Tag Archives: vision

Is the Church Leading the World to Jesus Christ?

20151109_122835“Dear friends,
I’ve dropped everything to write you about this life of salvation that we have in common. I have to write insisting—begging!—that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish. What has happened is that some people have infiltrated our ranks (our Scriptures warned us this would happen), who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels. Their design is to replace the sheer grace of our God with sheer license—which means doing away with Jesus Christ, our one and only Master.” (Jude 3-4, The Message Bible)

I look to the church to lead the world to Christ. What I see baffles me! I remember well how when I received a call to Christ and Christ’s gospel, I went to my beloved Willard W. Allen Lodge No. 108 and bid farewell to my brothers. They were happy for me that I had discovered my life’s calling and understood my decision to fully commit myself to the of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Is the Church transforming culture or is culture transforming the church? Are the two so intertwined until they are no longer singularly recognizable? Grambling State University has the Bayou Classic, a game that alumni and well-wishers look forward to each year. I daresay they have supporters committed to going to this one game even if they miss all the others. They prepare for it in advance to include budgeting, putting in time off at work, scheduling reunions, etc. It is of the utmost importance to them.

Do you as a supporter, no as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ have that one service, that one day you have committed to the Lord and refuse to substitute for anything else? For me, it is the Holy Communion Service. Despite what I have going on, it is my commitment to be at my church partaking of the Lord’s Supper with my members. I do whatever I can to keep this commitment above all others.

Jude warns us of confusing our commitment to Christ with that of our worldly pursuits and aspirations. I love the Lord and the Lord’s Church; never would I forsake her for obligations to any other group I’m affiliated with. Do you have such loyalty to your church?

The world stands in need of disciples of Jesus Christ leading the fight for their souls. They do not need associates, friends, comrades that flock to the same worldly pursuits as themselves. They who have not God, need those who do to become recognizable and distinct from any other group. The world needs our light to shine its brightest at this very moment in history. I urge you to consider whether your witness leads others to Christ or to something someone, some place, else.

In His Service,

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How Determined Are You to Fulfill the Will of God for Your Life?

Luke 9:51-62, MSG Bible

51-54 When it came close to the time for his Ascension, he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers on ahead. They came to a Samaritan village to make arrangements for his hospitality. But when the Samaritans learned that his destination was Jerusalem, they refused hospitality. When the disciples James and John learned of it, they said, “Master, do you want us to call a bolt of lightning down out of the sky and incinerate them?”  55-56 Jesus turned on them: “Of course not!” And they traveled on to another village. 57 On the road someone asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said. 58 Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.” Jesus said to another, “Follow me.” 59 He said, “Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.” 60 Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!” 61 Then another said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.” 62 Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”

 

Introduction

Monty Roberts’ father as a horse trainer was moving from stable to stable, from ranch to ranch, training horses. Thus, the Monty‘s school career was constantly interrupted. One day, when he was a senior, teacher asked him to write about what he wanted to be when he grew up. He did not hesitate a minute and wrote seven-page paper about his aim to be an owner of a horse ranch, he wrote many details and drew a location of buildings and stables and even a detailed house plan.

Two days later he received his paper back with letter „F“ on the front page. After class he came to teacher and asked: „Why did I receive an F?“. The teacher responded: „This dreams is so unrealistic for a boy like you, who has no money, no resources and who comes from itinerant family. There is no possibility that you will reach your great goals one day.“ Then the teacher offered to rewrite the paper with more realistic attitude.

The boy went home and asked his father, how he should act. The father answered: „This decision is very important for you. So you have to make up your own mind on this“.

After several days the boy brought the same paper to his teacher. No changes were made. He said: „Keep the F and I will keep my dream“.

Now Monty Roberts owns 4,000-square-foot house in the middle of 200-acre horse ranch and he still has that school paper, which now is framed over the fireplace.[1]

Sir Thomas Buxton, remarked, “The longer I live, the more I am certain that the great difference between the great and the insignificant, is energy—invincible determination—a purpose once fixed, and then death or victory.”[2]  Lewis temple the fulfillment of your purpose must outweigh critique!  I’m going to say that again, “The fulfillment of your purpose must outweigh critique.”  Selah

Move 1

Jesus demonstrates that one’s inner circle, one’s priorities, and one’s determination must be linked to one’s commitment to fulfilling the call of God in your life.  Jesus affirms that “when the demand of God presses upon us, it must take priority over all that belongs to good sense, good citizenship, and good family relationships and customs.  In other words, if we are to obey God, the kingdom of God, God’s method of doing things has to have first priority in our life.  No other loyalty can surpass that of our loyalty to God and his kingdom.  Lord, have mercy!

