As Jesus followers we are called into the Kingdom Life. This blog will help us converse and learn what that means. It will contain thoughts on Scripture, Sermon Reflection, Leadership Training and interesting reads. -Pastor Jeff

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Day 6: From See-Through to I See You

Last week I introduced an image that I believe will help us to better understand the process of reading Scripture and our place in the journey through Scripture.  I want to take a few moments and revisit that graphic (It’s one we will become very familiar with).

We are going to look at this graphic from left to right.

  1.  Abandoning a Posture of Power:  Reading the Scripture well requires we be willing to abandon our posture of power over the text.  We don’t read the Bible to master the text.  We read the Bible because we’ve come under the authority of the Master of the text.  I cannot stand above the text in a manner that suggests that my reading is the only, right, determinative interpretation.  I can’t suggest by my reading that I have a corner of the God market.  I can’t pretend as we talked a few days ago to have God’s Eye View on the text.  Instead, we come to the text as those who’ve encountered the God of the text.  We meet God on our way into the Bible and that encounter humbles us.  It reminds us of the vastness, power, and immeasurable magnificence of God.  We come to terms that our brains are real small and our God is real big.
  2. Peering through the Text:  Once we’ve been knocked to our knees, we are ready to read the Bible.  We pick up the Bible not as an end in of itself.  The Bible is not a stand-alone, self-contained, self-referential, self-evident text.  The Bible is not an object of worship.  The Bible is first and foremost the means through which God chooses to make himself known.  From our knees, we peer through the text to the One who has been at work throughout all human history, inspiring the events recorded in the text, inspiring the writers of the text, at work in our reading of the text, revealing himself through the text.  We come to know who God is, specifically as He makes himself known in Jesus Christ, through the text.
  3. Going In:  Now that God is revealing himself through the text, we can’t toss the text aside as if to say, I’ve got God, what do I need the Bible for?  No, upon our encounters with God in and through the text, God thrusts us back into the Bible.  God chooses not only to reveal himself to us through the Bible, but it is through the Bible that God reveals who we are.  I come to understand my place in the story of God, my identity, my purpose, and His will for my life (our lives) through deep engagement with the Scriptures.
  4. Story Change:  Let me put it this way.  As we find ourselves face to face with the God of the universe, the One that hung the moon in the stars in the sky and boundaried the oceans, the One that said, “Let it be and it was, and it was good,” the One who dawned the flesh of humanity, endured the cross, and was raised from the dead, He leads us back into the text declaring, “This is MY Story.”  Through engagement with His story, the old stories of my life are stripped away.  They pass away as I discover God’s hope-filled, redemptive, never-give-up on creation New Kind of Story, a story that continues to press humanity forward into God’s tenacious love and unrelenting desire to reclaim all that is lost, restore all that has been broken, and announce once again, “It is good.”
  5. Find YOUR Place:  We are called (as we talked about yesterday) to find our place in that story, so that as we enter into the world, our day to day life, we aren’t overcome by its stories, but overcome its story through the story of God’s grace and through the power of God’s Spirit.  We become the people of God’s story dispatched into the world to live a life to God’s glory.  We live a life aligned to His purposes, His will, His desires, and ultimately HIS KINGDOM!  Faithfulness is found in a life consistently immersed in His presence and consistently aligned with His story.
  6. Understand…HIS STORY lays complete claim over our lives.  The One we see through the text declares to us, “I see YOU!”  “I want YOU!”  “You are MINE.”  We are claimed by God as His masterpiece, His workmanship created to fulfill the good works and character of God’s design.  
Now let’s turn to the Scriptures and see how this works!
It’s Luke 6 time!  Now we take another step into the story of Jesus and this time he begins to reshape our stories in pretty significant ways.  I want you to read Luke 6.  What do you discover about the heart of God through this text?  What kind of impact does this passage have on how we understand our lives, our place in God’s story?  What kind of realignment is God calling you to through these passages?

For you over achievers…
Read Matthew Chapters 5-7.  How does what you read there correlate with Luke 6?  What does Matthew do that Luke doesn’t?  What impact does 3 chapters have that 1 chapter doesn’t or vice versa?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Day 5: Take the Leap! Find YOUR Place!

I often hear from people, “The Bible is boring.  I don’t get it.  I’m not sure how it’s even relevant to me.”  While there are a number of contributing factors to such statements, the one factor that I want to address today is disconnection.  Too many of us read the bible as casual observers or passive spectators.  We come to the text to read stories, stand outside, peer in like disconnected voyeurs and try to figure out why what’s happening "in there" has anything to do with what’s happening in my "out here."

