Practical messages that will encourage you and help you grow in your faith.
Today begins the Jewish New Year; the feast or festival of trumpets found in Leviticus 23. Modern Jews call it Rosh Hashanah. Today begins the year 5783 in the Lord! It is celebrated as a Sabbath day of celebration where no work is to be done, a food offering is to be brought to the Lord, and with several blasts on the shofar, or trumpet.
Though I don’t think that any of us here this morning are Jewish by birth, our Christian faith has its heritage in the Old Testament. Jesus lived as a Jewish man and rabbi. He is the only human not born into sin who lived out the Jewish faith sinlessly; fulfilling the law perfectly. Now, still by faith in the same God of the Jews, do we receive the fulfillment of all of God’s promises through Jesus.
The most significant difference between us and modern Jews is that we acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah, the long-awaited savior. As Paul taught it, we as the universal church of Jesus Christ have not replaced the Israelites/Jews as God’s chosen people, we have been grafted into them.
11 Again I ask: Did they (Israel) stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12 But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!
13 I am talking to you Gentiles (non-Jews). Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.
17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
So though we are not Jewish by birth, we receive by faith everything from Jesus, the Root of Jesse, as we are grafted into Him and all of the promises of God prophetically made under the Old Covenant through the New Covenant. We still value the Old Testament as God’s word, but enjoy the fact that our salvation has been fulfilled and look forward to some of the prophecies which are still left undone.
Alright, spiritual history lesson aside, today is a new day full of new beginnings and lots of new hope!
I think it is interesting that God’s new year begins with what appears to us to be death. The grass is finally slowing down, leaves are changing and falling, and everything is preparing for the winter.
However, we know that in Christ, life comes from death.
Even as the natural world around us enters a season of death, we die to ourselves; to our old flesh and old ways. Then, the season of spring comes around where everything comes back to a new life! In the same way, we may put to death our old selves, but it is only so that we might rise up again into a new life through Jesus!
This morning, God is bringing our attention to something that we all possess that has the ability to make or break us, to embitter or embolden us, to cause either fear or faith to rise in us. It is what He has been speaking about to us the past few weeks as well. It is our: perception!
Perception is how the apostles were able to physically be with Jesus and not recognize Him. It wasn’t that they didn’t see Him or that they didn’t hear His voice. It’s that they didn’t perceive that He was Jesus.
Perception has an incredibly powerful impact on our lives! How we perceive people and circumstances ultimately controls every aspect of our lives.
For example, last week, our family was driving home and we passed through a residential area. I saw a man grab hold of a little girl’s shirt very quick and aggressively. The girl looked absolutely scared to death. Then, he started to drag her toward their porch by her shirt with only one hand as her arms were flying around everywhere.
I thought for sure that he was in a fit of rage and prayed about whether I should pull over and step in to help this little girl out!
Then, as we continued to drive along, we made it past the shrubs along the side of their yard. There, I could see the whole picture and not just what was happening from the waist-up. The little girl was on roller blades and the man had stopped her from falling and was helping to guide her along to safety on their porch off of their driveway.
In just a few seconds time, I went from concern to rage to laughing out loud!
Perception changed everything!
However, the only thing that really changed was in my mind.
The situation, itself, didn’t change at all.
Reality didn’t change, but my perception changed, and that is what transformed everything for me!
This is a prophetic scripture that we often go to in the new year and it’s certainly appropriate today.
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
Do we perceive the new thing that God is doing? The past few weeks, we looked to examples of where the apostles who just lived with Jesus night and day for the past three years did not recognize Him when He literally stood with them, walked along side of them, and ate with them. How easily can we not perceive what God is doing?
God often hides things in plain sight. It’s not that He is hiding things from us, it is that He is hiding things for us. Kind of like preparing an egg hunt for toddlers. Our motive and intent is that the kids would receive the eggs. With joy, we hide them so that they can also experience the joy and excitement of seeking and finding. If they are having a hard time with a few of them, we speak and guide them toward what is hidden so that they can find them.
This is often what God’s word is like. It is so simple. It’s right in front of our faces. We hear what He is saying. We see what He is doing. However, we don’t understand what He speaks nor perceive His actions. This is literally what Jesus said!
10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah (6:9-10):
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
We are blessed! When we have eyes to see and perceive what God is doing, when we have ears to hear and understand what God is speaking, we are blessed! Seeing and hearing turns our attention toward God just like a hunter as they are driving down the road and see a deer in the distance. It redirects our attention and our focus and we perceive something that we would have missed otherwise!
