Step 7—Live With Focus!

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……

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!

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

(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

(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.

I Choose To Be Hopeful

(Picture from doinggreatbaby.com)

Yesterday’s post got me to thinking this morning. Please, no comments from the peanut gallery about me thinking. I need to focus on my choices, so I will attempt to write something about my “Choice Of The Day”. I blame Andy Andrews for this. I’ve been going back through my Kindle and reading some of his books I read several years ago. And my mind is rumbling because….well….truthfully….OK, I haven’t given enough thought and reflection on this radical idea of “choices”.

Today my choice is to be HOPEFUL! I’ve chosen HOPEFUL today because if I listen to the skeptics (they are all around us and some of them operate news networks) I need to renew my passport and seek asylum in Australia or New Zealand. I’ve been “sick and tired and tired and sick” about the culture around me. Well, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. But that’s not the right choice. I need, and maybe YOU need, a different choice.

Today I choose to be hopeful–hopeful that the wisdom of eternity breaks in on the mindless chatter around me. Hopeful that world peace begins when I am at peace with people. Hopeful that a person’s moment, maybe even their life, will change because of something I do or say. Hopeful that I will act like Jesus in the circumstances that happen to me today, rather than reacting. Hopeful that amidst the toxic waste oozing throughout our culture, that oozing waste that smells something like a combination of raw sewage, paper mills, and chicken houses will begin to recede and go back to hell, where it came from.

Today I choose to be hopeful that in the darkness of our times, the glory of God’s Kingdom will break through…and it will. Not because of me. No mam! But because that’s what the Kingdom of God does–it breaks in, breaks down, breaks through the darkness around us. I choose to be hopeful today.

Remember what Paul said:

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

Who knows, maybe this choice I make today will change the direction of our culture. I know it will change the direction of my life. And remember…Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the Glory goes to HIM! Oh…choose to be hopeful…

Misery Or Joy-Your Choice

Yesterday I had a lunch meeting with a brother and close friend. We were talking about a mission we are both passionate about: Disaster Response! We live a considerable distance apart, so I chose for us to meet in Russellville, about half way between us. I also chose to ride because…well you need to be a biker to understand.

There are few earthly things that compare to riding in the open air on a bike–the smell of fresh cut grass, the coolness of passing through a hollow (or hollar if you are from the South), in season smell of honeysuckles. But yesterday…well, it was 98 degrees plus and there was the occasional smell of road kill baking in the hot sun…and then the smell of commercial chicken houses. I could have (notice I said “could have”) complained–but I made a choice. I made this choice before I fired her up. I made the choice to enjoy the ride.

And do you know what? I had a blast! Sure, there were some unpleasant aromas wafting about. So what? I wasn’t seeing God’s beautiful creation from the inside of an air-conditioned car. Nope! I was in the middle of God’s beautiful creation–and the wind in my face reminded me that the wind of the Holy Spirit was all around me–and I was getting to breath it all in.

But…you knew there was going to be a “but”…I’m reflecting now on our current culture. One of the way too often seen characteristics of this culture is the ability to WHINE! I can think of a number of people I know who would have experienced that ride yesterday with much disdain. The wafting aroma of road kill and chicken houses…the heat…well at the end of the ride that would have been their closing remarks…and they would have been in misery.

Look, misery is a choice that YOU can make! But…so is Joy! In Luke 7, verses 31 through 35 Jesus described the culture around Him at that moment…and it is an on target description of today’s culture. He said they were like this bunch of kids trying to play. One side wanted to play
“wedding” but the others didn’t join in. They wanted to play “funeral”…so they whined and bickered AT each other.

Living in misery…or…living in joy…it is your choice. It is the choice you make BEFORE anything happens. Before the ride began, I chose joy and it was a joyful thing in me; even with the unpleasant aromas and searing heat. Because of my choice to be joyful, my heart looked for, leaned into, ALL the many reasons I have to be joyful. The unpleasantness of a few things were not able to dispel the joy! Why? Simply because I chose JOY!

Some who read this may think, “Look, it’s not all that simple!” My response comes from something I learned and am continuing to learn from writer and speaker Andy Andrews. It’s not all that complicated, either! I have a choice–to be miserable or to be joyful; it’s a choice to make BEFORE my day begins…and it’s the choice I make throughout the day. (For more on Andy Andrews, visit his website www.andyandrews.com)

You have a choice–at the beginning of each time–in every situation and circumstance–Misery…or…Joy! What’s your choice?

