Monday, June 15, 2015

5 Choices That Change Us!

I am a fan of transformation stories.  I like the articles that show houses that were dumps, renovated, and remade into beautiful homes, or outdated homes, gutted and made new!

Even better are the stories about people.  Have you heard of Jared?  The fellow who lost 245 pounds by eating at Subway twice a day and walking a lot (and by the way kept it off now for 17 years) who became the spokesperson for Subway and is reportedly worth about 15million made mostly from his commercials he did for Subway.  Subway attributes 20-50% of its growth to Jared.

Or Arthur Boorman the disabled  veteran who the doctors told would never walk again unassisted, he believed them, consequently his weight ballooned to 247 lbs. but at age 47, through  disciplined exercise lost the weight and the canes and became a you tube sensation with almost 12 million views of his transformation.

But the transformation stories I like best, are the spiritual ones.
The Drug dealer transformed into a faithful father and usher in the church.
The Convicted felon transformed by Jesus into singer and preacher.
The Marriage broken by adultery, healed by Jesus.

So the man we see this morning is transformed before our eyes as we read the gospel.
Peter, the fisherman, not educated, not polished, not from a royal background, the fighter, the curser, the ambitious businessman, often swift to speak and first to fail.
On a construction site, the building project is often broken into stages.
Let’s see Peter’s life as a project and consider the stages, and the choice he must make at each stage.


Choice: Believe? Or Belittle?
This is where we all start.  Andrew, Simon’s Peter’s brother had been a follower of John the Baptist, so he was there when John announced that Jesus was the Messiah, the Lamb of God, and Andrew began to follow Jesus.
When you start following Jesus, one of the first things you do is begin inviting others to come see and hear this one that has so stirred and changed your heart.
But when Andrew tells Peter, Peter has a choice to make.  Do I believe Andrew about this one he says is the Christ, the Messiah, God in the flesh? Or do I belittle my brother for falling for such a scheme as this.
This is the same choice we make today. 
Someone tells you about Jesus.  Do you believe?  Do you open your heart to the possibility that maybe He is the one that has the answers.  Maybe He is the one that can forgive my sin and give me a new start!
Or do you belittle?  Are you kidding me?  Religious fanatics, too dumb to understand science, too close minded to see how religion and Christianity oppress people….
That is belittling…and that will never get you into the presence of God!


Joh 1:42  And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

Peter is standing there with his brother next to him and suddenly Jesus speaks to him.  Thou are Simon, son of Jona…Thou shalt be called Cephas, a stone.
How does this man know my name?
How does he know about my now, and my future?

Choice: Receive or Resist?

Peter had to make a choice.  Do I resist what this man is saying to me.  Just explain away the fact that he is speaking to me about me, and that He seems to know me better than I know myself?
Or do I receive it?  Dare to believe that I have a future, beyond a fishing business, beyond the Sea of Galilee, to believe that I can actually be what God intends for me??!!
God speaks today and shows us our now…
When Jesus spoke to Peter, the names revealed a lot about him.  People used name in a much more significant way then than we do now.
What if we were known by our weakness?  Larry the luster, Criticizing Chris, or Angry Ann, here comes Fornicating Frank!  Or Dave the drunk, or Slutty Suzy…
We get indignant and sometimes pretend that when Jesus speaks to us about us that He is off.  But we KNOW He is telling us the truth. 
***Sister came to me last week and said the man she was living with was not really her husband and she wanted to get married but there were legal difficulties….she called back later in the week and said they got a lawyer to get the legal difficulties fixed and would I conduct their marriage ceremony!!
Peter is at stage 2, he is open to hearing what Jesus has to say and he is receiving the teaching.  There are many at this level.  They come to church, listen to the preaching, are ready to learn, that is good, but don’t stop now!

Stage 3: Using what you have learned

Choice: Take Action or Take Up Acting

Peter had learned a lot.  He had seen many miracles. He had participated in some of them, but he wanted to have an individual one.  When He sees Jesus walking on the sea in the middle of the storm, something stirs within him that says it is time to take action.  He asks Jesus, if it is really you, ask me to come to you on the water….Jesus says “Come!” and Peter does.
He takes action with the knowledge that he had
He takes action inspired by the miracles he has seen
He takes action motivated by a desire to be with Jesus
I know that most of you know, that Peter starts to sink in the water and Jesus has to rescue him, but have you ever considered what the other disciples were doing in the boat?
Peter had taken action, they had taken up acting!
They acted as if they didn’t really hear Jesus!
They acted as if learning about miracles and seeing them was what the end result was supposed to be, not doing them!
They acted as if they didn’t believe Jesus could do these works THROUGH THEM!

