Does God Love Us All The Same?

It took me a long time to grasp the notion that God loved and enjoyed me, and that He derived a level of pleasure in my existence. I had always thought that He was disappointed and frustrated with me. At best, I surmised, He tolerated me. But, over time, He wore me down and convinced me of His overwhelming love for me. The people that are part of my daily life have heard me say more than a few times, “I am God’s favorite, He loves me the most!” Though in my thinking, we were all tied for first. After all, God loved us all the same.

 

I was recently challenged on that opinion while on a recent ministry trip to Greece. My friend, Gail Stathis, had been discussing this subject the week before I arrived and it was fresh in everyone’s mind. So, when I came along and said that God loves all of us the same, it provoked a challenging conversation about the love of God.

 

Gail had stated that God does not love all of us equally. Equal denotes that God’s love can be measured. And, for those of us that have experienced His love, we know that His love is limitless. Her point was this, “God does not love each of us the same—He loves each of us uniquely.” I must admit, something in my spirit resonated with that thought.

 

Now while this conversation was turning over in my mind, I just happened to be reading through the gospels as part of my daily Bible reading plan. Just so you know, I do not believe in coincidences. Someone once said, “Coincidences are when God decides to remain anonymous.” I like that. I read the passage where Jesus feeds the 5,000 and I saw something I have never seen before. It says, “They all ate until they were all filled.” Each of us has a different level at which we feel full. I know I eat more than my wife Tina eats. Here was an unlimited supply of food—but each person took from that supply what he or she needed to be full.

 

I think God’s love is like that. Each of us has a different capacity to receive His love and He gives His limitless love to us according to our unique capacity to receive it.

 

This thought has changed my mind set. I now hunger for and desire to expand my ability to receive more of His love. For more on this subject, go to https://www.youtube.com/user/NCCVideosClyde

 

Come Into My Circle

As I make intentional efforts to live in community, I recognize that relationships are born in the overlap of two circles. While each of us are self-contained individuals (circle) with personality, wants and desires, and hopefully fully developed boundaries that guard our individuality—we have the ability to invite people into those circles. It is where these two circles overlap that we experience relationship. We do not stop being us. And, we do not start being them.

 

That is the best analogy I can think of for the Trinity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Each person of the Trinity is its own Person—but simultaneously and fully committed to relationship with one another—they are One in agreement and unity. There is Oneness in the Godhead to such an extent that there is One true God.

 

God made man in His image and likeness. He made him a triune (three in one) being—body, soul and spirit. Each of these is a distinctly different aspect of the same person, and each has an interdependent relationship with one another.

 

Then we find this intriguing passage in the ancient writings of Ecclesiastes chapter 4.

 

Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. NKJV

 

This scripture says that it is better for two to walk together than for one to walk alone—because two are better than one; where one is weak—they may draw from the strength that exists in the overlapping circle of the one that is strong. But then the verse goes on to say a threefold cord is not quickly broken. I believe this means that God wants us to create relationships by inviting other people into the overlap of our circle—then invite God into that same space. This creates meaningful, long lasting, and hard-to-break relationships.

 

Those that form this type of relationship—enjoy a level of intimacy, belonging, and community that few do. For more on this subject visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/prepare-the-way-of-the-lord.html

 

Breaking Bread

The third day after Jesus had been crucified; two of his disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus. As they were walking, Jesus suddenly appeared and joined their conversation. They did not recognize Jesus as they walked along. The scripture says that their eyes were restrained. Even though Jesus was alive and expounding on the scriptures, they did not recognize him—until—they invited Him home and He broke bread with them.

 

In the Middle East, meals can last for hours and usually involve guests. In America, we have lost the gathering and sharing aspect of eating, and simply eat to re-fuel and get back to what we were doing before we realized we were hungry.

