Good morning! For those of you who don’t know, my name is Brian Morrissey and I am the Worship and Teaching Pastor here at Connect. Our Senior Pastor, Mike Edmisten is not here this morning. Mike was invited to speak at a homecoming event being held at the very first church he worked for and those people out there are enjoying him this morning.
I don’t know if you know this or not, but October is Pastor Appreciation Month and Connect, we are very blessed to have an awesome Pastor and an awesome leadership team and they are some pretty cool people that I get work with each week, so would you join me in letting them all know just how much you appreciate them this morning. That’s great! Mike and Nicki will be back with us next Sunday morning.
This morning, we’re in week 3 of our series, Overwhelmed where we’re exploring the effects of stress, worry and anxiety in our lives and we’re taking practical steps to overcome those things. And this morning is going to be no different. This morning, we’re going to crack open the word and look at how you and I can know in the midst of our overwhelming circumstances that God loves us and has a purpose for our lives. Let me pray for us and we’ll get started.
If you have your Bibles or a phone that can access the Bible, open it to Daniel 3 – we’ll get there – it’s going to take me a while, but we’ll get there.
I want to start with a question this morning? We all have phones and tablets that run apps now. Most of our lives are lived by apps. There’s apps for exercise and apps that tell us how to get where we’re going. Apps that let us play games and apps that help us communicate and relax. But here’s the question: What is the greatest app of all time?
Here’s a few that I found this week for you:
Skype. Skype is an app that allows you to make free video calls to anyone who has another phone, computer or smart television. It’s Marty Mcfly type technology. Really cool.
How about Facebook? If you use the social media website, you can find everything you need to stay connected with this app. Your timeline, friends list, groups, events and more are all at the push of a button. It is revolutionary stuff.
What about Angry Birds? You know the slingshot the birds to pop the pigs game? This thing has gotten so big that there’s like 20 different versions of the original game and they’re making a feature length animated film that hits theaters soon. I’m not even making this up.
We’re talking about the greatest apps of all time, but I found an app this past week that I cannot believe exists: It’s called “Will You Marry Me?” I cannot believe they have this one. This app wants to do the job of proposing to your most beloved one for you.
Can you imagine the marketing for this app? “Have you ever tried to tell your feelings for your girlfriend, or boyfriend?” “Want you to make it happen with your phone? You can’t say it yourself? You can’t speak in these situations? You are not alone! But… You can do it with your phone!”
No. No you can’t. Bro, let me speak to you for a moment. If this is you, if you have this app on your phone right now, here, look at me: Take your Star Wars pajamas off and move out of your Mom’s basement.
Whatever app you think is the greatest, there is one that I use all the time. It’s an app called Evernote. I have a real problem remembering things. Not big things like anniversaries, but little things. Detail things.
For example, Cara will ask me to go out to the store for milk, paper towels and salad. And just like every other man that’s in this room this morning, I won’t write it down, thinking “I’m an adult, I can remember three things.” But then I get to the grocery store and I get distracted by the awesome display of donuts on my way into the store which results in me only remembering that we need milk because it goes with the donuts.
Anybody else have this problem? It’s kind of become a chronic thing. So, in order to help me out, I use Evernote to assist me in remembering details. It reminds me of the things I need to accomplish that would get lost if I didn’t write them down.
I need reminders because without reminders, I tend to forget important things.
Solomon wrote these words in Proverbs 4 – Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. 26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.
Solomon tells us exactly why we need reminders:
Reminders help us look straight ahead. We need a goal to focus on. As the old saying goes, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Keep a reminder in front of you of the goal you’re aiming at.
Reminders help us fix our eyes. Once we know what is “straight ahead,” we need to fix our eyes on it. Life is busy. Filled with distractions. If we don’t fix our eyes, our eyes will wander.
Reminders mark out a straight path. Many times we know what we want to do, who we want to be, or where we want to go. But it seems so hard, so unattainable, and so far away. Reminders help mark the path with the small steps we must take if we are going to get there. (For those of you What About Bob? fans, can you say “Baby steps?”)
Just like Evernote reminds me of things, God uses things to remind us of His love. Everyone of us need reminders of God’s love for us because we struggle to believe that God loves us. and let me tell you something, that’s called “normal”. Things like unanswered prayer, circumstances, past sin can all work towards overwhelming us to the point where we’ve taken our eyes off God’s love, and we can’t see the path anymore.
But that’s why we need reminders to snap us back to the reality that God loves us. We need to rely on facts because when we get overwhelmed, we quickly turn away from facts and towards feelings.
