BLUEPRINT FOR A NEW YOU: DEVELOP YOUR PERCEPTION!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.  What Is It That Blinds You?

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

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

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

2.  What Does NOT Seeing Cost Us?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Next Steps

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

What Do You Want Jesus To Do For You?

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

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

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

BUILDING A BRAND NEW YOU! Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.  God’s Will Is Good

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

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

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

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

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

3.  This Life Moves Us Towards Perfection

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

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

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

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

Here’s Your Next Step

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

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