 

My wife and I and our dear friends were recently invited to dinner by a woman we know well. At her home we laughed and shared some very intimate stuff. We discussed the particular foods and drinks we like. We discussed our families, and our jobs. We shared stories from the past, and things that had happened that day. Each of us exposed at least one burden we were working through. We just shared…

 

After dinner, the woman graciously showed us around her home. When we saw her antiques, pictures, and memories, we truly entered her world. She is fascinating and a real treasure. I have known this woman for years, but I now know her better after sharing a meal with her in her home.

 

Jesus made Himself known to His disciples by the breaking of bread. It worked two thousand years ago, and I think it still works today. I hope your now inspired to invite someone—old friend or new one—to break bread with soon. For more on this subject visit

http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/holy-heartburn.html

 

Fear No Evil

Since fear is an issue that most people on the planet deal with, I thought I would Google phobias and see if there was a list. Sure enough, “phobia” has a dedicated website listing all the unique and diverse fears that people have. The site that I saw categorized hundreds of distinct different phobias.

 

Fear is dangerous and crippling. It causes us to make bad decisions, steals our joy, our sleep (as we lay awake at night trying to figure a way around the thing that is intimidating us), and it can steal our dreams as we use our thought life to fantasize about how awful our fear could be realized.

 

The Bible says that we are to “fear the Lord”. That doesn’t mean that we cower with intimidation. It means to recognize and respect the might and magnitude of our God. I have found that the more you “fear the Lord” (respect His might and power), the less you will fear everything else. As we recognize His strength and power and submit to it in our lives, what is there to fear?

 

King David was a man after God’s own heart. He had an amazing respect for God. So, is it any wonder that he is the one to tell us that we are to fear no evil? Here is what he says in probably the most famous of all the Psalms:

 

Psalm 23: 1-6 A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever. NKJV

 

To the level that you “fear the Lord” you will not fear other things. To the level that you fear any other thing, you will simultaneously diminish the amount you “fear the Lord”. May we all consider this decision, and chose wisely.

 

For more on this subject visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/in-god-we-trust.html.

Good Tidings of Great Joy

Before we blast into the fullness of all that 2017 has for us, let me take a moment to reflect on the Holiday season of 2016. A popular biblical passage used at Christmas is Luke 2 in which an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds and said; “I bring you good tidings of great joy”! The good tidings or good news that the angel referred to was the birth of Christ. This good news is for all mankind, and is intended to bring us great joy.

 

As I was preparing for the Christmas sermon, I thought about the concept of great joy. Joy is an interesting subject that isn’t discussed very much. It is a state of great delight and happiness. The interesting thing about joy is that it can be caused by a multitude of different things. It can be triggered by love, appreciation, good fortune or—in this case—good news. While many different things can create joy, it can only be expressed in ONE WAY. True joy must be shared. Joy isn’t complete until it can be expressed and shared with other people. In that way it is a lot like love. If you are in love with someone, you have to share it or express it.

 

In Luke’s report, as the angel announces, “I bring you good tidings of great joy”—suddenly a heavenly host breaks into the scene praising God—so filled with joy, they had to share in the experience.

 

I am excited about 2017. While there are many things I want to accomplish this year, I want to live in a state of joy by sharing my joy with others and completing their joy—celebrating the good news with one another. For more on this subject, visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons.html

Lost in Translation

I recently had the privilege to lead a team of 11 people on a two week, short-term mission trip to Ghana, West Africa. A favorite part of my job is to encourage people to participate in international ministry opportunities. These opportunities are rich is so many ways. One benefit is that you can establish deep relationships with the team and the nationals—in a short amount of time. You also get to step out of your comfort zone and experience things you never would in the United States.

 

On this particular trip, we spoke at several pastor conferences and ministered at several Sunday morning worship services. We held 4 medical clinics, preached daily on the radio, and visited a school. Although our ministry varied from day to day, one thing was a constant. Each ministry opportunity demanded an interpreter. We needed translation for everything we did.

 

The Americans all spoke English. The Ghanaians where we were (on the coast) mainly spoke “Ewe” But, at a couple events we had churches that had driven from the northern part of Ghana and they spoke “Twi”. You would probably be surprised to know that the official language of Ghana is indeed English. Everyone speaks their tribal tongue and the educated Ghanaians speak English as well.

