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Vineyard Church Ft. Myers

Why Did the Chicken Cross the World and 307 Other Questions That Could Start a Fire

“Why Did the Chicken Cross the World and 307 Other Questions That Could Start a Fire.”

At first glance, this seems like a very simple question with a very simple answer, but the answer requires more in depth study, a historical background check and ends with a very spelled out, sound reason, that makes great sense.

Basically this question, answered, examines the chicken’s ever growing and complex role in society and civilization.

This question takes us on a captivating journey through the history of the most fundamental and significant source of human protein.

Jesus asked some questions…307 to be exact.

He only ANSWERED, 3.

Some questions were straight forward and simple.

Others were rhetorical.

And still others were a challenge and NOT easily answered.

In Martin B. Copenhaver’s book, “Jesus is the Question”, he says: “Easy answers can give us a sense of finality. By entertaining questions, God has a chance to change us. Answers can be offered as a conclusion. Questions are an invitation to further reflection. For the most part, answers CLOSE and questions, OPEN. It is telling that the word question contains the word QUEST. That is, a QUESTION, sends you on a journey, and OFTEN in search of something valuable.”

I am going to ask  a question, today, that I hope will INVITE YOU to further reflection. I want to send YOU on a journey, in search of something valuable.

One of the questions that Jesus asked was pretty simple, but not so easily answered.

He asked His Disciples: “Who do people say that I am?”, and then He followed it with ANOTHER question, “But who do YOU say that I am?”

Knowing WHO Jesus IS, is one of the most important pieces of knowledge that we can acquire.  But, KNOWING Jesus, is even MORE important. One is about information, the other is about RELATIONSHIP.

The way we answer this question can change our life.

It can change the way we look at the world.

The way we look at people.

The way we REACT to the world AND people.

But most importantly, the way we look at OURSELVES.

So I would like to redirect the question. Let’s ask the original QUESTIONER, the question.

Let’s ask Jesus: “Who do YOU say that I am?”

Knowing who JESUS says we are…can give us an IDENTITY that is grounded and affect EVERYTHING that we think…

And everything that we THINK can affect everything that we SAY…

And everything that we SAY can affect everything that we DO.

Who Jesus says WE are can be the most life altering bit of knowledge and truth, of which we can take possession, CLAIM for our lives, and proceed to LIVE this truth out as a testimony to the world around us.

It can change the way we see not only with our EYES, but how we venture into the world with our HEARTS.

Who OTHERS say we are, can sometimes DESTROY us for life,  causing us to alter the very thing that God created; our SOUL… and therefore, STUNTING our growth in HIM.

When our development in HIM is skewed, our God-designed POTENTIAL is forever altered;

not that He can’t restore and heal, which is what He does BEST, but we must become secure IN Him, in order to find our way back TO Him and all that He has planned for us.

Some of us here grew up in homes that were loving and encouraging; a place of safety and security.

And some of us probably grew up  feeling insecure in their home environment; unsure of being loved, wanted, or of worth.

I’m very sorry if YOUR memories are part of the latter.

How much we accept ourselves as adults is STRONGLY tied to the type of LOVE that we received as a child.

Unconditionally loved children will generally grow up to have HIGH levels of self-acceptance or self-esteem.

Conditionally loved children; children who feel love based on how they act, what they do, EVEN, how they look, generally grow up with lower levels of self-acceptance.

Now this is Generally speaking. There are ALWAYS situations that don’t fit the norm;

But how you enter the world as an adult is greatly affected by WHO the people in your life, “Say” you are;

Especially if you BELIEVE that it is the TRUTH.

It takes COURAGE to Listen to Jesus’ truth and then, FAITH, to believe that it IS the TRUTH.

I’ve never understood that phrase; “Quit being such a “CHICKEN!”, because all of the videos that I watched on chickens showed that they are brave and inquisitive; that they will defend and protect their young.

They are extremely affectionate and caring.

In fact, Jesus even used as an example, the love of a hen for her chicks to express God’s love for us in Matthew 23:37.

In ancient Rome, saying you were raised by a “Hen” was a compliment.

So let’s hear Jesus’ answer to our question: “Who do YOU say that I am?”

What is this truth that Jesus proclaimed about each and every one of us.

What does it say about our point in being here and our PURPOSE?

Where do we fit, in the big picture of LIFE?

What defines us?

What makes us….US?

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“You are a CHOSEN PEOPLE,

A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD,

A HOLY NATION,

GOD’S SPECIAL POSSESSION, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His WONDERFUL LIGHT.

Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of GOD; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received MERCY.”

Let that just settle on your soul for a second….

How many of you claim this for yourselves as truth today?

How many of you truly believe that Jesus is speaking about YOU??!!

This is not coming from ME, or The Vineyard Church or our Senior Pastors.

This is coming DIRECTLY from our CREATOR…from His HOLY WORD.

This IS our IDENTITY.

But really…how many of us feel like royalty or like priests, or HOLY??

I didn’t the other day when I was exhausted and was trying to get something done and ended up dropping something and creating a big mess, to waste more of my time to have to clean up and the “F” bomb flew out of my mouth with a few other choice phrases!

Why is it a constant to try and stay on track? And not do the things we hate to do?

We’re in great company, though, because even the Apostle Paul, who WROTE most of the New Testament in Holy Scripture, struggled with this. He said in Romans 7:15, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

So for a short minute I feel like a failure, but then I apologize to God and then to my husband who happened to be in the room at the time, and I move on.

I don’t wallow and condemn myself.

I don’t think that God isn’t going to forgive me or worse yet, not LOVE me.

I know deep in my heart that He has mercy on my soul and that He will NEVER abandon me.

But that’s MY personality and according to psychologists, this security comes partly from how I was loved as a child.

It comes from positive self-esteem.

But I know that it comes from a place deeper than just my upbringing.

It comes because I KNOW where my identity lies.

In Him.

It comes because I KNOW who HE says I am.

And I believe HIS truth.

But what happens when we don’t  know all those things.

When we were told maybe that we wouldn’t amount to anything, over and over again, or “Why try… you’ll probably just fail?”

What happens when we DON’T know who Jesus says we are.

That voice of authority inside our own head can almost destroy us if we allow it.

Who is this?

COLONEL SANDERS

Harland David Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame.

Sanders had a hard time selling his chicken at first. In fact, his famous secret chicken recipe was rejected 1009 times before a restaurant accepted it.

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Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he “Lacked imagination and had no good ideas”.

He tried starting a business that ended in bankruptcy and failure.

He wouldn’t quit.

Today, Disney rakes in billions from merchandise, movies, and theme parks around the world.

einstein

Most of us equate Albert Einstein with the word GENIUS.

He did not speak until he was 4 and could not read until he was 7.

His teachers and parents thought he was MENTALLY HANDICAPPED, slow and anti-social.

He was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School.

In the end, he won the Nobel Prize and changed the face of modern Physics.

oprah

She is one of those people who only need to go by one name.

She is one of the most iconic TV personalities, as well as one of the most wealthy and successful women in the world.

Oprah’s road was long and not easy though.

She endured an abusive and rough childhood and as an adult was fired from her job as a television reporter because she was “unfit for TV”.

There are many examples and stories written about how, now famous, successful people, had they listened to some form of authority in their life, would not have made an impact on the world, the way that they DID.

They would have believed that that was the truth about them and would have given up.

But these people EACH had at least ONE person of authority, who actually knew what they were talking about, who encouraged them on toward SELF-CONFIDENCE, SECURITY and  eventually, GREATNESS and SUCCESS.

It had to be the right person, though; not just anyone.

Someone who KNEW the truth of the matter.

Someone who saw the POTENTIAL.

It’s kind of the same way OUR relationship with God is.

He is the ONE authority who knows the TRUTH about us and Knows the POTENTIAL within us; because HE is our CREATOR.

We need to listen to what HE says about us.

All of these claims come from HIS SCRIPTURE.

He designed us and KNIT us together in our Mother’s womb.

He knows the very hairs on our head. (Of course some he doesn’t have to count very far).

He ordained OUR birth, even BEFORE our parents THOUGHT of conceiving us.

His plan for our FUTURE has ALWAYS been FILLED WITH HOPE!

We were NOT a mistake, because He has ALL of our DAYS written in HIS BOOK!

His DESIRE has been from DAY ONE, to LAVISH His love on us.

He is the Only one who has a RIGHT to make these claims on our lives.

“You are a chosen PEOPLE.”

God is telling you and I that WE are ACCEPTABLE.

Now most of us in here were born to our parents. They didn’t get to pick us out from a lineup of babies. They didn’t choose us.

They were basically, “stuck” with us to put it crudely.

But there are a couple of people in here who were ADOPTED. They were chosen.

Hand picked.

Both children are loved, but to know you were chosen, puts a special meaning to it.

And so it is with God….He CHOSE us.

We are His ADOPTED children.

APPROVED

CALLED out,

SPECIAL.

We ALL have in innate need to be ACCEPTED.

It’s not on the same level, but remember how GREAT, OR how AWFUL it felt when you were young and teams at school were being picked?

Everyone dreaded not hearing their name called out.

Well, with God, it’s as if we were all picked “FIRST”,

That we EACH, were the MOST DESIRED and WANTED.

That EACH of us is his FAVORITE.

And He chooses US, in spite of our weaknesses, character flaws, physical flaws, our sins, or any number of things that would make us unattractive or unlovable to someone else.

It’s a mystery how that works, but Jesus STILL would have gone to the cross, even if there were only YOU…JUST ONE PERSON, to die for.

I pray that you FEEL that today…how loved and how SPECIAL you are by the Father.

You don’t need to do anything to IMPRESS,

You just need to accept this amazing GIFT.

So, not only does He say we are CHOSEN,

He also says that we are His SPECIAL POSSESSION.

This means that we are of VALUE, ESPECIALLY to HIM.

