11 Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”
Judges chapter 12, verses 11 and 12; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
Sometimes, I said “sometimes”, I really don’t like some of the ways the Holy Spirit speaks to me. Sometimes it’s when He says, “You shouldn’t have done that!” More often it’s when He says, “You know, you really should have done that!” Well, yesterday afternoon was one of those times He spoke to me in a most unusual way. It was through one of those Hallmark movies. My wife and her sister keep their TV on one of those blessed Hallmark channels 24/7. I mean, surely there are other ways He could inspire and teach me “other than” a Hallmark movie. Am I right? Well, He did just that and it was in a line spoken by one of those characters in the movie: “Be a warrior, not a worrier!” And before I could catch myself I said out loud in front of them and the Lord: “That will preach!”
And this morning I couldn’t get that line out of my head. And immediately I thought about today’s passage and this worrier, Gideon. Don’t you think Gideon was worried? Why else would he have been threshing wheat in a winepress? He was hiding from the Midianites. He was worried that they might see him and steal his grain. When out of nowhere, there was an angel sent from God with the most unusual greeting from God: “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” Remember, context is everything. God spoke those words to a man who was worried! He called this Worrying Gideon a Mighty Hero! Ain’t that a hoot? I mean, how can you call someone in hiding because of his worries a Mighty Hero?
Who does that? God! That’s who!!! And guess what! He is still doing this even today! And tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. . . Now, let me speak to you. What are you worried about? If you’re a worrier, then it won’t take a lot of time. When we worry we are declaring that the source of that worry is bigger, more important, and more powerful than God! What I am about to say is to my fellow United Methodist tribal sisters and brothers–but it applies to any and every cause of worry.
There are things that come along that are indeed a cause for, call it concern (which is a coward’s way of not saying worry). Waiting on the doctor’s test results. More bills than money. Job interview. First date. The looming project deadline. And this is for my Tribal members: What’s going to happen to our property if we disafilliate? Now, we cannot stop things that happen to which our initial reaction is to worry. I’m talking about what we do with that worry! You can be a worrier or you can be what God calls Gideon: A Warrior! And to my fellow Tribal members, fight! Not for the Church Property! Fight for the Kingdom of God! That’s a fight that’s worth fighting!
Put your confidence in God, not the worry.Worry is like a vicious and hungry dog gnawing on a bone. It will grind you up. So, whatever it is you are worried about, stop looking at it and for heaven’s sake stop thinking about it. Instead of looking and thinking–I would suggest you listen! Listen to what God is saying. Even if you are a worrier like Gideon, He still calls those who will listen and trust in Him–a Mighty Warrior. You can worry. But what does that accomplish?
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. 6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Psalm 91, verses 5 and 6; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
So, if I tell you will you tell me? What are you afraid of? Me? SNAKES!!! On a plane, on a train, in the lane–I’m terrified of snakes! I hate snakes! Just call me Indiana Jones! If you understand this reference, then you are old like me! I know there are some good snakes out there. But to me, the only good snake is either a dead one or the one I can’t see! When I do see a snake, my heart starts racing and my mind goes wild. Terror sets in. Oh, that fight or flight reaction? Unless I have my shotgun, I always opt for the flight reaction. So, if you have a pet snake, don’t let me in your house if I have my shotgun! And there is no way on God’s green Earth that you can get me to NOT be afraid of snakes. So don’t even go there!
But seriously, what creates in you the same reaction I have to snakes? Fear is a slave driver that takes over and controls your perspective, decisions, and actions. Call fear your social and spiritual influencer. Are you afraid of _____________? (you fill in the blank!) The number of things that creates that terror are more numerous that the stars in the universe. We can’t avoid those things that make us afraid. But we do have a choice in what we do with those fears and terrors.
But making up your mind to NOT be afraid doesn’t really work. So, if this morning you are afraid, I have a suggestion for you. Do what David did. Make up your mind BEFORE the terrors come about the Presence, Power, and Goodness of our Father. Read carefully what David sung about before he started singing about those dreaded night terrors:
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I trust him. 3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. 4 He will cover you with His feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Verses 1 through 5; from the NLT
Remember that when you surrender your heart and life to Jesus, you need to fill out a change of address form. You don’t live where you used to live. Every moment of your life is lived in God’s Presence–the only Presence that can and will take away our fears. And to my fellow Tribal Members of the United Methodist Institution, don’t be afraid if your Annual Conference takes away the church property. It wasn’t yours to begin with–and know that God has already factored that possibility in and He has a plan for you.
Someone telling us, “Don’t be afraid!” doesn’t really help us. But listen to what God told those Hebrews who were so afraid when the Red Sea was in front of them and the Egyptian Army behind them:
13 But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
Exodus chapter 14, verses 13 and 14; from the NLT
You can’t control what fears you–but you can control your reactions. Just stay calm! After all, that’s what God says! And I leave you with another song. Listen to it!
What mountain is between you and the kind of life you deeply long to have today? At this exact moment, what flood is sweeping you away from the life you once knew? Where does your hope come from that says you will get over that mountain? Who will rescue you from that flood? IS there a source of hope AND strength that will simply get you through today without being crushed and broken? IS there even hope for a better tomorrow? What source of help has been tested and proven true over and over? IS there such help?
Image if you will, a new car manufacturer comes up with what they claim is the best, safest, and most reliable car ever. Imagine if you will, they claim it will get 60 miles per gallon of gas and go from 0 to 70 in 4.6 seconds. But then they also say, “We haven’t tested it yet. Heck, we haven’t even tried to crank it! But we just know it will do what we claim!” Would you be the first in line at the dealership to buy one?
Imagine if you will that you see an ad for a used car; the picture looks like that car is in immaculate shape. You go to see it and the first thing the salesperson says is “Well, sometimes it runs great, and sometimes it won’t run at all.” Would you pay Kelly Blue Book full retail price? Maybe even throw in a couple of thousand extra, just because? As nonsensical and preposterous as this sounds, yet this is what many do when facing mountains or when being swept away by some raging flood.
You will never be able to climb that mountain, and that flood will sweep you away–unless and until you trust God enough to surrender completely into His hands. He may not do it in the fashion you want–but He will do it. Trying to conquer that mountain or trying to be rescued from that flood by any other method (see my pun? I’m a Methodist!) will always end in disaster. Cry out to Jesus in this moment–and He will help you climb that mountain. And He will rescue you from this flood. This is His promise:
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
You may find it hard to believe what I am about to say; but Fear Is Rampant In Our Culture! Democrats are afraid of what the Republicans might do. Republicans are afraid of what the Democrats might do. Libertarians are afraid of both. Seriously though, just look around and it is easy, so easy, TOO easy to find things that have the capacity to make us afraid.
And here’s the irony of it all: it doesn’t have to be true, or possible, or even probable to make people Afraid! Imaginary fears are just as potent as my very real fear of snakes in order to harm us. For many, fear is more than an every day battle; it is a moment by moment ongoing battle. This battle happens whether one admits it or denies it. Fear paralyzes us into the wrong action or indecision. Just ask the squirrel pancakes you see on the roads.
So what can a person do? The answer is rather easy. But the solution isn’t simplistic. What gets makes fear run like the wind in fear? It isn’t faith–it’s Love! But not just any love–the fields of life are strewn with the casualties of embracing and pursuing the wrong kind of Love. John gave us the answer long ago in his letter we call 1 John, Chapter 4, verses 17-18:
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.
John said that God is love. So, if we live in God, and God lives in us, we give love, as The Message puts it, the run of the hose, becomes at home and mature in us. Remember I said getting rid of Fear is simple, but it’s not simplistic. It requires us to surrender and submit to God–not just once–but over and over again–moment by moment. God’s love assures us we do not have to be afraid of Judgment–provided we live in Him and allow Him to live in us. And if we do not have to be afraid of Judgment–then there is nothing else to fear. His Love will always take care of us–He may not take away the problem that is trying to scare the living daylights out of us–but He will stand with us! And when God stands with us–it’s like this song: Fear Is A Liar!
The prevalent question among the sane and those of us blessed with common sense is, “Where is all this fear, panic and hoarding coming from?” I know the answer. But before I share it with you, a little bit of perspective from me. In previous times when we’ve seen this kind of behavior and I’ve been asked “Why is this happening?” My answer was, “They don’t have any perspective.” Well, I was wrong.
Everybody has a perspective. Each person’s perspective is never chosen for them by someone else; each person chooses their perspective. And in these times they may want to blame the Chinese, news media, health care system, pharmaceutical companies, the Illuminati (yes, I’ve heard this as to blame for the current fear and chaos), or the ever favorite scapegoat, President Trump. Not so fast, Buckaroo! NO ONE CHOOSES YOUR PERSPECTIVE AND NO ONE FORCES YOU TO HAVE YOUR CURRENT PERSPECTIVE! It is never chosen for you. People may, and in fact do make many of your choices for you. But perspective? ONLY YOU CONTROL YOUR PERSPECTIVE.
What? What’s that you say? Someone just disagreed with me. You said, “No! It’s the fault of the Chinese, news media, Trump that’s causing me to fear!” No it’s not and just because you say it’s the reason why doesn’t make it the reason why. You have taken life as it happens and have chosen your perspective. That’s a fact, Jack! You can disagree with me but…
The mass fear, pandemonium, and chaos comes from the perspective of, guess what? The Perspectives of Fear, Pandemonium or Chaos. And the wonderful thing about perspective is that it can change–for the better or for the worse. Allow me to share some “different” perspectives in these times:
If you have an autoimmune disease, respiratory issues, or are on chemo or radiation therapy, choose to stay at home. Your perspective in this time is to prevent you from becoming sicker than you already are. Call a friend, family member or neighbor to go shopping for you. It’s not just the COVID-19 virus that you should be concerned about, but Type A and Type B flu is a threat to you. More people have died from Type A & Type B flu than from cornavirus.
