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Showing posts with label perseverance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label perseverance. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Conquering Excuses


Introduction 
[CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast.]
Imagine how awesome Heaven will be.  We will live with God forever, surrounded by perfect love.  There will be no more pain or sorrow or suffering or sickness or death.  All that was broken will be made whole.  Our affirmatives and shortcomings will all be healed and forgiven.  We will know each other perfectly--including our loved ones who died in Christ.  It is a beautiful vision and it will be glorious!

Luke 14:15-24
15 Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!”
16 Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. 17 When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ 18 But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ 19 Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22 After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ 23 So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. 24 For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”

Explain the Parable 
Some of Jesus' parables are hard to understand. This one is pretty straightforward. God has prepared a feast of all good things and He invites everyone to come enjoy with Him. But when the call comes, people make excuses. They are too wrapped up in the things of this world to accept God's invitation. 

But here's the thing. Few would actually reject God's invitation to the Kingdom Feast if it was obvious it was God inviting them to feast in His Kingdom. People miss out because God's invitation comes every day in a thousand small ways.  I commend you all for getting up this morning to come to church.  This morning, you accepted the invitation to feast in God’s Kingdom in one small way.  Many people choose to do something else on Sundays besides worship the Lord.  They make excuses for not going to church.  They don’t realize they are excusing themselves from a feast with the King of kings.  People make excuses for other things too—for not praying, not reading the Bible, not helping their neighbor.

In a thousand small ways, God invites us to feast in His Kingdom.  And each time the invitation comes, we have a choice to make. Do we accept the invitation or make an excuse.  Your life is a collection of millions of these small choices.  And they add up.  You might not notice the effect your excuses have at the time you offer them.  But one day you will stand before God and look back and you will see the sum of all you did.  I hope you won’t see a mountain of excuses has piled up when it should be a multitude of blessings from God.
 
What Do You Need to Do?
Many of you know it’s time to make a change in your life, but you're stuck. You're making excuses and it's killing you.  What do you need to work on?  Do you need to?  Change your spiritual habits? Ask for forgiveness? Repent of sin? Exercise more? Change your eating habits? Changing careers? 

Excuses are Lies
You know what you need to do.  But you keep making excuses.  I’m here to tell you today, all your excuses are lies.  It’s the Enemy of God whispering in your ear:
  • “I don’t have time.” That’s a lie. you always have time for what's really important to you.
  • “I just can’t do it.” That’s a lie. With God, all things are possible.
  • “I tried before and failed.” That doesn’t mean you won’t eventually succeed.  Don't give up!
  • “I can’t afford it.” If it’s a worthwhile goal, it’s worth spending the money. You just have to decide what’s really important to you.
  • “I’m to old to start."  You're never too old.  There was a man at a church I once served who learned to snow ski at the age of 70 and he volunteered as a chaperone for the church's youth ski trip every winter.  How old were Abraham and Sara when they had Isaac, the child God promised to give them?

Your excuses aren’t valid.  It’s time to throw away all your excuses and just be honest.  The Truth shall set you free—free to be all that God wants you to be, to be your very best self, to be part of God's glorious Kingdom! 

Fear lies beneath many of our excuses.  We lack of faith that change is really possible. Fear makes you freeze, but faith forces you to move.  Have faith!  Perhaps it is impossible for you, but all things are possible with God. If it looks too hard, ask God for help and He will give you someone to help.  He is the God who raised Lazarus from the dead after his body had already started to decay.  And He is the God who died on a cross and rose from the grave on the third day.  God can do anything!

Sometimes, the obstacles to change are more than mental; they are real. That doesn't mean we can't change. We just have to find a way around the obstacle.  Don’t believe the lie that it’s impossible.

If anyone has a reason to make excuses about why it's impossible to do something, it's Nick Vujicic.  Nick was born without arms or legs.  Doctors said Nick would never walk, yet, Nick taught himself to walk using only his hips.  He went further, learning how to swim without arms or legs.  Then he taught himself how to surf and went skydiving.  Nick speaks in front of thousands of people every year, inspiring them to stop making excuses.  Nick has learned that nothing is impossible if you apply yourself, don't give up, ask for help, and find a way around the obstacles in front of you.  [Click here to watch a video of Nici Vujicic.] 