If we add up the value of a body based on chemical elements,

Summing up all the amounts in the VALUE column, we can get an accurate amount on just what a body is WORTH,

ROUGHLY around ONLY $160!

Doesn’t sound like much.

When I’ve considered having a rummage sale and wondered what to charge for things, Kenny always told me that something is worth ONLY what someone is willing to pay for it.

According to a recent article in “Wired” magazine, a human body could be worth up to $45 Million!

That’s on today’s market value if you sell off, by components, piece by piece;

Say, for instance the BONE MARROW, DNA, the LUNGS, KIDNEYS, HEART and so on.

People are willing to pay THAT kind of money because it literally means LIFE or DEATH.

So what is OUR value?

Not in a pile of chemical elements….

What is our VALUE to GOD?

What are we WORTH to HIM?

What was HE willing to PAY for US?

1 Corinthians 7:23 says: “God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world.”

We must stop letting the world tell us who we are, and START listening and CLAIM the TRUTH of who GOD, says we are.

His voice is the ONLY one that matters.

He is the ONLY AUTHORITY who has the RIGHT to tell us who we are.

After all, He PAID the highest price.

He gave up HIS Son, and separated Himself from Jesus while He hung on a cross and died a HORRIFIC death.

Unlike piece by piece where our organs can demand a high price in the world of medicine,

in order to save a life…

God demanded the HIGHEST PRICE from His Son;

His SON’s whole body, spirit, mind, and soul;

Everything that He WAS, hung on that cross;

And it too, saved a life.

YOURS and MINE.

Each and EVERY life.

All we need to DO, is CLAIM that TRUTH.

THAT is what God says about YOU and ME.

That we are WORTH more than we could EVER be able to imagine.

We BELONG to HIM.

We are PRECIOUS to Him.

He gave HIS life so that we could HAVE life and not just any life,

Not a mediocre life, Not a life without MEANING and PURPOSE; but an ABUNDANT life, filled with that indescribable joy, even in not so wonderful circumstances and a life that is ETERNAL.

In John 10:10, Jesus said: “The thief does not come except to STEAL, to KILL, and to  DESTROY. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

The word for “abundant” in Greek is ‘perisson’, meaning:

EXCEEDINGLY

VERY HIGHLY,

BEYOND MEASURE,

MORE, SUPERFLUOUS, a quantity so abundant as to be considerably more than one would EVER expect or anticipate.

Therefore, Jesus PROMISES us a life far BETTER than we could EVER imagine.

This doesn’t mean more “stuff”.

It doesn’t mean MATERIAL abundance.

It MEANS SPIRITUAL abundance.

Abundant life is ETERNAL life.

It begins the moment we accept Him into our heart and continues to the day we leave this earth.

In John 17:3 “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

Being part of His Chosen people,

His Royal priesthood,

And His Special Possession will gift us with 2 benefits:

  1. We will have direct access to Christ, Himself.

We will have a personal fellowship with God. We can open our own Heart and Mind to Him. We don’t have to confess our sins to anyone else.

We can go directly to HIM.

  1. We will have a responsibility to minister to the needs of others.

And YES…I consider that a GIFT and a BENEFIT.

You know we really aren’t called to do THAT much.

Some people complain that as CHRISTIANS, we have so many rules that we HAVE to follow.

And that is such a perverted view of Christianity.

You see being a CHRISTIAN isn’t about being RELIGIOUS.

But it IS about RELATIONSHIP; with GOD and with PEOPLE.

It is a means of serving and loving, our CREATOR and SERVING and loving, each other increasingly as each day passes.

We are called to do only 2 things in this life of ABUNDANCE: and that is…

LOVE GOD and

LOVE OTHERS.

That is IT!

The SIMPLEST thing and the HARDEST thing.

Saying “yes” to Jesus means that we are saying “yes” to being a part of His MINISTRY.

To speak out FOR Him and to take the message of WHO Jesus says that THEY are…and tell them of the PROFOUND CHANGE that He has made in OUR life.

So this morning, we have asked Jesus an important question: “Who do YOU say that I am?” in the hope that it would invite us to further CONSIDERATION.

That it would take us on a little journey in search of something valuable.

The journey was learning a little more of what God claims over US, as His children.

And the “something Valuable that you were to find, was hopefully….YOU.
An abundant life takes a lifetime of: LEARNING,

DISCIPLINE and PRACTICE,

GROWING in our faith,

as well as FAILING,

RECOVERING,

READJUSTING,

ENDURING,

And, OVERCOMING.

And then….One day, we will stand before Him, Face to Face, and we will KNOW Him COMPLETELY and

WE will be known COMPLETELY.

And we will not STRUGGLE anymore with SIN

Or with DOUBT.

We will NOT care what the world THINKS or SAYS about us.

And THIS, will be the ULTIMATELY, FULFILLED ABUNDANT, LIFE.

Debbie Burnside

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Debbie is a Pastor at The Vineyard Church Ft. Myers. Debbie is a wife, mother, grandmother and lover of people. Debbie believes that love is always the answer and lives her life as a bright and shining example as what LOVE looks like in action!

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Outrageous Encounter at 7:11

Two American best friends were studying in Spain. They took a side trip to France. Being poor college students, they had stuffed their carry on bags with lots of granola bars and snack foods for the weekend. At the security check, the conversation between the workers went something like this: “Look at this bag! Fat Americans, always eating! Can they not even make a flight without food? I think if Americans stop eating, they die! Why else would they be so fat?” When the check was complete, the look on the agents faces was priceless as one of the girls said in perfect Spanish, “Thank you. Can you direct us to a McDonald’s, we’re so hungry!”

Have you ever overheard a conversation that shocked you, offended you, hurt you, scared you, or made you laugh?

When I was a kid, I went through a time in 2nd grade that I didn’t want to go to school. I was actually scared. I had been accused of drawing an ugly picture of my teacher, which I did not, but the kid who did blamed it on me. My teacher was the stereotypical, old maid, stern, never smiling, harsh type and I was the timid, sensitive, rule following, scared of everything type.

I tried the tummy ache excuse a couple of times and then switched to hiding my shoes. We only had one pair in those days and no shoes meant no school. But then I happened to overhear a conversation between my parents — they were discussing what they thought were excuses for my not wanting to go to school and I suddenly found my shoes.

God used the overhearing of a conversation at 7:11 to bring an amazing infusion of courage to a man.

The 7:11 I’m referring to is not the one down the street – it’s the one in the book of Judges, and the man’s name is Gideon.

Judges 7:11 – “Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged.”

Gideon was about to have an outrageous encounter through simply overhearing a conversation!

Before I tell you what Gideon overheard, let me explain why Gideon needed to be encouraged.

God had chosen Gideon to lead the Israelite’s to victory against the Midianites, but when God told Gideon His plan he wasn’t exactly excited about it! Gideon said: “But Lord”, When a response begins with “but”, we can be sure there is some sort of objection coming.

Gideon said: “But Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The term “the least” is the same term for “poor in spirit” in Matthew 5:3. It basically means that Gideon was a humble individual; he didn’t think too highly of himself. He didn’t have an overly inflated ego – in other words, he was the opposite of most politicians! Maybe that’s why God chose him. But Gideon was going to need some very big doses of encouragement for this job; some real serious dependence on God.

Judges 6:16 – The LORD said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

Gideon was fully aware of his inabilities – that made him the perfect candidate for this mission; someone who didn’t need to be convinced that without God’s involvement, this was an impossible task!

God had a plan, and He patiently gave Gideon encouragement every time doubt tried to creep in. Gideon even asked God not to be angry with him because he needed so much encouragement. Gideon’s family were Baal worshipers, and he was afraid they would kill him if he believed in and obeyed God.

After a lot of prompting, Gideon was finally ready to obey what God was directing him to do, but just when Gideon accepted the position, just when he was feeling like, “I think I can, I think I can”, God dropped a bomb.

Judges 7:2-3 – The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelite’s will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. Therefore, tell the people, ‘whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain and go home’.” So 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight.

The Midianite army was massive. These enemies of God’s people had been tormenting the Israelites for seven years. They had invaded their territory, camped on their land and ruined their crops. They stole or killed their livestock, and they ravaged their land. It was so bad that the Israelites had made shelters for themselves in the mountain clefts and in caves to hide from the Midianites.

When God sent the angel to tell Gideon that he had been chosen to lead the army to victory against these people, Gideon was down in a winepress threshing wheat to keep the Midianites from seeing and taking it. Everyone was aware of how ruthless and powerful the Midianites were, and God had just given 22,000 of Gideon’s army an exemption. They were the first conscientious objectors – not because they didn’t believe in war, but because they were scared to death to face an army that large and powerful.

You would think that God would tell Gideon to round up more men; offer a signing bonus or start a draft, but instead, God’s plan was to reduce the number ever more! He told Gideon: there are still too many, and after a very strange qualifying exercise, only 300 made the cut.

The Midianite army was 135,000. Imagine – 300 against 135,000! That’s 450 to 1. What soldier in their right mind would take on 450 Midianite warriors? What kind of weapons would it take for 1 man to fight 450 and win? That would be some serious super hero powers! Now you understand why Gideon needed another dose of encouragement. So …

God arranged an outrageous encounter for Gideon.

Whenever something out of the ordinary happens, whether positive or negative – good or bad, there’s a really good chance God is speaking, so take a minute and ask: is there a lesson I need to learn or a warning I need to pay attention to, or maybe God just wants me to enjoy His presence and get to know Him better.

From my earliest memories, I wanted to know who God was. When I was in the 3rd grade, I was wandering around our house looking for something to do. My mom & dad were at work (night shift) and my older brothers & sisters were suppose to be watching me (I was the youngest of 7). I opened my mother’s cedar chest and was drawn to an old church song book. It was in rough condition – missing the cover and several of the first and last pages. It actually looked like it should have been thrown in the garbage a long time ago, but something about it caught my interest.

