We live in a world of immediacy. Instant food. Instant feedback. Instant communications. Instant gratification. And we expect the same from God. But that isn’t how He works at all, and it frustrates us.
God gives us hopes, dreams, and passions, but He rarely gives us a glimpse at His timing. @pastorrickwarren says, “when you get a dream from God and make the decision to go for it but then are forced into God’s waiting room, you start to try to figure out ways of doing God’s dream on your own.”
In the waiting, we begin to question our calling. We question God’s goodness even. We begin to look to others instead of God, both for advice and comparison. We start to orchestrate things on our own. And before we know it we are on a path waaaaay off course, faced with a painful and long journey to find our way back.
We when live under our timing, we are not living under the authority of Christ. When we seek to execute our calling from God according to worldly wisdom and culture’s ideas of how to get there, we get caught in a cycle of selfishness and materialism, rather than Godliness.
God’s timing is perfect and purposeful. The waiting tests us. The waiting prepares us. The waiting grows us. The waiting humbles us. We need our wilderness time to fulfill our calling. The wait helps us to face what is coming that only God can now see. The sooner we come to peace with this truth, the sooner we will have peace. We don’t stop dreaming, rather we lean into the places and roles God puts us in, and instead of grumbling, we make sure we learn everything we can in them. We don’t waste one minute of our precious God-ordained waiting time.
My Sunday sermon notes @coe22 and @jobypmartin …
The angel to the shepherds, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of GREAT JOY…”
Great Joy. The coming of the Jesus, the Messiah, brings with it great joy. Our attempt at joy on our own looks more like the pursuit of the elusive happiness. The problem with seeking happiness is that happiness is temporary. It is based on happenings and is contingent on our ability to control circumstances all around us. And it is exhausting. It is a myth that we have any ability to be in control of many of the things that contribute to our happiness.
We typically chase happiness in one of the “If I could just….” categories. Searching for it in self improvement (physical, vocational, hobbies, religious activity, etc.), or in others (relationships, marriage, children, a better boss, etc.), or in the things the world has to offer (instant gratification, experiences, money, power, stuff, etc.). The things we thought would make us happy at one point get tossed aside in the pursuit of the next thing that surely will be the thing at last. Joby calls it the cul-de-sac of stupidity, and we keep taking laps…over an over again.
While these things we chase may provide some temporary happiness, they don’t provide lasting joy. Created things can’t fully and finally satisfy what only the Creator can do. Jesus is the only one that fulfills all that we are actually looking for. He is the only source of true joy. He is the only way to get to a point to say what Paul says in Philippians 4:4-13…things like, “rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS….do not be anxious about anything…I have leaned in whatever situation I am to be content…I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Paul can say these things because the secret to peace and joy is found in Jesus. In knowing “the Lord is at hand.” In “everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God.” In recognizing that our life follows were we focus our attention, so “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever if lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
There is Joy in trusting that Jesus is better. The God of peace will be with us. He will guard our hearts and minds and give us a peace that surpasses understanding. Because it won’t make sense…we can’t muster this peace on our own. There is rest for our souls in recognizing we don’t have to try to control everything because Jesus is in control of everything.
When the angel told the shepherds about the Christ who was born, they went. They saw Jesus. And as they journeyed home, their outward circumstances didn’t change --- they were still lowly shepherds looked down on by society --- but they were changed. They returned home glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Meeting Jesus brings joy that nothing else can.
“The pursuit of happiness is the insatiable attempt to control your circumstances because happiness is dependent on ever changing happenings. Joy is found in the everlasting Jesus.”
Click here to watch the sermon.
Who else is exhausted trying to do things on their own?
Who else is tired of little goals?
Who else gets fired up about the idea of watching God blow your mind?
Who else wants to see God do immeasurably more than you could ever even dream up?
I am raising my hand and simultaneously shaking my head at what holds me back...desire for control, trying to pave my own path, lack of belief, weak faith, thinking the worldly experts know more than the mighty, perfect, powerful Creator of all things.
God, help me get myself out of Your way! I genuinely want to be where You want me to be, doing what You want me to do. I truly believe Your ways and Your plans are better than anything else. Help me to live this out in my actions. Increase my faith and ability to surrender.
My Sunday sermon notes - @coe22 and @jobypmartin
Continuing with the MESSENGERS series, though we are not angels, we are called to be messengers who deliver Good News. If we truly believe all that Jesus is and says…if we truly want to live out loving God and loving others, we will become passionate about telling others the good news of Jesus. It can be a scary thing, no doubt. Our instinct is to think things like, “I don’t know enough…I’m not a good enough example myself…what if they ask me questions…what if they think I am crazy…what am I supposed to say?...I'll just leave that to someone more qualified”
Joby shared four ways we can be MESSENGERS with examples of how Jesus did it…
(The full Church of Eleven22 sermon will be available this week on their app and website. It’s a good one!)
