Tired Of Being Tired!

After just a short day of working in the yard, I had an epiphany.  Actually it was more like a Leroy Jethro Gibbs slap up back of the head.  I am so tired of being tired.  I remember when (dear Lord, I am so sounding like an old geezer!) I would work all day in the yard and not be as tired as I was after only 3 hours.  I know that this body doesn’t work at 61 like I did when I was 21.  But dog-gone-it, I should not be that tired.  I knew which parts of my body I wanted in better shape.

Call it Prevenient Grace, but I received an email from my health insurance provider about a discounted rate for members to join local fitness centers.  A simple 6 minute drive from our home is one of those fitness centers.  It is located next to and operated by the local hospital–that’s good in case I have a coronary event.  They have a variety of exercise equipment that would help meet my personal goals.  And as an added bonus, they have a whirlpool.  I knew my aching joints and muscles would appreciate the treatment.  So, with the debit card information and a click, I joined the Keller Wellness Center.  So, what does my story have to do with the Kingdom Life?  Thank you for asking.  I’ll tell you.

When these thoughts first started fermenting in this mind of mind, I had an idea of which direction I would go–but now, forget that!  I’m now thinking about how this relates to the human tradition of what, in Churchian and Tenured Pew Sitters terminology, is called “church-membership”.  We see nothing in the New Testament about the necessity and value of “church-membership”, yet today a high value is placed on such a concept.  So high that a new group of people have been identified as the “Dones”.  These are the people who were once very active in a local congregation but now, for a variety of reasons, are “Done” with the church.

I’m not exactly sure of where and when this concept of “church-membership” developed, but I do remember what the early Body of Christ looked like and what they did.  You can find in it Acts 2:42-47 (NLT)

42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people.  And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

Oops, I just heard a Tenured Pew Sitter say, “Wait a minute.  There it is, church membership–“the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”  Very astute of you to notice that, but your application of the context is all wrong.  The Greek word for “fellowship” (or “church” in the KJV) is ekklēsia”  and it means:  “a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place”.  There’s nothing here about catechisms to be learned or rules and boundaries to be observed.  The only stipulation was that God had called them out of their old life into His New Life.

This new life is not the church life, but the Kingdom Life.  And this Kingdom Life is all about sharing the life of Jesus with each other and with their communities.  Unfortunately, many Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters have taken this being “called out” to mean that we are now like American Express.  What do I mean by such a blasphemous statement?  Well it is like this, American Express had an ad campaign back in the 1990’s that said, “Membership has its privileges.”  Actually, it would not surprise me if those mad men (and women) of advertising were actually inspired by the American church.

For decades now Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters have viewed church-membership as such.  You join and work your way up the ranks.  The more you conform (forget transformation) to the pattern, the more privileges you earn.  But church-membership should be more than earning privileges.  It is about aligning one’s heart, mind, soul and whole life to the principles of Kingdom Living.  Now let me show you how this relates to my recent “joining” the Keller Wellness Center.

I signed up and paid my monthly dues.  But what if I go in there and simply sit, watching others improve the fitness of their bodies?  How is that making my body more fit at 61?  And I even found myself doing something I loathed one day.  I was on an exercise bike, which is quite a feat for me.  For me to sit on a bike, it has to have at least a V-Twin under me; no pedaling for me.  But there I was just pedaling away.  I noticed one person working out on an elliptical and I thought to myself, “They are doing it all wrong!  Don’t they know how ridiculous they look?”  And now I hear the Holy Spirit whispering in my ear, “Well played, Tenured Pew Sitter, well-played.”

To be included in the ekklēsia” requires more than sitting.  Looking at the Acts 2 example and pattern it is about 5 things:

  • A shared life together where you get to know, appreciate and support each other
  • Remembering our living is to look like Jesus dying–caring more for others than for self
  • Loving others in ways that they experience the Life God offers
  • Worshipping God only, not our ways and styles of worship
  • And doing it publicly in ways that draws attention to Jesus, not yourself.

