World Changers?

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We all want to change the world, at least we start out that way. Every new generation is bent on making an impact; you go to high schools and colleges and ask the kids what they want to do and they all, in one iteration or another, will tell you they want to make a difference, to change the world. As we get older the enthusiasm wanes as we realize that just surviving takes so much energy and the world is such a large place that we give up hope of changing anything—except maybe our own circumstances, and even that can be futile.

We go from making the world a better place to ‘make my world a better place.’ ‘I just want to pay the bills, have a nice place to live and be happy.’ Ironically if we do get a nice place to live and can pay the bills we find ourselves wanting a nicer place to live and end up with bigger bills to stress about. In the end it all presents itself to us as, just what Simon Peter would come to call, an empty way of life, futile and aimless.

Simon Peter had gotten to that place, feeling empty, living an aimless, futile life. But then his boat was rocked and his world changed forever by the true world changer.

Then He (Jesus) got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.

When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” Luke 3

global-heart

 

A heart changed is a world changed.

Jesus got into Peter’s boat so that he could use it as a platform to preach to a multitude of people, a crowd so large and enthusiastic that Jesus actually got into the boat in part to escape being overrun by them. Yet what does he do? He turns to Peter and tells him to push out into the water, “We’re going fishing, just you and me buddy.”

Jesus did come to change the world, yet, with what looks to us as the world clamoring for his attention, a perfect opportunity to reach more and more, double, triple the size of his growing congregation, to keep the momentum going and reach the multitudes, he leaves them standing on the shore, and focuses on one—one somewhat reluctant man.  A man most wouldn’t have given a second thought let alone worth the time to mentor. But Jesus would  spend the next three years doing just that.

Why would he do this? Because Jesus knows that a heart changed is a world changed. 

The world is not made up of throngs, it is made up of individuals. Each and every one of which has hopes, dreams and aspirations; pains, trials and challenges; fears and regrets. And each and every person, each and every heart, has a place inside that no one knows but them, no one can truly experience, truly understand, a deep place where we live day in and day out.

It is our world, an entire world within us that we may not truly understand ourselves, we may not even like. But there is one other who does understand, who truly sees and hears what goes on in that world and wants to be a part of it. That is Jesus. Whether we let him in or not, whether we allow him full partnership in our world or not, he knows it still, he experiences our world with us and he wants to change it and to share it with us— with our permission and complete trust.

That world within us is just as large to Jesus as it is to us, it is just as important, perhaps more important to him as it is to us. Jesus knows that if he can change that world,  take away the pain, take away the fear, take away the hopelessness and frustration, he has done something huge, something wonderful, he has changed a world—he has ransomed you from a world of death into a world of life.

And that is the entire reason he came and died, to change your world. And if enough worlds are truly changed, enough hearts set free to be who he created them to be, then the world will be changed as well and become what he created it to be. A beautiful home for his most precious creation, mankind. Finally free from the curse, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God and now living in that reality.

A heart changed is indeed, a world changed.

Who is in charge in your world? You will never change anything worth changing until you can answer that question with one word— Jesus.

 

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18—19 NIV

All else is only emptiness, a chasing after the wind.

heart changed

 

 

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Stop Spinning

How do you fly this thing?-old-fighter-plane_gyrm-wk_

The standard question in the days after Christmas is: ”Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?” I’m to the point in my life where I don’t care so much what, if anything, I get for gifts for Christmas. Yes it’s nice to get things, mostly because it means a lot to me that someone cared enough to make the effort, but to me I cherish much more the time spent with people I love, time is always a priceless gift.

And, if you’re like me, you probably get a lot more satisfaction out of being able to bless someone else with a special gift. That’s something that’s drilled into our heads as kids: “It’s better to give than to receive!” But seriously, how many of you when you were say; 10 years old, really believed that? How many nights did you lie awake dreaming of what you were going to find under the tree on Christmas morning, or start pestering your parents weeks before your birthday to make sure they knew exactly what you wanted for your special day.

That sense of excitement and anticipation is something you never forget and have a hard time replicating as an adult, where reality replaces fantasy and Santa Claus gives you the bill. But what a joy it is to help make holidays special for others, especially kids, not just with presents but by building traditions and memories that kids will treasure forever. The presents may soon lose their luster but the time you spent with them never will.

Cox

Speaking of toys that lose their luster. How many of you are old enough to remember the old Cox gasoline engine toys? Little scale model cars and planes that had little gas powered motors— great toys for little boys. The cars and trucks you just started up and set them down to watch them scream on until they crashed into something, no control whatsoever.

