“REALITYREALITY OR ILLUSION” by Pastor Charles C Elliott…..
Or, subtitled….Don’t believe everything you think you see and only part of what you hear……
Even though the slab of concrete and the hole are only painted on the flat surface of the walk way, they are so real looking, appearing to have virtual depth and width, people walk around them as though they are real….One of the things that most affects our experience of the world around us is our perception of how things are…or the way that we see things. In any given moment, we have choices about what and how we will perceive anything and everything around us, and we have choices about the conclusions we will draw from our perceptions and what we will then do with that information.
I think of the story of the Lone Ranger and Tonto who were camping outdoors, on the trail. They had crawled under their blankets and were lying there looking up at the sky. The Lone Ranger said, “Tonto, look up. What do you see?” “Kemo Sabi, I see thousands of stars,”…. “And what does that mean to you?” Tonto asked… “Well, it means we will have another nice day tomorrow. What does it mean to you, Tonto?”.. “Kemo Sabi, I believe it means that someone has stolen our tent.” In our lives we are constantly making judgments based on our perceptions, whether or not those perceptions are accurate. We can’t get around it—it’s a necessary part of being a human being. The challenge, however, is to be aware of our perceptions, to check them out, test them to see if they are a true glimpse of reality. Because if we don’t, then we might end up believing and accepting conclusions which result in bad choices and can even put ourselves and others at risk.
An illusion is to judge the size of an iceberg only by what you see above the water, reality is what you don’t see under the water…an illusion is what sank the Titanic…..
The hard part in all of this is to accept that we are limited creatures at best—we have limited vision, limited imagination, limited patience, limit after limit. Therefore, we often find ourselves perceiving only what is most obvious or what we really want to perceive. And even if we try to be more aware, more objective, acknowledging that there is always more than meets the eye in any situation, it is difficult to always remember or accept what is beyond our will, our emotions and beyond our feelings.
The definition of “Fear” is “False Evidence Appearing Real”… When your view is limited and the fog of uncertainty obscures your reality, then your conclusions are cloudy and unclear…..Somehow, we get swept up in the illusions of life, the smoke and mirrors, the petty dynamics of pride and resentment and greed and the need for control. Or we get seduced by the illusory comforts and securities that are promised by one thing or another in our world. And often, even if those things become self-destructive, we hold on to them, because of what we perceive we are getting from them. And we allow these things to cloud our vision…. and our perception of things becomes tainted as we forget that at the heart of every human person is a depth and purpose and potential that is not readily apparent on the surface.
Speaking of not understanding what we see…..An old man and his wife lived deep in the hills and seldom saw anyone. One day a peddler came by to sell his goods and asked the man if he or his wife wanted to buy something. "Well, my wife ain't home, she's gone down to the creek to wash clothes, but lemma see what you got," said the man. The peddler showed him pots and pans, tools and gadgets, but the old man wasn't interested. Then he spotted a mirror and said, "What's that?" Before the peddler could tell him, the old man picked it up looked at it close and said, "My God how'd you get a picture of my Pappy?" The old man was so happy, he bought it and before his wife came back he hid it in the barn behind some boxes of junk because he figured she would be mad at him for spending what little money they had. He would go out to the barn 2 or 3 times a day to look at the "picture" of his pappy and eventually the wife got suspicious. One day she got fed up and after he went to bed, she went out to the barn. She saw the mirror behind the boxes, picked it up, looked at it close and said, “I knew he was messing around and up to no good….so this is the woman he’s been messing around with”!!!
There is a wise and beneficial Native American expression, that says, “you don’t know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their moccasins”. . And so often we don’t always stop and recognize, that wherever, however and whenever Life is happening, God is there too, and He’s doing things far beyond what we can see or understand. We must not be so quick to judge or blame someone else….But we need to have our eyes washed with the word and our hearts opened by the Holy Spirit to perceive beyond our emotions, insecurities and intellect ….
Mark 9:2 “And after six days Jesus took with Him Peter, and James, and John, and led them up into an high mountain and He was transfigured before them. v3 And His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no soap on earth can whiten them. v4 And there appeared unto them Elijah with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus. v5 And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Eljah. v6 For he knew not what to say; for they were greatly afraid. v7 And there was a cloud that overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, hear Him. v8 And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, except Jesus only.”
We read the story of Jesus journeying up a mountain with three of His closest friends and disciples and we learn just how limited the disciples’ perception of Jesus has been. At the top of the mountain we are told simply that Jesus “was transfigured before them.” Exactly what does this mean?
The word which Mark uses here is the Greek word, metamorphos. It is the word that we use to describe what happens in the process of a caterpillar changing into a butterfly. So to see a person transfigured, is to have a vision of who that person really is from the inside out, to be able to see the person in their fullness, their wholeness, their glorious possibility realized in a flash. At the top of that mountain, Peter, James and John were given, as one poet has put it, “a glimpse from God’s eyes.” They saw for a moment what was most true; they perceived in words so clear they couldn’t deny them, that Jesus was more, much more. They became metamorphosed by the truth that Jesus stands alone as the fullness of God’s glory, as the Son, the Beloved, the One we are to listen to. Any illusion is dispelled and reality takes it’s place…..
Mark 8:27 “And Jesus went out, and His disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi and on the way, He asked His disciples, saying unto them, Who do men say that I am? v28 And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elijah and others say, You’re one of the prophets. v29 And He said unto them, But whom do you say that I am?....
Just before going up the mountain, Jesus knows that the disciples are concerned about what other people say about him, how others have perceived him and in their caterpillar stage they were only concerned about how that reflected upon them, so they were wanting to protect His reputation and be his P.R. people in Israel….
Their perceptions are nice, good, flattering (and of course, through the eyes of others!) But he doesn’t listen to everyone else’s perceptions of who He was. He was able to stay so connected to who He was at His core, that He wasn’t distracted by others’ expectations….maybe this clear sense of “who He was and what His mission was” is what allowed Him to be so effective in ministering to the needs of those around him…
On the mountaintop, we see what God sees, the fullness of Jesus’ glory even in the face of His looming journey to Jerusalem, rejection, abandonment and death. We see in this story that Jesus is living according to what God sees…..according to God’s way. If He had listened to the perceptions of others, His life would have taken a very different path than the one He took.
You and I have choices about how we perceive and respond to our world, about how we perceive each other, and how we perceive ourselves. Do we seek to see with the eyes of our Christian faith, a faith which by it’s nature knows that there is more than meets the eye? Do we follow God’s command to “listen to Christ!” or do we choose instead to listen to other voices whose perceptions may have little to do with reality? Often, our limited perceptions lead us to waste our time and energy on being angry or resentful, hateful or negative, hurt or offended…. If we were to catch a glimpse of this person, or this situation from God’s eyes, what would we see and would our response be different when we did?”
I was challenged by a video I came across….which was about the need to present Christ and the difference which the power of the cross can make, to ISIS, to HAMAS, to those terrorist in power in IRAN, IRAQ, SYRIA, YEMEN, PALESTINE and northern AFRICA….and what about China, Japan, and Russia …. and my challenge was, have I cursed them or have I truly prayed that they would find Christ and be transformed by the power of the cross? I must admit, I had to do some repenting….
When we find ourselves bored, dissatisfied or disillusioned, we should ask ourselves “What does God see?” When we judge others harshly or assume the worst about another person, we should always stop and ask ourselves “What is it that is not revealed to me, but completely obvious to God?” When you find yourself beating yourself up for this weakness or that mistake, just stop and ask, “Who am I in God’s eyes?”
Stop and check your perceptions, and recognize that in every life and in every moment of life, God is there, desiring to bring it all into proper focus.
In every moment of life there is the present possibility of metamorphosis and transfiguration, in every situation and relationship. In the life of every human person is the promise of new life, growth and breaking free of the cocoon of our limited vision, to spread the wings of God’s higher perspective and mount up to a higher place. The path of this change may be through suffering, vulnerability, even death to the old ways of living, but the promise is that on the other side of death is resurrection, instead of loss we experience the greatest gain of all….and we enter into the ultimate transfiguration.