Membership does NOT have its privileges when it comes to the Body of Christ.  Membership has duties and responsibilities–like getting out into our neighborhoods and communities living out what we learned together in our gathering and sharing the life of Jesus–the Kingdom Life.  And shamelessly I want to speak to those who live in the vicinity of Sheffield, Alabama.  If you are one of the “Dones”, I want to personally invite you to Sheffield First United Methodist Church where others and myself are moving away from the story of “the church” and into a much bigger epic–the story of The Kingdom of God.

Sorry Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters.  Membership has NO, absolutely NO privileges.  It does have, however, great responsibilities and even greater joy, the joy that comes from living in a much bigger narrative, a life much bigger than any and all of us–it’s called The Kingdom Of God!

Remember, love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!

You’ve Got Personality! But…

Way back in 1959 there was this popular song written by Lloyd Price and Harold Logan, and recorded by Price, titled “Personality“.  The chorus  says, “Cause you got personality.  Walk, with personality.  Talk, with personality.  Smile, with personality.  Charm, with personality.  Love, with personality.”  I don’t know why I remembered that song, but I did, and that chorus kept going over and over and over in this brain of mine.  And it has inspired me to get back to what I should have been doing, but have been on a hiatus–writing!

I am not a song writer by any stretch of the imagination, but I could add a few more lines to that chorus.  It goes like this:

  • ‘Cause you annoy, with personality
  • Alienate, with personality
  • Hate, with personality
  • Bully, with personality
  • Whine, with personality
  • Complain, with personality
  • Wound, with personality

Remember my personal context from which I write.  I am a pastor and in the last 3 years, have embraced my calling to be more than just a pastor, but to be a Kingdom Pastor.  And here is where I’m going with all this.  I have noticed that sometimes the Devil gets the credit for something he didn’t do, and God gets the blame for things He had no part of.  Be patient and I will explain.

David wrote in Psalm 136:14 (NIV), “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”   God created each of us, not in a cookie cutter kind of way, but unique and not all the same.  In addition to certain abilities, God does give us a personality.  But…how much of what we call personality isn’t really personality, but the result of choices and mind-sets (meaning how we see things, people and life) that have produced habits?

I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard people say, “Well, preacher, that’s just my personality that God gave me.”  They treat it as if it were a gift from God and we should appreciate it, or at least overlook it if it is annoying or even hurtful.  But not all personalities are God-given, especially when they annoy, alienate and/or wound others, even unintentionally.  Perhaps I should have said, “Especially when it is unintentional.”

Do not blame God for your personality that is persistently and consistently abrasive to the point of doing harm.  If I had just a nickel for each time over my 61 years I heard someone say, “Well, that’s just the way God made me” I would have enough to buy that 2017 Indian Chief Motorcycle I drool over.  Not all personalities are given to us by God.  Allow me to share a few personality traits that are not gifts from our Creator:

  • The Guilt Tripper.  This is the person who attempts to make you feel guilty if you do not go along with them.
  • The Sweet Whiner.  This person has a sweet, syrupy sound in their voice, even feigning piety.  They try to talk with the love of God but….you know what I’m talking about.
  • The Let The Chips Fall Where They May.  This person thinks that truth is more important than a person’s feelings.  When it comes to the truth, confrontation is always the answer.  They speak the truth with their love but do not consider the consequences of their words.  Straight forward is always the best option.
  • The I Know What’s Always Best.  This is the person who is the expert on all things important, and nearly always the expert on things that are not important.
  • The Let’s Just Get Along.  Unlike the The Let The Chips Fall Where They May person who thinks confrontation is always a good thing, they work hard to avoid confrontation.  Some have developed this personality trait into an art form.
  • The I Have Had More Life Experiences Than You So You Just Need To Follow My Advice.  This is the person who jumps at the opportunity for a spitting contest.  They have always had it harder and their wounds are always more severe.
  • The Complainer.  Unlike  The Sweet Whiner, this person simply loves to complain.  Enough said.

