Misery Or Joy-Your Choice

Living in misery…or…living in joy…it is your choice. It is the choice you make BEFORE anything happens.

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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

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

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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

God’s Power Works Best In Our Weaknesses.

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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

How To Be A Water-Walker: Discover Your Gift!

It Isn’t The Emotional High Of Being A Water-Walker That Motivates Us—It’s The Desire To Engage The World For The Kingdom Of God Using His Spiritual Gifts.

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Let’s read the story again 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.

Sometimes, in our desire to serve God, we make rash judgments.  We rush into action rather than seeking permission.  Even though I’ve been challenging you to get out of the boat, we don’t engage in Water-Walking for the sake of Water-Walking.  We are talking about choosing Extreme Discipleship Over The Desire For Comfort.  We have to understand something from Matthew’s account.  Peter is not in charge of this Water-Walking ExperienceJesus Is In Charge

Even though he looks before he leaps, when he gets permission, he takes his leap of faith.  That Leap Of Faith Was One Of The Defining Moments In Peter’s Life.

Sometimes when we feel life is boring, or we feel like life is passing us by, we can make a rash decision that is not in line with God’s call for our lives.  We can make risky decisions that are short-sighted and absolutely dumb.  But When Jesus Calls Us By Name, It’s To Join In Walking With Him On The Water.

In this Series, I hate to say this is the most important one of all—because it’s not the most important one.  But today’s message is the Pivotal Message; your notes are on the front and back.  Miss this one and the previous 2 mean nothing; and the remainder will not help you become The Water-Walker God empowers you to be!

This leads us to the one thing you need to remember from this message:  It Isn’t The Emotional High Of Being A Water-Walker That Motivates Us—It’s The Desire To Engage The World For The Kingdom Of God Using His Spiritual Gifts. 

Our Gifts For The Mission Only Work While We Walk On The Water.  Every person is gifted by God, through the Holy Spirit for The Mission of the Church.  The Mission of the Church is to do exactly what Jesus did:  To engage the world for the Kingdom of God.  Jesus did that with His Words, Attitude, and Actions. 

One morning after a daylong session in Capernaum of healing and casting out demons, Jesus left.  But the people looked for him until they found him and begged him to stay.  But Jesus told them, “Look, The Father sent me to tell the world about The Kingdom, and that’s what I’m going to do!”  (Luke 4:43)

The way we join in The Mission is through the use of the Spiritual Gifts God gives to everyone.  Question:  Do you believe the Bible is God’s Inspired Word?  It’s what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:7—“A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.”  Help each other do what?  To Engage The World FOR The Kingdom Of God

Sometimes we try to barter with God by saying we want to know what the gift is before we make up our mind to become a Water-Walker.  But it doesn’t work that way.  You have to unconditionally trust the Lord Of The Gift

At this point we should lay out a principle that is to be understood and accepted:  Everyone Is Gifted To A Mission And Ministry.  It’s not just pastors and missionaries and teachers and exceptional people.  God Gifts us all in different ways.  You need to be able to recognize The Gift that God has given you.  Here’s some easy ways to recognize The Gift:

1.  Your Gift Reflects God’s Image.

Let’s begin with a profound theological question:  What Does God Do All Day?  If we were to answer this question with one word, what would that word be?  A great insight into this question is found in the very first book of the Bible, in the very first chapter.  The word would be:  Work!  God is at Work.  For 6 days, God is at WorkAnd On The 7th Day, He Only RESTS, Not Retires.  God forms us with His very own hands to join Him in the Work.  When Jesus came to earth, he Worked.  First as a carpenter, then as the Messiah, God’s anointed one!  And then as The Conqueror Of Sin and Death.

You Are A Piece Of Work By God.  You were made in God’s image.  You are created to Work, to create, to lead, to study, to organize, to heal, to cultivate—to do something that engages the world for The Kingdom Of God. 

In Discovering Your Gift, It Will Say Something About God By Reflecting God’s Image.  This means that you must get to know Him personally and deeply.  Knowing God more deeply helps you know Your Gift.  You experience God for yourself.  Your Gift will reflect God’s image.  Here’s a second way to recognize Your Gift:

2.  Your Gift Is Essential To The Work Of The Kingdom Of God.

When my kids and grandkids were little we bought them gifts, and the 3 words I dreaded most were:  Some Assembly Required.  Inevitably, there would be a few parts left over, lying alone and not in the finished project.  I always thought the factory just put some extra parts in there because someone just slipped up and put useless parts in there—parts not needed for completion of the project. 

But this is not how God works.  He does not make spare parts.  You are not spare parts.  You Have A Purpose—A Design That Is Central To God’s Dream To Engage The World For His Kingdom.  God has given you talents, longings, and passions.  God knows how to use those talents, longings and passion along with your Gift in order to engage this culture for The Kingdom. 

