Virgins had the oil and they were ready. They were ready for the groom, they were ready, they were in tune. They were ready. Whenever he comes, whenever you shoot shows, we're going to be ready. But then the foolish virgins when he came, we're not ready. So let’s read back down a little further. Verse 11 therefore comfort each other, edify one another, just as also as you're doing various exhortations. And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who are labor among you and are over you in the Lord, admonishing and esteem them very highly in love for their work sake. Be at peace among yourselves. Can I tell you? So I want to encourage you if you don't have a Bible reading plan. Pastor John's got one out there. Do it. I'm doing the one year Bible reading thing, and at the end of I'm finished with just today, finished Revelation, just finished the Bible starting again in the morning. In the last few gospels that John emphasizes time and time again, Hey, encourage one another, encourage one another, be at peace, be at peace, encourage one another. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the faint hearted uphold the weak be patient with all See that no one renders evil for evil, but always pursue what is good for yourselves and for all. The way we're supposed to be as believers in the time that we're living in this verse is this. We're supposed to be alert. We're supposed to be aware. We're supposed to walk in the full armor of God, be ready at all times. But we're also supposed to encourage one another. We're supposed to breathe life into each other's hearts. You know, it's interesting In the American culture, sometimes two best friends can be walking side by side. And unless you're watching their facial expressions, you don't know they’re best friends. When you go to other cultures, they demonstrate that a little bit later on, Paul's like, Hey, look, greet each other with a holy kiss. Now look, I love you all, but if you do that to me, you're going to regret it. But culturally, that was how they greeted each other. That was part of the customs. That was part, Hey, this is a sign of affection. This is a sign that this is someone that I'm close to. Paul's like, show that affection, encourage one another. In Uganda-- the men in Uganda, if they're really good friends, if they're really close friends, they walk hand-in-hand. I remember seeing that the first time. And I was like, What is that? That's weird. But the more I got to learn the culture, this is how they express that we are friends, we are brothers, we are here together, we are doing life together. Paul's like, Hey, look, encourage each other, speak life, breathe life. Sow seeds into people's life. I'll tell you, one conviction I had years ago was whenever I'm finding a struggle that I'm struggling in like an area, I find someone who has the same struggle and I bless them. If it's finances are bless them, if it's they're struggling with something emotionally and need prayer for something, depression. I find out what that need is and I bless them in that area Paul is saying, Hey, encourage each other, bring hope. Going back to cultures. I remember when I was in college, I went to a Christian college in Dallas, Texas-- half the school, or I’d say probably a third of the school was Latin. And if you read if you know anything about the Latin culture, the way they greet each other is with a kiss on the side of the cheek. And guys, girls- now guys don't do that, but if a guy's greeting a girl, they would they would kiss her on the side of the cheek. Let me tell you something, This is before I met Adrienne, so hang on. When you're 18 years old and you're exposed to a whole new culture of the Latin world man, you'd be like, I want to greet this beautiful Latin girl. But again, that is the culture. That was how they do that. So how did. But here's the question I'm asking us today is how do people know we're believers? How do we people know that we're there for each other? Encouraging, putting hope into each other's life is it expressed? Is expressed through the way we're doing things? Can we can people watch our lives in a way and go, man, they got something different than I have. They've got they've got hope. You and I carry hope. But let me tell you something. All these things over here, political war, inflation, natural disasters, prophecy, scriptures, if I'm not careful, those things without the Word of God and His Spirit and Holy Spirit leading me into all wisdom, those things without those, I’ll move in fear. And when I move in fear, I don't love well, when I'm afraid I do not love well. And the message that Paul was saying to the church was saying, look, you have hope. Don't be afraid. Walk in love, walk in peace. Don't be afraid. I know for me personally, I'll do really well. I'll be like, you know, I'll be like on cloud nine, I'll have my time with Jesus and all that. And then Adrienne will be like, Hey, look, we got this bill we need to pay, or We got to do this or we got to do that. And I'm like, If I'm not careful, I'll move in fear. If I'm not careful, I'm not walking in hope. If I'm not careful, I'm not walking