Friending: On God's Time

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The intention of this posting is to offer words of encouragement for you, the reader, and myself.

 

It is important to always keep in mind that

‘God loves us where we are, but he is NOT going to keep us where we are.’

 

In Luke 9:23-24, Jesus tells us straight up, that our lives will be forever changed when we decide to FOLLOW Him. Jesus says,

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me. If you give up your life for me, you will find true life.”

 

What is critical to remember about this call from Jesus, is that following Him and finding true life is a process, not a change that happens instantly. In light of the impending Grandma’s Marathon, we can call it “a marathon, not a sprint.”

 

So what does this mean for us as Christians, and followers of Jesus Christ?

 

Simply, it means we need to be faithful, but it also means we need to be patient.

 

The flat-out truth of the matter is that we are all undeserving sinners, living in a fallen world. And because of that, until we leave this earth and join our Father in His Kingdom, we are going to continue being undeserving sinners, in a fallen world. This is where the patience comes into play.

 

When we give our lives up to God, He starts working on us, immediately. But because we are fallible, imperfect beings, we can never be PERECT in this life. The pull of satan and sin will always be there, and we are bound to slip up from time to time.

 

As followers of Jesus, the good news is that we have the guidance and opportunity to challenge our sinful tendencies, and work on becoming victorious over them, no matter what that sin may be.

 

The greatest sin that I personally struggle with on a day-to-day basis, is anger. If something does not go my way, or follow the plan that I had in mind, I am often very fast to respond with harsh words or actions (body language) that are hurtful. As a husband, this means I sometimes say (or don’t say) insensitive things that only serve to cause dispute or hurt between my wife and myself. What KILLS ME about this, is that I AM FULLY AWARE, of how much I suck in these moments.

 

I frequently ask to God to offer me a soft heart in these moments, and to help me communicate and treat my wife in a way that selflessly serves her. And when I put aside my own agenda and allow God to lead my heart in this way, HE DOES. And an amazing thing happens: the dynamic of the interaction with my wife changes dramatically, and is fruitful! Whenever I do things my way, IT NEVER WORKS. I need to be mindful and prayerful of this every day, because over the course of the marathon that is my life on this earth, it keeps me on track.

 

The point of sharing this is that I want us all to be aware that GOD IS WORKING ON YOU, AND IN YOUR LIFE. It does not matter what you have done in your past, or where you are now, God loves you right there. But when we give ourselves up to God, and let Him take control, we will not stay there. Our personal marathons will sometimes be met with cramps, hills, and slower miles, but a heart that is for God, and focused on God, will always finish the race, victorious!

 

 

“Heavenly Father, you know my heart, and you know the sin that I am struggling with today. And I acknowledge that I am not capable of overcoming that sin on my own agenda. I want to give that sin up to you today, and every day, Lord. Give me a heart that is soft, one that is focused on serving you, and the people in my life. I know that I cannot tackle the challenge of my sin on my own, and I give you control, God.”

 

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Contributed by

Tom Lyscio

 

Watch the full message associated with this blog post HERE

Friending: Show Me Your Friends, I'll Show You Your Future

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Have you heard the old saying, “Show me your friends and i’ll show you your future"?

Where have you seen the truth of that statement in your own life?

The friends we choose are important. In fact, the right friends can change the course of your life completely! Of course the opposite is true, as well, and the wrong friends can bring you down. 

 

Only 25 years ago the average American had 6 close life long friends, while today the average American only has 2 close friends, if any at all.

God wants more for you than that. He desires that you have close friends to live life with. 

 

Read John 13:34-35

 

How can we rediscover the art of friendship? 

 

The best way to start, starts with you! 

 

Be a friend that is PRESENT.

 

Be a friend that is not afraid to GET OPEN

 

We confess to God for forgiveness and we confess to each other for healing. 

 

Choose to be and OPEN and PRESENT friend and watch who God brings into your life! 

 

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Not A Fan: What Is Enough?

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Jesus loves you right where you are,

but He doesn’t want to leave you where you are.

He desires for you to grow and move forward. This desire causes Him to ask us some life changing questions that aren’t always easy to answer. In John, chapter 6, Jesus has some people hanging around Him for the wrong reasons and He calls them out on it. Some choose to stay and follow Jesus, others run the other way. 

