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?

Surviving Your D-Days Of Defeat

Getting Knocked Down 7 Times Does Not Make You A Failure, If You Get Up 8 Times.

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Many of you may remember the theme of ABC’s Wide World of Sports:  The Thrill Of Victory, And The Agony Of Defeat.  Isn’t it true?  You play any sports, take a standardized test, work in sales, or just live in our culture and you will understand one thing about our culture.  We love winners.  We love champions. 

I, like most of you, have lived long enough to experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  When you experience victory, the crowd cheers and you hear the roar of your name.   But, if you experience defeat, crowds “boo and hiss”, people avoid you and they reject you.  I’ve had my agony of defeat and maybe you’ve had yours.  Here’s what I’ve noticed and experienced:  People Are Drawn Towards Those Who Have Won By Defying Adversity.  They’ve Beat This Thing Called Defeat.

I think this cultural bias is why people are drawn to the story of Job.  We are using this story from the Bible to go through this series:  Surviving Your D-Days.  As we described last week, Job is the classic story of this struggle between good and evil, of someone who is a great guy who doesn’t deserve to have bad things happen to him; but who has to deal with evil things.  He has to overcome life’s most challenging obstacles. 

As we’ll see today in Chapter 2, he had to survive the worst kind of invasion—the invasion that becomes personal.  It’s different when the invasion hits our friends, work, our nation, or even our family members.  It’s not that we don’t care about what is happening to our family and friends.  But when it becomes personal, it’s a different movie all together.  For Job, this is personal; it became a personal defeat, a personal D-Day invasion for Job. 

Job 2:1-7 (NLT)

1 One day the members of the heavenly court came again to present themselves before the Lord, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them. 2 “Where have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan.  Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”

3 Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job?  He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity.  He fears God and stays away from evil.  And he has maintained his integrity, even though you urged me to harm him without cause.”

4 Satan replied to the Lord, “Skin for skin!  A man will give up everything he has to save his life. 5 But reach out and take away his health, and he will surely curse you to your face!”

6 “All right, do with him as you please,” the Lord said to Satan.  “But spare his life.” 7 So Satan left the Lord’s presence, and he struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot.

Job is afflicted with a painful skin disorder from head to toe.  It’s probably not that long since he was grieving in Chapter One.  Now he is grieving in a culturally relevant way.  He is sitting in a pile of ashes and he’s shaved his head but this time he’s covered in sores from head to toe from this disease. 

He is in pain, and this pain takes on a whole new meaning.  He has broken pieces of pottery and he begins to cut at his sores to relieve the pressure and pain.  Listen, defeat cuts us to the core because it’s personal.  Satan, our adversary, knows that.  However, Job shows us that the main way to survive the D-Day Invasion Of Defeat And Failure is to not let it become personal. 

It takes Job a while before he understands this.  It can’t be personal in the sense of who we are!  We may suffer defeat or may fail at things but it does not mean we are failures, and that we are forced to live defeated lives.  So, Here’s the one thing you need to remember: Getting Knocked Down 7 Times Does Not Make You A Failure, If You Get Up 8 Times.

The movie “The Rookie” tells the true story of Jimmy Morris.  Jimmy grew up in a poor town in Texas.  It was an oil town that knew defeat when its booming oil industry dried up and the town dried up too.  He had an unsupportive father.  Because of injuries he was never able to go beyond 1A Baseball after high school. 

Jimmy stayed in the same dead town and was a high school science teacher, but it’s not what he dreamed of being.  He’s coaching a losing team in a failing baseball program.  They had only won one game per year from 1996-98.  In 1999, spring baseball had begun.  The school doesn’t want this team; no one comes to see these boys play.  They play their first game and they lose. 

But more than just lose the game, Jimmy sees the bigger picture.  They aren’t just losing on the baseball field.  They are growing up to be losers.  They are growing up to be failures.  They aren’t just failing; they believe it about themselves.  After this game, he gives a speech that will forever change their life and his.  He tells them, “You’ve given up even before you started.  And the sad thing is you don’t even know it.” 

Let me ask you some questions: 

  • What Kind Of Failures From Your Past Or Even Your Present Haunts You
  • What Areas Are You Feeling An Invasion Of Defeat In Right Now?
  • Have You Given Up On Dreams Because Of Some Failure? 

Have you ever said, “That’s who I am; I’m just a failure.  That’s all I will ever be.  I will always be dumb, or poor, or divorced or had or did or whatever.”?  What is it for you? 

For many of us, we have lived with or we are living now with the sense that we are a failure and that we will always be just that: A Failure.  So we live a defeated life.  We allow the invasion of defeat take control and wipe us out.  Allow me to share 4 quick lessons with you today from the life of Job, and from my own experiences:

1.  Failure Is Inevitable

Failures can be of a spiritual nature or a non-spiritual nature—both kinds are normal and unavoidable.  God understands that we are human and we make mistakes.  If you are a Christian, you have to know this to be true.  And we should be glad that God understands that we are just created from dirt. 

He knows that we are not god and not perfect.  You should know that God, who desires a relationship with you, knows you aren’t perfect.  He doesn’t expect you to be—just yet.  God understands that we are going to fail sometimes and fail miserably and that it’s unavoidable. 

We need to understand that too, so that we can deal with it in a constructive, not destructive way.  Listen, Our View Of These Life Failures Determines If We Will Truly Survive Them. 

Haunted by the jeering of his father, Jimmy Morris took one failed attempt at the Big Leagues and made that who he was.  He made one try towards his dream and put it together with what his father said and decided that’s who he was. 

He thought, “If I really was a great baseball player then it would come easily for me and failure would have been avoidable.  I am just a failure.”  He didn’t understand what the Bible says.  Failure is unavoidable and normal.

2.  Failure Is Something We Experience But It’s Not Who We Have To Be

When we make a bad decision or we make a dumb choice as a teenager, or our life as adults takes a different path than we intended, understand that It Doesn’t Define Us; It Defines Only A Moment, An Experience! 

Who Are You?  How do you answer that question?  How you answer that question speaks volumes about how you perceive yourself, your self-image and your self-esteem.  Do you answer it with the role you play in your life?  Do you answer that question with “I’m a father, mother, grandparent, farmer, retired?”

Those are roles you play.  That’s not who are you.  Listen to this:  Our Self Esteem Should Not Be Wrapped Up In What We Do But In Who We Are In God’s Eyes.  God loves you.  He says this about all of us—this is who we really are. 

We are fully loved and accepted unconditionally.  We are always forgiven when we ask.  We are special and one of a kind.  Failure is not who we are.  God never sees us that way. 

3.  Failure Is Not An Enemy

Some of us are so afraid of what people may say if we fail that we don’t take any risks.  Failure is treated as if it was cancer.  Failure is not the enemy, though often we think it is an enemy to faith.  If You Are Afraid Of Failing, You Will Achieve Small Things, But You Will Never Achieve Anything That’s Really Important. 

(Repeat that to yourself!  Say this out loud:  If I Am Afraid Of Failing, I Will Achieve Small Things, But I Will Never Achieve Anything That’s Really Important)

You will achieve some things that are easy but you’ll never achieve the passions in your heart that you really could have achieved if you had taken the risk.  The bottom line is this:  Fear Of Failure Creates Inaction.  It has a name:  Atychiphobia.  It’s living under the persistent fear of failing.

It paralyzes people and keeps them from reaching their God-given aspirations and goals.  It keeps them from moving on after the invasion of defeat has paralyzed them.  They don’t move on because they don’t want to do it anyone.

The question for those of us who are Christians should be, “What Is God Asking Me To Do?”  Even those who haven’t crossed the line of faith know something is bubbling up inside of them. 

We know what the Creator has put inside of us, what really moves us and makes us different.  We should want that and we should know that failure will come as an opportunity to learn and to grow.  Anything that helps us grow is NOT an enemy.

4.  Failure Is Not Final Unless You Give Up

God doesn’t care how many marriages you’ve been though, how many times you’ve done this or that.  That simply does not matter.  You are not a failure.  You may have failed, yes, but You Are Not A Failure Until You Give Up.  You can move on.  You can keep your eyes on your dream. 

You understand that God loves you unconditionally so that you can take responsibility for your actions and then continue to press on.  And Jimmy Morris?  He made a promise to that high school team if they made it to the District Playoffs, he would try out for a major league team.  That group of players, known as losers, not only made it to the playoffs, they won! 

In 1999 at the age of 35, Jimmy made his Major League début for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays striking out Royce Clayton.  OK, so his major league career did not last long, but how many 35 year old rookies have played in MLB?  He said, “It’s amazing what you can achieve when you don’t quit.”

Do you doubt these 4 truths?  Maybe you’re thinking, “Preacher, you don’t know how bad I’ve failed.”  Listen, on the Cross, people looked at Jesus and thought he had been defeated and that it was over.  Even those closest to Him had those thoughts. 