Often, when we talk about the story of Jesus being transfigured on the mountaintop, we think of those “mountaintop” experiences we have had in the past—those moments of life when the space between ourselves and God seemed to grow very thin and we felt alive and clear-minded as never before. In these moments, we can see what is real and what matters most of all. And we can understand Peter’s nervous impulse to want to set up camp and stay in that mountaintop place. But here’s the thing…. Jesus didn’t stay up on that mountain.
Jesus knew that He belonged and was needed most, at the bottom of the mountain, in the midst of the real lives and real situations of the people He was called to touch and minister to. We are given this story, to encourage us to explore our own mountaintop experiences, to learn that it is not only in church buildings or the quite sacred, secluded meeting places with Him that we are needed. But we are needed most as ambassadors, in our normal, everyday places of life, as we encounter, interact, and connect with the lives of others.
Jesus wants a place in our seeing and in our hearing, and in all the ups and downs of our journey….that we might see with the eyes of Christ, hear with the ears of Christ and love with the heart of Christ. Jesus doesn’t belong up on some mountain at our sacred monuments but in the monuments of our speech, of our thinking and of our behavior.
Jesus belongs right down in the middle of our lives—so that we can become transformed to be and see… and to bring forth others to become transformed into who they are created be and to see…
Psalms 1:1 “Blessed is the man that does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. v2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. v3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth fruit in every season, his leaf also shall not wither and whatsoever he does shall prosper.” We are often led to believe that our happiness is dependent on the circumstances of our lives, or our happenings. If things are going well, then we are happy but if things don’t go according to our plans, then we are doomed to despair and suffering. Happiness according to Psalms is about living in the ways and choosings of God. What truly makes us happy is living in God’s presence and the flow of God’s grace and mercy every day in this world.
Doing justice, loving mercy and acting with compassion and humility, are not just nice things to do when we have time for them. They are at the heart and essence of who we are as a people, created in the image of God.
Psalm 1 offers us a view of life that is God-centered instead of self-centered. If we are looking for true happiness in life, the wisdom of Psalm 1, tells us that we can only find it in getting rid of all our illusions of happiness by orienting our lives to God’s presence. We always have the choice to follow the path of God or to be lured into believing that there are other ways to happiness. Of course in this psalm the language is set in a clear contrast between the two paths.
The real problem comes when we substitute the illusions for what is real. Our emotional programs which we use to find happiness often revolve around three areas….
1. Power and control, 2. self-esteem and affection, and 3. our need for security and the survival instinct.
There is also a 4. the twin illusions of “prominence and permanence”. “We have the illusion that we can build a bank account, a home, a business, or a legacy that makes us secure.” In reality, prominence and permanence are fleeting and temporary at best….
If you can’t be a pencil to write someone’s happiness, then try to be a nice eraser to remove their illusions about it…..We must rewrite our emotional programs for happiness because, the biggest illusion of all is that happiness is an end in itself, when the reality is, that happiness is the result of other things which we do…..and what we do, is the results of the presence of God in our lives and experiencing that presence, everywhere in the world around us.
The good news for us today, is that sickness, lack, failure, and even death are only illusions… our health, our supply, our success, our happiness, and our life in Christ are eternal realities which were all paid for in full and established in blood, the moment we invited Him into our lives…. This is our reality. Sin and the curse which came from of it, were cancelled and taken out of the way….it’s not going to be done, It is done!
Colossians 2:13 “When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. But God brought you to new life - right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, v14 the slate was wiped clean, that old warrant of judgment that was posted against you, has been canceled and nailed to the Cross of Christ. v15 He has stripped all the spiritual terrorists in the universe of their illusion of authority and marched them naked in a triumphant processional, through the cosmos”.
The reality of faith is the ability to see the spiritual realm of life as the true, genuine substance and not just an intellectual or religious concept and obligation.
I remember the story about the fisherman who went out early in the morning before the sun came up and he came across a bag of pebbles. And to occupy himself, he started throwing them in the sea. As the dawn approached, however, he discovered that his three remaining “pebbles” were actually three priceless, uncut diamonds! But since the sunlight had not shined upon the stones, to bring out their true beauty and worth, he mistook them for common stones, until it was too late!
We need God’s light to bring out the true worth, and value of the people and things in our life.
The Brazilian amphibian fish lives partly on land and partly in the water, so it has two pair of lenses, one for seeing under the water and one for seeing above the water. It is the same way with us, as Christians in this world, we are spirit beings who live in a carnal, physical world. So, we need dual lenses, but most of us have developed cataracts on our spiritual lens. We often fail to perceive the world of the Spirit, because we have become preoccupied with the carnal emotions, the carnal appetites, and our carnal circumstances and environment of the earth realm, instead of operating the vast dimensions of the heavenly .
Someone has said that “Most people don’t really want the truth, they just want the constant reassurance that what they believe is the truth”… These illusions keep us stuck in our false, counterfeit self, by trying to persuade us away from whatever our spiritual development and growth require… All too often we conclude that something is valuable simply because so many people are chasing after it to get it. I've got to get me a pair of those boots. I've got to get me one of those electronic devices, because everybody's getting it. I've got to have a new body, and you get it and you’re still not happy because there was no change in character, outlook, personality and standards.
Shoot for just anything and you’ll hit it every time…The crowd should not set your values. Lasting values are set by a higher standard that comes out of heaven, not from earth. How often do people wake up one day and realize that all the things they thought they owned, actually own them!!! Ashes to ashes, dust to dust doesn’t sound so desirable when you just come right out and say it that way…and it’s a good description of what we also know as the rat race… A proper sense of value will insist that you choose things, not because of their popularity, emotional appeal, or acceptance of others, but because of their true worth.
Let’s be sure to follow the Shepherd, not just the crowd that’s following the Shepherd…. Someone once described our inability to be happy like going to a concert and realizing that you forgot to lock the car. And so there you sit. You’re stuck, you can’t leave, and you can’t enjoy the music, because you’re thinking about the car. This, is life for most of us. We’re preoccupied with other things and unable to enjoy the show. Most of the time we are unable to center our lives on God because we are preoccupied with illusions that seem real, which are constantly distracting us.
Greg Anderson in his book, “22 laws of wellness” writes about what he calls “the Law of Present Moment Living”. He writes, that "once we begin to appreciate the present moment, we start to realize what a wonderful place life is, no matter what the circumstances. Remember the Psalmist said, “this is the day the Lord has made, so rejoice, and be glad in it”. If you are immersed in life-enhancing activities and enjoying them with positive enthusiasm, then you are living in the moment," Greg continues. "This is a dimension of wellness that we are never going to know unless and until we cultivate a consciousness of living in the now. Commit yourself to life....Now, I don't mean commit yourself to living a certain number of years. I mean commit yourself to living each day, fully, productively, and joyfully. Commit yourself to wellness, not as a distant dream, but as a here-and-now reality. Put first things first. Do today what you've always wanted to do. Start enjoying each moment NOW! Gregg goes on… "Purpose, is your life's mission, your reason for existing. This law asks us to consider our great aim -- the work we have been brought on this earth to do. Everyone has a unique life mission," he goes on. There is for each and every person a perfect self-expression. This consists of the role he or she is to fill. Finding this self-expression is a task no one else can accomplish, it is something special to you and to me.... If we intend to experience total wellness, discovering and following our unique purpose is mandatory. Virtually every individual, should be driven by this deep and abiding sense of purpose.... This role is their life's true work, and there is no turning back.."
Picture yourself floating along in a river –God knows that we really enjoy being in the river, in fact we have committed ourselves to squeezing all the fun we can from that river. Now this river reaches a point where it flows under a bridge, and just before that bridge stands Jesus. And for some reason He’s pulling people out of the river. And these people are saying, "I don’t want to be taken out. I want to be with the rest of them, getting my kicks and having fun. I want to enjoy life". And now Jesus is lifting you. Despite your protests He hangs onto you and sets you on the shore where He is. Ignoring your protests, He points down the river, beyond the bridge, and when you look, you see that just beyond the bridge is a huge waterfall. You couldn’t see it from where you were because of the crowds going down the river. Only after you are given the Lord’s perspective of the situation do you realize what the Lord has done.
