Billy's Blog
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July 18, 2017, 9:46 AM

Pick Up Your Cross

 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."--Matthew 16:24

How do you define what it means to pick up your cross in our culture? When Jesus told the people in the first century to pick up their cross and follow him they knew what it meant. They watched people pick up their cross. They witnessed people carrying their cross down the street to have their life taken from them. 

Does this really mean we have to be willing to die to follow Jesus? Yes and no. 

I think when Jesus said this it was both literal and figurative. If you were a Christian in the first century there was a strong likelihood you may have to give your life for your faith. History tells us that all of the apostles were martyred except for John and he was boiled in hot oil. You can read books that detail the ways Christians died because of their faith. People are still being persecuted and put to death because they are believers. 

But it's more than a physical death. 

We may never face this kind of death in America and I hope we never do, but it doesn't mean that we can't pick up your cross. 

WE NEED TO DIE TO OURSELVES. 

Picking up your cross also means that we are going all in. There is nothing we are holding back. There is no other option for our lives. It's Jesus or nothing. So what does this mean? What does it really mean to go all for Jesus? 

I love this illustration I was shown a few years ago. I can't really show it to you but I can describe it and I hope you can picture it in your head. 

Picture a pie chart. There are percentages that cut up the pie into pieces. Let's say you are doing a pie chart of your life. One piece of the pie is your work. One piece of your pie is your family. One piece of your pie is your money. One piece of your pie is God. You have this pie all split up and each piece is independent of each other. God gets a piece of your life. He gets Sunday morning, he might get a few moments of prayer every once in a while, but he has nothing to do with your family or your work or your money. This is how many people serve God. God does not have their whole lives just a piece. This is not picking up your cross. 

Now picture a solar system. The sun is in the middle and all of the planets orbit around it. The planets are what they are because of their relationship to the sun. Picture your life like this. God is in the middle of everything you do. God influences how you spend your money, how you raise your money, how you do your job and everything else in your life. This is picking up your cross. 

James tells us in James 4:15 that instead of making plans on our own we should say, "if the Lord wills", we will do this or that. He says it's boastful to think we can control our lives. Not only is it boastful it's silly. How many of you have realized that all of our plans should be written in pencil, because life can change in the blink of an eye. How many plans get changed everyday in your life, because life is unpredictable? 

So the idea of picking up a cross might not speak as loudly and clearly as it did in first century world. But we can still understand the concept and GO ALL IN. 




July 11, 2017, 4:10 PM

Just Say No...if it just were that easy

Are you old enough to remember Nancy Reagan's famous anti-drug intiative...Just Say No? 

It was a good idea to simply train people, mainly young people, to say no to drugs. As you can see by the drug abuse in our country it didn't work. I'm not sure anything really has worked. 

Why is Just Say No a flawed idea? Why can't we just say no to ourselves? Why do we struggle to deny ourselves? 

1. Our lives are a struggle

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. Romans 7:21-23

You wake up every day with a battle. You battle between the sinful nature and the Spirit. If you are a baptized believer you have the Holy Spirit. This Spirit is battling the sinful nature that you and I have. This is our struggle. This struggle will not end until we see Jesus face to face. It's just a part of our existence. This is why it's so hard to say no to ourselves when we want something that is not good for us. We have a part of us that desperate wants the things that aren't good for us, and we have a part of us that wants what's good. So when you struggle and fight against yourself it's not a unique situation. 

2. We need each other

Take a second and Google the "one another" passages in the Bible. I looked it up and found that these phrase is used 1-- times in 94 different verses in the New Testament. The idea that we need other people to do this thing called, Christianity, is all throughout the Bible. We've got this figured out. If you want to stop drinking...you go to AA. If you want to lose weight you go to Weight Watchers. If you want to exercise regularly you join a workout group. Why would this be any different if you wanted to follow Jesus. If you find yourself not doing so well in the following Jesus department of your life, which is your whole life, you might not be around other believers enough. 

I know it's hard to imagine a preacher railing on church attendance, but here I go. I've never visited someone who has willfully been missing church a lot that is doing good spiritually. They are always struggling. If you find a person who is a member of AA but hasn't been going I bet you'll find the same thing. We need each other to overcome the battles in our lives. You were not meant to be a Lone Ranger. 

3. We need God

I was studying the passage where Jesus says to ask and it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened. Do you notice something about knocking? Someone has to open up the door. You can't and shouldn't do it yourself. We need God. 

Look at the chaos in our country caused by fatherless homes. It's crazy. Now you go try to live your life without the support, help and love of your heavenly Father. Life will continue to be disastrous. 

You can't do this on your own so stop trying. 

*Get into His Word. Seek out the guidance and wisdom that God has put there for us to read and reread, and read again. 

 

*Talk to him. Imagine that...a relationship built on communication. You have to have it. Talk to God. Let him know how you feel. Tell him what's bothering you. Take the time to ask, seek and knock. 

*Listen. Isn't it really annoying when you are trying to have a conversation with someone who won't shut up? Think about how annoyed God gets when we won't listen. Stop and listen to him. He still talks. He still is a verbal God. His voice may not come out of a burning bush, but he still wants to speak to you. 

Just say no sounds pretty good, but we need some help. 

God designed us this way so we might as well go along with it. 




July 6, 2017, 10:22 AM

Deny Yourself

I've had to say no to my kids a LOT through the years. Many times I don't like saying no to them, but I have to. The person I really don't like saying no to is me. I struggle to say no to me. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control, and I really struggle in this area. I don't like to control myself. I like to say yes to me. I like to let myself do whatever I want to do. 

