Now the other chair should be full of the people who are mature, who are deep, who are full court followers of Christ, who can go coast to coast. If these people are doing what they should be doing, they’re inviting their friends who are far away from God to the table, they’re walking through the doors of the church, they’re sitting at the table, they’re feeding on the bread of life, and you have this gorgeous ecosystem going on. You have a balanced table.
So a third should be far away from God, a third should be brand new believers, a third should be those who are mature followers of Christ.
In Luke chapter 15 Jesus tells the stories of three different situations. The first situation he talks about is a shepherd who is searching for his sheep. You see, he had these sheep and he was missing one and Jesus said the shepherd stopped everything, he dropped everything just to go search for that one sheep that was lost.
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I’m going to step out on a limb and make a very broad-based, categorical, all-encompassing statement. Everyone would rather be joyful than sorrowful. Given the choice, we would choose gladness over sadness and a win over a loss. We prefer sunshine to rain and weddings to funerals. We would rather ride the crest of a wave than sink into a sea of despair. Optionally we want to sing, dance, and shout not moan, weep, or pout. By nature, we seek joy, but what are the underlying factors that make us consistently joyful? When you have a case of the blues, you might say, “If I can eliminate all my problems I will have true satisfaction.” You change jobs, spouses, and geographical locations all in an attempt to gain joy. But, the problem with life is the problems—you cannot skirt around them. They are looming large everywhere we turn. Many pursue wealth, property, and possessions in search of joy. But, in reality all the “stuff” will rust, rot, deteriorate, depreciate, and slowly fade away. Instead of owning things, the things begin to own us and still we are lacking true joy. We are lying to ourselves if we believe any of these things produce joy.
Feeling down and devoid of joy we often first defer to the armchair experts in our lives. They mean well, but their advice is worth pretty much what we paid—nothing. Their suggestions are shallow and superficial at best. They say, “Just snap out of it! Let’s go to the bar and forget about your troubles.” They may provide temporary relief, but definitely not joy. Still overwhelmed, we look to world scholars and academia to explain the truth about joy. Let’s look at what three scholars purported regarding their vast research on the human dilemma:
When we clock out and meet the Lord face to face, God is not going to look at you and look at me and go, “Hey, I wish you would have been more like someone else. I wish you would have been more like him or her.” God’s not going to say that. God is going to say, “I wish you had been more like you.” If you had not been you, there would be a hole in history, a gap in God’s creativity. You are an original.
Speaking of being an original, 2 Corinthians 10:12 talks about being an original. Here is the angle it takes. It says that we make a mockery of God’s brilliance and his creativity when we don’t understand how original we are, and when we compare and contrast ourselves with others. It’s unfair to compare. 2 Corinthians 10 says, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.” Let me stop here for a second. I am an original, right? I am valuable. There is a big time price tag on my life, the shed blood of Jesus Christ. If I am going to do life deeply with God, if I am going to do life in a healthy way, yes, I have got to understand my value. I also have to understand my originality. To do that, don’t miss this one now, I’ve got to see my canvas the way God sees me, nothing more, nothing less. But we get into trouble. I mess up and so do you. I turn God’s masterpiece into a finger-painting when I begin to look at someone else’s canvas, compare my canvas with them, or classify. The Bible says don’t go there. “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves, when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”
I want to thank you for your generosity. I am so thrilled that many are growing in this. But don’t let the camel lie to you. Don’t let the camel bite you.
The first priority—the relational family priority. The second one—the church priority. And the third one—the work priority. All those priorities are important. All those priorities are huge. And they begin when we give the mike to the Ring Master who, watch this now, places the presence of the Holy Spirit inside our lives who gives us the inertia (I like that word) to make the right call, to bridge the gap.
Priorities. Say that word with me, one, two three, “Priorities”. Now say the work capacity with me. One, two, three, “Capacity”. There’s a connection between our priorities and our capacities. Our priorities determine our capacity. And also, you can switch it around. Our capacity determines our priorities.
