Friday, August 23, 2013

How about an upgrade?

Let's face it; we are a society that loves upgrades!  We can have a cell phone that works just fine and does exactly what we need it to do and love it...until the next new thing comes out.  We love our car until the new models come out for the next year.  Something in us just wants BETTER.

So why do we settle for the bare minimum when it comes to our walk with Jesus?

Are you in that place of wondering if this is ALL there is to faith?  Waking up early (when you could be sleeping) to go to church on Sunday morning to hear a message that tells you how much you're messing up.  Going to church expecting a jolt of some kind only to walk away thinking, I didn't get anything out of that.  Are you feeling rather ho-hum about the whole being a Christian thing, maybe feeling a little let down? much are you putting in it?

Let's go back to thinking about upgrades.  When we decide to upgrade something in our life it is usually going to cost a little more money than the old one, right?  There is a little more investment involved.  We then have to decide whether or not the investment is worth the product.  Whether we are willing to pay the extra money to have the desired gadget.  Our faith journey is no different.

We can have just enough Jesus to keep us out of hell but not enough to allow us to walk in victory and have that abundant life we keep hearing about but not experiencing.  

Say whaaaaaat? 

Yes.  When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and we mean that with our whole heart, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and are now His.  But here is the part we are not so familiar the rest of the journey goes is up to us.  How much Jesus we experience is dependent on our obedience of Him.

John 15:4 says, "Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me."

That word abide is very interesting.  It means to remain or to stay.  I have often heard the reminder when I have drifted from the path the Lord wants me to walk that He is not the one who moved, I am.  In order to have this "fruit," we must abide.

So...what kind of fruit are we talking about?  The fruit of the Spirit.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no low."  Galatians 5:22

Now, who doesn't want that kind of fruit in their life?  But it is contingent on our obedience.  We have received the greatest gift of all, eternal life through Christ, by simple belief and confession.  Now the rest of our journey and how much of Jesus we are going to experience is totally up to us.  

How much of those "fruits" do you want?  How much are you willing to invest?  When we walk according to the Word of the Lord, He blesses us with abundant life.  Not money, not riches, not good health, not power...He blesses us with those things that every living soul craves.

Are you tired of a faith that feels dead?  Are you tired of feeling like God doesn't hear you?  If you are, I ask you again:  How about an upgrade?  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Big Faith and Big Waves

I love Peter.  He is loud, brash and constantly opens his mouth before he thinks.  I can identify.  He has moments of tremendous faith followed by moments of extreme pride and lack of understanding.  Once again, I'm there!  So I love to read of his experiences because I see so much of my own attitudes and faults there.  I also see what he becomes and know that the One that began this good work in me will be faithful to complete it.

One of my favorite Peter-moments is when he gets to walk on the water.  I mean, seriously, how COOL would that be?  But what happens to Peter's faith?  What can I learn from his experience?  What can I learn about me and what can I learn about Jesus?

Without recounting the entire story found in Matthew chapter 14:22-33, let's start with Peter's request to come to Jesus walking on the water.  Peter asks the Lord for an amazing opportunity and the Lord grants him this chance.  Everything starts out fine as Peter locks eyes with Jesus and begins to, one step at the time, walk on the water.   

Then a HUGE wave comes and splashes Peter in the face.  All of a sudden, he can hear the wind howling and he begins to notice the humongous waves and he feels the rain pelting him.  He starts to lose his focus, he takes his eyes off Jesus...he begins to sink.  Then the Bible tells us this:

"Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of [Peter], and said to him, 'You of little faith, why did you doubt?'"  Matthew 14:31

This is where I have heard pastor's say Peter should have stayed in the boat because of the rebuke he receives from Jesus. In my own head I heard these words with the tone of, "Geez, Peter, why couldn't you just stay where I put you?"  Honestly, I'm sure Peter had thoughts similar to this.  But Jesus wasn't speaking to Peter with that tone.

Instead I hear His compassion and see the love pouring from his eyes as He asks Peter about his lack of faith.  In that tone I hear a touch of sadness.  I hear Jesus say, "Oh, Peter, why did you doubt Me?  I was right there the whole time."  

Peter had the faith to ask BIG, he had the faith to step out of the boat, he even had the faith to take steps toward Jesus but then he lost his focus.  He took his eyes off Jesus and stumbled.  How many times have I done that?  I start out fine but then waver as I doubt whether or not I "heard" God correctly.  I lost my focus.

Now I find myself in Peter's shoes again.  I have asked big and God has been faithful in providing me the opportunity.  I have stepped out in faith towards the One who says, "Come!" But from here on out I have to ask myself...where am I going to focus my eyes?  What am I missing out on right now because I am distracted by the wind and the waves?

I am determined that my eyes will stay locked with Jesus' and that I will continue on this awesome path He has put me on.  I know the waves are there, I hear the wind but those things remind me of how much I need Him.  They also remind me of what happens when I let the fear win.  I sink.

Lord, help me to keep my focus on You and only You.  Allow me to walk in the knowledge that if I start to sink, you will immediately reach Your hand to me and lift me up.  You will walk with me the entire way, You will lead me to places I have never been and could never go without You.  Lord, I am not satisfied where I am.  I do not want to stay in the boat and wait for You to get to me, I want to run to You!