I’ve spent the last few days reflecting on 2009, trying to come up with a message to share with you today…
In doing so, I’ve come to the conclusion that rather than focusing on one particular event, thought, or “discovery”, I want to talk about the past year in its entirety. I want to look at it as one “body of work”, rather than 365 individual segments.
I’m lead to share this particular Chapter and Verse with you:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)
2009 was quite possibly the best year of my life. And I’ll tell you, it wasn’t because of money, or material possessions, or exotic trips, or any of the things that we normally associate with having a “good year.”
Every day of this year, without fail, I’ve gone after God with all that is in me! I have not just knocked, but banged on His door…seeking His face…wanting to know more about Him…being a soldier of Christ…being a light that shines…being everything that God intended for me to be. I have asked…
He has answered…
God has blessed me, graced me, humbled me, with spiritual growth, with wisdom, with a deepened relationship with Him (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), with a new perspective as to who and what He is, with a new circle of friends that have helped me in my quest more than they will ever know, with self-discoveries about myself and who I am, with the tenacity to keep getting up every time I stumble, with an amazingly supportive wife, and with a passion, fire, and love for Him that will never die.
I have already shared much of what I have learned this year with you...and lest I forget…
I am humbled by your presence. I want to thank you for taking this journey with me, for allowing me to share my thoughts with you. If I have touched your mind, or your heart, or your spirit, in any way, then it has made sitting in front of this laptop during everyone one of those fifty-two weeks of 2009 worth the effort.
When The Seed of Hope was launched on October 31, 2008, I made a promise to God that until the fire went out, or the words ran out, I would always write for Him.
I stand in awe; I live life to bless You. I sing a new song; the song of the rescued. Light of the world, shine in my heart like the rise of the dawn. While I stand in awe.
I am amazed, Lord who am I that You are mindful of me? When angels bow down, and heaven declares that You are God; You’re my God. I stand in awe.
“Song of the Rescued” Justin Bradshaw 2009
God is good.
See you next year.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
Is there something in your life that you feel you were meant to do?
I’m not necessarily talking about a job or a career, but more along the lines of an idea, or an inspiration to do something, perhaps for the betterment of others. It doesn’t even have to be anything big, as in saving the human race.
Come to think of, it doesn’t have to be for the betterment of others. On a personal level, perhaps this “something” may be a way of enriching your own life.
So, this something…have you done anything about it? Have you taken even the first step towards making your idea a reality? Have you allowed yourself to believe that you could make a difference in the world? That you could somehow make your own life better?
For those of you who answered “no” to any of the questions, I’m prompted to pose yet another question to you:
Why haven’t you done anything about it?
Look, I’m not picking on you. And I’m not gonna sit here and attempt to tell you what you’re thinking right now, though I have a hunch that I’ve touched a nerve with every one of you.
I am gonna tell you that until a few years ago, my answer to all of those questions was a resounding NO. And, as always, I’m gonna share what’s on my heart at this very moment…
Can you imagine going through life and never allowing yourself to dream, about what you could have, or what you could do, or what you could be? No dreams; just accepting what you had, as if your fate were set in stone. You may be asking “How could you not dream about those things? Everybody has dreams.”
That may very well be, but I’m telling you that for the first fifty-three years of my life I never let me dream. I don’t know what happened…what made me that way. Perhaps it was something from my childhood, or it was something in the gene pool. It could’ve been some traumatic event that I just erased from my memory. Of course, there’s always that “fear of failure” thing, or the “I’m not worthy” mindset. Oh, and let’s not forget “I’m just one person.” I don’t know the reason for being the way I was.
Maybe, just maybe, it was all in God’s plan for me so that I could sit here at age fifty-seven and tell you what it was like to live a life bereft of dreams.
Perhaps my message is for you…that God is waiting for you to step up, to raise your hand, to make a commitment to act on the idea that He tucked away in some corner of your mind, to dream your dream. Maybe He has plans in store for you that are even bigger than your dreams!
Think I’m kidding?
Christianity…Humanity…our history is riddled with stories of those who have made a difference in the world. How about a short-list of those who impacted the world…
You want to talk Christianity? How about the Apostles? (12 not-so-more-than-ordinary men) David? (A boy) Paul? (A one-time persecutor of Christians) Moses? (An infant left floating in a basket)
Humanity? How about Abraham Lincoln? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Mother Teresa? William Wilberforce?
Did they know?
Do you think that any of those mentioned above knew what they were destined to do when they were born?
Don’t you think that at some point in their lives, each one of them made a decision to pursue that which they believed to be important to them? That they chose to take that first step, neither knowing, nor caring, where it was gonna take them? That they simply had to act on whatever those instincts were that told them to go out and “do it”?
Maybe God is waiting on you.
Maybe you are the one that can make a difference. Perhaps Gandhi was right when he said “Be the change you want to see in the world.” What are you waiting for?
One final thought…
Just over two thousand years ago an infant was born unto a carpenter and his wife. This baby’s name was Jesus, and his impact on the world would be greater than anyone born before him, and anyone born since.
Even today he shapes the world in which we live. Yeah, I know that he was the Son of God. But that didn’t mean that people would accept who he was. Quite obviously, those that nailed him to the cross didn’t see him as our Savior.
Today, all these years later, there a millions of people in the world that don’t know Him, either by choice or because they haven’t heard the “good news” of His birth. The change that I want to see in the world is for everyone to know of Him and His goodness. I live it each day, and I try to spread it whenever I can. If I plant a seed in you, and you plant it in someone else, and…well, you know how it goes.
