Mason Jars, Flashlights, And God!

People who are full of themselves don’t have room for God. People Who Admit They Are Empty Are The Ones Who Become Full Of God!

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(This is the last message in the series, “How To Change The Culture”

9-12 That night, God told Gideon:  “Get up and go down to the camp.  I’ve given it to you.  If you have any doubts about going down, go down with Purah your armor bearer; when you hear what they’re saying, you’ll be bold and confident.”   He and his armor bearer Purah went down near the place where sentries were posted.  Midian and Amalek, all the easterners, were spread out on the plain like a swarm of locusts.  And their camels! Past counting, like grains of sand on the seashore! 13 Gideon arrived just in time to hear a man tell his friend a dream.  He said, “I had this dream:  A loaf of barley bread tumbled into the Midianite camp.  It came to the tent and hit it so hard it collapsed.  The tent fell!” 14 His friend said, “This has to be the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite!  God has turned Midian—the whole camp!—over to him.” 15 When Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he went to his knees before God in prayer.  Then he went back to the Israelite camp and said, “Get up and get going!  God has just given us the Midianite army!” 16-18 He divided the three hundred men into three companies.  He gave each man a trumpet and an empty jar, with a torch in the jar.  He said, “Watch me and do what I do.  When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly what I do.  When I and those with me blow the trumpets, you also, all around the camp, blow your trumpets and shout, ‘For God and for Gideon!’” 19-22 Gideon and his hundred men got to the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after the sentries had been posted.  They blew the trumpets, at the same time smashing the jars they carried.  All three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars.  They held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands, ready to blow, and shouted, “A sword for God and for Gideon!”  They were stationed all around the camp, each man at his post.  The whole Midianite camp jumped to its feet.  They yelled and fled.  When the three hundred blew the trumpets, God aimed each Midianite’s sword against his companion, all over the camp.  They ran for their lives—to Beth Shittah, toward Zererah, to the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. 23 Israelites rallied from Naphtali, from Asher, and from all over Manasseh.  They had Midian on the run. 24 Gideon then sent messengers through all the hill country of Ephraim, urging them, “Come down against Midian!  Capture the fords of the Jordan at Beth Barah.”25 So all the men of Ephraim rallied and captured the fords of the Jordan at Beth Barah.  They also captured the two Midianite commanders Oreb (Raven) and Zeeb (Wolf).  They killed Oreb at Raven Rock; Zeeb they killed at Wolf Winepress.  And they pressed the pursuit of Midian.  They brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon across the Jordan. Judges 7:9-25 (The Message)

Gideon’s Culture needed to be changed, and only God could change his Culture.  Remember the same holds true today for us.  And now everything is in place that God can use to bring Change.

And never forget that God chose the least and the weakest for this project.  Then He sifted and He tested.  Now the battle that will change everything is about to happen.  I need you to think about all the weapons of war that the Midianites and their allies had.

The Midianites Were The Current World Power And You Don’t Become A World Power Unless Your Weapons Are The Most Powerful Weapons Around.  (Remember This Statement Because We’ll Come Back To This Later!) 

Do you think Gideon and his army had those kinds of weapons?  I don’t think so.  Remember they were a people who had been reduced to starvation.  They had been one of those peoples that the Midianites had been intimidating and plundering.  

If they had the weapons to beat them back, don’t you think they would have already done it?  But they haven’t because they did not think neither themselves nor their weapons were stronger than their weapons.  So They Lived Defeated And Intimidated Life.  But things are about to change.  For the Culture To Change, there needs to be a plan; and what a Plan it is—and it’s absolutely insane to the world.

The Plan is to use a jar, a torch and a horn.  They divide into 3 groups and on cue from Gideon, they smash their jars in unison, raise their torch with their left arm in unison, and holding their horn with their right hand, they blow those horns in unison.  Then, in unison, they shout:  “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 

Excuse me, but I have to ask:  Where’s The Sword?  Left hand holds a torch.  Right hand holds a horn.  They’ve run out of hands.  So where is the sword?  In the belt around their waist.  They don’t need it.  Down in the Valley of Jezreel, there’s panic and pandemonium, chaos and confusion, disorder and disarray. 

They are turning on each other, killing each other and then running away.  And God did exactly what God said He would to Gideon.  “I will fight for you!  It will be so easy, even a caveman can do it!”  300 took on over 60,000 armed only with a Mason Jar, A Flashlight, And God.  And Gideon’s Culture changed through Mason Jars, Flashlights, And God.  Here’s the one thing you need to remember about how to be used for the God-Sized Task of changing your CultureTo change your Culture, it takes a Mason jar, a flashlight, and God.  I’ll explain it like this:

1.  You And I Are The Mason Jars.

God uses ordinary jars.  God could do it without any help from us.  Not a problem for God.  But God chooses to use His Image Bearers.  And He doesn’t choose based on the external measurements.  Admit it:  You think it really takes extraordinary people to be Culture Changers.  That’s because the emphasis is placed on the external measurements.  That’s not how God works.  It’s not the outer appearance that matters—it’s what’s in the jar that matters.

And the jars have to be empty, so that He can fill them with His power. 

2 Cor. 4:7 (NLT)—We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 

People who are full of themselves don’t have room for God.  People Who Admit They Are Empty Are The Ones Who Become Full Of God!

Remember that those jars were broken, and we need to be broken.  We have to allow God to use us the way God wants to use us, and not the way we want to be used.  The Broken Mason Jars set God’s Plan in motion.  Without the broken jars, the Plan doesn’t work.

2.  Jesus Is The Flashlight That Will Shatter The Darkness In Our Culture.

 This world will not be changed by force.  Too many wars have proven this true.  It’s all about Jesus and what He is doing in our life. 

John 8:12 (NLT)—I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life. 

Our Culture is just like that Army in the Valley of Jezreel—it’s in total darkness.  What our Culture needs above everything else is The Light!  In the darkness, they are fighting each other.  And WE need to stop fighting each other.

It Is Jesus, Just Jesus, All Jesus! (Say it again!  Say it with me!)  If you want your world to change, let your world see Jesus in you, in your words, your attitudes and your actions!

3. The Horns Are All About God, Not Us.

When Gideon’s 300 blew their horns, it wasn’t about music.  It was an announcement.  Horns had many uses back then, but the most important one was The Announcement—The Announcement that the King was there and had something important to say.  We need to announce to our world that the King of Kings is here and He has something to say, something important.  And what He has to say it this:

Luke 4:18-19 (NLT)—“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.  He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

If you don’t have a message—if you don’t have The Right Message—this Culture will continue to spin out of control; and it will make Chernobyl seem like spilled milk.  The damage continues to mount, and the casualties are piling up. 

But if you follow Jesus—You Have The Message That God Wants This Culture To Hear And To See Through You.  Here’s The Message that Will Change The Culture:

  • No One Has To Live As Sin’s Slave!
  • No One Has To Live In Fear!
  • No One Has To Be Consumed By Hate!
  • No One Has To Stumble In The Moral Darkness!
  • No One Has To Be Chained To What Used To Be!
  • Anyone Can Be Born Again, Have A Fresh Start In Life!

And God wants to use you—your voice and your life—to offer our world the one thing it can never find.  To find what Gideon, his clan and tribe had lost!  And that is Hope! 

God wants to use you to radically transform this Culture into The Kingdom Of God; and to lead people to Jesus and make new disciples.  You don’t have to know the 3 questions to ask a lost person.  You don’t have to memorize the Roman’s Roadmap to Heaven. 

Tell them what Jesus has done in your life.  Tell them what Jesus is doing in your life.  And for heaven’s sake, tell them what Jesus will do in your life; and That He Will Do The Same In Their Life.

Only The Message Of Jesus Will Transform The Culture—And It Is The Only Message That Has The Power To Transform This Culture!  If you don’t think so, then why in world are you even here?

Test time—do you recall what I asked you to remember near the beginning of this message?  Here it is:  They Were The Current World Power And You Don’t Become A World Power Unless Your Weapons Are The Most Powerful Weapons Around. 

The reason churches are not making a difference in the world is because they don’t realize that WE Have The Most Powerful Weapon Around—The Risen Lord Living In Us! 

But don’t overlook what happened just before the battle.  Gideon was still afraid.  Look at Judges 7:10-15—But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah.  Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack.”  Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his companion about a dream.  The man said, “I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp.  It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!”  His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!”  When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the Lord.  Then he returned to the Israelite camp and shouted, “Get up!  For the Lord has given you victory over the Midianite hordes!”

And we have come full circle to where we started.  It’s about God doing it through you.  And it begins with a relationship that can happen only because of what Jesus did for you and me on that cross.

  • God changed the Jewish world with that Cross. 
  • God changed the Roman world with that Cross. 
  • When darkness swept across Europe, God changed the Dark Ages with that Cross. 
  • When England was dull, stuffy, empty ritual, God changed their world with that Cross. 

And don’t you think He will change OUR world with that very same Cross?  And if you are afraid, God will do for you just as he did for Gideon.  And the Lessons from Gideon, are the Lessons God has for us today.

Here is your Next Step:

Decide today that you are tired of this culture, and that you believe God has The Message that will end your Turmoil, Anxiety, and Unrest that is infecting your culture and the culture around you.

When Not Enough Is Too Many!

God Uses The Sifted And The Tested!

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Let’s 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.

  1. Attitudes shape how we see life
  2. Values determine what is important and what’s not important
  3. Morals declare what is right or wrong

They 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 through Gideon;

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. 

Now 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)

So 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 fight.

But 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. 

Be 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.

But 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. 

If 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!”

