“Future Ready: The Butterfly Effect”

We concluded our series called Future Ready at Gateway Church in Austin.

In order to change our tomorrow, change must first start within us.

Digging Deeper:

Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner,  life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

Message Video at Gateway South Austin:

Message Notes by Kenny Green:

Everything You Do Matters

Does anyone else have a hard time with that?

Some of us are thinking, “what if that’s true?”…the idea that all our actions carry a weight of impact is pretty overwhelming… maybe even terrifying for many of us.

Or maybe in-light-of the 8 billion people on the planet…over 300 million of which live here in the U.S. alone…  you have a hard time believing Everything You Do Matters because you view your life as relatively insignificant in a world that size. “that seems crazy”

The Butterfly Effect

When Edward Lorenz presented a doctoral thesis on what became known as The Butterfly Effect… his thesis was basically laughed out of the building… and yet Lorenz was on to something.

This idea that just one single flap of a butterfly’s wings could set molecules in motion, that would set more molecules in motion all the way to the other side of the world… creating a hurricane. People said, “that seems crazy”.

MIT Technology Review puts it this way:

Like the results of a wing’s flutter, the influence of Lorenz’s work was nearly imperceptible at first but would later resonate widely. In 1963, Lorenz condensed his findings into a paper, “Deterministic Nonperiodic Flow,” which was cited exactly three times by researchers outside meteorology in the next decade. Yet his insight turned into the founding principle of chaos theory, which expanded rapidly during the 1970s and 1980s into fields as diverse as meteorology, geology, and biology.  

– MIT Technology Review

Years went by and books were written, movies were made… until finally in the mid 90’s physics professors & experts in the field concluded that, not only is this theory correct… but that it’s applicable, not only with butterflies (of course) … but with everything that moves.

Said another way… Everything that moves sets more movement in motion.

Jesus’ View of You

As a follower of Jesus, that idea has become very interesting to me, especially in light of His teachings.

In fact, I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am that we’re going to spend October & November looking at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount… known as the greatest sermon ever preached. It’s Jesus revealing what it looks like to be truly human in the Kingdom of God… what it looks like to live “right-side-up” in a world that’s all upside-down.

In that sermon, Jesus looks at the crowd before Him and says,

YOU are the salt of the earth… YOU are the light of the world.

Now, I remember the first time I read those words…

I was just fine with Jesus speaking those words to a bunch of people who were gathered around Him a couple thousand years ago… in fact, I was cool with those words being for other people I knew… but the idea that those words could have anything to do with me, that seemed crazy.

I was really struck by these words when I was in college. I had just been really trying to follow Jesus, and I was intrigued by this idea.… Did salt refer to deliciousness? What did Jesus mean?
Now salt was something of very great value in the ancient world, sometimes traded at a value twice that of Gold… and light, especially in a spiritual context, often represents wisdom and clarity, direction and hope… so, for us to internalize Jesus’ words meant internalizing that

  1. I matter to God (I’m valuable to Him)
  2. God has a plan to bring life and light to the world… and that plan involves me.

My life had been so up and down. I was serious about faith and then I acted like there was no God. But Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount were speaking right to my heart… and right to my fears… and into my brokenness.

I remember being so tempted to just write-off Jesus’ words as just for other people…  but I could never escape this one question… what if Jesus was serious?

I mean, think about it: How would you live differently if you truly believed that you are of greatest value to God and everything you do matters?

Joshua’s Last Message to the People of Israel

Today, we’re wrapping up our Future Ready series, and we’ve been talking about the decisions we make today and the moments we seize today, that prepare us well for the future God has for each of us.

Carlos launched us into this series… with Joshua, Israel’s new leader, preparing to lead the people into the land that God promised to them.  

As we continue to trace the story together, many years have passed since Joshua and the people of Israel crossed over the Jordan river and into the promised land.
It took them 7 years to fight-off the enemies that were in the land. (Canaan)
It took another 13 years for the tribes of Israel to run-out all of the remnants of their enemies that hiding-out in the various hills and valleys of the land.

So, a long time had passed and the LORD had given them “rest from all their enemies”.

Joshua was now about 110 yrs old

Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God. – Joshua 24:1

This was a pivotal moment for this emerging nation who was learning to depend on God. Joshua realizes his mortality is near and he wants this message to go out loud and clear to the leaders of this nation and to reverberate in every town and in every family.

Joshua 24:2-13 contains a summary of what God did for the people of Israel, particularly during their history as they journeyed from Egypt to the Promised Land.

Here’s a brief summary of the key points:

  • God Chose Abraham: God chose Abraham and led him out of Mesopotamia, making him the father of the Israelite nation.
  • God Gave Isaac: God blessed Abraham’s son, Isaac, and made his descendants numerous.
  • God Led Israel Out of Egypt: God brought the Israelites out of Egypt with signs and wonders, including the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea.
  • God Protected Them: God protected the Israelites from their enemies as they traveled through the wilderness.
  • God Provided for Their Needs: God provided food, such as manna from heaven, and water from a rock, to sustain the Israelites during their journey.
  • God Gave Them Victory: God helped them conquer the nations that opposed them, including the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
  • God Delivered the Promised Land: God delivered the Promised Land, which was inhabited by other nations, into the hands of the Israelites.

This passage reminds us of God’s divine intervention, guidance, protection, and provision for the people of Israel throughout their history, leading them from slavery in Egypt to the land He promised to give them. It emphasizes God’s faithfulness and the fulfillment of His promises to His chosen people.

“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:14-15

The nation responds with a resounding “Yes”… in many ways how many of us would respond in the environment on a Sunday morning. And Joshua tells them, it’s not going to be easy and I’m afraid many of you won’t make it.

