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A Comfortable Scandal – Transitions

The world loves a good scandal. “You’ve gotta see this! They’re some of the funniest pictures I’ve seen. Of course you know them. That’s what makes the pics so funny! Can you believe they would do that in front of a camera!?” One ‘friend’s’ quick moves with a camera-phone turns into another friend’s most embarrassing moment captured for all time and digitally duplicated all over the internet for the world to see. What will mom think!?

Scandalous new travels fast!

There’s a comfortable scandal that takes place everyday in the hearts of Believers. There’s a subtle line of obedience we simply aren’t willing to cross. We hear what Jesus has to say. We agree in spirit and nod our heads in affirmation until we realize He’s talking about us. That’s where the scandal lies. We follow Jesus until He asks us to do something seemingly difficult, counter-cultural, or just plain inconvenient. This isn’t new. John 6:66 tells us it happened during Jesus time as well. “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with him no more.” They came to the line they simply weren’t willing to cross. Scandalous…

There are 4 reasons why we walk away. And 4 ways to take the leap of faith Jesus asks us to make when He challenges us to do the difficult, impractical or inconvenient. Most everyone has drawn a line that says, “Jesus, I’m willing to follow you this far, but no farther.” I wonder, as you consider these 4 things how you might redraw the limits of your life.

4 Scandalous Distractions that Set the Limits of Our Faith

  1. Introduction – read more >
  2. Temptation – read more >
  3. Trials – read more >
  4. Teaching – read more >
  5. Transitions

Today – let’s focus on Transitions.

TRANSITIONS – Our church is going through a time of transition. Last year our pastor moved to another church. This year three more Associate Pastors and two Support Team Leaders stepped into ministries in other places. A few short years ago we had a ministerial staff of ten. Today, it’s four.

Changes like these in a church, a business or in your personal life produce natural, on-going effects. Transitions change momentum. Transitions create questions and instigate evaluation. Transitions are God’s way of putting all the right people in all the right places to accomplish His purpose here and around the world.

But let’s be honest, transitions are tough. Of all the things that trip us up in our walk of faith, nothing is quite so difficult to navigate as transitions. With temptation, there’s a definite wrong to overcome. With trials, there’s a clear pressure to endure. With teaching, there’s a well defined principle to obey. But that’s not how transitions work. You can do everything right and still find yourself in the middle of a difficult transition.

That’s how I would characterize what’s taking place right now in the church I serve. Those who are moving on are going where God leads to fulfill the ministry He’s entrusted to them. It’s good for them and will ultimately be good for the church – but in the middle of the transition sometimes the ‘goodness’ of things can be hard to see. With all these changes in staff we’ve said, “God moves the troops around. He’s putting all the right people in all the right places to accomplish His purpose here and around the world.” It’s true, but knowing this doesn’t make facing the transition any easier.

What does Scripture say?

John 15:1-2 says God prunes every branch that doesn’t bear fruit. That makes sense – get rid of the dead wood to make room for something that can bring life – but those leaders who have left our church are certainly not dead wood. Everyone of them were friends who have had a significant influence in my life. These transitions aren’t exactly what I had in mind or part of my ‘plan’ for ministry. Then I take a closer look at John 15:1-2. It also says, “…every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Did you catch that? Because the tree bears fruit God prunes it back so that it will be ready to bear even more fruit than ever before.

The key to following God through times of transition is FAITHFULNESS.

Like a car slowing down to turn a corner, transitions in our life or organization always change momentum. It’s a necessary change. Accelerate through the turn too much and the car flips over. Take your foot off the gas and once the turn is complete you’ll slow down even more. Faithfulness is remaining true to your calling. It’s finishing what you’ve started. It’s letting your ‘yes’, be ‘yes’, and your ‘no’ be ‘no’. It’s following God, wherever He may lead, in the integrity of your heart. It’s about applying the right amount of pressure as you keep your foot on the gas through the turn.

Momentum is an interesting thing. While on Earth you may have to slow down to turn a corner NASA has discovered that in the heavens you can use a change in direction along with the gravity from something like the moon to slingshot a satellite to it’s destination. For NASA, turning the corner of transition doesn’t always slow things down – it accelerates their plans and allows them to accomplish their mission.

Every transition you face can be just like this. It can be the transition that slows your walk to a crawl. It can be the transition that derails the direction of your plans. Or it can be the transition that accelerates you into the next exciting chapter of your life.

Don’t let transitions keep you from following God. Instead, remain faithful. Transitions are God’s way of placing you and those around you in just the right place to accomplish His mission. They are His way of preparing you for the road ahead.