Have 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

Anyone 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. 

And 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?

Here’s 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

Don’t 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.

Have 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. 

OK, 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

God 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.

And 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!

We 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. 

Notice 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 fresh start. 

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: 

  1.   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.
  2.   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. 

Be 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?

Next week it’s all about Mason Jars, Flashlights, And God!

Here’s Your Sign!

The Signs That God Will Change Our Culture Are Here—We Just Need To Follow Them.

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Comedian Bill Engvall made a comfortable living for his family through his “Here’s Your Sign” routine.  Just in case you haven’t heard of Bill, allow me to explain.  He talks about some of the not so bright things people do and say.  For example, at an airport the airline had lost his luggage.  He went to the lost luggage department to report it.  The girl at the counter asked, “Has your flight landed yet?”  He replied, “No, princess. I’m having an out of body experience.  I’m just checkin’ on it.  Here’s your sign.”

I moved in 2004 and I was looking for a doctor.  I made an appointment and when it was time to go, I decided to ride my bike.  After waiting, my name was called.  I grabbed my motorcycle helmet to follow the nurse.  As we walked into the hall, she looked at my motorcycle helmet and asked, “Oh, do you ride a motorcycle?”  But before I could reply, “Nope, always wanted one but this is all I could afford.” she laughed and said, “Well, here’s my sign!”

Seriously, signs are very important.  If we are going out of town on vacation, business or family business to a place we’ve never been before we watch the signs.  Signs show us when to stop, where to turn, how fast to safely go.  Can you imagine highways without signs?  That’s a horrible thought. 

Men, we would be forced to ask for directions.  I hate asking for directions because it means either I don’t know how to get somewhere, or I don’t know where I am.  Signs Are For Protection, Direction And Clarity.  Let’s  pick up the story about some signs God knew Gideon needed in Judges 6:33-40 (N.L.T.)

Soon afterward the armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east formed an alliance against Israel and crossed the Jordan, camping in the valley of Jezreel. Then the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon with power.  

He blew a ram’s horn as a call to arms, and the men of the clan of Abiezer came to him. He also sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, summoning their warriors, and all of them responded.

Then Gideon said to God, “If You are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, prove it to me in this way.  I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight.  If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.”  And that is just what happened.  When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water.

Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request.  Let me use the fleece for one more test.  This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.”  So that night God did as Gideon asked.  The fleece was dry in the morning, but the ground was covered with dew.

Gideon has assembled an army to fight the Midianites.  But it’s not just the Midianites this time.  They have come with the Amalekites, and what is called the people of the east.  Now there are at least 3 times as many as before—bullies, thieves, and killers as far as the eye could see.  When Gideon accepted the assignment, it was just the Midianites, and that was more than enough to face. 

Now the threat has tripled.  Gideon does the wise thing, he asks for clarity.  “God, are you sure you want me to still go?  It’s not just the Midianites down there.”  So, Gideon asks for a sign.  He puts a wool fleece on the threshing floor and asks God, “If YOU are really going to do this, in the morning let the fleece be wet and the ground be dry.”  Next morning God makes the dew fall on the fleece but not the ground. 

Good enough, right?  But Gideon needs some reassurance, so he asks for another sign.  This time let the fleece be dry and the ground be wet.  And that’s exactly what happened.  Who says men never asks for directions?  I’ve heard some preachers and teachers criticize Gideon because he asked for a sign and then a second sign. 

Can we talk?  I don’t think this is a character flaw or lack of faith on Gideon’s part.  In fact, today I Highly Commend Him For It.  He is about to engage in the God-Sized Task of Changing His Culture.  Look at Gideon’s culture. 

He does not have scriptures for guidance.  The Midianites were the most powerful army at the time and this time they’ve brought extras.  They were ruthless killers.  But one good thing Gideon did not have was a church full of folks to tell him, “We’ve Never Done It That Way Before!  It costs too much!  It doesn’t match up to what we want to do!  It may bring in people who don’t fit in here!”

Gideon wants direction—not just any direction—he wants Clear Direction.  Gideon needs The Assurance And The Reassurance that he has heard God correctly.  Not one sign, but two.  But don’t overlook what Gideon is seeking.  Words and their placement in a statement is everything.  “If You are truly going to use me…”  Gideon does not ask, “Give me a sign that I can do it.” 

Be honest now, how many times has that been your prayer.  “Lord, if I can do this give me a sign.” I have!  I’ve even asked God to give me one of those huge billboards with flashing arrow signs pointing at it. The Sign Gideon Seeks Is Not About His Abilities, But The Assurance Of God’s Presence.

And if you can remember just one thing today, it is imperative that you remember this:  The Signs That God Will Change Our Culture Are Here—We Just Need To Follow Them.  Did you hear how I phrased this:  I did not say God can change the culture—God Will Change The Culture.  To say our Culture cannot change is the Sign that we’ve lost our Confidence in God.

Gideon will go into battle, Gideon will change his Culture, but only If God Is With Him.  Gideon assumes nothing.  I’m sure at times it felt like it was a dream for Gideon.  And I do not see God getting aggravated with Gideon.  What I See Is That God Answers With The Assurance AND Reassurance Of His Promise!  To change his Culture, Gideon needed the signs.  To change our Culture, we need the signs.  No, not putting the fleece on the ground, but something better. 

God has signs of The Assurance And Reassurance that He is going to change our Culture and That He Is Going To Do It Through Us.  We just need to know the signs, and we need to learn like Gideon, to follow the signs to wherever it is that God leads us.  Gideon only needed 2 signs; but God has given us 3 (1-2-3) signs that He is going to change the Culture through you.  Need a sign that God can use you to change the Culture?  Well, here’s your first sign of the Assurance And Reassurance That God Will Do It Through You:

1.  We Have The Sign Of The Cross

The Cross is more than an ornament in the Church or in our homes—much more.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18—The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction!  But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.  We don’t try to reform people to help them become better people. 

We Lead Them To Jesus Where The Cross Transforms Them.  On that Cross evil men did their worst to Jesus.  They thought the Cross would silence Jesus and put an end to the Message.  What they failed to recognize is that The Cross Intended To Silence The Message, Is In Fact THE Message

On that Cross Jesus conquered our biggest problem—SIN!  What we couldn’t do about our sin, Jesus did for us.  He took the penalty for my sin, your sin, everybody’s sin and paid it in full.  Now, if God can do that—and He did—don’t you think He can use you to change the Culture?  That Cross Has Already Changed The World And God Invites Us To Join Him In Changing The Culture.  Need a sign that God will use you?  The Cross—Here’s your sign!  Here’s your second sign:

2.  We Have The Sign Of The Empty Tomb

When all those Mary’s went to the tomb, they didn’t find Jesus in a tomb.  They found an angel with a message.  The message we find in Mark 16:6-7—

“Don’t be alarmed.  You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He isn’t here!  He is risen from the dead!  Look, this is where they laid his body.  Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.  You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.” 

The message of the Resurrection is that Jesus is always going ahead of us and we will see him.  And what Jesus does is share with us the Resurrection.  He Resurrected the hopes of Mary and Mary and Mary and the other Mary, and Peter and John and Thomas and all of them.  He took on death and made it look like a wimp. 

If He can do that to death, You Cannot Imagine What God Can Do Through You.  To know Jesus as Savior AND Lord is to know the power He has over death.  That power of Resurrection lives in us who are following Jesus.  Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10—I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. 

You Don’t Have To Ask For That Power To Come To You.  That Power Lives In You When Jesus Lives In You.  Need a sign that God will use you to change your world?  The Resurrection—Here’s Your Sign!  And here is your third sign:

3.  We Have The Sign Of The Spirit

There is not a single ability that we all have.  We all have different abilities.  There is not a single talent that every one of us have.  We all have a variety of talents.  There is not a particular spiritual gift that we all possess.  We have different spiritual gifts.  This is the way God designed the Koinonia.  But there is something—rather some ONE—that lives inside of every believer. 

He is the same inside me as He is in you.  He is the same inside you as He is in the person sitting next to you.  Though we have different abilities, different gifts, different levels of maturity—we have living inside us the same Spirit—God’s Spirit—The Holy Spirit.

And Because He Is The Same Spirit, We All Share The Same Result Of The Spirit.  It’s Called The Fruit Of The Spirit.  Listen to how Paul describes the result of His Spirit living in us from Galatians 5:22-23—

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Here’s another one of my personal missions in life.  It’s Not FRUITS Of The Spirit, Meaning Many.  It IS The FRUIT Of The Spirit—Meaning One Single Fruit Produced By The Holy Spirit.

The Sign That The Holy Spirit Is Living Inside Us Is Not In An Ability Or Ministry—It Is The Fruit That Only He Can Produce In Us! Let me repeat this: The Sign That The Holy Spirit Is Living Inside Us Is Not In An Ability Or Ministry—It Is The Fruit That Only He Can Produce In Us! If that fruit Is Growing In Us, it means that HE Is Living In Us.

AND—If HE Is Living IN Us, Then We Can Count On Jesus Living THROUGH Us To Change Our World!  The Sign Of The Spirit Is That We Can Count On God!  Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22—“He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”   Need a sign that God will use you to change The Culture?  The Holy Spirit—Here’s Your Sign!

What is God guaranteeing that is to come?  Oh, yes, most definitely our home in heaven.  But before we get to heaven, there is something else to do.  It’s the reason why we are the Church.  Matthew 28:18-19—Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” 

But before we get our guaranteed home in heaven, we have a God-Sized mission—to change The Culture by making more disciples for Jesus.  The story of Gideon Should Become your story.  The story of Gideon Can Become your story. 

