Step 7—Live With Focus!

You And You Alone Choose Where You Will Focus.

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This is the very last message in this series about how to become a water-walker.  So, let’s look at that passage one more time.  

25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” 27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”  28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”  29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.

Matthew 14:25-32 (NLT)

Let’s do our final review today.

  • Step 1—Get Out Of The Boat.  You will never walk with Jesus UNTIL you’re out of your boat.
  • Step 2—Have The Right Attitude.  There will be challenges —just remember Jesus is with you.
  • Step 3—Discover Your Gift.  This comes out of your giftedness and God gives all of us gifts.  Discover them.
  • Step 4—Use Leverage.  The leverage we use is our weaknesses against the Power of God.  
  • Step 5—Overcome The Fear.  The way to overcome fear is to Rehearse His presence.  Renew your mind.  And Refocus all your attention on Jesus.
  • Step 6—Know That It’s More Hazardous In The Boat Than It Is Risky On The Water.  Water-Walkers will not live in hazardous waste—but they will live in the Risks.

Now, we come to the last step in this series—Living With Focus.  And here is the one thing you need to remember:  You And You Alone Choose Where You Will Focus. It’s your choice.  Your Choice Has Implications Beyond Your Imaginations—Extending Even Into Eternity.

Now, we come to the last step in this series—Living With Focus.  And here is the one thing you need to remember:  You And You Alone Choose Where You Will Focus. It’s your choice.  Your Choice Has Implications Beyond Your Imaginations—Extending Even Into Eternity.

Now, we come to the last step in this series—Living With Focus.  And here is the one thing you need to remember:  You And You Alone Choose Where You Will Focus. It’s your choice.  Your Choice Has Implications Beyond Your Imaginations—Extending Even Into Eternity

Everybody has chosen a Focus—without exception.  Even those who you clearly see are living without a Focus.  Even those who admit their lives are not focused—They have chosen a Focus for their lives—it’s just in the wrong place.  Focus Plays Out Every Day, In Every Moment And Situation.

What happens when we Focus in the wrong place?  We see danger, trouble and problems.  And we open the door to uncontrolled, ferocious fear.  I’ve been saying all along, that water walking is risky business. 

But the only way we can grow in our faith is through taking risks, and risks always involve having the Right Focus because we’re stepping out of our comfort zones into new territory.

This is the way it was for Peter.  He’d been on this lake thousands of times.  But every time he was IN The Boat.  Now he is about to take a stroll ON the lake WITHOUT The Boat.  This is a new experience, a new adventure for Peter.  He has always been comfortable in the boat.  It was his livelihood.  So, Peter takes his leap of faith, and focuses on Jesus, who had just invited him to join him for a leisurely stroll on the water. 

And guess what, Peter actually walks on the water.  As long as Peter kept his Focus on Jesus, he didn’t sink.  But the moment his Focus changed—he immediately sank!

Unfortunately, some people choose to Focus only on the winds and the waves, and so they, like the others, stay in the boat.    Today, I want us to learn how to keep our Focus on Jesus, and thus continue the most exciting adventure ever; an adventure that fills the heart of God with indescribable joy. 

If you are one of those unfortunate people who have chosen to Focus on the negative that has saturated our culture and politics rather than the mission of God—Then Change Your Focus—And It Will Change The Way You See Your Life—And That Will Change Why You Live Your Life

To have be a Water-Walker, it takes the Right Focus.  When you are on the Water, Focus alone determines whether you walk or sink.  We know what happened when Peter’s Focus turned to the waves and the wind.  So let’s look at Peter’s Focus while he was Walking On The Water.  Let’s start with the easiest and most obvious:

1.  Focus On Jesus

When Peter accepted the Opportunity to Walk on Water, His Focus was on Jesus.  Water-Walkers Focus on Jesus.  Water Sinkers sink because they have Focused on the wind and waves—or they have chosen to Focus on the Jesus of their imagination and understanding.  To Focus On Jesus Requires Us To Focus On 3 Truths About Jesus:

Focus On His Nature—His nature is what always comes to the surface.  It’s the way He responds to us.  He responds to us out of and through His unmistakable love.

Focus On His Desires—His biggest desire is to see a different world filled with different people.  The way Jesus fills the world with different people is by Delivering captives—releasing prisoners—filling the hungry and empty with His Resurrection Presence.  Jesus intentionally redeems and restores His fallen image bearers.

Focus On His Character—His Character is that of A Warrior!  Gentle Jesus meek and mild doesn’t exist!  He was meek on the Cross—but He Is The Bold Warrior coming out of the Grave!  He’s not giving up or backing down.  The commitment He had on the Cross—the determination He had in that tomb—and the lengths He goes to get us to turn away from sin and the power of sin in us is His Character.  If we Focus On The True Character Of Jesus—then we will not stay in The Boat.  We will join Him on the Water.

