We Have A Problem–And It’s Human Violence!

Well, it’s time for another edition of my Monday Musings. But truthfully, I don’t have a heart this Monday for “musings” about our culture, leaders, churches, groups of people, or an individual. My heart is broken for the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement near Fort Worth. Just in case you haven’t heard, here is the link to the story. And let’s not forget the stabbing (which by the FBI definition is also considered an active shooter situation) at a Hanukkah celebration in New York. My heart breaks for this tragedy as well. (Here is the article on this tragedy.)

We are living in a culture that devalues human life. Now there’s an understatement for all times. And while my heart was breaking, I read a thread on the Fort Worth tragedy that made me…well…made me scratch my head. Here, see it for yourself–the name has been redacted to protect both an innocent and the stupid:

That last comment…”If you church has to have police and security, then you’re going to the wrong church.” Really? If this person sent their DNA to ancestry.com, I’m sure they would tell him he is kin to Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. Those were Job’s 3 alleged friends who asserted that bad things only happen to bad people. And I guess this IS my musing on this Monday.

No one is immune from evil. Just ask Jesus. And while there are those who want to blame a piece of milled metal for these latest two tragedies, the truth is those things did not cause this pain and suffering. It comes out of human hearts that have little to no regard for any human life. And all the blame cannot be placed on the assailants, though there bear their share. I see the contributing factors in two truths.

One Truth is that in a society when the most vulnerable can by considered, by a choice, as an inconvenience–unwanted–or unneeded–well, the rest of the human race is also considered expendable. To devalue even one life is to devalue all human life. After all, we are all made from and of the same stuff.

Another Truth is the loss of the Absolute Truth of God’s Word. People have moved from the time tested and proven Orthodoxy for a system where it all hinges on one’s feelings. Feelings cover the complete gambit of the human experience. While feelings can lead to something good–feelings can also lead to tragedy and pain; such as we witnessed this weekend. When people think they know more about God than His Preserved Word, nothing good will ever come out of it.

Anyway, that’s how my musing is working today. Just remember, in spite of all the evil and human violence out there, Followers of Jesus–you have your mandate: Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM! This will accomplish more than blaming inanimate objects or talking ugly about other people. Oh, one more musing, “There’s a lot more ways to hurt people other than with guns or knives. Your words, attitudes, actions and lack of actions wound others just as deeply, if not more so.”

It’s The Perfect Gift Because It’s The Gift That Keeps On Giving!

1 Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever.  The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.

2 The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.  For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. 

3 You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice.  They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder.  4 For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders.  You will break the oppressor’s rod, just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian.  5 The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned.  They will be fuel for the fire.

6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.  The government will rest on his shoulders.  And he will be called:  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end.  He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.  The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen! {Isaiah 9:1-7 NLT}

We’ve been looking at The Perfect Gift.  Remember I said that The Perfect Gift has 2 essential elements:

  1. First, it has something of the Giver in it.
  2. Second, it meets a need in the receiver.  Now, I need to add one more element that makes a gift The Perfect Gift.
  3. The Perfect Gift Is The One That Keeps On Giving.

Some gifts are made to last only a short time—like a gift card.  Some gifts wear out.  And other gifts?  Well…the are made to hide in the top of some closet.  But The Perfect Gift is the one that the receiver continues to experience for a long time to come.

Often the spirit of Christmas is overshadowed by that spirit of selfishness.  Often that spirit is intentional, but sometimes it is unintentional.  If we are not careful, we will become self-absorbed with our wishes, our wants, our desires, and our own will.  That first Christmas marked the beginning of God plan to ultimate and decisively deliver humanity from those unimportant and self-centered desires. 

God gave This Gift because This Gift can deliver every person from the things that rob and finally destroy their heart and life.  And if you can remember only one thing, this is it:  Jesus Wants Us To Embrace Him As Fully As He Has Embraced Us!

Being a True Disciple Of Jesus is not a casual thing that we do occasionally and at our convenience.  To really experience the living Jesus by receiving The Perfect Gift for our own—Demands More From Us.  To accept the perfect gift does not mean we become inhibited.  To Accept The Perfect Gift Means We Become Inhabited! 

I do not mean this the wrong way or to be considered disrespectful with what I am about to say.  Nor do I mean to downplay this mysterious event of Incarnation—God becoming flesh—because I marvel and am amazed at this breathtaking mystery.  But it is too easy to love the baby in the manger.  Who among us doesn’t love every baby?  We are not called to love and follow the baby in the manger.  God Demands That We Love And Follow The Christ Of The Cross!  Face it, The Cross Is A Tougher Image Than The Manger

Yet this is where Jesus calls us to follow Him.  This is serious stuff because it means total and complete surrender to the Love of God expressed perfectly on the Cross.  Jesus Wants Us To Embrace Him As Fully As He Has Embraced Us.

Christmas Is About The Messiah And Our Acceptance Of And Submission To The Messiah.  Remember what that word “Messiah” means—“Messiah comes from the Hebrew word, Mashiach, meaning “The Anointed One,” or “The Chosen One.”  To be the Anointed, to be the chosen, isn’t an ordinary thing.  In the Old Testament, anointing was reserved for 3 particular offices:  Prophets, Priests, and Kings—offices set aside for God’s purposes.  Jesus As Messiah, Is The Decisive Prophet, Priest, And King.

