Landmarks on the Journey to Miracle Land

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Landmarks on the Journey to Promised Land

INTRODUCTION

1 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.” 5 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” 6 Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them. 7 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.'” 9 Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. 10 This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. 11 See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord–the Lord of all the earth–set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” 14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.
Joshua 3:1-17 (NIV)

Pick a number, any number. (Pause) How many picked a number between 1 and 10? How about 10 and 100? Did you pick a number larger than a million? If you didn’t, why didn’t you?

In 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin incorporated Google while still graduate students at Stanford University. Google is a search engine they created. Search Engines are the tools we use on the internet to find web pages on certain subjects – they are kind of like a book index – only this index is huge and is always growing. In November of 2004 Google claimed an index of nearly 8 billion web pages (http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/041111-084221) As of July 25, 2008 Google Engineers reported the index surpassing the trillion mark (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/we-knew-web-was-big.html)!

How did they get so big? I don’t have the expertise to answer that question, but I can tell you that it began with their initial vision. When they were dreaming up a name for their new invention back in their school days they first came up with the word googol (which got misspelled along the way and the wrong spelling stuck). The word googol is a mathematical term for the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes. While most people are likely to pick a number like 14 or 98, Brin and Page decided to pick a googol-1 with 100 zeroes.

Now then, let me ask you this – how big are you willing to dream? What are you willing to believe God for? Are you willing to believe that God can work through this church to see 100 people come into his kingdom this year? Why not 200? Or 300? Are you willing to believe that God can lead you to 1 person who will receive Jesus Christ as their personal Savior this year? Are you willing to believe that we can disciple these new believers so that they become growing, reproducing Christians? Are you willing to believe that God can use you to impact your home, your place of work, your school, and your community? Are you willing to believe that God’s miracles are only a prayer away, that we can experience His presence in a powerful way every single day?

You know, as I have studied the Scriptures, the people who lived and saw times of remarkable outpourings of God’s blessings always impress me. People like: Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and the Apostles. These are people who experienced what it was like to live in the midst of great acts of God. They didn’t just dream about them – they experienced them.

I believe that we too can live in the midst of God’s miracles.

Tonight I’d like to look at the landmarks that we’ll pass on the journey to miracle land. The things that will tell us we are moving in the right direction and getting closer to our destination. Every trip is measured by landmarks. Recently, when my family and I went on a trip to Florida we could tell how far along we were in our journey by matching up the landmarks we passed with the maps we followed. Often times a particular rest stop or restaurant would become a much-needed landmark (especially because we were travelling with small children)!

Our life journey into the land of big dreams and miracles is also measured by specific landmarks. Here they are:

The landmark of necessity
The landmark of participation
The landmark of obedience

Landmark of necessity (v1-3)

Joshua 3:1-3 (NIV)
1 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it.

What is Joshua saying to these people? He is telling them – you cannot go into the Promised Land by yourself, you need God to lead you. 40 years prior to this, the people had tried to cross the Jordan without God and had been destroyed in the process.

Perhaps, one of the best things that can happen to us is when we find ourselves in a situation where it is impossible for us to get out of on our own. A place where we are completely dependent upon Him. That is where the Israelites are. They can’t go back to where they came from – they are hated and will be destroyed. To go forward presents enough challenges as well – the people in the land they are to conquer doesn’t want them there either. Nothing has changed in the last 40 years. The land is still swarming with great armies. The men there still make the Israelites look like grasshoppers in their presence. The are stuck – between the proverbial rock and a hard place. And so Joshua reminds the people that they must follow after God.

Sometimes, we need to be reminded of the same thing – we need to learn to depend on God.

You know – living in the 21st century is an amazing thing. The technology that we have today is almost unbelievable.

• Computers that fit in the palm of your hand
• Cell phones
• Laser printers
• Satellite communications
• Airplanes capable of supersonic speed

It has gotten to the point where what God said of the people of Genesis 11 is true today; “anything they put their mind to, they will accomplish it.”

Today, we can go to school and learn;

• Medicine
• Engineering
• Business
• Various trades – electrical, carpentry, mechanics – whatever
• We can even study for the ministry

But, do you know what has happened? And this is a big problem with technology and education – they have advanced so much and have become so good, that we have learned to depend upon them and not on God.

Now, understand, I am not saying that we need to become like the Amish and do away with technological advances. I believe that technology and education – in most cases – can be a good thing; as long as we recognize them as tools for God’s service.

For too long, we have been looking to the tools to do the work instead of the master who made the tools possible. That is why I believe that one of the best things that can happen to us is to find ourselves in a situation where it is impossible for us to get out of on our own!

In trying to move the church forward or even our own lives, we devise plans, prepare charts, and establish programs. God looks over these nice plans and programs and says, “Nice ideas, good plans, but you left something out – ME!”

Not until we become completely dependent upon Him can we expect to cross over the river to The Land of Big Dreams and great miracles. This morning, I would ask you – are you completely dependent upon God in your life? Or, do you have the attitude that says – I can handle my life. I have my house, my car, my computer or TV, my bank account and my job – if anything goes wrong, then maybe I will turn to Him – but I don’t need God right now.

What about all of us corporately – as a church? Are we dependent upon our programs – our outreach events, our groups, our Sunday School, our Children’s ministry, or even our Pastor – to make this church a strong and growing church? Or are we going to be completely dependent upon God? When we can look within ourselves and say “Yes, I am – we are – depending upon God for our every need – then we have passed the first landmark and are definitely on our way to The Land of Big Dreams and great miracles.

But, there is a second landmark that we must pass along the way. The first landmark was the landmark of necessity . . . the second is ….

The Landmark of participation (vs 12-13)

Once we realize our neediness, our dependence upon God – we must also realize we gotta get where God is! God is calling us to participate in the move.

You know, there are times when God won’t move;

When we try to do it ourselves – like the Israelites 40 years before this trying to go into the Promised Land alone – God didn’t go with them.

He also won’t move when we think that we can tell Him what to do.

And finally, God won’t move when we are unwilling to go forward and participate with Him. That is where the Israelites are at this point.

When we are willing to listen to God and participate in His will, then we can expect great things. Think about some of the promises God has made to His people;

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)
14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Notice – God is calling us to participate – we must first humble ourselves, pray and seek His face and then He will heal our land and forgive our sins.

The same is true in Malachi 3:10 –

Malachi 3:10 (NIV)
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

First, we must participate – we must bring in the offering and then God will open the windows of heaven and pour out the blessing until it overflows.

Notice what God says in this situation that Joshua records,

Joshua 3:12-13 (NIV)
12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD–the Lord of all the earth–set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”

God is not going to stop up the waters of the Jordan until the priests have stepped into the water – that means that they must participate. Joshua does not say the waters part and then the people are to go forward – he says the people are to go forward, willing to participate, and then the waters parted.

