Sermon: Faith Awakens

AWAKENING FAITH

This sermon was preached at New Vision Church, where I serve as the mission and creative arts pastor. Please feel free to share thoughts or comments below.

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Devotionals For Leaders: Hold On!

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 Getting There!

I can’t always see what God is doing…oh how I wish I could! Faith materializes things unseen but perseverance gets me there. At times it’s like grasping for air or vapor as James puts it but life cannot be grasped, only experienced. I cannot hold onto life but I can experience it by letting it go. God has intentions well beyond my scope of vision and faith. He sees things I cannot fathom with such earthly eyes. And His goal is to get me there. Whether I go kickin’ or screamin’ or with faithful trust and compliance is up to me.

Getting Ready!

I may feel that the path is too hard for me to handle, too rough to bear but He is simply preparing me for something greater than I can understand at this present point. My faith in God must be tested beyond ease and comfort to the depth of the deepest pains in my soul. Christ wants to save my soul while I try to save my life. He has made it clear that anyone who saves His life will lose it and yet how I still try to hold on! Forfeiting my soul for things of this world is not a wise move either and yet I daily face the challenges of letting go of everything to cling to Christ. 

Getting Ahold!

If knowing Christ is the goal of God and even some remote part of who I am and what I desperately want, then God will continue to strip away any and everything that competes against that goal. Christ is bringing me to a place where my faith will not waver, where my love will be real and my life will be saved. He is teaching me that holding onto anything except Him will prove to be another empty promise of life. His life is on the other side of the vision. I can’t see it very clearly yet but I have to trust He will get me there. God placed all bets on Christ to get me there and I have to as well.

Observations Of A Prodigal #2

Prodigal And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together…Luke 15:13

Making plans?

So how was it knowing that he would be the one leaving the household?  It would take his dad a little while to collect the money because things are usually sold after one dies, not before, to distribute the inheritance. I’m wondering what life was like for the son while he was at home waiting for all this to wrap up? He’s probably making all kinds of great plans, with grandiose dreams of how great life is gonna be once he gets out of the old man’s house. It’s gonna be great to be free, at least that what he thinks.

It’s gonna be great somewhere else!

How many times I’ve thought these same kind of thoughts? Wouldn’t it be great to be somewhere else, doing something, maybe anything else but this? What about the rules or legislation or politics that I have to endure? Is this really the life? It really is quite easy to give in to those dreams of “what if” or “what about” or “wouldn’t it be great”? I have found though, that the grass isn’t really that much greener “over there” wherever “there” is. It’s easy to fall into that trap when you don’t take some time and reflect upon what you do have. Satan is a master at diverting our attention. He’s always waving a carrot out in front of us. We must not take our eyes off the prize in Christ Jesus! When we fail to look around and be thankful, we become embittered because we feel like we’re being cheated. One way or another, we feel like we’re missing out on something. But be sure of this, Satan is NOT showing you the whole, big picture!

Normal routine?

I guess life sort of continued as “normal” for the young man. Not really a lot mentioned here, except that after a few days, the boy gathered all he had and left. What seemed like a graduation day for the son seemed like a funeral for the father. But then life went on, right? Sure the grass got cut, the cattle were fed,  and the “normal” routine continued. But life was anything but normal! Life was listless. I’m sure the father mustered up enough energy to get up in the mornings, only to spend most of his day praying, watching and waiting.

Praying. Watching. Waiting.

Is this not what God does for us? Not that He sleeps but He watches, waits and Jesus prays for us. He longs for us to be where He is. Don’t get me wrong, God is a seeker, the Ultimate Seeker, but there are times when He waits. He doesn’t move because He is waiting for us to move. We’re the ones that leave; we’re the ones that need to return. There have been countless times when God has sought me; we can all attest to that truth in our lives. Sometimes God just waits.

The problem?

What is the problem? The party is going, the lights are flashing, the music is blaring, but there’s only emptiness. There is no joy where there is no life. There can be a multitude of other things but you cannot have joy where there is death. But the party’s just begun! It’ll pass; this feeling of emptiness, it’ll pass. Fill it with any number of pleasures. The only thing is that the pleasures just numb.

Numb-er 1

Numb. That’s’ where all this leads. Numbness. Perhaps that’s where it all began? Numb to the ones that love you, numb to the God who gives you life, numb to the world around you? Why? Because you had to be number 1. You had to have it all, now! You had to push other people aside and not care about their feelings or even their life. It became all about you. It’s kind of funny that when we’re focused on the wrong number 1 it always leaves a 0 (hole). If God’s not number 1, we will be the 1 whose “numb-er”.

EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER WANTED IS ON THE (2)

What kind of plans have you made outside of asking God? What things have you dreamt in your heart that have grown and developed that are not blessed by the Father?

Do you feel free or bound right now? In what ways are you acting as a slave of the world instead of a Son of The King?