He has set his sights on his destiny; Jesus is headed to Jerusalem and Jesus will not be deterred by his inner circle, other people’s priorities, nor the customs and traditions of family.  He is determined to arrive at this destination on time and therefore, he realigns all his concentration, determination and focus toward Jerusalem.

The text teaches us that along the way to your destiny in Christ, rejection, misunderstanding, and other people’s priorities will try to sidetrack you, but you must stay focused.  First, in Luke 9:51-56 we find these words, “ When it came close to the time for his Ascension, he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers on ahead. They came to a Samaritan village to make arrangements for his hospitality. But when the Samaritans learned that his destination was Jerusalem, they refused hospitality. When the disciples James and John learned of it, they said, “Master, do you want us to call a bolt of lightning down out of the sky and incinerate them?”  Jesus turned on them: “Of course not!” And they traveled on to another village.”

First, rejection by those who have their own selfish agenda appears.  The Samaritans refuse to host Jesus because Jesus is not going to stay in Samaria.  He’s just passing through on his way to Jerusalem.  They, the Samaritans do not wish to go to all that trouble to welcome Jesus into the city knowing he’s not going to be there any length of time.  They feel that Jesus is disrespecting them by refusing to spend time with them and meeting their needs.  Hospitality was a big deal in Jesus’ day and remains so up to the present time.

His inner circle is alarmed at their rejection and volunteer to use their faith, their authority to punish the Samaritans.  After all, when Elijah was taken up, Elisha saw fire come from heaven in the form of a chariot of fire pulled by fire-breathing horses.  Inimical to that incident since they know Jesus will be departing soon, since they know his death is imminent and they will be left behind they want to show the Samaritans that they too have power in the kingdom.  But Jesus harshly rebukes them for having that kind of spirit and denies them the right to use God’s power for selfish ends.  In other words, this is not the time for them to show off their power.  They have already argued in Luke 9:46 about who would be greatest among them.  They simply misunderstand His purpose and His ministry even at this late stage of his ministry.  Lord, have mercy!

Secondly, in Luke 9:57-61, we see other people’s misunderstanding of what it takes to follow Jesus get in the way of following the plan of God when God calls.  Here the text again, “On the road someone asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said. 58 Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.” Look at the seriousness of with which Jesus handles each request for delay in doing what God demands.  This person is full of grit and determination but Jesus confronts him about the harshness of the journey.  Jesus challenges him to make sure he’s ready because following Jesus is no easy task.  He was excited, but Jesus was realistic and cautious about his motives and his commitment.  How many of us have declared we’re going to fulfill some purpose, only to fall by the wayside because the journey got hard?  Let me ask you, what is the source of your motivation?  Is it internal or external?  Do you need outside motivation or are you self-motivated, driven by passion for the thing God has called you to do?  That is the question you must answer because beloved, the road to success is paved with pitfalls, traps, rejections, and downright hatred.  Are you willing to endure until you do that for which God has called you?

Third and finally, family traditions and customs try to take the place of God’s destiny in your life.  In the text Jesus sees one with potential and interviews him for the job of following him to Jerusalem.  Jesus says to Him , “You come follow men.”  And before the words can drop from his lips, excuses start rolling out.  This young man places his family traditions above the call of God.  In Luke 9:59, the young man says, Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.”  For Jesus this is unacceptable.  Nothing can take the place of God’s call, not even family traditions and customs. Jesus adamantly replied to this young man, “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!”  In other words, make God’s call your priority, not the issues of this life.  Hallelujah!

Right after that another young man comes up ready but not ready to follow Jesus. In Luke 9:61-62, the conversation goes like this, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.” 62 Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”  Can you sense the frustration of Jesus with these young men making excuses for not answering the call of God.  Even now Jesus is reminding them that procrastination is the killer of destiny.  Procrastination will put you behind; stay focused Jesus admonishes them.  Don’t let anything prevent you from fulfilling the will of God for your life. Beloved, whatever you do, don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today!  Do what God has called you to do and begin Now.  Jesus is calling for some Now Disciples.

If you’re going to fulfill the plan of God for your life, you too must walk the rode of misunderstanding and rejection.  Listen, “In Jewish tradition this obligation, the obligation to bury one’s father was so sacred as to override any other obligations of the Old Testament Law.”[3]  But not to Jesus.  Here again, man’s adherence to customs and traditions posed a problem for those desiring to follow Jesus.  What about in your life?  Is it family reunion or holy communion?  Is it being faithful at your post or participating in some family ritual and abandoning your post?  What will it take for you to put God on hold so you can fulfill some family tradition or desire?  Lord, have mercy!

Move 2 (Conclusion)

Jesus had one mission; stated in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  Once found, the cost of redemption, the cost of their salvation would be death on cross.  Jesus would have to shed his blood in Jerusalem.  Jesus would have to give his life a ransom for our sins and Jesus would not be delayed, deterred, or detracted.  Neither rejection nor misunderstanding.  Neither excuses nor human traditions would keep him from his destiny.  Jesus set his face like flint and headed toward Jerusalem and it is on this journey to Jerusalem that attempts were made to hold him up from fulfilling his purpose.