Impossible is Nothing
Don’t make excuses.  Find a way forward.  Go over, under, or around the obstacles in your life.

Do a mental exercise:  What would you do to change your life if you believed that you are able to overcome this excuse you’re making? Don’t have time? What would you do if you had all the time in the world? No money?  What would you do if money wasn’t important? And if you had all the money you needed? Feeling unconfident? What would you do if you were as confident as the most positively confident person you know?break through your excuses. 
Look at the facts. How much time, money, etc. would it really take to make a change? Is it really put your reach, or does it just feel out of reach?

"I don't feel like it…"  Do it anyway. Your feelings come and go. Your excited and pumped one day and then you're tired and unmotivated the next. Keep doing it anyway. You made a commitment. Keep it simply for the sake of being a man (or woman) of your word.  Do it, even if you don't feel like it, even if you're just going through the motions. Guess what, 9 times out of 10, the motivation and feelings come back.  Now, 1 time out of 10, there might be something to that feeling, but don't give up today. Wait till tomorrow to give up.  And after that, wait another day.  Keep putting off giving up.  Chances are, you will find the motivation you need to keep going and you'lee be glad you procrastinated giving up.

"I'm too old," you say.  "It's just too late for me.  I've lived my whole life like this. I just don't have enough time left to change."  Don't say that.  You may indeed be near the end of your life, but with Our God's grace, it's never to late.  In God's grace, the past is the past. God forgives. God gives new life. You can start over today. It's never too late.  I know this is true because when Jesus was dying on the cross, there was a criminal crucified next to him.  As the thief was receiving the punishment he deserved, he turned to Jesus and said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."  And you know what Jesus said?  He said, "Today, you will be in Paradise with me."  The thief had only hours (or minutes left to live) and it still wasn't too late.  It's not too late for you either.

Conclusion 
Living as a Christian takes discipline.  It’s a daily discipline of worship, prayer, service, study.
Jesus gives you a tool to motivate you and help you stay disciplined.

It's the vision of the Kingdom feast.  We are all gathered together around the table of the Lord.  A feast of all good things is set before us.  All our loved ones who died in Christ are there.  Every sickness is healed.  Ever broken relationship is mended.  Every life is whole.  There is no more death or darkness or shame or misery.  All is perfect and right and at peace.  And this goes on for eternity!  Hallelujah!

Imagine, everyday, what it will be like when your faithful discipline pays off as we gather around the Lord's table.  This grand vision is the result of the faithful Christian life lived everyday in a thousand small ways.  Now, live your life doing the right thing in all those thousands of ways.  What are the changes you need to make to accept the invitation to God’s Heavenly banquet?  Live your life day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment working toward the grand vision.

[CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast.]

Monday, March 19, 2018

As Sheep Among Wolves, part 3 - Vindicated vs. Ungodly

Introduction
            My family jokes we live at "Mullis Farm".  This is partially due to the fact we live way out in the country around a bunch of other farms and we have had (or still have) a number of farm animals as pets--chickens, goats, pigs, and turkeys.  It's also because we have so many other animals--three dogs, four cats, and some pet fish! It's quite the farm at "Mullis Farm."
            One of the animals at Mullis Farm is a big black dog we call Cookie.  Cookie showed up on our doorstep as a stray puppy needing a home.  We took her in and she grew to 70 pounds!  She has a deep, scary bark, but she's a harmless scaredee-cat most of the time.  That is, most of the time...
            We usually keep our chickens locked up in a pen to keep them safe from the wild predators that roam around Cohutta like coyotes, owls, and hawks.  We have to keep the chickens safe, because they are more like pets to us than farm animals.  However, we do like to let the chickens out to scratch around for bugs on pretty days when we can keep an eye on them. 
            The first summer we had chickens, we made a grizzly discovery one afternoon while the chickens were out grazing.  Cookie grabbed one and carried it off to the bushes!  We found her chewing on it's dead carcass!  We were devastated.  Since our pets are like family, it was as if on of our family members murdered another family member! 
            Over the years, we've learned Cookie cannot control herself when it comes to the chickens.  If she has the opportunity, she will kill.  When she sees a chicken wandering around the yard, she will even look at us with mournful eyes as if to say, "Please help me!  I don't want to kill that chicken, but if you don't do something to stop me, I know I will."  It's not all Cookie's fault if a chicken dies.  As a natural predator, she has an instinct to kill that she can't overcome.  In the wild that instinct would help her survive, but as a house pet it's a real weakness.  So, when the chickens are out roaming the yard, we either put Cookie in the house or hook her to a chain so she can't get the chickens.  And as long as we do, the chickens are safe.