The same is still true today. If we want to see God bring blessings and work miracles in our midst, we are going to have to participate. The fact of the matter is,

• We will not see anyone come to Christ until we begin witnessing and loving them.
• We will not see people healed until we begin to pray and believe for them
• We will not see our young people become strong Christians until we begin to mentor them
• We will not grow in our walk with the Lord until we become students of His Word
• We will not impact our community until we are in our community with Christ in us.
• We will not accomplish anything without consistent individual and corporate prayer and then a response to what God tells us to do.

You see, we can talk about and even pray about revival all we want – and YES I believe we must be praying for revival. But, until we are willing to participate, God is not going to move.

The question then becomes – what does God want me to do? I am not here to tell you what to do – that is God’s place. But what each one of us must do is get in the place where we can hear from Him! Begin, by going to prayer. Ask God how He wants you to fit into His program –

• Maybe He wants you to lead a Bible Study or Small Group
• Maybe He wants you to be showing the love of Christ to a neighbor
• Maybe He wants you to be mentoring a young believer
• Maybe it’s a young – newly married woman who needs a mature woman to help her understand what a Godly wife is – or a young man and a mature believing man
• Maybe it’s a teenager who needs someone to help him/her understand the Scripture and someone to look up to who is living out a Christ-like life and honest about the struggles they face.
• Or, Maybe God wants you to be giving more to missions
• Maybe He wants you to be a care giver to an elderly man/woman in the community
• Maybe He wants you to be one of the first persons to greet people as they arrive at our church on a Sunday morning.
• Maybe there’s some other creative crazy thing that God is asking you to do but you’ve been pushing it aside…

Whatever it is – certainly you want to spend time in prayer BUT….BUT

But, don’t just wait for a sign from heaven – begin trying different things – if you are praying and doing – God will be able to lead you exactly where he wants you to be. Remember – God wants you to participate and often times His moving depends on your doing.

So, begin trying to share the love of Christ with your neighbor – pray for them, think up an act of kindness and do it, invite them to church . . . Look to see if there is a young person in your life that you can mentor . . . begin by offering to pray for them – approach them and ask if they would like to meet with you once in while – offer to help them through the difficult struggles of life – you’ll be surprised at how God will direct this kind of situation.

This moves us directly into the third landmark on this trip to The Land of Big Dreams and great miracles. First was the landmark of necessity – the second was the landmark of participation and the third landmark is …

The Landmark of obedience (vs. 14-17)

Joshua 3:14-17 (NIV)
14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

Not only must we participate with God as we move into The Land of Big Dreams and great miracles, it must be obedient participation. This may be the most difficult landmark to pass by. Why? Because it is marked by faith and sometimes appears to be contradictory to what we see in our world. Among the many teachings of the Bible we learn;

• We must give our money in order to receive blessings
• We must be last in order to be first
• We must serve in order to be honored
• We must step into the water in order to cross on dry land
• It means we must walk by faith and not by sight.

I don’t know if you have ever seen the “Indiana Jones” movies, but there is an interesting scene in the third movie that illustrates this truth. “Indy” is trying to locate the famed “Holy Grail” – the cup that is supposed to be the one Jesus used in celebrating the communion with his Apostles…

SHOW CLIP FROM INDIANA JONES 3
(explanation if clip is not shown: In the movie, in order to get to the Grail, he must cross a great chasm. As he looks at it, there is no way to cross from one side to the other. But, he has deciphered the directions and realizes the only way to the other side is to step off the cliff and into the chasm. As he stands there, you can see in his face the reluctance – finally, he closes his eyes, takes a deep breath and steps into the emptiness. Suddenly, as he begins to fall a bridge appears before him and he is able to cross safely.)

God has promised us great blessings if we – by faith – obediently participate in His work. That means that sometimes we have to be willing to take the next step, even when we are not sure where it leads.

Think about Jesus’ first miracle – it is recorded in John 2 – it is the miracle of His changing the water into wine. Jesus had been invited to a wedding. While at the feast, the wine runs out. Jesus mother approaches Him about problem.

John 2:5 (NIV)
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

This is the key to moving into The Land of Big Dreams and great miracles – whatever He says to you – do it!

Imagine what would have happened if

• The servants hadn’t poured the water from the jars – this isn’t wine its water – the miracle would never had happened.
• Israel had waited for the water to stop before stepping into the Jordan – they may still be waiting to cross into the Promised Land.

This morning, we need to commit right here before God that as He leads – we will move in obedience to His directions. When we do that, then we will have passed the third landmark on the way to The Land of Big Dreams and great miracles.

So, are we ready to go? Do you recognize the three landmarks? Have you passed them personally? When we do this individually our corporate journey together will follow naturally. Do you realize how dependent you are upon God? Are you ready to participate in God’s plan for your life, for our church and for our community? And finally, are you willing to be obedient – to take the step of faith – and do whatever it is that God has called you to do? If you can answer those questions in the affirmative, then we are ready to cross into The Land of Big Dreams and great miracles. I’m excited about our journey to the other side!

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Failing Forward

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INTRODUCTION

There are a few certain things in life:

• One of them is taxes.
• We will all eventually die.
• Whenever you are in a hurry to get someplace all the stoplights on your route will be red.
• When you and your wife finally get a day where the kids are off someplace, there’s no doctor’s appointments or events taking you to different places and you have a chance for some romance and “fun together” – that’s the day unexpected visitors show up at your house or one of you gets sick.
• When you are about to embark on a much anticipated vacation – the car breaks down – or the weather goes awry…

Now some of these are rather cynical aren’t they? Yet there are a few certain things in life and today I want to talk about one of them – failure. The truth is – we all experience times where we fail at something. If I was to take a brief survey of the people here today I would probably find that among the fears we face in life one of the greatest fear is the fear of failure. In this high-achieving, “make it or break it” society that we live in failure is just one of those things that isn’t looked kindly on. In many circumstances when people do fail – and remember that is a certainty of life – it gets “covered up” or swept under the carpet because we don’t want anybody to know.

Failure, or the fear of failure is one of the greatest contributors to the level of stress and anxiety many of us live in day to day. We don’t want to fail at being parents, we don’t want to fail in our grades at school, we don’t want to fail at work and maybe get fired, we don’t want to fail at being a great husband or wife (especially when it comes to our sex life right?). Sometimes it can be the trivial – failing to put the toilet seat back down – or all the way up to the huge – having an affair, crashing the car, or going bankrupt. Whatever it is, failure or the fear of it is the major contributor to stress and anxiety in our life.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, failure can be one of the greatest contributors to success. Some of the greatest accomplishments down through history were built on the lessons learned from failure.

I don’t imagine “The Beatles” felt very successful when, at their first record audition in 1962, one of the Decca Recording company executives said, “We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out.” Nor would have Alexander Graham Bell jumped for joy when President Rutherford Hayes said, “That’s an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them?” A baseball player might not want to be known for holding the record for the most consecutive strikeouts in a World Series game or even worse hold the major league record for strikeouts (all 1316 of them) yet both records were held by one man – his name Babe Ruth (Celebrity Trivia, E. Lucaire). It is said that Thomas Edison performed 50,000 experiments before he succeeded in producing a storage battery. We might assume that the famous inventor would have had some serious doubts along the way. But when asked if he ever became discouraged working so long without results, Edison replied, “Results? Why, I know 50,000 things that won’t work.” (Today in the Word, August 1990).

