We are on a mission to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every receptive person in the Central Florida Community.
What does that even mean?
God sent His Son Jesus to restore our broken world to its original state before our ancestors messed it up. Don’t be too mad at them. If they didn’t mess it up, we would have! As it was impossible for us to reach up to God and fix things, God chose to fix things for us by sending His Son, Jesus to do what we could not.
Why did God have to do it?
God is perfect and holy. He is so perfect and holy that he could not associate with people who were not like Him. You know that it is true that all of us are imperfect. We know this. Luckily, God loved us enough to provide a solution to the problem. God allowed someone to stand in our place and take our punishment. That person is Jesus. The main reason Jesus came to earth was to restore us to His father by paying the price for all our sins and to give us His righteousness (or perfection if you don’t like righteousness). While Jesus was here, He did a lot of other things as well.
For one thing, Jesus broke down the racial, political, and religious barriers of his day to unite people around a common cause. It may seem like it did not last very long if you look around. The problem and the blessing was that we are not stuck or bound by our past. Every generation gets to make a choice. Repeat the mistakes of the past or make a change for the better. Unfortunately, we don’t usually choose to do right. Jesus solution to these issues worked then and will work for today as well.
Listen to what the Bible has to say:
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” – Ephesians 2:14-17
As a Church, we are choosing to be better. As we reach out to our community, Shenandoah Church seeks to look beyond the labels, beyond the invisible masks we wear that hide our pain and shame. We strive to look beyond any prejudices, beyond any negatives society or others have put on you, in order that we may find Jesus in you and everyone we meet instead of what society says about you. You may not even see Jesus in you yourself, or even like the idea of it; but God’s Word says that He knew you before you were even born.
If that is true, what did God “know” about you? He knew your true identity.
He knew the purpose He created you for in the first place. He knew the person He wants you to be and still can be. He knows that the person He wants you to be is good, as are the plans He has for you and your future.
Have you met yourself? If you knew the “you” God knows you are, you would never want to be anyone else!
Jeremiah 29:11-14, says
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.
Don’t you want to live different?
To have a better life than you have now. Live in a better, kinder, more just world? How are things going for you right now? Are you prospering? Do you feel like you are safe and free from harm? How do you feel about your future? Is it great? Is it even good? Do you ever wonder if God is up there somewhere? Is anyone listening? Does anyone even care?
You are not alone in feeling this way. In fact, this is one of the biggest lies the Devil hopes you will fall for. He knows if he can isolate you, if He can keep you from your true identity, if he can keep you focused on the problems instead of the solutions and on your true self; then, He owns you.
This is how he holds you captive. This is not what God wants for you.
You may be thinking wait a minute. I am not a “captive”, this can’t be true, the Devil doesn’t own me. Well, consider that there are two types of “captives” in the world.
The first group may be what initially came to your mind, sometimes we call these captives “prisoners”. But not all prisoners are in jail. It is true, some prisoners or “captives” are in bondage because of something they did. Many of these captives are in jail, many are not. Perhaps, you can relate, you may have had a huge failure in your life. You may have intentionally, or unintentionally, committed some wrong, some sin, some act that society actually put you in jail for and now has labeled you as a “felon”, or perhaps just you know about these misdeeds. Sometimes, failure isn’t criminal, but it keeps you in emotional chains none-the-less. This keeps you from being your true self and robs you of a good life. As a result, you find that you are holding yourself in bondage out of guilt, out of a sense of failure, or perhaps out of a belief that you deserve to be punished. “You did the crime – you must do the time” as the saying goes. Many people come to Church because they believe Church is where you go to be punished. This is a discussion for another time, but this is not true, not at Shenandoah any way.
The second kind of “Captive” is in bondage through no fault of their own. This may be some of you – perhaps you were abused; your father was absent from your home, or you wish he had been; perhaps you have been betrayed by a spouse, a friend, a family member or a co-worker; others may have suffered injustice or been a victim of prejudice – regardless of the reason behind it you find yourself in bondage, spiritually speaking. Perhaps your bondage comes from labels that others have put on you like “you are no good” “you will never amount to anything” “no one loves you” “you are dumb, a loser, second-class, worthless . . .” The list of possible labels seems endless. Not only are these labels cruel; but, if you hear them enough, you may have begun to believe them yourself. These lies are not who you are. What others say or think is not what defines you. What you think about yourself may put chains on you, but even what you think about yourself is not the real you. He who made you, He who created you, this is who has the only right to define you. God loves you and wants a relationship with you. If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. You are so much more than you think. God says he knew you before you were even born.
