God’s Bigger Story – Where Do I Belong?

At my church, Lake Forest, we just finished up a series called The Bigger Story. We explored God’s story of Creation, the Fall, Rescue, and Restoration. Although, the topic has been on my list to write about for some time, I really didn’t know how to approach it.

In fact, I had no idea how to tell my story. How does my story fit in with God’s? Over the last several years I’ve been learning what my purpose is in God’s Kingdom, but I had no idea how it fit. Certainly had no idea how to tell it.

For the next few installments, I’ll explore how my story fits into God’s in hopes of helping someone else who has been struggling with this question. “What’s my story and how does it fit into God’s?”

Our Pastor, Mike Moses, utilized the teaching in this video by James Choung to bring the message home this past Sunday. Boy did it. Check it out:

Advertisements

God’s Little Adventures

20130504-153705.jpgWhat is Adventure?

Adventure.  What comes to mind when you hear the word adventure?  Death defying swings on a rope across a canyon?  Running through an unfamiliar forest to find your way back to civilization? Or running through a city with the cure in your hands, the clock ticking down, and sick people at the end of your journey?

This is what Hollywood tells us adventure is.  You know what?  Hollywood is right. (on this.)  Adventure is the stuff that gets your heart moving.  Adventure has the element of danger.  It has the sense of promise and despair floating in the air together.  When we think of “fun” we often mean adventure.  Water park slides, roller-coasters, bungee jumping, sky-diving, etc.  Things that thrill us.  If you could add a pinch of purpose and a dash of honor to that roller-coaster ride you’d have TRUE adventure…  Just like Indiana Jones hunting down the Lost Ark.

Life is not a problem to solve, but an adventure to live.  ~John Eldredge

How Does That Relate To Me?

Have you ever thought about your life as an adventure?  Let’s face it, many of us have not.  We get up, go through the routines, come home, go through more routines, and crash in the bed exhausted.  We actually feel further from adventure by living like this.  We do this to reward ourselves with a few hours on the weekend to really live.  You know… watch football, hang out with friends, go to a movie… real adventure.

Now that my bout with sarcasm is over I’ll tell you my little secret.  My life IS an adventure.  I’ve been a Christian for a long time.  Although I gave my life to God at age 12, I didn’t begin living as a Christian for many years afterwards.  In fact, I lived in defiance of many of the Christian principles.  Sometimes unknowingly and sometimes not-so-unknowingly.

When I decided [and I mean I made an active decision] to follow Christ my life became an adventure.  I know it sounds hokey.  I can’t even believe I just wrote that, but it’s true.  My view of the world changed.  Many of the “challenges” I faced didn’t appear to be adventures at first, but in hind-sight they were.  Countless times I was challenged with obstacles in my life.  Tough career choices, decisions about how to support our growing family, and many others.  I began to realize I couldn’t do life alone.  Everywhere I turned came up short of what I needed to get through the challenges including myself.  My only place to turn was Jesus.  I learned that it isn’t one decision to follow Christ that we must make.  We have to constantly make active decisions to follow Jesus.  Even in our thought-life.  We must even take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.  I learned that this adventure called life comes at a price.  If we want true freedom, Freedom in Christ, then we have to fight daily for it.

Where The Battle Begins

When God first created man, man was both spiritually alive and naturally alive.  Adam and Eve received a command from God.  “Do not eat of this tree or you will surely die.”  They did not fight the flesh that said, “How beautiful this fruit is.  It must be tasty.”  Adam did not fight the world (others around – Eve) that said, it looks good and I’m eating some so you should too.”  They did not shut the devil down when he instigated the whole thing by lying and saying, “You will not surely die. Besides, it’s good for knowing things.”  Nope.  They chose not to fight to keep God’s command and what happened?  They sinned and died.  They didn’t die naturally yet, but they immediately died spiritually.  Their sin or separation from God was a choice that they made.  As a result they lost the sense of true freedom of being spiritually alive with God.

From that day on, man-kind was born naturally alive and spiritually dead.  Then because of what Jesus did in His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension we have the gift by His grace to receive spiritual life again.  We may be born again, spiritually.  That is definitely Good News… in fact, it is THE Good News.  That covers our spiritual birth ever so briefly, but what about our natural selves?