Matthew 10:16-20 16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. 17 But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. 18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me.[a] 19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Key Verse – Matthew 10:16 - 16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves.
            We haven't had sheep at Mullis Farm (yet!).  However, we’ve had goats.  Baby goats are so cute and innocent.  The first time a held a baby goat, I was struck by the difference between baby goats and puppies or kittens.  Puppies and kittens are cute too--little fur balls who love to play.  If you've ever see one, you know what I mean.  They will chase a ball or wrestle or bat around a wad of paper and it's a joy to behold.  What they are really doing, though, is practicing.  As puppies and kittens chase and pounce, they are honing the hunting and killing skills of a predator.  Puppies and kittens have fangs and claws--tools designed for catching and killing other animals.  That's just a fact of nature.  That's the way they were designed. 
            Now contrast that to a baby goat (and this would be true of a lamb too).  Goats aren't predators; they're omnivores and eat only grass or leaves.  They have no claws, no fangs.  Their simple teeth are designed only for chewing vegetation.  A baby goat or lamb is the most harmless animal.  When it plays, it's full of joy!  It jumps and bounds and runs and prances as playfully as any puppy or kitten.  The difference is it has no predatory instincts at all.  It doesn't grab you or wrestle  or bite.  Those behaviors aren't part of their psychology at all.  They will never grow up to hunt or kill another animal.  That's just the way sheep and goats are designed.
            Now, do you think sheep are good because they never kill?  No.  Sheep are neither good nor bad.  They are merely sheep.  They are just living out the design God gave them.  Do you think wolves are bad because they kill?  No.  Wolves are neither good nor bad.  They are merely wolves.  They're just living out the design God gave them.  You can't really fault these different types of animals for acting on they're natural design.  It's just who they are.
            In Matthew 10:16-20, Jesus uses sheep and wolves as symbols to describe two kinds of people in our world.  The sheep are Christ’s godly followers who go out into the world and face the ungodly people (the wolves) of the world—governors, kings, rulers, and other unbelievers.  The sheep aren't going out to fight the wolves, but to tell them about Jesus.  
            The "sheep" are not necessarily good people; they are godly people because they follow God and have been forgiven and justified by God.  Godly people, saints, are just sinners who’ve been saved by God’s amazing grace and love.  The "wolves" of our world are not necessarily bad people; some of them may be really good people.  They are only ungodly because they don’t yet follow God, but they’re not necessarily bad people.  It’s important to know good people can be ungodly and someone you think is particularly bad might just be one of God’s chosen people.
            Proverbs shares a lot of wisdom about both godly and ungodly people.  As I've been paraphrasing Proverbs, (putting the scriptures in my own words), I came up with the following: Pastor Chris’ Paraphrase of Proverbs 4:18-19 - "Those who are vindicated by God walk a path with a beautiful sunrise--full of hope for the future and increasing each moment until it’s fully realized.  Ungodly people walk blindly down a dark, dark path and don’t even know what trips them up."

Ungodly - Râšâ' - רָשָׁע

            The Hebrew word in Proverbs 4:19 that scholars translate as wicked or evil is rasa.  It means morally wrong, criminal, guilty of sin, and condemned.   Ultimately, it means ungodly and ungodly literally means "without God".  According to Christian doctrine, anyone who is without God is guilty and condemned.  Now Hebrews 13:5 tells us God will never leave us or forsake us.  And since God never leaves us, if we are without God, it is because we walked away from God.  This is the condition of humanity.  We have walked away from God.
             The primary thing that makes a wicked person evil isn’t the bad things they’ve done. The primary thing that makes a person evil is living without God.  Remember, a wolf isn’t good or bad because it kills a lamb.  That’s just what wolves do.  And an ungodly person isn’t good or bad because of the bad things they do.  They’re just living out their nature.  An ungodly person is evil because they are without God. 

