Showing items filed under “May 2016”

Come to me…and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11-28

I want you for just one second to picture yourself as the greatest success that you can imagine. What does that look like? I want to suggest that God has a different picture than whatever your vision is. God has a different picture of what you, at your most successful, looks like. I believe with all of my heart that the greatest success of your adult life is to change and become like a well-loved child, like your Father's child!

Much of what you think is "God" may actually just be religious culture. There is a kingdom right behind the veil from where God is reaching out to us through Jesus and we have to break through the veil of human religion, human legalism and human practice and that's where the kingdom comes!

There is "human religion" and then there is the Kingdom of Heaven. There's what we can see with our physical eyes and there's an eternal reality we cannot see. There's what we think is God and there's what is God. There's what we think is true and there's what is true. I want you to just understand that in the religions of men and women, do not automatically assume that those are the same as the kingdom of God!

The kingdom of God is right here around us yet most of us cannot perceive it. Again it's like this room being filled with AM and FM radio waves, there music of every kind playing at this very moment but we're not tuned in! The most dangerous place to be is getting used to hearing and able to ignore. We're used to hearing about the love of God but then we're able to go about our lives the same old dead adult way and it's wrong, it's dead and it's not the kingdom of God that has come. It may be religion and the culture of what you see all around you, but it is not the Kingdom of Heaven come to earth in Christ!

There is an eternal unseen kingdom that is so close to you that you wouldn't believe it, but God wants you to and here's how you get there:

Jesus said something in Matthew 18:3, and it is the key to the kingdom of God. "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven."

Let that sink in. To all the "religious people" who wear robes, have titles and power and use it against - Jesus would say change! You're not on the right track, you have to change and completely become like a little child. In fact, unless you do, you will never see the kingdom of Heaven. So, what Jesus is doing is reversing the whole course of life in a broken world -He's redeeming it!

All kind of crazy things happen as we grow up and there's a deadening of the soul as we continue to walk this path of adulthood in a broken world. We begin life as a little child but along the way we lose our 'kid' and we lose our wonder. We lose our joy and we become self conscience and self critical. We become power seeking and power reaching. We begin to learn racism and classism. We begin to think about ourselves instead of others. We're so eager to grow up and what happens to us is life sucking. It's deadening and we start to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, but Jesus says I'm going to reverse the whole course of life for you!

In Matthew 11:28, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yolk is easy and my burden is light." Jesus was speaking to all the adults who were dead in wonder.

"Come to me" - you gotta take the step! You can't sit back and wait for something else to happen! The ball is in your court, stop waiting for God to make a move when He's already moved all of hell out of your way in the cross!

You were never designed to carry the weight of this broken world.

You were never designed to carry the weight of what God died to bear for you!

Guys, we are the children of God if we have become followers of Jesus and fellow brothers and sisters of Jesus who is the Son. Jesus made us sons and Paul says He sent The Spirit of His son into our hearts! This is not a metaphor this is a defining reality. The spirit who calls out "Abba, Father." It is an Aramaic term, it really doesn't mean father, it means "daddy," and The Spirit of the son lives inside of you if you're a follower of Jesus!

According to Galatians 5:22-23, This is what the spirit produces when the spirit is inside of you, "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." --That's what the spirit of God produces!

You and I have to choose whether we're going to listen soul deep to Jesus and live letting the Father carry the burdens of life or whether we're going to listen to ourselves and die carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. You see when we've become broken by God, we become children who humbly and wholeheartedly place themselves under Jesus' Infinite authority and Jesus said "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." -Dr. Drew Shofner

The goal of God is maturity!

The most powerful things

A topic that often isn't dealt with in churches, is the topic of doubt. No one in the Bible, outside of Jesus, has received higher praise than John the Baptist -and yet John the Baptist struggled, questioned and doubted. And maybe if God affirmed him in his struggle, maybe today God has something to say to you!

John the Baptist had had an amazing effective ministry preaching the coming of the Messiah out in the wilderness, and people had flocked from Jerusalem to hear this prophet speak the truth of God. And for speaking the truth, John was arrested by Herod and thrown into prison and John knew that his day of death was near. Matthew 11:1-3 "After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee." So John sent his disciples when he saw that Christ was near to ask him "Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?" 

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” 

This is an important detail to the conversation at this point because Jesus has something to say about John that He says intentionally after John's disciples have left so that this message does not get back immediately to John. As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: 

What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:

‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." (Matthew 11:7-11)

What I want to share with you today is 'what it means to trust' and how we deal with doubt and fear and questions. The truth is, that I believe with all of my heart, that struggling through doubt is the heart of trusting! It's the heart of what it means to trust God! Not that we live in the absence of, but in the presence of doubt and questions, struggling through those toward Jesus Christ, we are expressing the highest heart of faith!

