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Showing posts with label Change. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Change. Show all posts

Monday, June 10, 2019

When Life Changes, God is Good


Introduction
This is the third blog in a series base on my church's VBS theme for this summer--Life is Wild. God is Good.  It's all about the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt.  Today, we learn: When life changes, God is good.

Psalm 106:1
Praise the Lord!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.

The Israelites lived in Egypt for over 430 years.  Imagine 400 years!  What was your family doing 430 years ago?  You probably have no idea.  What was America doing 430 years ago?  Well, America didn't even exist as a nation 430 years ago.  Consider this, the King James Version of the Bible--a version we consider very old, so old it is sometimes hard for us to understand it--hadn't yet been written 430 years ago.  And the Egyptians lived in Egypt for 430 years.  That's a long time.

The Egyptians were unfair to the Israelites.  They forced them to work as their slaves.  But when life is unfair, God is good.  God sent Moses to tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go.  Pharaoh said, “No!”  So God sent ten scary plagues to torment the Egyptians and convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go free.  And when life is scary, God is good.  When your life is scary, trust God is working things out for your good.  The last plague was the scariest of all.  The Angel of Death struck the firstborn son of every family in Egypt; every family accept those who heeded God’s warning to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a lamb lost their firstborn son.  The night after Passover, Pharaoh awoke to the sound parents crying all over Egypt and found that even his own son was dead.  Pharaoh finally agreed to let the Israelites go free.

The Israelites packed their things and left Egypt.  The word Exodus literally means “going out.”  The second book of the Bible, Exodus, tells the story of the Israelites going out of Egypt.  They were leaving behind everything they'd known.  Egypt was not their homeland, but the Israelites had lived in Egypt for 430 years.  It was all they had ever known and all their parents and grandparents had known for generations.  It was going to be a huge change.  So the Israelite's needed to learn:  When life changes, God is good.

Pharaoh was a stubborn, arrogant man.  Even though the Lord God, Yahweh, had brought Pharaoh and all Egypt to their knees with the ten terrible plagues, Pharaoh changed his mind.  He wanted the Israelite slaves back.  He decided to chase them and drag them back to Egypt.  After all, he was still Pharaoh—the most powerful man in the world!

Pharaoh’s chariots bore down on the Israelites.  He had them trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea.  Many of the Israelites cried out in fear.  “Why did you bring us out in the dessert to die?  It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than dead in the wilderness!”  This is a common sentiment for people who are struggling through a significant change.  Even when the changes are good, we complain and get stuck in negative thinking.  But God is good and He makes a way when there seems to be no way forward.  We have to trust Him.

Exodus 14:21-22 21 Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land. 22 So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!

The Rest of the Story
The Egyptians tried to pursue the Israelites, but God fought for His people.  The Egyptians saw the Israelites crossing the Red Sea on dry ground and followed them, but God cause confusion in their ranks.  Chariots got stuck or their wheels fell off.  The couldn't catch up to the Israelites.  Then, once all the Israelites were safely on the other side of the sea, God caused the waters of the Read Sea to come crashing back together upon the Egyptian army.  The passage says not a single one survived.  

You would think seeing the Lord fight for His people in this way would convince the Israelites to trust God more.  However, we see again and again that they complained.  The first example is when they come to the spring of Marah.  They and their animals are thirsty, but the water of the spring is bitter.  So, the Israelites complained, "Why did you bring us out in the dessert to die of thirst!  Things were so much better when we were slaves in Egypt!"  So God told Moses to throw a piece of wood into the spring and it made the water good to drink.

Then another time, the Israelites were complained they had plenty of food to eat, but they were starving in the wilderness.  So God made manna fall from heaven--a mysterious substance the Israelites could gather and eat.  Soon they complained about this too and said they wanted meat to eat.  So God made flocks of quail descend upon them and they had more meat to eat than they could stand.

Time and time again, God provided and the Israelites still complained.  They struggled as their lives dramatically changed.  In some sense, they longed for the safety and security of Egypt.  Even though they had been slaves, at least they knew what to expect from life.  Wandering in the dessert required them to trust God as their lives changed.

