There is a section in Luke 12:35-53 where we are told to live life with watchfulness. Read that. In this teaching by Jesus, He tells us that there will be people who know what is right and even know what God wants them to be a part of and yet, they do their own thing. We are told as believers to seek out God’s will and to be living out God’s will when our Jesus returns. Jesus pulls no punches here when he declares that he will bring about division (Luke vs 51). People who follow Jesus will have division of some sort in our lives. We don’t like that because we are taught that we are to never lose the thought that the Kingdom is for everyone. This sounds harsh, but Jesus squashes that here. Jesus knows the Scriptures, so He knew that His Father loves everyone, but not everyone would wake up and be a part of His Body (AKA – The Church). I have been studying on what God has had me say many things in this church as your Pastor. I have preached and taught that Jesus will have hearers and thus doers of the Word and non-hearers and thus the stagnant. The journey to follow Jesus is a struggle. We don’t want tension or struggle. I just want to remind you that comfort is good for everyone. Rest and comfort go hand in hand but keeping church at some “healthy” distance to simply be comfortable will stagnate you. A friend of mine had a pond dug out with no freshwater access to it. So, it stagnated. Even though it had water it looks well, but it became something, dead. Coming and deciding to get involved here, is your fresh water. Your Spirit will teem with new life and excitement. I confess, I love my bed, heck I love my couch. I would love to just stay there when I get home, but the truth is that when my Jesus returns, that is not where I want Him to find me. That is not where I want Him to find you.
Sometimes it can seem that everyone else is doing better than you. Everywhere you seem to look people appear happier, more successful, wealthier, healthier, stronger, further along, and more assured.
But if we spend our lives wanting to be someone else, we will always be a pale version of who we were made to be. Remember this: comparison is a thief. This thief is in the mind, and it seeks to steal your joy. Lining ourselves up against other people is a one-way ticket to anxiety and failure. Thankfully, there is a better way. We are called to see ourselves as pilgrims here on earth, the ones who are just passing through with a clear calling on our lives. Our All-Saints service reminded us of all of this. We are to make sure that we move away from any view of comparison.
I was reading in Philippians Chapter 2. It calls this generation warped and crooked. (NIV) The message version focuses on our purpose, or our being sent out.
Go into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message in the night. (MSG)
If you want a better life, focus on God and not on comparisons.
Live a life of integrity, power, calm, and love. Give strength to the weak and support the sick. Bind up the injured. Search for the lost and show people your kindness. This is our way. This is our purpose. This is Lakeview Rising.
I have been reading Ecclesiastes lately. I have read it before, I’ve done Sunday school lessons on its wisdom, preached on it, and counseled people with it. King Solomon we know had wisdom, but like many of us, he lived as though the future is uncertain and the past is irrelevant. He chased after everything that life had to offer him only to come to a point where he realized earthly pursuits were futile. Near the end of his life, filled with remorse and regret, Solomon came to a place which speaks to us down through the ages. When a person is young it’s easy for them to forget who they are spiritually. I did it. I would say that it’s easy to walk away from a life of self-surrender at any age, but it is easier when a person is young. Easier to just walk away from the faith, from the church, and from a surrendered self-will to God’s will. Therefore, in Ecclesiastes he writes: “Remember your creator in the days of your youth.” (12:1) He wrote this because after some time of real reflection, he himself realized that this was a truth that he had forgotten somewhere along the way. Why is this admonition important? Solomon answers this question in the last two verses of the same chapter.
“Now that all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is
good or evil”.
Dear Lord, more of You, Your perfect will and much less of mine.
I received a letter wanting me to attend a big-time luncheon in town. I thought about it, and prayed about it. All of the “movers and shakers” will be there. The invite was from an outstanding organization. There was one problem, I didn’t feel called to attend. We often rush and rush to be everywhere for everyone this time of year. We usually say yes to every invite. We try to be all things to all people. We shouldn’t. One of the most important things we can have is a healthy walk with the Lord and balance in our lives. Knowing when to say “no” is a matter of discernment. Here’s another problem, many times when we say no, we feel bad about it. Sometimes for days. Maybe things will be different for me this year, maybe I really just want to spend time finding people who don’t know how close a church family can be. Maybe that is where your heart is. Maybe my longing for the lost is greater now than hanging out with the “connected”. Maybe it always should have been. Maybe my heart has stopped asking about the “curb appeal” of an invite.