He realized this was a butterfly effect moment.

See in being Future Ready, it’s one thing to say the right things, but what will actually reverberate further into the future are our choices

And unfortunately, as-a-whole the nation and people of Israel make the wrong choices. They had the right God… the right laws… the right songs… the right Scriptures… but their hearts and hands did not match their head (knowledge).

Joshua knew that so many of them had already begun worshiping idols of foreign gods. The very thing they’d been warned against.

What follows in the book of Judges is probably one of the saddest verses in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance in Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. 10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. – Judges 2:8-10

What makes a whole generation not know the Lord?

It’s not one big traumatic event. It’s the small compromises along the way. It’s the seemingly marginal decisions we make that culminate in a lifestyle opposed to the things of God.

No one intentionally blows up their marriage, and usually making bad choices start small and get bigger and bigger.

A struggle with lustful thoughts turns into a struggle with pornography, turns into going to strip clubs, turns into hiring a prostitute, leads to drugs, which leads to addiction.

Just as bad decisions have a ripple effect so do good decisions!

But friends here me: everything matters. The smallest decisions ripple into eternity.

Your Spiritual Journey

Consider your own spiritual journey.

Who invited you to Gateway? Maybe it was Christmas or Easter… a Superbowl Throwdown… the Voices series?

Once you were here… Who invited you to serve on Sundays or during the week? Who invited you to join a group?

Who texted you or stopped and took the time to invite you to really lean-into community… to Belong… to Grow… to Heal… to Serve?

Who has modeled Jesus for you? Who’s invested in you spiritually? Who has discipled you? Who has prayed for you?

One flap of that person’s wings… making a move that moved you… and impacted eternity for you and for everyone that your life will touch.

Maybe, just like the people of Israel… or just like the people in the crowd when Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, you have a past and you’re like, “I have trouble imagining that this could be for me…

  • How could I ever be right with God?
  • How could I ever be of service or of value in His Kingdom?” “that seems crazy”

You need to know, everything that ever needed to be done so that you and I could have right relationship with God… and live under the blessing and the promises of God… has been accomplished by Jesus on the cross.

And for any of us who would say “yes” to Jesus… the price for all our failures and all our sin… and all of our shame and all of our guilt has been paid in full… completely covered by the blood that Jesus shed for us on the cross

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. – Romans 3:22-24

God looks at our broken lives and says, “everything needed for you to be made right with me has been covered by the work of Jesus on the cross… and so you and I are free!”

Free to love God and to receive His love… free to choose to live our lives differently than we ever have before… and free to live without shame and guilt… and perhaps most importantly today… we are free to love each other… because God first loved us.

I want you see… that God can be trusted… and I want you to see how much God loves you today… just the way you are right now… with all your questions and with all of your doubts… all of you who believe and those who aren’t sure yet…

God promises that:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9

And God’s plan for the world to hear this incredible news and to know Him… IS US.

That’s why everything we do matters so much!

What if we lived like everything matters?

Not with anxiety but with purpose and expectation knowing we can build the future with the decisions we make that line up with the heart of God.

Knowing a conversation can lead to someone coming to the saving knowledge of Jesus

Believing that our prayers are breaking the strongholds of addiction in our loved ones

Living understanding we get to create the world our children and grandchildren will step into

Ecclesiastes is part of wisdom literature in the Hebrew Scriptures… it starts off wondering about the meaning of life… and the author who we believe to be King Solomon, actually ponders “maybe it’s all meaningless”.

That’s probably because IT IS when we live for the superficial vain things of this world.

But when we are actively involved in God’s work of building his kingdom here is the conclusion, and here is how Ecclesiastes ends:

That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. 14 God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad. – Ecclesiastes 12:13

So, with that in mind… we land on these two big ideas for today:

Choose Whose Kingdom You Will Build

Joshua posed this question for Israel and it is the question which should filter every major, and minor, decision in our lives.

In everything I do and say we should ask, “Whose kingdom am I building- My own or God’s?”

No matter what we choose, the results of that decision will have eternal consequences.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. – Matthew 16: 24-27

Being Future Ready means being discipled unto Jesus, and walking and talking how he did as the Spirit leads us. It means dying to ourselves so that the life he has in store for us comes into fruition

Live as if everything you do matters.

  • What if we stopped seeing things as chance run-ins and coincidences, but rather saw them as divine appointments?
  • What if every hug, every prayer, every group meeting, every devotional, every day was met with a sense of purpose with the end in mind?
  • How would your tomorrow change?

Being Future Ready means building it with our choices, here and now… it’s understanding that when you and I come to the end of our life, we won’t look back on the things we’ve gained, the money we’ve earned or the things we’ve owned. None of that is going to matter… but we’ll look back on the people who’ve touched our lives and the people our lives have touched.

I can look back clearly at some of the decisions I made that have led to challenges my family and I are facing right now (including my young adult kids).

I can also look back at some of the positive decisions I made that have led to opportunities my family and I are enjoying right now (including my young adult kids).

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:17

There is a massive element the scientists failed to include in all of this – a loving God who can help us navigate through the hard times in life – whether that hard time in life is the result of someone else’s terrible decisions or the consequences of our own bad choices.

Romans 8:28 reminds us that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” That’s you! God is calling you to trust Him!

Revelation 3:20 tells us that Jesus is saying to you: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will be with him, and he with me.”

This is not just a promise for once in your life but a promise for every single day!

Romans 10:9-10 tells how to open that door.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

Again this doesn’t just mean saved for when you die, but rescued from what you are facing right now. Doesn’t mean the awful circumstances or bad consequences will go away, but it does mean that Jesus will be with you through them.

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