Someone asked the question… what do you give an injured lemon…(answer) Lemon-aid…. And surely, we’ve all heard the phrase…. “When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade”!
Of course, the point is that you will face many disappointments and times when life produces less than you expected. If you got handed a lemon, then you had a “let down”, something “Popped your balloon”, you got “thrown by the bull”… the rug was “pulled out from under you”…. And you ended up as the “bug instead of the windshield”… We’ve all had our share of lemons, but sometimes you feel like you live in the lemon orchard…..
The picture you’re looking at is the legendary Olympic champion, Jim Thorpe. Look closely at the photo. You can see that he's wearing two different socks and shoes. This wasn't a fashion statement which he was making. It was the 1912 Olympics, and Jim, a Native American from Oklahoma represented the hopes of the U.S. in track and field. On the morning of his competitions, his preferred running shoes were stolen. Luckily, Jim ended up finding two shoes in a garbage can. One of the shoes was too small and the other shoe was too big, so he had to wear an extra sock in the shoes that were too large. It was with this unexpected handicap, running in miss-sized, cast off shoes, that Jim Thorpe won two gold medals. It wasn’t about the shoes that were on the man, but it was about the man in the shoes, that made the difference.
This is a perfect reminder that you don't have to resign yourself to the set-backs that have hindered and beset you. So what if life hasn't been fair? The real issue is not about the lemons you have been handed, but what are you going to do about it today? Whatever you woke up with this morning; plans that went down the toilet, ill health, or failed relationships. Don't let it stop you from running your race. You can experience more in life if you'll get over the lemons and get on with living. If you’re going to fall, fall forward, at least then, you’re making progress!!!
lemons were here before man arrived…I discovered that fossilized lemon leaves were found in China, dating back to about 8 million years. (Adam and Eve handed us all a lemon when they ate the forbidden fruit) And as far as we know, Lemonade has been around from before Christ, over 2000 years!
Give me a lemon and get ready for some really sour looks on this face…. We all know people that have that “sucking on lemons” face. And you want to just walk up to them and say, if you don’t like them, stop sucking on those lemons…. It’s one thing to be handed a lemon, but it’s another to just go around sucking on the thing!!!!
Our childhood may have been a lemon….Our education might be lemons…. Our car might have been a lemon…. Our job might be a lemon…. Our life may have a lot of lemons….
Having wrong priorities and being confused about what’s really important, can cause us to keep sucking on lemons instead of transforming them…..
A lawyer had opened the door of his BMW on the street, when suddenly a car came along and hit the door, ripping it off completely. When the police arrived at the scene, the lawyer was complaining bitterly about the damage to his precious BMW. “Officer, look what they’ve done to my Beeeemer!!!”, he whined. The policeman was incredulous at the materialisim of the lawyer…“You lawyers are so materialistic, you make me sick!!!” He said, “You’re so worried about your stupid BMW, that you didn’t even notice that your left arm was ripped completely off!!!” “Oh my God….”, screamed the lawyer, finally noticing the bloody left shoulder where his arm once was, “Where’s my Rolex???!!!” Jesus said if you love the world and the things of the world too much, the love of the Father is not in you….
But this morning if we can learn how to make lemonade from life's lemons, no matter how sour they may be, and it will increase our joy. If anyone can teach us this lesson, it will be Paul. If there is anyone who had plenty of opportunities to suck on lemons, it was the Apostle Paul… Paul wasn’t a lemon sucker!
In Philippians, Paul is writing to the church, from the dungeon where he is being imprisoned in chains….He had every reason not to be happy, but yet he writes that he isfilled with joy. Over 18 times in this short four chapter book Paul talks about rejoicing or joy….
Joy is the sugar that you add to your lemons to transform what you’re going through and inspire others to do the same…. The source of Paul’s joy was worship, praise and his intercession for others….. Instead of sucking on the lemons…. He says rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice!!!
Sometimes our problem is that we allow our lemons become what identifies us… lemons can define your actions, your preferences, your relationships and who you become….Here again, Paul rises above the lemon tree, as he identifies himself by his relationship with Christ, not to the lemons he was handed… Philippians 1:21 “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”.
Philippians 2:5 “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:3 “For we which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, have no confidence in the flesh”.
Philippians 4:6 “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made unto God. v7 And the peace of God, which passesall understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.
An interviewer was talking to a couple of young men who at one time struggled with their music classes in school. The teacher was giving them grades that were just barely passing. It was Liverpool, England and the two boys were John Lennon and George Harris. How could this teacher not recognize half of the Legendary Beatle’s group, who sat in her classroom? The Beatle’s took the lemons that their teacher handed them and determined to turn them into lemonade (they did a pretty good job)
Many times we fail to make great lemonade because we don’t recognize the ingredients we already have like John and George’s teacher… or we don’t understand what we need to do with them… to make that transformative action happen…
Paul tells us that the thing to do with lemons is to harness them and demand that they glorify God! When I was a kid, my job was to go bring the horse for my dad so he could plow… (sounds easy) but the horse was running free on 150 acres of farm. It was a contest of who would wear out and give up first. I knew my dad wouldn’t accept the excuse that the horse wore me out, so I refused to give up until I brought the lemon horse home… Once I could grab him by the soft part of the nose, and put the bit in his mouth, he was mine baby!!! Control the head and the body will follow (that’s a sermon in itself) Now this is what Paul is saying about your lemons….
Philippians 1:12 “But I would have youunderstand, brethren, that the things which have happened to me (my lemons) have been (prokopé̄… harnessed) for the furtherance of the gospel.”
Joseph harnessed his lemons…..he said to his brothers, as they were driven to Egypt by the famine that was in the land… Genesis50:20 “But as for you (lemon lickers and lemon suckers) you meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save many people alive”.
The three Hebrews harnessed their lemons…. They refused to eat of the kingsdainties and drink of his wine… and when they chose to go into the lemon furnace…. The fourth man appeared and made them fire proof…They overcame the lemon furnace!
Daniel knew how to harness lemons….Whenhe was told to not pray to anyone but the king for 30 days, he went to his house and began to pray… He knew that the lemon lions were no match for the Lord his God….
Sometimes we don’t realize that we can be the spark that transforms someone’s lemons to lemonade….. (turn to someone and say “Hello Sparky”)
Adam Clarke, was born in 1763, in Tobermore North Ireland. When Adam was a schoolboy, his father told the teacher that Adam wouldn’t do well and was in great danger of growing up a dunce. The teacher responded “I think he is a bright boy”
That statement changed his life—One day, after being scolded by the master of the school and mocked by his fellow-pupils for his slow progress in his tasks, her words flashed before his mind, and he "felt as if something had broken within him," and, seizing his book, he began to study with a sense of power which was quite a revelation to him, and from that moment he became the wonder of the school. It broke the power of the lemons his father had put on him.
He lived to be seventy-two, and he became a great scholar, an English pastor and an author of commentaries and a book called Christian Theology. It is considered among the most comprehensive commentary on the Bible ever prepared by a single author. When Adam Clarke preached, it was said, people listened and came to know God’s grace and assurance of salvation.
And that lemon was transformed into lemonade by the positive affirmation of one teacher!!! Perhaps you’re the sugar for someone’s lemons, that will break them free of their lemon limits and let them soar!!!
Check out another word which Paul uses as he encourages the Philippian believers… Philippians 1:29 “For unto you it is granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer (deal with your lemons) for His sake. v30 Having the same struggle which you saw in me, and now hear of me”.
Paul calls their suffering, the “struggle” and the Greek word is “agó̄n”…which is the word we get “agony” from. It means ( a contest for victory or mastery)… Paul is considering it a privilege that the Lord would trust him with his lemons! He is encouraging the Philippians that they should stand fast in the struggle and believe the contest will result in victory, because they are on God’s side….It’s the agony and the ecstasy !!!
It’s time to “Juice the Lemon”.. This is far more than picking ourselves up by our bootstraps or turning our frown upside down. It is fully believing and trusting the God who is always working things out for our good.This contest for victory is described in Ephesians 6:12 “For we struggle not (agó̄n…. a contest for victory or mastery)against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. v13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, stand therefore. v14 Having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, v15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. v16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench (sben'-noo-mee… put out, extinguish) all the fiery darts of the wicked. v17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”
If you “put out” the juice in the lemons, (sben'-noo-mee…) then you’re “Juicing the Lemon”..! That means drain it or empty it of it’s negative, bitter, sour effects in our lives….