In the movie “Blues Brothers,” John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd were ex-convicts on a trip.  They were trying to raise money for an orphanage.  Anytime they were asked about their work, their standard response was: “We’re on a mission from God!”  Here Is The Story Of Your Life:  You Are On A Mission From God.  And your mission is essential to the vitality of the Kingdom and key to God’s purpose for creation.  And the third way to recognize Your Gifts is this:

3.  Your Gift Is Something You Discover, Not Something You Choose.

You did not arrive on earth with your Gifts pre-developed.  You arrived with a little warning:  Some Assembly Required.  The word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latin word ‘vocatio’ meaning ‘a calling, a being called.’  Discovering your mission involves careful listening.  God is the Call-ER and we are the Call-EE. 

So how can we discover this Gift, this call?  I’m not going to give you a magic formula to discover your gift—because there is no magic formula.  But, as Nick Saban is fond of saying, there is a process that we have to buy into or it doesn’t work.  Let me share what this process involves, in no particular order—but you will go through all of them:  Let’s consider these your Next Steps:

God’s Gift Produces Great Joy.  Think about it this way:  have you ever received a gift from someone where you smiled and said, “That is exactly what I’ve been wanting!”?  But inside your mind you’re thinking, “What a hideous gift!  What were they thinking?”  Don’t say anything in case that person is in this room.  You hide it in the back of a closet and only get it out if you know they are coming to your house or you’re going to see them.  But God’s Gift for you always brings feelings of great enjoyment.  But there’s more. 

God’s Gift Requires Gritty Determination To Use It.  Here’s why:  The Enemy doesn’t want you to use that Gift and will try to prevent you from using it.  Why?  Because He Fears You When You Operate Out Of Your Gift Rather Than Out Of Your Ability.  If Satan doesn’t fear you, it’s because you’re still in the boat. 

God’s Gift Fills You With That Sense Of Urgency And Necessity.  The word “necessity” comes from 2 Greek words that mean “intensity” and “ache”.  When You Discover Your Gift, There Will Be An Intense Ache Inside You When You Are Not Faithfully Using Your Gift.

Your Gift will far exceed your abilities.  Remember that Gifts are about what God does through you rather than what you do for God.  Your Gift is Spiritual not natural.  Use your abilities for the Kingdom, but do not neglect your Gift.

Surround Yourself With People Who Have Godly Wisdom. These people will help you identify your Gift because they are also in tune to listening to God.  They can help you name your Gift and help you use your Gift.

Align Yourself With People Who Pray.  In discovering your Gift and in using your Gift, you need to be surrounded by Prayer Warriors.  People who frequently pray are in frequent conversation with God.  Remember, Satan is afraid of you when you use your Gift—so we need the Hosts of Heaven’s Armies all around us.

Start Using The Scientific Method.  I know that sounds so unspiritual.  But if you are still having difficulty identifying your Gift, the Scientific Method helps.  In case you may have forgotten, the Scientific Method is Trial And Error.  Try using a Gift to see if it works in you; try more than once.  If it doesn’t work, try something else.  According to a legend, Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb.  When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”  Did Peter know he had the Gift to Walk On Water?  I don’t think so.  But he had to try, otherwise he would have never known—and neither will you.

Your Gift Is Found By Listening.  When you have truly listened to God, you heart will drive you to use that Gift and step out of the boat.  Spiritual Gifts Are Designed To Work On The Water, NOT In The Boat

Giftedness is different from abilities, skills, and your wheelhouse.  You need to use Your abilities, skills and wheelhouse here.  But Giftedness is different.   It Originates From Outside Us—Works Its Way IN Us—So That THROUGH Us We Engage The World For The Sake Of The Kingdom Of God.  But it takes a surrender of what you know—in order to find out what God knows.

Peter knows, at least he should know—that this is outside his abilities, skills and definitely not in his wheelhouse.  The Gift God gives you is to make you into more than you could ever become—to do more than you ever thought you could do.  But it is never beyond what God can do—through you!

We’re Not Gifted To Work FOR God, But We Are Gifted To Work WITH God.  Remember, you are on a mission from God.  And it’s yours—yours to discover—yours to claim—and yours to live!

We’re Not Gifted To Work FOR God, But We Are Gifted To Work WITH God.

How To Be A Water-Walker: Have The Right Attitude!

We Must Be Stretched And Challenged To Walk With The Original Water-Walker.

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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)

Today we are in the 2nd week of our series on being a Water-Walker.  Last week we discovered that the first step is to get out of the boat.  And the way to do this is to recognize God’s presence, live in extreme discipleship, and actually step out of the boat.  Remember, your fears will tell you what you boat is. 

I hope you didn’t walk away last week thinking that being a Water-Walker is a Cake-Walk.  It’s not easy.  And here is the One Thing You Need To Remember: We Must Be Stretched And Challenged To Walk With The Original Water-Walker.  It’s not about living with the absence of fear.  Water-Walking is about confronting our fears, not to be controlled by our fears, and above everything else, it is about not missing our own personal Encounter With God.