Are serious about Following Jesus?  Then The Story Of Gideon IS Your Story, If You Can Read And Follow The Signs.  Gideon changed his Culture because God was working through Gideon.  And God can change our Culture by working through you.  And here’s your sign:

Do you have the First Sign?  Have you truly asked Jesus to forgive you and believe that His Cross is enough?  If not, then come to His altar because He has a Sign for you. 

If you’ve done this, have you taken the second step?  Do you truly believe that the Power that conquered death is living in you and are you living in and with that power?  If not, come to His altar for He has a sign for you.  If you’ve done the first two, let me ask: 

Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit in you?  In other words, does the Holy Spirit have control of your heart and mind.

And here’s your Next Step.

If You Believe God Is Going To Change The Culture Through You, Then Produce The Fruit!  These are not multiple choice of fruits—but a Single Fruit Produced By The Holy Spirit.

To be qualified for a God-Sized task Gideon has taught us the first 3 lessons:

1.  Only the weakest become the strongest.  God wants the many, the humble, the weakest.

2.  Cut down the Asherah Poles.  Get rid of those things that are holding power over us.  Our confidence and strength comes from our relationship with God—a relationship that comes through Grace, Grace revealed on the Cross.

3.  Follow the Signs—The Cross, The Empty Tomb, The Holy Spirit.  Follow these signs and you can count on God to change your world through you.

Next week we are going to see WHEN NOT ENOUGH IS TOO MANY!

To Change THE Culture, Change YOUR Culture!

Must Change Your Culture.

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(Second message in current message series “How To Change The Culture”

To refresh your memory, this series is about becoming How To Change The Culture!.  Hopefully last week we learned that in order for God to use us To Change The Culture, we have to become the weakest of the weakest. 

One thing that hit me is that we often operate with the mindset that we can Change The Culture and the church by Working Through God.  Allow me to explain what that means:  Working Through God Means We Take Our Ideas And Our Plans And Our Beliefs And Expect God To Bless It And Bring Success. 

The Church is designed a different way.  Rather Than Us Working Through God, The Kingdom Is Designed For God To Work Through Us.  I know this is a subtle difference, but can you see the difference? 

It would not be Gideon doing this through God, but God doing it through Gideon.  This is what Jesus was talking about in John 15 when he describes our relationship as He being the vine and we becoming the branches.  It’s About Yielding To The Presence, Power, And Purposes Of God. The flow is from the Vine going into the Branches. Fruit is produced because of what the Vine is putting into the branches. The branches don’t tell the vine what to do. The Vine defines what the branches do.

Today Gideon shows us the next step in becoming qualified for the God Sized Purpose in life.  Let’s look pick up the reading in Judges 6:17-32

Gideon replied, “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me.  Don’t go away until I come back and bring my offering to you.”  He answered, “I will stay here until you return.”  Gideon hurried home.  He cooked a young goat, and with a basket of flour he baked some bread without yeast.  Then, carrying the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, he brought them out and presented them to the angel, who was under the great tree.

The angel of God said to him, “Place the meat and the unleavened bread on this rock, and pour the broth over it.”  And Gideon did as he was told.  Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and bread with the tip of the staff in his hand, and fire flamed up from the rock and consumed all he had brought.  And the angel of the Lord disappeared. 

When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he cried out, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, I’m doomed!  I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”  “It is all right,” the Lord replied.  “Do not be afraid.  You will not die.”  And Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “the Lord is peace”).  The altar remains in Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer to this day.

That night the Lord said to Gideon, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one that is seven years old.  Pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it.  Then build an altar to the Lord your God here on this hilltop sanctuary, laying the stones carefully.  Sacrifice the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down.”  So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord had commanded. But he did it at night because he was afraid of the other members of his father’s household and the people of the town. 

Early the next morning, as the people of the town began to stir, someone discovered that the altar of Baal had been broken down and that the Asherah pole beside it had been cut down.  In their place a new altar had been built, and on it were the remains of the bull that had been sacrificed.  The people said to each other, “Who did this?”  And after asking around and making a careful search, they learned that it was Gideon, the son of Joash. 

“Bring out your son,” the men of the town demanded of Joash.  “He must die for destroying the altar of Baal and for cutting down the Asherah pole.”  But Joash shouted to the mob that confronted him, “Why are you defending Baal?  Will you argue his case?  Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning!  If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who broke down his altar!”  From then on Gideon was called Jerub-baal, which means “Let Baal defend himself,” because he broke down Baal’s altar.

God has informed Gideon that he has been chosen to Change The Culture and that He, God, is with him and that He would fight for Gideon.  Now we come to Gideon’s response.  Every time we encounter God requires a response from us.  It is the nature of the Divine Encounter.  Even if we think we’ve made no response, we have made a response.  There’s no way around it.  We either grow deeper into that relationship or we go further away from that relationship.  And growing deeper inevitably requires taking action.

And here is the one thing you need to remember from today’s message: Before The Culture Of This Nation And Our Tribe Can Change, You Must Change Your Culture.

I have parable for you this morning.  There are 5 frogs sitting on a log.  3 of them decide to jump.  How many frogs do you have left?  Is your answer 2?  5-3=2.  Is your answer 0, because if one frog jumps, then all the others will join?  Are you ready for the answer? 

The answer is 5!  How did I arrive at that answer?  Easy.  I never said they jumped, just that they made a decision.  And here is where the church is at today:  We Haven’t Taken The Leap Of Faith Into The God-Sized Purpose Of Changing Our Culture.

With the assurance of His presence and the promise of His power, Gideon acts.  But notice the way he acts.  He doesn’t get his sword and round up an army.  He doesn’t go looking for a fight. 

The truth is that his first response has nothing to do with the problem of the Midianites.  It deals with His Own Personal Culture.  And here’s the first lesson about accepting the mission of this God-Sized Task of Changing The Culture:

1.  Gideon Worships God!

To make sure he has heard everything right, Gideon asks if it’s appropriate to offer worship.  I can just see God in heaven.  He smiled when Gideon said, “I’m too weak!”  And when Gideon asks for permission to worship first, God did more than smile.  He danced!  Those end zone dances you see in the NFL are nothing compared to when God dances. 

So off Gideon goes to prepare the sacrifice for worship.  He cooks a young goat and makes unleavened bread with an ephah of flour, that’s what the KJV says.  An ephah of flour is over a half a bushel.  A young goat and a loaf of bread made from over a half a bushel of flour.  Don’t you get what’s happening?  Remember the first half of this chapter.  Most of their crops have been destroyed along with their flocks and herds. 

They are reduced to starvation.  But Gideon takes a young goat and a half a bushel of flour and with that, he worships God.  He’s not offering God something out of his abundance. 

He’s offering God what is probably the bulk if not all that he has in worship.  Worship Is About Surrender—Surrendering All That We Have And Are To God.  There are 168 Hours In A Week and many think that because they spend 1 hour out of 168 in a sanctuary on Sunday that they have worshipped God.  Time spent in this sanctuary amounts to .59% Of Your Week.  A little over a half a percent. 

Now, would you consider that an acceptable offering to God?  If God is going to Change The Culture of our nation and tribe through us, then worship needs to be an offering of our best—our time, our heart, our energy.  It must be your heart every moment you are awake; the attitude we carry in the home, to work, to shopping, to everywhere!  Worship is about keeping focus on the Presence, Power And Purposes of God.

When Gideon offers this worship, look at what the angel says:  Put the meat and bread on the rock, and then pour out the broth on it.  Now, for Gideon’s world this was ridiculous.  Gideon could have protested, “Look, I slaved over this meal and this is perfectly good soup.”  But he doesn’t.  He does exactly what he is told.  The angel took his staff and touched the offering and fire came from the rock and consumed it all. 

Here’s the Lesson that seems to have been forgotten by so many:  We Provide The Instruments For Worship, But Only God Provides The Fire.  The angel disappeared and Gideon knows he’s been in God’s presence and thinks “Well, I cooked the goat, but now my goose is cooked!”.  But God speaks to Gideon words filled with hope. God’s voice doesn’t boom out from heaven, but in a gentle way God says,  “Don’t Be Afraid!”  And this leads us to the second thing you must understand about accepting this God-Sized Task of Changing The Culture.

2.  Gideon’s Culture Changed Because Gideon Was Changed First.

He names that place Yahweh Shalom—God Is Peace!  Before Gideon could change the culture of his nation, he needed to Change His Own Culture.  Gideon had been afraid and blaming God.  But now Gideon’s heart has been changed.  Even with the fear and all the questions he had, Gideon learns a most important lesson:  He Learns To Trust God. 

In that trust he discovers the Peace Of God.  We are not going to change our nation by forwarding emails and signing petitions or gripping about our leaders.  The Process Of Change Begins With Us.  God changed The Culture but He started with Gideon. 

God can and God will change Our Culture, but it starts with the person you see in the mirror.  Now Gideon is in a position for God to use him.  And God goes right to work using Gideon.  And here is the third a final lesson today about being qualified for the God-Sized Task:

3.  Gideon Had To Cut Down His Asherah Pole.

What’s an Asherah Pole?  Asherah was the Canaanite goddess of fertility.  She was the wife of the god known as Baal.  She was the one they were thinking could bring fertility to the ground—abundant crops—multiply livestock—and cause their wife to produce a lot of children.  These were all signs of prosperity and strength.

The more crops one had, the more livestock and kids one had, the more they thought they were strong.  They believed their strength came from the Asherah pole. 

As Long As They Thought Their Strength Came From The Asherah Pole, The Asherah Pole Held Them In Prison And Bondage.  