Then there was the planes. I remember walking through a department store with my Dad and seeing a P-51 Mustang  with WW II army paint and telling him, “That’s what I want for my birthday.” No doubt about it—he wasn’t so sure, a 12 inch long airplane with an internal combustion engine tied to a string didn’t strike him as the best toy for a kid turning 11 years old, and it was kind of expensive.

But sure enough, on my birthday, while visiting my Dad in Minnesota, I got my brand new Cox P-51 Mustang. I was thrilled beyond words and I couldn’t wait to try it out. I had to wait a few days till we could find a big empty parking lot that would make a sufficient airfield. So we break out the big bad airplane, squirt the fuel into the little bitty gas tank and start spinning the prop with a finger; Brbrbr, brbrbrr brbrbr—nothing, prime it again- Brbrbr, Brbrbr, Brbrbr Rmmmm, sputter Brbrbr. We did this for what seemed like forever until finally it roared to life.

Now the concept of the infamous Cox model airplanes was that you flew the plane on the end of about 30 feet of string, two strings tied to a handle which served as your control. If you moved your hand one way if would make the flaps go up and if you moved the other way it would make the flaps go down, making your plane go up or down.

And of course the only way you could do this was to stand in one spot and fly your plane around in a big circle until your plane ran out of fuel and you gracefully glided it in for a landing.

So while my Dad held on to my now running airplane I ran to my control handle carefully laid out thirty feet away, and my Dad lets go of the plane, as I skillfully manipulate the flaps sending my little P-51 about 15 feet into the air. Now these little gas powered things really cruise which means to keep up with it you have to start spinning in circles as this things flies around you on the end of your marionette style strings.

This is all good and well until you get dizzy. I don’t know how many times I spun around in circles but I was dizzy long before the plane ran out of fuel and I lost control causing my plane to make a very ugly emergency landing— a crash in layman’s terms. The plane was a little scuffed up but still intact and, as my head stopped spinning, we packed up my plane and went home.

Gee, that wasn’t near as fun as I thought it would bemaybe next time. A few weeks later back home in New Mexico I grabbed my best buddie and off we went with my treasured plane to the paved school yard determined to conquer the skies over the Land of Enchantment.

I fueled her up, spun the prop, Brbrbr, brbrbrsputter, sputter— this went on forever. I’ll bet it was a good 45 minutes before we finally got it to start, and keep, running. When it did my buddie held the plane while I ran to grab the controls determined to not let myself get dizzy this time but before I knew it I was wobbling and my plane was going up and down, higher and higher with each pass as I was losing all control of myself and my plane until it just nosedived into the asphalt.

That was the end of my pilot career. My precious P-51 was broken into several pieces. I literally spent years—it still crosses my mind now and then— wondering; “How in the world are you supposed to fly one of these things without getting dizzy?!” I still haven’t figure it out.

Maybe no one did, that might be why you don’t see them anymore.

Thots

Apply that to a church—how do you fly one of these things without getting dizzy? I hope I’m doing better with my church. How do you pastor one of these things without getting dizzy? Well, I guess the short answer is, stop spinning in circles. Most would argue you can’t do that with a Cox model plane or with a church, but the Lord tells me otherwise— at least with the church.

Preparing my sermon for the week—the first of the new year, a time when I like to look ahead at the year and seek the Lord for guidance, maybe a theme for the coming year— I was reminded of this scripture from Psalms:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.
Psalm 127

I can’t control this thing for very long any more than I could control that airplane for more than a few rounds, it’s beyond me, it’s supposed to be beyond me—it’s supposed to be Jesus— he is the pilot, and he has state of the art radio controls that allow him to fly this plane anywhere he desires—if we’ll just cut those strings and let it fly.

Most churches struggle with that, most pastors are afraid to do that, and I contend that is why most pastors at some point crash—trust me when I say this, I have witnessed it over and over again many times, they are getting dizzy and crashing, left and right.

We strive to be a Spirit led church— not program driven, not agenda driven. The Lord has given me an overall vision and direction for this ministry but the only way to be true to that is to follow Jesus step by step and day by day. Otherwise we will spend all our time planning and scheming and then stressing over implementing our plans.

Yes we need to do some planning but our plans must always fit into the mission the Lord has given me for our church to be a place of healing, restoration and hope, and all our plans have to be brought before the Lord in prayer and for guidance and wisdom.

Of course the best plans are the ones that develop as a result of the Lord planting something in our hearts.  In that case, more often than not, it’s a matter of being ready, and patient, at the same time, as the Lord works to bring his plans into fruition while we are ready to move when he says move.

Where is he taking you? Let go of the strings and just follow.

 

“By the grace of God I am what I am”

 

Theremanger-1024x580website2’s a verse that has been on my mind lately, because of Christmas coming and because I just had a new grandson born to me this week, and another grandchild coming within weeks—maybe days.