This is a great story, but we’ve mistreated Peter’s part, especially us preachers, me included.  We tend to focus on Peter’s sinking a bit too much sometimes.  But it really hit me as I was preparing for this series, that phrase In The Boat.

Those guys in the boat praised Jesus, for calming the storm, Because They Missed The PointThe Theophany Wasn’t In The Calming Of The Storm; It Was In The Walking On The Water!  We criticize Peter for sinking, but don’t forget that the rest of them were still In The Boat

Water-Walkers sometimes sink.  Occasionally we fall flat on our faces.  Listen, I am convinced that our greatest obstacle to Extreme Discipleship is found in our fear of failure.  If you never want to fail at anything, then do nothing at all.  But even at that, you’re still a failure because you’re not living up to the potential God sees in your life. 

There is an element of risk and danger in Water-Walking.  I want us to look at Having The Attitude Of A Water-Walker.  Attitude is so important, Because Your Altitude In Life Is Connected To Your Attitude In Life

For example, think about the person you love the least.  Name that person—it may be a family member, in-law, ex-spouse, your boss, neighbor, co-worker; probably someone who wounded you. That’s how much you love God, and you will never love God any more than you do that person.  Your Attitude towards God, and attitude toward others are connected and you cannot disconnect the two.

As I said last week, Water-Walking is risky business, and we had better make sure we enter this journey with both eyes open.  Let’s look at the Attitude Of Water-Walkers.  First of all:

1.  Water-Walkers Expect Problems!

So, Peter goes to the side of the boat.  The other disciples are watching closely, In The Boat.  They’ve seen Peter shoot off at the mouth before.  They wonder how far he’ll take this thing.  He puts 1 foot over the side.  I imagine he’s gripping the side of the boat with white knuckles.  Then he slides the other foot over.  Now what? 

Peter Does Something Spiritual.  He Lets Go Of The Boat.  He completely gives himself up to the power of Jesus.  For a moment, it seems like there’s no one there but Peter and Jesus.  Peter is delighted!  Jesus is thrilled with his disciple:  Like Master, Like Disciple.  Then it happens. 

Peter saw the wind and the waves.  Reality sets in, and Peter asks himself, “What was I thinking?”  He realized he was on the water in the middle of the storm without a boat—it terrified him!  But nothing has really changed.  The storm should have come as no surprise.  It’s been there all along.

What happened was, Peter’s focus shifted from the Savior to the Storm.  But we all understand that, don’t we?  We set out with high expectations, but them wham!  The storm comes.  Opposition, setbacks, obstacles—they should have been expected because face it, this world’s a pretty stormy place.  When Peter started sinking, who did he call out to?  The guys in the boat or Jesus?  We Can Get Out On The Water Because We Know That If We Start Sinking, Jesus Is There To Help Us.

Some people will never get out of the boat because of the storm.  But if we know ahead of time there will be a storm, we can brace ourselves for it.  Prepare for it by keeping our focus on the Savior and not the Storm!  If you get out of the boat, you will face the Storm.  But we have to remember:  We Never Face The Storm Alone! 

There’s always another Water-Walker with us, the Original Water-Walker!  Everything worthwhile in life is risky!  But if you don’t take the risk, you slowly die of boredom and stagnation.

2.  Water-Walkers Accept Challenges As The Price For Growth!

Now we come to a part of the story you may not like very much; I don’t care for it much myself.  The Choice To Follow Jesus—The Choice To Grow—Is The Choice For The Constant Recurrence Of Challenges—Difficult Challenges.  You’ve got to get out of the boat a little every day.  Let me explain. 

The disciples get into the boat, face the storm, see the Water-Walker, and are afraid.  Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid.”  Peter braces himself, asks permission to go overboard, sees the wind, and is afraid all over again.  Do you think that’s the last time in Peter’s life that he will experience a challenge?

Here is a deep truth about Water-Walking:  The Challenges Will Never Go Away.  Why?  Because Each Time I Want To Grow, It Will Involve Going Into New Territory, Taking On New Challenges.  Each Time I Do That, I Am Going To Be Stretched, And So Will You.  The challenges will never go away as long as we continue to grow.  That’s great news, right? 

You don’t have to worry about those challenges.  Challenges and growth go together like macaroni and cheese.  It’s a package deal.  The Decision To Grow Always Involves A Choice Between Risk Or Comfort.  This means to be a follower of Jesus you have to renounce comfort as the ultimate value in your life.  It’s human nature to value comfort over risk.  Do you know the name of the bestselling chair in America?  La-Z-Boy!

Not Risk-E-Boy, not Work-R-Boy, but La-Z-Boy.  We have a name for people who vegetate in front of the TV:  Couch Potatoes.  The other disciples could be called “Boat Potatoes.”  They didn’t mind watching, but they didn’t want to actually do anything

And today, Millions Of People Could Be Called “Pew Potatoes.”  They want the comfort associated with a shallow spirituality, but they don’t want the risk and challenge that go along with truly following Jesus.  Jesus is still looking for people who will get out of the boat. 