in love. And there's times to, as believers when we read the word, if we're not careful, we let this drive us to fear and control. And we don't see his beautiful love message to us through it. This is a love letter to us. This is meant to encourage us. It's meant to drive us to hope, drive us to him. But if I let what we saw last year or what we could potentially see this year, the politics, the the, the natural disasters, this that if I'm not careful, I'm not walking in hope but fear. Alright, let’s read down a little further. All right. Verse 15, Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. This is a pivotal key verse in this passage. What does it look like to pray without ceasing? What does that look like? The second part of that verse is actually I feel the key that unlocks the whole passageand that is this:
in everything give thanks. In everything give thanks.Psalms 100 verse four says this:
We enter his gates with what? With what exactly? In his courts, with praise, he inhabits the praises of his people. So I want to do a little illustration this morning. I'm a very visual learner. It's just how I learn. So, Mr. Troy, can you come up? Thank you, sir. So I asked Troy to come up, and I'm a little taller than him, so I got him a little a little step stool here. There we go. Stand right there. Thank you, sir. I'm sorry. I asked Josh Lightle. He had this opp- look, we're about the same height now. I asked Josh Lightle, but he had a family thing come up, so just know that Josh could have been this role. But anyway, I'm going to ask Troy to be Jesus. Here you go Jesus. Doesn’t he make a good Jesus? I think so. He had a little thicker beard last time, but anyway, he makes a good Jesus.What happens a lot of times is this:
what we do in prayer is this. We try to take Jesus, Jesus and we try to pull Jesus over in front of our situation and we try to put him right here, be like, okay, fix this political situation. Thank you Jesus, he's fixing my political situation, it's all good. And then we look back and we're like, Jesus, I need you. Do me a favor. I need you to fix this. Inflation Finances. Groceries are expensive, kids are expensive, and then we're trying to go on with life and we look back and we're like, oh there's just so many things that are going on. But here's what happens. When we enter his gates with thanksgiving, he responds. Did you catch that? This is the key thing. When we enter his gates with thanksgiving, he responds. This is something that personally right now that I'm trying to be more proactive in. Whenever I start having a thought of woe is me or this or that, I start making a list of things I'm thankful for. Just start writing them. Start writing them down. I'm thankful that I have a wood stove in the winter. Thank you. I have a AC in the summer. I thank you that I live by the river. I thank you for my guitars and thank you for my children. I think I just. I start making a list. I start making that list and writing it out until whatever feeling I'm feeling leaves. Because I'm... Thank you, Lord. Thank you for this. But here's the key thing. When we enter the praying without ceasing from a place of thanksgiving, this is what happens. Come here. Jesus. He starts to respond to us. Okay, now check this out. Then suddenly. Thank you. We enter with thanksgiving and he responds to the praises of his people. He responds as we pray from that place without ceasing. Then suddenly, guess what my focus is? Where is my focus? Where's my focus? What about everything else? It's not my focus. Is it there? Yes, but guess who is taking care of everything? Guess who will show me the steps of obedience to walk in? Right. So I want to encourage you right now. When you go to that place of praying without ceasing, start with thanksgiving. Start with thanksgiving. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts, with praise. This was this was what God the father showed Moses in the tabernacle. This is the model of the tabernacle. You would enter the outer courts with thanksgiving. Thank you, Jesus. Can we give Jesus a round of applause? deacons, you can go ahead and prepare communion. That'd be great. But this year, I really want to see the posture of each of our hearts. And I'm talking to myself. I'm not just this isn't me just pointing fingers to learn to pray without ceasing and to start with thanksgiving because no matter what I face, my focus must be Jesus. And he responds. And if I can stay in that place, no matter if it's okay, is this prophecy lining with Scripture, is this political thing happen, is worried about my finances? What about nature? Hey, Jesus is going to be my focus. Jesus is going to be my focus. I was dropping off my boys at school the other day and our our children go to a private school in Jtown. And it's a sacrifice, plain and simple. It's cost money, and we sacrifice and we penny pinch and we do what we need to do for our children to go and and again, that's I know some people can't you know, they're not supposed to, but it's been a good fit for our kids. Coen, my oldest son, was dropping him off and he looked at me, said, Hey, dad, thanks. Thanks. I