Keep Your Eyes on Jesus

When they saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. “It's a ghost!” they said, and screamed with fear. Jesus spoke to them at once. “Courage!” he said. “It is I. Don't be afraid!” (Matthew 14:26-27)

How are you dealing with your fears so far this week?

Are you letting them overcome you, or have you found the strength in Christ to press through them? No matter where you are on that spectrum, there is hope.

When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, he was able to overcome his fear. But once he lost sight of Jesus and began to doubt, that is the moment he started to sink.

Keep your eyes on Jesus. He has set the example for us, and he has the strength that we all lack. He is stretching out his hand to us, and all you have to do is grab hold, never let go, and never look back.

 If you find yourself struggling, remember the words to the song “Oceans” (Hillsong United): 

Your grace abounds in deepest waters

Your sovereign hand will be my guide

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me

 

 

You've never failed me and You won't start now

His grace abounds, no matter where you are. It’s never too late. There is no fear too great nor sorrow too deep where he cannot find you. Reach out your hand and call on him. He will lift you up.

Even David, oftentimes considered to be one of the greatest kings of all time, knew fear. Time and again he called out to God because he knew that with him, even a small boy could face a giant.

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me; he freed me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4)


 

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How far is too far gone?

How far is too far gone

How far is too far gone? I mean you're alive! How many years has it been that Jesus has been reaching into your life? I'm just telling you that it's impossible to be too far gone! You just have to be willing to believe that you're lovable! Maybe not by your goodness, but because God is so astonishingly good that He chooses to love beyond what we deserve -beyond anything! We're not faking Him out, He knows and He loves anyway!

I don't know why we keep our distance from God -but we do! I know I do at times, but keeping your distance from God is like not taking a shower because you want to get cleaned up first. We feel like "I'm not good enough to come into the presence of God," and we keep our distance from God in so many ways, for so many wrong and so many lesser reasons. 

One of the reasons we keep our distance from God is ignorance, we simply don't see Jesus anywhere in our world. We feel like how can I move toward somebody that I don't know is there? I don't see them." So, we just don't know the story of love that has invaded life and that's one of the reasons we want to go on the road is to help people see Jesus in their life!

Another reason we keep our distance from God is arrogance. We see Jesus in our life or we see the story of Jesus but we just see no need. We're like "I got this, I'm OK!" For some of us in our arrogance, our religious relationship with Jesus is kind of like with the fire department, "If I need you, I'll call you, but if you show up before then it's kind of an embarrassment with the neighbors you know? So, Jesus, keep your distance, I'm good I got this and I really don't need you!"

The truth is, that small snapshot of "I'm OK right now," is not sustainable. 

When we fear God in a negative way, that's another reason we keep our distance - we just don't think He's good! We may feel like "If God comes into my life, He's just going to take away the things that I want and I just don't think He's good!" Have any of you all ever heard people say "If I give my life to God, He's gonna send me to Africa?" 

Let me just tell you, when I went to Africa, I wanted to stay! I would have loved to have been privileged to answer the call to be with some of the brothers and sisters there! I experienced more community and connection there in a village in two weeks than I have in some churches for years!

God's will is good - there's nothing to fear! There is no reason to stay away from love and there are so many of us here who are just stuck in some bad and dark places and today I want to tell you some stories from Matthew 9:18-34 that are stories of the touch of God that I think can change our lives and lead us from bad broken places to forever changed and hopeful places!

In Matthew 9:18, Jesus just made a statement that what He came to bring to the world was not religion! He no longer finishes speaking when a ruler comes up to Him and says 'My daughter just died!' He's kneeling down, broken before Jesus. Who can imagine the loss of a child? Your world just collapsed! And he says "But if you'll come and put your hand on her…" 

Where did that come from?  Faith! He imagined the touch of God! That there is so much life in Jesus, that 'life' would change death back to life! 

