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2017: Unless the Lord Builds the House

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on December 31, 2016

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2017: Unless the Lord Builds the House Transcription

 “...One God Amen”

Happy New Year everyone! So nice to be together as one big happy Church family! On behalf of Abuna (...), Abuna Benjamin and my witness, we are going to wish everyone, every house a happy new year as blessed year, filled with God’s presence, and His Grace...

This year’s theme, as I was praying, and I was trying to figure out, “Okay, Lord, what is it that you want to say, what is it that you want to put in the hearts of your people?” I began to think about everything that happened last year, and everything that is happening next year, as you know we are starting a construction project, for the church, we are going to have a new building, and I begun to see a lot of people coming and saying, “I just want to start all over!”and thank God for his goodness, he gave us a Reset button, that gives us a time in the year, when we can just reset, and start from scratch and rebuild. And I really believe that God wants to rebuild (repeat). God, so many times throughout The Bible, has called onto his people to build. There were times when the temple was destroyed, so God called onto the people of Israel out of their slavery, and said “I want you to build”. Then later on, you find the he stood up the heart of Nehemiah, because the walls of Jerusalem were completely destroyed, and He put it as a burden in the heart of Nehemiah to come and to build.

This year, we want to build. As Psalms 1:27 says: “Unless The Lord builds a house, the laborer in vain built it. Unless The Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.”

How many of you have set a new year’s resolution? Raise your hand if you have set a new year’s resolution in the past, and raise your hand if you have never kept a new year’s resolution in your entire life. I’m one of those people! Every year I sit down on December 21st on myself, and say, “That’s it! From now on, I am going to do whatever: I am going to pray more, I’m going to read more, I am going to spend more time with my family, I am going to change the way I eat”, but it doesn’t take more than three days, from me to lose focus, and it all goes out of the window!

But we all do it with our own personal efforts! Everybody says, “I am going to do this, I am going to do that”, but that is not what The Bible says! The Bible tells what: “Unless The Lord builds the house, the laborer in vain who builds it”.

Many of us, we fail miserably, and for many of us, some people enjoy the successes of the plans that they make in order to rebuild their lives. This evening, I want us to ask ourselves, “What is it that I want to rebuild?” Someone just came to me inside the altar, maybe fifteen-twenty minutes ago, and said “You know what I want to do? I just want to fall in love with Jesus again! (repeat).

I was reading a book about an inhabitant of a monastery who came to a bunch of nuns, and he was reminding them: “I want you to go back and remind yourself of why you first joined the convent, why you first joined the Monastery.” and he said, “I want you to go back to that moment: what was it that was inside you that was driving you, that you wanted to give your whole life to God?”, and he began to say, “That is when we realize that God wants something from my life. Not what I want to do with my life, but God wants to do with my life,”

Today I want you to think: “What is it that God wants to do for your life? What is God’s desire?” You have a plan, and you sat with yourself, and you said, “Okay, 2017 is going to look like this”.

What is it that we are building? The Bible, in I Corinthians 3 says, “we are God’s building”, we are the ones that God builds, and today God is trying to say, “You’ve been building yourself: Let me build you! Every time you try to build yourself, it crumbles, and it falls, and it never ends up being what you want it to be”.

Maybe, all of us need to build our spiritual lives. All of us want to rebuild our families. Maybe you discovered that your family isn’t the way it was: Kids are busy with video games, parents are busy with work and bills, and... I need to rebuild! Building our relationships and deepening them. Building our church, from the inside and out! We need to build!

Maybe if you look at your life today you might look at the foundation of your life, and discover all types of cracks within the foundation. You see, a building cannot stand without a solid foundation.

God saw the same thing among the people of Israel. He called Jeremiah, and He says this: “See, I have this day, set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant”.   What is God saying? God is telling Jeremiah, “You have a bad foundation. I need you to uproot the foundation. I want you to dig up the foundation that has been laid”. Maybe it is a foundation of “self”: It is all about Me. It is a foundation of selfishness or a foundation of... built on money, built on my image.

