Wednesday, May 29 2019
John 13:34 New Living Translation (NLT)
34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
Jesus says this to the disciples after washing their feet. They had no idea what was about to happen to Jesus and what this love really meant.
This becomes clear, when Peter declares on this same night-
“I’m ready to die for you.”
38 Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.
Sometimes, we respond that way, too. We are feeling good with Jesus and we want to follow Him everywhere and anywhere, until everywhere and anywhere gets really hard. Let’s be honest- loving people is hard!
If we are to love one another, we must first grasp tightly to the love Jesus has for us. We must examine how it was, that He loved us.
First, He knew who He was. His identity, His hope, His confidence, and His purpose were rooted in the Father.
Paul tells us ..
Philippians 2:6-7 New International Version (NIV)
6 Who, being in very nature God,
Jesus didn’t come to do acts of service, He came as a servant. That is something we need to look into our own hearts and ask ourselves- do we choose to do acts of service, or do we see ourselves as servants?
As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to live a life worthy of our high calling- that calling is to be servants.
Because of that high calling, we should be brought into humility before a Holy God.
The greatest delight of the meek and humble, is to enjoy the free unmerited mercy and grace of God. Our longings are satisfied in God. Our identity and our confidence are in God, and when we understand that, we are free to be a servant to all. When we are available to be His servant, we are united in our care for one another.
In our humility before a great God, we recognize our own imperfections, not just everyone else’s imperfections.
When our imperfections are brought to light against the mercy and grace of Jesus, we see what He accomplished on the cross, and it’s our responsibility to maintain that unity by the Spirit living in us.
We must break the chains that tie us to this world and keep us from living for the world yet to come. Only when we break those chains, will we begin to see Jesus and all that He has done for us in love. He has been patient and long-suffering with us, and to honor Him and please Him, we should want to behave similarly with those around us.
In the spirit, instead of being puffed up and self-righteous, we will be lowly and humble- we will be living as servants, not just choosing to do acts of service.
Instead of impatient and resentful, with the spirit we will be longsuffering and forgiving. That will open the door for peace and unity and love to flourish.
Ephesians 4:16 New Living Translation (NLT)
16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
To love one another, we have to first recognize and respond to the love of God, as Jesus said, “Love as I have loved you.” We can’t possibly love one another until we fully embrace His love first. Only then can we truly love in ways that matter!
Thursday, December 06 2018
There is much talk these days about fences and walls. Drive through most neighborhoods today and you will see fences. They come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. In every case, a fence is designed to keep something in or keep something out. The truth is that fences help us feel safe.
At my home, I have a fence to separate my front yard from my backyard. If I want to be friendly, I can sit on my front porch. If I want privacy and wish to be alone, I can sit on my back patio. The fence is the separation between the two. It is the barrier between the front, which everyone is allowed to see, and the back, which is where we spend most of our time and actually live.
What if we looked at our lives as a yard, where we kept the place in front of the fence shiny and clean for everyone to see but the back, behind the fence, was the real us that we kept private and hidden from others? Is that what community and fellowship looks like in the life of a believer or are we called to something more?
Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:21) This is true community, and the true fellowship that God wants us to know and experience. It is crucial for our spiritual growth.
We can pray by ourselves, we can read the Word by ourselves, we can even watch a worship service from the comfort of our couch at home if we want. But the one thing that we see in the early church is that there was power when believers came together and responded to the work of the Holy Spirit! There was a oneness, and a strong sense of community, fellowship and family.
Acts 2:42-43 (NASB)
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe;
One of God’s plans for our spiritual growth is that we live connected lives with Him and with one another. But we can’t experience that kind of community and fellowship if we keep living behind our fences.
We’re born building fences and walls that hide, protect, or confine who we really are—to keep us separated from God and one another. But the Good News is that Jesus tore down the veil(the fence) between us and God so that we could experience true community. That is the starting point of knowing true community with one another.
Through Christ, God has made us a family, a community of faith—it is our God-given support system. We gather together on Sundays and during the week for Bible studies. We sing songs, smile, read scripture, break bread all while we stand behind our fences, where it’s comfortable and safe. We are very careful what we reveal to people from behind the fence even to the point that we may create a false picture of what we are dealing with in life.
Our problem is that from behind our fences, we can’t embrace one another in a family crisis. From behind our fences, we can’t see what’s happening over in someone else’s “yard” when they need help and encouragement. Our fences impede our community. We have to tear down our fences to fully know someone.
If we are going to truly experience community/fellowship, then that means being intentional about loving one another.. And loving each other is impossible to do from behind a fence.
The early church in Acts 2, was intentional about spending time together. Even in their spiritual persecution, they found strength in community and fellowship. We may not be facing persecution, but we do have battles. They are called fear, doubt, discouragement, temptation, rejection, and failure.