I often took the song book and would go somewhere alone – to the barn loft, out in the woods, or behind our house. I would make up my own tune (I couldn’t read musical notes) and sing the words of the songs, and as I sang I cried. I didn’t know why I cried, but when I did it felt good. It felt comforting. I can remember being perplexed about that and I would look up to the sky and say: “why does this make me cry?” What I came to understand years later when I came to know Jesus is that my spirit was actually connecting with the Spirit of God. I was worshiping God before I understood who God was. It was an outrageous encounter! God can use the most unusual and the simplest of things to facilitate an outrageous encounter – as simple as overhearing a conversation.

So what did Gideon overhear?

Judges 7:8-11 – … The Midianite camp was in the valley just below Gideon. That night the LORD said, “Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp, for I have given you victory over them! But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack.”

Gideon & Purah went down to the edge of the enemy camp. They were settled in the valley like a swarm of locusts. Their camels were like grains of sand on the seashore – too many to count. Gideon & Purah crept up just as a man was telling his buddy about a dream he had.

Judges 7:13-14 – “… in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!” His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing — God has given Gideon … victory over Midian and all its allies!”

I have no idea how this man connected a loaf of bread knocking over a tent with God giving Gideon victory. I’m not even convinced there is a connection, but i am convinced that it was God who made the man say what he said – he may have been amazed himself! But God used what seems like silly words as an outrageous encounter for Gideon.

Outrageous Encounters refocus us.

It seems that Gideon’s focus had shifted back to how weak they were in comparison to the Midianites when his army was slashed to 300, but God arranged this outrageous encounter to refocus Gideon on what He had said: “I have given you victory over Midian”!

Judges 7:15 – When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the LORD.

Worshiping God is the very core of our faith, but we can sometimes get so busy; preoccupied with doing Christian things that we forget to worship. We can have an outrageous encounter by simply worshiping God.

Judges 7:15-18 – …Then he returned to the Israelite camp and shouted, “Get up! For the LORD has given you victory over the Midianite hordes!” He divided the 300 men into three groups and gave each man a ram’s horn and a clay jar with torch in it. The he said to them, “Keep your eyes on me. When I come to the edge of the camp, do just as I do. As soon as I … blow the rams’ horn, blow your horns, … all around the entire camp, and shout. ‘For the LORD and for Gideon’!”

The words God had spoken to Gideon and then repeated through the dream interpretation, Gideon was now speaking to his army.

Outrageous Encounter redirect us.

Gideon came back to the camp with a new plan after his outrageous encounter. Instead of a typical military strategy, Gideon did something a group of pre-schoolers might think of, but remember – God uses the foolish things to confound the wise.

They waited till just after midnight, just after the changing of the guard, then at the edge of the camp they blew their horns and broke their clay jars. They held the fiery torches in their left hands and the horns in their right hands and they all shouted, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” But there is no mention of them having swords.

Judges 7:21-22 – Each man stood at his position around the camp and watched as all the Midianites rushed around in a panic, shouting as they ran to escape. When the 300 Israelites blew their rams’ horns, the LORD caused the warriors in the camp to fight against each other with their swords Those who were not killed fled …

Outrageous Encounters empower us.

Whatever the occasion calls for, God empowers us to do. Sometimes we fight, sometimes we stand and watch God work.

-Cathy Smith

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Cathy and her husband Gary co-pastor the Vineyard Ft. Myers. Cathy is an advocate for equality. She has a fierce passion to see women understand that they have a “Place at the Table”. She is a gifted speaker, teacher, and leader.

A Simple Lesson With A BIG Impact

I have always loved rainbows, the colors together are beautiful. Some of our favorite candy makers got their inspiration from  the rainbow… A bag of Skittles or M&M’s wouldn’t taste nearly as tasty if they were all one color. Can u imagine opening a bag of skittles to find they were all green? That would be a huge let down… we love seeing all the colors pour into our hands together!  October in our kids church our theme was CANDY and each week we learned a lesson from candy… Yes, that is possible (Candy has a lot to teach us). In one of my favorite lessons from the month we used Skittles to show us how perfectly colors go together when you are “tasting the rainbow”!  Wouldn’t it be awesome if our skin colors meshed together they way skittles do? It is hard to understand why that isn’t possible and why we are so quick to judge anything different. Many of the early Christians thought that the Gospel was just for them and then God gave Peter a sign that he needed to step up and share God’s love with people who were different.

 Acts 10: 27-29 SAYS: Talking things over, they went on into the house, where Cornelius introduced Peter to everyone who had come. Peter addressed them, “You know, I’m sure that this is highly irregular. Jews just don’t do this—visit and relax with people of another race. But God has just shown me that no race is better than any other. So the minute I was sent for, I came, no questions asked. But now I’d like to know why you sent for me.”

I think this story so relevant to the world today, we can all think of groups of people who despise each other.  Peter grew up hating the Romans but once he realized God also loved the Romans, he understood that Jesus didn’t only die for the Jews. It’s important that we realize and teach our kids at a young age that Jesus died for ALL people… all races, all countries… EVERYONE!

We have to learn to look past the outside and love everyone because Jesus does we can truly make a difference in the world.  Rainbows are beautiful in the sky and help make candy great and can also bring color to the future. My prayer is that our kids church would be filled with all colors and and all races to be a beautiful as the plates from our experiment.  May God forgive us for judging anyone because they are different and help us to love everyone.

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-Ramie Hall

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Ramie wears many hats; wife, mother, pastor, community leader, daughter, friend, Realtor, and advocate for children. She has a passion for children of all ages. She not only wants them to believe they CAN change the world she works tirelessly to equip them to DO so!

Moving Toward The Mess

I love how are challenged to examine our own Christian journey and whether or not we are willing & able to take the steps required to move toward the mess…

Because honestly, as Christians, we are all required to take those steps.

I want to share with you the obstacles I have faced when I made the decision that I would live my life in movement towards the mess…

I will also talk about the ways I made the mess messier and how God enabled, empowered, and equipped me to move into the mess with a heart posture of love.

Dusty & I were pastors at a church in the ultra-conservative Bible Belt. I found myself curious about the “mess”, the least of these, the marginalized of society… I started being drawn to books that opened my eyes to so many social justice issues going on in America let alone in third world nations. I started traveling to social justice conferences and educating myself on issues that no one would dare talk about in church…

 I was being stretched.

The topics God was stirring in me were not topics I heard other Christians talking about. I would find myself getting frustrated with church wondering what the point was… I longed to be in the middle of the mess and The church that I knew seemed to clean, to programmed. I wanted more.

I heard a song from Todd Agnew called “My Jesus” that offended my religious mind but at the same time drew me in because I knew hidden in the somewhat offensive lyrics was a deep rooted truth.

“Pretty blue eyes and curly brown hair and a clear complexion
Is how you see Him as He dies for Your sins
But the Word says He was battered and scarred
Or did you miss that part?
Sometimes I doubt we’d recognize Him

‘Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and the least of these
He loved the poor and accosted the comfortable
So which one do you want to be?

‘Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despises the proud
And I think He’d prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd
And I know that He can hear me if I cry out loud”

Those lyrics offended me because I wanted to think that Jesus would be accepted at our church and that I was perfectly comfortable spending time with the least of these… but that just wasn’t truth.

Don’t get me wrong. I was heavily involved in outreach. I co-founded an outreach ministry that’s sole purposes was to unite area churches to serve “the least of these” … Called Mathew 25 Ministries named because of the “outreach Scripture”

Matthew 25:40 ‘truly I tell you whatever you have done for the least of these you have did unto me.”

We did the stuff.

We ran a weekly food pantry. We did monthly outreaches in our community, throughout our state, and we even led teams to Africa where we had the normal mission’s experiences…

But I just felt like something was off. We were serving but what difference were we really making?

The Lord started to talk to me about relationships and taking the time to get to know the people we were helping.

 He was inviting me into the mess. 

Not to help, not to fix things, but to sit in the mess with people.

To care. To get to know them. To love them.

I still believe that as the church we are called to serve and to meet the needs of those who are in our community and in communities throughout the world but as individual  Christians we are called to love, to care, to show up and to invest in the lives of people who are hurting.

Romans 12:15- 16 from the International Children’s Version

15 Be happy with those who are happy. Be sad with those who are sad. 16 Live together in peace with each other. Do not be proud, but make friends with those who seem unimportant.

I love a good children’s Bible…

The gospel is so simple.

Adults are the ones that have made it overly complicated.

The gospel is about loving God and people (period)

Romans 12:15 & 16 puts it very simply- be happy with those who are happy, celebrate victories with people… weep with those who are weeping, share with others in their losses, make friends with people that can do nothing for you…

This is more than handing a meal to someone that is hungry.  This is about investing in people. It’s about climbing over the walls we have built around our hearts that create this false sense of security and connecting with people in real ways knowing for sure that they may hurt us… but choosing to connect any way.

Before I could accept the invitation to move toward the mess I had to deal with obstacles that kept getting in my way.

I was confronted with these simple truths about myself…

I often took the easy path

It was easier for me to serve meals than to sit with someone & have an actual conversation.

It was easier for me to lead teams and to help people in a third world nation than to connect with the hurting in real ways that mattered on a personal level.

I bought into the concept that Christians are called to be solutions to problems (which I still believe to some extent) but I became that mantra and quickly allowed myself to wear the hat of “the fixer”. I didn’t connect with people to listen or to love, I connected with people primarily to fix their problems or to even fix them.

I was also confronted with the fact that I had major walls around my own heart

I spent years building walls around my heart to keep myself safe… Those walls served me well, they kept out the pain but what I didn’t realize the very walls I had built to keep the pain out was also preventing me from experiencing love and connection. It is impossible to connect to people when your surrounded by walls.

CS Lewis Quote

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

Vulnerability was a foreign concept to me and it scared me to death!

Connecting with people meant I was opening myself up to have my heart broken.