What is the foundation of your life? And when you look at the foundation of your life: is it a solid foundation? You see, The Lord is calling us and saying “I want you to uproot the bad foundation. I want you to uproot the bad foundation...”.

So what do you do when you start to build anything? There has to be a “Planning and Design” phase. You have to set up your priorities first. I want to ask you today, this evening, “What are your priorities?” You see, before any activity I need meaning solitude.

Solitude is the most difficult thing in our culture today. How many feel that you can get away for an hour in the evening, close the door to your room, turn off the phone, turn off the TV, turn off every gadget you have, and just close everything?

The Bible says, when you pray, you should enter into your room, and shut the door. Shut the door to world, shut the door to the noise. How many of us are shutting the door? You see, God, when he asks Nehemiah to build, he called Nehemiah, and Nehemiah says this, Nehemiah 2:12: “Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me, I told none what my God had put in my heart to do in Jerusalem”. I wonder if maybe your past resolutions, were your own planes! But I wonder if God says “No, I have a different plan for you!” You see, Nehemiah said “God had put something in my heart to do in Jerusalem”. God wants to build something!

Imagine if you went year after year after year after year, never knowing that God wants to lay a foundation. Maybe today you are working on the roof. God says “You can’t start from the roof, where do you start? You are starting from the wrong place, that’s why you are failing, because you are starting from the roof”. The Lord today is asking us “I need you to become aware. Become aware of what needs to be built”.

This is the time to renew our commitment, to be in the word of God, to say “Lord, I am closing my mind and my ears, my all the noise in my life, because I want to know what it is that you want to build”. Maybe God is telling you, “Rebuild your marriage”. Maybe The Lord is telling you “Rebuild your frame of thought”. Maybe your mind says “It is completely wrong”. Your mind is fixed on  things of the world.

The Bible says “For whoever loves the world, the love of the father is not in him”, so how can I build in you, unless you uproot this bad foundation?

It says that, before Nehemiah did anything, he spent four months thinking and planning.

How much time do we spend to discover how much time The Lord wants to build in my life? You see, anyone that does something great, is somebody that receives a grand vision, and follows the plan. You see, Nehemiah didn’t react (like); “Jerusalem is on fire, it is burned down, there is no hope ...”, he could have said “Oh guys, let’s go and build today”. What did he do (instead)? He waited, and he thought. He wanted to be aware of where to begin. God is asking you today, “Are you aware?” You see thought precedes change. If you don’t think, and you don’t plan, and you don’t hear, you’ll never going to change. You will jump into tomorrow, “January first is here, I am going to jump in, I have no... I haven’t heard the voice of God. I don’t know where God is leading me”. And so what, I find myself in the same habit.

The Bible teaches us: “Remember from where you have fallen, and repent”. What is it that I need to think about? I need to think, “OK; what happened last year? Why is it that my prayers are so cold? Where did I fall? What started the beginning of my decline?”

When you read the book of Jeremiah, he talks about the backsliding of the Israel. You were climbing, climbing and climbing, and all of a sudden, you came to a stop, and you began to slide down.

The Bible teaches us: “Remember from where you have fallen, and repent”.

What are the priorities in your life? Maybe you are obsessed with your career. You mind is fixed on your finances, your future! Not that those things are bad, but I have to count the cost of what these things come at the expense of.

I want to ask you today: How many of us feel that our families are tightened together? Our families are strongly built on prayer, in love with each other, caring for each other, sacrificing for one another. You know, nowadays, it is impossible! Kids are on the gadget, parents are busy with this..., it is impossible! You’re right! Because you fixed your mind on other things, and you have to count the cost; at what expense...

Recently I spent some time with people who’s kids are almost finishing High School, and they say, “Abuna, be careful! Before you know, it is going to be over! Before you know it, your kids will be out of the house, and life is completely different. Time is running! It was just yesterday, we were playing with our kids on the playground, and now they are going to college!”

You know what, I have to count the cost of the decisions that I am making, that have caused me to have cracks in my foundation.