2.  Focus On Your Purpose

Your Purpose Is To Be Involved With What Jesus Is Involved.  Jesus is involved in a lot of things—but it will always be found where people struggle—where people need encouragement.  Put it this way:  Jesus Is Involved With People.  Good people.  Bad people.  Ugly people.  Mean People.  Nice People.  Broken-Messed Up People.

True Water-Walkers accept, even at times with a bit of reluctance—that Real Disciples Of Jesus Are Focused On God’s Purpose For Their Lives.  Water-Walking Is Living In Confidence That Your Purpose Is Both Divinely Given And Worthwhile In Your Life.

God’s purpose for your life is important. Your role in the Kingdom of God is essential and significant.  Focus on Jesus and your life makes a difference in the world.  If You Don’t Believe That, Then You Are Not Focused On Your Purpose, Not Focused On Jesus And You’re Not Really Following Jesus.  When you say that you don’t have much if anything to offer—you’re saying God is lying.

3.  Focus On The Partnership

This is not something we do alone.  Remember what Peter said in the boat:  If it is you, Jesus, then invite me to join You.  It is impossible to sink when you partner with Jesus in your life.  Remember what we said about leverage:  God’s Strength Is Made Perfect Through AND In Our Weaknesses. 

The Partnership with God is simple—bring it all to Him and give to Him all of your weaknesses—all of your fear—all of your excuses about what you can’t do—then Accept From Him, His Strength.  This is what Partnership With God looks like.

The Story Of Every Person God Uses In The Bible Is The Story Of Focus.  Focus is what made Abraham leave his home.  Focus is what made Moses willing to challenge the Pharaoh.  Focus is what led Gideon into battle with only 300 soldiers against 10’s of thousands.  Focus is what drove the prophets to proclaim their message, even when it seemed no one was listening.  Focus is why Peter and the others stood up at the Feast of Pentecost to proclaim the Good News Of The Kingdom of God.  Focus is what led Paul into unknown territory—all the way to Rome.  Focus is what led people like Martin Luther, John Knox, John Wesley, Charles Finney, C.H. Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, A.W. Tozer to change their world.

If You Believe Or Even Think That This Culture We Live In Is Beyond Revival—Then You Are Not Focused On The Partnership.

The Bible often uses the term:  “losing heart.”  Losing Heart Is Just Another Way Of Saying Losing Your Focus.  It’s not what we’re capable of doing—it’s about what God wants to do through us. 

Whenever God calls you to get out of the boat, He gives you the power to walk on the water.  He never calls anyone to sink.  Water-Walking Is Not The Conviction That Something Will Turn Out Well, But The Certainty That Something Makes The Difference, Regardless Of How It Turns Out. 

Every person submits to some thing or some one who will be their source of authority.  That authority has control over your mind, heart and actions.  Authority defines your values and your ethics—that moral compass of what is right or wrong, good or bad. 

Who or what is the authority over your life?  Before you give the “I’m-in-church” answer, answer this question first:  “Where Is Your Focus?”  Focus Reveals Who Or What Gets Your Immediate And Primary Attention.

Focus Is About Your Definition Of Authority.  You Determine Who Or What Has Authority Over Your Life.  That source of authority demands your attention—and you will give your Focus to that Authority.  Authority is what influences your decisions.  Authority is where you look for answers and for guidance in the choices you make.  In The Boat, your Authority is the comfort of the familiar—playing it safe—choosing fear over adventure.

Focus defines and ultimately reveals your Primary Priority. Through Focus, we declare that God is real!  Through Focus, we remember that reality is more than what we can touch or see or hear.  It is about the God who is ALL power, ALL seeing, ALL knowing, ALL caring and loving.  Focus Is About Magnifying God—Enlarging Our Understanding Of Who He Is And How He Moves In And Through Our Lives. 

I’ve intentionally left Verse 33 in the reading each week.  The Spirit has been saving it for now.  Listen again to Verse 32 AND Verse 33—

32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

Matthew 14:32-33 (NLT)

There’s a word of tragedy in Verse 33—It’s The Word Of Missed Opportunity, Missed Moments, And Missing The Reason.  Figured out the word?  It’s the first word in that verse:  THEN!  Not during the moment—just THEN.

I’ve heard teachers, preachers and people say, “The rest of the disciples finally understand Jesus, praise God!”  Well…I’m going to burst some bubbles this morning.  They did NOT understand Jesus.  They did not acknowledge Jesus until He stopped the Wind.  Jesus isn’t just the one who controls the wind—He’s The One In Complete Control IN The Storm.

I always try to give you something to try each week.  That’s why I call them Your Next Steps.  I always try to find some Step that will help you put the Scriptures we looked at into some tangible act or decision on your part.

