During our Wise sermon series, Pastor Butler is challenging you to read a Proverb every day, read it three times, and ask God “what wisdom can be found in this Proverb?” So July 1, begin with Proverbs 1. Pray that God will allow you to receive the full wisdom the Proverb contains, and read the Proverb through three times. Also, look for Pastor Butler’s blog posts each Monday at www.crosspointe.tv/pastorsblog
Day 5: God what must I sacrifice?
“God I will do anything you call me to do” is a popular heart-felt statement that nearly every Christian has made at some point in their walk. It may have been made during a conference or seminar about global missions. Some will say it when they have spent a weekend in quiet study of the Word and have felt compelled to follow Christ wherever he leads. We sing it Sunday mornings in various forms and talk about it to people we love when we are trying to explain our undying commitment to Christ. The challenge for most of us is just that it’s an “undying” commitment. Meaning we are constantly striving to live up to a commitment that never dies - and yet that may the achilles heal to commitment. As a young preacher preparing for a message from Romans 12, I cam across a statement credited to the 19th Century, American Evangelist D.L. Moody. It read, “The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar.” As I read over his words, I had to stop long enough to let it settle. Let me encourage you to do the same.
In our part of the world, we know very little about “sacrifice” in this sense. In church circles, we associate it with Jesus and his death on the Cross. We speak of our need to “sacrifice” time to study the Bible or give to our churches to continue the work set before us. We talk about what was “sacrificed” to go to school or what someone else “sacrifices” to make a better life for themselves and their loved ones . We talk about the “sacrifice” we made to be on a team or for a certain job. And all of these are good metaphors for the idea of sacrifice, but they really fall flat when we consider the real implications of a sacrifice. In the Scriptures, sacrifice could be a metaphor at times. Sometimes sacrifice was agricultural - meaning crops. Sometimes it was property - land, possessions, etc.. Sometimes it was animal. Whatever the means of sacrifice that was required it could mean many things, but it’s picture was still etched into the minds of hearers because of the common practice.
See what was sacrificed - was given up completely. There was no taking it back. I mean I guess you could have, but that was highly frowned upon. If a person had resolved to give something, it was given up completely. It was completely turned over to the LORD and it was used to bring Him glory and to set themselves completely in agreement with Him. When Paul calls for Christians to be a living sacrifice, he was taking a unique approach to the life of person who follows Christ. They were to see themselves as offering their lives to Christ by living their lives for Christ. To allow Christ to examine their sacrifice of self and weigh its overall merit. Their sacrifice was to be approved by Him and Him only. When we realize that our bodies are living sacrifices, then we are invited into a relationship with Jesus that allows Him to lead, direct, and even push us in a certain way. Our fears are now His to handle. Our possessions are now His to use. Our gifts and talents are His instruments. Our very livelihood is His to use to His Glory. Thus the danger of a living sacrifice is that I can decide not to stay on the altar. I can actually decide to stop sacrificing myself for Him.
Today consider what it means to say to Jesus, “take my life, a living sacrifice to you.” As you do, read these passages and weigh the questions in your mind
What is the most challenging idea of being a “living sacrifice”?
What fears did you find that God now wants you to sacrifice?
If you are able to sacrifice those fears, then what do you sense God will be calling you to do as His living sacrifice?
Go in Peace!
Day 4 : God what am I afraid of?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Coach Carter, Timo Cruz, actual quote is from Marianne Williamson)
I think all of us have fears of various things. For some, it’s the unknown. Others are afraid of the dark. Still others are afraid of heights. We all face fear at some point in our lives. . Fear is a common theme for many people. It surfaces when we start a new job or when we are waiting for a call from the doctor’s office. Some fear that their abilities will not meet the task and they will fail. There are so many people whose lives are literally attempts to mask their fear rather than face it.
What if our fears weren’t necessarily bad?
What if fear in some ways was just our way of climbing up that next step into what God has made us to do?
What if our fear is really just a catalyst into the next stage of our lives?
What if the fear that is so common to each of us is really just the call of God for us to trust him even more?
I absolutely love the story of Peter walking on water with Jesus. In short, Jesus had performed an incredible miracle (as if they all are not incredible) in feeding several thousand people with only a few loaves of bread and some small fish. Following the meal, Jesus sent his disciples across the lake to prepare for the next day, but he went away to pray. In the middle of the night, the disciples were in the midst of a furious storm on the lake when they look up and see Jesus walking towards them on the water. Already exhausted from trying to keep the boat afloat and the potential dying, now they are probably thinking they had died because a ghost was coming towards them. Instead, Jesus calls them to stop being afraid and trust Him. Peter cries out to Jesus “If it’s you, then call me to you on the water.” You know the rest of the story, Peter walks out on the water - hesitates and begins to sink but Jesus saves him. There is much to be said about stepping out in trust and then taking our eyes off of God, but I don’t want that to be our focus here. Instead, consider this: Peter alone walked on water. None of the other disciples could say that - ever. Peter looked to Jesus and said, I am afraid, but I trust you with my fear. Man that is powerful. Fear is common to all of us, what is not common is that some have learned to trust Jesus with that fear.