Go back to the truck. What did I say? I strategically packed the truck that got stuck. You remember that? I tied everything down. What did I do? I prioritized. “Okay, I’ll need the tent. I’ll need the tackle box. I better bring a gun because there’s some monster rattlesnakes.” And I put first things first. The other stuff I didn’t really need? “Ah, I don’t really need that. EJ, we shouldn’t bring that. And not that video game. And…”
He began to, you know, kind of call everything out. I could have over packed the vehicle. I have that much stuff, and so do you. I could have put so much stuff, so much stuff, so much stuff and add, and add, and add… I could have messed that vehicle up.
Because different trucks have different weights, you know? Half ton; quarter ton; one ton; whatever. Our lives are the same way. We keep on adding stuff, don’t we? “I’ll add this. I’ll add that. I’ll add this. I’ll add that.” We don’t think about priorities. I just add and add and add. And a lot of us are stuck in the muck and the mire and the junk in this giant ravine because we’ve added too much stuff to our lives.
You are asking this, “Is the whole Christian thing just where you were born?” Maybe you are saying, “If I was born into a Muslim household, or a Buddhist household, or a Hindu household, I would probably be a committed Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu like I’m a committed Christian. I mean, is it just where you are born?”
You see, one day he will be held accountable for those people in my life that God put in my path. He will ask me if I joined His search party to communicate the gospel to them. Did I help find them? And God will just kind of reveal the names to me. About some of them I will answer yes, but others, sadly, I will have to answer no, that I missed it. How about you? All those people that God has put in your life, the person who sits next to you at work, the person who is taking that class with you, the person in your apartment complex, the person you see at the coffee shop, have you joined His search party regarding them? This is only for those of us who are Christian. He said if you are not a Christian, you don’t have to worry about it right now.
If you missed last weekend, Labor Day weekend, please pick up the tape. We had a guy who sat right here named Michael. A couple of weeks ago Michael committed his life to Jesus Christ. And Michael is growing in faith. We had a person in our church stand up who had joined God’s search team, had built a relationship of integrity with Michael. Because of that Michael, a lost sheep, was found. Michael, a lost coin, was found. There was rejoicing. He states that tears were shed by me. Tears were shed by others because we saw this great event. If you have never been a part of God’s search party, do it. I see so many of you who are involved and I see the thrill and joy that you have in being a part of His search party. Join, you will be so happy you did.
Thirdly, if you are not yet in the family of God, notice the signs that God has put in your life to tell you that He is searching for you.
A third surprising and shocking statement is doubt has great potential. Doubt has great potential. I am going to open my mouth. I warn you, I have a humongous mouth.
Last weekend I read in the paper that there was a huge bass fishing tournament being held at White Rock Lake over in Dallas. Because some of my favorite television fishing personalities were in the event, I decided to drive down for the final weigh-in of this magnificent event. There were two problems, though, as I tried to find White Rock Lake. Number one, I didn’t know where it was and number two, I have a horrible sense of direction. But that didn’t stop me from jumping in my car and seeking this place out. As I was driving for awhile, I thought to myself, surely White Rock Lake will be around the next bend, or after the next light. I believed I knew the general direction. After twenty minutes of driving aimlessly, I had that sinking, sick feeling in my stomach that said I was lost. But being a man, I didn’t even think about asking for directions. I said to myself that I could find it since I kind of knew where it was. Finally Ed continues, after a long period of time which I will not reveal on this stage, I picked up my mobile phone. I believe that God invented mobile phones for me because I use my mobile phone to seek directions daily. I called my lovely wife. Lisa pulled out a Mapsco and guided me to White Rock Lake.
We can all identify with being lost, can’t we? And we know what to do once we are lost. As I look back on that story, I discovered that there are three stages to being lost. The first stage is when you are lost and you don’t know it. The second stage occurs when you think you are lost but pride and ego keeps you from asking for directions. The third stage is when you realize that you are lost and you do something about it. You say, “Help, I’m lost.”