When Paul said that he had “become all things to all people”, it really is for us to be like that for one reason, to win someone to Jesus. (1 Cor. 9:22) Something tells me that most of the crowd for that luncheon that I mentioned above is the churched leaders who love Jesus. One thing is for sure with most event type of luncheons, suits and ties will be everywhere. Maybe that is exactly why I didn’t feel like attending this year. I am not put on planet earth to play the “church comparison” game with other church leaders. I have been to the fancy buildings before, I have suited up to look good more times than I can count. I have been to luncheons and dinners with big wigs before. Heck, I have prayed twice over our Alabama State House to open session for goodness sakes. None of that appeals to me now. Maybe my heart has moved away from a place of self-promotion and maybe it just longs to be normal and balanced this season. Maybe that is where you are. Maybe this is the year that you say, “no, I’m not going to try to fit that in” to an already hectic calendar. Maybe this is the year that we fill that space and time with family at home or with our Lakeview church family, and reaching the unchurched with our time. Paul, in the above verse mentioned, was not talking about pleasing everyone, he was talking about fishing for people. Enjoy your family more than ever this season. Also enjoy your church family more than ever this season and invite others to our church. Say no to somethings that doesn’t involve reaching the lost.
So I said “no” this year. Sounds selfish doesn’t it. Why? Because we are all guilty of trying to be all things to all people for the wrong reasons. If you’re going to run with a crazy calendar this year, make sure it is to win some people to your Jesus, and then you will be helping the weak become strong. Which is exactly what we all have been called to do. Nothing wrong with civic dinners, there is just more balance if we save our energy for the lost and unchurched.
When we first moved to Guntersville, Alabama from Mobile, Alabama, we didn’t know anyone there. We planned to visit 3 churches in the area as soon as we got unboxed. We only visited one. Guntersville First UMC became our home. We grew to love everyone there. One man who was the church Lay Leader, took it as a serious part of his ministry to make new friendships and make sure you were a part of things. Maybe this is the most important part of church growth, the deliberate involvement of new people. Anyway, Mike battled bone cancer. And as his friend, I battled with him. The Bible is full of men and women who faced battles and they knew that God was for them in the times of great trials. Mike had a favorite verse, Romans 8:28. We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.
God uses all things to bring us closer to Him, especially the tough times. Like a refiner’s fire, it is the heat which shapes us.
I was reading in my Bible the other day and decided to start with James. I didn’t get far and ran across James 1: 12. It stopped me in my tracks. Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
So, persevere and know that God is faithful!
Who can you mentor or take under your wing as this church grows?
They might just be looking for some hope while feeling like they are in a fire.
Ashley and I read our Bibles each morning and we discuss what was read, then we pray together. This is what has made us strong in the faith for years. We did the Upper Room devotional for today (day of writing this). The message was about letting your light shine. Nancy and I see a lot of things in our office time here. This morning, an elderly lady came to Lakeview, she had walked to the church because her car broke down. I watched Nancy stop what she was working on and care for her. “I saw the Light” was more than a Hank Williams Jr. Song from the 1940’s. Four different times we are told to “let our Light Shine” in Scripture. (Matt. 5:15, MK. 4:21, Luke 8:16, and Luke 11:33) Letting your light shine is loving and caring on a high level.
I know of a lady who looks after her husband whose body is slowing down every day. She doesn’t need “atta boys” because she knows that this is her calling. Her Light is lifting her husband every day. She doesn’t need the “you’ve got it so hard” conversations. She doesn’t need that. She doesn’t look for that or want that. She just shines. I have told her on several occasions to “keep shining”.
When you ask Jesus into your heart, you shine. You don’t focus on why “so and so” hasn’t checked on me. You just grit your teeth, pull up your bootstraps and shine. My friend doesn’t look after her husband for the “eye appeal” of being a caring wife, nope, she does it because the light of Jesus is in her and this is just one of the many ways, she lets it out and doesn’t put it under a bowl.
Remember Church, that love doesn’t keep score. but it does shine. It was always supposed to.
When life presents its toughest challenges and fears mount inside of us, wisdom can be hard to find. We often get blinded by the immediate problems; panic and our emotions can cloud our judgement and our long-term vision.