 

If you have ever used a translator, you know that you are to speak slowly and clearly—in succinct thoughts—and then wait for the interpreter to re-state the thought that you just communicated. It is difficult to do if you are a fast thinker/talker like me, or if your interpreter isn’t fluent in your language. On this trip, there were several times when an American speaker would talk, then an interpreter would translate the message into Ewe, and then a second interpreter would translate that into Twi! Many times people in the audience who knew one of the languages—would clarify or correct the interpreter as he spoke.

 

As I considered how difficult it is to communicate like this, I started thinking about e-mails, text messages, Facebook and twitter—and how social media is another layer of speech that has be intimageserpreted to get our message across. Social media has become the primary way Americans communicate, and I do not think we fully consider how much of what we say is “lost in translation” by using these mediums.

 

I came home from Ghana wanting to look people in the eye, speak my language, and communicate in a deep and personal way. I didn’t want to “talk” through social media. I wanted to talk like we used to—eyeball to eyeball. I know I will surrender back to our culture though I hope it isn’t anytime soon. And I hope you understand what I am trying to say. After all, I am communicating with you right now through a blog found on social media! For more on this subject visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/the-voice-of-victory.html

So Why Can’t I Rest????

I am fascinated by relational topics. That is probably because I have spent most of my life “relationally challenged”. As you might expect, there are some good reasons for that. But there are no good reasons to stay that way. I am always shocked when I discover a relational truth that other people know, but I was totally unaware of. That happened this week.

 

I have always been a productive person. I do not need anyone to look over my shoulder and create a list of tasks for me to accomplish. I start every day with a To-Do list that I have created. In the past, I suffered from a “performance mentality”. That mentality says, “the more you get done; the more you are worth”. I don’t live there anymore. My value is now based on the fact that I was created in the image of God. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and Jesus paid the ultimate price to have relationship with me. That is my value.

 

So, why can’t I rest???

 

A pastor friend asked me one time why I took adventurous vacations instead of just sitting on the beach and relaxing. He said my life was chaotic enough, why did I want to add more stress to my life? He saw a striving in me that I could not see in myself. Looking back, I realize I never took a REAL day off, even when I was on vacation.

 

So, why can’t I rest???

 

A dear person in my life recently took a year off from her career. She was exhausted and needed a break. She actually was being totally re-worked by the Lord. Upon hearing her story, someone else dear to me said that they would be miserable if they had to take a year off. As they pondered this, they realized that they could take an extended period of time off IF THEY COULD SPEND IT WITH THEIR FRIENDS. They deduced that rest sounded attractive, only if it involved hanging out with people they enjoyed being with.

 

So, why can’t I rest???

 

I can now. I have found some friends (relationships without a purpose). I never really had friends in my life outside of high school. I hung out with the people I worked with. So all my relationships were, to a degree, performance based. Today, I have friends that I can hang out with and talk for hours without any concern for time. In fact, I leave energized when I have been with them.

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I am convinced that the reason I could never rest was I never developed friends outside of work. Maybe that is your struggle too. I am now on the other side and hope you can get there to. For more on this subject visit

http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/a-life-producing-environment.html

The People Who Watch

I had a cool experience yesterday that I want to share. Sometimes it’s the small things that make a difference, and if we capitalized on each of these encounters they would add up to a great day. Frankly, how many days do we have the opportunity to make a sizable contribution? Yet, each of us has several small opportunities throughout every day to make a difference.

 

I was asked to attend a meeting with several area pastors. One of the other pastors picked Starbucks as the meeting place. When I arrived, a table was already reserved so I went straight to the counter to order my coffee. One person was in front of me and no one behind me. The guy in front of me orders a drink that the cashier turns around and makes (unusual, since the cashier usually takes your order and money then passes the order down the line to be made by another barista). However, in this situation, the cashier takes a minute and makes the drink AND THEN asks for payment. The guy in front of me hands him his Starbucks card, which the cashier swipes then says, “There is no money left on this card”. To which the customer in front of me pales and says, “There’s no money on it? I didn’t bring my wallet with me. I don’t have any money…”, as he holds his already made drink. Pause for a moment. It isn’t a life or death moment, but can you feel the guy’s pain?