What are you going to ask yourself when you are in solitude?

“What does God want from me in this season of my life? What is God’s goal for my home?” Who has a goal? Who has a divine goal for their homes? “Where are my kids going? Where is my family going? Where is my spiritual life in connection with God going?”

If I compare 2016, New year’s eve 2017 compared to the one for 2016, can I say there is growth? Can I say that we are reaching the goal; we are getting closer to our goal? Or do we have no goal (at all)?

Often we get together in the ministry. We sit with the Father, and we say, “Okay, what is the impact of the things that we are doing? We are spending time going here and there, and at the end, some of the things that we are doing have zero results!” Imagine if we say: “Look, we’ve been doing things for five years, two years, ten, (whatever). Let us just keep it the way it is!”

No! if there is zero results, we need to sit down and hear from God, what does He want for my life!

When you design a building, you design the outside, and you design inside. How many times have you gone out and seen something beautiful on the outside, and you go back inside, and you say “This is rubbish! This is just something fake!”.

That is an good example; on the outside I look like I am very involved, but on the inside, there is no inner adornment!

I Peter 3 says this:

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward: Arranging the hair, wearing gold and putting on fine pearl. Rather let it be the hidden person of the heart.”

You know, when the Saint Pope prays, he says, “Lord, renew the strength on the inside”. I need strength on the inside! Not, “I need a better job, I need a nicer house, I need a faster car, I need straighter hair, I need to lose some weight...” whatever it is that you need, what is on the inside? How many times I say: “Lord, clothe me on the inside. Give me virtue. Let me be a person who loves”.

Sometimes I look and I say, “What is the last time that I really loved someone? Not just nice, not just kind, but I intentionally pursued to love?” I say, “ It is not... I don’t intentionally run after anyone to love them! What is preventing me from connecting with others?”. You see, planning and designing, means that we have to come before the Master Builder, and seek what He wants.

Then you have to lay the foundation!

Saint Paul says (I Corinthians 3:11) “For no other foundation can anyone else lay, than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”.

Today, examine yourself; What is the real foundation? Not when you say out loud, because when you say out loud, that does not get to God. What is the real foundation of your life? The decisions that you make, the plans that you set, the way that you spend your time, how you spend your money, what is the foundation of your inside? You say, “I don’t know... it definitely is not the Lord Jesus Christ (repeat). I was reading about the world’s tallest building. Burj Al Khalifa was opened in Dubai January 4th.It is the highest building in the world: it is a half mile high, and it stands double the height of the Empire State Building.

As you start looking into the statistics of this building; it cost 1.5 billion dollars. It set almost every records; It says, it has the most floors, it has a pool on the highest deck, it has the highest outdoor observation deck. This is a building that is just Gi(gantic)Enormous! It has accomplished everything! Then you say; "all the attention focuses on its height, but how much attention focuses on its depth?" It is a 164feet deep under water, 58cubic yards of concrete(...) over a 120 thousand tons underground. You see, you have to lay a foundation on the inside. Unless the foundation is deep on the inside, unless I've laid a serious foundation, God's building is going nowhere.

Unless I fix my mind, again, on The Lord Jesus Christ...

 

Any great life has a solid foundation. You can't start wrong, and expect to finish right. Today you're going to say, "Okay, I am going to start the year, I'm going to do this, and that..." If  you start wrong, you'll never finish right. You have to start right. Re-dig the old foundation. If it is built  on friendships that are unhealthy, dig it up, and burn it. Otherwise, you will never get where you want to get.

 

You have to build on the foundation of love in The Word of God. Again, how many of us can say that; "The foundation of my heart is the foundation of  love? Everything that drives out of my heart is driven by love for God, or love for others?"

See, love isn't the foundation, maybe it is my prayer life. Prayer is my foundation. St. Paul says, "If I have faith that can move mountains, and I have no love, I am..." I am what? "...nothing"! If I know the Mysteries of God... you know, there are a lot of people who would like to know the Mysteries of God, what are God's secrets. Yet if you have no love, it is what? It is nothing! The foundation of your life, the foundation of your faith is built on what? Love!