Step 5: Water Walkers Overcome The Fear

Today we are going to talk about the elephant in the room.  It’s the one thing that was in The Boat that we haven’t focused on.  Without exception, every person in The Boat had this because The Boat was full of it.  I’m sure you know what it was, so let’s look again at our story for this series from 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.

What would you guess would be the most common command in Scripture?  It is not to be more loving.  That is at the core of God’s desire for us, but that is not His most frequent command.

It is not about don’t worship other gods, even though He wants our undivided devotion.  The single command that occurs most often is this:  Don’t Be Afraid!  We are all probably familiar with FDR’s famous quote after Dec. 7, 1941:  “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.  It was actually a paraphrase from a much earlier quote by Henry David Thoreau:  “Nothing is so much to be feared as fear.”

If you can remember only 1 thing from today’s message, it is critical that you remember this: 

Fear Is The Demon That Keeps You From The Life God Is Giving To You. 

Life inside the boat isn’t the normal life for a follower of Jesus.  Water-Walking isn’t for the elite or the few.  It’s the life that God gives to every Disciple, every Follower of Jesus.

When Jesus came in human flesh, it was an all-out Declaration Of War against the Evil One who took control of God’s Image Bearers by deception.  And in This War, and it is a War, God has chosen to recruit those who will engage The Enemy.  His recruits?  His Image Bearers!  That’s Us!  And the way to engage in this Spiritual War is to get out of the boat.  But…

Fear is the number 1 reason why people refuse to get out of the boat.  So we need this command all the time.  Lloyd Ogilvie notes there are 366 “fear not” verses in the KJV Bible—1 for every day of the year, including one for leap year. 

Now these disciples experienced fear twice—first in the face of the storm, and then in the face of Jesus walking on the water.  Peter faced fear a third time, when he turned his attention back on the storm. 

Fear disrupts faith and becomes the biggest obstacle to trusting and obeying God.  Fear will sink us faster than anything else, even the threat of death.

Why does God command us not to be afraid?  Fear doesn’t seem like the most serious vice in the world.  It never made the list of the 7 Deadly Sins.  No one ever receives church discipline for being afraid.  So why does God tell us to stop being afraid more often than he tells us anything else? 

I strongly suspect that the reason isn’t that God wants to spare us emotional discomfort.  In fact, He usually He says it when He wants people to do something that will lead them into greater fear.  I think God says, “Don’t be afraid” so often because fear is the Number 1 reason human beings are tempted to avoid doing what God asks them to do.

At its simplest form, fear is an internal warning cry that danger is nearby and we had better do something about it.  It motivates us to take action and remove ourselves from whatever is threatening us.  Fear can be a good thing—it keeps us from stepping out into heavy traffic, or touching live electrical lines.  I’m not talking about that kind of fear.  I’m talking about the fear that makes our spirit a prisoner and keeps us from the design God has for our lives. 

It is the kind of fear that hurts us by keeping us from trusting God.  Trust and fear have been battling each other for the human heart—and your heart—for a long time.  Eventually one or the other will win. 

Think about your life.  Where is Jesus calling you to jump to Him with reckless abandon?  And at this very moment, which is winning the battle?  Where are you?  In or out?  When we allow fear to win the battle, the losses are high.  First of all, let’s look at what you lose when fear wins out over trust.

1.  There Is The Loss Of Worth!

Why are so many people who claim the name of Christ lack that sense of self-worth when we have every reason to have that sense of self-worth?  When you face a difficult situation, do you approach it, take action, and face it head on; or do you avoid it, wimp out, and run and hide?  The Enemy want us to take the easy way out. 

Fear Strips Away Your Dignity And Without Dignity There Is No Self-Worth And When There Is No Self-Worth There Is No Confidence In Us To Face That Fear.  Living in fear kills our inner sense of confidence. 

2.  There Is The Loss Of Destiny!

If you live in fear, you will never experience the potential that God has placed in you.  Remember, Growth Always Involves Risk, And Risk Always Involves Fear.  If you are waiting for some ironclad guarantee that everything will work out perfectly, if you are waiting for all the risk to be removed, you will stay where you are—and stagnate. 

Fear of failure holds us like a prison.  You have a Divine Destiny; a potential God has in you.  But it’s your choice on what to do with it

If fear holds you captive, you will lose that Divine Destiny—and that is a price that is too high to pay.

3.  There Is Also A Loss of Joy!

Have You Ever Met A Deeply Joyful, Chronically Worried Person?  Fear destroys joy!  Live in fear, and you will know the pain of constant, chronic anxiety.  Giving in to fear is a joy-killer.  It will make your imagination run toward the negative:  “What if bad things happen?  What if I’m misunderstood?  What if I don’t succeed?  What if I preach a bad sermon?”