Today I want to challenge you to ask God, “What am I afraid of?” and be patient and humble enough to listen. Remember courage is borne of adversity and fear. Often we forget, those accomplishments in our lives were at one point unbridled fears that had yet to have been taken captive and made to submit to the authority of Christ. I believe I have always resonated with the above quote from Coach Carter because it reminded me that truly, I am made in the image of God, restored by the sacrifice of Jesus, and set apart by the Holy Spirit. My ability to accept that is the key to my liberation. It’s the key to my opportunity to lay my fears on the altar and allow God to take them as my sacrifice and use them as His vehicle. Most of our lives are lived in quiet desperation uncertain of God’s calling, when in reality the fact that we have lives at all should be evidence of His calling.
What fears in my life do I need to own?
How can I begin to trust God with my fears?
Go in Peace
Day 3: God, What can you do through me?
What am I good at? Where do my strengths lie? What are my weaknesses? These are all questions, we have asked ourselves countless times. If we are courageous enough, we just might ask someone else to help us with this. Sometimes we may even listen!
Years ago, I was introduced to the work of man by the name of Henri Nouwen. For years, this renowned theologian, Ivy-league professor, and biblically astute man was called upon to speak in different places and for different purposes. His influence was incredible and his reach beyond most of his contemporaries. He really was an incredible person in many circles. However, one summer in 1985 he served in a community of respite for middle-aged people with severe mental and physical handicaps in Trosly France called “L’Arche”. Although it was hard work, he was taken in by the sheer volume of joy and peace he felt in his service. A year after his time there, this learned, scholar with over 31 years of academic success was ransacked by the reckless, raging furious love of God - to borrow loosely from Chesterton - and left academia with all of accolades to serve at a sister organization in Toronto, Canada called L’Arche Daybreak. The work was equally difficult and even as a priest with an extensive resume, Nouwen endured a great deal of struggle and even depression. Eventually, Nouwen found his place in God’s will at L’Arche. But How? In an interview from Christianity Today, Nouwen explained his love for this community and his realization, "L'Arche exists not to help the mentally handicapped get 'normal,' but to help them share their spiritual gifts with the world. The poor of spirit are given to us for our conversion. In their poverty, the mentally handicapped reveal God to us and hold us close to the gospel." (Christianity Today, October 3, 1994)
Nouwen learned what so many hunger to see, but just won’t open their eyes to taste. When God is working through us, He is shaping us to serve others and allowing us to be served at the same time. However, we often feel as if we are inadequate to the task. We feel that “my gifts are just not in the area” and then write off the opportunity as if God were in the business of just using us where we thought we’d be useful. Sometimes we make excuses and come up with shallow justifications for not even trying. Other times we are just scared - but that is for another day. What we must understand about God is that He knows what we can accomplish and if He is stirring our hearts with the matters of the world around us, it is most likely because He knows that we are more than capable to handle the task. Our job is to be willing to ask, “God what can you do through me?” or as we sometimes say it, “What do I have to offer?” God’s answer isn’t based on the quality of our talents, gifts, or opportunities. God has little or no need of people who rely soley on their strengths and avoid their weaknesses. He uses them, but it really isn’t what He’s looking for. Our task is to accept that God is looking for people who are faithful and obedient. He does and will apply our gifts, but it’s our willingness to serve that God uses more than anything else. God will qualify the servant, but we must be willing to ask him, How.
Read Matthew 5:3-12 Consider today the implications of each of the “beatitudes”. Jesus’ thoughts here should be understood as having present meaning, not simply down the road when we get it. Instead we are to ask, what does it mean to be pure in heart? A person who mourns? Someone who hungers for righteousness? As you consider these things, ask the LORD to examine your heart for your motives and purposes. Make a list of the ways that God currently is calling you to live as this passage calls you to. For further reflection consider: Galatians 5:19-26; Psalm 51:5-11;
Write out a prayer to God today. Ask God to make clear to you the areas in your life that need to be transformed. Also, ask God to help you to see your gifts and how He has blessed you to be a blessing to others. As you write out your prayer, ask God to give you an example of how he has used you up to this point. Close your prayer with a request to God to open your eyes to what He’s calling you to.
Go in Peace!