Satan’s strategy is often delay not denial.  If Satan can get you to procrastinate perhaps you won’t fulfill your calling.  Jesus was having none of that; he would not allow rejection, misunderstanding or other people’s priorities to prevent him from fulfilling the will of God for his life.  And what about you?  On this Sunday Morning, I want you to vow that you will fulfill the will of God for your life and you will begin Now to do so.  No more excuses; it’s time to make real the promises of God for your life.  Beloved, nothing should be more important to you than reaching your destiny in God.  Can I get a witness, here?

Jesus stands as a light in darkness.  He stands as the ultimate example of one who once he made a decision would let nothing keep him from following his mind.  Hebrews 10:23, 35-36 encourages us by saying, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) and 35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. 36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”

Jesus urges us to stay focused; Jesus urges us to run our race.  Sing with the saints of old, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”

Therefore, run saints of God.  Grab hold of the thing that has gotten hold of you and run.  Don’t procrastinate, run.  Don’t get overwhelmed by life’s demands, run.  Don’t let family traditions stop you, run.  Don’t let the hardness of the journey stop you run.  Run, when folks love you, run.  Run, when they reject you, run.  Run, when they want you to wait, run.  Run toward the calling of God for you your life.  And when you do, God will smile on you. God will be with you.  God will sustain you.

[1] I will tell you a story of my friend Monty Roberts. (2016) Retrieved from http://www.inspirationalstories.eu/stories/success-stories/inspirational-stories-about-determination/

[2] Deermination Quote. (2016).  Retrieved from http://www.values.com/determination

[3] Nolland, J. (1993). Word biblical commentary:  Luke 9:21-18:34. Hubbard, D., Barker, G. Editors.  P.544. Dallas, TX: Word Books.

How to Harness the Power of the Routine

I am a free spirit; I am spontaneous; I hate structure that locks me down to doing the same old thing in the same old way.  Therefore, I don’t always finish what I start.  Sometimes in fact, I have too many things going on at once because I am a sucker for variety and excitement.  I like the thrill of the chase but not necessarily catching what I’m chasing.  I have dreams, ideas aplenty, but when the rubber meets the road, I end up without anything to show for my efforts.  I would rather be free than tied down to a particular pattern for any length of time.  Therefore, I have discovered that freedom without discipline is a curse.  I don’t do well with mundane, routine, ritualistic activities.  That is one of the weaknesses on my personal SWOT analysis.  There you have it, I admit it.

But now since I’ve been on my personal leadership development quest, I have learned the power of harnessing the routine to ensure success in any venture.  Let me just say that routines are powerful tools to ensure you remain consistent and get continuous victory in whatever path of life you choose.  Creflo Dollar teachings it this way, “Consistency is the key to your breakthrough.”  The Bible says Be Patient which means remaining consistently the same (routine) when you’re facing hardships, troubles, or trials.  Keep doing what you know is effective even when it gets monotonous, routine, ritualistic, and difficult to focus.  Your free spirit wants to flee, but you must harness your spirit, mind, and body and stay the course.  There is victory in staying the course even when your emotions are on hiatus.

The Apostle Paul warns against those who inspire others, yet after others have been inspired you refuse to do what you taught.  You refuse to practice what you preached.  He writes in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

There are a lot of people who can give advice but live unstructured, undisciplined lives.  They’re not bad people, they just have not learned how to harness doing things they don’t feel like doing.  They haven’t mastered the art of staying in a system, staying on a course when things aren’t glamorous.  In other words, adversity does not cause them to become more steadfast in practicing effective principles of success, adversity causes them to flee, to switch careers, switch spouses, switch banks, switch whatever they’re doing in favor of trying something new.

Trace the lives of those with free spirits and you will find people who have a track record of not finishing what they have started.  At first it seems the things they have walked away from are limited to one area, but when you look at the totality of their lives, traces of a lack of tenacity are evident wherever they have gone.  These type of people are good motivators but bad leaders.  They are good speakers but poor administrators.  They are excellent observers but incompetent doers.  They hate detail, routine, and refuse to discipline themselves to do the hard and unflattering,  things in life.  Freedom is their curse not their blessing.  Until they harness the power of doing something systematically the same day in and day out, they will always be operating under this curse which guarantees that their success will be limited, spotted, and minimal.

And so today I want to teach those free spirits like me to harness the power of the routine so that we can reach our destiny and maintain our tenacity through boring, mundane, routine, ritualistic actions necessary for us to reach our goals.  In other words, I am teaching about how those who are daydreamers and free spirits can take full advantage of the blessings contained in self-discipline, ritual and routine.  Are you ready, let’s do this.