Every believer should be running a Lemonade Stand…. Not only transforming your own lemons, but making lemonade and getting it out there and available to everyone who is willing to receive it….(Get your fresh squeezed lemonade here)!
Matthew 11:5 “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel (Good news) preached to them”.
Luke 7:22 “Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel (good news) is preached”.
Believe me, transformed lives, and the blind seeing, the lame walking, deaf hearing and the dead coming alive, that’s a lot of lemons being turned to lemonade!!! That looks like a lemonade stand to me!!!
Lemons don’t ask if you’re ready for them, they don’t ask permission, and they don’t care if it’s inconvenient. There’s never a good time for your life to experience their bitterness and sourness. But the saying “God will never give you more than you can handleand He’ll help you handle what you’re given” tells me that with Him, I have what it takes. It tells me I can bear whatever comes my way. It tells me God permits lemons with the knowledge already of what I can endure. Conventional wisdom points people inward, but the truth is, our lemons should point us Godward. How much better is it to let God write your story, He does a far better than you ever could. He knows how to write a good outcome into every bitter and sour experience you’ll ever have….
Jesus took the biggest lemons of all and turned them into amazing grace lemonade for all of us…..
As the psalmist says, Psalms 46:1–3 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling”.
When our strength is failing under crushing burdens, Isaiah 40:29 God gives power to the faint and increases the strength of the weak. Yes, Praise God, He doesn’t give us what we can bear, He gives us power, and wisdom, and anointing, to bear what we are given…..
Stand and praise Him that when you don’t have enough, He’s enough!... When you need healing, He’s your healer…. When you have too many bills at the end of the money, He’s your provider…. When everything is upside down and inside out, He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever!!!
We sing the song that says “This (praise) is how we overcome”… Be that overcomer and give Him praise, praise that Christ in you is more than enough… We are more than conquerors…. The word of God within us will prevail…. He overcame that we might overcome also in His name… Declare right now, that YOU ARE AN OVERCOMER…. You shall triumph gloriously in His mighty, powerful name!!!
Shopping for a good cantaloupe is a tough assignment. No matter how good it looks, it’s hard to tell what you’re really getting! It can look beautiful on the outside and still not be so good. So I tap it, thump it, smell it and, if no one is looking, I squeeze it—and then take it home, only to discover that it’s bad on the inside. I even gave up on buying cantaloupe for a while because of this outside in problem….Outside in is difficult, but if you buy the ones that are already cut, you can see what you’re getting from the inside out!
When it comes to beauty, most people judge beauty from the outside in, instead of the inside out… Inner beauty is more important (you’ve heard the saying “pretty is as pretty does’….When it comes to strength, we usually judge strength from the outside in, instead of the inside out.. Inner strength is more important (the little guy may not be outwardly strong, but he may still be standing when the pumped up guy has collapsed under pressure) When it comes to being smart, most people judge from the outside in, instead of the inside out..(a person may have a lot of knowledge but they may have no common sense)
In the story of Esther, she was chosen by the king for her beauty, so we know that she was a beautiful lady, she just hadn’t totally made a connection between her outer looks and the inner beauty which is really what God was interested in. However she came to the place in her life that she was willing to risk everything to have the kind of beauty God was impressed with, no matter what everyone else thought about it…. But I want to say that yes, God is looking for inner beauty, but we need to help the outer package which man sees, as best we can!!!
Man looks on the outer appearance but God looks on the heart!
Most people live their life from the OUTSIDE IN. What I mean is that most of the time our moods and actions are based on our external CIRCUMSTANCES. We let our physical Body and our Soul, which is the emotions and intellect, rule us and we are fueled by what is happening in the world around us, and the Spirit just tags along…. The tail is wagging the dog! If things go your way, you have a good day --- If things go wrong, you have a bad day --- If it’s Friday, it’s all good. If it’s Monday, pity everyone who has to be around you….it’s all bad.
Even though Christians are not supposed to live from the OUTSIDE IN … too often, we do it consistently. We even base our faith on our outside CIRCUMSTANCES. I don’t feel that God answered my prayer…(feelings and emotions are ruling here) I can’t see that God healed my sickness…(short sightedness is ruling here )… I don’t think God made sure I got that job (the intellect is ruling here) God didn’t save my marriage…(blaming othersand fault finding) God didn’t make that person stop annoying me…(that’s lack of personal accountability)….I have no joy in my life (the wrong source of joy)…. If we can’t see, feel, think, that God is at work in our circumstances, our faith gets weak and we wonder if God is working, or we think something is wrong with us…..(well that last part is right)… we’re living from the outside in….
It’s amazing how many who call themselves Christian, would answer the question… “How are you doing”.. by saying “Pretty good, under the circumstances”…. What are they doing down there “under the circumstances”…
A student walked into the office of a Nobel prize winning scientist to get some input with his class assignment and he was surprised to see a scripture on the wall behind his desk. The student had come to conclude that the bible is a contradiction to scientific reasoning… the scripture was from…
Matthew 19:26 “With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible”. The student who was an agnostic, said, “Professor, surely you don't believe in such nonsense..” The scientist answered, “Sir, it is my understanding that God will do what God will do whether I believe it or not”
Romans 8:4 says that Christians “don’t live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” In other words, God can do what God can do regardless of what my feelings, sight or intellect conclude about it….
I am amazed at how many times in the bible and in my own life, when God did amazing things at times when folks or myself, had no faith at all, or we were at a place when we didn’t have a clue what to believe for…. If that is the case then how much more powerful can He work when we come into agreement with Him…..
Saint Augustine said “Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand."
I believe there is such a place as England. I could not prove by feelings, or personal experience, that there is such a place. I believe it because reliable, trustworthy people have told me so. The ordinary person believes in the solar system, atoms, and the working of their own brain, based on what doctors and physiologist—tell us. Every historical statement is believed on the basis of someone’s authority. None of us were at Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, but we believe it simply because people who were there and did see historical events have left writings that tell us about them. A person who balked at the authenticity of other things, as some people do in religion, would have to be content to accept nothing as truth except what they saw, felt and experienced for themselves.
Someone has said that we would do better at doing things right if we would do better at doing the right things!
A certain fisherman always came to the dock with a boat load of fish, when others were catching nothing. One morning a stranger showed up with his fishing tackle and said, "Mind if I go fishing with you this morning?" "No," said the fisherman. "Just hop in and we'll go over to a little cove where I always have good luck." The man hopped in the boat and off they headed across the lake until they came to a small cove. The fisherman stopped the boat and cut off the motor. He reached over in his tackle box and took out a red stick of dynamite. He lit the fuse and held it for a moment as the fuse burned down.
Then at the last moment he tossed it in the water and there was a tremendous explosion. Fish were everywhere on the water. He picked up his net and began scooping up the fish. After watching this for a moment the stranger reached in his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He showed his badge and said, "I'm a game warden and you are under arrest." Without blinking an eye, the fisherman simply reached over into his box and pulled out another stick of dynamite. He lit it and held it as the fuse burned down. Then, he tossed it to the game warden and said,
"Now, are you going to just sit there or are you going to fish?" There comes a time when we all have to decide - who we're going to be and what we're going to do!
Most folks really began to believe in the ark, once the rains started to fall and they were swimming in water where there had never been water before….
In 1963...65 percent of Americans said they believed in the absolute truth of the Bible. The current figure of 32 percent represents a new low in literal belief in the Bible. That’s a drop of 33% of the population…. (we have our task cut out for us….) Our challenge is to live inside out, not outside in!!
The way we live our lives will never rise any higher than the level of our inner belief systems…. Our actions will never surpass our core values and we will not exceed the limits of what we allow to rule our hearts….If fear rules our heart, then fear establishes our limit. The same is true with unbelief, unforgiveness and anger…No matter what God intends for us, what we allow and choose will usually be the outcome we live with… and the key factor is living life on the outside in or on the inside out! Now, we can do it right and we may still be a mess, but we will be a Holy mess with hope of improving, instead of an unholy one charging full speed towards a 1000 foot cliff !
Jesus loved sinners, even religious ones, and He loved setting up the Pharisees and letting them fall into theirown religious pits that they had dug for Him. In Luke 11:37 He was invited to dinner at a Pharisees house, and He deliberately did not wash His hands. When they confronted Him because He broke their rules for religious purification, He said, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also”? In other words, stop living from the outside in and start living from the inside out! We can look mighty fine and holy on the outside but on the inside be an unholy mess. YOU CAN’T GIVE WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE!
