I know today isn’t Thanksgiving Day–but it is Thanksgiving Day that I’m thinking about this morning. I’m not thinking about all that food–but I am thinking about all the changes that are about to happen with our family. It was just a few weeks ago that Dad had to be taken to the hospital because his heart was in severe A-Fib. But Dad is a tough old bird–95 to be exact. And a couple of days later he was back at HIS home–that same home he had built in 1962. We decided to ask him if it was OK with him–after all, it’s his home–to have Thanksgiving at his house. We would do all the preparations–and he agreed. All of us realize this may well be our last Thanksgiving Day with him.
And now it appears that a big change is about to happen. For over 3 years he has been living by himself. But recent events are bringing about a change that he, nor us, wanted to see happen. Last week he fell, but he was unable to get back up, so he had to use his alert button to get paramedics there to assist him in getting back up. No injuries. Then this Wednesday he fell again–and again needed assistance to get back up. But this time he twisted his ankle–and it really hurts.
I called him yesterday afternoon to see how he was feeling. The conversation I knew that would happen one day–happened Thursday, 10 November 2021. Fighting back the tears he told me it was time for a move to assisted living. But, in his own words, “I want to hold on until after Thanksgiving.” These words are from a man who is a fierce warrior in life. He worked for 30 years in a plant, the last several years while also serving as a bi-vocational pastor, spending his vacation time going to school. When he bought the place to build his home he bought an extra lot for the garden. It fed us and many others over the years. He continued that garden into his late 70’s. And after retirement from being a pastor, he spent many years working at a local funeral home.
Last night and this morning my heart is breaking for him. In April we had to convince him it was time to quit driving. That was a horrible day! We’ve had assistance coming into HIS HOME 3 days a week–something he did not like at all. He’s been losing his independence–something no fierce warrior ever wants to do. He and I have talked about his funeral–and that really wasn’t hard at all to do. This fierce warrior has been running The Race and has kept The Faith. But this change–and at Thanksgiving–is difficult beyond even my ability to find words.
Honestly, I am dreading next Thursday. But it is supposed to be a happy and joyful day. And this dark cloud is hanging over us–trying to crush my heart. I mean, how can you even pretend to be Thankful when you know what will happen very soon thereafter? Well, this is where YOU come in to play. I know my attitude must as genuinely hopeful as Dad’s has been over many years, some of which there wasn’t much hope.
Pray for us, please! I have been so blessed to have This Fierce Warrior for 95 years. He has loved me–forgiven me–and encouraged me all the time. I know I shouldn’t be so down and out. I’ve had him longer than most sons have had their Dads. But my heartache isn’t for me–it’s for Him! For all the times he has been strong for me–now I must be strong for him! I must genuinely show thankfulness and joy next Thursday. But the only way it will happen is if God helps me. And thanks for listening to my heart this morning.
When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight
Mottos! Yep! That’s what’s stirring up my gray matter this morning. When it comes to advertising–a great motto helps consumers to remember their product. So, what is YOUR motto? To help you tell me yours, I’ll tell you one of mine: “If you don’t like my sarcasm, don’t ask me stupid questions!”
Even our good old U.S. of A. has a motto: In God We Trust! The thing about mottos is that you gotta back it up–otherwise people just ignore or forget it. Unfortunately, with my aforementioned motto–I back it up with a healthy, sometimes an over-abundance of sarcasm. But that motto on all our currency? That thing about Trust In God? Not a good motto in these times–because it’s not backed up with action.
Before you start ranting and raving about the nefarious cesspool otherwise known as Washington D.C., know I’m not talking about that ash heap. This morning I am talking only to those who self-identify as Christian. I still remember decades ago getting emails about how Madeline O’Hare was going to the Supreme Court in an attempt to get In God We Trust removed from our currency. Now, I would have bought a plane ticket to see that, seeing she had been dead for years!
Christians want it on our currency–but it would be far better for them, for our nation, and for our world if it was just removed from the currency! There, I said it! But before you stop reading this morning’s pensiveness, read what is next. It would be far better for us, for our nation, and for our world if you have a motto that you embody with your attitudes, words, thoughts, and actions.
Yes! we need to Trust In God That’s a no-brainer! But more than saying we need to Trust In God, we need a motto that shows how much we Trust In God! Forget putting it on currency and government seals. Let’s put a new motto on our ordinary, going here and there, doing this and that life. And maybe it’s time I, too, changed my personal motto to one that better suits what God is doing in my life. So, what should it be, America? Hey! I have an idea. What about this one?