God hasn’t left us alone. He has given us each other to run the race, and fight the battles.
13 But encourage one another day after day
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,
Community is finding ways to encourage one another – it’s spurring one another on to love and good deeds—beyond church service and sermons.
It’s seeing beyond the fences that have been built and offering to help out, maybe even babysit the kids!
It’s bringing a meal in times of crisis. It’s having those “go-to” numbers in your cell phone when you break down. It’s knowing who to call when you want to go on a double date or to catch a movie.
It’s inviting someone into your home for dinner. It’s teaming up when you have a church service project and working alongside friends. It’s enjoying one another—and helping each other to enjoy serving Jesus.
That’s community! It serves to sharpen us for God’s purposes and plans.
Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)
17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
When we embrace the knowledge that Jesus crashed the fence(the barrier) between us and God, and we stop trying to rebuild it between us and those around us, we experience authentic community like the early church.
If we are truly going to experience spiritual growth and transforming faith, , then we can’t live behind a fence. To become more like Christ, to truly love one another, we need to knock down our fences and embrace fellowship and community.
Tuesday, October 16 2018
The circus can conjure up all kinds of memories for us- the light hearted moments with the clowns, the bravery of the lion tamers, and the dexterity of the animals all amidst the aroma of popcorn and cotton candy. But there is always one moment in the show when silence takes over pushing people to the edge of their seats- the moment when the tightrope walker takes the first step onto the wire. I believe it’s because we all understand on some level that our individual lives are a balancing act, too.
We are always trying to do the right thing for our families, for our friends, for our career, and for God. With each step, we wonder if it’s the right one or if our misstep will throw everything else off balance. And to make it all the more difficult, as we walk along our tightrope called life, things are thrown at as from all sides, seemingly trying to knock us down. Things from little annoyances to full blown life changing drama, all disguised as unsolvable problems.
As I envision life as steps on a tightrope, I can’t help but think of that moment for Peter when he stepped out of the boat onto the raging Sea of Galilee.
When Peter stepped out, it was a moment of surrender. As his hand let go of the boat, Peter was giving up control. In his surrender, he was yielding to and trusting Jesus to guide his steps to safely reach the other side of the raging sea. But when Peter took his eyes off Jesus, he faltered and started to sink.
In our striving for balance on the tightrope of life, we too begin to falter when we take our eyes off Jesus and let the realities of the world shake us. In those moments, we must examine ourselves in the light of Jesus and seek to fully surrender our hearts towards Him.
Proverbs 3:5-6 does NOT say, “Trust in the Lord with some of your heart, lean on your own understanding and in some of your ways trust Him.” It’s all or nothing! A balanced life lived for the Lord requires and even demands our surrender.
Surrender looks different for different people, even in similar circumstances. For some, surrender is giving up control, for others it is giving up self-promotion or pride or even our own plans and agendas. Ultimately, it is a daily, transformational process with the Lord. As we falter or start to sink, our first instinct is to grab on tight to whatever we can. But in the kingdom, the real answer to our imbalance is in learning to let go. In our surrender, the circus quiets down, the raging seas quell and our steps are guided safely towards Jesus our refuge, and safety net.
Oswald Chambers describes holy surrender as a personal sovereign preference for Jesus Christ, Himself. Do the actions and decisions we make each day reflect that level of surrender? Is Jesus the focus of our devotion, our priorities, and our surrender? If life seems out of balance, maybe there is something pulling us off kilter that we need to surrender. Search your heart and ask God what you need to surrender in order to walk with Him further and higher than you ever imagined on your own.
Thursday, April 05 2018
But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” –John 5:17 (NLT)
Starting back in the 70s, there was a popular radio show hosted by a man called Paul Harvey. He presented stories that would draw listeners in but he would hold back a key element of the story till the very end. Then he would conclude with a now famous line, “And now you know the rest of the story.”
In addition to his iconic voice and gifted storytelling, our human curiosity and desire to be ‘in the know’ made for a very popular program. Humans have always had a curiosity and a desire to know things. It has given us great inventions and technological advances throughout history but it has also brought down nations and kingdoms in the name of espionage and brought down individuals as we sought after the gossip of our neighbors and friends. Our desire to know has driven a news industry that provides 24/7 coverage and when they run out of news to share, they will sensationalize smaller news items into what we now call, ‘fake news.’
Our desire to know can be a double-edged sword in our spiritual life, too. God, why aren’t you fixing this? God, where are you? Why aren’t you directing me? God, why are you allowing this? Our desire to know and understand can be a hindrance in our spiritual life. We look to scripture for answers but when we read the stories of others’ problems and trials, we approach them already ‘knowing the rest of the story’ and we try to ascribe that approach to our own lives. ‘God, why won’t you tell us the rest of our story?’
