“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (KJV)
It’s time for us to work to wrap up this “Finding Your Way Back To God” Teaching series. One of the greatest compliments is that the people who actually authored this devotional, and allowed it to be on You Version liked a couple of these messages. The thing is…we started this series talking about living a life that was lackluster and full of things like regret and remorse…and we finish this series talking about the new life that we start living once we become reconciled to God and new creations in Christ Jesus.
You see, things have a way of confirming one another because we are walking through a seven message series over on the Christlike Ministries NWA Blog that I wrote back in 2012 on “Reconciliation” which the entire ministry of reconciliation is found in the text of Scripture that this message is based in and upon.
The thing of it is…and I’m probably putting the cart before the horse here…but I never really started living life until I started living the life God had planned for me. So, I am excited to wrap up this series, and I’m really interested to hear what God is going to say to us this night through this message that brings us to the end of this series. I agree with the writers of this series. Now that I’m living closer to the kind of life God had planned for me to live…I can say with real joy, certainty and passion that…now THIS is living.
Let’s Worship Jesus:
This is one of those messages I had to write a while before God lead me to the exact song that I believe will provide the perfect soundtrack for this message. It’s a song that is full of the Gospel, and full of proof that God loves each and every one of us with a love that is unfailing but yet unfathomable. It’s a love that is perfect…but is so perfect that many of us have a hard time believing that it’s actually for imperfect people like us…but it is…and as you listen to the lyrics of this song sung by the one and only Kari Jobe…I pray that those of you who have yet to make Jesus Lord of your life or those of you who really do need to find your way back to God…that you will do so tonight.
Now THIS Is Living:
I still remember God speaking to me shortly after my daughter was born (a little more than two years ago) that He wanted me to do three things. He said: “Slow down, enjoy life, and adjust your priorities”. I also remember how deceived I was into believing that until He told me to do those things that I was already doing them. However, how many of you know that if God is telling you to do something it’s because He already knows you aren’t. I can also tell you that I didn’t realize how right God was for a few months after He spoke those words to me.
My daughter was born in September of 2013, and I think it was around February of 2014 when it finally dawned on me (after I had been a stay at home dad for a couple of months) for the light bulb to come on for me to realize I had no idea how to slow down, enjoy life or adjust my priorities. I was still working at the time God told me that, and I had been busted all the way down to part-time because of the politics of having a job. I can honestly tell you that I thought I was living the dream. Had a job that I put way to much heart, passion, and energy into…so much so that for the first couple months of my daughter’s life I didn’t realize that I wasn’t enjoying life much at all. I enjoyed her and I enjoy married life…but deep down I really wasn’t experiencing joy because my priorities were completely out of whack.
Do you know what’s funny? The acronym for JOY is Jesus Others Yourself. In other words, the way to find JOY is to put Jesus first, others second, and yourself last. You see, I don’t need an “I Am Second” campaign to help me realize that Jesus should come first. Jesus told us all in Matthew 6:33 (KJV) “But seek ye first the kingdom of God.”, and that’s because Jesus is and always should be the first priority of our lives.
Is this okay!?! We’re working our way towards getting into the message…but I guess the Lord wants me to share something before we get there. I don’t know who I’m talking to…but I know someone needs what I’m writing right now.
I have no problem putting Jesus first. In fact, I guess I really don’t live according to JOY or I Am Second because in all reality I’m further down the list than second…or even third. Some times to be completely honest I’m not even on the list. I can tell you the reason for this is simple…God has helped me to see what’s important…and what really isn’t all that important after all.
Listen. I enjoyed having a paycheck friends…but man has it been rewarding to walk this journey with God not only being the pastor of Christlike Ministries NWA…but being a Stay At Home Dad also. The pay…y’all know I don’t get paid, but the benefits have been absolutely amazing. The bond I have with my daughter chokes me up more times than this old hard charging Marine would like to admit…but there’s so much that makes what I’ve been doing worth while. It’s been an amazing journey, and I’ve learned so much about myself, about my relationship with God, and how we relate to God as a Father. So, no amount of money I could’ve made would be able to produce what I have learned.