The problem with this is if I want be a Christ follower, a disciple of Jesus, I must deny myself. 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24

The first step to following Jesus is denying myself. Why must this happen? What does this mean? 

1. Why this must happen. 

If you are going to follow Jesus you can't be in charge anymore. I know, you don't like this, either, but it's part of the deal. Jesus has to be in charge. Just think about this. You have decided to follow Jesus. Why? One of the reasons you decide to follow Jesus is that you are disatisfied with your life. You are actually disatisfied with the direction of your life and you have been in charge of that. You have been the captain of your ship. If you don't like where you are heading why keep driving? You have to let someone else take over the wheel. If you are going to follow Jesus you can't be the one driving anymore. This is the first step to being a disciple...giving up control. 

2. What does this mean? 

Denying yourself means creating a practice of saying NO to you. Ephesians 2:1-3 is very clear that the reason we got in the mess that we got into was our own behavior. We did whatever we wanted to. We followed our own sinful desires and did whatever felt good. Doing whatever we wanted to is the reason we need Jesus. 

A lot of people like the idea of Jesus being the Savior. We like the idea that he saves us, and because of him we have salvation and we get to go to heaven not hell. This is great news. BUT...we're not so sure of this idea of Jesus being Lord. We're not real sure of someone else being in control. We like to be in control. 

The key word in all of this is TRUST. To follow Jesus we must trust him that he knows what he's doing and that he has our best interests in mind. When we go all in and let him be Lord of our lives we have finally agreed to trust him. 

When my kids get in the car they have total trust in me. We've driven through snow storms, severe thunderstorms, hail, extreme wind, and heavy rain. I've never seen my children freak out about it. They have trust in me that I can drive this vehicle and get us safely to wherever we are planning to go. 

Do you have this kind of trust in God? Are you ready to deny yourself and let Jesus be Lord of your life? 




June 30, 2017, 10:02 AM

Follow

Social media has really brought back the idea of following. If you are on Twitter you either follow someone or you have followers. I was just informed the other day that you do not have "friends" on Instagram you have followers. I'm still learning this social media thing, and teenagers humble me a lot with their knowledge. But what exactly is a Twitter or Instagram follower? How much commitment is there to be a follower of someone on social media? 

Well, the commitment is rather low. Actually, you don't have to do much except just look at what is posted. I know there are some pretty dedicated Twitter followers out there who hang on every Tweet, but the commitment level is still fairly low. It's kind of like Facebook where being a friend means that you accept a request. That is all the commitment required. 

But what about following Jesus? 

In Matthew 16:24-26 Jesus gives us one definition of what it means to follow him. He give us three things we must do: deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow him. He defines being a disciple which is another way of saying a follower. Think about these three things...deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Jesus. 

*Deny Yourself

This means that you are no longer in control. You are no longer the one calling the shots. When you give your life to Jesus you do just that. It's not your life anymore. Paul said that he was "crucified with Christ" in Galatians 2:20. He was no longer the captain of the ship. This is what you must do. 

*Pick up your cross

We must go all in. Cultural Christianity says that when we are saved that Jesus is here to bless our lives. We go live our lives and he follows us around and blesses what we do. This is not Biblical Christianity. We go all in. Our whole lives is about serving Jesus. Everything that we do is wrapped around serving God! 

*Follow me

You actually have to go and follow Jesus. You can't just talk about it, philosophize about it, and blog about it. You have to do it. Jesus' brother James wrote that "faith without works is dead." If you follow Jesus your life will show it. 

So there you go...following Jesus defined in a nice little nutshell. Oh, but it is so much easier to write it down. It's a lot harder to do it. But look at your life today and think about those three things. How are you doing? 

Following Jesus is a lot more of a commitment than following a celebrity on Twitter. But following Jesus is the best decision you'll ever make! 




June 21, 2017, 9:09 AM

Going All In

I do not like to jump into cold water. I do not like to ease into cold water. So if you are going to swim in water that is cold you've got to do one or the other. If you've ever been in somewhat cold water you know the only way to do it is to just go all in and jump in. It's just plain torture the other way. 

This week at LCC we are having an event called, The Big Splash. We have been promoting it as a great day to come and get baptized and give your life to Jesus Christ. This week I'm finishing up the sermon series talking about why we do baptism the way we do it. The simple answer is because we believe this is what the Bible mandates we do. The other reason, which is also Biblical, is the symbolism. 

We practice baptism by immersion, because there is huge symbolism in this. Romans 6 talks about being "buried with Christ." We've all seen a burial service, and we know what it looks like. The whole body goes under the dirt. This is part of the baptism ceremony. The second part of baptism is the resurrection. 1 Peter 3:21 tells us that the power in baptism is the resurrection of Jesus. When we come out of the water it's symbolic of Jesus arising out the grave. Jesus had new life and so do we! 

I love the picture of baptism, because it's about going ALL IN. Everyone's hair gets messed up. The ladies' make up gets ruined. Balding men trying to hide their baldness are ratted out with wet hair clinging to their scalp. You're usually dressed in swimwear of some kind. It's a humbling experience, but an amazing one. Your whole body goes in and your whole old life is done away with forever. It's a great picture. 

If you need to go all in for Jesus maybe it's time. Maybe it's time to stop making excuses about why you can't do it, and just give in. Maybe it's not quite time and you need some more answers. Maybe you need to search for more truth. That's good, too. Just don't put any of this off any longer. 

God is merciful to us everyday to keep giving us opportunities to give our lives to him. But all opportunities run out. 

Don't waste another day. 


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