Knee deep in our trials and sufferings, we ask why? how? and what now? as echoes of “God will never leave you nor forsake you” reverberates in our soul. If God will never leave me, then why don’t I see Him? Why don’t I get answers or relief from my pain? In our search for information and answers, we look to the Word for the same neat and tidy story endings that our Bible characters experienced, like a modern-day sitcom where all problems are wrapped up in 30 minutes or less.
We forget that it was 13 years from the time that Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers until he became overseer to the Pharaoh in Egypt. It took Noah over 60 years of ark building before the first raindrop fell. And poor Abraham, never saw the fulfillment of God’s promise to him before he passed from this world. We miss the big picture of the Biblical stories when we focus on the beginning and end and disregard the journey in the middle. In fact, the endings lose their wow factor when we undervalue the journey before them.
God is always working and working for our good towards His purpose for us even when we can’t see it. Joseph goes through extensive trials, from his brothers selling him into slavery and even to prison for things he didn’t do and God appears silent and unseen to him the whole time. Until in one moment, God’s plan and purpose is revealed. And it is in that moment that God’s glory bursts on the scene, displayed for all to see.
In my own life, I have been praying for over a year for a resolution and God’s will in several areas of my life and ministry and yet, here I wait. In two separate incidents over the past two weeks, He has reminded me that He is indeed working behind the scenes in preparation for His glory to be revealed.
As I prayer walked around the church building, I could hear God telling me to look closer at the path around me and there poking out of the dried and withered grass was a lone purple flower in all its beauty. A few steps more and this time yellow flowers rising up through the dead grass. A few days later, I was doing some much needed yard work in the backyard. Much to my surprise, there was an overgrown tomato plant taking over one area of the yard and covering up a passionflower vine. In fact there were over 20 tomato plants that had sprouted up across the backyard. How had they gone unnoticed before? It was as if God was revealing pieces of His work and His glory to remind me of His sovereignty and His timing. In the hard times, when we can’t see God working, we have to trust and have faith that He is working because His Word says He is.
Our heavenly Father chose us before the foundation of the world to do the good things he has planned for us. In Christ, we have destiny and God will never leave us. He will always get us to our destination in Jesus, no matter how we feel and no matter what God leaves unseen till His revelation. Be encouraged brothers and sisters, we serve a God who never tires of doing a new thing in us, through us and for us even when we aren’t able to see it!
Where are you seeing God’s revelation of Himself? What issues are you facing that you need to turn over to Him for restoration in His timing?
Isaiah 43:19 (NLT)
19 For I am about to do something new.
Wednesday, November 29 2017
Grace Vanderbilt lived a life of luxury in the early 1900s. She was a New York socialite referred to as the “Head of Society.” Following her husband’s death in 1942, she was forced to sell her 58 room mansion and move into a 28 room home called the Gardener’s Cottage. Living with her in this new home, were eighteen servants, yet in a Time magazine article she was quoted as saying, “I’m all alone.” Imagine that!
Psychologists tell us that we are living in the loneliest of times. The technology that was supposed to bring us all together, has only pushed us further apart. Despite our access to social media and connections with people 24/7, we are the loneliest people ever. During the holidays, it becomes even worse for people. As we connect with loved ones and celebrate the joy we have in our Savior’s birth, let’s remember to reflect His glory and compassion for others.
As we continue to Love in Ways that Matter, remember to have compassion and to take the time to listen and find the miracles in the moments. Even a warm smile can go a long way in letting someone know that you care. Jesus came as a babe in the manger to set the captives free and in doing that, adopt us into the family of God. May we remember that we are not alone. There are lives all around us. People made in the image of God who may need a glimpse of hope, a taste of grace, and a little bit of love. When we shine the light of Christ this season, we will experience the miracle of that first Christmas so many years ago.
Saturday, August 26 2017
Wednesday, April 12 2017
There are times in life when we feel abundantly blessed, believing God has met our every need. Then there are times of struggle and hardship when He seems strangely silent and then times when He answers our questions but we don’t like the answer. In the tenth chapter of Mark, we meet a young man who runs up to Jesus, excited to ask one question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The young man is not asking a question in so much as he is looking for affirmation that he is good enough, smart enough. The real question of his heart is “Am I enough?”
Jesus looks upon him with compassion and love and poses another question, “Am I enough?” The implication to the young man is, “do you recognize that all you have and all you have accomplished is because of me? Young man, do you realize that when you lose all those things, you will still have me? Am I enough?”
Committing our lives to Christ is a lifelong journey of always becoming more, more loving, more peaceful, more joyful and ultimately more free. What the young man didn’t understand was that God didn’t have his whole heart. He was replacing God with other things and depending on them to make him enough.