So Gideon goes out to do it, but at night.  Why at night?  Because he’s afraid of what the others might do to him.  Now, some of you may be thinking, “Well, there goes Gideon the Coward again!”  But there’s another way to look at this:

Even though Gideon still has some fear issues in his life, it doesn’t keep him from doing what God wants, and as you will see, it will not disqualify him from what God is yet to do. The results are the same.  If you allow fear of this God-Sized task keep you from doing anything, God cannot use you to change The Culture

The Asherah Pole had to come down before he went into battle against the Midianites.   Why?  So that no one would think their strength came from the Asherah Pole, but only from God.  Before They Could Set The Nation Free, They Had To Be Free. 

And what about your Asherah Pole?  Asherah Poles are all around us today.  Oh, they don’t look like the Asherah Poles of Gideon’s day, but they are just as real.  What is your Asherah Pole?  Idols are still present today, they just look different. 

Is your Asherah Pole the desire to be comfortable?  Is your Asherah Pole the desire for convenience?  Is your Asherah Pole what you consider important?  Is your Asherah Pole contentment with complaining and doing nothing, but complain?  Is your Asherah Pole fear?  Anger?  Despair?  Selfishness?  Apathy?

Do what Gideon does:  Cut It Down And Put It On God’s Altar.  God cannot use you to Change The Culture of this nation and church until you cut down your Asherah Pole.  But if you will, God will Change You, Then Change Your Culture And In Changing Your Culture, He Will Change The Culture.

Last week you were given a choice for your next step.  Join up with all the complaining; or give up that anything will ever change; or step up and become the next Gideon.  Here’s this week’s Next Step

1.  You Can Hold On To That Idol, Whatever It May Be.  OR

2.  Cut Down The Asherah Poles In Your Life.  Get rid of those things that are holding power over you.  Your confidence and strength comes from your relationship with God—a relationship that comes through Grace, Grace revealed on the Cross.

HOW TO CHANGE OUR CULTURE! THE WEAKEST ARE THE STRONGEST

These are serious times. You choose your Personal Culture. Your Personal Culture isn’t chosen for you by what happens in D.C. or in church meetings. It is Chosen BY you.

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Anger, No, It’s Rage—Bitterness—Resentment— Distrust—Disappointment—Levels Of Frustration Rarely Seen In Human History—Melancholy—Gloomy—Despair—Fear—Pained—Sterile—Desperate—Pessimistic—Despondent—Unpromising—Unrealistic Expectations.  These Dark Words speak about our current social, political and moral culture.

In my writing, teaching and preaching, I have found myself using the word Culture. I feel the need to define this word in the way I use it.  I could use big words to define Culture, but  Here’s the short form:  Culture Is The Attitudes, Values And Morals Shared By People In A Particular Place And Time.  Makes sense, right? 

What we see in the news on a daily basis—how politicians are acting in Washington D.C. and Montgomery—how the value system has broken down—reveals a culture that’s twisted and inept at solving the many problems we have.  And we see the same Culture in our own Tribe.  And it got me to thinking:

The new series is How To Change Our Culture.  It takes real Spirit-filled, Spirit led-people to move forward in the way that will radically transform the Culture of our nation and church. 

Unfortunately, many believe that neither our Culture nor our Tribe could ever change.  And the results, well, they are unhealthy and even devastating.  So for the next few weeks I want us to look at the story of one of the most unlikeliest of heroes of Changing The Culture—Gideon. 

His story is another one of those great lessons from the Bible about God changing the Culture Of One Man And A Whole Nation.  His story begins in Judges 6:1-16 (NLT)

The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight. So the Lord handed them over to the Midianites for seven years.  The Midianites were so cruel that the Israelites made hiding places for themselves in the mountains, caves, and strongholds.  Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, marauders from Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east would attack Israel, camping in the land and destroying crops as far away as Gaza.  They left the Israelites with nothing to eat, taking all the sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys.  These enemy hordes, coming with their livestock and tents, were as thick as locusts; they arrived on droves of camels too numerous to count.  And they stayed until the land was stripped bare.  So Israel was reduced to starvation by the Midianites.  Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help.  When they cried out to the Lord because of Midian, the Lord sent a prophet to the Israelites  He said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says:  I brought you up out of slavery in Egypt.  I rescued you from the Egyptians and from all who oppressed you.  I drove out your enemies and gave you their land.  I told you, ‘I am the Lord your God.  You must not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you now live.’  But you have not listened to me.”  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. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”  “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?  And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about?  Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt?’  But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”  Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites.  I am sending you!”  “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel?  My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”  The Lord said to him, “I will be with you.  And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

We find Gideon threshing wheat at the bottom of a wine press.  In ancient times they did not use vats or barrels to make wine.  They would find a fairly large rock formation and chisel out 2 pits.  One of them would be lower and deeper than the other so that the juice from the grapes would flow down.  It was probably 3 feet, maybe more below the ground. 

But Gideon isn’t making wine.  He’s threshing wheat in the lower pit.  Why the lower pit?  So that he couldn’t be seen.  He was scared to death of the Midianites.  They were the local neighborhood bullies.  He’s hiding, hoping they won’t see him. But get this:  his name means Destroyer, Mighty Warrior, Mighty Hero!  This mighty warrior is cowardly hiding from the bullies.  When suddenly an unexpected visitor shows up and calls him by the meaning of his name:  Mighty Hero.

Excuse me, but does anyone other than me see the irony here?  Called a Mighty Hero while he’s hiding from the local bullies.  I mean, the words and the man do not even come close.  They are not in the same zip code, not in the same county, not in the same state, not in the same country. They’re not even in the same universe.

But there is more going on here than just what meets the eye. There is more going on than bullies and cowards.  God has a purpose and a mission, and His plan surprises Gideon and even me. 

Here is where real Culture Change begins, and where our lives can turn around  Here’s the first thing you need to see:

1.  God Is With Him!

But where was Gideon spiritually?  If you listened carefully, he told you where he was spiritually.  “Lord, if you were with us, why are we being bullied by the Midianites?” 

You know what Gideon’s talking about don’t you?  If you’ve ever wondered, “Why is all this happening to me now?”,  under our breath we are thinking, “Well, God, if you really were with me then all this bad stuff wouldn’t have happened to me!”

I know what this feels like. It feels like God have forgotten us or been too busy for us; or simply that we aren’t worthy of God’s presence. When you’re hiding in the pit, when the bullies are threatening you, when it seems like God has forgotten you—He Hasn’t.  Every single thing you go through, God is with you.  He knows every ache and sees every tear and feels every fear because He is with you.  Now we come to the next thing you need to see:

2.  God Has Chosen Him For A God-Sized Task.

God chose Gideon for the task of changing his Culture.  How would God change Gideon’s Culture?  By saving and redeeming them.  God has seen them and heard their cries.  Even though they were not faithful to God and were worshipping other gods, God knew what Gideon’s world needed.  And He Calls On Gideon To Change His World.  And how does Gideon respond?  “Great, God.  ‘Bout time!  Let’s get to work!” 

No!  Gideon’s response was, “You gotta be kidding!  My family is the weakest and I’m the least in the whole family.  Gideon was of the tribe of Manasseh, which was the largest tribe of all.  Many of Gideon’s ancestors fought alongside Joshua with strength, honor and courage.  You know what he’s doing, don’t you?  He’s making excuses!

He’s saying, “Look, Lord. There are people far more qualified that I am.  There are braver people than me.”  If Gideon was right, then where were they?  According to verse 2 they were hiding in the mountain crevices and caves.  But when Gideon says this, it shows that God made the right choice.  For a God sized task, we need someone who knows that they can’t do it by themselves.  Which leads us to our final lesson today:

3.  He Can Count On God To Be With Him Every Step Of The Way.

Look at verse 16:  The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”  This is the first good news Gideon has heard in a very long time.  God promises Gideon that it will seem like he is fighting against only one man. 

How could it feel like that?  Because God is going to fight for him.  He’s With Him In The Pit, And He Will Be With Him In The Battle!  Yes, God meets us in our pits but He doesn’t leave us there! 

He wants to lead us out of our pits and into the Kingdom Battle.  But God doesn’t leave us alone on the battlefield.  He is still with us and He Is Fighting For Us!  Think back to the Hebrew children at the edge of the Red Sea, when God said in Exodus 14:14—“The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” 

God wants someone who cannot do what He wants unless they are counting on His presence and power.  God chose Gideon, not because he was the smartest and the strongest; because, simple truth is, he wasn’t.

Had Gideon felt like he was smart enough and strong enough to change his culture, he would have failed.  God could change Gideon’s world through Gideon because of his weakness.    God loves to hear us say, “Hey, I can’t do that!  I don’t have what it takes!”  Doubt that this principle of God needing the weakest really works?  Have you ever read the Bible?  Studied the history of the church?

The U.S. Marines have a great motto for a fighting group:  The Few, The Proud, The Marines.  And in their ads they asked, “Do you have what it takes?” 

God isn’t looking for the few, the proud and those who think they have what it takes.  He’s Looking For The Many, The Humble, And The Weakest.  You can only be your strongest when you become just like Gideon—and say to God, “This is too much for me.  I need your strength.”   

Our culture around us needs to be changed.  Countless lives are hiding in fear and living in caves.  God wants to bring them out and deliver them.  But he needs a Gideon, someone who is too afraid to do it alone, too afraid to seek the glory, too afraid to trust anything other than this promise of God:  I am with you!  Are you willing to be the next Gideon?

And the One Thing You Need To Remember Is A Question, Which Is Why I Saved It Until The End—“Will You Be The Next Gideon?”