Read John 6:1-71

What would your response be to Jesus? 

 

WHEN JESUS IS THE ONLY THING ON THE MENU, YOU FIND OUT IF HE IS THE ONE YOU WERE REALLY HUNGRY FOR. 

 

WHEN YOU REALLY KNOW JESUS AS LORD, YOU DON”T WANT TO LEAVE HIM.

 

WE DON'T KNOW THE DAY, BUT WE KNOW HIS NAME. 

 

We aren’t always offered the guarantee we want, but Jesus does offer a guarantee. 

Jesus guarantees that if you put your trust in Him, He will never fail you. 

He guarantees that if you stake your life on His message of truth, He will stake His life on your eternity in Heaven. 

Jesus guarantees that if you put your trust and hope in Him, He’ll guide you to an eternity with God the Father. 

We don’t know the day, but we know His name. And as Scripture tells us... 

by His name alone, men are saved.

 

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Grace > Rules

 

What distinguishes a fan of Jesus, from a follower of Jesus?

Very simply, it boils down to this question:

Who is leading your life? You or Jesus?

 

To truly follow Jesus, we must submit our hearts and everything we have for Him, and to Him. He wants to give us new life, and change our hearts. But how does Jesus do this? Through Grace.

 

Jesus loves us unconditionally, right where we are, no matter what we have done in our past, and that can ONLY be accomplished through grace, because none of us deserve Jesus’ love. And by being followers of Jesus, we are called to show that same grace to others. In Romans 10:14-15, Jesus specifically tells us to share the news about His love to EVERYONE, so that WE can bring more people to Him.

 

In today’s society, the topics of “church” and “religion” are unfortunately a walking-on-eggshells situation for many people. This is for a number of reasons, but often it seems to stem from bad experiences with a church in the past, or the RULES that non-followers associate with churches and organized Christianity.

 

Many people that are not followers of Jesus unfortunately associate Christianity with picketing, protesting, or feelings of being unwelcome or judged by “church people.”

 

By trying to live out the values and guidelines laid before us by Jesus, many Christians generate a system of rules that misses the mark of following Jesus, and actually serve to turn people away from Him. Living by rules is very cumbersome, and only serves to create separation amongst fans and followers. Even one of the greatest philosophical minds in our history made note of this:

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

-Ghandi

 

By being aware of this separation, we have the opportunity to reach people for Christ in a radical way. The driving focus we need to have in our mission to be disciples for Jesus, is to have GRACE for ALL people, not to lay out a system of rules for how someone ought to live.

 

As we move forward and grow as the Body of Christ, our mission should be to love people, WHEREVER they may be at. This does not mean that “anything goes” or that we leave people where they are. Rather, it means we show love, and share the truth about Jesus, so that people can be changed, through Him and His power.

 

We are the body of Christ and are specifically instructed, by Jesus, to show grace and bring more people to Him. Let this be our prayer as we interact with people this week:

 

“Heavenly Father, thank you for your unconditional love for me. Even though I am undeserving, you gave Yourself, and Your life, so that I can be saved and have new life. I pray that I can have the same heart, and to see ALL people as you do. Help me to love people and share the good news about You with them, so that they can be drawn to you, and made new as I have.”
 
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-Contributed by

Tom L.

Not A Fan: Rules, Rules, Rules

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Rules, rules, rules!

We’ve all been there, TRAPPED by rules:

“the fifty five mph speed limit where it should be sixty five”

“no jumping or diving when the pool is ten feet deep”

“no shoes, no shirt, no service”

...rules can be so cumbersome and uninspiring! 

Rules don’t get you into heaven or make you right with God. 

Please understand:

God’s Word provides both guidance and commandments. And those commandments, those laws, they are here to protect us. And, if we’re honest, none of us can follow those laws perfectly.

If we know we aren't perfect and can’t follow the “rules” perfectly...

are we doomed?!!

No!

God offers us grace!

You cannot earn grace and you don’t deserve grace. It’s a gift. 

Read John 8:1-11

 

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Not A Fan: Don't BUY IN to Jesus

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Why can't I feel God's presence?

Why don't I see things changing in my life?

 

"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." -1 Corinthians 1:27 (NIV)

 

Who do you identify with?

Abraham and Sarah were old.

Jacob was insecure.