Disconnection is a problem.  There are many reasons why we remain disconnected.

  1. We read the Bible like we would any other form of literature.  Entertainment.  The value of the text is found in its ability to keep my attention, move me emotionally, make me feel a certain way.  We’ve grown up in an entertainment culture that lacks the abilities of critical thinking and intentional engagement.  We pass through the Bible as we would flipping through the channels of the television.
  2. We’ve become afraid of the text.  We don’t want to mess it up.  We don’t feel qualified.  Bible interpretation, so we’ve been told, is best left to the seminary educated.  They know how to get it right.  The rigid interpretations we find in our churches give us already prescribed answers to our looming questions.  We’ve lost our ability for playfulness and imagination in the text.
  3. Disconnection keeps us safe.  To read the Bible as a casual observer means I can tell you what it said but remain safe from a deep encounter with what’s being said and who is saying it.  Standing outside is a self-protective posture.  It’s almost as if we are wired to know that if I get too close to this Sacred Living Text that demands might be made on my life.  Something might happen.  
  4. For those that have been in the church for quite some time, one of the factors contributing to disconnection is familiarity.  We’ve read the text so often, heard it spoken so many times, we stop expecting anything new or fresh.  We read the Bible and we are already filling in what’s coming next before it arrives.  Our familiarity has stolen from us the freshness of disruption.   

So what’s the remedy?  Deep engagement is the only way forward.  I often share with people that reading the Scriptures is not about standing on the outside and peering in, it’s about leaping into the text.  It’s about taking a journey, leaving the familiar land of the world of your own making and entering into the strange new land of God’s making.  It’s about involvement.  We step into the text.  We wade around close to the shore at first, splashing around in the stories.  But then, we allow ourselves to get caught up in the waves of disruptive grace and carry us out into the deep waters where we are now in over our head.

Everywhere we look is the story.  I’m now in it.  I’ve got a place in the story.  I can see the action around me, smell the smells, feel the bitter winds blow or the scorching heat.  I’m not standing outside the text criticizing the characters for their lack of faith.  No, I’m in it.  I can feel the uncertainty, encounter the fear.  I get it.  I’m there.  I too am tangled up in the web of stories that reveal this remarkable, unpredictable, amazing, mysterious God.  I’m now forced to respond.  I ask questions like,

  • What’s not being told in the story?  
  • What’s the back story? 
  • What are the other onlookers and participants thinking and feeling?  
  • Which character in this story do I most closely align to?  
  • How would I experience God in this moment?
  • What is confusing?
  • What is intriguing? 
  • What is inspiring?
  • What is challenging?
  • What specifically is God trying to say to me, right now, through this story?

This is Deep Engagement.  It’s the only way forward.  The church needs more Christians who are willing to take the risk of being lost in the stories of Scripture.  Instead of resting on the dry, dead, stale interpretations of others, we need Christians who step into fresh encounters, Christians who are overcome by the power of the story as the Spirit of God leads this process (We will discuss this more tomorrow and in this weekend’s message).  Casual observation won’t work.  Passive spectating might tell you what it said, but it leaves us safe.  We must be willing to risk the leap.

So let’s practice…
Step 1:  First off, I want you to go ahead and read Luke Chapter 5 in it’s entirety.  We left off with Chapter 4 yesterday and really focused on Jesus mission statement in verses, 18-19.  You should notice that the stories at the end of Chapter 4 and the stories in Chapter 5 give expression (in a physical way) to what Jesus said in those verses.  Read the Chapter to familiarize yourself with the chapter.
Step 2:  Pick 1 of the smaller stories:
Jesus Calling the First Disciples 5:1-11
Leper Healed 5:12-16
Paralyzed Man Forgiven and Healed 5:17-26
Dinner with Sinners 5:27-32
Jesus Breaks Religious Duty 5:33-39
Step 3:  Read the story you felt led to pick slowly (this might take a couple of times – DON’T FORGET to PRAY!  Ask the Spirit of God to lead you well).
Step into the story…Look around.  Where are you standing?  What are you hearing?  What grabs your attention (what moment, statement?)  What’s happening to you?  What’s Jesus saying?  What’s Jesus saying to you?
Step 4:  Write it down.  As Jesus speaks specifically to you…write it down and keep track.  Pray about how you can take what you’ve experienced and put it into practice.  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Day 4: Naming and Exchanging our Lenses

It would be great if we could claim to have a “God’s Eye View,” to be able to stand in a place, looking down upon the world, unencumbered by the peculiarity of our time, our place, our culture, our experience, or any other factor that makes us uniquely us.  It would be great to be able to say, “I can see TRUTH for what it is and I have a firm grasp on it.”  This would be remarkably helpful when we read the Bible.  We could read a passage, one that is obvious and self-evident to anyone that has the remarkable ability to know exactly, without a shadow of a doubt, what God means in the text.  (I hope you can grasp the level of sarcasm in this.)  It would be great to have a “God’s Eye View”…but we can’t.