And now we’re ready to get into the message, and close out this series. So, let’s get into the first point…
God has a dream for this world, and you’re invited to be a part of it. It is an irresistible dream that God has had for all eternity. It’s a dream for your life, your community, and the whole world.
God’s dream is that you would live each second of your existence with a confidence that he relentlessly and passionately loves you. His dream is that you would willingly risk loving others because you know God has risked everything in loving you.
Would it surprise you to know that God had a dream for your life? I mean most of us love to read and quote or at the very least paraphrase Jeremiah 29:11 (KJV), but do we really understand that God has a specific plan for every life He creates? Now, God still gives us the free will to choose whether or not we’re going to follow that path or even follow Him…but the truth is every one of us has a predestined plan for our lives…and that’s the part of predestination that seems to complicate things for folk. The simple truth is there is a predestined path for every life God creates…the problem is that not everyone freely chooses to follow God’s path.
For this message, however, the simple point is that God really does have a plan for every life He creates. Some are planned to be great doctors, some are planned to be lawyers, some are planned to be part of the government, and of course some are planned to be part of the five-fold ministry gifts to the church. Some are meant to minister to people they work with, some are meant to minister to their community, and some are meant to minister to an entire congregation of believers.
Above all of that, however, is the point that God’s dream for every one of us is that we would KNOW Him and KNOW His love. Don’t you get that’s why He gave us all free will!?! Think about it. Are you more intimate with people who WANT to love you or people who feel like you have to MAKE them love you? Are you more intimate with people who are honest, authentic, and genuine with their feelings for you…or are you more intimate with people who pretend they love you? Of course, I already know the answer to these questions…we’re more intimate with people who want to love us…and since we’re all made in the image of God…that’s why God created us with free will.
Remember. He already had a third of the angels He created leave because they wanted to be worshiped!?! He already had those He created without free will choose to disobey Him, and that’s why we have Satan and all of his demons today. He also has the remaining two-thirds of all the angels He created that have no choice but to love Him. He already has His robots. He already has angels that have done nothing but worship Him 24 hours a day 7 days a week for 365 days a year since the beginning of time…and that will continue doing the same thing for all of eternity.
So, He created us. He created us, and gave us the ability to choose whether or not we want to accept Him or reject Him. Did you know that every person that rejects Jesus breaks His heart? Every person that leaves this world with their final breath rejecting Jesus is on their way to a place that God never intended man to go…but by rejecting Jesus they reject Him. Do you want to hang out with people who reject you? So…why is it so hard to believe that those who reject Jesus won’t be invited to spend eternity in Heaven with a God they rejected?
Thing of it is…God loves everyone…even those that reject and have rejected Him. If you think God is happy that millions upon millions of people are going to spend eternity in hell…then I believe you missed the entire reason why the Cross was such agony for Jesus. The thing of it is, friends. And it doesn’t get anymore honest than Romans 5:8 (KJV) “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”…God gave His life for us while we were still living our lives our way…even while we were in the muck and mire of the pig pen. God did that because as we also know from the Word of God He doesn’t want anyone to perish…He wants all of us to come to the saving knowledge that we need Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior…and yet He still gave His life knowing that people would still reject Him…and people think that just because we utter the F-word that God is suddenly going to get embarrassed by us and take away our place in eternity.
Friends. The kind of love God has for each and every one of is isn’t the kind of flaky love that’s available in the world. It’s a love that is the very essence of what unfailing means and when the Bible says that there is absolutely positively nothing we can do to separate ourselves from His love…the reason we can’t separate ourselves from His love is because God can’t separate Himself from Love because Love is Who and What God IS. God IS Love…and therefore for Him not to love us would mean that He would have to deny Who and What He is…and when you read about how God is so honorable and faithful that He swore an oath by Himself to Abraham…you understand fully that not only is God not a man that He should lie…but that every word spoken or written from the mouth of God…is the absolute truth of all truths. So…when God says through Paul that we can’t separate ourselves from His love…then you can take everything God says as though He is swearing to us by Himself that there isn’t anything we can do that will cause Him to stop loving us.
