GOING AND DOING!

When we are going our own way and doing it our way, Jesus isn’t with us. But, When We Are Going And Doing What Jesus Wants, We Are Never Alone.

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The Final Installment of this sermon series….

As we close out this Blueprint For A Brand New You, I wanted to find the word that brings all this together.  When it comes to following blueprints for a house, each specialist looks only at their part.  But for the home to be built everything needs to come together in the right way at the right time, otherwise there is chaos and confusion.  I want you to be able to see clearly how thinking in a new way, having eyes that are open, and learning to step out in faith can transform you into a brand new person. 

Neither God nor I want you to just become a different person, but to become the person that God Created And Redeemed you to become.  God takes the junk out of our lives but He also gives us a reason and a purpose in life

This God-Created, God-Honoring Purpose is where we truly find the life that our hearts are hungry for.  More than just you being a different person from last year, God Wants Us To Become Who He Wants Us To Become By Going And Doing What He Has Designed For Our Life In Christ.  And the only text that God would allow me to use is from Matthew 28:16-20 (The Message)

Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion.  The moment they saw him they worshiped him.  Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.

Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge:  “God authorized and commanded me to commission you:  Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  

Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you.  I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”

Anyone here ever heard of the Kodak Company?  At one time it was one of the top corporations.  Where is it now?  On Jan. 17, 2012, it filed for bankruptcy.  It took them years to get out of bankruptcy.  Why?  They forgot their purpose.  They thought their purpose was to produce film for cameras.  In 1975, one of their researchers developed the first digital camera, but company executives told him to keep it quiet.  In 2006 they stopped manufacturing Kodachrome Film after 74 years. They thought their purpose was making film—when their true purpose was creating images. 

Ever since then, they have been playing catch-up instead of being the leader in their industry.  Imagine people going to work day after day without knowing their company’s business, yet that’s exactly what happens when churches don’t know where they should be going and what they should be doing.  

Rather than try to find out what they should be doing, they keep doing the same things, expecting different results.  To become the Brand New You that honors God and gives us that life of purpose and meaning, then we need to know where we need to be going and what we need to be doing. 

In the beginning of the Church, it was clear to them—they knew where to go and what to do.  It was going into their world and doing the very thing Jesus told them to do.  They didn’t have anywhere else to go or anything else to do, but the One Thing Jesus told them to do:  Make Disciples Of Others Through Loving Them And Sharing With Them What Jesus Had Done In Their Life

The One Thing that EVERY Church and THIS Church must be is that Community of Believers who GO into the world and DO what Jesus wants, and what Jesus wants is for the lost to know they are loved by the Father and can have a relationship with Him! 

We need to know that our One Thing, the ONLY Thing Jesus wants is for us to Make Disciples By Showing Them God’s Love, Sharing What God Has Done For Us, And Inviting Them Into That Most Important Relationship Of All.  It is about becoming The New Creation by The Blood Of Jesus Christ.

Too much of what happens in many churches today is about consumerism.  We think that the church is all about meeting our needs.  Have you ever heard anyone say, “Well, I’m not going back to that church because it’s not meeting my needs.”?  They’ve made the church about what they want more than what Jesus wants! 

Purpose Is God’s Gift To Us, Not Our Offering To GodThis Means We Exist To Show The Real Love Of God To Real People In Real Ways So That They Can Become A Real Disciple Of Jesus.  

To be the person that God created you to become, to live the life that Jesus died to give you, there are two steps to take and one thing to remember:  Step One

1.  Make The Commitment To Go Into This World!

It is a world that is not very nice.  Sometimes it’s dirty and ugly.  It’s a world that is filled with a lot of pain.  It’s a world that is scary.  It is a world that is unfair and unreasonable.  It is a world that is selfish and narrow minded.  It is a world that is torn apart by disasters and wars.  It is a world that is filled with darkness and sin.  That’s what Satan is doing with God’s creation.

But it was into this same world that Jesus left heaven and entered into.  Jesus Entered Into The Pain, The Filth, The Brokenness And The Sickness Of This World.  Sometimes, people came to Him wherever He was; but Jesus didn’t wait for them to show up.  He went to them.  Jesus sat and ate with the worst sinners of that day—Tax Collectors. 

He reached out to everyone who was called unclean—the prostitutes, the adulteresses, the lepers, the poor—by those who thought themselves to be religious and godly.  Anyone who had been pushed aside by the world, Jesus reached out to them.  And if we are going to be His Disciples, then we follow his example!  In order to be a Brand New You, we stop going where we want to go and start going where Jesus goes. 

Make your commitment to go into this world.  Now Step 2:

2.  Make The Commitment To Do Something Only Jesus Would Do!

Do you know what Jesus is doing in our world today?  He is loving every single person.  When Jesus walked this earth as a human, He came to show a world that for some who wondered if God loves them, and for others who felt like God didn’t love them—to show that God has unconditional love for everyone! 

It is really clear what Jesus wants us to do—To Love Others Like Jesus Loves Us!  Jesus loves us completely, unconditionally and sacrificially.  None of us deserves this.  Yet Jesus shows us how much God loves us at the cross. 

And He wants us out there showing others how much God loves them.  We love others with our actions and not our words.  We show our love for Jesus when we give food to the hungry, clothes to those who have little or none, when we offer care to those who are sick or lonely, when we care for those who are in prison.  It’s not what we talk about that shows our world the love of God, it is what we actually do to help those who are among the least, the last and the lost.  Your world will never see how much God loves them until they see AND experience how much you love them.  Do Something Only Jesus Would Do!

3.  (And Here Is The One Thing You Need To Remember:)  Go And Do Because Jesus Is With You!

When we are going our own way and doing it our way, Jesus isn’t with us.  But, When We Are Going And Doing What Jesus Wants, We Are Never Alone.  He is with you. 

