“next” – Where Do I Begin?

NEXT Graphic

Yesterday I kicked off a new series here at Illumination Church, a series that we’re calling “next”. It’s a collection of thoughts about how we process and plan out our futures and what’s next in our lives.

As the year draws to a close, people are faced with the inevitable question of “what’s next?” Attentions quickly turn toward the next calendar year and planning begins – a calendar packed full of our hopes and dreams; a calendar that tells an incredible story about what matters most to us.

What I found as I processed how people plan is really quite alarming, even tragic…

Most people make have a propensity toward making plans for what’s “next” in their lives based on their desire – family vacations, finances & potential purchases, job situations, adding a new or another child to the family, school, sports, band, etc., etc., etc.  You get the picture…and when they’re done planning things out, THEN they ask God to ‘bless’ their plans without ever once considering and or consulting God (prayer, reading, meditation, counsel), on His will for their lives.

In my message yesterday I shared my heart on this matter, which is:

When planning what’s next in our lives, we have to learn to align our desires with God’s will!

In Deuteronomy, chapter 31, there is a conversation that Moses has with the nation of Israel, which he has been responsible for, advocating on behalf of, and leading for 40 years. It’s about what’s “next” for the nation.

First, Moses instructs the Israelites to recommit their lives to God. This is a people with good intentions that lost sight of God’s intentions. Moses both reminded them of the covenant commitment between God and the nation of Israel as well as implored them to return to God.

Next, Moses goes on to share 8 promises from God regarding what was next for the nation of Israel, including:

  1. Moses won’t lead the people into the promised land
    (Deut. 31:1)
  2. The LORD will cross over the Jordan River ahead of the Israelites
    (Deut. 31:3)
  3. God will destroy the nations inhabiting the promised land
    (Deut. 31:3b)
  4. The Israelites will take possession of the land God promised
    (Deut. 31:3c)
  5. Joshua will lead the nation of Israel across the Jordan River into the land
    (Deut. 31:3d)
  6. God will hand those inhabiting the promised land over to the Israelites
    (Deut. 31:5)
  7. God will not fail or abandon the Israelites
    (Deut. 31:6)
  8. God will personally be with the nation of Israel
    (Deut. 31:8)

You can read the whole passage here.

What I love most about his passage of Scripture is how Moses aligns his desires with God’s will!

There he (Moses) is. He’s on the top of the mountain overlooking the Jordan River and CAN SEE THE PROMISED LAND! He’s right there. Everything that he has given his life toward over the last 40 years is right in front of his face. All he has to do is book it for the river, take dip in the Jordan River, and he’s there.

Instead, Moses aligns his desires with God’s will, however difficult it may have been, and surrenders what’s “next” in his life and for the nation of Israel over to God. He takes his free will and makes it obedient to God’s plans and promises. Moses doesn’t make his plans and then ask God to somehow or another ‘bless’ them. No! Instead, he fully surrenders his predeterminations and trades them in for God’s promises.

Wow!

I don’t know about you, but that would be incredibly difficult to do. Yet this is EXACTLY what we’re called to do. Each one of us in our own right; though our circumstances look different than Moses’ did from the mountain where he was standing, each of us must make the decision to align our desires with God’s will and fully surrender to what He has before us.

Is it always easy? Nope! Is it always what we want? Huh-uh!

That said, I would rather have ONE God idea than a thousand good ideas. My good ideas will perish; they’re like a vapor or a mist. But God…His will…it’s eternal!

So let me ask you. What desire(s) do you need to align with God’s will in your life today?

Here’s a great place to start:

  • Ask God to reveal HIS will
  • Pray
  • Journal
  • Don’t make plans or react until you feel confident that what you’re hearing is aligning with the will of God. You will ALWAYS know God’s will through His Word (reading the Bible), and through prayer, and through listening, and through wise counsel.

“I leave you with what James shared in the early church:13 Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.”
James 4:13-16 (NLT)

 

21 Day Challenge – Day 21

21 Day Challenge - Day 21

Day 21 – So go!

Scripture: John 21

First off…CONGRATULATIONS! If you’re reading this day 21 of our 21 Day Challenge, then the odds are that you’ve taken the journey through all 21 days and 21 chapters through the book of John. I know it can always feel like we’re just at the beginning of things, but don’t undervalue the commitment that you’ve put in toward growing in your understanding and in your faith. Every bit counts and believe you me, it matters!