But Jesus’ death on that Cross had a purpose.  And that Cross was not final.  Jesus knew if He laid down His life for us that there would be a Resurrection. 

If Someone Wrote A Book On Your Life, The Most Important Chapter Would Be The Last Chapter.  Would it reveal the spirit of determination?  Or would it reveal the spirit of failure, of quitting?

It Is Not About Who You Have Been, And Not So Much About Who You Are Right Now.  It Is About Who You Are Becoming.  The only way, the only way, the only way, we can push on through life is with a connection to God.  That happens only by faith, by saying a definite YES to Jesus.

Next Step

  1.   When you believe that failure is fatal, it’s toxic to your soul, heart and mind. Jesus knows how to deal with what appears to be a failure.  Remember the Cross did not have the last word.  And Jesus knows how to deal with your failures.
  2.   It’s a proven fact, that the fear of failure can become stronger than our motivation.  It’s because the event of failing is mistakenly believed to be the final defining moment of our life.  Remember Henry Ford’s words:  Whether You Believe You Can Or You Can’t, You’re Right!

Surviving Your D-Days of Disillusionment

The Only Way You’ll Be Able To Survive Is If You Have Learned To Put Your Trust And Hope In God Alone.

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Thursday, we marked the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, the day that marked the beginning of the end of WW 2.  Nonetheless, it was a horrible day.  German casualties on D-Day have been estimated between 4,000 to 9,000 men.  Allied casualties were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead on just that first day.  Stories of those from that day were stories about survival—just to get through those initial first hours—and the days that followed.

Today we’re beginning a new series called “Surviving Your Personal D-Day Invasion.”  This series addresses some of the tough issues that many of us have to face from time to time.  These Invasions Are Designed To Enslave You.  There Are No Vaccinations Against These D-Day Invasions, And No One Has Natural Immunity From Them. 

We’ll journey together through God’s word as we talk about these D-Day Invasions.  I want you to know something about this series.  I’m not teaching theory here—I’m teaching from the scars of my experiences.  I’ve learned that everything Jesus promises is absolutely true. 

The invasion may be happening right now, but it is not a battle that you have to lose.  In this series, we’re going to learn that surviving our Personal D-Day Invasion will take complete trust—and it will take complete hope—in God alone.   I want you to discover that through Christ we have overwhelming victory—no matter what we face.  This morning our passage is found in one of the most misunderstood books in the Bible.  Job 1:13-21 (NLT)

13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger arrived at Job’s home with this news:  

“Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 when the Sabeans raided us.  They stole all the animals and killed all the farmhands.  I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

16 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news:  “The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the shepherds.  I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

17 While he was still speaking, a third messenger arrived with this news:  “Three bands of Chaldean raiders have stolen your camels and killed your servants.  I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

18 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news:  “Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home. 19 Suddenly, a powerful wind swept in from the wilderness and hit the house on all sides.  The house collapsed, and all your children are dead.  I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

20 Job stood up and tore his robe in grief.  Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. 21 He said,

“I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave.  The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away.  Praise the name of the Lord!”

Today’s topic is Disillusionment.  I’m not talking about disappointment or discouragement.  These emotions are painful, but disillusionment is much, much deeper—and so much darker.

  • Disillusionment comes when what we thought was going to happen seems to be impossible.  It is losing the ability to dream and vision about your future. 
  • Disillusionment is what causes us to feel despair—the feeling that we will not survive. 
  • Disillusionment is what makes us cynical—and cynicism always makes us bitter. 

We say, “Oh, I’ll never become disillusioned!”  So we turn to motivational speakers and posters.  But they don’t really help.  In fact there is a website called http://www.despair.com operated by a company called Demotivators.  Here’s their mission statement on their website: 

No industry has inflicted more suffering than the Motivational Industry.  Motivational books, speakers and posters have made billions of dollars selling shortcuts to success and tools for unleashing our unlimited potential.  At Despair, we know such products only raise hopes to dash them.  That’s why our products go straight to the dashing.  Enjoy!

The fact is that there will come a day when you will experience the D-Day Invasion Of Disillusionment.  When things start crumbling around you, you will need something to hold onto, something that’s steady and constant.  And what you may have thought you could count on—evaporates before your very eyes. 

So here’s the one thing you need to remember: The Only Way You’ll Be Able To Survive Is If You Have Learned To Put Your Trust And Hope In God Alone.  True survival for now and for eternity comes when you know God personally in a deeply intimate and personal way. 

There is classic story in the Old Testament—nearly everyone is familiar with Job.  It’s the story of a man who suffered much during his Personal Invasion, yet he was able to survive.  We’ll look at his story and others during the course of this series and learn how they did it and how you can do it, too. 

You need to understand that it wasn’t easy for Job nor did his victory come instantly.  Job was a man who loved God deeply and had life going his way.  Then comes Satan, who accuses that Job only loves God because of his blessings.  The eternal conflict between good and evil is revealed once again.

Are you experiencing disillusionment in your life today?  The disillusionment of being in a dead-end life?  Of struggling financially?  Of a crumbling health?  Of rebellious children?  Of broken dreams?  What’s disillusioning you?  Job faced his Personal D-Day Invasion.  Let’s take a look at three survival tactics Job used to survive—these same tactics worked for me and they will work for you.  Here are 3 things that Job did that you need to do in the face of Disillusionment

1.  Be Open And Honest About Your Grief.

Job didn’t try to hide the pain in his life—he grieved openly and admitted his suffering.  In order to get beyond pain and experience healing in our lives, we have to grieve

Too often, we try to mask our pain through denial, through superficial spirituality, through a drink or pill, or some other thrill.  Job doesn’t do this.  And he doesn’t resort to clichés, “Hallelujah; I’m just going to let go and let God.  I’m just going to claim my victory.” Instead, Job Grieved.  He tore his clothes, he put on sackcloth, covered himself with ashes, and he began to mourn. 

This is how grief was expressed in his time and culture.  And in doing this he was telling everyone there that he was grieving—he was being open and honest about his suffering.  It’s normal to grieve

In fact, it’s abnormal not to grieve.  Through grief we can express our feelings about the situation.  This is what Job did—He expressed all his feelings about the situation.  Through grief, we are able to gripe and express our desire for the circumstances not to be true.   

Job was brutally honest with God, and when we go through struggles, we can be brutally honest with God about what is going on in our lives.  Grieving helps us to express the effects that we’ve experienced from the impact of The Invasion.  We can begin to tell God and even other people how we really feel. 

Grieving has a purpose.  It Forces Us To Become Honest With Ourselves So That We Can Begin Making The Necessary Changes In Our Lives.  Grieving gives a chance to ask the hard questions that we need to ask—“Why did this happen?  Is it God’s will?  Did God do this?  Is it my fault?”  As we ask the questions, we can then begin to discover the source of our disillusionment. 

Like Job, sometimes it’s the result of evil, like planes flying into buildings.  Sometimes, it’s the result of wrong choices on our part.  Through either situation, there are lessons to be learned, and we can’t learn them until we Grieve, until we ask the tough questions.  That’s the first tactic to handling disillusionment.  The second is:

2.  Choose To Put Your Complete Trust In God.

We don’t know how long Job grieved, but we do know there was a day when he stopped.  He grieves, but he doesn’t stay in grief

Did you notice verse 21?“Then Job fell to the ground and worshipped God!”  Real trust comes only through a personal relationship with God.  I want to make sure you understand this. 

We can do a lot of different things to feel good once in a while—but true faith, true trust comes only through a personal relationship with God.  When we trust or value anything more than God, guess what happens?  We’re setting ourselves up for Disillusionment

You can’t trust in your money; money can be lost.  You can’t trust in your skills; there are some things your skills can’t get you through.  You can’t trust in your relationships; relationships can unravel.  Where do you put your trust and hope?  If you put it anywhere else than God for here now and for eternity later, you will become a disillusioned person.

I Have Learned That I Can Trust In God Because He Loves Me Unconditionally.  It doesn’t matter what I’ve done, what I’m doing, or what I will do.  God loves me unconditionally and I cling to this truth.  And so can you!  I discovered that I can cling to this truth and I can trust God because He’s always in control.  In your D-Day Invasion, you need to know who’s in control.  God is—and you can trust in God. 

Yes, sometimes bad things happen, but God is still in control.  I can trust God because He loves me unconditionally.  He is in total control.  He knows what’s going to happen.  Most importantly—He promises to never leave me and to always be there.  Here’s a third tactic to help you through the invasion of disillusionment:

3.  Restate Your Eternal Hope In Jesus.

We all need to believe in dreams—to believe that we have a purpose and can achieve great things.  We should desire to be effective and successful.  We should want to be the best that we can be and drive hard towards it.  However, when these positive thinking traits are not balanced with the real world and real life and the sovereignty of God, we can become Disillusioned

When we develop unrealistic expectations, we’re setting ourselves up for Disillusionment.  There’s a hard truth we have to face—The World Doesn’t Revolve Around You And It Doesn’t Revolve Around Me.  Sometimes we have a hard time believing that, but it’s true. 