Today’s Next Step is more important than any other Next Step I’ve challenged you with.  How important?  I’m glad you asked.  Here’s how important this Next Step is—Your Future, The Future Of Your Families, The Future Of Your Friends, The Future Of This Place Will Begin To Change—For The Better If You Take It—Or It May Take A Change For The Worse If You Don’t.

It is never too late—and you are never too old to make choices that will become positive changes—in your family, with your friends, in the community—and especially in the Kingdom of God.

If you trust God, make your choice to do this Next Step to see the future change—for you and for others:

If you trust God, make your choice to do these Next Step to see the future change—for you and for others:

  1. You Can Choose To Focus In The Boat. 
  2. Or You Can Choose To Focus On Jesus.

Your choice–and as the Knight said in the movie Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, “Choose wisely.”

If We Could Just Get Rid Of……

They have sold their spiritual birthright for a bowl of political party.

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Like a geyser spewing the contents from a septic tank. Like an active volcano of toxic waste. Like a tornado of ignorance. Like a hurricane of thoughtless thoughts. Like a tsunami of stupidity. All happening simultaneously at the same location.

This is more than how I would describe our nation–it is the daily, 24/7 365 days of the year reality of our nation. My choice of words does not make this true about this nation. Simply put (and I realize what a difficult time many have with the “simple”), it is the Truth about the good old U.S. of A.

It’s why I rarely watch the news. I neither want to be affected or infected by this virulent, noxious, venomous, baneful, pernicious, ruinous, pestiferous, nefarious. . .(trying to think of a word that can be said by children). . .mindset that is eroding our culture. And it seems to me at least, that no one wants to stop it.

This mindset I’m talking about is this title: “If we could just get rid of…… then our problems would be solved.” Get rid of Trump. Get rid of McConnell. Get rid of Pelosi. Get rid of Omar. Get rid of AOC. Get the Republicans out of office. Get the Democrats out of office. More and more malodorous anger, hate and bitterness–towards another person.

Look, I know each of these persons I mentioned (and a whole lot more) have and continue to contribute to this nidorous mess that is undermining the hearts of minds of…..people. It is easy, too easy, to lay the blame at the feet of this person or that person; of this group or that group. But that is not the source of our problems–it’s just the symptoms of what’s gone tragically wrong.

The Blame, as it is, lies at the feet of 3 Groups. These groups are NOT, I REPEAT, NOT Democrat, Republican, and Socialist. Here they are:

1. Accept The Lies

This group of people have accepted leadership that freely espouses lies in the garments of truth. They never demand their leaders to be truthful. They have resigned that leaders lie and that’s just the way it is. In his powerful book How Do You Kill Eleven Million People?, Andy Andrews gives the right answer: You lie. For liars to rule, they have to be empowered by those who are willing to be led by liars. This includes those who vote for them; as well as those who do not vote at all.

2. Don’t Think For Yourself

This group rarely, if ever, takes the time and energy to analyze what is being purported as Truth. They simply hear someone that speaks to their feelings and accept it as truth. They allow the polls, the newscasters, the news networks (even local) to determine who needs to be elected to leadership. And then those elected leaders, present falsehood as truth, so the lemmings believe them. They have sold their spiritual birthright for a bowl of political party. Careful thought and analysis requires time and energy. Above all, it requires us to entertain the thought that we may be wrong; then work to see if we are wrong.

3. The Surrendered & Resigned

This group is just what the title says: They Have Surrendered And They Have Resigned Themselves That It Is What It Is. There really is no sense of despair in most of the folks in this group; a few feel despair but not the majority. They simply have no hope for real change. They have accepted that the mush they are being fed is their only choice. And for those in this group who attend church? “Come, Lord Jesus and end this mess so I can live happily ever after in Your Presence.”

So, how can this mess be transformed into The Message of Hope? It’s simple–really simple. Start with yourself. Become a person of Truth. This means that you allow The Truth to change YOU before you accuse others of lying. Do not accept leaders who lie. Demand from your leaders truthfulness. And when elections come around, don’t let another person or group tell you how you need to vote. Find that honest woman or man and encourage others to vote for them, too.

And don’t fall into the trap, “Well, politics just takes an honest person and makes them dishonest.” If a politician is dishonest while serving in office, it simply means they were dishonest BEFORE they were elected. Break this cycle of lunacy and madness. Claim your spiritual birthright as a part of the Movement that changes everything, even politics. Oh, this Movement is called “The Kingdom of God”!

Drout!

Are you looking at the title, scratching your head wondering, “Doesn’t this guy know how to spell?” Ile hav u no that huked on fonics wurked for me!