What will you do today after this service?  Will you take action?  Will you pour out the booze, get the marriage license, flush the drugs down the toilet, and begin today by setting a goal of inviting 5 people a day to church?
Or will you pretend, take up acting, as if you didn’t really hear this challenge, and after all, attending church is enough….isn’t it?

Stage 4 Recovering after failure

Choice: Get up Or Give up?

Peter had a lot of failures.  He spoke when he should have listened.  He was slow to believe, gave in to fear in the hour of need, cursed out Jesus, denied the Lord when He needed him the most.  I think he has probably topped your failure…
Peter had a choice, when he started to sink on the water….He cried out Lord help me!
When He denied him by the fireside, he cried, wept bitterly, and repented.
When he returned to his secular business instead of pursuing the calling that God gave him.
Every time, he said I will rise!  I will get up!  I won’t stay down!

(Proverbs 24:16)  For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.

The truth is that we will all fail.  The choice is what will you do when you fail?  Get up or Give up?
Wallow around in self-pity and blame others for your sin, get on social media and tell half a story to make yourself look like the victim.
Gossip to others and harbor bitter thoughts about the leadership who had the job of calling you to account for your sin?
Get bitter and quit the church and forever grumble about how unfair things were without ever revealing the entire truth of the matter?
You can’t get up carrying excuses for your sin! 
You can’t get up telling everyone else it really wasn’t your fault!
You can’t get up complaining about your husband fulfilling his role in the family while you are shirking your duties.

Stage 5: Becoming empowered by the Holy Spirit

Choice: Passive or Powerful?

After everything that Peter did, and remember he had to face the humbling experience of going back around the other disciples when he had failed:
·        His clothes wet from sinking after taking his eyes off the Lord
·        They knew he had cursed out the Lord
·        They were there when he was acting as a tool of the devil “Get thee behind me satan, thou savorest the things that be of man and not the things that be of God!”

His failures were personal but they were not private!

Look!  He got up and went back to church!
And wasn’t he glad he did!
Jesus appears, and tells them to wait for the promise of the Father….So they pray…and they pray…and they pray again…and after seven days of praying the Holy Ghost is poured out and Peter gets filled with the power of God!

What would have happened if he had just given up?
What would have happened if he had just gotten bitter?
Stayed sullen?  Separated himself and sulked in the shadows?

He would have missed the power of God!

You can sit here this morning and hear this message and be passive in your pew, or you can come today and say I need the baptism of the Holy Ghost, I need that power in my life and come to the altar today to receive!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Make a Stand!

Paul Harvey tells the story of the uncertain soldier in our Civil War who, figuring to play it safe, dressed himself in a blue coat and gray pants and tiptoed out onto the field of battle. He got shot from both directions!

The Bible is full of examples of individuals who compromised in one form or another and their ensuing losses. Lot who separated from Abram and moved as far as Sodom (Genesis 13:12-13; Genesis 19:1-29); Samson who compromised with Delilah (Judges 16:1-2); and Solomon who loved many foreign women (1 Kings 11:1-4) are but a few examples.

What about times when we are tempted to compromise our faith or beliefs? Will we stay strong or try and wear the blue and gray? Think about it! "Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might" (Ephesians 6:10).

Friday, January 16, 2015

"Just Start!" Part 1 "Start Over!"

Bible Reading:

Joh 3:1-3
(1)  There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
(2)  The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
(3)  Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

An old story tells of a tourist who paused
for a rest in a small town in the mountains.
He went over to an old man sitting on a
bench in front of the general store and
asked, "Friend, can you tell me something
this town is noted for?"

"Well," the old timer answered. "I don't
rightly know 'cept that it's the starting
point to the world."

"Excuse me?" said the newcomer.

"Yep," the old man continued. "You can
start here and go anywhere you want!"

That is what a new year is like.  We can start here and go anywhere we want this year.  We can make up our mind and improve our lives.  We can throw out the old useless things (be careful husband) and we can determine to grow and change.

Lots of people make fun of and ridicule New Year’s resolutions, but New Year's Resolutions are goals.  Goals are something you need to go to the grocery story, to graduate high school, to buy a home, or to retire.

So where do you want to go in 2015?

What do you want to accomplish?

I hope you have set some personal goals and I hope you have thought about some financial goals and I hope that you have thought about some family goals but my main focus this morning is where do you want to go with God?

Will December 2015 find you closer to Jesus or farther away?

If Jesus comes this year, will you be eagerly awaiting His return or bitterly regretting the fact that you didn't get ready?

***There is a brother that wore a t-shirt the other day.  It had a picture of a man getting ready to lie down on the couch.  The caption said "I have so many things that I need to get done today that I think I will just lie down and take a nap."

Well we have all felt that at times.

We make plans and goals and lists of things that need to get done and if we are not careful we become overwhelmed with the tasks that loom over us like a giant mountain of boulders about to topple upon us.