Your illusion has given way to reality the river has lulled you into enjoying everything it has to offer and trying everything the river had to offer, while it was steadily pulling you towards the falls. The shore, where Jesus is rescuing those caught in the illusions, becomes the focus and it all becomes about His mercy, His forgiveness, His grace and His love to all who will listen to His voice and obey.
This is my prayer today. Let the cross of Jesus open our eyes to enable us to build on a solid foundation, which cannot be influenced and distorted by the river of illusion. The cross is the place of forgiveness. The cross is the place of redemptive love. The cross is the greatest reality we all need and offers the security and an accurate view of life which we’re really needing and looking for. The world doesn’t need most of the things which they think will satisfy them, fulfill them, and bring them happiness…. God is pulling at my heart, for us to come together and join in prayer for the very folks who are dedicated to killing Christians….They’re caught in the river of illusions….they desperately need to get a new perspective…. On the cross, Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”…. There are many amazing reports of Christ appearing to terrorst and transforming their perspective and world view......We need to pray that the power of the cross, would transform their hearts and minds, even as it has done to ours, and transformed our way of seeing everything.!
As a believer in the Lord Jesus, we come to know Him by many names Lord”…The “Good Shepherd”….The “Bread of Life”….The “Corner Stone”…The “Door”…. The “Horn of Salvation”….The “Lamb of God”….The “Morning Star”….The “Lion of Judah”….The “Rock”…The “Rose of Sharon” and many more…..But one of His names which is found in the inspired writings of the prophet Isaiah, caught my attention, and we will take a closer look together….
Isaiah 11:1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a BRANCH shall grow out of His roots v2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD, v3 And shall make Him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears, v4 But with righteousness shall He judge”…..
To understand this reference to Jesus as “The Branch” we first need to understand that the Bible depicts the nation of Israel, with the symbol of a grape vine or an olive tree. These symbols appear on the national stamps and are very identified with Israelis today… If you visit there you will see that these symbols are displayed quite frequently and are very common.
Even though a grape vine can grow wild, the most productive grape vines with the most delicious grapes must have the careful attention and constant care from a vine dresser… He braces up the vine to keep it out of the dirt….(there’s a lot of dirt around that you can easily fall into…Satan wants you down in the dirt, and the mire, so He can devalue, cheapen, and defile you… he wants you brought down where people can walk on you, crush you and dishonor you….) But Jesus comes along and braces you up and places you in a strong safe place where your value can come forth and you can shine with excellence and be seen of men, as the work of God’s grace, provision and power.
The Master vine dresser also prunes the vine, by cutting away all the unproductive shoots, called “suckers”….because these “suckers” want to drain from you the dream, the vision of God in your heart, they want to take away from you, your fruitfulness, your health, your ability to be all that you can be…in God’s plan and purpose…. When God begins to prune your life, He always has something better than all the “Suckers” He has cut away from you….
A young wife and mother came to her pastor to tell him, "I'm so scared! Joe says he's going to kill me if I continue to come to your church. "Don’t be afraid, trust God, He is with you and will protect you”, replied the pastor, "I will continue to pray for you and believe with you. Have faith - the Lord will watch over you. "Yes, you’re right, she said, He has kept me safe this far, only....only….. "Only what, my sister? "Well, now he says that if I keep coming to your church, he's going to kill YOU TOO!" "Well, now," said the pastor, "Perhaps it's time for you to check out that little church on the other side of town." (The suckers will rob you of your boldness and your power….)
Isaiah chapter 5, is referred to as “The song of the Vineyard” and we can see here, all that the Vine Dresser has done to assure that the grape vine is healthy, strong, and has all that it needs to yields the best harvest possible…
Isaiah 5:1 “Now will I sing to my well beloved a song of my beloved touching His vineyard. My well beloved has a vineyard in a very fruitful hill. (everything is present, for the very best outcome) v2 And He fenced it, and gathered out the stones in it, and planted it with the very choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress within it (you can always tell what’s inside a person when their pressed, but stop blaming Satan, God put a winepress in the vineyard, to see what you’ve got when the pressure is on) and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild (sour, uneatable, and distasteful) grapes”.
The Master vine dresser will taste the grapes before He gives them out to anyone else, you see the vine and all it produces is for Him first. It must bring Him pleasure, before and above anyone else!!!
Revelation 2:3 “And you have endured, and had patience, and for my name's sake you have labored, and you have not fainted. v4 But having said all that, I have something against you, because you have left your first love”.
Wow, how many are doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons! Trying to please everyone else, but forgetting what your real purpose and reason for being….truly is….Forgetting that the bottom line is what Revelation 4:11 tells us clearly “For God’s pleasure, we were and are created.”
God is telling us that there is a very real danger of becoming so busy, we forget that our purpose is to bring pleasure to God…and that there is one and only one that we have to please and all the rest will work out!
It was the beginning of Spring at Niagara Falls and the winter ice was rushing down the river in large blocks, flowing toward the falls. There were carcasses of fish that had become frozen and embedded in the ice. Gulls by the score were riding down the river on these blocks of ice, feeding on the fish. They knew that as they came to the brink of the falls, their wings would allow them to escape from the falls. However, some of the gulls didn’t count on something they couldn’t foresee, and became so engrossed in eating the fish, that when they finally came to the brink of the falls, and spread their powerful wings, they could not escape. They had delayed too long, and their feet had frozen into the ice and one by one they plunged into the deadly abyss."
The most wonderful attractions of this world become deadly when we become overly attached to them, even with all the grace which has been extended to us, for we must let it go in order to embrace and continue in, our God ordained purpose….
When Peter and the others forgot what it was all about, they quickly returned to their fishing boats….Solomon began to pursue after and worship other Gods….Aaron made a golden calf and led the people in worshiping it…...King Saul tried to kill David, the one whom God had chosen…..The first man, Adam and his wife Eve ended up being expelled from the garden…..Judas went out and hanged himself, after being that close to the Lord for 3 years….
When we do as the words say in the song, “In Christ alone,” everything else will fall into place and be added unto us….The song says "Oh, I could stop and count successes, like diamonds in my hand, but those trophies could not equal to the grace by which I stand. In Christ alone I place my trust and find my glory in the power of the cross, In every victory let it be said of me, my source of strength, my source of hope Is Christ alone….
We must be careful that we don’t linger too long at the table of self- gratification, until we squander away the opportunities to serve God and God alone.
Isaiah 5:5 (The Song of the Vineyard) “And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my (disobedient, self-serving) vineyard. I will take away the hedge thereof, (God’s divine protection) and it shall be eaten up (debt and lack, the wasters, and all that wants to take a pound of flesh). Break down the wall thereof, (the sense of safety, security and belonging) and it shall be trodden down. v6 And I will cut it down, it shall not be pruned, (it shall be left to it’s own devices and abilities) nor digged, but there shall come up briers and thorns (we don’t realize how much God is covering our back, and providing, until He allows us to feel what it’s like when He is not) I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it”.
But here’s the good part, that grace brings into the equation…. If we read on, we see that this is where “The Branch” shows up….Hallelujah…
Job 14:7 “For there is hope, that if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and the tender branch thereof will not cease”.
Could everyone say…(FOR THERE IS HOPE) When it looks like all that you dreamed of, has been chopped down, when what you have given your energy, time and resources to, was chopped off at the knees…. when your heart has been trampled upon and left shattered on the ground, and you’re not sure you can trust again, love again, or believe that it can work again….
When you don’t even realize it, when you can’t even see it…a new shoot appears… it’s almost indistinguishable….but it’s the shape of hope, of new life, of beginning again, a new start, YES, there in the valley of the shadows! David said, “In the valley of the shadows, He restores my soul and He anoints my head with fresh oil”
On one occasion, that new shoot of good things to come, appeared in the form of Samson’s hair beginning to grow, as his strength returned, after he had messed it all up so badly…. It came in the shape of a branch of hyssop which the prophet cast into the bitter waters of his Marah experience and the bitter waters were made sweet… It came in the shape of four lepers, when Samaria was gripped by famine in the days of Elisha….it came in the shape of Esther’s forbidden appearance before the king when it looked like Haman had won and the gallows were already built and waiting…and it came in the shape of a tomb with a stone rolled in front, sealing it’s entrance.