And so he comes to Jesus and says "If you'll just touch her…she will live!" This is just a picture of the power of the touch of God! Jesus got up and went with him and so did His disciples. You may not have lost a child, some of you have, but there are times when most of us will come to a place where we've lost everything that matters to us! And the question is --what now? Where's life now? What I built my life for and what I hoped for is gone. Where is my life now and what will I do?

You see, life is all about interpretation because you can interpret everything in great ways or in crazy ways! When Jesus raised Lazarus, half of the crowd thought it was amazing and the other half said we should kill him! Now, we can look at Jesus and we can interpret this positively or negatively and we can look at our lives and look at them positively or negatively! We can look at setbacks and failures positively or negatively. 

How we interpret life changes everything and how you interpret your life when everything that maters to you has been lost and you're asking this question "Where is my life now?" Let me just encourage you to reach out for the touch of Jesus! To interpret this as an amazing opportunity to see God work in your life! So, here's what I want you to do, don't keep your distance! Don't stay with the loss! Don't stay with the brokenness and the sadness and don't quit on God! Do something! Reach out to Jesus for life! 

So now this girl is dead in Matthew 9:18-34 and the dad is devastated and Jesus says 'yes' to the reach! The scripture tells us that as He is on His way there in verse 20 a woman who had been subject to bleeding came up behind him and touched the edge of His clothes. She 'touched' - these are stories of the touch of God! A God who touches still today!

One man imagines "If only Jesus touches my daughter…" This woman imagines "If only I touch His clothes…" There is no pattern to the love of God, God is limitless, He redeems in creative ways! 

We know from one of the other gospels that Jesus is in a crowd, and people are bumping and He asks "Who touched me?" Who had the faith in this faithless world to believe that things don't have to stay the same and broken? Who had the faith to dare to believe that I'm the God who redeemed broken, not the God who caused it? Who has the faith to believe that hopeless doesn't have to be home?

This woman touches His garment, His coat and the heart of Jesus is so sensitive to the power of touch that He turns and says "Woman, your faith has healed you!" (Matthew 9:22) What do you when nothing's working? For twelve years this woman has been trying to be healed! Reaching out in an authentic, real world kind of way and her world changes! 

When nothing's working what's next? Jesus.

Jesus goes on from there, leaves the healed woman behind, pushes through the crowd and now He is going toward someone. Not toward someone who is dying, but toward someone who 'is' dead! This little girl's hand was ice cold, there was no hope in the world. Most people would have just accepted, death wins, there's nothing to do; it's over. But not Jesus! Because of the ruler's faith, Jesus pushed His way through the crowd and in Matthew 9:24 says, "The girl isn't dead, but asleep." Then He touches her hand!

Jesus walks in, He sees death, and He answers it with a touch!

The touch of Jesus changes everything; it is the defining reality of life! Nothing you're facing right now is stronger than the touch of Jesus! There is no death in a marriage, there's no death in a relationship, there's no sin from the past, there is nothing that the redeeming touch of Jesus cannot change!

Father God I pray that you would help each one of us to imagine new possibilities in your love, and Lord to choose no to stay stuck. God, life takes courage. A broken world is sometimes a really hard place to navigate; but you'll lead us home! God help us to have confidence in your grace, in your ability and in your will. Everyone of us today needs to see the hand of God, the touch of God extended toward us and to realize all we have to do is reach back! It's time that we come into the presence of Jesus and just come alive!  You can't stay dead in the presence of God; nothing stays dead in the presence of Jesus! -Dr. Drew Shofner

Darkness or light, hope or fear; it's our choice!

Darkness or light

The message of Christmas is that you and I live in the dark, and the truth is that we live in a world that is so massively broken, and so massively accustomed to life in the dark that we cannot even see the dark any longer! 

We live in the shadow of death, that is the shadow of hell, and in this world, we feel the brokenness and we feel the alienation. We feel the something missing and we long for something more! We look around and we cast around for saviors in this world, some man, some woman, surely somebody will love me. We try to buy our way into happiness, we'll work our way into significance but in the end, the darkness creeps in through whatever light that we have falsely been able to create, and the match goes out and we're left in the dark, feeling the shadows of hell and hopelessness again. 