It’s important to give importance to what’s important… We need to pay attention to what is going on in our own hearts. We need to pay attention to what is going on in our prayer life and bible study. We need to pay attention to what is going on in our relationships. We need to pay attention to our position in Christ more than our goodworks. If It only took good works, Jesus would not have needed to come to overcome the sin that separated us from God….
Some folks have 20x20 vision and some folks have 2x4 vision….Jesus illustrated the inside/out approach, when He told the religious folks that if they removed the 2 x4 from their own eyes, they could see to remove the speck from the eye of others… You see, the outside/in folks see everyone else with a 2x4, but see themselves with a speck. But the inside/out folks, who have humble and repentant hearts before God, see the need to remove the 2x4 from their own eyes so they can help others with their speck!
Jonathan Whitfield was preaching to coal miners in England. He asked one man, "What do you believe?" "Well, I believe the same as the church." He said, "And what does the church believe?" "Well, they believe the same as me." Seeing he was getting nowhere, at finding out what it was that this man actually believed personally, Whitfield said, "And what is it that you both believe?" The miner thought about it and said "Well, I suppose that means we believe the same thing." It isn’t important that you believe, but it’s important HOW YOU BELIEVE, WHAT YOU DO BELIEVE… Jesus said “Demons believe and tremble”….
You can memorize scripture, and religious quotes all you want, but is it on the inside at the core of you? You can know about the doctrines, and the principles of the kingdom, but is it on the inside? You can tell about great things that you have seen God do, but is it on the inside of you? To know a thing and to know about a thing can be two totally different things…. None of the therapy or programs will make any difference to a person who has an addiction problem, until at some point it begins to come from the inside out….
Once a father walked into the kitchen and found his son climbing up into the refrigerator. He told his child who was, to get down. The child refused. Again the father told his child to get down, and again the child stubbornly refused. Finally, the father said, “If you don’t get down I’m going to give you a spanking.” The child got down and said, “I’m getting down on the outside, but I’m still up there on the inside!”
A hypocrite is a great pretender…The word hypocrite comes from a word meaning actor. A hypocrite is an actor, or a pretender. He professes some value or belief with his words, but his private life does not match it. He’s not pure in heart and to be pure in heart means our words match our actions. That means our outer life matches our inner life. When God saves us, He gives us new hearts, from the inside out….It’s not an act anymore, it has become our inner reality….We are the same in secret where no one sees, as we are in public because the heart is pure…
Folks who live as the victims of life, leave a trail of victims behind them…it’s always someone else’s fault… What would happen beginning today, if we began to talk and act like the person we dream of being deep inside of ourselves… Truth is that transformed people don’t just experience amazing change personally, but they will leave a trail of transformed lives everywhere they go, that will change the world from the inside out…...
Ezekiel 36:26-27 “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the (stubborn, insensitive, self-willed) heart of stone and give you a pure heart. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my desires for you and be careful to obey my values and principles”.
The Hebrew word “YHADA” means to have a personal, intimate, interactive experience… Let me use that wordfor you…
Exodus 8:10 “And he said, Be it according to your word, that you may know (YHADA… have a personal, intimate, interactive experience) that there is none like unto the LORD our God”.
My faith is an ongoing conversation I am having with God each day and He is constantly putting an exclamation point at the end of each conversation…
When God introduced Himself as “I AM”, He was moving from an outside/in God, to an inside/out, up close, intimate, personal God…. “I AM your provider…. “I AM” your healer…. “I AM” your righteousness…. “I AM” your peace…. “I AM your deliverer…. The perfect, holy, all knowing, ever-present, the beginning and end of all things, the same, yesterday, today, and forever, God.While neither He nor His love ever has or ever will change, His love changes us from the inside out.
Though the outward man is perishing, God can and will greatly use the inner man….
2 Corinthians 4:15 “For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound (be excessive, in abundance) to the glory of God. v16 For which cause we faint not, but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. v17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory v18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporary but the things which are not seen are eternal”…
The outer man or physical person that you see in the mirror, is not saved, it is kept, sustained and rescued because of the redemption of the inner man… it is created to be the earth vehicle for your soul and spirit. Feed it, wash it, take good care of it, but the outer man will be laid aside like a garment one day, no longer of any use, but the inner man may take a licking but it keeps on ticking… it is eternal!
For every believer in Christ, The inner man is a new creation…The inner man is being renewed day by day. The inner man is born again by the Spirit of God. The inner man has eternal life that shall never perish. The inner man is reborn by the seed of the Word of God…The inner man is who you are becoming and will beforever…The inner man is not subject to the curse. The inner man has the capacity to hear and obey the voice of God. It is sanctified and (set apart unto God) The inner man is justified. The inner man is a treasure which dwells in the vessel of the body. (tell someone, “You sure are a treasure”)… The inner man is anointed and empowered by the "resurrection power" of God. The inner man is gifted by God to fulfill His intentions and purposes! The inner man is where God’s kingdom is located in the earth and He is to be the ruling King there!
A pastor was on the church roof patching a leak. He looked down and noticed one of the neighborhood boys watching very intently. The pastor figured he would eventually go away, but he didn’t. Finally the pastor asked, "Well, son, are you trying to pick up some pointers on patching a roof?" "Oh No Sir," he replied, "My daddy showed me that, but I'm just waiting to hear what a preacher says when he hits his thumb with a hammer."
YES…..God’s process is to change us from the inside out. Remember that Moses came down from the Mountain, after being in the glory of God with his face glowing so brightly, they had to put a bag over his head. The energy of the Glory of God was absorbed by Moses’ inner man and it was so strong it was shining on the outside. As we intentionally spend time in the presence of God, we are energized with His power on the inside, and it should be seen radiating on the outside in our words and our actions.
As we grow in our knowledge of God’s will and His ways, as our faces are unmasked to Him, we will see God’s glory and be transformed more and more into His glorious likeness. In this transformative place, we will touch the world around us through His power and Spirit at work in us. It is our high calling, to be in the world but not of the world…
Ephesians 3:16 “May He grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man, v17 (now catch this, it’s so good) That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, so that you, being rooted and grounded in love, v18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, v19 And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, (Your inner man knows more than you give him credit for) that you might be filled with all the fulness of God. v20 Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us (in the inner man)”…
Oh do you hear it…. TO BE ENDUED WITH POWER AND MIGHT AND STRENGTH IN THE INNER MAN…..
Father, I make myself available to you so that my life can continue to be transformed through faith in Christ and the power of Your Word, that renews of my mind. Give me knowledge in my inner being that will cause me to truly be alive in You. Lord, I know transformation will not happen instantly, so give me the patience and strength to wait upon You, as You continue this process within me. You have clearly stated, that as I behold Your glory, I am being changed into Your image from glory to glory, even as by Your Spirit, Lord Jesus. I declare that transformation in my life has begun. Your love, peace, patience, and power will shine through me so that others will see You within me, wherever I go. I worship You and lift You high as You flow through me and empower me to live the life I was intended to live for Your glory. Lord I open my spirit to you to do Your supernatural work in me. Let my heart be changed as You make me new, and mold me into who I am truly meant to be… In Jesus Name, amen…
Can you imagine what you would do, if you were invited to a dinner and when you sat down at the table, it was a smorgasborg of scraps….it was like someone had done some dumpster diving and raided the restaurant dumpsters to set the table….(3 say YUCK, 3 times) And I’m sure You would swear off of smorgasborg scrap dinners for the rest of your life, and seriously wonder about your friend’s mental condition!
But can you think of how God must feel when He has done all He has done and we settle for scraps!!!
You’ve heard that it is no secret what God can do, but have you heard that it is no secret what God can’t do…. Or let me put it this way…. What is it that is impossible for God…..(anyone?) The answer to the question is….. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD TO DO NOTHING!!!!
If He brought you to this place in this time, then believe me, He didn’t bring you here at this time in your life, to just do nothing about it…. Or give you scraps!