The name of that stone was “hopelessness”…surely this was the end, but while so much hung in the balance, the new shoots of our redemption were springing forth, in the very bowels of death and hell, and they blasted the stone of hopelessness forever from the tomb!!!!
Our God uses the seemingly insignificant things to accomplish His own eternal, history changing purposes. The picture of the shoot coming up from the cut-off stump of Jesse gives us insight on the way God often chooses to work. He allows things to start small from seemingly weak and inconspicuous beginnings. From small beginnings and unexpected ways, great things are brought forth, through the intervention of the life, power and foreknowledge of Almighty God!
Oh Church, hear it again….ISAIAH 11:1-3 “The Branch From Jesse 1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. v2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—v3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears, A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse, from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him, the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD --- and he will delight in the fear of the LORD”.
The barren vine of Israel which was cut down, for all intents and purposes, appears to usher them into the archives of history…it looked like they were over and done with. Their city devastated, the temple torn down stone by stone, the people scattered to the four corners of the earth….but every Jew held on to the promise of Jehovah, wherever they went, no matter what they tried to do to extinguish the flame of Zion….the last word would be spoken by “THE BRANCH”!!!
Friend, know this, that when you put your trust in “THE BRANCH”, HE WILL HAVE THE LAST WORD IN YOUR VALLEY OF SHADOWS!Isaiah says that whenever He shows up, “The Spirit of the LORD will show up, the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD, will show up with Him! It’s a signal for the time of turn-around, of rearranging, of repositioning, and a shift in how things have been, to how they will be…..
1 Corinthians 1:27 “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. God has chosen the weak things of the world to disqualify the strong. v28 He has chosen the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to bring to nothing the things that are, v29 That no flesh should glory in His presence”.
Everything will work out in the end, and if it hasn’t, then it’s not the end yet, and God is not finished….He will finish what He has begun..(Tell someone… “He’s not done yet”)
ISAIAH 11:3-5 “ And he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; v4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. v5 Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist. He will not judge by what He sees with His eyes, or decide by what He hears with His ears; but with righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give forth His decisions for the poor of the earth. His words will bring awe and attention in the earth, with the breath of His lips He will overwhelm the wicked, Righteousness will be His belt and faithfulness will be the sash around His waist”.
Justice, fairness and equity is hard to come by here in this world, but when “The Branch” begins to rise up and make His presence known, He will operate on the basis of perfect knowledge and wisdom. In other words, the King of Kings will be able to read between the lines, no matter how obscure the lines may be!
“The Branch” will gather what has been scattered, He will bind up what has been bruised and broken, He will reconcile what has been offended and separated, He will build up what has been torn down, and He will destroy the works of the evil one!!! When we allow Him to be the referee of our hearts, the final and undisputed umpire of our actions and behavior and the sovereign ruler over our desires and our lives, what is so amazing, is what He says in John’s gospel. It says, we begin to look and act like Him… “What would Jesus do, becomes our life’s underlying theme….Look at it here…
John 15:4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. For as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in Me. v5 I am the vine, YOU ARE THE BRANCHES.. He that abides in Me, and I in him, has entered a relationship that is intimately connected and united and the harvest is sure to be abundant, but without Me you can do nothing”.
Suddenly, in this process of interconnectedness by the Spirit, there comes a relationship, that causes us to assume the characteristics of “The Branch”, Himself…..Scripture calls it, “being grafted in” so that we receive of the anointing, the power, the very life of the “Branch”.
We begin to see dead things live again, broken things mended, we see damaged and discarded lives put back on track, and back in the mainstream …shattered hopes and dreams resuscitated and brought to life again….the lost saved, and the saved awakened like a sleeping giant!
Philip Clarke Brewer wrote the words…. “God uses what you have to fill a need which you never could have filled. God uses where you are, to take you where you never could have gone. God uses what you can do to accomplish what you never could have done. God uses who you are to let you become who you never could have been. With the correct biblical world view, we understand that things in our lives are not an end in themselves, but a means to an eternal end!"
When the Lord said "I am the vine, you are the branches," He was giving us a deeper vision of the spiritual realities and the spiritual power available to us. For every branch that is connected to THE BRANCH, is connected to the true source, the true life flow for everything we have need of and everything we are.
The Lord is our connection to the impossible… providing freely, our wants and needs--and doing it out of pure love. He has placed everything in you now, that you are to become. The Lord wants us to have everything we need to do the good work of the kingdom of God that He has called us to. And the Lord will give those things to us, if we are ready and willing to use them prayerfully, wisely, generously and in obedience as we serve Him, His people and those who still do not know Him on earth.
II Corinthians 9:8 “For God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”
What is the work of the Lord that we are called to do in this community? Why are we here as a church? What is our mission? Why has the Lord gathered us as a church? And are we using that trust well and wisely? Are we loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength as individuals and as a congregation? Are we loving our neighbor as ourselves? How are we serving our neighbors here and the surrounding area? How are we called to serve our area in our own unique way?
So many questions. And if we truly wish to be the church abiding in the Branch, and if we truly desire to be a center from which the Lord's love and truth flows out into our corner of the world, then it is important to ask and to answer these questions.
The power is available. Infinite power is available from the Lord. And it will flow to us when we dedicate ourselves to building His church. It will flow through us as we focus, on the mission of God for our friends, and for our neighbors, that the Lord has connected us together with…..We’re connected for a greater purpose….
Isaiah 55:11 So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in every place and thing that I have sent it to do”.
I want to abound. How about you? Abiding in “The Branch”, means yes, we will constantly face situations that are difficult and challenging, and some things will seem totally unattainable, but He will bring something supernatural into our being that, when it arrives, it will catapult us into the realms of His fruitfulness and abundance…. Things that have been cut down are beginning to sprout! Your lost loved one is no match for “The Branch”….Your family challenge is no match for “The Branch”…. Your big decision that is looming in your future, like a Damocles sword, can’t stand before “The Branch”…. Something supernatural is beginning to sprout and grow larger and stronger than your situation and circumstances…..
David was on the backside of the wilderness, herding sheep, but how could he know that kingship was growing inside of his dead-end life… Abraham was making idols with His father’s family business, when the tender shoots of a “Father of Nations” began to grow within him and change his direction forever…Moses was a fugitive from Egyptian justice, with a price on his head, hiding out for fear, when the roll of Deliverer, began to shape and fashion everything in his life…Paul, was killing and persecuting Christians, while in his misguided role as religious enforcer, there was growing the stirrings of an Apostle of the Faith!!!!
There are no hopeless situations or people with “The Branch”…. The picture of the shoot, persistently and steadily coming up from the stump of Jesse lets us in on the way God often chooses to work.
J. Hudson Taylor said, “I used to ask God if He would come and help me. Then I asked if I could help Him. Finally I ended by asking God to do whatever He wanted to do through me”.
God is not only interested in what He can do to us, but He is more excited about what He can do through us as we become grafted in. Because when it goes through us, many will be blessed and many will receive an impartation from the life that flows through the vine. The Branch is even now pouring out renewal, refreshing, revitalization, restoration, rearrangement, and reconnections….receive it now, by the anointing, in the mighty name of Jesus!
Murat ildan wrote, “Be as soft and pliable as possible, if something good and wise wants to shape you…but be as hard and resistant as possible, if something bad and foolish wants to shape you!”
Israel Avor, wrote “Your bread assumes the shape of the pan you use to bake your flour. Therefore know that you can’t use a rounded pan and ever get squared bread. Change the thing that influences you and you change the shape of your outcome!”
And one more….lity munshi wrote, “if I could see the future, I wonder what I would do differently to give shape to my life today.”
I am told that Once upon a time, some animals started a school for animals. They decided the courses would be running, climbing, swimming, and flying. They decided further that all the animals had to be tested on all four areas. That’s when problems began. The rabbit could outrun them all, but he couldn’t swim, so he got so upset, he dropped out. The duck outswam them all, but he was absolutely no good at running with his webbed feet, so he dropped out. The squirrel could climb better than all of them, but was terrible at flying class, in fact after a really bad experience, he dropped out…The eagle excelled in flying, but he refused to even attempt to swim, so he dropped out. It wasn’t very long before the school had to shut down.
The same principal applies to us – We can’t do many things, but we were made to be ourselves, with unique gifts and talents, that God has used to shape us in order to fulfill our purpose and calling.