When You Live With A Fear-Perspective, You Give Those Things The Power To Rob You Of Joy Right Now.  You and you alone give fear its power.  When you live in fear, the power of “what-if” becomes overwhelming., and you go through life without joy.  And finally,

4.  There Is A Loss Of The Sense Of God’s Presence.

Fear whispers to us that God is not going to take care of us.  It tells us we are not really safe in his hands.  Simply put, Fear Says That God Isn’t Available FOR You.  He’s too busy or you’re too weak, too worthless for God to take an interest in you.  When you believe that God isn’t available to you—you will not draw from His presence the strength and power you need.  Fear causes us to distort the way we think about God, and makes us unavailable to God.  Fear makes us live as though we serve a semi-competent god. 

Fear dominates our need for security, and herein lies the problem.  Fear Cannot, By Its Very Nature, Will Ever Give Us A Single Shred Of Security.  Fear holds us tighter than any rope or chains.  It will flood your heart and mind with doubts and anxieties.  There will never be any peace in your life, and no real security, until you hear the voice of Jesus say:  “Come on!” and then, get your feet wet.

So, how do we overcome this demon of fear?  Let me share with you 3 things you can do so that God can defeat your demons of fear:

1.  Rehearse God’s Presence Every Day

This is something you do BEFORE you find yourself in the boat in a storm.  Rehearsal is what you do before the start.  This is what you do at the beginning of your day.  And do it more often if you need it:

  1. Acknowledge Who He Is!  Revelation 1:8
  2. Remember That God Is Always With You! 
  3. Remember The Moments Full Of His Love, Grace And Mercy.  Psalm 77:11
  4. Affirm Who You Are!  Romans 8:16
  5. Ask God To Search Your Heart!  Psalm 139:23-24

2.  Renew Your Mind All Day Through The Holy Spirit

Focus on your thinking.  Your thinking influences how you see your circumstances, your culture and people you encounter.  That’s why Paul said in Romans 12:2—“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Changing your thinking is an intentional and continual decision on your part.  Here are some things that can help:

  1. Read or listen to the Bible throughout the day.
  2. Listen to or sing in your heart some of your favorite music about God’s faithfulness, grace, mercy and love.
  3. Read or listen to writers who inspire and challenge you.
  4. Before you made a choice, act or speak, ask God to help you see the moment the way HE sees it.
  5. Have Conversations With God all day long—we call it prayer.

3.  Re-Focus Your Heart In That Moment

If you haven’t been doing the previous 2 things, this will likely be impossible for you.  Now, look at Peter’s third encounter with fear—he saw the waves and felt the wind.  That became his new focus.  But…but when he realized what was happening because of that new focus—he calls out to Jesus.  He was afraid in the boat—but he overcame that fear by calling out to Jesus.  And the fear from the storm? 

He Overcame That Fear By Calling Out To Jesus.

Later on Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 4:18— So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

So, Here Are Your Next Steps:

  1. Name What Frightens You The Most.
  2. Ask Jesus To Take It Away—He Will, You Know.
  3. Name One Thing You Would Try To Do For God’s Kingdom If Fear Wasn’t An Issue—Because It’s Not.

Remember, you will never be totally free from fearful thoughts, but you do not have to give that fear any power—God will always be with you.  Even if you sink, the Original Water-Walker will be there to lift you up in love and without condemnation.

How To Be A Water-Walker: Use Leverage

Today we’re going to talk about Leverage.  But before we do, let’s look at our theme passage again from Matthew 14:25-32, but this time I want to share it with you from The Passion Translation:

25 At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came to them, walking on the waves! 26 When the disciples saw him walking on top of the water, they were terrified and screamed, “A ghost!”  27 Then Jesus said, “Be brave and don’t be afraid. I am here!”

28 Peter shouted out, “Lord, if it’s really you, then have me join you on the water!”  29 “Come and join me,”  Jesus replied.  So Peter stepped out onto the water and began to walk toward Jesus. 30 But when he realized how high the waves were, he became frightened and started to sink.  “Save me, Lord!” he cried out.

31 Jesus immediately stretched out his hand and lifted him up and said, “What little faith you have!  Why would you let doubt win?”  32 And the very moment they both stepped into the boat, the raging wind ceased.