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13 (NLT)
If we adopt this as our motto it means we would have to stop looking at political parties, the hollow (and I do mean hollow, not hallowed!I said what I meant, and I meant what I said!) halls of academia, and even ourselves in order to see a real transformation in our times; and really live through the strength of Jesus! How strong is Jesus? He carried the weight of all our sins while hanging on the Cross. And somehow, as strange as it may sound to some, I believe Jesus will strengthen us to be a light that brings hope to the hopeless. Call me crazy! You won’t be the first, and I dare say, you won’t be the last!
Garmin. Waze. Tom-Tom. Google Maps. et.al. All of these GPS based systems promise to get us to a destination we are looking for. Right? But! Have you ever had the experience of using one of those GPS things and it tells you You Have Reached Your Destination only–it’s not the place you’re looking for? Yes or No?
That you are looking for a place you really want to be–so you enter it into your GPS. It does its calculating and off you go. You turn left. Then turn right. Then turn left. Then turn right. Go 5.2 miles. You hear the glorious words, “Your destination is a quarter of a mile on your right. In 100 feet turn right. TURN RIGHT!” Then! You find yourself at a cemetery and the GPS proudly announces You have reached your destination! Wha?????
While this parable (maybe it’s happened to some of you) would make a great episode of “The Twilight Zone”, it’s an every-day-often-all-day-long experience for people today. And it’s not a GPS thing. It’s a life thing. They try to find more than a tourist attraction or great restaurant. It’s trying to find satisfaction for their life. They seek The Promise but only find a cemetery. Solomon warned us about this in Proverbs 14:12–“There is a way that appears to be right,but in the end it leads to death.” So they think, “Well, Google Maps was wrong–I’ll try Waze!” More left turns. More right turns. But they end up in the very same cemetery. What’s a person to do? Isn’t there anything that can get us to where we long to be?
I’m probably about to appear to some to be a simple-minded dolt, but if nothing in this world gives us what we long for–then perhaps we should try God’s Word–The Bible. We read in Psalms 119:105–“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” If the directions you have been following hasn’t gotten you to where you long to be, then may I suggest you turn to God’s Word–The Whole Word–And Nothing But The Word? After all, isn’t insanity defined as trying the same thing over and over expecting different results?
Surrender your life to God. Then, when the undertaker reaches that final destination, it won’t be your final destination. With Jesus leading the way, our final destination is life!
Here’s one of those, call it, Inconvenient Truths: Much of life is way above our paygrade! We lack the skillsets and knowledge to handle it. Deep down we know this is true. But that craving to be in control is the impetus induces us to hold on and not let go. I’m trying to think of an analogy to describe this choice to not let go. It’s like seeing a hornet’s nest and thinking how good it would look over the mantle. So we reach out to take it down and the hornets attack. But we won’t let go because we want it on our mantle–and the stings of those hornets keep on multiplying. But we want it. Got the mental image of this? Good!
There have been, are now, and until Jesus returns, continue to be problems and botherations that we cannot fix! And for most of us–that’s the irritation and vexation, and it’s becomes that hornet’s nest. Though the pain persists and intensifies–we refuse to let go of being in control–even though it’s conspicuous that we are far from it. And if we continue that hunger and aspiration to be in control, our life will reach terminal velocity–and the resulting crash leaves us unrecognizable.
Why do we have this hankering to be in control even though we know the outcome? Blame it on Adam and Eve–Satan promised them something he couldn’t give them and that they were incapable of–Being In Control! Now that the blight and debility has been identified, what can we do? Would you believe there’s a story in The Bible about this very thing? Who wouda thunk it?
It’s in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 19, starting at verse 16. Some think it’s about the evil of being rich. Only a dolt would see it that way. It’s the story about a young man who realizes something is amiss with his life–and so he comes to Jesus. A good place to go. It’s the question about life–lasting life–enduring life–life now and life forever. The first thing Jesus tells him are the things he already knows–and also knows that aren’t really helping him.
So Jesus tells him to do one more thing–let go of your wealth and pursue God’s Kingdom. In other words–stop trying to be in control! After hearing what Jesus had to say, I love how The Message puts it in verse 22: “That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.“
Listen to me people! We got mega-tons of problems–in politics, in the economy, in society, in our culture. Add to these, we all have issues that are draining the life right out of us. And as long as we hold on to them–and refuse to give up CONTROL–they will persist to our annihilation and the lights go out.