Vindicated - Saḏiyq - צַדִּיק
             The Hebrew word in Proverbs 4:18 for vindicated is sadiyq.  It means just, lawful, righteous.  You might look at a person who always does the right thing, a “law-abiding citizen”, and say they righteous.  However, sadiyq means a person is righteousness because of what God says.  God has justified or vindicated someone who is sadiyq.  There can be no question of the goodness of their character because God is the one who said they are righteous.  (And who’s gonna argue with God?)
            So, it is God who makes a person righteous.  We see this in Abraham, the father of the Jewish and Christian faiths.  Abraham was considered righteous because he trusted God.  Genesis 15:6, "[Abraham] believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith."  The idea that people's faith makes them righteous is confirmed in the New Testament.  Romans 4:5, "People are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners."  So, even though we have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and the consequences of sin is death (Romans 6:23), we are saved for eternal life and made righteous when we believe in Jesus Christ.
            Godly people will do good things, but that's not what makes them righteous.  They do good because God did such great things for them.  God loved us even though we didn't deserve it and saved humanity from sin.  Godly people love God because God first loved them.  And if they love God, they will also love the people God loves; and God loves everyone.  Therefore, godly people love even those who seem the most unlovable because it is a a way to love and honor God.


The Fate of Godly vs. Ungodly People
            Proverbs makes quite a lot of distinctions between godly and ungodly people.  Here are a few examples:
·       Proverbs 10:7 – Godly people are remembered fondly as a blessing, but the ungodly fade into oblivion.
·       Proverbs 10:11 – Godly people say things that give life to everyone, but ungodly people lie to cover up the bad things they’ve done.
·       Proverbs 10:20 – The things a godly person says are worth more than silver.  Even the ideas of the ungodly are worthless.
·       Proverbs 11:7 – An ungodly person’s hope is lost when they finally die; their lives come to nothing.
·       Proverbs 14:19 – Evil people are ashamed in the presence of the good.  The ungodly are locked outside and long for the goodness of those who live right.
·       Proverbs 14:32 – The ungodly are cast out because of their own crimes, but those who live right trust God even in death.

            It’s pretty clear from Proverbs that godly people have a much better fate than the ungodly.  Jesus is even more explicit in the Gospels.  He warned that when he comes to judge the world, everyone who ever lived will be brought before him and he will separate the godly from the ungodly.  Then he will say to the godly:  “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.”  And he will say to the ungodly:  “Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.”  (Matthew 25:31-46)

How Can I Be Godly?
            A wise person would take these warnings to heart.  You need to be sure you are in the godly category as opposed to ungodly.  So, how do you ensure you are counted among the godly and not the ungodly?  Here's how. 

First, repent of your sin and turn to God. 
            You have to recognize you have sinned and ask for forgiveness.  Even if you’ve never done anything that might be considered “really bad”, you have still sinned.  Surely you can see you have not always trusted Jesus completely, not lived your life completely for God, done some things you shouldn’t have done, and not done some things you should have done.  Have you ever told lie (even a small one)? Have you ever stolen something (maybe taken a pen home from work)? Have you ever lusted in your heart? Have you ever wanted what someone else had (that's called coveting and it's one of the attitudes prohibited by the ten commandments)?  If you've broken any rule or made any mistake, you have sinned and need to ask God for forgiveness.  The good news is, God will forgive you for every sin--even if it's too terrible to mention--because of what Jesus Christ has done for us.
            John 3:16 tells us, "God loved the world so much that he sent his son, Jesus, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life."  Christ came to earth and lived as one of us.  He lived a perfect and holy life.  He was innocent, but he was arrested and put to death to pay for price for our sins.  He was willing to make this sacrifice because he loves us so much.  And if you trust what Jesus did for you, God will forgive you and vindicate you and call you righteous.  You will be numbered among the godly.  So ask for forgiveness and choose to follow Jesus from this day forward. 