The song “He didn’t bring us this far to leave us”, says … “There are some promises in a letter, written a long, long time ago, they're not getting older, they're getting better, because He still wants us to know. He didn’t bring us this far to leave us, He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown, He didn’t build His home in us to move away, He didn’t pick us up to let us down……
In the book of Ruth, we are told that Ruth’s mother in law, Naomi has become a widow, and her son who is Ruth’s husband has also died. Naomi decides to head back to the home of her ancestors and Ruth comes along… they have used all their supplies, the frig is bare and the pantry is empty…. But it’s harvest time and the Jewish law states that widows, orphans and the homeless are allowed to glean the fields after the harvesters have gone through… Actually they deliberately leave the corners of the field and clumps of wheat that can be gathered up…. But God is working in the midst of all of this, because it’s impossible for God to do nothing! Some would say that it was by chance or accident or a stroke of luck that Ruth ends up in Boaz’s field, but there is no luck or chance to this story…. God is making a generational connection, that is far more reaching in it’s scope than anyone could possibly see at the moment….
Boaz shows up in the story, on the day that Naomi isn’t with her and “Bo” has given Ruth a second and a third glance! “Bo” is a wealthy man and God has decided to make a connection here, which will effect generations to come…. So while Ruth and Naomi are eating scraps, God is setting up something greater than they could have dreamed. Don’t despise the scraps, but don’t settle for scraps as the way it has to be!!!
Scraps are usually God’s trail of breadcrumbs to His riches if you’re willing to let it be your guide and not your final destination! The scraps you’re eating now, will be your testimony of God’s faithfulness and miracle power later…. Don’t despise the scraps, but don’t settle for them either!
A servant went to his master and said, "I have served you faithfully for ten years. Now I have a wish: give me something to eat which will never end." His master said, "Here, have some chewing gum." Sometimes eating scraps is like chewing old chewing gum…. The flavor is gone, your jaws hurt, but you keep on chewing, when God wants to give you something much better…..
Psalms 31:15 says “Our times are in His hands” and Isaiah 49:16 tells us we are “engraven on the palms of his hand” and John 10:28 says that “nothing can snatch us out of His hand”. I also see that in Psalms 37:23 He is “ordering our steps” and guides us through life. Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Our life is not a random string of events, but thank the Lord, we have a Master designer working behind the scenes coordinating and planning things that we could never accomplish on our own.
While Boaz is making Google eyes at Ruth, God is planning for them to be in the ancestral line of His Son Jesus, as He connects the dots and lays the groundwork for a thousand generations!!!
I remember that when we packed everything we owned in a van and headed for Florida, we would not have imagined we would end up in Hialeah, at the church of the pastor who happened to be the Presbyter over the Florida Keys, who also happened to ask us after we had worked with him for a year…. If we would be interested in the church in Key West…. I had not thought it but God was planning it….He saw that it would be part of the pastoral journey of ourselves, our kids, our grandkids and our great grand kids….. and I don’t believe it’s over yet!!!
Friends, you need to understand that God’s fingerprints are everywhere on your life! You never know why you meet the people you meet, and the circumstances happen the way they do. But believe me, God is up to something much bigger, and more important than you could ever imagine!
Pastor V. Bingham, was the founder of the Sudan Interior Missions. He was once seriously injured in an automobile accident. He was rushed to a hospital in critical condition. The following day, when he regained consciousness, he asked the doctor what he was doing there. The doctor said, "Don't try to talk now, just rest, reverend, You have been in a serious accident." Bingham shouted out…. "Accident, what Accident!....There are no accidents in the life of a Christian. God is up to something… This is just a fingerprint of the Father’s mysterious, perfect leading."
There’s a poem that asks the question “WHAT IF GOD EVER WENT ON STRIKE”
How is it that God above, Has never gone on strike, Because He surely wasn’t treated fair, and there were things He didn't like. If only once He'd given up, And said, 'That's it, I'm through! I've had enough of those on earth, So this is what I'll do. I'll give my orders to the sun – 'Cut the light and heat supply!' And to the moon - 'no longer shine, and empty the ocean dry.' Then just to make things really tough, And put the pressures on, 'Turn off the flow of oxygen, Till every breath is gone!' Perhaps, He would be justified, If being offended was the game. For no one has ever been abused, Or met with more disdain than God, and yet, He forgives the human race, Supplying you and me, With all the favors of His grace, and does it all for free. Men say they want a better deal, And so on strike they go. But what a raw deal we've given God, to whom all things we owe. We don't care whom we hurt, To gain the things we like. But what a mess we'd all be in, If God should go on strike!! (And I say “don’t worry bout it”)
Maybe you see your scraps as your age, you’re too young or too old…. Perhaps you see your scraps as your lack of education or training, you feel inadequate…. You may see your scraps as a lack of money or that you have too many obligations…. Perhaps your scraps are that you’re shy, or just don’t like people!!! Turn your scraps over to Jesus, whatever they are….place them in his hands… Watch what He can do with scraps….
To Isaiah he said in Isaiah 43:19 “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert”.
Malachi 3:10 “Bring my portion of the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, so that there shall not be room enough to even receive it”. (God is promising abundance, not scraps!!!)
You’ve got to pay attention to the right things…and not get distracted from the process, when God is up to something…. (speaking of distractions)….
A boy asked his father, "Dad, are bugs good to eat?" The dad said, "That's disgusting son. Don't talk about things like that over dinner". You should wait till dinner is finished to talk about things *…..like that… So, as the father is eating his last spoon of soup, he asks, "Now, son, what did you ask me?" "Oh, nothing," the boy says. "There was a bug in your soup, but it’s no problem now." If you allow yourself to get distracted, you may end up settling for things you don’t have to…..
If you have found yourself settling for scraps, if the Holy Spirit is letting you know deep down inside that you’re accepting less than God’s best… if you’re settling for something God is telling you is wrong for you….. if you’re going in one direction and you know in your heart God is going in another….ask yourself the following…..
1. Is there an example for me to follow for what is important?
2. Is there a sin I need to avoid or confess?
3. Is there a promise I need to claim?
4. Is there a prayer I need to repeat?
5. Is there a command I need to obey?
6. Is there a condition I need to meet?
7. Is there a scripture I need to remember?
8. Is there an error or misinterpretation I need to avoid?
9. Is there a challenge I need to face?
10. Is there a principle I need to apply?
11. Is there a habit that I need to change, start or stop?
12. Is there an attitude I need to correct?
13. Is there a truth I need to believe?
We should all ask ourselves some of the questions on the list before we put our head on our pillow at night.
There was a widow woman of Zarephath in 1Kings 17:10 who was barely surviving on scraps as she and her son were watching the oil and meal disappear daily, knowing when it was gone, they would perish. Surely they were of the belief that God had much more important things to do than concern himself with a lowly widow and her son…. But while they were eating scraps, God was preparing an overflow that would save the entire neighborhood population… They looked at what they could do with scraps, but the prophet saw what God could do with scraps….
Jesus took scraps and fed 5000 men plus women and children…. He took water and made the best wine at the wedding….. He took the jaw bone of a donkey and brought victory through the hands of Shamgar…. And He’ll take what you give Him and do what no other power can do!!!
You may feel that you’re facing a challenge with only scraps to offer to the task at hand… Scraps represent inadequacy, inability, and coming up short…. But I want to remind you that when God chose Noah, he was a basket case…. When he chose David, he chose the runt of the litter who was assigned to walk behind the sheep and step in sheep dip….. Jacob was a deceiver, Paul was a murderer, Moses was a stutterer with a bounty on his head…. The demoniac of Gadara became an evangelist…. The woman at the well brought her neighborhood to Christ… and then wonder of wonders, He chose you and me!!!! (think about that!!)
Jesus doesn’t come to be an addition to our lives, He comes to take over our lives!!!
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
We’re not going to get a handle on what God is inviting us into all at once, but we can start right where we are…. With our little bit of oil and meal and move forward one step at a time, fully believing that God’s process will take us to more and more, little by little….
It’s like the man with the smart pig….Afarmer has his farm for sale and he is walking with a prospective buyer when they see a beautiful pig in the yard, except it has a wooden leg. The buyer asks, "Why the wooden leg?" The farmer replies, "That pig is so smart, I let it drive the kids to school."….."Great, but why the wooden leg?" (the farmer says)
"Well, That pig is so smart it could probably get a degree in horticulture and philosophy." …."Amazing! But why the bloody wooden leg?"…. And the farmer went on….”That pig actually saved my boys life several times”… The potential buyer asks, “Why the wooden leg?” (the farmer says) "Well when you have a pig that smart you don't eat it all at once!"