Our Choices Between Risk Or Comfort Grow Into A Habit.  Every time you get out of the boat, you become a little more likely to get out the next time.  It’s not that the fear goes away.  You realize that it does not have the power to destroy you.  And finally:

3.  Water-Walkers Master Failure Management!

As a result of seeing the wind and giving in to fear, Peter began to sink into the water.  So here is the question:  Did Peter Fail?  Before you answer that question, allow me to share some insights I have been discovering about failure, because we will be talking a lot about that in the coming weeks. 

Failure Is Not An Event, But Rather A Judgment About An Event.  Failure is NOT something that happens to us, or a label we attach to things.  It Is A Way We Think About Outcomes.  Here’s good example.  Jonas Salk is credited with discovering the polio vaccine.  Are you aware that it took him over 200 attempts before he successfully discovered the polio vaccine?  200 attempts without success, would you dare call Dr. Jonas Salk a failure?  Would you say he failed 200 times?  I think not.

OK, back to Peter:  Did Peter Fail?  OK, maybe his faith wasn’t strong enough—wait, his faith was strong enough; he was walking on the water.  OK, then, he took his eyes off of Jesus to look at the storm, and he sank.  But did he really fail?  Here’s what I think: 

I Think There Were 11 Bigger Failures Sitting In The Boat.  They Failed Quietly, Privately, Unnoticed, Unobserved, And Uncriticized.  Only Peter knew the shame of public failure.  But Peter knew two other things, things the 11 did not experience: 

One:  Only Peter Knew The Glory Of Actually Walking On The Water.  Be it ever so brief a moment—but he knew what it felt like to do something that was made possible only by the power of God.  Peter Knew He Didn’t Do; It Was A God Moment.  It was a defining moment that went with him for the rest of his life. 

Number Two:  Only Peter Knew Glory Of Being Lifted Up By Jesus In A Moment Of Desperate Need.  Peter knew in a way that the others could never have known, that when he sank, Jesus would be there and was completely adequate to save him. 

Notice carefully in the story, Jesus spoke to Peter BEFORE they go back into the boat.  His words to Peter were between just the 2 of them (and if that’s the way Jesus handled it, who are we to criticize someone in front of others?).  They couldn’t know that, because they never got out of the boat!  Failure Occurs When We Choose To Stay In The Boat—To Choose Our Comfort Over The Risk!

Now, let’s tie all this together.  It was Peter’s attitude to risk failure that helped him to grow.  When he was out of the boat, as long as he looked at Jesus, he was a Water-Walker.  When he looked at the storm, he was a water-sinker. 

But Peter learned an invaluable lesson—He Understood His Dependence On Faith Much More Deeply Than He Would Have If He Had Never Left The Boat.  This is what those In The Boat missed.

Jesus is still looking for people who will get out of the boat.  Why risk it?  Here’s why:

  1. It Is The Only Way To Real Growth. 
  2. It Is The Way True Faith Develops. 
  3. It Is The Only Alternative To Boredom And Stagnation That Causes People To Wither Up And Die. 
  4. The Water Is Where Jesus Is At! 

The water may be dark, wet, and dangerous.  But Jesus is not in the boat.  What about you?  When was the last time you got out of your boat?  God uses real-world challenges to develop our ability to trust in Him, not reading great books or listening to awesome sermons. 

We tend to seek a world of comfort where we can maintain the illusion of control.  But then, God passes us by, and shakes up everything.  The call to get out of the boat involves crisis; at times failure; that call is made in the presence of fear; and sometimes it leads to suffering—but that calling is always to a task too big for us.  But there is no other way to grow faith and to partner with God. 

It’s risky getting out of the boat, and you can do it with the right attitude.  But to have this right attitude, You Have To Take These Next Steps.

  1. Pray Right Now, This Prayer:  “Jesus, I Have Complete and Unconditional Confidence In You And None In Me.”  Pray this prayer right now.  Don’t close your eyes.  Look up and imagine you are looking God right in His eyes as you pray it.  Now make this your attitude.  If you fail, then you’re not worried because you will count on Jesus, just like Peter.  Jesus will always be in the water with you.
  2. Do Something Spiritual—Get Out Of Your Boat And Help Another Person See Jesus In You.  This is the only way you will ever be known like Peter—and like Jesus—A Water Walker.

Federal Bill Would Require Cops To Ask Suspects Not To Kill Them Before Shooting

OK, the level of….of….of….I’m trying to think of a nicer word, but I can’t. So here goes. The level of stupidity is going off the scale. The latest involves…you know…Washington D.C. and the U.S. Congress. This latest level of stupidity is being led by U.S. Representative William “Lacy” Clay of Missouri with help from U.S. Representative Ro Khanna of Cauliflower, excuse, California.

