buildingbodies4christ

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Archive for the tag “Andy Stanley”

The Message

When disaster strikes and we have nothing left, who do we turn to? In the message on Sunday, my pastor said “Is Jesus enough?” What are we left with, when everything is gone? Pastor Andy Stanley said on Sunday, “Worry not.” Worry is about tomorrow. When we worry, we bring tomorrow’s trouble into today. Is Jesus enough for today? Is Jesus enough for tomorrow? Can we really trust Jesus to meet our needs? What if He doesn’t come through? What then? I have trusted Jesus as my Savior, but have I trusted Jesus as my Lord? That means giving Jesus every aspect of my life; things that I know I have no control over and the things that I think I have control over. That means He controls the day – where and when – how and why all belong to Him. Today is His.

Is Jesus enough? How do you actually know that Jesus is enough unless you have nothing but Him? If you have everything you need, do you still need Him? Jesus isn’t a magic genie waiting to fulfill our wishes. He is King of kings – He is Lord of lords. He is God who created the world and everything in it. He is the One who was before the world began. God separated the waters; gave boundaries to the seas. He placed each star in the heavens and calls them by name. He knows the beginning from the end – He has already seen each and every aspect of what we endure. He knows the number of hairs on our heads. He understands our frailties. With all of that knowledge of who Jesus is, it takes a real encounter with Jesus to actually believe what we know.

Back in the first century, people didn’t have the written Word – all they had were eye witnesses to the events that unfolded. The disciples followed Him daily. They witnessed the miracles (but it wasn’t enough); they heard His teachings (but some didn’t believe). They saw Jesus’ love to the outcasts – the sinners (some were outraged). Everything changed with the most important event: His death and resurrection. The ones who witnessed this big event spread the word. In order to have impact for the world, Jesus has to impact our own lives. We have to feel the nail prints for ourselves. We have to live our lives in a way that gives Jesus opportunity to become real to us. When we witness the resurrection power at work, everything changes.

Trust becomes essential to the message. When we encounter the risen Savior as Lord, we can trust that He loves us and has our best interest at heart. When we trust in Jesus as Lord, it means our lives will have impact. Trust that He knows what we need and when we need it. Believe in the One who sent Jesus for us. And learn not to worry – easier said than done, but essential in our testimony of God being bigger than our problems. Nothing is impossible for God. Jesus gives us His peace, and we can trust that in all things, we can have contentment because of Jesus. Jesus is enough. When we witness the resurrection power at work, we have an awesome testimony to share that will impact the world around us. Scripture tells us that not a detail will be missed – trust Him in every little thing.

Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.

“This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.” John 6:35-40 (The Message)

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The Lesson

This past week I listened to a couple of messages – one on health and the other was a sermon – both on the spiritual battle that we all face in our minds. They were both on fear. The first message was from Caroline Leaf, PhD.1 She is a brain researcher and lecturer. She has been studying the brain for over twenty years. In her talk, she related that there are two emotional roots tied to our memories – faith and fear. Each memory has emotional components to them. In the brain, there is a place where memory is stored for long-term. When visible seen, the memory storage area looks like trees. The faith-based memories (aka good memories) will look like lush green trees. The fear-based memories (aka bad memories) will look like thorn bushes. Fear creates little thorn growths on the outer edges of our memory trees. (The fear-based emotions cause harm to the body.) I was fascinated with these ideas.

The next message was from Andy Stanley on the N Commandments2– the commandments that Jesus instructed the disciples in order to carry on with His movement. This first commandment in this new series is, of course – “Do not fear.” Jesus was telling His disciples all the time “do not be afraid!” He told them not to be afraid when persecution comes (and it would come). Do not fear man or what man can do to you, but fear the One who has control over life and death eternal. Fear God. We are to respect God. He has authority over life and death; He conquered death through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

In the early years of this new movement, they didn’t have a Bible; they didn’t have great instructions to live by – except what Jesus spoke and was passed along. The disciples followed Jesus for three years. They listened; they saw; then they were given the instructions to go to the world and preach the good news. Jesus told Martha when Lazarus was dead in the grave for four days (John 11:25) – “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever believes in me will never die.”

