Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Learning To Trust God

Now this series was birthed out of heart for those who are going through difficult situations or circumstances.  I’ve realized that there are many of us who are going through difficult times and are screaming out to Jesus saying, “Jesus I’m trying to trust you, I think I trust you, I hope I trust you, I want to trust you!”  And it’s not that Jesus has done anything to break their trust, but because of our own lives and upbringing we haven’t seen or experienced trust as it really is.  There have been situations in our past that have caused us to set up signs that say, “Don’t trust” or, “Watch out for people who want you to trust them”! Based on the book Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning and scriptural backing, I have condensened some valuable points about trust into this document. 
One: "Trust is the result of the wedding of faith and hope." -Manning.  Faith arises from the personal experience of Jesus as Lord.  Hope is reliance on the promises of Jesus, accompanied by the expectation of fulfillment.  Faith in God comes from experiencing God and as we experience Him we trust Him!  Faith, born of this indispensable experience, infuses the felt knowledge of “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom (God has) sent.”  Our trust in Jesus grows as we shift from making self-conscious efforts to be good to allowing ourselves to be loved as we are, not as we should be.  The Holy Spirit moves us from the head to the heart, from the intellectual cognition to experiential awareness.  In the midst of tragic events that leave us void of understanding, trust does not demand explanations but turns to the One who promised, “I will not leave you orphans” (John 14:18).  In the face of a pressing need for answers and solutions to life’s problems- answers that are not quickly forthcoming- trust in the Wisdom and Power who is Jesus Christ knows how to wait.  It reminds me of the great story of a missionary family home on furlough, staying at the lake house of a friend.  On the day in question, Dad was puttering in the boathouse.  Mom was in the kitchen, and the three children, ages four, seven, and twelve, were on the lawn.  Four-year-old Billy escaped his oldest sister’s watchful eye and wandered down to the wooden dock.  When the twelve-year-old screamed, Dad came running out.  Realizing what had happened, he dove into the murky depths. Frantically he felt for his son but twice, out of breath, he had to return to the surface. Filling his lungs once more, he dove down and found Billy clinging to a wooden pier several feet under. Prying the boy’s fingers loose, he bolted to the surface with Billy in his arms. Safely ashore, his father asked, “Billy, what were you doing down there?”  The little one replied, “Just waitin’ on you, Dad, just waitin’ on you.”  I believe this is a good depiction of how are relationship with God should be!  Young as he was, the boy no doubt had a history with his father- a history of felling safe, protected, accepted, and loved. He knew from experience that his father delighted in him.  Naturally the boy had a healthy, positive self-image.  He had come to know that he was loved, and he had felt knowledge of his father’s faithfulness.
            Two: Trust cannot be self-generated.  I am asked to pay attention to Jesus throughout my journey, remembering his kindness. (Ps. 103:2).  Screenwriter Woody Allen remarked that, “Ninety percent of life is just showing up. To trust someone is a gut feeling that he will show up in fair weather and foul, in good times and bad, in the yaw and pitch of the human struggle.”  Trust cannot be self-generated, it comes through paying attention to Jesus, and throughout our journey we will remember his trustworthiness.  Trusting someone does not imply that we have tested that person out thoroughly; proved infallibly that she is trustworthy.  Our trust is based not on proof but on an intuitive sense, an instinct, a feeling. 
            Three: Brennan Manning says, “Trust comes from some experience of the other person, an experience not reducible to proof.”  Most often, it grows up in a relationship of mutual love, one in which we have loved, and been loved by, the other.  Trust, grounded in faith and hope, reaches an unprecedented level in the experience of infinite love.  Do doubts and worries signal a rejection of God’s Kingdom?  Not necessarily.  There can be no faith without doubt, no hope without anxiety, and no trust without worry.  As long as we withhold internal consent to these varied faces of fear, they are no cause for alarm, because they are not voluntary.  When they threaten to consume us, we can overpower them with a simple and deliberate act of trust.  After the initial experience, perseverance in the life long quest for greater intimacy with Jesus, no matter how often we stumble and fall, is not only the antidote to hopelessness and despair, it is the sure path to divine certitude that overcomes all doubts, anxieties, and worries.  But sometimes we formulate plans to fulfill what we perceive to be the purpose of our lives, limited as they are, and when the locomotive of our longings get derailed we deem ourselves failures.  Our disappointments arise from presuming to know the outcome of a particular endeavor.  Here’s my point, God’s will first and foremost, is that we have a relationship with Him through His son, Jesus Christ.  That’s why we learn in Luke to not worry about tomorrow.  Be in the moment of today.  Lose yourself in God, and as you release the presumptions of what ought to be, and live in the present, you experience God in the now.  In these moments of being out of your daily time with the Lord, as you observe His presence and blessings in your life, you in turn experience the Lord, and out of experiencing God comes strengthened trust. 
            Human experience has taught me that there is no effective way to fight self-pity.  We can spiritualize heartbreak and camouflage our emotions but such denial of our humanity isn’t effective.  We are not spiritual robots but sensitive persons.  So ruthless trust is performing hidden, secret acts of kindness that no one will ever know about, confident that “your father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you”; it’s hanging on during your darkest nights when it seems there is an absence of God; it is the courageous confidence that despite suffering and evil, terrorism and domestic conflict, God’s plan in Jesus Christ cannot fail; it’s not self-initiated or self-supplied, but there is one abundant source of trust to which we must return to again and again.  And that is Jesus; it’s an unerring sense, way deep down, that beneath the surface of agitation, boredom, and insecurity of life, it’s going to be all right.  You will trust him to the degree that you know you are loved by him.  Ruthless trust ultimately comes down to this: faith in the person of Jesus and hope in his promise.  It’s starting each morning, on your knees saying, “Lord Jesus, I trust you; help my lack of trust.”  Avoid setting the Lord’s work as a priority over the Lord’s presence.  Know that only the total love for God can empower you to love rightly yourself and your neighbor.  It’s easy to trust those that you are close with!
1 Timothy 2: 3-4