2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (We are a God-idea)
God is shaping us through our spiritual gifts, through our heart’s desires, through our abilities, through our personality, and our experiences of life. When you put them all together, you spell “SHAPE”.
Our purpose here today, is to lay the groundwork, which will cause us to begin to focus on our particular, unique and individual “SHAPE”….
Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? Every one of us has been gifted in some way to serve God and those around us. Likewise, all of us have deeply heartfelt causes and passions… What do you have a heart for? What are you truly enthusiastic about? All of us have been given
Abilities – what are you naturally good at where do you excel and what life skills have you developed? All of us have a uniquely individual Personality – are you an introvert or extrovert… are you emotionally or cerebrally driven…. are you good with the details or do you gravitate to the big picture?
And then, all of us have our unique Experiences – God never wastes anything in our lives. What has God wired you to do and to be, with the wisdom and knowledge you have acquired, through the multitude of experiences you have encountered?
The famous Scottish runner Eric Liddell, in the movie “Chariots of Fire”, said, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure!” God has shaped each one of us in a unique way. And the important thing is to understand, harness, and deploy all these areas that shape us, into who we are and to be busy in the work God has given us to do. Sometimes we make the process of discovering and knowing where we fit in the flow of the thing we call ministry, a lot more difficult than it really is ….
All of us immediately recognize the difference between a circle and a triangle, or the difference between a square and a star and so on. Their shape is unique and distinguishable like each of us are….
On one occasion, as Jeremiah entered the prophetic ministry, God told him to go down to the potter’s house and watch. He could see the skilled craftsman get the potter’s wheel going, round and round, then, he watched as they put a lump of clay on the wheel, and then by hand formed the spinning lump of clay into a pot, a bowl or a dish.
Jeremiah 18:3 “So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw Him working at the wheel. v4 But the pot He was shaping from the clay was marred in His hands, so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to Him. v5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, v6 “cannot I do with you as this potter does with the clay, says the LORD?” Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand…”
Our shape is determined by the things we allow to mold us…. Each one of us are uniquely fashioned by all the God ordained instruments that have come together to shape us….Your unique shape is where your power is! God has shaped you to have power, authority and dominion in the earth…. When you struggle with it, and you’re confused about your unique shape, and uncertain about how you fit and where you can function at your best, then you fail to understand the authority which you have been given….And to fail to understand, or to deny, or to not like who you are, is to forfeit and give away your power!
For example, a liquid has substance, but no definite shape, since it takes the shape of the container it is in. Therefore, be careful about the container you allow yourself to be identified by and the things you choose to be molded by.
Samson was anointed by God, to deliverer Israel from the oppressive and brutal occupation by the Philistines in their country and their lands. Samson didn't decide the things that shaped him into what he was, but Samson could deny who he was and misuse and abuse who he was and give away his power….. Samson became disconnected and distracted from his calling, because he allowed his immediate gratification to block his long term destiny. He also allowed his personal desires to take priority over the needs of those he had been called upon to minister unto and to deliver.
Listen, child of God, Satan will send many Delilah’s to throw you off track, and cause you to miss your purpose and underestimate who you are! Don’t confuse gratification with fulfillment! Delilah gratified Samson, but left him feeling unfulfilled, manipulated and used!
One key to maximizing your potential is to be done with the situations and people that restrict, limit, stifle and stand in the way of reaching your God given potential. Remember, you will never change anything that you are willing to keep on tolerating, and accommodating and enabling. The Delilah’s will show up to take from you... your self-expression, your unique perspective, your knowledge gained through experiences… and your God given strength.
The Need to Please and belong, is also referred to as Co-dependency, when you enable another person or yourself to avoid the changes they need to make so they can continue in self-defeating and self-destructive cycles…. Many times, the need to be accepted and please everyone, can cause us to fail in being who God shaped us to be… We want to fit in and be liked by everyone…(Tell someone…You’re accepted in the beloved) If we waste our energy and abilities and time trying to find our value and identity in the approval of others, we are headed for a lot of disappointment and unfulfillment. This kind of need to always be liked and accepted, will leave you empty. And No one or No thing, can keep an empty person full who is always leaking. Your Job can’t do it, your spouse can’t do it, your possessions can’t do it, or your bank account, or your buying a new outfit, or your friends, or your church…None of these can do it, only in Christ, can we fill our emptiness and give us purpose as we are true to our unique “SHAPE”.
To fail to give to God what is His, will cause you to lose your Power. You see, God doesn’t need anything we give Him, but the power and authority which He delegates to us, is based on trust and faithfulness. We wouldn’t give someone authority in our finances, or our personal affairs, that we didn’t trust! We give so the blessings of God can find us. We give so that the cycle of harvest can be completed. Jesus said, it is more blessed to give than to receive! Because there are things that are more valuable than money! God is a giver, Jesus is a giver, the Holy Spirit gives and pours out constantly….The givers find out that God is a blesser!
There was a woman in the church, who was deeply dedicated to Christ and served faithfully in the Church wherever she could. She had never married. But she was always working and serving others. She gave more to Missions work than anyone else in the church. She was asked by her pastor about her deep love for missions. She told him that years earlier, when she was a teen, she heard God calling her to be a Missionary. She ignored it at first but said it was "something that burned deeply in her soul." She said she felt that call throughout her life. There was both passion and regret in her voice as she spoke. So the pastor asked her the obvious questions. Why didn't she answer the call? Why didn't she become a Missionary? She told him that she was afraid God would send her to Africa and she would have to work in the terrible, unsanitary, dangerous conditions. She buried her talent so that she would not have to confront her own fears. And it robbed her of her power. Oh, she was involved in Missions but she failed to invest and spend herself in the Kingdom. She failed to answer God's call in her life and she lived with that regret and deep sense of unfulfillment all her life.
Matthew 16:25 Jesus said: "Those who want to save their life will lose it, but those who lose their life for my sake will find it."
William Barclay said, “There are two great days in a person’s life— the day we are born and the day we discover why.” ~ We can all be encouraged by the example of Caleb in the book of Joshua.
Joshua 14:7 “I was forty years old when Moses the servant of GOD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land. And I brought back an honest and accurate report. v10 Now look at me: GOD has kept me alive, as He promised, and here I am today, eighty-five years old! v11 I’m as strong as I was the day Moses sent me out. As my strength was then, even so is my strength now, I’m as strong as ever in battle, whether coming or going. v12 So give me this mountain, that GOD promised me. You yourself heard the report, that the giant Anakim were there with their great fortress cities. If GOD goes with me, I will drive them out, just as He said.”
Caleb, was true to the God who had shaped him for such a time and such a ministry, as he was prepared before he ever faced Jericho….The master Potter knew what he was doing with the clay! Who you have been fashioned by God to become, needs 3 deminsions….
1. It takes a good start (not just I want to, but I will) A trip around the world begins with one step….start where you are and stop waiting for a better time or a more convenient season….The easy path won’t take you there….and Mon-yana won’t get it done….
2. It takes a good follow through… (gain all the knowledge and preparation you can, do your homework) I know when we built WJIR radio, from nothing, I spent a year, studying the FCC manual, and getting to know the guidelines and regulations….Stop saying I can’t and let God add to you line upon line, precept upon precept and measure upon measure. What you immerse yourself in is what you will become. What you follow after and pursue, is what you will find…
3. It takes a strong finish (you discover that you can keep moving forward even when it feels like you’ve hit the wall) He renews our strength as we mount up, not as we give up! If God be for us, what and who, can stand against us!?
One Sunday morning the Preacher preached a sermon about using your giftedness for God’s Kingdom. After the service, one of the men took the preacher aside and said. "Preacher, I'm not a very gifted person. I can't teach Sunday school, my singing voice isn't good enough for the choir, and I'm too shy to visit new people. But I do have one talent that might be of some use to the church." "And what is that?" the pastor asked him. "Well," said the man, "God put me here to be the church critic. I can criticize the choir, I can criticize the church council, and you know very well, how I criticize your sermons. What do you think I can do with that talent?" The Preacher thought for a minute and then said: "Do you remember what the man in scripture did, who had only one talent? He took it and hid it in the ground, didn't he? Well, I'd suggest that you do the very same thing with your one talent. Believe me, the Lord and the Church will both be very pleased."