Quotes:
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising each time we fall” (Oliver Goldsmith)
“Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom” (Gen. George Patton)
“Failure is an event, never a person” (William Brown, Welcome Stress!)

Today we’re going to look at the story of some men in the Bible and learn some lessons about dealing with failure.

1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, 2 he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Luke 5:1-11 (NIV)

Chapter five of Luke’s gospel opens up with Jesus preaching a morning message to a group of people who are excited and hungry for what He has to say. Now it just so happens that there were also three fishermen there, not so much to hear the message, but who were busy cleaning their nets after a night of labor.

Peter, James and John were professional fishermen. This was their trade, their career – it wasn’t just a hobby or pastime. They had chosen to fish the previous night, believing that they could fare better than in the day. Nevertheless, they came up empty handed. They were worn out, discouraged, and probably just wanting to go home and get some sleep. The worst part for them was that they would have to face their families and tell them that there was no food or money for the needs of the present day.

How many times have you tried your best and still come up way short? When we have done our best and still do not have success, we should realize our dependency on the Lord Jesus Christ. But, do we? Jesus himself said in John 15…

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:5 (NIV)

Now these fishermen probably weren’t too excited about the presence of this Jesus. But Jesus was gathering quite a following. At this point, His public ministry was just kicking off and He was the “new kid” on the block. Everyone was ranting and raving about His ability to preach, teach, and captivate the attention of everyone with His oratorical skills. He preached with authority, like many had never heard before. But at this precise moment, the fishermen were probably thinking that this guy is just the son of a carpenter who happens to know how to speak well.

After Jesus dismissed the crowd, He turned His attention towards Peter in particular. He had already borrowed Peter’s boat and used it as a platform for His preaching but now He turns to Peter and says, “Let’s go fishing, and oh yeah, bring those nets with you that you just got through cleaning.”

Now let’s think about what might have been going through Peter’s mind at that moment. I’m sure he must have thought, “I’m not sure what this carpenter turned preacher is up to. Doesn’t he realize that we are professional fishermen? We have already put in a long shift. This has been a bad time for fishing, and he wants to fish now in the day time? I wish he would just stay with his own trade and leave us be!”…

You can tell Peter was not totally convinced for he pointed out to Jesus that they had fished all night without success – yet for some reason Peter says that they’ll give it a try. Why would Peter do this? They had just spent all night fishing without success, they had finished cleaning the nets and setting them out to dry. And finally, they had spent the last few hours hosting this Jesus on their boat listening to Him teach this crowd. And that last point is the key, perhaps there was something in what Jesus taught that caught Peter’s attention, perhaps it was something that Jesus said that awakened Peter to the possibilities Jesus represented. At any rate, there was enough for Peter to simply agree to take a chance that maybe something would happen.

You may have noticed that Peter called Jesus “Master”. This is a term that people would use of someone they respected and usually referenced the acknowledgement of a person as a teacher or guide. So, even though it’s obvious Peter is still unsure, he’s willing to give Jesus the benefit of the doubt.

Even with this small measure of faith, Jesus wants so much to bless Peter and to teach him a great lesson. We see that almost immediately that when Peter lets down the net he is blessed and cursed at the same time. Have you ever been in those situations in life where you are in the midst of some blessing but are also going through incredible difficulty at the same time?

Look what happened here:

They caught so much fish that their net began to break. The outcome of their fishing journey went from 0 to “mucho” in just a matter of seconds! From failure to success in record time. Yet the net was ripping because Peter refused to believe that Jesus could really bless him abundantly and so this blessing quickly turned into a complicated situation. You can almost picture the surprise on these men’s faces as they struggled to bring in this huge catch – complicated by the fact that there would be much net-mending and repairing after everything was brought in. There was so much fish that Peter had to signal some partners in another boat to come and help them bring in the nets and still the amount of fish almost sunk their boats!

Are you getting the picture? So many times, we find ourselves in the midst of a blessing and then things get complicated. Usually the complications exist because we lack the faith to step out and do exactly what God asks of us in the beginning. God may ask us to do something and we think – okay we’ll test the waters a little bit and hap-hazardly cast out the nets not really expecting anything to happen – and then something does and things get complicated. Two quick lessons as a kind of side note:

1. God rewards even the smallest amount of faith. It wasn’t much, but because Peter did decide to try casting his nets in response to Jesus’ instructions he was rewarded with the catch.
2. God’s response isn’t limited by our faith but what we catch is. Can you imagine what would have happened if Peter had of realized the opportunity Jesus was giving here and had called all of the partners in the business and said let’s get those nets out guys? Sure the catch of fish they brought in was great – but imagine what the catch would have been if Peter had more faith than he did?

In this story there is something great that we can learn in the actions of the men after this catch and in the response of Jesus. It is a lesson that I think has much to teach us about how we should approach failure. There are three important things I want you to remember about failure this morning and if you remember these points I am convinced it will radically change how you approach failure and the possibility for failure in your life.

1. Failure puts us in the place where we can LOOK UP (Dependence on God).

There’s no doubt about the fact that failure often results in discouragement and anxiety. Yet, failure is also something that creates the awesome potential for us to realize how much we need God.

There were two failures in this short story. The first failure was when Peter and company had such a dismal day at the office and failed to catch any fish. In stock market terms they crashed and the crashed bad. Maybe it was the bait they used, or the location they fished in, or even the time they chose to fish – but whatever the reason they still failed in what they had set out to do – which was catch fish.

The second failure was when Peter didn’t recognize the opportunity Jesus was presenting to them and limited His faith to simply humouring Jesus.

In both cases, failure put them in the place where they had the potential to realize how much they needed God. Notice what happened as soon as Peter got to shore with the net breaking, boat sinking catch – he ran up to Jesus and fell on His knees and called Jesus Lord. He looked up to God.

Let me put it this way – let’s say that Peter and crew had a successful night fishing and had pulled in to shore with a great load of fish. Would they have been in the position to meet God that day? Would they have been in the position to experience the miracle God planned for that day? Now that’s not to say that God guided all the fish in that lake away from their nets through the night so that they would fail – maybe God did, maybe He didn’t. The point is that regardless of whether our failures are brought on by our own bad decisions or the sovereign plan of God they always create the potential for us to look UP to God and draw closer to Him as we realize our dependence on Him.

If they had of successfully caught a full catch of fish it is much more likely that Peter and company would have recognized Jesus for who He really was. They still might have thrown out the nets one more time in response to Jesus’ instructions but it would have been no big deal to catch more fish with already having the catch on shore.

Are you afraid of failing? Or have you failed at something? Next time you face failure or experience remember to look UP and see the failure as an opportunity to become more dependent on God and to grow closer to Him.