Sponsors of The PEACE Act that puts law enforcement officers at higher risks

They are writing a bill to present to Congress called The PEACE Act. Sounds innocuous. Who wouldn’t want peace? Well, here’s the full title: Police Exercising Absolute Care with Everyone. It redefines when Federal Law Enforcement can use lethal force. It would also require states to comply with the same standards or lose federal funds.

Here is the bill in a nutshell: It would require law enforcement officers to ask a suspect NOT to kill them BEFORE they could use lethal force. It would require the following scenario: Law Enforcement Officer: “I see you with a lethal weapon, would you put in down and not use it to kill me?” OK, now the other side. Suspect: (The sound of his gun). Law Enforcement Officer is injured or dead. And the family will need to be notified. Here’s the link to the whole article: PEACE ACT

I live in a “Stand Your Ground” state, meaning I can defend my property, family, friends and self including but not limited to the use of deadly force. I would have more legal authority than my local law enforcement officers. More than my son who is a Deputy in the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department.

The sheer lunacy of this proposal shows how out of touch those in our nation’s capitol are with reality. I would like to ask you, my readers, to contact your U.S. Representative and ask them NOT to support this bill. You can find your Representative at this Website.

With proposed legislation like this, we are going to see that Darwin’s theory wasn’t about the past, but the future. This is leading to nothing but chaos and anarchy, where only the strongest which seems to be the criminal element, will survive. Let’s end the lunacy in D.C. and bring back common sense.

I’m just sayin….

It’s Hard To Live In Exile And Harder To Do What God Says About Your Place Of Exile

God sends us into the places of exile because they need to be reclaimed and restored to the Kingdom of God.

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Do your circumstances feel like you are living in exile? You work at a job that under-appreciates your work, and under-pays you for overworking you. You have been terminated from work and the pile of bills is now a mountain of bills. Your spouse has left you for more excitement that you were able to provide. You wish your spouse WOULD leave because all they do is belittle you and tell you all that you do wrong. You look in the mirror with great disgust at the person looking back at you because you hate what you see. The doctor prescribes a series of chemo and radiation treatments because of your cancer. The church you attend is embroiled in political and in-house bickering and fighting. Your parents lament on a daily basis on how you could have done better. The air conditioner, refrigerator, and hot water heater all died the same day. The Sheriff’s Department just posted an eviction notice on your door.

Now, add to all of that the cultural and political wars going on in the good old U.S. of A. The news channels blaring away at all the upheaval, and the violence that is happening every day, all day long. I don’t know about you, but there have been many moments where I felt like I was in exile.

Feelings of exile have a long history. In many cases, it was more than a feeling, it was a national reality. Jeremiah lived in such a time–a literal time of exile. And Jeremiah has something to tell them–something God wanted them to know.

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

Jeremiah 29:2-7 (NLT)

They are living in a foreign land, under foreign rule, with foreign customs and a pagan culture. Pagan Culture–does that resonant with you? It resonates with me as a Kingdom Citizen. And I hear a lot of voices that seem to echo the same sentiments. Face it, as Followers of Jesus our culture neither likes nor embraces Kingdom Truth. This time has been appropriately called “The Post Christian Era”. Values of the Kingdom of God are considered outdated. And add to this, that many who professed to be Followers of Jesus looked nothing at all like Jesus. In fighting and self righteousness turned many away from becoming Followers of Jesus.

So, how do we live in a time and place that feels like exile? It seems to me, that the words of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies spoken to Jeremiah still apply today. Look carefully again at what God instructs those exiles to do:

Build homes, and plan to stay

Establish your allegiance and loyalty to Jesus and God’s Kingdom. Be that city on a hill, that candle on the candlestand.

Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. 

Be a producer of the positive wherever you are. Do not lower yourself to engage in the bitter fighting that is so entrenched in this culture. Bring good things into your part of this dysfunctional culture.

Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away!

Reproduce Kingdom Values within your family, your circle of close friends, at work–wherever you happen to be. Be the example and encourage others to be that example. You reproduce those Kingdom Values as you teach others–and they see them verified in your daily life.

So far so good, right? Challenging, yes–but doable. But there’s more–and it’s going to be a lot more difficult.

And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile.

Did you just see that? Work for the peace and prosperity of those people who make us feel like we are in exile. It’s simple, really simple. If you are on the left–help and pray that the right would be at peace and experience prosperity. For you on the right–help and pray that the left would be at peace and experience peace. If you are a centrist, then do the same for both the left and the right.

It doesn’t seem fair or just that God would tell us to do that. But…don’t miss that next line from the passage: “the city where I sent you into exile.” God sent Judah into exile because of their disobedience. And for us today? God sends us into the places of exile because they need to be reclaimed and restored to the Kingdom of God. Their reason for exile was disobedience–and our reason is Obedience–obedience to God’s call to wage spiritual warfare against Satan.

Oh, and that last line: “Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” OK, do you want to see our culture transformed? The pray for their Shalom. That is the Hebrew word used. It means, among many things, peace. Pray for the opposite side from you to do well, be strong and have inner peace. If you don’t, well, God said what the outcome will be: You will NOT be strong or be well or have peace.