Give up the futility, senselessness, and ineffectuality of holding on to that illusive and imaginary thing we call being in control. Ask the Nail Scarred Hands to take it out of your hands. I commend this song to your listening:
Don’t be like that young man who refused to give up control and left the presence of the Only One who is in absolute control–with that hangdog look.
Listen to the talk at the hair stylist or barber shop. Apparently there is. Listen to the conversations in the break room. Apparently there is. Sit down at the local liars table at the diner or fast food joint. Apparently there is. Listen to the words just about anywhere there are 2 or more people (yes, this includes the local church). Apparently there is. Someone reading this is thinking right now, “What is he talking about? A boatload of hopelessness? A superabundance of stupidity?” While this may seem to be true, it’s not what’s bouncing around in my mind–and my heart. It’s the answer to this question found in The Bible–a couple of times.
Is anything too hard for the Lord?
Genesis 18:14 (NLT)
Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change, much less use, the POTUS. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change our culture. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change Washington D.C. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change the hearts and minds of millennials. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change the hearts of the mega-rich. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change pastors. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change how businesses do business. I would expect to hear such things from those who are not Followers And Disciples Of Jesus. They just don’t know what The Lord can do.
But to hear this kind of balderdash and blather from those who call themselves “Christians”? Well, just call me Popeye!
If your “god” can’t use someone like President Biden. If your “god” can’t use someone like Nancy Pelosi. If your “god” can’t use someone like that discombobulation called The House of Representatives and The Senate. If your “god” can’t use someone like millennials. If your “god” can’t use someone like _________________ (fill in the blank of the stupidest person or group you know), then your “god” is way to small–and you need to change to a different “God”!
So, what if–I’m only talking to those who self-identify as Christian–instead of complaining, whining, griping, and yammering about all those “other people”, you begin praying FOR THEM rather than YALPING AGAINST THEM?What if you prayed for the peace of our nation? What if you prayed for those people to have wisdom? What if you used all that time spent bellyaching and sniveling to ask God to help them? Oh! One more thing! Make that TWO more things! What if you became the change you want to see in others? What if you became the model of HOPE rather than hopelessness?
If an old woman and an old man could have a child way beyond those child bearing years–and they did–can you imagine what WILL happen when we believe, act like, talk like, LIVE LIKE nothing is too hard for The Lord? This isn’t easy; I know! Even Jesus understood our tendency to believe more in the impossiblerather than in GOD’S POSSIBLE!
Jesus answered, “What is humanly impossible is possible for God.”
(Luke 18:27 GNT)
You simply cannot be a follower of Jesus, if anything–I said ANYTHING(remember Popeye’s motto) is too hard for The Lord! If it is too hard, then, in the enduring words of the classic book by J.B. Phillips, Your God Is Too Small! And that makes YOU the real problem, not those people!
The greatest generation ever was those who fought in World War II. I would like to think that my generation was the second greatest generation. Why? We spent more time outside than inside. We had sweat beads around our necks in the summer. We could turn the right stick into a Thompson sub-machine gun. We didn’t think much about stepping in cow manure. We drank water from the hose pipe. We jumped off of bridges into creeks. Best friends could have fights and after the fight, still be best friends.
We watched violent cartoons with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd, the Road Runner and Wile E Coyote, yet we never had the desire or even urge to to shoot someone or order bomb making materials from Acme. Oh! One more thing–we had the very best music! Country music was COUNTRY Music and rock-n-roll was ROCK-N-ROLL. One of our songs was “What The World Needs Now Is Love”, recorded by Jackie DeShannon in 1965.
And now it is 2021, and the question begs to be asked and answered: What Are The Three Most Important Words For Right Now? I have been listening, and have advanced to the level of Intermediate Noticer. Based on what is being said and shouted, here is my comprehensive yet incomplete list of what different people are thinking is the answer to the 3 most important words needed for these times. In no particular order they are:
We need Trump
We need Biden
Ban all guns
Need more guns
Prayer in schools
Bibles in schools
Close the borders
New American revolution
End foreign aid
Drain the swamp
More government aid
Congressional term limits
Less on defense
More on defense
Change your mind
Change YOUR mind
We need love
We need peace
We need hope
Have judicial reforms
No more racism
New political party (I must say this, “Really??? Aren’t political parties part of the problem??? And you want to add to the sewage?”)