That first Christmas marks the beginning of The Choice that Jesus made even before time began.  Jesus would enter directly into the fallen mess of creation to reclaim and restore it back to God’s Kingdom.  The Arrival Of The Messiah—The Decisive Prophet, Priest, And King—Ushers In The Most Radical Movement Of God Since Creation.  His arrival is an offer—the offer to accept for ourselves that Jesus is The Messiah—The Decisive Prophet, Priest, And King.  Jesus has been Anointed for 3 Offices:    

1.  Jesus Is The Decisive Prophet.

He’s the Decisive Prophet because He completely understands the mind of God.  All other prophets receive glimpses of that mind.  But Jesus Reveals The Whole Mind Of God Because That Mind Is In Him.  Not only this, but He sees our real mind and heart.  Prophets are also called to show where we are missing the mark.  To make us aware of what we are missing, and how God can and will restore us. 

False prophets fall into 2 overall categories.  First, False Prophets point out where we’re wrong without giving us the True Remedy.  And False Prophets aren’t truthful—they are mirrors of our own imaginations.  They feed us what we want to hear.

He’s the Decisive Prophet because He Perfectly Reveals God’s Heart.  A Heart That Longs For Us To See Our Own Sickness So That He Can Bring God’s Desires Into Our Minds And Hearts.  He shows us HOW we can live the life we are created to live.  Not only is He the Decisive Prophet:

2.  Jesus Is The Decisive Priest.

Jesus is The Decisive Priest because continually He serves in the direct presence of God.  Human priests can only point toward God.  But no priest is closer to the heart of God than Jesus.  He Doesn’t Point Us To God, Because He Is God!

Jesus is The Decisive Priest because He intercedes for messed up and broken people—not the “oh, so righteous” feeling people.  True priests are those who feel for the condition of The Fallen Image Bearers.  The Decisive Priest is drawn to and into the messiness of deceived and broken people.

Jesus Is The Decisive Priest Because He Is Also The Lamb!  No other priest can do what Jesus has already done.  The priests of other religions want you to do something for their “god” before that “god” can do anything for you.  But This Priest, The Decisive Priest Is The One Who Offers For Us, And Is The Sacrifice That Once And For All Delivers Us From Sin’s Power And Dominion.  And Jesus is also Anointed for 1 more office, the Highest Office of All:

3.  Jesus Is The Decisive King!

Jesus Is The Decisive King Because He Is Holy!  Human leaders are guided by other interests.  They are all flawed somewhere.  But He Demands That We Be Holy As HE Is Holy.  He never accepts second place.  He will never play second fiddle.  He will never accept our leftovers.  He’s Jealous and will never share His rightful throne in our heart with anything or anyone else.

Jesus Is The Decisive King Because He Is Eternal.  Every other kingdom, each dominion, and all other authorities will end one day.  They are never final.  Only His Dominion will last.  And He will hold every other authority accountable to Him.  Not only authorities, but each and every one of us.  This ought to be frightening—because it is!  But This Very Demanding King Has Something Else, Too.

Jesus Is The Decisive King Because He Is Full Of Grace And Mercy.  He pours everything about Him into restoring us—WE are the object of His Desires.  And HE and HE alone, should be the object of our desires!  Jesus Is The Decisive King Because He Is, Well, HE IS!  Nothing we say or believe will ever change this fact.  Argue about it.  Deny it.  But Jesus is the King of Kings.

God doesn’t ask us to follow a baby; He calls us to follow the Conqueror of Death and Hell.  Christmas is a great time to remember Easter—because the power that conquered death is the power given to us when we open our heart to Him.  Joy and power are ours when we see for ourselves The Perfect Gift. 

God Loves Sinners Like Us!  It’s useless to give your heart to the child in that feed trough.  Give your heart, mind, soul and strength to the One who first died on the Cross then rose from the dead!  Then rise up in joyful worship!

Joy isn’t just for Christmas or Easter—it’s for every day all day long.  Begin living in and through the Holy Spirit.  Trust, really trust that God will never lead you wrong—He will challenge you—but He will never lead you wrong. 

You may not understand what God is doing—you may not even like what God wants to do—but Christmas reminds it’s the right thing, always the right thing. 

God isn’t interested in the qualified people—He’s Wanting The Least Qualified Because We Are The Ones That He Can Pour The Holy Spirit Into.  Now, here lies the Great Contradiction to the world’s value system.  The world’s value system says that in order to receive, you have to Get All You Can, Grab All You Can, And Then Grip The Can

The value system of God’s Kingdom is that in order to receive, you have to share, help, and love unconditionally.  Have you given your heart to the baby—or have your given your heart to Lord and Savior of all?

No one wants to be on Santa’s “Naughty List” but on his “Nice List”.  Hey, it is doable—when push comes to shove, we can be rather nice at times, nice enough to be on Santa’s “Good” list. 

But let me ask you:  Is Your Name In The Lamb’s Book Of Life?  Before you answer, let me share the truth with you:  You can never be good enough, do enough good, to get in The Lamb’s Book of Life.  It’s God’s Gift, for those who will surrender everything to Him, and follow Him.

Jesus Is The Anointed One:  The Decisive Prophet, Priest, And King! 

There’s something I realized in this week’s preparations, and it made me realize my own failure.  It’s something I should have said every week, but I haven’t.  So, I’ll say it now—and hopefully as long as I am preaching: 

You Can’t Follow Jesus And Stay Where You Are.  Jesus didn’t stay in the manger.  He didn’t stay in Egypt.  He Didn’t Stay In Nazareth.  He Was Always On The Move—And He Still Is On The Move.  He’s Moving Forward Advancing The Kingdom

That’s why each week I offer you The Next Steps.  And here is this week’s Next Step: Where have you settled in your journey? And where is He calling you to go deeper?  The Shepherds didn’t stay at the manger.  The Wise Men didn’t stay at that house.  Shepherds went back to their fields and the Wise Men returned to their homes.  But they weren’t the same.  If you are not sensing the call of The Spirit to go deeper and follow Jesus more closely, then this is your moment to come to this altar, and ask The Perfect Gift to show you how This Gift Keeps On Giving.