When life changes, God is good.
Often, God initiates change because it's for our own good.  God wanted to deliver the Israelite from Egypt, but His delivery was more than just a change of location.  The Israelites were slaves.  Even after they were free, they were still slaves in their minds.  God wanted to change their minds.  God wanted the Israelites to be His holy people, a Kingdom of priests who would represent Him to the whole world.  They were to be distinct and different from all other people.  They were to be a beautiful, bright light that would draw all people all over the world back to God.  The Israelites were part of God’s grand plan to save the whole world and would eventually usher in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the world.  So God had to change the Israelites.

Change is hard—especially when it alters the very identity of who you are.  No wonder the Israelites were always complaining in Exodus.  We look back and we think, “Man, what a bunch of whiners!”  But understand this:  God wants to change you too.  He wants to change your fundamental identity.

Who are you?  What's your identity?  I mean, how would you describe yourself?  These are hard questions if you've ever really tried to answer them.  You might identify as a man or a woman (or something else).  Maybe you would say:  "I am a husband or a wife,  a parent, a child, a college student or retired."  You might choose your occupation as your identity--banker, farmer, lawyer, pastor, etc.  

God says, “Forget all that.  That's justr what the world says.  That’s not really who you are.  I’m going to give you a whole new identity--an eternal identity.  I made you and I know why. I'm going to help you realize who you really are according to My master plan.” 

A lot of people only become Christians because they want to go to heaven. Someone told them that they would go to Hell and suffer torment for eternity unless they accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. And they want to go to heaven instead, so they become a Christian. And to be sure, the Bible does say, "The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ." (Romans 6:23) But God says, “That’s not big enough. You need a whole new identity.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" And Galatians 6:15b says, "What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation."

And so, after we start following Christ, God begins to change our identity.  Once we were slaves, but God set us free.  But it takes a long time for the Holy Spirit to convince us we are really free so we start thinking like free people instead of people who are still slaves to sin.  God is changing our identity from sinner to saint.  He is changing you from a child of the Devil to a child of God.  He is changing you from someone who worships all the wrong things--material possessions, your family, a romantic relationship, the esteem of people, pleasure, or your own selfish desires--to someone who worships only God (as you were originally create to).

These are some of your eternal identities:  Free, Saint, Child of God, Worshiper of the One True God.  These are eternal.  They will never change.  Ten thousand million years from know, no one will even care that you were a lawyer or a doctor or even a parent.  All that will matter and remain is your identity in Christ.

The Exodus is a picture of the Christian life.   The Christian life is a process of surrendering to God each new day and allowing Him change our identity and make us His people.  It’s a life long journey as we walk through the wilderness of this life toward the Promised Land of Eternal Life with God.

Closing
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take."

Change is inevitable.  We face many changes in this life.  Ultimately, God is changing us; and that’s a good thing!  Because, when life changes, God is good. 

When my son was a little child, he had a baby blanket.  He carried it everywhere with him and whenever life was too much for him, he'd stick the corner of that blanket in his mouth and suck.  As you can imagine that blanket would get really nasty and we had to wash it often.  Well, after a few years it was really work out, but he just wouldn't give it up.  So as he was getting ready to go to preschool, my wife and I came up with a plan.  We cut the blanket in half.  The a few days later, we cut the half blanket in half.  We kept this up until Gavin only had a small square left.  Then we finally convinced him to give it up.  We promised to keep it safe for him.  (We still have the remains of that  blanket packed away somewhere in a memory box.)

Blankets wear out, but God stays the same.  So cling to God in the midst of change, because God never changes.  Malachi 3:6a - “I am the Lord, and I do not change.” God is Yahweh – The Great I Am (Exodus 3:14).  He is The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end… (Revelation 1:8).  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end (Lamentations 3:22) The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8) 

So when life changes, remember:  God is good.  Trust Him.  Cling to Him.  And be transformed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Follow the Star, Part 2

Luke 2:8-14
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Introduction
            Sometimes God gives us signs to show us the way.  If you believe in them and really want to know God’s will for you, you might be able to see and follow the signs to Jesus’ will for you.  Sometimes the sign may just appear—one bright star in a sky filled with twinkling stars.  Are you watching for the star?  Will you notice?
            At other times, God’s sign to you might be big and dramatic.  It might even be frightening—like an army of angels singing to the shepherds on a cold Bethlehem night.  It that case, the challenge may be—not so much noticing the sign, but—deciding what to do with it.  What will you do when God sends a sign so big it stops you in your tracks and shakes you to your very core?
            The shepherds could have run away and hid in fear.  They might have been frozen with fear and done nothing.  But instead, their fear turned into a blessing because they obeyed and went to Bethlehem and found Jesus.