Last time I checked, there’s not one of us that are God.  See, we all come to the truth of Scriptures wearing a set of lenses and most of us don’t even realize it.  By lenses what I mean is that we look at the text, or read the text through a perception defining filter.  I see what I’ve been conditioned to see.  I see what I’ve been accustomed to seeing.  My field of perception is limited by my limiting experiences, culture, my religious or non-religious background, etc.  For instance, some of us read the Bible through the lens of our political party.  We assume because of our already well established social conservativism that obviously God is on the side of the Republicans.  Likewise, in our defense of the “little guy” and Jesus’ tendency to hang out and care for folks down on their luck, the Bible is best read through the lenses of liberalism or being a Democrat.

That’s just a couple of the lenses we can wear when we read the Scripture.  We read it through the lenses of color and class.  It’s amazing how much the God of the Bible, read in the suburbs all across America, becomes the champion of white middle/upper-middle class values.  We read the Bible through the lenses of ideology, Capitalism, Democracy, Socialism, etc.  We read the Bible through the experiences of abuse, insecurity, feeling unvalued, or confusing and hurtful religious backgrounds.  We read the Bible through the lenses of our denominations, Baptist, Pentecostal, Nazarene, or Lutheran.  We all have lenses.  They are unavoidable.  These lenses impact and ultimately limit our embrace of Scriptural truth.  Until you confess that you too are limited, you will unwittingly read Scriptures in ways that align what’s said with what you already hoped to hear.

So what do we do?  We have to become aware of our lenses, name them, pray about them, ask God to, as much as possible, break our reliance on them, and commit yourself to a more faithful set of lenses.  Notice, I used the word faithful.  When we are committed to reading the Bible through our lenses we become convinced that we are right.  I’ve come to realize through a whole lot of humility that I’m less concerned with being right, because I’ll never be able to grasp the full expanse of God’s truth, and much more concerned with being faithful.  This means I seek to read the Bible in the way that best approximates God’s desires and produces the kind of life that makes God smile, even in my imperfection.

So what’s this new set of lenses look like?
I’m going to cut to the chase here and just name it, “Jesus.”  I believe we are called to read the whole of the Bible through the lens of Jesus.  I’ll work this out in a greater detail in the coming days, but I’m making a pretty substantial claim.  I’m suggesting that everything prior to Jesus in the Bible points to Him.  Everything in the Bible after Him, points back to him.  And, when we’ve seen Him in the Bible and encountered him in our life, the whole of the Bible is to be read through him.  A couple of quick cautions on Jesus (lest you read HIM through YOUR lenses).

  1.  It’s hard to pin him down.  He doesn’t fit well in any of our social categories or political parties.  Jesus does not exist to baptize your agenda but seeks to make God’s Kingdom agenda known.
  2. He has a certain set of priorities that keep emerging over and over again (themes): Mercy, Love, Grace, Justice, Selflessness, Compassion, Freedom, Kingdom, Reconciliation, Restoration, Redemption, etc.  Jesus ought to be read as consistent with the themes of His life.  (We will talk about how these themes will affect our whole reading of the Bible in a few days.)
  3. He doesn’t do ism’s very well.  We live bound by our “ism’s”: Capitalism, Racism, Sexism, Classism, Liberalism, Conservativism, etc.  Ism’s turn life into policy and ideology.  Jesus is far more concerned with people and stories.  
  4. Not even those closest to Him had a “God’s Eye View.”  Listen, if the guys that literally walked with Jesus (super-closely) for three years had trouble grasping His full truth, what makes us think we will.  Jesus is unpredictable, doesn’t line up with religious expectations, acts disruptively, and often leaves people scratching their heads, troubled, mad, or intrigued.  

That’s just a couple of things to note.  That’s the reason why we are starting in the book of Luke instead of Genesis.  I want you to get to know Jesus before you get to know the rest of the story.  Only through contact with Jesus will the rest of the story begin to make sense.

See what I mean?
Today I want you to read Luke 4:14-44.  I want you to take special note of verses 16-19.