The greatest love of all isn’t found in a Whitney Houston song…it’s found at the foot of the Cross…and at the point of our knees as we bow before Him to become whosoever’s that call upon the name of the Lord to be saved.
That’s why the final awakening on the journey of finding your way back to God is the awakening to life. When we truly awaken to the new life God offers at home with him, we see the possibilities for our future completely differently. We exclaim, “Now this is living!” but we realize that “living” means something different now. It means living a life that is better, bigger, and more meaningful than ever before.
Awakening to Life…
It’s hard to believe one can basically sleepwalk through a decade, but when I think about the time between November of 1992 when I stepped on the yellow footprints of MCRD San Diego, and the day I finally completely surrendered all of my life to God in November of 2010…I can tell you that much of that time doesn’t really hold many memories that I vividly remember. In fact, to be honest much of that time in my life I consider to be quite a nightmare…a nightmare that I never seemed to really wake up from until I found myself at the foot of the Cross.
So much of my life, friends, was a complete waste of time. So much idle time. So many idle words that I’m going to have to answer for when I stand before God. So many missed opportunities to get my act together much sooner than November of 2010…but so many times I just continued to live in my own pigpen. I spent so much of that time doing the wrong things with the wrong people, and to be completely honest it’s become even more clear over the last nearly 5 years since the day I laid my life at Jesus’ feet that so much of my life before was much more than just a bad dream I couldn’t wake up from…I was living in total darkness and completely out of fellowship with my Father…and just like the Prodigal Son…we know from that story that the Prodigal Son spent quite a while in the pig pen before he came to his senses to realize that even his father’s servants had it better than he did.
That awakening. The awakening that comes from realizing that you’ve made such a mess of your life that you don’t even feel worth of being a son or daughter of God anymore. The truth is, we aren’t worthy of being son’s and daughter’s of God. As we know even our righteousness is nothing more than filthy rags to God, but yet we come back once again to Romans 5:8 reminding us that even then as filthy as we were…God loved us enough to die…not because we are worthy…but because He desired to make a way for us to be able to return to Him. No matter how many times we wonder away to find ourselves in the muck and mire of the pig pen.
The awakening to a life of meaning…if you would have told me on November 14, 2010 that my life would be what it is today I would have asked you to share some of what you were drinking with me. If you’d have told me that day that I would be remarried, be the father of a beautiful daughter, and have a world-wide ministry nearly 5 years later I would have laughed in your face as hard as Sarah did when God told her she would give birth to a son at 100 years old.
Yet…just like Sarah gave birth to Isaac…the same God that told me in 2001 that He had work for me to do is the same God that met with me on Sunday November 15, 2010…and almost 5 years later I’m living a life that actually means something, that is making a difference, and again I can agree that THIS really is living. I’m living a life that I never even imagined was possible…but it’s not because of anything I’ve done…it’s because of all that God has done in, with, and through my life.
The good news is that God is no respecter of person. The same awakening to life is available to you. Whether you’ve never known Jesus or wandered away from Him like I did to find yourself in the pig pen of life…there’s still time to meet Jesus at the Cross…and you can find yourself realizing like I have…that the life God had planned is much better (and meaningful with purpose) than any kind of life we have tried to build on our own.
Your new, lifelong walk with Jesus is a journey you never need travel alone. You never need to live apart from your heavenly Father again. If you find yourself drifting into complacency, looking for substitutes, thinking you have all the answers you need for yourself . . . you know what to do.
Come back to the life that is really living! You know the way, and home is where you always belong.