Another truth I had to face was the fact that I was full of judgment

This was something that actually really surprised me…

I had been studying social justice issues for years, I felt very open minded especially in the circles I ran in and still when I was sitting next to someone that life choices looked very different than mine I could feel the judgment well up in my heart.

 Every place that judgment exists in your heart is a place that is absent of love and unable to connect with people.

I had to let go of the thought that I had all the answers… rid myself of pride and consciously choose not to judge people in any way.

I had to choose to love and see things through eyes of mercy.

I shared with you a couple of my obstacles that was keeping me from being able to move toward the mess…

But you need to examine your own heart so than you can understand what obstacles you have.

Self- awareness is key to understanding your own obstacles.

You cannot overcome something you are unaware of.

Next you have to ask yourself, “Why do you feel compelled to move toward the mess?”

If your answer isn’t love or connection, then you need to spend some time examining your motives.

People can’t be duties, or projects. They are people worthy of love and connection. On my own journey I made the mistake of seeing people as a duty and because of that motive I could not properly give them the love and attention they needed.

It took a while for me to understand how I was viewing my responsibility to the mess.

I took the scriptures literally about meeting peoples needs but I totally missed the point.

Jesus is always after heart connections not religious duties.

I had made something beautiful like caring for the poor a religious duty instead of a way to connect with someone in need.

After your motives are aligned with love you are ready to make your move.

But, what do you do when you get there?

Before I can give you the list of what to do I need give you a long detailed list of what not to do!
I tended to make messes even messier by stepping into some really common traps.

Our women’s group is currently reading the book “Love Warrior” From Glennon Doyle Melton. She gives a great description of common ways people try to “help” people  during their time of crisis that are anything but helpful.

She named classified 6 different types of unhelpful helpers… the shover, the comparer, the fixer, the reporter, the victim & the God rep

Sadly, I have fit every description at some point in my life.

“The Shover”

The shover listens nervously not wanting to acknowledge pain or hurt but is quick shove the hurting person towards something good and hopeful. The shover has to move people forward quickly so that things appear neat and tidy.
Offering words like, “Everything happens for a reason” “The biggest challenges happens to the strongest people”, “This will all workout you will see”.

Seems harmless right?

But when you are in the middle of a crisis and find yourself in a mess you do not want to be shoved you want be heard.

You can’t rush people when they are in pain. You can love them & sit with them and let them know you are there. But shoving them towards something they are not ready to do or hear is not helpful.

“The Comparer”

The comparer nods while listening as if the pain they are hearing confirms something they already know. The comparers strategy is to hijack the moment with their own story of pain. This is of no help to the person in crisis because their pain is personal and cannot be compared to anyone else’s.

“The Fixer”

The Fixer is certain that the situation is actually a question and that they have the answer. The fixer is full of wisdom and resources fully believing that they can fix everything.

Being a counselor and a certified know it all this is my biggest trap. Although some people come to me for answers not everyone I meet wants me to wear the hat of a counselor. I have learned this the hard way!

“The Reporter”

The reporter listens intently to every detail often asking probing questions, collecting the story so it can be retold as gossip or even worse gossip as way of prayer request.

“The Victims”

The victims make the crisis all about them. Either by being hurt by not being told first hand or filtering the information through how your personal crisis impacts their life.

“God Reps”

And then there are the God reps. The ones who know exactly what God thinks about the problem and has the exact plan needed to walk it out.

I love her examples but I am saddened to admit at one point in my life I have been all 6.

When people find themselves in a crisis or a mess what they need are people to show up, to care, to be there, to hold their hand, to give them a tissue, to say I don’t understand what you are going through but I am here.

Weep with those who weep…

Moving toward the mess… whether the mess is someone in a personal crisis, dealing with trauma, marginalized by society, filled with brokenness,

Whatever the mess our job is to love without an agenda.

To be an ear to hear, a hand to hold, and a shoulder to cry on.

God had to give me His heart

What does it look like for a church to intentionally move toward the mess?

I saw Tommy Barnnet at the Joyce Meyers Women’s about 10 years ago and he shared his story of having a mega church and being dissatisfied. He started bussing in children, families, and anyone that would come from the inner city to his church. At first people were ok. Then issues started occurring. People didn’t feel comfortable anymore. They were concerned about leaving their purses in the pew. Their kids were being exposed to another way of life. There were a lot of uncomfortable growing pains.

People left.

Then more people left.

But he was finally feeling like he was on the right path. He was in the middle of the mess…

He helped start the Los Angeles Dream Center that services 50,000 homeless & impoverished people in LA. They have a transitional home for freshly released inmates and do a weekly outreach to prostitutes offering them housing and counseling to get them off the street.

They moved toward the mess and just kept moving.

Francis Chan has a similar story. He left his highly “successful mega church” to move him & his family toward the mess. He is quoted as saying that he would often hear his own name more than talk of Jesus or the Holy Spirit in his church and he just got fed up.

He literally sold everything and moved his family to Asia where they “lived in the mess” and felt more satisfied then ever…

Do our stories have to look like theirs?

Absolutely not…

For us as a church to begin the courageous journey of moving toward the mess it simply looks like each of us doing our part.

Each individual family committing to walk out this journey together with the people in this room.

Encouraging one another in our gifts. Every one of you has a gift, you have a purpose.

It’s about each one of us working together to love the people in this community.

It’s about us coming together to make this place a beacon of hope, a hospital for the broken, a place for people that is safe for them to come to in whatever state they are in.

We have to have courageous conversations that make us uncomfortable and deal with the way Christians are treating those marginalized in society…

We have to be a place that welcomes anyone and everyone despite their struggles.

To be people that will love people where they are.

WE HAVE TO REMEMBER THAT OUR JOB is to love… its God job to deal with their hearts.

Will it be messy- yes?

Will we make mistakes- I can almost guarantee it?

Will it be beautiful absolutely?

~Stephanie McCandless

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Stephanie & Dusty are pastors that live in beautiful SWFL. They have 6 beautiful children that keep life very interesting! Stephanie is passionate about helping people navigate through life moving toward their “true north”.

The Case of the Missing Figs

Fig Newtons have been around for 125 years.  They made their debut in 1891.

The year I was born, 1951, their ad promised a “Fig-jam jamboree”.  Is that anything like a mosh pit?!

Four years ago, in 2012, something went missing! Nabisco chopped the “Fig” off the brand name.  Now they are just Newtons.  The Nabisco advertising executives just couldn’t imagine 21st century kids getting excited about figs.  One of them said that figs have no contemporary feel, and that “fig” was too “laxative-y” sounding, so they became just Newtons.  They added different flavors – more  appealing fruit choices, like blueberry, strawberry, and peach.

Believe it or not, this was not the first time figs went missing.  The original “missing fig” story is actually in the Bible.  Jesus discovered the missing figs and used the occasion for a live performance, an acted out parable, a powerful object lesson.   The story is in Matthew 21.

Jesus woke up hungry early one morning and started looking for some breakfast.  He spotted a fig tree in the distance, right along the road leading to Jerusalem.  He walked over to the tree, his mouth watering, ready for a fresh fig.  The tree looked so promising – all leafy and green – this was going to be a great breakfast, but he was soon disappointed — there were no figs!

Jesus didn’t see any fruit from a distance, but the leaves on the fig tree were a promise of fruit — but there was no fruit!  No figs!  Like the original Fig Newton box said:  “You can’t see flavor but you know it’s there when you see the red Nabisco seal”.  A leafy, green fig tree with no figs was false advertisement

Jesus did not take the barren fig tree lightly.  He said to the tree: “May you never bear fruit again!”  Immediately the tree withered. (Matthew 21:19)

To Clarify:  In the area around Jerusalem, somewhere between the end of March/beginning of April,  fig trees begin to blossom getting ready for the first crop of season (they bear 2-3 times a year).
At the same time the leaves are growing – sometimes even before, there are small knobs, called taqsh.  They are kind of early forerunner to the real figs.  They grow to be the size of green almonds which are not like ripe figs, but do satisfy hunger.  They drop off the tree as they mature to make way for the figs, which come about six weeks later.

A fig tree in leaf should have taqsh – it’s a promise of figs on the way.  If there are no taqsh there will be no figs either.  A leafy fig tree with no taqsh means there will be no figs.  Jesus would have know that it was too early for figs, but he expected taqsh because the tree was in leaf.

Jesus knew this tree was fruitless and hopeless.  We don’t know if it was ever a fruitful tree, but It wasn’t now – it was  barren;  an imposter – a hypocrite fig tree; all showy and green, but totally worthless when it came to producing fruit, and what good is a fruit tree without fruit?

Jesus cursed the tree.  Did his hunger get the best of him?  Low blood sugar can make people to crazy things. What did cursing the tree mean?    Did he call it names and use vulgar language?

Curse (in this sense) is only used this one time in the NT.  It was a pronouncement of judgment.  The cursing of the tree was an object lesson;  a word picture; an acted out parable; a final warning to Israel for failure to listen to word of the GOD through the prophets. It was a prophetic pointer to Israel’s judgment for having failed as God’s chosen people, and because they rejected Jesus as the promised Messiah.

The fig tree was symbolic of the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people.

To get the full context of what was happening and connect all the dots to get a clear picture of that this acted out parable meant, we need to go back to the day before.

It was the triumphal entry; Palm Sunday. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, people spread their cloaks on the road like a runway and others cut palm branches and spread them on the path, as the crowd shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”   The whole city was stirred up.  Expectancy was in the air.

Jesus was on his way to the temple, along with many others.  He expected to see people going in to worship.  It was the week before passover, and  people  from surrounding areas would come a few days early to make preparation and to do whatever purification rituals were necessary, but when Jesus got to the court, what he saw was more like a flea market –  animals for sacrifice were being sold at inflated prices because they were in demand and there was no where else to get them.  Think EpiPen situation.

Others were changing currency at an inflated rate, also taking advantage of those who came from a distance.  Jesus called it  “a den of thieves”.