  • What did you discover there?  What grabbed you about the announcement of Jesus?
  • Now, I want you to read Isaiah 61:1-3.  What similarities did you notice?
    • So check this out.  When Jesus announces his ministry, he reaches all the way back to a book written 500 years earlier, a book that was speaking about God’s desire to restore His people and Jesus says, “Yep, that’s happening.  That’s happening in and through ME.”  Jesus says, when you read Isaiah, you’ve got to read Him with me in mind, because, even though Isaiah didn’t know it, when he wrote those words, he had me in mind.  
    • Want another example?  Read Isaiah 7:14.  Compare that to the story of Jesus birth.  Friends, Jesus stands as the hinge point of all of human history and as a result, all of Scripture should be read and understood as much as faithfully possible through the lens of Jesus.  

My claim:  Get to know Jesus a lot better and the rest of Scripture will begin to make more sense.

Day 3: Textual Temptation

What we do with Scriptures matters.  The Bible can either be a tool that brings life, or left in the wrong hands it can bring chaos, disorder, and destruction.  How do we do the former without falling prey to the latter.  First, we must understand there are some textual temptations.  Interpretation can be a tricky process.  Being aware of the ways in which this process can be corrupted is key to avoiding certain mistakes.  There are three common temptations that we can fall prey to when reading the Bible.  We must be aware of these temptations and how quickly they can creep into our lives.

Temptation #1:  Making it into something it’s not.
Too often when we head to the text of Scripture, we go looking for something.   We want it to tell us something.  Optimally, we would really like it to tell us what we are already thinking.  Stop right there, you know it’s true.  Too often we want the Bible to simply validate what we are feeling or what we already believe.  In fact, we can become so committed to “our interpretation” of the Bible that we will exercise great flexibility or even outright corruption to make it say something it really doesn’t.  How do I know when this is happening?  Is my interpretation purely self-serving?  If it is…you’ve probably broken trust with God, refusing the spiritual nutrients He offers through the text, and provided yourself your own meal from the Bible.

What’s the remedy?  Humility and trust are essential components of good biblical interpretation.  The story of God is often disruptive.  It doesn’t often pander to self-interest.  Instead, it often calls us to die to self-interest and focus more on our love for God and for others.  It’s not without its comforting and affirming moments, however, those moments are mixed with conviction and challenge.  We must wait on God to give us what we need when we need it instead of making it into something that it’s not.

Temptation #2:  A Tool to Show-Off
Let me say this first off, “You will not be saved by how much you know but by WHO you know.”  This is huge.  We have a propensity toward pride and arrogance.  We also have a tendency to believe that the more I know the better or more impressive that makes me.  I’ve met lots of Christians through the years who are eager to tell or show others just how much they know about the Bible or how much of the Bible they have memorized.  It’s almost as if Biblical literacy gives them some form of status.  When this happens, the Bible becomes an end in of itself.  How much we know quickly trumps how well we know the One about which the Bible is written.  Often left completely off the table is how much what we know transforms us (go back to yesterday if you’ve forgotten this point).  Pompous arrogance and spiritual elitism are the order of the day.

The remedy of this temptation is responsibility.  When we take the journey into Scripture, we’ve been entrusted with the most amazing story of God’s power, love, grace, and redemption known to man.  God has entrusted us, not for the purposes of inflaming out egos, but to carry its message out into the world.  We do this first through the transformed lives we live, lives shaped by the character of Christ.  Second, we respond to this responsibility by offering what we learn and discover in the Word to the benefit, the building up, and the blessing of others.  Learning Scripture isn’t about standing over others with knowledge, but coming underneath others and lifting them up through the wisdom of the Scriptures.

Temptation #3:  When it gives us power over others.
The Bible in the wrong hands can destroy others.  I know, I know I said that above.  What do I mean?  Throughout history, and more personally, sometimes in our homes, the Bible is used as a tool in the hands of the powerful.  Our knowledge of the text laid aside our role or position in the church or in our home can turn the Bible into a tool to manipulate, control, guilt, or bind people.  We use various (and often disconnected) verses to tell those weaker, more vulnerable, and less protected than we are what they need to be doing and how they need to be doing it.  There are more instances of this than we’d care to admit.  Often, men use the Bible to put their women “in their place.”  There have been times when people “spiritual power trip” in their homes or in church and demand that people cower under their authority.  A little Bible knowledge can make a person in to a dominating jerk.

