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

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

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

 

 

 

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.

Get Your Glory

Recently, I was spending some time in prayer. Actually, I was spending some extended time in repentance. The Lord had me repenting of my sins, my family’s sins, our church’s sins and the sins of Western North Carolina. So, as you can imagine, I had plenty to repent for.

 

As I was praying, I felt the Lord say to me. “Don’t forget to repent for robbing me of my glory”. I paused and said, “Lord, I will repent for anything you convict me of. But, you are going to have to help me understand where I have robbed you of your glory. I don’t feel like I regularly take credit for what you have done”. He replied, “That is not what I am talking about. You have robbed me of my glory by playing it safe. If you had walked by faith and done all the things I asked you to, do you know how much glory I could have received from your life? You have robbed me of a lot of glory.”.

 

I was stunned. I had never considered the amount of glory (and joy) that I had robbed from God because of my disobedience or lack of faith.

 

I started thinking about my life and where I came from. I thought of my unique story that no one else has. I am average in intelligence, looks and giftings. As I think back over my life, where I came from and my unique story, I realize if I had let the Lord do extraordinary things through me, He would have gotten ALL the credit and a LOT of glory.

 

All of this is to say, I don’t want to be a man that looks or acts like everyone else or achieves the same things. If I produce merely what I am capable of, then God gets no glory from my life. But, when I trust Him and walk by faith, He works through me and something remarkable can happen. If it is remarkable enough, He will get the glory He deserves from my life.

 

God gets glory when ordinary men do extraordinary things and give God the credit!

 

So, I repented of robbing God of His glory. And that day, I made a commitment to spend the rest of my life letting God get His glory out of my life! It is not too late for you to do the same. If you have breath, there is still time. Don’t play it safe. Let God get His glory.

 

For more on this subject go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/get-your-glory!.html

Transform Your Mind

“We see the world not as it is, but as we are” is a famous saying attributed to the Talmud. The Talmud is a huge collection of Jewish doctrines and laws that were compiled before the 8th Century A.D. It has become the basic book of Jewish Law.

 

Many famous people have repeated this ancient quote in addition to other quotes like, “looking at life through rose colored glasses” that allude to the same principal. Why are these quoted so frequently? Because, there is timeless truth found in them.

 

I believe there are truths that apply to particular seasons and present circumstances and then there are timeless truths that never change.

 

Our education (formal or informal) and personal experiences form a belief pattern in our brain. It becomes a filter by which we make all our decisions. We have the capacity to weigh new information and solidify our filter and we have the ability to discount any contrary information because it doesn’t fit. Some of us are constantly growing and challenging our filters. But some of us have allowed those filters to become so rigid that we don’t accept new information.

 

I have a friend and Christian counselor, Dr. Jim Marks, that says, “Grape Kool-Aid. With some people no matter what you put in, all you get out is grape Kool-Aid. You can put in any information you want and the conclusion will always be grape Kool-Aid.”

 

We find proof of this in such statements as “all men are dogs” or “everyone is only out to help themselves” or “everyone is out to get me”. Those statements may be true…for you. You set your filters and attract things that justify your belief. Why does someone watch Fox news for 10 hours a day? It is to get information that justifies what they believe. You find like-minded people and then fill your filter with agreeable information. The same goes with watching CNN or BBC. It is just different filters.

 

It has been said; “anyone who only drinks from only one stream is going to end up weird, and it doesn’t matter what stream they drink from”. I agree.

 

The Book of Romans says that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. I have not yet experienced everything I need to about God and His creation. As I experience Him in new ways, I come to a “better” understanding of him,

 

I challenge you today to ask God to help you open your mind and drink from His wells and to challenge those filters that are not godly.

 

For more information, http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/ezra-3.html

 

How Healthy are the Bones of Your Relationships?

In an effort to honor a deal I made with God to help others by being transparent with both my successes and failures, I am sharing a concept I learned from my good friend Steve Sawyer. It is out of Ezekiel 37 and it is God’s process to bring something to life or to rebirth something dead. I won’t share the whole concept here. I just want to share one small revelation. Before I do though, I have threatened Steve and am doing it again here, if he doesn’t write a book about this whole revelation, I will!

 

We all have bone, tendons and muscle. While they serve specific functions, let’s look at these in a spiritual sense.

 

Bones represent our systems, structures, rules, laws and boundaries. They are the firm things in life that everything else hangs on.

 

Muscle is the engine that turns energy into motion. It is the unique genius in each one of us. It is that thing that we do gracefully and better than others. It is our anointing, calling and passion. When our muscle contracts (it always pulls, it never pushes), it pulls on the tendon, which pulls on the bones and our whole body begins to move.

 

Tendons are our relationships. It is our connectivity. Without tendons, muscles can contract all they like and there will be no movement of our bones. It is vital we walk in healthy relationships to move towards our destiny and goals.??

 

Until recently, I didn’t make a connection to my growing up without the normal relationships of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and my learning to manage life through mostly surface relationships.
Because God has made me a very passionate, decisive and a visionary person, I tend to lead many endeavors. But, because of my lack of tendons (relational quotient), people who have partnered with me, have sometimes felt one of two extremes. They either felt like a cog in the machine (bones or boney), where they experienced the very sterile side of being in a system. Or, they have felt manipulated, used or “pulled on” by the muscle side of my gifting. And let’s be frank, who wants to feel manipulated or part of a machine?

