Garmin. Waze. Tom-Tom. Google Maps. et.al. All of these GPS based systems promise to get us to a destination we are looking for. Right? But! Have you ever had the experience of using one of those GPS things and it tells you You Have Reached Your Destination only–it’s not the place you’re looking for? Yes or No?
That you are looking for a place you really want to be–so you enter it into your GPS. It does its calculating and off you go. You turn left. Then turn right. Then turn left. Then turn right. Go 5.2 miles. You hear the glorious words, “Your destination is a quarter of a mile on your right. In 100 feet turn right. TURN RIGHT!” Then! You find yourself at a cemetery and the GPS proudly announces You have reached your destination! Wha?????
While this parable (maybe it’s happened to some of you) would make a great episode of “The Twilight Zone”, it’s an every-day-often-all-day-long experience for people today. And it’s not a GPS thing. It’s a life thing. They try to find more than a tourist attraction or great restaurant. It’s trying to find satisfaction for their life. They seek The Promise but only find a cemetery. Solomon warned us about this in Proverbs 14:12–“There is a way that appears to be right,but in the end it leads to death.” So they think, “Well, Google Maps was wrong–I’ll try Waze!” More left turns. More right turns. But they end up in the very same cemetery. What’s a person to do? Isn’t there anything that can get us to where we long to be?
I’m probably about to appear to some to be a simple-minded dolt, but if nothing in this world gives us what we long for–then perhaps we should try God’s Word–The Bible. We read in Psalms 119:105–“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” If the directions you have been following hasn’t gotten you to where you long to be, then may I suggest you turn to God’s Word–The Whole Word–And Nothing But The Word? After all, isn’t insanity defined as trying the same thing over and over expecting different results?
Surrender your life to God. Then, when the undertaker reaches that final destination, it won’t be your final destination. With Jesus leading the way, our final destination is life!
The greatest generation ever was those who fought in World War II. I would like to think that my generation was the second greatest generation. Why? We spent more time outside than inside. We had sweat beads around our necks in the summer. We could turn the right stick into a Thompson sub-machine gun. We didn’t think much about stepping in cow manure. We drank water from the hose pipe. We jumped off of bridges into creeks. Best friends could have fights and after the fight, still be best friends.
We watched violent cartoons with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd, the Road Runner and Wile E Coyote, yet we never had the desire or even urge to to shoot someone or order bomb making materials from Acme. Oh! One more thing–we had the very best music! Country music was COUNTRY Music and rock-n-roll was ROCK-N-ROLL. One of our songs was “What The World Needs Now Is Love”, recorded by Jackie DeShannon in 1965.
And now it is 2021, and the question begs to be asked and answered: What Are The Three Most Important Words For Right Now? I have been listening, and have advanced to the level of Intermediate Noticer. Based on what is being said and shouted, here is my comprehensive yet incomplete list of what different people are thinking is the answer to the 3 most important words needed for these times. In no particular order they are:
We need Trump
We need Biden
Ban all guns
Need more guns
Prayer in schools
Bibles in schools
Close the borders
New American revolution
End foreign aid
Drain the swamp
More government aid
Congressional term limits
Less on defense
More on defense
Change your mind
Change YOUR mind
We need love
We need peace
We need hope
Have judicial reforms
No more racism
New political party (I must say this, “Really??? Aren’t political parties part of the problem??? And you want to add to the sewage?”)
We need kindness
We need determination
Deport all Republicans
Deport all Democrats
New moral values
Old moral values
Legalize more drugs
Government medical care
Defund Law Enforcement
Something, Anything, Everything
There are more to add to this list. Some “imagined” solutions are more complicated than three words. As if our world isn’t complicated enough. There are no simplistic solutions to the problems our culture and nation are facing. But. . .the solution is simple; just that simple. This list reflects groups of people–group mentalities. Group mentalities tend to produce complicated, complex, and irrelevant solutions. The answer–the simple but not simplistic answer–is found in three words:
I Need Help!
All of the fake solutions to our issues are focused on what others need to do–never on what the individual needs to SAY! To say “I NEED HELP” is to acknowledge that NOTHING–NO THING OUT THERE–can help heal our brokenness and help us navigate this total mess. If nothing OUT THERE (I refer you to the above list as being “out there”) that can help and heal us–then the answer must be UP THERE! I’m talking about the One Constant in an ever changing universe and culture–the Throne of God.
