12 miles

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What is 12 miles? The distance that many of the members of this church walk, one way just to get here.

You see this is the only church in the area. This culture is very pedestrian in the sense that many of them aren’t fortunate to have a car or moto so they walk. Even so 12 miles one way? So let’s get this perspective. They are almost walking the distance of a marathon to attend church.

Now before you think I’m about to bash those of us who live in the west and give you some speech about how when I grew up we had to…etc. slow down, that’s not my intention.

However, I do want us to investigate the question that in our current mindset, our life of options and conveniences if someone told us we could only go to church 12 miles away and we had to walk would we do it?

Do we love the gathering that much? Are we that committed to the cause of Jesus, His Church, that we would walk it?

Seriously, how motivated, how inspired, how spiritually hungry, would we have to be to make that walk?

Are we that excited and motivated about our relationship with God, are we that moved by our love for our church? Are we burning with the spiritual hunger and passion enough to take that walk?

As I write this to you, I’m challenged in my own relationship with God? Am I that hungry for him? Am I committed to that level?

Again, it is not my desire to condemn you or make you feel bad, it’s a question I’m asking us.

Warning: before we make excuses like…

Well they don’t have the distractions we do, true, there distractions are more like roads that are dirt and difficult to traverse.

Well, they don’t have all the options we do, don’t get this twisted, they are human and can easily choose other things that are more convenient and make for a much easier day.

I could go on but let me stop and make an observation. Our blessing doesn’t make us bad, and their lack doesn’t make them good, and that’s my point.

I didn’t say every African goes to church, and I didn’t say every African Christian would walk or has to walk twelve miles.

What I’m saying is this is not an externally religious obligation that motivates at this level. It’s an internal heart motivation based on a relationship with the one who has saved our lives.

The question I’m asking myself and the question I want you to ask yourself is our relationship with God and His Church worth a twelve mile walk?

God give us the heart that we would walk to the end of the earth for you.

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Open House – The Only Way to Live 3

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Matt 5 (MSG)

Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
 

Matthew 10:5-8 MSG

 Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge: “Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously. 

II Corinthians 5:20 NKJV

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 

BIG IDEA:

It is clear that Jesus was not here just to save us. It went farther than that. His ultimate goal was to impart the message of what He was doing into a team of people who would pass this message perpetually through the generations so the love displayed through Jesus actions would find its way through this entire planet and into the future. Currently the “believers of today,” we are that team. 

So in essence Jesus is saying share this message and the spirit of this message with this world so they have the opportunity to believe, and their lives can be changed by a relationship with God through Jesus. 

BIG QUESTIONS:

WHY do we struggle with open house living?  WHY do we close the door behind us?

1. Do we forget the importence?
2. Do we make life about other things first?
3. Do we forget to care?
4. Are we distracted?

>This thought reminds me of a story Jesus told when he was teaching people about the way the kingdom works. 

A life changing Story:

It was a story about a farmer who was planting seed. He said the man scattered seed. Some fell on the side of the road, and before it could take root the birds came and carried it off. Some fell on stony soil, this seed quickly sprouted up but roots were shallow so the sun came up scorched and killed the growth. Some fell in the weeds and thorns, the seed took root and began to grow, but being surrounded by thorns and weeds the plant was choked out and died. Finally the seed that fell on good, prepared, rich soil took deep root, and due to the nutrients in the good undisturbed soil the plant grew, and produced major growth and life. 

Thought:  I think the weeds and thorns are what we deal with in today’s culture more than any other thing

Mark 4:18, 19 MSG

“The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it. 

(AMP)

Then the cares and anxieties of the world and distractions of the age, and the pleasure and delight and false glamour and deceitfulness of riches, and the craving and passionate desire for other things creep in and choke and suffocate the Word, and it becomes fruitless. 

(NLT)

but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. 

HOW do we begin to live this open house life?

1. Throw the door wide open

(Take the pressure off)

What we can’t do…

We can’t change someone
We can’t save someone

What we can do?