If you could be anywhere else, doing anything else, what and where would it be? Do you believe you are doing what God desires for you to do? Why do you want something different?

Has Satan been trying to distract you from your purpose in life? How and what does he use to do this? How can you better defend against such thoughts, schemes, and plans from him?

In what ways have you not been thankful for what you have? In what ways have you taken advantage of the from God?

How does it feel to know God’s watching, waiting and praying for you? Is there someone God wants you to do this for?

Do you feel empty inside? With what are trying to fill the void? How focused are you on you? Are you number 1 in your life?

What words come to your mind when you think of describing the younger son? How about the Father? What colors come to mind?

If you were filming this movie, where it would be taking place? Who would star in the lead roles?

Observations Of A Prodigal #1

ProdigalThe younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ Luke 15:12

Many of us would never think to just go to our dads and demand from them our share of the inheritance. I mean, inheritance is simply an after death issue. When I read the story of the prodigal, I see a couple of things that just blow me away!

First is the audacity of the youngest son. Come on, dude! How selfish can you be? How arrogant, insensitive, careless, can you be? It’s like he’s basically saying to his dad: “You’re as good as dead to me already.” Wow, can you believe that? He’s all about himself. It’s not that his home life is bad, it’s just that he thinks there more to life than what he has. He somewhat feels like he’s missing out on something. And he doesn’t have time to wait for the old man to kick the bucket to get his share of the stash.

If this was my kid, I’d have to fight a response out of anger and certainly I’d be heartbroken. I doubt seriously that I would make arrangements for him to take anything. What had this father done to deserve this kind of treatment? What was that was so bad about the father’s house? Nothing. The issue is not the father’s house, supply, care or anything like that. The issue was son’s heart. The son simply did not love the father the way he should. He had no respect, no care, no love. If it’s one thing I’m learning it’s that you can never make someone love you. It will never work. Love is a choice. We choose and are chosen in love.

This brings me to the second thing that just blows me away. It’s the father’s response. The father goes out and begins to sell off his stuff to meet the sons’ request. And not only the youngest son’s share but the oldest too! The father gives both boys their inheritance now. It’s like the father died. He sacrificed not because he was obliged to but because he loved his kids. The father could have had the boy taken out and stoned for being a rebellious child. That was the law of their culture. But Jesus pulls a fast one here. He shows a Father who doesn’t demand we love Him but is willing to give us the option to love Him back. The father puts no stipulations on the money, no terms for the boy, just gives it to him and allows him to choose his own way. This is a love that simply astounds! One that would never let me go but allow me to leave if I so chose.

I find that it’s quite easy to live the prodigal life. It’s easy for me to demand of others, to try and make them love me. It’s easy to demand of God and for me to not love Him back. It’s easy to forget what the Father has provided for me. It’s easy to think life would somehow be better somewhere else. However, it’s just not true. The prodigal life is not one demanding so much of an inheritance for me as much as it is not desiring to remain with the father. There are far too many times when I just feel like rushing out into the world and doing my own thing. Far too many times I feel that I’m somehow missing out on something. But time after time, I hear God simply say; “it’s your choice. I love you but I can’t and won’t make you stay. I just want you to choose to love me back. I’m your Father and this is where I will be.” And thankfully, His kindness is enough to lead me to repentance!
EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER WANTED IS ON THE (2)
If you were making this a movie, what city would this be filmed in and why?

What is it about the grass on the other side that makes it look so much greener for you?

What lies have you bought that make you believe life would be better elsewhere, doing otherwise?

What Truth do you know to fight and dissolve those lies?

How would you respond if your child demanded their inheritance now? Would you give it to them…or really give it to them?

What characteristics or character qualities do you see displayed in just the first couple verses alone?

How would you say you’ve been like the younger son?

What does the father’s response reveal to us about how God treats us and how He wants us to treat others, especially in a family situation?

What character flaw do you think the younger son had that led him to the prodigal life?

What character flaw do you have that could lead you down the same path?

The father’s response was nothing short of gracious and certainly full of grace. How can you better respond to those around you who are demanding and selfish? To those in your family? To those in your church family?

Devotionals For Leaders: Choose Fruit

choose fruit

16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain… John 15:16

Jesus is the One who does the picking. God’s plan and agenda will win out. Our goal is to simply live God’s plan where we are. Far too often we think that somewhere else is better. That somewhere in another field of ministry, in another church or with another group of people, the work will be more rewarding, fulfilling or at least more tolerable. But how did you get to where you are? Was it by your own choosing? If so, then you got what you wanted. If not, then you got what God wanted for you; regardless of the way it feels or seems. The verse above says that Jesus has chosen us for certain things and tasks, that He has a certain kind of fruit our lives are to produce. Therefore He knows what climate will best suit that fruit. He will plant you where you will best produce fruit that will remain. It’s not about what you would choose to do for God but about Him choosing where you will have the best opportunity to know Him and show Him.