A Comfortable Scandal – Trials

Photo credit: Dave Saffran/MSG Photos

The world loves a good scandal. Facebook’s buzzing with the latest pic of someone doing something insane. Twitter’s tweets are tuned to the news of the NBA – Chauncey Billup is headed to the Clippers for a paltry $2 million. It’s Christmas – businesses once again debate over whether or not they should wish people ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays’ – either choice, someone’s gonna lose their mind!

Scandalous new travels fast!

There’s a comfortable scandal that takes place everyday in the hearts of Believers. There’s a subtle line of obedience we simply aren’t willing to cross. We hear what Jesus has to say. We agree in spirit and nod our heads in affirmation until we realize He’s talking about us. That’s where the scandal lies. We follow Jesus until He asks us to do something seemingly difficult, counter-cultural, or just plain inconvenient. This isn’t new. John 6:66 tells us it happened during Jesus time as well. “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with him no more.” They came to the line they simply weren’t willing to cross. Scandalous…

There are 4 reasons why we walk away. And 4 ways to take the leap of faith Jesus asks us to make when He challenges us to do the difficult, impractical or inconvenient. Most everyone has drawn a line that says, “Jesus, I’m willing to follow you this far, but no farther.” I wonder, as you consider these 4 things how you might redraw your line.

4 Scandalous Distractions that Set the Limits of Our Faith

  1. Temptation – read more…
  2. Trials
  3. Teaching
  4. Transitions

Today – let’s focus on Trials.

TRIALS – I have a friend. He spends a lot of time away from his home and family. He believes God has called him to raise the next generation of missionaries so he spends a lot of time taking teenagers to some of the most dangerous parts of our world to share the gospel. He’s been imprisoned, beaten and held at gun point. At least one of his students has given their life on the mission field, taken by a disease caught while sharing the gospel overseas. I’m guessing the trials we face don’t rise to this level, but it seems they are trials enough. They are enough to cause some to question their faith. They are enough to distract us from fulfilling our mission or following God. Our trials often become the place where we draw the line. My friend says that without a TEST their can be no TESTIMONY. I’ve heard it said that a faith that can’t be TESTED is a faith that can’t be TRUSTED. James 1:2-3 says, “…count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience…” God doesn’t put you through trials so you can prove your faith to Him. He puts you through trials so He can prove your faith to YOU. He wants you to know the depths of your faith. He wants to put you through the test for the sake of the testimony He’s building in you. When trials tempt you to draw the line be PATIENT. God is working out His divine story in you. It’s a story that will strengthen your faith and bless someone else. The trials we face today become the epic stories of tomorrow that encourage, inspire and challenge others to grow deeper in their faith. Are you in the middle of a trial? Be patient. God is not finished with you yet.

What trial do you face today that causes you to draw the line? How far are you willing to go for your faith? Today, pray that God would give you the PATIENCE you need so He can finish the divine story He is writing in you.


A Comfortable Scandal – Temptation

The world loves a good scandal. The newspapers ooze out the latest conspiracy theories. Whether you lean toward FOX News or CNN you’re world news now is only one fair and balanced report away from knocking down someone’s reputation. Check Twitter. You’ll find out Charlie Sheen is ‘#winning’ again!?

Scandalous news travels fast.

There’s a comfortable scandal that takes place everyday in the hearts of Believers. We don’t talk or think about it much, but it’s there, just under the surface. There’s a subtle line of obedience we simply aren’t willing to cross. We read the Bible. We hear what Jesus has to say. We agree in spirit and nod our heads in affirmation until we realize He’s talking about us. He’s telling us that these are things He expects us to do. That’s where the scandal lies. Like the 5000 people Jesus miraculously fed, we sit back satisfied by His provision, entertained by His words and confident we are doing just fine and then Jesus says something controversial. “Wait a minute Jesus. I’m willing to follow you, but that’s asking a little too much,” we think quietly to ourselves. It happens to us and it happened back in Jesus day as well. John 6:66 is the passage. Jesus has spoken some difficult things to the people who followed him. John 6:66 says, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with him no more.” They came to the line they simply weren’t willing to cross. Scandalous…

There’s 4 reasons why we walk away. And 4 ways to take the leap of faith Jesus asks us to make when He challenges us to do the difficult, impractical or unbelievable. Most everyone has drawn a line that says, “Jesus, I’m willing to follow you this far, but no farther.” I wonder, as you consider these 4 things how you might redraw your line.

4 Scandalous Distractions that Set the Limits of Our Faith

  1. Temptation
  2. Trials
  3. Teaching
  4. Transitions

Over the next several days we’ll talk about each on. Today – let’s focus on Temptation.