2. Failure highlights where we need to grow.

This is another important lesson about failure that we can learn from this story. Notice what happened when the fish were brought in. Luke records that Peter fell down at Jesus’ knees and urged Jesus’ to leave Him because of the sin he recognized in his life. Pretty weird way to thank a guy don’t you think? I would think that after a catch that big Peter might have run up to Jesus and gave a whoop of joy, smacked him on the back or given a high five and said something like, “Wow, thanks a lot, you’ve got to come to our house for a party tonight!” But instead, Peter’s response indicates that he realized something he wouldn’t have known otherwise. In this case Peter had failed to recognize who Jesus really was and this lack of faith opened His eyes to where He needed to grow. All of a sudden it connected with Peter that he wasn’t as good as he wanted to think and he was humbled.

Failing forward means that when we fail, we take the opportunity to allow it to show us where we need to grow.

“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you learn to do it well” (Zig Ziglar)

You will never grow unless you allow failure to teach you what is not right in your life. With this understanding failure doesn’t have to be discouraging or defeating. In fact failure can be stimulating and encouraging as you recognize the lessons you can learn from failing.

This is why risk and failure go hand in hand. We all want risks in life to be met with success but the reality is many risks are met with failure. For some people that’s reason enough to always play it safe. They figure, if we don’t takes risks, then we won’t fail. True enough – but what’s also true is that you will also never grow as a person because if you never fail at anything you will never know what can be improved in your life. Now that doesn’t mean that we aren’t to be careful about what risks we take – it’s always important to make sure what we are aiming for is worth the risk – but it does mean that we don’t let the fear of failure keep us from taking any risks!

It amazes me because when you look at some of the choices God made in people throughout the Bible you see that He didn’t really make that many “safe” choices: Jacob, a liar and a cheat; Joseph, a guy who just didn’t know when to keep his mouth shut; Moses, a stutterer, murderer and old man; David, the youngest son and pretty unnoticed; Jonah, prejudiced and stubborn; Among the disciples, some fishermen, and a couple tax-collectors; then there’s a guy named Saul, who was violently chasing and persecuting followers of Christ. No, God chose a lot of risky people to go about doing His business. Why? Certainly it isn’t because God didn’t expect them to fail sometimes. In fact, I believe it is because God knew that they would fail in some cases BUT God also knew the potential resident in what these men and women could become and that it was through their failures they would grow into that person!

Don’t let failure be a setback – instead allow it to expose where you need to grow!

Finally,

3. Failure provides the opportunity for something better.

Sometimes it isn’t until we fail that the door to something better opens up. Such was the case here in this story. The failure of these fishermen to catch fish and even to some degree their failure of faith opened up the door to the opportunity to become fishers of men. In the midst of their failure, Peter, John and Simon grabbed a hold of who Jesus is and caught the burden to join Him in His mission on earth. The proof of this is found in the abandoned tackle, bait, boats, and their prize catch upon reaching land to follow Christ.

It’s interesting that throughout the more than 3 years of Christ’s public ministry, we do not find recorded that the disciples ever returned to fishing, except upon the command of Jesus to catch a fish and take the coin out of its mouth to pay taxes. It is only after Jesus died, rose again, and talked about his ascension, that the disciples reverted back to the old fishing habits. And again, it was due to lack of faith. They didn’t believe that they had what it took to carry on without the physical presence of Jesus Christ at their side.

Friends, sometimes failure opens the door to something better – a something that we wouldn’t even be aware of if we succeeded all the time.

Will Rogers’ stage specialty used to be rope tricks. One day, on stage, in the middle of his act, he got tangled in is lariat. Instead of getting upset, he drawled, “A rope ain’t so bad to get tangled up in if it ain’t around your neck.” The audience roared. Encouraged by the warm reception, Rogers began adding humorous comments to all his performances. It was the comments, not the rope tricks, that eventually made him famous.
(Chuck Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, p. 29, cf. pp. 69, 244.)

What started out as a miserable failure, ended up with a fabulous ending.

Regardless of how bad things look for you in your life and regardless of the failure remember to look up, look in, and look out – let the failure bring you closer to God, let it reveal where you need to grow, and finally let it point you in the direction of something better!

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What happened here?

Sorry for the downtime recently.  I’m temporarily putting up a default theme for UnashamedSermons.com so at least the sermons can still be searched.  Unfortunately things aren’t as easy to find as they used to be with the old site (and the layout of course isn’t the greatest).  As was posted temporarily while the site was down – my webhost (http://bluehost.com) claimed that my website(s) were causing to much load on the shared server I’m on and told me I had to make changes before they’d activate my sites again.  Needless to say, I’m not happy with this!

I’ve been meaning to get around to changing things up on Unashamed Sermons for a while now but just have never had the time.  I still don’t – this unplanned downtime doesn’t change that.  So…it looks like this temp look will be it for a while.  I’ll still be posting new messages here when I get a chance but it of course won’t be as frequent as it usually is.

Hope everyone is having a Merry Christmas!  To you preachers out there…keep on spreading the good news of God’s extravagant gift and extraordinary love!

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What Roof is In Your Way?

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INTRODUCTION

They finally made it. It had taken a while. By the time they had prepared the stretcher for their friend and gathered the necessary items for the journey the morning had nearly passed. They had hurried as fast as they could but their speed was hampered somewhat by the condition of their friend. As the four men hoisted their friend laying on the stretcher onto their shoulders each one of them could see the look of hope in his eyes. How could anyone resist that look? Indeed as they began walking each one of them was filled with their own version of that hope.

They passed others on the way: a blind man, someone with a bandage around his head, and there was a woman carrying a child with open infected sores on its arms. As they got closer to the house, more and more people were walking beside them. Finally they got to a point where they could go on no more because of the size of the crowd. They set down their friend on a shaded place by the steps of a porch. One of the friends got on the shoulders of another and looked over the heads to see what was happening. As he got down the man on the stretcher looked up with a questioning look.

“Sorry, I don’t know if we’re going to get in there – there’s just too many people surrounding the house. We’ll have to try and get to Jesus another day.”

The men looked at their friend on the mat and he shrugged his shoulders, “oh well, thanks guys for making the effort!” Valiant words, but they could see the disappointment in his eyes. Something seized them in that moment and they looked at each other while their friend lay down on the mat. One of men peered down the alleyway behind the stretcher and noticed that there was a ladder leaning against the wall that reached the roof. He stepped out into street a bit and gauged the distance between the houses lining the street leading up to the house where the master was. He quickly gathered the rest of the men together and began pointing as he explained his plan. They nodded in agreement, it was worth a try.

Their paralytic friend was startled out of his rest as the men picked up the mat and moved toward the ladder. It wasn’t easy getting up the ladder and required some rather uncomfortable positions. There were a couple moments where the paralytic man almost slid out of his stretcher – but his friends were careful and they made it to the roof safely. One of the men pulled up the ladder and it became a makeshift bridge between the roofs of the remaining houses. As the men moved from rooftop to rooftop people in the streets began pointing and murmuring among themselves, wondering what these men were up to and what kind of predicament they were putting their friend in.

As the group of men and their paralytic friend approached their destination they began to hear the voice of the one they sought. They could hear Him speaking and teaching and the closer they got the more they began to make out what He was saying.

