OK, we have looked at 3 other names for Christian, right.... Friend, New Creation and Forgiven... (I don't know how far we will go with this series, but while the juice is flowing, WHY NOT!!!! On Saturday I went out to get in my car and the windshield was cracked. Security said that it was hit by a golf ball, since I live on a golf course... My first thought was, I really want to find the guy that hit that ball because if he plays that bad, he will really make my golf game look good!... As I thought of this, I realized how often we make choices to either be with people that will never challenge us to do better or be better, or we will choose to be with folks that will stretch us and pur pressure on us to grow and expand. Another name for Christian is Disciple and a disciple is a student or learner....
My scriptural mandate for this message is....
Matthew 28:18 "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. v19 Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. v20 Teaching them to adhere to all things that I have commanded you, and always know that I am with you everywhere and in everything, even unto the end of the world. Amen".
Disciples are not only interested in why we are here, they are devoted to while we are here. All you have to do is go to the Key West cemetary and every grave spells out the dash that is life. It is gone far too quickly.... Born 1945 (dash) Died 2010.... Born 1965 (dash) Died 2015 we're all dashing toward the cemetary and eternity, the question is how we spend our dash while we are here. I checked out some of the markers, here's a few of them.." I told you I was sick". and "Ma loves Pa, Pa loves women, Ma caught Pa with two in swimm'n, here lies Pa. "Steve Province (dead steve) Thanks for all the fish".....and then we have "Here lies my wife, I bid her goodby, she rests in peace, and now so do I !! And on the back of another guys tombstone it says,
"Died from not forwarding that e-mail to 10 people"
While we're here, living out our dash, the main assignment Jesus left us to do was to make disciples. There is a difference between a believer and a disciple.
A Russian comedian, Yakov talks about when he first moved to America, he was amazed at the variety of instant products he could buy in the store. There’s powdered milk: just add water and you have milk. There’s powdered orange juice: just add water and you have orange juice. He saw Ramene noodles, just add water and dig in....Then he saw Baby Powder and thought, “What a great country is this America! If you want a baby, just add water!”
Some people think that’s how discipleship works. You take a believer, add a little baptism water or a dab of Holy water and “poof” you have a disciple. But it takes more than water to make a baby and a it certainly applies to disciples.
There is very little cost here, to say that you are a Christian, but If a Muslim comes to receive Christ as savior, they know that there is a sacrifice involved. They know that the moment they become a Christian, their family back in Iran would not just disown them, they would have a funeral for them and consider them to be dead. They are faced with a hard choice, but I'm glad to report that Muslims are coming to Christ by the millions, even though their families persecute them abandon them and declare them dead.... Friend, when God calls you, you have to make some difficult decisions, and sometimes your family and friends will not jump up and down and rejoice over your choices. But you've taken the first step to becoming a true disciple, because you have started on a journey that asks first, "What does Jesus want"...
One little boy went to church with his grandma and they sang a ahymn that said something about “ The cross I bear.” and when he got home , he told his mom that he really liked the song about the cross- *eyed bear, and he said Mom, if I ever meet a bear in the woods, I sure hope it will be one of those cross-eyed bears, so it won't be able to see me very well!
Many Christians are just as confused as that little boy, about what it means to bear our cross. They say stuff like "I have migraine headaches, but I guess it’s just the cross eyed bear, for Jesus.... Someone else will say, I live with the children from hell, but it's just the cross eyed bear, for Jesus.... or I've gone North, but my body's gone South, but it's just the cross eyed bear for Jesus..... Man, that cross eyed bear gets too much credit for all our misery and bad stuff!
Disciples extract the good, learn from the ugly and refuse to play the blame game. And If you're going to procrastinate, then procrastinate with gossip, procrastinate with being critical and procrastinate with negative thinking. Disciples eat the meat and spit out the bones....they don't choke and gag and allow it to ruin their day.
Luke 14:27 And whoever does not take up his cross, (he's not talking about a gold cross on a gold chain around your neck) and come after Me, they cannot be My disciple."
The disciple's cross is a symbol of death, but I wonder how many would look at you funny if you gave them a little gold hangman's noose to wear around their neck or a gold electric chair? (Hey I really like your electric chair, I would like to get me one) In Jesus' day if you saw someone carrying a cross, it meant they were as good as dead. The cross is a message that says in Philipians 1:20 " For me to live is Christ and to die is gain"...Paul, the disciple of Christ, said 1Corinthians 15:31"I die daily"....
Jesus said that He counted it all joy, so stop going around like you're in a funeral procession. Jesus loved to interrupt funerals and give the corpse a reason to live. To a disciple it's exciting to get up and discover "what am I going to die to today"!!!
It means that we're not who we used to be, we have a different purpose in life, we have different values. We don't live to get drunk, or score with some guy or girl that didn't look too good anyway, till we had 5 beers and shots to make them look better.
A country preacher visited New York. He saw all the buildings, the bright lights and the temptations of the city. He was a great preacher, but he had a very apparent lisp. When he returned to his country church he said, "You know thaints, I have theen all these vonderful things today. But didn’t thee a thingle thing I vanted!” For a disciple carrying a cross, the world can’t offer a thingle thing we vant.
When a death row prisoner is walking from his cell to the place to be executed, the other prisoners call out, “Dead man walking.” He’s alive and walking–but he’s as good as dead. That’s a perfect description of what Jesus meant when He spoke of a disciple carrying his cross. It is a kingdom truth, that a dead man is truly free. You won’t be truly liberated until you understand what the cross truly means to every disciple of Christ.....FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST, THANK GOD ALMIGHTY WE'RE FREE AT LAST!!!! You can't hurt a dead man... he is free from Fear, worry, insecurity, guilt and condemnation, depression, sickness and disease and even death..... There is a statement in the movie "Braveheart" that says "Every one dies, but not everyone really lives". You never really live until you live like you were dying!
2 Corinthians 4:8 "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair v9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed v10 Always bearing about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. v11 For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh".
My wants and my likes are different in Christ. I'm motivated by different things now, compared to before I surrendered to Christ. My priorities are about what would Jesus do....(and just like you, I'm constantly working on it)
Disciples live a "hands up" life style. A well used statement at a bank robbery is.... "put your hands up"..... robbers know what we need to learn sometimes... You don't tell a bank robber you don't feel like it... The robber said "put your hands up"... so it doesn't matter how I feel... (I'm putting my hands up!) The bible says...Psalms 134:2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD. (When God says put your hands up, I'm putting my hands up!)
When you lift up your hands you're saying "I surrender", which is the hallmark of a disciple. When you lift up your hands, you're raising the standard higher and upping your spiritual game. When you lift up your hands, you're declaring that you are connected to something higher and more powerful than this world. When you're lifting your hands, you're declaring that you're going through, you're going all the way. When you lift up your hands, you're saying that you know the one who knows the answers. When you lift up your hands, you're lifting those around you and bringing them up with you.
Disciples don't just start well, they finish well....Jesus said that if a man starts a building, he will first sit down and count the cost so that he doesn't start and then, can't finish. Many mean well, they're sincere, they're even entheustiastic, but they haven't counted the cost. Jesus has paid in full the price of salvation, but we are told to consider the cost of finishing what we've begun, which means there is a cost. But the cost of obedience is nothing compared to the cost of disobedience. There are a lot of people who begin well, but they are not finishers.
Billy Sunday was the Billy Graham of his generation. He was a former professional baseball player turned preacher. He once said: “Stopping at third and getting no further adds no more to the score than if you had struck out. It doesn’t matter how well you start if you fail to finish.”
The last time I visited my home town, I went by the church where i grew up, and it was boarded up and abandoned. Something inside me felt a twinge of hurt, because someone else would not have the same advantage and opportunities in that church that I had. No one cared to finish what many had started. There came a time when the numbers, the finances, or the lack of pastors, spelled it's doom. The good news is that none of us are finished yet. It doesn’t matter what has happened in the past, you and I can still finish well.
If you were to go to the Super Bowl, you would see 99% of the people there, watching less than 1% of the people do all the work on the field. They buy a ticket , called the offering, and attend the games but they have not gotten on the field to run the ball, block the enemy, coordinate the plays, or line up on the line of scrimage.
I want to look at the rythm of a disciple....I would like everyone to clap with Snow White for a moment..... Very good, we were all able to do that together and on beat, because of the rythm that she set up and you just flowed along with it.... rythm is a very important part of discipleship, because it is about the things that we do every day of our lives.... There is a rythm that is present in all of our lives... it's like the soundtrack of your life....
What I'm saying is that Discipleship is not something in addition to whatever else we do, but it is something intentional that we do while we are doing everything else....Discipleship for every Christ follower, who has received the Lord's mandate to go into all of our world and present the gospel, is something which is an intrigal part of all the other rythms of our lives....
It is part of the rythm of family life, not an addition to it.... It's part of the rythm of eating (you can always get a good group out to church if you serve good homestyle cooking) we eat everyday (sometimes too much) and food is a great way to open dialoge and share God's goodness, faithfulness and love. There's the rythm of responsibilities, which bring us in contact with others who are watching our lives.... The rythm of belonging, as we seek fellowship and friendship with those who share common interests. .....The rythm of celebration, at birthdays, anniversaries, promotions and graduation. The celebration of milestones in our lives together.....How about the rythm of blessing, as we build one another up and encourage and seek to inspire one another.....The rythm of listening which lets folks know they are important, their experiences and their journey is important to hear and to tell...