When Jesus was resurrected, they believed. Because of their belief, they no longer feared death or feared sharing the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection no matter the consequences of the persecution they would face. They would go before governors and kings; they would be flogged and thrown out of synagogues, but they had confidence in the One who sent them. They became fearless and spoke with the authority that Jesus gave them – no matter what.

One of my own struggles is fear. I needed to hear these messages this past week. For the past couple of weeks, I have been in the place of fear because of my circumstances. But what I realized in the last day or two, if everything was gone and I had nothing – is this life or death? Why am I afraid that I will have nothing? God said He would take care of all my needs. I see persecution happening all over the world today. People are leaving everything behind and fleeing to safer places. They are facing executioners and standing firm until the end. They have nothing in the end, except the One who can save them from eternal damnation. That’s enough – nothing else matters. It’s time to release the fear and know that God is enough!

My pastor concluded his message on Sunday on the wisdom from Solomon found in Ecclesiastes 12:13 – Fear God and keep His commandments (Solomon reminded us that everything else is meaningless). Voids in our lives cannot be filled by stuff or people – God made us incomplete so that we can find our sufficiency in Him alone. Nothing else matters. When fear starts to creep in, I have been recalling a new song I heard recently – “You are a good, good Father – it’s who you are. And I am loved by You, that’s who I am. You are perfect in all your ways.”3 When I remember this, I remember a good Father takes care of His children – no matter what. We are precious in His sight.

“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” Matthew 10:28-31 (NLT)

1Caroline Leaf, PhD, “My Body, His Temple” teaching series by Life Today

2Andy Stanley, the N Commandments series, Part 2

3“Good Good Father” by Housefires II, 2014

Are you stuck?

That was the question I posed to my newsletter readers this month. I have been contemplating that myself this week. I have a routine that I follow pretty closely every day and every week. I work out three days a week – usually. I go to church every Sunday morning at the same time. I go to my small group every Tuesday night. I sit down at my computer every morning and look at emails before I get my morning smoothie. I have my quiet time at the same time every morning. That’s my usual week. Since last Wednesday, I had to rearrange a few things.

I hurt my shoulder a few months back and did not stop working out to rest it. I went to the chiropractor last Wednesday, and she got my shoulder back in working order. But instead of going to work out on Friday or Saturday or even Sunday, I decided to take a break. I also, started writing the book (PRAISE to the Lord for the inspiration that finally came!). So my days have been focused on getting words on the screen. I even decided to write in a different room to get my inspirational juices flowing.

But am I stuck spiritually? That’s what I am wrestling with this morning. In my quiet time for the last two mornings, I have been reading in Revelation 3. The church in Ephesus had been doing things well. They had been serving the Lord and doing all that they were supposed to be doing, yet they had forgotten their first priority was to love. One of the things that God has pressed upon me is to demonstrative love toward Him by helping others. We are to “do good” but we are called first to love. The Ephesians church forgot the love part. I wrote in the newsletter last month that “being a disciple of Jesus means that we will demonstrate our love for Him. We don’t earn His favor or earn our heavenly home by doing good works. It comes by belief in the grace of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus says that we are to love God with all our hearts, soul and strength. We are to love others as we love ourselves. These are the two greatest commandments stated in the Bible – so Jesus says.”

We are told if we are His disciples that we will obey His teachings. In order to obey, we have to know what He teaches us in the Gospels. The central theme in His teachings is: loving others. There really is no other message that we should take away except the way Jesus demonstrated love toward everyone He meet. He even loved the Pharisees – they just didn’t understand though. He wept over Jerusalem when He knew they were going to be battered and scattered for generations because of their lack of love for God and Him. They just didn’t get it. Sometimes I think we don’t either. We – the people of God – could be viewed as the church at Ephesus in this time and place. We are all about helping others, but are we too busy to love God? There are too many things that keep us from devotion to God and to Jesus. We don’t make time to get in His word and learn what we need to be the people we need to be. The weather is turning for the better here in the US (or at least in the south) so that will mean that outdoor activities may keep us from going to church.