This isn’t the complete list.  I think you get the idea.  Often what is given the name “personality” is not innate to us, but the product of our own perspectives as well, our environment and even our culture.  When I was in school I was way more introverted than extroverted.  I had self-esteem issues.  And now, if you asked someone who really knows me, “Is Randy an introvert?”  After their uncontrollable fit of laughter, they would reply, “That’s a joke, right?”

But things that we call personality that are not personality can be so ingrained into us, that it is difficult to find and reclaim our true God-given personality.  While every personality is unique, God-given personalities share the same traits.  Paul lets us in on those traits in Philippians 4:8 (NLT), and it looks like this:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is

  • true, (interesting thing about this Greek word–it comes from 2 Greek words.  One means “Not” and the other is “Ignorant”.  Ignorance comes from the lack of knowledge.)
  • and honorable, (comes from the word that means “to revere” and to revere someone is to treat them with courtesy, kindness and respect)
  • and right, (comes from the word meaning “following the commands of God”, and we know that God is pure, unconditional love)
  • and pure, (means “pure from every fault”)
  • and lovely, (means “with regard to” or “to move towards”)
  • and admirable.  (means “sounding well” or “sounds good”)
  • Think about things that are excellent (means “any particular moral excellence”)
  • and worthy of praise.  (means “to sing praises in honour to God”)

If people find you consistently abrasive, if you notice people avoiding you, or if you’ve experienced people finding a quick excuse to get out of being in your presence, then these are very good indications that your personality is just that:  YOUR personality.  And so as to be very clear at this point, it is NOT the personality God has given you.

I admit that I try to avoid certain personalities as much as possible because they are toxic.  I mean, would you want to swim in a pool filled with nothing but toxic chemicals?  Just because we say, “Oh, it’s just the way I’m made” or “Well, it’s just one of my many gifts” doesn’t make it so.  Years of living in the wrong personality does not just go away–but it can and it will if you take the hand of Jesus, listen to the Holy Spirit and accept the power God alone gives, then your personality can change–change into the one HE  created, not the one you have settled for.

Remember, love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!

Paint Or Dye?

C.S. Lewis

This is not a misprint.  Is your life just a place where the truth of Christ lies on the surface like paint?  Or is it like a piece of cloth that soaks in the dye where it becomes part of the fabric itself.  Enjoy some more C.S. Lewis…


The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.

We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through. He never talked vague, idealistic gas. When He said, ‘Be perfect,’ He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder—in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.


From Mere Christianity
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis

Mere Christianity. Copyright © 1952, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1980, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Messy Monday

Slide8

Now it’s Monday morning.  Have you ever wondered what the Pharisees, the Religious Police were thinking after that Sunday?  Understanding how they think, I’m confident that they didn’t rest well that night.  It’s their Holy Week, so to speak.  Hundreds of thousands of people are pouring into the city which means there are extra Roman Soldiers in town.  A unique thing that Rome did was give the Sanhedrin, the Religious Police, considerable power over the city of Jerusalem, provided they could keep it peaceful.

Jesus is a threat to that peace, a threat to their power and a threat to their rule.  Knowing this about them, I am also confident that they came to the Temple early that Monday morning.  Jesus is on the move and something needs to be done about Him.  They are determined to put an end to Jesus, but they want to wait until after Passover when there are not so many people in town.  But you must remember that Jesus is determined to die on Passover.  I can just picture them in their Council Chambers having a heated discussion about what Jesus He is doing and what to do with Him.

All of a sudden one of the Temple Guards rushes in, interrupting their important meeting.  The High Priest Caiaphas is mad at this interruption, I say he’s mad because he gives me the impression that he’s not happy unless he’s mad about something.  Know anyone like that?  This guard yells out, “Hey y’all!  You gotta see this!”

Picture this if you can, the Temple is divided into sections.  You have the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest could enter once a year.  Then you have the Holy Place where only Priests could enter.  This was where all the rituals and sacrifices occurred.  Then you have the Court of the Men where only Jewish men could enter.  Next was the Court of the Women where only Jewish women could enter.  At the outer edge, the perimeter was the Court of the Gentiles which was for Gentiles.