We could go on and on, but you get the idea.... Discipleship is not something additional to do, but something intentional that we do while we do everything else! Caring for one another, being a friend, serving and supporting....
Horses produce horses, cats produce cats, turkeys produce turkeys, and eagles produce eagles, and it's not unusual at all... Disciples produce disciples as the normal part of their every day lives. A group of psychiatrists were attending a convention which was about the fact that "Psychiatrists have problems too". Four of them decided to leave, and walked out together. One said to the other three, "You know, they're right, people are always coming to us with their guilt and fears, but we have no one that we can go to when we have problems." The others agreed. Then one said, "Since we are all professionals, why don't we take some time right now to hear each other out?" The other three agreed. The first one then confessed, "I have an uncontrollable desire to kill my patients." The second psychiatrist said, "I love expensive things and so I find ways to cheat my patients out of their money whenever I can so I can buy the things I want." The third followed with, "I'm involved with selling drugs and often get my patients to sell them for me." The fourth psychiatrist said, "I can't keep a secret..." and all the others said..OOPS!
I said this to say that "Disciples should be salty"! In the bible, Salt stood for covenant, and trustworthiness. Salt kept things from spoiling or going bad. Salt was very valuable during Jesus’ time. Roman soldiers were paid with salt rations. The Latin phrase “Solarium Argentums” is where we get our word “salary.” Even today we speak of someone who is “not worth their salt.” In the time of Jesus the greatest value of salt was in its use as a preservative. Since they didn’t have any way to refrigerate meat, salt would be applied to fresh meat to prevent the meat from rotting. The salt created a chemical reaction that slowed down the process of decay. It retarded corruption, so as a consequence, it preserved the goodness of the meat. That’s why Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:13“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?”
Let me close with some important keys to being an effective Disciple....
1. Get back to the Word....when everything else is over and done and it's all faded away and perished. .... The word of God will still stand. If you know the truth, the truth in you will still stand when everything around you has fallen and collapsed. The truth will outlast every attack, every error, every phony ballony, and be your rock when all around you is sinking sand!
2. Depend on the Holy Spirit to lead you every day. He is the counsellor, the guide, the referee, the connector, the surrounder that you can depend on, no matter what the situation or circumstance. He will show you Jesus in the storm, in the wilderness, in the untraveled path, on the mountain and in the valley. The only side He will ever take is the Lord's side. He's not prejudice, or partial, or unjust, and if you let Him, He will not fail you.
3. Don't isolate yourself from those who can influence you and who you can influence. Have a circle of folks who can energize you and kick your butt if you need it. Make time for those with the same values and mission, but have friends who are not Christian as well. Don't be a prude! How are you ever going to influence people you never meet? As a disciple of Christ, we understand that all of our relationships have purpose.
4. Stop needing to be perfect. One of the most often used excuses for anyone not doing anything, is their feelings of inadequacy and fear of failing. Hey, this is lifelong learning here! We learn as we go, we learn as we do it.... If anyone tells you different, they're covering their own hide! No one pops out of the womb, ready to do anything but eat, sleep, cry and poop! We come out learning, and that's how it's done! NIKE says, "Just Do It"!!! And if it's good enough for Nike, it's good enough for me!
5. Get out of your comfort zone. We all have our safe places that can be a hiding place that we use to protect ourselves from the unpredictable, the risky, the unjust and frightening things outside of our protected circle. It may be our routines and patterns. It may be our family and our long time friends. It may be our daily responsibilities and obligations that we allow to hold us captive. But the bottom line is really that we will do the things we want to do and we won't do the things we don't want to do. Listen, if someone called me and said, "I want to take you on a cruise next week.... I would find someway to clear my schedule. New and different things don't have to be frightening. They can be exciting new opportunities to connect, learn, grow and develop. We need to get outside our comfort zone, because that's what disciples do!
I know there are many things we could add, but I DIDN'T, so make your own list, and I'm sure it will be a great one!
But let's stand together and own this thing of discipelship in our closing prayer.....Lord Jesus, we’re asking you that our minds and spirits be attuned to your will, that we may understand the way You are working daily in our lives. We receive joy for the journey and strength for each task. Lord we believe that everything begins in you, and finds its purpose in you and that you, sustain and hold all things together. We choose to live intentionally and not accidentally. We choose to live in the peace and love of God, and put on gratitude with a meek spirit. We choose to say yes to You, and we treasure Your word and Your truth. We go forth today, with Your might and strength to uphold us. We receive Your wisdom to guide us, Your eyes to see what is before us, Your ear to hear us, Your word to speak into us, Your hand to guard and protect us, and Your heavenly host to surround us. Thank You that You go with us, before us, behind us, beneath us, above us, and within us. Thank You that you are there when we lie down, when we rise up, when we go out and when we return again. Lead us we pray, until that day when we stand with You in heaven's eternity. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Receive your neighbor's blessing.....turn to someone and lay your hand upon their shoulder and lets declare numbers 6:24- 26...but before we do....tell them what area in your life you need God to bless you....
There was a very popular book in the 1970’s called, I’m Okay, You’re Okay. And the basic premise of the book was that we’re all really ALRIGHTY! That we’re not that bad and so we don’t really need forgiveness to be better. But the Christian message is more like “I’m not okay and you’re not okay, And that’s okay,” because God is willing to forgive us and make it OK when we turn to Him.....OK?
Ephesians 2:4 "But God, who is rich in mercy, in His great love wherewith He loved us, v5 Even when we were dead in sins, He has quickened us together with Christ, (for by grace you are saved;) v6 And has raised us up together, and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: v7 That in the ages to come, He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. v8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and that is not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God"...
I went to workout at the community gym about 6:00 pm, and when I was finished,, I went to the front gate of the pool and just leaned against the gate for a moment to get a breather, before I started my walk home. There was a group of folks sitting at a table and a guy got up and was looking at me a bit quriously, then started walking toward me with the same qurious look... I wondered what was going on, and he walked right up to me and said, "Do you have the pizza?"... I said "No, I just came from the work out room.".... He yelled over to the rest of his party at the table and said "He just came from the work out room"..... The guy at the table sounded disappointed and echoed "He just came from the work out room".... Have you ever had your expectations dashed, when you were really looking forward to something.... It made me want to just go get the people some pizza!!!!! Well I believe that's what happens when folks are looking for us to be the Christian they expected and we didn't bring the pizza!
We are not perfect, just forgiven....so Let me make it clear, that no perfect people are allowed at Eagle's Rest, because you would really just mess it up! We only allow imperfect people here (is anyone qualified)... We're all just works in progress, we're under construction and when you point your finger at someone, you've got four pointing back at you....so make sure you're pointing out something good and not some flaw or fault they have. Oh yes, before I forget, I wanted everyone to know, If you've ever wanted to live in a castle, this is your chance. The state of Saxony in eastern Germany has a dozen castles for sale, and listen to this...each one is priced at one German mark (which is just over half of a US dollar). There is a catch, however. According to a New York Times article, the historic structures are in advanced stages of disrepair, and buyers must restore each property "consistent with its historical architecture." Estimates for restoration run from $7 million to $60 million per castle.
It has occurred to me that buying a fixer-upper's nightmare gives us a picture of what God has done for each of us in Jesus. But the hopelessness and brokeness of the human condition has never yet discouraged or stopped God's restoring love. The renovation and renewal the Father carries out in all who receive His Son begins with new life. And what God purchased at the great cost of His only Son, He gives to us freely, and one of the greatest gifts we have received is forgiveness, forgiveness at a depth and intensity that is mind boggling.
Forgiveness begins a new chapter in the life of every believer. It's like a resurrection, in that we are given a new beginning, with the promise of a new life...
Colossians 3:1 "If you are then risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God".
Unforgiveness is like a grave of the past that tries to hold you and prevent you from experiencing the resurected life of Jesus so you can be free from the past and you can fulfil your true potential. It's like trying to build a house with a glass hammer, it won't happen....
Unforgiveness wants to trap you in a tomb of resentment, anger, pain, or suffering of some kind. It's like trying to ride a bicycle with the brakes on all the time. It slows you down, frustrates you and makes it difficult *.....to move forward. Unforgiveness is a form of self-destruction, hitting yourself and expecting the other person to hurt... it's like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. If you can't forgive others for their sake, then forgive them for your own sake.
A married couple had many sharp disagreements over the course of their marriage. Yet somehow the wife always stayed calm and collected. On their twenty-fifth anniversary the husband commented on his wife’s restraint
“When I get mad at you,” he said, “you never fight back. How do you control your anger?” The wife replied, “I work it off cleaning the toilet.” The husband said, “That makes absolutly no sense, how does that help?” She said, “I use your toothbrush.” (He's been brushing 25 years with those tooth brushes)
We like Jesus the person, we like His stories, we want His healing power, His miracles, We like the practical “how to’s” as it relates to prayer and sharing and giving. We love the promise that there is life beyond the door of death.
But WOAH...this forgiving your enemies and those who have wronged you, and hurt you, is another matter for most of us...and we just don't like it... But forgiveness allows you take back the power and to break free from limiting beliefs and emotions. It frees up your potential, so you can apply it to creating a better life.