If you have a sore throat, coughing, fever or sinus issues, get diagnosed by a doctor. Your perspective in this time is to make sure whatever it is, you don’t share it with anyone. Sure, it may be just allergies; but let a doctor make that call. And if you are diagnosed with Coronavirus or the Flu, stay out of contact with anyone until the doctor declares it to be safe for you to go out. And follow the treatment plan your doctor gives you. Don’t stop taking any medicines just because “you feel better now”.
And if you are healthy, no flu or other symptoms, carry on with your life and respect the space of others. Your perspective in this time is to be hopeful and upbeat, kind and encouraging. Now, I’m a hand-shaker and a hugger. It’s just who I am–I love and care about people. And I admit it’s a challenge not to extend the hand or arm for a hug. But it’s a challenge I’m up to–and so can you. Not only is the flu virus and coronavirus contagious, but so is a smile, as well as kind words. Greet people with a “Hello, how are you doing?” or something similar. Choose to be cheerful, optimistic and encouraging. You will be amazed at how social spaces are changed by a smile and kind words.
So, remember, you get to choose your own perspective in these times. In fact, every day you get to choose your perspective–and you DO CHOOSE YOUR OWN PERSPECTIVE. Just remember this scene from the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”
You can choose your perspective poorly or you can choose your perspective wisely…
Our world is having a serious issue right now with PCP. I’m not talking about phencyclidine, an illegal narcotic also known as Angel Dust. An interesting side-note about phencyclidine–it was introduced as an anesthesia in the 1950s. It took them until 1965 to ban it as anesthesia because of it’s side-effects of hallucinations. If you were given phencyclidine as anesthesia before 1966, you may be entitled to compensation; call 800-shy-ster for more information.
No, the PCP that is quickly becoming the worst PANDEMIC yet is PANIC, CHAOS and PANDEMONIUM. I am not about to make light of the serious nature of the COVID-19. Nor am I making light of those who have COVID-19 and am not diminishing the grief of those who have lost someone close to them because of COVID-19. My comments today are directed to those who are promoting and spreading PCP–PANIC, CHAOS, PANDEMONIUM, which is proving to be more dangerous and damaging than COVID-19. In reviewing this before I posted it, both forms of PCP, the chemical form and emotional form, create hallucinations–things that simply are not real.
The money markets, stock markets, and supermarkets are all in free-dive hysteria. Context and proportion is essential to navigating life when things get a bit dicey. Currently, if China is releasing correct data now, less that .000002 percent of the population has COVID-19. The percentage for the rest of the world is less than .0000002 percent. This morning there are 647 cases in the U.S. The percentage is less than .0000002 percent. The odds of contracting COVID-19 are about the same as winning the big lottery. It is more likely that you will be struck by lightning that to get the COVID-19 virus. You don’t see people clearing shelves of water, sanitizer, and toilet paper.
Yet people, and news organizations, are making it sound like the plague of the dark ages is upon us again. They make it sound like people are dropping dead everywhere because of COVID-19. The Markets are in free-dive hysteria not because of what COVID-19 is doing to the world–but what it, now get this, what it MIGHT DO. And now get this–There’s a shortage of toilet paper because of this report that somewhere someone allegedly found the COVID-19 virus growing in toilet paper. I noticed one church posted on face book all the things they were doing extra, and changing some things–because of Panic, Chaos and Pandemonium has taken over HOW people think.
Gee Whiz, people, get a grip. I remember other so-called pandemics that created PCP. Don’t you remember H1N1, West Nile Virus, Swine Flu, Avian Flu, Legionnaires disease and SARS?
Here’s the Main Point: DON’T LET FEAR RUN YOUR LIFE! I’ve heard people complain about FEAR, yet they run towards it faster than someone running to the toilet who has intestinal issues. When FEARrules one part of your life, it will take over and ruin the rest of your life. And the way, THE ONLY WAY to keep the Wolf of Fear away from the door is to become a follower and disciple of Jesus. When you make the choice to follow Jesus the Holy Spirit comes to live inside your heart. And here is what the Holy Spirit living in you does IN AND FOR you.
For God will never give you the spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love, and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7 (The Passion Translation)
The Greek word used for fear is “deilía“ and it means “timidity, fearfulness, cowardice”. If you are a follower of Jesus and you are fearful, you have made the choice to believe fear over believing the Holy Spirit. Someone reading this just thought, “Wait a minute preacher! There’s a lot of stuff out there that’s frightening. COVID-19 being one of them.” OK, granted there’s frightening stuff out there–but your reactions to that stuff is YOUR CHOICE! You choose PANIC, CHAOS AND PANDEMONIUM. Remember this song:
Since FEAR is a liar, what should you do? What can you do? Apply common sense:
Listen to and believe what the Holy Spirit tells you. He never lies and He’s told you that you don’t have The Spirit of timidity, fearfulness, or cowardice Simple enough. But if that’s not enough common sense for you, wait there’s more.
Wash your hands, using soap and water. It’s like a post I’ve seen a lot on Facebook: It’s 2020 and we are supposed to have flying cars but instead we’ve having to teach folks to wash their hands.
Use hand-sanitizer, and if the store shelves are empty, rubbing alcohol does the same, and it’s a lot cheaper.
If you have the sniffles, a cough, fever or body aches–STAY AT HOME. This applies to your spouse, children, grandchildren, cousins, aunts and uncles. And though your preacher loves to see you in church, she or he would rather you stay home until you are symptom free.
Go see your doctor at the first signs of any flu-like symptoms. Essential oils won’t help. Medicine will.
If you think yourself a follower of Jesus, having the Holy Spirit living inside your heart–AND insist that sterile face masks be issued with the bulletins by the greeters, if you insist that the church janitor sign a notarized document that the restrooms are so clean that a surgeon could operate in there, if you are afraid to take Holy Communion and that the servers wear sterile gloves, masks and gowns, putting the garb on in front of God and everybody else (same attire for those who take up the offering), then you have either forgotten what the Holy Spirit is giving us–or you never were a real follower of Jesus. And that’s the way I see it!
After watching the evening news yesterday, there was no doubt about today’s Throw It Out There Thursday! There were 2 events that prompts more than just “Throw It Out There”–but this definitely qualifies as a rant. So please put your trays in their up position, have your seat in the upright position and buckle your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Tuesday evening Kimberly Police Officer Nick O’Rear was shot and murdered while on duty. I once served the Kimberly Community and my heart breaks for them. You can read about it HERE. Officer O’Rear had a family, 2 children and one on the way.
And on Wednesday, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Joseph Bullock was gunned down when he stopped to assist a disabled motorist on Interstate 95 at a rest stop in Martin County on Wednesday. He was shot and killed by a person who was with that vehicle.
In 2019, 48 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty. This number does not include those morons who weren’t paying attention while driving and “accidentally” hit an officer with their auto. So far in 2020 there have been 12 deaths. I have many friends in law enforcement. And I have a son who is law enforcement. And it seems that a certain segment of society has put a target on anyone and everyone who carries a badge. And now, I have placed the Throw It Out There Target on that certain segment of society.
I’m not going to call out by name a certain political party, so I’m only going to refer to them as the FAH Party.FAH is the acronym for Fear, Anger and Hate Party. They are influencers of our culture creating, you guessed it, FEAR, ANGER AND HATE! Their recent debacle in Washington D.C. is not even the tip of the iceberg of chaos they are promoting. This has been going on for some time.
I never joined the AARP because of their use of FAH. Years ago I let my NRA membership lapse because of their use of FAH. The FAH influencers have turned this nation into a culture where the value of human life means nothing, especially towards those in law enforcement. The FAH Party has nurtured and promoted the value of distrust of authority beyond the level of the 1960’s.
Everyday that Deputy Matthew Burbank and those who wear the badge with pride and dignity goes out to Serve and Protect, there’s someone with a smartphone who wants to take out of context what he HAS to do in order to Serve and Protect. Everyday someone who distrusts authority is out there who would like nothing more than to end his and his brothers and sisters existence.
And the FAHParty followers even target innocent people simply trying to live their lives. FAH Party stirs up jealousy against those who work hard. Heck, we can’t even worship in peace. I am doing something I never thought I would have to do. Each and every Sunday I carry a concealed weapon just in case a FAH follower decides they don’t like what we say or do.
FAH blinds people to the consequences of their actions. It causes them to whine and throw temper tantrums when they don’t get their way. Those operating under the influence of FAH believe they are right and the rest of us are not just wrong–we are mean racists, sexists, bigoted, misogynists, and are the problem. If we would just become FAH Believers then everything would be hunky-dory!
Not to minimize the tragedy from the Coronavirus, but FAH is doing far more damage to the fabric of human civilization than any disease or virus. So to the FAH Party Members I say:
Thanks for putting my son in more danger than he was in the hell holes he went to as a committed member of the U.S. Army.
Thanks for creating the fog of chaos that is blinding people.
Thanks for pointing out imaginary problems.
Thanks for always pointing out what’s wrong but never offering solutions.
Thanks for nothing!
But what can be done to end this vile, lecherous, odoriferous plague set loose upon civilization by the FAH Party? We can refuse to Fear, be Angry, and we can certainly stop Hating. We can be examples of courtesy and respect, especially with those with disagree. We can pray for ourselves to become the best examples for the human race. We can not give money to any organization that promotes Fear, Anger or Hate. And in the good, ol’ U.S. of A., we can vote!
And it’s on this last point, voting that I encourage you to PTP—Pray, Think and Participate by going to the polls to vote. Don’t let polls and the FAH news outlets determine who to vote for. Speaking from experience, sometimes the septic tank needs to be pumped out and cleaned.
do a quick review. This series has been
about how we can be a part of the God-Sized Task of Changing The Culture, and
we are looking at Gideon for our pattern.