As with the barren fig tree, he was angry – the temple was not suppose to be like this – he ran the crooks out and turned over the tables – pretty much wrecked the flea market.

The temple in Jerusalem was a sacred place – Jewish people believed God lived in the temple, which is understandable when we remember that  God’s presence had been in the tent tabernacle, and  later in Solomon’s Temple. People came to the temple to meet God; to worship God; to hear from God.

This is what happened the day before the fig tree incident, but these two events are connected.  Both the cursing of the fig tree and the clearing of the temple court were a way of saying:

*Israel had become spiritually barren.

They had a system of religion, but no reality of God.  They were keepers of the law, but their hearts were far from God.  Jesus clearing of the temple pointed to a time when his followers would understand that “True worship is surrender of ourselves to God.”

Romans 12:1 (TNIV) “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is true worship.”

The coming of Jesus means God no longer lives in the temple, but in those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the promised messiah.

Paul told the very religious, but misguided men of Athens:

Acts 17:24 (TNIV) “The God who made the world and everything in it, is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.”

He told the believers at Corinth:  “… we are … God’s building.” (1 Cor. 3:9 TNIV), and

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16, NIV), and to the Ephesian believers he said:

“… Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.” (Eph. 3:17 NIV)

God doesn’t live at 6300 Techster Blvd.  —  God doesn’t live in this building!  The temple of God has become mobile again.  We are God’s motor homes!

We are God’s house; God’s building; God’s temple. We are the church of  God.

We move toward the mess because of that.  We have God in us.

The fig tree has always been symbolic of Israel.   Israel was suppose to be God’s representative.

The fig tree’s leaves were symbolic of Israel’s pretense of godliness, and the tree’s barrenness was symbolic of how their religious system was void of power & love.

This acted out parable was pointing to the  earth shattering event that was about to take place.  In just a few days,  Jesus death & resurrection  would change the religious system and the world forever.

In 1889, Edgar Nye introduced the phrase, “A mile wide and an inch deep.”  He was referring to the Platte River which meanders through the west & mid-western US.

The Platte is a wide, muddy, shallow stream with a swampy bottom.  Even though the river has a very large circulation and covers a large area of land; in some places it’s a mile wide, but it’s only 3/4 of an inch deep.  Because of it’s lack of depth, the Platte River was disqualified from use as a navigation source.  The Platte couldn’t take you anywhere.

In recent years some have given the church that label:  “a mile wide and an inch deep”  — it’s not a complement.  It means we are not being effective; that there’s no real power connected to us; that we’ve lost our influence; that we’re all surface/show, with no depth.

The case of the missing figs story is a reminder that hungry souls are all around us.  Do we appear all green and leafy, but have no nourishment to give? Others are looking for spiritual guidance.  Are we like the Platt River – all surface with no depth, and disqualified as a navigation source?

Have we forgotten that God lives in us – that we are equipped and empowered to move toward the mess.   Let’s start again with true worship, by offering our whole selves to God, available and ready to take light into the darkness.

-Cathy Smith

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Cathy and Gary Smith met in 1970 where they lived and worked for over three years at a drug rehabilitation center called Challenge, a para church ministry in Miami, FL. From Miami they moved to Knoxville, TN and opened a Coffee House on the border of the UT campus, reaching out to students. Next, they served for almost ten years as Youth Pastors in three different churches. In January of 1986, with a desire to combine empowered evangelicalism with contemporary methods of our day, they founded what is now Vineyard Church of Ft. Myers. The church began as non-denominational, but was later adopted into the Association of Vineyard Churches. Cathy is a strong woman in the faith that leads with integrity and grace. She is a gifted teacher and a loving friend.

Beautiful Feet

We are in our 5th week in the series: “Moving Towards the Mess”, which simply put is about evangelism and discipleship. I don’t think that you can separate the 2.
It starts with relationship, letting others see Christ in US and then igniting a desire within to cause others to seek His face and understand the GREAT LOVE that He has for them.
I would like to bring you all some encouragement today about moving towards the mess and what a privilege it is to be used of God even though WE are a mess.

Saint Teresa of Avila who was Catholic nun dedicated to Christ in the 1500’s, said: “Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.”

Our key verse for today comes from the Book of Romans, located in the New Testament. It is the 6th book in the New Testament and it was written by Paul.
Romans 10:14-15 reads:(14)“But before people can ask the Lord for help, they must believe in Him; and before they can believe in Him, they must hear about Him; and for them to hear about the Lord, someone must tell them,(15) and before someone can go and tell them, that person must be sent.
It is written, “How beautiful are the FEET of those who come to bring good news.”

When God puts a call upon our heart to “move towards a mess”, or to get involved in an uncomfortable situation, or to go to someone’s aid in whatever capacity He’s calling us to; it is an unscripted dance.
HE, of course, knows all of the steps, but He doesn’t make a puppet out of us.
We can either say: “Send ME, Father. I will go for You. But forgive me in advance, in case I screw it up.”
Or we can say: “Not now, Father. Not yet, Father. I’m not ready, Father. I can’t because I’m scared. I won’t know what to say or do. I’m a terrible example to send.”

Both answers exhibit a bit of uncertainty in being qualified, but one is WILLING, willing to TRY.
And the other is NOT.

We can be afraid to “move towards the mess.”
We might be REJECTED.
Or RIDICULED.
It could be potentially DANGEROUS.
It certainly will be UNCOMFORTABLE.

It’s okay to be uncomfortable

God wants to push us out of our comfort zone.
He wants to push us into the “mess” of the world.
He wants to grow us SPIRITUALLY.
He wants to grow us in our TRUST of Him.

It’s hard to grow if we stay GUARDED and COMPLACENT.
Sometimes we want to stay in our own safe little environment and NEVER venture out into the mess around us……out into the WORLD.
Sometimes we use the church as a place where we can HIDE.
A place of safety FROM the world.
We want to put our Christianity in a nice little box where we don’t have to associate with people who aren’t Christians or those who are different than us.
We even do it within the Christian community between different denominations.
The CHURCH was NEVER meant to be a safety zone for us to hide within.
It WAS actually meant to be a place of safety and refuge FOR the world;not FROM the world.
A place where ANYONE could come…especially the LEAST, the LAST, the LOST and the LEFT OUT.
Those we might consider the MESSIEST.
Those we might think are very different from us, but in reality, probably are not.
A place of HEALING, where they can find LOVE, GRACE and most of all LIFE. REAL life.
Life in Christ.
When we look at the picture that Jesus left us, to whom did He go?

To those who were different.
The marginalized of society…the POOR…the SEXUALLY immoral…the LAME…the BLIND…the SINFUL, the UNCHURCHED,the ZEALOTS (which were the terrorists of the day).

The physically and emotionally hurting,
The dead, both literally and spiritually.
THE MESSES.
He came to US.

We take our cue from Jesus. He modeled being a LIGHT . He IS the “LIGHT of the WORLD”.
He moved towards the mess.
And he left His comfort zone to do it.
He stepped down from His throne in order to offer us this incredible gift of the Father’s GRACE through Himself.
And after He suffered, died and rose again, He turned around and said now that WE are the light.
That WE are to shine before men and that WE are to let the world see the good that we do so as to let HIS glory be not only KNOWN, but SHOWN.
He won back all authority and power over death and then entrusted US with

His words of LIFE.
What an honor to be given the Father’s PEACE for all of Mankind, His unending LOVE, His gift of GRACE and His overwhelming MERCY to share with the suffering world around us.

To move towards the mess, we need to be active;
to actually MOVE.
How do we get started?
There are 3 things that I feel begin the process of moving us towards the mess.
And I say BEGIN…because it is a process that should never end all the days of our life as long as we draw breath.
This is a lifetime endeavor that we should continuously aspire to.

FIRST: Our hearts MUST be filled with the things of CHRIST.
We must surrender our hearts unto HIS.
Our hearts must DESIRE to be PIERCED by the things that are so characteristic of HIS heart.
If you notice, when you read stories about Jesus, whenever He wanted to show His heart to those who were burdened and in need, He didn’t condemn or yell or first point out their sin or their failings; all that they were doing WRONG.
He didn’t tell them that they were going to HELL if they didn’t stop the particular sin that they were immersed in.
Most of the time…all He showed was LOVE and a COMPASSIONATE heart, a Gentleness and a KINDNESS that had never been offered before.
He exhibited PATIENCE and brought PEACE to their souls.
We need to pray that the Holy Spirit INJECT us DEEPLY with those things needed to walk COURAGEOUSLY and BOLDLY into the “mess”, while at the same time MAINTAINING a heart of HUMILITY.
The FRUIT or VIRTUES that will arise from within us because of the Holy Spirit’s DIRECTION and because our heart SEEKS His, are given to us in order to minister to others.
They are: LOVE,
JOY,
PEACE,
PATIENCE,
KINDNESS,
GOODNESS,
FAITHFULNESS,
GENTLENESS,
and 
SELF-CONTROL.
The Message translation puts it this way…Galatians 5:22-23
“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”
These gifts are available for EVERYONE.
They are INITIATED by the Holy Spirit, but DEPEND upon US to take an active part in using them.
If we are not “bearing fruit” which is the only tangible witness that we bear to the world, then we are NOT reaching our full potential as a CHRISTIAN.

Our “fruit” should ALWAYS give nourishment to those around us.

We should always be ENCOURAGED to pray for God to INCREASE those areas where we feel we could use more STRENGTH and GROWTH.

SECOND: Our MINDS should endeavor to be like that of Jesus.
To think the way that HE thought…with the will of His Father being CENTRAL and the work of the KINGDOM being PARAMOUNT.

The prophet Isaiah in verse 26 wrote that God will keep in perfect PEACE all those whose minds are steadfast and trusting in Him; all whose thoughts are “fixed “ on Him.

“Fixed” means to be anchored, firm, rooted and secure. All words that imply we are to have our minds and thoughts grounded in HIM.