What the lord is inviting us to, is sometimes hard to wrap our head around all at once! But start where you are, and you’ll get there! We usually don’t make BIG CHANGES, but we make a lot of little changes that add up to a big difference over a period of time…..
"Vaya con Díos," expresses what we’re talking about here…. (it’s about the only Spanish I know, other than Guacamole) “Vaya con Dios, means “Go With God”…..The great news is that God always equips those he calls and he provides for those who are in His purposes…. Never underestimate the power of touch, when God is doing the touching. What Has God called you to do…. Do IT… GO WITH GOD!!! Then he will fulfill his purpose in you, he will equip you, he will enable you, he will protect you, he will accompany you. When Moses stood before Pharaoh, all he had was God and a rod…. But God was the great equalizer who caused Moses to be more than enough for the task he had been given.
“Vaya Con Dios”… as Moses went with God, the Red sea opened, water came from a rock, the enemy was held at bay…. “Vaya con Díos," As Joshua went with God, the sun and moon stood still until the victory was won…. “Vaya con Díos," As David went with God, Goliath lost his head, and a shepherd boy became king…. “Vaya con Díos," As the disciples went with God, fishermen became world shaking apostles and John the Revelator showed us the end of the age and the glory to come……
If all you have is a sling, sling it…. If all you have is a little oil and meal, start pouring…. If all you have is some fish and strips start giving it away….. if all you have is a rod like Moses, lift it high…. “Vaya Con Dios”….!!!! “VayaCon Dios”!!!!! ….WITH GOD, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!!
There is a powerful story that I want to close with in Matthew 15:22 “And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, (Tyre and Sidon) and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. v23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she cries out incessantly after us. v24 Buthe answered and said, “Am I not sent unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”.
v25 Then came the woman and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. v26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. (because the Jews called the Gentiles “dogs”, they were accustomed to it) v27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. v28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is your faith: be it unto you even as you desire. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour”.
That’s the overwhelming, life transforming, matchless love of God!
I love this…. Jesus takes this woman who had come to accept that she could only eat scraps that fell from the Master’s table, and invites her to sit next to the Master, at the Master’s table! He told her, that she had settled for scraps when she could have enjoyed the banquet… This is totally overwhelming for her…. But the Lord says the same thing to all who will come to Him…. “Stop living with the “Scrap” mentality and accept My invitation to pull up a seat and enjoy the banquet!!!!! Life without regrets, Life on God’s terms not the world’s terms, or the Devil’s…
Matthew 10:7 And as you go, tell them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. v8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely you have received, freely give”.
Luke 4:18 Jesus tells us…. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, v19 To declare that this is the acceptable year of the Lord” (that no one shall be turned away)……
The Gospel means “Good News”…. And the good news is that we don’t have to wait for a scrap to fall here or thereanymore…. But we are now invited to sit at the table prepared by the Lord…. And let me tell you… if the Lord prepares a table, that table is going to be amazing! His invitation has been sent out to “Whosoever Will”… If you were invited to a free week at Disney World, all the food, all the accommodations, all expenses paid….you would figure out some way to get there, I’m sure…. The King of Kings invites us to His abundance, shouldn’t we begin to prepare for the trip!
Romans 8:31 “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against (or prevent) us?”
Last week we received “The Lord’s Supper”… and that observance is God’s invitation to come to the table of wholeness, the table of freedom from bondage, the table of provision and the table of peace in the midst of stress and trouble, and the table of transformation and qualification…..His invitation qualifies you!!!
We used to sing the hymn, “Come and dine, the master calleth, come and dine. You may feast at Jesus table all the time. He who fed the multitude, turned the water into wine, to the hungry is calling now, Come and Dine”!!!!!
Father, thank You for Your Word again, as always. We feast on it with great joy as we receive its blessing. We’re rejoicing in its truth, in its miraculous reality, its hope filled promises, and its comforting invitation to each of us. We’re so rich because of its entrance into our lives. And we pray, Lord, for those who have not yet entered in, but who have come to say, “Lord Jesus I receive Your invitation” and like the little woman who was down to the last of her resources, we pull up a seat at the table of the Lord at Your invitation. Lord, may You grant to all of us that persistent faith that will not let go, that will seize the Kingdom, that will press through the hindrances and the barriers and lay hold of this banquet of grace which you offer. Work that work in hearts, we pray, as a witness to Your glory…..
We receive the banquet which grace freely provides today…. Jesus you welcome us for you said, “I have come that you might have life, and life more abundantly”!
Have you ever felt like a "duck out of water"? It’s my understanding that the term means you feel out of place… like you just didn't belong. Perhaps you went somewhere in casual clothes, while everyone else was in tuxedoes, and you felt rather conspicuous and out of the groove that everyone else was in, (or is that a rut?). Or maybe you found yourself in a group of people who were swearing or telling off-color jokes, and you didn't quite know what to do or how to react. From time to time, we all feel conspicuous or out of place, like we don't belong. I used to dream as a kid that I was at a party and everyone was dressed up and I was in my BVDs.
You’re exceptional!...I heard TD Jakes say that…. You’ve got to understand that you’re the exception so THAT makes you exceptional. What kind of thinking requires that you be like everyone else? Because everyone else left the Keys except you…. Hey you’re exceptional! Because everyone else does drugs and gets drunk every week-end but you… OH, YEAH, BABY…. You’re exceptional! None of your friends ever attend church, but you… God says You’re exceptional!.. You are a paradox, and Webster defines Paradox as “a person, opinion or statement contrary to commonly accepted standards…something that is contrary to conventional wisdom”… (Just don’t go getting crazy on me now!)
John 17:14 Jesus says “I have given them Your word; and the world has rejected them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. v15 I pray not that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the that is in the world. v16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. v17 Sanctify (hag-ee-ad'-zo…purify and cleanse) them through Your truth, Your word is truth. v18 Just as You have sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. v19 And for their sakes I sanctify (purify and cleanse) myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. v20 I do not pray for these alone, but for all those also which shall believe on me through their word. v21 That they all may be one; as You, are in me Father, and I in You, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that You have sent me. v22 Andthe glory which You gave me I have given them”.
The word “sanctify” is from the noun “Sanctuary” which is a place reserved and set apart for God’s presence. You can see that just as God left clear instructions for the cleansing and purification of the sanctuary on a constant basis, so likewise, we see that we are to cleanse and purify our living sanctuaries as God’s dwelling place. All the furnishings, all the instruments, as well as the sanctuary itself, were to be purified daily and throughout the day. The oil in the Menorah was to be changed every day, representing the freshness of the flow of the Spirit… This was God’s visible dwelling place, where His Glory was to be seen, letting the people know that He was with them, in their midst, working among them….
I would say that this statement of Jesus that we are “in the world but not of the world”… is the daily challenge which every believer faces…to keep your Christian experience fresh each day!
The only place you hear a disciple cursing, is when Peter was denying Jesus…. The only place they are found drunk, is on the day of Pentecost when they were under the influence of the Spirit with a capital “S”. The only time they became violent, was when Peter cut off the ear of the man who had come to take Jesus, and Jesus put the ear back on….. and said “put away your sword”….
To cleanse the sanctuary is to remove the old stuff and make room for the new stuff…. A new Lord and Master, new motives, new outlook, new attitude, a new way of talking, new priorities, new goals and a new you!
If you live in a world where everyone has two heads, 4 arms or 3 eyes, then you are different if you have one head, two legs and two eyes….(I know mom’s need an eye in the back of their heads,but..) Be the best difference you can be and make a difference….
If you live in a world where everyone curses, smokes, drinks and beats their wife and you don’t… You’re different… Be the best difference you can be and make a difference….
It’s OK to be different….I know there are those who say “I am in a leadership position, and if I don’t curse like them, drink like them, smoke like them and hang out at the bar with them, they won’t respect me….
(you’ve been watching too many Clint Eastwood movies) …. If you feel the need to go to the bar for a witness, then order a Root Beer or a Doctor Pepper, cause we all need a Dr. sometimes!
As a Christian I am called to bless not “Dam this, or Dam that”… Instead of using a curse word, how about saying “Bless God”, or “Thank God” or just “Well how about that” instead!
Listen, the world is looking for a solution and an answer to a sin problem that plagues all mankind… if you are trying to be just like them, then believe me, they will never find it!!!
There is a sign along the Alaskan Highway that reads: “Choose your rut very carefully, because you’ll be in it for the next 200 miles.”