Believing that the world revolves around you is a sword that cuts you down.  We have these expectations that we should shoot for but when we don’t balance it with reality we become Disillusioned.  It’s great to dream, and we need to work toward those dreams.  Just remember:

Jesus said that life would be hard sometimes.  But he also promised to help us overcome.  We can walk around angry and disillusioned and wish things could be different, or We Could Stop And Take Responsibility For Our Own Stuff.  We Can Stop And Re-Evaluate Our PrioritiesAnd Focus On What’s Really Important

Really, what’s more important to you—to have a big house and a new car, or to play catch with a child?  It’s your choice.  It’s perspective, isn’t it?  This sword cuts us down when we’re not honest with ourselves about our passions, our purpose in life, and about our time constraints.  Re-Evaluate Your Expectations.  Prioritize Your Life.  Set Your Face, Values And Priorities With God And Continue To Move Forward.

The economy can crash, relationships fall apart, health declines, but God is always the same.  Our hope is in Jesus.  It’s the confident expectation that God is willing and able to fulfill the promises that He has made.  Christian hope is based on Who He Is And What He Can Do, not on you and me.  It’s not based on our circumstances. 

With Christ, we are able to rise above our circumstance no matter what they are because of who God is.  Do you need that kind of hope?  That firm foundation of trust?   Are you wondering where your hope can be found? 

It can only be found in the one who knows your past and loves you anyway.  He Promises To Hold Your Hand In The Present And Has Your Eternal Security In His Heart And It’s Secure In Him.  Hope and trust in God alone is the backbone of this whole series.  It’s how we can survive and even learn to thrive in our D-Day invasions. 

Next Steps

  1. If You Are Hiding Your True Feelings, Be Honest With God.  You need not be afraid of telling God how you really feel.  He already knows and He’s so full of grace and love for you, He can handle whatever it is you are feeling.
  • When Your Life Is Invaded By Disillusionment, Talk It Out!  I am always available to you.  But find someone who will listen as you grieve, and at the right moment, offer you hope.  Make it someone who won’t say “Let go and let God” or some other cute phrase.  Make it someone who will listen to you, AND the Holy Spirit.

God Chooses You!

God speaks of his relationship with you in permanent, irrevocable terms of adoption, ransom and guarantee. God chooses you, and that will never change.

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(Sermon for June 2, 2019)

I remember playground games.  Whether it was softball, kick-ball, football or dodge ball, we would divide into teams.  Sometimes the teacher would select captains, sometimes 2 would just volunteer.  But one thing I remember most, is that in the process of selecting teams, no one wanted to be the last person picked.  It meant people didn’t see much in you, that you lacked the skill necessary to be a vital part of the team.  Being picked last was often humiliating.  As we celebrate Communion, I want you to know that in God’s eyes you are never the last person picked for God’s team!  Let’s look at today’s passage from Ephesians 1:3-14 found in The Message

3-6 How blessed is God!  And what a blessing He is!  He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in Him.  Long before He laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love.  Long, long ago He decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure He took in planning this!)  He wanted us to enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving by the hand of His beloved Son.

7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, His blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds.  And not just barely free, either.  Abundantly free!  

He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans He took such delight in making.  He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in Him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

 11-12 It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.  Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, He had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.

13-14 It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit.  This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.

Today is the most important day in your life.  Not yesterday, not tomorrow, not next week or next year.  This leads me to the one thing you need to remember from today’s message:  God speaks of his relationship with you in permanent, irrevocable terms of adoption, ransom and guarantee.  God chooses you, and that will never change.

If you’ve ever felt unsure about your usefulness in God’s plans or if you are acceptable to God, then I want you to pay close attention for the next few minutes, because these few verses tell you three important things about You in God’s eyes.  Embrace these 3 truths into your life, you will experience a greater sense of self-worth and more spiritual confidence than you have ever known. 

1.  You’ve Been On God’s Mind From The Beginning.

Go back to my image of standing on the playground.  At first, you were just part of a crowd, but now selections have been made and now you are standing alone, and the captain who has the last pick, says “Oh well, I guess I’ll have to take them.”  I think all of us can relate to this feeling; we all know what it is like to be the last chosen—the least talented in at least some area—academically, athletically, musically, and so on.  But there is an area where you never need feel that way: Your Relationship With God

Probably all of us have wondered, at one time or another, “If they had it to do all over again, would they choose me?  Would they hire me?  Would she marry me?”  Maybe some of you have even thought, “If Jesus had to do it over, would He die for me again?”  Some of you may believe that you have been such a disappointment to God that you would have been better off not to have been born.  The message from God is the exact opposite. 

The message from the heart of God is that you are accepted not because He had to, but because He wanted to.  You are part of His plan.  From The Beginning, He Has Wanted You To Be A Member Of His Family.  Whether or not you think it’s possible, the Bible makes it clear that God Believes It Is Possible.  Whether or not you believe in your potential, God Believes In Your Potential.  You are part of His plan.  

God knew that you would be where you are today in all areas of your life.  He knew you would be here at this moment and for some, it may have been a rough ride.  There may have been mistakes and disappointments along the way and you may have wanted to give up many times.  Even though your past may be littered with failures, it doesn’t change the fact that God Loves You, He Chooses You, And He Believes In You.  You have been, are now and will always be on His mind and in His heart.  This is RANSOM!

2.  You Belong To God, And That Will Never Change.

This passage defines your relationship with God in permanent terms.  It says, first of all, that we have been adopted.  The citizens of Ephesus understood the significance of adoption, because it was common in their society. Adoption wasn’t just a case of parents choosing to provide a home for a parentless child. 

Adoptions also frequently occurred for business or political reasons—for one grown man to adopt another grown man to ensure that his wealth and power were passed on in the way that he intended it to be.  The Most Important Thing To Remember Is That Adoptions Were Irrevocable.  A man could disown his birth son, but could not disown his adopted son.  It was a permanent relationship. 

Paul said, “You’ve been Adopted into the family of God.  Get comfortable because He’s not going to give up on you.”

3.  Everything You Need, You Can Have.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross just to abandon you now.  God is generous.  He doesn’t withhold His kindness, His love, His mercy, His forgiveness, His compassion, or His blessings from you.  He showers you with kindness.  He will lavish His generosity on you, If You Are Willing To Receive It

It’s not just about your physical needs; he is referring to your spiritual and emotional needs as well.  God will give you All The Joy You Need—All The Love You Need, All The Faith You Need, All The Mercy You Need, And Much More

You may have spent most of your life thinking that you had to manufacture these things on your own, and that most of the time God is ticked off that you don’t do a better job at it.  You may have spent most of your life thinking that God doles out blessings only with great resistance, and only to the most deserving. 

The truth is, He Wants To Shower His Kindness On You.  Everything you need, He wants to provide.

See your relationship with God in a new way—in a non-adversarial way.  God isn’t mad at you.  He isn’t sorry that He chose you.  And if He had to do it over, He Would Die For You Again.  Why?  Before you were born, you were on His mind and IN His heart.  He chooses You to be His very own.  You belong with Him, and that will never change.  And He will be with you every step of the way, blessing you with what you need each and every moment.

How do I know this?  Even more important, how can YOU know this?  You and I can know this without a doubt because the Holy Spirit is given as our guarantee.  “Guarantee” Is A Term That Means The Assurance That Another’s Obligation Will Be Fulfilled

It comes from a Hebrew word that means “a pledge”—God has made a pledge to fully restore you back to His Intended Design—To be the you He created you to be.  Until that work is finished He gives us the Holy Spirit, as His Personal Pledge

The presence of the Holy Spirit is the assurance that God’s commitment to you will not stop until the final result—We become exactly like our Intended Design—The Perfect In Every Detail Reflection Of God.  We come to the table, the ONLY Table where it all starts, where we are called to live, and one day where it will be completed—the Table of Grace…

Next Step

This week it’s rather simple:  Find where God is at work and join with Him.  After all, He has chosen you to work with Him!  Or, find a place where you know God wants to work, and get started.  After all, He wants you to work with Him!

Will You Be A Doubting Thomas?

John 20:24-29 (NLT)

24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”  But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in His side.”

26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them.  The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them.  “Peace be with you,” He said. 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at My hands.  Put your hand into the wound in My side.  Don’t be faithless any longer.  Believe!” 28 “My Lord and my God!”  Thomas exclaimed.  29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen Me.  Blessed are those who believe without seeing Me.”