And here’s the truth you need to understand: Facts are greater than feelings.
The concept of this series was visoneered by Perry Noble who is the Senior Pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, South Carolina and we’re borrowing from him in this series. He said – “If we allow our feelings to determine what we think and how we behave, we will never escape the pit of despair and hopelessness that anxiety places us in. However, if we allow our minds to be shaped by facts, we can live a life that is full of hope and peace, despite our circumstances.”
When we let overwhelming feelings of worry and anxiety creep in and take over, they can hijack our thoughts and cause us to doubt God’s love and I think God knows that about us, so God put four reminders out there for us that he absolutely loves us and has a plan for our lives. Look, if you go through your entire life and you do not see evidence of God, you had to work really hard to do that.
In the first four chapters of the Book of Daniel, you could make a case that Daniel is not even the main character because in those first four chapters, there is only one constant character and that’s King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. And I see four reminders that God used in his life to show Nebuchadnezzar that God loved him and had an amazing plans for his life, but Nebuchadnezzar had to open his eyes first.
And some of us need to open our eyes to these four things that God uses to remind us of His love. This morning, we’re going to spend some time unpacking them from the first four chapters of the Old Testament book of Daniel.
Reminder #1 – Creation
Nebuchadnezzar was the king of what was arguably the most powerful nation in the world. When the army went to war, the king went to war with the army and would engage in the battle. When we open up Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar is out conquering the world and he’s seeing sights he’s never seen. Every sunrise, every morning, he’s seeing new things he’s never seen before and experiencing things in creation that he never knew were there.
Psalm 19:1-4: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
God has made himself obvious in creation. Let’s look at some creation pictures and see how awesome God is:
Yosemite National Park. No one has stood at the base of El Capitan in Yosemite and declared, I am awesome. You look at that and you know that somebody out there created that and the same God that created that, created you and He called us the pinnacle of His creation.
How about Outer Space? We can see outer space because of the Hubble telescope. You say what is that? I don’t know. That is that. That is God having a paintbrush going, “That’s just awesome.” That right there should show us that God is so much bigger than us. His plans are greater than our dreams. His dreams for us are greater than our dreams. That is a reminder that God’s saying, I love you and I have a plan for your life.
I love this one: You can say whatever you want to about that, but that’s not an accident. I don’t know who you are but maybe you were told by your parents that you were an accident. Look, when you study what has to happen scientifically for a baby to be created, it is a miracle of God unlike any other. The Bible says we were created and knit together by God in your mother’s womb. We were fearfully and wonderfully made. You are not an accident You were created on purpose, with a purpose, for a purpose. Every time we hear a baby cry, it should be a reminder that God is awesome.
And this last one is probably my favorite of all. It is only through the grace of God’s mercy that He allowed us to make Krispy Kreme Donuts. They are baked in the grace of God. They pass under the sugar, they are immersed in the sugar waterfall. They are put in a box together because you can’t do life alone. I can do this all day.
But seriously though, people still try to argue. They say, the idea of a Creator is fine for you, but here’s what you don’t understand. That all happened by chance. It’s random. There was an explosion and one cell decided to be two cells, and then four cells.
Now you really don’t believe that do you? Because it takes way more faith to believe that.
Let me show you something. These are my mother’s chocolate chip cookies. These are incredibly great cookies. You can tell by looking at these cookies that they were created. Intricate design implies a designer. Can we all agree on that?
Now I’m not going to eat this in front of you, not because I love you that much but because it’s so chocolaty that it might get caught in my throat and we’d have to dismiss and go home.
But this was created. This was made. Now what I would love to do this morning is show you how to make cookies if you think the world was created by accident. If you feel the need to put this on twitter, you go right ahead. I’m going to make cookies the way people think the world was created.
Now how many of you believe there’s a cookie in there? Some of you would say, now Brian, it’s going to take time. Okay, come back next week and see if there’s a cookie there. No, there’s never going to be a cookie there because design implies a designer.
Creation is not an accident; which means that you are not accidental, you are intentional! You were custom designed by the Creator of the Universe!
Romans 1:20 says this: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
That’s what we call the law of cause and effect. We can see creation all around us, (which is the effect), so it must have a cause. Creation is a reminder that God loves you and can handle anything we’re going through.