Hebrews 12:15 "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God, (or fail in giving grace to others) lest any root of bitterness springing up defile you, and thereby many be infected."
If we would spend more time showing our love, we would need to spend less time explaining our love…..
If you don’t intend to forgive others, then you should never pray “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” because you’re praying “Father, treat me like I’m treating them. Forgive me in the same manner I forgive others. Father, if I don’t forgive, don’t forgive me.” When you come to the Lord and ask Him to save, cleanse, and forgive you, He does; you’re forgiven and placed into the family of God. But you’re not done with forgiveness then. Not at all. Being forgiven is only the beginning, because then we must forgive others as we have been forgiven. Forgiving and being forgiven go together. The person who refuses to forgive destroys the bridge over which he must travel. The only person who can afford not to forgive is one who will never need forgiveness and that's no one!
Often people SAY they have “buried the hatchet.” But, they almost always keep a “map” that carefully marks the spot where it’s buried so they can dig it up when they need it.
A motorcycle patrolman suffered an accident that put him in the hospital. His injuries were to his legs and ankles, But when he woke up from surgery, he not only had a cast on his leg, but he also had a huge bandage taped securely across his bare hairy chest. The kind that will be exceedingly painful to tear off. As he looked at the bandage, he saw a message written on it. It said, "This is a gift from the nurse you gave a ticket to last week.” (sounds like she is not quite ready to do any forgiving)
Someone has said that we don’t hold onto a grudge as much as the grudge holds onto us.
Leonardo da Vinci painted his famous fresco of “The Last Supper” in a church in Milan. At the time that he painted this work he had an enemy who was a fellow painter. Da Vinci had a bitter falling out with this man and despised him, so when he got to the point of painting the face of Judas Iscariot at the table with Jesus, he decided to use the face of his enemy. It brought him great pleasure to think that for ages to come others would relate his enemy with Judas….the betrayer of Christ.
Well as weeks passed and he worked on the faces of the other disciples, which were faces of other friends, but when he got to the face of Jesus, he couldn’t make any progress….he had a “painter’s block.” He felt frustrated and confused. But in time he realized what was wrong. His hatred for the other painter was holding him back from finishing the face of Jesus. When he settled things with his enemy, and repainted the face of Judas, then he was able to paint the face of Jesus. Jesus is able to take his rightful place when His people walk in forgiveness...
The greatest proof that we are forgiven is that we forgive others. Ephesians 4:32 "And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you".
Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:12 "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors".
As a matter of fact, Matthew 6:14 tells us, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you v15 But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses".
A man was getting counseling from a Christian psychologist and said, “My neighbor slapped me yesterday, should I forgive him?” “Yes you should,” answered the counselor. “How many times should I forgive him?” the man asked. “How many times did he slap you?” “Once,” said the man. “Then forgive him once,” said the counselor. “But what if he slaps me fifty times?” the man asked. “Then you should forgive him forty-nine times,” came the answer. “Wait a minute, why only forty-nine times, if I was slapped fifty times?” the man asked. The counselor replied, “You deserve the fiftieth slap for allowing yourself to be slapped the first forty-nine times.”
Please hear me.....forgiveness is not becoming somebody's punching bag....Because you forgive, doesn't mean you start leading with your chin...(here hit me again)! There comes a time when you need to get away from people who continue to hurt you.... There comes a point when you have to say, "Deal me out. thank you kindly, pass me by..." "I'm taking that punching bag label off of my forehead".....
God would never expect a person to stay in an abusive situation, or remain in a place where a bully can continually victimize you..... For heaven's sake, get out of the way!!! What ever agreement you have that keeps you there needs to be renegotiated or cancelled.... That kind of situation is no longer about simple forgiveness but about self-destruction! That cycle needs to stop!
Remember forgiveness is not about changing the other person, it's about releasing yourself from the pressure and the weight of the hurt, the offence, and the injustice done to you. Jesus said, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do". That is precisely what we must say if we are going to follow Jesus. It means you will no longer keep a record of wrongs done to you. But it also means that you will not continue to subject yourself to those wrongs. No one should live with those things. You do it so you can move on with your life and not keep treading water in a pool of misery!
Once you stop chasing the wrong things, the right things will find you... Stop trying to please everyone....stop fearing the change that is necessary....stop putting yourself down....stop overthinking every situation and creating stuff that doesn't exist....stop trying to step into the future while holding on to the past....
Let me list a few things forgiveness does not mean....It does not mean condoning what someone did.....It does not mean pretending that it never took place.....It does not mean making excuses for other people’s bad behavior.... It does not mean justifying evil so that sin somehow becomes less sinful. It does not mean overlooking abuse.... It does not mean denying that others tried to hurt you repeatedly. It does not mean letting others walk all over you... It does not mean refusing to press charges when a crime has been committed....It does not mean forgetting the wrong that was done., or it will be repeated....It does not mean pretending that you were never hurt....It does not mean that you must restore the relationship to what it was before....It does not mean that you must become best friends again....It does not mean there must be a total reconciliation as if nothing ever happened....It does not mean that all negative consequences of sin are canceled....
There were missiles on the beaches of Key West, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, as tension was building toward what could have been the outbreak of WW III, Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev sent an urgent communique to President John F. Kennedy. In part, the message said, “You and I should not continue to pull on the ends of the rope in which we have tied the knot of war, because the harder you and I pull….the tighter the knot will become. And a time may come when this knot is tied so tight that the person who tied it is no longer capable of untying it. What that would mean I need not explain to you, because you yourself understand perfectly what dreadful forces our two countries possess.”
Kruschchev was realizing he had reached the point of no return, and when we make the decision to return evil for evil, we ARE choosing to yank on “the rope of conflict” and make the KNOT in our relationship so tight that we may never be able to untie it.
With all that said, It has helped me tremendously to see those who victimized me as hurt people who were victims themselves, and that's why they hurt others. I can actually feel sorry for those people because they were the victims of someone in their own lives.
It also helps me to understand that Jesus loves them as much as He loves me, and He paid the ultimate price for them as He did for myself. So the fact that God loves them, requires that I love them.... Forgiveness is not an option or just a suggestion, it is a mandate we have received of the Lord.... Harry Emmerson Fosdick said that when he was a boy he overheard a conversation between his dad and his mother at the breakfast table. He heard his dad say, “Tell Harry he can mow the grass today if he feels like it.” Then as his father was leaving, he heard him say, “Tell Harry that he’d better feel like it.” We forgive in order for the miracle to happen....Jesus said forgive as you have been forgiven....because another name for Christian is "Forgiven".....It is a mandate which we have received of the Lord. If we are going to follow Jesus, we must forgive. We have no other choice. And we must forgive as God has forgiven us—freely, completely, graciously, totally. The miracle we have received is a miracle we pass on to others.
Mark Twain said it this way: “Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet gives to the heel that has crushed it.” Jesus was crushed so we could be forgiven....
The words of an old gospel song by Elisha Hoffman, ring in my ears today:
"Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing flood? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? Are you fully trusting in his grace this hour? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? Lay aside the garments that are stained with sin, And be washed in the blood of the Lamb! There’s a fountain flowing for the soul unclean, O be washed in the blood of the Lamb". Luke 12:48 "To whom much is given, much shall be required" and when we think of all we have been forgiven, it gets easier and easier to forgive.
There may be some of us who have been deeply hurt by the things others have done to us. Jesus walked that valley....People have attacked us, maligned us, mistreated us, abused us, assaulted us, ridiculed us, belittled us, publicly humiliated us, physically beaten us, and they may have done it deliberately, repeatedly, viciously. In response the enemy wants us to become hard on the inside to protect ourselves from any further pain. But that hardness can make it difficult for us to hear the gentle call of the Holy Spirit. We need soft hearts to hear his voice.
And then we need courage. The timid will never forgive. Only the brave will forgive. Only the strong will have the courage to let go of the past. May God soften our hearts to hear the truth. And may God give us courage do the hard thing and let go of our bitterness, give up our anger, turn away from our resentment, stop keeping score, and enter into the miracle of total forgiveness.
Because another name for Christian is 'Forgiven"
Prayer....Father, go now where my words cannot go—deep into our hearts and into places that only Your Spirit can go. Grant that we may discover the freedom that comes from being great forgivers. Break the chain of remembered hurts that binds us to the past. Lord, give us the courage to look at you hanging on the cross for us, and see the price you paid for our forgiveness. Show us what we must do and then give us the courage to do it.
Last Sunday, we said that "another name for Christian is "Friend"... I think I might be on to a series here about "another name for Christian".....
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. v18 And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation; v19 For we know that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and now He has committed unto us the word of reconciliation. v20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, and God has called out to you by us, that you become reconciled to God. v21 For He was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
The name "Christian" should match our “New Creation” reality!
In one Polish city there is a street named Beautiful. It is probably the ugliest street in town. Unpaved, it is filled with ruts and potholes, and to drive faster than five miles an hour would be unthinkable, and your car would be a candidate for the junk yard. Obviously the street didn't turn out the way the folks who named it had hoped it would be. Too often people who claim to be New Creation believers, talk as if God is real but act as if He were not. Their lives are full of ruts and potholes. How are we going to convince others to follow Christ, if our own lives are a mess. We are the mirror that people will look at and measure the one that we claim as deliverer, healer, savior and Creator…..
