You did not get here alone…

 

 

 

Think about your family growing up.  Every family has unspoken rules.  You grow up, slowly being informed of these rules through family behavior.  Think about these questions:

  • How did you handle conflict?
  • What was the family method for solving problems?
  • Was forgiveness obvious and regular?
  • Did you often see forgiveness asked for and given?
  • How did your family communicate?
  • Who was typically in control?
  • Was your family quiet or loud?
  • Did you have dinner together… if so… what were your conversations like?
  • Were there certain topics that could not be talked about or was everything fair game?
  • How was anger expressed?
  • Was it more positive or was it more explosive?
  • Were threats and guilt used to manipulate?
  • Were people encouraged to keep growing in their personal relating skills?
  • Were you relaxed at home or often “walking on eggshells?”
  • Did you serve each other or were there only one or two who were expected to serve?
  • What were your family relationships like with other families?

These things shaped your views on relationships and many of these values became your values… which means many of your family struggles may have become your struggles too.  You have not become who you are all by yourself.

Here is a difficulty: sin and grace live together in all relationships.  Sin gets in the way of what grace can do but grace covers what sin causes.  Where sin and grace intersect… great things can happen but if not guided through the intersection, devastation can result.  

Wisdom from your friends is not enough.  Techniques from self-help books will let you down and not bring you lasting change.  These promise you can change relationships without changing yourself and will leave us struggling with:

  • Letting go of the hurt.
  • Getting angry at the person who complicates our life.
  • Being defensive when challenged.
  • Avoiding conflict.
  • Being too political at work.
  • Thinking broken, hurting relationships will never get better.
  • Talking about people behind their backs.
  • Lying to others because you are trying to control what they think.
  • Lowering your standard to gain someone’s approval.
  • Envying other relationships.
  • Controlling others.
  • Exploding on people when things don’t go our way.
  • Pushing people away from us.

You see, God made you for relationships and this side of heaven all relationships are difficult.  Because deep inside we know relationships are important, we are tempted to make them the ultimate goal but God wants them to, instead, be part of leading you toward His goal.   There are no secrets that will lead you to problem-free relationships and at some point, you may wonder if relationships are even worth the struggle.  But God keeps us in messy relationships for his redemptive purpose so stay in there.  Through this series, we will see God’s scripture offering us a clear hope for relationships.

I hope to see you Sunday morning as we continue this journey through God’s perspective of bad blood.


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Tis The Season… of Bad Blood

 

 

Okay, okay, Harley.  I heard you.  There is evil in me that hurts all of my relationships (see part one of Tis The Season… Of Bad Blood on Soundcloud).  But what about the bad things people do to me?

Fair question.  Your relationships are not only harmed by what you do and say…   You are also hurt by others.   Let me share with you what I learned from a mentor.

Sometimes we hurt them.  Sometimes they hurt us.  And often it is both.  This side of heaven we will always be sinners relating to other sinners.

Here is a big truth.  Even when we are sinned against, we are responsible for how we react.  This is the only way we can hope to stop the destructive cycle and power of sin in a relationship.

Read Micah 6:8 for direction:

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,

   and this is what he requires of you:

to do what is right, to love mercy,

   and to walk humbly with your God.”

God had this written knowing you would be sinned against.  And He knew our tendency would be to hurt them in response to them hurting us.

This is what we often do:

  • I bitterly confess your sins to myself. “I can’t believe they did that to me!”
  • I confess your sins to someone else.  “Listen to what he did to me!”
  • I confess your sins to God asking Him to hurt them. “God… when are you going to finally do something to them?!”
  • I confess your sins to you as I yell and scream.  “How dare you?!”

These ways of thinking about and talking about the sins of others are destructive because they fool us into thinking the problem is only outside of ourselves.  But the Bible reminds us that ultimately our biggest problem is still in our hearts because we now are dealing with our response.

Said another way… when our hearts have been dramatically hurt by the sins of another, we must guard our hearts so we are not trapped in sin’s destructive cycle.  Being hurt makes us want to hurt.  That makes our need for Jesus huge.