Leah was unattractive.

Joseph was LABELED AND humiliated.

Moses was scattered.

Gideon was poor.

Samson was proud.

Rahab was a prostitute and immoral.

David had an affair.

Elijah was suicidal.

Jeremiah was depressed.

Jonah was disobedient.

Naomi was a widow.

Peter was impulsive and hot tempered.

Martha was a worrier.

The Samaritan woman had several failed marriages.

Zaccheus was unpopular, greedy, and annoying.

Thomas doubted.

Paul had poor health.

Timothy was timid.

...But...

...they discovered their weakness and God became mighty and strong in their life.

>>> It's hard and it hurts,

...but if you can give up your weakness, God can strengthen your life!

 

Jesus doesn't want you to BUY IN to Him with the valuable things you have...

...He wants you to GIVE UP to Him your worst parts!

 

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Yada, Yada, Yada

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Yada, Yahweh

 

Say that three times fast! This Hebrew tongue twister carries a powerful teaching lesson, and should be our focus point whether we are just starting, or continuing to grow, in our walk with Jesus.

 

Yada means: to know, and to be completely known.

Yahweh is the Hebrew word for God, our Father.

 

Together, YADA + YAHWEH show us how to be a follower of God.

 

We don’t just need to know about God, we need to know Him.

 

But what does it mean to know God, exactly? In the simplest terms, it means having an intimate relationship with Him. And to clarify, people often think of intimate as meaning the lovey-dovey, mushy stuff. That’s not the intimate we’re talking about here.

When we become intimate with God, it means we give up everything that we have for Him, and to Him.

 

It means we submit completely to Him. God wants us to offer up our strengths, weaknesses, worries, and faults, and trust in Him with our lives. God wants us to live out the purpose and plan He has set for us. This usually means forgetting our own agendas, and trusting God in the good and bad times.

 

The story of the “immoral woman” in Luke 7:36-50, shows us exactly what an intimate relationship with God looks like. In the midst of the Pharisees (the ones that possessed all spiritual knowledge, rituals, and “did everything right”), this sinful and broken woman interrupts their superficial show and submits completely to Jesus, right in front of them! With a lowly reputation and full of shame, this woman presented herself to Jesus in a vulnerable way, with all of her shortcomings, completely trusting in the redeeming power and love of a relationship with Him. 

 

She submitted her old life, and all the baggage that went along with it,

so that she could be made new.

 

Because of her radical and intimate faith, she was able to know Jesus in a way that

changed her life forever!

 

The good news is

that God is ready to have the same relationship with every, single one of us! A relationship where...

...God knows you intimately

Check out Psalm 139:1-4 if you want some reassurance on this.

...You know God in the same way

Yada is referenced over and over throughout the Bible, so it’s obviously important to God!

FANS choose knowledge of God, Followers Choose to know God

We can go to church, pray the prayers and sing the songs. But if we don’t create an intimate relationship with God, where we give it all up to Him, we are missing the mark.

 

This week, let’s have this be our prayer:

“Father God, I want to know you.

You already know everything there is to know about me.

Help me to know You in that same way.

Give me the radical faith to submit everything that I have, completely to You.

I want to give You control and trust in Your plan for my life, not my own plans.

Help me to be mindful of this every single day.

Thank you for Your relentless love!"

 

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contributed by

Tom Lyscio

thanks, Tom!

Not A Fan: Knowing vs. REALLY Knowing God

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When you hear that God, the creator of the universe, knows you and wants to be known by you:

does that freak you out or draw you in? 

 

Read Luke 7: 36-50

 

God knows you intimately.

 

God wants you to know Him intimately. 

 

Fans choose knowledge, followers embrace intimacy. 

 

Simon, who is the Pharisee from the story in Luke, had knowledge of Scripture, but didn’t embrace intimacy. He offered Jesus a meal in hopes that he would gain a little more knowledge from a really good teacher. The woman in the story who is the “sinner”, however, knows who Jesus is and desperately wants to know him more. Fighting through the fear that Jesus already knows her and her sins, she throws herself at his feet and weeps. 

 

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.
Psalm 139

 

Are you seeking Jesus to gain more knowledge for yourself or are you wanting to know him more intimately? 

 

Are you a FAN or are you a FOLLOWER?

 

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