To end this madness, the place to begin is with the person in your mirror–that’s YOU! To say “I Need Help” is to admit the limitations created by sin and the Hope found only when we surrender completely and unconditionally to God. My best days happen when I begin the day, end the day, and admit every moment between beginning and ending, “I Need Help!” My worst days happen when I fail to say it. My mediocre days happen when I forget to say it throughout the day.
It’s simplistic to approach life saying that others need to change. Simplistic solutions have never worked. But solving this crisis is really simple. Admit your own need for God and trust God to both change and guide YOU–not “them”! Let your words be the words of the Psalmist:
1 I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!
3 He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. 4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
5 The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. 6 The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
7 The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. 8 The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.
Who would deny that the current state of the church, politics and society as a whole is in a state of unabridged and unequivocal chaos. Even the most self-deluded would have to admit this is our current reality. And when it comes to placing the blame…its not any better. On any given day and all day long, the long finger of blame is pointing somewhere. It’s like the Wheel of Fortune or Price is Right–there are lots of options on where to place the blame.
Conservatives are to blame. Progressives are to blame. The Democrats are to blame. The Republicans are to blame. Guns are to blame. Wussy-minded folks are to blame. Millenials are to blame. Baby Boomers are to blame. Professors are to blame. Parents to blame. Spin the wheel and find who to blame. Oy, oy, oy! It’s giving me a headache and makes me want to puke. It’s all Mishigas and Shmegegge. (I love Yiddish!)
But what would happen if we would do what David tells us to do? What would happen if we stopped spinning the Wheel Of Blame and took a long, hard and serious look at our own life?
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)
Are you willing to allow God to Search, Know, Test, Point Out what’s wrong in your own life? The Wheel Of Blame isn’t helping; so why not give this a full-on try. If we want things to change, then remember President Harry Truman’s personal mantra–THE BUCK STOPS HERE! Start and end each day with this Psalm. Allow God to Search, Know, Test, Point Out what’s going on with you. Don’t just do it to fill your heart and mind with guilt–but do it so that the last line in this Psalm becomes true in you: And Lead Me Along The Paths Of Everlasting Life. Just in case you’re so dense you haven’t figured out the Monday Musing Theme, allow me to put it succinctly–Focus on what God wants for your life, then allow HIM to lead you along The Path!
Last Tuesday I was on my way to the hospital in Tupelo, Mississippi to see a parishioner and a very good friend who has Stage 4 cancer. I’ve been praying for his healing and it seemed like God wasn’t listening, or at least doing what I thought He should do. It’s about an hour and a half drive from home, so I had some time to do something other than thinking, about my friend and my soon to be 94 year old Dad. He had been having a difficult week. I needed a distraction–not from my driving–but from my thoughts.
I decided to listen to some podcasts from one of my mentors (who doesn’t know me)–Andy Andrews. I find him insightful and humorous. God knows I needed a laugh, and I hoped Andy wouldn’t disappoint me. He didn’t. But about 15 minutes into my hour and a half drive, the podcast was interrupted by a text. So I did the safe thing and found a place to pull over and check out the text. And here is what I saw:
I started to reply with one word: Thanks. But that would have been deceptive by me. So I told my friend, Matthew Winters, exactly what I was struggling with. By the way, Matthew has started blogging again with a new direction. You can check him out HERE! Commercial over, back to Monday’s Musing.
At the moment I needed help, God sent me help. But it took someone else to bring me that help. In this case, it was Matthew. And this morning I’m thinking about a particular passage, Philippians 2:4 (NLT)
Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
That afternoon God spoke and Matthew was listening–and God’s grace once again renewed my heart and mind. Matthew took an interest in me; his heart was directed to me; and Matthew was obedient to God. And here’s the point I want to make, and it’s in the form of a question:
God is wanting to help someone who is in a struggle–and He’s chosen you to send His help. ARE YOU LISTENING?
