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!”

RECALCULATING: HAVE YOU ARRIVED?

Our Destination Is To Become Peculiar.

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We began this series by stating the obvious:  That our culture is in deep turmoil, unconstrained chaos, and relentless fear.  It is fueling irritation, aggravation, and frustration that is creating the toxic environment of Despair.  And without a radical change of direction, a Divine Recalculating Moment, it will only become worse.

When we use that navigational tool called GPS and follow its directions, we see those long awaited words:  You Have Arrived At Your Destination.  Global Positioning System works when the receiver connects with 3, preferably 4 satellites.  Those satellites then triangulate that signal and then sends it back to the receiver.  GPS needs the reference points from those satellites.  Without those 3-4 satellites, it just doesn’t work.  

But sometimes, GPS is wrong.  In my experiences, there are times when my GPS says You Have Arrived At Your Destination, I’m looking at an open field.  Or, I don’t see what I’m looking for.  Sometimes, I see it but it’s across the road.  Those GPS systems are not always correct and can make us feel even more lost than before we started the trip.

And when our Spiritual Navigation system is off, it’s even more so.  Every person, without exception, has a certain set of Values, Ideas And Beliefs.  Each person is on a journey to a destination defined by those values, ideas and beliefs.  The values, ideas and beliefs are the reference points that ultimately determines their destination, tells us when and where to turn, and defines when we have arrived.

Without the right Reference Point, we will always end up at the wrong place…and this is where our culture is at.  Life on earth has an intended Destination.  Yes, ultimately Heaven, but there’s a Destination for us here on earth.

If You Can Remember Only One Thing, This Is It: 

Our Destination Is To Become Peculiar.  

There is only one people in the Church–God’s own people.  The church does not have a ministry; it is ministry; it does not have a mission; it is mission.

Without a Recalculating Moment Of Heart And Purpose, we will journey farther and farther away from the heart of God—and the only life our hearts long for.  This is the last in the series and there’s a word I’ve been using throughout.  That word is Peculiar, and I could not end this series without taking a look at what it means to be peculiar.

The only way we can arrive at our spiritual destination is to have the correct reference points.  Now, think back to those satellites.  Their position is used to determine your position.  But, if their position is off, their orbit is not in the right place, then the information it delivers you will be wrong.

In our Spiritual journey, to live the life we are created for, it’s absolutely essential that those Reference Points are in the right place.  I’m not talking today about how to be peculiar.  This is not another how to sermon.  The Christian walk is more than just knowing how to more than just a mechanical response to God’s call. 

When our response to God is mechanical we lose our excitement and start looking for another fix-it-upresponse.  So instead of talking out how to be peculiar I want to talk about being peculiar.  I think you will see that the difference is more than subtle.  Let’s Read 1 Peter 2:1-10…

1 “So get rid of all evil behavior.  Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. 2 Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, 3 now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

4 You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple.  He was rejected by people, but He was chosen by God for great honor.

5 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.  What’s more, you are his holy priests.  Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. 6 As the Scriptures say,

“I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced.”

7 Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given Him.  But for those who reject Him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.”

And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.”  They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people.  You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.  As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light.

10 “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”

These Christians knew what Peter was talking about.  Once they had been No People, just ethnic and cultural groups that could be classified as heathen.  Among them were also small pockets of Jews. They understood Peter.  Once they had been no people.  They had been proud and self-sufficient—and lost— but now they had become the recipients of God’s mercy. 

This is not some new insight on Peter’s part.  It comes right out of Hosea 2:23; Peter takes this and runs with it—he begins to apply title upon title on this “No People” who had become redeemed by the grace of God.  

  • No People are now Chosen People.
  • No People are now Royal Priests.
  • No People are now A Holy Nation.
  • No People are now God’s Very Own Possession.

This is what it looks like to be “peculiar”.  I know that’s a word we don’t like to use to describe ourselves.  I mean, who really wants to be “peculiar”?  Well…we should want to be “peculiar”.  Think about what this word means:  “characteristic of only one person, group, or thing; different from the usual or normal”.  If the confusion, chaos and hatred in our culture is ever going to change—Then We’ve Got To Unashamedly Embrace Being Different From The Usual And The Norm.   

To be different from the usual and norm that floods Facebook and the news, then we need that Recalculating Moment that will enable us to reach our destination here, and later in eternity.

There are 4 Reference Points that assure us we will Arrive At Our Destination.  These Reference Points is what will make us peculiar in this culture—and will transform us into God’s very own possession.  I want to give you these 4 Reference Points in the form of questions.  Question #1:

1.  Are You Hungry For The Word Of God?

Not what others say or write—but hungry for just God’s Word.  There are many in our culture, especially the church culture, who only want to hear what others say about God’s Word.  They want an interpretation—a spin—an angle that meets their own expectations and beliefs.

There are so many who want to speak FOR the Bible in ways that will support their Values, Ideas And Beliefs.  We don’t need more people speaking for the Bible.  We need the allow God’s Word to Speak TO us. 

We don’t need more people speaking for the Bible.  We need to allow God’s Word to Speak TO us.

There are so many who want to speak FOR the Bible in ways that will support their Values, Ideas And Beliefs.  We don’t need more people speaking for the Bible.  We need the allow God’s Word to Speak TO us.  If we are going to arrive at right destination now and in eternity, we need a reference point— The first reference point is to align our life with God and His Purpose for our life through The Word Of God!  Now, Question #2:

2.  Are You Living With Deep Joy?

Have you noticed that Values, Ideas And Beliefs of our are not producing deep joy?  Or is it just me?  People of our culture are seeking and pursuing happiness at the expense of deep joy.  Life is meant to be filled with deep joy.  Our culture has anything but deep joy.  It’s chaotic, angry and dangerous. 

We will never give the world Deep Joy living life by the Values, Ideas And Beliefs of this Culture.  Our Deep Joy comes from surrendering all of our life to Jesus—freely submitting to God’s Rule in our daily life.  Those who resent giving God Rule of their heart do not, can not, find the Deep Joy that comes from living Care-Free in God’s hands.  No heartache, no disappointment, no pain is ever greater than the freedom we find in the life surrendered to God.

Our Deep Joy comes from surrendering all of our life to Jesus—freely submitting to God’s Rule in our daily life.

Our culture needs to see us living in joy regardless of the circumstances.  Jesus describes it this way:  “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy.  Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:11)  What were the things Jesus told them?  Look at Verse 5—“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”  Joy Is A Reference Point Because It’s Based On Our Relationship With Jesus, Not Our Circumstances.  And now, Question #3:

3.  Are You Experiencing High Hopes?

The social, cultural and political turmoil in our culture is crushing countless hearts.  The Values, Ideas And Beliefs of this Culture isn’t concerned with hope—it’s focused on hate.  It’s focused on what’s wrong, what’s missing, and who’s at fault.  None of this is conducive for hope—only despair.

One day Jesus was looking around at His culture.  He saw hurt, lonely, confused people—like sheep without a shepherd.  Do you know what Jesus said about the culture that is so much like ours?  It’s in Matthew 9:38 (TM)—“What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”  Our Hope should be High Because We Live For And Serve The God Who Sees Opportunities For Greatness In Every Situation And In Every Life.  Our world will never find Hope if we see our world as Hopeless. 

Our world will never find Hope if we see our world as Hopeless.

Hope That God Is Greater Than Every Human Despair Must Be Our Reference Point.  And the final Question #4:

4.  Are You Expecting The Holy Spirit To Bring Awakening And Renewal In Your Life And To Our Culture?

The Values, Ideas And Beliefs of this Culture expect us who follow Jesus to change.  At the Wednesday Bible Study we were looking at the time Peter was in prison.  He was waiting for his trial and then his execution.  The church was praying earnestly for Peter—but their faith was not overwhelming because they didn’t believe Rhoda when she said Peter was at the door. 

You and I need to live in each moment expecting the Holy Spirit to bring Awakening and Renewal first to us—and then to our culture through us.  If you don’t expect to see Awakening and Renewal now, then why are you even here this morning?

It’s time for us to act in faith to a reality that no one can see—except those who have the heart of God!  Expect The Holy Spirit To Bring Awakening And Renewal In Your Life And To Our Culture.  And this is our Fourth Reference Point.

Expect The Holy Spirit To Bring Awakening And Renewal In Your Life And To Our Culture

Being peculiar means having the right answers to these questions. These are the 4 Reference Points that will guarantee that we will Arrive At Our Destination.  Our Destination for now is Verse 9—“To Be Royal Priests, A Holy Nation, God’s Very Own Possession.”