We can love everyone. 
We can be generous to everyone

We should focus on what we can do, and leave what only God can do to him. 

>We are NOT trying to MAKE A POINT
>We ARE trying to MAKE A DIFFERENCE

2.  Remember what Jesus did for us and share

>Don’t ever forget where Jesus brought you frame and what he did for you, share your story. Every member a messenger

>You don’t have to be a great theologian what you learned this morning you can teach this afternoon

>Take the pressure off just be you and share your story

3.  Intentionally open our lives to people seeking for answers and love
Be aware

>Pray this prayer…”who’s it going to be today?”

>Share the love

4.  Look beyond our prejudices, our inconveniences, and their sin

>Aknowlege that at times we all have some sort of prejudice. Prejudice simply means to pre-judge. 
Fire yourself from the job of judge (Gods Job)

>You can disagree and still love

>expect to be inconvenienced and be ok with it.

>Create some margin in your life.

>Love covers a multitude of sin

5.  Make this a way of living. 

This is not a strategy its a lifestyle. 
It’s not a method its a way of living
it’s not a religeous obligation, it’s the overflow of love from Jesus. 

BIG THOUGHT:

>We are his mouthpiece
>His ambassadors
>His representatives to the people of this world.  

LAST THOUGHT:

We have been placed in our circle of influence. We may think life just landed us in our current role but God is far more strategic than that. You are there to make a difference for the kingdom of God, you are there to love people the way Jesus loves you. 

Do you know Jesus? You can have this love and life we are talking about. It is truly the answer you are looking for.

Only Believe 4 (message notes)

Mark 5:35-36 msg

While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 

Big Thought:  Its amazing how practical faith really is.  Its practical for one simple reason.  Jesus is personal.  Its a powerful thought and reality that the Createor of all things, The only one true God so incredbily big in all of who He is, but somehow He is mindful of us.  He cares about us, loves us, is interested in us and is personally involved in our lives.  He set up the way for us to have a relationship with him.  So we no longer depend on a ritualistic religious way of serving God, but now we are chosen, adopted, and accepted into the family of God, and He wants to be personally involved in our every day lives.

Gods attitude towards us: We are not a burden on Him.  He is not put out with us.  He is not tired of us or resentful towards us.  He loves us, and wants the best for us.  He cares so much that he loves us just as we are, and He loves us to much to leave us like we are.

QUESTION:  What is going on in your life right now thats to big for God?  

THOUGHT:  Don’t make the mistake that because God is Spirit that all his solutions and answers for our lives are alone spiritual.  Yes Heaven is real, actually more real than our very existance.  However, to think that the things that are spiritual do not bridge to the practical, physical aspects of our lives is a terrible misconception.  When we set our faith in the invisible, the unseen, God of all things, then the results of that faith manifest in the physical.

God has the ability to change things.  
>He has the power to take us out of situations, 
>He has the ability to help us walk through circumstances, 
>He has the ability the change the circumstances, 
there is no doubt that our belief in God and his ability to effect change in our lives, does more than make us feel good spiritually or give us peace.  
It absolutely impacts the circumstances of our lives.

Deliverence through – 3 Hebrew boys

Deliverence from – Peter from Jail

>All things are possible with God, including all the practical issues our our lives.

Philippians 4:19 NKJV

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus

Isaiah 53:3-5 (Amp)

Surely He has borne our griefs (sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses) and carried our sorrows and pains [of punishment], yet we [ignorantly] considered Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God [as if with leprosy].  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole.

THOUGHT:  If we Apply the instruction that Jesus gave Jairus, to ONLY BELIEVE, then we set ourselves up for this all powerful, all knowing, all present, God, to act on our behalf.

Its called appropriation.  Our faith appropriates Gods power.  His power manifests in our life, when we set our faith on him.  

HOW? 

the answer to Gods spirit intervening in our physical is to Know Him more, understand Him more and Believe who He is and what He can do, and He will Deliver you out of your problems, or walk you through your problems, or Protect you from your problems, but whatever way He chooses to do it, His Super will touch your natural, and things will change.