Remember the definition of this word Culture: Culture Is The Attitudes, Values And Morals
Shared By People In A Particular Place And Time.
shape how we see life
determine what is important and what’s not important
declare what is right or wrong
needed their culture to be changed. Gideon’s
culture was filled with the oppression of the Midianites. No one was strong enough to stop these marauders,
muggers, and murderers. This was a
God-Sized Task. The Hebrews cried out to
God for help and God started looking for the right kind of person for such a
God sized task—and it was Gideon. And
here is why:
1. Rather than Gideon doing it through God, it would be God doing it
2. He got rid of his Asherah Pole, things that he thought gave him power
and held power over him.
3. Gideon looked for the signs that God would do
this through him, and our signs that God will do this through us are the Cross,
the Resurrection and the Holy Spirit.
4. And last week
we hit the pause button for perspective and clarity. Gideon operated out of his faith rather than
through his circumstances—by seeing an opportunity rather than a problem.
we come down to the preparation for battle.
This moment is Crucial; So Crucial That Success Or Failure
Lies In The Balance. And the same
holds true for us if we are going to be part of God changing OUR Culture. Let’s pick up the story in Judges 7:1-8 (NLT)
Jerub-baal (that is, Gideon) and his army got up early and went as far as the
spring of Harod. The armies of Midian
were camped north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said
to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the
Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own
strength. Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may
leave this mountain and go home.’”
So 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to
the Lord told Gideon, “There are still too many! Bring them down to the spring, and I will
test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.” When
Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the Lord told him, “Divide the
men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands
and lap it up with their tongues like dogs.
In the other
group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the
stream.” Only 300 of
the men drank from their hands. All the
others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream.
The Lord told
Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the
Midianites. Send all the others
home.” So Gideon collected the provisions and rams’ horns of the other
warriors and sent them home.
But he kept
the 300 men with him. The Midianite camp
was in the valley just below Gideon.
There are more people than you can shake a stick at in the Valley of Jezreel. It was bad enough with just the Midianites; now there are 3 times as many people. There may have been as many as 60,000 or more in the Valley of Jezreel. Do you know what the name Jezreel means? It means “God who sows.” To the average Hebrew it probably looked like God has sown seeds of destruction against them.
honest, how many of you have felt the same way?
Ever felt like God’s hand was against you? You wonder to yourself, or even out
loud: “God, where are you? Don’t you
see what’s going on? Don’t you care how
I feel?” This is where Gideon was
emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
He is at the place where God sows and it looks like God has sown the
seeds of fear and destruction.
now he has an army of 32,000 warriors.
They are still outnumbered—at least 2 to 1—but Gideon is cool. Gideon knows that God is with him and God has
given him the signs of assurance and reassurance. Now he thinks the time has come to act and if
Gideon is a real person he probably has some butterflies in his stomach, but
that’s OK. God is with him. But God still isn’t ready to act.
his faith hasn’t been stretched enough, God stretches it some more. “You’ve
got too many warriors.” The
butterflies are probably gone now because his stomach is in a knot. “Excuse me God, outnumbered 2-1 and there
are too many? Why don’t you trim down
their army? How about making my job a
little easier instead of harder?”
Have you ever asked God to make your life a little easier? But God has a reason. He doesn’t always tell us His reasons, but
this time He does: “If I let all of you fight the
Midianites, then they will brag about how they did it all!”
you ever done something for the church that God blessed but you said, “Look
at what I did! This is MY ministry. I worked hard and look at the results!” Or have you ever been in a really tight place
where you were struggling and thought you were going down for the count but God
delivered you? Instead of giving God ALL
the glory, you said, “Man, if it hadn’t been for MY faith and MY
wisdom I would have been a goner! But I
got through it!” We must
always be on guard against the temptation to take the credit that belongs only
to God. To help keep them And Us
from taking any of the credit, God does 2 things: a sifting and then a testing.
1. First There Is A Sifting
here know what sifting is? It’s taking
something such as flour and passing it through a sieve or like a wire screen to
remove the lumps from the flour. It’s
getting rid of the things that get in the way that thwarts or distorts the
intended purpose. OK, It Gets Rid Of
What Messes Up What’s Going On!
God’s sifting comes this way: “All those who are timid or afraid, exit stage left.” That word for “Timid” means to be consumed Not By What IS, But What MIGHT Be. They haven’t gone into battle yet, but God has guaranteed victory. But they are consumed by what might be, and what might be? They might be defeated. They might be killed by the Midianites.
that word for “Afraid” means literally Trembling Because You’re
Consumed With What “Might” Be. And
22,000 left even before God revealed His Glory, Power and Majesty! I’m going to get really annoying with this
question: Have You Ever Left The Battlefield Before The Battle Started And Missed
Seeing His Glory, Power And Majesty?
my take on this: It wasn’t their fear of
the Midianites and their allies that made them leave. Their fear wasn’t in the Valley or in their
head—it was in their heart. I Believe
They Were Afraid That God Would Not Come Through For Them.
you think Gideon told them about what happened in the pit? Don’t you think Gideon told them about what
happened to the fleece? Don’t you think
that the assurance and reassurance God gave to Gideon that he gave it to
them? I won’t be too hard on the
22,000. Maybe they thought that God
would do it through Gideon, but not through them. Perhaps they thought ordinary people couldn’t
do something like this—only extraordinary people could.
you ever felt that way? That God would
use someone else to change the culture, but that He surely couldn’t use someone
like you? Ever felt like there’s too
much shame, guilt, or failure in your life?
That’s The Fear! Fear That God’s Grace Is Not Big Enough For
You. And so you go back home Sunday
after Sunday. But God’s grace IS big
enough for you.
back to the story. Now Gideon’s army is
down to 10,000. At first they were
outnumbered at least 2 to 1, and now they are outnumbered at least 6 to 1. I would imagine by now that the knot in
Gideon’s stomach has eased up, and the butterflies are coming back in. God has stretched his faith twice. Now they are ready to fight. Right?
Wrong! God tells Gideon, “You
Still Have Too Many!” Gideon
thinks it time to fight, but God is still doing stretching exercises. If I had been Gideon then, I would have been
thinking, “Well, now what,
God? The fearful are gone, who else
needs to leave? Excuse me, God, but have
you ever heard of Gen. George Custer?”
2. Second There Is A Testing
tells Gideon, “I will test them for you.”
He didn’t tell Gideon to Test them. God determines who can be used, not
us. That word Test is rich. It
means to smelt or refine. It’s what a
silversmith does before they make their jewelry. Today that is done through the use of
chemicals and electricity. Back then it
was done with heat. If it didn’t stay in
the heat long enough, it lacked quality and was worth far less. If it stayed too long, it resisted the master
craftsman work. Even though 10,000 were
not terrified, they needed to still have other impurities removed from their
hearts. They need a test.
God tests them in a simple way. He tells Gideon “Tell everyone it’s time for a water break. Watch how they drink. Put the ones who get down on their hands and knees to drink on one side, and the ones who cup their hands to drink on the other side. The ones who cup their hands and drink, there’s your army!” Why this test? I think I know why. Those who drink from their hands are alert to what’s going on around them. They can see more than those who are down on their hands and knees drinking out of the river.
this same principle holds true today. We
can get down on our hands and knees and moan about how bad we have it. When we get down on our hands and knees and
all we see is our own reflection. We
can’t see God at work.
Now there are only 300 left. Start with 32,000 subtract 22,000 timid and fearful and subtract 9,700 clueless = and you have 300 Culture Changers. And God says, “Now, we’ve got the right number!” 300 versus over 60,000. Outnumbered 200 to 1. Do you feel like that in your culture? You want to witness to others about Jesus but you feel outnumbered and outgunned! But God does His best work in this kind of environment.
And Here is the one thing you need to remember:
God Uses The Sifted And The Tested!
need to allow God to sift us—to get rid of the timidity and fear that can
paralyze us. What are you afraid
of? What makes you tremble with
terror? You must allow God to sift that
stuff, that junk, out of you. We need to
get rid of our pride and arrogance.
We need to be tested, refined to get rid of the things and attitudes that prevent us from completely trusting in God’s Promise, Presence, and Provision. We need to be alert and sensitive to what God is doing every day. And God is at work, we just need to be in a position to see His work.
carefully what Gideon does next. He
sends the rest home, but before they leave, he takes their provisions and
horns. Why? Well If They Weren’t Alert To What God Was
Doing, Then Leave It For Those Who Are Alert To God’s Activity. Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25 about the
talents wasn’t new. Here it is in real
life—take from the ones who aren’t aware and give to those who are. Yes, God is gracious and merciful. He’s always ready to forgive and give us a
But if we are not in tune, in sync with God when God acts, He’s not going to waste what He has given you. He will give your place, your service, your worship, your gifts to another who IS in tune and in sync with Him. Now We’re Ready For The Game Plan, And YOUR Next Step: The Next Steps are the 2 questions that has been filling this place even before you arrived here:
What is it in your life that is keeping you from unconditionally trusting The Father? Allow Him to get rid of the stuff that is getting in the way.
Are you really alert and aware of what’s going on? God is looking for those who will always be on the lookout for what God is doing.
honest, are YOU that person? God is
going to change this place and community, even if those who are ready are
outnumbered 200 to 1. It takes absolute
and complete surrender to Him. What Are
You Holding Back From God’s Grace That Is Big Enough To Change Your Culture
Even If You Are Outnumbered 200 To 1?
Will you allow God to Sift your heart?
Will you accept God’s tests that are not designed to crush you, but to
Refine your heart?
week it’s all about Mason Jars,
Flashlights, And God!
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!”
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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:
Acknowledge Who He Is! Revelation 1:8
Remember That God Is Always With You!