And our Final Destination will be “Well Done, My Good And Faithful Servant.  You Have Been Faithful In Handling This Small Amount, So Now I Will Give You Many More Responsibilities.  Let’s Celebrate Together!” (Matthew25:21 NLT)  But you can never Arrive There until you Arrive Here.

Your Next Step

Know Your Reference Points:

  1. The Word Of God
  2. Deep Joy
  3. High Hope
  4. Expect The Holy Spirit To Show Up And Show Out!

Recalculating: For Such A Time As This!

God Is Looking For People Who Will Live Each Moment As If They Were Born Such A Time As This—Because You Are.

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Today I want us to look at another Old Testament story to see what happens when we Recalculate Our Heart To Move In The Direction Of God’s Heart.  If You Can Remember Only One Thing, This Is It:

God Is Looking For People Who Will Live Each Moment As If They Were Born Such A Time As This—Because You Are.

Today it’s the story of Esther.  It’s around 470 BC in Persia.  King Xerxes is throwing a wild party for the leading men of his nation.  On a drunken whim, the king orders his wife, Queen Vashti, to come and parade herself before all his guests.  She refuses, creating panic among the men:  What if their wives heard about it and followed her example?  Terrified at the prospect of such a thing, they convince the king to get rid of Queen Vashti.  But the king gets lonely.  Seeing his misery, the king’s advisors devise a plan. They will host a beauty pageant, gathering the most dazzling women from the kingdom, so the king can have “the pick of the litter”.  Enter Esther!

Esther’s cousin Mordecai encourages her to enter the Beauty Pageant.  But he wants her to hide something important—that she is a Jew—numbered among the people of God.  If the promoters of this beauty pageant find out she’s a Jew, they won’t ever consider her.  And he was right in that analysis.  If she wants to win the king’s favor, it will come at the price of hiding who she really is.  She’ll have to act just like everyone else.  And we know she wins.

Something happens, though, to throw all of this into jeopardy. It happens because of Mordecai’s resolve to be God’s Person.  There is a man in the kingdom named Haman, who is second in command to King Xerxes.  That’s a lot of power, but it’s never enough for men like Haman.  

He not only wants power; he wants others to flatter him, and inflate his already oversized ego.  That’s Haman—powerful, insecure, and a threat.  Whenever he passes by, everyone must bow down to him in an elaborate tribute.  But there’s Mordecai—so insistent that Esther conceals her true identity—decides this business with Haman has gone on long enough.  It was time to stand up and be counted.  Mordecai refuses to bow down.

Haman is furious with his actions and he hatches a plot.  He goes to King Xerxes and informs him of a people—God’s people—who are causing problems.  He convinces the king that it’s in the king’s best interests to completely annihilate them by genocide.  He even offers to finance the project!  Without blinking an eye, the king gives a nod of approval.  Posters are soon plastered all over the kingdom, saying:  Kill all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on March 7 next year.  When Mordecai hears the news, he does what any good Jew would do—he repents.  

He puts on sackcloth and covers himself with ashes—the clothing and gestures of repentance, and goes through the city, weeping and crying.  Why offer repentance?  Hasn’t the wrong been done by Haman?  Mordecai repents because he knows he has wronged God by trying to hide.  To borrow the words of James 4:4, Mordecai realizes that “If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.

When Esther hears about her cousin’s behavior, she is concerned. She doesn’t care what’s going on; she just wants him to stop it.  She sends him a message to stop it.  But Mordecai refuses to turn away from his repentance.  So she sends another message.  Let’s pick up the story in Esther 4:13-17

13 Mordecai sent this reply to Esther:  “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. 14 If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die.  Who Knows If Perhaps You Were Made Queen For Just Such A Time As This?”  15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me.  Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day.  My maids and I will do the same.  And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king.  If I must die, I must die.” 17 So Mordecai went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

Esther 4:13-17 (NLT) (emphasis mine)

At the risk of racing through this amazing story, let me sum it up quickly.  She gets her opportunity and invites both Haman and the king to 2 special banquets.  Haman is delighted—proud and puffed up to know he is the only person chosen to attend the gathering alongside the king.  His spirits are quickly cooled because he saw Mordecai again and again he refused to bow down before Haman.  When he came home, he was complaining to his wife and family, “I’m the only one invited to the banquet the Queen has prepared for the King, and this, this heathen Mordecai dishonors me.”  So, his wife suggests he erect a tall pointed pole and impale Mordecai on it.  Well, Haman is happy again.  Haman thinks life is good again.

But the King couldn’t sleep the night before the banquet, so he had some servants read to him from the archives of his life as King.  I don’t know if he was wanting his ego stroked or if he thought the reading would be so boring he would fall asleep.  But then he hears about how a Jew named Mordecai had saved his life by revealing an assassination plot. 

Then he found out he had never properly recognized Mordecai for this, so he decides to honor him.  What happens next is pure irony—God is the Master of Irony!  The King sees Haman who is about to ask permission to kill Mordecai, and asks Haman how should someone really special be honored.  Haman, thinking it’s himself the King wants to honor says, “Give him one of your royal robes, give him one of your horses to ride and have a parade to tell everyone how wonderful this man is (wink-wink).  The king says, “Great idea!  Go get Mordecai ready for the parade, and you lead the parade telling everyone what a great man Mordecai is.” 

This humiliates Haman, but that evening it gets worse.  Esther then pleads for her people’s lives and reveals Haman’s evil plot and this angers the king.  Xerxes storms out, Haman falls on Esther’s couch to ask for mercy just when the King comes back in.  He gets the wrong idea, and has Haman impaled on the same pole he had built for Mordecai. 

Since the King cannot undo his decree to have the Jews killed, he gives another decree—they can defend themselves and their families.  Mordecai is then promoted to Haman’s position.  Let’s see if we can learn why The 21st Century Church needs a Change of Direction and Change of Heart, For Such A Time As This:

1.  We Are Living In A Time Of Moral Confusion.

If I or any preacher were to say:  “We are living in a time of immorality!”, there would be a loud echo of “AMEN!”  And we could cite instance after instance of why this would be true.  No doubt about it, immorality is in overabundance.  But I’m not so convinced the real issue of our culture is the immorality—as much as it is the Moral Confusion which exists.  The Crisis of our culture is the way it defines morality. 

The word definition of morality is simple:  “It Is The Principles That Mark The Distinction Between Right And Wrong Or Good And Bad Behavior.”  Our culture defines morality in contextual ways, rather than by Truth.  Here’s what I am trying to say.  Our culture defines right and wrong based on context, on the settingIf it’s OK in one setting, then it’s not immoral.

And it’s frustrating for us who identify as followers of Jesus.  Our culture needs to see a Morality, of what is good or bad, right or wrong, in us.  I’m not talking about is it right or wrong to have a drink or divorce or the lottery or cut grass on Sunday—I’m talking about us living a full and joyful life by the standard God has given us. 

You and I are born for such a time as this—To Show How Meaningful Life Is When We Live It By God’s Standard.  This Chaos Is Alienating People—And We Can Be The Ones God Uses To End This Chaos.

2.  We Are Living In A Season Of Instability!

Without a solid foundation to define morality—the end result is that instability of character within people’s lives.  The Merriam-Webster Learner’ Dictionary defines Character this way: 

“The Way Someone Thinks, Feels, And Behaves; A Set Of Qualities That Are Shared By Many People In A Group; A Set Of Qualities That Make A Place Or Thing Different From Other Places Or Things.

Merriam-Webster Learner’ Dictionary

Focus on that last part:  A Set Of Qualities That Make A Place Or Thing Different From Other Places Or Things.  The instability of our culture is the direct result of the lack of being different from other places and things.  Most people don’t follow Jesus say that it’s because they don’t like the church.

And when they ask what the church is, they identify us by things we are against.  Character of heart and life isn’t measured by just what we are against—it is measured more by what we are for

  • We are FOR unconditional love. 
  • We are FOR people being treated with respect and dignity.
  • We are FOR values that build people up. 
  • We are FOR kindness. 
  • We are FOR compassion—love in action. 
  • We are FOR Grace and Mercy expressed as Forgiveness And A Commitment To A Life Of Holiness! 
  • We are FOR eliminating human distinctions. 
  • HOPE For A Life That Is Meaningful, Fulfilling And Abundant! 

This is why you are born for such a time as this.  To bring all this and so much more, through the Kingdom of God—as seen in you.  And this leads me to my last point:

3.  We Are Living In A Time Of Despair.

The Lack Of A God-Centered Morality, The Absence Of Christ-Like Character Fuels The Despair That Is Consuming Our Culture In The U.S. 