No, let’s get serious. “Drout” is how the dictionary says we are to pronounce “drought”. Here in West Alabama we are in a rainfall drought. It’s been at least 4 weeks since it has rained. The dust and the pollen have really agitated and aggravated these sinuses of mine. Late Tuesday afternoon I was outside looking around when I felt a slight sprinkle. Heck, that wasn’t enough for me to remember my baptism–and I’m a Methodist!

But this word drought moved me to thinking–not about the lack of rainfall–but a more critical drought crisis going on in my culture. I found this “other” definition of drought:

a prolonged or chronic shortage or lack of something expected or desired

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

My culture is in a prolonged AND chronic drought–and the evidence is everywhere. Here are some of the things I see that our culture is in severe lack of. Feel free to add to my list in the comments section.

  • Common Sense
  • Truthfulness
  • Kindness
  • Honesty
  • Jesus-Centered Ethics
  • Accepting Personal Responsibility
  • Determination
  • Inner-Peace
  • Joy
  • Contentment
  • Purpose
  • Hope
  • Forgiveness
  • Respect
  • Integrity
  • (Add your insight to the list in the comments section below)

I think perhaps the following image says something about our culture:

And here’s what irks me, aggravates me, exasperates me, irritates me, annoys me, drives me crazy, makes me want to grab a person by their shoulders and shake them: No one wants to do anything about this drought–other than whine, complain and blame; oh more thing, and live oblivious to the damage it is doing to themselves and their culture.

I’m beginning to understand that bumper sticker I see from time to time: The more I see of people, the better I love my horse! So how do I change it? How do YOU change it? Because if we are not seeking to eradicate this drought we are only contributing to it, AND reinforcing it.

The quick and easy answer is “Pray!” But I want you, our culture needs you and God desires FOR you to go deeper. Yes, pray, but What next? You cannot say, “Well, yes our culture is in a drought but I’m doing my part–I’m praying for rain! Come Holy Spirit and rain the grace of God all over this land!” If all you are doing to end this drought is praying–my friends, I say this with nothing but love in my heart for you: “You are only adding to the drought!” Don’t read what’s NOT written. I didn’t say prayer wasn’t important; It Is VERY Important. But. . .What’s Next?

Last night I read a book that is giving me insights in What’s Next. It will only take you one evening, one morning, one afternoon to read it. The book is How Do You Kill 11 Million People? Why The Truth Matters More Than You Think by Andy Andrews. To end this Moral/Spiritual Drought begins with me. . .and you. . .to pray and then to do What’s Next. You and I have a mission and a purpose–to bring Truth back into our culture in ways that helps others see The Truth! And The Truth has a name–Jesus!

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

Today I Choose. . .Choices!

There is always a choice–even when you don’t make a choice–that is still a choice born out of cowardice–the choice to be less than you could have been.

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Today, I choose to make choices. Makes sense to me. I mean, this thread could go on and on, ad nauseam. Unless one completely void of basic common sense (and I hate to admit it, but it seems there are a lot who are void of basic common sense–sorry for the snarky–it’s one of my gifts)–every realizes that there are always choices. Every thing, every situation, every issue–they give us a choice.

I know there are some who disagree with me because they believe the lie. We live in a culture where there are a myriad of excuses that proclaim “We have choices!” Thus, people are put in shackles and chains forced to be prisoners. Some feel they are prisoners of their circumstances. Someone mistreated them. Another took advantage of them. Yet another was cruel. “He” got the promotion. “She” received the credit. “They” got the reward. OK, so they are things that happen beyond your control–things happened that we uninfluenced by you and your wishes. OK, I’ll say it: “Life Is Unfair!”

(Image from smartegies.com

Guess what, buttercup? (Oops, the gift of snarky comes out, again!) Life IS unfair. And recognition of this truth does not, I repeat, DOES NOT make you its prisoner. It simply recognizes the truth so that you can form your chosen response. And your response comes out of your Perspective! (Thanks again, Andy Andrews!) Your perspective will be either to surrender to fate or rise above your circumstances. And that perspective determines your Choice!

Some feel they have no choice because of their feelings. How they feel rules their life. It is true that our feelings do have an effect on us. The real issue is “Do those feelings control your life?” If feelings do control your life, then you resign to the lie that you are a prisoner to feelings. While they may NOT have a choice on how they “feel”–they do have a choice on what to do with those feelings. While the issue of “feelings” creates a cauldron of debate in the arena of sexuality, feelings go beyond who you want to have sex with or your gender. Feelings can also be about fear, worthlessness, despair, depression and the list goes on. Feelings is a cruel and harsh master, hell-bent on making you miserable. Feelings will make you miserable–if you make the choice to live by your feelings.

Life is a matter of choices–whether those choices are about personal preferences, how we react towards others, when things happen that our beyond our control–yes, even our feelings–there is always a choice. There is always a choice–because it involves a commitment to what we believe is true and best.