Andy Stanley said in a recent sermon “Devotion to God is authenticated by love for others.” In First Corinthians 13, in the famous love speech, “if there’s no love in our action, then it means nothing but devotion to me.” People in the world understand selfishness and it’s “all about me.” But we are to be different. We are to live differently. God said in His word that He created good works for us to do. Before the foundation of the world, He thought of us and gave us a hope and a future. The way life was supposed to be was in an intimate relationship with Him. That’s what He desires. When we finally understand that we are to Love Him and show love toward others, we will finally shake off the Pharisee robe and live as a follower of Jesus!

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. Hebrews 6:10-12

The Question

The question was asked last Sunday morning from a guest speaker at a church I was attending. Are you a fan or a follower? What does a fan really look like? A fan is more of a cheerleader – ready to cheer Jesus to become famous in my city, state, nation and world! Yea, Jesus! Go Jesus! It’s really no commitment from me. A fan is in it for the entertainment value. The fan can be as involved as they want to be without risking too much. I can spur Jesus on from the sidelines and not really be involved on the playing field. We have a lot of “followers” in our social media but we should really call them fans instead. The ones who “follow” us are just on the sidelines checking out what we do or what we say. They aren’t involved in our lives following along behind us as we move throughout life. Jesus had followers while He walked this earth. He had people who listened to His every word. They lived with Him and ate with Him.

My inclination in answering this question was to say I am a follower. I really did believe that was my answer that Sunday morning. Last night, I heard a different message that fell right along these same thoughts. The message was from Andy Stanley on the “Brand New” message that Jesus delivered that was radically different in His day and time. The message is still radical today. Jesus came to bring an end to the “all about me” religion to the “others beside you” model. The New Testament can be described as the “doing to others as you would have them do unto you” example. This is how we honor and love God through our demonstration of love toward others. When I consider the difference between a fan and a follower, the follower gets this mentality of loving others just as Jesus loved us. The follower will do what Jesus did.

The New Testament is full of Jesus’ example of loving others everywhere, even from the cross. Pastor Stanley’s question was “What does love require of me?” I think this is really the essence of being a follower. All the commands that are reflected in the Bible relate to the “otherness” of Jesus. It’s how we relate to others. When we demonstrate love, it shows our love for Jesus. This is how we know when we are following Jesus. Demonstrating love cost God His Son. Demonstrating love demands more than of us but is pretty simple in application. This is how we should be known as Christians. Jesus said when we do for others then we are doing it for Him. Matthew 25:35-39 gives a list of ways to help others and in the end Jesus said when you do it for the least of these then you are doing it for Me. Pretty practical stuff that is easy to do but will cost us something.

I want to be a follower. I want to keep my eyes on the prize. I want to be on the field playing my heart out. I was a manager on the women’s basketball team in college. I know what it means to be on the sidelines every game. I didn’t have to commit to the hard times to become great on the field. I could be a supporter for those who were playing. I would rather have played, but I didn’t have game. Following Jesus means being committed to His game – His plan. The speaker on Sunday said Jesus really doesn’t need any more fans. Every knee – EVERY knee will bow before Him one day. It’s not a matter of having fans, but having committed followers who want to be in the game. He is the winning side; He has already given us the victory! He wants more players committed to the game. We are called to surrender, sacrifice and serve – that’s what it means to follow by giving our lives to loving others as Jesus first loved us.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:34-36

Good News

I love to listen to different preachers each week. They all bring a different message with different insights and different perspectives. One of my favorite speakers is Andy Stanley. He just talks very plainly. When I was growing up, my preacher used fancy words that went over my head, and it’s a wonder I ever came to understand the Gospel message! But I did. But what I didn’t understand was the relationship and how we are to pass the Good News of Jesus to others. It’s a wonder how the church movement ever continued throughout the generations. How a small bunch of men and women had enough fire in them to spread the Good News. Andy Stanley pointed out in his Easter message that it wasn’t about Jesus’ teachings or His claims that kept the movement going.