Only by having a deep walk with Jesus and The Holy Spirit can you be in a place where you can hear God speaking. Like a 911 Operator, God is saying, “Help is on the way!” Make sure you’re “on call” to receive His Dispatch.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
New Year’s offers for many the opportunity for more than a different life, but stirs in us the longing for a better life. The human heart is made for something that is better—and that something better is Contentment. So we make resolutions that we hope will make life better by improving the quality of our experiences. I thought it would be interesting to see what the top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for 2020 are. I surfed the web and here is what I found:
Learn a new skill or hobby
Live life to the fullest
Save more money / spend less money
Spend more time with family and friends
Here’s what else I found: It was pretty much the same for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and you get the point. Now we can download apps that promise ways to help you keep your resolutions. And we would all agree that it’s easier to make resolutions than to keep them. Wouldn’t it be great if we could slip on a pair of shoes, take a supplement, join a gym and at the end of the year discover that we kept all our resolutions? I believe that New Year Resolutions are The Cry Of The Heart For Deep, Abiding Contentment. When it comes to the issue of contentment, there are 3 things about people and our culture that are true:
Most People are not content with their lives. In spite of all the promises of hope from the latest trends, advertisements and self-help gurus, most people realize that something is still missing in their life.
Most people feel powerless when it comes to developing lasting and significant change in their lives. According to a couple of surveys, only 40-45% of Americans even take the effort to make one or more New Year’s Resolutions. This is down from last century’s high mark of 80%.
Every human heart longs for contentment. Even among that 55-60% who make no Resolutions, and among those who say they have given up hope, The Longing Of The Heart For Contentment Never Goes Away.
But what if there was a way to bring that Deep, Abiding Contentment to your life? And what if there was a way that you could model contentment in a way that would inspire those closest to you to experience that same Sense Of Contentment in their life? Does that sound good to you? But wait! There’s more.
What if I could show you that to achieve this life that is more than different, more than better, but fills anyone with Contentment, can be achieved with One Resolution, would you be interested? Not 10, not 5, no, not 3 resolutions, there is only One Resolution that all of us need to make. Want to know what it is? Let’s look at Paul’s letter to the Philippians in Philippians 1:27-30
27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.
According to Paul, the 1 Resolution is this: Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel! “Oh, is that all it is preacher? Why didn’t you tell me to paint the Golden Gate Bridge; or—Find the cure for cancer; or—Get every nation to sign a peace accord and end all wars; or—Put an end to world hunger; or—Get Democrats and Republicans to put the American citizen first and forget party politics? I could do that long before my life is worthy of the Gospel! Thanks for nothing!”
And if the Gospel was about what we could do and accomplish, then that’s the way we all ought to feel. We try to do our very best, but then we lose our temper, we lust, we envy, feel jealousy, say a dirty word, become greedy, act harshly, become resentful and are unforgiving. And we realize that is just not worthy of the Gospel. But The Gospel Is Not About What We Can Do.
The Gospel is all about what God has done, is doing and will continue to do for us because of His heart for us. It’s Not The “Gospel Of Our Best Efforts” But The Gospel Of God’s Best Effort For Us. It’s all about God’s Grace; it’s not left up to our best efforts to honor Christ. We Are To Honor Christ By Allowing Him To Live In And Through Us With The Power Of Resurrection! We often lock in on that word found in the KJV Conduct. But remember Paul didn’t write in English. He wrote in Greek and in Greek, the NLT gives us the best understanding of that word: Live As Citizens of Heaven.
This means we live according to God’s ways, plans and purposes that are rooted in His Grace. And at the heart of Grace is that we allow Him into our hearts and We Rely On His Strength Rather Than Our Own Strength. And Paul’s letter to the Philippians doesn’t end with that verse. For the rest of this letter, Paul shows us how to live a life worthy of the gospel by allowing Christ to live in us and through us! Contentment Is Found By Surrendering Moment By Moment To The Process Of Grace, And Not Giving Up On That Process, Especially When We Mess Up.
And this process is found in ONE: One Spirit, One Mind, One Purpose, One Goal, One Hope And One Secret. And this process is what we will begin looking at in this New Year. So, how can we live this Life Worthy Of The Gospel By Allowing Christ To Live In And Thru Us?
It comes by making 6 Conscious Choices every day. The Process Begins By Living In One Spirit. And here’s The1 Thing you need to remember from today’s message: Contentment Begins When We Think, Speak, Act, React And Make Decisions Based On One Spirit.
