4 Steps To Creating A Plan Of Escape

I confess, I’m writing this because I need to be reminded, and I would guess that if you are trying to follow Jesus…so do you.

I’m teaching through Romans right now.  It’s not a long teaching series, so I don’t get to spend a ton of time on each verse or chapter, however I’m trying to wrestle with as much as I can in the allotted time.

This past weekend I interacted with Romans 6.  It is needed in the life of the Church and in the life of this pastor.  Statements like this:

We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  – Romans 6:2

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; – Romans 6:11-13

So in thinking through fighting back against sin, I was reminded of how we need to identify the temptations we are struggling with and put a plan of escape together.

Have you done that?

Do you need to?

If so, here are four helpful steps that I’ve been using since my college days.

Identify the specific temptations.

The first step to putting a plan of escape together involves being honest about what you are struggling with.  You may be tempted to steal at work.  You may be tempted to lie.  You may even face temptation toward things in your mind  that no one else might see.  Whatever it is, be honest about it so you know what you are facing.

Identify where you are likely to face them.

Where do you tend to face these temptations?  Do you tend to face them at work?  At home?  Late at night?  On the way home?  Wherever and whenever it is, if you identify it, you can prepare yourself for those moments.

Write down someone you can call or a place you can go to take yourself away from the temptation.

I know what you are thinking – you’re not going to call someone else about this struggle.  Well, I hope I can convince you change your mind.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.  – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

When we have someone else who can help us, the chances of our success dramatically increase.  Who can you call?  Where can you go to get away from the temptation?

Choose one verse you can memorize and fight with.

The last step that I have found incredibly helpful is memorizing Scripture.  When I get in the heat of the battle, I need to be reminded of what I want most, not just want I may want right now.  God’s Word reminds me of the truth.

Choose a verse.  It doesn’t have to be the perfect one.  God will use it to help you.  Write it down on a card and begin to read it each day.

Having a plan of escape when temptation comes is critical.  Sin will be killing you and your relationship with God and others if you aren’t fighting to kill it.  If you want to see more from Romans 6 about why we can’t keep walking in sin as Christians, you can check it out here!

4 Steps To Creating A Plan Of Escape

Why You Won’t Win Unless You Are Honest With Yourself

The truth is…it’s a struggle for every single one of us.  Some people look like they have it all together.  Some people act like they don’t struggle.  Some people even believe that they are immune, but the reality is that everyone of us fights an inward battle that we will never win until we are honest.

What is it?

It is the battle with temptation.

Now, I realize that not everyone who reads this will acknowledge the idea of “sin” or temptation, but I think we can all acknowledge that it is possible for us to do things that hurt other people and vice versa.  For me that is the very definition of sin and sin starts with temptation.  Here’s what I know about temptation – it usually starts in our minds and we tend to hide the fact that we are struggling with it – and as long as we do, we aren’t going to win!  That’s a problem.

Temptation – it usually starts in our minds and we tend to hide the fact that we are struggling with it – and as long as we do, we aren’t going to win!

And in case you were wondering, the problem is bigger than we think – here’s why:

Thoughts lead to actions, actions lead to habits, habits lead to lifestyles, and lifestyle produces a legacy.

So what can we do?

In 1 Peter 4 – Peter tells us to arm ourselves with the attitude of Christ in the battle against sin.  Christ went to the cross with eyes wide open – knowing that it was going to be a great battle.  He was honest and open about not wanting to do it, but having a willingness to obey the Father.  That gives us a real key to fighting back against sin: honesty and humility.

What if we were honest about our struggles and knew that sharing that struggle wasn’t a pathway to condemnation but a doorway to restoration?  What if we were honest with ourselves, honest with God and honest with trusted friends about our private struggles?  What then?  Maybe we would win a few more battles.

What if we were humble enough to acknowledge that we need help?  I think that honesty and humility would begin to produce habits and lifestyles that would produce a different legacy.

So, start with being honest with God daily.  Then be honest with a trusted friend, and maybe we can grow in a way that will help us fight back against sin.

A final question for you all – is the way you are currently living going to produce the legacy you want to leave behind?  If not, why not honestly and humbly ask for help.

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Why You Won’t Win Unless You Are Honest With Yourself

Waiting On The World To Change

All of us are more than a little concerned with the major problems in our world today.