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I am the only other person in line. I too have a Starbucks card, a gift someone gave to me, and this guy needs a freebie. There is no one else in line. Do you think this was an assignment? So, I step forward and say, “Here, let me buy that for you”. But, the guy objects. I have to ask him three times. With no other options, he finally says, “O.K.”, quickly turns in embarrassment—says thank you almost under his breath—and is gone. I am telling you, this guy was white as a sheet and very embarrassed. I was delighted to have been put in the position where I could help. Did I tell him about Jesus? No. I bought his coffee and that was enough.

 

Do you want to know the real blessing in this story? It was the cashier. As soon as the customer left, the cashier says, “Man, that was so cool. That made my day. I am glad I got to see that.”

 

Maybe our assignments are not for the person we help, but the people who watch? For more on this subject visit
http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/a-wedding-by-the-well.html

Self Sabotage

I’ve been working on a four part sermon series. I like to start with a concept, pull together examples and quotes I might want, and then separate all of my notes into how many sermons I want to speak on. The separation part and actual sermon construction can take from four hours, to a full day, depending on the grace to get it done.

 

I had finished the third sermon and was happy with the outline and the pro-presenter graphics. As I began work on the fourth and final sermon, I got about halfway done and then set it aside and started a new project that was going to be pretty intense. I wanted to get a jump on it. I got it about 10% underway and then went back and finished the fourth part of my sermon series. That is when I noticed the hidden dysfunction that has been a normal part of my life.

 

You see, I am a finisher. I finish almost everything that I start. Osabotagence I commit to a project, I will see it through. So, subconsciously, I stopped the almost finished sermon series to begin a new project, and then went back and finished the series. Because I had started the new project, a sense of urgency was created to move me quickly back to it without any rest or celebration for finishing the sermon series. I was artificially providing a demand that would keep me working without rest.

 

I am a grown man and yet I had never noticed that I was sabotaging myself. It is amazing how much we overlook or do not notice about what we do to ourselves. I was tricking myself into more work, and have been doing it to myself for many years. How many other things like that are going on in my life that I am not even aware of? God help me, and God help us all. For more on this subject go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/faith-in-action.html

Courageous Followers

There are leaders and there are followers—and leaders that can follow and followers who can lead. I have experienced each of these four categories in my life. Because I am a leader, I have read many books focusing on the qualities and characteristics of good leaders. However, in all my years of reading and studying, I never came across a book on how to become a great follower—until now.

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“The Courageous Follower: Standing Up to and for Our Leaders” by Ira Chaleff was a rare and unique find. This book would mobilize and galvanize any organization, if the culture of that organization would allow it to.

 

I am sure you have read a quote and thought, “EXACTLY”. Like a universal truth was perfectly captured and we all learned new language for it. Then there are other times when someone says something that is all together different from anything else we have ever heard. That is exactly what this author does, throughout the entirety of this book.

 

An example of a specific thing he said that I had never heard before is this: “The main difference between a leader and a follower is that the leader can externally articulate what the followers internally believe.” In other words, all of us (leaders and followers) believe in the vision. But, the leader has a unique ability to articulate externally what all of us hold deeply in our hearts. He goes on to say that if the leader can make the mission very clear for everyone, then the followers can contribute an equal or greater share than the leader.

 

One key point he makes is the necessity of the leader to communicate clearly. “When a common purpose guides both the leader and follower, control shifts from the leader to the purpose itself.” We probably have all witnessed an organization that is personality driven (leader) versus a purpose driven organization where everyone is empowered to contribute to the success of the mission. If this post inspires you, please pick up the book, “The Courageous Follower”. I don’t think you can hear what he has to say anywhere else.

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