Being patient, humble, forgiving and gentle are not calls to roll over passively.  This is God calling you to actively respond… but to respond with His response.  

It is true, the best parts of life and the worst parts of life are all found in relationships.  God has given us what we need to navigate relationships between people who hurt each other.  He has given us His Word.  Don’t ignore it, don’t leave it on a shelf.  He has given us His Spirit.  Don’t ignore Him.  Listen to Him, don’t just do what you want.  He has given us the church family.  And yes… even there are relationships to navigate.

Even in the deepest relational turmoil, we are never alone.  While our problems have everything to do with sin, our relationship potential has everything to do with Jesus.

Hope to see you Sunday as the church gathers to celebrate together what Jesus is doing in our lives.


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#SHC6060 Let’s do this!

The Barna research group reported that “Of more than 70 moral behaviors we study, when we compare Christians to non-Christians we rarely find substantial differences.”  

 

Something is terribly wrong.

Perhaps this, even though not written directly about us, describes us: Matthew 13:15  “For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.”

If we want what we can produce, we just need to do more and be better and we might see some subtle improvements.  But if we want what only God can produce (Galatians 5:22-23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control.) then we will have to do this His way.

For a branch on a fruit tree to produce fruit it must do one thing.  It must stay connected to the tree, the trunk.  Connected, it will produce fruit.  Disconnected it will not.  To really follow Jesus you must stay connected moment by moment.  To produce what God desires to produce through your life you must stay connected minute by minute but so often we don’t.  We usually just give God an acknowledgment or two during our busy days and that just gives us the illusion of being connected.

The #SHC6060 experiment will start you on a journey of more and more connectedness with Jesus.  The #SHC6060 experiment:  Set an alarm on your phone or watch to alert you every hour of your awake day (and place sticky notes where you will see them often; when the alarm goes off… pause and talk with God… tell Him this next hour is His… Ask Him to direct you and guide you… Listen to Him… Respond to Him… stay connected to Him; share with us on your social media using #SHC6060 how God is directing you.

We will fail more than we succeed in staying connected to Jesus but we will succeed more and more as we stay connected to Jesus.

I’m so glad you are on this journey with us!


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A big step of submitting and following… Walk This Way

Baptism… immersion under water.

What is baptism?  The word itself means to immerse, to dip under water.  So, baptism as described in the Bible is the act of dipping a person under the water.

Baptism can be confusing,

weird even.

The Bible doesn’t speak much of why

or where

or how we should,

but mostly that we should.

We don’t know everything about the significance of baptism.  While we don’t understand everything about it, we do know this… it is important to God.

We believe the truth of baptism can be described, but not totally defined, by three distinct pictures.

Baptism as a symbol…  Baptism as a badge…  Baptism as identification…

ONE

Baptism as a symbol.

There is a part in every wedding message that includes wedding rings.  “With this ring…” Is the phrase often used.  Do we catch the significance of the rings denote?  Wedding rings are much more than fashion, they mark a significant moment.  As many ministers convey, they are a symbol of commitment.  It is a symbol to the world, that the person wearing the ring is no longer alone, no longer one, but they are spoken for.

Baptism is our symbol to others of our commitment to follow Jesus.  We wear it to show we are no longer living life our way, on our own.  We are spoken for.

We take part in baptism because…

…we want to show others we are committed to something bigger and greater than us.

…we want to show that we are committed to someone who has committed to us, someone who has sacrificed for us, and has loved us despite us.

I think about my marriage.  How would I feel if I asked my wife to wear the wedding ring I bought her, yet, she told me she wanted to be married to me but she wasn’t sure she wanted to wear my ring… she wasn’t sure she wanted to put that on and wear it in front of people… she wanted to just keep it between me and her, private… she wanted to get married but just wasn’t sure about taking the step of wearing a wedding ring in front of anyone?  Wow… if that is true… is she ready to be married?   Wow… how would that make me feel?  Wow… that makes me think.