What if one day you were walking down the sidewalk and you came face to face with Winnie, and you were shocked, because she was dressed in ragged clothes, her hair was a tangled mess, and she was dirty and smelly…. You would say… “WINNIE, WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPENED“? You would be shocked, because she’s very careful about her appearance. What if she said, “I just got tired of dressing up, and cleaning up”!!! You would think, “My God, she’s gone, gone, gone.” Is it any different when we just decide we’re not going to act like the “New Creation” that we are, and go back to the old ways…..
Being "a NEW CREATION" is about being totally convinced that when we come to Christ … anything is possible, all things become new … and when the world outside of Christianity takes a look, it will show even before we tell anyone....the world, the Church, and our family and friends! I can’t help but think that people would rather be around the joy, the hope, the faith, the positive outlook, than anywhere on earth. If 2 Corinthians is right about this “New creation” thing, then the world deserves to see lives that have been transformed by God's power. Paul says that we are to be living letters enjoyed by everyone….
If you see a great movie, read an amazing book, or hear a fantastic concert.. You’ll insist that everyone get a chance to enjoy it to! You’ll tell all your friends and contacts. In a great resturant, good food is important, but if the service is aweful, and the place is untidy and the waitresses are indifferent and you feel like no one cares if you are there or not, you probably won’t come back or tell anyone about it….When folks visit Eagle's Rest, don't we want them to go out and tell everyone...."Those folks are the friendliest, the happiest, and the most caring people I've ever met!!!???
Listen, until we are the largest church in the keys, we can be the most loving.... the friendliest, most caring, and most joyful church in the keys!!!
An article in a San Francisco newspaper reported that a young man who once found a $20.00 bill on the street determined that from that time on he would never lift his eyes while walking, so he wouldn't overlook any money. The paper went on to say that over the years he accumulated, among other things, 29,516 buttons, 54,172 pins, 12 pair of old shoes, 4 dead cats, 39 keys, a bent back, and a miserable disposition. But he also lost something—he lost the glory of the sunlight, the radiance of the stars, the smiles of friends, and the beauty of blue skies.
Where are you looking?
The psychologist says: Look Within!
The opportunist says: Look Around!
The optimist says: Look Ahead!
The pessimist says: Look Out!
God says: Look Up!
We will find what we’re looking for….
Paul wants us to look up and live above the world. We are in the world, but we are not of the world. We are called to live a life "worthy of the calling" we have received in Christ. A life that would reflect all the best that defines the Kingdom of God…..
We flesh out God's forgiveness, His favor, His love, and His faithfulness! It’s not an automatic, cruise control thing, No, we smile and we’re cheerful and we extend our best appearance even when we don’t feel like it, because we defer to one another and we want that other person to have an encounter with Jesus, and we don’t want our old self to hinder the “New creation” experience!!! We put the principles we believe into practice, and we flesh them out!!
Paul speaks about the differences in our gifting and at the same time he speaks about unity in the flow of it all. He’s telling us that in a “New Creation” society of believers, our differences don’t have to be a source of division, but he is saying that there is unity in Diversity! Our diversity is not meant to divide us, but to unite us as a multi-faceted extension of God’s all encompassing grace.
There is no place for cultural, racial, gender, or religious bias in the “New Creation” Christian’s heart. All the fishermen around the Florida Keys understand that you can’t clean fish until you get them in the boat, and usually when you get them to the dock…. Why do we try to clean up people before they are even saved!!! Why do we put round pizzas in square boxes and eat it in triangles? Leave the bias and the preferences for someone else… as for you, God loves them, so let’s love them and blow them away with kindness…. I said last week, the best way to get rid of enemies is to make them your friends, (what a novel idea)!!!
Growing up I heard the statement that someone was wearing their position like a cheap suit…. I didn’t fully understand what they were saying until I got a tailored suit… It was made for me and fit me perfectly, I believe that instead of wearing Christianity like a “New Creation”, there are folks who are wearing it like a cheap suit! The same thing happens when we try wearing someone else’s garments. It may look good on them but it looks terrible on us, because it was made for them….You were born an original, don’t die as a copy of someone else! You’re a New Creation!!!
There are Many who attend God’s house every week across this land, week in and week out, who have fallen into the hitchhiker mentality. I guess there must be hitch-hiker spirits that get on people...Their hitch-hiker thumb says, "You buy the car, pay for repairs and upkeep and insurance, fill the car with gas--and I'll come ride with you. But if you have an accident, you are on your own!" There are others who will give me a ride….That’s not a “New Creation” mentality. We must be different than this.... We are all in this together for mutual benefit and growth.
A man went to an asylum for the criminally insane. He was a bit surprised to find that there were only three guards to take care of a hundred inmates. He said to one of the guards, "Aren't you afraid that the inmates will unite together, overcome you, and escape?" The guard said "Lunatics never unite." Locusts unite, fish unite, bees unite and birds unite. Because they understand the power of unity in diversity. (Speaking of unity in diversity) Ephesians 2:18 “For through Him we all have access by one Spirit unto the Father. v19 Now therefore we are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God. v20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone. v21 In whom all the building is fitly framed together and is growing into an holy temple in the Lord. v22 In whom we also are being built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit”.
The scripture says we have been grafted into the vine and receive the life of the vine.... We don’t need salvation to live like we lived before we met Christ. When you truly are a “New Creation”, Your life will show it! You believe that you can do what you couldn't do before.... In the old life, we made excuses, but in the “New Creation” life, we let the God of all hope speak the outcome…. Adam said “It’s her fault, the woman gave me to eat.” God said, “But I will have seed of the woman to crush Satan’s head.” Moses said, “Lord, I do not speak well enough to go to pharaoh.” But God said “I go before you, and I will be in your mouth.” Samuel said, “Lord, these are the best and preferred sons of Jesse.” But God said “I do not look on the outward man, but I look at his heart”, and He chose David…. Elijah said, “Oh God, I am afraid, kill me now!” But God said, “I shall feed you and give you rest so you can go in my power.”…. Peter said, “Lord, I will never deny you.” But God said “Even though you deny me, I call you a rock, and you will feed my sheep.”….. There are many who have said, “I am too far gone to be saved, God can’t love me.” But God has said, “ What is impossible with men is possible with God, Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest”.
Some years ago, I met a young man who dives for exotic fish for aquariums. He said one of the most popular aquarium fish is the shark. He explained that if you catch a small shark and confine it, it will stay a size equal to the aquarium it is in. Sharks can be six inches long yet fully matured. But if you turn them loose in the ocean, they grow to their normal length of eight feet. I believe that can happen to Christians who limit the potential they have as “New Creations” in Christ. The world needs "proof" of the power of the Gospel that can only be shown through New Creation Christians! Guess where they need to find it… IN US!
They will compare us to the cheerful service they get at their favorite restaurant, to the open acceptance they find at the bar, and by the joy they find in being with their friends.
The world needs more examples of godly people, whose marriage and family life may have struggles, but they can’t question their love and devotion…. who’s work ethic is second to none, whose personal life and character may have glitches, but they’re open about it and are working on it with Brothers and sisters….. What they don’t need are more arguments about everything they’re doing wrong! You can put lipstick on a pig but it doesn’t make it a runway model!! But it is love, ginuine concern and being a friend, not lipstick that will transform the pig.....(now I'm not calling anyone you know a pig)
If I were getting on an airplane, and I saw a man in a captain’s uniform, with a name tag, and I said, “Good morning, Captain” and then called him by name, no one would be surprised, because the proof of who he is, can be identified by his uniform and name tag. If I saw a young lady dressed like a stewardess with a name tag, and asked her for a coke, and called her by name…. no one would be surprised because I can read. It’s the same with “New Creation” Christians…. You should be able to identify us because everything in our lives declares that we act like, speak like, and look like it!!! Let them say, “I see Jesus in you”!!!
Gen. Omar N. Bradley said, “We have too many men of science, too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. ... Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about really living”.
The world won't be changed by TEXTBOOK LECTURES and commercial advertisement, as much as it will be changed by TRANSFORMED LIVES!
Someone might say, There's a lot of two faced people in the bible.... “How do we explain the fact that Noah, a Godly man, once got comatose drunk? How do we explain that Samson, a man chosen of God, had a fatal weakness for the opposite sex? How do we explain that Peter, the great apostle, once denied our Lord three times with swearing and cursing? When a person is converted they are a new creation. They are not both old and new. In Christ we are a new creation, but we all must have our minds and our thinking transformed by the word of God. It is the word of God that brings our new nature in line with our thinking so that our will is established in new values and principles. It is our will that determines our actions. When we act different than our “New Nature” the problem is that we have not allowed our old values to be transformed by kingdom values. Sow a thought, and you reap an act….Sow an act, and you reap a habit… Sow a habit, and you reap a character….Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.