  • Doubt can be called the leprosy of faith, eating away at our hearts until we are unable to sustain that life-giving faith. 
  • Doubt can be called a thief, robbing us of the truth of God’s unfailing grace. 
  • Doubt can be called blindness, causing us to believe that God doesn’t love us. 
  • Doubt can be called demoralizing, making us feel unworthy to ask God to forgive us. 
  • Doubt can be called deafening, denying us the ability to hear God calling us to His Heart. 
  • Doubt CAN Be All Of This WHEN We Refuse To Acknowledge It And Deal With It In The Presence Of God.

This leads me to the one thing you need to remember: 

Knowing About Jesus Is No Substitute For Knowing Jesus In Our Heart.

It seems that after I turned 50, a lot of my notions and ideas began to change, and one of them is about Thomas.  When someone doubts something, we often say, “Oh, don’t be such a doubting Thomas.”  Doubting Thomas.  What a moniker to be stuck with nearly 2,000 years later.  Now I have come to a different opinion of Thomas. 

Some of it has come out of my own personal experiences, and some of it has come by reflecting more on the Scriptures without the usual and typical comments people make about him.  I have found that Thomas’ strength comes out of what WE callHis Doubts.

Be fair to Thomas.  He wasn’t there the first time Jesus appeared to some of the disciples—the same disciples who Doubted the report of Mary and the other women.  And don’t make a big deal about him not being there.  The scriptures do not say why he wasn’t there. 

Maybe the others sent him out to Burger King for some food, or to Publix for some groceries.  They were afraid of the Sanhedrin, but it was Thomas who said, “Let us go to Jerusalem with Jesus that we may die with Him.”  He’s not afraid of the Sanhedrin, send him out.  And we don’t know When Thomas was back with the other disciples.  And it doesn’t matter When he came back.  Point is, He Came Back!

Now they are telling him, “We saw Jesus and He’s alive!  Isn’t that great Thomas?”  And Thomas should believe them, right?  After all, these guys believed the women’s report from the cemetery.  I mean, James and John were fishermen and we all know fishermen never lie. 

And there’s Matthew who was a tax collector and everyone knows how truthful and honest tax collectors are.  And there’s Peter telling the same story and we all know how reliable and stable Peter is.  And Mary Magdalene is saying the same thing, and everyone knows she’s always been the sanest person around.  I mean, with these kinds of witnesses, Thomas should be saying. “All right!  I just knew Jesus would do something else!”

But Thomas doesn’t say that.  His response to all these witnesses is:  “Unless I see . . . I won’t believe it.”  I have come to like Thomas and even more—I love his response.  Of all the things said by them after the resurrection, Thomas makes the most profound statement of all.  His Heart Is The Heart Longing For Faith.  He does not want to be known as the doubter.  His heart wants to believe in the deepest way possible. 

So I have sat in the class taught by none other than Thomas, and I want you to join me as Thomas teaches us some powerful lessons about what it means to be a Real Disciple of the Risen Jesus!  Don’t call him the Missing Disciple.  Simply mark the role of who is there and who is not present.  Don’t read more into this than what’s here. 

Sure, he may have had his doubts about why Jesus had to die, but so did all the others.  They have been on a roller coaster ride.  One day Jesus is hailed as King, and a few days later called a criminal. 

Each of them had their own notions about what Jesus should do.  Each of them was weighed down with the traditions they had been taught about the Messiah.  And Jesus met none of their expectations or traditions.  It was bound to be disappointing.  But none of them seem to say what they are feeling.  None of them seem to be willing to deal with their doubts.

Only Thomas has the courage And The Faith to deal with his doubts.  And here is the first lesson Thomas teaches us:

1.  Doubting Can Be The Most Fertile Ground For Faith To Grow.

When We Seriously Deal With Our Doubts Before God, It’s Ripe For Growth.  Why do you try to hide your doubts from God?  Do you honestly think God doesn’t know when you doubt?  Life can be tough and there can be lots of things that make us question our faith and even question our God’s goodness and love.

A child is stillborn.  A promising high school student dies in an automobile accident.  A trusted spiritual leader falls flat on his face.  Someone’s son commits suicide.  A faithful leader and servant in church dies from ALS.  My Mother suffered from dementia.  Bad things, horrible things happen to good people. 

So we seek God’s counsel.  We pound on the doors of heaven but there’s no answer.  But because of the seed of faith that God put in us, we keep on pounding.  And It Is Faith Making Us Pound On Heaven’s Door Because We Know There’s No Other Place Where We Can Find The Answer.  It is in these moments that our faith can grow the deepest—when we know that we can keep coming back and that God will not stop loving us.  Where else can Thomas turn with these doubts? 

Their word about the Resurrection is not enough for Thomas. 

Their experience does not satisfy the hungering and thirsting of his heart

Thomas is living out one of those beatitudes:  Blessed Are Those Who Hunger And Thirst For Righteousness For They Will Be Satisfied!  In my imagination, I can just see Jesus doing a fist pump when Thomas makes that declaration and saying, “He gets it! I’m proud of Thomas! Just look at that hunger of his!”

So Thomas says out loud for everyone to hear:  “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”  And if you are paying attention, you will hear the second lesson from Thomas:

2.  You Can’t Live On The Experiences Of Others!

Some people never get close enough to God, they never surrender their heart completely—in order to have a faith story about God in their life.  They Want Just Enough Of God In Their Life To Feel Comfortable In Their Complacency.

They listen to the stories of others and protect the traditions and say “This is enough!  This is all I need!”  And Those Without That Genuine Experience Will Fight For Those Traditions More Than They Will For The Message And Ministry Of Jesus Christ.  Our culture is sick to death of precious traditions and ancient stories.  They told their story.  But Thomas wanted more.

And the good news for those witnesses is this:  They Were So Genuine, So Convincing That Thomas Wanted That Same Presence In His Life!  No Bible stories about Jesus for Thomas, no sir!  He wanted the real presence.  And our culture wants none of the traditions and ancient stories—

But They Do Want A Genuine, Authentic Story Of What Jesus Is Doing Right Here And Now In Relationship With Us

The Greek word for I see is eidō.  It means more than to see with the eye.  It Means:  To Cherish.  To cherish means we recognize the real value.  There are many things we cherish which have little or no monetary value.  But they are important to us because they have personal meaning. 

Resurrection Had To Have Personal Meaning For Thomas Or It Was Nothing

To cherish the Resurrection, it must have personal meaning for us.  Thomas wanted the relationship, not the Cliff Notes and not the Readers’ Digest version.  And if you are paying attention to Thomas, you now know the third lesson he teaches us:

3.  He Stayed Until Jesus Came To Him!

Even with those doubts Thomas stayed with it for 8 days.  And because he did, he was there when Jesus came again. 

Our Doubts Never Disqualify Us From The Relationship God Seeks To Have With Us.  And Our Doubts Do Not Disqualify Us From Serving God

Thomas chose to hang in there, to wrestle and struggle and seek for himself the reality of the Risen Lord.  His hunger for God couldn’t be satisfied with “their” story—he knew that the only way his hunger would be satisfied is through HIS own story

Personally, I would rather go into battle with 1 Doubting Thomas than 100 comfortable pew sitters.  There are too many sitting in churches this morning who want an Easy Faith, so easy even a caveman can do it.  They want it to be neat and tidy.  But life isn’t so neat and tidy, and Jesus understands this. 

That’s why Jesus came back 8 days later for Thomas, to bless Thomas with His presence.  Some people look at verse 29 and think Jesus is chastising Thomas:  “Why couldn’t you believe without seeing?”  But most of the ancient manuscripts do not use Thomas’ name.  The pronoun used by John can be plural:  Jesus said to THEM.  Literally it says:  “Blessed are they, believed, and now you (plural) are blessed; yet no less blessed those be who believe in my resurrection, without the evidence.” 

Now I understand:  the blessing is equal for Thomas and the others and for us.  Their blessing is not greater than ours, nor is ours greater than theirs. 

The Blessing Is In Coming Face To Face With Jesus. 

And if you are struggling to believe, then remember Thomas: 

He Stayed Until Jesus Came To Him, And Jesus Did.  And Jesus Will Come To You. 

Sometimes life can be a real mess and the upheaval can feel like an erupting volcano.  What do you do when life is like that?  What do you do when there are more questions than answers?  What do you do when the neat answers don’t fit the messy questions? 

Be a Doubting Thomas.  It’s looks like this:

  • Refuse To Settle For Neatly Packaged Answers That Rarely, If Ever, Satisfy The Heart. 
  • Don’t Be Content With What Someone Else Says About Jesus. 
  • Yearn For Your Experience—Know That The Force And The Power Of Resurrection Can And WILL Have Meaning For You!
  • Have That Unquenchable Thirst And Appetite To Cherish The Living Presence Of Jesus Himself.

Our culture isn’t interested in our traditions or stories told of long ago.  But they are interested in and are hungry for a relationship.  Be a Thomas—and hang in there, because Jesus is coming to you.  A lot of people know ABOUT Jesus, and that is good—But…It…Is…Not…Good…Enough!