Saturday Stories-A 3 Year Old’s Reminder

At the risk of sounding like an extremely proud Grandpa (because I am!), this Saturday’s Story is about one of our granddaughters, Caroline. Caroline is the daughter of my daughter, Leslie. Her mother put a curse on Leslie. You know the one: “I hope you have a child just like you.” Bless Leslie’s heart, she does! There are a lot of “Caroline Stories” I can tell, but today, it’s about the lesson she taught me when she was only three.

You Can’t Be Talking And Pay Attention To Me!

Several years ago, my daughter Leslie and her kids, Ethan and Caroline, came for a visit. They lived 2 hours away; so any visit was special. I called my parents who lived less than a mile away so they could see their great-grandchildren. After a time, we were in the kitchen just us adults talking.

In our kitchen was a small single step stool. Debbie, being somewhat vertically challenged, needed it sometimes to reach stuff in the top of a cabinet. Caroline had noticed this stool and managed a new skill–jumping off and landing securely on her feet. It was only about 6 inches, but for another vertically challenged 3 year old, it was quite a feat.

So Caroline began to display her new skill. She called out to us and said, “Watch this!” Being doting grandparents and great-grandparents we applauded her and congratulated her on this newfound skill. After several successful jumps and our accompanying praise, we went back to our conversations as adults. Needless to say, this did not please the Princess Caroline. Yes, Princess Caroline; it’s a title well earned and most appropriate for her.

We were in a circle talking with each other when Princess Caroline squeezed her way into the middle of this circle. She pressed her index finger to her thumb, and pointed at us with that little hand. I’m sure she learned this visual expression from her teacher at preschool. With a determined expression and dead seriousness, Princess Caroline got our attention with these words: “You Cannot Be Talking And Pay Attention To Me!”

While we “adults” were through watching her most recent skill, SHE wasn’t through showing us her skill. And she wasn’t going to be ignored any longer. She pulled our attention from talking to watching. To make sure we understood her “point” she repeated it again: “You Cannot Be Talking And Pay Attention To Me!” Ever since that day, we have, often jokingly, said to each other: “You Cannot Be Talking And Pay Attention To Me!”

The Moral Of This Saturday Story

This 3 year old Princess taught an invaluable for all of us. How many times does The Father try to get our attention–but we’re too busy talking? Talking to each other. Talking about others. Politics. Sports. The news. The latest fake news from the internet. Talking with others about how much we know about God. Telling others what THEY need to know about God. Telling God what we need. Telling God what HE needs to do.

Talking, talking, talking and more talking to the nth degree. Caroline taught me a lesson that day that I have had to be reminded of. . .frequently. . .too frequently. Caroline didn’t have out attention because we were, in her opinion, talking too much to each other. We adults needed to re-focus our attention to what really mattered.

Do you suppose God ever takes His index finger, pressing it against His thumb and saying to us: “You Cannot Be Talking And Pay Attention To Me!” Caroline would not let us have a choice–we HAD to give her our undivided attention. But God? Well, He never violates one of His gifts to us–a gift that leads to heights of joy–or depths of regret and despair. Free Will!

But the truth is, we cannot be talking and Pay Attention To God. Our troubles and chaos of this era is because we haven’t been paying attention to God. So. . .Stop Talking And Pay Attention To God! You need to, and our culture needs you to Pay Attention To God! You can’t pay attention to God if you are too busy talking.

THROW IT OUT THERE THURSDAY-IS IT THE RESULT OF DNA OR ‘OTHER’ SPIRITS?

Well, it’s time for another “Throw It Out There Thursday”. Remember that no idea, thing or person is exempt from Throw It Out There Thursday. I do not expect everyone to agree with any conclusions I may reach. Enough disclaimer crap. On to the the subject at hand: “Is It DNA, Or The Result Of ‘Other’ Spirits?

This week I came across a “blow-your-mind-can’t-be-true” post on the infamous Facebook. I had to research it and follow the links to see if it was true. Sorry, Virginia, not everything on Facebook is true. If I burst your bubble. . . oh, well. . .toughen up buttercup! The story involves…read it for yourself:

Here is the synopsis:

  • Jamie Bruesehoff gave birth to a son
  • At some point he decided he was transgendered
  • Jamie Bruesehoff supported his decision
  • Who is now “Rebekah” has had a hormone blocking implant, twice, to prevent “her” biological gender from developing
  • Jamie is a Lutheran’s pastor’s wife and their group insurance plan payed for it.

So, at some point this “child” decided that God really wanted him to live out his life not as a biological “he”, but as a transgendered “she”. Now comes the fodder that will probably bring me a lot of “negative” feedback. Oh, well. Since when does an adolescent have the intellectual, emotional and mental wherewithal to reach such a decision? “Rebekah” Bruesehoff has none of the prerequisites for such a decision, neither does a teenager. I know this is not an isolated case. It is a scene that happens often in today’s culture; too often.

To empower a child the right to pursue such an idea is an act of, for lack of a civil word, an act of sheer incompetence by adults, especially parents. So, I have to wonder and ask out loud, how does an adolescent form such a thought? It had to come from somewhere. Including the unproven DNA hypothesis, how would a child frame such a thought?

Oh, and here’s some more on Jamie Bruesehoff, right from her website:

Yep, you read her bio correctly: “a openly queer woman married to a Lutheran pastor”; whatever “openly” means. She has also put her “daughter” in front of audiences, including youth audiences, promoting this “happiness” that God told “her” to have in life. It’s as plain as the sun shining in the daytime, that even in a fish market, this smells “fishy”. This Mother is more than an underlining influence; she is an overwhelming influence.