Did you hear how The Message translation puts it?  “I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day.”  He has never asked you to go and to do it alone.  In fact, He Insists That You Don’t Go Or Do It Alone.  In order to be a Brand New You, it takes confidence, the confidence that what Jesus said to those disciples, He really meant it and He really means it for you, too

And You Must Believe That It Is His Presence That Will Make The Difference In Our Life, And In Those Lives We Are Called To Go To, And To Love.  Our Life Purpose is to make new disciples for Jesus, by going to them, by doing for them in love, sharing with them all that God has done for us, And Then Inviting Them Into The Relationship With The Father. 

Churches that close their doors when there were people around them without Jesus, didn’t know what their business was.  To be a real disciple of Jesus, to be an authentic Christian, to be a real church, we have to remember that our business is all about bringing people into a relationship with Jesus.  You have to know why you are here.  Do You Know?

NEXT STEPS

  1. Is Jesus Living In You?  Galatians 2:20—“My old self has been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  I’m not asking how much you know about Jesus.  I’m asking:  Is Jesus living in you?  The only way He can live in you is that you ask Him and surrender everything in you to Him—your will, guilt, fear, your days, your relationships, ALL that makes you who you are.
  2. Ask Him To Give You This Week and Every Week The Opportunity To Show The Real Love Of God To Real People In Real Ways So That They Can Become A Real Disciple Of Jesus.  You can do this in many ways:
    1. Don’t judge them.  Sinners know they are sinners without you reminding them.
    1. Forgive Someone who has hurt you.  The best way someone can know that God will forgive them is to see that same forgiveness in you.
    1. Help Someone who needs help.  Open a door, give up your place in line, help change a tire, share an unexpected gift, encourage someone with your acts rather than your words, take someone to lunch—do you get the idea?
    1. Tell someone what God has done for you, especially if you didn’t deserve or earn it.  The world sees us who follow Jesus as a people who feel superior to others, or that we never have problems.  This just isn’t true.  Change that perception by being honest about your issues and struggles—and how Jesus came to you in the middle of those struggles.

Step Out In Faith!

Life With Jesus Is About Stepping Out In Faith And Giving Him Complete Control Of Our Life Regardless Of How We Feel.

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Part 3 in the Series Building A New You

The term, “Playing It Safe” is about avoiding the risks, even if the risks might lead to a greater result.  We do so for 1 of 2 reasons.  One is that we choose a more cautious approach because we are afraid of the other resultfailure.  The other reason is because some simply are not willing to pay the price of complete surrender—i.e. selfishness.  So, we settle for something less, much less.  There is a fine line that exists between being courageous and being foolish. 

Our problem is we call it “risky” when we make our resources primary and God’s resources secondary.  Usually, but not always, when we face the choice between what is risky and what is safe, we will give in toward playing it safe. 

And many people, especially when it comes to church, prefer playing it safe over taking risks.  Why?  Because isn’t that what it means to be a Christian?  Doesn’t God want us to be safe from harm and evil?  Absolutely He wants to keep us safe from evil. 

But I am concerned that we’ve taken being safe too far, especially when it comes to following Jesus.  Following Jesus isn’t about playing it safe; It’s About Taking The Risks!  In the desire to play it safe we have mistakenly thought that God wants us to be comfortable.  But What God Wants From Us Is Faith.

In the Blueprint For A New You we started at the beginning with changing from thinking in an entirely human perspective to thinking with the mind of Christ.  Last week we uncovered the next step:  that we need perspective to go along with this new way of thinking.  We need Jesus to open our eyes in order for us to follow Him into the work of The Kingdom.  Now comes action—specifically taking action that comes out of our faith.

If you can remember only 1 thing this morning, then remember this:  Life With Jesus Is About Stepping Out In Faith And Giving Him Complete Control Of Our Life Regardless Of How We Feel

Playing it safe is looking at our abilities and resources then making our decisions.  But where is the faith in that?  Faith leads to more.    Faith in the atoning work of Jesus on the Cross is required for us to be saved.  There is more to faith.

Faith isn’t a trophy we put on a shelf and say to our friends, “See that faith?  Yep, that’s when God saved me from my sins and gave me a new life.  I keep it there to remind me how gracious, loving and good God was to me.  Yep, I dust it off every week.” 

But faith does so much more.  Faith isn’t just for our salvation.  It is for our daily walk with Jesus, and this daily walk requires that our faith grow and expands.  The Life Of Faith Isn’t About Feeling Safe But Being Confident In Whatever It Is That God Wants Us To Do. 

In this Blueprint For A New You, there comes that moment when we must Step Out In Faith!  Never has this been more important than at this very moment.  This place, and this movement of Wesleyan Awakening hinges on answering this question:  Will You Play It Safe Or Take The Risk Of Stepping Out In Faith?  Or will you retreat to some moment in history when it was safer and easier to follow Jesus?  To help us understand what it means to Step Out In Faith, turn to Isaiah 43:1-2 (NLT):

But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you.  O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; you are mine.  When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you

Did you hear those words:  deep waters, rivers of difficulty, fire of oppression?  Pardon me, but does that sound safe?  Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t sound safe.  And did you notice what God said about those times? 

He didn’t say “If” you face those moments, but “When” you are in those places.  When the waters run deep, When rivers are turbulent, When the fire rages—we step out into those risky places because we are not alone in those moments. 

But we do tend to forget that He is with us.  So, we choose to avoid risks at all costs.  And the price we pay is too high!  To Step Out In Faith means we know that in the risky moments, God is with us.  He said He created us, and He created us FOR those moments

The Hebrew word for “created” doesn’t mean just the story found in Genesis.  It means To Create With New Conditions And New Circumstances.  The New Condition is that God has made us a totally different person.  The New Circumstance is that He now lives IN us. 

Our New Condition is that we are now Formed By His Hand To Join In His Purpose Of Restoring Others and this New Circumstance is that The Holy Spirit Lives In Us For That Purpose. Now more than ever, we need to remember God’s promise through Isaiah.  When the challenge is great and the risks are high, remember His promise.