We need kindness
We need determination
Deport all Republicans
Deport all Democrats
New moral values
Old moral values
Legalize more drugs
Government medical care
Defund Law Enforcement
Something, Anything, Everything
There are more to add to this list. Some “imagined” solutions are more complicated than three words. As if our world isn’t complicated enough. There are no simplistic solutions to the problems our culture and nation are facing. But. . .the solution is simple; just that simple. This list reflects groups of people–group mentalities. Group mentalities tend to produce complicated, complex, and irrelevant solutions. The answer–the simple but not simplistic answer–is found in three words:
I Need Help!
All of the fake solutions to our issues are focused on what others need to do–never on what the individual needs to SAY! To say “I NEED HELP” is to acknowledge that NOTHING–NO THING OUT THERE–can help heal our brokenness and help us navigate this total mess. If nothing OUT THERE (I refer you to the above list as being “out there”) that can help and heal us–then the answer must be UP THERE! I’m talking about the One Constant in an ever changing universe and culture–the Throne of God.
To end this madness, the place to begin is with the person in your mirror–that’s YOU! To say “I Need Help” is to admit the limitations created by sin and the Hope found only when we surrender completely and unconditionally to God. My best days happen when I begin the day, end the day, and admit every moment between beginning and ending, “I Need Help!” My worst days happen when I fail to say it. My mediocre days happen when I forget to say it throughout the day.
It’s simplistic to approach life saying that others need to change. Simplistic solutions have never worked. But solving this crisis is really simple. Admit your own need for God and trust God to both change and guide YOU–not “them”! Let your words be the words of the Psalmist:
1 I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!
3 He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. 4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
5 The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. 6 The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
7 The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. 8 The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.
For this Lenten Journey, I want us to look at the most profound statement ever made by Jesus while He was here in our human form. We are going to be in John’s Gospel looking some of the “I-Am” sayings of Jesus—those moments and situations where He identifies Himself in a very specific way.
Let’s lay the groundwork for today’s passage before I read it to you. Moses had this unbelievable encounter with God. We call it “The Burning Bush” story. God tells Moses to go back to Egypt and inform them that God has appointed him to lead them to the Promised Land.
But before Moses agrees, he wants to know who it is that is sending him. They will want to know who has sent him, so Moses poses the question: “Who shall I tell them sent me?” And in that moment God reveals His true Name: I Am Who I Am! In Hebrew, the word is Yahweh! And God goes further with this statement:
This Is My Eternal Name, My Name To Remember For All Generations.
Why am I telling you all this? Because without this knowledge, nothing that we look at this season will be really understood. The first one we need to look at is from John 4:4-26 (N.L.T.).
He had to go through Samaria on the way. Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.
The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
“But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?” Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.” “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”
Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus told her, “I Am the Messiah!”
We need be begin our journey with boldest statement ever made by a human being. Jesus tells her: I AM! For what I am about to say, some would want to tar and feather me and run me out of town, but I’m going to say it. Jesus did not say “I Am”. Now, you look confused. “Preacher, you just read that Jesus said I Am.”
But Jesus did NOT say I Am—because He did not speak English. Jesus spoke in both Aramaic and Hebrew. So when He identifies himself to her, the word He used is Yahweh! The Eternal Name of God that everyone is to remember! Can you imagine the shock on this woman’s face when Jesus identified Himself as Yahweh? It was a name so sacred that Law prohibited its use in public. No human being since Moses was allowed to use that name.
And no one dare named their child Yahweh! Yet this is the name Jesus calls Himself. What were the first thoughts running through her mind? “Is he crazy? Has he been out in the sun too long? Is he playing mind games with me? Is he mocking me because I’m a Samaritan?” Whatever her first thoughts might have been, they didn’t stay long.
Somehow she knows His words ring true, so she runs back into Sychar with the news, telling everyone she can find: “I’ve found Him! I’ve found Him!” And the people may have laughed, “Who, husband number 6?” She catches her breath, “No, no, I think I’ve found Messiah! I just know He must be Messiah!”
I know it says she asked a question: “Could He be the Messiah?”, but it’s not a question of doubt. Hers is the question of hope. And here’s the One Thing you need to remember today:
The Deepest Longing Of Every Human Heart Is To Be Near To God!