And this leads me to what I am going to “Throw Out There”. It isn’t a “feeling” nor is it God wanting this child to be what he “feels” like he is. No, this child is being influenced by ‘other spirits’. Now wait a minute. I didn’t say that transgendered people are victims of demonic possession. What I am throwing out there is that there are other spirits contrary to the Spirit of God influencing many, even children. These other spirits are from the realm of Satan, himself.

In my humble opinion, those other spirits are influencing the mother of this child. I happen to believe that these other spirits out there while not “possessing” people, certainly influence how people think and see life. Furthermore, I believe that adults who allow those other spirits to influence their thinking opens the way for those unequipped and unprepared to handle the thought influences of these other spirits; and children are the most vulnerable to their influences.

I would challenge you to do 2 things. First and foremost, show the kindness and gentleness of Jesus to ALL people. ALL means ALL. You will never influence others in a positive way by spewing verbal acid at them. Second, and just as important–engage in spiritual warfare against Satan and his minions. Become aware of their influences in your own thinking. Pray, study God’s word, and seek the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit.

Our culture is being attacked from all sides by the other spirits by influencing the thoughts and perspectives of people. And when those people who succumb to their influences are adults, and those adults have influence over children, they are putting those most vulnerable at the highest risk of grave danger. That’s how I see it….

MERRY CHRISTMAS BECAUSE HE’S IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD!

I love to think–sometimes out loud (which many times gets me in trouble), sometimes in my mind (which occasionally wanders off and takes a while to come back)–and especially in my writing. But today, THIS DAY, I simply cannot match my thoughts to those who told about that moment when Mary gave birth to Jesus.

So, today, I will share with you what one of those who walked with Jesus had to say about that moment, and what followed. Not Matthew’s or Luke’s account–but John’s account. There are no full inns or stables or mangers or shepherds or Magi–just the wonder of that event. Read this slowly, and take it all in–especially that part about God moving into our neighborhood. That phrase is why I’m led to share it with you from The Message: John 1:1-18

1-2 The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
    God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
    in readiness for God from day one.

3-5 Everything was created through him;
    nothing—not one thing!—
    came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
    and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
    the darkness couldn’t put it out.

6-8 There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.

9-13 The Life-Light was the real thing:
    Every person entering Life
    he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
    the world was there through him,
    and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
    but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him,
    who believed he was who he claimed
    and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
    their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,

    not blood-begotten,
    not flesh-begotten,
    not sex-begotten.

14 The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.

15 John pointed him out and called, “This is the One! The One I told you was coming after me but in fact was ahead of me. He has always been ahead of me, has always had the first word.”

16-18 We all live off his generous bounty,
        gift after gift after gift.
    We got the basics from Moses,
        and then this exuberant giving and receiving,
    This endless knowing and understanding—
        all this came through Jesus, the Messiah.
    No one has ever seen God,
        not so much as a glimpse.
    This one-of-a-kind God-Expression,

        who exists at the very heart of the Father,
        has made him plain as day.

For some of you, this is a hectic day trying to make all of your expected appearances. For some of you, it’s a day of deep sadness because you are alone. Remember, PLEASE REMEMBER, that Jesus has moved into YOUR neighborhood, whatever it looks like. He didn’t shun leaving Heaven to enter Mary’s womb–He didn’t shun being born in a stable–He didn’t shun the Cross. And He won’t shun your neighborhood–after all, He’s Moved Right In! And to quote another person:

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood
A neighborly day for a beauty
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day
Since we’re together, we might as well say
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?

Won’t you please
Won’t you please
Please won’t you be my neighbor?

Mr. Rogers made this song famous–but it’s Jesus who makes it POWERFUL.

Take The Combo!

It’s not a matter of need. It’s not a matter of choice. It’s not a matter of want. It’s a package deal–a combo meal if you would. But this Combo Meal does not come in regular or large or super-sized proportions. So, you don’t have a choice there. It only comes in the Eternal Size. True, it’s far more than you can handle in one sitting–but that’s how it comes.

And you can’t make substitutions or additions to it. Nope, it just comes in one Way. This Combo Meal is God–the Father-DADDY; the Son–Jesus-your brother; and the Holy Spirit-your Friend. They are ONE but not the same. Each is unique AND they are equal.

Yesterday morning in my “4 Minutes” time (which is how I now describe my morning devotion time; and it’s usually MORE than 4 minutes), I was talking with all 3 of Them and I just blurted out, “Wow! You 3 are some kind of combo meal!” All 4 of us laughed at my outburst. And it got me to thinking about this Monday Musing.

The Church Of The Anemic, which describes much of Western Christendom, has found itself this way from many reasons. One of the primary reasons is that the Average Pew Sitter neither appreciates, nor understands the unique Combo of The Trinity. Some want a father-figure; some want a get-out-of-hell-free-card; and some want a kind of feel-good-feeling.

The Holy Combo Package is an all or nothing offer. I’ve heard, and in my more younger and foolish days, call the Holy Spirit “it”. The Holy Spirit is not an “it”, but a Person. I use the word “Person” because this wordsmith hasn’t found another way to describe from a Time-Focused perspective the Infinite And Eternal Truth.

I am concerned that many have the view of The Holy Combo that I held in my younger, immature and more foolish days; that they exist in a hierarchy–Father is the Big Guy, Jesus is Middle Management, and The Spirit is the Floor Supervisor. Eventually, I came to understand the fallacy of such thinking. And when I read The Shack, by Paul Young, the Floodlight came on. I realize some have an “issue” with this book. Chill out! It’s only a book–but it shines with insight and wisdom. Now if your issue with the book is The Father being a big, black woman–remember He once spoke through Balaam’s jackass–and I’ve personally heard Him speak through other jackasses even today.