A “fixed” mind is prepared to hear from God.
Remember in our last series Frequency, we spoke about hearing God’s voice and how we ALL have the ability to hear His voice.
What makes a difference is in the RESPONSE to that voice.
A “fixed” mind has an EXPECTATION to encounter the DIVINE.
A “fixed” mind is very PURPOSEFUL in the way it approaches reading, studying, and applying the Word of God to life.

The more we read and IMMERSE ourselves in Jesus’ life story, the more we will know and understand His heart and mind and how much more MEANINGFUL, then, will His DEATH and RESURRECTION mean personally to us.

That will give us strength when we move towards the “mess”.
That will give us an EXCITEMENT to share about His redeeming LOVE.

This is Kingdom work.
Jesus was all about Kingdom work on this earth.
Kingdom work is “messy”.
Look where it lead our Lord.
If He could have chosen another way, WOULD He HAVE done so?
Was He scared?
I think He was TERRIFIED.
You don’t sweat BLOOD because you are calm and UNAFFECTED.
His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane said it all.

It says in the Gospel of Matthew that His SOUL was OVERWHELMED with SORROW to the point of death.

The Gospel of Luke says that He was in ANGUISH.

And the Gospel of Mark says that He was DEEPLY DISTRESSED and TROUBLED.

Not once, but THREE times when he was knelt down praying to the Father, He asked His Father to take this cup from Him if possible. (He was referring to His DEATH by Crucifixion).

But all THREE times He also added, “not MY will, But YOUR WILL BE DONE.”

Moving towards the “mess” is scary, but we need not FEAR.
Isaiah 41:10, says: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.”

And 2nd Timothy 1:7,“For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Based on the Greek translation of the words “sound mind”, this scripture could read: “God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and love – He has given you a mind that has been DELIVERED, RESCUED, REVIVED, SALVAGED, PROTECTED, and brought into a place of safety and security so that it is no longer affected by illogical, unfounded, and absurd thoughts.”

If you are in the family of God and depending on Jesus as your Savior… These are comforting ,satisfying and extremely encouraging words to live by as we “move towards the mess.”

The THIRD thing to get us moving towards the mess:
We literally let our FEET carry us.

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News” ; our key verse.
As I was considering this message and thinking about FEET;
how varied they look from person to person, I was thinking:
most feet are pretty unattractive that I’ve seen.
Feet can be STUBBY
LONG
BUNIONED
CALLOUSED
FLAT
DRY
MISSHAPEN
SWEATY
STINKY
DIRTY
ACHY
and TIRED.
We try to make them more attractive.
We get pedicures.
We cover them with shoes; sometimes very BEAUTIFUL shoes.
We get tattoos on them.
We even wear jewelry on them.
But they are, I think, probably the ODDEST looking part on the body…. maybe even the “ugliest” part of the body.

BUT…THEY are what carry us to the mess of the world around us in order that we might be the LIGHT that Jesus talked about in the Bible.
THEY are what carry us to places in order to shine HIM upon the LEAST, the LAST, the LOST, and the LEFT OUT.
THEY are what carry us to EXPOSE, HIS love, HIS grace and HIS mercy to a HURTING world.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying: “Don’t judge until you’ve walked around in their shoes for a while.”

I want to give 3 examples of people’s feet, from different walks of life and the different shoes that they wore:

1st: these are Mother Teresa’s feet.

mother-teresas-feet

They say that her feet got so misshapen because she would hand out all the best donated shoes to others first and she would wear whatever was left. So, the shoes NEVER fit her properly and her feet became deformed over her years of service.
She wore plain, unattractive brown sandals.
A humbling shoe to do humbling work.
She gave her life to Christ as a young girl and when she died at 87 years old in 1997, her founding order of missionary nuns had over 4000 sisters and 300 brothers, and over 1 million co-workers. There were 610 missions in 123 countries.

She was a tiny little thing.
She went where others would not go. She TOUCHED and COMFORTED those whom others wouldn’t touch; those with HIV/AIDS, LEPROSY, and TUBERCULOSIS. She opened HOSPICES to give the ailing and dying a place to go where they would be LOVED and GENTLY CARED for with DIGNITY in their last days on this earth.
People that no one would ever miss.
She opened ORPHANAGES and took children who were alone and hungry and fed them, not just with FOOD, but with LOVE and COMPASSION.
She opened SCHOOLS so they could learn to READ and be EDUCATED.
She provided counseling services for children and families whom no one else cared about.
When she started out, she didn’t go to these people and BEAT religion down their throats.
She started by just LOVING them.
And building a RELATIONSHIP of TRUST.
By SERVING them with UNCONDITIONAL DEDICATION.

She won the NOBEL PEACE PRIZE in 1979 for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome POVERTY and DISTRESS.

Those TINY, MISSHAPEN, UNATTRACTIVE feet were the most BEAUTIFUL feet in the eyes of a messy world, but especially in the eyes of her Savior.

One of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa:
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

This is a picture of President Jimmy Carter’s feet.

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He has worn many shoes.
He was a United States Naval Academy graduate who served our country and was awarded several MILITARY ACCOLADES.
He’s the ONLY U.S. President to have lived in housing subsidized for the POOR and has gone on to be a key figure in the HABITAT for HUMANITY PROJECT.
As of 2013 he and his wife have helped more than 3800 families move into safe, affordable housing in 14 different countries.
As a poor FARMER, after serving his country, he turned his family’s PEANUT-GROWING business into a success.
He has been married to the same woman for 70 years and has 4 children.
He was our 39th PRESIDENT.
He has written several books.
And he was awarded THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE in 2002 for his work with The Jimmy Carter Center.

He has worked GLOBALLY in 75 different countries to help with: HUMAN RIGHTS
CONFLICT RESOLUTION
ELECTION MONITORING
PUBLIC HEALTH
MENTAL HEALTH
and THE ERADICATION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES,such as: Guinea Worm Disease
River Blindness
Malaria
Trachoma
Lymphatic Filariasis
Schistosomiasis

He and his wife have worked tirelessly to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering in this country and around the world.

He has gone from wearing SHINY DRESS SHOES as the most powerful man in the United States as President, to putting on COMFORTABLE SNEAKERS to go to the most UNCOMFORTABLE, MESSY, places in the world, but places that need COMPASSION, HEALING and LOVE and PEACE.

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He is the picture of HUMILITY.
STRENGTH with a GENTLE SPIRIT.
DETERMINED and Full of COMPASSION for all of mankind.

One of my favorite quotes from Jimmy Carter:
“I believe that anyone can be successful in life, regardless of natural talent or the environment within which we live. This is not based on measuring success by human competitiveness for wealth, possessions, influence, and fame, but adhering to God’s standards of truth, justice, humility, service, compassion, forgiveness, and love.”

Some of you may not know this next person unless you are a Chicago Bears fan.
Here is a picture of HIS feet and the shoes that he wore for 13 Seasons in the NFL.

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This is Charles “peanut” Tillman. He played with the Chicago Bears for 12 years helping them get to the Super Bowl in 2007.
He went to 2 Pro Bowls and 2 Super Bowls but he says his best NFL memory was winning the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2013.
It was awarded to him for his INCREDIBLE work with chronically ill children through CORNERSTONE foundation, which he founded after his 5 month old daughter required a HEART transplant.
He has been an inspiration and help to THOUSANDS of families who desperately need it.
He also works with Veterans, helping Police and law enforcement officers because he feels so blessed to live in this country. The Tillman family has also built a school in Cambodia.
When asked what drives him to be such a humble servant?

He says: “Love. we’re here to serve one another and love one another.
My role is to serve. I am a humble servant and I’m here to serve. That cycle, the LOVE, the gift, the giving, you got to keep it going.”
He wore spiked shoes that kept him grounded to play the game of football. Through INTEGRITY and a HUMBLE spirit, he stays grounded in his FAITH and FAMILY to serve others.

This is a picture of his family. His little girl is now 8 years post transplant and doing very well.

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This is a picture of MY feet. They aren’t anything special. Personally, I think that they are unattractive…

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My big toe is BULBOUS, my second toe is longer than the first, which they say is a sign of INTELLIGENCE.
Although, I’ve never been able to figure out who THEY are.
They have neuropathy in them. And most days they have some pain. My heels are rough from walking barefoot all the time and they have stood where Jesus walked on the Temple Mount in Israel.

When I turned 6 years old, there was something that I wanted more than anything else in the world. I wanted to be a Ballerina. I wanted more than anything to have my very own pair of “en pointe” shoes and dance on my toes.
My mom tried to enroll me into a dance class but it was full. I was so disappointed; I cried and cried.
Then one day after returning home from school, the biggest surprise was waiting for me at home.
THESE!!!!!

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Well, we had no idea about these shoes. I just put them on and danced on my toes all night until I couldn’t barely walk and had blisters over all over my feet, especially my toes.
The next day , my mom had to cut the toes off of my slippers so I could go to school because I couldn’t put any shoes on.
I can still remember Mrs. Aldrich, my teacher telling the class to “be careful not to step on Debbie’s toes because she has blisters all over her feet!”

Ballerina’s feet are a mess.
They sacrifice the beauty of their feet in order to wear those beautiful shoes on the outside.
And they SUFFER greatly.
They sacrifice for something that they are passionate about;
for a DEEP love of DANCE.
Jesus’ feet were beautiful…. and then they were a mess.
He too suffered greatly…..beyond anything we could EVER imagine.
He TOO, sacrificed for something that He was passionate about;
Doing the WILL of His Father,
And His deep love for US.

He didn’t just walk TOWARDS the mess…He walked directly INTO the mess.
He allowed His feet to get DIRTY and BLOODY and MESSY.
When you give your life for the world, it’s a messy DEAL.

LOVING that much is messy.

DYING on a CROSS is messy.

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But then, morning comes…..
and all SIN and ugliness is COVERED by the beautiful SHOE of a NEWLY RESURRECTED life.
There is renewed HOPE in love.