But He knew we would play games. “Let’s see, I have earned $60,000 this year while my investments made me $200,000, but I will tithe on the $60,000.” Well, that is embezzling money from God
To know, how many people here own a truck? I have a truck. If you own a truck, lift your hand. Don’t be shy. We are not going to video you or anything. When you talk about trucks, there is the half-ton truck, three quarter-ton truck. When you say that, you’re talking about the amount of weight the frame of the truck can handle. God says that he knows our frame. He knows what we can bear. He will never put too much temptation on our frame. Isn’t that great? He never will. If we are half-ton, or three quarter-ton, or whatever, he is going to put just enough on us and he will always provide a way of escape. He will give you the power. I don’t care what you have been involved in or where you are in this process, he will give you the strength.
Let’s keep going. In reads James 1:12 reads, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” So, we need to “real-eyes” that there is a way to escape. Also, we have got to “real-eyes” that every time we come through a time of temptation, we will strengthen and build up our faith. Every single time. That’s the kind of stuff that God will build in our lives. The more he builds the stuff, the more we will discover the greatness he has in store for us.
So, today I just want to leave you with a little question. Are you flying toward the blue light of lust or are you flying toward the light of the Lord?
You can talk to counselors about it but they won’t tell you what the Bible says. You can talk to financial counselors about it, but if they are not Christians, they won’t tell you that.
It happened again this week. Someone told me about a man who goes by the label of being a Christian. He talks the talk. But I was told that when this guy is under pressure, he lies just like anybody else. That is sad, isn’t it? Do they see love in your life? Do they see a person who loves others without any pretenses or suppositions? Are people drawn to you? Are people drawn to me? It is a sobering question, isn’t it?
You see it is against this backdrop that Christ was talking. The Scribes and Pharisees were on his case. They were accusing Him of spending time with these people and Christ was responding to them. Christ was saying, “OK, guys, I see that you don’t understand where I am coming from. Let me give you my mission statement. It is to find what I am looking for.”
Today beginning a brand new series called “Listen To The Music”. I want you to look at the U2 blockbuster hit through the eyes of God. God is saying, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for until I find you and you and you and you and even you.” Jesus tells some stories about our lostness that pretty much say He is a God who is trying to find what He is looking for. We will only deal with two of these stories this morning.
The first story that Christ told was one that all the guys can identify with. It was a story about a shepherd who had lost a sheep. Back in Biblical times a shepherd did not spend time leaning on his staff in a starched robe with a nice tan, smoking a Camel. That is not the picture. A shepherd was a tough and intense and focused man. A shepherd was weather-beaten. He was often sleepless.
Don’t be embarrassed. Some of you might have to look across the aisle. And I want you to say these words. “Neighbor, I’ve got a secret that I am going to share and here it is.” God wants you, that’s right you, to be a person of courage.”
But a lot of people jump on the feelings train. Choo, choo, choo, choo, choo, choo! Oh, I’ve got to feel it. Choo, choo, choo! If I feel it, man, that means it’s real. Choo, choo, choo, choo, choo! And then we say, “If I can have this experience or this vibe or this encounter with God, then my feelings can take me above the clouds and I can be riding on the souuuuuuuuuuuuuuul train! Choo, choo, choo, choo, choo!
And then here’s what happens on the soul train. We’re so in touch with our feelings, but one day the train begins to slow down. It breaks through the clouds and comes to a screeching halt and we don’t feel it any more. And then we say, “Where’s God?”
And we search for another feelings based deal, another feelings based situation. That’s not faith. Yeah, feelings sometimes accompany faith. But many times feelings aren’t all about the quiver in the liver or the spring in your step or the twinkle in your eye or the tear dripping down your cheek in a movie. I can make you cry every weekend. I know how to do it. But I’m not going to manipulate you.
What’s so hilarious is that several times I’ve cried during the message and invariably, when I’m around the community after a message where I’ve cried, people, I kid you not, will come up to me and say, “Hey, Ed, I just wanted to stop and tell you, man, that message this weekend was from the heart!”
I think to myself, “Like the others ones aren’t?”
So, I guess I’ll just cry every weekend and then people will go, “Man, we really worshiped because Ed made us cry again. Oh, I have so much faith!”
Sometimes we do cry. And that’s fine. But it’s not this feelings based souuuuuuuuuuuuuuul train! Faith is not doubt free. It’s not feelings based.