A Cold, Dark Night
            Night time can be an eerie occasion.  It probably was for the shepherds.  I remember a cold, dark and eerie night when God gave me a big (and frightening) sign.  I was only 18-years-old.  I was driving from my mom's home in Macon back to college in Marietta.  Now I don't know about you, but when I have a long drive like that by myself, I like to turn up the radio.  And since I'd driven that route so many times, I wasn't paying much attention to where I was. 

'84 Mercury Marquis
            Then, my '84 Mercury decided to die.  Smoke billowed from beneath the hood.  The car decelerated and I pulled off to the shoulder.  The car shut off and would not start.  I found myself on the side of I-75 at 11:00 PM on a Sunday night somewhere between Macon and Atlanta and I had no idea where.  This was before cell phones so I needed to walk to a gas station to find a payphone.  The problem was, I didn't even know if I needed to walk forwards or backwards!  I chose to go forward.
            As I walked forward in the dead of night, cars speeding by at 65, 75, 85 MPH, it dawned on me--for the first time in my life--this could be my last night on earth.  All it would take was one of those speeding cars to swerve slightly off the road and hit me.  I'd heard of things like that happening before.  Or maybe, some serial killer decided to pull over and abduct me and cut me up into little pieces just for fun.  I'd heard of things like that happening before too.
            I realized that night that I was not ready to die.  "Why not?" I thought.  "I'm a Christian.  I gave my life to Christ.  I will go to heaven when I die.  What's keeping me from being ready?"  Yet I still felt I was not ready to die.  Something was left unfulfilled in my life.  I realized I walked that lonely dark road I was not walking the road God wanted me to walk in life.  And that dark road became a frightening sign to me that I needed to do some things different.  I needed to change the direction of my life so I would be ready when my time came.  God's sign to me helped change the course of my life.

Other Signs
            I have heard of dramatic signs in other people's lives too.  When I was in seminary, I volunteered as a chaplain for The Carpenter’s House, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.  I heard several recovering addicts share how their addiction landed them in the hospital or nearly ended their lives.  They realized they had to change or else their addiction would kill them.  God must have saved their life for a reason so they better get busy finding help to overcome their disease.
            I have seen others signs too.  I had a church member once who had a heart attack.  He realized he needed needed to be there for his daughter as she grew into a young adult, found a mate, and got married.  He started walking and exercising and eating healthier.  His heart attack was a sign.
            Perhaps you lost your job.  It was hard--not only because of the money, but--because your job was an important part of your identity.  Maybe God is trying to tell you your job is not your identity; find your identity in Christ.  Maybe God is telling you to trust money less and trust God more.
            Maybe someone you love dies unexpectedly.  That can be a sign from God.  One of my former church members died this past weekend--Jim Ham.  Jim was a father grandfather county commissioner, and he was only 54 years old.  He died in a single car crash.  No one saw it coming.  Unexpected deaths like this can be a tragic sign that reminds us to cherish those you hold dear.  They jar us out of our complacency and teach us to take full advantage of the present moment for we never know how much time we have; nothing is guaranteed.
            What if someone you love looses faith?  When my brother came home one Christmas many years ago saying he no longer believed what he'd learned about Jesus in church, our family was very concerned.  Furthermore, Nelson seemed to know so much more about the Christian religion and what the Bible says than I did.  This was a big sign to me that I needed to make the effort to know what I believed and figure out if I was just taking for granted the things people had told me about Christianity over the years.  Perhaps when someone you care about has doubts about their faith, it is a sign to you to take your beliefs and how you live more seriously.  Maybe it's time to get serious about your own faith and GRO a little.
 