1.  When You Go Through Deep Waters, Think About Moses (Exo. 14)

God called Moses to lead His people out of bondage in Egypt.  Remember in Egypt that Moses’ first attempt at being a leader failed.  In Egypt, Moses is a man wanted for murder.  When God calls him to go back, he offers all kinds of excuses, but God doesn’t let go.  He has created and formed Moses for such a time as that.  So, Moses takes the risk.  He had no idea what would happen, only that God was with him.

After some plagues, Pharaoh agrees to let them go, but changes his mind and sends the army to go bring them back.  God has led them to the Red Sea.  Behind them is the army to take them back to bondage.  In front of them is the Red Sea and not a bridge or boat in sight.  Moses is about ready to panic, but God reminds Moses of His presence.  They go “through” the deep waters of the Red Sea, and the Egyptian army tries but doesn’t make it. 

If you remember the story, it tells us a wind divided the water so they could cross over on dry land.  That “Wind” Was The Holy Spirit—The Same Holy Spirit That Comes To Live In Us With The Presence Of Jesus

There are many deep waters we face—and the greatest risk we face is being the Body of Christ in this world.  When you face your deep waters, remember that God has given you the wind and breath of the Holy Spirit.  He Has Created And Formed YOU For Such A Time As This.

2.  When You Go Through Rivers Of Difficulty, Think About Peter (Matt. 14)

Jesus had sent the disciples on ahead to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, but He stayed behind because He needed His “safe place” to get away for a time.  During that night journey, an enormous storm came up.  It looked like they would sink and drown. 

But through the storm someone said, “Look, someone is walking on the water.  It’s a ghost!”  But Jesus said, “Oh pipe down, guys, it’s ME!”  Peter wants to be sure that it’s really Jesus, so he said, “Well, if it’s really you, invite me to join you out there.”  And what does Jesus do?  He invites Peter to take a walk, not on a calm sea, but a stormy one.  Do you remember what Peter does? 

(And don’t say “He sinks”!)  He steps out of that boat, and really walks on that stormy sea.  The preacher, teacher and writer, John Ortburg, is right.  To follow Jesus, we have to get out of the boat, because Jesus isn’t in the boat.  Jesus invites us to join Him in an adventure. 

Jesus Calls Us To Go Into Those Places Where It Is All About Him.  He doesn’t call us to a set of rules or traditions; He doesn’t call us to the safety of a bank account, home, family, career, or some other thing.  He calls us to be in relationship with Him and working with Him in what He is doing.  When the river is turbulent, take the risk of joining Jesus in what He is doing.

3.  When You Walk Through The Fire, Think About Shadrach, Meshach, And Abednego (Dan. 3)

The Israelites had been carried into exile.  Daniel, along with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were blessed by God with wisdom.  King Nebuchadnezzar recognized their talents and appointed them to leadership positions.  Some of the local guys were jealous, so they convinced the king to construct this enormous statue with the order that when the theme song was played, everyone was to bow before that idol. 

But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused and were hauled in before the king.  He gave them one last chance to worship an idol or be thrown into a fiery furnace.  And in that defining moment of decision—play it safe—or—take the risk—they said:

“Look, King, no disrespect intended.  We worship only one God, and that statue isn’t Him.  And about that furnace, our God has the power to protect us even there.  (Here’s the great part.)  But even if He doesn’t deliver us, if He whispered in our ears ‘Guys, this is gonna hurt’, we will not bow down to this or any other image.  So, go ahead and throw us in.”

Well the King got mad and put that furnace on super high, and had them bound and thrown in.  And once in there, an unbelievable thing happened.  The only things that burned were their captors and the ropes.  Once inside they didn’t see 3 being burned up, but 4 freely walking about—IN that fire.  God did not send some kind of force field to keep the flames away.  He showed up in that furnace and said, “Mind if I join you?” 

Whatever the risk is for faithfully following Jesus, count on Jesus being right there with you.  Those times when the heat is on for you to show Jesus to our world, count on Jesus to see you through it.  The risks He calls us to take, will at times look like it will destroy us.  Outside the furnace, no one else saw God but Shadrach, Meshach and AbednegoBut Inside That Furnace, Everyone Could See God.  Not outside the furnace, but inside the furnace is where others could see God.

Life with Jesus isn’t about playing it safe, where we can control everything.  Life With Jesus Is About Stepping Out In Faith And Giving Him Complete Control Of Our Life Regardless Of How We Feel.  Stepping out in faith means that we really, I mean REALLY trust in Jesus.  If we can see it with our physical eyes, touch it with our hands, and understand it with our natural minds, then it’s nowhere near faith. 

Faith is about giving up control—control of trying to save yourself, to be good enough by yourself—to be smart enough by yourself, to be strong enough by yourself—in order to totally trust God with everything, I mean every detail and every part of your life. 

Trust Him—when the waters are deep—when the rivers are difficult—and when the furnace is hot!

Next Steps (Homework)

We’re talking about Faith.  Remember what it says in Hebrews 11:1 about Faith

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

Young’s Literal Translation puts it this way: “And faith is of things hoped for—a confidence; of matters not seen—a conviction.”  With this as the definition of Faith, answer these questions this week and consider it your homework:

  1. Where are you showing Faith in your life?  Remember that faith isn’t when you know the outcome, but when you have confidence that God is there with you.
  2. What are you NOT willing to do either because of your fears, or you are unwilling to pay the price?  The fear of failure and selfishness prevents us from experiencing the power of Faith.
  3. Is there some change that might happen in this church that makes you nervous or uneasy or that you simply do not want to see happen?  Church, as we have all known it, is changing.  It will never be the same, But It Will Be Better.  God is prepared for this moment.  But to see it, you have to make a commitment to it—and that’s where faith comes in. 

The Myth of Neutrality (#OneChurchPlanMyths #UMC)

For my United Methodist friends. A well written piece for us. And for anyone who thinks one can remain nuetral and still faithfully follow Jesus..