Hers may have been a tarnished hope, or it may have been a secret hope that no one could see in her life. But somehow, deep down in her heart, there must have been that hope that God would come near to her to satisfy the deepest longings of her heart. As we make our Lenten Journey, we need to know that we are going to find that same longing in our heart—to see and experience the nearness of the One, True and Living God. And we can count on Jesus being that just for us, as He was for her! And it is all because of The Name: Yahweh! Jesus is Yahweh and here’s why:
1. He Is Yahweh Because He Looks For Us
Jacob’s Well was the place ordained by God for this woman. He Has A Place Ordained For You, To Meet Him Face To Face, For You To Surrender Your Life To Him. And Jesus planned it out for that moment when she would be coming to draw water. As Jesus and his entourage arrives at Jacob’s Well, Jesus announces, “Guys, I need to stop and rest; besides it lunch time. Tell you what, go into town to McDavid’s and get you something to eat, and bring me back a #7 combo. I’ll just wait right here. Now, go on guys.”
Have you ever wondered why Jesus sent them ahead while He stayed behind? Well, I have and I’ve come to this conclusion. If there had been several of them with Jesus, that woman probably would have stayed away. But just one man there, it’s not as threatening to her. Jesus wanted this moment with her. He had been looking for her and the time was right.
And He looks for us. There are God-ordained moments where He is looking for us. He is looking for us to have this special relationship with Him. God wants us to have more than a mental knowledge about Him. He longs for us to give Him our hearts. But God-ordained moments go further than for us to become a Christian. There are God-ordained moments to comfort us, encourage us, strengthen us, and to take us deeper into this relationship with Him. And you never know when they will appear. This woman came in the middle of the day; not the usual time to draw water. And God may surprise you with ordained moments because He is always looking for us.
2. He Is Yahweh Because He Knows Us
Everyone in Sychar must have known this woman. Five divorces and shacking up with another man. They looked at her and saw someone who couldn’t keep commitments. They saw someone who had no morals. They saw someone whose only contribution to the community was to keep the gossip lines hot. They saw her as dirtied and all messed up. They saw everything that was wrong with her. They thought they knew her. But there was so much about her they could not see because they had made up their minds about her. But Jesus knew there was more to her than what was on the surface.
Only God, Only The One Whose Eternal Name Is YAHWEH Can See Into The Deepest Recesses Of The Human Heart.
He sees the secret sins we hide from others. He knows the dark secrets we keep pushed down deep. But He knows more, much more. He knew what she was truly longing for, and He knows what we are longing for. This woman wasn’t ignorant of God’s promises. She knew one day Messiah would come. Though it may have been a weak hope, there was the hope that Messiah would come to save her. Listen to your heart; your heart knows it wants to be known deeply and intimately by God.
3. He Is Yahweh Because He Offers Us Life
At Jacob’s Well this God-Ordained moment was for one single purpose: To Bring Real Life To This Dirty, Broken Woman! It wasn’t an accident Jesus was there. It didn’t just so happen that this woman appeared. She needed life and Life is what Jesus has to offer. Nothing Can Give Us The Life We Long For, Only Jesus.
Some people settle for a life of thrills, but there are never enough thrills. Some settle for a life of wealth; but there’s never enough. Some settle for a life of respectability—but they are hollow and empty inside. This woman was looking for life through one relationship after another. But none of them satisfied the cravings of her heart.
Nothing in this world can give you real, abundant, lasting, eternal life. This is something only God has—Jesus is Yahweh because only HE has the life that we hunger for. Only He Has The Life That Will Survive The Ups And Downs Of Life Here On Earth. Only Yahweh can offer us this kind of life—and He does it as The Gift. He and only He paid the price necessary to take away the dead things of our life, and put in their place Life. It’s not just any ordinary life, but the most extraordinary life of all—His Very Own Life.
It is His Eternal Name, Yahweh and He is looking, looking for you because He knows you. He knows you need more than an ordinary life—but the most extraordinary life of all. Only Yahweh, only The Great I Am can put the life of Christ in you. Since you can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are, here are your Next Steps:
Identity Anything That May Have Robbed You Of Hope. The news; This controversy going on in our Tribe; Guilt; Some fear, named or unnamed; Crushing grief that you keep holding on to, that you never completely give over to Jesus; Feelings of inadequacy. It’s the thing that is limiting your potential. Once you identify it—
Give It Up To Jesus. Make it your offering to Him. He’s not looking for only the good things to offer Him, He wants the pain, the burdens that you carry to be given over to Him. You don’t have to keep carrying them because He carried that weight, while on that Cross!