Rising up is GLORIOUS and full of LIGHT.

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And GRACE is FRESH and UNBLEMISHED.

We first come to CHRIST as a MESS, a sinner with the wounds and visible signs of HURTS
BRUISES,
DAMAGE,
GRIEF,
HEARTBREAK,
PAIN,
ANGUISH,
and TRAUMA.
whether it be physical or emotional.
And He wraps us in arms that are COMFORTING….
and He gives us words that are like a SOOTHING BALM.
Words of HOPE and PROMISE
Words that HEAL and bring NEW life to our BROKEN hearts.
Like a beautiful ballet shoe, that looks so delicate,
but is STRONG and SUPPORTIVE,
HE, is a PROTECTIVE covering of AGAPE love that doesn’t dismiss what we’ve gone through.
Instead He will use our TEARS and BROKENNESS to then go SERVE others in the same way.
And just like Ballerina’s who need a brand new pair of “en pointe shoes” EVERY time they rehearse or perform;
God will provide new MERCIES and GRACE us with what we need each day as we go out into the WORLD to share HIS love.

It is a COOPERATIVE dance between us.

Jesus was the ultimate example of “Moving towards the Mess”.
And He has entrusted us with something so very valuable.
He gives us REASON to be EMPATHETIC and SHARE our gifts with those who are just like us…..in NEED of a SAVIOR.
All we need to do is put on the SHOES of COMPASSIONATE love and let our feet carry us where He LEADS.
THAT, is where it begins and lives will be forever changed.

May you all understand how important you are in God’s plan of salvation.
2 Corinthians reads: (NLT) “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
May your feet be BEAUTIFUL to God and to those whom He sends you to minister to.

-Debbie Burnside

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Debbie is originally a Hoosier, she  moved to Ft. Myers in 1990 with her family. She has been married to her “best friend and  Knight in Shining Armor” for 31 years. They have 5 children; 4 who are married and their 10th grand baby is on the way!
She loves sharing the tender heart of Jesus with others.
She loves her family “To the Moon.” and loves her friends “On the Way Back.”
The things Debbie enjoys most in life are loving people, studying the Word, animals, writing, laughing, gardening, Decorating, great food and wine and traveling…

Messy People Will Find You

36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. 37When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume.

38Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair.

jesus-reclined 

 Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.39When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself,

 “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”

It’s been said that Jesus never worried about guilt by association.

Neither should you.

 40Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.41Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”43Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”“That’s right,” Jesus said.

 44Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.47“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

The woman would have been able to let herself in as it was customary for the courtyards of large homes to be left open when they were holding a large feast.

It was also customary to least have a servant wash the feet of honored guests as they entered the home. Simon didn’t do that.

Her sins were many- she was most likely a prostitute

A person forgiven little is one who has not asked for much forgiveness- in other words they have not seen the error or their ways, their sin. Simon did not see his error.

48Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”49The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”50And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

 Messy People Will Find You

Here’s the thing. Once you put yourself out there, messy people will start to notice. Many will keep their distance. They aren’t ready to change. They are comfortable where they are and they’re not ready to trust some sort of “church person” who has shown up in their midst. It’s no good trying to get people to change when they aren’t ready. So love them however you can with no strings attached. But don’t chase after them. We are not ambulance chasers. In fact, most often the mess comes to us not the other way around. We just need to be prepared to love first in response to any and all messes.

Always lead with grace. Jesus didn’t lecture the woman about the need to change her ways. He didn’t shame her, didn’t evaluate her, and didn’t give her a plan for getting off the streets. He started by forgiving her. This doesn’t mean that you never explore a new lifestyle/ or strategies. It just means that’s not where you start.

If you lead with “change your ways,” not only will you never get to grace, you won’t get to see the person change his life either. Believe me, I learned this the hard way. A long time ago I lived in black and white, right or wrong gospel beliefs. While Jesus said, “the road is narrow” that didn’t mean his love is narrow. His love is deep and wide.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV) 19-23 Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be IN on it!

Paul’s call from God was to bring people to Jesus. That meant he got out of the church and into the world. Into people’s lives. Into community. Into the mess. Speak their language. Think their thoughts. Know their struggles. In his own words, he had to “become all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9:22b).

Paul adjusted his approach to ministry accordingly.

At first glance Paul may seem like a chameleon. To be all things to all people seems impossible. But we do it every day.  We meet people where they are not expecting more from them than their capable of. To our kids we speak on terms they understand. To our friends we use slang. To our boss we use professional etiquette. In moving towards the mess we meet people where they are, we must go where they are. Even when we don’t feel comfortable or safe. And it’s more than going.

It’s investing in their lives so we can see the world from their point of view.

Without this investment, they won’t let us in.

There will never be an opportunity to share the love of Jesus.

I have a dear friend who is talented, smart, funny and a little messy. Her house is neat and clean but she’s working out this whole “Jesus” thing and what that’s supposed to look like in her life. Aren’t we all? But God has taught me so much over a couple of decades. I’m grateful for an opportunity to share. But I’ll never be able to share if I don’t first invest. This friend has many things in common with me. Our kids are similar ages and we live near one another. So we run into each other regularly. Someone had gossiped to me to that this friend complained a lot. That’s all is takes some times doesn’t it? A little gossip and we already think we have the whole story on someone. See it’s that little bit of gossip that can be the greatest derailment to our moving toward the mess. What came to me as a gossip warning turned into me wanting to get to know this friend better and find out what was at the root of her complaining. Turns out, she’s a good wife, awesome mom and hard working. However, she’s frazzled and worn out. I would be too with three kids under the age of 6!!! I’m one and done myself…for good reason. Parenting can bring you to the end of your rope. It’s only by the love, grace and mercy of Jesus Christ that I’m able to not break under the weight of schedule, responsibility, social pressures etc.

I can remember a conversation with this friend when she vented about the stress of no one listening to her…so she felt. Not her husband, not her mother-in-law and not even her kids (no surprise there right?). But in that moment I felt an overwhelming urge to tell her, “You know what? God always hears you. He always hears you. Next time you’re feeling that way, stop, pray and see if you don’t sense His presence.” This was a pivotal moment in our friendship. It sparked more talks and even talk about her husband and his salvation. But what’s so important to catch is that this all happened over the course of 18 months to 2 years of knowing her. It didn’t happen overnight.

Sometimes it can and sometimes it doesn’t.

We just love and pray for an opportunity for God to show us where we can move.

Paul explained that when he spoke to the Jews, he knew what they valued. They valued keeping the law. Since that day on the road to Damascus when Paul met Jesus and was saved by grace, he was no longer bound by Jewish law. But he knew by valuing law-keeping he would find favor with the Jews.

Likewise, when he shared the news of Jesus and his saving grace with the Gentiles (non-Jews), who did not know the law, he lived like one of them. Living like them didn’t mean taking part in their sinful habits. It also didn’t mean he judged them for it either. He loved them where they were. This love and acceptance opened their hearts to Paul and to his message.

If we want to share Jesus’ love and grace with those around us, we must meet them where they are. How?

  • Look for commonalities: other parents, friends or even struggles and pains that God has delivered you from. These are all areas where God can use us to move toward the mess.
  • Move toward the mess with humility: we don’t know it all but we know the one who does

Erase judgment: Yet we were once sinners

  • Remember how to be a friend: Forget their sin for a minute and realize they put their pants on the same way you do
  • Don’t just hear them, listen: really listen.
  • Pray for an opportunity to move toward the mess: with favor and time they will welcome your story and hear you out

 These are just a few ways we can enter into our day and shine the light and love of Jesus.

Heavenly Father, thank You for perfect example. You move in our lives the same way you did to that sweet woman with the alabaster jar, with love and grace. That’s the movement, Lord. Give us eyes to see and hearts that sense your prompting to move, to respond to those around us with love when the rest of the world has condemned or cast out. I want that opportunity. I want to be the change in the church, in the community, in the world. Give me strength and courage to speak of you, Jesus, when the opportunity does arise. And likewise, Lord, please soften their hearts to hear your truth, that you love them and gave your very life for them that they might be saved. We were once lost in an ugly mess. We still are messy. But you’ve cleaned up areas of our lives and shown us your ways. Help us not to keep that a secret. Your work in us in is a great story to be shared- not bottled up.   In Jesus’ name, amen.

Tiffany Myers

tiffany

Tiffany lives in Ft. Myers where she attends The Vineyard Church. She wears many hats; wife, mother, daughter, friend, minister, working mom… but Tiffany is known best from her love for Jesus and people. Because she understands the message of hope, love, and grace; she can freely release that same message to those she encounters!

 

Moving Toward The Mess

“MOVING TOWARD THE MESS” – Bringing Light Into The Darkness

For this series, we are using the term “Mess” to mean any dark situation where Jesus is not known; acknowledged; or experienced.

Our responsibility, as believers, is to point people to Jesus, to tell the story of Jesus, and to tell of our own story with Jesus– to be a witness.

Jesus left us with the great commission: “…go and make disciples …” (Matthew 28:19)

This series will be about how we can improve the way we walk out that command.

Credit to Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil for her book, “A Credible Witness”, for giving me inspiration for this message and for helping me see evangelism in a whole new light.

I just read an article called, Organizing Your Life For Evangelism, which was in a Vineyard publication. The writer of the article gave four simple ways to do just that. One of those was “Get to know your neighbors”. Just to be neighborly – no agenda.

Nobody does that anymore. We all have our reasons. Sometimes, preconceived ideas keep us from making friends. (personal story about getting to know my neighbors)

Fulfilling Jesus command to make disciples is much easier if we look at how he did it, and translate that into our own context. Today, we’re going to use a story in John 4 to do that.

In your Bibles – John 4. There are points to remember.

John 4:3-6 (The Message): So Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee. To Get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village, that bordered the field Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.

Actually Jesus didn’t have to go through Samaria to get to Galilee. Jewish people avoided that route, choosing the longer way because they hated Samaritans – they preferred the longer, more difficult route to avoid encountering the Samaritan people.