Slide – G.R.O.
            If you want to get serious and grow in your faith, you need to G.R.O.
            Growth can only come when you are committed to growth.  I hope you will commit to personal growth throughout your life. True Christianity doesn’t mean we get saved and then hide in a corner for the rest of life.  We are constantly growing to become more like Christ.  Growth should occur in all areas of our life--spiritually, intellectually, and physically.  These areas are all interrelated and you cannot be truly healthy in one area if you are lacking in the others.
            Respond.  In order to grow, you have to respond to the Holy Spirit.  You are responsible for your growth.  that doesn't mean you make yourself grow.  The Holy Spirit makes you grow.  However, when the Holy Spirit guide you to do something, you are able to respond by doing it.  So you must respond because you are responsible.
            Obey.  You grow when you are obedient.  You can't expect to grow if you disobey the Holy Spirit.  But if you respnd with obedience you will grow.  If the Holy Spirit guides you to study your Bible, you will grow spiritually.  If the Spirit tell you to exercise and you obey, you will improve your health.  But if you disregard or disobey, you will not grow.

Are You Ready to GRO?
            Sometimes God gives us a really big sign to shake us to the core.  If God has done that for you, I hope you will Grow by Responding with Obedience to what the Holy Spirit has said.  Perhaps God's sign to you was more subtle, but if you're paying attention, you can still see the sign like the star shining for the Wisemen.  Let God get your attention and ask Him to reveal what he wants you to do.  Next week we will discuss how you can interpret the meaning of Gods signs.

Holy Communion (AKA The Lord's Supper or the Eucharist) is a tremendous sign of God's love and presence with us.  The bread represents the body of Christ God gave us.  The wine represents the blood Christ shed for us on the cross to forgive our sins.  This simple meal reminds us of Christ's loving sacrifice for us and also his living presence with us today.  When have you last received Holy Communion?  Do you see God's sign to you in this sacrament?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Wrestling With God, Part 1

Introduction
            Have you ever wrestled?  When I was a young kid, my older brother used to like to wrestle with me.  Of course, he was 8 years older, so it wasn't much competition.  However, he always let me do well enough so it was still fun for me.  I used to wrestle with my kids when they were younger in much the same way.  We would wrestle on the bed and I would tickle them and it was fun for us all; I had to be careful, though, not to hurt them since I'm was so much bigger and stronger.
            One of the most fascinating stories in our Bible is the story of Jacob wrestling with God.  Can you imagine? A mortal man wrestling with the Creator of the universe?  It's almost unthinkable!  This is one of the pivotal stories of the Bible. It is where the name Israel comes from—the name of God's chosen people and the name of the country we know even today as a key player in our world’s geopolitical power struggles.
            As we study this intriguing passage over the next few weeks, we will consider the ways we wrestle with God and the effect it has on us, on our circumstances, and on the people around us.  I invite you to read the blog each week as we study this story together.

Genesis32-22-32
22 During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. 23 After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions.

24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 “What is your name?” the man asked.

He replied, “Jacob.”

28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”

29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.

“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.

30 Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. 32 (Even today the people of Israel don’t eat the tendon near the hip socket because of what happened that night when the man strained the tendon of Jacob’s hip.)