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Now what are covenants?  Has anyone ever made one? Covenant literally means a pact, a contract, an agreed upon plan to which both parties subscribe.  Let me give you some examples of different covenants you can make.  Blood brothers are two close people who make a covenant by mixing their blood together. I think I remember attempting this once when I was young.  I don’t do well with blood or cuts, so I think I had a pushpin or something, and squeezed my finger so that just a small dot of blood came out. We’ve come to learn how unsanitary that is, but the principle act was in the belief that once you did it, and your blood was exchanged, you would be friends for life! What about marriages?  The secular view of a marriage is that it is a binding contract between husband and wife.  Christians believe it’s a binding commitment between themselves and God.  In marriage, how is the covenant created?  The two express interests, and they both have something the other wants.  There’s the exchange of something, a gift- rings, words- vows, and even a signed documentation of a commitment to one another.  “Hesed” in Hebrew and “Agape” in Greek is a love that says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  When we enter into a covenant of marriage we change our last names.  We give people our last names, and we pass on our name.  Each participant takes the other's name on himself.  A person's name represents his individuality.  This exchange of names demonstrates a death to being an "individual."  Remember that a covenant is the union of two people.  In a covenant you are no longer concerned only with yourself.  Covenants, or binding agreements, are something we all encounter.  Whether getting your driver’s license, entering into a work agreement, or even a relationship. 