Remember The Moments Full Of His Love, Grace And Mercy. Psalm 77:11
Affirm Who You Are! Romans 8:16
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:
Read or listen to the Bible throughout the day.
Listen to or sing in your heart some of your favorite music about God’s faithfulness, grace, mercy and love.
Read or listen to writers who inspire and challenge you.
Before you made a choice, act or speak, ask God to help you see the moment the way HE sees it.
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:
Frightens You The Most.
Ask Jesus To
Take It Away—He Will, You Know.
Thing You Would Try To Do For God’s Kingdom If Fear Wasn’t An Issue—Because
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.
“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.
I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd.This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”
This kind of talk caused another split in the Jewish ranks. A lot of them were saying, “He’s crazy, a maniac—out of his head completely. Why bother listening to him?” But others weren’t so sure: “These aren’t the words of a crazy man. Can a ‘maniac’ open blind eyes?” John 10:11-21 (The Message)
You have probably heard this story, but it’s worth sharing again. Two
men were called on in a large classroom to recite the Twenty-third Psalm. One was a published orator trained in speech
technique and drama. He repeated the
psalm in a powerful way. When he
finished the audience cheered and even asked for an encore that they might hear
his wonderful voice again.
the other man, who was much older repeated the same words—“The Lord is my
shepherd; I shall not want.” But when he
finished no sound came from the large class. Instead people sat in a deep mood of devotion
and prayer. Then
the orator stood to his feet and said, “I
have a confession to make. The
difference between what you have just heard from my old friend and what you
heard from me is this: I know the Psalm
my friend knows the Shepherd.” I
wish I could say something as deep and profound as this little story. One could call for the invitation hymn and
the benediction and go home. But I’m not
going to let you off that easy.
Here’s the one thing you need to remember: He Wants To Be Our Shepherd Even When We Don’t Want A Shepherd. To Navigate This Life Successfully, And Reach That Ultimate Prize Of Unending Life, You Need The Good Shepherd. Deny this; disagree with me on this; argue with me about this—truth is, we cannot navigate this life on our own nor with any other guide. Do not forget, that as Jesus is speaking, He is using the Eternal Name of God, that Name to be remembered for all generations when He said: YAHWEH the Good Shepherd! If you miss this then you have missed the whole point that Jesus is trying to make, and the word He has for us today. I need you to see this with the same impact as when Jesus spoke these words.
Unfortunately, for many of us, we have the tendency to, what I call, “Americanize” the Bible. We allow our cultural images to often influence how we see a passage. The mental image of shepherds, or what the American version calls sheepherders, is not the same today as it was then. Most of us have been influenced by all those old and great western movies. Sheepherders were often portrayed as weak and defenseless people who were harassed and abused by the cattle barons. It often took a hero in a white hat to save the day for them. But that is not the shepherd of those times. Shepherds were strong and rugged men. They were more like cowboys because they had to be.
They were often in the wilderness for weeks, even months at a time.
They had to protect the flock from wild animals and thieves.
They had to be self-reliant and self-sufficient during those times.
They were on the move looking for pasture and water in a desert region, so they needed endurance.
They needed an understanding and knowledge of the sheep’s behavior.
Shepherds were not what we call “entry level” jobs. It took above average knowledge, above average courage, above average strength, and an above average commitment for the task.
are some things about sheep you need to know.
They are not the smartest animal, the sharpest tool in the shed, or the
brightest light in the box. Don’t get
mad and report me to PETA or the Humane Society, because it’s a fact. Did
you ever see a trained sheep act at a circus?
Have you ever seen a sign that read:
“Beware! Guard Sheep On
Duty!” You have seen the law enforcement
vehicles which were labeled “K-9 Unit”, but have you ever seen one that said,
“Sheep Unit”? Have you seen TSA officers
walking around airports with sheep trained to sniff for drugs or explosives?
Here is something else about the nature of sheep. They can and sometimes will eat themselves to death. David wrote in Psalm 23, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Sheep must stop eating to digest what they have eaten. If they are standing up, they can eat until they die from over-eating. But they will not eat if they are lying down. As the expression goes, “They have to chew their cud.” They will not drink from a stream of water that is moving fast. And they tend to NOT pay attention, so they wander off. So in addition to being strong and courageous, shepherds also needed to be patient.
when Jesus says I AM The Good Shepherd, they understood this image as was
someone rugged, fierce, patient and kind.
Like I said, these are the cowboys of their day. And this image of The Good Shepherd
tells us more about God’s Eternal Name.
There are some lessons here that we need to learn, and principles we
must abide within if we are going to find the life our hearts hunger for.
1. He’s The Good Shepherd Because He Knows Us
He knows our limitations and our capacities. He knows and
understands the natural tendency of our wills and our spirits is to sin. We tend
to get off track and off balance. Isaiah
leaves no doubt about this when he said in Isaiah
53:6—“All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.”
is the Good
Shepherd because He’s the one who goes looking for us to bring us
back. He knows that sometimes we don’t
know our limitations and, like sheep that overeat, we overload ourselves. But the Good Shepherd invites us to
rest. David didn’t say “He suggests I
lie down” but “He makes me like down.” I
don’t mean that God strikes us down, but that He keeps urging us to rest, rest
in Him. The rest we need is found only
in Him. He knows that we can’t fight off
the Enemy, so He equips us for the battle, giving us His strength, and fighting
for us with a passion like none other.
it is He wants you to do, Remember That He Is GOOD! The tasks and missions He calls us into are
those that He knows we can accomplish with His help. At times He calls us into tasks and places
that quite frankly, can scare the living daylights out of us. I know from my own experiences He knows what
I am capable of.
After my divorce, I was really struggling with that beast called Recovery. There were many times I felt like I just couldn’t handle it. There were moments I wanted to give up. There were dark times when I felt like I wasn’t worth the effort. But He reminded me again and again, that He IS Good. He knows our capabilities, so…
Count on what He is doing,
Count on what He is providing
Count on His strength and most of all,
Count on His wisdom.
He is the Good Shepherd He knows what we can do when we rely
completely on Him.
He cares about our hopes and
dreams, shaping them into a drive and passion in our life. He gives us
opportunities every day to experience His love for us through so many ways.
When we are hungry for Him,
He’s right there. When we are thirsty,
thirsty for the assurance of His love, He freely gives us that living
water. He is the Good Shepherd because
He genuinely cares about us even if it feels like He doesn’t. When it feels like He doesn’t care or has
forgotten us, remember that this is coming from the enemy.
care isn’t an emotion or sentimental feeling.
His care is an active and progressive care. His care is seen through all He
He provides grace when we need forgiveness;
Mercy when we are beating ourselves up for our failures;
Comfort when we are grieving;
Living Hope when the world caves in around us;
Joy through all the good things that come our way;
Strength and Power when the road is rough and steep;
And Peace that covers us when chaos is all around us.
care is tender and filled with His desire to see us become everything He longs
for us to be. He never forgets us. He is the Good Shepherd because
He knows our name. Our names have been
engraved in those nail scarred hands. He
promises that we are always in His thoughts and best of all, in His heart.
In your deepest and hardest
struggles, He is the Good Shepherd who is right there to help you.
When Satan tries to steal you away, He Won’t Let Go Of You.
tries to crush you with fears and doubts, He Will Deliver You From All Of Them.
When Satan tries to devour you with innuendoes and
Won’t Back Down.
When Satan is tempting you so much that you can’t
handle it anymore, Jesus Steps In To Fight In Your Place. He’s right there at your side. And when the Good Shepherd is
Fights And When He Fights, Satan Runs!
of the things about shepherds is how they protect the flock at night. There would be areas, man-made or made by
nature, that provided a pen for the sheep at night. There was only a single opening into that
pen. There was no wood gate because they
an opening, but the Good Shepherd, after He has led the
flock into the sheep pen, counted every one of them, would then make His own
bed right there in that opening. If
someone tried to sneak in, He knew it.
If one of the sheep tried to slip away, He was right there to keep it
safe. You are safe with the Good
Shepherd. Everything you dream
and hope for may or may not come true.
when our plans fail to work out, He is right there to protect us from the
destruction and damage that comes from the pain. And because He is the Good Shepherd, He
longs for us to know Him.
what Jesus said: I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. How do sheep know their shepherd? It’s not by their outward appearance, but by
man was visiting the Holy Land when he noticed several shepherds in one
area. He asked them, “How can you tell
which sheep belong to whom?” One of them
replied, “They know our voice. Each
sheep will only follow the voice of their shepherd.” Somewhat doubting it, he asked them to do an
experiment and one of them agreed.
man swapped clothes with one of the shepherds.
He had one shepherd first call his sheep. Some of the sheep followed that man’s
voice. Dressed in the clothes of the other
shepherd, he began to call out to the sheep.
He knew the native language and he used it, calling out “Menah” the
Arabic for “Follow me”. And do you know
what happened? None of the remaining
sheep moved. Then, wearing the clothes
of the tourist, the real shepherd called out “Menah” and the sheep began to
follow him. The real shepherd said,
“Sheep will only follow another voice when they are sick.”
is why Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He knows His sheep, and He knows that His
sheep recognize His voice. Do you know
the voice of the Good Shepherd? You can
know His voice the same way those sheep knew the voice of their shepherd. You Know His Voice By Trusting Him. You can trust Jesus because He has given His
life as the sacrifice and atonement for every sin in every life, even your
life. You can trust Jesus, because He
and He alone is the Good Shepherd!
Your Next Steps
Is There A Place In Your Life
Where You Are Not Following God? It is either a place where you won’t give up
control. Or, it is a place where you
feel uncomfortable and you do not fully trust that God is good. Shepherds lead, sheep follow—but you can’t
follow when you resist.
Are You Willing To Follow God,
Who Is Leading Us Into A New Way Of Being The Body Of Christ? Without
knowing what it looks like, or what it will require of you, to Follow The Good
Shepherd means you make up your heart and mind now, to Follow Where He Leads.