Choices are made from within our values–of right and wrong–of what honors God and dishonors God–of what reflects His glory and what contradicts His glory. You alone, have the choice to determine who or what has control of your life–and ultimately your destiny. YOU alone determine the values in your life. Blame the movies, blame the Democrats, blame the Republicans, blame your parents, blame Round-Up®, blame the hernia mesh repair company, blame the church, blame ____________ (fill in the blank with who you blame)–it is your choice to be their prisoner.

Jesus didn’t vacate Heaven and enter the womb of Mary as a fertilized egg just so you can feel justified about being a prisoner. He came to deliver and set you free from everything that is keeping you from charting your future to become the person God created. God offers you that Perspective that is different from–at odds with–the world around you.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message)

There is always a choice–even when you don’t make a choice–that is still a choice born out of cowardice–the choice to be less than you could have been. So Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

(Image from success.com)

How To Be A Water-Walker: Step 6—Know The Hazards Of Staying In The Boat!

Today and next week wraps up this series.  I’m concerned some of you may be getting seasick from all those waves.  But let’s listen to the story one more time:  Matthew 14:25-32 (NLT)

25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified.  In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once.  “Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “Take courage.  I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”  29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 

30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink.  “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.  31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said.  “Why did you doubt me?”

32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.

I’ve thrown out a lot of things so far, and I hope you’ve been keeping the sermon notes pages every week.  But, bear with me as I go over the steps we’ve seen so far in becoming a Water-Walker.

Step 1—Get Out Of The Boat.  To journey through life with Jesus, you have to get out of the boat.  You will never walk with Jesus UNTIL you’re out of that boat.

Step 2—Have The Right Attitude.  The right attitude is to accept that there will be challenges as we walk on the water with Jesus.

Step 3—Discover Your Gift.  Walking on water comes out of your giftedness and God gives all of us gifts.  It’s up to us to discover them.

Step 4—Use Leverage.  The leverage we use is our weaknesses against the Power of God.  Water-Walking was out of Peter’s wheelhouse, and it’s out of ours.

Step 5—Overcome The Fear.  Fear is that demon the keeps us from living the life God gives us.  The way to overcome fear is to Rehearse His presence.  Renew your mind.  And Refocus your attention on Jesus.

I’ve said that no message in this series is more important than any other.  But then I did say that Step 3—Discovering Your Gift, was the pivotal message because without the Gift we never leave the boat.  Well, today’s message isn’t any more important than the others—and I can’t call it pivotal.  Today’s Message is Mission Critical.

Mission-Critical is a term that comes from the business world.  Mission-Critical is a task, service, or system that if it failed or was disrupted, an entire operation or business to grind to a halt.  It is required to continuing operations.

Today’s one thing you need to remember fits this definition—it is Mission Critical:  It Is Risky To Walk On Water But It’s Costly To Stay In The Boat. 

Anytime a gift is given, the recipient must choose to respond to the gift in 2 ways.  The first way says, “This gift is so valuable it can’t be risked.”  It’s like keeping china in the cabinet, afraid to use it.  Those who follow this way believe that when the gift is brought out into the open, things may not always go well.  The gift may not be appreciated; or it may even get broken.  Taking the gift out of the box is always a risk.

The second way says, “This gift is so valuable it must be risked.”  Those who follow this way understand that if the gift is not brought out of the box, it will never be used at all.  To leave the gift in the box is to thwart the desire of the giver.  There is no tragedy like the tragedy of the unopened gift. 

Remember God Has Given You A Gift.  All that time in high school I thought knowing Verb Tense was a waste of time.  I’m using the Past Tense Form.  Past tense means that it’s already happened. God Has Given you a gift and with that gift He’s given you a choice—to take the gift out of the box and use it.  Or leave it unopened, unused in your life.

Peter put it out there—the possibility of becoming a Water-WalkerIf it’s you, call me to you!  Peter chose the second way.  Peter didn’t ask for a guarantee that he would walk, just the opportunity.  Peter took the Risk.

The ones who stayed in the boat chose the first way of accepting a gift.  They did not want to risk brokenness or failure.  They valued safety over growth.  The ultimate adventure in faith was something they were content to watch from the sidelines.  The Ones In The Boat Didn’t Want To Be Passed By, Just Passed Up

They were afraid of the Risk of stepping out of the boat, but they were oblivious to the cost of staying in a boat.  Here’s the tragedy of the unopened gift: 

It Is To Have Lived Your Life Waiting For Life To Begin; Thinking Life Is Somewhere Off In The Future.  It Is Mission Critical Now For You To Take The Risk Of Getting Out Of Your Boat

Think about the Risks those first disciples took in following Jesus and the Kingdom after Pentecost.  They risked alienation, torture and death.  They knew it might well be uncomfortable following Jesus.  But it was a choice they would make again and again and again. 