Whether you are a victim or a perpetrator, or a combination of the two, both groups of people are in bondage. Both groups share many similarities:
1. Both have difficulty with forgiveness, whether it is toward the one who injured you, or it is toward yourself.
2. Both groups suffer with self-esteem issues.
3. Both groups try to bury these hurts down deep, sometimes for a very long-time; but the hurt has a way of popping back up, sometimes in the strangest places, you blow-up at the oddest things and you have no idea where that even came from. Your hurts have been buried alive and they want out.
4. Both Groups find that overall, joy and peace elude them.
5. You may look and act free, but you know this is a mask you wear to hide your guilt, shame, and bondage.
6. Lastly, Your life lacks power.
If this is you, I want you to agree with what Jesus DECREED as the first Official Act of his public ministry, (see Luke Chapter 4) CAPTIVES AND PRISONERS ARE FREE! Despite your freedom, many of you, have convinced yourself of a false identity and as a result, you carry about spiritual chains and you live in bondage. It is like someone put a million dollars in your bank account without your knowledge. But you never check your account balance. As a result, you live like you are broke when you are actually a millionaire! So many of us live in bondage when there is no lock on your jail cell and no guards are there to keep you in.
THIS IS NOT OF GOD, this LABEL you have taken up, this FALSE IDENTITY you carry, is not who you are. You are not any of these things; God has decreed that you are not condemned; and any failure you may have had is not fatal or final. To the contrary, you are loved by God. You are not a second-class person.
Nothing you have done, or ever will do, is bad enough to change God’s mind about who you are, or who He designed you to be. You are just not that powerful. You do not have a greater Will than God to tell God He is wrong about you.
FREEDOM was the first thing Jesus DECREED in His public ministry. In fact, it is the theme of His entire ministry.
We once were slaves to sin; but Jesus came to set us free. He came to reconcile us to the Father. He did this by setting you free from the penalty of sin and death. If you are a CHRISTIAN – YOU ARE FREE. This is the grace of a very good God. Perhaps you are thinking this does not match your experience.
Let me ask you a serious question, “Are you a Christian?”
Please don’t answer either way without being honest with yourself. You may not even know what it really means to be a Christian. Perhaps your experiences and ideas about what it means to be a Christian makes you think this is the last thing you want to be. You may even know someone who goes to Church and claims to be a Christian but acts more like the devil than Jesus. You may be thinking “If that is what being a Christian is like, then no thank you”. Going to Church is not what makes you a Christian and not everyone who says they are one acts like one. If this sounds like you, let me ask you again, “How are things working out for you?”
Maybe doing something different, taking a chance, checking out the claims of Jesus is just what you need right now.
If you are a Christian living in bondage or you are someone who is not a Christian, You are not a robot. You have choices to make. This means, you can think whatever you wish, Did you that your mind is powerful? You even have the power to resurrect the dead, to resurrect your past, and some of you do it almost every day!
Hear me out on this: Your past failures and sins have been forgiven and forgotten by God; Your sin nature has also been broken off and nailed to the cross (that is why Jesus came); However, YOU HAVE A MEMORY.
Many of us use our memory to bring our past failures and sins back to life almost every day. When you do, you re-live the same pain, the same feelings of guilt all over again. You lose your joy and you lose your peace. You live a life without power. You give birth to a spirit of deception that clothes you in that old costume that is not the “you” that God created you to be or that He sees in you. Your mind is powerful. BUT IT IS YOUR CHOICE. You can choose how you respond to the labels people put on you, even labels you put on yourself.
Even Jesus identity was attacked.
The Bible speaks of a time when Jesus was just getting started in his ministry on earth. It says that Jesus was sent to the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. How did the Devil tempt Jesus? He attacked his identity. He wanted to put doubt in Jesus mind that He was not truly the Son of God. How did the Devil do it? Satan quotes Scripture, but like all liars, he leaves something out.
You see, In Luke 3, the Bible records Jesus’ baptism by a guy called John, John the Baptist. John the Baptist sees Jesus coming and he remembers what God told him about the future Messiah, the Christ – “you will know the Christ when you see the Spirit descending on him like a dove.” This happens as Jesus walks up to the river where John and a large crowd was. Then, John and all the people who were with John, they all hear God speak. What does the Father say? Luke, Chapter 3:22 God says this about Jesus: “You are my beloved Son; in whom I am well pleased”
Now, jump ahead to where the Bible speaks of Jesus and the Devil in Luke 4:3. Jesus is in the wilderness. We read “The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” This is in the Bible. The Bible says that Jesus could turn stones to bread if he wanted to and at the time, Jesus had not had anything to eat for 40 days and 40 nights. Jesus is hungry. The Devil is quoting the Bible, but he is using it to tell a lie.
Let me show you:
IN Luke 3 God says: “You are my beloved Son” . . .
now compare this with