As Christians we are dying to our old, natural selves each day and becoming more like Christ.  We see ourselves being made new again and again with every passing day.  When we follow Christ, we aren’t just taking a stroll to watch pretty fall leaves change colors.  He’s guiding us through unnavigable terrain. He’s taking us back through the gorges of our mistakes.  He carries us when we cannot walk across the burning lava of grief.  He helps us cross the canyons of doubt and shame.  He puts a sword in our hands to fight the demons of our past and conquer ourselves for His glory.  He’s taking us on an adventure… Our lives.

What’s Your Adventure?

Are your eyes opened?  If not, you are safe.  Shrouded in your view of ONLY the natural world.  You don’t have to feel bad or good about anything.  You are free to live without God.  He has granted you that.  Or have you chosen to truly follow Christ? Not just with your lips on Sunday mornings or bumper stickers.  I mean in your EVERYDAY life.  I mean even when it’s so scary you want to cry.  I mean when you are about to look the other way when you see that person steal.  Or when you are about to spread that juicy story about your co-worker and you have to ask Jesus for the courage to shut down the rumor.

Yes, those are little adventures too.  Are you ready to face those down as well as the big challenges in your life?  Are you willing to turn to Jesus then too? Are you willing to grab that rope from HIm and swing to the other side of the hell you’re facing?  If you are ready all you need to do is give your heart to Him.  Profess it.  And begin at your beginning.

Ask God this prayer: “Dear Lord Jesus, I honor you as my sovereign Lord and I want to follow you.  Be gentle with your servant and show me the way.  I praise you for loving me and I thank you for allowing me along on this adventure.  I give all that I know of me to all that I know of you.”

Be brave.  He’s got you in the palm of His hand.

 

 

#143 – Running With Confirmation

#143
I Love You Too

Anyone remember the days before text messages?  You know what I’m talking about.  The days where “the cool kids” carried… pagers.  Yes, I know.  some of you are feeling icky.  That kind of icky you felt when you first saw your parents in those close circa pre-1980 and almost threw up.  Yes… let’s face it.  We are old.

Back to the pagers.  IF you carried one or knew someone that did you knew the routine to communicate.  You’d dial the pager, type in your number, and they would receive the message in numerical form.  Remember, I said the “Cool Kids” had these.  That means we all decided to cheat the system a little.  There was a SECRET pager code we spoke in.

It would go a little like this instead.  You’d call someone, type in the phone number you were near (land-line presumably since there were no hand-helds at that time), and then enter your words converted to code.  There were many creative ones, but the two that stick out in my memory were these.  9-1-1 meant call me in a hurry and 1-4-3 meant I love you.  The 911 is easy, but for you youngsters or oldsters I’ll break it down.  1-4-3 corresponds to the number of letters in I love you.

What the heck does this have to do with following God? Continue reading “#143 – Running With Confirmation”

The Shield of the Faith | Armor of God | Part VI

20140730-071709.jpgIn my experience, faith is one of the most difficult words to define. I have heard it used in the Bible interchangeably with Trust and Belief. That doesn’t make it easier to define, but it does give the word some context.

We may not be able to define those words easily, but we all know what it’s like to experience them. In the Bible Belief, Trust, and Faith are mostly interchangeable and that will help in my attempt to bring them into focus.

One of the best examples I’ve heard was from Dr. Neil T. Anderson in his book, Overcoming the Darkness. Dr. Anderson said faith in practice is like a traffic signal. We all believe that when the light is green that we can safely pass the intersection. We Trust that others are obeying the law and stopping for the red lights.

In other words, we Believe that we will be ok if everyone follows those laws. We believe it so strongly that it becomes automatic. We don’t even think about having to BELIEVE that anymore. We just KNOW we can go safely through a green light.

That works until something happens to break that trust like an accident. If speak with someone about faith in other drivers at traffic lights that’s been in accident… well you can guess how their faith would stack up.

When our Faith in God is strong and we know that His promises are true, nothing can rock that. Sure, our faith gets tested from time to time, but what’s important is that we access the strength Jesus provides us through His grace.

Faith is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the more it grows. In order for your faith to grow, you must allow it to by tested by constantly seeking the Holy Spirit’s Guidance AND accepting the challenges He may propose in your everyday life. It’s like Jesus is standing there… just beyond “safety” motioning us into an adventure with Him.