The best way to have God personally involved in your life, is to have an ongoing, intimate close relationship with Him.  Know him and his salvation, and grow and develop in relationship with him. The greater the revelation you receive of Christ the stronger the faith and perserverence to believe,  and the greater the manifestation and appropriation will be at work in your life.

Dwell in Christ:  All the promises of God are yes and amen IN CHRIST.  HE IS THE SECRET PLACE.  Our journey towards God being active practically in our lives, starts with having a relationship with Jesus.  Do you know him?

II Corinthians 1:20 NKJV

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 

Psalms 91:1-6 NKJV

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. 

QUESTION:  where are you living?

Only Believe 3

Mark 5:35-36 msg

While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 

Intro:  Jesus instructions here imply that faith is the antidote for fear, cynicism and doubt. We treat faith as if it is the result of not having those things. The reality is, however, that faith is what chases those things out of our mind.

Jesus statement to Jairus seems to say think faith, then Jesus models for him how faith works.

1. First think faith (chase the negatives out)

2. Speak faith (the girl is sleeping)

3. Act in faith (little girl rise).

These 3 components are still at work in the function of faith today and are very practical and easily applicable to our lives and daily circumstances. 

Hebrews 11:7 MSG

By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn’t see, and acted on what he was told. The result? His family was saved. His act of faith drew a sharp line between the evil of the unbelieving world and the rightness of the believing world. As a result, Noah became intimate with God. 

3 components to the effective, practical function of faith in our lives

1.  Think faith

This is where the battle is. The war of faith is waged and won or lost in the mind. 

Turn off the influencers and informers of doubt. 

Well meaning doubt dealers

Those married to mediocrity 

The status quo police

The defenders against danger

The incredible insecure. The ferociously fearful

Turn on the flood gates of faith

Put on the mind of Christ 

Renew your mind to the word of God

Know who you are and who’s you are

Meditate on Gods truth

Consciously chase negative, doubt filled, fearful thoughts out of your mind.
 
Romans 12:1-2
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 

Psalms 1
Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. 

Joshua 1:8
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” 

Phil 4:8
For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]. 

2.  Speak faith 

Faith is meant to be declared, stated, spoken. 

There is the component of your mind and heart but also your mouth. 

Speaking faith is a powerful tool, saying what you believe builds faith and has power. 

Genesis 1:3-5 MSG
God spoke: “Light!” And light appeared. God saw that light was good and separated light from dark. God named the light Day, he named the dark Night. It was evening, it was morning— Day One. 

Mark 11:23,24
For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. 

Proverbs 18:20, 21 MSG
Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest. Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. 
      
 3.  Act in faith (obedience)

Single greatest activator of faith is obedience.
Act on what you believe, what you know to be true. 

Its excellent to think faith, wonderful to speak it, but obedient action takes faith to another level

James 1:23-25 NKJV
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. 

Only Believe 2

Mark 5:35, 36 NKJV

While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 

Foundation: Jesus is inspiring us here not to fear, not to doubt, not to be distracted by anyone or anything but rather to keep our gaze singularly focused on Him, the only real solution to whatever is a problem in our lives.  By Saying ONLY BELIEVE He is saying, in the moment when you come to me desperate for my intervention on your behalf, in your life, your daily life, don’t let anything pull you off course.

Big IDEA:  Do we really want our Answer?

John 5:5-8 AMP

There was a certain man there who had suffered with a deep-seated and lingering disorder for thirty-eight years. When Jesus noticed him lying there [helpless], knowing that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, Do you want to become well? [Are you really in earnest about getting well?] The invalid answered, Sir, I have nobody when the water is moving to put me into the pool; but while I am trying to come [into it] myself, somebody else steps down ahead of me. Jesus said to him, Get up! Pick up your bed (sleeping pad) and walk! 

BIG Questions:

1.  What are we believing in?

Faith in faith– as long as you believe in something 

Faith in yourself – I believe I can fly

Faith in fortune – money money money

Faith in the false – man made religions, man made men, believing in the pretend more than the real. 