Matthew 4:16 says, "…on those living in the land of darkness and in the shadow of death, a great light has dawned!" We know that in the scriptures, Jesus came to save us from hell in eternity, but what I want to remind you as you live your life in the rest of 2015 and through 2016, is that Jesus did not come merely to save you from the hell that is going to be after life, He came to save us from the hell that is in life- here and now! Christmas means that a savior has been born to the world who brings light to life in a radical way that requires us to die completely to ourselves and to be born again to a new life that is alive in hope forever! 

What I want to challenge you to do in 2016, is to call light out and to call darkness out! Because a part of our brokenness is that we confuse the two all that time. Isaiah 5:20 says this, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who put light for darkness and dark for light, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."

When the shadows of darkness are reigning in your heart, you call it out and you recognize that it is darkness and you turn away from it. You reach for the light of Jesus and you allow him to fill your heart with a hope that is from heaven and is eternal. You and I can live our lives in the shadow of death for the rest of our existence if we choose, or we can live in the dawn. No matter how hard life is or what it throws our way. How alone we feel or what ever struggles we have; we can live believing in Jesus and we can live alive in His hope!

God never called you to live down in despair. When you live with the shadow of hell in your heart, in your marriage, in your home, you are forefitting the future that Jesus bled to give to you. When you live hating what you see in the mirror, you are allowing the shadow of death to stay in place in your life when Jesus brought light to illuminate and to change everything! 

My prayer is that you and I would leave the dark forever, and though we walk through the valley of the shadows, that we would live in the light of Heaven itself! My prayer for you is that 2016 is the year that you come more alive than you've ever been. That you finish your grieving, that you throw off the darkness of death, that you come alive and bear the image of God that He created you to bear in the world and that you make a difference in the lives of other people. That you love so well, that other people want what you have and other people see the light of the Christmas birth in you! Darkness or light, hope or fear; it's our choice! -Dr. Drew Shofner

Open his eyes Lord, so that he may see.

Open his eyes Lord

In the kingdom of this world, we see by eye, but in the Kingdom of Heaven, we see by faith. That’s why the scripture says “We walk by faith, not by sight.” So often we live moments in which we are unconscious of God. In the kingdom of this world, we reason by the logic of this world, but in the Kingdom of Heaven, we reason by the power of God and from the promise of God. It is a completely different way of living; it’s transforming and we see life differently. 

In 2 Kings 6:16 we hear Elijah the prophet, through the Holy Spirit, say something to the servant that we hear angels say every time they show up. What does an angel say every time they show up? “Fear not or Do not fear.” Now, when an angel shows up on earth, where did they just come from? They have just been in Heaven with the power and the glory and the eternal majesty of God. 

Surrounded by the enemy, Elijah said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elijah prayed a prayer that I have already prayed for The Church at Severn Run. Elijah prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elijah.

So, here is Elijah standing on the wall, he is calm cool and collected, because he is living God aware and he is seeing by faith, not what the kingdom of the world can see, but he is seeing the kingdom of Heaven revealed around him. When he prays that prayer and the servants eyes are opened, then he too can see that the enemy surrounding them is also surrounded and that the army of the Lord was already there before they even saw it! 

This is true with us, and my prayer for you is that God would open your eyes that you might see. Just because you don’t see it or feel it right now or you don’t believe there is a way forward; that God is going to win in your life and that Christ can use you. That there is redemption and forgiveness of sin and there is new life and new creation and there is love and grace.

God has made you a winner in Christ! He will never leave you in a dead end. He will never lead you to a place of hopelessness or despair. At every step along the journey, there is a win for the Kingdom of Heaven to be had! That is the promise of God. Over and over again in the Bible, every time an angel shows up, you see panicked human beings who need to hear what happens when Heaven breaks through; Fearlessness and new vision. Fear Not! –Dr. Drew Shofner

For God has not given us a spirit of fear.