Let me use the example of a hot air balloon… There are sandbags which weigh it down and keep it on the ground. But if you want to get it up in the air, you have to fill the balloon with enough hot air to overcome the weight which pulls it down. The more hot air you put in it, the higher it will rise. But if you stop putting hot air in it, it will come down. We need to continually, pray, read and meditate on God’s word, and choose to fellowship with other Christians in order to overcome the weights that would pull us down, or we will cave into the flesh. Henry G. Bosch wrote the words….”I'm pressing on the upward way, New heights I'm gaining every day --Still praying as I'm upward bound, Lord, plant my feet on higher ground."--
We show proof of the New Creation, when we forgive, when we do unto others as we would have them do unto us, when we go the second mile, when we exercise discipline in our emotions, when we love our enemies, and when we can still keep our joy when everything is falling apart around us…. Corrie Ten Boom said ‘Look around and be distressed…Look inside and be depressed…..Look at Jesus a find peace and rest. If you put a potato in a pot hot, boiling water, an egg in another pot of hot, boiling water, and coffee in a third pot of hot, boiling water, you will find that the potato went in hard and came out soft, the egg went in soft and came out hard, but the coffee instead of being changed by the hot water, transformed the hot water that it was in, into a dilicious drink! We can either be changed by our challenging circumstances or we can transform the circumstances we are in!!! (Because we are New Creation people)
Do others know that you are different since you found Christ? Is the old self dead and is the new self demonstrating proof of God's power over your hot water?
A turkey farmer, found a wounded eagle. He patched it up and it lived with the turkeys. It ate with the turkeys, slept with the turkeys and hung out with the turkeys all day long. It began to think it was a turkey until one day some eagles flew overhead and called out. The turkeyfied eagle answered that call and rose into the air to meet them and never returned. No matter what may come your way, don’t forget who you are…you are a “New Creation” eagle christian!!!
After I had put the finishing touches on my message for today, in the afterglow, I wrote these words which I close with.... 2 Corinthians10:5 " Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exaltes itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."
Obedience cannot wait. What will it take to flip that switch of obedience? What will it take to begin the transformative steps to re-invent your self and move toward your best self? It has to do with where and what your treasure is..."Where your treasure is, there your heart is also"..... Our treasure is usually the thing that will take us where we go even if it is not what is best. We need to line our treasure up with our core vision. Only then are we going to be motivated to stretch ourselves to do what we need to do. We must be constantly re-inventing ourselves and to do this we must let go of the self that is less than our vision, so we can move to the next level. 1 Samuel 15:22 "And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than your choice offerings."
Conversion means becoming something NEW - it is a process of becoming what we are called to be in Christ, a NEW MAN or NEW WOMAN! It means "change" - from the old ways to the new ways, God's ways! How's the development and progress of the "NEW CREATION" going in our lives? -
Prayer….. “Lord Jesus, Thank You that you have redeemed us and made us to be "New Creation" believers. Thank You for the Holy Spirit that you have sent to be our Teacher, our Guide, our Comforter, and our Encourager. Lead us and guide us by Your light and truth as we walk in the light of Your revealed word of truth. When circumstances come that could shake us, lift our head through faith that we may walk in the joy of the Lord. Lord, we ask You to show us through the Holy Spirit any hindrances to receiving all that You offer to us. We choose to ask, seek, and knock on the door of Your promises, until we receive all that the You desire to bring to us. Shine through us in these dark days so that we may be a light to our world. We ask for revelation from the Holy Spirit in order that our eyes can see You as You really are and know You as we are known of You. We cast off the spirits of intolerance, anxiety, anger, betrayal, resentment, distraction, denial, rejection and unbelief, so that it is not our will but your will that is accomplished in our lives. We choose to seek first Your Kingdom, as the world is crumbling around us. Thank You for all your many gifts and Your grace, which gives us strength to persevere in love and obedience. Strengthen us as we stand fast on the Rock of Your truth. Lord, we choose to turn over to You all our failures and discouragements in life. Thank You Jesus that You give us your power, authority and dominion as we hand You all our dreams and ambitions. We speak and declare Your truth, which releases the anointing for success and prosperity. We can do all things through your finished work which overwhelms all lack, and insufficiency in us. May all power, glory and honor be Yours forever and ever. In Jesus name we pray, Amen”.
In Proverbs 17:17 we read, “A friend loves at all times..." Proverbs 18:24 "A man that has friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother".
Friends are usually the family we choose outside of our family!!!
The friendship program which the Holy Spirit gives us is the "One Another" program....James 5:16 – “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much". This tells me that there is no "Us" and "Them" in the church of Jesus but only "One Another"...among friends.
Chuck Swindoll has made the observation that,“ The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit that there is to the fellowship Christ wants us to have as his church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality – but it is a permissive, accepting and inclusive fellowship. The competition is close...with as many bars in town as there are churches! The "Cheers" TV program theme is "Sometimes you wanna go where everyone knows your name, and they're always glad you came, you want to be where you can see, our troubles are all the same, cause you wanna be where everybody knows your name". What you don't see is the morning after hangovers and hugging the toilet..... The bar doesn't flourishes because most people are alcoholics, (HMMMMMM) but they flourish, because the human heart desires to be accepted, to belong, to love and be loved, and so many seek that at the price of a few beers and shots.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 “Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.”
Some one has suggested that we have been successful in life if we have enough close friends to act as pall bearers at our funeral.
Here's some signs that may let you know you need some friends in your life.....1. Even tele-markerters don't call you...2. You go to the Red Box and say out loud to yourself, "Well, what do you want to rent tonight?" 3. You are one of the five best solitaire players in the world. 4. At your funeral, the entire eulogy is, "Yep, he's dead." 10. All your phone calls are with doctors, lawyers, suicide prevention, or places you owe money, and 11. most of your calls start with "900" or "911"....
We usually think of the BIGNESS of God, but to think of Jesus as a friend is to allow God to come down to our size, to a place I can really relate to. Every person here in this room understands the word, friend, and therefore everyone here in this room has a feeling or a sense of what the core of our relationship with Christ is supposed to be. The relationship of a Friend.
In the book of Acts, chapter 26, Saul is on his way to Demascus to kill Christians, and he has an encounter with Jesus on the road. He was struck blind and had to be led by the hand. He had traveled some 120 dusty miles to persecute believers and stop the church from growing there. Then, just as the city came into view, just when he was anticipating a hot shower and a good meal, he runs into the risen Christ, who destroys his eye sight, with one blinding light. Saul was suddenly thrust into a sightless world, groping in the dark. With one deafening statement from heaven, he discovered that everything he believed to be true was now false. He had discovered that Jesus wasn't the enemy. Jesus was the Lord!
I'm sure that In the three days that passed, in the darkness of his blindness, loneliness, confusion, grief, and despair became Saul's roommates. In the depth of all this, God was about to reveal the power of a faithful friend, which Saul had (well let's count them....OH, Uh, ZERO!). But he was about to meet, two of the best friends he would ever have.
First, the Lord commanded Ananias to go to Saul. (Ananias means "The favor of God) Even though he was frightened at the task, he was willing to obey when he DIDN'T AGREE! Ananias went as the Lord directed him, and became the first friend Saul found in his new family of faith.
Then another friend showed up.... Barnabas became Saul's advocate and best contact in Jerusalem, for the destiny God had chosen for him. (Barnabas means "The encourager”) If not for Barnabas, Saul might not have even met the rest of the frightened apostles, who only saw him as a murderer and persecuter of the church. You know what I'm talking about, those folks who bless everyone when they LEAVE the room.....
Saul never forgot the friends he found in Ananias and Barnabas. It was a friendship that was about to change the world. It's impossible to understate the power of a faithful friend, and it's critically important that we be that kind of friend to people in our lives..... (the messengers of the favor of God and the messengers of encouragement)
Dr. Bernie Siegel, in a study he conducted, found that Single men, on the average, are jailed more often, earn less, have more illnesses and die at a younger age than married men. Married men with cancer live 20% longer than single men with the same cancer. Women, have more close friendships than men, and as a result live longer than most men. The common item that all had who lived longer was more friends... Good friendships will keep you alive!!!!
By looking at these irreplaceable friends in Paul's life, we learn a few characteristics of a faithful friend, and are we willing to be the friend that we need someone else to be?
I. Friends will always be there....(someone said, hold on to your best friends, because they know too much about you)...Ha!
Have you already been thinking about the best friends you've had? If the faces of your favorite people have already come to mind, you're remembering people who found a way to be with you. How many stories would we have today if we told of friends who drove hundreds of miles to be with you, who jumped on an airplane to be by your side, or those who canceled appointments to join you? The details differ, but one thing is certain about faithful friends; they don't stop with a phone call, letter, or an e-mail. They find a way to be there.
Imagine if you were in real need and you called on your best friend. He or she says, "I can't help you. They're showing a rerun of my favorite television show tonight." You would quickly know the truth. That person is not a friend. A friend will be with you, even if he or she must go to great trouble or expense to do so. A faithful friend simply ignores his or her own needs in order to help a friend. Friendship isn’t just about people you like to be with, but it’s about people who like to be with you”.... But then God throws a curve ball in the mix....what if God asked you to be the friend to an enemy? (I'm not talking about "the enemy of my enemy is my friend")... Can I give you the best way to destroy your enemy... make them your friend!!!! Well, the Lord has asked you to be a friend to the enemy of your enemy's enemy!!! ....In half a dozen places in Scripture, Jesus said, " Love your enemies." And when God says it, what can we say but ...OK.... I don't like it, but...OK! In Luke 6:35 Jesus said, "Do good to your enemy, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great " It’s easy to give gifts to those who you know will give gifts to you.... It’s easy to be kind to those who will be kind to you....but DO GOOD TO YOUR ENEMIES? ....OK, OK!!! I get it Lord! So... one day God said, "Ananias, I have a new friend that I want you to meet today..." Ananias must have thought..."is there someone else up there I could talk to".... He had a family and a set of faithful friends. He lived in Damascus, kept up with the news, and he knew a terrorist named Saul was on the loose. Before he fully understood, Ananias simply said, "Yes, Lord." Before he had all the details, Ananias gave the correct answer. Ananias was willing to become a friend to an enemy, despite his own fear, because another name for Christian is “Friend”.