Welcome back to my musings from the Book of Acts. In case this is the first one you’ve read, or if you have forgotten, this is a different kind of journey as I read the Book of Acts. This is NOT a chapter by chapter, verse by verse exegesis. I am reading this powerful book about The Holy Spirit looking for either those things I have forgotten, or for those truths that I’ve been missing these past 45 years since I first welcomed Jesus into my heart. Honestly, I not looking for the obvious, but for those nuances that I’ve been overlooking since I started this journey of faith.
And today, it is Acts 2:14–
Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles …
OK, it’s 2 words….make that 3 words…rather 4 words….wait a minute….it’s all 9 words. So let’s begin….oh, what do you say….we start at the first word: Then. This word tells us something had just happened. That Promise of Jesus, that The Holy Spirit was a comin’….was no longer a promise, but the reality of Peter’s life. Peter doesn’t do anything other than wait and pray until the Then. When that Then happened, Peter stopped praying and waiting. He moved with that Spirit now living in him and every believer.
Next it’s the 3 words: Peter Stepped Forward. Why? Because of the Then. Up until Then, Peter was known as the one who would speak up without thinking. Come to think of it, I know some people like that. Oh, OK, I do that sometimes, too. He was rash and impetuous. He had the tendency for his mouth to overload his abilities. But….Then happened. With the indwelling and abiding of the Holy Spirit Peter Stepped Forward.
And why not? He had both the Power and the Message that could change his culture and world. This isn’t Impetuous Peter. This is Deliberate Peter. He saw what they did to Jesus. And he saw what Jesus did with what they did. And he paid attention to Jesus–WAIT UNTIL. Wait until…Then. Peter now has the Passion and the Focus. And he steps forward.
But today….so many….too many who profess to be a Christian….who are supposed to have the Power and the Message to change OUR culture….are either too timid….or unwilling to Step Forward. It seems to me that many Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters would rather stay isolated and insulted from the world and then complain about the condition of the world. Yet….if they have had their own “Then Moment” they have both the Power and the Message to transform their culture.
It happens through the Holy Spirit. And today? People seem to get the heebie jeebies when it comes to the power and work of the Holy Spirit. They don’t want to look “weird” or like one of “those” kind of Christians. The result is out culture continues to spiral downward.
Oh, there are those who step forward–step forward with words of anger, judgment and condemnation; whose only concern seems to be that they have the appearance of being better than others. An unholy sanctimonious attired that is repulsive to the outsider. And then, they have the gall to wonder why their culture is going to hell in a hand basket. Peter wasn’t going to live with that kind of attitude. Peter Stepped Forward.
Which leads to that last part: with the eleven other apostles…. This wasn’t a solo act, a duet, or even a quartet. It was all of them. And here’s what speaks to me that I had not recognized: The Holy Spirit Provides The Means, The Message And The Power needed to transform our Time, Place and Culture. The time has come, urgently arrived, to stop trying to compromise or allow others to dictate The Message in order to make life more comfortable and convenient.
Appeasement is defined as “the action or process of appeasing”. And the word “appease” means: “pacify or placate (someone) by acceding to their demands. I looked up synonyms for placate and here are the words I found: “lull, tranquilize, calm, mollify.” Mollify? Had to look up that word and here’s what mollify means: “Make more temperate, acceptable, or suitable by adding something else; moderate.” Since 1974, I’ve been told by my leaders (well, except one, he IS a mighty warrior for God) that I need to make sure to appease the congregations I had been appointed to. I needed to pacify them so they wouldn’t complain. In other words, let them have it their way. Having it their way may have been a great advertising slogan for Burger King years ago, but it is a pitiful way to operate the Body of Christ.
And for Peter, he couldn’t make the Message more acceptable by adding something else to it. Why? Because of that single word: “Then”–the Holy Spirit had a hold of him and he had a hold on the Spirit. And the reason for Peter’s powerful message was two-fold:
The Power of the Holy Spirit
And the willingness of the other 11 to stand with him
It’s time for us to run with those who want to run with the Holy Spirit–His Power and The Message. It’s time to leave the paths of placation that does nothing but tranquilize people and lull them into a false sense of peace and security. Appeasement is the desire of Satan. Transformation is the Great Desire of God–and it happens only with HIS Power through The Message of The Kingdom of God–and not the petty preferences of those who have neither the Power nor the Message.
It’s time for us to Step Forward because if we don’t…..well Yogi Berra puts it like this:
And remember to love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him.
(Note: This is the third in my Lent Series “Give It Up!” It is about the things we need to give up and not take back up at Easter)
2 Kings 6:8-17The Message
8 One time when the king of Aram was at war with Israel, after consulting with his officers, he said, “At such and such a place I want an ambush set.” 9 The Holy Man sent a message to the king of Israel: “Watch out when you’re passing this place, because Aram has set an ambush there.” 10 So the king of Israel sent word concerning the place of which the Holy Man had warned him. This kind of thing happened all the time.
11 The king of Aram was furious over all this. He called his officers together and said, “Tell me, who is leaking information to the king of Israel? Who is the spy in our ranks?” 12 But one of his men said, “No, my master, dear king. It’s not any of us. It’s Elisha the prophet in Israel. He tells the king of Israel everything you say, even what you whisper in your bedroom.” 13 The king said, “Go and find out where he is. I’ll send someone and capture him.” The report came back, “He’s in Dothan.” 14 Then he dispatched horses and chariots, an impressive fighting force. They came by night and surrounded the city.
15 Early in the morning a servant of the Holy Man got up and went out. Surprise! Horses and chariots surrounding the city! The young man exclaimed, “Oh, master! What shall we do?”
16 He said, “Don’t worry about it—there are more on our side than on their side.” 17 Then Elisha prayed, “O God, open his eyes and let him see.” The eyes of the young man were opened and he saw. A wonder! The whole mountainside full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha!
How Big Is Your God? This question is the one I wanted to open this message with today. I allowed it to float around and started developing more thoughts around it—until—until the Holy Spirit screamed at me: “Have you lost your ever-loving mind? That’s the wrong question to ask!” Then He gave me the right question:
Is Your God Too Small? What fueled this question for me is from a book written by J.B. Phillips called Your God Is Too Small. It’s interesting that God brought me back to this book. J.B. talks a lot about the “modern church”. By the way, J.B. is not one of those young skinny-jeans-wearing preachers who doesn’t understand preachers do better wearing a suit, or even better wearing a robe. What makes this unique is that J.B. wrote this book in 1953—modern church of 1953. And now, I see this book as prophetic, for many of the issues he raised in 1953 that were tumors in the church are 65 years later, full-blown malignancies in the church of 2018.
And if you can remember only 1 thing from today’s message, this is it: One Of The Problems Of Church Today Is That Many Have A god That Is Too Small. God cannot be reduced to what we want him to be. The God we envision, in some ways, will always be too small. And when your god is too small on any level, that god in whom you believe is not the true God.
Putting it this way:
If your god’s job description reads “Make my life more comfortable and easy.”—Then your god is too small.
If your god says things to you like, “Don’t take a risk, just play it safe.”—Then your god is too small.
If your god operates on your time-table, if you are in control of his calendar—Then your god is too small.
If your god’s job is to obey you, by doing what you want when you want him to do it…if your god is a genie that exists to grant your wishes—Then your god is too small.
If your god is a white guy that has a closet full of suits and ties… if your god always wears a white robe, looks old and has a long white beard—Then your god is too small.
If your god loves Americans more than Muslims—Then your god is too small.
If your god is always saying “Come” but never says “Go”…if he always says “Learn” but never says “Do”—Then your god is too small.
If your god never wrecks your schedule, or messes up your plans, or never asks you to do something that’s not in the budget—Then your god is too small.
If your god needs a certain president in office to achieve his plans and purposes for this nation—Then your god is too small.
If your god has never filled your eyes with tears because of his grace and left you breathless because of his power—Then your god is too small.
If your god always agrees with you…if your god likes only the things that you like….and dislikes everything that you dislike—Then your god is too small.
If your god always thinks that your opinion is the most important one… that the decisions of the church should fall in line with your opinions—Then your god is too small.
If your god is OK with you spending just an hour or so a week with him on Sunday in church—Then your god is too small.
If your god doesn’t convict you to speak up when you know something is wrong, or he says, “Oh, it’s OK to remain silent. They won’t listen to you and it will make it hard on you, so I’ll just have to work around them.”—Then your god is too small.
If your god is OK with you withholding his tithes and your offerings because you don’t like the preacher or like a decision the church made…if he is OK with you giving to a designated fund rather than the operating fund—Then your god is too small.
If your god looks at your sin of lust or greed or gossip or whining and says, “Oh, that’s no big deal. You’re better than most.”—Then your god is too small.
If your god says you’re too messed up, too broken, too guilty, too poor, too ignorant, too young, too old to make a difference—Then your god is too small.
If your god fits nicely into a box—then that’s not God. And if you would take the time to look inside that box, you will find that God is not there because God Doesn’t Do Boxes.
Today’s scripture is about a man whose God wasn’t too small. Elisha knew that God would never fit into any of our human boxes. Here’s the story. The King of Aram had been trying to ambush the army of Israel, but every time, Elisha would warn the King of Israel.
If you were commander-in-chief of an army, and your enemy knew everything you were doing, what would you think? “There’s a spy among us!” Logical, right? And you know what happens to spies. But his military leaders quickly reveal the real problem—it’s Elisha. When the King of Aram finds out its Elisha making the problems, he sets out to find him and capture him. He finds Elisha in Dothan and surrounds the city one night.