Paul is not talking about the Holy Spirit here, but our spirit. What Is Your Spirit? The first response is to say, “That’s the part of me that lives on after death.” And it is, but I want you to go deeper. Think Of Your Spirit As That Part Of You That Makes You Think, Speak, Act, React And Helps In Your Decision Making Process. And this is the real problem. Without a deep and committed relationship to Christ, we live with A Divided Spirit. Living life with One Spirit does not happen automatically nor is it easily attained. Allow me to define for you what I mean by One Spirit: One Spirit means living each day with an Undivided Heart! So think of One Spirit as that heart that gives its loyalty to God.
And to help us live with One Spirit, God offers us transformation—A New Spirit—A New Way To Think, Speak, Act, React And Make Decisions. He offers to help us live with One Spirit that is worthy of the Gospel Of Grace through The Desire To Have That Undivided Spirit. Here is how to develop this One Spirit.
1. Have That Unbridled Desire For God’s Grace
Remember that this Process of One, this resolution to Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel does not depend on your abilities; just God’s grace! And is there anything better or more reliable that God’s Grace? Jesus uses 2 powerful human experiences to describe what it means to desire God’s grace: hungering and thirsting. Jesus said in Matthew 5:6—Blessed Are Those Who Hunger And Thirst For Righteousness, For They Will Be Filled.
It’s About An Unquenchable Appetite For God. It’s not about a Sam’s Club sample taste, or a small Hors d’oeuvre tray. It is about all that God offers. And trust that God will provide His grace. When you get up in the morning have that unquenchable appetite for God. When you go to bed at night have that unquenchable appetite for God. And every moment between getting up and going to sleep, have that unquenchable appetite for God.
2. Give Him Your Unrestrained Devotion
Use the word “Devotion” and many think about The Upper Room, Guideposts, Daily Bread or some other devotional material. Reading these devotional materials are great acts that we need to engage in daily. But that’s not Devotion. The Dictionary Defines Devotion As: Profound Dedication. It is moving your life in the direction of God. This movement in the direction of God is best described in Philippians 3:13-14—I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Whatever it is that you talk the most about, that is your greatest passion, and that is what you are giving your devotion to. Your Greatest Passion Reveals Your Devotion. If your greatest passion is football, then your devotion is to football. If your greatest passion is to be recognized and praised by others, then your devotion is to self. Devotion to God is choosing to focus on God’s presence. It means we look for and find God’s presence every day and everywhere. Make God your greatest passion.
3. Live With Total Determination
It’s easy to give up on dreams when life gets tight. It’s easy to turn around when life gets tough. Our world, your culture, is filled with those who would rather quit than fight on—surrender rather than overcome. To Live In One Spirit Requires Resolve And Determination Because It Is On The Other Side Of The Struggle And Conflict That We Understand What The Life In Grace Is All About.
It is by going through the tight, tough and difficult places that we really discover just how much God does for us. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10—We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
Without Grace, without the Christ of the Cross, our own spirit becomes divided and it’s all because of the problem of sin. But Jesus has defeated the sin-problem for us by carrying our sins to the Cross. Contentment begins when we take our relationship with God seriously—By Making This Relationship The MOST Important Priority In Our Life. Jesus lived with One Spirit—to honor God by allowing God’s heart, the Father’s Presence to live in Him and through Him.
Remember: You Can’t Follow Jesus And Stay Where You Are. So here’s your Next Steps:
Do something to show your hunger for God’s Grace
Join a Bible study group, maybe 2 groups
Begin to read the Bible, just the Bible. Begin with Philippians
Get directly involved helping people know that God loves them
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!
The Eternal Name—The Name for all generations to remember—The Name that God has chosen to reveal to us all is YAHWEH—I Am! His Name says that He exists as Himself. He isn’t shaped or twisted by our own ideas and conceptions. Whatever it is that we may think about HIM, doesn’t change who He really is. Whatever you say about God doesn’t change Him. Whatever you may believe about God, does not change the identity and nature of our God.
He is who HE says He is; not
necessarily who we think He is and not necessarily who others say He is. He exists as He truly is—
In Indescribable Glory,
Pure, Uncontaminated Beauty
And All This In Awesome And Breathtaking Majesty.
He has never been weaker nor stronger than He is right now in eternity, nor will He ever be. Think about the changes that have happened in the history of humanity. We have gone from walking everywhere to riding a horse to an automobile, to flying across the skies, even made the journey to the moon and back.
about all the changes that have happened just in your lifetime. Yet, God has never ever changed—not even a
fraction. He Is Constant And
Consistent To The Point We Really Cannot Describe All That He Is. This Is The Eternal Name For All Generations
As we have been looking through John’s Gospel, Jesus has been publicly using His Eternal Name. And it has caused a lot of discomfort and anger with the Pharisees because we are not supposed to say that name—even though God wants His Eternal Name remembered by all generations.