 

I regret that people have experienced these two extremes with me and have spent a good amount of time trying to redeem these seasons and restore my relationships.  Machine or manipulated, it wasn’t maliciousness on my part, but stemmed from my lack. I’ve resolved what I can, and now desire to relate and connect with others…not solely for the purpose of motion, but just to connect.

 

For more information on the beauty of bones, tendons, and connectivity, go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/how-to-move-from-red-to-green.html

 

Whipped by Jesus???

As a child I received spankings, they did me good. I was never abused but I was disciplined thoroughly on numerous accounts. Honestly, no other form of discipline worked for me. And when I say discipline, I mean discipline and not punishment. There is a huge difference between the two. Discipline aims to correct behavior in order to bring out the best in someone. Punishment seeks to get even or levy revenge. Most punishment takes place when someone is angry and therefore the goal is destruction, not instruction.

 

The Bible says we are to be angry, but sin not. Anger is not a sin, but what we do with our anger can easily become sin. Jesus was angry once. Look at the story here in the Gospel of John:

 

John 2: 13 – 15 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. NKJV

 

Yep, Jesus got angry and went and gathered some cords and patiently crafted a whip to take to the synagogue! Can you imagine seeing Jesus buying supplies at the store and asking Him, “Jesus, what are you doing”? And Him answering, “I am making a whip for church tomorrow”. That picture just isn’t congruent with the picture most of us have about our Savior. But, it happened.

 

Jesus was angry that the god of mammon (the greedy pursuit of gain) had moved into the house of the Lord. He was angry that the moneychangers were profiting off of the people of God. He was angry that the religious crowd had put the extra burden of the Law on the people and had not done anything to help them with the burdens they already had.

 

Jesus exhibited anger towards injustice. And in His anger, we do not see anyone hurt or wounded, but we do see the system that brought bondage overturned.

 

Pray about how God might lead you to join others hoping to ‘overturn’ systems that have placed people in bondage or ways to help and offer help to those in need.

For more information, go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/are-you-color-blind.html

Has Your Sensor Gone Bad?

If we think for a minute about the lights on the dashboard of our car, we can get a picture of the warning systems that God has equipped us with. Each of the lights on our dashboard is tied to sensors under the hood that warn us when something is starting to malfunction. When the light comes on, there is a problem. But, rarely if ever is it the light bulb itself. It is either something legitimately wrong under the hood, or the sensor is going bad.

It is our job to protect and maintain our “sensor” from becoming overloaded and worn out. If your sensor is worn out, it cannot warn you about legitimate problems, and we can walk in deception.

I walked for a season in deception due to a bad sensor in two areas of my life.

The first was when someone took the liberty to criticize me about something. Of course, the criticism was unsolicited, but I listened anyway, because I want to be teachable. I want to grow even if I don’t like what is being said or I don’t like the person who is saying it. As I listened, the Holy Spirit spoke to me, “You don’t have to listen to this”. I responded, “It is the mature thing to do. I need to know what I do not know, so that I can grow”. And then He reminded me, “Conviction is from the Holy Spirit. Criticism is not”. With conviction, comes the grace from God to change. Criticism does not bring grace with it. So, while we may have 10 areas that we need to grow in, if God isn’t dealing within an area, and releasing His grace for it, we cannot change.

The second way my sensor has malfunctioned in the past is in a season of euphoria. Have you ever seen someone fall in love and lose all common sense? Sometimes we can take one good thing that is happening in our life and ignore every other bad thing our sensor is trying to warn us about.

God gave us our sensors. Let’s take good care of them and listen to what God is trying to say to us through them. For more on this subject visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/does-your-warning-light-work.html

 

Have You Experienced the “Draw Back” Effect?

Recently, a friend asked me how I was doing. I told him to ask me the next week. I had just started a big project that was costing me more time and money than I had expected. I was overwhelmed with the slow progress. And it seemed at times we were going backwards more than forwards. But, the end result might end up being much better than I could have hoped for. It was just too early to know.

 

He then replied that I was in the “Draw Back” phase. “It’s like a bow and arrow. Anytime God wants to send you forward, He first has to draw you back”. Wow, I had never thought of it that way. But how many times had I started something new and positive in my life, only to face difficulties and challenges and wonder whether it was even worth it to continue?

 

When I have not been to the gym in a while, and I go to lift weights, I can lift a decent amount on my first trip. Over the next few days, my muscles become very sore. The next time I go to work out, I cannot lift the same amount that I did the first time. I am lifting much less AND it hurts! Remind me again why I am doing this? After a few weeks, the soreness is gone and I am able to not only lift the original amount but much more. That is the “Draw Back” effect.

 

When you feel called to start something new and are met with disappointment and failure, don’t stop. You’re just in the “Draw Back” effect. If you continue on, you will be launched into the new things you were called to do.

 

For more on this subject go to: http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/is-god-waiting-on-you.html

 

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