It was this Court of the Gentiles that was turned into an animal market and currency exchange.  Those who didn’t bring an animal to sacrifice had to buy one.  Worshippers also had to give an offering for the Temple.  But Roman currency wasn’t acceptable because it often had images of various gods and Caesars on them.  Can’t have polluted currency in the Temple, so they developed their own currency just for the Temple.  The money changers provided that service—for a fee of course.  It’s a racket that was only making the Sanhedrin richer.

Jesus walks into the Court of the Gentiles and sees this going on in the place that had the purpose of getting people closer to God—but now had the purpose that was all about the power of the Religious Police.  Well, let’s just read about how Jesus feels about that and what He does.  Matthew 21:12-17 (The Message)

12-14 Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants.  He quoted this text:  “My house was designated a house of prayer; You have made it a hangout for thieves.”  Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.

15-16 When the religious leaders saw the outrageous things He was doing, and heard all the children running and shouting through the Temple, “Hosanna to David’s Son!” they were up in arms and took Him to task. “Do you hear what these children are saying?”  (Editorial Comment:  How awful, children making noise in the Temple.  They and their parents ought to be ashamed.  We can’t have children running around making noise praising Jesus!)  Jesus said, “Yes, I hear them. And haven’t you read in God’s Word, ‘From the mouths of children and babies I’ll furnish a place of praise’?”

17 Fed up, Jesus turned on his heel and left the city for Bethany, where he spent the night.

Can you imagine the pandemonium?  Jesus is flipping over the tables filled with all types of coins.  When they hit that stone floor they bounce all over the place and I can just see the money changers scrambling trying to collect those coins before all those people scooped them up.  Imagine an armored truck moving down a highway when the back door opens up and money is flying around everywhere.  That’s the image.

But that’s not all—Jesus made that whip out of cords of rope and now He’s driving all those animals out—a real life cowboy in action!  Stampede of animals—people scurrying about picking up money.  What a beautiful mess!  Why call it a beautiful mess?  Because This is the Confrontation of Purposes.

The Religious Police, had turned the Temple into something for their own purposes, not God’s purposes.  It was a far cry from what God wanted, from what God designed.  And Jesus has come in this Holy Confrontation to set both things and people back right.

Purpose of the Temple for these power hungry moguls was to elevate their position, their power and to make themselves look good.  It was all about what they wanted.  Now Jesus has made a beautiful mess of everything.  Beautiful because with all their stuff out of the way there was room for broken people.  As long as they made the Temple about them and their wants there was no room for God, and no room for the people that the Temple was designed for.

God’s design for the Temple was for messy, broken and sinful people to come in order to know that HE, is full of mercy and grace and to allow God’s grace to take away all that messiness, brokenness and sinfulness.  With their stuff out of their way, look at what happened:  Verse 14—Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and He healed them.  There’s a Temple still today—but it’s not in Jerusalem.  It’s not even a building.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

You realize, don’t you, that you are the temple of God, and God himself is present in you? No one will get by with vandalizing God’s temple, you can be sure of that. God’s temple is sacred—and you, remember, are the temple.

Some use this passage to say you need to exercise, eat healthy, don’t drink, smoke, or chew or use drugs.  But Paul was talking to a church that was riddled with strife and division, people stirring up all kinds of trouble and others engaging in sex outside the boundaries God had set.  To a broken, divided and sinful body Paul reminds them—“Hey, you’re now the Temple of God and you need to live with The Temple Purpose.”  And the Temple purpose God has is very clear with no less than 3 key Purpose.

1.  We Are The Temple With The Temple Purpose Of Revealing God

God wants every word we speak, every thought we hold onto, every attitude we nurture, and our every action to be a reflection of Him and His true nature.  I can’t speak for you, but I can for me.  I admit there are times that I struggle with this.  But this I know beyond a doubt that I want The Spirit to take this junk out of me so that those around me can see God, who is full of mercy and grace.