You may be asking, “Pastor Sean, God doesn’t exchange anything with me so why is this important?” Let me remind you that from the very beginning God has been a part of us.  Even today, right now, at this very moment, we do have something that reminds us that we are God’s creation.  Do you know what this thing is?  It’s our breath! Even in our living we have a part of God, and if you breathe deep enough you will even hear yourself breathe part of God’s name!  Each breath we take reminds us of our creator. When Jesus came and died for our sins he made a new covenant with us.  The New Covenant is God's commitment to give His people His Spirit so they can obey Him.  His law has not changed.  What God commits Himself to change is the human heart.  He will enable those entering the New Covenant with Him to willingly and wholeheartedly obey His laws.  Remember, God did not find a fault in His law under the terms of the Old Covenant.  See, in the Old Covenant the Israelites were to obey the Ten Commandments of the Lord and the Lord in turn would protect them and be their God for forever.  The fault was in the self-centered and rebellious thinking of the people.  God's law and way of life remain an integral part of the New Covenant.  The New Covenant requires a genuine change in the heart and mind that can be accomplished only through the transforming power of God's Spirit.  The Israelites, they wanted to serve God, but because of the condition of their heart they weren’t.  They couldn’t do it on their own, they couldn’t resist!  So God makes this new covenant with us where His Spirit empowers us to put to death the deeds of the body, the evil works of the flesh such as adultery, fornication, hatred, jealousy, anger and selfishness.  When we have God's Spirit dwelling in us, it enables us to have an attitude of enthusiasm, and from the heart, wanting to submit to God and follow His lead.  The major difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is in the promises God makes.  The New Covenant is, in a sense, an expansion and renewal of the promises He made in the Old Covenant.  The greatest promise of the New Covenant is eternal life.  The Old Covenant made no provisions for people to receive eternal life.  However, under the New Covenant, "He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit which dwells in you" Romans 8:11.  Having God's Spirit makes it possible for us to receive God's gift of eternal life.  The physical blessings of the Old Covenant, such as prosperity and protection, cannot compare with the far greater blessing of immortality available to us under the New. 

There are many of us who feel unloved, unwanted, and feel like there is no way a loving father can exist.  I want to tell you that Jesus came for you! In the Kingdom of God there is none unloved.  As we look into the word we see His love language, this covenant language to us used all throughout the Word!  Genesis 17:7, Hebrews 13:5, Ruth 4:7, Romans 6:23, Romans 8:11.  Covenant language is a love language from God to you!  And it is to remind you that you can trust a God who will never abandon you!  We will never be left alone, and we can never be rejected by God.    There are no longer any terms of the covenant.  They are unconditional.  The new covenant is a covenant of Grace! God can’t break it and you can’t earn it.  It’s freely given.  Do not “name” yourself anything less than God does.  You are His child!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In Times Of Uncertainty

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you weren’t sure what do, a situation where nothing made sense? Maybe you have been looking for a job and nothing seems to be opening up. Or possibly you’re at a time and place in your life where you are wondering, God what in the world are you doing up there or what in the world should I be doing down here? Maybe you’re in a relationship that’s having difficulties or are in a season of your life where nothing seems to make sense. We’ve all been in a situation that hasn’t made sense or maybe we just went through this type of situation, or will encounter one at some point. But the question that comes with these situations is what do I do when common sense ends? What do I do when nothing makes sense?

Have you ever been skydiving? While visiting a friend in Idaho I decided to take the thrill of jumping from a place. When arriving at the airport where we would be receiving our instruction from a staff of friendly people welcomed us. We started the morning by engaging in a class like session where we sat and listened to the sky diving instructor for directions on what we would be doing.  Following the instructional session everyone who was making the jump piled into the little Cessna, single prop plane and prepared for takeoff.

This last Sunday I spoke to our young adult’s group about the story of Mary and Joseph found in Matthew 1:18-25. This story not only highlights the birth of Jesus but tells an interesting story about two individuals who were in a situation where common sense ended and obedience began. They found themselves in a situation like ours where common sense ended and things didn’t make sense. Joseph who was probably between 18 and 20 years of age just found out that Mary (probably between 12 and 16 years old), whom he was betrothed to, is pregnant with a child by the Holy Spirit. If found in this situation, things probably wouldn’t make sense at all to me, yet Joseph chose to respond in a righteous and mature way.

Once our plane reached the proper altitude we opened the side door to prepare to jump. At that point common sense went out the window, along with my stomach. Because jumping out of the plane didn’t make any sense at that moment. But I knew that at this point it was safer for me to obey the instruction from the experts than to freak out. Joseph was also at a place in his life where nothing made sense but he chose to do what was right. In verses 20-21 an Angel of the Lord visits him to encourage his decisions and to confirm what Mary had told him. This was a huge help I’m sure to the confused Joseph.