  • Sex Trafficking
  • Gun Violence
  • Poverty/Homelessness
  • Gender Inequality
  • Refugee Crises
  • Racial Divides
  • And much much more!

But…

“It’s hard to make a difference when we’re standing at a distance.”  The words from the John Mayer song make a lot of sense – so much so that I started looking at what Jesus had to say around the major problems in our world.  That searching led me to share a talk with New Story Church called “Waiting On The World To Change”.  You can check it out here and if nothing else you should listen to the opening story and Jesus’ solution to the major problems in our world – big problems require doing something small.

If you want to move something big, do something small.

At the end of the talk I shared 3 different steps that you and I can take to move closer

  1. Start a friendship
  2. Get some education
  3. Share what you have

But how do we do something about those steps…that is what I want to address and I hope that you will choose something that you can do this week.

First – START A FRIENDSHIP.  Ok, that may sound easier than it actually is, but the reality is that you can start praying for the people around you who are different than you.  You can start praying that God would introduce you to someone who is different than you or you can simply be more intentional with someone you are already an acquaintance with.  The only thing is that it will require you and me being consistent and intentional.

The truth is – true friendship requires consistent investment!  

So, who can you start spending time with?  Maybe it means that you sit with the same people at your kids sporting events and eventually ask them to hang out.  Maybe you go to the same restaurant each week and start to talk with the same person.  It is as simple as that, but it is also as consistent as that.

Second – GET SOME EDUCATION.  What?  You mean go back to school?  No that’s not what I mean but there are lots of great groups helping with awareness here in Kansas City.  Let me address a few things that you can do to simply educate yourself under two major problems: Sex Trafficking and Racial Division.

Sex Trafficking

You might not think that sex trafficking is a big deal here in Kansas City…but you would be wrong.  Since we are so centrally located and we are a crossroads of sorts, the very real problem of trafficking is real here.  I highly recommend checking out these groups below to learn more about the problem and what we can do to move the needle a little.

https://exoduscry.com/

https://restorationhousekc.com

http://www.stoptraffickingproject.com

Racial Division

There are so many resources that I could point you to and so many different people speaking on this particular issue that it would make anyone’s head spin.  However, there are two books that have recently impacted my thinking deeply.

One Blood by John M. Perkins and Divided By Faith by Michael D. Emerson and Christian Smith.

Get them and read them and then start building bridges by relationship.

Finally, SHARE WHAT YOU HAVE.  There is a real problem of poverty in our community – share when you can.  We don’t have to answer all the questions about why people are poor in order to care about them and help meet a need.  People matter!  Do something.  Open up your home to people who are different than you.  Share your time.  Each of these things are small steps towards a big problem – but remember IF YOU WANT TO MOVE SOMETHING BIG, DO SOMETHING SMALL.

Waiting On The World To Change

How To Suffer Well

This past weekend we continued our walk through 1 Peter and we dealt with a difficult subject – What To Do When Your Boss Is A Jerk!  I had originally planned for this message to allow me to walk through verses 18-25 but we did not have time for that.  Therefore, I want to take a few moments to reflect on some of the ramifications of this past message.  If you missed it, you can check it out here:

But what do we do when we are suffering in the workplace?  What do we do when we are suffering in the home or the community?  Peter deals with that in the verses that follow his instructions about slaves and masters.

But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:20-25)

So how do we suffer well?  There are 5 reminders that show up in the text that I want to outline.

1. Acknowledge that this is our calling!  Peter says that if you suffer for doing good and you endure it – it is commendable before God and then he reminds us of something I really don’t like – this is our calling!  I don’t like suffering.  I am much more naturally inclined to complained and frustration when I go through difficulty, so Peter’s statement is a little discouraging.  However, we must remember that this is not our home and our home is characterized by the absence of suffering!

Now, Peter says that we are called to this because Christ suffered for us, leaving an example so that we can follow in His steps.

We don’t pick and choose where, when or how we follow Jesus.

It is a difficult calling, and yet it’s no different from what our master endured for us.  This is our calling.

2. Remember that Jesus’ suffering was completely undeserved…and that didn’t stop His suffering.  

He committed no sin and there was no deceit in his mouth and yet, he was mistreated.  Often we can think that as long as we don’t do anything wrong or treat anyone poorly, we won’t be mistreated or we SHOULDN’T be mistreated.  That just isn’t true in our world.  Jesus’ suffering was completely undeserved.  I wish I could say that about myself, but I can’t.