Watch the news, look at Washington D.C., look at what’s happening in the streets.  It’s not the fault of the Democrats, nor the Republicans.  It’s the despair that’s fueling all of it.  No one sees or senses any hope for anything better.  So they argue and fight and point the finger of blame.  They become fearful and angry at each other. 

All because of the absence of one thing:  Hope!  Democrats can’t create hope.  Republicans can’t create hope.  Socialists can’t create hope.  Government can’t create hope.  And the hate, anger and frustrations of the people can’t create hope.  These only intensify the despair.  Hope is missing.  Why?

It’s the failure of so many in churches who have either forgotten, or never understood, That WE Have Been Born, WE Have Been REBORN For Such A Time As This. Despair is ripping apart the fabric of our nation and world. 

We Need A Recalculating Moment To See That We Are Born And Reborn For Such A Time As This.  To Bring Moral Clarity, Lasting Character And Living Hope. 

A Day Comes When We’ve Got To Stand, Be Counted, And Fight To Proclaim What We’ve Been Entrusted With.  Today Is That Day. 

We should know we will never win a pagan culture by mimicking it and all it values.   The strongest influence we can bring in these chaotic and desperate times is to simply be peculiar—to be, with neither pride nor apology, followers of Jesus. 

Our call, God’s vision for this place, will reveal the character of Jesus—a character saturated with love, mercy, grace and compassion—a character that just doesn’t point out what’s wrong with others, but sees their hurts and their needs—a character that does more than see their needs, but does something to meet those needs.

Your Next Steps is to accept these 3 truths and live them out:

1.  The People Of God Do Not Succeed In A Pagan World By Hiding Their True Identity.

2. You Can Win Admiration By Conforming To The Standards Of The Age, But It Will Take You Further Away From Having A Heart For God.

3.  We Have An Enemy Who Is Out To Destroy Us, And No Amount Of Hiding Will Save Us.

Did you catch Mordecai’s last warning to Esther?

“Don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive.  If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, Help And Deliverance Will Arrive For The Jews From Someplace Else; but you and your family will be wiped out.”

God is at work bringing help and deliverance to this vast spiritual wasteland.  The issue for you and for all of us, will it be through some other people, or will we rise For Such A Time As This?

Recalculating: When You Don’t Change Direction!

When We Follow The Directions But Without The Heart Of God—We Become The Refuser Of Festivities—And The Consumer Of Blessings

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We are looking at the process of discovering God’s vision for you and this church, to discover God’s purpose for this place.  To do this, I want us to look at a couple of examples we need to learn from:  Jonah and Esther.  Today, let’s look at Jonah 1:1-5

 1 The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh.  Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”

But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord.  He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish.  He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.

4 But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. 5 Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.  But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold.

If You Can Remember Only One Thing, This Is It: When We Follow The Directions But Without The Heart Of God—We Become The Refuser Of Festivities—And The Consumer Of Blessings.

When God gives us a Recalculating Moment, He does so to transform us into what can only be described as Becoming Peculiar People.  In other words—to stand out from everything else.  Always to be different from the world.  But sometimes God’s Recalculating Moment is for us to be different from the Religious Culture.

Don’t you want to be a peculiar people?  The phrase is Peter’s, from the King James Version of 1 Peter 2:9: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a Peculiar People; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 

In Greek, the phrase A Peculiar People means “a purchased possession”—something that uniquely belongs to God, acquired at great cost.  We are to be Holy Oddities—Sacred Misfits. You can’t make heads or tails of us unless you bring God into the equation.   But we’re going to look at one way to not be peculiar.

It’s the story of Jonah.  When I was a child in Sunday School, I heard the story of Jonah from the perspective that here is a hero of the faith.  At first, he didn’t want to go—in fact he would rather die than go.  But God showed grace in the form of this big fish.

Jonah changed his mind and would go.  The Hero, right?  Wrong.  Jonah refused God’s Recalculating Moment at first.  Eventually he followed God’s Recalculating Moment, but he did so without The Heart Of God.  Jonah shows us that it’s not enough to simply change direction.  Here’s the Lessons he teaches:

1.  Jonah Was A Prophet Who Wanted Nothing To Do With God.

Jonah—his name means dove.  Ironic, isn’t it?  Jonah’s name doesn’t fit his heart nor his attitude.  Biblically, the dove was a sign of hope and peace.  In the Old Testament, Doves represented hope, renewal, grace, beauty, innocence, swiftness, sacrifice, peace and good news.  In the New Testament, the dove is one of the principal symbols of the Holy Spirit—a sign from Heaven.  Jesus instructed his followers to be “harmless as doves.”  

Hope.  Renewal.  Grace.  Beauty.  Innocence.  Spirit.  Swiftness.  Sacrifice.  Good News.  Peace.  Jonah is none of this.  Jonah’s no dove!  He’s a hawk, a vulture.  Jonah’s a harbinger of judgment, a conjurer of despair, and a herald of bad news.  He’s a scrappy, noisy, crow!  And that’s the point.  Jonah is a prophet that wants nothing to do with God.  He’s an evangelist who wants nothing to do with the lost—except to see them punished and banished. Jonah Is A Portrait Of Those Who Were A People Of God But Who Have Lost The Heart Of God.  

He’s a picture of a person who is Christian in name only—not in character, conduct, or conviction.  He is an example of what happens to many Christians and many churches—we get turned in on ourselves, self-satisfied, self-indulgent, and happy to let the world go to hell.  Jonah avoids sinners.  When that’s no longer possible, he crusades against them, picketing their towns.  

He first tries to ignore their existence, then he protests against them, and then he seeks to annihilate them altogether.  If I had to identify the primary question that drives the Book of Jonah, it’s this:  Will Jonah Ever Learn To Be A Dove, Not Just In Name But Also In Heart?  And that’s the question the church must continually wrestle with: Will We Ever Learn To Be Christian, Not Just In Name But Also In Heart? This is Lesson 1 from Jonah.

2.  Jonah Rejects God’s Word.

The Book of Jonah begins with a miracle—God speaks to Jonah.  But Jonah resents and resists the word of the Lord, finding it to be a mighty inconvenience.  It doesn’t fit into his plan.  It doesn’t meet his expectations.  It doesn’t agree with his beliefs.  But the word comes anyway.  

The miracle is that the word of the Lord still breaks in on those who have long given up listening for it or attending to it; it still comes to those who have not hungered and thirsted for it for years—if ever! 

The word that comes to Jonah is firm and fixed:  Go. Jonah is to proclaim the Word of the Lord to Nineveh.   Nineveh was the capital of the blood thirsty Assyrians.  They are the enemy.  Jonah is called to go to the enemy.  But the crucial thing is how God sees this enemy.  

First of all, He sees they are wicked. In fact, their wickedness has come up before God and reached a tipping point in heaven.  God’s had enough; He’s going to act.  

But notice the second thing God sees in Nineveh—she is a great city.  Her greatness is not just in sheer physical size.  The Hebrew word used in the text means more than magnitude.  It speaks of importance and weightiness.  Nineveh’s greatness is her potential—if only she turned from her wickedness. 

Unless We See People, Towns, Cities, Cultures, Civilizations, Neighbors, And Strangers As God Sees Them, We Will Never Experience God’s Heart For Them.  If all we miss seeing their greatness, we’ll miss their potential, and the dreams God has for them.

3.  Jonah Runs Away From God.

Jonah only sees Nineveh’s wickedness and refuses to see her potential for greatness, so he runs away.  He is called to something too hard, so he flees.  This is where the story gets interesting.  Jonah doesn’t just flee the call of God or sidestep his assignment; he tries to escape God’s presence. Verse 3: Jonah…went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord.  

Jonah is more than disobedient—he’s practically an atheist!  Jonah wants to live as though God does not exist—or at least as if God has no claim on him.  Those Who Have A Jonah Heart Want God’s Blessing But Want Nothing To Do With Either God’s Purposes Or Presence.  Jonah is not a worshiper—he avoids God’s presence.  He’s not a follower—he avoids God’s call,.  Jonah is a Consumer Of Blessings.

This Jonah heart is in each of us.  We all face a constant temptation to demand God’s blessing but avoid obedience and service.  Entire church communities can have a desire to seek God’s blessing, but not His Face or His Kingdom. Entire churches are sometimes preoccupied only with What’s In It For Me.  