I wish I could tell you that since 2010 I’ve done things perfectly, but I can’t. There are times I found that I’d wandered off, and taken my life out of God’s hands. It’s just part of our fleshly nature to give God our lives, and then once things start to improve we take them back like our lives are some kind of baton we can take and run with once God cleans up some of the muck and mire. The Bible talks about running the race with endurance, and the fact is that the Christian life is more of a marathon than a sprint. I used to run cross-country in high school…and one of the things I learned is that if you ran too fast too soon…you would burn out…but if you pace yourself throughout the race you will still be worn out at the end…but you’ll complete the race much more efficiently…with endurance. The Christian life is more like learning to run miles instead of yards, and the sooner you learn to pace yourself the better you’ll find your endurance is when it comes to running through the difficult parts of the course of life…and the best part of the Christian life is that you don’t have to run the race by yourself.
Friends. The abundant life cannot be found apart from Christ. I’ve had glimpses of the abundant life. I’ve had moments where I thought I was living the abundant life. I had times when things seemed to finally be starting to go the right way only to have them fall apart and blow up in my face. I didn’t start living…I mean really living until almost 5 years ago…and to be completely honest I didn’t realize just how little of life I was enjoying until a few months in to being a stay at home dad and full-time ministry. It was around February of 2014 before I really came to that full awakening to find that I really hadn’t fully awakened to the fact that I was finally living the life I’d always hoped I’d be able to live.
There’s little doubt in my mind anymore about the fact that I am truly at home in life, and where I belong.
Be prepared in the years ahead for a kind of life that’s different from anything you thought possible when you made a U-turn on the road that day and asked the Father for help. The awakening to life brings with it unexpected influence and opportunities. How can this be? It’s because Christ is alive in you, and that changes just about everything. Now you can bring hope where there has been discouragement. Now you can show prisoners the way to freedom. Now you can be light in the darkness.
And that is living!
The U-turn in life came on that Sunday in November of 2010. As I’ve mentioned many times on that day I met the woman who would eventually become my wife and mother of our daughter. In less than 5 years time God has given the kind of life I always dreamed of, but never really imagined was available. A few years earlier during a session where I was basically complaining to God about where I was in life…God showed me how He was taking me on my personal Exodus. Out of a life style of being in bondage to all kinds of junk, muck, and mire. At the time He showed me where He brought me from, but He also let me know there was a Promised Land waiting for me. What He also showed me is that there were giants between where I was that day…and the Promised Land in which He had planned for me to inherit.
On the ministry side of life. God has taken something that I kind of did fairly well, and turned it into something that has become a world-wide ministry. I’ve always had the ability to write, but over the last several years God has made me the kind of writer that leaves me in awe when I re-read some of the messages I’ve written. Everything you see here from the layout, to the theme, to the very words you are reading right now…all of this is a result of that U-turn I made in 2010…and the embracing of the ministry God spoke to me about in 2001. I often speak about the 11 years between God planting the seed in my heart about Christlike Ministries NWA, and the day that seed began to sprout the fruit of what you’re reading every time I post something new on either the Christlike Ministries NWA or Pastor B’s Blogs. If you’d have told just 5 years ago that I’d be sitting in a house behind a computer typing out messages that have reached nearly 200 nations…I would have laughed in your face and thought you were crazy. However, that’s exactly what God has done in, with, and through my life ministry wise.
But wait…there is more!!!
The personal side of life has been a marvelous and most beautiful exchange. If you would have told me that same 5 years ago that in just a few years time I’d go from nearly having to return sleeping on my mom and dad’s couch to renting a three-bedroom home out in a rural setting like I’ve always hoped for in a small town like I’ve always dreamed of living…I’d have asked you for some of what you were drinking. If you would have told me that same 5 years ago in just a few years I’d be remarried and have a beautiful little girl…I’d have laughed in your face like Sarah laughed in God’s when He told her she was going to have a baby at 100 years old. Yet…here I am living in Centerton, Arkansas (which is a town with a population of around or over 10,000), living in a three-bedroom home (we don’t own it we rent it), I have been married almost 4 years (April 2011), and all of you know by now that I have a beautiful little girl that I absolutely adore.