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Gal 4:4,5

But there’s another verse that kept coming to mind also, one that actually says quite the opposite of what we just read about Jesus being born at just the right time— The one about the Apostle Paul being untimely or abnormally born. I guess what struck me was that even the Apostle Paul wrestled with thinking that God’s timing was a challenge to understand and was seemingly bemoaning the fact that he might have been spared a lot that he had to repent of if he had been born again sooner.

 last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.  1 Cor 15:9,10 NKJ

What Paul seems to be missing—at least if we just take that statement at face value— is that it is exactly because of all that he had to repent of, all that he had done in the past that he was ashamed of, that he deeply regretted and was now forgiven of— that the gift of graced that allowed him to be forgiven, was all the more appreciated specifically because he did know the depths of his grievous trespasses. Because he knew how wrong he was and how far he had gone from the truth of God’s word and ways, he was now passionate about that grace and wanted nothing more than to share it with the world.

He saw the light and it was all the more brilliant because of the depths of darkness that had consumed his heart. He was one who had been forgiven much so he loved much. He realized that even though he thought he had a clear cut mission before— to destroy the heretical Jesus followers—he had been hopelessly lost, he had been floundering for years.

Floundering

As believers we’ve all been there. We all floundered for a time, stumbling in the dark, not sure why were are here or where we are going. We may have chosen a path, set our jaw and gone full steam ahead, like Paul before he discovered his purpose, before he had his eyes opened to the truth of Jesus Christ, quite literally in fact as he actually saw the resurrected Lord and was blinded as a result, but later had his sight restored and with that he was given a new life, a new purpose. He discovered his place in Christ. He was born again into the Kingdom, in his words; as one abnormally born.

In Paul’s mind he was chosen last of all the other apostles because he was least deserving. He had been one who, while he was still stumbling in the dark, was actually persecuting the church, seeking with every resource he had to destroy the young church by killing every believer in Jesus if he had to.

Yet in God’s time—in the fullness of time you could say—Paul, by his own admission, worked harder than anyone to spread the good news that had so radically changed his perception and life. He felt he owed it to his Lord, that he had been so lost, so wrong, so evil in his zeal to destroy every last vestige of this fledgling faith in a resurrected Nazarene— that he devoted all his remaining days, facing danger and hardship at every turn, to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yet Paul would be the first to say, in fact he said it many times, that he didn’t work so hard to earn his salvation; salvation is a gift, a very expensive gift indeed, but one whose price has been paid by the Lord Jesus Christ and not one we have to earn, we just need to believe and receive. Paul knew that, he was certainly not deserving of anything from the Lord but a good whack upside the head, yet he was given grace and a new lease on life with a clear cut mission and purpose.  Paul worked so hard out of gratitude, not fear— or to earn his salvation.

As he would tell the church at Ephesus:

 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. Eph 2:7-9

Because he had been so lost and so wrong, for so long, Paul could think of nothing he would rather do, no endeavor more pressing or pertinent than devoting himself to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.

Paul had found his purpose, Paul had no doubt now that Jesus had not called him by accident, that what may have seemed untimely or abnormal, was indeed the perfect time because if it had not been for Paul’s years of studying the Torah, all the years of searching for answers, seeking to know and please the God of Abraham, by striving to be perfect in every way as a Hebrew of Hebrews, attaining the vaulted office of a Pharisee— if he had not been so zealous for his faith that he even oversaw the killing of the first Christian Martyr— Stephen—if he had not been so zealous for God’s word, yet so blinded to the very fulfillment of all his promises at the same time— he would likely not have been so Zealous for Jesus and his church.

Jesus came to Paul at just the right time, he who had been born in the fullness of time knew exactly the right time to give Paul his wake up call. Jesus set Paul on a path that would lead him exactly where he needed to be and exactly when he needed to be there— if he hadn’t the world would likely be a very different place today.

Your Call?

What has God called you to do? What did he call you from, what makes you say; “Lord, why did you wait so long to rescue me, to reveal yourself to me?” Actually a better question would be: “What took me so long to recognize and acknowledge you Lord?” Then ask; has the grace extended to me been in vain? Have I used the life he saved me from to shape my future or is it just regrets and heartache— something I am still angry about?

Jesus didn’t mess up, everything came together at just the right time, he put you here, he led you here, he called you and got your attention,  you are where you are on purpose and— if you are not already— God wants to set you on a path and use you to change the world.

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.

And by the way, my 4 day old grandson is doing very well, his name is Shane and he weighed in at 6lbs, 13oz. His mother, my daughter, is recovering well also. Praise God!