That next morning, Elisha’s servant goes out and sees the city surrounded. He did not know what to do. In his mind, the situation was hopeless. But God has something else in mind. When you think there’s nothing that can be done about a situation, God has something else in mind. But to see God’s “something else”, you must choose what kind of god you are going to give your heart to—the god created by your minds or the God who created you. In today’s story, there are 3 things you need to learn from Elisha to help you give up your god that is too small:
1] Elisha Remembered The Mantle.
What’s the Mantle? Glad you asked. The Mantle was the Mantle of Elijah. It was like a cloak and it represented 2 eternal truths: Authority and Power. Elijah had the Authority and Power to speak on God’s behalf and to do what God wanted done.
Before God took Elijah into heaven, Elisha made a request: to have a double portion of the Spirit that lived in Elijah. Elijah said he could have it, only if he was with him when God came for him. And Elisha was there. As Elijah was carried into heaven by the Chariot of Fire, his mantle fell to the ground and Elisha had a choice: give his heart to a god that was too small or pick up the Mantle. He chose the mantle of Elijah. When he looked at the mantle, he remembered that the Authority And The Power was still there.
Our mantle is the promise of the authority and power of the Holy Spirit!
We carry into our daily lives the Mantle of The Holy Spirit—that God promised would bring power and authority, dreams and visions—to everyone. Young and old, men and women.
Gods that are too small have no such mantle of power and authority for anyone. Only the Holy Spirit brings that, and only to those who have that desire to be filled with the Double Portion. You then live in and live out what the Holy Spirit wants—not the things you want.
2] Elisha Kept The Vision
He saw the Chariot Of Fire take Elijah into heaven. He knew the plans and purposes of God. He knew what the King of Aram was doing. He could not go to the kitchen without Elisha knowing what kind of sandwich he ate, whether it had mustard or mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato. Elisha even knew what kind of bread was used.
Elisha wasn’t worried when the news came, “We’re surrounded”. He saw the Chariot of Fire take Elijah into heaven, and he never lost sight of that Chariot of Fire. It was a Chariot of Fire, not a Prius. He wasn’t worried about the enemy’s army, he knew that the was surrounded by the Hosts of Heaven’s Armies. The sight of Elijah being carried away stayed with him, even in the tough times.
God’s Vision Is Always Something You Cannot Do Without Him.
When you follow gods that are too small, they give visions that are too small. Gods that are too small give visions of things that you can accomplish with your intellect, your abilities and your strength. In other words, small gods give you projects to complete. It takes Fire, Authority and Power to live in and through His Vision.
3] Elisha Lived In Confidence
Elisha saw the army of Aram around the city—but Elisha saw more. He saw the Hosts of Heaven’s Armies! He knew the battle did not belong to the one who had a powerful army. He knew the battle belongs to the Lord of Hosts who has ALL power at his side!
Elisha Wasn’t Concerned About His Physical Circumstances Because He Had Confidence In His Spiritual Circumstances.
He knew those hills around him were alive with the presence of God. This is the kind of faith that sustained Elisha and so many others. And it’s the faith that will sustain you in times like these. The challenge of faith is to see that the hills around your life are alive with the Living Presence of God!
Gods that are too small will never give you confidence about your future when the enemy surrounds you. Your focus will be on what’s wrong or what’s missing, rather than seeing your situations through faith. Hebrews 11 says that faith is trusting and having confidence in what isn’t seen with the eyes or understood by the mind.
There’s a simple rule of human behavior that states: What You Take Seriously, You Treat Seriously.
Today I have my conception of God. That conception is different from when I was a kid, different than when I was saved, different than when I started to preach, even different from 5 years ago. And hopefully, will be different in another 5 years. My understanding of God must change as I discover more and more about Him. When my concept of God becomes static, that there is nothing more I need to know about Him, then my god is too small. So, I keep growing…
And now you must choose: Have you given your heart to a god that is too small? Or have you given your heart to the True God who is more than all other gods combined. Life is not always simple, but this issue is simple. For Lent, give up your small god.
The hope for your communities does not lie in who occupies the pulpits nor who sits in these pews, but in Who occupies your hearts and minds with the double portion. And that is a choice that only you can make.
22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.
24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 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. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.
In case you missed last week, our Lent Series is about this question: What Do I Need To Give Up And Not Pick Back Up After Easter? We are looking at things that we need to give up for more than 40 days. Most things that we give up for 40 days are shallow when we know we can pick them back up again at Easter. And we should know that God is never pleased with shallow sacrifices. We should always be looking for those places in our lives that God wants to cut away, to prune. Truth is, we don’t; so, Lent is a great time to refocus and maybe, just maybe we can engage in this Spiritual Discipline every day, not just at Lent. Today’s “thing” we need to give up is Fear.
I’m not talking about those healthy fears—like being afraid of poisonous snakes, walking across busy highways and dangerous animals. Certain fears can protect us from harm. I’m talking about those fears that imprison us and deny us the ability to enjoy life. There’s a technical term for those kinds of fear: Phobias
Have you ever wondered when the emotion of fear first entered God’s creation? When was the first time Adam or Eve knew what it felt like to be afraid? Well, I know the answer: After They Had Sinned! We read in Genesis 3:10—He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” We never find prior to that moment, Adam or Eve ever being afraid; not once! To know why they were afraid, you need to remember the temptation they faced: To become their own god. That was the promise and the lie from Satan. “Eat this and you will be just like God. That’s why He doesn’t want you to eat it. He doesn’t want the competition.” Take a moment to think about what scares you. I’m not talking about flying in a plane or snakes or bugs. Think about some of the more serious issues of life.
Fear Of Failure. Fear of failure is the thought that failure defines us. Some think it is for the rest of their life; but it doesn’t have to. They take no risks and cower down in their comfort zones.
Fear Of Rejection. Fear of rejection creates the desire to win the approval of others. You focus more on pleasing others than God, and usually end up either pleasing neither one and become miserable.
Fear Of Being Alone. Fear of being alone causes you to engage in dangerous behavior and take on toxic relationships. Those living by the fear of being alone are swallowed up by wrong choices and people.
Fear Of Being Discovered. Fear of being discovered creates a fake self. It’s the fear others will stop loving you if they knew the truth about you. It manifests itself with that judgmental attitude of pointing out the faults of others.
Fear Of Change. The fear of change is rooted in the need to be in control. That desire to be in control comes out the very same reason Adam and Eve ate that forbidden fruit—to replace God with self. Change may, and probably will involve you giving up control of the issues you feel like you must control.
Think about those disciples in that boat in that storm. We’re not talking Carnival Cruise Lines. There was barely enough room for those 12 men. Now there are fierce winds and big waves. They are literally stuck in that storm. It’s not unreasonable that they are afraid. There’s a good probability that Peter had friends who went out one night to fish but were never seen again. It is a frightening situation and getting worse. It’s not abnormal when we face the storms to be afraid. It’s what we do with…
If you can remember only one thing, remember this: The More Energy That You Put Into Trying To Stop Fear, The More Energy Fear Has To Use Against You. Living in fear makes you guilty of idolatry. Fear that controls us becomes the idol that you serve. Remember last’s week’s 1 thing: Whatever You Permit To Remain In Your Mind, You Promote With Your Life .
Whatever you promote with your thoughts, attitudes, words and actions is the expression of your idol. Your Fear will become your idol. What can we do when faced with those unsettling and scary moments that come against us? You can’t tell someone, “Oh, grow up! Stop being afraid!” Telling someone to NOT be afraid is like telling a cat, “Stop acting like a cat.” It just won’t happen. Instead do these 3 things to control your fears:
1. When Afraid, Stop
The thing about fear is that it doesn’t want a little bit of our attention—it wants it all! Fear pushes us to do something, anything to try to calm it. As we do something, the fear grows stronger, so we do more. It’s a never-ending and vicious cycle. But no amount of activity or actions we take will ever calm that fear. Here’s the fine print that fear doesn’t want you to see: Fear Disappears As We Rest In God.
Instead of thinking about it or trying to stop it, remember what David wrote in Psalm 46:10—“Be still, and know that I am God!” For most of us, being still is the hardest thing to do in the face of fear. It goes against our grain and the logic of the world. But when you stop and are still before the presence of the Great I Am, you’re draining the strength that fear has over you. Fretting and anxiety just doesn’t work in the presence of God. The longer you are still before God the less control fear has over you.
Think about the time when the Israelites were in that frightening moment of the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s army behind them. What did Moses tell them? Exodus 14:14—“The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Perhaps David remembered that when he wrote in Psalm 37:7—“Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” It’s not always easy, but train yourself to stop when fear presents itself. Wait for God’s timing. God’s timing is just right because God loves you. This leads to the second thing you need to try:
2. When Afraid, Love
When you give fear power and control over you, it elevates YOU to the top of the importance ladder. When life is all about you, it’s impossible to love God or any others. Fear tells you one thing only: “God doesn’t love you. He’s holding out on you!” Every time you allow fear control, you are echoing fear’s lie: “God doesn’t love me!” But He does, and your fear doesn’t change this truth. Fear knows that if you doubt God’s love for you, then it has you in its grip.
But try this instead: Remember How Much God Loves You. Fear will say, “Well not very much. Just look at you.” But you tell fear, “Jesus left the glory of heaven for a smelly stable. He faced temptations and endured being misunderstood. He suffered at the hands of the Sanhedrin and the Romans. He died on that Cross for me! He rose from the grave for ME! And He is coming back for ME!” God never stops loving you even when you don’t love Him. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 8:9—You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. Even your punishment was put on Jesus, that’s how much God loves you. Fear is disabled when we start caring more about others than ourselves. When we love others with our actions, fear loses its control over us. And one more thing to try:
3. When Afraid, Trust
Let’s get back to our passage today. It’s been a scary time for them, and it appears to them that Jesus has forgotten all about them. They are afraid and more than the boat sinking, they are spiritually sinking. But someone looks out and they have a tough time believing what they are seeing. Someone is walking on the stormy waters. It must be a ghost! But listen to Jesus’ first words to them. He didn’t chastise them for their lack of faith. He said: “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” The Greek can also be translated, Don’t be afraid. ‘I Am’ is here! The Greek word for “I am” is the equivalent word for the Hebrew word “Yahweh”– the name God revealed to Moses!