Entire churches are tempted to be consumers but not worshipers or followers.  When that happens, everyone is impoverished. The church—which is to be the very body of Christ in the world, becomes just another country club—bored, snobbish and flabby.  The world that so desperately needs the gospel of Christ is left to stew in its own juices.  When A Church Craves God’s Blessing But Shuns His Presence And Avoids His Purpose—It Has Lost Its Heart For God.

Let’s finish the story, and see why Jonah isn’t a hero. Jonah flees, but he doesn’t get every far.  He books passage on a ship bound for Tarshish—a city at the edge of the known world.  Here’s something I learned just this week about the name Tarshish.  According to the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Tarshish is a Phoenician word from the Akkadian meaning Smelting Plant Or Refinery.  In biblical times, metals were obtained from the ore by fire.  He’s trying his best to get as far away as he possibly can. 

But Jonah jumps out of the pan and into the fire.  God Pursues Jonah Through A Storm, Still Wanting Jonah’s Heart The sailors on the boat force Jonah to confess his identity, and they discover that he’s the source of the trouble.  

At Jonah’s request, they throw him into the sea.  Jonah is suicidal.  God sends a large fish to swallow Jonah whole.  Three days later, the large fish spews him up on the shore.  Jonah, duly chastised, heads to Nineveh and does his duty.  He only does it because the pain of God’s chastisement is greater that his desire to run away.  

He preaches fire and brimstone and then goes and camps on the outskirts of Nineveh, waiting for God’s fireworks to fall on the city and its people.  But something strange takes place.  The king of Nineveh hears Jonah’s message, and he’s broken in his heart.  He puts on sackcloth and ashes and calls on the city to fast, pray, repent, and trust God’s mercy.  The entire city turns to God, and God shows mercy.  And Jonah couldn’t be more miserable.  

Jonah is a representative of a class of people we meet in the pages of Scripture, in the drama of life, and in the pews of our churches.  He is a Refuser Of Festivities.  He misses the grace of God and lets bitterness take root.  Like the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, he won’t join the party; he won’t live in grace.  

God is involved in an extravagant, surprising, mercy-drenched business—seeking and saving those who are lost, throwing feasts once they’re found—but Jonah and his ilk sit on the sidelines and sulk about how hard God is on them and how soft he is on everyone else.  They stew about things taken away from them, and things they never wanted others to have that God has given to them without measure. 

In C. S. Lewis’ story, The Silver Chair, a selfish little girl named Jill asks the great lion Aslan—the story’s Christ figure—if he eats girls.  Aslan responds, “I have swallowed boys and girls, men and women, kings and kingdoms.”  And here is an even more interesting question: Has He swallowed you? 

How are you handling God’s Recalculating Moments in your life?  With joy?  Or with the resentment of Jonah?

Your Next Steps:

  1.   Remember that to follow God’s directions, we have to change our direction.  And to change our direction, we need to bring along the right attitude.  What needs to change with your attitude?
  2.   It’s done by putting aside our fear of failing or the uncertainty of how it will happen.  Don’t wait for someone else to step up.  It’s time for you to step out.

Recalculating: Changing Direction

There are moments in our journey where we need a recalculating moment to get our lives back on track with God’s Plans And Purposes.

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Recalculating…it’s a word that pops up on the GPS screen when we miss a turn in trying to reach a destination.  We count on those recalculations to get us to our destination.  As a unique individual, you are trying to reach a different destination.  But…you’ve missed a turn somewhere and deep down you know you’re not getting there and you need a recalculation of where your life is going.  Garmin, Waze, Google Maps—none of those will help you find the destination for which you heart longs.

The church, the Body of Christ, is trying to reach a destination.  Along the way to that destination, we are supposed to be bring others along with us in that journey.  But declining membership and attendance reveals we have missed a turn somewhere.  We need a recalculation.  Some try to recalculate by looking backwards, trying to repeat some era in our history went we were growing.  But the recalculation we need isn’t by looking backwards—it’s by looking forward.

God’s Vision for your individual life and the life of the church is what is needed most.  God has a recalculation…and His recalculation involves His Vision.  Join us for the next 4 Sundays…just in case you need a recalculation…

What was once primarily a military device is now a common device.  We have them in our cars, in our hands, and on our phones.  It’s called GPS.  We know them as Tom-Tom, Garmin, Waze, or Google Maps.  GPS helps us get to places we may have forgotten where they are; or we are uncertain of where they are; or to places we’ve never been before.  If we aren’t paying attention to it, or we simply miss a turn, they do this thing called Recalculating.  Recalculating helps us get back on track—and Recalculating Requires A Change Of Direction.

It’s not only when we travel that we may need a change of direction, but also in our life’s journey.  It’s easy to not pay attention to the tried and true directions God gives.  It’s easy to miss a turn.  And we get lost—and lose our bearings.  This is true for us as individuals and for us as the Body of Christ.

I am asking you to pray and find the answers to 3 questions: 

  1. What is God asking you to do? 
  2. What is God asking this church to do? 
  3. Are you willing to do it? 

These questions were not randomly chosen, nor are they the result of my creative mind—even I’m not that smart.  It comes from the heart of God to the heart of this congregation—to you. 

It’s About Vision—Not Seeing What Is, But Catching A Glimpse Of God’s What Will Be.  God has a What Will Be—for each person and every church.  God’s What Will Be comes out of God’s Power And AbilitiesNot Our Own.  It is easy, so very easy to be caught up and confined to what is.  What Is creates a prison where people, dreams and churches die.

These 3 questions are about the direction you are heading towards—as an individual and as a church.  And they are the questions about arriving at where God wants us to be, as individuals and as a church. They are the questions that challenge us—about our faith, commitment and fears.  There are moments in our journey where we need a recalculating moment to get our lives back on track with God’s Plans And Purposes.

And this leads us to our text.  Usually, I like to read from the more modern translations because even I can understand them—but this morning, I want to read first from the KJV.  Turn to Proverbs 29:18… 

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

We’ve probably heard the first part of that passage, but did you listen to that last part?  Now, let me read this same passage from The Message…. 

If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what He reveals, they are most blessed.

If You Can Remember Only One Thing, This Is It: If you don’t know the Vision of what God wants of you and this place, then our goose is cooked, we’re a dead duck, our jig is up, our ship is sinking, the light is on but nobody’s home.

This morning I have Good News, Bad News, and Hard News:

  1. Good NewsThe Best Argument For God To The World Is The Church.  Every day, God becomes accessible to a hurting world through the People of God.  In our simple acts of compassion and servanthood, in our worship and ministry of the Word, through our breaking of bread, we make the invisible God visible.  John wrote in I John 4:12—No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us. The church stands as a powerful testimony of a God who will not let us go until He blesses us.  There is not one period in history you can point to and say, “The church offered the world nothing.  It had no light at all!”    We’ve always given something to the world, even at our worst moments.
  2. Bad NewsThe Worst Argument For God To The World Is The Church.  Every day, God becomes more remote to a cynical world because of the church.  In our foolish acts of self-righteousness and self-indulgent attitudes, in our judgment and smugness, through our breaking of trust and lack of actions, we obscure God.  John goes on to say in Vs. 20-21—If anyone says, ‘I love God’, yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, who he has not seen.  And He has given us this command:  Whoever loves God must also love his brother.  Even when we’re at our best, the church is still marred by hypocrisy, apathy, and false piety.  There is not a single period in history you can point to and say, “Yes! There it is! The church in all its fullness, exactly as God intended it.”  We’ve always fallen short.
  3. The Hard News: The Only Real Argument For God To The World Is The Church.  Put aside all philosophical defenses and church doctrine.  Philosophies and doctrines can convince the mind, but only the church, walking in the light, can win the heart.  God does not have a Plan B.  He does not have a backup strategy for making himself known among the nations.  It’s the church or bust.  We’ve always been all there is.

The church lives between the splendor of God’s intent and the debacle of our own shortcomings.  Paul speaks of God’s intent for the church in Ephesians 3:10–11…

God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.

God’s intent is for all His rich and varied wisdom to be clearly seen. The church’s life is meant to be a heart-stopping drama staged on a cosmic scale—a grand expression, that astonishes our world.  God wants us to wow the whole creation.  Too often, though, the reality is we’re the laughingstock.  The church is not always a powerful saga; it’s often mixture of tragedy and comedy. 

But don’t you want to live out God’s intentions for you?  Isn’t there a part of you that wants to have all God wants to give—no matter what it costs or where it leads?  Don’t you want to be able to say, “I’m what He had in mind when he made me and called me.  I’m exactly what God wants to reveal His Glory!”