In times of uncertainty, in order to be certain we must find that which is certain first. Meaning we must look to that which is constant, reliable, unfailing, a truth that has endured testing and time. The promise the Angel gave Joseph in his dream is a truth that has lasted the testing of time. God’s words are true and reliable. Of the over 300 prophesies about Jesus’ life from birth to death to resurrection, not one was left unfulfilled. The Word of God is true and lasting because God who inspired it is faithful, true, and everlasting. He is true to His word and will uphold every promise He gives.

So in order to be certain in times of uncertainty we can be certain when our certainty is founded on God’s promises. We can be certain when we stand on that which is true, reliable, infallible, and trusted.

When I jumped from the plane I was obedient to what I knew was for certain and that is what the instructors taught me. When Joseph heard the words of the Angel he did what he knew was right even if it didn’t all make sense. See, in our times of uncertainty, we must stand upon the promises of God. The Word is more than text, it’s power. The Word is power in our lives. If you are in uncertain times of your life I encourage you to get in the Word. Read it, memorize God’s promises, and spend time saturating your mind with it. The Word is what helps us endure through those uncertain times, knowing that God will be true and faithful to fulfill His promises.

As a final thought, think about the fruit of Mary and Joseph’s obedience to God’s promise. Even though things may not have made any sense at the time, God was orchestrating the greatest blessing of all, the birth of our Savior. See, we may not have any idea of what God is doing, things in our life may not make sense, but if you stand on God’s promises the result will be something far greater than we could have planned on our own. God might be orchestrating the greatest blessing of all during this season of your life.

So I encourage you, spend time in the Word, spend time with God, and stand on His promises during these times of uncertainty. Because you can be certain of one thing, and it’s that God is faithful and true to fulfilling all His promises.

Leadership Challenge of the week: Pray for someone you lead or know and ask God to give you a promise from scripture, a verse that will be encouragement to that person. Write that verse/promise down and give it to that individual.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

That Very Hour

Have you ever opened your Bible, began reading and when you finish, you think to yourself, “What in the world did that mean?” The Bible is full of wisdom and insight but sometimes we have to dig a little deeper into the cultural and historical background of a story to really grasp the full meaning of what was written.

Most recently I read Matthew 15:21-28, the story of the gentile who shows her faith. In this story a mother approaches Jesus because her daughter is severely demon possessed because she believes that Jesus is the only way her daughter will receive healing and deliverance. The preceding interaction that takes place between her and Jesus can seem very confusing if taken at face value. You will read that at first Jesus ignores the woman and then goes on to refer to her as a dog which seems very unloving and unlike Jesus to do.

As we dive deeper into this story, we realize that Jesus is using the metaphor of a cute little household doggy and a child to illustrate a very important point. Through this illustration, Jesus is teaching His disciples and readers a life changing point. Additionally, He is leading the woman to step out in boldness and faith, a faith that Jesus later says leads Him to heal her daughter.

The comments and remarks exchanged between Jesus and the lady are actually drawing up some interesting information. We learn from their conversation that although many believed Jesus was sent to be the savior only to the Jews, He has actually come to be savior to all. See, this woman understood what everyone else missed. She knew that it’s not up to everyone else to determine who gets saved and who doesn’t or who is qualified or able to receive and experience God’s grace and who isn’t. She knew that she was a sinner and was outside of God’s chosen people, His covenant people. But she also knew that if she could just experience an ounce of His grace, everything would be okay for her daughter.

We are all unworthy and undeserving of God’s grace, but the great thing is that He has chosen to freely give it to all who choose to accept it. The point of the message is this: That the smallest amount of God’s grace is enough for the most undeserving. Even those of us who are furthest from God, those who think of themselves as the worst people, or who have run so far from God it seems there is no way He could love us. His grace is for everyone, and even the smallest amount of God’s grace is enough for the most undeserving.