It has been said that “One” is the loneliest number. That may be, but I also believe that “One” can be a powerful number. One person can make a difference. Need more proof?
One man, named Jesus, was sent here to save the world, which is exactly what He did when He died on the cross. And I ask you to consider this: Before Jesus, there were no Christians. He lives!
May your home be filled with the Peace, Love, and Joy that is Christmas.
However, when they persisted with their question, He raised Himself up and said “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7 (NIV)
I’m gonna let you in on a little secret…
All of us are sinners. Every one of us, at some point in our lives, has sinned. Jesus knew it. Why else would He extend an open invitation for someone, anyone in the temple court to stone a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery? He knew it then, and God knows it now. We’re all sinners.
I’m gonna let you in on another secret; one of my personal secrets. Never shared this with anyone…never felt the need to, until now…
For the longest time (if you consider 56 years to be a long time) I thought that I was the only person in church that was a sinner. Well, that may be a bit extreme…I didn’t really believe that I was the only one with sin, but in my mind, no one else’s sins were as bad as mine. And everyone else’s sins paled in comparison…
What made me feel that way? My sins were worse than his, or hers, or yours, because I committed them! I was ashamed of my transgressions against God…all of them. That’s why I always opted to sit no closer to the front of the church than the middle! I didn’t think that I was worthy of sitting in the front, right under the Pastor’s nose, right there in front of the congregation. I wasn’t good enough. I figured that the first few rows were reserved for the “good” people.
It’s not that I wasn’t a good person. I’ve always tried to be a good Christian, and tried to treat people the right way. I didn’t steal, or take a life, or anything like that. I just kept “falling down”, in a spiritual sense. And I just didn’t “get it” about forgiveness.
I want to talk about sin for just a moment. Well, not necessarily “sin”, by its definition, but more about my perceptions of sin that I brought with me from childhood.
Without mentioning a specific Christian denomination, I’ll tell you that I was taught that there were two different categories of sin. There were mortal sins, which were willful, extreme offenses against God. Some examples of mortal sins were murder, adultery, and theft. Then there were venial sins, which, while being offensive to God, weren’t as serious as their mortal counterparts. Examples of venial sins might include cursing, lying, or gossiping. You could probably still get into heaven if you died with a list of venial sins, but those mortal sins could give you a one way ticket to Hades!
The whole concept never made a lot of sense to me. God gave us a list of commandments…ten of ‘em. Do you think that He divided them into two categories, or ranked them in order of severity, from one to ten?
Okay, I can see where the First Commandment, I AM the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before Me. would be the most important one. I mean, if you don’t accept God, why would you follow His commands?
Apart from the first one, how can we say that one of the remaining nine is more important than the other? Well, we can’t, but I believe that many of us try to justify taking “liberties” with certain ones. It’s kind of like the “selective hearing” that my wife Jackie accuses me of having from time to time!
If money, or a fancy car, or a new home, or a new job, or your children, or even your spouse is more important to you than God, you’re not in accordance with Him. The same can be said for hating someone that may have hurt your feelings, or being prejudicial towards anyone. Hiding some of your income to avoid paying more taxes…lying to dodge an embarrassing situation…turning your nose up at someone that may be less fortunate than you are. All of these are offensive to God. The list of things that we do, individually and collectively that is not Christ-like is, well, is too long to list.
Take a close look.
This is how I see it: When examining your conscience, you have to examine all of it, not just the “safe” zones! You want to know if you’re in good standing with God? At the end of each day, take stock of your every thought, word, and deed. You’ll know.
Look, I’m not trying to save your soul; God sent His only Son to do that.
This is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10 (NIV)
Neither am I sitting in judgment of you.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be used to measure you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye, and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:1-3 (NIV)
I guess that what I’m trying to tell you is this:
All of us (yes, that includes you) are worthy of sitting in the front row of the church, right under the Pastor’s nose, right there in front of the congregation. We’re all God’s children, and because of that we’re all the same in His eyes. While some of us may live the life that’s more in keeping with what He wants for us, that doesn’t mean that the rest of us aren’t His “kids”. And it doesn’t mean that He will stop loving us. (I invite you to read the parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-32)
Don’t be afraid to stand before God, baggage and all. I believe that many of us don’t want to face Him because we’re ashamed of what we’ve done, or because of the accountability that comes with knowing that God is looking.
You don’t really think that He’s not looking at you because you’re not looking at Him, do you? Come on! He knows everything, sees everything, and is everywhere. He is our omniscient, omnipresent, amazing God!
Our forgiving God
Here’s the thing, and I believe this with all that is in me: If you ask for God’s forgiveness, with a heart filled with regret for what you’ve done, He’s gonna forgive you. Even if you’re falling into the same trap, time after time. I don’t care what it is; He will forgive you.
There was only one sin for which He couldn’t forgive you, one that would keep you from spending eternity with Him, and He sacrificed His only Son to pay the price for that one.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Look, you’re gonna have to face God one day; we all do. I’m asking you not to wait until your judgment day to do it. If you will begin each day by standing before God and asking Him for forgiveness, I believe that at the very least, four major changes will occur within:
· Your relationship with God will soar to new heights.
· Your outlook towards life and everything in it will change.
· You will find yourself examining your every thought, word, and deed because you’ll realize that removing sin from your life makes room for more of God’s blessings and His love.
· You will have more peace in your heart and in your soul than you ever dreamed possible.
See you next week!