I could go on, but let me bring to an end this Monday Musing. As you do your “4 Minutes” with God each morning, think about ALL 3 OF THEM. Talk to each one at a time, and to all 3 of them at once. If you don’t like Paul Young’s images, come up with your own images; but remember God isn’t white middle class, or whatever your personal culture looks like. If you want God, you gotta get The Combo. And if you want a combo without some things or a couple of extra things, go to the McDonald’s Drive Thru. You can’t get that with God–It’s all or nothing.

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

THE PERFECT GIFT HAS THE PERFECT NAME!

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born.  His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph.  But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.  “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.  For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look!  The virgin will conceive a child!  She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

Matthew 1:18-23

What’s in a name?  In the tragedy Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare wrote, “What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  Or as Bubba Bussey of Rick & Bubba might say, “Call a skunk a flower and he still stinks.”  What Shakespeare was trying to say that what is important, is who a person is, not what they are called.  If You Can Remember Only 1 Thing, This Is it:  The Jesus We Need Is Not Found At The Manger, But At The Cross. 

We place a lot of emphasis on naming children.  Naming a new baby is a challenging process.  It’s hard to please everybody with a name.  Dad wants a name that will look good on the sports page, like Tua Waddle or Bo Patrick.  Mom selects a fashionable name and insists on no nicknames, something like Catherine or Benjamin or Cynthia.  Grandpa wants to use a hallowed family name from the past, like Horatio or Alonzo.  Aunt Phebe wants a name that reflects her culture, like Tranquility or Greenpeace or Mellow.  It’s a miracle of diplomacy that a name is ever chosen.  We want names that reflect character and potential, and hopefully fit the child.

But Mary and Joseph did not face the hassle of finding a name for their baby boy.  They didn’t have Joseph’s father saying, “You know, you should name that boy after your Great-Great-Great-Great grandfather Zadok.  I don’t know why our family hasn’t used that name more.”  That important matter was decided for them by God, and the message was delivered by an angel. 

Remember the story with me.  Joseph, a local carpenter, is deeply troubled. His fiancée Mary is pregnant, and he knows that he is not responsible.  She says it is the Lord’s doing, but Joseph is a practical fellow. Maybe he fears that she has been raped, perhaps by one of those hated Roman soldiers.

Maybe he thinks that she’s afraid that he will do something rash that will endanger his life.  She refuses to budge from her story. So he has decided to break the engagement quietly in order to limit the public disgrace.  He knows the community elders could have her stoned for adultery if he breaks the engagement.   His heart is breaking because I believe he loves her.

Absorbed in these sad thoughts, Joseph falls into a troubled sleep.  In that troubled sleep, he has a dream.  An angel tells him that Mary is telling the truth.  He is ordered to skip the balance of their one-year engagement, to go ahead and marry Mary right away.  In other words, Let The Gossips Talk! 

Then the angel revealed something else very important—the name of the baby and His title. “You shall name Him Jesus!”  And his title will be the one predicted by the prophet Isaiah some 800 years earlier—“Emmanuel—God With Us.”

The Name And The Title reveal what Christmas is all about.  Yeshua!  In the Hebrew it means God Delivers, Saves, And Rescues!  It’s The Perfect Name For The Perfect Gift for many reasons.  In the light of Advent, allow me to share with you 3 reasons why Jesus is the perfect name:

1.  It’s The Perfect Name For Hope!

There was no prophetic voice for over 400 years.  Heaven was quiet.  God seemed to be silent.  No one stepped forward with a Word from God.  Except for a brief period, they had been under foreign occupation and rule for nearly 600 years.  No voice from heaven and held captive, there was a struggle—the struggle for hope. 

When hope was obscured by years of fear and oppression, God spoke, not with words, but with a baby. John put it this way in 1:14 from the Message:  The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.  We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

Jesus is the perfect name for Hope because He chose, out of His awesome love, To Move Into Our Neighborhood.  What does your neighborhood look like right now?  No, not the one where you house is located, but the one that surrounds your day to day living.  Are you living in the neighborhood of Fear?  Despair?  Chaos?  Confusion?  Addiction?  Loneliness?  Uncertainty?  Depression?  Shame?  Doubt?  Guilt? 

Listen, Someone else has moved into YOUR neighborhood and His name is Jesus—God Delivers, Saves, And Rescues!  He joins alongside us, giving us courage, determination, comfort, strength to move through and power to overcome.  Jesus broke through the silence and oppression then, and He still does it today.  That’s REAL Hope!  When Jesus moves into our neighborhood, there is always Hope!  Jesus Is The Perfect Name For Hope!

2.  It’s The Perfect Name For Joy!

There is a real problem in our culture today—people are wanting happiness, rather than Pursuing JoyThe Difference Between Happiness And Joy Is Clear:  Happiness Is Found In Some THING—Joy Is Discovered In Some ONE!  Happiness is built on the assumption that if we just had “that”—that amount of money, that relationship, that job, that other pastor, if we could get into that clique, if we had that car or that house—then we would be truly happy.  If we just had that Samsung 122” TV, or get that promotion, or get rid of that boss, or that spouse, then we would be happy.  The truth is, sometimes we manage to get those things, and for a time, we’re happy.  But when the new wears off, then we will start looking again for something That makes us happy.

On the other hand, Joy is discovered in Some ONE.  As someone once said, There’s A God Sized Hole In Every Heart And Only God Can Fill It!  Not just anyone, but the one who is named Jesus.  We are created for an intimate relationship with God.  Circumstances change, relationships change, material stuff wears out, breaks down and becomes obsolete, wealth comes and goes, even our health changes over time as I have so painfully discovered. 