Orthodoxy for Everyone

The people called Methodists are feeling the pressure right now. We are just over a month away from a special session of General Conference called to settle our decades-long conflict over the matter of human sexuality. Folks familiar with this conflict likely already know that a proposal known as the “One Church Plan” is being promoted with vigor by a number of bishops and a group known as the “Uniting Methodists.” In fact, the so-called One Church Plan is said to have the support of a majority of bishops, which is unsurprising, though the exact number of that majority is unclear.

Among other things, this plan would remove the current restrictions on UMC clergy and churches from blessing same-sex unions. It would change the definition of marriage from the union of one man and one woman to the union of two persons. It also provides protections for clergy who choose…

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BLUEPRINT FOR A NEW YOU: DEVELOP YOUR PERCEPTION!

Only God Can Give Us The Vision To See A Future Filled With Promise, Hope And A Real Purpose.

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Last week we talked about the importance of having a transformed mind because only the mind transformed into the mind of Christ can discover, accept and live in God’s will.  But God also wants us to see our world the way He sees it.  And it’s different from the human view.  To be able to see a person or situation in a different way requires paying close attention to all the details, even the minute details.  It’s easy to overlook the most obvious things, and sometimes it’s not easy to see the smaller details.

At times it even requires that we look at more than just what lies at the surface.  We need to see beneath the surface at what you can’t see, and most of the time, that’s real difficult.  I Mean, How Do You See What You Can’t See

But with persistence, careful analysis, and sometimes even with the help of a friend, we can scratch beneath that surface and discover more, much more than we thought.  Seeing requires more than just physical eyes.  It takes the right perspective.

Take a moment and think about something you had misplaced; maybe car keys or a tool.  You look everywhere and it just seems to have vanished.  We blame the kids, the spouse, or even a gremlin.  But then you start all over looking again and like a miracle, there it is.  It was there when we looked the first time.  We want to think that somebody put it there AFTER we looked, but the truth is—it was there all along.  We simply didn’t see it.  Our perception is it wasn’t there.  The reality is it was there!

It is tragic for anyone who is physically blind.  But there are so many who have been able to compensate for their loss of sight in so many other ways. 

Think about Helen Keller and her accomplishments.  Think about the contributions to music made by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Ronnie Milsap, and Ray Charles.  But, as tragic as it is to be without sight, there is a greater tragedy when We Live Our Lives Without Perception

Let’s step back a moment and define perception.  Here is my definition of perception:  Perception Is The Ability, Skill And Gift Of Recognizing What Is Happening To Us, Around Us, And Within Us. 

  • When I say it’s an ability I mean that God has given every one of us a way to recognize all that makes up our world.
  • When I say it is a skill what I mean is that this given ability needs to be sharpened and refined through use. 
  • When I say it is a gift by that I mean only God can bring all our ability and skill to the depth that we need in order to live life the way it has always meant to be.

We all have blind spots, and not just in our cars.  We have emotional, psychological and spiritual blind spots where we fail to recognize what is happening around and even within us.  And in this Blue Print For A New You, you need to Develop Your Perception.  Let’s look at the story of a man who needed his physical eyes opened and see if there’s something in this that can help us in our perception of God and our world.  It is found Mark 10:46-52 and I want to share it with you from The Message:

They spent some time in Jericho.  As Jesus was leaving town, trailed by his disciples and a parade of people, a blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, was sitting alongside the road. 

When he heard that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by, he began to cry out, “Son of David, Jesus!  Mercy, have mercy on me!” Many tried to hush him up, but he yelled all the louder, “Son of David!  Mercy, have mercy on me!”

 Jesus stopped in his tracks. “Call him over.”  They called him.  “It’s your lucky day!  Get up!  He’s calling you to come!”  Throwing off his coat, he was on his feet at once and came to Jesus.  Jesus said, “What can I do for you?”  The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”  “On your way,” said Jesus.  “Your faith has saved and healed you.”  In that very instant he recovered his sight and followed Jesus down the road.

Now, try to put yourself in the shoes of this beggar named Bartimaeus.  Think about his world and his life.  Ask a resident around Jericho, “Who is this fellow Bartimaeus?”  Anyone who knew would probably answer, “Oh, he’s just a poor, blind beggar, that’s all.”  Nothing more, nothing less—a poor, blind beggar.  What does it mean to be blind?  Normally, most people think about total darkness, and for sure, some who are blind live in a totally dark world.  But not all blindness is total darkness. 

If you forget everything else I say today, then remember this:  Only God Can Give Us The Vision To See A Future Filled With Promise, Hope And A Real Purpose.   

I was blessed with the friendship and teaching of a saint by the name of Dr. David Naglee.  For years he wore glasses that looked almost like prisms.  Later on he needed the help of a magnifying glass to read.  And finally he had to give up teaching anywhere but near his home at LaGrange College because with the strongest lenses and the strongest magnifying glass, his world turned blurry. But Dr. Naglee never lost sight of God’s Promise, Hope and Purpose for his life.  He lived with a laser-sharp perspective.

So many today are living an out of focus life.  Day after day after day many are living in blindness that they don’t want to live in.  And sadly, many have resigned to that kind of life.  Maybe that’s where Bartimaeus was.  Every day was the same for him.  He would go to a spot, sit there and beg.  He never woke up with the excitement of anticipation that something exciting would happen.

All he could pray for was that generous people would pass his way.  And on that ordinary day, just another-day-of-begging, he went to that place.  He was hoping for enough to just barely get by.  But suddenly he senses a large crowd and there’s a lot of commotion and talking.  He can’t see what’s happening but he has a feeling something big is happening.  He just doesn’t know how big a happening it will be.

He asks, “What’s going on?”  And someone tells him, “It’s Jesus, the traveling Rabbi from Nazareth.”  Bartimaeus Is Blind, But He’s Not Deaf.  He’s heard people talking about Jesus and all the miracles He had been doing.  And he found in his heart a small ember of hope.  If Jesus could heal others diseases, just maybe He could open his eyes.