Perception changes everything without changing anything.
Perception is what changed when Elisha’s servant’s eyes were opened to see that they were not surrounded and outnumbered by the army of their enemy, but that the army of their enemy was surrounded and far, far outnumbered by God’s army! His servant’s life was transformed from fear and panic to peace and confidence. The only thing that changed was his perception. The reality did not change at all! He just finally had eyes to see and perceive the truth around him.
Perception changes the way that we think about somebody or something and as a result, our attitude about it or them changes, and as a result of that attitude change, our actions toward them change as well. If we want any positive change to come into our lives, it has to begin with our perception.
1 Corinthians 13:9-10;12
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.
Right now, we don’t see the whole, big picture. We only know in part. We only prophesy in part. We only see in part. We only hear in part. In this earthly lifetime and in this fleshy body of weakness, we will only ever be able to receive in part.
This is where we learn to train ourselves in our faith and allow God’s love to cast out all fear. Knowing only in part can be challenging because our imaginations tend to run wild with all of the unknowns. We have to let go of all of the “what-ifs” and stand solid on Christ.
Knowing in part is the realm where perception leads our lives. We can perceive many things from a shadow and from a part, but we must train ourselves up to trust fully what is revealed in part. We fully trust the part that God has revealed to us and we don’t try to make up the rest or become fearful or anxiety-filled over the unknown. Fully trust just the part.
We can trust that the part that God revealed to us is what we need to know right now. Think about it this way.
When using a GPS system or a navigation app on our phone, it doesn’t read out every single turn and every distance every foot of the trip. No, instead it just tells us the little part that we need to know exactly when we need to know it. It doesn’t say, “Now passing a blue house, brown house, three trees, one field, 351,671 trees…” every single step of the way. It only reveals in part.
It tells us to take exit 256 in two miles and then falls silent. A few hundred feet before the exit, it will remind us to take the exit on the right, then falls silent again. If it doesn’t say anything for a really, really long time, that means that we’re on the right path. That doesn’t mean that it has given up on us or shut down or is ignoring us. It means that we just need to keep travelling on the same path until we receive further directions. It only reveals information in part, but it is the part that we need to know right when we need to know it.
We often have more faith and trust in listening to the stranger’s voice on our cell phones than we do in following the word of God.
The challenge with only knowing in part is that our imagination tends to fill in the missing pieces of what is not known. This is where we either choose to allow fear and anxiety or faith and trust to be at work in our lives. This is where doubt can rise up and try to turn back or to go astray or where we can keep our faces set like flint and keep heading forward.
Seeing just in part is where a shadow falling onto the floor of our bedroom is either my dog coming to cuddle up with me or a dangerous criminal coming to brutally murder me. We see a shadow and that shadow is just a partial and skewed reflection of reality of what is yet to come. Our minds fill in the rest of what is unknown and it is on us to train our minds.
Most of us are familiar with these simple verses that control our perception, which controls our attitudes and thoughts, which control our behaviors and actions. Worship can be expressed through music and lyrics, but true and proper worship is so, so much more than a song!
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
We need to allow the Holy Spirit within us to transform our lives by renewing our minds. Only then, will we know in part and trust in full. Our mind can be at peace knowing only part and not running wild filling in all of the unknowns with worst-case scenarios. It’s only possible through our faith in Jesus and the renewing of our mind by the Holy Spirt that He gives us at that time.
If you recall a few weeks ago, we learned about the tabernacle that Moses built and the temple and how they were a shadow copy of what is in Heaven. Even dealing with the festival of trumpets that begins today on the Jewish calendar, we are reminded of this scripture, which is why we don’t religiously celebrate these any longer.
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
We no longer have a mere shadow that we celebrate as we look to what is coming. The reality that they were looking forward to is Christ. Therefore, when we celebrate Him, we are celebrating all of the feasts and festivals that God set apart as a shadow of what was coming.
Why would anyone wait and wait in anticipation and then get super excited and make a big deal about the shadow of their dog falling onto the floor of their room when at any time, they could call out the dog’s name and enjoy his actual presence as he cuddles up with you?
We don’t celebrate once a year blowing the shofar in anticipation of a coming Messiah. We call on the name of Jesus, our living savior, and His Presence shows up. Every day is the day of salvation and we can blow our shofars any time that we want to give Him praise!
Let’s allow Jesus, THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE to be our life GPS. Although He will only reveal things to us in part, let’s trust that He is revealing to us what we need and when we need it. Let’s seek out and trust His voice above all else.