Key Points
            Let's begin by pointing out a few key elements in this story.  First of all, you need to understand the larger narrative of Jacob's life and relationship with his twin brother Esau.  There was a great sibling rivalry between Jacob and Esau and it was fueled by their parents favoritism.  Their father, Isaac, favored Esau, but their mother, Rebekah, preferred Jacob.  Jacob was a cunning man and he found a way to trick Esau out of the family blessing and inheritance.  It infuriated Esau so much he vowed to kill Jacob.  Jacob had to run for his life to a foreign land.
            Well, years went by and Jacob grew up and grew wealthy with wives, servants, children, and possessions.  He decided it was time to finally face his brother Esau.  He began the journey home, not knowing if Esau still wanted to kill him.  And that's where we come to the strange story in Genesis chapter 32.  Jacob has sent all his possessions across the Jabbok River and he is all alone on the other side of the stream.
            There is a great element of fear in the story.  There is the fear of what Esau might do.  There is the fear of the darkness of nigh and it is terrifying that a strange “man” attacks Jacob.  A deadly struggle ensues that seriously injures Jacob.  And thenperhaps the most terrifying element of allwe find out the "man" is actually God.
            We know the “man” in this episode is God for several reasons.  First of all, the “man” himself claims Jacob has "fought with God".  Second, Jacob renamed the place “Peniel” at the end of the story (Peniel means “face of God”).  Third, Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.”” (Verse 30)  As strange as it is, the story clearly indicates God—in human formis the man who wrestled with Jacob.
            But it gets even more strange because Jacob wins!  Jacob must have been an incredible wrestler, because the passage plainly says the “man” (who was God) realized He would not win.  That's incredible!  How can a man win a wrestling match with God?
            Well, in a sense, Jacob was a wrestler all his life—the Bible says he came out of his mother’s womb grasping the heel of his twin brother Esau.  His name, Jacob, literally means “heel grabber”.  Still, how can any mortal wrestle with God and win?
            Jacob didn’t actually "win".  He just sort of fought God to a stalemate.  Jacob managed to hold on to the point that God couldn’t get away.  Even when God dislocated Jacob’s hip, Jacob would not let go.  It may be that God realized the only way he could win the match was to kill Jacob or hurt him so grievously he might as well be dead (and God didn’t want to do that).  God also knew the sun was going to rise soon and Jacob would be able to see God’s face in full light.  It has been said that no one can see God’s face a live.  God’s face is so glorious a sinful human being cannot endure the pure, sinless, glorious face of God in its fullness.  Such a sight would overwhelm and consume anyone without the protection of Christ’s atonement.  (Since Christ had not yet atoned for our sin on the cross, Jacob was without protection and unable to look upon God's face in the full light of day.)
            Yet Jacob was determined hang on to God until God blessed him.  He was even willing to risk death to receive God’s blessing.  Time was running out.  Every minute that passed brought the rising sun closer to the horizon; God’s face became more and more visible in the growing light.  There was no more time for God to wrestle.  For Jacob’s own safety, God needed Jacob to let Him go and so God gave Jacob the blessing he wanted.  That’s pretty amazing!

A Lesson for Us
            There is a lesson in this for us.  How badly do you want God's blessing in your life?  How far are you willing to go?  Jacob was willing to risk death for the blessing. How about you?
            We say we want God to bless us. We say we want Jesus to save us and be our Lord. But how far are we willing to go?  Are you willing to pray regularly?  Are you willing to read your Bible everyday?  Are you willing to attend a church with other believers and learn how to live as a Christian?  Are you willing to be held accountable by others on the same spiritual journey (and hold them accountable as well)?  Are you willing to love others and serve as Jesus did?  Are you willing to make sacrifices for your goals as a Christian (sacrificing your time, your pride, your energy, your resources...)?  How far are you willing to go for God's blessings in your life?
            I don’t mean that we must do something to earn God’s blessing or to win salvation. We cannot do anything to earn it. It is given freely by God’s grace.  However, blessings come to those who are determined, not those who could care less.  And the Truth is, becoming a Christian—a follower of Christ—will change you permanently.  Jesus said it is like being “born again.”  Just like Jacob limped for the rest of his life due to his encounter with God, you will be permanently changed if you become a follower of Christ.
            There is another lesson here.  God’s wants to be directly involved in your life. He doesn't stand off at a distance; He get's up close and personal.  I have been learning Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu for over 2 years.  People like to joke that their pastor does Karate, but BJJ is not punching and kicking.  It is more like wrestling than Karate.  I have invited my wife to come try it out she won't do it.  She says it's gross.  I guess she may be right.  Jiu-jitsu is very strenuous and you're soon drenched in sweat, but not just your own sweat; it's everyone else's sweat too.  You see we are rolling around on the mats dripping sweat all over each other.  It's up close and personal work.
            Now think about that.  God wrestled with Jacob all night.  They were rolling around in the dirt together sweating and bleeding all over each other.  God was willing to get Jacob's sweat and blood and maybe even tears all over Him.  You see, God doesn't stand off at a distance.  God wants to be directly and intimately involved in Your life.  Are you willing to wrestle with God?
            As God wrestles with you, He may push you to your limits and test your determination.  All of this helps you grow.  It might hurt and it may even leaving you limping, but God will always keep you safe. Remember, He was willing to let Jacob win in order to save Jacob’s life.  We see an even greater example of God's protective nature in the New Testament.  Jesus shows just how far God will go for our benefit. Jesus (who was God incarnate) sacrificed his own life on the cross for our sake. God was willing to die so we can live.
            There is one last lesson I want to point out today.  No matter what you are wrestling with there is hope.  You don't have to win; you just have to hold on to Jesus long enough for the blessing to come.  So take courage today.  Whatever you are facing, don't give up.  Cling to Jesus.  Don't let go. Just hang on until Jesus give you the blessing.