Your welfare rests upon what you want for others, even those on the opposite side. Followers of Jesus, we are in exile–but we are in exile for a purpose and a reason–to bring The Kingdom Of God “on earth as it is in heaven.” If you want some practical advice on how to accomplish this, well…listen to Paul in Romans 12:21

As long as you are agitated and mad at your culture, nothing will change and you will be miserable. It’s not easy to do–it’s not meant to be easy. It’s meant to cause you to turn to God, seek His Holy Spirit and rely on The Spirit. It doesn’t make sense to do it this way. But…it does work!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him…and it does when you pray for the peace of your enemies.

HOW TO BE A WATER-WALKER: STEP 1: GET OUTTA THE BOAT!

For the next several weeks, we are going to be looking at this story from Matthew.  Turn in your Bibles or your phones to Matthew 14:25-32.  As you are turning, I want to ask you for a big favor.  I’m asking you, at least through this series, to forget everything you know or have heard about this story, and use this season to ponder some things you may have either forgotten, or never thought about.  Let’s read:

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.

This Is More Than Just A How-To Series; It’s About Questioning Ourselves On Which Side Of The Boat Are We Living Our Lives.  Are we inside the boat or are we outside the boat?  And if we are in the boat, are we really safer?  Is it really safer holding onto what we think makes us safe?

You see, We are all on a journey—it’s called Life.  And we get only 1 trip, one opportunity at this thing called LifeWill We Seek To Make This Journey Of Life Inside The Supposed Safety Of The Boat, Or Will We Take The Risk To Step Out Of The Boat And Walk On Water? 

Will We Seek To Make This Journey Of Life Inside The Supposed Safety Of The Boat, Or Will We Take The Risk To Step Out Of The Boat And Walk On Water? 

Please, make no mistake about it; it’s risky outside the confines and comfort of the boat.  But let me share something with you about life inside the boat:  It’s Boring, Mundane, And It Drains The Life Right Out Of Us.  The question of the hour is this:  Which is stronger in your life?  The so-called safety of the comfortable and predictable? Or, the desire to live a life that makes a difference? 

We will be looking at several issues that we must deal with if we are going to be Water-Walkers.  And the very first principle that we must address is so simple, it must be stated and it is the one thing you need to remember:  Water-Walkers Have To Get Outta The Boat Or You Will Never Walk With Jesus

Water-Walkers are not dreamers; they are people of action.  They don’t focus on developing great ideas or thinking lofty thoughts.  They are not interested in how much they can know—but they want to know how much they can do.  Water-Walkers are not interested in getting the credit, or being on the front page. 

They are in the deepest sense of the word—servants, for they are the greatest risk takers.  For them consensus is nice, but they won’t wait long for it to happen, unless they know that waiting is a part of God’s plan. 

President Teddy Roosevelt described Water-Walkers this way“It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena—who, at best, knows in the end the triumph of great achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while doing greatly.  So that his place will never be with those cold timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.” 

Let’s look at what goes into the making of a Water-Walker.

1.  Water-Walkers Recognize God’s Presence.

Peter and his friends got into the boat late one afternoon.  Jesus needed to be alone with The Father.  Peter didn’t mind being in the boat.  This is where he is most comfortable and at ease.  This he can handle, much better than the stuff Jesus has been doing. 

But this boat trip was different; this time this time it was a storm so violent that it was all the disciples could do to keep the boat upright and floating.  By 3 a.m., they weren’t interested in getting to the other side; they just wanted to stay alive.  It was then it happened—a shadowy figure appeared through the storm.  Mark’s Gospel adds a twist on this story.  He says, “Jesus was about to pass them by.” 

This doesn’t mean Jesus was trying to sneak pass them.  The Greek word for “to go past them,” is the Greek translation of an Old Testament technical term—Theophany.  A Theophany is a defining moment when God makes an extraordinary appearance for the purpose of revealing a message.  This is an Intentional Act of Jesus—not sneaking by them—but Revealing Himself To Them!

It’s like when God sent Moses to a cleft in the rock so God’s glory could pass by him, or when God sent Elijah to stand on the mountain because he was about to pass by.  With each person God was going to call them to do something extraordinary.  In each situation the person that God called felt afraid. 

And every time those people said yes to their calling, they experienced the power of God in their lives.  Jesus was waiting to see if they would recognize him or not.  Before God speaks to us, he has to get our attention. 

Understand, that it’s in our crisis moments where we most frequently encounter God.  Those Divinely Appointed Defining Moments Will Come To You And Me.  And If You’re Not Looking For Him, You Might Just Miss Him.  Of those in the boat, it was Peter who recognizes the moment.  He recognized that God was present—even in the most unlikely place.  He realized that this was an extraordinary opportunity for spiritual adventure and growth.  The second thing you need to know is this:

Divinely Appointed Defining Moments Will Come To You And Me.  And If You’re Not Looking For Him, You Might Just Miss Him.