This woman understood this. She knew if she could just have an ounce it would be more than enough for all she needed. Verse 28 goes on to say that in that very hour her daughter was healed because of her faith. Now real quick, an example I used in last week’s sermon was this: Comfort zones are like cooking a live frog. If you put the frog in a pot of hot water it will jump right out. But if you put the frog in a pot of cold water and slowly heat the pot, he’ll be too comfortable to realize he’s dieing. Now don’t go trying this at home, I’d rather you just get the point of the story which is this; being uncomfortable is what saves us. Being uncomfortable is what saved this woman’s daughter. Because she was willing to be uncomfortable while approaching Jesus in a place she wasn’t wanted and looked down upon her daughter was saved. It’s when we become comfortable that often we begin to slowly die inside. It’s uncomfortable to wake up early and spend time with God. But without it we slowly die inside.

It was because of this woman’s boldness she stepped out in faith to boldly approach Jesus with her need. She knew she was undeserving, a sinner, and outside of God’s chosen people. But she knew something many of us need to know and even respond to. That God’s grace is for everyone and the smallest amount of God’s grace is enough for the most undeserving.

Maybe right now, in this very hour, you need to boldly approach Jesus with your struggles and difficulties, your deepest needs, and in this very hour God wants to do something mighty in your life. Remember, the smallest amount of God’s grace is enough for the most undeserving. It’s enough for whatever you are going through. If God is placing something in your life on your heart right now, I encourage you, boldly approach Jesus and ask Him for His grace and He will freely give it.

Leadership Challenge of the week: Find someone in your workplace, school, home, or community who you know needs God’s grace and pray this week for them. Maybe someone needs grace from you. How can you be an example of Christ and share God’s grace with them?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Who's On Your List?

Living out in the Antelope Valley is an experience like no other. Having grown up in the Northwest with luscious green trees and clear flowing streams has made this transition a bit of a shock in getting used to my new scenery. My typical drive to work consists of passing numerous Joshua trees which are basically glorified cactuses and desert flats spanning for miles. Another part of the experience for anyone who moves to a new location is getting to know the people in the local community and falling in love with their culture and heritage.
            Most recently in my time with the Lord, I’ve been challenged in a new way. I’ve really been pushed by God to look at how I view myself and others. To be a little more specific, how I view my relationship with the Father and how I view others in relationship to Him. Before you click away because of that confusing comment, allow me to briefly explain myself as I believe you will find a real connection to what I’m about to say.

            I was reading Luke 14:15-24, the parable of the great supper, and in this parable we learn how the host Jesus, instructs His servants to go out to those who are maimed, lame, and blind. Now although we have a lot of people in our communities who have these challenges, I believe that Jesus is talking more specifically about the spiritually maimed, lame, and blind, those who are far away from Him. Maybe it’s those who don’t go to church, those who at our work use profanity or make rude comments. Jesus instructs his servant to go out to those who are far away and invite them to the feast.

            Now as I read this, I felt a conviction inside myself. Think about it, Jesus is willing to love those who most of us don’t feel like loving. He is willing to reach out to those who are furthest from God. I began thinking about all the people in my community who don’t know the Lord and all those who if they were just invited to the banquet would love to come! I also began thinking about the religious leaders who gave the excuses and I wondered am I one of them? Do I think that I will be sitting at the great banquet and all the people that bother me and the ones I don’t love will not? Do I neglect to invite and share God’s love with those who are far from God?

            If we are children of God we should love those who don’t know God and those who are far from Him. If not, then I’d have to ask, are you a child of God? The children of God have a passion after His own heart. So why don’t we have heart for the lost? God’s greatest passion is to find the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son, those who are furthest from Him; those are who He has the greatest compassion for!

            So as I read this parable I asked myself, Sean, do you believe there are people here in the Antelope Valley who I should be sharing God’s love and grace with but instead I turn them away because I think they are not worthy? Wow, this hurt. I really had to stop and examine my heart. I think there are times when I am no better than those religious leaders. But as a son and child of God, my heart must be after His heart, after the same things He is passionate about.

            This past Sunday I challenged our young adults group with the question, who’s on your list? Who’s the one person that the Holy Spirit might put on your heart to go out and share His grace and compassion with? Who’s the one person that might simply need to be invited to the feast? Maybe it’ll take some convincing, but once they come and experience the Father’s love; their lives will be forever transformed.