Before we dive into looking at the principle of Leverage, let’s back up and do a quick review from last week.  We talked about that process of discovering and uncovering your giftedness for the Mission of The Kingdom.  Here’s what the process looks like:

  • God’s Gift Produces Great Joy.
  • God’s Gift Requires Gritty Determination To Use It.God’s Gift Produces Great Joy.
  • Your Gift Will Far Exceed Your Abilities.
  • Surround Yourself With People Who Have Godly Wisdom.
  • Align Yourself With People Who Pray.
  • Start Using The Scientific Method of Trial And Error

OK, on to Leverage.  I know I just heard some of you thinking, “What does Leverage have to do with being a Water-Walker?”  Good for you thinking like this—I’m glad you asked because it’s the next step in overcoming fear and getting out on the water with Jesus.

Let’s start with a definition of Leverage.  This word is used in a lot of different contexts, but let’s go back to the scientific principle of Leverage and move from here:  “Leverage changes the amount of force needed to move an object.  It reduces the strength required to move a much heavier object.”  This principle is applied in finance, business and politics.  But there is a spiritual application to the concept of leverage that needs to be explored.

Like most things in The Kingdom Of God, spiritual applications and principles work in Backwards Logic.  Here’s a few: 

  • In Order To Live, You Must Die;
  • In Order To Find, You Must Lose;
  • In Order To Receive, You Must Give;
  • In Order To Rise Above The Crowd, You Must Serve The Crowd.

Now let’s apply the Backwards Logic of The Kingdom to Leverage.  Spiritual Leverage Reduces The Influence Of The Stronger Object.  Think about moving a rock that weighs 3 times more than you.  You take a lever, find the right pivot point and even though you weigh 3 times less, you can move that rock.  Your weight and the weight of the rock remains the same.

In Spiritual Leverage, the weaker you become, the weaker the object becomes, until you are stronger.  What I’m trying to say is that whatever is in the way of you stepping out of the boat to become a Water-Walker, becomes weaker as you become weaker.  Insane!  Am I right?  Does this really make Logical Sense to us?

And this leads me to The One Thing You Need To Remember From This Message, And It’s Not My Idea, But the Apostle Paul’s:  God’s Power Works Best In Our Weaknesses. 

In case you forgot, Paul had been pleading with God to take away some unknown “thorn in the flesh”.  It didn’t happen—instead God revealed something more powerful that Paul needed—and so do we.  2 Corinthians 12:9— “My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness.”  This was God’s answer—3 times.

Most people love the hear stories about the powerful God we serve.  But herein lies the problem:  That information alone is not enough to create courageous human beings.  I can receive tons of information designed to assure me that God’s power is sufficient.  But the information alone does not transform my human heart. 

In order for such a transformation to take place, we need to learn how to apply Leverage—using one force to move what seems to be an immovable object.  If you want to know if you are living outside the boat, then ask yourself this question, and ask it often:  What am I doing now that I could not do apart from the power of God?  It’s clear, the only way Peter could stay afloat was if God took over.   

When we risk using our Spiritual Giftedness, we can know the joy of being used by God.  But we have to trust before we act.  We see this over and over again in scripture.  Moses had to trust that God would part the Red Sea.  Gideon had to reduce his army from 32,000 to 300 before God would bring the victory.  Naaman had to wash 7 times in the water before he was cured of leprosy.  The loaves and fish had to be relinquished before they were multiplied.  The seed has to be planted in the soil and die before the harvest can happen.

Most of us have an area that might be called our “Spiritual Comfort Zone,” which is the area we feel most comfortable trusting God.  When God calls us to go beyond our spiritual comfort zone, we begin to feel nervous or uncomfortable.  We would prefer not to go outside that zone until we feel better about it.   

You have to follow the Path of God, which requires us to admit our weaknesses and inabilities.  Pay close attention to Peter’s Statement:  “Lord, if it’s really you, then have me join you on the water!”  It’s those 5 words:  “have me join you”—it’s the words of weakness and inability.  Most folks don’t have the problem of being too weak—though that is what they say.

The problem is many are often Too Strong.  What God told Paul is the same thing He wants us to hear:  “My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness.”  Where do we need to Leverage our weaknesses so that God’s Power works the best?  There are a lot of points and places, but think about these as a start in your life.

1.  Leverage Our Points Of Our Fear!

Step out of the boat at the point of your fears.  Why?  Because He wants us to overcome them through His Power, and not be intimidated and defeated by them. 

For example, one of the most exciting adventures in life is helping another person find God.  What keeps us from getting out of the boat evangelistically?  Fear!  But on the other hand, look at the upside potential.  We might actually be part of God’s redemptive purpose on earth.  But if I wait until I feel like I’ll be 100% effective, I will never step out of the boat to help someone surrender to Jesus. 