[i] Paraphrase from Luke 2:9-11

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Burn Like a Fire

Romans 12:9-13
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Introduction
            The key verse for this blog is verse 11 - "Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically."
            Have you ever tried to describe people as an object or image?  It can tell you a lot about what you think about their personality.  For instance, if I were to describe Sherry Dickson, I would say she is like a refreshing spring.  She’s caring, calm, quiet, peaceful--just like a refreshing spring.  Sallie Thomas is like a playful puppy.  She’s playful, fun, and gregarious.  
            I describe myself like a lump of coal.  I am pretty boring on the surface and can even seem cold.  But if you can ever get me to catch fire, I burn hot and for a long time.  I'm like that Rolling Stones song:  “If you start me up!  If you start me, up I’ll never stop!”
            And what gets me started?  What lights my fire?  What gets me burning is my passion for the Lord’s Church.  There’s a fire in my bones!  It burns hot within me.  If I try to sit idle, if I try to stay silent, I can’t.  My passion for the Lord bubbles up within me and burst forth like billowing steam from a locomotive.  It propels me to be active and serve the Lord. 
            No matter the obstacle—whether it be climbing a mountain of difficulty or a tunneling through the fear of uncertainty or crossing a bridge over raging adversity—this holy train is gonna keep on chuggin’!  The hardest part for me is looking out the windows and seeing all the people standing idle by as I pass them.  And I want to cry out, “Get on board!  Little children, get on board!  Little children, there’s room for many a more!”
            And so my prayer has been since before I became a minister—in truth, I believe it’s the largest part of my purpose in life and why God called me to be a minister—is my burning desire to see everyone get on board the heavenly train that’s bound for Glory!
            I wrote this in my payer journal.  It’s an entry from July 12, 1999: 
“Father, I want Your people across the whole world to be revitalized.  I want to see lost souls saved and I want to see saved souls filled with holy passion.  Lord come, make us more like Jesus.  I want You to be so close to us that our bodies tremble ans shake.  I want You to be so near that we can see, hear, smell, and taste You.  I want the world to be dumbfounded by Your awesome presence.  No more skepticism.  Nor more dismissal.  No more doubt.  I want everone to see You are real and You are Lord and You are awesome.  Lord, pour out Your Spirit on Your people.  Amen.”
            You see, this was my prayer 17 years ago and it’s been my heart’s desire and prayer ever since then.  I want whole hearts broken and I want broken hearts made whole again.

Whole Hearts Broken
            In America, we are complacent.  We are satisfied, content, and unconcerned.  But we are satisfied and content with the wrong things—worldly things—and we are unconcerned that our complacency and love of the world is sending us barreling down the tracks to destruction.  Our society is eroding.  Our families are weakening.  People are abandoning the church in favor of worldly pursuits.  Our culture has even gone so far as to abandon common sense and redefined the natural order of gender—something that is so basic, so common sense, even animals understand it.  And yet, now it is widely accepted that a man can marry a man or a woman can marry a woman.  Who knows what absurd combinations the depraved human mind in America will be coming up with in the years ahead!
            And we—most of us—are just fine with that.  Let us make our money.  Let us have peace.  Let us continue to feel good about ourselves and our lavish lifestyles and our leisure pursuits.  Don't make us feel uncomfortable about sin.  Don’t trouble us with stories about misfortune and injustice in other countries.  Don’t worry us with concerns about suffering in our own neighborhoods.  Let us go on without any guilt about how our complacency actually makes us responsible for the destruction of our nation.
            And I say, “No!  I will not let you off the hook!  I will not let you go on wearing your blinders so you can’t see your disinterest is leading you to destruction while you drag others with you."  My prayer is that God would turn your world upside down until you see the way you are living and thinking and acting are all wrong—that you’ve put your hope in the wrong things and your passion in life has been misplaced.  My prayer is that God will break your heart.  I pray God will torment you until you surrender it all to Him and let Him fill you with His holy passion—so that your heart becomes like Jesus’, so you will hurt for the hurting and be broken-hearted for the lost, and you will feel a fire in your bones that compels you to give your all for the Kingdom of God!”  I want to see whole hearts broken!  Do you understand what I mean?