Routine provides structure, builds good habits, negates the need for willpower and motivation.    Willpower is finite and motivation is not constant.  That is why relying on routine to accomplish tasks is a lot easier than relying on willpower and motivation. Routine saves you work on the back end, and helps you become good at things thereby increasing your efficiency.  Systems can be improved upon and made more effective.  However, spontaneity is not subject to such scrutiny.  The power in routine is its ability, flexibility, and adaptability to environments, circumstances, and conditions.  You need to learn how to create systems, routines that serve your needs and those of the ones who depend on your service.  Harnessing systems and directing them to a definite end is a powerful tool to fulfilling your destiny.

According to Ash Roy, noted blogger, in his article for Productivity, “How 12 Highly Productive People Used The Power Of Routine To Achieve Greatness”, The secret to being a high achiever is a lot simpler than you’d imagine. It’s all about routine and focus.  He writes that Steve Jobs upon discovering his cancer asked himself one question each day, “Everyday he’d ask himself “If today was the last day of my life would I want to do what I’m about to do today?” When the answer was “no” for too many days in a row he knew he had to change something.”  This simple routine produced much added value for the customers and shareholders of the Apple Brand.  Warren Buffet reads 500 pages a day; that’s his routine and it has led him to be one of the most wealthiest men and most wise investors in the world.  What is your routine.  Consistency. Routine. Habit.  That’s the key to success for so many.

I want to share five steps to mastering or harnessing the power of the routine.

First step is Brain dump time.  It is the step where you determine what you need to get done this day.  Begin by answering these questions:

  • What tasks do you need to complete each day in order to get to work?
  • Which tasks do you need to do each day to get your kids to school?
  • Which tasks do you need to do each day to eat?
  • Which errands do you need to get done daily?
  • Which tasks need to get done each done in order for you to get some exercise?
  • Which tasks do I need to get done to maintain an organized home?

Second, create a timetable by assessing your energy levels. Think about when you do your best work.  Flexibility is the key; don’t mimic anyone else; be true to your own timetable.

Third, add some flexibility for exceptions.  Your work process or schedule may not fit neatly into this, and that’s OK; the point is to harness your most productive times to use for your most challenging tasks, and your least productive times to do the more mundane tasks.

Fourth, put it all together.  Write your daily agenda.  Start with anything that has to be done at a certain time each day (like picking your kids up a school or eating lunch).  Then slot in tasks based on when you think it makes the most sense to tackle them.

Fifth, test drive your agenda.  See how it works for you and adjust where it’s not working.  Your daily agenda is your key to consistency; the key to your success.  Becoming a creature of habit is not altogether bad.  If you run a business or lead an organization, you need to have structure so people will know when to expect you to be and do certain things.  Becoming reliable is a good thing.

Developing the systems that make your routine tasks more efficient is the key to harnessing the power of the routine.  Systems create avenues and seqways to greatness; don’t delay establish routines that add value to your life and your professional career.

Becoming a Person of Influence Webinar

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The God Manifested in Jesus Cares About You!

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. [John 2:1-11]

 

Introduction/Anti-Thesis

Tony Kriz asks in his book Aloof, “What are we to do with a God who hides?  He is not alone.  Throughout the ages, men have debated whether God is concerned about his creation.  For example, Deist believe God has left us to our own devices.

Deism is a religion where it is generally believed that God is not (wholly or in part) involved in the affairs of human history.  They do believe that God created the world and everything in it.  They do believe that there is one God, though they reject the trinity.  However, for the most part, the Deists do not believe that God is involved with our lives.  God created the world and basically gave it all that it needed to run itself.  All, to the Deists, is governed by nature and natural laws.  All we can know about God could be found in nature.  They reject the Bible, revelations, and the like because those are man-made things invented through the superstition.

In any case the Deists believe that God is not concerned (though at various levels) with human history.  Therefore, we are all headed towards whatever fate has for us and whatever our greed and superstition may take us.

This general idea about God’s relation to His creation is widespread, though not as popular as it was in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  As a matter of fact, some of the founding fathers of the United States of America were deists.  Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine were Deists.[1]

There may be Gods who are unconcerned, aloof, and distant about human affairs but that God is not the God of Jesus Christ.  That God is not the God that we serve.  Can I get a witness?

 

Transition/Thesis

The Bible tells us otherwise in regards to the views of the Deists.  The Bible reveals to us that God is very much involved with the affairs of the human race.  [2]

Foundational to the Christian faith is the belief that the  God manifested in Jesus  is actively involved with His creation?  From Genesis to Revelation, God is revealed as a God that cares about his creation.  In fact at no time does God abandon us; God is always intervening in human affairs, not because he is indifferent but because God cares about our lives here in the earth and because God wants us to have the very best quality of life we can muster.  Lord, have mercy!