know it's expensive. Thanks. As a father, I hear my son say that I'm like, Heck yeah, I'll sacrifice. I'll do whatever it takes. Responding to his thanksgiving is I'm going to draw near. I want to do whatever it takes to sacrifice for whatever he needs. I'll do it. So let’s read down the last little part of this. Got my notes all twisted up here. There we are. In verse 19, Do not quench the spirit. Do not despise prophecies and test all things. Hold fast to what is good and abstain from evil. Abstain from every form of evil. One thing too that I'm pushing for myself right now is to be slow to judge, be slow to judge. If it looks a little different. Hey, look, God will never violate his word. He never -- He doesn't have a problem blowing up the boxes I put his word in. Okay? But I don't want to have a critical spirit. I don't want to have a critical spirit and quench the spirit of God and what he's doing. And look, I can be sarcastic sometimes. That comes from a bad place. I want that area to be refined more. I want his spirit to move through me. I want to be sensitive. I want to be slow to judge, quick to speak and say, Hey, look, whatever the spirit of God is doing, run it through the word, run it to the character of God. Say, Lord, I trust you. You breathe life on what needs to be life breathed upon and the things aren't, you, you take care of. So here's what I want to do now, as we're kind of-- deacons, y'all can go ahead and start serving the community-- Here's what I want to do. I want you to each take a moment for a second. The worship team is going to play in the background, and I want you to begin to ask the Lord-- no, excuse me. Let me rephrase that. Thank you, sir. I want you to begin to tell him what you're thankful for. Begin to tell him what you're grateful for. Begin to thank him for things. I don't care how big they are, how small they're. If you have a pen and paper, write them down. It could be your thankful for that gift you got for Christmas. You’re thankful for that family member that you got to see. So again, as they're serving communion, go ahead and do that. If you’ve got something to write it down, please write it down. If not's no big deal, just let your spirit begin to thank him. Thank him. Thank you for this. Thank you Lord for your son. Thank you for your peace that passes all understanding. Thank you that I can trust you. Sometimes when I'm struggling with something to be thankful for, I go to Psalm 139 and I just begin to make this personal. It's like, you know my sitting down and my rising up. You understand my thoughts afar off, you comprehend my path and me lying down. He knows everything. He knows the thought before I think it and it doesn't scare him. He knows every desire of my heart. And I'm just telling you, Church, No matter what we face this year, learning to pray without ceasing, learning to be thankful. Just like when Troy came towards me. And I'm staying in a place of praying without ceasing. I'm not stopping. I'm pressing in, I’m praying and I'm thankful. I’m entering his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. I'm drawing near. So as you take this communion right now, we take the body and we say, Thank you, Jesus for your body. That was broken. We take the blood and we say, Thank you, Jesus for your blood that washes away all sins, every sin that I would ever commit. We thank you for your blood. Take it. Choose. So the end of this passage, Paul says that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. And I want to encourage you, Church, No matter what this year brings, no matter what we face, we're going to love others well, and we're going to move in a spirit of thanksgiving. We're going to pray without ceasing, and we're going to rejoice in all things. Amen. Amen. Amen. Church. I just I just feel. this right at the end of service here, I want to pray a blessing over every household and then I'll do a couple announcements for Pastor John. So if you want to receive it, just kind of posture yourself in a receiving place. Like it's a gift. There we go. Nice. Heavenly Father, I thank you for every home I pray this year, Lord would be a year of breakthrough for every household. I prayed, Lord, that you would shine your light upon the face of each person here this morning over every home that Lord, you would draw them closer to you, Father, if there's an area of need Lord that you would provide, if there's an area of healing that needs to take place, Lord, that you would provide. Lord If there's sickness or disease that they're carrying into the next year, Lord, that you would minister to them there and you would bring healing. Father, I pray the blood of Jesus over every household, the full armor of God over every household this year, Lord. Lord, no matter what comes their way, that they will stand and rejoice in all things, that they will walk in a spirit of thanksgiving, that they will pray without ceasing because of you. Because, Lord, we thank you that we're on the winning side with you. We thank you that you've gone before us and prepared the way. In Jesus name, Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen, church.