Today’s challenge and reading parallels what we talked about on day 18. The ENTIRE story, not only from today’s reading, but throughout the book of John, is basically Jesus telling his disciples, “Hey! It’s not over!!” It’s an AWESOME picture of the grace and mercy of Jesus; how we can totally blow it, yet He still chooses us – chooses to love us…chooses to redeem us…chooses to use us. With as amazing as this is, that’s not really what I want to focus on in our last day together.

Today is the final day of this devotional. I have no idea if you’ve stuck with this every day. I don’t know if this has helped you or if you’ve done the things I’ve challenged you to do. If you’re reading this, I assume you’re at least trying…so let’s talk about what I think Jesus wants of, from, and for you and me moving forward, and I’ll sum it up in 2 words. Are you ready?!

“Follow me!”

I can almost hear your thoughts now – “That’s it?” Yep! That’s it! He wants you and me to follow. So let’s go! I don’t know where He wants to take you, but I know it will be a daring adventure.

So go!

Jesus told Peter, “If you love me, then follow me!” He might take you to dangerous places or call you to dangerous missions, but he’s saying, “If you love me, then let’s go!”

So go!

He might not show you the end or give you all the details, but…“If you love me, then follow me”.

So go!

There will be times that you’ll be filled with uncertainty and you’ll wonder if this is REALLY the way He wants us to go, but “If you love me, then follow me.”

So go!

It won’t always make sense. It won’t necessary be logical. It will certainly be scary at times. And make no mistake about it, it will be risky. Some people will scof. Others will get angry, but “If you love me, then follow me!”

So go!

I won’t promise you safety, comfort, rewards, or power. I can’t! What I can do is I can promise you this, that this will be the BEST thing you ever do and will be the ONLY decision that will have eternal consequences and impact, if you just… GO! Remember, Jesus is with you wherever you go.

So go!

As you read John 21, ask yourself these questions…

Questions

1. What area(s) of growth do I need to address as I continue to seek and follow Jesus?
2. With my commitment to follow Jesus, where is the first place that I need to go?
3. What is one thing that I can do to better follow Jesus today?
4. What questions do I have?

Prayer

Lord, I don’t know if I’m ready…but I’m willing. Please lead me and show me where I am supposed to go. I fully understand that where you lead may not make sense in this human world. Lord, make me mindful of YOUR Kingdom and not mine. Wherever you lead…I’ll go! I’m heading out today, please be with me. Amen.

Need Help?

You can e-mail Pastor Andrew with any questions about this study or the Scripture! RevAndrew1978@gmail.com

21 Day Challenge – Day 20

21 Day Challenge - Day 20

Day 20 – Believe

Scripture: John 20

Today marks the second to the last day of our 21 Day Challenge. I hope that you have become more informed, more inspired, more committed in your faith journey, and more challenged in your understanding and relationship with Jesus. Today’s reading is also maybe, just maybe, my most favorite passage of Scripture from the gospels.

In our time of reading today, we become more familiar with one of Jesus’ disciples; Thomas, or as they called him, “Twin”. Thomas has is also known throughout most Christian circles as “doubting Thomas”, for his disbelief and line of questioning in his encounter with Christ while Jesus is visiting with the disciples. Everything hinges on what we read today. EVERYTHING! At the core of sin is unbelief. This is the danger for all of us and it is what will continue to keep your heart aligned. What is it?

To believe in Christ!

Adam and Eve ate the fruit because they didn’t BELIEVE that God meant what He said. Peter denied Jesus because he didn’t BELIEVE that His Lord was bigger than being arrested or killed. And in Revelation, people are not allowed into Heaven because they did not BELIEVE. From the beginning, through the middle, and right down to the end, the Bible, in its most simplistic form, is about those who believed and those who didn’t. It’s a story of belief in an unbelieving world that is still being written to this very day.

In today’s reading,  John says, “I’ve written these things so that you may continue to believe…and by believing in Him you will have life by the power of His name.” Your life is hinged on your belief, and notice John said, “continue to believe”. If your heart is to REMAIN ALIGNED (from Day 16’s reading – John 16), and if your spirit is to be alive, you must BELIEVE! If your actions and attitudes are to continue to reflect more and more those of Jesus’, you must BELIEVE!

