02-01-2015 message by Pastor Rich Doebler

Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV) 5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Trust in the Lord. What does it mean to trust? It’s when you are convinced—absolutely confident that he (a) has the power to help you and (b) has an interest in you. When you know he cares and he is able, that’s when you can trust in him.

A small child was caught in a burning house. He stood at the second-floor window, smoke swirling all around him. His father was outside looking up at his son, silhouetted in the window. “Jump!” he called out. “Jump, and I will catch you.” But the boy was afraid to jump. The smoke was so thick, his eyes were stinging, and he couldn’t see anything. He couldn’t see how far down it is. He couldn’t see where his father was standing. So he hesitated. “Jump,” his father called again. “Jump, and I will catch you.” “But I can’t see you,” the boy said. “It’s okay,” his father called back. “I can see you.”

When you can jump without being able to see everything clearly…when you can jump even though you don’t have it all figured out…when you can jump because you’re confident that you have a loving Father who sees you when you can’t see him…when you know he’ll catch you—that’s trust.

If you have to see before you jump, that’s not trust. If you have to figure out how far to jump…or which direction to jump, that’s “leaning on your own understanding.”

Trust is when you can take action even though you don’t have it all figured out. Trust is when you no longer have to rely on yourself. Trust is when you depend on someone other than yourself.

Do you ever struggle with faith? When God says “Go,” do you ever hesitate? I do.

So often, we’re like the man who was afraid to fly in an airplane. Finally, after a lot of encouragement and assurances from his friends, he allowed himself to be coaxed on to a flight. He was sweating bullets the whole time, gripping the seat, white knuckles, but he did it. Afterwards, someone asked him how the plane ride was. “It was okay,” he said, “but I never did put my full weight down.”

It’s human nature to be fearful. That’s why we need to practice surrendering our hearts to God. The more we give ourselves to him, the more we learn to trust. The more we hold back, the less we trust.

The passage says you must trust in the Lord… With all your heart. What takes little pieces of our hearts? What gets in the way of 100% surrender?

We’ve already mentioned fear but there are other things as well—things like: control issues, personal pride, a need for independence, selfishness.

These are things that inflate our ego, things that make us feel good, things that feed our sinful, selfish nature. We want to be in control. We want to call the shots. Our nature is to look out for #1.

These are things that surface when you “lean on your own understanding”—or, as some other versions put it, “rely on your own insight” (AMP)… “depend on your own knowledge” (ERV)… “try to figure everything out on your own” (MSG).

So how do we practice trusting? How do we learn to stop leaning on our own understanding?

I think it begins when we see God in our everyday lives—in every situation, in all circumstances…not just in the huge challenges of life, but also in the small, mundane, ordinary routines of life.

The verse says, “In all your ways…” Acknowledge him. How do we “acknowledge” the Lord in everything we do?

I like the Amplified version, which expands on various meanings of the word in the original language: “In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him.” Eugene Peterson paraphrases it: “Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go.” The NIV says: “In all your ways submit to him…” Another version (ERV) puts it simply: “With every step you take, think about what he wants.”

In other words, the more we see God as present and real in our everyday lives, the more we “acknowledge him.” We know that truth on one level. We know he will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5). We know he promised: “I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matt 28:20).

We know those things, but we tend to get distracted in the moment. The alarm goes off in the morning. We hustle around getting the kids off to school or ourselves off to work. We have to deal with chores, and cars, and weather, and cranky bosses, and assignments, and deadlines, and on and on and on.

It’s in those on-and-on moments that we forget. We forget that we have a connection with the Almighty! That Jesus Christ lives within us. That he wants to walk through each moment of our day with us. That he wants to help us face chores and assignments with grace. That he wants to help us live our daily lives with an eternal perspective.

What we need is a reminder. Or many reminders—something to trigger our thinking so we can recapture our hearts and redirect them back again to him.

Maybe every time the phone rings—before you answer it—let the phone remind you that God is calling you. Maybe you can even print out a little card and place it next to your desk phone or stick a Post-it note on your cell: “God calling.”

Or maybe you can set your smart phone to chime a little reminder at the top of every hour—a little pop-up message that says: “God is here now to guide you.”

Or maybe you could put a reminder in your car—right over the speedometer. Wherever you go, you’ll see the note: “In all your ways, acknowledge him.”

Up to this point, the proverb has listed three things for us to do: Trust… with all your heart… acknowledge him in everything… But now it gives God’s side—a promise:

He will direct your paths. Think of it! God wants to lead you through this life, guiding your steps, showing the way, helping you with big decisions, shaping your daily choices…

For years we’ve said this is why our church exists. Our calling and purpose as a church is to help people—to help each other—keep moving forward on this journey toward Christ: to be transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory (2 Cor 3:18); to press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us (Phil 3:12); to forget what is in the past and strain toward what is ahead (Phil 3:13).

God directs our paths by using…

[Defining Moments] God often uses critical times in life—watershed experiences, defining moments—to give us direction. In those moments, he provides us with an opportunity for new direction and new energy. (Examples: graduation, marriage, conversion, an “incident” [like Joni Eareckson Tada], job offer, etc.)

I see this weekend as one of those “defining moments” for our church because, after 80 years of existence, we are dealing with some important and timely issues.

I call this a defining moment because it’s the culmination of a process that’s been going on for a year—and longer. We asked our church leaders to seek God’s direction—and then give guidance in reshaping our future ministry.

It’s a defining moment because we are recapturing and restating our mission—why we’re here. We are seeking to follow God by putting others ahead of ourselves. It’s not about us—it’s about others.

It’s a defining moment because we believe God wants us to make changes. It’s a defining moment because we are taking on a new identity. A new name—with new opportunities.