Sunday Sermon Notes - @coe22 & pastor @ryanstone
We started a new series today called MESSENGERS, focusing on the angels who appeared to tell of the birth of Jesus. When the angel came to the shepherds in the field, they were filled with great fear. These were no cuddly cartoon character angels, but warrior messengers for God. Their presence, surrounded by the glory of the Lord shining around them, elicited fear. But, the first words of the angel were, “Fear not.”
So, how do we fear not when we are in a frightening situation and there is so much to fear engulfing us? Because the reality is, there are things to fear all around us. Health issues, broken relationships, financial hardships, loss, and more. How do we fear not?
The person of Jesus overcomes the power of fear.
Remember the story of Jesus and the disciples in the boat during the storm. The boat is taking on water and the disciples – many of whom were experienced fishermen and worthy navigators of stormy conditions – were terrified. Meanwhile, Jesus slept. Overwhelmed with fear, the disciples awaken Him. Jesus rebukes the wind and waves. All is calm. Jesus asks, “where is your faith?” Luke 8:25 continues, “And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, ‘who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?’”
The disciples were afraid AND they marveled. Our fear can pale in comparison to the One we marvel at. Yes, there are things to be feared, but our faith can be placed in the One who has all of these things under His authority and control. Our response to fear is directly connected to our answer to the question, “Who is this man, Jesus?”
Pastor Ryan Stone closed with three ways we can respond in the face of fear:
Properly placed fear leads to passionately placed worship. The waves and wind still know His name. The storms of life still listen to His voice. Everything is under His control and authority. Let go your soul and trust in Him.
Happy Sabbath, friends.
So often I am sure God is telling me to do something. I’m on fire about it, full of excitement and energy around it...even if it scares me. I feed off the nearness of God in it...
...until some time passes. I get in my head. Satan gets in my head. I start to look around instead of up. I start to doubt...that God really wanted me to do it, that I even can do it, that I have time to do it. My fire around it is gone when I place it all on myself and lose that connection to God over it. I want to dig up those freshly planted seeds and toss them. Ugh!
God, if something is from You, help me to cling to it; to water it and watch it grow, no matter how slow and scary it feels.
Can’t sleep. I’ve been awaken by the beeps. In my case the beeps of my husband and son’s pumps / blood sugar monitors for type 1 diabetes. Apparently the only people who hear the beeps are the people who don’t have the beeping mechanism attached to them.
The beeps start as just a vibrate. A gentle prompt to get your attention...a wide span between each vibrate, hopefully anticipating you are on it. Without response, the interval time between each notification decreases, though still just a silent vibrate. With no attention, the sound kicks in. A quick beep...gently spread out to not cause too much disruption; still hopeful a response will follow. With still no attention, the sound gets louder, longer, more consistent. Begging to be noticed and addressed. It’s for your own good after all!
Beep................ beep......... beep...... beep.... beep. BEEP! BEEP!!!!!!!!!!
Realizing they are not going to act, I reach over and shake my husband awake...and walk across the hall to shake my son awake. And finally, they check their machines and make the necessary corrections.
And I was thinking we all have beeps. These warnings from God when things are veering off track. They come in all forms and frequencies. Sometimes we are alert and grateful for the beeps, and switch course quickly. But most of the time we ignore our own beeps. We wait for someone else to care enough to do something (which is great in the moment, but does nothing for the long term), or we ignore the beeps and hope they go away (they don’t!), or we sadly don’t even hear them anymore because we have conditioned ourselves to ignore them.
So, friends...keep listening and responding to the beeps around you and give that shake when needed... there are so many...we ALL have stuff we are battling. But also become more attentive to your own beeps. Ask God to help you hear more clearly and respond more quickly.
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15
If you had this kind of day, remember this truth too: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
Watch and pray.
A story that always makes me laugh is in Acts 12 when Peter is miraculously freed from prison and goes to the home the other followers are hunkering down in. Standing outside, he knocks. A girl comes to the door, joyfully sees it is Peter, promptly leaves him there, and turns back inside to tell the others. So Peter continues to knock while the others inside tell the girl she is crazy for thinking Peter is at the door. Meanwhile, Peter keeps knocking.
Outside of the humorous image of Peter unable to get anyone to open the door, it is sad and telling at the same time. Because before Peter knocked on the door we are told that earnest prayer to God was made for him by the church. They were inside praying Peter would be freed from prison and spared death.