This is one of the greatest reasons why we must remember (from yesterday’s reading – John 19) what Jesus did. That’s why when we mess up, we need to believe that it’s not over; It’s why we must trust that regardless of what is happening around us, the Holy Spirit is in control and can give us peace. It’s also why we need to look out for the interests of others and get dirty through serving (from Day 13’s reading – John 13). I could go on and on through every day from the book of John, all 21 chapters, and say “It’s why we must BELIEVE!” This is the zenith!!!

If there is any way the devil will try to trip you up, this is it. He’s not typically going to come straight at you with some sin to act out on. He will try to go after your belief. And it’s more than just your believing IN Jesus. It’s a matter of “will you believe Him? Will you believe what He said and follow it?”

Hmm, now we’re getting somewhere. I can almost hear you now…”I’ve decided to follow Jesus…so where is He going? I don’t know, but in order for me to get there, I must BELIEVE!” Like a heart-broken father once said in the Scripture: “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” BELIEVE!

As you read John 20, ask yourself these questions…

Questions

1. Is there anything keeping me from fully believing?
2. How can I make sure that I’m acting in and through belief?
3. What is one step that I can take to practice my belief in Jesus today?
4. What questions do I have?

Prayer

Lord, I pray in the same way that the broken father in Scripture prayed: “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief”! I don’t want ANYTHING to stand in my way of serving, loving, and honoring YOU! Please reveal to me any area of my life that I may not be acting in belief. Thank you for giving me the ability to believe. Amen.

Need Help?

You can e-mail Pastor Andrew with any questions about this study or the Scripture! RevAndrew1978@gmail.com

21 Day Challenge – Day 19

21 Day Challenge - Day 19

Day 19 – Remember?

Scripture: John 19

The father of 6 children, I can only imagine there will come a time in their lives when they are all sitting around a table together, with their spouses and children of their own; a time when I may be nothing more than a distant memory. It’s in this moment that I can almost hear my kids now…”Do you remember when dad used to get us with the ‘tickle monster’?” or “Do you remember how dad would give us the biggest underdogs?”. Hopefully my kiddos will look back on me and their life with me with fond memories. It’s my hope that they will always remember.

I think in our Christian journey we need those “remember when” moments. You’re 19 days into your faith journey. It’s likely that the readings up and to this point are still fresh in your mind, and that’s good. Hopefully they’re both challenging and growing you as an individual and in your faith. But there will come a time when this journey may be a bit of a distant memory. It’s in these moments; these times when growing in your faith seems distant, that I want you to “remember when”.

If you ever think God is not looking out for your own good – In those moments when you wonder if God really cares or knows what you are going through; when you think He couldn’t possibly love you through your mistakes…remember. Remember John 19. Remember what He did for you through His Son, Jesus Christ. Remember this moment in time; this moment when you both associate and realize that even if YOU were the ONLY one far from God, Jesus STILL would have given His life for you, because He loves you and YOU MATTER!

You will face moments in your life where you will question your faith. You will question God’s faith in you. You will question whether or not Jesus actually still wants you. It is in these moments that you MUST remember.

It’s day 19. You have a long way to go. Will you remember?

Just like family moments or moments with friends, remembering strengthens your bond. You’ll need those moments with Jesus too – Remembering when you accepted Him, remembering what He did for you, and remembering that, “While you were a sinner He died for you”, will only strengthen your bond. It helps keep your heart aligned. The devil will always try to remind you of the times that you failed. It is in those times that you must…REMEMBER!

As you read John 19, ask yourself these questions…

Questions

1. What area(s) of your can it be hard to remember what Jesus did for you?
2. What’s one thing that you can do today to intentionally remember?
3. Is there anything that is keeping you from remembering and rejoicing?
4. What questions do I have?

Prayer

Jesus, help me to never forget, but to always remember that I matter to you; that you gave up your life for me. When things get hard and I start to question and doubt, remind me that You love me and help me to always remember. Amen.

Need Help?

You can e-mail Pastor Andrew with any questions about this study or the Scripture! RevAndrew1978@gmail.com

21 Day Challenge – Day 18

21 Day Challenge - Day 18

Day 18 – It’s Not Over

Scripture: John 18

This is one of the most depressing chapters in the Bible. I mean, think about it; are they seriously treating Jesus this way, and what in the world is Peter thinking? Come on! If I were talking to Peter, I think I would have to ask, “After all Christ did for you, you’re just going throw it all away like that? Why would he do that?” Then again, who’s to say that I wouldn’t have done the same thing. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that every time I choose to live the way that I want to live instead of the way that Jesus has both demonstrated and asked me to live, there’s a part of me denying Him every time too.