I can only imagine, if we as a church committed to a year of love!

If we said, "The foundation that we are going to lay this year, is a year of love. Unwavering comitement to love". Not conditional love" Not, "If Abuna is nice to me, I will be nice to him! If so on and so forth is nice to me..." No!

"I am comitted to love!"

It is a foundation! That is the foundation that The Lord can build on.

 

Mathew 7:24-27 says this: "Everyone that hears these words of mine and puts them in practice, is like the wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the stream rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it has its foundation on the rock."

 

What is your marriage built on? What is the foundation of your marriage? Self-indulgence? Self-seeking? Your friendships: "What are you going to do for me? How will you benefit me? How are you going to serve me?" Self-indulgence! It is not the foundation of love.

Imagine the church with the greatest activities, with the greatest building, with the greatest history, the most glorious history; if it has no love, it is what? Nothing!

Somebody will say, "We are the church of the Martyrs, we have more than fifty Martyrs in our history", I say, wow! Imagine, if it stopped today, because we have no love! Imagine if this great history stopped, because we have no love! I know churches, or cathedrals that are built, but not churches! A church is built on love. A cathedral is built by grace. Our prayers we go through this construction project as the church!

Abuna, Kill me tomorrow if we ever focus on this building! If this church is not about love, it is empty! I've seen churches go down that way! We need to be a church that is pursuing love! Believe me! Otherwise, we'll lose everything!

 

Building also takes time! There is a church in Spain, they are still building it, and they've been building it for 130years! For a hundred and thirty years, they are trying to build the most beautiful... well, it doesn't look beautiful, but some people think it is beautiful, ...the most beautiful church in the world, for a hundred and thirty years! You see, building takes time!

 

James 1:4 says this; "Like, patience has its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing". How many of you, you start on a resolution, you want God to build, and you get discouraged halfway through! We are trying to rebuild our marriage, we are trying to rebuild our family, I am trying to rebuild my career, I am trying to rebuild my spiritual life, (yet) I keep falling in the same sins! Building takes time!

I used to take young people to Mexico from California; we go over the border, and build houses.  We'd been there for three days, we have to build a house from dirt to roof. And it would take one day, just to build the foundation. One full day, and so we'd feel like, what a waste; we're just building a foundation, and then it would take a whole other day just for the foundation to dry, because it is wet cement!

Building takes time! Don't rush! The Lord has a plan today. Don't rush Him.

You say, "How long am I going to struggle in this sin? How long am I going to struggle in my marriage? How long are my relationships going to be always up and down?" The work of God takes time, but it needs surrender also.

 

I get young couple that come every day that come and say "Something is wrong with our marriage. Look at that couple; they look so much better; they look so much more in love, so much better connected", and I say,  do you  know how much fights they had to go through to get to that point? Do you know how many years of arguments they had to get to the point of being so vulnerable, and so honest with each other?" It took years!

It is not just two people who love each other, and that's it, they are lovebirds forever! It takes time! If God is going to build in your life, it doesn't happen overnight. Make sure you're not comparing (yourself) to someone.

 

Be aware of the obstacles, when building. The Devil hates the fact that you want to build. The Devil hates the fact that you want to rekindle your love with Christ, so he is going to bring you obstacles (going to lay obstacles in front of you).

When the people of Israel were rebuilding the temple, they went back, and had all these people who had so much money, so much ability to do it. Then the local people, who were not the people of God said, can we help you build? And they began to think about it, and they said, Sure! And these people hindered the building for fifteen years! You see this in the book of Ezra. Fifteen years! A delayed building. Obstacles to the building word, because the devil is sending you something today, which is obstacle to your building.

 

Are you able to figure about what is the obstacle to God's building in your life? What is the distraction that the Devil is sending? Are there obstacles that you need to overcome? The Devil is trying to hijack your building, to take over your building, to take over your marriage! There are obstacles! Unless you are able to discern, unless you are aware, and say "We will cut these obstacles out of our lives".