But God is going to stay with you through thick and thin, ups and downs.  His Presence, Promises And Power are always Here and This rather than That, is what fills us with joy.  Because He Has forgiven us He can be trusted to be our Lord, because He gives us life now and eternal life later—Now That’s The Perfect Name For Joy. 

3.  It’s The Perfect Name For Love!

Love is more than words, much more.  Truth is—words are a cheap substitute because they lack the 2 key components of real love—the love that God gives.  John wrote in 1 John 3:18-19—Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.  Our actions will show that we belong to the truth. 

God’s love is expressed in His heart and in His actions.  Words alone are shallow, but love that acts out of the heart is deep, lasting, and powerful enough to transform another person’s life.  Love Without Actions Is Shallow, And God Never Dwells In The Shallow Places, But In The Deepest Parts Of Our Heart.

Jesus set the pattern with His example.  Paul wrote in Galatians 5:13  But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law.  When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 

In 1873, Father Damien De Veuster voluntarily went to Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands.  Molokai was an isolation island for those with leprosy.  He helped improve their quality of life with a water system, a sanitation system and a clinic.  With help of the local lepers, they build a chapel where services were held every Sunday.  Every Sunday, Father Damien would begin his sermon by saying, You lepers know that God loves you.”  This went on for years. 

Finally, one Sunday Father Damien began his sermon this way:  “We lepers know that God loves us.”  Father Damien had contracted leprosy.  He was so busy taking care of them, he didn’t take the time to take care of himself with a simple task of washing his hands.  Yet he went on loving and serving until his death in 1898.

Jesus did not come in a disguise, He came in Real-Life-Flesh-And-Blood, the same stuff of you and me.  He ran, He played, He skinned his knees, laughed, swam, fished, cried, built tables, attended parties, felt anguish and heartache, laughed at jokes and told jokes.  He understands you because He experienced what you experience.  And why did He do that?  He Did It So That We Could Know That He Loves Us!

I want to take this love He has for you one step deeper.  Jesus does not say, You sinners know that God loves you.  Jesus does not say that, He says something much more, much deeper, with more love.  Jesus says to you and me, We sinners know that God loves us! 

I say this because the holiness of God demands justice—that the penalty for each and every sin MUST be paid IN FULL.  If we do not go to the Cross with our sins, and say, “This is the only place my sins can be forgiven”, then the gift hasn’t been received.  And if God accepts us without going through the Cross, Without the penalty being paid, God no longer remains Holy. 

While on that Cross, as Jesus was suspended between heaven and earth, between us sinners and the Holy God, the penalty of all sins—my sins, your sins, everyone’s sins—was placed on Jesus, and for that moment, Jesus became The Sinner.  Want a verse from the Bible to prove this?  2 Corinthians 5:21—“God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” (The Message)

And He did it for only one reason:  Love!  YeshuaGod Delivers, Saves, And RescuesIt’s the perfect name for the Perfect Gift—Yeshua — God Delivers, God Saves, And God RescuesIt Truly Is The Perfect Name For The Perfect Gift.  Have you accepted the Gift for yourself?  If not, how can you turn away from Him?  Do not give your heart to the Baby in the Manger.  Give your heart to The Man on the Cross.

As we approach Christmas, your Next Steps can be the most important ones of your life:

  • If you have never felt the shame of your sins, felt the despair that comes from the Penalty of those sins, you need to.  To know The Savior is to know we’re a sinner.
  • If you are struggling right now with that penalty—then struggle no more.  God Delivers, God Saves, And God Rescues!  And that, my friends is the Perfect Name for the Perfect Gift!

Saturday Stories–A Christmas Story

Being a pastor, I am often blessed to hear others tell wonderful stories of faith that have impacted their lives.  One such faith story comes from the time when I served the Weeden Heights congregation back in the 90’s.  Jimmy and Elaine Springer were such faithful servants of God, and I considered myself to have received an extra blessing by becoming more than their pastor, but also their friend.  One day Elaine shared with me a simple but powerful image of why we all need a child-like faith.

 See Jesus This Christmas

It was during the Christmas season.  She and Jimmy had decorated their home to match the festive holiday season.  Among their many decorations was a Nativity Set, complete with all the characters and animals.  Elaine said she carefully arranged the scene so that each figurine’s face was looking outward.  This way, each person who looked at the scene could see the faces of Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds, and the Wise Men.  During a visit from their grandchildren, Elaine said she walked past the Nativity Scene and all the characters had been moved.  They formed a circle around the manger, and the baby, Jesus.

Well, she carefully rearranged them back to their original state, only to discover sometime later to find them in a circle again—all in a circle around the manger and the baby, Jesus.  When she asked her grandchild why she had rearranged them in a circle, the child’s reply is a classic and full of faith:  “So they can all see the baby Jesus.”  Needless to say, the words spoke to Elaine’s heart, and the truth was ever so clear.  The Nativity Scene was indeed correct—each person, each animal facing and focused on the Christ child.  Needless to say—the Nativity Scene remained that way, all characters in a circle that focused on Jesus.

The Lesson 

It was a special Christmas when a child reminded everyone, that this Holiday Season is really about one thing—Jesus.  And I remembered the words of Paul in Hebrews chapter 12—“Keep your eyes on Jesus!”  This time of year is truly a busy and sometimes stressful time.  Crowded streets and highways, parking lots that are full, huge shopping crowds, long lines, finding the perfect Christmas gifts; all this and more sometimes makes us forget what the Season is really all about. 