Jesus says… “Be in the world but not of the world”…. Jesus prayed to His Father, "I do not ask you to take them (His disciples) out of the world, but to keep them from the world." What that translates into is this…. Jesus loves me more than I could ever imagine, more than anyone has ever loved me, but he loves me enough to not leave me like He found me….
I know that Jesus was accused by the holy men of his day of hanging out with publicans and sinners… but it also says that “there was no sin in Him”…. True we’re not perfect, just forgiven… but don’t push it!
Don’t be a “Johnny one note”…..If our spiritual life was like the keys on a keyboard. We would need to play more than one note all the time…(keep hitting one key) It wouldn’t be much of a concert if the pianist only played one note….. don’t let your one note be … “I sin, but I’m forgiven”… “I sin, but I’m forgiven”…“I sin, but I’m forgiven”… There are other notes on the keyboard…There’s the victorious key, the overcoming key, the triumphant key, the redeemed key, the I’m exceptional key, and on we could go….
Let your testimony be “I am in the world but not of the world”….. Let’s major on overcoming, and victory and triumphant living, not how much sin grace will tolerate!!!
A man once claimed that he was a "war baby," that his parents had taken one look at him and started fighting. Well, we are born into a world of trouble and the sparks fly upward…. It doesn’t take long for each child to discover that we live in an imperfect world filled with imperfect people who can be downright nasty or unkind. You find that life simply isn't fair. Which is the reason that we can’t allow successes to go to our head and we can’t allow failures to fill our heart….
Jesus wants us to be in the world, where the sin and brokenness and scars of life are…. Some people have great beauty or brains, health or wealth, while your portion of any of the above may seem rather small or non-existant. But we are to be like the submarine, Insolated but not isolated. A submarine can't fulfill its purpose if it is out of the water. It must be submerged in the ocean before it can be effective. Even though the sub is surrounded by water, the water can't get inside because it is insulated. The submarine has been prepared ahead of time, before it went into the sea, to have all possible areas sealed where leaks might occur. Your prayer time, bible study, and sitting under the preaching of the word with other believers, can expose any possible leaks…. The sub is insulated but not isolated! The Lord wants us to influence and make a difference in the world around us-- but not for the world to shape and fashion us….
I believe that when Jesus comes into someone’s life, He takes the "W" out of "Where, When", and What” He replaces the “W” with a “T” and gives you There, Then and That…. And He becomes the “There” the “Then” and the “That” of our lives….. He takes our questions and transforms them into answers!
Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by this you may discern what is the will of God, and what is good and acceptable and perfect”.
Are we natives or pilgrims?.... A scuba divers know they are visiting the undersea world for only a brief amount of time. In the world but not of the world asks the question of all of us…. … Is this our home or are we just passing through on our way home?
A scuba diver can be comfortable in the water because he isbreathing the air from the world above. He takes his environment with him as he enters another environment. Believers are exhorted to be the salt of the world and the light of the world. Salt is worthless if it is no longer salty. Light is worthless if it cannot be seen, and a hidden flame is eventually snuffed out…..If we become like the world, we cannot save it or change it. DON’T SPEND MORE TIME JUSTIFYING WHAT YOU DIDN’T DO, THAN YOU SPEND OBEYING WHAT YOU SHOULD DO!!!
No matter where we are we should be able to say “The Lord is in this place”….The awareness of God's presence helped Jacob in a challenging time that he went through. He was alone under the stars, in the trial of his life, when he saw a stairway with angels ascending and descending on it. He woke up and said, Genesis 28:12 "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.... How awesome is this place!" Through that glimpse of the dual nature of his journey, he was able to continue and finish his assignment.
If only we could live each moment of every day with that awareness, thinking: "Surely the Lord is in this place and in my life. Because of that, How awesome is this place, and how awesome is life itself”!
We are a dichotomy… In this realm of time, we base our hopes on things that are timeless…. In this realm of the visible, we see the invisible…. In this realm of the temporary, we touch the eternal… in a world that is constantly shifting and changing, we cling to the unchanging and unalterable… He’s the same yesterday, today and forever!
The teacher asked Bobbie, “Is the world round”…. Bobbie says “No”… She asks, “Then is it flat”… He says “No”… She says “Then what is it”… Bobbie says “It’s crooked!”…. Well, it may be a pretty crooked world, but we each can make a difference. I just read that if every Christian leads one person to Christ this year, then 100 million will be added to the Christian community in this year!
God works with the domino effect…. You may feel that you can’t make much of a difference, but God works with the domino effect…. It’s amazing, some of the domino effects people have set up…. But think of this… it only takes one domino in the series, to fail or to be out of place, or missing, and the entire effect is stopped at that one domino…. It’s about one touching another one, and so on and so on….. until there is a chain reaction that affects them all…. I am celebrating the domino effect in our family….
October is pastor appreciation month, and this month, I am appreciating and celebrating my Pastor wife, Winnie, my Pastor son David, my Pastor daughter-in-law Vickie, and my Pastor son, Chris, my Pastor daughter-in-law Christi, my God chasing daughter Karen and son-in-law Jason.....My Pastor grandson, Pepper, my Pastor granddaughter-in-law Kyla...and my Missionary granddaughter Zoe....WOW! How could I possibly be so blessed and favored by my Heavenly Father! Thank You Lord….and all my kids grew up in Key West! In the world but not of the world….Hallelujah!...Then there’s Winnie’s brother John, Craig and Linda, Craig’s brother Gregg and Nancy, who are pastors as well….
Guttenberg had it right, the bible was the first thing published when the printing press was invented by him sometime before 1456. And from that small beginning, the bible is now printed in more than 1,907 languages. It has changed countries and kingdoms. It has transformed multitudes of lives and heaven has swelled it’s numbers, because one man lived in the world but not of the world. That same Word of God, will be the last thing in force when time closes and everything else has faded into history! What would happen if we put as much effort in things that are eternal as we do those things that will all pass away!
Let’s talk about Adaptation and Reservation….Jesus says we are in the world…. That’s ADAPTATION… we build relational bridges, we establish foundations, and we find common interests, but we are not of the world, because that’s RESERVATION…. We have been reserved for another. Just as a wife or husband are no longer free range…. They are reserved for one another, they may be in a crowd with eligible wannabees, but they are not available….I can mingle but I better not mate! I can scan but I better not smooch… I am reserved! That’s Adaptation with Reservation!!!
Jesus was 100% Jewish, and yet He was 100% God. The bible calls Him “The son of man”, and yet it also calls Him “the Son of God”, He was in the world but not of the world…. No matter where you’ve been, what’s important is where you’re going, and who you’re going to take with you…. You want to start an “out of this world dynasty”, and spawn a “generation of pilgrims”, who are just passing through, together with you….Adapting but Reserved for another….
Colossians 3:1 “If you have then been raised up with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. v2 Set your affection (fron-eh'-oon… to be predisposed) on things above, not on things on the earth. v3 For you are dead,(to your old life) and your (new) life is hidden with Christ in God”.
It is in doing this that we become a light in darkness, an ambassador of freedom in a world of bondage, a speaker of truth in the midst of deception and scams, a solid place in sinking sand, and a safe place in the raging storm….
Behind the gorgeous sunset and the colors of spring and the beauty and wonder of the coral reef, Creation is groaning. Beyond the most wondrous experiences of our lives, we still sense an incompleteness. You can hear it in songs that are sung…(especially country songs) I lost my dog, my wife and my best friend… it tells the story of our constant craving for what we can't find. It’s like trying to capture the snow of Alaska in a bottle and bring it to Key West but it melts as soon as you bottle it…. (Hey, thanks for the water, but we already have water everywhere here)
And You would like to go back to the “good old days” but you discover that you can’t go back, You’ve changed and so has everyone else that you knew… I recently found the alumni page on Face Book, to my High school, Blackstone High school.
As I looked through the pictures of my contemporaries who were in my classes… I kept thinking….MAN THEY ARE ALL SO OLD! Time has come and gone and we look at the strange faces of the people we knew so well. They now have snow on top, or no snow at all, bubbles in the middle instead of six-pax, the shoulders droop a little, and life has etched itself on their sweet faces! Life has left it’s defining mark!!