We do the same thing. We look to our bank account or our job for security. We look to our accomplishments for our worth and value. We look to our good health as a sign of God’s favor and when we lose any of those things, we question God’s love for us. But God’s love is always faithful. It never gives up on us. On the other hand, it’s us who, like the young man in Mark 10, give up and walk away from God.
We decide that the sacrifices are too risky, too hard, and too much. What the young man did was focus on what he was losing rather than what he was gaining. The apostle Paul reminds us in the 3rd chapter of Philippians what it means to gain Christ.
Philippians 3:7-11The Message (MSG)
7-9 The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.
10-11 I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.
Whatever place God has you in right now, know that He has your best interest in mind. Whether you find yourself on the mountaintop or the valley, understand that He sees the big picture and knows what you need better than you do. Trust Him to protect you, to give you security, value and worth. Let Jesus be enough!
Don’t let your fear and your insecurity push you away from God. Stop trying to ‘do’ on your own and trust the One who created you, who died for you, and who loves you with an unrelenting love. We will never be enough on our own, but the Good News is that Jesus is always enough!
Beloved, do you believe that Jesus is enough? Do you want Him to be enough for you? He stands at the door of your heart waiting for you to say, “Jesus you are enough for me. Lord, help me to believe you when you say, “I am enough.”
Tuesday, October 11 2016
During a recent trip, I had the misfortune of arriving at the airport at the exact time that the local cruise ships’ buses were unloading all of their passengers to embark on their journey home. The airport was crazy busy with people everywhere so I chose to sit for awhile in hopes that it would soon settle down.
There was one sight that caught my attention. There was a small boy about the age of 6 walking with his dad. His father had his hand resting on the young boy’s shoulder gently guiding him through the sea of people. But this little boy was not content with his father’s direction. “I want to do it myself, dad.” He would try to escape his father’s gentle touch to race ahead saying, “I want to go this way, dad!”
Over and over, dad would respond kindly with, “It’s okay son, I see where we’re going, we’ll get there don’t worry, don’t rush.” It struck me in that moment, how much I was like that little boy. How often had I said to my heavenly Father, “Stop, I want to go this way, I want to go that way.” Or the countless number of times I’ve tried to run ahead of Him. In each of those times, I had forgotten that my Father sees above the busyness, above the chaos. He knows where I’m going and He knows the best way for me to get there. Sometimes, I just need to be patient and allow His gentle hand to direct my steps.
Church, may we be encouraged this week as we hold tight to the truth that our Heavenly Father is guiding and ordering our steps as we strive to fulfill the calling He has placed on our lives.
Tuesday, August 02 2016
Hello Sawgrass Family,
Over the last several weeks, we have been walking through the 11th chapter of Hebrews, most commonly referred to as the Hall of Faith. Along the walls of this hall, we are introduced to people of faith through only a snapshot of their lives. This snapshot gives us a picture of what God deemed to be the best depiction of their life of faith.
In a painting called, ‘Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem’, the painter, Robert Haydon created a scene with Jesus riding on the donkey into Jerusalem. In the crowd are some of his contemporaries. Voltaire, a philosopher known for his criticism of the church, was painted in as a smiling scoffer. The poet John Keats was painted with a bright, amazed face in the background. William Wordsworth was pictured as a devout man, a disciple. Others he knew, were painted as detached observers just watching it all pass by.
Think of Christ in our world today. We are in the crowd that watches Christ coming into our world, and into our lives and circumstances. Let’s think of ourselves and our actions and our attitudes. Where would we find ourselves in that picture? What would be the best representation of our habitual conduct? Would we be the detached observer? Or might we be the ones with bright amazement on our faces?
Sawgrass, let’s commit and encourage one another to shine with amazement as we seek the work of Christ entering into our day to day happenings. Let's reflect the glory of our Savior in all things!
6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. - Hebrews 11:6(NASB)
Sunday, July 24 2016
Hello Sawgrass Family,
I write this note from high above the hustle and bustle of New York City streets. It’s a time of meditating on the verses from our By Faith sermon series, while reflecting on all that I saw today. There was hopelessness and sadness among the bustling traffic and bold lights of Times Square and yet God’s goodness was still breaking through like a ray of sunlight in a dark sky.
He was present with the father who was helping his young son deliver food to the homeless man everyone else was ignoring. He was present in the kindness to help another cross the street. He was present in the friendly smiles and conversations of strangers. He is always there, waiting for us to seek Him out.
Praying Hebrews 11:6 for each of you this week. Praying that you see Jesus working in you and through you. As you seek God throughout your week and discover ways to love in a way that matters, may our Father reward you with glimpses of Himself. May you receive the peace and wisdom of knowing that you are His and in His will.
“Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”-Hebrews 11:6