Believers throughout the centuries, from the early church fathers have talked about something called 'The Dark Night of the Soul.' - The Dark Night of the Soul is that time when God seems to be in eclipse! When the promises of God seem so far away from the realities of the moment. When God seems so distance and so absent, it is as though you were living in a God eclipse and in that dark, it is cold and it is death dealing and you feel alone and you feel flawed and you're wondering is it God? Is there a God? Is it you? What's wrong with me? But certainly this can't be right!

I want to share with you that everyone experiences a 'Dark night of the Soul'. Hear me, all you who are committed followers of Christ, you need to know that doubt is a normal part of the Christian life! It's an inevitable part of broken people discovering and entering into eternal life while passing through a very broken world! 

Sometimes the experiences in life just seem so much more real than the promises of Jesus and in cultural Christianity, we learn to be dishonest and pretty unreal quickly in our lives but the God of scripture is a God that never leads us to pretend! One of the things that just makes me convinced of the reality of the scripture is just how the people in scripture are revealed. 

I mean Noah after landing in the ark, gets drunk and is lying naked in his tent - well my hero is not like that! King David is committing adultery with a woman and then murders her husband! Well if I'm writing the Bible, I'm kind of editing those parts! And Jesus, my superhero, when He's on the cross, He's not gonna ask any questions! He's God, He has all the answers, He's not gonna cry out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" The very fact that the Bible is so real and so raw and so human and so true, is one of the things that convinces me that this is the revelation of God - this is truth!

So how is it that we've become 'plastic' in gathering as a church? We have this idea that to be a real Christian means that I've got it all together! That I'm not hurting, that I have answers and that life is good because God loving me means that everything is OK - it's not a struggle! 

Guys, I just want to be honest with you and tell you that I've been in many seasons where my soul felt in total eclipse of God.

Chuck DeGroat talks about 'Dark Nights' and he says "Dark nights provoke deep questions." Guys, as followers of Christ in the example of scripture, don't walk away from your questions! Read the book of Job if you want to see how questioning is handled with God...God can handle your questions and He will answer! 

Deep questions deserve deep answers and so often we throw shallow answers into the face of the deep. Don't give shallow answers to deep pain! I know we all want to do that, we all want to fill in the pain, but sometimes the deepest answers are found in a holy silence - in seasons of brokenness and just listening in the presence of God!

Dark nights are both spiritual and psychological. They are spiritual and you have an enemy who is out to destroy you! He feeds off your pain, your tears are his drink! He is intelligent, he is strategic, he watches. He is not all powerful so there's no reason to be afraid of him, I'm just saying let's not be naive, we have an enemy who is actively at work to trip us up, bring us down, to literally destroy us and laugh at us! 

Have you ever been tempted to do something and then after you do it...what's the voice that comes back in? "You idiot! How dumb can you be? You worthless person!" And you're like "you just told me that this would be great and awesome and it's not!" That's your enemy- that's who he is.

There is a profound spiritual basis for the 'Dark Nights of the Soul' for those seasons of struggling and times for questioning where we don't have all the perfect evidence and we're looking through the glass darkly and there is a very spiritual game being played out here. The reality is there are also psychological elements to that and you can't deny that!

The simple truth is, that you will come to a place, or have been in a place, or are in a place where the pain and the dark and the apparent distance of God are so deep that you will struggle and you will question and you will doubt - God does not condemn you for that! 

Jesus said "Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist..." John the Baptist was mature, he knew and yet he still said "are you the one?

Faith is letting Jesus be bigger than your pain. Jesus being more real than the darkness that you feel. It's allowing Jesus Christ to be the light in your darkness! We think sometimes faith means having no darkness, having no struggle, having no pain. No, real faith is struggling through doubt toward Jesus; that is the heart of trusting! You just gotta keep going! Keep moving towards Jesus, because the reality is there is a doubting that is a dialing back and turning away from Jesus and then there is a doubt that is a coming alive and fighting forward and struggling to see Jesus and to move toward him! 

You see the goal of God is maturity - a faith that leans on the infinite glory of Jesus and Jesus Christ alone! That's God's goal for your life - that you trust in Jesus alone! That the issue of your life is not your spouse, it is not your child, not your finances or your health or your past, it is not the fear of your future, the issue of your life is Jesus! Turning to Him, He becomes your foundation, He becomes your trust and though you struggle, you struggle forward in faith successfully - that is the heart of trusting! -Dr. Drew Shofner

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

trust in the lord

Proverbs 3:4-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding..." You and I cannot understand the scope and scale of all that is around us, "But in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." Trusting Him will change your life and your destiny! If you're following Him and you're struggling away from Jesus, I want to challenge you to struggle and walk toward Jesus because He will change your destiny.  That's the miracle of God's love given in Jesus!