So, if you are all stressed out, I have a word for you; that word is—STOP!  Take your eyes off the crowds and lines and sales, and circle up around Jesus and focus on Him!  Right now, or when you get home, go to that Nativity Scene in your family room, then move all those figurines into a circle around the hope and love that can only be found in Jesus.  And if someone asks, “Why are these figurines in a circle?  I can’t see their faces.”  Tell them, for God’s sake, tell them, “Look where they are looking—see the face of Jesus.”

And from this Kingdom Pastor, who often struggles to keep his focus, I want each of you to experience the inexpressible Joy, Hope, Peace and Love that comes from “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish.”

Throw It Out There Thursday News Flash

(Writer’s Note: This is NOT an endorsement of any elected official, nor is it denouncing any political party. Any resemblance to this is strictly satirical)

On December 18, at approximately 8:23 pm E.T., Wisdom was viciously attacked in Washington D.C. by a mob of 230 men and women leaving Wisdom with life-threatening injuries.  Wisdom was quickly taken to Walter Reed Medical Center and is reportedly on life-support.  A team of doctors there, along with a team from Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic have joined their efforts to bring Wisdom back from what seems to be the brink of death.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, an aide of one of the attackers told this reporter, and I quote, “It’s about time!  Wisdom is an aged fool that keeps getting in the way of our plans and agenda.  Wisdom needed to go into retirement on a deserted island.”  I managed to locate Wisdom’s twin, Common Sense.  Common Sense has been in a weakened state for years due to not being used.  Common Sense told this reporter, again I quote, “I have long dreaded this day.  I now fear my own death is more imminent now that ever.  If my twin, Wisdom dies, then I shall also die.”

Lady Liberty arrived as soon as she heard about Wisdom’s condition.  In a prepared statement she said, “I am gravely concerned about the future of Wisdom.  Your founding fathers relied heavily upon Wisdom to form this republic.  Even those founders who did not believe in the God of the Judaeo-Christian heritage, recognized both the importance and need for Wisdom.  They knew this Republic would never last without Wisdom.  And myself?  If Wisdom dies, I know that they will successfully kill me.”

It is my personal observation that throughout the history of this famed republic that Wisdom has been attacked many times.  Each time Wisdom prevailed.  But this time?  I am left unsure.  All we can do is watch and wait.  We will stay on top of this developing story until Wisdom dies; or Wisdom prevails.

Throw It Out There Thursday December 19

The above quote of George Orwell is certainly apapoe in today culture. I’m not certain when he wrote this, but it is prophetic, nonetheless. Though he was a staunch democratic socialist, decades later his perspectives are ringing true. I remember reading 1984 back in high school. In 1973 I remember thinking, “This could never happen here in the U.S.” It didn’t in 1984, but if he had entitled that book 2020, I wouldn’t be so naive.

It’s happening now. Truth is being redefined by cultural experiences and the views of a few who become vocal. Case in point: Hallmark. Hallmark dropped ads on their channels because of same gender people were getting married and kissing. Now Hallmark Spineless Board of Directors have changed their minds due to the threats of 3.5% of the people. This statistic comes from The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

It is not just the sexual identity, or lack thereof, that is at the core of this sickly and unsound illness that is imbuing our current culture with it’s foul regurgitation that traces its roots to the Garden of Eden. Truth is no longer a measuring stick–but an ethos that is concerned with those concepts that make people feel comfortable, at ease and justified. It is a commodious truth that people have gone after. Maybe I should have said “commode”.

Society today certainly hates Truth tellers because “truth” no longer means TRUTH! Truth means feelings, unsubstantiated hypotheses, and whatever a small group feels is truth. Those who embrace time tested and proven TRUTH are hated and berated because they do not follow a commodious truth. A small percentage of the population wants to dictate to the rest of us how we should feel, what we should think, what we should say, how we should act, and most importantly–surrender Truth to them to define.

I am not a conspiracy wacko, though someone had to be on the grassy knoll, but friends and readers, 1984 is quickly coming upon us. . .UNLESS we choose to be undeterred with the real meaning of TRUTH and to speak it. . .speak it with love. . .speak it with resolve. . .speak it regardless if anyone agrees with it. . .and not compromise the TRUTH for a commodious lie.

It Should Only Take A Couple Of Hours–But 6 Hours Later

Yesterday, while on our Holy Hiatus with family near Bartow, Florida I had an experience. . .and another Tuesday Thought. They wanted a digital TV antenna installed and asked me if I would install it so they could disconnect completely from cable TV. I thought it would be in my wheel house though I had never attempted such a feat. “After all,” I thought, “how hard can that be? Cable are already there; just put up that antenna and rearrange a few cables and viola! Project completed.” That was my first mistake–thinking!

So I began this “2 Hour” project. Four hours later, no signal or channels. In addition they lost their internet; something they didn’t want! Got the internet problem fixed, but still no signal or channels! Oh, I forgot to mention I hit my head on a floor beam crawling under the house–twice! That beam didn’t move a fraction of a millimeter. And making several trips, crawling on my knees, (did I mention hitting my head twice on the same beam?) isn’t good on these 63 year old knees, legs, shoulder, and back!

It was time for a break. Yes, I had looked at the limited printed instructions, such as they were, and even tried YouTube. As I sat there looking one more time at the instructions (and you say men don’t read instructions), I noticed something in the schematic drawing and I had an Epiphany Moment! Crawled under the house for the umpteenth time. Redirected a few cables, moved a couple of components and 7 Hours Later, I became a certified digital antenna installer.

What’s the lesson in all this? Well you need to know my attitude and perspective through this swamp. There was a time, not all that long ago, when my attitude would have been nothing but frustration, agitation and aggravation. Not so yesterday. I’m not bragging. . .but I was cool, calm and pleasant to be around. What is making this profound difference in this flawed Kingdom Pastor?