            So I pose the question to my readers. Who’s on your list? Who is the person that God might be putting on your heart, the one that might be considered so far from God, the one who doesn’t deserve to be at the banquet, who’s that one that you are willing to reach out and love? Who’s on your list?

Leadership Lesson of the week: As leaders we are to disciple and empower others to be more fully who God has created them to be. Take time this week to pour into one other person and encourage them to reach out to another as well.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Simple Remedy To Life's Curveballs

Our lives are filled each day with new challenges, defining moments, and memorable experiences, some more positive than others, but all very real. In the last year my wife and I have worked through many transitions, one of which being the relocation of our lives and careers. During our time of seeking where we would move our life to, we met with several people we considered to be mentors or large influencers in our lives. One in particular, Dr. Jared Roth, gave us a bit of advice that stood in my mind as a defining moment in how we processed our decisions. He told us that at my current age of twenty-five, much of what I learn over the next five to ten years will greatly influence both my leadership style and personal character. Most of these attributes will be learned from the people closest to me including my boss or supervisor, spouse, peers, mentors and coaches in my life. With this in mind I consider it very important to position myself in relationships with key individuals who I want to shape my leadership and character after.
Now as many of us know, this is not always easy. Often we work at organizations with leaders we don’t necessarily look up to, and some of our preferred means of influence are held at a distance whether by physical location, busyness of life, or inaccessibility. So how do we prepare and position ourselves best for these defining moments in our lives, the times when big decisions must be made?
This last Sunday my college friend T.D. Davis (short for Touch Down Davis or Total Domination) guest spoke at our young adults groups here at the Highlands Church in Palmdale. While touching down on some words that are often thrown around loosely, he brought new perspective by redefining them. One word he took the time to redefine was mentor. He brought to light not only the unrealistic expectations and standards many of us have of mentors but he also shed new light on them through the use of Biblical references. There is one thing in particular about what he said that hung on to me, something I just couldn’t shake.
While talking about mentors, T.D. explained how on baseball teams they have what is called the bullpen. Many of us know already what a bullpen is, but as a quick recap it is the area for players that are located just outside of the main playing field. Not to be confused with the dugout where the rest of the team is, the bullpen is and area were the relief pitchers are located. Often they are warming up for the game, just waiting to be called in as reserves. They are the ones that give relief to the main players, primarily the pitcher, and help out when things get hard.
While expanding upon this analogy, T.D. challenged me and the church with the question, “Who’s in your bullpen?” Who do we have in our lives as mentors and coaches, the relief players to help us when things get difficult or when we need advice? Who do we turn to for advice, who do we seek counsel from during our life defining moments? He urged us to begin to think about who we can consider asking to be a part of our bullpen and who we can ask to be available to meet with occasionally for advice. We need to set ourselves up with a strong bullpen now so that when difficult times come we will be ready to turn to them for relief and help. When life throws you a curve ball, a simple remedy for help is to turn to your bullpen for advice.

Leadership Challenge for the week: Formulate a list of key individuals you can ask to be a part of your ‘bullpen’ and begin to build on those relationships.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Faithful God

This season of transitioning into ministry here at the Highlands has been an exciting and adventurous time. God has begun a great work that is going to continue to ignite and spread like a wild fire! Lives are being changed, prayers are being answered, and miracles are happening. It's funny though, because there are still times where I find myself trying to do things on my own. Even though God is all around and doing mighty works and bringing together things I could never have done, I still find myself attempting tasks on my own. Does this ever happen to you? I would think I would have learned better than this by now right!?

Well recently, on two separate occasions, there have been tasks that I could use some help on. I was short on man power. I took just a minute during the normal tasks I have each day to pause and ask God for reinforcements, for help to finish the tasks before me. Not but one week went by before I had 3 people willing and available to help further the work God set before me. It might not sound like a huge deal, but it's little moments like these, in the small parts of each of our days, that if we take the time to pause and simply ask God for help, he will provide us the necessary means to accomplish His work.

I encourage you today, take a moment and just ask God to help you with whatever troubles you have today. Watch and see what He will do!