When the UCLA football team suffered really poor season in the early 1970s, head coach Pepper Rodgers came under intense criticism and a lot of negative pressure and criticism from alumni and fans. Things got so bad, that friends became hard to find. "My dog was my only true friend," Rodgers says of that year. "I told my wife that every man needs at least two good friends and she went out and bought me another dog."
There is power in just being a friend, when other friends are gone!
Friends know the power of a gentle touch....
What a great gift Ananias gave when he came to see Saul for the first time. Luke records it in Acts 9:17: "Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul . . ."
Most every culture uses touch in greeting - a handshake, a bear hug, a kiss on the cheek, a kiss on both cheeks! A touch can show sympathy, friendship, trust and encouragement - sometimes that's a powerful thing.
Saul had come to Damascus to literally bind the hands of Ananias and possibly stone him as he did Stephen. Instead, Ananias used his hands to gently touch Saul. They had both originally anticipated a life and death struggle, maybe even a battle to the death. Instead, a kind touch is extended from the one who is the hunted to one who is the hunter.
Imagine how Saul might have felt before Ananias arrived. He'd had no food or drink for three days, and the men he came with were frightened and confounded at what happened on the road, and they could get no explanation from Saul. After three days, they were frustrated. If Saul wanted to sit in the darkness and die of starvation, they couldn't stop him! He was blind, frightened, and depressed. But God had a simple a solution for Paul's problem, He sent him a friend! Think of this. Before Saul heard a word from Ananias, a stranger.... before he knew the answers to his questions, Saul felt a gentle touch on his shoulder. He turned toward the voice, his blind eyes trying to take in the face of a man who would touch him so kindly with such acceptance.
A faithful friend knows how to hold someone when he or she is hurting, how to communicate love with touch, even restore confidence with a special grip or a shoulder bump. You see these big bad football players, patting one another on the butt! Don't underestimate the power of a gentle touch.
When Howard Hughes, was worth approximately 4 billion dollars, he was isolated and alone. He said, "I'd give all I have for one good friend."
Money can buy a House, but not a Home...It can buy a Bed, but it can't buy Sleep....It can buy a Clock, but it can't buy you time...It can buy you a Position, but it can't buy Respect...It can buy you Medicine, but it can't buy Health....It can buy you Blood, but it can't buy life....And it can buy popularity, but it can’t buy true friends...
Friends Speak the right words at the right time... A faithful friend does not just say kind words, but the right words at the right time. Aristotle said, “True friends hold a mirror in front of you, so you can see your real self”.... A true friend can hug you and kick your butt at the same time! Ananias shared the truth with Saul in a very gentle way and baptized him. The first person whom Saul saw after he heard the truth of the Holy Spirit was a God-sent best friend.
Here's a trivia question for you. What was the second name Saul had in Scripture? If you said Paul" then you are wrong. Paul is the third name he had in Scripture.
Look at Acts 9:17 “Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord - Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here - has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
You probably spotted it. The second name Saul had was “Brother”!.
It may not seem like a big deal to us, but you can bet Saul never forgot the day a man called him “Brother” for the first time. Imagine sitting in darkness for three days without food, drink, or encouragement and suddenly receiving a kind word. A word of acceptance and forgiveness.. What a gift!
Over the next several days, he taught Saul, he encouraged him, and he introduced him to more people who had that same touch, that same kindness, that same love born of the Holy Spirit. What a wonderful new life of power and purpose, Saul discovered in Damascus, in the form of faithful friends. What would happen in our church if each one of us went out and found one person a month, to be a friend and mentor to.... you would each have 12 friends that you were investing yourself in, for God's kindgom. That would mean, at the end of one year, we would have 164 friends, not just attenders .... at Eagle's Rest.... Friends Don't waver in supporting you...and we have someone more powerful than superman looking out for us.....
In 1967, Stu Webber was in the U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was brutal training for brutal times. The war with Vietnam was the backdrop for the young men trying to survive the heat, humidity, and the demands placed upon them at the Ranger School.
Webber who became a pastor and author, writes of the day the raspy voice of the drill sergeant barked out his first, passionate speech. "We are here to save your lives," he told the young men headed for combat. "First, we're going to see to it that you overcome all your natural fears. … And second, we are going to show you just how much incredible stress the human mind and body can endure. And when we're finished with you, you will be the U.S. Army's best! America's best. You will be confident. You will survive, even in combat. And you will accomplish your mission!" And then, the sergeant gave Webber and his fellow recruits their first assignment. These guys were ready for anything. They had mentally prepared for a 10-mile run in full battle gear. They'd rappelled down sheer cliffs, jumped out of perfectly good airplanes. So what would be the tough guy's first tough order? "Find yourself a Ranger buddy," he growled. "You will stick together. You will never leave each other. You will encourage each other, and, as it becomes necessary, you will carry each other." It was the army's way of saying, difficult assignments require a friend and that Together is always better.
When Saul met Barnabas. He had no idea then that God had placed next to him the one man the church had already nicknamed "The Encourager" (Acts 4:36). What a Ranger-type buddy to have!
All along the way, for more than 120 miles, Saul would have met people who had been changed by Jesus, now that his eyes had been opened by his friends that God had placed in his life.
Imagine his excitement as he came to Jerusalem. Finally, he would meet Peter, and John, and James. He'd sit down with Bartholomew, Andrew, and Simon the Zealot, and have dinner with Thomas. He would meet them all, these men who had walked with Jesus. He would tire them out with his questions, he would wait on their every need, he would pour over the Torah with them, looking for the prophetic markers of Jesus all through the Scripture.
It was Barnabas (the encourager) that took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.
What a beautiful example Barnabas was. As it was then, it is today. A faithful friend stands with you, stands up for you, and doesn't waver in his support. If you've found such a friend, you've found a great source of power. If you are that friend, God's power is working through you! Scripture is clear that when you are true to your friends, God's favor shows up!
Job 42:10 “And the LORD turned the situation of Job, when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had”.
Remember that Job was in great suffering when he prayed for his friends.... he had to move beyond his own condition in order to minister to them. Sometimes God will ask you to pray for someone else when you are in worse condition than they are. Whenever He asks you that, He brings His reward with him....The reward of favor, opportunity, and connections.
A faithful friend will stay with you, and even put your needs before their own.. Friendship is a two way street.....
A poem says "Around the corner I have a friend, and there are many corners In this great land. Yet days go by and weeks rush on, And before I know it a year is gone. And I never see my old friend's face, because life is a swift and terrible race. He knows I like him just as well, as in the days when we were real close pals.We were younger then and played life's game, now we're Tired of trying to make a name. "Tomorrow," I say, "I will call on Jim, Just to show that I'm thinking of him."But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes. And the distance between us grows and grows. Around the corner, yet miles away..."and the smart phone message said he died today"....
We are told in Acts 9:30; and Galatians 1:17-18, that after meeting the disciples, Saul took some time off to sort through everything. Sometimes it’s good to retreat before you advance.... and he retreated for three years of study, prayer, and reflection, Acts 11:25-26 tells us that Barnabas went to Tarsus which is part of modern day Turkey, to look for Saul, and when he found him preaching and teaching there, he brought him to Antioch which is now part of Syria. Believers were first called “Cristians” at Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people.
Think about the way Ananias and Barnabas helped change the world. Saul - who became known as the Apostle Paul - eventually would become the most important missionary in Christian history, a leader the equal of Peter and John in the early church, and the most prolific writer in the New Testament.
God spoke to Ananias, and to Barnabas, and asked them to be a friend to a man who desperately needed them. And they changed the world.
God works in simple ways. Somewhere, perhaps today, a person near you needs a faithful friend. If you answer God's call to be that friend, it might be you who changes the world.
The Cherokee indians bestow manhood on the young men, if they are able to pass a test. They must swear to never tell anyone about the test even after they become a man. They are taken far out into the woods and blind folded. They are told to sit on a stump and not move the entire night. With the growls, and howls and shreiks, the hissing, and sounds of things creeping and walking through the leaves... while they are totally alone. In the darkness, the loneliness, and the feeling of vulnerability, they must not move or remove the blindfold. When the sunlight warms their face, they are aware of hands removing the blindfold and realize that their dad had spent the entire night sitting on the stump beside them.
They were never really alone, even though they felt alone. We are like that young indian boy.... no matter how alone we feel, how vulnerable and exposed to the forces around us.... We have a friend who is always right there with us.
The Psalmist said.... Psalms 23:4 "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff they comfort me". (it's the valley of shadows) Shadows can't hurt you, when we understand that they are just shadows. That is exactly what FEAR stands for... False Evidence Appearing Real.... Paul warns us about boxing shadows... 1Corinthians 9:26 "I therefore run, not as uncertainly, I do not fight as that that beat the air"... In other words, you wear yourself out, and there is really nothing there....BUT SHADOWS!!!