If you want increase, you must invest….Mary invested her alabaster box filled with precious ointment to anoint the feet of Jesus….The disciples saw it as a waste, but Jesus saw it as an investment….
God has made a huge investment in each of our lives…He has given His only Son, that we might become all that we were destined to become! The teaching that is found all through the bible, on sowing and reaping, is about increasing through investing….It begins in the book of Genesis and runs throughout the scripture….
Genesis 8:22 “As long as the earth remains, there shall be seed time and harvest…” The Prophet Samuel’s mom invested her son in God’s kingdom, to be raised in the temple, as a voice for God, and history was changed because of one mother’s investment!
Whatever your “SHAPE”…invest it in the kingdom….(tell someone, “you’re in pretty good shape, for the shape you’re in”)
You can’t hide what God has fashioned for His purposes and expect an increase….
I know a doctor, who is retired now, who got most of his office staff, nurses and partners involved in mission work in Africa. Once a year, the office would be closed for a week. The entire staff loaded up, food, drugs, instruments and themselves and offered their services to villages in Africa. For five days, they worked sixteen to eighteen hours a day doctoring the sick and afflicted. The office staff kept records, took care of children, and set up a Vacation Bible School. They had teams that helped distribute food to the hungry. When he was asked how much money he lost during that week the office was closed. He grinned and said "We lost absolutely nothing, because you can’t lose what you give away, in Jesus name. We come back exhausted and sometimes sick but we get much more back than anything we are privileged to invest in these lives.”
Matthew 13:8 “The seed which fell on good ground, then brought forth a harvest, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold and some one hundred fold”.
To fail to invest what God has shaped us to become, causes us to not only fail to increase, but it prevents what God has planned for us in our future from coming to us…..
There are two places in the bible that Jesus shared this truth in parables….The first is in the parable of the talents…. Matthew 25:29 “For unto every one that has (used what he has) shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that has not (used what he has) shall be taken away even that which he (does not) have”.
The second is in the parable of the sower, planting seed in the field for a harvest…..
He begins in Matthew 13:3 And He spoke many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow…. And He ends with Matthew 13:12 “For whosoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance, but whosoever has not (or has nothing with what he has), from him shall be taken away even that which he does not (yet) have”.
If we follow this principal of investing who we are in God’s kingdom, we can’t help but be blessed….I came across this little story ..
A good Christian woman was sitting on her second-story balcony opening her mail. As she opened a letter from home, a crisp, new, twenty-dollar bill fell out. She was pleasantly surprised, but as she read the letter her eyes were distracted by a shabbily dressed, homeless man, on the street below, as he leaned against the flag pole in front of the building. She couldn't get him off her mind. Thinking that he might be in greater financial need than she was, she slipped the bill into an envelope on which she quickly scribbled the words, "Don't despair." Then she threw the envelope down to the street below…The stranger below picked it up, read it, looked up, smiled, and waved as he went on his way. The very next day the woman was about to leave the house, she found the same shabbily dressed man smiling as he handed her a roll of hundred dollar bills. When she asked what they were for, he replied: "That's the thousand bucks you won, at the races lady, after my cut. 'Don't Despair' paid out on 20 to one odds." (now that’s what I call grace!)
One of the greatest motivations for recommitting ourselves to investing what God has shaped us to be in the kingdom, is found in Deuteronomy, … I want you to receive this by faith today….
Deuteronomy 28:1 “Now if you will obey the voice of the Lord your God, and be careful to keep His word which He gives you today, then the Lord your God will honor and exalt you, v2 And all these blessings will come on you and overtake you in the way you go, if your ears are open to the voice of the Lord your God. (skipping to verse12) He shall open His store-house in heaven, and send rain on your land at the right time, blessing all the work of your hands. Others around you will benefit from your blessings, and you will have no need of them as your source. v13 The Lord will make you the head and not the tail; and you will have a place of honor, if you obey the word of the Lord your God which He gives you today, to keep them and to do them.”
We must understand that we are connected to something much larger, and greater than ourselves! We are invested in something so big, so certain, so guaranteed, so eternal, that it cannot fail…..
Little is much when God is in it….Small seeds produce great things…It was a little stone in David’s hand that brought down the giant….It was a little mustard seed, that produced a great tree in Jesus’ parable on faith… It was a widows little flask of oil and meal that sustained her family and neighbors through the time of famine….It was a boys little lunch, that fed the multitude…..and it was a little virgin girl, through whom the Messiah came into the world, for she had allowed herself to be shaped for great things, as she said to the angel of the Lord, “So be it unto me, as you have spoken”…..
This is so powerful, because it tells us that until we invest ourselves in God’s kingdom purpose, we have not and cannot complete our purpose, and our calling…Jesus said in John 12:24 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a (little) grain of wheat fall into the ground and die (apo'…complete it’s purpose), it abideth alone (men'-o….remains dormant, it’s power is never released) but if it die (completes it’s purpose), it brings forth much fruit”. The comedian, Flip Wilson was asked about his religion once and said: "Oh, I'm a Jehovah's Bystander. They asked me to be a Jehovah's Witness, but I didn't want to get involved."
In the parable of the talents, each servant was given a different amount, but it was not about how talented they were, it was about how faithful they were with what they had been given…. It has been well said that our abilities, giftedness, and resources are God’s gifts to us, how we use them, is our gift to God…. God never looks at the amount, but He always looks at the heart.
Dr. Myles Munroe reveals six keys to releasing your potential. 1. Know, and be confident in your source. God is our creator and our Master potter, and he knows us better than anyone else. 2. Learn to function by looking beyond what you now see, to what is yet possible. We will be tomorrow what we believe about ourselves today. 3. Understand your purpose. No matter how much our potential, by attaching ourselves to the wrong things, we buy into the illusion that life is only about feeling good, and gratifying ourselves. 4. Be Confident in Your Calling. If you have accepted Christ, you are not a lump of coal you are a diamond. Don’t sell yourself cheap! God has already seen us as successful, and has spoken over all the places and circumstances of our lives. 5. Keep yourself in the right environment. Create and sustain a God-centered, success oriented environment. Fill your mind with positive input which is in harmony with your dreams and goals. Watch what you listen to, guard what you focus your thoughts on. Be careful what you let into your spirit. 6. Know that your dreams will require determined, disciplined effort…So be clear about your boundaries and values. Dreams, without discipline, simply expose your lack of priorities and guiding principles.
We are a “Can do” people, because our God is a “can do” God, who has never been defeated, and He has never failed or been mistaken!. Our life manual, the bible, tells us that we were created with dominion and authority. We are imbedded with incredible abilities and talents. We are encouraged to believe that we can do all things through Christ who indwells us and who has given us The Holy Spirit to be our daily guide and counselor.
The starting point of unlocking our potential, and accomplishing more than we ever have before, is for us to be honest and transparent with ourselves and challenge our self-limiting beliefs. We choose to be honest with the person in the mirror! (be careful that the mirror isn’t distorted)
You can be so busy looking for Superman that you walk right past Clark Kent every day without recognizing who he really is…..
Imagine for the moment that you have no limitations on your abilities. Imagine that you could be, or do, or have anything you really wanted in life. Imagine that yur potential is unlimited, and free of all self-limiting beliefs. Imagine that you could set and achieve any goal you put your mind to.
It is then, that you have discovered what Christ meant, when He said….that you could do all things, through Christ who is strengthening you….This is how you begin changing your thinking and changing your life. What a person thinks in their heart, is who they are. The way you think, is in reality, how you will live, because your own thoughts are what you believe at your deepest level.
Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
James 1:2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various temptations v3 “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. v4 “So, let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting in nothing”.
May we let the Lord set us free, to reach our God given Potential, because the world is waiting to marvel at what God can do, when we invest ourselves in His Kingdom….
I would like everyone to tell someone the following… (go ahead…find one person, and get ready to repeat after me…)
“You are a thoroughly redeemed and transformed person. You are honest, decent, truthful, and hardworking. You treat other people with courtesy, respect, and warmth. You are dedicated to your family, friends, and your work. You are strong, confident, and responsible. You are knowledgeable, intelligent, and experienced. You are important not only to the people closest to you, but also to your community. You were born for a special reason, and you have a great destiny to fulfill. You are an excellent person, created by God for every good work”.