They felt like, “We can’t have this guy going around calling himself God. We’ve got to put a stop to it. We’ve tried to be reasonable. We’ve tried to show that He’s a phony, but many don’t believe us. We must put an end to Jesus!” So they begin to formulate their plans, but what they don’t understand is that God already has a plan. They want to wait until AFTER Passover, but God has ordained that this Passover is THE time for THE perfect sacrifice that will end all sacrifices. And now, it is time for THE Passover. Jesus has gathered His inner circle in that upper room. Everything is in place and they think it’s just another Passover. They know the ritual; after all, they grew up with it. But Jesus now changes everything. In public He had been using the Eternal Name, and now in a very private moment, He uses it once more. Let’s turn to John 14:1-7 (NLT)
let your hearts be troubled. Trust in
God, and trust also in me. There
is more than enough room in my Father’s home.
If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a
place for you? When
everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with
me where I am. And you know
the way to where I am going.”
“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am The Way, The Truth, And The Life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”
that Jesus said He is–The Great I Am—The Living Bread, The Light Of
The World, The Door, The Good Shepherd—is so true—truer than you may
even realize. But here, in a private and
intimate moment, Jesus reveals the Deepest Part Of The Heart Of God. He Doesn’t Say This In Public,
But Rather To Those Hearts That Are Longing For God’s Heart.
This leads me to The one thing you need to remember: You Do Not Follow Jesus In Order To Love Him. You Love Him In Order To Follow Him.
comes first—before the following. But—If
you follow Jesus in order to love Him, it becomes a list of rules and things to
do. This way becomes legalistic. And
after a while, you either love the rules more than you love Him; or you will
But…if you love Jesus first—it gives you the desire to follow Him. Here is how it works: You see His beauty and that Beauty pulls you in deeper. Then You Begin Seeking His Beauty, And His Heart So That You May Be Transformed BY His Beauty INTO His Beauty. In Other Words, You Follow Him!
In this very sacred moment, Jesus says something to every heart. For inside every heart is that deep, deep longing to be near to and close to God’s very heart. The heart knows what the heart needs but the problem is we don’t always listen to it. Many try to ignore it, but the longing is still there. Others try to fill it with everything else, but the heart is still empty. Jesus Knows What Their Hearts Long For, Thirst For, Hunger For—So He Reveals What Every Heart Around That Table Longs To Know. And it is true in your heart. Listen with your heart what Jesus is saying to it.
1. He Is The Way!
When Jesus said He is The Way He means He is the ONLY way to find release from the guilt and shame of our sin. And we have to get rid of all that sin because it’s standing in the way of us entering God’s heart and God entering our heart. He Is That Entrance Into Freedom From All That Holds Us Back, All That Puts Us In Bondage, And All That Chains Us To Fear And Condemnation. Jesus is the only entrance to God’s heart. Contrary to the view of many, there are not many ways to discover God.
There is only ONE way and that way is Jesus. And The Way is a Journey, and The Journey is first to fall in love with God. Not what He does. And not by falling in love with His ways. Falling in love with God—with HIM! Being captivated by His Glory—which is His love for you. Until you see HIS Glory—you cannot love Him the way He deserves to be love Once we are in love with HIM, then He is The Way that leads us into that Holy Journey with God. The Way means that God invites us into this Journey with Him.
It Is A Journey Filled With Adventure And Excitement Where God Uses Us To Reveal Jesus To Our World.
A Journey That Can Be Difficult At Times, Especially When Things Don’t Work Out
Like We Hoped, And Even When We Can’t See Where This Journey Will Lead Us.
It’s The Journey That Requires We Surrender Control To Him. It’s The Journey Where We Will Be Stretched
That Journey Where At Times The Only Thing We Can Hold On To Is God Himself. It May Even Be Frightening To Some.