Romans 6:4 says, “By our baptism then, we were buried with Him and shared His death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead…so also we may live a new life!”

Baptism doesn’t make you a believer; rather, it shows you already believe.  Baptism does not “save” you, only your faith in Christ does that.  It’s the outward symbol of the commitment you made in your heart.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith…it is the gift of God – not b works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9

The Bible refers to the church as the bride of Christ.

We should wear His ring… the ring of commitment… the ring of baptism.

Meditate today about the commitments in your life.

How do your commitments shape your life?

What do I have to show for my commitment to Christ?  Have I put on the “wedding ring” of baptism yet?

TWO

Baptism as a badge.

The purple heart of change

Whoever said change is easy?

Change is not easy.

Change is not painless.

Change is not tearless.

Read Romans 6:4 again.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

When we cross over from Christ-acknowledg-er to Christ-follower, change will start.

It is natural.

It can be painful.

It is necessary.

A recovering alcoholic can attest to pain in change.  When you choose to move from one way of living to another there will be hurt and withdrawal.  Habits, lifestyles, routines, and behavior will be changed and altered and tweaked.

The same can be said of the change that comes with following Christ.  The old has passed and the new has come.

We wear baptism as our badge of change, our purple heart.  We are telling the world we have been hurt, we have experienced pain and tears, we have been wounded in this war called life and we are now living from a new perspective… because Christ love us.

Meditate on these questions today:

What changes need to be made in my life?

Is changing worth the pain?

Am I ready to wear the badge of baptism?

THREE

Baptism as identification

The question of existence isn’t merely a question of who you are.

But rather it includes the question of whose are you?

Sometimes lineage is everything.  Look at race horse breeding.  Look at politics (Kennedy family, Bush family). Look at the business world (Trump).  Where we come from matters.

It is important who you belong to.  It becomes who you are.

Baptism is our identification.  We are saying that we belong to God.

God is no telling us that we should lose our individuality.  In fact, by belonging to God we become the purest and best sense of who we are and who we were created to become.

Read John 10:10

God came to give us life… abundant life… the life we were meant to live.

God wants us to want to be identified as His.

Romans 6:3-4 (NLT)

3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?

4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

Baptism is us identifying with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.  Baptism is our start to a new life.

Are you ready to be counted as God’s?

Are you ready to be baptized?

This element is summarized by using the word Acceptance: beginning where you are and growing one step at a time.  At Stuttgart Harvest church we throw lifelines, not rocks.

By making a covenant with us, you are agreeing to accept others by loving them because God has accepted you by loving you.

 

OK, your part…

Here are some questions for you.  If you choose, email me your responses  harley@stuttgartharvestchurch.com

Have you become a Christ-follower?                If so, when?

Have you been baptized since you have become a Christ-follower?

If you are a Christ-follower and have not been baptized yet, when is the best time to schedule your baptism?

If you have not chosen to become a baptized Christ-follower yet, keep journeying with us.  We are excited about walking with you as you continue your journey with Christ.

Is there anything we can do to help you on your journey?

Our element of acceptance is a core value and we state it like this… Acceptance: Beginning right where you are and growing one step at a time.  At Stuttgart Harvest Church, because of acceptance, we throw lifelines, not rocks.

After you read through these pages… follow this link and listen to a teaching we presented regarding baptism.  Click here for a teaching on Baptism.


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You are doing great… Walk This Way

Our response to God accepting us…

Accepting others as God’s most valued creation.

God loves without exception.

God loves without condition.

God loves without reason.

Shouldn’t we do the same?

God accepts us despite our imperfections and flaws.  He sent His Son to die for the very people who ignored and turned away from Him.  God loves every race, culture and nation.  God loves the poor and the rich, wise and foolish, healthy and sick, criminal and he loves you.  He loves everybody without reason.  He loves us because he created us.

God’s love and acceptance of us is not the same as approval of the mess we make in our lives.  God doesn’t approve of our sin but he loves us, the sinners.  We can’t be unloved by him.  No matter what we do or say, or don’t do or don’t say, God’s love remains steady.