Ouch!

In Matthew and Luke’s account of Jesus’ life, Peter made some bold declarations. Jesus, knowing the future, told the disciples, “All of you are going to desert me.” Peter’s response was immediate, and somewhat self-righteous. “Even if everyone else deserts you (meaning the other disciples), I never will. I’ll even die for you.” Then we see here that when Jesus is arrested and Peter questioned on knowing Him, he just flat out denies it. He literally says, “I’ve never met Him!”

What changed?

That’s just it, a change still needed to be made in Peter’s heart. He was committed to Jesus, just not all the way; not 100%. He was committed as long as it all worked out well for himself. It’s what we talked about on Day 16 of our 21 Day Challenge – it’s an issue with alignment. Peter said he would die for Jesus because he thought Jesus was going to overthrow the Roman government, become the King of Israel and Peter would be His right-hand man. When Peter realized that power, popularity, and comfort were not in his future…he bolted. He was sold out as long as the situation suited HIS interest and that was it.

However, the focus here shouldn’t be on Peter’s failure. Instead, it should be on the fact that it wasn’t over. Did Peter screw up? YES! But he eventually became an unstoppable force for Jesus because He got his alignment right. We see in Acts that Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and THEN something changed. He was no longer a coward, self-centered, or weak. He was bold! He was power-filled! He was courageous! This was the same man, but he had a different heart. He was FULL of the Holy Spirit – all in; 100%!

In Acts 3, the Jewish leaders told Peter to stop talking about Jesus. When faced with death the second time, Peter said, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than Him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” It’s not over! Jesus is alive and He’s alive IN YOU, even if (definitely more like WHEN in most cases) you’ve messed up. Maybe you feel like you’ve blown it. I’ve got fantastic news for you…

IT’S NOT OVER!

As you read John 18, ask yourself these questions…

Questions

1. What area(s) do I still need to commit 100% to Jesus?
2. What failure am I focusing on instead of my future?
3. Is there anything that is keeping me from committing to Christ?
4. What questions do I have?

Prayer

Lord, help me to realize that even when I mess up, it’s not over! Help me to keep going no matter what comes my way or what failure I experience. Thank you for loving me through my failures. Amen.

Need Help?

You can e-mail Pastor Andrew with any questions about this study or the Scripture! RevAndrew1978@gmail.com

 

21 Day Challenge – Day 17

21 Day Challenge - Day 17

Day 17 – Unity

Scripture: John 17

This is one of the coolest chapters in the Bible. We actually get to read one of Jesus’ prayers to His Father. Several prayers are recorded in Scripture from Jesus that are “in the moment” kind of prayers; prayers when He calls out to God in certain times of need or in certain situations. This prayer seems different…

In this prayer, Jesus prays for Himself. That’s encouraging isn’t it? Do you know it’s ok to pray for yourself? Jesus did. He then prayed a great prayer for His disciples. Imagine the feelings Jesus must have had knowing He was leaving them behind when He would return to His Father in glory; knowing they didn’t understand all that was about to happen. Lastly, Jesus prays for someone that grips my heart every time. Me… YOU and ME!

In today’s reading, specifically in verse 20, Jesus prays, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for ALL WHO WILL EVER BELIEVE IN ME through their (the disciple’s) message.” Jesus prayed for YOU and ME! That should be such a HUGE encouragement to us, knowing that around 2000 years ago, Jesus, the God of the universe, prayed for US. In my excitement I want to be sure that we don’t miss the core of Jesus’ prayer.

What did He pray for?

Jesus prayed that we (Christians) would be one. He prayed that we would have unity; that we would choose to unified. The only way unity is possible is if we surrender our ALL to the Holy Spirit in order that our love is first for God and then for other people. If I am self seeking, I cannot be one with anything or anyone beyond myself. The reason Jesus could say that He and the Father are one is because God is not self-seeking. He is the ULTIMATE example of surrender. Entirely God…stepping down the staircase of heaven and into this world through the gift of His Son, Jesus, the full embodiment of God, yet entirely man, in order that he would pay the ultimate price for our salvation, sanctification, and security. WOW! Just WOW!!

