Do You Have a God Substitute?

I am blessed to have four great father figures in my life. One in particular, Mike Jones, pursues God more passionately than anyone else I know. He is retired from business but works full-time at the church as one of our pastors, for free. One of his passions is helping people find their God substitute. Trust me, if you get around him for very long, he will help you find yours.

 

The definition of a God substitute is: anything in our lives we use to get our value, worth, satisfaction, joy or identity from – that is not God.

 

We were created in God’s image, and as His children, we should get these things from Him. He is to be these to us. But all too often we allow people and things to prop us up. These are a poor substitute for God.

 

It started way back in the garden. Adam and Eve sinned. Because God is holy, their sin caused a disconnect with the Lord. The consequences of their sin were; Eve would now know pain in child bearing, and Adam’s work in the field would be cursed. This set up two of the greatest God substitutes of mankind.

 

We can use anything as a God substitute, a person, a career, a talent, or an achievement. But let’s focus on the two most popular ones.

 

For men, it is typically their jobs that act as a God substitute. What a man thinks about himself is usually derived from his professional performance. He can have a great family, love God and be compassionate towards people, but if he has been fired from the last three jobs, his value and worth will usually be zero. Yet this is not how God views him.

 

Women tend to make their husband and family their God substitute. For most women, how their husband and children value them creates their identity and establishes their worth. But, we all know that these women are way more than just mothers and wives. Without them, they would still be as beautiful and brave as they are with them. They still would have value and a God given destiny.

 

Like I said, we come by it honestly through Adam and Eve. But, as believers in Jesus Christ, we have daily access to the Lord. And if we would identify and release our God substitutes, we would find that God is more than willing to show us our identity and help us see the value each of us has in His eyes. Then we could walk in a confidence we have never known and we could stop torturing all those poor God substitutes that will never live up to being God for us. I love Mike Jones. I have less God substitutes today than when I first met him. Interested in learning more, go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/if-we-only-knew.html

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Speaking the Truth in Love

 

“But, speaking the truth in love…” is a well known passage from Ephesians (4: 15). Paul is encouraging the congregation at Ephesus to build each other up in the faith, and to not forget to tell each other the truth…in love. We love to quote that scripture when someone says something to us that is both truthful and hurtful.

 

Pastor Sonny Misar preached recently at our church and he used this powerful analogy. He said, “Some relationships are like a rope bridge, others are like a wooden bridge, and some are like interstate bridges made up of I beams and concrete. You might drive a bicycle over a wooden bridge, but never a semi-truck. Be careful the size of truth you drive over someone’s bridge. If you only have a rope bridge relationship, and you try and drive a semi-truck of truth over it, you will destroy the bridge (relationship)”.

 

That was as direct and succinct as I have ever heard it said.

 

Dr. Frank Harvey taught me two principles relating to this matter. The first, “Tact is stepping on someone’s shoes without messing up their shine”! I like that one. I have reminded myself of it many times before I had to say something hard to someone. The second one is even more important. He said, “Don’t confront someone until it hurts YOU more than it is going to hurt THEM”! Wow, that is powerful. Imagine how much love someone might feel if they noticed how bad you were hurting as you were speaking a hard truth to them?

 

People who are confrontational get a bad rap. We, (yes I am one of those people that is very truth-in-love-300x270confrontational), are looked at as mean because we will say the hard things. But, what about so called “friends” that won’t tell you the truth? Aren’t they just as worthy of scrutiny? What kind of friend lets you walk around with your zipper down all day or the price tag still on your dress? Once, I saw a woman wearing the plastic strip that comes on new jeans that tells you the size of the jeans (it wasn’t a small size). Most women don’t want the size of their clothes broadcast to everyone by wearing it around all day. She needed a friend willing to say, “your size is showing”!

 

True friends venture out on the bridge and take the risk to tell those that we love, what they cannot see.

 

We must speak the truth. If you won’t tell the people you love the truth, you leave it up to their enemies to tell them. And trust me, they will. But, we must do it with love, in a way that causes the relationship to get stronger. It is more important to be in relationship than it is to be right.

 

For more info, check out http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons.html

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God Loves Me More

I have made the statement that God loves me the best. I am His favorite. But, then I add that we are all tied for first. Cute saying, but is it the truth? Does God love us all equally? Scripture would say yes…and no. Let’s take a look.

