AT&T’s new commercials that “just okay, is not okay” are both humorous and true. When looking for a surgeon or someone to install your brakes, you don’t want someone who is “just okay.” And I would suggest that while surgery and brakes are important, of more importance is your eternal destination. You don’t want to be in a church or under a ministry where the certainty of your eternal destination is in question. I don’t want tradition, religion or opinion to be my standard, I want Jesus, His Word to be my source. In John 3 Jesus and Nicodemus are having a conversation about seeing the kingdom of God, and Jesus uses a word, that I can’t get past. The word “unless.” Talking about eternity Jesus says to Nicodemus, “unless a man is born of the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven.” That is a bold proclamation. There’s not a lot of wiggle room. As a pastor, we don’t want the confidence that you have about your eternity to be “just okay.” That’s not okay! While you might survive an okay surgery or an okay brake repair, we don’t want to risk “okay salvation” with your soul. So, we preach Jesus. We preach the cross. We preach His blood covers. We preach the resurrection. We preach baptism in His name. We preach baptism in the Spirit with an unknown language as the initial sign of infilling. We preach living for and growing in relationship with Him. We preach what we know to be the most secure message for your soul. Why? Because when it comes to eternity, “just okay, is not okay!”
Moving. To some it brings excitement while to others it brings a groan. Moving, regardless of the distance, changes so many things. A few years ago, we moved to our current residence. The move caused both kids to change schools, we changed grocery stores, gas stations where we got gas and even places we would dine out; all by moving just three miles. Since moving, nearly every piece of furniture has been replaced and every wall has been painted. Needless to say, moving equals change. Therein lies the problem with moving, some people do not want to change. In Exodus 12, God tells the Children of Israel to get ready to move. Have your bags packed, bread baked, shoes on and staff in hand. In one night six hundred thousand families moved. With that move everything in their life changed. We don’t have room to catalog all that changed but a short list includes jobs, lifestyle, and perspective all changed. One day they are slaves driven by task masters, the next day they are free being led by God, fed manna and getting water from a rolling rock. Some were overwhelmed and stayed in Egypt, others complained about the new adventure, but thankfully, most embraced it, took on the challenge and moved into a dimension of faith and a land far beyond their imagination. Do you have the faith to move, to embrace the change? God is longing to take someone into a new realm. Will it be you? If so, then get ready for an amazing future.
Super Bowl 53. 110 Million people will watch. Some watch to see the game, many tune in to see the commercials and a few are there for the halftime show. With such a large audience, companies are willing to hand over $170,000 per second to gain your attention and sell their product. At the end, a team will walk away with the title of champion and their town will celebrate like it is New Year’s Day. The next day people will gather around cubicles and water coolers to talk about their favorite commercial and maybe a great play or controversial call. But the reality is that within a few days the game and the commercials will be history, life will go on until the next “big” event. And so it goes, we live from one event to another. Solomon put it well in Ecclesiastes 1:2 “…vanity of vanities. All is vanity.” If we live for the Big Game, the next event or gadget, then life quickly becomes empty. It really has no purpose. What gives your life purpose is not your social life, education or job, but God. If we live with a God purpose then life has purpose. No longer are we living for the next great thing, we are living to see Him, living for Heaven. A simple question today. Where’s your life focus, your priorities? Is it on the earthly or the eternal? The answer makes all the difference to how you view and live life.
God wants relationship. From Adam to the Apostles it has always been about relationship. He longs for people who desire to commune with him. Could David’s great quality and what brought an eternal lineage simply be, that he longed to be in God’s presence? Relationship is key and the disciples missed it. It’s the Passover and hours before Jesus will go to the cross and what does He earnestly want? Communion. Fellowship. He is hours from away from suffering and what does Jesus desire? To have dinner with His disciples. He wants His disciples to know that He’s going away. He wants them to know that whatever they’ve done or will do, that He will still want relationship with them. We miss that. We get caught up in the cup and the bread, but hear Jesus’ heart, “I want fellowship”. Relationship. In that moment, more than anything, Jesus just wanted someone to sympathize, to care, yet all the disciples could care about was themselves, their position and greatness in the kingdom. What happened then can happen today. We can get so caught up in our world that we miss Jesus’ desire. To have a relationship with us. Communion, it’s more than a cup and a piece of bread. It’s a reminder that more than anything God wants our attention. He wants to talk to us through His Word, to hear from us in our prayers and be with us by His Spirit. Make communion a lifestyle, not a moment.