DID YOU KNOW?
Did you know your Faith is a weapon of defense? That’s right. Your Belief, Trust, and Faith is a defense against the “unholy trinity”. The world, the flesh, and the devil. When the enemy begins an attack, your Shield of Faith is designed to protect you. If you haven’t exercised that Faith muscle, you may have a tiny shield. Heading into the thick of the battle of life, would you rather have a shield the size of dinner plate or one the size of tractor tire?

Exercise your Faith daily by asking the Holy Spirit to invite you deeper into Him. It will not only prepare you for the battle, but it will also give you a life filled with colorful adventure.

God Bless…

Helmet of Salvation | Armor of God | Part V

20140720-221239.jpgThe one thing that Jesus came to do is the one thing the devil wants you to think can be jeopardized. Your Salvation.

How many times have you wondered, “Just how saved am I?” Seriously, you get in a groove, you feel “comfy” in your Salvation, and BAM! You do something you shouldn’t. Something you regret. Sometimes something small and sometimes it’s something pretty big that will rock everyone’s world around you.

What’s your first reaction when that happens? When you slip up a bit. Do you have “thoughts” that say things like:
1.) I ruined it. I ruined my Salvation.
2.) I knew I couldn’t keep things straight.
3.) I have blown it. There’s no way God would want me now.

These are common “thoughts” reported after folks step outside of God’s will. Otherwise known as sin. The reason I’ll give at the end of this post will surprise a few folks. Probably even make a few upset. Before we get to those thoughts and their source, let’s address the Salvation that Jesus offers.

SALVATION:
If you are or have ever considered yourself “Saved” by Jesus then I’m talking to you. If you haven’t considered yourself “Saved” by Jesus and would like to all you need to do is pray a simple prayer like this with conviction in your heart.

Dear, Lord Jesus, I give all that I am and know of me to all that I know of you. I accept the Salvation you offer and choose to follow you.

Now, back to those of us that have considered ourselves “Saved” by Jesus. That Salvation He offers didn’t cost YOU anything. It did however cost Jesus EVERYTHING. That means that you don’t have the ability to lose it. The Lord of the universe paid the atoning price for your sins and gave you Salvation as a gift of His Grace. YOU CANNOT LOSE IT. Unless… Unless you CHOOSE to walk away from it. Choose to stop believing in it and Him.

About those thoughts. Remember that enemy we talked about in the previous posts? Yes, the devil. He has been around for a long, long time. That means he probably knows what upsets you, how you will react, and what to whisper in your ear in those moments. Just the right thing to set you off in the wrong thought pattern. Maybe even a thought like, “I just blew my Salvation.”

The Helmet of Salvation is your protection. The helmet protects the head which is where the mind is thought to live. Your mind has the protection of The Lord of All, Jesus Christ, to help you know you are SAVED for Him. Stand firm in the shoes we spoke about last week and be clear of mind with the protection given for your noggin… The Helmet of Salvation.

Knowing you are saved will help you recognize when some of those negative thoughts as “not your own”. Make no mistake… I’m not talking about schizophrenia. I’m not talking about hearing voices. I’m talking about “your” negative thoughts.

If you give into those thoughts you could allow yourself and your subsequent actions to be compromised. If you remember to utilize the Helmet of Salvation in your battles you will be able to keep a clear head, invoke positive thoughts, and recite scripture (Which will be crucial to help you fight).

You now have some of the basics you need for battle. You have the Belt of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, The Shoes of the Gospel, and now the Helmet of Salvation. Next week we’ll cover the Shield of Faith.

Now’s a good time to go back and review the previous weeks and make a few notes. You may need them for the next two posts.

In The Faith,

Ryan McKinney

The Shoes of the Gospel | Armor of God | Part IV

20140713-222255.jpg

When I went in search of quotes to begin this post about the Shoes of the Gospel, I have to admit… I was at a loss. There just weren’t many things worth putting in the post about shoes. There were materialistic quotes by Imelda Marcos and even Michael Jordan. Marilyn Monroe had the best one to open. Here’s what she said…

Continue reading “The Shoes of the Gospel | Armor of God | Part IV”