Changing the Culture in Washington D.C.—that’s a task that we simply cannot do—Yet!  But you can change your Personal Culture.  I’m talking about your Attitudes, Values And Morals.  It’s how you see your personal situations and the situations we are facing as the Body of Christ.  These are serious times.  You choose your Personal Culture.  Your Personal Culture isn’t chosen for you by what happens in D.C. or in church meetings.  It is Chosen BY you.

So Choose Your Next Step Very Carefully:

1. You Can Join In With All The Mess—Complain And Then Blame—And Complain Some More And Then Blame—And Complain Some More And Then Blame. OR

2. You Can Give Up And Hope Jesus Comes Back REAL Soon.  OR

3. You Can Make The Choice To Be The Gideon Our Culture, Our Church Is Urgently Needing. 

These are your only 3 choices—Join Up, Give Up or Step Up.  Which will be YOUR next step? Gideon’s choice about his personal culture changed everything for the nation.

“Be strong.  Take courage.  Don’t be intimidated.  Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you.  He’s right there with you.  He won’t let you down; He won’t leave you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (The Message)

Step 7—Live With Focus!

You And You Alone Choose Where You Will Focus.

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This is the very last message in this series about how to become a water-walker.  So, let’s look at that passage one more time.  

25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” 27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”  28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”  29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.

Matthew 14:25-32 (NLT)

Let’s do our final review today.

  • Step 1—Get Out Of The Boat.  You will never walk with Jesus UNTIL you’re out of your boat.
  • Step 2—Have The Right Attitude.  There will be challenges —just remember Jesus is with you.
  • Step 3—Discover Your Gift.  This comes out of your giftedness and God gives all of us gifts.  Discover them.
  • Step 4—Use Leverage.  The leverage we use is our weaknesses against the Power of God.  
  • Step 5—Overcome The Fear.  The way to overcome fear is to Rehearse His presence.  Renew your mind.  And Refocus all your attention on Jesus.
  • Step 6—Know That It’s More Hazardous In The Boat Than It Is Risky On The Water.  Water-Walkers will not live in hazardous waste—but they will live in the Risks.

Now, we come to the last step in this series—Living With Focus.  And here is the one thing you need to remember:  You And You Alone Choose Where You Will Focus. It’s your choice.  Your Choice Has Implications Beyond Your Imaginations—Extending Even Into Eternity.

Now, we come to the last step in this series—Living With Focus.  And here is the one thing you need to remember:  You And You Alone Choose Where You Will Focus. It’s your choice.  Your Choice Has Implications Beyond Your Imaginations—Extending Even Into Eternity.

Now, we come to the last step in this series—Living With Focus.  And here is the one thing you need to remember:  You And You Alone Choose Where You Will Focus. It’s your choice.  Your Choice Has Implications Beyond Your Imaginations—Extending Even Into Eternity

Everybody has chosen a Focus—without exception.  Even those who you clearly see are living without a Focus.  Even those who admit their lives are not focused—They have chosen a Focus for their lives—it’s just in the wrong place.  Focus Plays Out Every Day, In Every Moment And Situation.

What happens when we Focus in the wrong place?  We see danger, trouble and problems.  And we open the door to uncontrolled, ferocious fear.  I’ve been saying all along, that water walking is risky business. 

But the only way we can grow in our faith is through taking risks, and risks always involve having the Right Focus because we’re stepping out of our comfort zones into new territory.

This is the way it was for Peter.  He’d been on this lake thousands of times.  But every time he was IN The Boat.  Now he is about to take a stroll ON the lake WITHOUT The Boat.  This is a new experience, a new adventure for Peter.  He has always been comfortable in the boat.  It was his livelihood.  So, Peter takes his leap of faith, and focuses on Jesus, who had just invited him to join him for a leisurely stroll on the water. 

And guess what, Peter actually walks on the water.  As long as Peter kept his Focus on Jesus, he didn’t sink.  But the moment his Focus changed—he immediately sank!

Unfortunately, some people choose to Focus only on the winds and the waves, and so they, like the others, stay in the boat.    Today, I want us to learn how to keep our Focus on Jesus, and thus continue the most exciting adventure ever; an adventure that fills the heart of God with indescribable joy. 

If you are one of those unfortunate people who have chosen to Focus on the negative that has saturated our culture and politics rather than the mission of God—Then Change Your Focus—And It Will Change The Way You See Your Life—And That Will Change Why You Live Your Life

To have be a Water-Walker, it takes the Right Focus.  When you are on the Water, Focus alone determines whether you walk or sink.  We know what happened when Peter’s Focus turned to the waves and the wind.  So let’s look at Peter’s Focus while he was Walking On The Water.  Let’s start with the easiest and most obvious:

1.  Focus On Jesus

When Peter accepted the Opportunity to Walk on Water, His Focus was on Jesus.  Water-Walkers Focus on Jesus.  Water Sinkers sink because they have Focused on the wind and waves—or they have chosen to Focus on the Jesus of their imagination and understanding.  To Focus On Jesus Requires Us To Focus On 3 Truths About Jesus:

Focus On His Nature—His nature is what always comes to the surface.  It’s the way He responds to us.  He responds to us out of and through His unmistakable love.

Focus On His Desires—His biggest desire is to see a different world filled with different people.  The way Jesus fills the world with different people is by Delivering captives—releasing prisoners—filling the hungry and empty with His Resurrection Presence.  Jesus intentionally redeems and restores His fallen image bearers.

Focus On His Character—His Character is that of A Warrior!  Gentle Jesus meek and mild doesn’t exist!  He was meek on the Cross—but He Is The Bold Warrior coming out of the Grave!  He’s not giving up or backing down.  The commitment He had on the Cross—the determination He had in that tomb—and the lengths He goes to get us to turn away from sin and the power of sin in us is His Character.  If we Focus On The True Character Of Jesus—then we will not stay in The Boat.  We will join Him on the Water.

2.  Focus On Your Purpose

Your Purpose Is To Be Involved With What Jesus Is Involved.  Jesus is involved in a lot of things—but it will always be found where people struggle—where people need encouragement.  Put it this way:  Jesus Is Involved With People.  Good people.  Bad people.  Ugly people.  Mean People.  Nice People.  Broken-Messed Up People.

True Water-Walkers accept, even at times with a bit of reluctance—that Real Disciples Of Jesus Are Focused On God’s Purpose For Their Lives.  Water-Walking Is Living In Confidence That Your Purpose Is Both Divinely Given And Worthwhile In Your Life.

God’s purpose for your life is important. Your role in the Kingdom of God is essential and significant.  Focus on Jesus and your life makes a difference in the world.  If You Don’t Believe That, Then You Are Not Focused On Your Purpose, Not Focused On Jesus And You’re Not Really Following Jesus.  When you say that you don’t have much if anything to offer—you’re saying God is lying.

3.  Focus On The Partnership

This is not something we do alone.  Remember what Peter said in the boat:  If it is you, Jesus, then invite me to join You.  It is impossible to sink when you partner with Jesus in your life.  Remember what we said about leverage:  God’s Strength Is Made Perfect Through AND In Our Weaknesses. 

The Partnership with God is simple—bring it all to Him and give to Him all of your weaknesses—all of your fear—all of your excuses about what you can’t do—then Accept From Him, His Strength.  This is what Partnership With God looks like.

The Story Of Every Person God Uses In The Bible Is The Story Of Focus.  Focus is what made Abraham leave his home.  Focus is what made Moses willing to challenge the Pharaoh.  Focus is what led Gideon into battle with only 300 soldiers against 10’s of thousands.  Focus is what drove the prophets to proclaim their message, even when it seemed no one was listening.  Focus is why Peter and the others stood up at the Feast of Pentecost to proclaim the Good News Of The Kingdom of God.  Focus is what led Paul into unknown territory—all the way to Rome.  Focus is what led people like Martin Luther, John Knox, John Wesley, Charles Finney, C.H. Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, A.W. Tozer to change their world.

If You Believe Or Even Think That This Culture We Live In Is Beyond Revival—Then You Are Not Focused On The Partnership.

The Bible often uses the term:  “losing heart.”  Losing Heart Is Just Another Way Of Saying Losing Your Focus.  It’s not what we’re capable of doing—it’s about what God wants to do through us. 

Whenever God calls you to get out of the boat, He gives you the power to walk on the water.  He never calls anyone to sink.  Water-Walking Is Not The Conviction That Something Will Turn Out Well, But The Certainty That Something Makes The Difference, Regardless Of How It Turns Out. 

Every person submits to some thing or some one who will be their source of authority.  That authority has control over your mind, heart and actions.  Authority defines your values and your ethics—that moral compass of what is right or wrong, good or bad. 

Who or what is the authority over your life?  Before you give the “I’m-in-church” answer, answer this question first:  “Where Is Your Focus?”  Focus Reveals Who Or What Gets Your Immediate And Primary Attention.

Focus Is About Your Definition Of Authority.  You Determine Who Or What Has Authority Over Your Life.  That source of authority demands your attention—and you will give your Focus to that Authority.  Authority is what influences your decisions.  Authority is where you look for answers and for guidance in the choices you make.  In The Boat, your Authority is the comfort of the familiar—playing it safe—choosing fear over adventure.

Focus defines and ultimately reveals your Primary Priority. Through Focus, we declare that God is real!  Through Focus, we remember that reality is more than what we can touch or see or hear.  It is about the God who is ALL power, ALL seeing, ALL knowing, ALL caring and loving.  Focus Is About Magnifying God—Enlarging Our Understanding Of Who He Is And How He Moves In And Through Our Lives. 