Then as they crossed over the improvised bridge one last time they set down their friend on the roof. The paralytic looked with love to his friends and said, “Thank you my friends, It is good that at least I can hear His voice and drink in His words.”

His friends simply smiled and said, “We’re not done yet!” Each of them took off their cloaks and their shirts and two of them began weaving them into makeshift ropes while the other two began to remove the thatch from the roof and work their way through the sturdy material. The paralytic man, propped up on an elbow began to wonder if His friends had gone mad, the owner of the house would not be happy or what if the roof of the house gave way?

The people in the house had heard the initial footsteps on the roof but many of them were simply listening too closely to the teacher to give any thought to why there might be that sound. But then, eventually their attention became distracted by the falling debris from the ceiling and the ray of light when the men on the roof poked through. By the time the hole was big enough to accommodate the stretcher the crowd below were watching with puzzled looks. The teacher was watching as well. Having stopped speaking when the first small hole appeared, he now looked, not with a puzzled gaze, like the others, but instead with expectation. He knew what these men were up to.

Then the men on the roof went to their friend on the stretcher and attached their makeshift ropes and lowered him to the feet of the teacher. Peering through the hole in the ceiling with sweat dripping from their faces and their chests heaving, they watched, hoping, waiting to see what Jesus would do. Finally they had made it. Then Jesus spoke…

PRAY

In the gospel according to Mark we find the account of an incredible blessing in the life of a young man who was paralyzed. A blessing that occurred in his life because He had friends who didn’t let a crowd, or a roof get in the way of bringing their friend to Jesus. It is significant that scripture records the first action of Jesus in response to the efforts of these men is to commend them for their faith – a faith that led them to even bring down a roof to get help for their friend.

Now there are a lot of things that stand out in this story, but today I want to ask one question that I believe the Holy Spirit would have us ask this morning. “What roofs is in your way?” I believe that God desires that every single one of us would not only know great blessing in our lives but also be agents of great blessing in other people’s lives.

Jesus himself said once, “I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.
John 1:16 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Ephesians 1:3 (NIV)

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

The thing about God’s blessing is that scripture teaches the principle that living in God’s blessing for your own life involves God blessing others through you. That is what happened in this story.

Blessing is one of those words that can have any one of a dozen meanings depending on your perspective. Generally speaking though, when we think of blessing we think of something that is good – something that is beneficial – and something that is a realized desire.

In scripture, blessing is always connected with God. God is the source of every good blessing – his very presence is a blessing. More specifically the New Testament teaches us that the greatest blessing is life found in Jesus Christ. That’s the significance of the story this morning. What consumed the thoughts and actions of these men was getting their friend to Jesus. Jesus is the source of the blessing.

So if it is God’s desire that we experience His blessing and that He blesses others through us, what are the roofs in your way? What keeps people from living in the blessing of God? There are far too many people (some of you who are sitting here today) who are not living in God’s blessing let alone being a blessing to others.

The thickest roof that stands between man and God is the exaltation of self. That is, when the Almighty “me” is placed on a pedestal of necessity. Friends the Bible doesn’t speak against loving who you are, or loving the way God has made you, or thinking good about yourself. But the Bible does have much to say against those who worship themselves. That is they are consumed with the preservation, the pleasure, and the promotion of themselves.

Jesus, in a conversation one day with a man shared the two greatest commandments. Commandments that shatter this humanistic idolatry of self.

– two greatest commandments Love God with all your heart….
– Love your neighbor as yourself.

What stands out about the paralytic man and his friends is that the roof between them and Jesus was torn apart by a faith carried by selflessness. These men were doing what they did out of a love for their friend and were not thinking of what they could get out of it. And so they entered into the blessing of Christ.

Now I want to help you with answering the question, “what roof is in your way?” this morning. I believe that scripture can help us answer that question. On principle, most of us will vehemently deny we worship ourselves! But then, can you confidently say you are living in the blessing of God? Can you most assuredly say that the full blessing of God is working through you? If so, then that’s awesome! Feel free to tune out and spend some time thinking about what you’re going to do after the service. I suspect, though that some of you are interested in knowing what roofs are in your way this morning.

The worship of self is exhibited in many symptoms but I’m just going to mention a few this morning.

1. The pursuit of comfort

The pursuit of comfort is illustrated by the thought, “I’ll just pass on the pain”. This pursuit is directed by the path of least resistance. Self-worshipers don’t like being uncomfortable, and will avoid any discomfort at all costs and do whatever it takes to remain in the place of comfort. Decisions and choices are made with the consideration of whether it will contribute to their comfort or will make things uncomfortable. These people don’t like feeling uncomfortable let alone being uncomfortable.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to want a little comfort in your life. After all, it’s nice to have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, and clothes on our backs. It becomes a problem when an individual sees pain as an enemy and is constantly looking for ways to increase their comfort with the least amount of effort.

What does this lead to?

a. Rebellion and Disobedience

Take the example of Jonah in the Bible. God wanted to bless him and make him a blessing to the people of Nineveh. Because of the evil lifestyle and actions of the people of Nineveh, God was about to pour out the wrath of his judgment on them. But because of God’s grace and mercy He wanted to give them a chance to repent first. So, God decided to send the prophet Jonah. To this preacher God said one word, “GO”! That is a small word, but it carried with it a big blessing. But Jonah’s reply was “NO”! That is a small word, too, but it cut off the blessing.

Jonah didn’t go to Nineveh for two reasons – he didn’t want the Ninevites to be rescued from God’s wrath and it would mean leaving the comfort of His current life. The ironic thing about people who pursue comfort is that they don’t ever reach that place of comfort! There came a time when God conquered Jonah’s rebellious spirit, but the Lord had to send Jonah through a terrible storm, where he was tossed overboard, swallowed by a whale, lived in the belly of a whale for three days, and spit up on dry land before Jonah learned his lesson.

b. Resistance to Change

Another fruit of this pursuit is that there will be a resistance to change. Granted, not all change is good – but healthy growth always involves positive change. And change always means some degree of discomfort as we learn to adapt to that change. A common saying of the self-worshiper is, “but that’s the way it’s always been done.” What they’re really saying is, “that’s all I’m comfortable with”.

c. Indifference

Another fruit of this pursuit and one that is more social in nature is the indifference it creates towards any discomfort among our fellow man. “Well I’m okay, that’s all that matters”. Indifference can not only affect how we care for others but it also can affect our attitude towards opportunity. Opportunities to experience God’s blessing and for God’s blessing to work through you will come and go because of the indifference towards what might bring discomfort into your life.

Dig through the roof…

What roof is in your way? Is it the quest for comfort? Do you think the friends of the paralytic man would have even carried him as far as they did up that street if they were only concerned for their comfort? If comfort was their pursuit, then forget about them carrying their friend to a roof and digging through to get Him to Jesus!

But we know that they did carry their friend to Jesus because of their love for their friend and because they were not worshippers of self. Selfless people don’t see pain or discomfort as something to be avoided but instead as something that contributes to the significance and value of their end goal. Sure those men were dripping sweat and probably had raw hands and sore muscles from carrying their friend and getting Him to Jesus. Then of course there wasn’t only the physical cost of their actions but there is also the discomfort that they probably faced after when the owner of the house sent them the bill for the hole in his roof! But here’s the thing, as those guys were looking down at their friend and Jesus reaching out to Him, were they thinking it was worth it?