2.  Water-Walkers Discern Between Faith And Foolishness.

In an instance where some would call Peter foolish, again, he calls out to this other Water-Walker, “If it is you Jesus, command me to come to you on the water.”  Why does Matthew include this detail?  Why doesn’t Peter just plunge into the water?  I think it’s for a very important reason. 

This Is Not Just A Story About Risk-Taking; It Is Primarily A Story About Obedience.  That means I have to discern between an authentic call from God and what might simply be a foolish impulse on my part.  Courage alone is not enough; it must be accompanied by wisdom and discernment.

I have to discern between an authentic call from God and what might simply be a foolish impulse on my part.  Courage alone is not enough; it must be accompanied by wisdom and discernment.

Matthew is not glorifying risk-taking for its own sake.  Jesus is not looking for bungee jumping, hang-gliding, day-trading, tornado-chasing drivers in Smart Cars.  Water-Walking is not something Peter does for recreational purposes. 

This is not a story about extreme sports.  It’s About Extreme Discipleship!  Before Peter gets out of the boat, he had better make sure Jesus thinks it’s a good idea.  So he asks for clarity:  “If it’s really you, call me!”  Asking for clarity is a good thing.

I’m almost sure Jesus smiled a bit, because one person in the boat got it.  Peter had some inkling of what it is that the Master is doing.  I don’t see the other 11 lining up for their opportunity!  Not only that, Peter had enough faith to believe that he too, could have the adventure.  And the third thing I want you to know is this:

3.  Water-walkers Get Out Of The Boat.

Right now, I want you to put yourself in the story.  Imagine in your mind how violent the storm must have been if even seasoned professionals were afraid.  Imagine the size of the waves, the strength of the wind, the darkness of that night—and no Dramamine! 

These were the conditions under which Peter was going to get out of the boat.  It would be tough enough to try to walk on the water when the water is calm, the sun is bright, and the air is still.  Imagine trying to do it when the waves are crashing, the wind is at hurricane force, it’s 3:00 in the morning—and you’re terrified!

Put yourself in Peter’s place for a moment.  You have a sudden insight into what Jesus is doing—The Lord Is Passing By.  He’s inviting you to go on the adventure of your life.  But at the same time, you’re scared to death.  What would you choose—the water or the boat?  The boat is familiar.  You know the boat. 

On the other hand, the water is rough, the wind is strong; there’s a storm out there.  And if you get out of the boat—whatever your boat might happen to be— Reason And Logic Says You Will Sink And Drown.  But if you don’t get out of the boat, there’s a guaranteed certainty that you will never walk on the water. 

I believe there is something—Someone—inside us who tells us there is more to life than sitting in the boat.  You were made for something more than merely avoiding failure.  There exists inside you the desire To Walk On The Water—to leave the comfort of routine existence and abandon yourself to the high adventure of following God. 

There exists inside you the desire To Walk On The Water—to leave the comfort of routine existence and abandon yourself to the high adventure of following God.

Look, a lot of folks point at the Sinking Peter and say, “Just look at you!  Shame on you, Peter!  Why didn’t you keep you eyes on Jesus instead of the storm?  You’re pathetic, Peter.” 

Let me ask you a question:  Where Were The Other 11?  They were in the boat—the boat that was about to sink.  And this leads me to:  Your Next Step:

Identify Your Boat.  Your boat is whatever represents safety and security to you apart from God Himself.  Your boat is whatever you are tempted to put your trust in, especially when life gets a little stormy.  Your boat is whatever keeps you so comfortable that you don’t want to give it up even if it’s keeping you from joining Jesus on the waves.  Your boat is whatever pulls you away from The High Adventure Of Extreme Discipleship.  

Want to know what your boat is?  Your fear will tell you.  Just ask yourself this:  What is it that most produces fear in me—especially when I think of leaving it behind and stepping out in faith? 

Now, what area of your life do you need to call out to Jesus with the words of Peter:  “If it’s you, call me out!”?  What is one risk you can take in your life that could help your faith to grow? 

I believe that right now, that a Theophany is happening in your life.  Jesus is about to pass by.  Can you recognize Him?  And if so, are you using discernment in discovering his will for you?  Jesus is passing by, right now.  Will you become a Water-Walker?  Will you today, right now, engage in extreme discipleship?  Jesus is passing by—are you going to stay in the boat, or will you experience your own Theophany, and hear Him calling you, “If you want to walk on water, get out of the boat!”

Why Not Go Ahead?

(Disclaimer: I am NOT a member of the NRA)

Tragedy–“an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress”. The past 2 weeks we have seen this definition of tragedy intensified to the nth degree. My heart aches for all of the victims, friends and communities. And the rallying cry of our culture is to fix it so it won’t happen again, or at the very least, make it more difficult to happen again. On this we can all agree. I am tired of seeing these tragedies happening over and over. And please, do not forget that these tragedies happen every day in other places. Last weekend there were 7 killed and 46 injured in Chicago, alone. The cause of these tragedies has a label: “gun violence”. So, what is the “solution”?