How, then did we get the idea that following Jesus is meant to be comfortable.  People In The Boat Represent All Who Ask For A Promise, But Not A Call; Who Seek A Guarantee But Not A Mission. 

There will always be that element of Risk in stepping out of the boat to follow Jesus.  But…there are even great hazards by staying in the boat.  Most people when faced with the choice of stepping out of the boat or not base their decision on the risks that are outside the boat. 

But they never consider the hazards of staying in the boat.  Well, we’ve talked about the fears of walking on the water—but we need to look carefully at the hazards of staying in the boat.  There are 3 Hazards of staying in the boat.    

1.  The Danger Of Following A Counterfeit Jesus.

The Real Jesus offers you the forgiveness of your sins—a brand new heart—a life with divine purpose—His Living Presence—and Eternal Life—all as His Gift to us.  But it comes with a price.  WE have to surrender completely to Him.  All sense of self-efforts—surrendered.  Living by your feelings—gone.  It’s the choice to die to self—daily and moment by moment.

The Counterfeit Jesus offers you none of that.  In fact, Counterfeit Jesus insists that you keep your ego—your selfishness—your feelings.  The Counterfeit Jesus wants you to focus on how you feel and that what you believe is Truth—regardless of any other Authority.  You alone, can determine what is Truth—what is right—what is wrong.

The Counterfeit Jesus promises you Comfort.  He releases you from accountability for you choices and actions.  In The Boat is where you find this Counterfeit Jesus.  Redemption without turning away from sin.  Power without using it for the benefit of others.

The Danger is that we create the delusion of security and open the way to an implosion of self, family, community and culture.

All of us give our lives to something.  Between this day and your last day, you will give yourself to something.  The only question is: What Will You Give Your Life To?  Will It Be Worthy?  Giving your life to the Counterfeit Jesus undermines the true you.  The second hazard is this:

2.  The Perils Of A Meaningless Life.

The meaning of life In The Boat is about Self Preservation and Self Protection.  It’s that age old question of “What’s In It For Me?”  The more we think of Life as being something that is All About Us, the less meaning life has For Us.  We miss the real purpose and meaning of life.

The Boat keeps us focused inwardly, never outwardly.  Focused inwardly we make ourselves the center of the universe—where dreams become nightmares—where vision becomes darkness—where hope is crushed like a bug.  Life is meaningless in the Boat.  Why?  Because Jesus isn’t there.  We are left to self-destruct—and lose all the power—all the wonder—all the beauty of life as it is meant to be lived.  The third hazard is worst:

3.  The Menace Of A Corrupted Heart.

It doesn’t matter how good we think we are—the truth is our heart is corrupted.  Why did you think Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again—born from above.  At the very core of everyone—that includes me and you—is the DNA of Adam and Eve—whose heart wanted more than God—they wanted to BE God.

The Corrupted Heart wants to use God for their desires rather than for God to use them for His Desires.  The Corrupted heart sees moments for self-advancement, not for the greater purpose of the Kingdom of God.  The Corrupted Heart uses and misuses people for their own self-gain.

The Corrupted Heart keeps us away from God’s Grace.  The Corrupted Heart leads us into an eternity without our Loving Father—without the One who loves us the most.

Our lives are not about self-preservation and fulfillment, but are to be acts of stewardship.  Your life, what you do with what God have given you, is a matter of supreme importance.  

Use your imagination this morning:  Image your life is over.  You’re ushered into a small room with 2 chairs, one for you and one for God.  There’s a DVD player and TV, and God puts in a disc that has your name, and this title:  What Your Life Might Have Been.  Imagine watching all that God might have done with your life if you had let him. 

You Have No Idea What Your Potential Is—Until You Realize It Is Far More Hazardous In The Boat, Than It Is Risky On The Water.  The Boat will create Hazardous Waste in your life.  This waste prevents you from the Life God has purposely designed just for you.

Your Next Step:

Get Rid Of The Hazardous Waste In Your Life So That God Can Fill Your Life With His Life.  The Hazardous waste is found in the things you are clinging to—rather than walking on the water with Jesus.  What Are You Clinging To

  • The good old days?
  • Fear?
  • Doubt?
  • Guilt?
  • Imaginary guilt? (Guilt he’s already taken away)
  • Personal comfort?
  • “Come back Jesus and end all this mess”?

Is your life meaningless?  Has the restlessness of your heart brought you to the realization that what you have isn’t an empty heart, but a corrupted heart?  If so, then get out of The Boat.  You were not made for the boat—you are made to walk with Jesus.