Synthesis/Main Points

At the beginning of Epiphany, we have emphasized that God prepared the world to worship Jesus.  God did that in the name he gave Jesus and in the way that the heavens proclaimed his name and the way that the gentiles approached him to worship him.  God prophesized that his name would be called Emmanuel, meaning God with us.  In other words, the epiphany says that God is manifested among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth now known as the Christ after his resurrection and ascension back into heaven.  Jesus the name says “will be great because he will save his people from their sins.”   It is a name that God gave to demonstrate the powerlessness of the devil to triumph over the plan of God for his people and Jesus overcome the devil once and for all on Calvary.  Lord, have mercy!

You will remember that John presents Jesus as God’s Word made flesh, dwelling among us; as being able to be touched, felt, and handled like any other human being.  John says “And we beheld his glory full of grace and truth.”  Jesus is the man that contains the Godhead bodily, the creator of the universe, offered as a ransom for sin in the earth.  Jesus is the one who opened up possibilities for humanity to grow and excel in the earth.  Jesus is the way, the truth and the life that affords those who accept him a way to live the abundant life.

And our text this morning shows the first sign that the God we worship in Jesus, cares.  This text proves without doubt that the mundane affairs of our lives are important to God.  The God manifested in Jesus is concerned not just about our sorrows, but about every facet of our lives. This includes but is not limited to instances of joy such as a wedding, the birth of a child, the party to celebrate a promotion, the cruise to relax and enjoy family and friends, all are equally important to our God manifested in Jesus of Nazareth, now known as Jesus the Christ.  Hallelujah!

That ought to cause you joy to know that God is not aloof, somewhere in the universe unconcerned about your life, but that God as manifested in Jesus is a very present help in time of trouble.  And I don’t know about you but that is music to my ears.  I need to know that God cares, and more specifically God cares for me.

Move 1

This text illustrates four points that I would like to highlight this morning.  Let me give them to you now and elaborate on each of them in due course.  First, the God manifested in Jesus cares about those things that are important to you.  Second, the God manifested in Jesus when you bring your cares to him, will work on your behalf.  Jesus has a solution to every dilemma you face in life. Third, the God manifested in Jesus offers you his very best solution. And finally, the God manifested in Jesus does all that he does to bring glory to his heavenly father, your God and my God.  Amen?

First, the God manifested in Jesus cares about those things that are important to you.  Here is the situation as outlined in verses 1-4, “On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

A wedding is going on.  Guests are enjoying themselves and as the custom is, wine is served at the wedding.  However, as the reception progresses Mary is informed that the wine is about consumed and more will be needed otherwise the groom and the bride will be embarrassed.  Mary is concerned; it is important to her that the wedding party is not embarrassed.

Everyone is having a good time and such humiliation will scar the wedding day for the couple.  And so Mary, knowing that Jesus cares, brings this problem to him.  Jesus not understanding that these types of things are important to God, asks, “Woman, why do you involve me?”  Yet the God manifested in Jesus speaks to Jesus and helps Jesus know that God does indeed care about whether this couple has a beautiful wedding celebration.

Many are the things that we discount God about.  Many are the things we don’t take to Jesus because we don’t believe God cares about them.  However, our text illustrates that what is important to you is important to God.  Never should you be ashamed to bring your cares to Jesus despite how trivial or human they might seem.  The God manifested in Jesus cares about those things that are important to you.  Hallelujah!

Second, the God manifested in Jesus when you bring your cares to him, will work on your behalf.  Listen, I want you to understand this as well:  Jesus has a solution to every dilemma you face in good times and in sullen times.  Listen to what happened in John 2:6-8, “Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

What Jesus did to address this problem was both natural and supernatural.  Jesus used the natural resources available to him to work a miracle for this couple.  The God in Jesus uses those things that are available to us to bless us.  You remember Elijah the prophet asked the widow, “What do you have in your house?”  Well, Jesus saw the water pots as a source of supply rather than as a source of waste.  The water in those posts were used to wash the feet of the guests, but Jesus took what was unclean, made it clean and transformed it into a blessing.

What are you withholding from Jesus because you think it’s not clean enough or appropriate enough to offer Jesus?  Let me tell you this morning that the God manifested in Jesus will work with what you have, not what you don’t have.  Hallelujah!

But let me move on.  Third, the God manifested in Jesus only offers you his very best.  Listen to the response to what the God in Jesus had done.  John 2:8b-10 reads, “They did so,  and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside  and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

Two keys exist in this solution.  First, they did what Jesus asked them to do.  Second, God intervened supernaturally to resolve their problem.  Beloved, when you do what Jesus asks; when you obey Jesus; miracles happen.  And miracles happen that far surpass anything that you could ever ask or think.  Jesus did not give them common wine; Jesus gave them the best wine.  Why?  Because the God manifested in Jesus only offers the very best to his children.  God wants you to have the very best and you need to understand that.  Beloved, God cares about you and wants the best for you.  Can you receive that this morning?  Say this with me: “My God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that I could ever ask or think.”  Hallelujah!