[Fresh Starts] Often in the Bible when God called a person (or people) to a new place or a larger ministry, they would receive a new identity—a new name. Examples:

  • Abram became Abraham—and “when called to go…[he] obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Heb 11:8)
  • Jacob became Israel—“because [he was told] you have wrestled with God…and you have prevailed” (Gen 32:28, VOICE).
  • Daniel became Belteshazzar—and influenced a foreign government for the Lord.
  • Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah became Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—and took a courageous stand in a fiery furnace.
  • Simon became Peter—which means “rock” and describes his solid commitment to the Lord.
  • Saul became Paul—and “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

With a new identity, our church has a fresh start, a unique opportunity to reintroduce ourselves to the community. We can tell them (in fresh ways) who we are and why we are here.

God has a great calling for this church—a significant purpose. With God directing us, there is a bright future ahead—that is, IF we are willing to give ourselves to the task AND if give ourselves to him!

We know a new name is not a silver bullet. A name does not do God’s work—you and I are called to do that. A name won’t solve all the challenges we face in society today. A name is not a panacea.

But it IS a part of the bigger picture. It IS a piece of the puzzle. It’s ONE thing that reflects our desire to move forward with God.

[Change] Let me talk about change for a moment. Change is hardly ever easy. But it is necessary. Without change, we shrivel and die. That’s why we have been changing all along, primarily in response to two things:

  1. The leading of the Spirit. We want to be sensitive to the things God is doing and the direction he is taking us. God continues to stretch us, to grow us, to transform us. “He will direct your paths.”
  2. New opportunities, new challenges—the needs of people around us. As society changes, our opportunities change—opportunities to reach people and minister to people. Examples: divorce rate, alcohol vs drugs, technology, Judeo-Christian culture vs secular, etc.
    • When we respond to opportunities (needs of people) around us, we’re essentially talking about the question of mission.
    • Missionaries to Tanzania, for example, learn to relate to East African culture. They learn Swahili. They learn how to fit into Tanzanian life. They cannot transplant an American church to Tanzania. If they tried to bring American customs, sing American songs, preach English sermons, or live by American ways, they just wouldn’t connect with Tanzanians.
    • In the same way, we are called to be missionaries to our world. But the world we want to reach today is different than the world used to be. The world outside our doors is not the same world that was outside the doors 80 years ago.
    • This does NOT mean that our message has changed, even if methods have adapted through the years.
    • In 1940, providing a playland to connect with the community was unheard of. In 1950, nobody could have dreamed of a church on the Web. (We swept webs out of the church.) And tweet?

So we change. But there are some things that must not change. What must not change? Our core convictions, our foundation of truth, our central message. Some people have wondered if we are changing merely for the sake of change—just to keep up with the changes all around us.

I want to assure you that is not the case. We believe in certain absolutes that must not change, no matter what others might do (including other churches). We have convictions and values such as:

  1. Jesus, God’s Son, is our only hope of salvation. Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins and raised from the dead so we could have eternal life. There is no other name given among men by whom we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). On Christ, the solid Rock I stand.
  2. The Bible is God’s Word. It is eternal truth, which God has revealed to us. So we base our lives on it; we look to God’s Word for instruction regarding our families, our marriages, our ethics, as well as our spiritual and emotional health. We cannot reinterpret the Bible to make it fit society’s twisted views. Rather, we rely on the timeless truths of God’s Word to measure everything else. (2 Tim 3:16-17)
  3. Our core values.
    1. God is alive! We expect God to be present among us. We know he will do awesome things when we call on him. We want to grow in our relationship with him. He is not an impotent, toothless god of mythology. He is not a legendary, make-believe super hero. He is not a lifeless image carved out of stone or wood. He is not a warm, fuzzy, cuddly friend who cares about our hurts but can’t do anything about them. No! We serve a living God who works in amazing, supernatural ways. (1 Tim 4:10)
    2. People are important! God created each person, each individual in the image of God. Each one (from lowest to the greatest) is contains a divine spark within. Jesus gave his life as the ultimate sacrifice on the cross in order to rescue each of us from the consequences of sin and everything that’s wrong in this world. As we experience God’s amazing grace—his undeserved, unearned love—we begin to glimpse the value he places on each individual. That mind-blowing encounter with grace helps us see the enormous investment God makes in each person. No matter what the disadvantage, the handicap, the disability, the injury, the weakness or the thorn in the flesh, each person is important! God said so. (John 3:16)
    3. Life is a journey! Everyone is on a path to somewhere. We just want to help people find the right path—to point them in the right direction. Since we’re all on this journey to find God and become more like Jesus, we’re committed to helping each other along the way. One step at a time, we’re going to get there. Together. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart…and he will direct your paths.”
      The word “journey” is often used as a metaphor: it represents progress and change; it illustrates moving through life, from one experience to another; it suggests gradual transition—significant because the process of renewal is seldom instantaneous. Christians are on a “journey” of transformation all their lives.
      The word “journey” is familiar to both Christian and secular minds, so it communicates effectively both to church “insiders” and those who are not yet believers. It is a “bridge” term— meaning the same thing whether you read the Bible or the newspaper or an online blog.
      Recovering addicts might speak of their “journey”; a teacher might speak of a student’s “journey”; a survivor of a tragedy might speak of his “journey”; parents with a rebellious teen might talk about their “journey,” if you watch Biggest Loser, you’ll hear about the “journey” they are on.
           Our goal is to help people get on the right journey—from where they are to Christ.
    4. Better things are coming! God has given us hope for better things in eternity. But even before then, we expect better things now— in our hearts and homes and relationships. We are confident that God is doing good things within us. We haven’t yet arrived, but we’re further along the way than we used to be. “We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation.” (Heb 6:9)

Our trust in the Lord, our conviction for God’s absolute truth, our core values—these are things that will not change.

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The Trip of a Lifetime