You may treat everyone with fairness at work.  You may be innocent towards your spouse.  You may have been incredibly gracious towards your spouse, but none of those things can insulate you from suffering.

3. Your options are to trust your instincts or to trust God.

When someone attacks me, my initial response is to defend myself.  I may want to explain how they got it wrong.  I might try to call people and gain supporters.  Or, I may simply consider putting something online that defends my innocence.  And yet, when Jesus was unjustly attacked He did not respond, but instead entrusted Himself to God the Father.

That is really the issue so often – to trust God or my own instincts.  But my one question for you is this: which is more reliable, God or your instincts?

4.  Others are being impacted by your responses.

Christ’s willingness to suffer well resulted in the incredible forgiveness and restored relationship with God that we now have.  I think in a similar, albeit lesser way, the way that you respond is impacting other people.

Do you have children?  They are learning about your faith with your suffering.

Do you have people you are sharing Christ with?  They are finding out just how powerful your God is when you respond to difficulty.

Do you have co-workers?  They are learning about Jesus when you get mistreated or passed over for a promotion on the job.

5.  Commit your soul,mind and body to your Shepherd and Overseer.

Peter ends his example from Christ by announcing that we are now able to return to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls (God) through the perfected work of Jesus Christ.  I believe this is an important point and here’s why:

When you are suffering, you have an opportunity to commit yourself to the watch care and oversight of well…yourself, or to the watch care and oversight of our God. 

Suffering well requires that we commit ourselves to the watch care and oversight of our God.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.

So, the next time you are overlooked on the job, mistreated in your neighborhood, lied about on social media or even fired because of your faith…remember – this is our calling and we can trust God.

How To Suffer Well

Support

The longer I get to serve as a leader and pastor in the church, the more I interact with people who are truly struggling.  When I began at New Story 13 years ago, it was 5 years before I interacted with anyone who shared with me their feelings and thoughts toward suicide.  Even though I had grown up in a home where we attended AA meetings several nights a week – it was rare that I interacted with anyone battling alcohol addictions and actually talking about it.  However over the past 8 years I have been privileged to see more and more people open up about their struggles.  It is a privilege when people share their struggles with you, but it is also a responsibility.

It is a privilege when people share their struggles with you, but it is also a responsibility!

Whenever someone opens up to you – you are responsible, but probably not in the way you think.  You aren’t responsible to fix them!  I always feel responsible to fix them but that is a lie – a lie that implies that I am bigger and better than I actually am.  No, the responsibility that we have is different – we have a responsibility to respond well.  And you know what, most of us aren’t very good at that.  We end up criticizing people who just need encouragement.  We correct people who need comfort.  Maybe you tell people how to fix what they already know how to fix.  Sometimes we show people how disappointed we are – when all they need is a hug.

You aren’t responsible to fix them!

This is the struggle that has been looming on my mind as more and more people share with me their struggles with addiction, anxiety, fear, worry, suicide and more.  How should I respond and show support?  Because, isn’t that what we really want to do is support people?  To provide a lift up when they are broken up?

One passage that I think we could learn from when it comes to support is 1 Thessalonians 5:14

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

I love the distinctions in this verse – warn those who are idle and disruptive.  Encourage those who are disheartened…brokenhearted…or just plain broken.  Help the weak – whether that weakness is physical, emotional, spiritual or mental – help!  Finally, be patient with everyone.   I need to be patient with the growth of others.  I need to be patient with the life change.  I need to be patient in the middle of the struggle, because again…I’m not responsible to fix them.  I’m responsible for how I respond!  How about you?

Support

I Believe

Recently I was listening to a sermon that talked about the subject of belief.  The opening of the message talked about how belief is one of the most powerful capacities that we as humans have.  I couldn’t agree more.  Think about it:

  • Optimists always outsell their smarter and more educated coworkers.  Why?  – Belief!
  • People solve problems that were previously thought unsolvable.  Why? – Because no one told them it was impossible.
  • Businesses are formed and take off – often not because of intelligence, but persistence and belief.

That got me thinking about how important belief is for people who are following Christ.  Jesus left us with a few instructions

  • Love God (ok we can do that)
  • Love other people (well that’s not so easy)
  • Tell others about Jesus (but that’s scary)

But here is my point.  Yes – loving unlovely people is hard, but you can!  You know why?  Because you’ve been loved like that, and you aren’t as lovely as you always think.  You need to BELIEVE that it is possible and just keep swimming (sorry, I have little kids).