But he has to act; no time for delaying or pondering.  So with the loudest voice he had, he began crying out, “Son of David, Jesus!  Mercy, have mercy on me!”  The people around him tried to hush him up, but he only got louder.  Let’s leave Bartimaeus in his place of begging to ask you 3 crucial questions:

1.  What Is It That Blinds You?

There are lots of things that blind us to the real world around us.

  • Prejudice blinds us because we make up our minds before we know all the facts, and so it blinds us to the worth and value that God sees in people. 
  • Oh, then there’s Fear.  It gets us all knotted up inside to where we can’t think clearly.  It makes problems and especially potential problems more powerful than they really are and causes us to doubt God’s presence, promises and provisions. 
  • Resentment and its twin Bitterness can blind us to the power of grace.  Resentment and Bitterness are like kudzu; it grows wildly and covers everything up in its path.  They are like corrosive acid, destroying everything it touches so that on the inside, we become hollow and empty people.  It Takes Away Hope, Joy And Peace. 
  • Feeling Forgotten can blind us to the truth that God loves us.  The feeling of being ignored, that no one cares, can shut down the heart and spirit.  It will blind us to the truth that God does love us. 
  • When we feel unloved, unwanted by others, makes it easy to think that God doesn’t love or want us.  Perhaps this is where we find Nicodemus.  Being crushed by the belief no one cares crushes us.  A lot of people are in this place still today.

There are lots of other things that blind us.  This makes it crucial that we regularly evaluate our heart and mind to see if something is blinding us to the real world and to the presence of God.  Question 2:

2.  What Does NOT Seeing Cost Us?

We don’t know if Bartimaeus was born blind or if some accident or disease claimed his eyesight.  The price of losing one’s sight is to miss, miss the experiences that happen every day.  When we are spiritually blind, we pay the same price, too. 

  • We miss seeing the beauty that is always around us.  We can miss the beauty of a smile, the beauty of a child exploring their world. 
  • We miss friendships that are waiting to be made by someone who has so much to give as a friend. 
  • We miss experiencing love from another person.  Our hearts could be changed if we knew we are unconditionally loved.  But if we are blinded spiritually, we can’t see those people.  We miss feeling the sigh of relief that comes from a friend who simply offers their presence and nothing more.  It not only costs us.
  • The price is extracted from others who miss out on the ministry that only you can give.  The biggest price of our self-imposed blindness is that others are denied what God longs to pour into them, through us!  NOT seeing costs us the opportunities to become the presence of Jesus through the use of our hands, our words, our actions and our hearts.  It strips us of the very purpose we were created for.  Perhaps this describes Bartimaeus.  Always on the receiving end, never on the giving end.  We know deep down, that we are made for giving, for helping others.  Loss of perspective robbed him and robs us of that deeper purpose in life!

But there’s one more question that begs to be asked, and maybe someone here today needs to confront this question:

3.  What Can Happen To Us, If We Make The Same Request As Bartimaeus?

Bartimaeus is sitting by that dusty road begging when he hears that Jesus is there.  His heart knows what needs to be said—What Must Be Said.  For much of his life he had been treated as second class, but he cries out anyway. 

People try to silence him because, after all, What Could Jesus Possibly Want With A Poor, Dirty, Blind Beggar?  Would Jesus really have anything to do with someone who is a poor, blind beggar?  You Better Believe He Would.  And Jesus tells those trying to keep Bartimaeus silent, keep him away from Jesus, “Hey!  Stop treating him that way.  I want to see Him.”    And so they bring this blind beggar to Jesus. 

Why does Jesus want him there, near Him?  To ask the only question that God has for those who are poor, blind, and broken inside.  “What Can I Do For You?”  This is the question Jesus desires and longs to ask everyone, each of us. No beating around the bush for Jesus.  No long theological discussions or committee meetings.  Now Bartimaeus has a decision to make.  Should he dare make the bold request?  Does he fear that Jesus would deny his request?  I see no hesitation from Bartimaeus when he says:  “Rabbi, I want to see.” 

And in this very moment, right now in this place, listen—listen because Jesus has never stopped asking that question, “What Can I Do For You?”  And if right now you feel just like a poor, blind beggar, that your life is out of focus and blurred, that darkness, a darkness no one knows but you and Jesus, has blinded your eyes to a future filled with Promise, Hope And A Real Purpose, He is asking you, “What Can I Do For You?” 

Will you trust Him enough to repeat those same words to Jesus?  Lord, Savior, Master—I want to see!  And what will Jesus do? The same thing he did for Bartimaeus:  “Your Faith Has Saved And Healed You.”  Make your request, and then do what it says that Bartimaeus did:  In that very instant he recovered his sight and followed Jesus down the road.  And that, my friends is how Jesus works: To Give Us Eyes That Are OpenAnd Then For Us To Follow Jesus Down The Road.

Your Next Steps

Your next steps are simple—but they may be difficult. 

What Do You Want Jesus To Do For You?

What is it that is keeping you a prisoner—a captive?  What is it that has robbed you of any hope of a better you—a better future?  What is keeping you from seeing your world—your situations—this church—your life—the way HE sees it? In order to see all this as God sees it, then you have to confront whatever it is that is blinding you to what God sees.  Things like Pride, Fear, Prejudice, Bitterness, Resentment, Overwhelming Grief, A Sense Of Worthlessness….and the list goes on.  Only Jesus can help you see—and the Good News today is this:

He Will Open Your Eyes When You Admit You Are Blind.Only then can you have the perspective to see yourself, your circumstances, and the world as God sees it.

Remember, Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the Glory goes to HIM!

Step Up To The Plate

Welcome back to my musings from the Book of Acts. In case this is the first one you’ve read, or if you have forgotten, this is a different kind of journey as I read the Book of Acts. This is NOT a chapter by chapter, verse by verse exegesis. I am reading this powerful book about The Holy Spirit looking for either those things I have forgotten, or for those truths that I’ve been missing these past 45 years since I first welcomed Jesus into my heart. Honestly, I not looking for the obvious, but for those nuances that I’ve been overlooking since I started this journey of faith.