Second, live a godly life.
            If you have real faith in Jesus, you will trust him and do the things he asks you to do.  Faith is not a light thing.  It is serious and it changes everything about your life.  Once there was a man hiking on a beautiful but isolated mountain trail.  As he was admiring a breathtaking overlook, he slipped and fell from the precipice.  However as he fell, he managed to grasp a small branch growing from the side of the cliff.  There he clung for dear life as he desperately called for help.  No one answered and he was unable to pull himself to safety.  The man began to pray, "Lord!  Save me!  I don't want to die!"  To his surprise, God answered--not from above but from below.  And the Lord said, "I am here, even though you can't see me.  Just let go of the branch and I will catch you."  And the man said... "Is there anyone else who can help me?"
            Jesus wants you to let go of the things you were clinging to before for meaning, happiness, and value.  He wants you to cling to him instead.  He is your only hope, but do you really trust him?  When you trust Jesus, you will let go of the past (even if it’s frightening) and trust him to lead you into a better future.  When you really trust Jesus, you will obey his teachings in the Bible, you will let him guide you day by day, and allow his Holy Spirit to gradually change the attitudes and behaviors in you that do not properly reflect the love of Christ.  So truly trust Christ and you will begin to actually live a godly life. 

Last, persevere to the end.             The Christian life is a marathon not a sprint.  Although none of us know how much time we have to live this life, most people will become a Christian and then live another forty to eighty years.  The time after you first become a Christian can be exciting and energetic.  It's like falling in love, but what do you do when the "newness" wears off and the "honeymoon" is over.  Will you continue to be faithful and follow Jesus?  There will be times of excitement and renewed passion, but there will also be times of trials and difficulties.  Sometimes the journey of a disciple is easy and other times it feels like it's all uphill.  Don't give up!  Persevere.  God uses the journey to shape you and build your faith.  Never go back to the ungodly person you were before.  You've chosen to be godly so stay on the path Jesus set before you.
            It has been said that every person has two wolves living inside them--one is evil and one is good.  The bad and good wolf are locked in a vicious battle--biting and clawing, wrestling and rolling in a bloody fight to the death. The wolf that wins the fight for your soul will be the one you feed the most.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Green Light

The Truth As Far As I Can Tell…

James 4:7 – So humble yourselves before God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

            “It’s the green light.”  He said. 
            “What do you mean?”  I asked my friend, Ken.  Ken Stephens was an experienced Methodist minister who served a church a few miles down the road from mine.  He was patient, faithful, and wise from years of ‘fighting the good fight’ in the Lord’s Kingdom.
            Ken and I and a number of other pastors in Forsyth, Georgia were planning a community-wide mission event.  Unfortunately, we had experienced some minor setbacks in our plans.  It was nothing major, but enough to make some of us less experienced ministers question if we were doing the right thing.  Was God trying to tell us we were off track?  Were we doing the right thing?
            “It’s the green light.”  Ken repeated.  “When Satan sees the Church working together and doing the will of God, Satan feels threatened.  He doesn’t like it.  So, he tries his best to disrupt and discourage God’s people.  But that’s the green light for the Church.  It tells us we are on the right track.  We are making the Devil nervous.  So we’ve got to press on.  The Devil’s telling us to stop, but God’s giving us the green light to go ahead.”
            I never forgot Ken’s advice.  Whenever I know I am doing the right thing, I don’t let Satan discourage me with his minor disruptions.  Now, I just see these as the green light.  They are confirmation that I am on the right track.  If Satan is fighting us, it is only confirmation that we are on the right track.  So I pray for God to chase the Devil away and I ask other prayer warriors to join with me, knowing if we resist the Devil, he will flee from us (James 4:7). 
            Satan cannot stand against us.  Through Jesus, we have already won the victory.  Of course, I’m no expert and certainly don’t claim to know everything, but that’s the Truth as far as I can tell…

Remember, God loves you and so do I!