2.  Do we really want our Solution?

Has our problem, issue, situation, victimization, or even our sickness become who we are instead of what is happening to us?

Are their things that are gained by retaining this identity that we are not ready or willing to give up?  

Attention, our role in the group

Self centeredness – a need to keep the attention on self
Have we lost ourselves in our issue and wouldn’t know who we are without it?

Have we spent so much time being identified by or with this issue that we have lost our true identity and now fear that we would not be known at all.  We feel it would be better to be known for this than not known.

3.  Are we looking to others or to God to give us our Answers?

Do we realize that when we get offended at others its always because we have taken our focus off of our only real answer, GOD, and have placed our attention on Imperfect people?

Have we made it others peoples responsability to take care of our problems?

Are we looking for people to give us an emotional peace while we suffer instead of turning to God for true peace and deliverence from our suffering?

Have we put people in such a place in our lives that there is no way they could ever live up to, or be the solution that we are needing and wanting them to be?

4.  What underlying heart issue could be keeping us from our Answer.

Are there issues piling on issues because of resentment, and disappointment?

How do we see ourselves?  

As a victor that is facing a difficulty, or a victim who would be a victor of it wasn’t for our circumstances?

Do we blame God or are we looking to God as our solution? 

THE QUESTION:

The question that Jesus ask the lame man, was more than a mere question based on a momentary observation, but a question based on Jesus ability to know the heart.  

Through this one question he brought to light every wrong heart motive, every wrong belief, every need in this man.  Not just the need that was apperent but all the issues of his very life.  Not for the purpose of exposure or judgement but for the purpose of healing.  

The gate the man was laying at was called bathesda which means the house of grace, mercy and peace.

Sometimes our solution is less etherial and more practical, and it is always available to us, if we are willing to practcially apply the principles of faith to every area of our lives.

Rarely are the issues in our life a single, one off problem.  Most of the time there are layers and layers of compound issues over time, emotion, life history and experiences.  

BIG SOLUTIONS:

Practical application of faith.

1.  Put our total focus on Jesus.

Peter walking on the water

2.  Decide our issue wont become  our identity.

Seperate our identity from our issue, by remembering our purpose, and the will of God for our lives.  

Romans 8:28  All things work together for good to them who are the called of God and live according to His purpose.

3.  Be honest with ourselves and with God.

It is so easy to do this.  Our world is so prentetious that we find ourselves not truly being honest about our situation.  
To see God as our true solution, we have to admit we need one, and that being honest is always better than attempting to appear perfect.  
It is futile to be dishonest with God.

4.  Realize that we do have someone.

While we can not make people our source or solution, we must realize we do have Spiritual family around us that whether we realize it or not are helping us.

When we keep God in focus we see more clearly His family at work in our lives.  

If we make people our source they will always let us down.  That is our problem not there’s.

5.  Rejoice in the blessings of others.

Make sure to pray for others, and celebrate the victories of others.  This postures our hearts to receive our own needs met, and problems solved.
 
If we look in Jealousy at the victories of others our victories will be few, and far between.

6.  Keep it simple.  

Faith is simple, and singular.  What doesn’t work is double mindedness or spiritual ambiguity.

At the end of this inquery Jesus said Get up and take your bed, and the man did.

Sometimes we want our solutions to be as complicated as our problems.

They rarely are, the problem is we just can’t see them from the fog of the circumstance, and also because we are expecting some complicated formula when God doesn’t need all that fan fare.

THE BIG POINT:  God wants us to be free, totally free, not partially free, of the issues, problems and daily challenges we face.  All we have to do is truly want our freedom and ONLY BElIEVE in HIM!

Only Believe 1

Mark 5:22-24, 35, 36 NKJV

And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” So Jesus went with him, and a great multitude followed Him and thronged Him… 

…While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 

When it looks like your not going to make it when life’s storms are swelling over the top of you when obstacles to your God given dream stand in your way and seem immovable when you receive a bad report. When your family is falling apart when your income is smaller than your outgo when your loved ones, and friends don’t have a relationship with Jesus and desperately need one. When you are emotionally overwhelmed by the major cultural shifts in our nation
DO NOT FEAR – ONLY BELIEVE!