What, exactly are you afraid of, spiritually?  Bring those fears to God and God will provide His Power.  But, if you never admit your weakness of fear, you will never know His Power.  Secondly,

2.  Leverage Our Points Of Frustration!

Sometimes people in Scripture get motivated to trust God in remarkable ways when they become frustrated with the brokenness of a fallen world.  We see it in David when he couldn’t stand any longer the insults of Goliath.  We see it in Elijah when he could stand the idolatry of Ahab and Jezebel. 

In the world today, it is at the point where we are frustrated by the mess our culture is in and that sense of what God desires.  To fix that gap between what is and what God desires should motivate us to action for a cause that is greater than ourselves.  It may be your frustration with political systems that abuse people.  It may be your sense of frustration that there are so many homeless people.  It may be your frustration with the loneliness the elderly often feel when placed in a skilled nursing facility.  Whatever it is that makes you feel frustrated, take your weaknesses to bring about change and allow Him to fill you with His Power.  Thirdly,

3.  Leverage Our Points Of Compassion!

Being A Water-Walker Means We Move Towards What Breaks Our Heart.  Compassion is expressed in our actions.  Jesus certainly modeled this for us.  Scripture says that many times when Jesus looked at the crowds, seeing their deepest needs, He was filled with compassion. 

When was the last time you took a serious compassion risk?  Jesus did it all the time.  He touched lepers, ate with tax collectors, associated with prostitutes; all these were a part of His calling—they were why He came!  For you it is working with Christian Center of Concern, Delivering meals on the Third Saturday, or coming up with an idea that Shows Compassion To Those Who Need It, Not Those We Think Deserve It.  Finally,

4.  Leverage Our Points Of Prayer!

Real-life stories of Water-Walkers are always stories about prayer.  There is something about getting out of the boat that turns people into Intense Pray-Ers.  They live each moment of each day with the conviction that they cannot accomplish things without God’s help.

Paul prayed—3 times—about his thorn in the flesh.  And all 3 times, God’s answer was the same—“My strength works through your weaknesses.”  Peter’s Prayer Request Was To Join Jesus On The Water.  So tell me this:  What’s Your Prayer Request For Yourself?  Is it about yourself?  Is it complaining about the shape of our culture?  Is it wanting Jesus to come back now to get you out of this miserable culture? 

Water-Walking is not about the great thing you will do.  It is about the great thing God longs to do with you through his powerful grace in you.  But first you have to Leverage Your Weaknesses!  It’s more than getting your feet wet.  Those in the boat had wet feet—Peter had wet feet—the difference was Peter Leveraged His Weakness By Bringing It To Jesus AS He Walked On Water.

Well, I’m down to your Next Step.  For some of you, this Next Step may well be the most painful moment of your life.  It’s a moment you’ve been putting off—or you’ve been living in denial. 

Tell God Your Weakness. 

  1. It could be pride that is keeping you from getting out of the boat and into a relationship with Jesus.  You’ve been playing the church game, and you don’t want anyone else to know.
  2. It may be fear that is holding you in the boat—fear of failure—or just maybe your fear is the fear of Truth—that if the truth of your life becomes public knowledge, you’re afraid that those closest to you will be ashamed of you and turn away from you.
  3. It may be shame that’s keeping you in the boat.  It may be a private shame of something you once did—or a public shame that everyone knows about.  It may be a lifetime of shame—of doing the wrong thing—making the wrong choices.
  4. It may be doubt that keeps you off of the water.  You don’t want to admit it, but you seriously doubt you could ever be a Water-Walker because, well because Jesus couldn’t help you be that Water-Walker you’ve been hearing about.
  5. Or it may be the worst weakness of all—You Have No Weaknesses.  Arrogance is your weakness and you don’t even know it.

Here is what I’m asking you to do this morning.  Leverage Your Weakness.  If one of these, or any of an infinite number of weaknesses is yours—take that weakness to the right place. 

Bring it to The Father—tell Him all about it.  Then listen…listen to what HE says about your weaknesses—“My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness.”

I’ve asked you not to focus on Peter’s sinking—but think about it now.  When Peter started sinking what did he do?  He Leveraged His Weakness By Crying Out To Jesus.  And Immediately—Immediately Jesus Saved Him!  Leverage Your Weakness By Bringing It To God, And The Grace Of God Becomes Stronger Than That Thing That Is Keeping YOU In The Boat