I’ve said this about the abundant life many times, but I’ve finally come to understand that the abundant life doesn’t have anything to do with material possessions or wealth…it has to do with finding that place of contentment in life that Paul wrote about from prison. I truly am in a place where I desire nothing. I am completely content with life, and it’s certainly not because my wife and I are filthy rich. We barely have enough money once all the bills are paid to eat out a few times a month…so we certainly aren’t rolling in cash flow…but the riches that God has given me far exceed the riches that money can bring.
Listen. Money may be able to buy security and maybe even loosely be able to buy a little bit of happiness…but money cannot buy pure joy. Money may be able to buy a nicer house, money may be able to buy things to decorate the house to make it feel a little more homey, but money cannot buy the feeling you get as you stand outside in the morning listening to the birds chirping, cows mooing in the distance, sipping on a hot cup of coffee realizing that you are truly at home. Money may be able to buy a nicer car, money might even be able to buy a nice booming stereo system so that everyone can hear you coming from blocks away, but what money cannot buy is the knowledge that you have the ability to get to where you need to go. It may not be flashy…but it’s practical and gets you to where you need to be. Having lots of money may be able to give you some security, but real peace of mind doesn’t come from the amount of money you have in your wallet or bank account…it comes from knowing that if the next blink of an eye was the last…that you’ll be leaving this world to spend the rest of eternity with the God that has blessed you beyond measure and given you more than you ever believed you’d see in your life time.
You can take one of those moments at the end of the day looking up at the stars in the sky, listening to the crickets chirping, and while your waiting for your dog to finish doing his business you just simply can’t think of anything else to say in that moment but “Thank You, Lord…because THIS IS living…thank You Lord for all You have done, all you have yet to do, and all you are doing in, with, and thru my life.”
There’s so much more to this life walking with God that I could write about…but what I want to say is the same thing I always say at this point. If God can and has done all that He is doing, all that He has done, and all that He has yet to do in…with…and through my life and Christlike Ministries NWA. He not only can, but will do the same in…with…and through your life too.
One day it could be you sitting in front of your own computer, listening to worship music, and writing a blog message about how God has blessed you so much that all you can think to say is…now THIS is living, too.
And with that. It’s time to give the writers of this “Finding Your Way Back To God Series” the last and final word of this message…and this series…
Find your place in the community of other grateful sons and daughters of the Father. Connect, learn, and work alongside them to make a difference for good in marriages, homes, schools, workplaces, and communities.
Let’s keep helping others find their way back to God. That’s where the real celebration is waiting.
Father God, thank You so much for leading us to get into this series and talk about how easy and important it is for all of us to find our way back to You. I pray for those who are prodigals like me who may be reading the messages of this series right now…that You would give them the faith to know that You are waiting on the porch of their lives for them to make the decision to come back home to You. I pray, also, for those who have never called upon the name of the Lord to be saved that You would speak to their hearts…and that they would make that all important decision to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved.
I thank You, also, Lord God, for all that You have done, all that You are doing, and all that You have yet to do in the lives of all of the Christlike Ministries NWA Family members. I thank You for all You have done, all You have yet to do, and all that You are doing in, with, and through my life and through Christlike Ministries NWA. Lord, I pray with all my heart that Jesus would be exalted and glorified by everything I do with and through Christlike Ministries NWA in the name of Jesus. I pray that all I do brings You glory and honor. In Jesus name. Amen
Final Word From Pastor B:
If I could. I’d like to take just a moment to say a few things about the final point, and then we’ll close this message and finally close this series. There is no way that I can over state the importance of getting yourself into a good, solid, Bible believing, teaching and living church. We need one another to grow, to learn from, and most of all we just simply cannot do this all by ourselves. I know there are many out there that are like me and believe that if Jesus is all you have…that’s all you need. However, it was God Himself that said that it’s not good for man to be alone. It was God Himself that placed the desire in our hearts to fellowship with others…because it’s God Himself that has always created us with the desire to dwell with us. I have to admit I find myself with a bit of righteous jealousy over Adam’s relationship with God before the fall. Do you realize that Adam and Eve are the only people who were able to walk with God in the cool of the day with nothing between them?