I believe that this church today doesn’t lack for vision—but like many congregations, we are lacking God’s Vision.  I read of someone who compiled over 40 Killer Phrases—Phrases that will kill the Vision God has for a local church.  Let me share with you to Top 10 Killer Phrases

10] It’s Right In Theory, But It Won’t Work Here

9]   It Will Be More Trouble Than It’s Worth;

8]   It’s Not In The Budget;  

7]   You’ve Got To Be Kidding; 

6]   It’s Too Far Ahead Of Our Time; 

5]   We’ve Tried That Before; 

4]   It May Offend Some Of Our Members; 

3]   We Don’t Have Enough People To Do It;

2]   Let’s Appoint A Committee To Look Into It And Report Back;

1]   But We’ve Never Done It That Way Before!

Now, a vision from God will have 3 key elements, always.  Now with these 3 elements, the vision for here will be powerful and life changing.  I know it works because all 3 elements have been tried and tested—and happening now in our culture.

1.  In God’s Vision, There Will Be Purpose!

There is a reason why this place exists today, a purpose for us being here.  That purpose will define our mission and ministry.  The problem is that we have allowed our mission and ministry to define our purpose; and that’s backward—it’s putting the cart in front of the horse.  

The purposes of God will be much bigger than our individual selves and even bigger than all of us combined.  If you can do it with your own effort and strength, then it’s not likely that it’s God’s purposes you are following. 

God’s Purpose Transcends Beyond Our Selves In Order That We May Be Transformed By God’s Power.  Church does not exist for Sunday morning service, and to meet just your needs.  And that purpose will go beyond the physical confines of this community.  This answers your 1st Question.

2.  In God’s Vision, There Will Be Preparation!

God doesn’t just throw the vision out there and then say, “Just do it.”  He prepares us.  He’s Been Preparing You Your Entire Life For His Vision.  What Are You Doing To Allow God To Prepare You For His Vision?  Do you spend a lot of time in prayer?  Do you read, meditate and study His Word?  Each day, are you reading Christian writers, listening to Christian music?  Are you giving yourself to Sunday School, Bible Study, and creating small groups? 

You must believe that you are here because God has been preparing your whole life for such a time as this.  If you are not prepared for God’s Vision, then it’s not because God has tried to prepare you, it’s because you haven’t made yourself available to God.  This answers your 2nd Question.

3.  And In God’s Vision, There Will Be A Plan!

There was a time when the “Field of Dreams” worked—You remember the Kevin Costner movie—the voice telling him “If you build it they will come”—and they did come.  But that style will not work any longer.  It didn’t work that way for the 1st Century Church.  There’s an old saying, but it is so true—God Will Not Lead Us Where His Grace Will Not Sustain Us!  And like the purpose, the plan is much bigger than we are. 

Those plans are not only for this community, but they will reach out beyond the confines of this place and out into the world.  I’ve heard some church people say, “I don’t think we need to get involved with world missions because we have enough to do right here.  But God’s plan is bigger than this community.  It’s not local projects or outside missions—it’s BOTH local projects and outside missions.  That plan includes the involvement of each and every one of you.  And this And this is where you answer your 3rd Question.

Think about Jesus and This Process We Are Beginning Today.

  1. God Had A Purpose!  In creation, God, out of His love, made us in His image for the purpose of sharing a relationship of love with Him and to join with Him in the care of His marvelous creation.  But sin alienates us from His relationship of love.
  2. God Was Prepared For Our Sin.  Before He created one thing, redemption was in God’s heart—so He was prepared to send His Son to atone for sin and redeem us back to Himself.  1 Peter 1:18-20— For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors.  And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake.
  3. God Had A Plan!  His Son, would become one of us, live among us, but without sin.  He would then offer His life in the place of punishment, the place we rightly deserve.  Then He would call those who accept the Gift of Grace, to share the Message of grace.

Next Steps

  1. What is God asking you to do?  It will reflect Jesus and help the church.  It will be with the people you know—teachers, law enforcement, fire fighters, where you eat, at the library, at the bank, at the grocery store, where you work, where you hang out, your next door neighbors.  And it WILL BE with people you see but don’t know and people who haven’t met yet.
  2. What is God asking this church to do?  It will be something that shows we care about people and places.  Think about things that will improve the places that involves the people you know and see.  Schools, libraries, community events, police department, fire department, nursing homes, places for those with physical, emotional or mental health issues.  God seeks to redeem people, and He longs to redeem places where people live, work, play and struggle.
  3. Are you willing to do it?  Without exceptions or compromising the Vision.  It may require giving up some things.  It will definitely require expansion—expansion of possibilities—expansion of what you see as your capabilities—expansion of your relationship with the Holy Spirit.

SURVIVING YOUR D-DAY INVASION OF DEATH

Death Isn’t The Reminder To Get Ready For Heaven. It’s The Challenge To Live Today.

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Job 19:23-27 (NLT)

23 “Oh, that my words could be recorded.  Oh, that they could be inscribed on a monument, 24 carved with an iron chisel and filled with lead, engraved forever in the rock.

25 “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand upon the earth at last.  26 And after my body has decayed,
    yet in my body I will see God!  27 I will see him for myself.
    Yes, I will see him with my own eyes.  I am overwhelmed at the thought!

As we conclude our D-Day Series, I hope that there have been some hearts that have been tugged.  Maybe a few cheeks are a little wet.  Many of you have expressed appreciate for tackling this series because…well…because you have been invaded by 1 or more these D-Days. 

I promised you that what I would share, would come out of my own experiences.  And this has been true, up until today.  This is a D-Day Invasion I Haven’t Had—But I Know That One Day I Will.

Today we aren’t talking so much about the difficulty of death but of the hope we can have here in this life, as we know Christ—the hope that invades our lives.  Even when loved ones die after a long life, or those who have had their lives cut way to short, there is this thing called Peace that only comes through our Heavenly Father. 

Even though there may be sadness of a recent death of someone in your life, my hope is that you will leave with a song of praise in your heart because you know where real hope and peace come from.  Listen to these names, and let me ask you a question.  All of the names have something in common.  Try to figure it out:

Apostle Paul: Greatest missionary to have ever lived!  Adolph Hitler: Ruthless dictator and slaughterer of millions.  Mother Teresa: Sweet nun and caretaker of the world’s poor.  General George Patton: Great WW2 Leader.  Mary, The Mother Of Jesus: Enough said.  Moses: Great leader of Israel; Elvis Presley: King of Rock and Roll.  Dale Earnhardt: The Intimidator of racing.  Princess Diana: Royalty and compassion filled her life and her calling.  Ted Williams: One the greatest baseball players ever.  Todd Beamer: Average guy on Flight 93.

Do you have it in your mind?  What do all of these famous & infamous people have in common?  They have all experienced the D-Day invasion of Death!  They have experienced it and some have mourned their death.  They died because of natural causes, accidents, war, disease, tragedy—but all died.  Death—it’s the great equalizer

It’s not a respecter of persons.  It doesn’t matter how wealthy or poor you are, educated or uneducated, death is something that all of us will have to face one day.

No matter how common death is, when you lose a loved one, especially a child, I am not sure that there is any way to ever fully prepare for that.  I am not going to attempt to do that today.  I think when death comes to those who had a lot of life in front of them; it’s just a hard and difficult thing.  Death of a loved one can’t be shrugged off.  But Death is not the enemy of the survivor’s soul. 

Here’s the one thing you need to remember from today’s message:  Death Isn’t The Reminder To Get Ready For Heaven.  It’s The Challenge To Live Today.  We Can Be Prepared In Such A Way That We Can Face Our Moment Of Extreme Mortality And Survive The Loss Of Someone In Our Life. 

We can get through this D-Day invasion of death.  More importantly today, as we talk about the death of someone close and our own destiny with death, we can be prepared.  It doesn’t matter what age a person is, one day you will experience the D-Day invasion of death and you can prepare and understand how to survive in this thing called death.

I want to talk about how we can survive but also, more importantly for each individual that you would understand that one day you are going to die.  Are you prepared for death?  It may be that some of you here today, you’re sitting right here and you have no assurance of a future hope after this life is over. 

If some were to be honest with themselves, they would say, “I do not understand eternity.  I do not understand where I will spend eternity when I die.” 

I think all of us in our hearts understand that there is an eternity.  For many of us here, if your life was really dealt a death blow of a loved one, it would really cripple us.  We wouldn’t know where our hope would come from.

How can you and I survive the agony of losing a loved one?  How can we know we will survive our own death?  It Almost Sounds Like An Oxymoron—Surviving Death.  But after death, there is eternity to be lived. 