Living Your Life From an Easter Point Of View By Pastor Charles Elliott…
I take my text from Isaiah 9:2 (The message bible) “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows, light has burst forth!! v3 You have brought expansion, you have expanded their joy, Oh Lord, they are so glad in Your presence with Festival joy! The joy of a great celebration, sharing rich gifts and warm greetings. v4 The abuse of oppressors and curses - Is gone, done away with, in a deliverance as surprising and sudden as Gideon's victory over Midian. v7 The zeal of the God-of-the-Angel-Armies will do all this, and it has landed right on your doorstep”.
They had watched him die. Hanging from a cross, nails in his hands and feet, gasping for air, they had heard him call out with the last bit of energy he could muster, "It is finished!" and then, He was dead. Among the women who saw Jesus take his last breath were Mary His mother, Mary, His aunt on His Mom’s side….and Mary Magdalene, the former prostitute.
They could have said with the poet W. H. Auden, “He was my North, my South, my East and West, my working week and my Sunday rest, my noon, my midnight, my voice, my song, I thought that love would last for ever, how could I be so wrong. The stars are no longer needed now, you can put out every one, pack up the moon for the darkness is come, and you can dismantle the sun; pour out the blood and sweep up the wood. For nothing can ever come now, that could be of any good".
When those with Joseph of Arimathea, took Jesus’ body down from the cross, they helped him wrap the body of Jesus in a linen sheet and carried him to a tomb cut out of solid rock. There they laid the man who had loved them as no one had ever loved them before and whom they had loved so *…..deeply that nothing or no one else could fill the empty place within. This was the man, who had given them so much hope and who had changed their lives, but now He was dead. Dead as anyone could be. They watched as a huge stone was rolled across the entrance of the tomb, sealing the dead Jesus in his grave forever, so they thought.
If you’ve ever been there….when something you hoped for so deeply, that you desired so intensely, and the dream which was motivating you, not only seemed to die, but it was as though they rolled a stone over it to seal it’s fate….To cause you to believe that it was beyond hope, beyond the thought of ever seeing it come back to life again….
The next day was the Sabbath – a day of praise and worship and I can imagine they found it hard to concentrate on anything that was happening at the synagogue with so many questions swirling around in their heads. He said he was the Son of God, so how could all this happen, and Why?
It was a long day and a very long night. Matthew tells us that the women got up early and went to the tomb of Jesus to grieve, perhaps to just sit quietly and recall the love Jesus had shown to them. Never in their wildest imagination could they dream or imagine what happened next. Even though the Lord had laid it all out for them and tried to prepare them so their faith would not falter in this critical time. You see, our natural mind will fail us when it comes to understanding the inner workings of the mysteries of the kingdom. The God dream inside each of us, is birthed supernaturally, and cannot be destroyed in the natural realm, if we dare to hold on and refuse to stop believing that “He who has begun the work will be faithful to complete it!
Matthew gives us an insight that is not recorded in the other Gospels. He said, (Matthew 28:2-4)."Suddenly there was a violent earthquake; an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled the stone away, and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid that they trembled and became like dead men"
There was an earthquake, not just a tremor or gentle rumble, but a violent earthquake. God was on the move, in spite of all contrary forces. I’m reminded of Matthew 11:12 ”And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force”.
I like the part that says that not only did the angel remove the obstacle, the thing that tried to keep the dream, the vision, the hope a captive of death’s realm….but then he sat on it…HALLELUJAH!
Can you imagine it? Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, their eyes red and still filled with tears, barely able to see where they were going because of their tears and because of the early morning light. The two Mary’s who had witnessed Jesus’ death and helped lay his body in the tomb, and saw the huge stone rolled over the entrance of the tomb. They were at an all-time low, they’re heads were down, there steps were heavy, confused and filled with questions that seemed to have no answers, they could not believe their eyes when they saw this angel, as bright as lightening on dark night, sitting there on the stone which had been rolled away!
How many times have we heard that the stone wasn’t rolled away to let Jesus out…that stone was no match for His power. But It was rolled away so that the two Marys could go inside and see and understand that the God of all hope, reaches to the highest mountain, and flows through the lowest valley, and prepares a banquet table in the presence of our enemies. When His enemies are our enemies we are unbeatable in Christ the mighty conqueror!!!
Matthew tells us that the unbelieving Roman guards at the tomb saw all this and were terrified, and what’s so cool, is that they were the first to agree with the women when they reported to their Centurion, that the events that took place were not just manufactured by believers trying to pump up the hopes of a questioning, doubting church. He was risen, like He said….and that was the unbelieving Roman guard’s report to their superior!!!
The angel sitting on the rock gives them a reference point for faith and hope, He told the women… "Do not be afraid", he said. "I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has been raised up, just as He said. Come inside and see the place where His body was lying." Matthew, unlike the other Gospel writers, doesn’t tell us if the women actually went inside the tomb, but, overwhelmed at the power of God, they ran with joy and excitement to tell the disciples. (Have you been overwhelmed by God’s power, grace, and faithfulness lately)
As far as Matthew is concerned, they didn’t need to look inside. They believed the impossible which deep down inside refused to let them go. Jesus was dead – now he is alive. The DNA of God planted within the spirit of every believer, causes us to somehow know that “with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible”! You can’t explain it many times, but down inside your knower, there is imbedded an unshakable belief that has become your reference point for life…. “ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE”!
May we never lose the sense of wonder and awe of that first Easter morning as we reach down inside and tap into the redemptive work of God that is the tipping point between life and death, sickness or wholeness, bondage or deliverance, doubt or faith and grasp the message of the angel of the Lord saying the crucified and dead Jesus is alive! Words that instantly change our whole outlook on our divinely destined outcome…If God be for us, what can stand against us!?
The resurrection is not something that happened 2000 years ago but it is happening again and again in hearts and lives around the world, and it changes FOREVER, the way we look at life AND OUR WORLD.
The Resurrection Changes the Way We Look at the Future.
The greatest and constant threat that hangs precariously, like a Damocles sword over the lives of most men and women today, is that in their future for everyone, young, old, rich, poor, good, bad, pretty or ugly, from every nation, and every tongue, and every life, will be interrupted by the finality *….of death. The ominous reality of death controls our lives much more than we realize. This shadowy force can dictate what we eat, what activities we engage in, even where we live. The fear of death makes us attentive to every ache and pain in our body. It is like a conspiracy marching in a processional, led by doctors, hospitals, medicines, bad nutrition, funeral homes, morticians, and cemeteries!
But the resurrection of Jesus takes the teeth out of death. Easter shows us that there is life beyond the grave. Death is no longer a giant but a whimpering midget… it is no more than a blip on the screen of eternity. Jesus’ return from the grave allows us to face the future with new confidence. We understand now that for the child of God, death is just simply passing from life in this world to life in eternity. Nothing more. Christians don’t die, they just get promoted…..
What will happen to the child of God when they die is sure and certain. Unlike a football game when the outcome is unknown even right up to the last minutes of the game. And it may teeter back and forth until there is an interception or a hail Mary, or a running play that breaks through to score as the clock runs out….And in some sports, the game may even go into overtime, stretching out the uncertainty even more….But there is never a tie game when it comes to death….when life wins, death loses!
There may be some doubt as to what paths our life may take. We may even have to face many fearful things, but the end of the game of life is not in doubt. We know who the winners will be. The future is certain and sealed for the child of God. Jesus ascended to heaven and came back to give to us His message of guarantee and assurance!
The Resurrection Changes the Way We Look at the Past….
There are so many who are haunted by their past. They worry because God knows what they’re really like – they worry that he knows their secret thoughts and desires and that one day he is going to demand that they give an accounting and pay the penalty?
Are there some things in the past that you feel God would have a hard time forgiving? If you keep dwelling on it, then it’s true. It’s been said that you can’t stop birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest!!! Do you live with the fear that your past decisions will come back to demand their pound of flesh? Do you live as though every good day you enjoy, will assure that some bad days will come and complete the cycle of your “Ying and Yang” If any of this is so with you, you have a lot of company.