I Choose To Be Calm

Pic from http://www.ohtobecalm.com

Well, this morning I was going to choose a different choice. But the Spirit reminded me that choice would require me to interact with a lot of people. I’m not because it’s Football Saturday. THE University of Alabama kickoff time is 11:00 a.m. and I must see them. So. . .since it’s Football Saturday at our home, the Spirit whispered, “Why not make the choice to be calm?”

Well, that would be a challenge for me today. You see, I get excited, I mean really excited watching Bama Football. If you are one of those unfortunate souls unfamiliar with the Battle Cry “Roll Tide Roll”, they are a really good team, I mean really good. However. . .when they don’t operate at perfect efficiency–meaning no mistakes–I tend to get a little upset. . .OK, I yell at the TV. There! Happy Now? So, today I choose to be calm.

More than a football game, calmness is essential for life on this circling orb called Earth. Yet the nature of this circling orb produces everything but calm. Global war on terrorism. Human violence. The Middle East. Disasters. The News Networks. The Politics of the Democrats AND Republicans–Oy! Oy! Oy! These alone are enough to make “calm” a rare commodity. But then add personal struggles to the mix. . .it’s that song from the old Hee-Haw show: “Gloom, despair, and agony on me. Deep dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair and agony on me.”

If you ask the average Joe on the street, “Are you calm?”, they would probably look at you like you’re crazy, shake their head in disbelief that you would ask such a question, and walk on. But. . .today my choice is to be calm. And I will be calm–oh, it won’t be easy–but it will be possible.

It hit me this morning–why there is such an absence of calm in our culture. I’m surprised I haven’t noticed it before now–because it is so obvious. People based calmness on their physical circumstances–and that is a basis that will fail you. Without a deep relationship with God, calmness will be even more illusive than the winning Powerball lottery numbers.

There is nothing in this fallen orb that can produce lasting calm in our hearts and minds. There may be some things that provide a temporary relief–but lasting calm? Nope, nothing at all. As good as my Crimson Tide is, they are not perfect. Any given Saturday they are subject to defeat. Watch the world and expect to find calm and your heart and mild will scream, “Danger! Will Robinson! Danger!”

So is the idea of calm just another illusion, an empty pipe dream? Not at all. It comes down to a choice, THE choice to remain calm. Calmness is the result of your choice. Always had been. Always will. If this dysfunctional orb cannot provide calm, how can it be that we have a choice? I’m so glad you asked me that question. I know the answer.

“Be still, and know that I am God!
    I will be honored by every nation.
    I will be honored throughout the world.”

Psalm 46:10 (NLT)

You’ve heard it said many times, “You cannot control your circumstances but you can control your response.” My choice today is to remember the HE is God, and I am not–thus, I will be calm. Panic, fear, despair and dread–all this and much more are the consequences of forgetting WE are NOT God–but HE is! This kind of calm doesn’t happen automatically. It is the fruit of living in THE Relationship God offers us in Jesus Christ. Calm is our way of saying to God, “I know what my physical eyes see and my natural mind wants me to panic. But, I also see You, Abba! Poppa! I know You are Faithful and Loving. You sent Jesus to die on the Cross for me. My choice must be to be Calm. I trust You in the moment and I rely on You for Your strength.” Calmness comes from our roots–not from the surface.

Calm isn’t the result of your physical nor your emotional circumstances. Calm IS the result of surrendering yourself completely to God. So. . .Love God with all your heart. Love others the way HE loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM! And a personal reminder for myself:

American Evangelical Church Buildings & The Exclusion of the Homeless

This is worth sharing. It stings, but the Truth does sting us when we’ve missed the point of following Jesus. Church buildings have become The Golden Calf in the wilderness. If you did not catch the cross-reference, dig a bit more in the Old Testament…

Éclipsé par la Gloire

Lack of distinction between “church” and The Church has led to the idolization of a building and the exclusion of homeless persons within the American Evangelical Christian Church. When the true definition of The Church is understood, Evangelical Christians will seek to abide in Christ and thus include the homeless in sacrificial living that is unrestricted by church walls upholding a technical society.

The definition of the Church has been reduced and distorted to mean a church building within the American Evangelical church. Scripture defines The Church, however, as the Body of Christ. Colossians 1:18 says of Christ, He is the head of the body, the church.” A conceptual rather than literal interpretation of this Truth has allowed for “church” to be loosely applied to specific entities that The Church may utilize, such as a building or the specific Sunday gathering that occurs for just a few hours on…

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I Choose Persistence

I need to make this choice today (and every day after today) is because in our culture, Persistence is a rare commodity.