TEMPTATION – We all face it. It’s built in. We’re sinners by nature and sinners by choice. The temptation to meet a God given need in a God-forsaken way is part of who we are. More than that. We sin because we like it. Let’s be honest, we think there are some sins that are just too much fun to give up. It’s like we have an appetite for sin. Think of it like the difference between vegetables and chocolate. It’s easy for me to eat chocolate. I have an appetite for it. It’s difficult to get me to eat vegetables. I’ve not found one yet I genuinely enjoy. What I need is for God to do a miraculous work in my life. I need Him to change my appetites. So I pray…the Lord’s Prayer says, “Lead us not into temptation.” That’s a good start. “God, help me avoid those places, people and circumstances that would tempt me to sin.” But my prayer doesn’t stop there. “God change my appetite for sin. Make it disgusting to me – like eating vegetables – only worse. Give me a hunger and thirst for righteousness.”  And then I remember God’s Word, 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Where do you draw the line? How do you keep temptation from limiting your faith? You OVERCOME. Ask God to protect you from temptation. Ask Him to give you a hunger and thirst for righteousness. And when you’re faced with temptation look for the way out. God made a way. You overcome when you find it and take it.

What temptation causes you to draw the line? How far are you willing to go for your faith? Today, pray that God would protect you from temptation, change your appetite for sin, and help you find the way out.


Part 3 – TRIALS – Read More >

A Comfortable Scandal

The world loves a good scandal. There’s something about hearing the latest gossip that causes our mouths to water, our ears to tingle, and our hearts to skip a beat. The up-and-coming politician said something he shouldn’t have. A coworker got caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Charlie Sheen was seen in public – sober!

Scandalous news travels fast.

Jesus was fond of saying scandalous things. I think that was one practical reason for his popularity. Certainly people were encouraged by his teaching. The Bible says he taught with authority and that people enjoyed listening to him speak. But He was also prone to point fingers at the religious leaders of the day and say outrageous things about how you should conduct business, build a marriage or live your life. The disciples found this challenging. I think there were times the crowd found it amusing. But the further into Jesus’ ministry we go the more people began to realize that some of the the scandalous things He said were either directed at them or more difficult than they were willing to accept.

John 6 is a perfect example of this. A crowd has gathered. Jesus has miraculously fed them, now he’s teaching them once again. He’s talking about the Kingdom and eternal life. So far, so good. Everybody wants in the kingdom. We all want the happily-ever-after of eternal life. But then Jesus says something scandalous.

“Most assuredly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” – John 6:63

Eat my flesh. Drink my blood…Ewe.

Let’s be honest – from this side of the cross most Believers understand this verse. He’s talking about the sacrifice he’ll make in order to secure our salvation. He’s leading into the bread and wine, the symbols of the Lord’s Supper. Nothing scandalous here. But read the passage. Imagine yourself sitting in the crowd listening to the message. There’s nothing there to indicate he’s speaking figuratively. No where does he suggest, “By the way, I’m talking about symbols here.” Instead he paints a picture that really is a bloody mess. How would you respond?

John 6:66 is one of many sad verses of the Bible. It tells us the crowd’s response, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with him no more.” 

I think the same thing happens to you and me. It’s the comfortable scandal Believers struggle with all the time. We come across a passage of Scripture or hear someone preach the Word. God clearly speaks, “Do this,” or, “Don’t do that.” And we respond exactly the way the crowd did, (John 6:60) “This is a hard saying who can understand it.” And we turn back from following Him.

It makes sense that we would. Eat my flesh, drink my blood – that’s just crazy talk. Surely he didn’t mean it. But he did. And he means it when He tells us that marriage is sacred, faithfulness to our spouse significant. He wasn’t kidding when He told us to love our enemies or forgive those who hurt us. That part about sharing the gospel wherever we go – He really really expects us to do it. That’s our comfortable scandal. Some people have learned to sit comfortably in a worship service, hear the Word boldly taught, then casually dismiss the conviction they feel to follow Him wherever He may lead. It begs a question.

How far are you willing to go? What are the limits of your faith?

Let’s stop here for now and give those questions time to soak.

There are four things that distract us from faithfully following God. Four things that limit the depths of your faith. We’ll take a look at those next time. We’ll also see Peter’s amazing response and discover how his response can become yours.

Pray through this now – how far are you willing to go to faithfully follow God? What are the limits of your faith? What comfortable scandal are you living in today?


Part 2 – TEMPTATION – Read More >>