To refresh your memory, this series is about becoming How To Change The Culture!. Hopefully last week we learned that in order
for God to use us To Change The Culture,
we have to become the weakest of the weakest.
One thing that hit me is that we often operate with
the mindset that we can Change The Culture and the church by Working
Through God. Allow me to explain
what that means: Working Through God Means
We Take Our Ideas And Our Plans And Our Beliefs And Expect God To Bless It And
The Church is designed a different way. Rather Than Us Working Through God, The Kingdom
Is Designed For God To Work Through Us.
I know this is a subtle difference, but can you see the difference?
It would not be Gideon doing this through God, but God doing it through Gideon. This is what Jesus was talking about in John 15 when he describes our relationship as He being the vine and we becoming the branches. It’s About Yielding To The Presence, Power, And Purposes Of God. The flow is from the Vine going into the Branches. Fruit is produced because of what the Vine is putting into the branches. The branches don’t tell the vine what to do. The Vine defines what the branches do.
Today Gideon shows us the next step in becoming
qualified for the God Sized Purpose in life.
Let’s look pick up the reading in Judges
Gideon replied, “If you are truly going to help me,
show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me. Don’t go away until I come back and bring my
offering to you.” He answered, “I will
stay here until you return.” Gideon
hurried home. He cooked a young goat,
and with a basket of flour he baked some bread without yeast. Then, carrying the meat in a basket and the
broth in a pot, he brought them out and presented them to the angel, who was
under the great tree.
The angel of God said to him, “Place the meat and the
unleavened bread on this rock, and pour the broth over it.” And Gideon did as he was told. Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat
and bread with the tip of the staff in his hand, and fire flamed up from the
rock and consumed all he had brought.
And the angel of the Lord disappeared.
When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the
Lord, he cried out, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to
face!” “It is all right,” the Lord
replied. “Do not be afraid. You will not die.” And Gideon built an altar to the Lord there
and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “the Lord is peace”). The altar remains in Ophrah in the land of
the clan of Abiezer to this day.
That night the Lord said to Gideon, “Take the second
bull from your father’s herd, the one that is seven years old. Pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and
cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it.
Then build an altar to the Lord your God here on this hilltop sanctuary,
laying the stones carefully. Sacrifice
the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the
Asherah pole you cut down.” So Gideon
took ten of his servants and did as the Lord had commanded. But he did it at
night because he was afraid of the other members of his father’s household and
the people of the town.
Early the next morning, as the people of the town
began to stir, someone discovered that the altar of Baal had been broken down
and that the Asherah pole beside it had been cut down. In their place a new altar had been built,
and on it were the remains of the bull that had been sacrificed. The people said to each other, “Who did this?” And after asking around and making a careful
search, they learned that it was Gideon, the son of Joash.
“Bring out your son,” the men of the town demanded of
Joash. “He must die for destroying the
altar of Baal and for cutting down the Asherah pole.” But Joash shouted to the mob that confronted
him, “Why are you defending Baal? Will
you argue his case? Whoever pleads his
case will be put to death by morning! If
Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who broke down
his altar!” From then on Gideon was
called Jerub-baal, which means “Let Baal defend himself,” because he broke down
God has informed Gideon that he has been chosen to Change
The Culture and that He, God, is with him and that He would fight for
Gideon. Now we come to Gideon’s
response. Every time we encounter God
requires a response from us. It is the
nature of the Divine Encounter. Even if
we think we’ve made no response, we have made a response. There’s no way around it. We either grow deeper into that relationship
or we go further away from that relationship.
And growing deeper inevitably requires taking action.
And here is the one thing you need to remember from
today’s message: Before The Culture Of This Nation And Our Tribe Can Change,
You Must Change Your Culture.
I have parable for you this morning. There are 5 frogs sitting on a log. 3 of them decide to jump. How many frogs do you have left? Is your answer 2? 5-3=2.
Is your answer 0, because if one frog jumps, then all the others will
join? Are you ready for the answer?
The answer is 5! How did I arrive at that answer? Easy.
I never said they jumped, just that they made a decision. And here is where the church is at today: We Haven’t Taken The Leap Of Faith Into
The God-Sized Purpose Of Changing Our Culture.
With the assurance of His presence and the promise of
His power, Gideon acts. But notice the
way he acts. He doesn’t get his sword
and round up an army. He doesn’t go
looking for a fight.
The truth is that his first response has nothing to do
with the problem of the Midianites. It
deals with His Own Personal Culture.