The remedy for this temptation is kenosis.  That’s a Greek word if you didn’t know it.  The word literally means to be “emptied out or poured out.”  One of the best examples of this word happens in Philippians 2.  Read verses 1-8.  What did you see there?  It’s hard to have the same attitude which was also in Jesus while attempting to maintain a posture of controlling power.  Only as we divest ourselves of power and take up the towel of servanthood are we prepared to grapple with Scripture in a faithful manner.  

Wait that sounds familiar…
Today I want you to take some time to read Luke 3 through 4:13 (Don’t get lost in the who’s daddy is who’s daddy – genealogy section).  I want you to read these passages in light of what you’ve just learned.  There are some powerful correlations here.

1.) How does John the Baptist’s sermon correlate with the power of disruption?  Do you think his speech was catering to self-interest?  What might the response of the listeners have been?
2.) What do you think about Jesus’ baptism?  Think about the power of true God affirmation.
3.) Look at temptations of Jesus and ask yourself, “How do His temptations correlate with the temptations we mentioned above?  How did Jesus fend off those temptations?”

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Day 2: Encounter

It’s imperative that we start this journey out on the right foot.  Without a doubt, the Bible contains a lot of information.  It says A LOT!  However, we mustn’t become so confused or mesmerized by the amount of information that we forget the purpose for which it has been handed down to us throughout the centuries.  Its purpose issn’t merely to tell us something about a group of people/peoples in the Middle East.  Its purpose is to invite us into something.

The Bible speaks of a God that throughout the history of Humankind has been making himself known.  He longs for us to know him.  He has chosen, in his infinite wisdom, to use the Scriptures as the means through which that knowledge of God is mediated to us.  We get to know him as we turn the pages of the book to discover His ways, His will, His desires, and His heartbeat for this world.  However, to know someone isn’t simply “knowing about” someone.  To know someone is to have an experiential relationship with that someone.  Therefore, the Bible is less about filling our heads with a lot of helpful and interesting information and more about setting the stage for an encounter with the Author of all existence.

To open the Bible is to heed the invitation to step into the presence of the God who hung the stars in the sky and boundaried the oceans.  It is to abide in the presence of the One who has consistently rescued the broken, stood on the side of the defenseless, toppled the powerful, and given himself completely to the rescue of His beloved children.

When we heed the invitation to encounter, we recognize it is like none other.  Each and every encounter with God in the Scriptures is transformative.  When we head to the Bible anticipating an encounter, each page, each reading sets the stage for something to happen.  Our lives are caught up in the story of God.  God meets us there.  When we are met by God, we walk away different.  I often tell people, “If reading the Scriptures merely produces knowledge about God and has no impact on your character, who you are as you stand before God, you are doing it wrong.”

The object of reading Scripture is not to become “smarter” but to become more “holy.”

Do me a favor…
Go to chapter 1 of Genesis.  That’s the first book of the Bible.  Read verses 26 and 27.  What do you see there?  Did you notice that the we were originally created to reflect the Image of God in this world?  We were created to represent God.  However, the Bible teaches us that the image of God in us was corrupted and perverted through our sin and rebelliousness.  BUT GOD…(This is something you need to get used to in the Bible.  There are many “But God” moments.)  BUT GOD…cares too much about his image to leave it tarnished.  Therefore, God has been at work throughout the history of humankind to restore HIS image in HIS people.  Through Scripture, we encounter the character of this God…so that…our character can be transformed to more adequately and faithfully represent HIS.

Let’s give this a try…
Today let’s read the 2nd chapter of Luke.  A little background might help here.  Luke 2 seeks to anchor the birth of Jesus to specific location at a specific historic moment.  But it’s the announcement to the shepherds I want to focus on.  In the 1st century Middle Eastern world, shepherds were extremely low class citizens.  The fell very low on the social ladder.  They spent days on end driving their flocks of sheep throughout the countryside.  They weren’t often socially adept, smelled bad, and were often disregarded.  BUT GOD…chooses this unlikely crew to receive the announcement that Jesus, the hope of the world, was to be born in Bethlehem.  Ok…here’s the questions…
1.) What does it say about the character of God that He would make time for and entrust something so important to a group of left-out, disregarded shepherds?
2.) What does that mean about the way in which we understand our character?  Think about that in light of how we are called to treat the left-outs and disregarded?
For a little extra fun, compare the context of this announcement with song that Jesus’ mother Mary sings in chapter 1 that you read yesterday.  What did you discover there?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Day 1: Overwhelmed

“Read your Bible.”  Any church you go to will tell you the same thing (but few will teach you how to do it).  Central to our journey of faith is the regular reading of Scriptures.  So, you know… “Read your Bible.”