 

The Bible says God loves each of us the same. He loves the Christian, just like He loves the Jew, the same as He loves the Muslim and the atheist. He doesn’t want to kill the Muslim (despite what many Christians believe); He wants to save him. Just like He wants to save the atheist, and save the Jew, and all gentiles. Romans 5: 8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. We all were sinners and Jesus died for all of us. One sacrifice made for all mankind.

 

But, then I turn to the gospel of John and I see something else. John, throughout his writings, calls himself the disciple that Jesus loves. That’s interesting. Did Jesus love John more than everyone else? That is what John believed. John was a young guy when he walked with Jesus, probably a decade younger than the other disciples. We know little about his childhood. We do know that when Jesus came into His ministry, John was already pursuing ministry by being a disciple of John the Baptist. John didn’t seem to have a lot of trauma or major baggage from his childhood. We see him laying his head on the breast of Jesus while they are lounging around the table. That is pretty intimate stuff between two grown men. None of the other guys did that. And, most still don’t. Jesus did not seem to mind that John was that intimate or close. We call John, the beloved because he regularly refers to himself as “the disciple that Jesus loved”. Interestingly enough, none of the other disciples ever dispute that.

 

Heart cloud

Now lets look at Peter. We give Peter a hard time because he is the one that takes big risks and therefore fails the most often. He denied Jesus three times on the night of His betrayal. But, we forget that he was the only one who placed himself in harm’s way and hung around when Jesus was arrested. After Jesus’ resurrection, he meets some of the disciples out by the sea. They have gone back to fishing. John is the only one that recognizes Jesus’ voice. Intimacy helps us recognize His voice, even when it is a whisper. John had that with Jesus. But, Peter is the only one that jumps out of the boat and swims to shore while the others row back to shore.

 

Back on shore, after eating, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these”? And Peter replies, “You know that I do”. Wow. Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him more than the other disciples, including John, in their presence, and Peter says “yes”. And, Jesus never contradicts him. He asks three times about Peter’s love and never challenges whether Peter loves Him more than John. So, John is the disciple that Jesus loved and Peter is the disciple that truly loved Jesus.

 

What if God does love us all the same, but we each RECEIVE His love in different levels of intimacy. What if each of the disciples could have FELT they were the one Jesus loved best, but their baggage, or age, limited what they could experience. Is it possible that we begin in our walk with the Lord, with the Peter love? The Peter level of love is grateful for what God has done for us, is thankful He suffers through our insecurities and that He is painfully aware of our failures and betrayals. We love Him because we are broken and grateful for His mercy. But, what if there is a greater love? What if the John love of just laying on His breast with nothing to prove and no limitations is available to all of us? I don’t think Jesus loved John more than the other disciples. I think John was more aware of Jesus’ great love and RECEIVED more love from Jesus than the other disciples. He really loves you the best, if you only knew. For more information, visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/get-your-glory!.html

 

 

 

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The Benefits of Friends and Food

Travelling both nationally and internationally has allowed me the opportunity to try a wide variety of foods. I have found very few foods that I don’t like. Ethiopian food and beets are the only two exceptions I can think of.

 

We have a new staff member, who has quickly become a friend. For Christmas he bought me a “food passport” for Asheville, NC. Forty different local restaurants are a part of this program. No chain restaurants. The way the passport works is you take it to one of these restaurants and order a $15 entree and they give you a second $15 entree for free. You can try all 40 restaurants once in the calendar year, if you can afford the money, time and calories.

 

My friend was so jacked up about the gift and asked me how I liked it. I didn’t fully understand how it worked until he explained it. Smiling he said, “I knew you would love it, because you’re a foodie. It is perfect for you”.

 

“What do you mean, I am a foodie?”, I asked. He said, “You love food, you like all kinds of food. You like adventure and trying new things. I knew you would like it, you’re a foodie”!

bdk_restaurant

 

I DO love the passport. My wife Tina and I have used it three times; at an oyster house, a curry restaurant, and an little Indian joint (with my friend). All were great experiences with great food.

 

 

I am a foodie. I have always been a foodie. But, I didn’t know it and none of my existing friends have ever told me I was a foodie. It took a brand new friend to recognize it in me, pull it out and admire it, show it to me and then celebrate it with me. Wow. One new friend did that for me.

 

What if one of the benefits of making new friends is discovering or –rediscovering old treasures that exist inside us? It makes me want to make some new friends. For more information, go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/a-seed-way-out.html.

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