Sermon "Skill in Your Hand & God in Your Heart"

Thursday, October 13, 2016

When God Calls You to Go Farther and Deeper

“Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted." Matthew 14:29‭-‬30 NLT
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When I was a kid, I ejoyed going to the beach. We didn't go often, but when we did it was a real treat. The sand offered endless opportunities for playing and the water, well for me then was more for viewing.

Back then I could not swim at all. I can barely swim now. What kept me from learning was my fear of drowning (I know weird right?). So I could never get to the comfort level needed to even float, much more to swim. But I would get brave enough to walk to the water's edge and get my feet wet.

I remember standing there as the waves rushed over my feet. That felt good. Added to the cool ocean breeze on my face and the sun on my shoulders, it was fantastic. I'd sometimes get caugt up into the beauty of the ocean and cautiously walk out a little farther. Then I could feel the foamy water on my knees. I'd go yet a little farther. That is until I could feel the current pulling the sand out from under my feet. Then I'd quikly retreat.   See I would venture out only as far as I felt I was strong enough and capable enough to stand up on my own.

I've faced that in other areas of my life; in fact I'm facing a situation like that now. I'm sure you can relate. You find yourself in a place  where it feels like the waves of life are pulling the sand from under your feet. It's too scary of a feeling when you can no longer trust your own abilites, so you feel the urge to retreat.

But...what if God is calling you to go further...to step out deeper? That's how He called Peter. Peter wasn't called to swim in the water. He was called to walk on it. Everything in this natural world was telling him he couldn't do that, but a God with supernatural powers was telling him he could. So...he stepped out.

But just like me and just like you, Peter experienced the terror of no longer being able to trust his own ability to stand. Like when I was a kid at the beach feeling the sand being pulled from beneathbmy feet, his mind lost focus of Jesus and turned to his own limitations. He took his trust from Jesus and placed them upon himself. He thought about how he couldn't do what he was already doing.  And so he began to sink.

Do you know what Jesus said to Peter? Not, "Oh ye of little ability", or "Oh yeah of little knowledge", and not even "Oh ye of little courage". He said, "Oh ye of little faith". You see when Peter stepped out of the boat, it was not water he was walking on. It was faith.

And so, I encourage you as I encourage myself. Don't place your faith in your own abilities or knowledge. In times of testing you will find they will let you down about as quick as my little legs at the water's edge. Place your trust in an all powerful and all loving saviour whose name is Jesus. Then you'll go farther and deeper than you've ever been before.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

I Expect More...of My Expectations (A Morning Prayer)

Good morning Lord. Thank You for another day. I am looking forward to another opportunity to glory You through the job You blessed me with. I pray for a good day at work today.

Lord, it's like You've been having my life on replay; teaching me new things with old stories. Like I was thinking back to when I had to take swimming lessons in college. Passing the swimming test was a requirement, and I was worried sick about that because I couldn't swim at all. The class was divided between those who could swim some, but couldn't pass the test, and those who could not swim at all, which was my crowd. Then we were buddied up within that group, and my partner was a guy who looked as scared as I was. Well, long prayer short, we went though the basics and to my amazement, I was learning how to swim.

So Lord, it finally came down to the day we had to take our swimming test. One part of the test was that we had to swim all the way across the width of the pool using any stroke we chose. So I chose the basic crawl stroke, because it was the one I could do the easiest. But the one thing about that stroke that I never mastered was the part where you turn your head, lifting your mouth just out of the water to get some air. So I had to adapt to overcome, and I knew I would just have to hold my breath all the way across the pool.

So there I was swimming, which probably looked more like thrashing, but making my away across that pool. Honestly Lord, I never expected I would make it all the way across. I figured that since I was a beginner and had to hold my breath, I wouldn't make it. I was stroking and kicking and feeling like I must have missed a turn because the other side of the pool would never show up. My breath was giving out, and I just knew I wouldn't reach the other side. I pretty much accepted the fact that I would probably have to retake the class.

So Lord, I decided to stop swimming. And You know what...when I stood up in the pool, and took off my fog-filled goggles, there I was standing within less than two feet from the side. Had I just gave one more kick, and one more stroke, or even just stretched my hand out in front of me as far as I could reach, I would have made it.

Father, ever since that day, that story has said a lot about me and a lot to me; and not so much about my swimming skills, or lack there of. But it has forced me to think about what I expect of myself; I realized that I needed to expect more..of my expectations. Had I expected I could do it, I probably would have tried harder. But because from the very first moment the instructor said "Go", I was expecting that I wouldn't finish. So my expectations became my finish line and not the other side of the pool. In spite of what I was actually capable of, my actions simply played out my expectations. And before then and since then I have seen where my limited expectations have been played out many times in many areas of my life.

But now Lord that You are in my heart, I have seen what You can do through me. I have seen how Your strength is made perfect in my weakness, and Your grace has proven sufficient in my suffering. So now that I know more of You, I expect more of me. And even though the waters in which I swim are not always calm and the other side is all the way to Heaven, I won't stop swimming. And no more will I stop just short of my goal. I will "press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14).