This statement is often met by a few different reactions, frustration, discouragement, and anxiety.  The Bible is no joke!  If you are brand new to reading the Bible it can feel immediately overwhelming.  “Where do I start?” “What if I don’t understand?” “How do I know I’m reading it right?”  These are only a few of the questions.  Maybe you’ve tried before multiple times and given up because it just didn’t make sense.  Stop right there!  Before you get worked up, it’s normal.  The Bible is a book made up of 66 other books, from writers that covered nearly 1300 years, filled with people you’ve never met, about places you’ve never been, filled with words you might not be able to pronounce.  BUT…we’ve got to start somewhere.  

The Bible is called the “Living Word” because we believe it breathes life into the community of faith.  We believe its pages contain God’s self-revelation (how we get to know Him).  We believe it’s one of the key elements of a healthy, growing Christian faith.  Our task over the next six weeks is to try to shed some light on the Bible, hopefully, helping you gain confidence in turning to the pages of Scripture for the purposes of encouragement, hope, conviction, transformation, and life.

Before we begin, I want you to write down some of the concerns and worries you have about this journey.  You can do this in a journal, in the notes section on your phone, on this blog, or wherever you can keep track.  It will be important to refer back to these worries from time to time and watch as some of them are stripped away over the next 6 weeks.

Let’s start somewhere:
First, just a little familiarity.  The Bible is made up of 2 sections called (Testaments – Covenants).  There is an Old Testament.  This is the history of the people of God up to (but not including) the birth of Jesus.  The New Testament focuses on the life, death, resurrection of Jesus and the growth of the community of Jesus followers called the church.  Time wise, we would say that the New Testament covers the 1st Century AD.  The Old Testament is BC.

These 2 Testaments comprise of dozens of smaller units, some are letters, others are stories, collections of wise sayings, poems, and prophecies.  We will go into detail on each of these types of literature later in this series.  However, there are 39 smaller units in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament.  Each unit has a name, chapters, and those chapters have verses.  For instance, if I say look up John 1:42.  That means, you will go to the table of contents, discover John is a book in the New Testament, look at Chapter 1 and verse 42.

Today let’s turn our attention to Luke Chapter 1.  Luke is a book called a “Gospel.”  Its primary function is to tell the story of Jesus.  First pray…ask God to help you.  Second, read Chapter 1.  If something grabs you in this chapter, stop, take note, underline it, or write something down about.  Third, what’s happening in this passage?  Who are the characters?  What do you understand?  What don’t you understand?  What is one word, phrase, or moment in the chapter that sticks out to you?  Don’t worry…we will move on from here and you will grow in confidence.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Living a Life that Matters

You matter!  Your life matters!  How you live your life matters to those you come into contact with every day.  Your life matters because as a follower of Jesus, the One you follow, the One that fills your life matters to this world.

Over the last few weeks we've been talking about living a life out of the "overflow."  What fills your tank (the core of who you are) will eventually spill out and affect those around you. The question we must ask, "What kind of overflow is my life producing?"

I believe that each of us wants to make a difference.  I believe that we all want to live meaningful lives.  I believe that we want to live the kind of life the produces the kind of fruit that is positive and life giving in every area of our lives. That's right I said every area of our lives.  The key to living a life that matters is remembering that our overflow matters in whatever we do, whereever we are, in whatever season we find ourselves.  This weekend I shared a message that looked at a list of 10 things we must keep in mind if we hope to live a life that makes a positive, faithful, life-giving difference.  Here's a reminder of that list with some helpful Scriptures.

1.)  We must stay hooked to Jesus.