Finally, the God manifested in Jesus does all that he does to bring glory to his heavenly Father, your God and my God.   John 2:11 says, “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”

Listen, the God manifested in Jesus desires for you to worship him.  God desires for you to experience his glory (his power, his presence, his provision, his protection, and his love). When God takes interests in your life, he does so that the world might have a testimony of his goodness and his love.  And that’s why throughout the world men and women have exclaimed God’s goodness; God’s willingness to work in human affairs.  Just as God saved the day at this wedding, God wants you to bring your situations to him today.

Don’t save God for the big things in your life.  Don’t wait on a tragedy to pray and seek the God manifested in Jesus.  Rather, invite God to participate in all the activities of your life that are important to you.  The God manifested in Jesus wants you to be successful in everything you do.

Move 2 (Conclusion)

Epiphany is the sudden realization of something; it’s an unction; it’s a feeling.  When these people saw what Jesus was able to do, even at the wedding, it pointed to God his heavenly Father.  They began to believe what the prophet has spoken: “A virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call his name Emmanuel, meaning God with us.”  They believed that his name would be called Jesus, “because he would save his people from their sins.”

During this epiphany season, I invite you to get to know Jesus as God manifested in the flesh.  I invite you to stop looking for some abstract, ephemeral God and try Jesus.  Beloved, I offer you the best gift ever given, I offer you Jesus, God manifested in the flesh.  I offer him to you because the God manifested in Jesus cares about your life, all of your life.

And so we don’t worship some distant, unknown Architect of the Universe, some Unmoved Mover. Rather we worship the God manifested in Jesus. God has prepared the entire creation to worship Jesus. For this God cares; this God can be touched by each of us. Touched by faith in Jesus, touched by prayer and supplication. Hallelujah!

[1] Cunningham, W. R. (2006). God’s Involvement in our lives.  Retrieved from http://www.pursuingthetruth.org/sermons/files/godsinvolvement.htm

[2] ibid

 

It’s Time to move to the Next Level

Text:  Deuteronomy 2:1-3

Introduction

The children of Israel had taken 40 years to complete a journey, which should have taken only a few days.  God charged them to move into their land of promise, but they refused.  They tried to remain encamped on the top of the Mount Horeb.  And if they couldn’t stay where they were, then they decided to stay in the wilderness.  Because they rebelled against God’s opportunity due to the opposition that lay before them, they could not enter into the opulence that their land of promise afforded. 

So God decreed that the generation that started out with Moses would not enter the Promised Land; only the next generation would enjoy
This new generation had wandered in the wilderness for 40 more years watching their ancestors die without receiving the promise.  They had been receiving instructions on how to live as people of God.  God taught them how to fight in order to preserve their freedom.  God taught them how to worship in order to preserve their faith.  God taught them how to love one another and to care for one another to preserve their nation. 

Finally, God taught them how to get wealth to preserve their independence from other nations.  Never again did God intend them to become slaves.
It was time for them to move to the next level.  They had everything they needed to move.  God was with them; a skilled proven army was with them; faith was with them; unity was among them; and wealth was among them.  Nothing was missing and nothing was broken.  They were ready – destiny was upon them. 

Now, Moses stands atop that same mountain peak rehearsing the travels and journeys of God’s people throughout the last 80 years.  He challenges the next generation to move to the next level with faith in their God.

Move 1

The opportunity God presented was in front of them.  But in order to take advantage of this opportunity they would have to face opposition.  In order to get to the opulence God had decreed for them they would have to confront their enemies.  You see, beloved, when you decide to act in concert with God, God will give you an opportunity and you will have to face opposition before the opulence flows into your life.

First, let us look at the opportunity.  God gives you opportunities that belong only to you. 

What God has for you no one else can take.  Notice verse 4-12 and 17-23 [read] What God promised the children of Esau, he fulfilled.  What God promised the children of Lot, he fulfilled.  God did not allow the Israelites to possess lands he previously promised to others.  And what God promises to you, he will fulfill. 
Beloved, you serve the God of an open door.  The Bible declares, “God will open doors that no man can shut, shut doors that no man can open.” 

When you determine, to move into your destiny, God will guide your steps. In other words, your brothers and sisters in the LORD will not lose their blessing because God has chosen to move you forward.  So be not afraid, neither be dismayed.  It’s time for us to move to the next level. 
Not only that, but in your personal life it’s time for you to move to the next level.  You’ve circled this mountain long enough.  You’ve been bankrupt, distressed, and in a mess long enough. 