Anyways, that’s just my quick soap-box message about making sure you go to church. There’s never been a more important time for us as believers to really make sure we aren’t forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. For instruction, for fellowship, and most of all to encourage one another and help each other grow in our relationships with one another…and with God as well. So…Go To Church! It’s not a good idea…it’s not a suggestion…the writer of Hebrews spoke by inspiration of the Holy Ghost saying “Do NOT forsake the assembling of yourselves together.”…and no your little Bible study groups aren’t enough…and we all need people that we submit ourselves to. I have several men of God that I consider elders or mentors…and I attend church with my family regularly so that I can be taught and hear the Word of God. As you know faith comes by hearing the Word of God…and it’s also important to have people who are willing to stand and pray with you, for you, and over you…we cannot do this Christian life or walk alone.
Yes. God is sufficient…but we need one another to be successful…no man is an island…remember!?! So…GO TO CHURCH. If you need help finding one…then write me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll try to help find you a good church in your area.
That’s how we get involved in our communities. That’s how we show those around us that we made the decision to return to God…and hopefully model for them what that looks like so that they will want to have a relationship with God also.
Well. There are a couple more things we have to do, and we’ll be able to close. Glory to God! This has been a pretty awesome series…hasn’t it!?! I would like to say that I’m so thankful for a website like You Version that has these kind of devotionals available so that we can study to show ourselves approved, Amen!?! It’s also pretty exciting to have one of the author’s of the “Finding Your Way Back To God Series” following me on Twitter…and like the messages I’ve written based on the devotional they provided to You Version.
Of course, we can’t leave a series like this without giving you the opportunity to find your way back to God…or find your way to Him for the first time. So, before I close this messages I would just like to give you an opportunity to re-commit your life to Jesus…or take this moment right here…right now to make Jesus your Lord and Savior right here…right now. It’s not really complicated. You don’t have to clean up your life. You don’t have to do anything, but stop what you are doing right now…and take a moment to say this prayer…
“Dear Lord Jesus, come into my heart. Forgive me of my sin. Wash me and cleanse me. Set me free. Jesus, thank You that You died for me. I believe that You are risen from the dead and that You’re coming back again for me. Fill me with the Holy Spirit. Give me a passion for the lost, a hunger for the things of God, and a holy boldness to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am saved: I’m born again. I am forgiven, and I am on my way to Heaven because I have Jesus in my heart. In Jesus’ Name Amen.”
I’m not going to give a big, long message about supporting Christlike Ministries NWA financially. It’s really simple to do today. All I need you to do is be willing to partner with Christlike Ministries NWA by taking one $5.00 bill each month, putting it in an envelope, and mailing it to: Christlike Ministries NWA 404 Bonanza St Centerton, Arkansas 72719. That’s it…and when you do that please make sure to leave a return address and an email so that I can get you some cool things in return for supporting Christlike Ministries NWA.
Finally, there’s one last point from the writers of this series…and I thought it would be only fitting to honor them with giving the final…final word of this message and this series…and the final bit of “homework” as well. I would like to encourage you to go back and read over the messages in this series, and if you know anyone that would be blessed by the messages in this series…please share it with them. There’s no charge ever for any of the material here on Pastor B’s Blog.
As you look back on this five-day devotional, what “awakening” do you resonate with most? What next step do you believe God is calling you to?
Well, thank you so much for joining me in this “Finding Your Way Back To God” series. It really was a joy and privilege to share this with you. I hope you’ll join me for the next series we’ll be starting over the weekend titled: “Your Personal Calling (5 Messages)”.
Have a blessed day in the Lord!
Blessings & Grace to you;