And today, it is Acts 2:14–

Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles …

OK, it’s 2 words….make that 3 words…rather 4 words….wait a minute….it’s all 9 words. So let’s begin….oh, what do you say….we start at the first word: Then. This word tells us something had just happened. That Promise of Jesus, that The Holy Spirit was a comin’….was no longer a promise, but the reality of Peter’s life. Peter doesn’t do anything other than wait and pray until the Then. When that Then happened, Peter stopped praying and waiting. He moved with that Spirit now living in him and every believer.

Next it’s the 3 words: Peter Stepped Forward. Why? Because of the Then. Up until Then, Peter was known as the one who would speak up without thinking. Come to think of it, I know some people like that. Oh, OK, I do that sometimes, too. He was rash and impetuous. He had the tendency for his mouth to overload his abilities. But….Then happened. With the indwelling and abiding of the Holy Spirit Peter Stepped Forward.

And why not? He had both the Power and the Message that could change his culture and world. This isn’t Impetuous Peter. This is Deliberate Peter. He saw what they did to Jesus. And he saw what Jesus did with what they did. And he paid attention to Jesus–WAIT UNTIL. Wait until…Then. Peter now has the Passion and the Focus. And he steps forward.

But today….so many….too many who profess to be a Christian….who are supposed to have the Power and the Message to change OUR culture….are either too timid….or unwilling to Step Forward. It seems to me that many Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters would rather stay isolated and insulted from the world and then complain about the condition of the world. Yet….if they have had their own “Then Moment” they have both the Power and the Message to transform their culture.

It happens through the Holy Spirit. And today? People seem to get the heebie jeebies when it comes to the power and work of the Holy Spirit. They don’t want to look “weird” or like one of “those” kind of Christians. The result is out culture continues to spiral downward.

Oh, there are those who step forward–step forward with words of anger, judgment and condemnation; whose only concern seems to be that they have the appearance of being better than others. An unholy sanctimonious attired that is repulsive to the outsider. And then, they have the gall to wonder why their culture is going to hell in a hand basket. Peter wasn’t going to live with that kind of attitude. Peter Stepped Forward.

Which leads to that last part: with the eleven other apostles…. This wasn’t a solo act, a duet, or even a quartet. It was all of them. And here’s what speaks to me that I had not recognized: The Holy Spirit Provides The Means, The Message And The Power needed to transform our Time, Place and Culture. The time has come, urgently arrived, to stop trying to compromise or allow others to dictate The Message in order to make life more comfortable and convenient.

Appeasement is defined as “the action or process of appeasing”. And the word “appease” means: “pacify or placate (someone) by acceding to their demands. I looked up synonyms for placate and here are the words I found: “lull, tranquilize, calm, mollify.” Mollify? Had to look up that word and here’s what mollify means: “Make more temperate, acceptable, or suitable by adding something else; moderate.” Since 1974, I’ve been told by my leaders (well, except one, he IS a mighty warrior for God) that I need to make sure to appease the congregations I had been appointed to. I needed to pacify them so they wouldn’t complain. In other words, let them have it their way. Having it their way may have been a great advertising slogan for Burger King years ago, but it is a pitiful way to operate the Body of Christ.

And for Peter, he couldn’t make the Message more acceptable by adding something else to it. Why? Because of that single word: “Then”–the Holy Spirit had a hold of him and he had a hold on the Spirit. And the reason for Peter’s powerful message was two-fold:

  • The Power of the Holy Spirit
  • And the willingness of the other 11 to stand with him

It’s time for us to run with those who want to run with the Holy Spirit–His Power and The Message. It’s time to leave the paths of placation that does nothing but tranquilize people and lull them into a false sense of peace and security. Appeasement is the desire of Satan. Transformation is the Great Desire of God–and it happens only with HIS Power through The Message of The Kingdom of God–and not the petty preferences of those who have neither the Power nor the Message.

It’s time for us to Step Forward because if we don’t…..well Yogi Berra puts it like this:

And remember to love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him.

The Missing Word Today

What would happen here in the good old U.S. of A. if WE, who profess to be followers of Jesus, gave up agendas and made an all out commitment to being TOGETHER?

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Well, after a season of computer problems (it died, had the blue screen) and getting caught up, I’m back to my insights from the Book of Acts (Of The Holy Spirit In Surrendered People). If you missed the first one, then click here, because it is, call it our Magnetic North in this journey. As I was reading in the first chapter, there’s another insight that I’ve overlooked for all my life. It is one word, and that word is TOGETHER.  It’s from Acts 1:14

They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.

That word, “together” is one that has been, call it haunting me. I use the word “haunting” because it is M.I.A. in many, many established congregations. Between congregations and within congregations, little exists that would even slightly hint that we are together. And here, in the good old U.S. of A., people sit around McDonald’s, in church committee meetings, around the water coolers lamenting that this culture is so far from God. They blame Hollywood, Trump, Democrats, Republicans, Educators, Video Games and various News Networks. As I read this part, I am left wondering, “Is it really ‘their’ fault? Or is it the fault of the Body of Christ forgetting our humble beginnings? Of being together–in life, in helping others and in Christ?

Between congregations there is much competition. To have the best preacher. The best musicians. The most campuses. Rather than moving in and claiming the territory of The Enemy, they encroach on each other trying to draw away members. Together? Hardly!

And don’t get me started on within congregations. They meet in the same building, but are not really together. Each part moves, speaks and acts out of an agenda, their agenda. Those who have been in power do not want to give up their power. They operate on a seniority system–whoever has been there the longest (including previous family generations) are the only ones who should have power. And should a congregation actually decide that the Kingdom of God is the Pearl of greatest value, it becomes a matter of navigating the rapids. The Art of Compromise becomes the guide, and those who recognize that Pearl, either find another congregation, or simply give up. 