The Gospel insists and demands that you KNOW Jesus personally.  Have you been struggling?  Doubts can only lead to growth when we bring them into the presence of God. 

The Good News about bringing our doubts to God is this:  Jesus is coming for you, and He’s coming with the blessing.  Will you accept Him today?

Next Steps

  1. Do You Know More About Jesus In Your Head Than You Have Experienced In Your Heart?  Then today is the day like Thomas had—to experience the Risen Lord and fall in love with Him—and His beauty.  To give up WHAT you know, for the One who knows you and desires for you to know Him!
  2. Are You Having Any Doubts About The Future About This Place?  Thomas was looking for a future with Hope And Promise.  He would not have found it unless he brought it to Jesus.  When he brought those doubts to Jesus, everything changed.  I’m asking you to bring your doubts about the future of this place to Jesus.  It changed the outlook of Thomas—it will change your outlook, too!

Priorities For Mothers And Others Imprisoned By The Tyranny Of The Urgent!

The Tyranny of the Urgent by Charles Hummel is a small booklet with a big punch.  Written for the business world its message rings true in the Kingdom Life.  As a pastor I understand how the urgent becomes a tyrannical dictator of my time.  There have been times I felt more like a firefighter in the church, than when I was in the fire department; running here and there putting out fires caused by human friction.  At other times I felt more like a referee than a coach, separating players rather than directing them.  If for no other reason, I understand how mothers and fathers can fall victim to the tyranny of the urgent.

There is one sentence which really hits me hard, and maybe some of you.  And it’s the one thing you must remember this morning: 

Don’t Let The Urgent Take The Place Of The Important In Your Life! 

Charles Hummel, The Tyranny of the Urgent

For you mothers, let me give you some examples of the urgent:  getting supper on the table on time; the unexpected guest who arrives at supper time; those stacks of clothes by the washing machine; that spider web in the corner; paying bills; the Mom Taxi; and in the summer time putting up those vegetables for later consumption. 

These are a few of the urgent things which we think require our immediate attention.  Believe me, the urgent will really fight, claw and scream for attention.  It will plead for our time and make us think we’ve done the right thing by calming our nerves when we give in to the urgent. 

But the tragedy of this is that while you and I were putting out the fires of the urgent, the important was left in a holding pattern.  It’s Interesting To Me That The Tyranny Of The Urgent Will Scream And Shout For Attention, But The Important Is Neither Noisy Nor Demanding.  It patiently and quietly waits for us to realize its significance.  In this moment, let’s forget the urgent and ask ourselves:  “What’s really important to me?”  Say it out loud.

This is a big question, maybe one you need some time to think about.  It’s one I need to think about often, but not until I get so many irons in the fire that I find myself like the person standing on the stairs wondering, “Was I going up or down?”  Then I have to separate the important from the urgent.

Let me give you some insights into real life: 

1. We tend to lose vitality as individuals and as the church rather than gain it as time passes. 

2. We tend to give greater attention to what we WERE rather than what we are BECOMING.  It’s easier to look back and smile on yesterday’s accomplishments rather than look ahead to the future and think about tomorrow’s possibilities. 

God’s people are not meant to be museum pieces placed and anchored on a shelf to collect dust.  We are alive, moving and active people called by God to make an impact on a world that isn’t quite sure which end is up and it certainly doesn’t ask for our help, and often treats our help with hatred and contempt.  To move forward as a family and as The People Of God, we need to determine to keep our lives in step with where God is active and moving!

Look at today’s passage:  1 Thessalonians 2:1-13 (NLT)

Even though Paul’s visit was brief, his coming was not a wasted effort.  It may have been brief, but it was not in vain.  Paul pinpoints the characteristics of his life and ministry there.  In doing so, he gives us 4 essential steps for every mother, parent, in fact, for all of us.

1.  Our First Step Is To Be Biblical.  verses 2-4

You know how badly we had been treated at Philippi just before we came to you and how much we suffered there. Yet our God gave us the courage to declare his Good News to you boldly, in spite of great opposition.  So you can see we were not preaching with any deceit or impure motives or trickery. For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people.  He alone examines the motives of our hearts.

I am confident that there was a constant barrage of urgent needs pounding away in Paul’s mind, but he made sure that his life and ministry were firmly fixed first and foremost, on the Scriptures.  Did you catch his thoughts as we read: 

►When he faced strong opposition, it was the Gospel he proclaimed.  ►His motives were not impure but driven by The Truth Of The Word.  ►And he considered The Word Of God something entrusted to him and that Word gave him such peace and confidence that he didn’t feel the need to be a people pleaser.

Even though it may sound old fashioned, the first and most significant step we must take is to make the Scriptures a part of our lives.  A Word mentality is the secret to being able to turn a deaf ear to the shouts of the urgent, and hear the soft voice of the important.  We must daily soak ourselves in the Word—not by dissecting it piece by piece, but by seeing the magnificence of the whole scheme.   

For sure it’s rare, and it leads to a great deal of self-examination.  But did you catch the end of vs. 4“He alone examines the motives of our hearts.”  As we soak up the truth of God’s word, it goes to work on us.  It goes beyond what the surgeon’s scalpel can touch—the soul, the spirit, thoughts, attitudes—the very essence of our being.  God uses His truth to shape us and mature us in our walk with Him.  Be determined that we are not going to allow the tyranny of the urgent to steal from us all those important moments with God in His Word.

2.  The Second Step Paul Gives Is Be Authentic!  Verses 5-6

Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money!  As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.

For a moment, Paul moves the emphasis from the Message to the messenger.  Even though he was an apostle, a genuine first century big shot, he did not push for the spotlight.  He resisted being a power abuser.  He used the authority of Truth, Wisdom And Experience.  This was the type of leader Paul was.  He did not take advantage of his role.  Right alongside his desire to be biblical was his desire to be authentic. 

The dictionary defines authentic by suggesting 3 things it is NOT: 

►it’s not imaginary;

►it’s not false;

►it’s not an imitation. 

Today we would say that being authentic means not being phony; free of the hype that so permeates our world.  Let’s make this a priority in our homes and our churches.  In the midst of all that’s called fantastic or super or awesome—let’s work hard at being real.

This means we are free to question; to admit failure or weakness; to confess wrong; and to declare truth.  Great mothers, great Christians, great saints are not those who look super pious.  Dr. David Naglee, in whose classes I learned so much about the Bible, once said:  “The more I study the Bible, the more I realize how much I don’t know!”  You don’t have to be perfect or expect perfection, just be real.  Authentic people enjoy life more.  They don’t take themselves so seriously.  They actually laugh and cry and think more freely because they have nothing to prove—no image to protect—no role to play.  They have nothing to hide.  As we study the Word, let’s also be committed more to being authentic and less to being superficially pious!

3.  The Third Step Is To Be Gracious!  Verses 7-11

Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you?  Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you.  You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers.  And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children.

Paul had a Grace-Filled Spirit!  Did you hear his word pictures?  He cared for them like they were his children.  He didn’t want to dump a truckload of theological data on them.  He wanted to share not only the Gospel, but his life with them as well.  As parents, and especially as the church, we have to be careful not to become so judgmental that we forget to be compassionate.  Yes, there are times to be firm, but we must remember to weave the thread of grace into our talk and attitudes.

We must remember that people are far more important than rigid rules and demanding expectations.  Somehow, we must regain The Idea That People Are More Important, PERIOD!  If my children can’t remember all the rules I laid down, that is all right—as long as they can remember the sound of laughter in our home.  This point was driven home when Leslie once wrote an essay for her high school English class, on ME!  It ended up in the teen section of the Times Daily.  Now, I don’t remember exactly what she wrote, probably because I chose to forget it—but I do remember the laughter we shared over it.  Be gracious!  Now, one more step to bind all these together:

4.  Our Fourth Step Is To Be Available!  Verse 13

We never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas.  You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is.  And this word continues to work in you who believe.

Make yourself available wherever people are.  If we are going to reach our children, grandchildren and society in this 21st century, we must make our presence a high priority!  That’s exactly what Jesus did.  He met people as they were, not as they ought to be.  Angry young men, proud politicians, loose living street walkers, dirty and naked victims of demonism, and grieving parents all received equal time, and because He did, they hung on every word Jesus had to say. 

Even though He could have blown them away with His power and authority, Jesus intentionally related to them on their level.  And I am concerned that it is we, the Church, who have hauled His cross out of sight.  It is we, the church, who have left the impression that the cross belongs only in the sophisticated halls of academia or surrounded by beautiful stained glass.  We must bring the cross out where people live!  Before God can raise them up, we must reach out to them on their grounds—to literally take the cross into the world!

Now, let’s go back to something I said at the beginning: 

The Tyranny Of The Urgent Will Scream And Shout For Attention, But The Important Is Neither Noisy Nor Demanding.  It Patient And Quietly Waits For Us To Realize Its Significance. 