There’s a stranger in my house. A strange old man has moved into my house. I have no idea who he is, where he came from, or how he got in. I certainly did not invite him. All I know is that one day he wasn't there, and the next day he was. He manages to keep out of sight for the most part, but whenever I pass a mirror, I catch a glimpse of him. And there he is, hogging the whole thing, completely obliterating my gorgeous face and body. And he has done something to the volume controls on my TV, radio and telephone. Now all I hear are mumbling and whispering. He has taken the fun out of shopping for clothes. When I try something on, he stands in front of the dressing room mirror and won’t move. He looks totally ridiculous in some of those outfits he wears, and he keeps me from seeing how great they look on me. And just when I thought he couldn't get any meaner, he came along when I went to get my picture taken for my driver's license, and just as the camera shutter clicked, he jumped in front of me! Now everyone is going to think that the picture of that old man is me.
Speaking of this old world, folks are trying to find happiness in their superficial lives and behind their shallow masks. They try to find fulfillment in fancy cars, bigger homes and expensive jewelry, and fill the void with drugs, alcohol and pleasure. It’s the pursuit of the masses to find the rainbow's end and the pot of gold that's not there! Because when you get to where it was, it’s not there anymore, it’s somewhere else…. John Lennon's song "Nowhere Man" captures this paradox…"He's a real nowhere man/ Sitting in his nowhere land/ Making all his nowhere plans/ For nobody. But the psychiatrist, and therapists and rehab clinics are making a fortune. This world is not enough and the things of this earth will always leave you wanting more. Because we are eternal beings who shall never be really satisfied until we fill up what’s missing with the Kingdom of God which shall never pass away, thru Jesus Christ, the savior of the World and our redeemer. Let’s hear from Saint Augustine, who found his freedom and redemption in 386 A.D. by bringing his desires to the Lord. He was a womanizer, heavy drinker, and was living with a concubine who had given him a son, when He came to Christ. He said, "How sweet all at once it was, for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared so much to lose! . . . You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all other pleasures”.
Certainly if anyone had their challenges, David did. If anyone had all the pleasures of this world, David did….and when all was said and done…No matter how it may appear, it’ only temporary.
David called the Lord his greatest joy in….(Psalm 43:4). He said, "Serve the Lord with gladness" in Psalm 100:2… and he told us to "Take our delight in the Lord" in Psalm 37:4 and he prayed, "Satisfy us in the morning with Your faithful love so that we may shout with joy and be glad all our days" in Psalm 90:14… and then David promised that complete and lasting happiness is found in God alone, "You reveal the path of life to me, in Your presence is abundant joy, in Your right hand are pleasuresforever more” In Psalm 16:11.
Fear is defeated and faith is alive…What has overwhelmed you, has been overwhelmed! The Lord declares, Oh grave where is your victory, for dead dreams and hopes, now live again… As we return to our first love He restores the dream and infuses us with hope. The one who has held your heart captive shall no longer bring you into bondage, for He whom the Son sets free is free indeed. Your best days are still ahead and your greatest accomplishments are in front of you….
I heard of one pastor who had become concerned that folks were leaving their phones on and interrupting the service with the incoming calls and as the service began, he told the congregation… “Let’s turn our phones off, and turn on one another”….
So I trust we can get everyone turned on with the message today…..
The issue of the will of God can be the “Elephant in the room”….When we get together with a group of people who we know well, there are things everyone knows about, that no one wants to bring up or talk about. Everyone wants to avoid those areas because they stir up stuff we would rather not deal with. Those things are called the “elephant in the room”. The will of God can often be the “elephant in the room” that we don’t deal with because it would mean we might need to take a realistic look at our lives and that would mean changing the way we do life…. It would mean we can no longer ignore things we already know deep down inside, that need to be rearranged and done differently.
Acts 9:3 “And as he (Saul) journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven. v4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? v5 And he said, Who are You, Lord”? “And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom you persecute, it is hard for you to fight against the Holy Spirit. v6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what would You have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told you what you must do”.
Notice that the first two questions Saul asked when he encountered the Lord…. Were… “Who are you, and What would you have me do”? The great transition in Saul’s life came with these two sincere questions that spontaneously came out of him. Which tells me, they were questions that he had been asking himself for some time, because he called him Lord!….
Just some thoughts as I was meditating on this subject……God’s will is not a stationary target, it is a living, moving Rubik’s cube of variables….It is not locked in, but is filled with adjustments that match the moment….and you can always get there from where you are. Right now you are on the threshold of that moving target which is the will of God. Where you are right now is the launching pad to the will of God, no matter where that is. God is constantly adjusting the directions on your spiritual GPS, to match the terrane you’re in and bring you there.
Stay away from still people….Still complaining, still hating, still losing, still broke, still blaming, still living in the past, still making excuses….
We received a testimony from our Granddaughter Zoe from Brazil… They got lost as they were trying to get to a remote village and came across a man whose house had burned down. He was sleeping on the ground in an area where there were cougars, with only his dogs to warn him. At night the rats would bite him and eat at his feet. The team helped him rebuild his home and led him to Jesus as his savior. They were on their way to one place but God’s will lead them to a place they hadn’t planned. David didn’t plan on fighting Goliath. He was just bringing lunch to his brothers, but on his way to something else, God planned for him to slay the giant!
If you shoot at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. If you expect nothing, you’ll get it every time. God prefers to use folks who have a plan, because to put together a plan for your life, means you have faith that at some point the plan is possible and do-able…. We are told that without faith it is impossible to please Him for He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him…
We need to remember that God’s will is not a road map, it is a relationship…(repeat) A road map is about where you’re going, a relationship is about who you’re going with… (He rewards those that seek Him) Abraham chose the desert with God rather than the fertile plans of Sodom without Him…. Moses said if you don’t go with me I will not Go…. The three Hebrews said, we’ll take bread and water with God rather than the kings dainties without Him…. Jesus told the disciples, follow me and I will make you fishers of men…..
In the great list of things we need, He is our greatest need….Heis the answer to the question, He’s the objective of our quest.God’s will is not hiding from any one of us, He wants us to find His will and to live our lives in that blessed place. Psalm 37:23 says, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and He delights in God’s way."
In Psalm 32:8, God says, "I will instruct You and teach You in the way which You shall go: I will guide You with My eye."
1 Peter 3:12 The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers:
We assume a lot, when we seek God’s will and ignore the word of God which we have been given. The scriptures are like the banks of a river, they give boundaries within which our lives can flow and they provide direction and guidelines for conduct, character, and Christian priorities while we move forward….
Benjamin Schmolke wrote the hymn, "My Jesus, as You Will" His home town was destroyed by fire. Two of his own children lost their lives in the flames. Later he himself became paralyzedand eventually he became blind. Yet he could sing his "Hymn of Trust that in the midst of everything, God’s greater plan would triumph"… The words are….
My Jesus, as You will, may Your will be mine! Into Your handsof love, I would my all resign.
Through sorrow or through joy, Lord lead me as Your own, and help me still to say, "My Lord, Your will be done."
God’s Spirit within the believer causes them to be sensitive to the movings and stirrings of the Lord’s leadings, so they can respond with discernment and insight. Knowledge comes through observing what’s around us, but wisdom comes as we respond to God’s Spirit within us….When I was a young man, I heard a veteran pastor say, “If God calls you to preach the gospel, and instead, you became president of the United States, you would have taken a step down”… (that lodged deep inside my spirit) If you are called to be president, fine, but stay in your calling……(I believe our president has been called of God in this place and this time) I believe he is a type of Joseph, who was sent by God into Egypt to save his people, to rescue the economy in a time of famine, and affect generations to come….
The bible tells us to establish everything by Two or three witnesses….Even Jesus had two witnesses with Him on the mount of transfiguration….I need to tell you, don’t rely upon some prophetic word alone to find God’s will for your life. Prophesy will come to confirm what God is already speaking to your heart and spirit. When God was speaking to Saul, in Acts 9:15, whose name He changed to Paul, He used Ananias to confirm His will. Then Barnabas vouched for Paul to the other disciples. Believe it, the connections you need are all included and provided in the will of God.
A man was crossing the Irish Channel one dark starless night, he stood on the deck by the captain and asked him, "How do you know the entrance to the Harbor on such a dark night as this?" He said, "You see those three lights? Those three must line up, and when we see them so aligned, we know the exact position of the harbor's mouth." When we want to know God's will there are three things which always concur —
The Spirit’s inward leading and prompting, the inspired Word of God, and the alignment of circumstances! God in the heart, impelling you forward. God in His Book, confirming whatever He says in the heart; and God in circumstances, which are His hand aligning and arranging….