Let’s use our imaginations right now and not hold them back. Let’s imagine for a season that suddenly all lawmakers agree 100% to pass every proposed law that is believed would limit, even eliminate the next tragedy from happening. Not a single dissenting vote. I know, some of you are thinking that this is fantasy not imagination. Just humor me, OK?

Imagine that those on the left, who for decades have insisted you cannot legislate morality, change their minds and say, “Yes! We can legislate morality! We’re so sorry we said you couldn’t.” And imagine those on the right saying, “You know, we never saw gun control as a morality issue, and we’re sorry for that.” So, the left, the right, and the middle vote unanimously in favor of those laws. The POTUS signs the bills. Imagine now how different our culture will be because of the legislation.

That very evening, sporting good business, gun dealers, ALL immediately take the banned guns off the shelves and walls. The new background check system is implemented that night. Coders and programmers work diligently throughout the night to make it happen. The very next morning, it is a new dawn and a new day. There are no banned guns anywhere. All people line up at local law enforcement agencies and turn in all banned guns. This senseless “gun violence” is a thing of the past. After all, this is the purpose of all that new legislation. Right? Few, if any tragedies to read about, right?

This “solution” is based upon the premise that the presence of such guns is the true “cause” of these horrible tragedies. Eliminate this “cause” and these types of tragedies will cease to be so prevalent. Thus, we see the word: Gun Violence.

While this “Solution” seems to be logical, it leaves out one element; an overlooked component of these recent tragedies. A man from long ago, noted for his wisdom, describes the missing component this way:

This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead.

Ecclesiastes 9:3 (NIV) (emphasis mine)

The Supposition Of This Legislative Solution is elimination of the object equates elimination of the tragedy. The real cause of these recent (and all other) tragedies is what lies not on the shelves, but in the heart. The prophet Jeremiah, sharing what God revealed to him put it this way:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV)

The Wisdom from Heaven embodied in Jesus, gets us to the crux of this matter when He said:

20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Mark 7:20-23 (NIV)

If Jesus had waited until our current culture to arrive in human form, he would have put it this way: “Look, it’s not what’s on the shelves that is hurting everyone. It is all that stuff, that evil stuff that is coming from the heart that’s the source and cause of what is happening. These kinds of evil tragedies come out of the heart, not the store.”

Out of the evil in the heart of Santino William Legan, he would have found another way. The evil in Patrick Crusius’s heart would have led him to another way. Even Connor Betts would have found a different way. And of the 53 casualties in Chicago last weekend, I doubt any of the guns used were purchased legally. Chicago has some of the strictest laws concerning gun purchases and ownership.

But…it’s so much easier to blame an inanimate object that to admit the current Ethos of our culture has led us to this…this way too frequent tragedies. Some say our Ethos is broken–not so fast, my friend. Every culture has an Ethos –some good, some not so good, and others are down right evil.

it’s so much easier to blame an inanimate object that to admit the current Ethos of our culture has led us to this…this way too frequent tragedies

This Ethos is what determines what is right and acceptable and what is wrong and unacceptable. Only Ethos of the Kingdom of God can prevent more of these tragedies from occurring. The current Ethos did not happen overnight. It was a journey, a step by step journey away of the Ethos of God’s Kingdom. Our current Ethos began with rejecting 1 part of the Ethos of God, and like dominoes strategically lined up, the entire Ethos of The Kingdom was traded away for an Ethos that cheapens human lives.

Only Ethos of the Kingdom of God can prevent more of these tragedies from occurring.

So how do we stop such tragedies? By committing our hearts to The Kingdom Ethos that is tethered to a life of loving God with all our heart, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and pursuing with everything in us a life of holiness. These most recent tragedies, the past tragedies, are fueled by the Current Ethos. And without a change of Ethos there will be more tragedies.

These most recent tragedies, the past tragedies, are fueled by the Current Ethos. And without a change of Ethos there will be more tragedies

One immediate change will help transform the current Ethos. And that is to stop the hate. Hate produces hate. Hate spewed by the right produces hate spewed by the left; a different hate but hate nonetheless. Hate spewed by the left produces hate spewed by the right; a different hate but hate nonetheless. Hate diminishes the value of human life and is a horrible degradation of human dignity–the dignity of the person being hated and the dignity of the person doing the hating. The thing about hate being spewed is that it covers both the hater and the object of their hatred.

The thing about hate being spewed is that it covers both the hater and the object of their hatred.

Without a doubt, there needs to be an upgrade to the current system of background checks. But emptying the shelves of certain types of guns…well, those empty shelves will not change the Ethos but become a symbol of the hearts empty of God’s love but full of evil. Call it what it is: #HumanViolence and perhaps we can begin to move away from this mess.