You see the goal of God is maturity - A faith that is not trapped in broken emotions locked in one moment of time. A faith that leans on the infinite glory of Jesus and Jesus Christ alone, that's God's goal for your life that you trust in Jesus alone! That the issue of your life is not your spouse, it is not your child, not your finances or your health or your past, it is not the fear of your future, the issue of your life is Jesus! Turning to Him, He becomes your foundation, He becomes your trust and though you struggle, you struggle forward in faith successfully - that is the heart of trusting!

When you make Jesus - and not your pain - the issue, something happens in the presence of the glory of God and the imagination of the restoration! Our pain begins to shrink down to the size of a marble and it is not our pain that is so big and overwhelming - it is our savior! The hope of Jesus will change your life! It will give you new perspective and give you hope.  And you will be able to struggle through just as Jesus did on the cross, on to the resurrection and on to glory! -Dr. Drew Shofner

Come Out of Your Darkness

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But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises
of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
(1 Peter 2:9)

The world is so broken and so is everyone who inhabits it. This brokenness makes life hard sometimes.

We lose our jobs.

Friends and family pass away.

Our relationships break.

We struggle with sickness.


These kinds of circumstances can make us doubt God, a doubt that is real at one time or another for everyone (if we are being real about it). 


We wonder if God is really there. 

If he really loves us. 

If he even cares.
 

When you try to handle the darkness alone, it can engulf your life. If you stuff your feelings, ignore your questions, or put on a mask and pretend everything is okay, you will remain in that dark, dark night.

But struggling through the doubt is the heart of trusting Jesus. 

When you throw your doubt towards Jesus, you will hear his sweet voice through Scripture, songs, and Messages leading you out of your darkness. 

How do you struggle through doubt?

  • Ask God your questions. He won’t rebuke you. He will show you who he is. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)
  • Read the Bible and ask God to reveal his character and love. He will make verses come alive showing you great and wonderful things you did not know. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
  • Talk to your Connect Group and find comfort in their godly encouragement. Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25)
  • And above all, make Jesus—not your pain—the central issue of your life. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30) 

Instead of running away from Jesus because of your pain, face him with your pain, and let him call you out of your darkness and into his wonderful light.

The Essentials of Communion

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For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup,
you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

(
1 Corinthians 11:26)

Most people have heard of communion, but many are unfamiliar with either its meaning or significance.

 Communion symbolizes and celebrates the most important doctrines of the church and the very essence of the gospel message. Communion is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian.

 Jesus instituted communion during the Last Supper, the night before he was crucified. At that time, Jesus explained its meaning. His simply spoken explanation is deeply profound:

Take, eat; this is my body…Drink, for this is my blood of the new covenant…

 Several aspects of communion have deep significance for Christians, and, indeed, all of mankind. 

Communion is all about our relationship with God.

Jesus expressed his deep desire for a relationship with us on that unforgettable night. Jesus said, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15)

Why? Because he is eager to enter into the lives of his disciples and he wants to share his life with us. 

We have a relationship with God because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

 In Matthew’s account of the Last Supper, we read:

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)

The “blood of the new covenant” – Jesus’ blood – was shed “for the remission of sins.” Our sins. 

Unless we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus, we have no life. It is through identifying with Jesus’ sacrifice that we enter into a relationship with him. Jesus referred to this as a “covenant.” (A covenant is a binding agreement.)

At the time, the disciples did not grasp the enormity of what had just transpired. Jesus replaced the old covenant of works and obedience with a new covenant of grace and faith. (See Hebrews chapter 8 regarding why the new covenant is a better covenant built on better promises.)

We have a relationship with God through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

In Luke’s record of the Last Supper, we read:

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) 

Jesus wants us to remember – to both commemorate and celebrate – his sacrifice for us. It is through his sacrifice that we can approach the throne of God. We do that by coming (figuratively) to the foot of the cross. It is at the cross that we apprehend the body and blood of Christ.

Jesus referred to himself as the “door” (John 10:9) and “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). That door – that pathway to God – is the cross. We need to walk through that Door.

 Jesus offers us a never-ending relationship with him.

Remember Jesus’ fervent desire “to eat this Passover with you before I suffer”? Jesus’ next words point to our final destination in Paradise.

Jesus continued, “…for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:16)

Until what is fulfilled? The salvation of all those who accept the blood of Jesus as atonement for their sins.

Jesus offers each of us eternal life with him in heaven. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus gives us an invitation: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.”

Through communion, Jesus offers us the opportunity to dine with him; to partake of the bread and the wine, which symbolize his broken body and shed blood. The time of communion invites us to commemorate Jesus' sacrifice and to remember that our relationship with God is made possible only because of what Jesus did. 

 

 

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