I’ve intentionally left Verse 33 in the reading each week.  The Spirit has been saving it for now.  Listen again to Verse 32 AND Verse 33—

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.

Matthew 14:32-33 (NLT)

There’s a word of tragedy in Verse 33—It’s The Word Of Missed Opportunity, Missed Moments, And Missing The Reason.  Figured out the word?  It’s the first word in that verse:  THEN!  Not during the moment—just THEN.

I’ve heard teachers, preachers and people say, “The rest of the disciples finally understand Jesus, praise God!”  Well…I’m going to burst some bubbles this morning.  They did NOT understand Jesus.  They did not acknowledge Jesus until He stopped the Wind.  Jesus isn’t just the one who controls the wind—He’s The One In Complete Control IN The Storm.

I always try to give you something to try each week.  That’s why I call them Your Next Steps.  I always try to find some Step that will help you put the Scriptures we looked at into some tangible act or decision on your part.

Today’s Next Step is more important than any other Next Step I’ve challenged you with.  How important?  I’m glad you asked.  Here’s how important this Next Step is—Your Future, The Future Of Your Families, The Future Of Your Friends, The Future Of This Place Will Begin To Change—For The Better If You Take It—Or It May Take A Change For The Worse If You Don’t.

It is never too late—and you are never too old to make choices that will become positive changes—in your family, with your friends, in the community—and especially in the Kingdom of God.

If you trust God, make your choice to do this Next Step to see the future change—for you and for others:

If you trust God, make your choice to do these Next Step to see the future change—for you and for others:

  1. You Can Choose To Focus In The Boat. 
  2. Or You Can Choose To Focus On Jesus.

Your choice–and as the Knight said in the movie Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, “Choose wisely.”

How To Be A Water-Walker: Step 6—Know The Hazards Of Staying In The Boat!

Today and next week wraps up this series.  I’m concerned some of you may be getting seasick from all those waves.  But let’s listen to the story one more time:  Matthew 14:25-32 (NLT)

25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified.  In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once.  “Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “Take courage.  I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”  29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 

30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink.  “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.  31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said.  “Why did you doubt me?”

32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.

I’ve thrown out a lot of things so far, and I hope you’ve been keeping the sermon notes pages every week.  But, bear with me as I go over the steps we’ve seen so far in becoming a Water-Walker.

Step 1—Get Out Of The Boat.  To journey through life with Jesus, you have to get out of the boat.  You will never walk with Jesus UNTIL you’re out of that boat.

Step 2—Have The Right Attitude.  The right attitude is to accept that there will be challenges as we walk on the water with Jesus.

Step 3—Discover Your Gift.  Walking on water comes out of your giftedness and God gives all of us gifts.  It’s up to us to discover them.

Step 4—Use Leverage.  The leverage we use is our weaknesses against the Power of God.  Water-Walking was out of Peter’s wheelhouse, and it’s out of ours.

Step 5—Overcome The Fear.  Fear is that demon the keeps us from living the life God gives us.  The way to overcome fear is to Rehearse His presence.  Renew your mind.  And Refocus your attention on Jesus.

I’ve said that no message in this series is more important than any other.  But then I did say that Step 3—Discovering Your Gift, was the pivotal message because without the Gift we never leave the boat.  Well, today’s message isn’t any more important than the others—and I can’t call it pivotal.  Today’s Message is Mission Critical.

Mission-Critical is a term that comes from the business world.  Mission-Critical is a task, service, or system that if it failed or was disrupted, an entire operation or business to grind to a halt.  It is required to continuing operations.

Today’s one thing you need to remember fits this definition—it is Mission Critical:  It Is Risky To Walk On Water But It’s Costly To Stay In The Boat. 

Anytime a gift is given, the recipient must choose to respond to the gift in 2 ways.  The first way says, “This gift is so valuable it can’t be risked.”  It’s like keeping china in the cabinet, afraid to use it.  Those who follow this way believe that when the gift is brought out into the open, things may not always go well.  The gift may not be appreciated; or it may even get broken.  Taking the gift out of the box is always a risk.

The second way says, “This gift is so valuable it must be risked.”  Those who follow this way understand that if the gift is not brought out of the box, it will never be used at all.  To leave the gift in the box is to thwart the desire of the giver.  There is no tragedy like the tragedy of the unopened gift. 

Remember God Has Given You A Gift.  All that time in high school I thought knowing Verb Tense was a waste of time.  I’m using the Past Tense Form.  Past tense means that it’s already happened. God Has Given you a gift and with that gift He’s given you a choice—to take the gift out of the box and use it.  Or leave it unopened, unused in your life.

Peter put it out there—the possibility of becoming a Water-WalkerIf it’s you, call me to you!  Peter chose the second way.  Peter didn’t ask for a guarantee that he would walk, just the opportunity.  Peter took the Risk.

The ones who stayed in the boat chose the first way of accepting a gift.  They did not want to risk brokenness or failure.  They valued safety over growth.  The ultimate adventure in faith was something they were content to watch from the sidelines.  The Ones In The Boat Didn’t Want To Be Passed By, Just Passed Up

They were afraid of the Risk of stepping out of the boat, but they were oblivious to the cost of staying in a boat.  Here’s the tragedy of the unopened gift: 

It Is To Have Lived Your Life Waiting For Life To Begin; Thinking Life Is Somewhere Off In The Future.  It Is Mission Critical Now For You To Take The Risk Of Getting Out Of Your Boat

Think about the Risks those first disciples took in following Jesus and the Kingdom after Pentecost.  They risked alienation, torture and death.  They knew it might well be uncomfortable following Jesus.  But it was a choice they would make again and again and again. 

How, then did we get the idea that following Jesus is meant to be comfortable.  People In The Boat Represent All Who Ask For A Promise, But Not A Call; Who Seek A Guarantee But Not A Mission. 

There will always be that element of Risk in stepping out of the boat to follow Jesus.  But…there are even great hazards by staying in the boat.  Most people when faced with the choice of stepping out of the boat or not base their decision on the risks that are outside the boat. 

But they never consider the hazards of staying in the boat.  Well, we’ve talked about the fears of walking on the water—but we need to look carefully at the hazards of staying in the boat.  There are 3 Hazards of staying in the boat.    

1.  The Danger Of Following A Counterfeit Jesus.

The Real Jesus offers you the forgiveness of your sins—a brand new heart—a life with divine purpose—His Living Presence—and Eternal Life—all as His Gift to us.  But it comes with a price.  WE have to surrender completely to Him.  All sense of self-efforts—surrendered.  Living by your feelings—gone.  It’s the choice to die to self—daily and moment by moment.

The Counterfeit Jesus offers you none of that.  In fact, Counterfeit Jesus insists that you keep your ego—your selfishness—your feelings.  The Counterfeit Jesus wants you to focus on how you feel and that what you believe is Truth—regardless of any other Authority.  You alone, can determine what is Truth—what is right—what is wrong.

The Counterfeit Jesus promises you Comfort.  He releases you from accountability for you choices and actions.  In The Boat is where you find this Counterfeit Jesus.  Redemption without turning away from sin.  Power without using it for the benefit of others.

The Danger is that we create the delusion of security and open the way to an implosion of self, family, community and culture.

All of us give our lives to something.  Between this day and your last day, you will give yourself to something.  The only question is: What Will You Give Your Life To?  Will It Be Worthy?  Giving your life to the Counterfeit Jesus undermines the true you.  The second hazard is this:

2.  The Perils Of A Meaningless Life.

The meaning of life In The Boat is about Self Preservation and Self Protection.  It’s that age old question of “What’s In It For Me?”  The more we think of Life as being something that is All About Us, the less meaning life has For Us.  We miss the real purpose and meaning of life.

The Boat keeps us focused inwardly, never outwardly.  Focused inwardly we make ourselves the center of the universe—where dreams become nightmares—where vision becomes darkness—where hope is crushed like a bug.  Life is meaningless in the Boat.  Why?  Because Jesus isn’t there.  We are left to self-destruct—and lose all the power—all the wonder—all the beauty of life as it is meant to be lived.  The third hazard is worst:

3.  The Menace Of A Corrupted Heart.

It doesn’t matter how good we think we are—the truth is our heart is corrupted.  Why did you think Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again—born from above.  At the very core of everyone—that includes me and you—is the DNA of Adam and Eve—whose heart wanted more than God—they wanted to BE God.

The Corrupted Heart wants to use God for their desires rather than for God to use them for His Desires.  The Corrupted heart sees moments for self-advancement, not for the greater purpose of the Kingdom of God.  The Corrupted Heart uses and misuses people for their own self-gain.

The Corrupted Heart keeps us away from God’s Grace.  The Corrupted Heart leads us into an eternity without our Loving Father—without the One who loves us the most.

Our lives are not about self-preservation and fulfillment, but are to be acts of stewardship.  Your life, what you do with what God have given you, is a matter of supreme importance.  

Use your imagination this morning:  Image your life is over.  You’re ushered into a small room with 2 chairs, one for you and one for God.  There’s a DVD player and TV, and God puts in a disc that has your name, and this title:  What Your Life Might Have Been.  Imagine watching all that God might have done with your life if you had let him. 

You Have No Idea What Your Potential Is—Until You Realize It Is Far More Hazardous In The Boat, Than It Is Risky On The Water.  The Boat will create Hazardous Waste in your life.  This waste prevents you from the Life God has purposely designed just for you.