In short, God has granted us opportunities that we have wasted because when opposition came we bailed out instead of confronted the enemy.  It’s time for us to move to the next level.  We’ve circled these stagnant  mountains long enough.  Hallelujah!

It’s time for each of you to take advantage of the opportunities that God has provided for you.  And you don’t have to worry about getting what God has for somebody else.  God wouldn’t do that.  What God has for others will always belong to them.  But what God has for you belongs to you.  Don’t delay; don’t procrastinate; don’t hesitate; step out of your place of pain, and step into your place of peace.  It’s time for you to move to the next level.  Again, you’ve circled this mountain long enough.  Now is the time to act!

The story is told in 2 Kings 7:1-20 of a time of utter turmoil in the lives of the people of God.  Their enemies the Syrians had besieged them.  Nothing could enter and nothing could leave the city without encountering this opposition.  In due time famine set in and people were reduced to eating their own children. 

Then Elisha the prophet declared, “Hear this message from the LORD!  This is what the LORD says:  By this time tomorrow in the markets of Samaria, five quarts of fine flour will cost only half an ounce of silver, and ten quarts of barley grain will cost only half an ounce of silver.”
This was God’s way of presenting them with an opportunity.  God always sends us a message, a Word of direction, purpose, and destiny.  If you miss hearing God’s word about your situation, you miss God’s opportunity. 

Simply put, once you hear God’s word, you have to mix it with faith in order for it to benefit you.  Hebrews 4:12 reads, “God’s promise of entering his place of rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to get there.  For this Good News – that God has prepared a place of rest – has been announced to us just as it was to them.  But it did them no good because they didn’t believe what God told them.”
But thanks be to God there were four lepers who believed.  They heard the word and decided to take advantage of God’s opportunity.  They looked at one another and asked, “Why should we sit here waiting to die?”  They reasoned among them, “We will starve if we stay here, and we will starve if we go back into the city.  So, we might as well go out and surrender to the Syrian Army.  If they let us live, so much the better.  But if they kill us, we would have died anyway.”

Someone here this morning needs to hear this Word.  You need to surrender your life to Jesus Christ.  Why keep sitting in a place of pain, misery, and anguish?  Why keep circling the same of mountain of defeat when God is presenting you an opportunity to go to the next level.  You know in your heart, just like those four lepers that you need to act.  You need to move forward.  You need to believe the word that God has sent this morning.  You will come, won’t you?  You will take advantage of God’s opportunity, won’t you?  It’s time for you to move to the next level. [Pause]

Move 2

Well, let us move on.  The Second thing you encounter when you decide to act in concert with God is opposition.  Look again at Deuteronomy 2:13-16 [read]

When God presents you with opportunity, you encounter opposition from two fronts: within and without.  The first opposition came from within their minds.  They felt inferior to the people who already lived in that land.  They felt that they were powerless, sinful, helpless people. 

Their minds could not imagine ever living among so great a people.  They could not imagine fighting these foes and being successful.  So, they talked themselves out of their own blessing.
And that’s the problem with slavery, addiction, or abuse of any kind.  It so demeans the victim until the victim begins to see themselves as their affliction.  You go from having diabetes to being a diabetic.  You go from having a drinking problem to being an alcoholic. 

In Numbers 13:33, God presented an opportunity for the first generation to enter the promised land. They responded “And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants:  and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.  You can’t face opposition without boldness and confidence in who you are.  If they had not seen themselves as less than those people, then the Anakims would have seen them differently as well.  How do you see yourself compared to other people?  Because how you see yourself will actually be how others see you and treat you. 
Are you bold, confident, self-assured, full of faith in God?  Do you see yourself as wonderfully and marvelously made?  If not, now is a good time for you to see yourself as God sees you. 

In his 1994 Inaugural speech Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa quoted these words penned by Maryanne Williamson:

Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that
Other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.
And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously
Give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fears,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

However, once you get your self-image realigned to conform to the image that God designed, you must still face external opposition.   

When you decide to act in concert with God, enemies will show up and try to beat you back into your old place.  Look at Deuteronomy 2:24-25 and 3:1-13 [read] Notice how God had destined these enemies for defeat even before the children of Israel encountered them.  I’m telling you that when you get with God you become invincible. 

The Bible declares, “God always causes us to triumph in Christ Jesus our LORD.”  The Bible declares, nay, we are more than conquerors through Christ which loves us.”  The Bible declares, “No weapons formed against us shall be able to prosper.”  When God gives you an opportunity, he also prepares your opposition for defeat.  Just like it’s time for you to move to the next level, it’s also time for your opposition to move to another level.  And that level is to move out of your way or face God as their adversary. Gardner Taylor, would tell his enemies “your arms are too short to box with God!”