To young people I say, maybe we need to protect your technology, from being exposed to impure things.

I say, "I put a password on your phone, so maybe the use of your phone, isn't going to be... you are not going to have full use of your phone." Say, "It is Okay! I'd rather save my soul, and loose my phone, than keep my phone and loose my soul!"

Remove the obstacle from your life! Overcome the obstacles! The Devil has no problem to hijack this building.

 

Set benchmarks to keep motivated! You see, over time you start to get discouraged; there are no fruits! Some people tell me, "Abuna, I've been fighting the same sins forever!" I say, "Is the distance between your falls longer? You used to fall every day, now you fall every three days. Now you fall once a week. Wow! It is a benchmark! You are one step closer to freedom!"

Set benchmarks!

 

When you run a marathon (there is a group of people in our church that are planning on running a half marathon. I don't know why they signed me for it, but I am going to pull it off). The way that you practice for a half marathon... I can't run 200feet, (how can I ever run a marathon?), they say, you one mile at a time! One mile at a time! Just get to the first mile! Run a mile! So, this week I run a mile, and I say, wow, only twelve and a half more to go! Even though I need like three massages to finish one mile!

I began to say like, How do you train for this? One mile at a time. Just get to mile two, get to mile three, get to mile four... that's it! Don't worry about twelve miles and a half and thirteen miles and a half, just get to mile two!

 

Set milestones to keep you motivated, because the Devil has no problems telling you "You are not going to do it! How long have you been fighting this? How long have you been fighting this? Ten years you've been fighting this habit, this marriage that is hopeless, this relationship that keeps breaking, how long?" Set benchmarks!

 

Nehemiah says this: " So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had their minds to work ."

You see, a lot of us don't have our minds fixed to anything. So, anything just tosses us back and forth. Any temptation nocks me over, any new plan nocks me over. Why, because, my mind is not committed to work!

"The people had their mind to work", and so they were able to work... Do you know how much they built the wall of Jerusalem in those days, do you know how long it took them? Fifty three days! The enemies said, "No way, how could you build the walls of Jerusalem around the whole city in fifty three days?" We'll see how (fast) Trump can do it... but how long?

The people had their minds to work!

 

If you ever cook a bunch of crabs together, you put a bunch of crabs in a pan, and one begins to climb out of the pan, what happens? The other crabs pulls him down! That is exactly what is going to happen to you. You want to build, but the crabs are pulling you down. There are other people who have no vision in their lives. Who have no dreams. People who haven't heard the voice of God telling you to build. God wants to build in your life, they pull you down saying, "Come on! That's too much! be careful!"

 

Last thing; Know that your building will be tested. Your building will be tested. St. Paul says this: "Now, if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hey, straw, each one's work will become clear, for the day will declare it because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort is it. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward".

 

Your building will be tested. Examine yourself; "What are my intentions? Am I praying a lot just because I want to feel good by myself? I want to feel that I am better than everybody else? Or do I want to build intimacy with God?" Be honest with yourself, because only you can be honest with yourself. No one else can tell you what the intentions of your heart are, "Because your intentions will be tried by fire".

You will be surprised! People, on the last day, people that you never thought  would make it to the Heavens, will be in Heavens. And the people that you thought were most likely to be in Heavens, will be cast out. That is what The Lord tells us. That is what St. Augustine tells us.

Everybody, all the church teaches us that be careful how you measure; your intentions will be tested by fire, and if it is built on the right foundation, of Christ himself, you will endure.

 

I pray this year, that it will really be a year of rebuilding, Rekindling the love of Jesus. I need to examine, sit with myself, and hear how much God desires to build in me.

 

You know, that it is going to take time, and obstacles are going to come, but God is The Master Builder. Surrender that building to Him, and He will give you a year of victory, that you can look back and say "2017 has a foundation. The first floor was built, the second floor was built. God is building in my life.

 

May He, who has done the good work in me, complete it on the day of His judgment.

 

Glory Be to God...

 

Transcribed by jeanounou, June2017