If we’re going to dig through the roof of the pursuit of comfort we have to realize that true comfort from this world is an illusion. Such a pursuit will lead to a hollow, meaningless, and yes even comfortless existence. True comfort is only obtained outside of this world and finds it’s source in God.

2. The pursuit of pleasure

A close cousin to the pursuit of comfort is the pursuit of pleasure. Not everyone who is a worshipper of self is in pursuit of comfort. In fact there are many in the world today that practice the mantra of “no pain, no gain”. But everyone who is a worshipper of self is in pursuit of pleasure.

The pursuit of pleasure comes in a myriad of shapes and forms and manifestations but it nearly always is best expressed in the question, “What’s in it for me?” – “What do I get out of this?” The pursuit of pleasure is also one of those insidious symptoms of self-worship that isn’t always easy to spot – especially in the seemingly charitable actions of others. Yet there are many self-worshippers in our world who give money or even volunteer for a “good work” after first evaluating what they will get out of it. How many people in churches today evaluate what the church does in terms of how many people come into the church as a result of that activity? How many people in churches today ask before doing anything, “what’s in it for us?”

Again, like the pursuit of comfort, it’s not wrong to want a little pleasure in your life! But the problem is that when pleasure becomes a driving force in your life you end up cutting yourself off from the blessings of God. Instead of allowing God to grow and lead us to the good pasture of pleasure, a self-worshipper grazes on the putrid ground of rotting thrills.

Self-Worshippers get caught in a pursuit that never satisfies them. And the saddest thing? The saddest thing is that there are so many Christians caught in the consumerist mindset arising from this pursuit. A calamity that has left much of the western church with a Christianity that bears little resemblance to the church of Acts and a lifestyle that has little to offer that’s different from the world.

Demas is an illustration of this point. He was a young man who heard Paul preach one day. He was drawn by the Holy Spirit in the truth that God spoke through Paul. Every word was a challenge to this young man’s heart. In a great moment of spiritual ecstasy he cried out, “I will leave everything and go with this man in the service of Jesus Christ”. Such a great decision! There is little greater than someone who will willingly commit themselves to God and God’s work. Demas was right by Paul’s side. He was a joy and a help to him. But they journeyed to the great city, and attraction of the pleasures the world offered him blinded the eyes of Demas (2 Timothy 4:10). Demas deserted Paul and the calling God has placed on his life and cut off every blessing for himself and for others whom he might have served.

There is an article I came across once by George Barna who has been researching the North American church for many decades. In the article, he describes that most Christians and non-Christians have the same values, the same wants and desires. He went on to say that many Christians believe what they want is Biblically accurate, even though what they believe is more in line with what our western culture promotes than what the Bible teaches. Here’s a couple he listed:

i. Acquisitions: Our culture defines happiness in terms of what we have: bank accounts, homes, clothes and cars. Or, happiness is defined by experiences: fine restaurants, sporting events, skiing trips, and tours of Europe.
ii. Merit-based: Our value and position depend in some measure upon our parents status and in great measure upon our accomplishments.

This even happens in the church. When I was a youth pastor I would sometimes receive from well-meaning Christians the question, “So when are you going to become a real pastor?”

Dig through the roof…

What roof is in your way? Is it the pursuit of pleasure? Were the friends of the paralytic man thinking about what was in it for them when they lifted up his stretcher and carried him to the house where Jesus was? Were they really thinking about what benefit they would get when they dug through the bird crap, dirt, mud and thatch to poke a hole through the roof of the house? Here’s the thing, they weren’t doing any of this for their own pleasure and no doubt it wasn’t a very pleasurable experience! But still, they were looking to bless their friend. And in the process they were blessed too.

If we are to break through the roof of self-worship then we need to recognize the symptoms of the pursuit of pleasure and eradicate that pursuit from our life. We need to realize that healthy pleasure isn’t so much a destination as it is the result of a process. When pleasure is viewed merely as a destination it results in an unhealthy pursuit. It results in the accumulation of things or the chasing of experiences to satisfy that lust for pleasure.

When we understand that pleasure is the result of process we discover it in places we never thought of before. How many young people dream of the day they get married. They pursue the ideal mate and that romantic “happily ever after” vision promoted by the fairytales of their childhood. Then they meet the person and complete the ceremony and, well that’s it. They’ve reached the destination – but it doesn’t seem to be all that it’s cracked up to be. The pleasure in great marriages isn’t the destination, it’s the process. So many marriages are falling apart today because marriage is viewed as a destination rather than a process. If you enter marriage thinking you’ve achieved everything you need to make a great marriage work and pleasurable then you are deluded.

Now in saying this, I don’t mean that there is never pleasure in the destination. But what I am saying is that merely pursuing pleasure as a destination will result in a continual dissatisfaction.

Another important thing to remember that will help us dig through this roof is that the pleasure of this world is temporary and fleeting. Christ offers us a pleasure that is eternal and lasting. Jesus himself said,

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Matthew 6:19-20 (NIV)

What are treasures in heaven? They are the things that last beyond this world. The things that bring pleasure on an eternal scale rather than limited to the time we have here on earth.

One of the greatest of these eternal treasures is the pleasure of being a vehicle of blessing to others. In fact, God has wired us so that our greatest pleasure comes from loving and serving others. The path to being fulfilled and satisfied in life is found not in the accumulation of things and the amassing of accolades but is instead in the living out of God’s command to love your neighbor as yourself.

What roof is in your way?

(…the third symptom of those who worship themselves is…)

3. The pursuit of self-righteousness

Self-righteousness is best exemplified in the statement, “I have my rights”. In other words that either there are good things that I deserve because of what I’ve done or by virtue of who I am or there are things that should happen to you because of what you’ve done or by virtue of who you are.

A self-righteous person is also concerned most about appearances. It doesn’t really matter what they are thinking or storing away in their hearts or their minds but they are concerned about what others are thinking about them and how they appear to those of influence and other people who “have it all together”.

The pursuit of self-righteousness is like the pursuit of pleasure in that it is often insidious in character. Nevertheless it will rear it’s ugly head in several noticeable areas.

What does it lead to?

a. Unforgiveness

When offended the self-righteous will grab a hold of that offense, claim it, and nurture it. The offense will grow into bitterness and it becomes an inalienable “right” that they feel this way towards the one who offended them. In this climate of hurt and malicious feelings it is no wonder that forgiveness is far from their mind. This lack of forgiveness will always be a barrier to receiving and passing on blessing from God.

b. Critical Spirit

The pursuit of self-righteousness will also lead to a critical spirit.

A learned man said to D.L. Moody one day, “You made 38 grammatical errors in your sermon today.” Moody replied, “I am quite sure that I must have made even more than that. I have not had the educational advantages that you have had, but I am trying to use all that I have for the glory of God, are you?” (illustration quoted in “Barriers to Blessing” by Ed Wood)

I wonder how much the man got out of Moody’s sermon that day? The man who looks for only the mistakes of others finds little in life with which to enrich himself.