Reminder #2 – The People We Meet
You’ve never met a person by accident. Every relationship that you have in your life passed through the hands of God. It is no accident that Nebuchadnezzar was around Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
In our story from Daniel, we find Nebuchadnezzar who was the most powerful leader in the world and we see him hanging out with these four teenage guys. That’s not an accident. In Daniel Chapter 1 he met them. He saw them do the impossible in Chapter 2 when they told him every detail of the dream he had and what it meant for him and his kingdom, and he watched three of them defy death in a fiery furnace in Chapter 3.
God used those relationships to bring Nebuchadnezzar to the place where he would know God loved him and had big plans for his life.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed by your circumstances and your stress, stop for a moment and think about the people God has placed in your life. I guarantee you’ll be reminded that God cares way more about you than you care about yourself sometimes.
Do this with me as an exercise: Stop for a minute and ask yourself, who did God use to bring you to Him? If you’re here today and someone introduced you to Christ, who was it? What coworker invited you to church? What family member shared Christ with you? That is evidence that God uses relationships to bring people to Christ because everyone at Connect knows that found people find people.
Listen, God wants to use you to pursue other people for Jesus. If God used other people to pursue you then He wants you to pursue others. Every relationship you have is not accidental, it’s intentional. There’s a reason you live in that neighborhood. There’s a reason you work at your job. There’s a reason you go to that school.
Jesus wants His followers to go out and introduce other people to Him. And we’ve got a fantastic time planned for you to do that. On December 6th, our Christmas Series starts at WT Elementary. You need to go ahead and plan on bringing someone with you to those services. Notice I didn’t say invite someone. I said bring them because God wants to use you to reach others.
We’ve got some incredible worship experiences lined up for people to feel right at home and welcome. It’s not going to be weird or awkward. And add to that the fact that you’re bringing them. You’ll be with them the entire time to make them feel at home and at ease in our services.
And let me help you out. If there’s names popping in your mind, that’s the Holy Spirit speaking to you right now. God used people to pursue you and God wants to use people to pursue people.
Relationships are not accidents. All relationships are intentional. You are intentionally in a relationship with someone right now. God uses people in our lives to remind us that He loves us and that He will never leave us alone in our overwhelming circumstances.
But what about those overwhelming circumstances? God reminds us of his love and plans through those as well.
Reminder #3 – The Circumstances We Go Through
Let’s take a real quick survey: How many of you are grandparents? Okay, okay. Did you notice how fast they raised their hands? The parents in the room can’t raise their hands as fast because they wore their arm out wearing their kid out on the way to church this morning. I don’t know this as a fact, but I heard that grandchildren are your reward for not killing your children when they were younger. I don’t know if that’s true, but I heard that somewhere.
Grandchildren are your way to get back at your children. You can load them up on chocolate and ice cream and then send them home right before bedtime and you feel good about that. Also, grandchildren can get away with anything and it’s okay. Grandparents do that.
I’ve seen this happen. My parents are here this morning and I have no problem telling you that there were rules growing up. For example, my brother and I couldn’t have sugary cereals as kids. We would go to the grocery store with mom and we could help pick out cereal, but the sugars had to come in under 3 or 4 grams per box. In fact I remember when Berry Berry Kix first came out and the sugars were seven grams. We begged and pleaded and finally after 3 months of that, mom caved and bought us a box, but then is was right back to Cheerios and Rice Chex.
Now fast forward 30 years. They’ve got grandkids now. And I went to their house last weekend when the grandkids were staying over. Opening up the pantry, do you know what I found? Corn Pops, Sugar Smacks, and a whole host of other things like that. And I thought to myself, what the heck? Seriously? But those cereals are there because the circumstances have changed them. They’re grandparents now and they have the freedom of spoiling their grandchildren like that.
The plain simple fact of life is this: Circumstances change us. Going from being single to married changes us. Going from not having children to being a parent changes us. Growing older changes us. Relocating changes us. Getting a new job changes us.
Everything that happens to us changes us whether for good or for bad, but it is impossible to remain unchanged by our circumstances. Nebuchadnezzar went through some really interesting circumstances that changed him too.
In the first chapter of Daniel, we read about his plans for shaping and developing the Israelites in captivity and how those plans backfired on him. In chapter 2, we read about a horrific nightmare he had which cause him to want to execute everyone around him. Chapter 3 tells us of a miraculous encounter he had that made him begin to change how he thought about the one true God.
Then you get to Chapter 4 and Nebuchadnezzar goes through an amazing ordeal where he says what I believe is a culmination of all of the circumstantial change that God wrought in his life.
Nebuchadnezzar says this: “My sanity returned and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever.” (Daniel 4:34) And here’s the point: God uses circumstances to get our attention – sometimes good ones, sometimes bad ones. But He always uses them for our good.