Jesus didn’t have to go through Samaria to get to Galilee, but he did have to go through Samaria to move toward the mess where God was already at work.
We never know when we will encounter a mess, but if we haven’t already moved our hearts in that direction, the mess will be an annoyance to us; a frustration; maybe even a repulsion. In other words: we need to decide in advance that we will “be ready to show God’s love; to tell Jesus’ story and our story with Jesus.” There will be opportunities in the most unusual situations, and in everyday normal situations, but if we have not planned in advance; if that’s not our heart, we won’t show God’s love, or bring any light into the dark place.

Jesus went through Samaria on purpose! He planned to take that route.

Moving toward the mess is “intentional”.

John 4:7-9 (The Message): A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.) The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

A Samaritan woman was a double minority! The status of women in Jesus’ day was very different from OT times, when God told Abraham to “listen to his wife, Sarah”; when Deborah was a respected judge and Huldah was a sought after prophet; where Abigail saved her husband from the wrath of David, and Zipporah turned God’s wrath away from Moses.

There had been a gradual shift from those days – thought by some scholars to be the result of Greek thought, causing rabbis to eventually relegate women to this first-century status. Rabbis in Jesus day declared women exempt from learning the Law of Moses. That wasn’t to give them a break from their heavy load of responsibilities, it was because they were thought not capable of learning, and even if they could learn it would be wasted because women would not be capable of putting what they learned into practice. Women were considered to be of less value and less virtue. It was even stated in Talmud: “It is foolish to teach Torah to your daughters.” Women couldn’t participate in public prayer and were confined to the outer court of the temple.

This Samaritan woman knew how strange it was for a Jewish man to engage her in conversation. It was disarming!

For Jesus to engage a female in conversation was radical! And it was intentional. He didn’t cave in to the prejudice again the Samaritans, nor to the the common opinion of women, because he intended to bring light into her darkness; to move into her mess, and through her to bring light into her entire community!

John 4:10 (The Message): Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

So often when we evangelize, we have an attitude of superiority, like: we’re here to rescue you. We’re the ones with the power, which automatically puts people on the defensive, and rather than inviting conversation as a means of bringing light, we actually fortify the darkness.

Years ago, we used a popular evangelism technique. We approached an individual – normally through door to door contact, and began with this question: “if you died tonight and stood before God and you were asked, ‘why should I let you into my heaven’? What would you say?” The approach worked sometimes, but I see now how that approach put people on the defensive right up front. Their mind scrambles to explain why they would be admitted into heaven.

Jesus’ approach was so different. He first presented himself as the one in need: “Would you give me a drink?” That approach demolished defenses, and once the defenses were down, conversation was easy.

John 4:11-12 (The Message): The woman said, “Sir you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? …

You can sense the ease of the conversation here – there is a naturalness because Jesus didn’t present himself as the one in power or control, but as one in need.

We can be intentional about being a witness without being mechanical; without being the one with all the power; without being the one in control.

Evangelism has to be more than numbers; converts. It has to be more than a “method”. We have to really love people and want light to invade their darkness. We don’t need to know everything – don’t need to have all the answers.

 Just be real.

Jesus was always showing up at unlikely times & places – during the routine stuff of life – he didn’t wait for special, religious occasions. Events are not bad, but one-on-one relational encounters are a powerful way be light in darkness.

John 4:13-14 (The Message): Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst — not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”

No matter how much water I drink today, I’m going to be thirsty tomorrow. We need water to survive. Notice – Jesus didn’t condemn the water – everybody needs water.

60% of our body weight is water. Our cells, organs, body tissues have to have water. Water keeps our blood, bones & brain functioning. Have to have water to digest our food and deliver minerals & nutrients where they need to go for fuel and we have to have water for our body to get rid of waste through our kidneys & intestines.

I believe that water, in this story, is a Metaphor for the God shaped vacuum in all of us. In other words: we can find temporary satisfaction in hundreds of things, but Jesus in us is a constant life-giving source!

John 4:15 (The Message): The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t even have to come back to this well again!”

In the Middle East, water collection was the responsibility of the women. They came to the well in the early morning and in the evening, to avoid the heat of the day. It was most likely a time of community for the women; a time to converse, etc.

But this woman was there at noon, in the heat of the day, alone. Three types of people were at the well at noon: travelers,(she knew the towns people well, so we can be sure she was not a traveler); prostitutes, (had been married 5 times, and was living with a man at the time, so she was not a prostitute); and outcasts. She was an outcast. Coming to the well painful for her, it was a daily reminder that she didn’t measure up; she was different; she was a mess.

John 4:16-18 (The Message): He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.” “I have no husband,” she said. “That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband … .”

Women were property of men – much like slaves during this time. Only men could divorce, and could do it for any reason, no matter how trivial – burning the bread; displeasing him in any way; being barren. Divorce brought shame on a woman from the entire community. This woman felt that pain of that shame every single day when she went to the well at noon.

John 4:19 (The Message): “Oh, so you’re a prophet! …?”

This man was so very different! Conversation came easy, so easy that she began to ask questions, which lead to some theological discussion. This was very strange – a Jewish man talking to a Samaritan woman about theology!

John 4:25-26 (The Message): The woman, “… I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.” “I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”

The opportune time came. When it was clear that she had ears to hear, Jesus said “I’m him”. God was already at work – she knew the messiah was coming and she was looking forward to that.

We should never be arrogant, or have a know-it-all attitude, but sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we are light. Not some new-age power of suggestion – that’s what Jesus calls us. Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world…”
Ephesians 5:8 “… you were once darkness, but now you are light…”

 We are light.

We are light. We have hope to offer others. We know how to pray with someone. We really do have living water to give. We can be confident in this!

Philippians 2:15-16 “… you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life….” The Message puts it this way:

Philippians 2:15-16 (The Message): “… Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air … . Carry the light-giving message into the night…”

You are light!

John 4:27 (The Message): Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.

Have you ever seen that look? I’ve been on both sides of that look!

Moving toward the mess makes religious people uncomfortable. They don’t understand that transformation is a process.

My introduction to ministry was working with drug addicts. I have sat for days beside the bed of someone going through withdrawals; I have had to put them in the car and go to the ER. Occasionally, a person experienced complete deliverance of cravings, but that’s not the norm. Typically, fighting addiction is a life-long process, just like fighting sin. Transformation is a life-long process.
John 4:28-30 (The Message): The woman took the hint and left … . Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves.

This Samaritan woman wasn’t the only mess in town! When light invades darkness, people want to know where the light is coming from.

John 4:39-42 (The Message): Many of the Samaritans from that village committed themselves to him because of the woman’s witness: “He knew all about the things I did. He knows me inside and out!” … . A lot more people entrusted their lives to him when they heard what he had to say. They said to the woman, “We’re no longer taking this on your say-so. We’ve heard it for ourselves and know it for sure. He’s the Savior of the world!”

Notice that it doesn’t say “all the Samaritans”, but, “many of the Samaritans” committed themselves. Not everyone wanted to get rid of their mess. Sometimes we treat our mess like hoarders treat their stuff – we know it’s not doing us any good; it’s actually taking the life out of us, but we can’t bring ourselves to part with it. We can be sure that everyone who wanted living water that day received it.

 

-Cathy Smith

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The Unmade Bed

“We want our Church to feel like an unmade bed, a place where people can feel safe enough to come in, rest, refuel,and reenergize”

What a beautiful (yet foreign) concept!

Since we have moved to Fort Myers we have been blessed to get to know our neighbors. Gary & Cathy, they are AWESOME people to live by. They are co-pastors of The Vineyard church in Fort Myers. Dustin had coffee (and maybe some doughnuts) with Gary one day and came home to tell me about the way Gary described their desire for The Vineyard.

An Unmade Bed.

Something that is beautiful, inviting, flawed in a way, or at least imperfect, comfortable, full of peace, simply described as a place of rest. Somewhere for people to curl up and call home…

We have visited The Vineyard several times and their church is just that… it is welcoming, inviting, peaceful, fun even. I have been involved in many different styles of churches & ministries, most of which fall into the striving, and railing kind. You know the screams for revival, begging God to pour out, begging for a move… and then there is the Vineyard. No striving, no yelling, no begging, just a deep understanding that God is already pouring out, He is already moving, that we are not beggars we are His children, and that it is OK to rest in that… to be still and know that He is God. You can feel the undertones of the church; humility, love, unity, and honor. I have sat back and watched this church stand on the issue of equality for women in the pulpit. I have watched them openly share their platform. I have watched God move in peoples hearts and transform their lives. I have watched people be genuine and loving. Listen, don’t get me wrong I know that all churches are flawed… they are in fact made up of humans and humans are full of flaws…that is not my point.

I just wanted to share my heart on “the unmade bed”.

I was just sitting here enjoying my coffee thinking about Jesus, The Church, and the theory of the unmade bed. From now on that is how I am going to describe my time with Him. You can’t strive and get into a works based mentality, when you think of your prayer time as entering into an unmade bed. Your bed is a place you know you belong. It ALWAYS welcomes you. It is a place to just be. To rest in your identity…your true-self. It’s also a place to DREAM. God loves it when His children DREAM about their lives.

The quote I opened with was paraphrasing their conversation. So Gary forgive me if I misquoted you… I will sneak you a cupcake🙂

To all the DREAMERS out there may you find your “unmade bed!”

Stephanie McCandless

Stephanie

Stephanie has many titles (wife, mother, ordained minister, writer, speaker, friend) and wears many hats (entrepreneur, taxi, minister, counselor, short-order cook, small business owner) through out each day but what she most wants to be known for is her love for God & people. Stephanie is married to Dustin…her partner in everything. Together they have 6 children. Every day is an adventure! You can read more about them on their website McCandless Ministries, their small business @ A Cut Above SWFL, her personal blog McCandless Ministry Blog, and The Porch  a virtual place to connect and learn from one another!

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