And here’s the first lesson about accepting the mission of this
God-Sized Task of Changing The Culture:
To make sure he has heard everything right, Gideon
asks if it’s appropriate to offer worship.
I can just see God in heaven. He
smiled when Gideon said, “I’m too weak!”
And when Gideon asks for permission to worship first, God did more than
smile. He danced! Those end zone dances you see in the NFL are
nothing compared to when God dances.
So off Gideon goes to prepare the sacrifice for
worship. He cooks a young goat and makes
unleavened bread with an ephah of flour, that’s what the KJV says. An ephah of flour is over a half a
bushel. A young goat and a loaf of bread
made from over a half a bushel of flour.
Don’t you get what’s happening?
Remember the first half of this chapter.
Most of their crops have been destroyed along with their flocks and herds.
They are reduced to starvation. But Gideon takes a young goat and a half a
bushel of flour and with that, he worships God.
He’s not offering God something out of his abundance.
He’s offering God what is probably the bulk if not all
that he has in worship. Worship Is
About Surrender—Surrendering All That We Have And Are To God. There are 168 Hours In A Week and many think
that because they spend 1 hour out of 168 in a sanctuary on Sunday that they
have worshipped God. Time spent in this
sanctuary amounts to .59% Of Your Week.
A little over a half a percent.
Now, would you consider that an acceptable offering to
God? If God is going to Change The
Culture of our nation and tribe through us, then worship needs to be an
offering of our best—our time, our heart, our energy. It must be your heart every moment you are
awake; the attitude we carry in the home, to work, to shopping, to everywhere! Worship is about keeping focus on the Presence,
Power And Purposes of God.
When Gideon offers this worship, look at what the
angel says: Put the meat and bread on
the rock, and then pour out the broth on it.
Now, for Gideon’s world this was ridiculous. Gideon could have protested, “Look, I slaved
over this meal and this is perfectly good soup.” But he doesn’t. He does exactly what he is told. The angel took his staff and touched the
offering and fire came from the rock and consumed it all.
Here’s the Lesson that seems to have been forgotten by so many: We Provide The Instruments For Worship, But Only God Provides The Fire. The angel disappeared and Gideon knows he’s been in God’s presence and thinks “Well, I cooked the goat, but now my goose is cooked!”. But God speaks to Gideon words filled with hope. God’s voice doesn’t boom out from heaven, but in a gentle way God says, “Don’t Be Afraid!” And this leads us to the second thing you must understand about accepting this God-Sized Task of Changing The Culture.
2. Gideon’s Culture
Changed Because Gideon Was Changed First.
He names that place Yahweh Shalom—God Is Peace! Before Gideon could change the culture of his
nation, he needed to Change His Own Culture. Gideon had been afraid and blaming God. But now Gideon’s heart has been changed. Even with the fear and all the questions he
had, Gideon learns a most important lesson:
He Learns To Trust God.
In that trust he discovers the Peace Of God. We are not going to change our nation by
forwarding emails and signing petitions or gripping about our leaders. The Process Of Change Begins With Us. God changed TheCulture but He
started with Gideon.
God can and God will change Our Culture, but it
starts with the person you see in the mirror.
Now Gideon is in a position for God to use him. And God goes right to work using Gideon. And here is the third a final lesson today
about being qualified for the God-Sized Task:
3. Gideon Had
To Cut Down His Asherah Pole.
What’s an Asherah Pole? Asherah was the Canaanite goddess of fertility. She was the wife of the god known as
Baal. She was the one they were thinking
could bring fertility to the ground—abundant crops—multiply livestock—and cause
their wife to produce a lot of children.
These were all signs of prosperity and strength.
The more crops one had, the more livestock and kids
one had, the more they thought they were strong. They believed their strength came from the
As Long As They Thought Their Strength Came From The Asherah
Pole, The Asherah Pole Held Them In Prison And Bondage.
So Gideon goes out to do it, but at night. Why at night?
Because he’s afraid of what the others might do to him. Now, some of you may be thinking, “Well,
there goes Gideon the Coward again!” But
there’s another way to look at this:
Even though Gideon still has some fear issues in his life, it doesn’t keep him from doing what God wants, and as you will see, it will not disqualify him from what God is yet to do. The results are the same. If you allow fear of this God-Sized task keep you from doing anything, God cannot use you to change The Culture.
The Asherah Pole had to come down before he went into battle against the Midianites. Why? So that no one would think their strength came from the Asherah Pole, but only from God. Before They Could Set The Nation Free, They Had To Be Free.