And here Peter stands outside the door knocking. Their prayer answered and they don’t even believe it.
@jessaconnolly posed these questions the other day that have been working on me...”Would you be ready if God did what you’re asking Him to do? Would your character and life sustain it? Would you be shocked if He showed up and answered prayers or ready to ride the wave of spiritual momentum if the Spirit suddenly started moving in a wild way?”
Do you really believe God will answer your prayers? Do I believe He will answer mine? Or do we just go through the prayer motions hoping the odds are tipped in our favor, but not really expectant. Do we consciously or subconsciously already have our rationale worked out...you know, the, “it might not be Gods will” “God’s timing is different than mine” “God sees things I can’t see and this may not be it” ... and not that these things aren’t true, but do we use them as excuses for non-belief?
Lord, I believe; help my unbelief! Strengthen my faith and help me pray bold and expectant prayers...and then help me to be ready when You answer them!
I get a little paralyzed about starting something if I think (know!) I won’t be good at it. Days, months, years pass without even trying, even though it is something I REALLY want to do...and even something I feel like God is leading me into.
But the truth is, no one is very good at anything without practice. We just have to START, no matter how painful and ugly (and maybe even embarrassing) it is at first. We’ll never get better if we don’t start, right?!
And I would much rather look back and say, “boy, I really stunk at that back then...” than to say, “I can’t believe I never even tried.”
Our inclination is to look for the quick fix to push us over the hump to meet our goals or do something bigger than ourselves. We search YouTube, webinars, experts, podcasts, friend’s advice, pills, more training, self-help books…anything.
But the truth is, if we want to do something big in God’s kingdom, the formula is different. The secret sauce is in Acts 4:13… ”they had been with Jesus.”
The religious leaders are wracking their brains trying tor figure out how these lowly fishermen and other nobodies – uneducated and unqualified – can be so empowered to heal people, give killer sermons and even call the Jewish elite out so boldly. They are unafraid. They are different. In the face of continued persecution, thousands believe the message they are preaching. “What is it?” they ask themselves. The only common denominator they can come up with: THEY HAD BEEN WITH JESUS.
Perhaps we simply overcomplicate things with so many voices pulling us in the world’s direction. What is impossible for man alone is quite possible with the Holy Spirit. But we have to be with Jesus to receive it.
Do you feel unqualified, uneducated, lacking credentials and experience, possessing the wrong personality type, afraid, intimidated, unworthy? Then you just might be trying to do things on your own, and we know all too well how that works out for us.
If we want to be bold and do the impossible in the kingdom of God, we need to be with Jesus. Abiding in Him, filling ourselves with God’s Word, searching the Scriptures, asking for wisdom, being still and listening. It’s that simple (and that hard in our busy culture full of distractions). Spurgeon says, “Live in such a way that men may recognize that you have been with Jesus.”
Such a great check on what my true filter is.
Am I seeking to please myself, others, the world’s standards and accolades...or God?
I often swing between two polar opposites: Clinging so tight to things, without even a thought to consult God, or worse yet, intentionally avoiding Him, lest He tell me my plans are all wrong. Or, feeling so scared, overwhelmed, ill-equipped, crushed that I want to turn it all over to Him and hide under the covers with earplugs and Oreos.
And neither get us where we need to be. God wants to be in control, but He also wants us in the race.
I think of a pace car. The dictionary defines it as a car that sets the pace and positions racers for a rolling start in a warm-up lap or laps before a race, or that returns to control the pace in temporarily hazardous conditions. Another definition says it is a car which limits the speed of competing cars on a racetrack in the case of a caution period such as an obstruction on the track or bad weather. The aim of the safety car is to enable the clearance of any obstruction under safer conditions, and/or await more favorable track conditions weather-wise. At the end of the caution period, the safety car leaves the track and the competitors resume normal racing. The pace car is always near, watching and waiting…ready to jump in when needed.
I want Jesus as the head of my team, my coach, and my pace car. He wants me in the race. He wants me prepared and fully equipped. But He won’t leave me. He is always there watching…seeing things I can’t see from my vantage point behind the wheel. He monitors conditions and obstacles and hazards. He sets the pace. And He lets me race. He lets me do what He has prepared me to do.
God, help me to always seek you as coach, leader, boss, and pace setter. Let me never get behind the wheel without your guidance. Let me always listen to your wisdom and never try to pass you or set my own speed. Thank you for always watching and jumping in. Thank you for always knowing the perfect speed to go given the conditions I find myself in. Give me the courage to stay in the race when I am way behind, dented up from a crash, and just not feeling it.