In their critical way, the self-righteous often judge men by what they have seen, when really and truly no one knows another’s heart. We throw self-righteous robes around us, we flash our critical eyes upon others and say, “Thank God, I’m not like these other men.” Yet, we do not know the things that are deep down in their hearts.

Why did Jesus first say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”? Do you really think that’s why his friends went through all that effort to bring him to Jesus? To simply hear that his “sins” are forgiven? I don’t want to minimize the importance of those very words being spoken. For indeed Jesus, does have the authority to speak them and there is a necessity for every single one of us to hear those words. But I believe that Jesus chose those words to be the first out of His mouth because He wanted to call out the self-righteous arrogance in that room – the self-righteous arrogance that would be appalled at the actions of those who dug through the roof and even more so at the way in which this teaching was interrupted; the self-righteous arrogance producing the judgement that this paralytic was responsible for his own condition by his sins – let alone the indignation that Jesus would could forgive them! The self-worshipers in that room were so wrapped up in their self-righteousness that they missed out on the blessing of God’s righteousness in that room that day. Instead of leaving blessed they left condemned.

c. looking for the line of least responsibility and culpability

When looking at their relationship to the world around them, the self-righteous are always looking for the line of least responsibility and culpability. That is, what is the minimum I need to do to keep up appearances and make it. You can apply this to any situation but it is terribly sad when so many Christians live like this. When an unmarried person asks a question like, “How far can I go and still be a virgin?”, or others ask “Have I prayed enough to look spiritual?”, “Should I tithe off my gross income or my net income?”. The Pharisees and Sadducees in Jesus’ day became experts at drawing the line. The thing is, no matter where you draw the line, God sees right through to your heart. And your heart is what matters to God.

What roof is in your way?
My heart aches, when I think of how much of God’s blessing we miss out on because we draw a line of minimum responsibility and effort. When instead, we should be looking at the limitless gifts God has already given us – gifts equipping us to pass on His blessing to others in fulfilling the greatest commandments: Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind – and to love your neighbor as yourself.

CONCLUSION

In some ways, the actions of those men taking friend to Jesus is a prelude to the very action of Christ in bringing the lost to his Father. Imagine, God Himself, in Christ choosing to leave the comfort and limitless pleasure of His eternal throne to take on the humble mantle of humanity. Not only that but what was the roof Jesus broke through? Jesus dug through the roof of sin which kept a poor and crippled world from the presence of the Father.

In the ultimate pain of the cross and the ridicule of the very men and women he came to save – in the pain of being rejected by those who called Him master and friend, Jesus clawed his way through that roof and in doing so granted every single one of us access to the great blessings of the Father. Through Him we are blessed and Him through us is the opportunity to be a blessing to others.

This thought brings new meaning to the passage in Hebrews,

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)

What was the joy set before Him? I believe it was the same joy set before the men hanging over the edge of the tattered and broken roof, gazing upon their friend who they loved, receiving healing and forgiveness from the lips of the master.

What roof is in your way? Have you detected any self-worship in your life this morning? Have you become aware of the pursuit of comfort, the pursuit of pleasure, or the pursuit of self-righteousness in your life? I invite you to allow the Holy Spirit to help you break through that roof this morning.

As a church, if we are going to fulfill God’s purpose for us – then there are a few roofs that are going to be torn down along the way. There are times where God may ask us to do things that don’t seem to bring any benefit – but it is the doing that matters.

What roof is in your way this morning?

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When you Pray…

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INTRODUCTION

One night a father heard his young daughter speaking, although she was alone in her room. The door was cracked open just enough so that he could see that she was kneeling beside her bed in prayer. Interested to find out what subjects a child would bring before God, he paused outside her door and listened. After tuning in to her prayer he was puzzled to hear her reciting the alphabet: “A, B, B, D, E, F, G …” She just kept repeating it. He didn’t want to interrupt her, but soon curiosity got the best of him and he broke into prayer, “Honey,” he asked, “what are you doing?”

“I’m praying, Daddy,” she replied.

“Well, why are you praying the alphabet?” he asked.
She explained, “I started my prayers, but I wasn’t sure what to pray. I decided to just say all the letters of the alphabet and let God put them together however he thinks best.”

When it comes to prayer have you ever felt that way? You knew you needed to pray, but just weren’t sure how you should go about doing it. Maybe the words escaped your mind or you were uncertain about what would be the best way to go about doing it.

Don’t feel bad! You’re not the first person to think that! In Luke 11:1, Luke records, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.” When you look at the prayer life of Jesus you find that he set’s a rich example of what prayer is all about.

Luke 11:1b-2a (NIV)
…. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say…

Jesus’ best friends and closest followers watched Jesus ministry and observed his rich prayer life and obviously noticed how he spoke to the Father with ease. He seemed to always have the right words to say and his prayers were powerfully answered. So, they asked him, as we can too, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Jesus granted their request. He gave them a guide for how they can pray. The writers of the Bible recorded it and today we call it, “The Lord’s Prayer.” Perhaps a more appropriate title would be “The Disciple’s Prayer” because it was given to Jesus’ followers so that they could pray with power!

So, tonight, I want to take a closer look at this particular prayer. The words in this prayer are not necessarily what should be repeated ritualistically in prayer but more of an outline of how and what to pray for. I believe that Jesus was giving His disciples a model for prayer that they could base their prayer life on.

begin with praise

Praise happens when we talk about or sing about who God is. It’s verbalizing certain things that we know about His character. It is speaking about the great things he has done in the world and in our lives. Jesus put it like this…

Matthew 6:9 (NIV)
9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

Notice that Jesus first describes God as “our Father in heaven.” He’s our father, not some uncaring, unnoticing deity. This was a concept that must be understood.

The writers of the Old Testament had a much different concept of their relationship to God than we do today. When the scribes who copied the Old Testament scriptures wrote the word for God, Yahweh, they would throw away their pen, never to use it again. They reasoned that once it had written the word, Yahweh, the pen was disqualified to write anything else. (David Jeremiah, Prayer, the Great Adventure p. 84)

The Jewish people couldn’t conceive of God as Father. It was very hard for them to think of Him in relational terms, but that’s exactly the thing Jesus wants us to recognize in our prayer.

He is the God who is near

He is a present help in times of trouble. He is Emmanuel, God with us. Still there is another aspect of God’s person that we should not forget.He is the God who is Most High

Hallowed means “holy,” or “set apart.” It’s the recognition that the Creator is distinct from His creation. God is totally pure, far wiser than we are, and more powerful than the largest exploding supernova. We begin in prayer by getting our mind right with regard to whose presence we’re entering into.

When John F. Kennedy was President of the United States, Life magazine published photos of his children, John Jr. and Caroline, playing with their toys on the floor of the Oval Office. Those images captured the hearts of the American people like nothing before or since. Why? I think it’s because it bridged a gap between two thoughts: Kennedy was the President of the United States, but he was also a father. He held ultimate political power in the Free World, but playing at this feet were two little kids who called him Daddy. I don’t think your kids would have been allowed to do that. Nor mine. But his kids were. Why? He was their father. He was not only President of the United States; he was also their dad.