The tyranny of the urgent will always out-shout the essential nature of the important—if we let it!  The secret in is taking the right steps:

  • Set a firm foundation—Be Biblical
  • Apply the truth of scriptures—Be Authentic
  • Develop a compassionate spirit—Be Gracious
  • Meet people where they are—Be Available

When we do this, Christianity becomes something that is absorbed, not just worn.  It is more than believed, it is incarnated.  Are you imprisoned by the tyranny of the urgent?  Then be set free by what’s really important—this life in Christ—the Kingdom Life! 

Are you consistently taking all 4 of these steps?  If not, God invites you to His altar to confess it—agree God is right; and to repent—turn away from it.  If you are not already doing it, come and renew your commitment or make your first commitment to—Scripture, Authenticity, Graciousness, and Availability—the children in your life, and to a world that desperately needs you to be this!

The Butterfly Effect

2 Timothy 1:3-7 (NLT)

3 Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did.  Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again. 5 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. 6 This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:3-7 (NLT)

Does anyone here know The Chaos Theory?  No, it’s not a way to describe what happens daily in Washington D.C. and Montgomery, though we could make a good argument for it.  Chaos Theory is the science of surprises, of the unusual and the unpredictable.  It Teaches Us To Expect The Unexpected.  

While most traditional science deals with supposedly predictable phenomena like gravity, electricity, or chemical reactions, Chaos Theory deals with things that are practically impossible to predict or control, like turbulence, weather, the stock market, our brain states, and so on.  

Chaos Theory maintains that a very small change will make a system behave completely differently.  Very small changes in the starting position of a system that is subject to chaos, make a big difference after a while.  Something happens at a certain point in time that will produce much bigger result than can be predicted.

Edward Norton Lorenz was an American mathematician, meteorologist, and a pioneer of The Chaos Theory.  It started out as a mathematic theory, but before long, it was being applied to every aspect of science, economics, human behavior, and social development.  He noticed it by rounding decimals—that even rounding a number up or down by 1 one-thousandths will create an entirely different outcome. 

He introduced and coined the term The Butterfly Effect to explain The Chaos Theory.  In an over-simplification, The Butterfly Effect states that if a butterfly in Africa flaps its wings at the right moment, the air it moves will lead to the formation of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.  Meaning, had the butterfly NOT flapped its wings, the hurricane would not have happened. 

Sounds insane, doesn’t it?  But there are scientists who insist it is true.

Let’s bring The Chaos Theory and The Butterfly Effect and apply it to nations.  Anyone here know the name Gavrilo Princip?  Well you should.  Gavrilo hated a certain man and his pregnant wife.  He went up to them, pulled out a gun and killed the man, his wife and their unborn baby.  Now do you know him?  His act of killing  Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Duchess Sophie, led to 37 million people either being killed or wounded.  It was called World War 1.  Butterfly Effect

Let’s bring The Butterfly Effect into another realm—the realm of people, society and culture.  Who here knows Philo Taylor Farnsworth?  He grew up in a home that did not have electricity until he was 14.  Yet he successfully demonstrated the first television signal transmission on September 7, 1927.  Who can deny the impact of TV?

Now let’s look at The Butterfly Effect within the spiritual context.  Remember the point of it:  “Small Causes Will Have Large Effects”And to bring this home, let me ask you a question:  What Are You Doing To Change The Lives Of People Around You?  Think long and hard on that question.

What Are Things You Are Doing, The Memories You Are Creating—That Will Change The Heart And Future Of Another Person?  Each and every one of you can be an instrument of God’s plans.  And if you can remember only 1 thing from today’s message, this is it: 

Your Life Has The Potential To Change Another Life—And The Culture Around You.

You, yes you, can be a mover and a shaker in our community and culture.  You can be responsible for The Butterfly Effect in a person who needs it so much.

God has a purpose for your life—to bring Him Honor and Glory.   When you genuinely bring God Honor and Glory it will impact another life.  This Is How His Purpose For Your Life Works.  Remember that:  His Purpose Is HIS Purpose For HIM

It Is Not To Make Your Life Shine—But To Shine The Glory Of HIS Life Through You!  But you must be deliberate with your life.  These are serious times, my friends.  God has never been, nor will He ever be looking for a casual relationship with anyone.  God is looking for serious people who want more than an hour or 2 on Sunday morning. 

Think about Timothy’s grandmother and mother.  We don’t know a lot about them, but there were a lot of people who felt the impact of their lives.  Their impact continues to be felt today.  Their impact continues to be felt all around the world.  It’s here today, and it will be here the next day and the next—until the end of time. 

Here’s the thing about God’s Glory:  Anyone Can Reflect It, And When Someone Reflects That Glory, It Becomes The Butterfly Effect That Reaches Out And Changes Everything.  But it takes 3 key, let’s call them, “Immoveable Commitments” By You.  Here they are:

1.  Make An Immovable Commitment To Be Hungry For God’s Grace!

Live your ordinary daily life knowing that real life is found only as we live it in God’s Grace.   

  • Through your life show others that Grace is what overcomes the power of sin.
  • Through your life show others that Grace is what overcomes the damage of sin. 
  • Through your life show others that Grace is the place to go when you fail.
  • Through your life show others that Grace is what you need when life gets hard and difficult. 
  • Through your life show others that when the questions of life arise, Grace holds the answer—whether you find the answer here and now—or you reveal the confidence that one day God will make the answer clear. 

We equally need Grace, and if are going to see lives change and cultured transformed—we need to recognize our need for Grace.  We often say our world to change, it needs to know its need for God.  But I would say it this way:  For Our World To Change, The World Needs To See Our Need For God!  And when we recognize our need for Grace, it’s easier to then share that Grace. 

Grace Does Its Best Work When One Person Transformed By Grace, Shows Grace To Another Person.  Butterfly Effect

2.  Make An Immoveable Commitment To Live Into The Bigger Purpose

Live with the sense and expectation that you are part of something much bigger than anything else.  What Would Jesus Do is a phrase most of us are familiar with. 

It comes from Charles Sheldon’s book “In His Steps”, where he told stories of people facing a dilemma between choices, and he would ask the question:  “What Would Jesus Do?”  The answer to that question is our purpose.  And that purpose is to love God and honor Him by becoming the reflection of Jesus with our attitudes, words and actions. 

Our Purpose Is To Think In Ways, Act In Ways, Speak In Ways That Reflect The Real Jesus To The World.  To do this you need to Expand your capacity to enjoy God’s presence and reflect His Heart. 

Don’t ask, “What Would Jesus Do?”  Start Doing What Jesus IS Doing!  The Butterfly Effect

3.  Make An Immoveable Commitment To Be Get Involved With God’s Mission

See yourself as part of an unfolding story—an ongoing narrative.  And the narrative is about God reaching out into the world to redeem and restore the broken and fallen lives.  Too many are living out a story that is way too small. 

There’s a word being said frequently to churches wanting to grow.  The word is WIG!  Not hair!  WIG stands for Wildly Important Goal.  It’s so wild, it’s impossible for us to do—but it’s possible with God!  It comes from that sense of urgency that the Holy Spirit is working in our culture.  Without that W.I.G. here’s what we do:

  • We Dream Too Small. 
  • Our Vision Is Too Short Sighted. 
  • We Muzzle Our Imagination. 

It’s time to set our hearts and minds free because we are in the middle of God’s Story! We make a difference in our community and culture—By Our Need For Grace—Through Our Purpose—With Our Mission. 

Your Life Has The Potential To Change Another Life—And The Culture Around You.  The Butterfly Effect!

Stop selling yourself short.  Remember the Butterfly Effect—that if a butterfly flaps its wings at just the right time—everything changes in the future. Andy Andrews, author and great speaker wrote in his book The Butterfly Effect: 

“Every Single Thing You Do Matters.  You Have Been Created As One Of A Kind.  You Have Been Created In Order To Make A Difference.  You Have Within You The Power To Change The World.”

Andy Andrews, The Butterfly Effect

And we see this effect that 1 life can have at this Table of Holy Communion. The effect of Jesus’ death continues to transform and change human hearts and lives.

Next Step:  Come up with your own W.I.G.— Wildly Important Goal that reflects the truth, that God designed your life to make an impact on His creation.

GOD MEANT WHAT HE SAID AND HE SAID WHAT HE MEANT!

(Message from Resurrection Sunday 2019)

Mark 16:1-7 (NLT)

1 Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. 3 On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.

5 When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side.  The women were shocked, 6 but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed.  You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He isn’t here!  He is risen from the dead!  Look, this is where they laid his body. 7 Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.  You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”

It’s devastating when people break their word, isn’t it.  It does much harm.

  • It Crushes The Spirit,
  • It Drains The Hope,
  • And It Steals The Joy Of Living Right Out Of Us. 