We must face our enemies.  We cannot hide, sidestep, or dodge them.  We must confront them.  We must let them know our purpose!  We must announce our objectives!  We must send word that we are moving to the next level.  Hallelujah! 
And we must let our enemies know that we are ready to fight for the souls of our children.  Let the weak and the faint of heart stay at home and watch the house.  But, let the young of heart, the bold, and the fearless arm themselves for battle.  It’s time for us to move to the next level.  It’s time to take this church out of neutral and put it into drive so we can win souls for Jesus Christ! 

Let us challenge ourselves to go further than we have ever been to announce the kingdom of Christ.  God has promised:  “Fear him not:  for I will deliver him, and all his people, and his land, into thy hand.”
Paul faced opposition with every opportunity.  He said in 1 Corinthians 16:9, “For there is a wide-open door for a great work here, and many people are responding.  But there are many who oppose me.” 

Beloved, with every opportunity, there will be those who oppose you, but keep on moving.
Your mind may tell you to turn around, but keep on moving.  You may begin to get cold feet, but keep on moving.  You may be ostracized and criticized, but keep on moving.  Your friends may walk away, but keep on moving.  Your friends may even become your enemies, but keep on moving.  You may not understand where you’re going, but since you know that where you were was misery, pain, and despair, keep on moving.  Keep on moving.  Don’t let opposition spoil your opportunity because you’re on your way to opulence, which is the plan of God for your life and this church.

Move 3

Finally, when you decide to act in concert with God, you encounter opulence. Opulence means “wealth, riches, sumptuousness, prosperity, lavishness, and luxury.  When God presents an opportunity, don’t despair the opposition because when you take advantage of God’s opportunity it leads to opulence.  God desires to bless his children more than they could ever imagine.  The purpose of the opportunity is to open up channels for more people to experience the blessings of God through your hands.  The act of accepting God’s opportunity ensures that your life will abound with blessings. 

The Bible declares, “The blessings of the LORD they maketh rich and addeth no sorrow with it.”  The bible declares, “Our God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above anything we could ever ask or think.”  The Bible declares, “The LORD has increase on his mind.  He is always thinking about you.  He wants to bless you more and more.”  But you have to overcome opposition and stand your ground as you pursue the opportunities that God places in your path.

Beloved, God wants to do exceedingly more with this church than he has ever done before.  “Eyes have not seen, neither has ear heard, what good things the LORD has prepared for those who love him.”  It’s time for us to move to the next level.  We’ve circled the mountain of average, and mediocrity long enough.  It’s time to move into the area of excellence.  It’s time to get motivated, fired up, and charged up to be used by God to bless somebody else.  It’s time for us to go higher as a resource in this community.  We have to rid ourselves of the status quo and begin to do things differently.  We need to explore the opportunities regardless of the opposition.  Amen.

The story is told in Luke 5:1-10 of some anglers who had fished all night long and captured nothing.  Finally, after hours of exhaustive work with no results they began to clean their nets and prepare to accept defeat and go home.  But then Jesus showed up and asked them to allow him to use their boats to minister to the crowds.  After they had served the LORD, he wanted to bless them.  He told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat opposite from where they had toiled all night.  They almost missed this opportunity.  They were tired, exhausted, and frustrated.  The majority did not want to do it.  But thank God, Peter was willing to try it.  Peter was willing to say as their leader, let’s at least try it his way.  And when they did they caught so many fish, they were living in opulence.  This one catch done God’s way made them rich beyond their wildest dreams.  Their opulence was such that they had to enlist others to come help them put the fish in their boats.  They had more than enough.  This was a testimony that God had been with them and many other lives were impacted through their knowledge and belief in God.  God used this opportunity, though fraught with opposition, to bless them and those engaged in the fishing business with them. They were a changed people, changing the world.

Beloved, don’t be afraid to trust God’s word.  He is telling us that it is time for us to move to the next level.  I challenge you to excel in whatever you do for the LORD.  When God presents an opportunity for you to minister to someone else, take full advantage of it.  Embrace all the opposition as challenges and keep on moving.  You will experience walking in your wealthy place.  Oh, the joy of leaving poverty, sickness and despair behind.  Oh, the joy of experiencing true love and friendship.  Oh, the joy of not having to repeat mistakes from the past because you did what you needed to do to learn from your mistakes.  Now everyday in everyway your life is getting better and better. 

Beloved, you’ve circled these mountains of defeat long enough, turn north.  Turn toward God through Jesus Christ and allow him to change your entire life.  Decide that you are going to work in concert with God and not against God.  Determine that from now on you refuse to serve the world, your own selfish aims, and the devil.  Resolve to embrace God’s way and God’s word.  Resolve that you’re going to seize God-given opportunities, overcome opposition, and enjoy opulence as you serve the Lord.  Then and only then will you reach your promised land.