Your Next Step:

Get Rid Of The Hazardous Waste In Your Life So That God Can Fill Your Life With His Life.  The Hazardous waste is found in the things you are clinging to—rather than walking on the water with Jesus.  What Are You Clinging To

  • The good old days?
  • Fear?
  • Doubt?
  • Guilt?
  • Imaginary guilt? (Guilt he’s already taken away)
  • Personal comfort?
  • “Come back Jesus and end all this mess”?

Is your life meaningless?  Has the restlessness of your heart brought you to the realization that what you have isn’t an empty heart, but a corrupted heart?  If so, then get out of The Boat.  You were not made for the boat—you are made to walk with Jesus.

Step 5: Water Walkers Overcome The Fear

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

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Today we are going to talk about the elephant in the room.  It’s the one thing that was in The Boat that we haven’t focused on.  Without exception, every person in The Boat had this because The Boat was full of it.  I’m sure you know what it was, so let’s look again at our story for this series from Matthew 14:25-32 (NLT)

25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified.  In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”  27 But Jesus spoke to them at once.  “Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “Take courage. I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”  29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.

What would you guess would be the most common command in Scripture?  It is not to be more loving.  That is at the core of God’s desire for us, but that is not His most frequent command.

It is not about don’t worship other gods, even though He wants our undivided devotion.  The single command that occurs most often is this:  Don’t Be Afraid!  We are all probably familiar with FDR’s famous quote after Dec. 7, 1941:  “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.  It was actually a paraphrase from a much earlier quote by Henry David Thoreau:  “Nothing is so much to be feared as fear.”

If you can remember only 1 thing from today’s message, it is critical that you remember this: 

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

Life inside the boat isn’t the normal life for a follower of Jesus.  Water-Walking isn’t for the elite or the few.  It’s the life that God gives to every Disciple, every Follower of Jesus.

When Jesus came in human flesh, it was an all-out Declaration Of War against the Evil One who took control of God’s Image Bearers by deception.  And in This War, and it is a War, God has chosen to recruit those who will engage The Enemy.  His recruits?  His Image Bearers!  That’s Us!  And the way to engage in this Spiritual War is to get out of the boat.  But…

Fear is the number 1 reason why people refuse to get out of the boat.  So we need this command all the time.  Lloyd Ogilvie notes there are 366 “fear not” verses in the KJV Bible—1 for every day of the year, including one for leap year. 

Now these disciples experienced fear twice—first in the face of the storm, and then in the face of Jesus walking on the water.  Peter faced fear a third time, when he turned his attention back on the storm. 

Fear disrupts faith and becomes the biggest obstacle to trusting and obeying God.  Fear will sink us faster than anything else, even the threat of death.

Why does God command us not to be afraid?  Fear doesn’t seem like the most serious vice in the world.  It never made the list of the 7 Deadly Sins.  No one ever receives church discipline for being afraid.  So why does God tell us to stop being afraid more often than he tells us anything else? 

I strongly suspect that the reason isn’t that God wants to spare us emotional discomfort.  In fact, He usually He says it when He wants people to do something that will lead them into greater fear.  I think God says, “Don’t be afraid” so often because fear is the Number 1 reason human beings are tempted to avoid doing what God asks them to do.

At its simplest form, fear is an internal warning cry that danger is nearby and we had better do something about it.  It motivates us to take action and remove ourselves from whatever is threatening us.  Fear can be a good thing—it keeps us from stepping out into heavy traffic, or touching live electrical lines.  I’m not talking about that kind of fear.  I’m talking about the fear that makes our spirit a prisoner and keeps us from the design God has for our lives. 

It is the kind of fear that hurts us by keeping us from trusting God.  Trust and fear have been battling each other for the human heart—and your heart—for a long time.  Eventually one or the other will win. 

Think about your life.  Where is Jesus calling you to jump to Him with reckless abandon?  And at this very moment, which is winning the battle?  Where are you?  In or out?  When we allow fear to win the battle, the losses are high.  First of all, let’s look at what you lose when fear wins out over trust.

1.  There Is The Loss Of Worth!

Why are so many people who claim the name of Christ lack that sense of self-worth when we have every reason to have that sense of self-worth?  When you face a difficult situation, do you approach it, take action, and face it head on; or do you avoid it, wimp out, and run and hide?  The Enemy want us to take the easy way out. 

Fear Strips Away Your Dignity And Without Dignity There Is No Self-Worth And When There Is No Self-Worth There Is No Confidence In Us To Face That Fear.  Living in fear kills our inner sense of confidence. 

2.  There Is The Loss Of Destiny!

If you live in fear, you will never experience the potential that God has placed in you.  Remember, Growth Always Involves Risk, And Risk Always Involves Fear.  If you are waiting for some ironclad guarantee that everything will work out perfectly, if you are waiting for all the risk to be removed, you will stay where you are—and stagnate. 

Fear of failure holds us like a prison.  You have a Divine Destiny; a potential God has in you.  But it’s your choice on what to do with it

If fear holds you captive, you will lose that Divine Destiny—and that is a price that is too high to pay.

3.  There Is Also A Loss of Joy!

Have You Ever Met A Deeply Joyful, Chronically Worried Person?  Fear destroys joy!  Live in fear, and you will know the pain of constant, chronic anxiety.  Giving in to fear is a joy-killer.  It will make your imagination run toward the negative:  “What if bad things happen?  What if I’m misunderstood?  What if I don’t succeed?  What if I preach a bad sermon?”

When You Live With A Fear-Perspective, You Give Those Things The Power To Rob You Of Joy Right Now.  You and you alone give fear its power.  When you live in fear, the power of “what-if” becomes overwhelming., and you go through life without joy.  And finally,

4.  There Is A Loss Of The Sense Of God’s Presence.

Fear whispers to us that God is not going to take care of us.  It tells us we are not really safe in his hands.  Simply put, Fear Says That God Isn’t Available FOR You.  He’s too busy or you’re too weak, too worthless for God to take an interest in you.  When you believe that God isn’t available to you—you will not draw from His presence the strength and power you need.  Fear causes us to distort the way we think about God, and makes us unavailable to God.  Fear makes us live as though we serve a semi-competent god. 

Fear dominates our need for security, and herein lies the problem.  Fear Cannot, By Its Very Nature, Will Ever Give Us A Single Shred Of Security.  Fear holds us tighter than any rope or chains.  It will flood your heart and mind with doubts and anxieties.  There will never be any peace in your life, and no real security, until you hear the voice of Jesus say:  “Come on!” and then, get your feet wet.

So, how do we overcome this demon of fear?  Let me share with you 3 things you can do so that God can defeat your demons of fear:

1.  Rehearse God’s Presence Every Day

This is something you do BEFORE you find yourself in the boat in a storm.  Rehearsal is what you do before the start.  This is what you do at the beginning of your day.  And do it more often if you need it:

  1. Acknowledge Who He Is!  Revelation 1:8
  2. Remember That God Is Always With You! 
  3. Remember The Moments Full Of His Love, Grace And Mercy.  Psalm 77:11
  4. Affirm Who You Are!  Romans 8:16
  5. Ask God To Search Your Heart!  Psalm 139:23-24

2.  Renew Your Mind All Day Through The Holy Spirit

Focus on your thinking.  Your thinking influences how you see your circumstances, your culture and people you encounter.  That’s why Paul said in Romans 12:2—“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Changing your thinking is an intentional and continual decision on your part.  Here are some things that can help:

  1. Read or listen to the Bible throughout the day.
  2. Listen to or sing in your heart some of your favorite music about God’s faithfulness, grace, mercy and love.
  3. Read or listen to writers who inspire and challenge you.
  4. Before you made a choice, act or speak, ask God to help you see the moment the way HE sees it.
  5. Have Conversations With God all day long—we call it prayer.

3.  Re-Focus Your Heart In That Moment

If you haven’t been doing the previous 2 things, this will likely be impossible for you.  Now, look at Peter’s third encounter with fear—he saw the waves and felt the wind.  That became his new focus.  But…but when he realized what was happening because of that new focus—he calls out to Jesus.  He was afraid in the boat—but he overcame that fear by calling out to Jesus.  And the fear from the storm? 

He Overcame That Fear By Calling Out To Jesus.

Later on Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 4:18— So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

So, Here Are Your Next Steps:

  1. Name What Frightens You The Most.
  2. Ask Jesus To Take It Away—He Will, You Know.
  3. Name One Thing You Would Try To Do For God’s Kingdom If Fear Wasn’t An Issue—Because It’s Not.

Remember, you will never be totally free from fearful thoughts, but you do not have to give that fear any power—God will always be with you.  Even if you sink, the Original Water-Walker will be there to lift you up in love and without condemnation.

How To Be A Water-Walker: Use Leverage

God’s Power Works Best In Our Weaknesses.

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Today we’re going to talk about Leverage.  But before we do, let’s look at our theme passage again from Matthew 14:25-32, but this time I want to share it with you from The Passion Translation:

25 At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came to them, walking on the waves! 26 When the disciples saw him walking on top of the water, they were terrified and screamed, “A ghost!”  27 Then Jesus said, “Be brave and don’t be afraid. I am here!”

28 Peter shouted out, “Lord, if it’s really you, then have me join you on the water!”  29 “Come and join me,”  Jesus replied.  So Peter stepped out onto the water and began to walk toward Jesus. 30 But when he realized how high the waves were, he became frightened and started to sink.  “Save me, Lord!” he cried out.

31 Jesus immediately stretched out his hand and lifted him up and said, “What little faith you have!  Why would you let doubt win?”  32 And the very moment they both stepped into the boat, the raging wind ceased.