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear

Our thinking matters more than anything. What goes on between your left ear and your right ear is your life! Proverbs 23:7 says “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” You and I don’t have to do anything to be toxic, we already are. I don’t have to work at thinking negatively, it comes naturally; all sin does. We live in a world that is toxic because it is a world that is Godless, and one of the big lies of the world is that it thinks that it can live without radical dependence on the Lord.

If you think enough about this world, it can just paralyze you, but when you fix your thoughts on God, and when you interpret life in light of God’s Word, and speak about life in ways that God spoke about life; it just changes life, and life looks very differently. A lot of us are living weak and enslaved lives because we are longing for a power we don’t have and are not using the power we do have. We want the magic to change the world around us, when God has given us the power to change the world within us!

When you live from your feelings, (how you feel about yourself, your future, other people) you’re going to live a toxic life. A lot of us are forfeiting the game of our life because we’re not willing to live in the responsibility of self discipline. As disciples of Jesus, we don’t stand on our opinions and our interpretations, but we live in the clearly revealed Word of God. This becomes the way we think, not in the toxic mess that we have grown used to.

The scripture says very clearly, in 1 Timothy 2:7that God did not give us a spirit of fear and timidity, but He gave us the spirit of power and of love and of self discipline. When you use that power to choose your thoughts for God, your life changes. So many of us are living “feeling” driven lives; downward and undisciplined, but real disciples live life disciplining every thought to become a God thought. You don’t tolerate Godless thinking!

Now, you can’t control every thought that comes into your head. Thoughts are like an airplane buzzing the runway, but you’re the traffic controller, and you don’t have to let it land! You are responsible for the thoughts that you entertain and let live in your inner world. Never discount the power of a single thought, good or bad. It was a single thought in Hitler’s heart that led to the death of millions of people needlessly; a single thought of hate. And it was a single thought in God’s mind that led to salvation of the world in Jesus Christ.

If you and I choose to live “feeling” driven lives, we are going to live toxic lives that not only corrode our own souls, but impact negatively the people around us. Think carefully, don’t be sloppy in your thinking; which is why it’s so important to open the Word of God and fill your heart and mind with God thoughts. I want your disciple life to start in your inner world and as your inner world is changed, your outer world will be changed as well. Following Jesus as Lord, means disciplining your thoughts to become God thoughts; because you cannot be a disciple of Jesus without exercising discipline. 

Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32). So, the biblical way to deal with the mess we are in; is to deal with the truth of our feelings. “God, I feel hopeless, but I remember that you are the God of hope and I can do all things through you.”God, I feel hopeless, but I choose…"and then you fill in the blank with what is true about God. Jesus said this; “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He quoted Psalm 22. Why? Because that’s how He felt, He was being real; there is no fake in Jesus! “But nevertheless, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Your life is what it is because you think how you think and if you’ll change how you think, you’ll change your life! When you go through the day, you can be dragged down in so many ways, but when you choose to leave behind toxic thinking for the glory of God filled thinking; there is just this transforming that happens. 

Do you know who you are? You are the beloved children of God, you are the delight of Heaven; you are the price of Christ. You're everything to God, you are! You want to know how to make life work? Wrap your heart around the gift of Jesus and the love that God has for you and just dive into that. Let yourself become the child that you’re longing to be: accepted, embraced, wanted, valued and significant. It’s impossible to be discontent in the love of God anymore than it’s possible to be thirsty under Niagara Falls; it’s just not going to happen.

Live in confident prayer, whatever it is that is troubling you, whatever it is that is threatening to destroy you, don’t let those thoughts stay; you pray! Think up, not down. You don’t have to live a toxic life, but it all begins in exercising how you think. It all happens between the left ear and the right ear; never underestimate the power of a single thought; good or bad. –Dr. Drew Shofner

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