When Jesus came on the scene preaching the Good News of God’s Kingdom, people found hope.  Many believed in what Jesus was saying.  It seemed to ring so true in their life.  It was almost too good to be true, but they knew, deep down inside—man, this is the real deal.  Many believers abandoned their old lifestyles, lucrative careers all to follow Jesus.  And they did it without regret or remorse. 

But then it happened.  Jesus was arrested.  Justice was thrown out the window.  He was delivered into the hands of Roman authority—and when that wasn’t enough—the religious leaders incited the crowd to cry out for Jesus’ crucifixion. 

The women saw him after the Roman soldiers had beaten Him; bleeding stripes on his back, with chunks of flesh missing or just hanging there.  They saw him led to Golgotha, and they watched the spikes being driven into His hands and feet.  They watched as he hung in agony, and then—die! 

As bad as it was to watch the death of Jesus, it was even worse for them—For Their Hope And Peace And Joy Died Also.  Maybe some of them felt betrayed by Jesus.  They thought he hadn’t kept his word to them.  We all need people who will keep their word.

When you experience a person who keeps promises, it’s a life-changing experience.  Some of the great historical moments have been moments where people kept their words.  In May of 1942, when the United States evacuated Corregidor, a submarine came to take General MacArthur and his staff to Australia.  Before MacArthur got on that submarine, he made a very famous promise: “I shall return.”

MacArthur had a great sense of the dramatic, but it went deeper than that. When the war in the Pacific turned, American troops began to fight their way back toward the Philippines.  Some advisers in the Pacific theater felt it was foolish to try to go back. “Just bypass the Philippines, and go on.” they said.  But MacArthur felt a sense of history—a promise had been made.  He went back to Leyte Gulf, and you may remember the famous Life magazine photograph as MacArthur, with his adjutant at his side, stepped on the beach at Leyte to keep a promise.  Keeping promises is important!

One of my favorite children’s story writers is Dr. Seuss. The best character in Dr. Seuss has got to be Horton the elephant.  I love that guy.  Remember that flaky bird who left her egg with Horton and said, “Would you watch this egg please?”  She leaves that egg and never comes back.  Horton stays with that egg until it hatches.  He’s a wonderful mother.  Remember that great line Dr. Seuss gives to Horton, when his friends tried to get him off of that nest?  He says,“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant is faithful 100 percent”

Easter comes to remind us of the one thing that we need to always remember: God Meant What He Said And He Said What He Meant.  God Is Faithful 100 Percent! 

  • He Promised Abraham That All Nations Would Be Blessed Through Him.  And He Kept That Promise.
  • He Promised Isaac That The Promise Would Live Through Him.  And He Kept That Promise.
  • He Promised Jacob That The Promise Would Live Through His Descendants.  And He Kept That Promise.
  • He Promised David That The Messiah Would Come Through His Family.  And He Kept That Promise.
  • He Promised Joseph And Mary Their Son Would Save The World From Their Sins.  And He Kept That Promise.

What a wonderful time to remember that God keeps His promises to us.  Easter isn’t about new clothes and dinners and egg hunts.  Easter Is About Jesus—The One Who Keeps His Word To Us.  The angel says to the women, “He is alive.”  Notice, that Jesus of Nazareth is alive.  The one they had put their hope in.

There’s no mistake about it. It’s not a phantom-spiritualized-Christ the angel is talking about.  It’s Jesus of Nazareth.  This is the historical name of our Lord—His name, plus the city, Nazareth.  Jesus of Nazareth is alive.  He has conquered death.  He will meet his friends in Galilee, As He Said He Would.“Do you remember what he told you?  It’s all true.”  

That’s what the angel said. Jesus keeps his word. I want to reflect upon the amazing fact that Jesus still keeps His promise.  God Meant What He Said And He Said What He Meant.  God Is Faithful 100 Percent

1.  He Loved Us Then, He Loves Us Now, And He Will Always Love Us—Just Like He Said He Would.

Before the Cross, Jesus said in John 15:12-13, This is my commandment:  Love each other in the same way I have loved you.  There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  The fact of the Cross is nearly 2000 years old.  If He loved us while He hung on that Cross—and He did love us—do you really think at any point now he will stop loving us?

  • Nothing You Can Do Now Will Make God Love You More Than When Jesus Hung On The Cross. 
  • And Nothing You Can Do Now Will Make God Love You Less Than When Jesus Hung On The Cross

You can count on God’s love.  1 John 4:15 says, “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love.”  God is offering us all a love relationship because He is love.  His love is not an emotional, mushy feeling.  His love is that radical transforming love that changes us back into His Image.  His love never fails, never gives up on that Goal! 

God Meant What He Said And He Said What He Meant.  God Is Faithful 100 Percent.

2.  God Will Forgive Us—Just Like He Said He Would.

In Luke 23:34 we read, “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”  Remember where Jesus said this!  He wasn’t writing a book when He said it.  He wasn’t leading a motivational seminar when He said it!  It wasn’t on the Mount of Transfiguration when He said it.  It’s wasn’t during Triumphal Entry a week earlier when He said it.

  • On That Cross, That’s Where He Said It. 
  • In The Middle Of That Pain, He Said It. 
  • While People Were Mocking Him, He Said It. 
  • While Soldiers Were Gambling For His Clothes, He Said It.
  • And Whatever Sin Has Not Been Confessed And Repented Of Today In Your Life, Jesus Says It To You“Father, forgive him, he doesn’t know what he is doing.”  “Father, forgive her, because she doesn’t have a clue.” 

Forgiveness was extended from the Cross to everyone who had a part in that Horrible AND Glorious Day.  Forgiveness did not end on that day.  Forgiveness continues to be extended to all people in all times in all places.  Not just to those around that Cross, but to us as well. 

God Meant What He Said And He Said What He Meant.  God Is Faithful 100 Percent.

3.  Finally, God Will Stay With Us—Just Like He Said He Would.

Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, “And be sure of this:  I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  The Tomb was empty then because He was alive.  There are all kinds of speculations about where the tomb of Jesus was around Jerusalem.  Several spots claim to be the tomb of Jesus. Some say, “It’s here.” Some say, “No, it’s over here.” Others say, “No, it over there.” But do you know know what?  That doesn’t matter—because He’s not in tomb.  Tombs are for dead people.

  • Stalin is still in a burial vault. 
  • Mohammed is still in a burial vault in the city of Medina.
  • Abraham Lincoln is buried in Springfield, Illinois 
  • Sigmund Freud’s remains are in London.
  • Princess Diana’s tomb is in Althrop, England
  • Who’s in Grant’s Tomb?  I don’t know and I don’t care!
  • And I Don’t Care About Which Place Jesus Was Buried. 

Truth is, He’s alive.  Tomb’s don’t matter for Jesus!  He conquered death, and now He seeks to live in the hearts and lives of those who accept Him.  Jesus Lives Today, and He comes to live in us by the Holy Spirit because

God Meant What He Said And He Said What He Meant.  God Is Faithful 100 Percent.

Spend a moment now, thinking about that.  Stop and think about God’s faithfulness. On Resurrection Sunday, There Is Only 1 Next Step For All of Us.

Walk Towards Jesus!  Think about this:  What would it look like in your life if you spend the rest of your life walking with Jesus?

  • How Would You Spend Your Time? 
  • What Would You Be Doing With Your Life? 
  • How Would You Make This Community Better?
  • How Would You Treat Other People? 
  • How Would You React When Life Becomes Difficult?

Don’t Walk Away From Jesus, Surrender Your Life To Him.  Can you really walk away this morning of all mornings, when we remember that

God Meant What He Said And He Said What He Meant.  God Is Faithful 100 Percent!

Can you really put off going deeper in your relationship with Jesus?  How can you hold back a part of you knowing that God Meant What He Said And He Said What He Meant.  God Is Faithful 100 Percent.

THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE!

(Final message in the series “YAHWEH–The I Am Sayings Of Jesus”

The Eternal Name—The Name for all generations to remember—The Name that God has chosen to reveal to us all is YAHWEH—I Am!  His Name says that He exists as Himself.  He isn’t shaped or twisted by our own ideas and conceptions.  Whatever it is that we may think about HIM, doesn’t change who He really is.  Whatever you say about God doesn’t change Him.  Whatever you may believe about God, does not change the identity and nature of our God.

He is who HE says He is; not necessarily who we think He is and not necessarily who others say He is.  He exists as He truly is

  • In Indescribable Glory,
  • Immeasurable Power,
  • Overwhelming Holiness,
  • Pure, Uncontaminated Beauty
  • And All This In Awesome And Breathtaking Majesty. 

He has never been weaker nor stronger than He is right now in eternity, nor will He ever be.  Think about the changes that have happened in the history of humanity.  We have gone from walking everywhere to riding a horse to an automobile, to flying across the skies, even made the journey to the moon and back.

Think about all the changes that have happened just in your lifetime.  Yet, God has never ever changed—not even a fraction.  He Is Constant And Consistent To The Point We Really Cannot Describe All That He Is.  This Is The Eternal Name For All Generations To Remember. 