The Bible says is the mark of a good friend is that the friend is willing to die for you. I have been thinking about my good friends this past week, and I don’t think that any of them are willing to die for me. I have a great friend who is too busy enjoying his retirement, to die for me. And my good friends who are ministers, wouldn’t die for me either. If I were to walk around this room and ask each of you, "would you die for me at 2:00 today?" You wouldn’t die for me either. Come to think about it, my only friend who is willing to die for me is Jesus Christ. How amazing is that!!! I can't comprehend that level of friendship. In the death of Jesus on the cross, by taking my judgment, when I was totally guilty....God showed that He loves me more than any other friend I have ever had or will have.
On the last night Jesus was together with the deciples at what we call "The Lord's Supper", He spoke these words....John 15:13-16 “No greater love has any person than this, that they are willing to lay down their life for their friends. Now, you are my friends, if you do what I command you, to love one another. You didn’t chose me, but I chose you. I chose you to be my disciples and friends. I don’t call you servants because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing, but I call you friends because you know what the master is thinking and doing. You know the inside of the master’s head and heart. You are my friends.”
For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him would not die but have
By virtue of being the creator, God is King over all the earth. As Savior, He has entered and become a vital redeeming part of His own creation. As the Coming One, He will reign over all the nations until the new creation occures when He shall once again be its one and only, unquestioned sovereign King for all eternity. Ecclesiastes 3:11 "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end ". Pastor Curtis Johnson said, "Though the embedded vow of praise has yet to be completely fulfilled by creation, there are days so beautiful and scenes so spectacular that you can feel creation “tuning up” for something really big. Nature, in all its splendor and reflective glory today, is like an unfulfilled promise. But one day all imperfections will be gone. Then the hills, the oceans, the meadows and valleys will be alive with music – music in praise to the Creator". The Psalmist in 24:1-2 boldly declared, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” In 1864 the US Treasury so wisely put “In God we Trust” on our currency. It was in recognition that everything we have in this world that is good comes to us from God. The Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase instructed James Pollock, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto, in a letter dated November 20, 1861, which said..... *....."Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins. You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the clearest and plainest words possible this national recognition of our dependency upon a soveriegn God." To fail to put our trust in the creator of all things is like saying that water is not wet or that air is not real because we cannot see it.....Trust is an easy thing when all is well and there is no turbulant sea rocking our boat. But it is another thing entirely to remain trusting and stable in faith, when the sea is threatning to sink your boat and you don't know just how deep the waters actually are. The writer of the great Christian Hymn "This is My Father's World" is a prime example. Davenport Babcock was celebrated as one of the most brilliant and prolific pastors and ministers of the gospel in his time. In 1901, he contracted "Mediteranian Fever", while on a trip to the Holy Land. This condition is caused by an invasive parasite which causes high grade fever as a result of inflamation of the spleen, the liver, the joints and muscles and the lining of the stomach. Babcock committed suicide by drinking a dose of deadly mercuric chloride and slit his wrists. What a contrast to the actions of Job, who lost everything except his nagging wife, and his entire body was covered with boils, yet in Job 13:15 He declared, "Though God slay me, yet will I trust in Him, and still I will maintain my ways before him". He knew that it was His Father's world...... Job 19:25 "For I know that my redeemer lives, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. v26 And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. v27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold.... He continues with majestic words for an incomprehensable God.....and Job didn't let the circumstances of the moment, affect his trust in God.... What an ending the Lord brings to this story of unswerving trust.... Job 42:12 "So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand prime mules. v13 He had also seven sons and three daughters....v15 And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren. v16 After this Job lived an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, even four generations. v17 And Job died, being old and full of days". So many see only a world filled with loss, unforseen accidents and tragedy....A very strict primary school teacher, who was extreemly disliked by her students, asked them to share an example of a tragedy. One little boy stood up and said, "If my best friend who lives on a farm, is playing in the field and a runaway tractor comes along and runs over him and kills him, that would be a tragedy." "No," said the teacher, "that would be an accident." A little girl raised her hand: "If a school bus carrying 50 children drove over a cliff, killing everyone inside, that would be a tragedy." "No, I'm afraid not," explains the teacher. "That's what we would call a great loss." The room goes silent. No other children volunteer. The teacher searches the room. "Isn't there someone here who can give me an example of a tragedy?" Finally at the back of the room, little Johnny raises his hand. In a quiet voice he says: "Teacher, if a plane you were on, was struck by a missile and blown to smithereens, that would be a tragedy." "Fantastic!" exclaims the teacher, "That's right. And can you tell me why that would be a tragedy?" "Well," said the boy, "because it sure wouldn't be a great loss and it probably wouldn't be an accident either." Many Christians in the process of chasing the American Dream, have become Secret Atheist... In other words they do and say all the things Christians are supposed to say, but they no longer have intimacy with the one their faith is all about. A Secret Atheist has stopped living according to what they say they believe and they speak of God's power, but they live out of their own strength and power. Jesus is not their Lord, He is a fire escape from hell. God's grace is their license to live however they want. They know and they can tell everyone else how they aught to live, but they don't do it themselves. Jesus put it this way.... Matthew 16:26 "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? God is not looking for employees, He's looking for friends... He's not looking for those who will work for Him, but those who will work with Him.....He doesn't want us to see Him as an obligation, but as someone we put first because we love Him more than anything or anyone else. In Numbers the 14th chapter, When the Jewish people got to the promised land, the first time, and they sent spies into the land to see what it was like. The spies came back loaded with the bounty of Canaan, but they also gave report that the land was filled with giants, even though God had given them great and amazing prophecies. The bible says that the spies felt like grasshoppers compared to them. This struck the hearts of the people with terror. Caleb said, "we are well able to take it, for it shall be strengh for us"... but the people said, let us appoint our own captian in place of Moses and return to Egypt and they threatened to stone Moses, Aaron and Caleb. At that time, God appeared in a cloud of Glory over the camp and threatened to kill them all, (remember that justice and truth are in God's glory) so Moses intervened. Moses and Aaron fell on their faces and reminded God of His own promise and this is where God said... *.....Numbers14:21 "As truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD." God is taking an oath, based on His own reputation, that the earth shall be filled with His glory! We are told that God was willing to start over with just these three believers, and still fulfill the promise He had made. But because of the prayers of Moses, He repented and spared the people. Don't miss your promise because of the moment you're in....Rule the moment, don't let the moment rule you! So they have just been given mercy, and their rebellious hides were saved, and instead of entering the land, they walked away! It would be 40 years later, after everyone over 20 years of age had died off, in the wilderness, that they would return to the place of entering in.... Dennis the Doubter asked his pastor if they would have golf in heaven. The pastor said, I'll search the word, pray and ask God to see what He says, and let you know in a few days. A few days later Dennis the Doubter calls the pastor and asks him if he found out anything. The pastor said, "Yes I certainly did, and there's good news and bad news"..... "You see, God said they have some of the most incredible golf courses ever seen by man, and the other news is, you're scheduled to tee off at 8:00 tomorrow morning"... (we can worry over things that don't really matter and let it distract us from the things we should be doing now)
Psalm 118:24 "This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it"! Your best time is now! Your best opportunities are now! When God finds someone who's willing to let him be God, who will believe that the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof.... He will use them to fulfill His promises and show Himself mighty! Whatever our situation....whatever the giants we must face which would seek to overwhelm us and intimidate us.....God is looking for a Moses, an Aaron and a Caleb who will see His glory, instead of the giants and believe His promise instead of the overwhelming situation! Because This Is My Father's World..... We may not get it just right every time, But if you fail, don't give up because F.A.I.L. stands for "First Attempt In Learning". What looks like the end is only an illusion, because E.N.D. stands for "Effort Never Dies". If you get a NO for your efforts, remember that N.O. stands for "Next Opportunity" It's all about how you look at it!!!
The Glory of God is a redeeming Glory, that will restore what is lost and bring back what is abandoned. It declares to us that our present situation is not our final destination. The redeeming Glory can bring hope to the hopeless, opportunity to the unfortunate, the empty and lacking. It means promises regained in a desert and wilderness place. Redeeming Glory brings harmony out of discord, wholeness out of desease and disaster and gives songs in the night season. That we might know the faithfulness of our God from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same! The Glory of God invades the future, for it is the Spirit of Prophesy.. It fills the whole earth in the present as well as the future..... Numbers 23:19 "God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent, has he spoken, and shall He not do it? Has He declared, and shall He not make it good?" His glory is already there in our future, connecting, arranging, and setting up all that is needed to cause it to become possible unto us. Sometimes the worst things that have happened to us, put us on a collision course with the best things that will ever happen to us! When God speaks, as far as He is concerned, it is already done... And Our best response is "Amen".... "So be it, Lord", HALLELUJAH!
That's why we know that the people who are allowed to come into our lives are never there by accident. They either come for a lesson or a blessing. Some folks come to test you, some are there to use you and some are there to teach you, but they are all there to bring out the best in you. When you understand this, you can stop trying to make them into what you want them to be, and accept them for what they are bringing into you. Some will come and go quickly, some will stay forever, but they will all leave footprints on your heart, and because of them, you will never be the same again.