But it wasn’t that way then. They were Together. Men and women. Young and old. Educated and uneducated. Poor and the not so poor. They were in this TOGETHER. This means that they supported each other. Encouraged each other. Listened to each other. At this point, now get this: They were of one mind. They were in this for Jesus, not themselves. Jesus said stay together and they did. Jesus said wait, so they waited. Jesus said don’t begin until you receive the Holy Spirit, and so they waited–TOGETHER.

Think about this, they didn’t really know a lot about the Holy Spirit, other than what they saw of Him in Jesus. After the Resurrection, they were smart enough to know that they would be foolish to do this Kingdom Thing without The Holy Spirit. And to that goal, look at what else they did TOGETHER:

and were constantly united in prayer

Because they were TOGETHER, it wasn’t about selfish prayer. It was about being TOGETHER in what Jesus wanted. I strongly suspect, no, I strongly believe that they were so intimidated by the task in front of them that they knew they NEEDED each other. They needed each person to be committed to Jesus; to be completely surrendered, completely passionate about this Kingdom. Folks, they were UNITED in prayer. They were praying FOR each other, not against each other. Wow!

Recently I was reading through one of my personal study times. It’s from a group called SEEDBED (website is here). J.D. Walt is one of the writers and one of my teachers. He wrote that there are only 2 stories being told in our world: 1 is the story of the world, and the other is the story of The Kingdom of God. J.D. said that we will live out our lives on one or the other storyline. Then he said this (and I quote):

“Until Jesus becomes the center of our devotion, He’s just another distraction.”

And thus, that word, TOGETHER. I want to speak now only to my American readers. What would happen here in the good old U.S. of A. if WE, who profess to be followers of Jesus, gave up our agendas and made an all out commitment to being TOGETHER?

Feel free to answer this question in the comments section. I would love to hear what you believe would happen IF we were really TOGETHER. And remember to love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

Things to Do In 2019: Avoid Whining and Complaining

A great read from my friend, Anthony. Here’s a line that ought to make you rush right over and read the whole blog: “How can we be “lights in the world” if all we do is gripe about the darkness?” Get ready to have your toes stomped on if this description fits you….

The Recovering Legalist

I used to hear it said that the world hates a complainer. However, is the world not full of whiners and complainers these days?

The average SJW (social justice warrior) is nothing more than a pale-skinned, black-clothed, fit pitcher with unnaturally-colored hair and absolutely drunk on whine (see what I did there?).

Turn on practically any news station and all you will hear is complaining about something Trump did or didn’t do.

Say the wrong thing to the wrong people and off they’ll trot to the nearest complaint-filing station and whine and complain about how their feelings were hurt.

And, sadly, many Christians are no different; they live like the world in the world and then gripe and complain when the world around them treats them with contempt.

Aren’t we supposed to be different?

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons…

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BUILDING A BRAND NEW YOU! Part 1

This Transformed Mind Is Where We Discover, Accept And Live In God’s Intended Design.

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This is part 1 of the new message series “Building A Brand New You”.

When I was on staff for The North Alabama Conference Center, I had this sign on the door to my office:  “A Lack Of Planning On Your Part Does NOT Mean We Have A Crisis.  It Means YOU Have A Problem!”  The meaning is pretty obvious:  When you are in the panic mode because you failed to make and follow a plan, do not expect me to join you in your panic.  Planning is important.  To borrow a term from Coach Nick Saban, there is a Process to follow. 

We plan lots of things like careers, work, families, and retirement.  And we would never build a home without first having a plan.  But what about the development of our spiritual life?  If planning work, families, retirements, and homes are important, why do so many spend so little time planning the development of their spiritual life?  Have you heard this saying?   When You Fail To Plan, You Plan To Fail

Today I want us to look at developing a plan, a blueprint of sorts for Building A Brand New You.  I believe that God is on the move in our culture for yet another Great Awakening, much like what God promised Israel through Isaiah in Isaiah 43:19

For I am about to do something new.  See, I have already begun!  Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

When God promised this, they were in exile and things seemed hopeless.  If we are honest, we feel the same way about our culture—that things seem hopeless.  But I am convinced otherwise.  I see the signs in Africa, Southeast Asia and in Central and South America—and I am seeing and sensing the same in our time and place.  God is doing a new thing in our time, and we need to position ourselves to see it.  We need a new blueprint for a new you.  Every blueprint has a beginning point, so I began thinking about where to start.  I kept thinking and thinking and thinking, but I just couldn’t figure out where to start this blue print. 

I was thinking about a lot of different things as the first part of this blueprint—transformation of the heart, the importance of living out God’s word, faith, but the more I thought about it, nothing seem to fit.  I did my usual walking and pacing as I was thinking.  Now, I don’t know how other preachers arrive at their messages, but me, I don’t know how to explain it, other than to say it just feels right.  I was doing all this thinking, and nothing felt right.    

Finally, I said, “OK, God, what are you thinking?”  And I thought I almost heard Him say, “Exactly!”  Excuse me?  What do you mean by “Exactly”?  Then it hit me, the Blueprint For A New You begins with A New Way Of Thinking!  And our passage for today comes from Romans 12:1-2.  Last week I shared it with you from The Message, but this week I want you to hear it from The Passion Translation:

1] Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvelous mercies?  I encourage you to surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices.  And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights his heart.  For this becomes your genuine expression of worship.

2] Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think.  This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.

How we think is more important than many may realize.  It influences our perceptions and our reactions—both positively and negatively.  And our thinking greatly shapes our daily actions.  How many times after we did something that defied common sense did we say, “What was I thinking?”  Anyone here other than me who has ever said that?  When Debbie and I got married, I wanted to use that country song as we walked the aisle.  She wouldn’t let me. 

Usually our own answer to that question is:  “I Wasn’t Thinking!”  Most of the time, this is probably true.  But open your minds to another possible answer.  Maybe, just sometimes the answer is:  “I was thinking the wrong way.”

Case in point is found in Mark 6 when Jesus had been teaching most of the day. This was supposed to be a day for just the Disciples and Jesus. But then the crowd showed up, ruining their plans.  This crowd had been there at least all afternoon long.  I don’t think the disciples had a table set up with snacks, coffee and water, so they had been there most of the day without eating.  The disciples know this, so in order to get their own time with Jesus, they tell Jesus, “The day is almost over.  These people need to eat.  Stop preaching and send them home.”  But their little ploy to keep Jesus to themselves quickly unravels.