As we have been looking through John’s Gospel, Jesus has been publicly using His Eternal Name.  And it has caused a lot of discomfort and anger with the Pharisees because we are not supposed to say that name—even though God wants His Eternal Name remembered by all generations. 

They felt like, “We can’t have this guy going around calling himself God.  We’ve got to put a stop to it.  We’ve tried to be reasonable.  We’ve tried to show that He’s a phony, but many don’t believe us.  We must put an end to Jesus!”  So they begin to formulate their plans, but what they don’t understand is that God already has a plan.  They want to wait until AFTER Passover, but God has ordained that this Passover is THE time for THE perfect sacrifice that will end all sacrifices. And now, it is time for THE Passover.  Jesus has gathered His inner circle in that upper room.  Everything is in place and they think it’s just another Passover.  They know the ritual; after all, they grew up with it.  But Jesus now changes everything.  In public He had been using the Eternal Name, and now in a very private moment, He uses it once more.  Let’s turn to John 14:1-7 (NLT)

 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.  If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.  And you know the way to where I am going.”

“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said.  “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”   Jesus told him, “I am The Way, The Truth, And The Life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.  If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is.  From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

All that Jesus said He is–The Great I Am—The Living Bread, The Light Of The World, The Door, The Good Shepherd—is so true—truer than you may even realize.  But here, in a private and intimate moment, Jesus reveals the Deepest Part Of The Heart Of God.  He Doesn’t Say This In Public, But Rather To Those Hearts That Are Longing For God’s Heart. 

This leads me to The one thing you need to remember:   You Do Not Follow Jesus In Order To Love Him.  You Love Him In Order To Follow Him.  

Love comes first—before the following.  But—If you follow Jesus in order to love Him, it becomes a list of rules and things to do. This way becomes legalistic.  And after a while, you either love the rules more than you love Him; or you will give up. 

But…if you love Jesus first—it gives you the desire to follow Him.  Here is how it works:  You see His beauty and that Beauty pulls you in deeper.  Then You Begin Seeking His Beauty, And His Heart So That You May Be Transformed BY His Beauty INTO His Beauty.  In Other Words, You Follow Him!

In this very sacred moment, Jesus says something to every heart.  For inside every heart is that deep, deep longing to be near to and close to God’s very heart.  The heart knows what the heart needs but the problem is we don’t always listen to it.  Many try to ignore it, but the longing is still there.  Others try to fill it with everything else, but the heart is still empty.  Jesus Knows What Their Hearts Long For, Thirst For, Hunger For—So He Reveals What Every Heart Around That Table Longs To Know.  And it is true in your heart.  Listen with your heart what Jesus is saying to it.

1.  He Is The Way!

When Jesus said He is The Way He means He is the ONLY way to find release from the guilt and shame of our sin.  And we have to get rid of all that sin because it’s standing in the way of us entering God’s heart and God entering our heart.  He Is That Entrance Into Freedom From All That Holds Us Back, All That Puts Us In Bondage, And All That Chains Us To Fear And Condemnation. Jesus is the only entrance to God’s heart.  Contrary to the view of many, there are not many ways to discover God.

There is only ONE way and that way is Jesus.  And The Way is a Journey, and The Journey is first to fall in love with God.  Not what He does.  And not by falling in love with His ways.  Falling in love with God—with HIM!  Being captivated by His Glory—which is His love for you.  Until you see HIS Glory—you cannot love Him the way He deserves to be love Once we are in love with HIM, then He is The Way that leads us into that Holy Journey with God.  The Way means that God invites us into this Journey with Him.

  • It Is A Journey Filled With Adventure And Excitement Where God Uses Us To Reveal Jesus To Our World.
  • It’s A Journey That Can Be Difficult At Times, Especially When Things Don’t Work Out Like We Hoped, And Even When We Can’t See Where This Journey Will Lead Us. 
  • It’s The Journey That Requires We Surrender Control To Him.  It’s The Journey Where We Will Be Stretched At Times. 
  • It’s That Journey Where At Times The Only Thing We Can Hold On To Is God Himself.  It May Even Be Frightening To Some. 
  • But It’s Not A Journey We Make Alone.  Jesus Is Right Here With Us Every Step Of The Way.

Jesus didn’t say “I am the pew.”  But many treat Jesus that way; confident and comfortable in the pew.  But Jesus didn’t say that, He said, “I Am The Way!”  He invites us to travel this road called Grace, and it’s a road that is meant to be a life time journey.  Along the journey we will see, do and experience so many things.  The journey at the end will be different than at the beginning.  But one thing will remain throughout this lifetime journey:  Jesus walks every step with us.  It’s the journey with Jesus where He leads us to wherever and whatever He wants for us.

2.  He Is The Truth

Since it is The Journey that Jesus invites us into, we need some guideposts, road signs that help us keep us on the right path for The Journey.  And here is what it looks like to call Jesus The Truth.

  • The Truth Is He Loves Us Unconditionally And Completely. 
  • The Truth Is He Has Saved Us And Forgiven Us Completely And Not A Single Sin Brought Under His Blood Exists In His Heart Or Memory.
  • The Truth Is He Lives In Us To Empower Us. 
  • The Truth Is He Gives Us A Holy Calling And Task That He Wants And Expects Us To Do. 
  • The Truth Is He Holds Us Accountable To Share The Grace He Has So Extravagantly Given To Each Of Us.
  • Truth Is We Live Each Moment Of Each Day By And IN The Truth. 
  • The Truth Is That People Are More Important Than Things—Jesus Did Things For People Even If It Violated The Way Things Had Always Been Because People Are More Important Than Things. 
  • The Truth That We Must Grow In This Grace—Grow More Confident—Grow Wiser About The Truth—Applying The Truth In Real Life Situations.  “What Would Jesus Do?” is more than a cute saying for shirts, bracelets and bumper stickers, it’s the way we live and respond to every situation life throws at us. 
  • The Truth Is Persistent And Consistent For All Times, Places And People.  It Doesn’t Change Or Fluctuate With The Times, Nor The Culture.
  • The Truth Is That Service And Sacrifice Are Part Of The Way. Service And Sacrifice Are What Truly Marks Us As Disciples Of Jesus And Members Of The Body Of Christ.
  • This Truth—Lived By Jesus Every Day He Walked This Earth As One Of Us—Is The Anchor For Every Age, Every Generation, And Every Moment Of Every Day We Walk This Earth. 
  • Jesus As The Truth Is More Than A Creed Or Belief.  It is the convictions that hold us, hold us closely when we need assurance of God’s love—and that challenges us to follow Jesus in The Way!  The Truth Is That Jesus Is The Alpha And Omega, The First And The Last, The Beginning And The End. And whatever it is we do as believers in Christ, makes each day all about him and not anything about us!

Truth isn’t a weapon we use against others.  It’s the discipline that reminds us that we are in love with God—and that God is in love with us.

3.  He Is The Life!

The Life gives the journey meaning.  It is The Life that should be the force that makes our feet hit the floor every morning.  Jesus is The Life that brings us to life with a passion and excitement to be a part of what God is doing in our world. 

Some people are waiting to die.  They have given up on the excitement and adventure of life.  If Jesus is really in your heart, you don’t have to wait to die to experience life, but you can start living, really living with that sense of joy, purpose and anticipation of all that God wants to show you every day.  Jesus didn’t suffer and die on that Cross for you to be sad and miserable; cranky and whiney; to grumble and complain.    

His Life Is About Life That Has An Eternal Meaning In The Here And Now.  Jesus wants you to live and breathe, not exist.  And The Life is offered to you through The Gift—the Gift of Perfect Love when Jesus went to the Cross to die for you.  But He didn’t just die for you—He conquered death for you, too. 

And the Resurrection Life isn’t just for that day when the body dies.  The Resurrection Life Is For Here And Now. It begins with the Journey.  And the Journey begins with falling love with God.  God is in love with YOU.  Not with what you can do or ought to do.  He is in love with YOU right now!  Jesus is The Way into that love.  Truth reminds us of this—that God is in love with us.  Truth isn’t a set of creeds—it is more—Truth is a Person—Jesus Christ—And this makes Truth a Love Relationship.  This Is The Life!

Life is knowing we are loved by God—being in love with God—in the way that causes us to be His Agents, Agents of Redemption for the world.

Next Steps

  1. Are you simply waiting to die?  Do you feel that life has become too hard to do anything significant?  Do you think it was easy for Jesus to forgive the crowd while hanging on that cross?  Stop waiting to die—decide today to begin living.
  2. What are you doing that is life-giving to others?  Have you heard of that TV series The Walking Dead?  It’s about the Zombie Apocalypse.  Some call it science fiction.  It’s truer than you may realize.  The Walking Dead are all around us.  The thing is they don’t look like those zombies on TV—they look like us.  But they are dead on the inside.