What We Think About God And His Son, And The Ways We Commit To God And Jesus, Will Determine Where We Spend Eternity.  Here on this earth, when we experience the death of a loved one, it is the same truth that gets us up the next day. 

I want you to turn to John 14, read it, listen to it.  I’m going to build on what Job had to say about death.

1.  Believe In God’s Way!  

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled…”

John 14:1a (NLT)

That word, Troubled—it means “to agitate”.  It means to take away our calm and peace.  Think about an agitator in a washing machine.  It stirs everything up—sometimes twisting and tying clothes in a knot.  That’s what the thought of death does to us when we are confronted with our mortality—without that relationship with God.

The best way to deal with death of a loved or to understand our own mortality is to trust in God—to believe in God’s way.  Somewhere in your life you will have to recognize that God is the Almighty Creator and He is ultimately in control of our lives and the whole world.  None of you are here on this day for this message by accident.

Maybe you have been trying to understand your own mortality and you have been wondering.  “Can I have a personal relationship with God?  How would I handle it if someone close to me were to die?”    God is not the initiator of evil.  He does allow it.  We need to understand this: God Is In Ultimate Control And Is Able To Redeem Any And Every Moment To Bring Out Something Good.  There is comfort in that.

He Also Has An Ultimate Purpose For Our Lives.  Do you know what that purpose is?  Boil it all down—you are the loving creation of our great God.  To believe in God’s way is to understand that He loves you unconditionally and He wants to have a relationship with you.  This one little simple truth brings hope because it means we have a loving God who desires a relationship even with us!  When things are going so well, we see this world and think, “This is it!  Nothing could get better.” 

But God says, “Believe In My Way.  This Is Only A Glimpse Of Paradise.  Are You Enjoying This Life?  I Have Set Aside, For Those Who Believe In Me As Their God, A Place Called Paradise!”  Paradise is the place promised the thief on the cross, and it means “garden”—it’s the same word to describe the place where Adam & Eve were before the fall—that beautiful place of relationship with Father, Son and Spirit. 

God’s way for you and for me is to know true peace and hope through a personal relationship with God.  To be in a loving relationship with him made possible by the death of his son, Jesus Christ!  That day, the Creator died for His creation.  Second,

2.  Trust Your Life To Jesus! 

“Trust in God, and trust also in Me. 2 There is more than enough room in My Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?”

John 14 Vs. 1b-2 (NLT)

This Is The Classic Hope Found In A Relationship With Christ, To Trust Our Life To God’s Son Jesus. He was saying, “Listen, trust in God—believe in God as the Almighty Creator—but also, trust in me.”  Why Jesus?  Because He Is The Incarnation Of God Here On Earth. 

God loves us so much that He came to earth as Emmanuel, God with us.  God came and walked among us so that He could die for us.  Isn’t that amazing?  Our creator God came to die for us. Listen to this—In John 14:6 when Jesus says about himself:

“I Am The Way, The Truth, And The Life. No One Can Come To The Father Except Through Me.”

To be able to reach the Father, we have to acknowledge our sin, acknowledge our inability to get rid of it and stop being controlled by sin.  The ONLY way this happens is by giving our life to Jesus—trusting our life to Jesus.  We can give up on God—but God never gives up on us. 

When We Say YES To Jesus, God Gives Us Eternal Life, Not Because We’re Good, But Because GOD IS GOOD!  We can work through our grief when we lose someone close, because if they said YES to Jesus, we will see them again!  And if they haven’t?  We have Jesus living inside us through the Spirit to help us through our grief.

3.  Rest In God’s Presence In You, The Holy Spirit! 

“But when the Father sends the Advocate as My representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”

John 14:26 (NLT)

All through the New Testament, the Bible uses different words for the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes He is called The Counselor Who Guides Us With The Wisdom Of Eternity.  He’s the person who helps us understand.  He is also the Great Comforter that Gives Peace And Hope.  He holds us close to His heart to protect us from the pain and despair from this broken world we live in. 

Nothing Causes God To Fret Or Worry.  This Is The Presence That Lives In Every Follower Of Jesus.  The best part of being in a personal relationship with God is to understand that God is always there.  There is a hope and sincerity—I can’t even explain it to teach it.  It is just something about being in personal relationship with God.

Let me ask you another question.  It has to be a question that you take to heart.  When Death Comes To Invade Your Life, Will You Know Peace Or Will You Know Mayhem?  Where does your hope come from?  Does it come from your bank account, your job, your family, your country?  Those things will all be gone when you’re gone.  What about eternal hope?  What about eternal peace?  Where does it come from?

Throughout this series, I have shared with you how to survive some D-Day invasions — disillusionment, defeat, divorce and depression.  All of what we said this whole series hinges on Your Personal Relationship With God. 

Let me be very clear, for anyone who has never given their life to God, why not right now, simply Put Your Hand In His Hands. 

That’s all, but it makes a world of difference in your life now, and an eternity of difference in your life after death.

Are you struggling with fresh grief?  Are you at war with old grief, grief that just won’t go away?  Jesus understands this and has something for you.  It is what Jesus said and did for the Disciples after The Resurrection.  In John 20:21-22 Jesus says:  “Again he said, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’  Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.” 

Next Steps

  1. To Conquer Death, Make Sure You Are In A Relationship with God—not with what you know about God.
  2. Don’t Wait Until You Die To Start Living.

And we know how Life Conquers Death, and we know how To Start Living Now at the sacramental table we call Holy Communion.  Here we see and taste that His Death defeats Death in Us Now—and when that moment comes—His Resurrection defeats our death.

Surviving Your D-Day Invasion Of Depression

Depression Can Happen To Anyone, And Everyone Can Find Hope In Jesus.

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I said that this would be a series about real life issues.  I told you that I would be doing some teaching on the basis of my journey over the last 47 years of this 63 year journey.  Before the divorce, when people would ask me about depression, I didn’t really understand it. 

I personally didn’t understand what it would feel like until then.  When we first separated, and then finally realized that divorce was going to be a part of my life, some of these depressing thoughts hit my head and I began to experience some emotions that I had only heard and read about before. 

It was literally a roller coaster ride; but I learned some things.  What I discovered and learned was this:  Some Things I Believed In Were True, And Some Things Were Not True.  All of the sudden I had to start living what I had taught.  It was in that season that the Holy Spirit helped me sort through a lot of things.

It was like cleaning out a closet, or a storage room.  Some of it was useful…but some of it needed to the thrown away.  I had to believe and understand and do some things so that this normal depression wouldn’t become something unhealthy.  It was a time of both demolition and reconstruction—in my heart, my mind, and my faith.

So, today, as we talk about depression, I want to continue to share some Biblical insights, some principles.  These are some things that I have implanted in my life.  We can have some issues in our lives that could lead to unhealthy depression and we want to make sure we understand and deal with these things.  That’s what we’ll be talking about today.  Let’s look at Job 6:1-11 (NLT).  Job lived in the Dark Night Of The Soul. Listen to him as he describes it.

1 Then Job spoke again:  “If my misery could be weighed  and my troubles be put on the scales,  they would outweigh all the sands of the sea.  That is why I spoke impulsively.

For the Almighty has struck me down with his arrows.  Their poison infects my spirit.  God’s terrors are lined up against me.

Don’t I have a right to complain?  Don’t wild donkeys bray when they find no grass, and oxen bellow when they have no food?

Don’t people complain about unsalted food?  Does anyone want the tasteless white of an egg?  My appetite disappears when I look at it; I gag at the thought of eating it! 

Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant my desire.  I wish he would crush me.  I wish he would reach out his hand and kill me. 

10 At least I can take comfort in this:  Despite the pain, I have not denied the words of the Holy One.   11 But I don’t have the strength to endure. I have nothing to live for.

What do people mean when they say the Bible doesn’t speak about what we go through today?  Have you ever felt like Job did here?  Have you wondered what is inside of the mind of a depressed person?  When depression reaches its fullest point of complete despair, all of the sudden we have this loss of clarity.  And that Dark Night Of The Soul covers us in a deep sadness.

Our minds become confused and we don’t know what it true, right or good.  Our mind begins to think the wrong thoughts; we become confused in our heart and mind.  When we slip from normal depression, to below the radar kind of depression, our heart becomes hopeless.  We begin to feel trapped—and our soul is on the brink of despair.  

If you forget everything else I say, remember this:  Depression Can Happen To Anyone, And Everyone Can Find Hope In Jesus. Depression Comes From Feelings Of Helplessness, Hopelessness And Feeling Alone.