What blessed assurance to know that God sustains us, God blesses us, God guides us, God empowers us, and God is with us.
2 Corinthians 13:1 “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established”. So let it be established before youtake action.
God is able to confirm His will without you blabbing to everyone. He’s able and He prefers to use folks who don’t even know your business. I’ve had folks that I never met before, suddenly say something to me that totally confirmed what the Lord was stirring in my spirit.
One more thing about getting two or three witnesses, Listenplease, if someone’s life is out of order and out of control, that is not a person to give you counsel. Someone whose marriage is messed up is not someone to receive marriage council from. Don’t go to someone whose finances are messed up to get financial advice….You never ask a thief to help you find the nearest policeman….
Brother Manual Herrera was over 90 years old and had dementia. I would try to go by and see him whenever I had been praying about some area God was dealing with me regarding the ministry. He would ramble all over the place and then look me square in the eyes and say something I knew was coming straight from God. I knew that it had to be God, because in his condition, what he would be saying was beyond his conscious skill level…. Certainly he was not the only witness I accepted before making a final decision, but sometimes he was one of the three….
Speaking of Bro Herrera, I came across Hymns to sing for Christians over 65 years old…. First we have, “Give Me the Old Timers Religion”
Then there’s “Precious Lord, Take My Hand, I’ve fallen and I can’t get Up”
Also we have “Just a Slower Walk with Thee”
And “Go Tell It on the Mountain, But Speak loudly please”
“Nobody Knows the Trouble I Have Seeing”
“Guide Me, Great Jehovah, I’ve Forgotten Where I’ve Parked The Car”
“Count Your Many Birthdays, Count Them One By One”
And we can’t leave out “Blessed Insurance, Jesus is Mine”
And last “It Is Well With My Soul, But My Back and Knees Hurt”
Often God’s leading is by the closed door …. God’s will can sometimes look like a closed door, but every closed door will point you to an open door. The problem is, we want the open doors before the closed doors slam in our face, but you would never get to the open door without encountering the closed door first. So often God will give you a restlessness in your spirit when He is up to something…. That restlessness may mean a physical relocation, or a new spiritual level that He’s bringing you into…
The Lord put a deep restlessness and unsettledness in my Spirit. I had prayed for some time to know what it meant, and the Lord said that it was time for me to leave my job, because He had another place for me. It was in 1972, when we took our first pastorate, in Wethersfield Ct. We were excited to be pastoring but then, 3 years later, we found out that the pastor who founded the church had made a deal with the city that he would build a building in 3 years. However he had told no one about it and suddenly, we were told that we could no longer meet in the building we were in. The variance had expired and would not be renewed. The previous pastor had left the denomination with bad feelings between them so they would no longer back the church for a restart. I was feeling to go back to college and further my ministry studies. But when we got to Lakeland, Florida, it was as though God wrote Ichabod on Lakeland for us. We figured when the doors close, you look for the open ones…. We came to Miami, where doors were open everywhere…. At the end of the year in Miami, we came to Key West to try out for the church here and the rest is history… That situation was a combination of open doors and revelation. Without knowing that Winnie had seen the same vision, we got here and decided to explore the island. We got a tourist map, and at the same time we both exclaimed that we had seen the island from the air. God had shown us separately this island at night from up above. The streets were lit up and we had no clue what we were seeing. It was a progression of open and closed doors that brought us here.
Everything you will do, is connected to what you’re doing now, with what you have now. It’s like connecting the dots to a drawing on a sheet of paper. It’s hard when you start, to make sense of it and you don’t know what it will look like until you connect all the dots, but as you connect one dot to another and another and another and so on, it begins to take shape and make sense!
Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.” God has a purpose for your pain, a reason for your struggle and rewards for your faithfulness….
I said before that the will of God is an ever moving target…..William Wordsworth, the English poet, in one of his poems, tells about a bird that was carried from Norway by a storm. It fought hard against the gale winds in its effort to findits way back to Norway, but all in vain. At last it stopped its struggle and yielded to the wind, but instead of being carried to destruction it was carried to the warm shores of England, and to the green meadows and forests. So when we struggle against God's will we are actually fighting what He has chosen as best for us, But if we yield and cease our struggle, we will be brought to places of blessing and joy we never dreamed or imagined were possible.
Isaiah 30:18 “Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and He will be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you, for the LORD is a God of justice, and blessed are all those that wait for Him. v19 For the people shall dwell in Zion (under His rule and government) and you shall weep no more. He will be very gracious unto you at the voice of your cryand when He shall hear it, He will answer you. v20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of distress, your teachers shall not be hidden from you anymore, but your eyes shall behold your teachers, v21 and your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, you shall walk in it”, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left”.
Sometimes the Sinai desert can be 120 degrees in the daytime and freezing at night. When God led the Hebrews through the desert, it was by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The daytime cloud was the single most distinguishing feature of their encampment.
Now we can just imagine how it would be when the cloud moved forward and the people would get weary of following it. We read in the final verses of Exodus 40:36-37, "When the cloud movedfrom over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys; but if the cloud did not move, then they journeyed not till the day that it moved". Sometimes it moved often, at other times not at all. So, imagine a family coming to a stop under the cloud's guidance in the middle of a hot 120 degree afternoon and immediately beginning to unpack their baggage. They take down their bedding and set up their tent. And then, no sooner have they got it all arranged, someone cries out, "The cloud is moving." And so they repack their baggage and start to move on again. One hour later the cloud stops. They say, "We're gonna leave our things packed this time and sleep on the ground." Well, they do. And the cloud stays that night and all next day and all that week. And as they are going into the second week the family says, "Well, we might as well get it over with." They unpack. And immediately the cloud begins to move again.
Now the people must have sometimes hated the unpredictable moving of the cloud by which God guided them. But no matter how much they hated the cloud they still had to follow its guidance. Because if someone had said, "I don't care if the cloud is moving; I'm going to stay right here," the cloud would have gone on, and they would have perished in the heat of the desert, or they would have frozen at night. They murmured about the way God chose to lead them, but by this means God was molding and unifying a nation of slaves, into a disciplined force that would one day be able to conquer the land of Canaan. And He was teaching them absolute obedience.
God’s will is built into each of us…His will, is integrated with the gifts, passions, anointings, abilities and talents he has given us, even though we don’t always understand what that looks like . God didn’t make a mistake when He made you who you are and He won’t make a mistake in choosing the path He has for you. If you don’t have much ability in math, He probably has not called you to be a rocket scientist… However we can misjudge His leading, His desires and His timing for us….
It’s like the man who is talking to God and he asked "God, how long is a million years?" God answers, "To me, it's about a minute." He says "God, how much is a million dollars?" God says "To me, it's just a penny." He says "God, may I have a penny?" To his surprise God says "Wait just one minute." ……His timing is not our timing….
In closing I want say that sometimes we need to pray the brick wall prayer. The Brick Wall Prayer is simply a way of handing control over to the Lord in our lives and acknowledging our own human weaknesses. It helps us remember that God is sovereign and always in control if we will just surrender and give it to Him.
Before we pray the Brick Wall prayer together, take a moment and surrender your plans, your own desires and ambitions to Him.. He knows better than you how to use them and where He is taking you….. Prayer together…. Father in heaven, you know me better than I know myself. You know my fears and my desires. You know how much I desire certain things. You know how much I will be disappointed if some things don't happen. I know you love me and I know you have the best planned for me. Please, Lord, don't let my desires blind me and cause me to miss Your will. If what I want is not within your plan for me, throw up a Brick Wall. Give me an obstacle I cannot get over, under, around or through. Help me to understand and follow your leading. Father, give me peace about whatever is to come. If what I want falls through, I will have joy in knowing that you have something better for me. So I submit to Your will and I pray that You would have Your way, in Your time, in my life and I Thank You, in Jesus Name….. Pastoral blessing……And now, may the peace of God that passes all understanding, gird your heart and mind, soul and spirit, as you surrender yourself into His plans and intentions. May the will of God be your motivation and desire, as you live life on purpose with all sincerity and transparency in seeking His truth and embracing His values in all you do. For His will is the place of provision, the place of wholeness, and the place of true freedom. May the blessing of His presence be your ambition, and may the glory of His countenance smile upon all you do. In His glorious name, amen!