Yes – building relationships and sharing Jesus can be scary, but you can!  You know why?  Because God will help you and someone shared with you.  You don’t have to be a pastor or missionary.  You don’t need a degree – you need to BELIEVE that God will use your sharing to write a new story and just keep sharing.

Now, here’s the part for me: I need to BELIEVE that God can and will use us to see changed lives, raise up leaders and plant other churches.  So…here I am, publicly pronouncing my BELIEF!  Won’t you trust and BELIEVE with me?

I Believe

Far As The Curse Is Found

I came across an excellent article today that I had to share in light of our most recent series at New Story.  You can see it in it’s original form here.

I’m going to highlight a few portions of this article that I found refreshing.  I hope you will be encouraged too!

Far As The Curse Is Found by Nancy Guthrie

 

My husband, David, and I bought burial plots this week. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound very Christmassy. It’s not the kind of shopping most people are busy with this time of year.

Perhaps it seems a bit grim to be thinking about and even preparing for death during the Christmas season. But it seems to me that Christmas is exactly the right time to think about death. Tim Keller has said that we have to “rub hope into the reality of death.” And is there any time we sing more about hope than at Christmas?

We sing that this world was “in sin and error pining, till he appeared,” and we’re caught up in the wonder that Life itself, in the person of Jesus, entered into this world of sin and death. His coming brought with it the “thrill of hope” that causes this weary world to rejoice. But what is the cause for this joy? What is the essence of this hope? Our hope is that “yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

Our songs at Christmas serve to remind us that this season isn’t merely about looking back at that holy night when Christ was born. Rather, our celebration of his first coming is meant to nurture in us a greater longing for his second coming. In fact, we miss the point of that holy night if it does not awaken in us anticipation for the glorious eternal day to come.

A Song of Longing

One of my favorite Christmas carols has always been, “Joy to the World!” Since we sing it at Christmas, I always thought of it as a song about the birth of Jesus. But if we think through the words more carefully, we realize that this song can’t be about the first coming of Christ.

We sing, “Let earth receive her King!” And we know that when Jesus came the first time, the earth did not receive her King. Instead, the earth crucified her King. The first time Jesus came, the nations did not prove the glories of his righteousness. Instead, human history has proved, over and over, the extent of man’s rebellion against his righteousness.

When we look at the world around us, as well as into the painful parts of our own lives, we know that his blessing does not yet flow far as the curse is found. Instead, we see the impact of the curse in every part of our lives. Sin and sorrow still grow, and all the thorny effects of the curse remain the reality we live in day-to-day and year-by-year.

From Blessing to Curse

Of course, this is not the way things have always been. We read in Genesis 2:7 that “the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” God blessed everything he had made so that his blessing defined the atmosphere of Eden.

But then Adam and Eve sinned. God cursed the ground and told Adam how this curse would impact him. “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). Gone was the chance to eat of the tree of life and never die. Adam would one day be buried in the ground, and his body would turn back into its dust.

Ever since Eden, every human life has ended in death . . . except for one. Yes, Jesus really died. But death was not the end for him. Likewise, all who are joined to him by faith can face death, knowing that it will not be the end for us either. Paul writes, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. . . . Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:2249).

This certain hope gives us a reason to sing for joy at Christmas. When Christ comes again, earth will receive her King. Every knee will bow. The nations will prove the glories of his righteousness as people from every tribe, tongue, and nation dwell secure under the righteous rule of King Jesus. All oppression will have ceased. His blessing will flow far as the curse is found.

The Curse Finally Gone for Good

David and I know that the day is going to come when our bodies will be planted, like seeds, in the darkness of the earth. It will seem to some as though our lives have come to an end. But we know better. We know that yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. The darkness of our graves will one day be pierced by the radiant light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The silence of our graves will be disrupted by his thunderous voice. He will call the dust of our dead bodies out of those burial plots and transform them to be like his own glorious body (Philippians 3:21).

Those two little plots of ground will not prove to be our final resting place. The blessing of his resurrection life is going to penetrate the earth in which we are buried, and we will be raised to life. We are going to experience all that God promised when Isaiah prophesied, “Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead” (Isaiah 26:19). This hope enables us to sing songs of joy in the night as we wait for that glorious morn.

Far As The Curse Is Found