After the death of Jesus, the movement died. Everybody scattered. No one believed the Son of God could die. No one believed the Messiah could die. But Jesus was both of these things, and He died anyway. The disciples didn’t get it. When Mary Magdalene came back from the tomb, the disciples didn’t say “oh, Jesus has risen!” They weren’t camping out at the graveside waiting with anticipation. Even though, Jesus had told them a couple of times, He was going to die and be resurrected on the third day. They weren’t there for it. They didn’t believe the women when they returned that Jesus wasn’t there. Peter and John ran to the tomb and found it empty. Scriptures says “then John believed.”

It was the witness of His resurrection that changed things. Jesus appeared to them several times after His resurrection. They started speaking not of Jesus’ teachings – although they were good. They started speaking about Jesus’ Good News. He died and came back to life; the Son of God came to earth to save us from our sins by His death and resurrection. He is the Resurrection and the Life. The Good News is Jesus! The Bible from beginning to end is centered on Jesus. Whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. Yes, we want to live as He did. Yes, we want to follow His examples that He set when He lived on this earth. But that’s not the reason the movement caught fire. The reason was the people saw Jesus after His resurrection. It changed everything. Then the men wrote about their time with Jesus. The ones who were eyewitnesses recorded the events so that we might also believe.

Jesus in one of His final prayers prayed for us – here, right now, in this time and place – for us to be unified with Him as He was one with the Father. Through the message that was spoken through the centuries, we have been a part of the movement. It’s in our hands to continue the movement by speaking of the Good News so that others will be unified in this same message. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” I am the light of the world.” Jesus said “I am the gate for the sheep.” “I am the good shepherd.” Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” “I am the way, and the truth and the life.” “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.” The soldiers came looking for Jesus on that last night. He asked them, “Who is it you want?” They replied, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said, “I AM” (in the original language). (See the Gospel of John.)

Jesus. The name above all names. The one who died and rose again. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father full of grace and truth. This is the Good News. This message is for all to believe. In the book Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warrens, the first line is: “It’s not about you.” This is not about me at all. If it is, then it will be of no value to anyone. The right perspective is: God’s glory through His Son by His grace and His mercy! And then He wants a relationship with us! Isn’t that Good News?

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” Then Jesus told them “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 17:25-26; 20:29

Abounding Grace

Grace. God’s grace. I know the concept, but sometimes I think there is more to it. It can’t be that easy, can it? I am learning it is that easy. God gave us a gift we could never pay for. He sent His son, the only one worthy to come before the Lord on our behalf. There is nothing I could ever do to pay Him back. There is really no sense in even trying to “even the score.” I just have to receive the gift with gratitude and humility.

My salvation story started so long ago that sometimes I forget that it was not by my efforts that I am saved. I know the past sins are paid for. I know everything that was done on my behalf. But then I think about my attitude now. I believe I am good now so it’s all about me working out my salvation (so to speak). The big sins that were committed so long ago have been forgiven and forgotten. The little sins are also forgiven, but have I repented from those as well? Am I trying to pay for those by my good deeds? I have forgotten that even my good works are nothing but filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6).

I was reminded not long ago, God has never been disappointed in me. God knew me before I was ever born. Nothing I have ever done, said or even thought was a surprise to Him. Yet, He was not disappointed. He might have been displeased, more than once, I’m sure. It’s a real wonder that I am still alive. But God’s grace abounds. I try to live righteously, but I can’t do it in my own power. God’s power is sufficient. Beth Moore stated in her Living Proof simulcast in September: “Grace is not permission to stay but the power to go.” We walk in grace. We are dead to the sins of our past. We are to write an obit for the old self. The old self no longer controls us. It is dead. The old self is not Lazarus. It has not been raised back to life. The stone has not been rolled away. These thoughts came from Beth, but have been speaking volumes in my soul.

Andy Stanley said that the epicenter of the Christian faith is grace. We are all getting something for nothing. Grace is undeserved favor. The Bible speaks of grace in the New Testament, but in the Old Testament the same concept is called favor. We are highly favored to receive such grace! But it wasn’t because of any good in us. It is because of the goodness of God. His great love for us saved us. He sent His Son. His Son got up on the cross for us. With Jesus’ last breath, He said “it is finished.” It’s done. Praise God for this undeserved favor! His grace abounds where sin fails us. Thank you Jesus!

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10

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