In the same way, God is both our Father and the Lord of Glory. We can approach Him confidently in prayer because we are His dearly beloved children, but we must never forget that He is also the Sovereign of the universe.” (David Jeremiah, Prayer the Great Adventure pp. 89-90)

An ancient Orthodox writer wrote, “God cannot be grasped by the mind. If he could be grasped, he would not be God.” We are profoundly different God and I, which explains why friendship is not the primary model used in the Bible to describe our relationship. Worship is.” (Philip Yancey, Reaching for the Invisible God, p 110)

Prayer recognizes the proper relationship between us and God.

Psalm 46:10 (NIV)
10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

If you’ve crossed the line of faith you don’t have to come to God trembling in fear. You have access because you’ve been forgiven and adopted as his child. On the other hand, you don’t treat God as your good buddy, “Bubba”. He is a friend but He is not like the guy or the girl next door. No, He is our holy, heavenly Father. It is praise and worship that ushers us into His presence.

Psalm 22:3 (KJV)
3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabits the praises of Israel.

surrender to God’s priorities

Matthew 6:10 (NIV)
10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

We will only see powerful prayer when we approach God with the right attitude. Here Jesus calls us to submit ourselves totally to God. In asking that His kingdom come we’re essentially giving up control of our lives and handing it over to God. In a kingdom, there are only two classes of people, the ruler and those who are ruled over.

There must be a recognition of our place within God’s kingdom and a surrender to His rule before he’ll answer our prayers in a powerful way. He won’t entrust His stuff to us if we’re going to misuse it to selfish ends.

Richard Baxter, a great Puritan thinker and writer, well understood the real truth. He used to write these words whenever he was asked to sign one of his books: “Lord, what Thou wilt, where Thou wilt, and when Thou wilt.” In the old Puritan manner of speaking he was saying, “Lord, whatever you want, wherever you want it, and whenever you want it, that’s what I want.” (David Jeremiah, Prayer, the Great Adventure p. 106)

Does it scare you to pray like that? Well it should! But that’s where faith comes in! If we believe that God is good and on our side we understand that he’ll only tell us to do that which is for the best.

This then, is also why we need to seek the mind of the Father when we pray. How many times do you being praying by asking God how He would have you pray? One of the reasons Jesus sent the Holy Spirit is so that we would have access to the mind of the Father. It is important friends that we speak out loud and vocalize our prayer when we pray, but it is more important to open your ears first to what the Spirit of God may be directing you to pray for.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
Romans 8:26-27 (NIV)

ask for God’s provision.

After we’ve focused on who God is and submitted to his rule in our lives we can then go on to ask for His provision. Jesus said to simply ask…

Matthew 6:11 (NIV)
11 Give us today our daily bread.

Obviously, this was intended to move us beyond a request for food. Here we simply ask God for our needs, not our wants. Notice what’s really being asked for here, “daily bread.” And we’re to ask for today’s only, not tomorrow’s. God will meet our legitimate daily needs, but not necessarily the luxury things we ask for.

Indirectly, this single verse clues us into how often we should pray and bring our needs before God. We’re to seek him daily. People who seek him consistently each day are the one’s who experience his powerful answers to prayer. Those who are most dependent on God tend to be those He uses in significant ways.

Whatever your needs are, bring them to God on a daily basis. Even if you think they’re petty, go ahead and ask. Our heavenly Father delights in giving us good gifts the same way you delight in giving your children what they need. Ask specifically. Ask confidently. Ask persistently. Ask with faith. Just don’t give up.

Dr. Helen Roseveare, missionary to Zaire, told the following story. “A mother at our mission station died after giving birth to a premature baby. We tried to improvise an incubator to keep the infant alive, but the only hot water bottle we had was beyond repair. So we asked the children to pray for the baby and for her sister. One of the girls responded, ‘Dear God, please send a hot water bottle today. Tomorrow will be too late because by then the baby will be dead. And dear Lord, send a doll for the sister so she won’t feel so lonely.’ That afternoon a large package arrived from England. The children watched eagerly as we opened it. Much to their surprise, under some clothing was a hot water bottle! Immediately the girl who had prayed so earnestly started to dig deeper, exclaiming, ‘If God sent that, I’m sure He also sent a doll!’ And she was right! The heavenly Father knew in advance of that child’s sincere requests, and five months earlier He had led a ladies group to include both those specific articles.” (Our Daily Bread, March 18, 2002)

examine your personal relationships

Here come one of the toughest parts of the Lord’s Prayer. When you realize the magnitude of what Jesus recites in the next verse it makes you think carefully before you say it.

Matthew 6:12 (NIV)
12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Think of the person who has done you the most wrong recently. Now pray, “Lord, forgive me of my sins the way I’ve forgiven so and so.” God wants us to reflect on our relationships with people because they can be an indicator of our own relationship with God. If we harbor unforgiveness we’re not right with God. Don’t expect answers to prayer if you’re holding out on forgiveness. Now hear me here. I am not talking about going to others and asking for their forgiveness. Though that is important that is not what Jesus prayed in this prayer. I’m talking about your willingness to go and forgive others.

Jesus was so serious about this point that at the end of His prayer He elaborated on this verse.

Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)
14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

This stuff is serious business, if we’ll use the same mercy towards others that God has extended to us our prayers will take on a whole new character and power. Implied in this part of the prayer model is that we pray for the needs of others. I mean that’s what is assumed we do. But then this statement takes things one step further – we have the opportunity to go beyond forgiveness and prayer for the needs of others and allow God shape us to be like Him!

seek God’s protection

Next is what could be one of the more puzzling verses of the Bible.

Matthew 6:13 (NIV)
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

You see this verse is hard to square with another portion of the Bible that says:

James 1:13 (NIV)
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;

So how do we square off those verses? Here’s how. First of all notice the location of this particular verse. It follows, “Father forgive us…”. Temptation is an enticement to sin. It is only natural then that following the prayer seeking the forgiveness of sin that we ask for deliverance and protection from the things that lead us to that sin in the first place! God never leads us to sin. Never. He does test us, however. He allows trials in our lives that are intended to draw us nearer to Himself and strengthen our faith and dependence on Him. Often, within the midst of trials and struggles we encounter a temptation to sin. That temptation comes from either ourselves – our own evil desires – or Satan, the enemy.

Another way to read this verse then is, “And keep us from those places, situations, circumstances where we experience temptation and rescue us from the evil one.” In other words, if I can avoid testing and still be close to you, please let it be, but if not help me to overcome temptation with your power. We have a promise in the scriptures that God will bring us through those times. Our part is to pray and ask for wisdom to see it coming.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

CONCLUSION

Friends, prayer can change your life. Take this model of prayer given by Jesus and build your own daily time with God. You’ll find that not only does God consistently answer your requests, but He’s changing you in the process.

The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.
(C.S. Lewis)

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