Revelation 11:15 "The kingdoms of this world are now become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever." Oh, yes, This is My Father's World! When I was a kid, I was an accident looking for a place to happen...my curiosity got me in situations where trouble was assured to come. Some lessons you learn the easy way and some you learn the hard way. I always seemed to choose the hard way. That's why I know I'm only here, alive today because God was redeeming my present and working in my future.... When I look at some of the things I survived and walked away without being maimed or worse....it encourages me to look forward *.....knowing "that Jesus is Lord over Satan, sin, death and disease"! In spite of all that may appear unfavorable in our lives, we can still declare with ... Isaiah 62:1 "For My people's sake I will not hold My peace, and for your sake I will not rest, until your righteousness goes forth as brightness, and salvation shines forth as a lamp." God's glory is on the side of those who trust in Him. He never sleeps and never grows weary of performing His word of promise. He is awake while we are sleeping, and He is working when we don't even know it. He has you and I on His mind and we are engraved on the palms of His hands. Before I get up He's been up, and when I lay down, He's still keeping His word to me. I can rejoice in the assurance that it will come to pass in due time, and in the right time .....
A police officer stopped a car that was speeding down main street. "But I can explain...." the man said.. "No need to even try, the radar says it all"... the officer interrupted... "But officer, there's something you need to know".. the man tried again, but was once again interrupted. "Just sit there and cool your heels, while I run a check on your tag and registration".... "But sir, you really need to know something"....the man tried again... Twenty minutes later, the officer returns to the car, and the driver insists on seeing his commanding officer. "Well, that won't be possible, sir, because the commanding officer is at his daughter's wedding, and I am not about to bother him now".....the driver, breaks out laughing and says...."sir, believe me, you are bothering him.....I am the groom"!
When your answer seems to delay, sometimes, it's because there's something you need to experience, that will change your way of thinking and seeing things, so you can possess what He's giving to you. The greater your gifting, the more you need to develop your character to sustain it. Sometimes we are so focused on our giftings that we neglect our character. The greater the gifting, the greater the level of character that is needed to operate in it for the long haul. God wants to develop our character so we won't crash and burn in our gifting. Take Samson for example. He was powerfully gifted and used by God in amazing ways. However, he neglected the developing of his character in order to maintain the level of his gifting and eventually he fell.
When God gives you a detour, He puts you on a path you would never have chosen to get you to a place you would never have gone...... God caused those who came out of Egypt to hit some detours, to give them a chance at character building, but many never made it to the promised land, because they neglected the character building moments and only wanted the gifts .... Those who made it, yeilded to God's ways of doing it and in spite of how bad the wilderness was, they received the promise.
Habakuk 2:3 says "The vision is for an appointed time; but in the end it shall speak and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come, and it will not tarry". My heavenly Father would not make a lock without making a key, He wouldn't create a detour without a destination, and He wouldn't allow a problem without giving a solution!!! This week I've been praying the covenant words of Isaiah 43:4-7 "Since you were precious in my sight, you havebeen honourable, and I have loved you therefore will I give men for you and people for your life. v5 Fear not: for I am with you, I will bring your seed from the east, and gather you from the west. v6 I will say to the north, come forth and to the south, do not hold back. Bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth. v7 Every ne that is called by my name: for I have created you for my glory, I have formed you yes, I have made you". Isaiah 40:5 "And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it." Let us not be swayed by the nay-sayers. Let us not be intimidated by the mockers and the maligners.... The final authority in this world and the world to come, has given us His word, and backed it with His glory..... So when it's all said and done, when we are tried, we shall come forth as gold. When I am unhealthy, I shall come forth as gold.. When I am fearful, I shall come forth as gold! When the deck is stacked against me, I shall come forth as gold!!! Romans 3:4 "Let God be true, but every man be a liar, for it is written, that you shall stand justified and you shall overcome in the judgment." The world population is 7.5 billion people.....One little boy wrote a letter to God, "Dear God, it must be very hard for you to love all the people in the world. I have only four people in our family and I can't do it. But anyway, A study was done which showed how many who call themselves Christian attend church each week. The study revealed that when both parents attend church, 72% of the children attend church when grown. When only the father attends church, 55% of the children attend when grown. When only the mother attends church, only 15% of the children attend church when grown. When neither parent attends church, only 6% of the children will attend when they are grown. One day God was looking down at Earth and saw all of the evil that was going on. He decided to send an angel down to Earth to check it out.When the angel returned, he told God that it was getting pretty bad on Earth. He reported that 95% of the population had forgotten Him and only 5% gave Him a place in their daily lives. . God thought a moment and decided He had better send down another angel to get two witnesses. When the second angel returned he confirmed that Earth was in decline, 95% gave no thought to God and only 5% gave Him any attention. God thought about what He could do about the situation and decided to send a message to the smart phones of the 5% that still truly believed in Him with a little pep-talk and some praise and encouragment to help keep them to continue faithful to Him. Do you know what the message said?.... Oh! YOU didn't get one either.......? God's word is true, and it is up to us to believe and stand faithful on His promises if we are to turn it around in our own circles of influence. This picture was taken at a protest....The book of Revelation lets us know that when Jesus returns, He will subdue the earth, but it also tells us that over 2/3 of the population will rise up against Him. Their efforts will prove useless, but my point is, how many of our friends, our family members, and our neighbors who reject Christ now, will fight against Him then, if their souls are not reborn and their spirits awakened? This is My Father's world, but there are many who only see a twisted view of God, instead of looking for and appreciating His glory!
Ezekiel's question could be our question today.....As the Lord showed him a valley filled with dry bones, Ezekiel asked "Can these dry bones live again?"......God says the same thing to us that He spoke to Ezekiel.... Ezekiel 37:4 Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O you dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. v5 Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. v6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD." Ezekiel didn't see a valley filled with the redeeming glory of God. He saw only dead, dry bones..... It was only when he believed that it was a valley filled with God's glory, that things were turned around. What is your valley of dry bones?..... That place where it looks hopeless, where it seems nothing is working.... filled with dead dreams and lost chances..... where regrets and missed opportunities lie spread out before you..... where you see one dissappointment after another.... bad news is followed by more bad news.... While having a bad day of fishing, a tourist capsized his boat. As he's clinging to the overturned boat. He spotted an old beachcomber on the shore, the tourist shouted across the water, "Are there any gators around here?" "Naw," the old man hollered back, "they ain't been none around here for years!" Feeling good about that information, the man started swimming toward the shore. About halfway there he shouted to the guy, and asked him "How'd you get rid of the gators?" The beachcomber shouted back, "We didn't do nothing, the sharks got 'em all!"
That's what a valley of dry bones is like.... bad stuff following bad stuff!! But the account of Ezekiel challenges us to see something else .....It challenges us to see instead, a valley filled with the glory of God..... This is our Father's world, and that valley is His valley, and He has already spoken life and success, a good outcome and ultimate victory!
In Genesis, when the world was without form and darkness covered the face of the deep.... God spoke, and the glory of His presence began to hover over the darkness the emptiness and the destruction which followed Satan's being cast out of heaven in Revelation 12:7-9.... Scripture says that in his wrath he wreaked devastation on the earth which God had created. It says that God began to prophesy and said "Let there be".... and light sprang forth, and the waters came into place, and the water below seperated from the water above, and marine life appeared, then he spoke flora and flauna into place, and a great variety of animals began to cover the earth..... and as heaven held it's breath, He made man in His image and in His likeness. He's speaking right now this moment, no matter what the enemy has tried to destroy, His words are creative, life changing words. "LET THERE BE"...The glory of His presence is hovering over your valleys and mountains.... Faith, hope, love and a new day are breaking through the formless void and darkness. It is no wonder that Isaiah says in Isaiah 35:1-6 "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with with a recompence, He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a young deer and the tongue of the dumb shall sing, for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert". This is My Father's World!!!! May our voices be lifted to join with those of the redeemed which are recorded in Revelation as eagerly anticipating His coming, when this dispensation shall pass and the next shall be revealed in greater fulfillment as it ushers in a new beginning for all creation. May we pray as Jesus instructed, " Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven" Psalm 139 (the message bible) "Oh God, You know me. I’m an open book to you. Even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.You know when I go out and when I come in. I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too—your reassuring presence, is there, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful—I can’t take it all in! Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there! If I fly on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute—you’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, He even sees me in the dark! Even at night I’m immersed in the light!” Nobody likes a detour, but sometimes they are necessary. One day Billy and Ruth Graham were driving through a long stretch of road construction. They had many slowdowns, detours and construction to deal with along the way. Finally, they reached the end of all that difficulty, and smooth pavement stretched out before them. That's when Ruth saw a road sign that said: "End of construction. Thanks for your patience." And Ruth told Billy those words would be a great inscription on her tombstone someday: "End of construction. Thanks for your patience." Ruth Graham is now buried on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her grave is marked with a modest stone, and you know what? That is the inscription on Ruth's gravestone: "End of construction. Thank you for your patience."
My world is in His hands, My times are in His hands! so I can praise him in the mountains and praise Him in the valleys. Praise Him when the sun is shining and when the clouds blacken the skies. Praise Him in sickness and in health, in good times and bad. No matter what it's like, His promise is true, it will not fail, it will accomplish all that it is sent forth to do in the earth! Our praise is a magnet for transformation!
Even though things come to try to hide God from me and hide me from God, I know that my Redeemer lives, and I shall come forth! He knows the way that I take.... He's gone into my future, to secure the present and when I am tested, I shall come forth as gold......I've come to tell you today that no matter what it looks like, right now, the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof! The earth is full of the glory of God! For this is my father's world!!