Take control of that fear because you trust in His presence to make the difference in your life. And now Peter wants to be sure it’s really Jesus. So, he says, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” Notice what Peter doesn’t say. “Lord, calm the waters and then invite me to come to you.” He says, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” So Jesus invites Peter to walk on that stormy sea.
Now what’s Peter going to do? The waves are high, the wind is strong, and everyone knows you can’t walk on water. What do you think the other 11 were thinking about Peter? Probably, “Well that is about the dumbest thing Peter has ever said! This is not going to end well for Pete!” That’s what fear says. But Peter steps out of the boat and goes toward Jesus.
He trusted Jesus, and it worked. And when Peter started listening to fear again and started to sink, what does he do? Does he call out to fear to save him? Does he call out to the guys still in the boat? NO! He calls out to the only who he knows will be there for him, especially when he fails! He Calls Out To Jesus Because He Can Trust Jesus To Reach Out And Take Him By The Hand. And Jesus saves him.
And what Peter learned, you need to remember: Trust Him Because He’s Trustworthy. He’s Proven That There’s Nothing, Absolutely Nothing He Will Not Do For You. His promise rings true from Matthew 28:20—“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” He’s true to His word. The Greek word “always” means “for each individual”—none are excluded!
And how is it with you? Is fear controlling you? Then you’re holding on to an idol and not to Jesus. Jesus will not share you with anything else. He gives His all for you and will not accept anything less than your all for Him. To anyone and everyone who is afraid, Jesus has something to say: “Don’t be afraid, ‘I Am’ is here!” Will you be still, love and trust the only One who loves you enough to die for you? If you are living in fear, only Jesus can break those chains. It’s your choice; intimidated by fear or living in Christ.
21-25 With that they were on their way. They scouted out the land from the Wilderness of Zin as far as Rehob toward Lebo Hamath. Their route went through the Negev Desert to the town of Hebron. Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, descendants of the giant Anak, lived there. Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt. When they arrived at the Eshcol Valley they cut off a branch with a single cluster of grapes—it took two men to carry it—slung on a pole. They also picked some pomegranates and figs. They named the place Eshcol Valley (Grape-Cluster-Valley) because of the huge cluster of grapes they had cut down there. After forty days of scouting out the land, they returned home.
26-29 They presented themselves before Moses and Aaron and the whole congregation of the People of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran at Kadesh. They reported to the whole congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. Then they told the story of their trip: “We went to the land to which you sent us and, oh! It does flow with milk and honey! Just look at this fruit! The only thing is that the people who live there are fierce, their cities are huge and well fortified. Worse yet, we saw descendants of the giant Anak. Amalekites are spread out in the Negev; Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites hold the hill country; and the Canaanites are established on the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan.”
33 Caleb interrupted, called for silence before Moses and said, “Let’s go up and take the land—now. We can do it.” But the others said, “We can’t attack those people; they’re way stronger than we are.” They spread scary rumors among the People of Israel. They said, “We scouted out the land from one end to the other—it’s a land that swallows people whole. Everybody we saw was huge. Why, we even saw the Nephilim giants (the Anak giants come from the Nephilim). Alongside them we felt like grasshoppers. And they looked down on us as if we were grasshoppers.”
1-3 The whole community was in an uproar, wailing all night long. All the People of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The entire community was in on it: “Why didn’t we die in Egypt? Or in this wilderness? Why has God brought us to this country to kill us? Our wives and children are about to become plunder. Why don’t we just head back to Egypt? And right now!”
4 Soon they were all saying it to one another: “Let’s pick a new leader; let’s head back to Egypt.”
Numbers 13:21-14:4 (The Message)
If you have followed my train of thought in this blog, then hopefully you understand that this is primarily for the U.S. and Western church. I know there are some who think my train derailed a while back, but I’m still here and moving forward. At issue is addressing the mindset of the mainline church which has become a “church centric” message, meaning it is all about the location of local congregations rather than “Kingdom Centric”, meaning it is about the message of the Kingdom of God. Living out a church centric message, and thus a church centric gospel, is way too small. God invites us into the epic story of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, the narrative that is much bigger than any and all of us.
When a congregation finally wakes up and realizes that their declining membership, attendance and influence is the direct result of living out of a way too small narrative, inevitably there will be those Tenured Pew Sitters and Churchians who will fight against such a move to the much bigger narrative of God’s Kingdom. One of the ways they fight against the move to the Kingdom Story, and thus fight against the Good News Jesus brought, is to spread bad rumors through false stories and very flawed assumptions. And it’s a tactic that goes way back, all the way back to God delivering the Hebrews, HIS people, from slavery.
Remember with me the setting for this passage from Numbers. God sent 10 plagues against the Pharaoh and Egypt before the Pharaoh agreed to let them go. Then the Pharaoh did a very human thing: he changed his mind. The Hebrews were trapped–the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s army behind them. God parted the Red Sea and they successfully crossed over. Pharaoh’s army tried and drowned. God’s guidance was always present in the daytime with a column of clouds and at nighttime with a column of fire. Fresh food fell from heaven every morning (except before the Sabbath when they could collect 2 days worth). When they grew tired of heaven’s food God provided them with quails. Water came from rocks when they needed it. They had a few battles along the way and God always provided them with victory. Oh, and don’t forget, the column of clouds during the day and the column of fire during the night never left them.
Now they are at the edge of the land which God has promised them they would occupy. He didn’t tell them how they would occupy it; just His personal assurance they would. God directs Moses to send one leader from each tribe (notice the use of “leader”) who were to become 007’s, meaning spies, with a very clear set of directions:
Assess the people: Are they strong or weak? Are there few or many?
Observe the land: Is it pleasant or harsh?
Describe the towns where they live: Are they open camps or fortified with walls?
And the soil: Is it fertile or barren? Are there forests? And try to bring back a sample of the produce that grows there—this is the season for the first ripe grapes.
End of the mission. That’s all! And make sure you see what is not included in the mission directives. Have you seen it yet, what’s not there? Have you? Well, in case you haven’t seen what’s not there I will share it with you. God never said, “Then I want you to decide if you can occupy this land. I want you to decide if this task is possible or not.” Ten of these alleged leaders decided it WAS their job to determine if it was possible or not. Without even consulting God, these 10 pitiful and pathetic leaders made a determination that was NOT their’s to make, a determination that was based on their personal assumptions not facts: “We’re whipped! Before we even start, we’re finished. We just need to go back to Egypt.”
But it was Caleb, from the Tribe of Judah, the same Tribe Jesus was born into, and Hoshua (renamed ‘Joshua’ by Moses) from the Tribe of Ephraim, who recognized that these fake and phony 007’s had exceeded their mission directives and made assumptions which they were unqualified to make. And more than recognize the treasonous act of The 10, they spoke out against them. Outnumbered 5 to 1, these 2 stood by their Divine Mission Directives. And what was the result? Did these 10 confess they were wrong? Did they repent, change their direction, and stand with Caleb and Joshua? Nope, nope and nope!
Here is what they did. “They spread scary rumors among the People of Israel.” I want to take this moment to speak just to local tribal (meaning church) leaders, whether you are clergy or a layperson. When you find yourself in a place that has a church centric message and lifestyle, and you hear God calling you to change the culture and climate to the Kingdom Centric Gospel, there will be opposition. They will follow the same path as these 10 phony and pathetic 007’s in Numbers 13 and 14.
So how does one handle “The 10 Fake & Phony 007’s”? To answer this question would result in an entire blog series lasting for several editions. The best way to handle The 10 is NOT to argue with them and here is why. There are 2 reasons why people engage in rumors and assumptions: ignorance and simply being dumb. There is a difference between these two. Ignorance is simply the lack of information and is easily overcome with the truth. Being dumb is choosing to ignore the truth. If you argue with someone who has chosen to be dumb (like The 10 Fake & Phony 007’s) they will beat you down to a pulp every time with their experience of being dumb. Hear me out from my experiences: When I have chosen to engage in battle with those who do not want the truth, I lose every battle.
I am currently dealing with some who do not have truthful information so I share with them with grace and love, the truth. And for those who do not want to be ignorant, they receive the truth well. But for those aligned with The 10 Fake & Phony 007’s, I choose to pray for them and avoid arguing with them, for the above mentioned reason. I would encourage you leaders to do the same. But remember, there was Caleb and Joshua in this story. I make sure that like Moses, I surround myself with those who have the same spirit and attitude as Caleb and Joshua, and so should you if and when you find yourself attacked by The Fake & Phony 10. What was the attitude and spirit of Caleb and Joshua? Glad you asked! Here is it:
Rumors that spread the quickest and cover the largest territory are meant to harm, hurt and crush. And if you are one engaged in the rumors like The 10 Fake & Phony 007’s, take a moment to stop and reflect on your words and the way you engage in conversations. Rumors are entanglements created by the only one who does not want to see God and His people succeed. Go ahead with the spread of bad rumors if you wish. I would simply encourage you to read this from Proverbs:
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, one of the definitions for the word Environment is:
the circumstances, objects, or conditions by which one is surrounded
Today is a unique day in our current world: the Constitutional transition of power. We are in a minority of this world in that we have a system that allows the peaceful transition of power from one person to another. There are citizens in scores of nations what would love to have this moment we have today. Instead, they face violent revolutions and military coups, followed by unrest and imprisonment of dissenters. One petty despot replaces another without the citizens having a say-so in the process. But thanks to our Founding Fathers and framers of the U.S. Constitution, we have a Representative Republic. I know some use the word “democracy”. Actually, we do not have a true democracy for which I am most thankful. In a true democracy, the majority rules. Take a vote and whatever the majority wants, they get. There’s a word for this type of process: CHAOS! Why am I writing such words?