It’s all too easy to feel trapped. But that’s when we need the wisdom to pray more than ever. That’s when it’s time to “go to the throne not the phone,” as Joyce Meyer once said. (I love that!)
Prayer is your most potent weapon. In the sixteenth century, when the Scottish pastor John Knox was imprisoned, it was reported that Mary, Queen of Scots, said, “I fear John Knox’s prayers more than an army of ten thousand men.”
Prayer has great and genuine power. Let’s be real, it’s not easy to pray for someone or a situation. It is one of the harder callings for the Christian life because the flesh is strong.
Jesus asks the simplest kind of question – The kind that can be answered with a yes or no. “Do you want to get well?” The man’s answer is none of the above. “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me get into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” (John 5:17) In the book titled, “The End of Me” Author/Pastor Kyle Idleman writes these words: Jesus has just been briefed on this situation, probably while this disabled man sat and listened. SO when Jesus looks down and asks if he wants to be well, the man knows that his own motives are being called into question. And he launches into his well-worn excuse. It boils down to I can’t. When my daughters were young, Ashley and I taught them that the word can’t is profanity. I am so glad Ashley and I created a home with such boundaries, lessons, and lines. When someone continually focuses themselves and others on the negative or on all the reasons why “we can’t” maybe that is the time the church should say, stop playing life safe. In one church I served, a man would constantly be rough and negative towards leadership. Most people in the church family would say, well that’s just Mike, he’s always been that way. Maybe even hoping that with time ‘old’ Mike will get better. We can’t confront him. I wanted on many occasions to simply ask Why? I know the answers people give. Inaction in the name of peace and everyone getting along just in the name of getting along, never brings change or growth. We actually fall into the trap of stagnation. If you view is that Mike will never get better, we are already going against a redeeming Jesus. Our motive has to be love. If the church leadership never addresses Mike, he won’t change and will actually be used to keep the church from Kingdom growth because he won’t change and nobody wants to be around nastiness and arrogance. When we say, “well that’s just Mike,” we are saying that Mike “can’t” get well. We are saying it without even saying it. I believe in better out of myself, my life, my journey, and my church folks. Jesus seems to shout at the invalid after the “I can’t” excuse. We might even be seeing Jesus’ demand better out of him when he says, “get up, pick up your mat and walk!” So if things are so bad for you, find somewhere that things are not bad. For the “Mikes” that stay. It’s time to put a smile on your face and embrace all of the good that God is doing right here. In the book Happiness Is A Choice by Frank Minirth and Paul Meier, they tackle depression head-on. In that book, the authors discuss the tendency of Christians to say, “ I can’t” or “we can’t” right when people are actually getting better and moving forward. Maybe “can’t” should be profanity for us. For we are God’s church. True believers know and embrace the fact that nothing is impossible with God. (Matt. 19:26) You are Lakeview. Your future is very bright because you people really do want to get well… even Mike.
Looking forward to a strong ending this year and beyond. Through prayer God gave me vision that is to be embraced by all. In a Methodist Church, as you probably already know, the Committees run the functions and decisions of the church (except the smaller day to day stuff). The pastor’s largest tasks are prayer and visioning. So, this time of year I enter prayer and begin to cast and talk about vision. So where are we going from here? I am glad you asked. Here goes:
Each person should ask, am I fruitful?
If you ponder that question, God will put a “yes” or “no” on you heart. We want a church where everyone can say my life is making an impact.
We should ask what are we for?
Today, people are so quick to talk about what they are against. Why not change the game? I am for Jesus, I am for this call to live our lives for Him. All of us will stand before Him. Have you walked away from things in your life that do not line up with Scripture or with Jesus’ view of Holiness? DO you compromise? We need to have an unwavering faith and not be double minded.
What are we known for?
Committed to Worship Committed to Encouragement Committed to Unity
The deep work of Discipleship. Self-denial is a part of that journey. Do you make Disciples who then go out and make disciples?
Serving. We are a serving church. Do you serve locally and globally. How do you serve locally? Have you been called to foreign Mission work?
Unchartered Territory. Attempt and even risk doing something that has never been done here before.
I am excited to watch us walk together. Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) Where there is no vision, the people perish. Focus your attention on these things and these questions. The future is bright! Our time is now! So, nope, we will not perish. We will RISE!