Before we dive into looking at the principle of Leverage, let’s back up and do a quick review from last week.  We talked about that process of discovering and uncovering your giftedness for the Mission of The Kingdom.  Here’s what the process looks like:

  • God’s Gift Produces Great Joy.
  • God’s Gift Requires Gritty Determination To Use It.God’s Gift Produces Great Joy.
  • Your Gift Will Far Exceed Your Abilities.
  • Surround Yourself With People Who Have Godly Wisdom.
  • Align Yourself With People Who Pray.
  • Start Using The Scientific Method of Trial And Error

OK, on to Leverage.  I know I just heard some of you thinking, “What does Leverage have to do with being a Water-Walker?”  Good for you thinking like this—I’m glad you asked because it’s the next step in overcoming fear and getting out on the water with Jesus.

Let’s start with a definition of Leverage.  This word is used in a lot of different contexts, but let’s go back to the scientific principle of Leverage and move from here:  “Leverage changes the amount of force needed to move an object.  It reduces the strength required to move a much heavier object.”  This principle is applied in finance, business and politics.  But there is a spiritual application to the concept of leverage that needs to be explored.

Like most things in The Kingdom Of God, spiritual applications and principles work in Backwards Logic.  Here’s a few: 

  • In Order To Live, You Must Die;
  • In Order To Find, You Must Lose;
  • In Order To Receive, You Must Give;
  • In Order To Rise Above The Crowd, You Must Serve The Crowd.

Now let’s apply the Backwards Logic of The Kingdom to Leverage.  Spiritual Leverage Reduces The Influence Of The Stronger Object.  Think about moving a rock that weighs 3 times more than you.  You take a lever, find the right pivot point and even though you weigh 3 times less, you can move that rock.  Your weight and the weight of the rock remains the same.

In Spiritual Leverage, the weaker you become, the weaker the object becomes, until you are stronger.  What I’m trying to say is that whatever is in the way of you stepping out of the boat to become a Water-Walker, becomes weaker as you become weaker.  Insane!  Am I right?  Does this really make Logical Sense to us?

And this leads me to The One Thing You Need To Remember From This Message, And It’s Not My Idea, But the Apostle Paul’s:  God’s Power Works Best In Our Weaknesses. 

In case you forgot, Paul had been pleading with God to take away some unknown “thorn in the flesh”.  It didn’t happen—instead God revealed something more powerful that Paul needed—and so do we.  2 Corinthians 12:9— “My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness.”  This was God’s answer—3 times.

Most people love the hear stories about the powerful God we serve.  But herein lies the problem:  That information alone is not enough to create courageous human beings.  I can receive tons of information designed to assure me that God’s power is sufficient.  But the information alone does not transform my human heart. 

In order for such a transformation to take place, we need to learn how to apply Leverage—using one force to move what seems to be an immovable object.  If you want to know if you are living outside the boat, then ask yourself this question, and ask it often:  What am I doing now that I could not do apart from the power of God?  It’s clear, the only way Peter could stay afloat was if God took over.   

When we risk using our Spiritual Giftedness, we can know the joy of being used by God.  But we have to trust before we act.  We see this over and over again in scripture.  Moses had to trust that God would part the Red Sea.  Gideon had to reduce his army from 32,000 to 300 before God would bring the victory.  Naaman had to wash 7 times in the water before he was cured of leprosy.  The loaves and fish had to be relinquished before they were multiplied.  The seed has to be planted in the soil and die before the harvest can happen.

Most of us have an area that might be called our “Spiritual Comfort Zone,” which is the area we feel most comfortable trusting God.  When God calls us to go beyond our spiritual comfort zone, we begin to feel nervous or uncomfortable.  We would prefer not to go outside that zone until we feel better about it.   

You have to follow the Path of God, which requires us to admit our weaknesses and inabilities.  Pay close attention to Peter’s Statement:  “Lord, if it’s really you, then have me join you on the water!”  It’s those 5 words:  “have me join you”—it’s the words of weakness and inability.  Most folks don’t have the problem of being too weak—though that is what they say.

The problem is many are often Too Strong.  What God told Paul is the same thing He wants us to hear:  “My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness.”  Where do we need to Leverage our weaknesses so that God’s Power works the best?  There are a lot of points and places, but think about these as a start in your life.

1.  Leverage Our Points Of Our Fear!

Step out of the boat at the point of your fears.  Why?  Because He wants us to overcome them through His Power, and not be intimidated and defeated by them. 

For example, one of the most exciting adventures in life is helping another person find God.  What keeps us from getting out of the boat evangelistically?  Fear!  But on the other hand, look at the upside potential.  We might actually be part of God’s redemptive purpose on earth.  But if I wait until I feel like I’ll be 100% effective, I will never step out of the boat to help someone surrender to Jesus. 

What, exactly are you afraid of, spiritually?  Bring those fears to God and God will provide His Power.  But, if you never admit your weakness of fear, you will never know His Power.  Secondly,

2.  Leverage Our Points Of Frustration!

Sometimes people in Scripture get motivated to trust God in remarkable ways when they become frustrated with the brokenness of a fallen world.  We see it in David when he couldn’t stand any longer the insults of Goliath.  We see it in Elijah when he could stand the idolatry of Ahab and Jezebel. 

In the world today, it is at the point where we are frustrated by the mess our culture is in and that sense of what God desires.  To fix that gap between what is and what God desires should motivate us to action for a cause that is greater than ourselves.  It may be your frustration with political systems that abuse people.  It may be your sense of frustration that there are so many homeless people.  It may be your frustration with the loneliness the elderly often feel when placed in a skilled nursing facility.  Whatever it is that makes you feel frustrated, take your weaknesses to bring about change and allow Him to fill you with His Power.  Thirdly,

3.  Leverage Our Points Of Compassion!

Being A Water-Walker Means We Move Towards What Breaks Our Heart.  Compassion is expressed in our actions.  Jesus certainly modeled this for us.  Scripture says that many times when Jesus looked at the crowds, seeing their deepest needs, He was filled with compassion. 

When was the last time you took a serious compassion risk?  Jesus did it all the time.  He touched lepers, ate with tax collectors, associated with prostitutes; all these were a part of His calling—they were why He came!  For you it is working with Christian Center of Concern, Delivering meals on the Third Saturday, or coming up with an idea that Shows Compassion To Those Who Need It, Not Those We Think Deserve It.  Finally,

4.  Leverage Our Points Of Prayer!

Real-life stories of Water-Walkers are always stories about prayer.  There is something about getting out of the boat that turns people into Intense Pray-Ers.  They live each moment of each day with the conviction that they cannot accomplish things without God’s help.

Paul prayed—3 times—about his thorn in the flesh.  And all 3 times, God’s answer was the same—“My strength works through your weaknesses.”  Peter’s Prayer Request Was To Join Jesus On The Water.  So tell me this:  What’s Your Prayer Request For Yourself?  Is it about yourself?  Is it complaining about the shape of our culture?  Is it wanting Jesus to come back now to get you out of this miserable culture? 

Water-Walking is not about the great thing you will do.  It is about the great thing God longs to do with you through his powerful grace in you.  But first you have to Leverage Your Weaknesses!  It’s more than getting your feet wet.  Those in the boat had wet feet—Peter had wet feet—the difference was Peter Leveraged His Weakness By Bringing It To Jesus AS He Walked On Water.

Well, I’m down to your Next Step.  For some of you, this Next Step may well be the most painful moment of your life.  It’s a moment you’ve been putting off—or you’ve been living in denial. 

Tell God Your Weakness. 

  1. It could be pride that is keeping you from getting out of the boat and into a relationship with Jesus.  You’ve been playing the church game, and you don’t want anyone else to know.
  2. It may be fear that is holding you in the boat—fear of failure—or just maybe your fear is the fear of Truth—that if the truth of your life becomes public knowledge, you’re afraid that those closest to you will be ashamed of you and turn away from you.
  3. It may be shame that’s keeping you in the boat.  It may be a private shame of something you once did—or a public shame that everyone knows about.  It may be a lifetime of shame—of doing the wrong thing—making the wrong choices.
  4. It may be doubt that keeps you off of the water.  You don’t want to admit it, but you seriously doubt you could ever be a Water-Walker because, well because Jesus couldn’t help you be that Water-Walker you’ve been hearing about.
  5. Or it may be the worst weakness of all—You Have No Weaknesses.  Arrogance is your weakness and you don’t even know it.

Here is what I’m asking you to do this morning.  Leverage Your Weakness.  If one of these, or any of an infinite number of weaknesses is yours—take that weakness to the right place. 

Bring it to The Father—tell Him all about it.  Then listen…listen to what HE says about your weaknesses—“My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness.”

I’ve asked you not to focus on Peter’s sinking—but think about it now.  When Peter started sinking what did he do?  He Leveraged His Weakness By Crying Out To Jesus.  And Immediately—Immediately Jesus Saved Him!  Leverage Your Weakness By Bringing It To God, And The Grace Of God Becomes Stronger Than That Thing That Is Keeping YOU In The Boat

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

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

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Let’s read the story again for this series from Matthew 14:25-32 (NLT)

25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified.  In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”  27 But Jesus spoke to them at once.  “Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “Take courage. I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”  29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.  Your Gift Reflects God’s Image.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified.  In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”  27 But Jesus spoke to them at once.  “Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “Take courage. I am here!” 28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”  29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.

Matthew 14:25-32 (NLT)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.  Water-Walkers Expect Problems!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.  Water-Walkers Master Failure Management!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified.  In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”  27 But Jesus spoke to them at once.  “Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “Take courage. I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”  29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.  Water-Walkers Recognize God’s Presence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.  Water-Walkers Discern Between Faith And Foolishness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.  Water-walkers Get Out Of The Boat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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