Thank God, because of the Resurrection, every saint may have a past, but every sinner has a future… It’s like breathing, you breathe in the future and you breathe out the past…..(it’s easy, try it…)
When Jesus rose from the dead, he proved that the sacrifice of his life on the cross was accepted by God the Father. And He is our present, living Lord. If he had remained in the grave, then his death would not be any different than that of any other human. But his death and his resurrection is historical proof that the debt for all of our past sins has been paid.
1 Corinthians 15:54 (message bible) “The saying has come true: Death is swallowed up by triumphant Life! v55 Who got the last word, oh, Death and who's afraid of you now? v56 It was sin that made death so frightening and the guilt that gave sin its leverage and its destructive power. v57 But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three - sin, guilt and death - are gone, the gift from our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God, v58 with all of this going for us, my dear friends, stand your ground and don't hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for Him is a waste of time or effort”.
Paul tells us in Colossians 2:12 “We are buried with Him in baptism, wherein also we are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised Him from the dead”.
Water baptism is a powerful outward witness to an inner work of resurrection life and an experiential prelude which connects us to Jesus’ death and resurrection. When the water of baptism flows over us, there is the pronouncement that as Christ rose from the dead, we now rise up from the waters to new life in good standing with Him.
Romans 6:4 The apostle Paul goes on to say, "By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and share in His death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live in new life".
Sure, our past may embarrass us. People may judge us and think badly about us because of what has happened in the past but ... ultimately, God has dealt with our past. He has erased it with the blood of Christ. We are forgiven, and we know it is true because He is risen and is in heaven, representing us to the Father. What wonderful liberating news this is to every believer.
I recall years ago, that a young man in the military came forward to recommit his life to Christ and he shared with me that his job was to sign out and keep track of shop items which were used by the men for work done around the base. He said that over the years, he had stolen thousands of items and tools, which were now in his garage. God was dealing with him to make restitution, but he knew that if he filled up his truck, and brought it all back, it would raise flags, and it would also mess up his inventory, and he would face disciplinary action….We prayed together about it and he loaded his truck and took it all back, miraculously no one ever said or did anything and his obedience to God took place without any negative action….When it is possible, I believe we should attempt to make restitution, as a witness to those God wants us to reach with the gospel.
Galatians 6:1 “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual, restore (repair, mend, make complete) such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also be tempted. v10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith”.
The word righteous, means to do the right thing, as Christ would do…. doing this doesn’t make us righteous but we do these things because we are righteous….
The Resurrection Changes the Way We Look at the Present......So, welcome….you’ve spent you’re whole life getting here…
I couldn’t agree more with A. A. Milne’s cartoon creation which he named Winnie the Pooh, in one of the cartoon series…. Pooh asked Piglet…”What day is it?"…. "Oh, It's a wonderful day, it’s today," squeaked Piglet. "Great, today is my favorite day," said Pooh.
I don’t want to minimize the suffering and set backs that many experience, but Easter makes the declaration for all of us, for all time to come, that pain and evil do not have the last and final say. I’m constantly amazed how people are able to rise above such incredible challenges and live creative, productive lives. The resurrection is having a powerful effect in all of our lives right now, as Pooh said, today is my favorite day.
GLORIFY GOD TODAY, WHATEVER YOUR SITUATION AS YOU TRUST IN HIS SOVEREIGN PURPOSE AND POWER to do what you cannot. Trust that God can and will turn even the most trying and overwhelming circumstance into his holy, good and constructive ends. As we stand fast in the Easter point of view, God will continually surprise us by the way He turns things around, adjusts and repositions people and circumstances, and brings about the outcome He desires in ways we could never dream! History has confirmed this on more than one occasion through unexpected and unexplainable circumstances – these unexpected historical events have happened often enough for us to not be surprised when things take a sudden turn to reveal outcomes we could hardly dream possible.
For instance…. Napoleon was sweeping to another in a long string of victories when his soldiers stumbled over a sunken road and followed it to an out-of-the-way place named Waterloo.
The Nazi war machine slipped to a stand-still in its conquest of Russia because of something as small as snowflakes.
Robert E. Lee was giving the Army of the Potomac the worst whipping they had seen, but his hopes for victory curled up in smoke literally, when important and strategic orders were lost because they were wrapped in a handful of cigars, and as someone somewhere was smoking them, history was changed.
These weren’t big things in themselves….a road that wasn't in the battle plan, a snowstorm, cigars that wandered from the pocket that held them. Nothing much. But these "little things" spelled the difference between a foregone conclusion and a final historical outcome.
A powerful Persian ruler summoned his sages and wise men and asked them for one quote that would be accurate at all times and in all situations. The wise men consulted with one another, and devoted themselves in deep contemplation, and finally came up with the answer ...the quote that would be accurate at all times and in all situations..."This too, shall pass". The ruler was so impressed by the quote that he had it inscribed in his royal ring. Many poets and song writers have used it as their theme, and we too should know and live like “This too shall pass”.
Joseph lived his life with God’s word and will as his primary reference point and with God as His number one audience. In the midst of all the temporary changes, he found an unchanging foundation. Our lives, like his, will have integrity, focus and stability if we live them under the sovereign control of God. What will endure will depend on how we view our circumstances and how we have responded and submitted to the God of every circumstance.
Our resurrected Lord has promised that he would walk with his modern day disciples thru all of their days in this life.
He’s alive to answer our prayers. He’s alive to give us his power in those circumstances that want to fill us with fear and discouragement.
He’s alive to give us courage when our knees would buckle.
Our resurrected Lord brings new life, rekindles hope, sustains us, and even recreates us, in and through many of those circumstances that would seem to be the most senseless and hopeless and useless.
The resurrection changes the way we look at all of life, beginning right now, today.
The past is the lesson, the present is the gift, and the future is our constant motivation! So, accept your past without regrets, Occupy your present with confidence, and face your future, free from fear…
When Jesus' made His final utterances from the cross, He said "It is *….finished" or “It is Done”… And when He rose up from the grave on Easter morning, it was so that His final words, could be every believer’s faith declaration….“It Is Done”…. That means it’s all taken care of….just believe it, receive it, and live like you know that it is true…..
We now live from an Easter point of view!
When the disciples entered the empty tomb, we are told that they found the empty grave clothes and the napkin which covered Jesus’ face, lying neatly folded by itself. In the time of Christ, they clearly understood the message of the folded napkin. When a wealthy master, had finished eating his meal, he would crumple his napkin and throw it down on the table. This was a message to his servants that he was finished and they could put everything away. But if the master folded his napkin and placed it by his plate, it was a message that He was coming back! Jesus was telling his disciples that it wasn’t over…..HE WAS COMING BACK!!!
Every Christian who ever lived, should find room on their tombstone to put that “we were buried once, but we will live twice”…
Easter is about second chances, and do-overs and that’s what grace is all about….
Lord, we believe and receive all that you have done that we may have eternal life. Thank you that we have a savior who cleanses us from all sin and redeems our life from destruction. When you become the Lord of our life, you bring to us your righteousness, peace and eternal hope. We can face the future, with all it’s uncertainty and challenges unafraid, in the knowledge that you have gone before us to prepare the way. You now ever live to represent us and send forth your angels to work in our behalf.
Today, we come before you expecting this to be the greatest day of our life. A day filled with unique opportunities to share your love with every person we meet. We are of good cheer for the Lord has overcome the world and given us His victory. We have been made more than conquerors in Christ. Through Your resurrection, You enable us to come forth victorious and be raised to a higher place than we have ever been, as we receive full under-standing of our rights, privileges, and authority in Jesus.
The lord sets us on a path of ever increasing success so that the latter days of our life are much greater than any previous time. We now leave the past behind as the Lord brings us into the wider place of His abundance. We walk in happiness, peace, Divine favor and good fortune. Our families are blessed and anointed and our possessions are secure, because “It is done, It is finished”.
The limits have been taken off and we overflow with God’s covenant of fullness Lord Jesus, and Your finished work, brings wholeness and wellness into our lives. We were healed, delivered, and totally set free, 2000 years ago, when you were crucified and resurrected and Your word says it is already done in Jesus’ name. We boldly declare that we are made whole, spirit, soul and body, in Jesus’ name!