We hate the trials, but they make us strong and brave and compassionate. Both my kids have type 1 diabetes. It isn’t easy, but they are strong. They manage more as 13 and 16 year-old kids than most adults I know.
Hypotheticals will never show us how strong we are. Only living it will. Hard things stretch us beyond anything we would ever willingly bring upon ourselves. Sometimes God brings trials to us, and sometimes God cries through it happening to us, but always God uses it for good.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
God says, “let’s go...right now...right here...right where you are...the work, the experience, the suffering...it has purpose”
The devil says, “wait...you will be better equipped when you are more like them...when you get a little better...when you get out of that funk...when you reach that next goal...just keep waiting...”
Get into that college...
Be accepted in that group...
Pull it all together...
Get that job...
Not be so scared...
Find that guy...
Get that better job...
Marry that guy...
Leave that job...
Have that child...
Get financially stable...
Start that thing...
Stop that thing...
Time to say yes...
Guts to say no...
Skills to do that thing...
It is all a lie! A lie that keeps us forever on the sidelines. Though we are uncomfortable and scared and unqualified and have a million shiny distractions...still we have a calling. Right here, right now.
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In case anyone, like me, needs a little perspective shift tonight, a revisit of Mark 9 (Day 37 of 260 • #NTin2018)...
A pause on the stifling, constrictive, skin-wrapped humanity, the glory of God peeks through Jesus up on a mountain. It isn’t a reflection of light from another source, but a light within Jesus bursting forth, finally uncontained.
Moses – the recipient of the law -- is there. Elijah – the great prophet – is there. Jesus – the fulfillment of the law and the prophets – is there. A beautiful, holy encounter.
Roughly 1,400 years earlier Moses died on a mountain overlooking the earthly promised land God didn’t permit him to enter. This Moses, who was born a Hebrew, adopted into the house of Pharaoh, the mighty king of Egypt. This Moses, who after murdering an Egyptian for mistreating his people, fled to the desert; a shepherd for 40 years. This Moses, who was called by God from a burning bush to return to Egypt to usher the Israelites out of slavery. This Moses, who was entrusted by God with the law; the commandments for daily living. This Moses, who lead a grumbling, hard-hearted, stubborn, ungrateful nation of millions in the wilderness for 40 years en-route to the land God set aside for them. Forty years of living in temporary dwellings, unsettled, always prepared to pick up and move on when God instructs while living on manna provided daily by God for sustenance. But also, forty years of ongoing communion with God.
During one of the many instances of grumbling by the people, God instructs Moses to speak to a rock, which would pour out water for the people. Instead, Moses strikes the rock with his staff. God says because of this, Moses would not enter the land God had given them. All of his faithfulness, all of his obedience, all of his difficult shepherding, all of his communion with God, and this one act of disobedience prevents him from reaching the destination he spent his life traveling towards.
Our human nature feels a deep sting of disappointment for Moses, shouting, “unjust, unfair!”
But we are looking at it all wrong, and I think that is what this current mountaintop experience is showing us. We measure success in the world’s terms. In human accomplishments, achievements, arrivals. Perhaps Moses, in his constant nearness and communication with God, was able to grasp success through God’s eyes; in finally being near to Him in an even more excellent and more intimate way. We feel sad that Moses wasn’t able to step foot in this land, while Moses is rejoicing with God in the true promised land. Moses’ mission was accomplished. In him, God was pleased. Moses was exactly where he wanted to be.
Now all these years later, Moses is again on a mountaintop, this time with Elijah and Jesus. Moses, who died 1,400 years earlier, Elijah who died roughly 900 years earlier, and Jesus who is about to die on a cross…all talking with one another (oh, and Jesus is glowing). It doesn’t say what they are talking about, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the world-changing events that are about to take place. Events that according to worldly standards would be considered an utter failure, but according to God’s plan are the gateway to redemption; to the true and eternal promised land. Only a short time to go and the glory of Jesus would no longer be squeezed in human flesh; the sacrificial system no longer necessary; the sins of the people washed clean once and for all time; the pathway to righteousness before God in place. Perspective and God’s truth changes everything.
How often do we find ourselves in the mundane, unsettled, tedious wilderness surrounded by grumbling and feeling like a failure because we don't measure up to the world’s definition of success? Perhaps we too need a perspective change. There is so much more than what we see. There is so much God wants to give us and show us; a longer, eternal view. Success is obedience to God. Success is nearness to Him in the middle of the journey. Success is shepherding others to truth. Success is going where and when God tells us to. Success is constant communion with God until the glorious day we see Him face to face.
We sang this song at @coe22 Sunday and I have not been able to stop singing it.
So will I.
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1
So will I.