  • Living a life that matters means living a life completely saturated in Jesus.  He is the source of our overflow.  He is the One that produces life giving fruit in our lives.  Being a Christian isn't simply about doing good things.  It's about doing the kinds of things that point past our goodness to the source of that goodness.
  • Jesus says it this way...John 15:4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  Only as we stay connected to Jesus can we hope to live a life that produces the kind of fruit that matters. 
  • The Bible also gives us another image.  Each day, no matter where we go, we better ensure that we are dressed appropriately.  The Bible says,  Romans 13:14 Rather clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. Too often our good intentions to make a difference are sabotaged by our failure to put on the right attire.  We try to take on the world naked.  We must clothe ourselves with Jesus so that he shapes our desire, our ambitions, our attitudes, our perspective and ultimately our actions.  Phil. 2:5 or Hebrews 12:1-2
2.)  We must make the shift from a focus on success to a focus on signficance.
  • We are too easily enamored by bigger, more, and climbing ladders.  We live lives in pursuit of the proverbial carrot that seems to consistently elude us.  It is almost as though we won't be satisified until we've been affirmed as successful, until we've "arrived."  But what if we weren't created to be concerned about success? What if our concern was alway about significance?  What if as followers of Jesus we are to be concerned less with the size of our paychecks and promotions and more a passion for people?  
  • In Matthew 6, Jesus clearly says, Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Our passion as believers is always first and foremost about those things that stir the heart of God.  What we do with, for, and to others matters far more than the size of our compensation.  What if I told you that you paycheck was simply the icing on the cake. The cake itself is the people that you positively impact.
  • And one more thing...When you set your eyes on this, you will discover that God gives the increase.  If he feels as though you are in a season when more, bigger, or extending your social influence will matter for His Kingdom, He will take care of your increase. We needn't try to control our outcomes or manipulate our situations to get what we believe we have coming.  We place ourselves in His hands.  Check out more at Phil. 4:10-19.
3.)  We must begin to believe that our lives have meaning...RIGHT NOW, where you are!
  • Perhaps my greatest fear in life is regrets.  I don't want to live the kind of life where I look back and think, "I should have or could have."  Regret is the result of a life that simply tries to survive, make it, punch our tickets, get through the day.  We need to stop trying to "get through" (our day, our week, this season) and instead "get into" life.  We need to jump in, get involved, realizing that we can make the most out of this season.
  • I know, I know...what if this season isn't what you had in mind?  What if you feel like that what you are doing at your job, in your home, where you live is without purpose?  I want to tell you that's a lie from the devil.  You matter.  Your overflow matters!  Right Now!  No matter how simple or insignificant you feel life is, God has assigned you this place and called us to display his grace in this place, RIGHT NOW!
  • I love a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. and I believe it applies any time we think our live don't matter.  He states, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well...No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
4.)  We must stop suffering from destination disease.
  • This one has been tricky for me. For a long time I struggled to embrace where I was because I was always thinking about where I should be next.  When we are focused on our supposed arrival point, we miss the value of the present moments.  We regularly tell ourselves that when I get to the right job, the right town, the right group, the right church, or when I have the right amount of money or retire, THEN I'll make a difference.  I've actually found that the person who fails to make a difference where they are now won't make a difference when they arrive somewhere else.  Your overflow should gush out now!
  • Besides, it's a little bit arrogant to think we've got our destination figured out anyway.  Not one of us can guarantee our next day. We don't know what's coming next. How many have procrastinated about "difference making" only to have their lives demanded from them. There is a humility required of us in recognizing our destinations and outcomes aren't up to us. James says it this way, James 4:13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
  • I also love this quote from a Pastor I enjoy.  Bob Roberts says, I prepared for a life that never came and lived a life I didn't know existed.
5.)  We must become attuned to Divine Appointments.
  • Most of us don't have time to impact the world because we haven't scheduled it in our calendar. We are so busy that we are blind to the opportunities to overflow in life giving ways each and every day.  A person that wants to make a difference is less concerned with convenience and more concerned with God's providence.  People concerned with convenience live lives on the verge of frustration and annoyance every day.  They are unsettled by those random and ill-timed moments when God wants to break in and use them in meaningful ways.  
  • Every person throughout the Scriptures that God uses was doing something else when God called them.  Moses wasn't strolling about waiting for God to come out of no where.  He was doing his job, tending to the flocks, when God showed up for a divine appointment.  Gideon was threshing wheat, intentionally trying to stay off the radar...and...divine appointement.  Matthew was at his tax booth doing his thing when Jesus showed up and called him away.  How much different might their stories have been if they had said, "You know God, this really isn't a good time for me."  
  • Newsflash!  Your time was never your time. God loves to hijack our time!  In fact, your time was always God's time, he just lets you use a little. You've been created to be at His beckon call, to live by the beat of His drum, even when His drumbeat doesn't fit your rhythms. For a deeper look at a moment in Scripture where life moves from convenience (trying to get away from the hustle and bustle) to God's providence (when Jesus hijacks a moment and puts His glory on display), read Mark 6:30-44.  Or I love Colossians 4:5-6.