Practical applications of faith

1. Faith is most effectively used in humility.

Humility is an aknowlegement that Jesus is greater than we are in every way

Humility is an aknowlegement that we need help, we need God

2. Faith is an expectation that the desired outcome will happen.

Hebrews 11:1 faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen. 

Hebrews 11:6 without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must belive that he is and that he rewards those who diligently seek Him. 

3. Faith seeks God out for help. 

Faith doesn’t wait for some miracle to find them. Faith without works (corresponding action) is dead. 

The ruler and the woman alike, believed in Jesus, but they sought him out,  they did not wait for him to somehow find them. 

4. Faith has to shut the haters out and let the believers in

Doubters, cynics, naysayers, haters, critics need to go.

Believers, prayers, people who care need to be embraced.  

5. Only believe.
 
This implies do nothing but stand in faith. 

No fear, no quitting, No giving up, No distraction 

Final is never final with God. Fatal isn’t final, failure isn’t final

Faith is a spirit thing not an emotion thing. 

>Our faith first engages when we decide to become followers of Christ, but then should be active in our every day lives. 

>What are you believing for God to do in your life?

Oh Father Where art Thou?

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I am inspired today by the sheer influence a dad has in the life of his children. A power, when used for good, that can bring out the best in them.

We recently hosted a Daddy/Daughter dance at our church. It was a night filled with fun, laughter, and true connection.

At first I was concerned that the night would be incredibly awkward, due to the fact that the relationship between dads and kids resembles a clumsy person trying to walk across a frozen pond. Legs and arms flailing in all different directions towards an ultimate end of landing hard on your backside bruised and cold.

I have to admit at first it felt a little awkward, but all it took was a little food, good music and talking and before long the place was buzzing with life.

When the dance floor opened, to my amazement, it was packed with dads and daughters kicking up their heals to the Cupid shuffle which is an educational experience for all the dads or a little two stepping to Amarillo by morning, and some moving and grooving to “treasure” by Bruno Mars.

It was a sight to see. Dad’s uninhibited for the purpose of showing their daughters a good time.

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To my great pleasure there was more than a good time going on. As I was dancing with my own daughters, I looked around. I saw dads laughing uncontrollably with their daughters and daughters basking in the glory of their dads glorious uninhibited display of affection, being there just for them. I saw dads teaching daughters how to two step and daughters teaching dads how to not look completely ridiculous while on the dance floor. Not sure we learned that lesson.

More than that I saw dads showing their daughters how they should be treated by a man. The right kind of touch, the right kind of words. The literal display of how truly valuable a girl is. In a world where the objectification of women is at an all time high these dads were showing their daughters that they are not a mere object but they are a valuable, loved, revered individual who is so valued by her father she can not be trivialized by the whims of a lust driven society.

The power of an approving father far surpasses the influence of a culture of confusion if the father can be found. No I don’t mean is the father in the house? No I don’t mean does the father show up for performances? I mean is the father intentionally valuing the daughter in such a way that she will not question her value when faced with the unscrupulous agenda of modernity?

Oh father where art thou when she needs a shoulder to cry on? Oh father where art thou when she needs an “at a girl” to keep going. Oh father where art thou when she needs the confidence to stand in the face of highly pressurized times that demands she devalue herself for societal approval?

Fathers let us be found in an enthralling dance with the treasures of our legacy. The precious jewels in our keeping. Dancing the dance of love, driven with a need to know that our girls will be strong, decisive, assured and confident. They can face the world without trivializing themselves.

Dads talk to your girls, inspire, and challenge them but above all love them. Yes at the expense of your own comfort. Yes at the inconvenience of your time. Yes at the risk of revealing how awkward you really are. Say it, show it, be it.

This power has been given to you use it wisely.