And what about your Asherah Pole? Asherah Poles are all around us today. Oh, they don’t look like the Asherah Poles of Gideon’s day, but they are just as real. What is your Asherah Pole? Idols are still present today, they just look different.
Is your Asherah Pole the desire to be comfortable? Is your Asherah Pole the desire for
convenience? Is your Asherah Pole what
you consider important? Is your Asherah
Pole contentment with complaining and doing nothing, but complain? Is your Asherah Pole fear? Anger?
Despair? Selfishness? Apathy?
Do what Gideon does:
Cut It Down And Put It On God’s Altar. God cannot use you to Change The Culture
of this nation and church until you cut down your Asherah Pole. But if you will, God will Change You, Then
Change Your Culture And In Changing Your Culture, He Will Change The Culture.
Last week you were given a choice for your next
step. Join up with all the complaining;
or give up that anything will ever change; or step up and become the next
Gideon. Here’s this week’s Next Step
1. You Can Hold
On To That Idol, Whatever It May Be. OR
2. Cut Down The
Asherah Poles In Your Life. Get rid of
those things that are holding power over you.
Your confidence and strength comes from your relationship with God—a
relationship that comes through Grace, Grace revealed on the Cross.
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
25About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on
the water. 26When 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!”
28Then 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. 30But 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 Life. 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?
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
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
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
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
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
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 aWater-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!”
From Sunday, July 28 to this morning, August 4 there have been 4 mass shootings. If data is your thing, then here are the number this past 7 days of mass shootings: Wounded: at least 68 Killed: Current Count, 34
The reasons for such carnage? Does it make a difference? And who is to blame? Well, it depends on which news channel you watch and who you talk to. Here are some of the conclusions I have heard about where to pass the blame:
Guns and their availability
And ad nauseam other reasons
The one in South Haven, Mississippi is less than 180 miles from me. All this violence has caused me to once again put to use daily my “Concealed Carry” permit. I do so, not out of fear, but my deep concern for those who could be among the next 102.
There are those who think if there were more controls for inanimate objects, there would not be another 102. We are being told all kinds of explanations for this carnage. But most I’ve heard speaks to the symptoms but fail to deal with the real disease.
It is what it is–human violence perpetrated by humans against their fellow human beings. Some of the victims were known, but most were unknown by the shooters. Human violence comes from hearts that have turned away from The Creator. Thus, they lose the sense of purpose we had before the fall. And that is to live in kindness with each other.
More laws can and probably will be passed. But the problem will not go away through legislation. Change of heart is what is needed. There’s an, call it irony, today. It was in the message I shared with the congregations I serve. You can see it here.
Our culture is being fueled by irritation, aggravation, and frustration that is creating the toxic environment of Despair. And without a radical change of direction, a Divine Recalculating Moment, it will only become worse.
So I appeal, appeal to you who profess your faith in Jesus–to get busy with the work of God’s Kingdom. The work of God’s Kingdom is changing hearts, lives, situations and institutions to reflect HIS Glory, and His love. This is the time for believers to become followers of Jesus. Don’t give up Hope. Share your faith, using words only when necessary. Our culture needs an awakening and a renewal that comes through the Holy Spirit.
And it will to our culture–when you expected an awakening and renewal in YOU. When there is an awakening and renewal IN, then there will be an awakening and renewal THROUGH you!
Let’s be examples of treating ALL people with respect and dignity. Refuse to judge others by any human characteristic or standard. Don’t point the finger of blame at others–instead point the way to Jesus, the Jesus that is clearly seen in you.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way HE loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!
Well, it seems the “change bug” has hit me. I started this blog because I was passionate about the Kingdom of God. So I focused on those “Kingdom” issues in life and faith. However, in reviewing some of my posts, I noticed they were about the current Crisis in the United Methodist Church more than the Kingdom of God. I had left the heart and the vision that started this blogging journey.
So, this morning I launched a new blog, A Wesleyan View In A Post Christian Culture. My direction changed isn’t in a new direction, but getting back to what God started in my heart and mind. To my followers and friends here, I invite you to also follow this new blog but don’t feel obligated. This gift of writing The Spirit is giving me is helping me to be a more faithful follower and disciple of Jesus. But I need to get back to the Vision of this blog because God gave me the Vision, so I need to be faithful. I will probably write more here than at the other blog–but who knows? Well, God knows, and I’m very comfortable with that truth.