6.)  We must live lives more concerned with making deposits than we are withdrawals.
  • We've been taught to constantly ask the question, "What's in this for me?"  We are always working an angle trying to maximize what we can get from people, a job, and about every other thing that surrounds our life.  I am convinced that if you really want to make an impact, cut the strings. You know what strings I'm talking about.  We constantly have strings attached to what we do.  Even when we are doing "good things" we are typically hoping for some kind of return on our investment.  I don't mind going over the top at work as long as it ensures me a return. I don't mind helping a friend, as long as they know they owe me.
  • A difference maker does what they do for the sake of doing good, not for the sake of getting something out of it. We do what we do because it's faithful not because it's profitable.  We must learn to take the example of Jesus who lives out a self-giving humility. He states, Matthew 20:26 whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
  • A really important note here!! You will not positively impact this world or live a life that matters if you spend your life feeling as though the world owes you something.  If you live the life of a leech that constantly sucks the life out of others, your fruit will leave a VERY BAD taste in the mouths of others.  Only those that relinquish the sentiment "I deserve" are prepared to make a difference.  
7.)  We must embrace the calling to be thermostats instead of thermometers.  
  • You know there is a difference between a thermometer and a thermostat, right?  Thermometers are desiged to reflect the temperature.  Thermostats are designed to set the temperature.  This is really important!  Too often our difference making capacity is sabotaged by our tendency to get sucked into our surroundings and reflecting those around us.  As Christians we are called to set the temperature and affect and influence the atmosphere.
  • Did you know when you became a Jesus follower, you became wierd.  That's right, embrace it. Live it!  Love it!  We are called to be different. Jesus' good friend Peter writes, 1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Did you get that?  We are foreigners and exiles.  We don't fit.  We should and will stand out.  When we do, we offer the world and alternative to what they so readily see all around them all the time.
  • Imagine the difference this would make where you work.  How often do you get sucked into conversations at work that you know have the seeds of some pretty bad fruit? Even before you know it, you've started saying things that even as you say them, you know they aren't faithful to your witness to Jesus. What about crisis? Do you handle crisis the same way everyone else does?  What about conflict?  See the list could go on.  We are to conduct ourselves in a way where we set the tone!  That will make a difference that lasts!
8.)  We must experience a shift from fickle and flaky to steadfast and sound.
  • Our world is clamoring for someone they can trust.  However, what they too often encounter are people that are willy nilly about their commitments, leave promises unfulfilled, lack consistency, and are easily distracted by the next big deal or issue.  Many folks in our culture feel like they sitting in a little life boat in a wild and stormy sea looking for something to toss their ropes around and tie off.  Unfortunately all they find are other life boats being tossed about by the waves.  They need something/someone sturdy.
  • Integrity, solid character, and a trustworthy nature go a long way in today's world. We often think, "How can I change the world?  Who am I?  What difference can I make?"  We are often overwhelmed by the magnitude of the world's problems that we forget the importance of the daily acts like, keeping a promise!  
  • I love the way Jesus puts it in the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew 5:33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
9.)  We mustn't build dams in areas of our lives!  We should overflow everywhere!
  • Consistency, consistency, consistency!  Did I say consistency?  Living a life that matters, a life where our overflow gives life to others is only possible if that overflow affects every area of our lives. We can't build a dam in certain areas, suggesting those are off limits.  For instance, say you overflow well in your family, your church, and even in your work, but you go to your kid's basketball game and lose your "ever-loving" mind...people will call into question every area of your overflow.  It will feel disconnected to them.  You can't live faithfully at home and at church and then produce bad fruit at your workplace.  Remember Jesus says, "You will be recognized by your fruit."
  • We can't underestimate the value of  being the same person whereever we are and with whomever we find ourselves.  All dams must come down.  You must be willing to allow the overflow of your life to filter out into every area of your life.
10.) We must understand that our lives are often the only representation of God that many know.
  • Yikes, that's a tough one to end on.  What a responsibility.  When we say we believe in God or that we follow Jesus, they will assume that the way we live should be a reflection of the God we believe in, the Jesus that we follow.  If we fail to produce life-giving fruit, if we fail to overflow with love and grace, we will send the wrong message about who God is.  Before a person ever walks into a church to sing songs or listen to preaching, they've already been influenced and impacted by the God they see in you. That's why YOU MATTER!  You matter because you've been created to be sent out into a world that doesn't know Jesus as His ambassador.  
  • I love what Peter writes.  In quoting an Old Testament passage from Exodus 19, he writes, 1 Peter 2:9 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. He uses the image "royal priesthood."  The vocation of the priests is to mediate the presence of God to the people.  We are that priesthood.  Our lives are to be lived as a mediation of God's love, grace, mercy, faithfulness, and forgivness.  When we demonstrate that God, people come running to discover more about the One we faithfully represent!
  • Jesus says, Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
YOU MATTER!  Your life matters!  Your life matters because the One the fills you up, the One the lives within you, the One that is the source of your overflow matters to the world.  Go out and live a life that matters!