I am moved to write this morning for which we should be thankful is being marred because of all of the unrest being created by WORDS! I want to speak openly and honestly to only a select group of people (though most will never read them, still it helps me to vent). I want to talk to those who “say” they love Jesus. You know who you are. The ones that post on Facebook, “Type Amen if you love Jesus.” “If you’re not ashamed of Jesus share on your page.” “Don’t share but copy and paste if you agree God should be let back into schools.” (As if God was not already there. If your god is being kept outside schools because of some man-made rules, you’re god is way too small! You do know Jesus conquered death, don’t you? And you think a rule is going to keep Him out? Geez!)
It’s not these comments of yours that I am taking issue with (though I do), I’m talking to those who say they love Jesus but their words about today’s transition of power are filled with hate, anger or gloating. With all of the recent protests and the planned protests some are wondering why such things are happening. I know why they are happening. Remembering Merriam-Webster’s definition, an environment is being created that incites such actions, even by children. Have you seen this video? A child says, “Screw the president”? It’s the environment!
The environment is more than weather and living things. Environment is what surrounds us. When your words are filled with hate, anger, or even gloating, YOU are partially responsible for warping that child’s mind. This environment is the exact one our Enemy (that’s Satan for you who did not know our true Enemy) is wanting. In fact, he thrives and grows stronger when words are filled with anger, hate or gloating. I do not release the protesters from their responsibility because they, too, have a choice to be influenced by this sinister environment or work to change it. Words are the direct product of what or who controls our mind. In your heart you may say “I love Jesus”, but your mind doesn’t and shows that it does not reflect your words that allegedly are coming from your heart.
The mind is must be changed if the words of our heart ring true. Too many Churchians and promoters of Churchianity (another word I’ve borrowed) think it’s all about the heart. Well, there’s more to loving Jesus than just with our hearts. Fact is, Paul had much to say about the mind. Here are some examples:
Romans 7:23 (NIV) I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.
Romans 8:6 (NIV) The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
Romans 12:2 (NIV) Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 15:5-6 (NIV) May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV) Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
Ephesians 4:22-23 (NIV) You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;to be made new in the attitude of your minds;and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV) In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Colossians 3:2 (NIV) Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Philippians 4:8 (NIV) Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Pay careful attention to that last one from Philippians 4:8. See, I’m not crazy! Our words, that come from our mind that is being influenced by our real heart, creates an environment. You hate-mongers, fearful minions and boastful parasites are creating this environment we are seeing on the very day we should be celebrating this Representative Republic, and when we should be modeling the way of Jesus.
To those who say “I love Jesus” but continue to say words of anger, hate. boasting or he’s not my president, take your whiny part of your anatomy that sits on a commode and move to some other nation. And to those who are thinking, “Preacherman, where is the love?”, I say: “Do you think that Jesus’ words to the Religious Police were sweet and syrupy when He called then a den of snakes?” And if my words have offended your “sensibilities”, all I can say is, “Oh, well.” because I am sick and tired of those who say they love Jesus fueling this environment where Satan is roaming free and laughing at us! Yes, you bear a level of responsibility for this environment we are in.
Listen up to what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write. Think about what is true (the Greek word used here is “alēthēs” and it also means “to love the truth”, who is Jesus), noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable (was that child who said “Screw the president” admirable?), excellent and praiseworthy. These kinds of thoughts are not natural to us sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. Don’t box in Jesus to just your heart. Let Him invade your mind in a revolutionary kind of way. Allow Him to demolish the Enemy’s strongholds which are located in your mind, not your heart. Otherwise we are headed to total environmental disaster in this nation.
Your words can create environmental change in our culture, if you use the right words that come from your mind that has been taken prisoner by Jesus in order to be liberated to think like He thinks. And like the knight who told Indiana Jones and Dr. Walter Donovan when trying to decide which cup was the Holy Grail, “Choose wisely.” And remember the knight’s words after Dr. Donovan dissipated into dust and bones, “He chose poorly.” Make good use of your words by allowing your mind to reflect the heart that Jesus wants to put inside you. DON’T CHOSE POORLY! #YourWordsMatter
There are a lot of reasons why western congregations are declining in membership, attendance and impact. This list is by no stretch of even my active imagination, not an indictment against all local churches. I have not engaged in Barna-like research polls; nor have I started a consultant business going about to different congregations across the nation analyzing what is ailing them. No, this is what I said it would be at the very beginning: simply observations that I have drawn by reading and listening very carefully. And I do not expect everyone to agree with my conclusions and I am sure there are other reasons that could make it on a Top 10 List such as this.
But after a season of prayer, these are the ones that I see as significant “Destroyers Of The Church”. The Enemy does not have to get a local church to embrace all 10 of these, or 9 or 8 or 7 or 6 or 5 or 4 or 3 or even 2 in order to effectively make a local congregation ineffective. I realize I did not have to do the entire countdown for most of you. But I have met people who need the whole shebang to understand; they are not creative thinkers; heck, they aren’t thinkers at all; but I digress, so forgive me. Any local congregation that is guilty of even 1 of these has greatly reduced their impact for the Kingdom of God. This is why self-evaluation should always be an ongoing and unfinished project; not just people, but for the entire congregation, especially its leadership.
Now we have finished the bottom tier of this list, it’s time to move on to our Top 5. This part of The List was the most difficult because of so many other things could have fit here as well. But coming in at Number 5 is Fear Of Change. But it is the unique beginning of Change that qualifies it to be in solidly at Number 5. To show how this has been a persistent problem, let’s look at a story about change from Numbers 14:1-4 (The Message)
1-3 The whole community was in an uproar, wailing all night long. All the People of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The entire community was in on it: “Why didn’t we die in Egypt? Or in this wilderness? Why has God brought us to this country to kill us? Our wives and children are about to become plunder. Why don’t we just head back to Egypt? And right now!”
4 Soon they were all saying it to one another: “Let’s pick a new leader; let’s head back to Egypt.”
Unless one is a pastor or member of the military, two callings that require adaptability to change because change is a constant, change creates a lot of anxiety in many people, especially long-term members of a local church. This does not seem to be a problem with new Christians because they typically have not developed their hierarchy of importance. The excitement of new birth and new life, well, all they want to do is serve Jesus. Everything is new and everything is changing for the newborn Disciple of Jesus. But for the church members with long-standing tenure, it is usually viewed with more than just suspicion, but downright hated and anger.
But it is that first great Change mentioned in the Bible that takes fear of change into that realm of being an oxymoron. You see, prior to the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden, everything was moving forward. The only constant that had never changed in the Garden and in their lives was that God was in charge. Then comes Satan on the scene with an offer to, you guessed it, CHANGE! He came at them proposing that things needed to change: “Why should HE be in charge? You could do just as good, probably better. In fact, He knows you could do better, that’s why He doesn’t want you eating from this tree.”
So in the beginning, humans were not afraid of change. And today, many tenured pew sitters are terrified of change and see any change as spawns of Satan, himself. But there was a time when humans were not afraid of change. Oops, I just heard a tenured pew sitter saying, “See! That’s why we need to be afraid of change! Look at what it got us back then!” Well Mr. & Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter, had things not changed back then, we would not even be having this discussion now. But because of the fallen nature that exists in each of us, even Mr. & Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter, change is needed.
Our world has been in a constant state of change. Growing up, education was based upon books and pencils and paper. Today it’s about I-Pads and Google Books. Where I learned through the sense of hearing, kids today are more visual learners. When I was growing up, single parents were a minority. In some school systems, the majority of students come from a single parent family. I could go on and on with the changes that happen in our culture. Mr. & Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter, you know I’m right on this.
In the midst of all these changes, the church does have something that never changes–and it’s not our traditions. It is the truth of God’s Word. We call it the Bible. And within this Bible, God reveals more than truth, He reveals Kingdom Truth about how life is without Him and how it can be with Him. But how we present and share the Kingdom Truth, that does go through changes. Think about the dinosaur. What happened to the dinosaur? It’s culture changed; it didn’t; it died. Remember the 7 words of a dying church (or any organization) “We’ve never done it that way before.” Hear this consistently and know that death is imminent.
Look back at the passage from Numbers. For a long season everything was predictable for the most part. Now they were about to be challenged to trust God even deeper as the conquest of the Promised Land was at hand. Big changes are coming! And what was their response to entering the Promised Land, a Land that God said He guaranteed they would occupy and would fight for them? “Let’s get us a new leader/pastor (I just had to throw that in) who can lead us back to Egypt!” Now, what was it they had in Egypt? Slavery! go back to chapter 11 and you see even then they were wanting to go back for free onions AND SLAVERY! Why did they want to go back to slavery? Why do Mr. & Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter fight so fiercely to maintain the status quo? I know the answer! I know the answer!
Once the Enemy got Adam and Eve to believe that his idea of change was good, he then gave humanity a new lie. He gave them, and so many still today, the idea that predictability is the preferred status over some unknown future. Predictability is believed to produce peace and stability. It gives neither. Predictability always, always, always produces complacency. When complacency happens, one becomes both deaf and blind to the movement of the Holy Spirit and oblivious to what and where God is moving. The Enemy knows that if he can keep Mr. & Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter as Guardians Of The “We’ve Always Done It This Way” dogma, he knows that local church will never ever be a threat to him.
I’m not suggesting that all change is good and I do not believe in change simply for the sake of change or to follow the latest fad. I am doing more than suggesting, I’m outright telling you, that to defend the status quo simply because it is the status quo has deadly consequences. Congregations who stubbornly resist any change need to be ready to plan their last Sunday Service, because it will not be long until they can no longer sustain their facility.