I want this above everything else and it’s where I’m pushing my heart and mind and life.  And what about you?  Are you pushing your life in the direction God wants?  Remember that YOU are the Temple with the Temple Purpose of Revealing the True God in a hurting, broken, messy, sinful world.  The second Key Purpose of The Temple is this

2.  We Are The Temple With The Temple Purpose Of Bringing People Close To God

When Moses set up The Tabernacle, when Solomon built the Temple, its purpose was for people to come close to God.  It troubles me deeply when I see any church present a god that sinners cannot approach.  A god who is hateful, vengeful—a god that can’t be approached until people clean up their act—until they are willing to be just like them.  Our God, the True and Living God welcomes dirty, messy, broken and sinful people to come near Him.  Why do I believe this?  I go back to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve made a mess of God’s Intended Design.  What does God do?  He goes looking for them!  That’s what He does for me and you, too.

And that’s what we do as The Temple.  We become people who go out looking and really getting to know people—people who have deep inside them the Image of God but it’s been covered over by a life of wrong choices.  We don’t wait for people to get close to us—we get close to them.  We don’t avoid them and we certainly don’t judge them.  We love them the same way He loves us—us, who are sometimes broken, in a mess and tangled up with sin. The third Key Purpose of The Temple is this:

3.  We Are The Temple With The Temple Purpose Of God Redeeming And Restoring His Image That Is Within All People.

Once we reveal God, once we let others know they can get close to God, God can then begin his gracious and loving work in them.  It’s about God bringing out the uniqueness and beauty that He sees in every person.  He sees it because He put it there.  Even in the messiest and most broken life, a warrior and a beauty is waiting to be released.  But only God can release it.  Every life has a purpose that is bigger than anyone can imagine.  It’s not a purpose about making us look good on the outside.  It’s the purpose that is all about making a difference in community and in the lives of people.  And only God can make it happen.

We rarely see it—we are powerless to release it—and we cannot give our life purpose because the purpose belongs to God.  Only God Can Give Us Our True Purpose And God Is The Only One Who Can Make It Happen.  Our purpose in life is to be God’s Temple where people can see that God is so rich in love, grace and mercy, that anyone can come near to Him to be released from the messiness and brokenness and restored to the life for which we are created!

Jesus made room for the blind and crippled and finally God was quite at home in that Temple.  I can’t speak for you, but I want to be a temple in which God is at home.  And the only way I can be that is for Him to do what I could not do, nor would I ever do without His help:  Get rid of the things that prevents me from being the Temple, by living according to His purpose—his design—His power.

THE CONFRONTATION OF KINGDOMS

Slide8

This being Holy Week, I am being led to take a journey with Jesus, following His steps, watching His actions, and listening to His words. We are going to retrace the steps of Jesus and look at 8 pivotal moments in that week, actually 8 days, that is the Game Changer for the people then and for us today.  Let’s start at the beginning of that last week, what we call Palm Sunday.  Let’s read from Matthew 21:1-11 (NLT)

1 As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2 “Go into the village over there,” he said.  “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it.  Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.”

This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said, “Tell the people of Jerusalem, ‘Look, your King is coming to you.  He is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt.’”  6 the two disciples did as Jesus commanded. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.  Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David!  Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Praise God in highest heaven!”

10 The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.  11 And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

This is a Confrontation of Kingdoms.  Jesus is engaging in this war because Satan is aggressively seeking to steal, kill and destroy the image of God that lives in me, you and everyone.  Satan wants to steal our peace so that we will live in fear.  He wants to kill our joy so that we will live in misery.  Satan wants to destroy our hope so that we miss life now and eternal life.

This war is coming down to 1 final decisive battle.  All other battles after this one will ultimately be futile.  This is the one that decides the future—OUR future.  Everything hinges on this battle, and Jesus fires the opening salvo.  Let’s look, I mean really look at this Last Week.  As clear as the Mission of Jesus has been, it is even clearer now—the focus of Jesus is laser sharp.