So then the question must be, “how can we have unity with all these other Christians?” Love! Jesus said, “The world will know you belong to me because you love one another.” Christians won’t always agree on how to worship or where we worship. Christians won’t always agree on specific doctrines or Bible passages. Heck, Christians won’t always agree on how long a worship service should be or what songs should be played or what color the paint on the wall should be. Why? I don’t have time to go into it here, but what I do know is that which Christians CAN and MUST come to agreement on. What Christians CAN and MUST agree on is that we will love and support each other through the power of the Holy Spirit. Love.

Unity!

As you read John 17, ask yourself these questions…

Questions

1. What does unity look like?
2. Where in my life do I need to set aside my own agenda for the sake of unity?
3. How can both practice and share the principle of love and unity with others?
4. What questions do I have?

Prayer

Holy Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for making unity possible through Jesus. I pray that I will exercise the strength and courage within me to focus on matters of love and to seek unity with others. Help me to keep my eyes and desires on You. Amen.

Need Help?

You can e-mail Pastor Andrew with any questions about this study or the Scripture! RevAndrew1978@gmail.com

21 Day Challenge – Day 16

21 Day Challenge - Day 16

Day 16 – Alignment

Scripture: John 16

We’re kicking off the last of our 3 weeks together and the next 6 days are really going to hinge on today’s reading and thoughts. It’s going to be both exciting and challenging. I’m fix’n a get theological on ya! (best southern accent you can imagine)

When we become Christians we receive ALL of the Holy Spirit. A problem still exists though; I think a problem still remains in us. There is a follow up question that you need to ask immediately and the days following your decision to become a Christian, which is: “Does the Holy Spirit have ALL of me?” When we come to Jesus to be saved, we are coming as a rebel to a ruler. We are coming as one(s) consumed in our sin and find ourselves pleading for mercy and relief of that burden. I think we quickly find that not long after being “born again”, we realize some things still haven’t been dealt with; there are things that still need addressing and need to be changed.

For instance, pride rises and we try to be in charge rather than surrendering control to God. Bitterness takes root. Attitudes turn sour. We grumble against God. We’re self-seeking. Our temper is out of control. We have frequent failures. We believe in Jesus, BUT we’re not living as we should. It’s almost like walking with a foot dragging behind us.

What you’ll notice is these things have always happened, but now you’re deeply bothered by them. You might find yourself asking: “Why can’t I overcome these things?” The answer? It’s an issue of surrender. Just as the day in which you surrendered your sins to Jesus, so now you need to surrender your ALL to the Holy Spirit. This time instead of a rebel to a ruler, you’re a loyal soldier ASKING for orders.

I can almost hear you now…“Wait! How does that fix anything?”

I’m glad you asked!

It gets fixed through the FILLING and DWELLING of the Holy Spirit; the existence of God in human heads and hearts. You see, the problem is that we find ourselves saying, “I’ve had ALL of Him, but I need to give Him ALL of me!”

In our Scripture today Jesus says, “Righteousness is available because I go to the Father.” Being filled with the Holy Spirit (righteous) is literally a prayer away.

Let me break it down this way for you…

It’s a lot like getting the alignment on your car fixed. While you can keep the car on the road prior to the problem being corrected, it’s a constant struggle. The car seems to always be heading toward the ditch. Once the alignment is fixed it stays on the road. We still have to steer and we could still choose to force the car in the ditch. That said, what we aren’t doing is always fighting the natural inclination of the car trying to get there.

We need the alignment of our hearts fixed. Our hearts are bent toward sin and ONLY being filled with the Holy Spirit can bend them back toward God.

We need proper alignment.

As you read John 16, ask yourself these questions…

Questions

1. Is my life aligned with God?
2. What area(s) do I feel my life pulling me back toward the ditch?
3. Who can I go to for accountability and help with getting things aligned?
4. What questions do I have?

Prayer

Lord, I recognize that my life seems to be lacking alignment from time to time. While my heart wants to fully surrender and allow You to lead me in every way, my head and habits keep pulling back toward the ditch. I pray that You will give me the strength that I need to live the life that You’re calling me to today. Amen.

Need Help?

You can e-mail Pastor Andrew with any questions about this study or the Scripture! RevAndrew1978@gmail.com