We often hear the phrase unconditional love.  God’s love is the prototype of unconditional love.  There is nothing we must trade to get it.  There is not a limited warranty.  There are no disclaimers or tiny words hidden at the bottom of the page.  God’s love is complete and final.  God’s love is unending.

When we accept God, we are given a new life, a new nature.  No longer are we in it for ourselves.  The Bible puts it like this in Luke 9, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  We are to follow Christ.  That is why true believers can be described as Christ-followers.  Christ-followers follow Christ and begin to see the world as He sees the world.  Christ-followers begin to see the world with love.

Someone asked Jesus this, “What is the greatest of all the commandments?”  Jesus answered him in Matthew 22:37-40:

Matthew 22:37-40 (NLT)

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’

38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Can you see the magnitude of His answer?  All of the Bible, law and prophets is validated by just these two commandments.  Jesus is saying if we don’t love God with all our heart, soul and being and we don’t love the people of the world as much as we love ourselves than we are missing the point.

Jesus explains it again in Matthew 25:31-46

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.   “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.   For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’  “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?   When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’   “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.  For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink.  I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’   “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’   “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

We should love without exception.. we should love without condition.

At Stuttgart Harvest Church we throw lifelines not rocks.  We live, we laugh, and we love.

One way we love others is to invest in them.  Investing in people is another was of saying we serve them and spend time with them.

OK, Your part…

Email me if you choose after you answer the following questions harley@stuttgartharvestchurch.com

Who is someone that is not a Christ-follower in whom you are (or will begin) investing?

This week will you prove that people matter to God by serving someone who is not yet a Christ-follower?

What will you do to serve them?

Here are some ideas to get you started or come up with some ideas of your own…

Bring them breakfast, a snack or lunch at work.

Leave them a series of encouraging notes.

As you leave to run an errand, ask if there is anything you can pick them up or do for them.

Bring them a coffee.

Organize something for them.

…Now keep thinking… there are endless ways to serve them.

What will you do?

After you do it… tell me about the experience if you want to via email  harley@stuttgartharvestchurch.com

What does it feel like to do something for someone and expect nothing in return?

There is one more part to the element of acceptance.  It speaks about wearing the symbol of God’s acceptance of us… we call it baptism.


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This is a big one… Walk This Way

Acceptance

What does it mean to believe?

What does believing look like?

Admit – Read Romans 3:23 again.

We have to admit that God has not been first place in our lives.  We have to admit we have chosen our own way and because of that we are separated from Him.

Ask – Read 1 John 1:9

We have to be real with God and ask Him to forgive us.

Accept – Read Ephesians 2:8-9

We have to realize that we can’t earn salvation.  God’s gift is free.  We don’t deserve it and never will.  We have to accept that God’s love is unconditional.

Invite – Read John 1:12-13

Lastly, we call out to Jesus… it is as if we are making Him our boss, our leader.  We are giving up control of our lives and letting Jesus direct us.  That is why believers are called Christ-followers…  belief lovingly compels us to follow Him.

The Bible makes it even easier to understand.  Do you believe Jesus is who He says He is?  If so, then simply call out to Him and give Him your life.  Romans 10:13 says, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lore will be saved.”

God is more concerned with what your heart is saying right now than what words you are using.  But to help you express your heart, here is a simple prayer.  This prayer might help you communicate what you are committing to God.  Pray this simple prayer if you are ready.

“Dear Jesus, thank you for making me and loving me even when I have ignored you and gone my own way.  I realize I need you in my life and I’m sorry for living my own way.  I ask you to forgive me.  Thank you for dying for me.  Please help me to understand it more.  As much as I know how, I want to follow you from now on.  Please help me to grow as a Christ-follower.”

OK,  your part…

Have you become a believer/follower of Jesus?

Email me if you have questions about becoming a Christ-follower…  harley@stuttgartharvestchurch.com

 


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