You may be going through circumstances right now that are completely overwhelming. I know from personal experience that in those times, you can feel confused, frustrated and isolated. But you can’t look at your current circumstances only. Let me ask you this as you look over the course of your entire life: How faithful has God been to you? Circumstances are nothing more than reminders.
During my most intense battles with stress and depression, like suffering through two miscarriages, I only began to sense freedom when I took my eyes off of my circumstances and focused them on Christ because He is so much greater than what I was going through.
Jesus is greater than your circumstances. Jesus is greater than divorce. Jesus is greater than your past. Jesus is greater than cancer. Jesus is greater than the unknown future. Whatever your facing. Whatever is overwhelming you, Jesus is greater.
And that leads us to Reminder #4 – Jesus
Of all the reminders God has given us of His love, Jesus is our greatest reminder. In the midst of our battles with stress, worry and anxiety, we need to focus on Jesus.
Nebuchadnezzar had a really interesting experience with this. I told you it would be a while, but check out Daniel 3:24-25 with me: “Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” 25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t focused on Shadrach, Meshach or Abednego in the fiery furnace. He was focused on the fourth guy.
We aren’t given the identity of this mysterious fourth individual, but I firmly believe that he saw Jesus. And when he saw him, he leapt to his feet in amazement and would eventually fall to his knees in worship. All because he saw Jesus.
Look at the change God wrought in Nebuchadnezzar’s life from that encounter.
Daniel 4:1-3 (NLT) “King Nebuchadnezzar sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world:
“Peace and prosperity to you! 2 “I want you all to know about the miraculous signs and wonders the Most High God has performed for me.
3 How great are his signs, how powerful his wonders! His kingdom will last forever, his rule through all generations.”
After Nebuchadnezzar met Jesus, his life was never the same again.
That’s what Jesus does. You did not find Jesus because He was not lost – He found you and loved you enough to reveal Himself to you.
We have a cat at home and she loves to hang out in the kitchen when we’re cooking. She hangs out there because she loves to get treats and scraps of whatever we’re cooking. And when she knows she’s going to get a treat, she begins to meow at us and rub up against our legs and stretch out so we’ll know that she’s there.
When we see that, we’ll hold out a small piece of food and she will literally sit up like a ferret or a dog that begs and wait for us to drop her the food so she can enjoy it. She’s performing, doing a trick, for a treat.
And I think a lot of Christians are like that. Sometimes church people think salvation is a treat that God gives to good people that do religious tricks. We go to church, we read our Bible, we volunteer, we give some money we’re nice to the cashier, we’re nice to the waitress. God must love me because I’m so awesome.
But salvation is not a reward for religious tricks. The Bible says in Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, (not good people) sinners, Christ died for us. If you ever doubt the love of God, don’t ever look any further than Jesus. Jesus is evidence that God loves you and has a plan for your life.
The greatest evidence of love, I want to show it to you in this picture right here. See this? A blood stained cross and an empty tomb. A blood stained cross and an empty tomb is proof enough that God loves us.
Do you see Jesus on that cross? He did that for you and me to pay for our sins so that we could be right with God. Jesus did that for you and me. But I’m glad it didn’t end there because right next to that is the empty tomb. Right there is the evidence that not only did He die for our sins, but He came back to life so that you and I could have life; an abundant life; a free life; a full life. He died and rose again to show us that God loves us and has an unbelievable plan for our life.
Let me pray for us.
You can’t ignore God’s love. There’s too many reminders. And in the midst of your overwhelming life, they exist so that you and I can know that Jesus loves us.
I want to close our time this morning with one of my favorite verse in the entire Bible. It’s a verse that I have clung to in deep dark times throughout my life.
Jeremiah 29:11 says this: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
God knows you and God loves you. When you’re in the midst of trying times in your life, God loves you and has a plan for you. When stress creeps in and the walls start falling down, God loves you and has a plan for you. When death comes close and you feel like you’re at the end, God loves you and has a plan for you and that plan is Jesus.
Jesus is the evidence that God loves you and has plans for your life. If you don’t know him today, we’d love to talk with you and introduce you to Him. If you’ve been reminded of God’s love today and need prayer, we’ve got people waiting by the fountain on the terrace. They’ll pray with you and help you get started to overcoming the overwhelming stress and worry.
Let’s all stand. The band is going to lead us in a final song this morning and this song is all about God coming to save us and reminding us of His love. We can be rescued because Jesus died and rose again. The blood stained cross and the empty tomb are the proof that God loves us and has plans for our life.