Jesus brings into focus the real battle and the real confrontation—between The Kingdom Of God and The Kingdom of Hell.  With every Kingdom there is a King.  Remember this:  There Can Only Be 1 King In And Over Your Life.  You may think you are your own King and that no one can rule over your life.

We live our day-to-day life submitting to the loving rule of God—OR—we submit to the destructive rule of Satan.  The King We Are Committed To Will Be Heard In Our Words, Encouraged By Our Attitudes, And Seen In Our Actions.  God will not allow you to dabble between the two Kings.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:24—“No one can serve two masters.  For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other.”

Two Kingdoms battling for ultimate authority and power.  And in the middle of it all is us.  This ride into Jerusalem is The Announcement that THE King has arrived.  It’s the battle of Kingdoms and here is what it is all about:

 1.  It’s the Battle of God Versus Satan

This life is much more that what we see, experience and believe.  It’s not all about the physical stuff—it’s even bigger than the church stuff.  Life is a spiritual confrontation between 2 opposing kingdoms and our enemy isn’t another human being—he is spiritual and that’s where the battle lies.  And every day you make the choice in your minds with your decisions, words and actions which King you are fighting for and which King you are fighting against.  As Jesus rides into Jerusalem, God goes to war against Satan.

2.  It’s the Battle of Hope Versus Despair

Without Jesus there is no hope.  Satan leaves us a bread trail of crumbs, promising that we can have the life our hearts long for.  Every little morsel drives us deeper and deeper into his trap.  He wets our appetite thinking the prize is just around the next bend.  But whichever bread crumbs he leaves for us the result is always the same.  Satan’s promises always lead to despair.  At the end of the trail, the very thing we look for simply isn’t there.  God understands this and knows that without His intervention this is where we end up:  the dark place of despair.  As Jesus rides into Jerusalem, hope goes to war with despair.  There is more in this Kingdom battle.  It’s the battle of

3.  It’s the Battle of Love Versus Selfishness

Love As Defined By God Is To Offer Anything And Everything So That Another Person Will Have Their Moment To See The Heart That God Has For Them, The Heart Of Love.

The opposite of that kind of love is selfishness, putting self first.  Jesus faced those temptations in the wilderness.  He wouldn’t give in to selfishness then and He is not about to now!  When we act selfishly, we put our wants and needs above others.  As Jesus rides into Jerusalem, He shows that when we love like God loves us and give up claims to our own life, then Satan’s kingdom takes a loss.

Jesus knows that if He does this entrance into Jerusalem, it will lead to His betrayal, denial, suffering and finally dying on that Cross.  Why would He do such a thing knowing the outcome?  Because.  Because Jesus Is Aggressively Waging The War To Win Our Hearts, Minds, Lives And Souls.  That’s right. Jesus endures what he endures, suffers what he suffers, and loses all that He has, for you and me.  Not because we are that good, but because HE is that gracious and loving.

For any of us and all of us, the price for our sins had to be paid if we are ever going to be restored to the right Kingdom.  But we could not pay, cannot pay, will not pay that price.  Jesus takes on our sinfulness to show us just how much HE loves us.  And God, our Father, allows this to happen.  Jesus had to be punished for us so that we can be restored to the Right Kingdom.  We are sinners, confused, hurtful, and hurting all at the same time.   Is God really serious about wanting to restore you to the life you are created for?  Look no further than the Cross, where we see God punishing Jesus.

And remember, love God with all your heart.  Love others the way God loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

3:16

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When you saw the title, what were your first thoughts?  Was it John 3:16?  Well, why not?  We see those signs at major sporting events and inevitably when a football team is kicking an extra point someone is sitting between the goal posts holding up “that” sign, John 3:16.  It is the verse that church-goers (otherwise known as Churchians) know and can quote.  Even most non-Christians can quote this verse.  I would feel comfortable saying that statistics would reveal that John 3:16 is the most quoted verse in the Bible.