Broken Hearts Made Whole
            I don’t mean that I want our world to be full of broken-hearted people.  The truth is, our world is already full of broken hearted people—half of them don’t even realize they are broken.  I want God to make us all whole again.  If God is going to make you whole, you first have to realize you are broken.
            There are many people in our world who already know they are broken—or at least they have a good suspicion.  You don’t have to tell most addicts that they are broken.  They know.  They are bitterly aware that they’re out of control—that their addiction is killing them and hurting others.  Most addicts—whether they are addicted to drugs or alcohol—are racked with guilt over their actions and beyond frustrated that they can’t change their behavior.  And there are all kinds of addiction—addiction to things (buying, materialism), addiction to pornography, food addictions ( what I thin is the leading cause of heart disease), workaholics…  We are all addicts in one common way.  We are addicted to sin.  That’s the whole point of Christianity—to rehabilitate sinners and help us break the chain of our sinful lives.
            Others know they are broken too.  They feel the shame of their sin.  They recognize they are lost.  They know they need something, Someone to save them.  They know there must be something more to this world.  “For God has planted eternity in our hearts so that we are restless until we find rest in Him.”  And for those who are unable to drug themselves and numb the God-ache in their heart, they realize something is missing.  They are broken-hearted.
            Jesus commanded his followers, “Go, therefore, into all the world and make disciples…”  Are you a follower of Jesus?  Are you a Christian?  Then Jesus’ words are for you.  He told you to go and make disciples.  He didn’t say:  go and enjoy your family, go to the ball game, go indulge your worldly desires.  He said, “Go and make disciples…”  So why don’t you obey the Lord?  Pray that the Lord would make your heart more like his—that you would be filled with his holy passion for the least, the last, and the lost.
            Are you broken-hearted today?  Then I want you to find new hope in Christ.  Jesus is here to bind up your broken heart and make it whole again.

Conclusion
            Some of you here today have been complacent.  You’ve been drifting through life pretty content with the way things are.  But today, I’ve lit a fire in your bones.  I’ve unleashed the fire of the Holy Spirit upon you.  Maybe it’s only started as faint flicker, but that fire is gonna grow in you like it grew in me.  I’m here to tell you, it won’t go away.  It won’t leave you alone.  You may try to ignore it, but the holy fire of God is going to burn up in your bones until you can’t stand it anymore and you have to do something about it.  Whether it takes a few days or a few years, it’s gonna torment you until you give in and answer the Lord’s call on your life.  I recommend you answer it know.  Why put off the inevitable and put yourself through more and more discomfort?  Surrender.  Get your heart right with God today.
            Some here today are broken-hearted.  You’ve failed.  You’ve fallen.  You’ve sinned.  Perhaps today you realize you’ve not been following Jesus like you should.  Today, the Lord compels me to pray for you, to offer you the Lord's pardon and peace.  Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and carry heaven burdens and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  For my burden is light and I will give you rest.”
            Would you turn to the Lord today?  Would you receive His grace and peace?  But you say, “I don’t know how!  I don’t know how!”  It’s simple.  Close your eyes.  Bow your head.  Ask Jesus to forgive you.  Ask him to take control of your life.  Give him control.  Let him lead you.  Trust Jesus.  He can make a way when there seems to be know way.  It's time to get on board with where Jesus wants to take you.