But It’s Not A Journey We Make Alone. Jesus Is Right Here With Us Every Step Of The Way.
didn’t say “I am the pew.” But many
treat Jesus that way; confident and comfortable in the pew. But Jesus didn’t say that, He said, “I Am The
Way!” He invites us to travel this road
called Grace, and it’s a road that is meant to be a life time journey. Along the journey we will see, do and
experience so many things. The journey
at the end will be different than at the beginning. But one thing will remain throughout this
lifetime journey: Jesus walks every step
with us. It’s the journey with Jesus
where He leads us to wherever and whatever He wants for us.
2. He Is The Truth
Since it is The Journey that Jesus invites us into, we need some guideposts, road signs that help us keep us on the right path for The Journey. And here is what it looks like to call Jesus The Truth.
The Truth Is He Has Saved Us And Forgiven Us Completely And Not A Single Sin Brought Under His Blood Exists In His Heart Or Memory.
The Truth Is He Lives In Us To Empower Us.
The Truth Is He Gives Us A Holy Calling And Task That He Wants And Expects Us To Do.
The Truth Is He Holds Us Accountable To Share The Grace He Has So Extravagantly Given To Each Of Us.
Truth Is We Live Each Moment Of Each Day By And IN The Truth.
The Truth Is That People Are More Important Than Things—Jesus Did Things For People Even If It Violated The Way Things Had Always Been Because People Are More Important Than Things.
The Truth That We Must Grow In This Grace—Grow More Confident—Grow Wiser About The Truth—Applying The Truth In Real Life Situations.“What Would Jesus Do?” is more than a cute saying for shirts, bracelets and bumper stickers, it’s the way we live and respond to every situation life throws at us.
The Truth Is Persistent And Consistent For All Times, Places And People. It Doesn’t Change Or Fluctuate With The Times, Nor The Culture.
The Truth Is That Service And Sacrifice Are Part Of The Way. Service And Sacrifice Are What Truly Marks Us As Disciples Of Jesus And Members Of The Body Of Christ.
This Truth—Lived By Jesus Every Day He Walked This Earth As One Of Us—Is The Anchor For Every Age, Every Generation, And Every Moment Of Every Day We Walk This Earth.
Jesus As The Truth Is More Than A Creed Or Belief. It is the convictions that hold us, hold us closely when we need assurance of God’s love—and that challenges us to follow Jesus in The Way! The Truth Is That Jesus Is The Alpha And Omega, The First And The Last, The Beginning And The End. And whatever it is we do as believers in Christ, makes each day all about him and not anything about us!
Truth isn’t a weapon we use
against others. It’s the discipline that
reminds us that we are in love with God—and that God is in love with us.
3. He Is The Life!
The Life gives the journey meaning. It is The Life that should be the force
that makes our feet hit the floor every morning. Jesus is The Life that brings us to life with
a passion and excitement to be a part of what God is doing in our world.
people are waiting to die. They have
given up on the excitement and adventure of life. If Jesus is really in your heart, you don’t
have to wait to die to experience life, but you can start living, really living
with that sense of joy, purpose and anticipation of all that God wants to show
you every day. Jesus didn’t suffer and die
on that Cross for you to be sad and miserable; cranky and whiney; to grumble
His Life Is About Life That
Has An Eternal Meaning In The Here And Now. Jesus wants you to live and breathe, not
exist. And The Life is offered to you through
The Gift—the Gift of Perfect Love when Jesus went to the Cross to die for
you. But He didn’t just die for you—He
conquered death for you, too.
And the Resurrection Life isn’t just for that day when
the body dies. The Resurrection Life Is For Here
And Now. It begins with the Journey.
And the Journey begins with falling love with God. God is in love with YOU. Not with what you can do or ought to do. He is in love with YOU right now! Jesus is The Way into that love. Truth reminds us of this—that God is in love
with us. Truth isn’t a set of creeds—it
is more—Truth is a Person—Jesus Christ—And this makes Truth a Love
Relationship. This Is The Life!
is knowing we are loved by God—being in love with God—in the way that causes us
to be His Agents, Agents of Redemption for the world.
Are you simply waiting to die? Do you feel
that life has become too hard to do anything significant? Do you think it was easy for Jesus to forgive
the crowd while hanging on that cross?
Stop waiting to die—decide today to begin living.
What are you doing that is life-giving to others? Have you heard
of that TV series The Walking Dead? It’s
about the Zombie Apocalypse. Some call
it science fiction. It’s truer than you
may realize. The Walking Dead are all
around us. The thing is they don’t look
like those zombies on TV—they look like us.
But they are dead on the inside.
“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.