If a person gets too deep into depression, they may attempt something at the darkest mode of depression, which is suicide.  I don’t know where you are.  Maybe you have attempted suicide or you know someone who has attempted it but didn’t succeed or maybe you know someone who did succeed.  I don’t know where you are.   

I do know Suicide is the darkest moment of depression.  Today we’re going to talk about how to not get to that point or if you are already there, how to get back.  But first, let’s get our minds in the right place.  Some of you think that you have it all figured out—you don’t think we could ever get to that low point. 

Job got there and so did I.  It has been said that Suicide Is A Permanent Solution To A Temporary Problem.  Some of you may be wondering why I’m talking about suicide on a Sunday morning.  But this is a real issue for our culture, and who knows, maybe it is for some of you.  Every issue we face—good and bad—has a Biblical response, and it’s my responsibility and duty to share that with you, regardless of how uncomfortable the subject makes you feel personally.

There are 2 causes of Depression; One Has Biological Causes.  There is a chemical imbalance in the brain and there are many wonderful treatments that are effective in helping people move forward.  This is not the kind of depression I’m talking about. Remember, this kind of depression is biological, though insurance companies do not treat is that way.  We treat these people differently than those who have cancer or some other physical disease. And honestly, we shouldn’t!

We should not treat them differently than a person having any other disease.  But there is another cause of depression that is not biological in origin.  It Comes Out Of Our Experiences Of Discouragement And Disappointment.  This is the form of depression we are looking at today.  Allow me to sum it up like this.  Depression Is A Negative Emotional State Of Feeling Sad, Discouraged And Dejected. 

This emotional state can lead to a sense of hopelessness, helplessness and abandonment; a sense that you can’t get away from and can’t get out of.  I believe that are two types of depression:  healthy and unhealthy. 

Healthy depression is when you have feelings of deep, inner pain.  It is when you have actual feelings of pain, sadness and disappointment from a negative life experience.  These feelings are normal and act as a warning sign in your life.  A person in this state can still function as they normally would; just not as well. 

Unhealthy depression is when emotional state leaves the person with an inability to function in the basic areas of life.  One sign is the reduced ability to concentrate.  I don’t know how many times that I would be working at the computer trying to work on a message and I couldn’t think clearly.  It felt like I was in a fog.  Another sign is to lose interest in most or all fun activities.  Add to this, uncontrollable crying—sometimes outwardly crying, most times inwardly crying.

Not dealing with depression can fill us with feelings of hopelessness.  We feel trapped.  I can tell you that in my journey of life I had this sense of hopelessness that my life was over.  I think there are some reasons that are not always cut and dry.  Experiencing a major disappointment.  Traumatic experiences that increase stress levels.  The Bible goes on to talk about other important causes. 

This may sting a little bit, but just walk with me.  Some of the causes of this Dark Night Of The Soul are

  • —lack of self-esteem and self-acceptance
  • —Unrealistic expectations
  • —Unforgiveness towards others and yourself
  • —Unresolved guilt and shame
  • —Physical fatigue
  • —Substance abuse
  • —Physical abuse
  • —Health problems. 

So, is there any hope for the hurting?  Okay, now that we’re all depressed—Here are some things I want to share with you.  First Truth:

1.  Depression Is A Normal Response To What Is Occurring In Your Life.

This is where Job is at. Look at what David said in Psalms chapter 6:2-6

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony.  My soul is in anguish.  How long, O Lord, how long?  Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.  No one remembers you when he is dead.  Who praises you from the grave?  I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.

David understood that this was a normal thing. It could affect anyone at any time.  Even the Bible hunks—Moses, Elijah, Jonah, King David, the Apostle Paul and even Jesus.  They all had these stories where they understood these lowly thoughts of depression. 

You mean Jesus had sad thoughts—times when he didn’t like what was going on?  Listen to his words in Matthew 26:38 as he is waiting to go to the cross.  My soul is very sad and deeply grieved so that I am almost dying of sorrow.  That’s Jesus.  It’s a normal thing.  It’s not a sign of weakness or a character flaw.  Some of you need to hear that.   But, if left unchecked it can distort our view of life.  We see ourselves differently. 

We see our life differently.  We see God differently.  Perception is reality in the eyes of the beholder, isn’t it? Second Truth:

2.  Depression Is Not A Sin.  It Is A Symptom.

I’ll say it again.  Depression is not a sin.  It’s a symptom.  It wasn’t a sin for Job.  It wasn’t a sin for me.  Depression is a  gauge like looking at your car gauges when your oil light comes on or how fast am I going or if the engine is overheating! 

Healthy depression is a great gauge to say, “There are things in my life that I need to understand.”  Sometimes it will point to sin that I committed or that was committed against me, unforgiveness or abuse, things you are doing to cause the problem.  It points to the problem. 

This depression is not a sin; it’s a symptom that leads you to the problem so that you can deal with it.  And sometimes, those problems are both biological and physical in nature.  There are times when this body goes haywire.  Whether the problem is spiritual or physical—depression is a symptom, not a sin. Third Truth:

3.  Depression Is Something You Go Through.  It Is Not A Destination!

Some of you have been living as a depressed person for years and years and I want to share with today that there is hope, grace, love and a way out of it.  Depression is not dead end road; there is a way through it.  Depression feels like a dead end road with no room to turn around. 

God did not design life to be a prison sentence.  But depression will make us echo the words of Job:  But I don’t have the strength to endure. I have nothing to live for. 

But depression can become a destination, a prison, it we cannot find the way to overcome it.  You can continue to move on.  You can overcome depression.  And it is here in:

Your Next Steps

1.  Get The Right Perspective.  In our life something happens to us—A D-Day invasion—and it’s OK to say, “Why me?”  But when we stay there, even when justified, it compounds the problem.  The “Right Perspective” means the Biblical world view of life.  The whole world does not revolve around you. 

And God never promised that your life will be healthy, wealthy and wise.  We live in a world that has problems; in a world that has difficulties.  We have to get the right perspective of this world we live in and get the right perspective of who we are.  Life will not always be easy but understanding who you are will help you to continue to move on. 

2.  Lean Completely On God.  Let the truth of God completely change your mind.  Let the completeness of God hold you.  Rest in His truth.  When the darkness creeps in around you say, “I can lean on God because I can trust Him completely.”  When a D-Day invasion takes your legs out from under you, God is not some crutch that only helps you to hobble along. 

God wants to make you whole through and through.  It may be that God will send you to a doctor or therapist.  It may be that medication is ordered.  Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed if He does.  I’m not ashamed or embarrassed that I take an antidepressant.  Our complete trust and hope comes from leaning on God.  That is only way we are going to make it through.  When something negative happens, you can say, “You are in control, God. You are in control and I lean completely on you.”

3.  Love Yourself.  Do you know people who are always focusing on their weaknesses and on the mistakes they have made in the past?  In my own experiences, low self-esteem and low self-acceptance kills us from the inside out.  God loves you unconditionally and He created you special just the way you are. 

So put your shoulders back and say, “I am special.  I was created and I am loved by my Creator.  I can love myself not because of who I am but because of who God created me to be in Jesus.”  Yes you can love yourself and you are supposed to.  This way, you can have a healthy self-esteem and you’ll accept yourself for who you are in Jesus.

4.  Serve Others.  We will never find inner peace more than when we are helping other people.  You should try it sometime.  That’s a Biblical concept, friends!  Serve other people.  It’s really true, that when you lose yourself for another for the cause of Christ, you really find yourself.

The breeding grounds for depression are those feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and abandonment.   And here in this moment, God reminds us that we are NOT helpless, NOT hopeless, and NOT abandoned. He is right here, right now with us.

Surviving Your D-Day Of Divorce

Divorce Is A Sin, But It Never Disqualifies You From Serving God.

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Job 3:20-26 (NLT)

20 “Oh, why give light to those in misery, and life to those who are bitter?  21 They long for death, and it won’t come.  They search for death more eagerly than for hidden treasure.

22 They’re filled with joy when they finally die, and rejoice when they find the grave.  23 Why is life given to those with no future, those God has surrounded with difficulties?

24 I cannot eat for sighing; my groans pour out like water.  25 What I always feared has happened to me.  What I dreaded has come true.  26 I have no peace, no quietness.  I have no rest; only trouble comes.”

Let me set up today’s message with an image from the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Scarlet Letter” set in Boston in the Puritan era.  It’s the story of a woman who conceived after committing adultery.  Because of her act she was forced to wear the Scarlet letter “A” stitched on her clothes.  It was the religious community’s attempt to fill her with shame. 