Lord I am thankful for the grace the swimming instructor gave me that day. She said I was close enough to pass. And I am thankful for Your grace especially when I have fallen way short. I love You enough to keep swimming towards You, and I won't stop until I reach You. In Jesus name. Amen.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Hate is no longer an Option

You know the story Jonah right? God told him to go to Nineveh to tell the people to repent; Jonah didn't like the Ninevites and didn't think they deserved the chance to change, so he went in the opposite direction; got on a ship; a storm came;  the men on the ship threw him overboard (at Jonah's request because he'd rather be tossed out to sea during a raging storm than to turn back towards Nineveh); then the great fish that God sent swallowed him up; he prayed in despair while in its belly for 3 days and nights; the fish spit him out onto the beach, back in the direction of Nineveh. Then God told him the second time to go to Nineveh and tell the people to repent. Well, Jonah went, but he wasn't happy about it. I imagine he kicked every rock on the way to that great city.

You know it's easy to look down our noses onto the pages of the book of Jonah and think of how ashamed he should have been of himself. But I think instead we should let the same light of God's truth examine our hearts that examined Jonah's. Think about it for a moment. Where would it be that if God told you to go and share the Gospel you'd go with your lip poked out? For whom in your heart are you harboring hate such that it's impossible for them to see God's love through you? Wherever it is or whoever it is, we'd best ask God to deal with that right now, because you just may be their messenger God is preparing to carry the message of Jesus.

If you are a Christian, then here is a big, dry pill you and I both need to prepare ourselves to swallow...When we said yes to Jesus and surrendered our lives in repentance to God, there were things we had to give up. And one of those things is the right we feel like we have to hate people. (Told you it was big and dry...so let me say it again). As Christians, we are required to give up our right to hate people. Read this.. "Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love." 1 John 4:7 (NLT)

I know sometimes you may feel like you have the right to hate a certain person. Jonah did. The Ninevites were godless, cruel, violent people who for a long time had done his people wrong. And certainly if you told us what that person did or said about you, we'd probably not blame you for hating them. But you need to remember. No matter what they did, God still loves them. Just like no matter what you did, God still loves you.

Look, the Ninevites may not have deserved the chance to change. But the way God calculates things, it's not about what we deserve. It's about what He wanted to give. And what He gave was His grace. And the same grace He showed to Nineveh, and to me and you, is the same grace He wants to show through us to others.

I know, I know. It's tough...so let's pray about it...

Heavenly Father, I pray that You examine our hearts. If You find that we have been quick to hate and slow to love, then I ask that You forgive us. We don't deserve Your love, but I thank You for being gracious and looking past our faults and giving it to us anyway. Help us to do the same for others so that through us they may get to know You. In Jesus name. Amen.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Protector of My Soul

I was just reading in Psalm 121. It starts off with..."I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth." (V 1&2). Ok, I got that. I can easily say a big Amen over that because I have certainly found that to be true.

But then it goes on to make several points about how God protects us. Verse 3 says He will not let us stumble. In verse 5&6 He stands as a protective shade from the sun and moon. Verse 7 God says He will preserve us from all evil. Then I had a big light bulb to pop on over my head, but it was in the shape of a question mark. I had an honest, but reverent question for the Lord. How is it that He shades and protects and preserves me, but I still feel the effects of evil? I still suffer from pain and heartache and trouble in my life just like anyone else. How does that line up with what I'm reading? But then it was like I heard the Lord say, "Keep reading dummy" (no He didn't say that). The end of verse 7 in the King James Version says..."He shall preserve thy soul." Ooooh! Ok.

See, it's like this. You as a person, are not a body with a soul. You are a soul with a body. Your soul is who you are, and your body is just the shell in which it lives. The bible refers to it as our tabernacle, or tent. If you don't believe that then I wish you could meet a student I had when I was teaching. He was in an accident and was paralyzed from the neck down. For all intents and purposes his shell of a body was lifeless, only sustained by a breathing machine piped into him through his trachea. It was hard to hear him talk, but when you did, you realized that he was very much alive on the inside. He was smart, and he had thoughts and feelings and ideas. He was a great kid, and I was inspired by him and his mother who sat in every class with him to take notes.

One day all of us will shed that shell, but the person we are, our soul, will live on. Of course if you know anything of the bible, you know it teaches that our soul will live forever, either in the presence of God in Heaven, or separated from Him in Hell. And I believe that.

So I understand better now that God will protect me by protecting my soul. Though I  get sick, feel pain, and get my feelings hurt, no one or no thing can touch my soul. Hallelujah!  I think of it like wearing a bullet proof vest. The bullets will still fly, and when they hit they will still hurt. But the bullets can't get deep inside to where I could be hurt the most. God is my protection.

I hope He is yours too. It would be nice if these words in Psalm 121 applied to everyone. But they only apply to those who apply it to themselves. God can only protect you if you believe in Him through His Son Jesus. We have a choice to put on that bullet-proof vest. And I've made my choice. Have you?