The lines were drawn. We will eat vegetables and drink water and your servants will eat the king’s food. After ten days you observe and see who is in better condition. The ten days passed, the meals ate and as the king observed both groups, it was evident that the four young Hebrew men were stronger. Not only that, but scripture says that God had given them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom. While we cannot comprehend how, we cannot deny the fact that God honored their fast, their commitment and faith in God. In the New Testament, after fasting, the powerful and influential church in Antioch was inspired to send Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey. That period of submission brought about an explosion of the gospel that changed the world. It all started with a church that prayed and fasted. Again, how it works we don’t understand, but that it works we cannot deny. As we step into a new year I am encouraging every person to get involved in Life Fast 2019. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a contract between God and His people. It’s a simple contract. If we will humble ourselves, pray and seek His face and turn from sin then we will hear from Heaven, He will forgive and He will heal. 2019 can be a year of incredible change and blessing. It starts with making a commitment, staying the course and keeping the faith. Want to see something different happen in your life? Then do something different. Get on board, fast, pray and seek God like never before.
Moving toward a new year, one of your purposes should be to create a culture in your heart, life and home that is growing closer to God. For your spiritual life to be authentic, your relationship with God must become personal; you must have ownership. One of the best ways to grow in passion and make spiritual changes is to read inspiring and challenging books. As you read, take time to pray and fast a day or a meal. Below are some suggested reads for 2019 that will change your life.
- The Bible (Start with Proverbs and read as led.)
- Draw the Circle, The 40 Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson
- The Book of Mysteries by Jonathan Cahn (365 Day Devotional)
- The Fasting Edge by Jentezen Franklin
- Fresh Wind Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala
- It’s Not About Me by Max Lucado
- Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt by Jentezen Franklin
- Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado
- Storm by Jim Cymbala
- Addicted to Busy by Brady Boyd
- Men: Play the Man by Mark Batterson
- Ladies: A Heart Like His by Beth Moore
The year, and especially the past nine months, had seen more twist, turns, ups and downs than a roller-coaster. It was more than they could have ever imagined. The announcement of their engagement had filled their lives with celebration, travel, gifts and preparation for marriage. Nowhere in their engagement script was a pregnancy. They were virtuous and God-fearing people. Their family had taught them the law with passion and they loved God with all their heart. But a visit of an angel to Mary brought news beyond comprehension. She was stunned and speechless, filled with joy but at the same time feeling the sting of the overwhelming challenges. To be the one chosen to be overshadowed by the Spirit and bring God to earth was the greatest of honor. To explain it to her family and soon to be groom was nearly an impossible task. Joseph’s angelic dream brings some strength and hope to the moment, but still there are doubts. Those doubts would visit often; the thought of divorce would surface in his mind almost daily. Resolve moves into both of their hearts and they decide they will believe in the words from Heaven. That the pregnancy was supernatural and that God was truly growing inside of a teenager from Nazareth. Though they believed, others didn’t. There were endless questions from their parents. Friends strayed and foes judged. There are whispers, innuendo and downright rude gazes. That an angel visited a young couple from Nazareth with a prophetic word, and teenagers at that, was just too much. May we suggest that there was even mockery. There is an incredible moment when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth; her baby leaps with joy inside her womb. There came flashes of hope when Joseph and Mary were alone and realized, it’s God in her womb. The end of the pregnancy brings yet another challenge. Herod has called for a tax, one that required families to return to the home of their birth. So, nine months pregnant, they begin a pilgrimage. It too is filled with challenges. Dangerous travel, poor weather and challenging terrain are all a part of the journey. Mary, days from birthing a child, must keep up with the caravan. For nearly two weeks, through rain, cold and wind they walk. Down mountain paths, across deserts and then a fifteen-mile ascent through rocky cliffs. When it seems as though it can’t get any more overbearing, it does. Bethlehem, a wide gap in the road on the journey to Jerusalem is their destination. They arrive in the small village only to find the family house already filled with relatives. No room in the house, they are relegated to the stable behind the house. Cold, damp, smelly; what place could be lowlier for the birth of any child, much less God in flesh. A stable, a place for animals now houses God. In the midst of all the hardship and difficulty, when no one could see the possibility, Joseph and Mary likely feeling hurt, lost and forgotten have no idea that the world changed. That night would be end of so much and the beginning of so much more. No one knew that in that moment the dateline would change from B.C. to A.D. No one knew that night that the sheep He laid among would never again have to die for the sins of a man. It was just a rough nine months for two obscure teenagers who believed the impossible could happen through them. Who could have imagined? Probably not Joseph and Mary. Whatever this year has held, whether hills and valleys, twist and turns you’ve walked through, know three things. First, the journey can be hard but you will make it. Second, regardless of how it looks in the moment, the impossible may be taking place in the midst of the most difficult situation. Finally, like Joseph and Mary, God has been with you, is with you and will always be with you. Christmas. The celebration of change!