If we get overwhelmed at work and don’t do the task, we may miss the promotion or get fired.
If we don't do the things we need to do at school you may flunk the test or fail the grade.
If we don't do the things that we need at our homes we may be embarrassed if an unexpected guest visits.

But if we don't get ready to meet God, we may lose our eternity!

This is not something that we can afford to do.

We must get ready...but where do we begin.

Where do we Start?

The bible gives us a great starting point "In the beginning God....!!!!"
There is a God in heaven!
There is a creator who cares about us. 
The Maker knows best!

We have been created with a God consciousness.  
A certain something that tells us in our heart that there is a God.
This is part of what draws us to God, His (prevenient grace) pulling us, attracting us, making us aware we need Him.
Our part is to respond, to come to Him.

He makes us thirsty, we must drink.
He makes us hungry, we must eat.
He opens our eyes and makes us aware that there is something more than this natural realm, there is a spiritual realm, there is a God who created us, and our part is to seek that God, to pursue Him.

This is the story of Nicodemus.
Although we have only a handful of verses about this man, we can discover much from his position.
He was a leader, a Pharisee, he obviously had a desire for God.
He had given a great part of his life to studying the scriptures and endeavoring to live them.

When He came in contact with Jesus it was from afar.  
He was one of those that saw the miracles.
That wondered in his heart, how can He do those things? and who is this man?
Something began to pull him to Jesus.

What about you?  
We also have been created with a desire to know God.
We sometimes have relegated this longing for God to a search for beauty.
A looking for meaning.
We may call it: trying to find yourself.

The truth is God is trying to get you to look to Him!

We see a child being born, we experience the transcendent beauty of nature and we say, there is something more.  There is a God in heaven, a creator!

Too often we stop there.  
We subdue that inner longing for more, with fleshly pleasures that satisfy for a moment, but leave us just as empty later.  Some never learn.  

All their lives they fill their emptiness by emptying bottles.
They answer their spiritual loneliness by trying to never be alone
Tthey answer their soul's hunger for God by feeding their fleshly lusts.
You know there is a God!
You know He is calling you!
You know you need to change!


Nicodemus did.

It wasn't in the broad daylight, 
It wasn't with great theological wisdom

But He started.

Nicodemus said it this way…"We know that thou art a teacher come from God for no man can do these miracles except that God be with him.  Nicodemus recognized that God was with Jesus, what he didn't yet know was that Jesus WAS God!

Nicodemus Started!

He knew Jesus had something that He didn't have.

He overcame the pressure of his peers

He recognized that religion could be rewarding, but it wasn't freeing! 

He knew that a knowledge of God was wonderful but not the same as knowing God. 

Jesus told him.
You have got to start over.
You must be born again!
This sounded good to him, but how do I do this?

Nicodemus had invested his entire life into religion. He had memorized the scriptures, attended the synagogue, obeyed the law and now Jesus was telling him you have to start over.  What you have done, and what you are doing, isn’t going to get you to where you want to go.

(Joh 3:3)  Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus, it is not just a change of actions that you need, you need a change of heart!

It is the same with us!

Paul showed us how to become new when he said:

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

The answer then, is to start over, in Jesus. Surrender your life to Him.

Ron Hutchfield shares a story of a lady that had visited Europe and as she sat next to him on the airplane, she excitedly began sharing what she had seen.  She talked about the beauty of the cathedrals there and one thing she had learned, was that underneath the cross atop these cathedrals, the architects and builders had built in a gold ball. In that ball was a copy of the plans for the cathedral - safely hidden away in case something ever happened to that magnificent structure ... so folks would know how to rebuild it.

Of course, it isn't just buildings that need rebuilding, it's people, too! You may have been hit by some pretty damaging blows recently - maybe you've been virtually "totaled" by what's happened. But where do you start to rebuild?
It is at the feet of Jesus! That's where the rebuilding of a life begins. In fact, let me suggest that you look for answers where they kept the rebuilding plans for those old cathedrals - beneath the cross.


"Start Over"

When you've made your plans and they've gone awry
When you've tried your best and there's no more try
When you've failed yourself and you don't know why, start over.

When you've told your friends what you plan to do
When you've trusted them and they didn't come through
And now you're all alone and it's up to you, start over.

When you've failed your kids and they're grown and gone
When you've done your best but it's turned out wrong
And now your grandchildren have come along, start over.

When you've prayed to God so you'll know His will
When you've prayed and prayed and you don't know still
When you want to stop cause you've had your fill, start over.

When you think you're finished and want to quit
When you've bottomed out in life's deepest pit
When you've tried and tried to get out of it, start over.

When the year has been long and successes few
When December comes and you're feeling blue
God gives a January just for you, start over.