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(Picture from lionessesofafrica.com)

Tuesday I made my choice to be joyful. Wednesday I chose to be joyful and hopeful. Yesterday my choice was to be joyful, hopeful and focused. Was I 100% true to my choices? Honestly? Not 100%. . .but I was close to 90% true. Maybe it was that steroid shot I got at the doctor’s office for this hacking cough and sore throat that got me to 90%. But I was focused–so I’ve got that going for me. And you can have that going for you, too. Situations and circumstances can change your choices. . .IF you allow them to do that. Choices are within your realm. Even if you don’t make a choice, THAT is your choice. Geez, I’m sound more like Andy Andrews every day. . .but that’s not a bad thing.

So, on this Friday. . .what some call T.G.I.F. . . .My choice is Persistence. Today I will be joyful, hopeful, focused and persistent. You could say I will be persistently joyful. . . persistently hopeful . . . persistently focused . . . and persistently Persistent.

Persistence is a much needed quality in my Walk with Jesus. Life is filled with interruptions, obstacles, difficulties and then throw in the frequent visits of Murphy’s Law. Those who say Walking With Jesus is Easy Peasy all the time–well. . .they haven’t been walking with the Real Jesus. Without Persistence I will never see and never know what it means to live in and be a part of the Epic Saga known as The Kingdom Of God. Another reason I need to make this choice today (and every day after today) is because in our culture, Persistence is a rare commodity.

Now, I can choose to complain, whine and b…., almost let a bad word slip, about the lack of Persistence OR I can choose to be an example of Persistence. Choices made, every Choice we make has an outcome that is given birth with the Choice. Consider the outcome of each choice. . .and the outcomes are really obvious.

If I choose to complain that rather than persist, our culture quits, whines, plays the victim card, and says they are being disenfranchised. . .what has changed? The only thing changed is NOTHING. The result is I become angry, frustrated and agitated. And know what? These generations of quitters, whiners, and overly sensitive souls will continue to be quitters, whiners and overly sensitive souls. And I become either an angry man or a despondent man. In my book, neither suits me. . . and I know it doesn’t please Abba, Poppa.

But if my choice is to be Persistent, two things will happen. One thing is that I will achieve my goal. . .I will succeed at finishing a task. . .I will not be defeated by any obstacle. The other thing? Maybe, just maybe someone in this aimless culture of consistent quitters will notice my Persistence. Maybe it will make them curious about me. If they are curious about me and my Persistence, there’s a good probability they will, at the very least, THINK about quitting being a quitter.

Who knows, maybe it will even open up a conversation about that strange thing called Persistence! Then things will begin to be different, not the same. If 2 of us are Persistent then we can reach maybe 2 more quitters who engage us in open conversation and they decide to be Persistent. Now we have 4 of us who are Persistent. And maybe the 4 of us becomes 8. . .then 16. . .then 32. . .get the point now?

So today my choice is Persistence. Seems like a good choice to add to the others. . .don’t you think? Oh. . .one other thing: Persistently love God with all your heart. Persistently love others the way Jesus loves you. And Persistently make sure all the glory goes to Him. . .Persist!

I Choose Focus

Even when “we” say we aren’t focused. . .reality is we are focused on NOT being focused.

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(Photo from medium.com)

Tuesday I chose to be joyful. Yesterday I chose to be hopeful. Early this morning as God and I were talking, He reminded me that those 2 choices need to be made everyday, all day long. So at 4:45 a.m., reflecting on what I would write this morning, here is what I said. “Today I choose to be joyful. Today I choose to be hopeful.” Now, what do I add to these two? OK, here it is: “Today I choose to be focused.”

OK, OK, what’s the big deal? What’s the difference? People, that includes you and me, are focused every day. Even when “we” say we aren’t focused. . .reality is we are focused on NOT being focused. Not being focused IS a choice of focus. I’ll leave this thought for another blog.

Today, I will choose, carefully choose I might add, the objects of my focus. It is going to look something like this:

  1. I will focus on my relationship with Abba, Poppa.
  2. I will focus on maintaining a pure heart, for HIM.
  3. I will focus on Defining Moments that will take me deeper in Him.
  4. I will focus on on those Divinely Engineered Moments HE prepared so that I can have even a small part in the work HE is doing in the hearts and lives of others, even those who in the moment annoy me.
  5. I will focus on people who show kindness, and express to them my personal appreciation.
  6. In short: I choose today to Focus On The Kingdom Of God.

Deliberate, laser beam focus is the choice I make today. . .along with being joyful and hopeful, I choose to focus on The Kingdom Of God. This means I look for His Kingdom in the expected places. . .but most of all in those UNEXPECTED places. . .ESPECIALLY in those UNEXPECTED places. Whoever would have thought that God’s Kingdom, and His Glory would have been found on a Roman cross? Jesus did.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed (by the way this is the definition of focus)—that exhilarating finish in and with God—He could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now He’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God

Hebrews 12:2 (The Message)

Today I choose to be joyful, hopeful, and focused. Will you join me in this? I pray so. And remember. . .Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him.