Jesus tells them, “OK, they do need to eat, so YOU give them something to eat.”  Maybe Jesus doesn’t fully understand this situation.  Almost immediately they reached a rare consensus:  “It would take 8 months of our wages to buy that much bread.  You want us to do that?”  At first their thinking was:  “Send them home”, and their second thinking was, “It would take 8 months of wages to buy that much bread.”   The meaning of that statement is:  “We don’t have enough money to feed them.  So, let’s go back to our first statement:  Send them home!” 

But Jesus the Teacher is persistent, so He asks another question:  “Well, how many loaves do you have?”  There must have been a look of shock on their faces because Jesus added, “Well, go on and see!”  It seemed like Jesus wasn’t listening to them.  But they do what He says just to prove THEY are right.

They take a very quick inventory.  John’s Gospel says they found a young boy with a sack lunch.  They come back with their report:  “We have 5 loaves and 2 small fish.”  Obviously this is not enough, so they are probably back to their first way of thinking:  “OK Jesus, send them away.”  But Jesus Doesn’t See This Situation The Way They See It.  He tells them, “OK, everybody, I mean everybody have a seat.  We are going to have a picnic. Sit in groups of 50 or 100. Oh, and save the leftovers.”  Try to imagine, if you can, the look on the faces of the disciples.  5 loaves of bread?  2 small fish?  A picnic? 

Anyone with common sense would know this can’t feed all those people; 5000 men plus women and children.  I can just imagine Matthew, who knew how to work with numbers, thinking:  “Well this won’t take long.” 

But look at what happens.  Everyone eats until they are full, and then there are 12 baskets full of leftovers.  Their way of thinking said, “This isn’t enough.”  But Jesus’ way of thinking said, “Everyone sit down, the servers will bring your meal to you as quickly as they can.  And save all the leftovers!”

A New Way Of Thinking Begins When We See People And Situations The Way Jesus Sees Them.  And this will never happen in us until we have our minds transformed by God’s grace into the same mind of Jesus who told those disciples, “You give them something to eat.”  It happens when we allow Him to make us something altogether different.    It happens inside us when His Holy Spirit, is more than with us; But Living IN Us.  It’s all an inside job.  We can’t make it happen, but we can choose to allow it to happen by surrendering to God’s grace. 

Here’s the one thing you need to remember:  This Transformed Mind Is Where We Discover, Accept And Live In God’s Intended Design.  God has an Intended Design for your life.  It’s Called His Will.  That Will brings about His Purpose which is bringing people into a relationship with Him. 

The natural mind cannot see it no more that the natural minds of the disciples could see how to feed all those people.  But Jesus did feed them, and Jesus will use us when our minds have been transformed by the Jesus who wants to live in us.  Only with the transformed mind can we discover and live in God’s will. 

It’s that transformed mind that understands why we need His Intended Design.  It’s the renewed mind that understands 3 Unshakeable Truths that keep us Thinking In A New Way.

1.  God’s Will Is Good

God’s will is good because it is honorable.  Thinking A New Way understands that our everyday life can also be honorable.  We can show integrity and compassion in any situation.  It works from the desk of a CEO all the way to a simple ditch digger. 

Wherever you are, Thinking A New Way Means We Look For Ways To Express The Holiness And Majesty Of God; His Grace, Mercy, And His Unlimited Love To A World That Desperately Needs To See Him.  To say His Intended Design is good means that whatever it is He wants from us is the right thing.  This adds value, purpose, and the beauty to life.

2.  His Will Is Life As It Is Meant To Be.

Thinking A New Way means that we Look For Ways To Bring Our Daily Life Back Into Agreement With God’s Intended Design For Our Life.  Thinking A New Way Shows Us How To Live This Life In Such A Way That We Find A Passion Living God’s Way

It is pleasing to us, because it is the very life we have been created for—a life in deep intimate relationship with Him.  And it is pleasing to Him—who created us and who loves us enough to allow His Only Son to die on that Cross, just for us so that this horrible and destructive power of sin that was Defeated ON That Cross could be Defeated IN Our Life.

3.  This Life Moves Us Towards Perfection

God’s Intended Design is perfect because ultimately, it will make us perfect.  We’re not perfect yet, but Thinking A New Way means we know that Every Choice, Every Carefully Chosen Word, And Every Deliberate Act Can Take Us Closer To Or Further Away From That Total Perfection.  It all depends on YOUR chosen priority.  Thinking A New Way means We Live Our Life With A Clearly Defined Purpose—To Allow All The Life That Is Jesus, To Be Seen In Us And Through Us

God’s Great Desire is to finish the process of transformation that begins when we invite Jesus into our heart as Savior and as Lord.  Then we begin this journey to Become The Person Who God Intended For Us To Be All Along. Thinking A New Way can only happen when we offer Jesus both our heart and our mind.  Does this process of surrendering the mind really work?

Fast forward to Acts 3.  John and Peter are about to enter the Temple in Jerusalem.  A beggar stops them, asking for money.  They don’t have any money.  What will they do?  Do they start shouting, “Hey, this man needs money.  Will someone please step up and help this poor man out?”  That, my friends, would have been their old way of thinking. 

But now, thanks to the Holy Spirit, they have a new way of thinking.  Listen to verse 6:  Then Peter said, “I don’t have money, but I’ll give you this—by the power of the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk!”  A new way of thinking is all about knowing that Jesus isn’t just with you, but that He wants to be and can be IN you.

Here’s Your Next Step

Do Something This Week That Will Cause 2 Things In Your Life:

  1. Find a way to look and think a little more like Jesus each day. Maybe read the Bible more, pray more, start reading a book by a solid Christian writer–whatever works for you.
  2. Ask God to use you to show someone else that God loves and cares about them.