But that is NOT the 3:16 I am writing about.  John 3:16 is an important verse for it marks the beginning of the truth about God’s true heart–that it is a heart for anyone and everyone.  This love makes so many of our expressions of love appear weak and inadequate.  More than appear weak and inadequate, it shows they actually are weak and inadequate.  John 3:16 is a great starting point for giving our heart what it truly is hungry for.  But what’s next?  3:16 is next!  No, not John 3:16, but Colossians 3:16

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. (New Living Translation)

I wonder what would happen if that camera view of the goal posts revealed someone holding up a sign that read Colossians 3:16?  I can just see it now.  Tons of folks scrambling around, looking under piles of magazines for that Bible they know must be somewhere underneath them.  I can just hear them wondering, “Is Colossians in the Old or New Testament?”  Unless they have a thumb indexed Bible, they are frantically flipping through the pages trying to find Colossians until they realize they can look in the Table of Contents to find it.

And the mischievous side of me wonders what would happen if every pastor who stepped up to the pulpit simply held up that sign that read Colossians 3:16?  And this leaves me wondering something else:  What if every person who considers themselves a follower of Jesus lived these words every day?   Personally speaking, I know this is a verse I need to memorize, understand and live out as much, if not even more, than John 3:16.

Here is the pattern that will transform any life and every congregation.  Look at how it neatly and perfectly knits this life as real followers of Jesus together.

  1. It starts with the Message of Jesus.  We have the tendency to want to share OUR message.  When we share OUR message, meaning how WE see it (or would rather see it), it begins to weaken and deteriorate.  While our hearts may be open to the message of Jesus, it’s the mind that is often closed.  Make sure the Message of your life aligns with the Message embodied in our Incarnate Savior!
  2. Bring in the richness of the Message of Jesus.  The Message of Jesus is about our Creator’s love and grace that has more than enough power to restore us to His intended design and restore HIS image inside us.  That Greek word Paul used was plousiōs and it means that there is MORE than enough for anyone.
  3. Let this rich Message of Jesus FILL your life.  That word “fill” is in the Active Voice in the Greek which means it is ongoing.  It is just like Matthew 7:7, “ask, seek, knock”.  It means to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking.  Folks, this isn’t the NCAA basketball tournament where you’re “one and done”.  The moment you think you’ve got it all, you lose it all.
  4. Help others with the wisdom of eternity, not your own personal drool.  The best way to help others is for others to seek The Truth at work in your own life.  Didn’t Jesus say something about not worry about that speck of sawdust in your neighbor’s eye until you deal with the 4×4 beam sticking out of your own eye.  God’s wisdom and counsel is gentle, kind and timely.  Make sure your words are, too.
  5. Praise God!  Not for what HE has done, but for WHO HE IS!  To praise God simply for what He has done for you will cause you to turn Him into the Vending Machine God, and He ain’t that.  (Please forgive my use of improper grammar in using that word “ain’t”.  Sometime you just need to use strong words.)  Adore and lift HIM up because He is just that great, awesome, spectacular, wonderful, indescribably good!
  6. And once you’ve praised Him, then you can thank Him.  Once we see how Holy and Majestic He is, and then reflect on the ways His love, grace and mercy is lavished on us, now we can thank Him for all He’s done for us.

Let’s give up our ways.  After all, since God offers us His love as a gift, shouldn’t we accept His plan to restore us to our True Identity and Purpose?  Let’s be 3:16 People, Colossians 3:16, that is…

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way God loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

God’s Intentions

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The following is an excerpt from the great classic by C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.  Daily I receive something in my email from the great writer, and this one, well, just needs to be shared.  (Note:  In case you did not know, these are a series of letters written by a “journeyman” demon, Screwtape, to his nephew Wormwood, an apprentice demon.  “The Enemy” he refers to is his and Satan’s enemy–the ONE who wants to be our closest friend.)

Screwtape reveals the Enemy’s intentions:

Now it may surprise you to learn that in His [the Enemy’s] efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.  The reason is this.  To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense.  But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing.  One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth.  He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His.  We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out.  We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over.  Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.

From The Screwtape Letters
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis

The Screwtape Letters. Copyright © 1942, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright restored © 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of Harper Collins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of Harper Collins Publishers.

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