There’s another Scarlet letter that many of us have worn—The Scarlet Letter D!  When we launched this series called Surviving Your D-Day Invasions, we said that each of the attacks we would discuss come as a sneak invasion from a hostile enemy.  When you look at today’s topic of Divorce, we know that to be true.  In this series, we are looking at the Old Testament story of a man named Job.  Job did not experience divorce, but these words he wrote fit those of us who have.  I also said that we would be walking through my own personal story.  Here is the one thing I ask you to remember: 

Divorce Is A Sin, But It Never Disqualifies You From Serving God.

Today we’ll be talking about the darkest time in my life.  This is the most difficult message I have ever had to prepare or deliver.  I realize this message will not apply to all of you.  But maybe you know someone with someone who has faced or is facing The Scarlet D.

The first time I did this series was 2003.  When God first started working on me about this series and today’s topic, you have no idea how I resisted.  At the time Vicky and I had been separated, a fact known by only a very few people.  Before that, we have been sleeping in separate rooms, living separate lives.  God has an amazing sense of timing.  The first time I did this message was 1 week after I announced to the congregation I served, that we filed for Divorce. 

And even now, I still have difficulty sharing these thoughts with you.  Today is deeply personal, a reflection of what I learned as I dealt with the fact of Divorce in my life.  I never said, “Let’s try this thing called marriage, and 29 years later, if it doesn’t work out, we’ll get a Divorce.”  But sometimes, in spite of our best intentions, the path of our lives takes an unexpected turn.

Of all the “D’s” of the D-Day Invasions, Divorce can be overwhelmingly painful.  It sneaks up on two people who began a union deeply in love.  They had dreams and aspirations of what their marriage could be and should be.  For the most part, they thought their marriage would last forever.  That is until one day, when the D-Day Invasion of Divorce lands right in the middle of their home. 

Maybe some of you here have personally experienced the D-Day Invasion of Divorce.  Some of you may have seen the results of that invasion in your parent’s Divorce.  All of us have probably had friends, close friends, whose marriage became 1 of the unfortunate statistics of our culture. 

Many people are dealing with the pain, turmoil and rejection that come with Divorce.  Believers, non-believers, seekers—the D-Day Invasion Of Divorce cuts across all lines.  And because of deep misunderstanding, the church only adds to the pain.

Once we are faced with the Invasion of Divorce, how can we survive?  How can we discard this Scarlet D?  Many people feel hopeless, confused and rejected.  I looked at my failed marriage and I felt like a total failure.  God’s plan for marriage is for a lifetime.

But God also understands that we are human, we have feet of clay.  So, how do we move beyond the hurt, beyond the humiliation, beyond the pain, beyond the uncertainty of this D-Day InvasionAllow me to share 4 things with you that I believe work together.  Follow these steps all the way through.  Here they are:

1.  Accept Only Your Responsibility

Somewhere down the line, you’re going to have to attach some responsibility.  In all Divorce cases, one or both people were responsible.  Someone screwed up; someone made a mistake.  It may not be you but it was someone.  This once perfect thing now has division.  You cannot speak of Divorce in generalities; each case must be examined in its own situation. 

Who is responsible?  Why did it happen?  Owning responsibility is the key to surviving the D-Day Invasion of DivorceAccepting only your responsibility is the key to giving and accepting forgiveness where it’s needed.  Responsibility has to be attached, but through a lot of prayer, discernment, and sometimes even counseling.  Last week we talked about learning from failure.  The way we are to learn from failure is to know what’s wrong, attach responsibility for our part, learn from our mistakes and move on. 

That’s what we need to do here.  Some of the most happily married people I know are people who have learned from their past mistakes.  However, we know the statistics, don’t we?  67% of people who Divorce once will Divorce again.  Most second marriages fail also.  73% of third marriages end in Divorce

There has to be something there.  Be Careful Not To Take On Someone Else’s Responsibilities.  False Guilt Will Eventually Affect All Our RelationshipsBut I caution you, don’t stop here.  Don’t hold on to the Deadly G’s:  Guilt And Grudges.  If Divorce is the only recourse, then it’s time to move beyond guilt, and give up our grudges.  The second step is:

2.  Work Toward Forgiveness

Once we understand who is responsible, we can begin to work toward forgiveness.  We understand that true healing requires forgiveness for wrongs done.  Forgiveness must be accepted and must be given.  Some people say, “That’s crazy!  There is no way I’ll forgive that person—it’s too difficult.”  You are right. 

It’s very, very hard.  You may be the only one that wants to work on forgiveness.  When we have been hurt and wronged we will never be healed until we forgiveYou don’t have to walk up to that ex-spouse and announce your forgiveness.  But you have to do it in your heart.  Forgiveness is saying, “I Refuse To Hold On To The Pain.  I Refuse To Live In The Past.  I Release Them From Holding Me Captive To Any Grudge Or Pain.”

You must also learn to forgive yourself.  As you work through the responsibility part of Divorce, you may find that some of the blame lies with you.  I know there were times when I was uncaring.  There were especially times when I was too busy. 

But I ended up taking a lot of the responsibility that wasn’t mine to take.  The result was that I could not forgive myself.  But in order to offer forgiveness and receive forgiveness, I had to forgive myself.  I do not know about you, but this was the hardest thing for me.  I ended up carrying a lot of guilt I didn’t have to carry aroundIf you have guilt, you must forgive yourself.  This was the hardest for me.  I wouldn’t do it until I remembered: We Must Accept Forgiveness From GodFor those of us who are believers, we understand this.  No matter what we’ve done, He died on the cross two thousand years ago, and in him we are forgiven AND Cleansed. 

All we have to do is accept his grace and forgiveness and the slate is wiped clean.   You must accept forgiveness for yourself, and give forgiveness to the other person.

3.  Allow Kids To Stay Relationally Connected

We need to make sure that if kids are involved in this D-Day Invasion of Divorce, that we encourage them to stay relationally connected to both parents.  Kids of all ages are the biggest victims in Divorce

Kids of Divorce go through confusion and pain when their parents got divorced.  They wondered if it was their fault.  There is no sense of closure to it.  It’s true for even adult kids.  Kids of all ages need to stay connected with both parents.  It’s the best thing for the kids.

Let Your Kids See You Living Out Forgiveness.  Teach them, by your example, about owning up to your mistakes and about receiving and giving the grace of God.  Let them see you working to live at peace with your ex-spouse.  Here is a powerful opportunity to bring something good out of something horrible. 

If you, or a family member, or close friend experiences the D-Day of Divorce, and there are children involved, even grown children, it’s important for them to see the spirit of grace, the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation at work.  Don’t Take Sides, Be A Model Of God’s Grace.  Finally, in order to move beyond the pain, and experience healing and wholeness:

4.  Align Your Different Life With God’s Principles

In my nearly 44 years of working in ministry, I’ve never met a person who didn’t want their second marriage to work.  There is only one way to do it, friends. 

That is to align our different life with God’s principles.  Many of us just need to understand that we’ve tried it our way and failed, now maybe we should follow God’s plan.  If you follow God’s principles for sex, dating and marriage, you can have a very happy marriage. 

Do you ever feel like you have The Scarlet D pinned to your shirt?  That you could never be normal again in God’s eyes because of this thing called Divorce?  Maybe there’s another Scarlet Letter pinned to your shirt.  Maybe yours is the Scarlet A—Addict, Adultery Abuser, Abused.  Maybe you know someone with the Scarlet L—Loser.  Maybe yours is the Scarlet S—Sinner!  I want to leave you with this last verse and encourage you to align your new life with God’s principles.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 says:  In Christ We Are New Creations; The Old Is Gone, And New Has Come!

Grace is all about a fresh start.  Do you need a fresh start?  God has one for every person who is wearing any Scarlet Letter.  He will take that letter off of you and you will never have to wear again.

Next Steps

  1. .  If You Are Living With Shame Put On You By Family, Church, Or Even Yourself Because Of Divorce, Bring That Shame To Jesus Right Now. The shame of anyone who wears The Scarlet D was carried by Jesus so that you do not have to carry it anymore.  No sin that anyone commits ever disqualifies them from both a relationship with God and the opportunity to be called by Him to serve Him.
  2. If You Have Been Through Divorce Or Not, Read The Scriptures About Divorce WITHOUT Whatever You Have Been Taught About It.  Take 2 steps in your reading.  First, ask the Holy Spirit to be your guide and teacherSecond, read those passages within the big picture of what God is seeking to do with ALL who have sinned.  Our God is focusing on both Redemption, and Restoration, making people useful for His Kingdom.  God chose Saul the murderer to become Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles.  If God can use a murderer, why can’t He use someone divorced in any role He wants?