Oswald Chambers said:

We have no right to decide where we should be placed, or to have preconceived ideas as to what God is preparing us to do. God engineers everything; and wherever He places us, our one supreme goal should be to pour out our lives in wholehearted devotion to Him in that particular work. 

The task is not the important thing here. Jesus isn’t concerned so much with where we are or what we are doing as long as it’s what He’s called to do at that time. It’s not that He needs us to do anything for Him, anyway. The plan is for us to be obedient unto death, just like He was…even death to self. Self is one of our greatest enemies. Choosing jobs or making plans must be done but not without seeking the One who created us. He who knows us best should be consulted in any decisions concerning our future. There may be something Jesus would choose for us that we would never choose for ourselves. Then on the other hand, there may be things that we would choose to partake in that He never would choose for us. Obedience does not question why, what or where but simply awaits the “when”.

Final thought: don’t get caught up in where you are but instead be focused on the fruit God wants to produce in you and through you wherever He may take you.

Devotionals For Leaders: When Darkness Falls

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Life and faith are not all that it’s cut out to be. There are going to be hard times when it seems that nothing is going right or certainly not your way. It’s how you react and respond in that time that reveals where your faith, trust and hope are found. Many times, we look to God for His blessings and are quite pleased when God does as we want Him. But it’s quite a different story when the tables turn and God seems to go “rogue” and doesn’t answer us the way we want, give us what we want and at times doesn’t even seem to be saying anything. It’s in those times that you will begin to see where you faith is truly placed: in God or in His blessings.

I’ve heard it said before: “A faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted.” It’s in the times of hardship, silence and even doubt that our faith is being tested to see if it is real or circumstantial. Like the disciples, we often “scatter” our different ways to various securities whether they be things we hold dear or things that can hold us like retirement or a relationship.

God is a jealous God and He desires for us to be His alone. He wants to own our hearts and minds and He certainly wants our affection toward Him to be sincere and genuine. The way to best test our relationship is to remove or not allow certain blessings or “gifts”, to not answer certain prayers and or to simply offer Himself as “enough”, which He most assuredly is.

God wants you to be grounded in Him, not what He does for you. He wants you to trust in Him and to remain faithful until the end, even if you don’t get what you want. When darkness falls, He wants you to remember that it is only for a period of time…He has overcome the world!

What will it take? Faith. Trust. Confidence. Belief beyond circumstances. Sincerity. Hardship. Darkness.

Indeed the hour is coming…that you will be scattered… —John 16:32

Oswald Chambers said:

Dark times are allowed and come to us through the sovereignty of God. Are we prepared to let God do what He wants with us? Are we prepared to be separated from the outward, evident blessings of God? Until Jesus Christ is truly our Lord, we each have goals of our own which we serve. Our faith is real, but it is not yet permanent. And God is never in a hurry. If we are willing to wait, we will see God pointing out that we have been interested only in His blessings, instead of in God Himself. The sense of God’s blessings is fundamental.

Final Thought: When darkness falls, keep your faith in the character of God. He will remain faithful when all else fails.

New Zombies: Enoch

new zombies

22 And after the birth of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and fathered other sons and daughters. 23 So Enoch’s life lasted 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God; then he was not there because God took him. Genesis 5:22-24

There are only two people who have never died: Elijah is one and Enoch, the other. What does it take to walk with God like that? That’s a New Zombie kind of walk, to be sure!

The Main Idea:

WALK with God and you will END UP with God.

Enoch walked with God. For 300 years, he walked with God. Everyday. Day in. Day out. Enoch walked with God. That’s a long time. This means that they walked together. He was aligned with God. They went everywhere, did everything, together. Their steps were in sync and it was certainly unique. And in the end it was Enoch walking with God everyday that caused God to take him.

The Breakdown:

Different

We are not different just to be different. It’s our walk with God that makes us different. As Enoch was in step with God, he was most assuredly out of step with others around him but that’s the price one pays to be a new kind of Zombie. That difference of walking with God is what makes all the difference for the New Zombie. Walking with God everyday will lead us to our destiny, which is ultimately being with God forever.

Disappear

Walking with God means that we become so much in step with Him and His ways that others lose sight of us and see God in us. We learn to move as He moves, striding in faith across waves sometimes, and across the land most times, but all times bearing our own cross.

Don’t Die

Enoch didn’t die. But New Zombies don’t really either. In fact, death is really only a doorway into the next life. New Zombies live forever. Enoch walked with God for 365 years…He packed life into life!

The Application:

How is your walk with God?

How do you define your walk with God?

Have you ever encountered being so in-step with God that you seemed out-of-step with others?

What does it mean for you to disappear in your relationship with God?

Would you say you are walking with God or away from God?

Final Thought:

Walk with God today and everyday into eternity.