I’ve been spending more time with 2 of my mentors, Max Lucado and Andy Andrews. These famous people don’t know me from Adam’s house cat (I didn’t even know Adam had a house cat). But they are my mentors. Here’s how they have been mentoring me in 2 different ways. First, Andy has been helping me with Perspective and I am living with a different Perspective because I am NOT allowing my circumstances be THE determining factor for how I see my life.

Second, Max gave me (actually it was to all those who read his daily devotions) a challenge: To pray the Lord’s Prayer for 4 minutes for 24 days. Here’s how Max breaks down this prayer challenge:

  • Father, Daddy, You are good. Spend a few moments praising Him for who He is, not what He does.
  • I need help! Heal me.
  • They need help! Heal them!
  • Thank you, Daddy.

Now, these 2 things may not help you. But here’s the Thought: You And I Need Mentors Who Will Give Us Wisdom! To have wisdom, you must SEEK wisdom (thank Andy Andrews for this priceless gem). But not just any Wisdom; the Wisdom of The Ages, Wisdom that only comes from God. You need mentors who Seek Wisdom For Themselves. They can be people you know well, barely know, or as in my case, people who don’t know you.

If you won’t read or listen to Andy or Max, find someone who speaks into your heart and minds. But remember, make sure they are people who Seek Wisdom For Themselves. You need to spend dedicated time with your mentors. Maybe not hours, maybe 15 minutes, maybe just 3 minutes. But do it every day. Wisdom gives you the perspective to handle what should be a two hour project but turns into a seven hour project and remain a person that others like to be around.

And should you doubt this Process, remember these words from Paul:

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

God’s work does it’s best in those who are willing to make the commitment to Seek Wisdom! I have been constantly seeking wisdom, so I never lost the Right Perspective when nothing was working right. And because of my persistence, the project was successfully completed.

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM…by SEEKING PERSPECTIVE AND WISDOM–THE RIGHT KIND!

Monday Musings: The Joy And Laughter They Must Have Had–And Still Have

This morning as I was sitting on the patio, enjoying the last 2 days of this holy respite at Millsite Lake, I had another Musing. This time with family has always been a time to rest and recharge the old batteries. As I was looking across the calm lake, seeing the reflections of the stars on the surface, I looked up at those stars; as I did I told Heavenly Daddy, “Wow! What joy y’all must have had as you created this universe!”

And I meant it! I started imagining the joy the 3 of Them had as they unfolded their heart and mind in creation! Yes, I believe in Intelligent Design! I don’t have enough faith to think this wondrous universe just sorta happened by accident. It would take a lot of faith to believe in the big bang because it doesn’t make any sense to think everything I see is the result of “it just so happened that” kind of thinking.

And as I imagined that scene, the 3 of Them in Perfect Collaboration, creating this Wonder, I saw them smiling, laughing with joy; patting each other on the back and saying to each other, “You did real good with that one” And in that moment, I joined in with their smiling and joyful laughter. And then I realized something that brought me back down to earth. Here’s that thought: “So many people do not see the joy of God; they only see a god of anger and judgment.”

And I’m looking up at all those stars, knowing there were unfathomable more stars out there that I couldn’t see because of the lights from nearby cities wondering, “How in the world can people not see how great a joy that Daddy, Jesus and Spirit have for them? How do they NOT hear the joyful laughter of God?” And in an instant I had the answer to those 2 questions: “They have not seen or experience this because the typical image produced by the typical church hasn’t given them this view.”

Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters paint not an imperfect picture of God (because none of us are capable of painting that perfect picture–if you can then your god is way too small)–they paint a distorted picture of God. They paint a Salvador Dali or abstract art type of picture of God. Recently in one of my messages I said, “If we go into a church service looking like we’re mad at the world and leave looking like we are relieved the service is over, no wonder people want nothing to do with our God.”

Not long ago, I had the holy moment to talk with a “Done”. If you are unfamiliar with the term “Done” (what rock have you been hiding under?), “Dones” are those who haven’t turned their back on Jesus, but they are “DONE” with the church; finished with it; fed up with it; exhausted from it. This person explained to me they dropped out of church because of the judgmental attitudes of that particular church (not the ones I currently serve, thank you, Jesus). This explains why at times I loathe the terms “church” and “christian” to describe the movement that I have given my heart, mind and life to.

We, as Disciples And Followers of Jesus (I prefer this term to the word “christian”) need to reclaim the Joyful Laughter Of God. Isn’t this what Jesus meant in this story:

“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.”

Luke 15:4-7 The Message

There is coming a moment when God will bring everything we now see and know to an end–and bring about The Everlasting And Eternal Kingdom. We call this The Great Wedding Banquet. Do you think this scene will be like some formal dinning event like in The Hampton’s or with the Rockefeller Family, where people are sitting politely and subdued?

There is going to be “Great Rejoicing”, UNRESTRAINED JOY when it happens. And here’s the Great News–WE DON’T HAVE TO WAIT TO EXPERIENCE THAT KIND OF UNSHACKLED AND UNCONTROLLABLE JOYFUL LAUGHTER! It’s out there–the reason for it–it’s all around us–the JOYFUL LAUGHTER OF GOD. It is heard when you marvel at His Creation rather than looking with disgust at the culture. You can hear it every time another miracle happens. It’s the loudest every time a person surrenders and submits to His Grace and discovers that both the guilt and power of sin over them is taken away.

So, Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. Make sure all the glory goes to HIM…and join in the laughter of Daddy, Jesus, And The Spirit!

Born Again This Way: Cruciformed

Do you try to form the cross to exclude your preferences…or are you willing to allow the Cross to transform you? Remember, Crosses aren’t easy to navigate–but necessary to follow Jesus!

Fat Beggars School of Prophets

I write a blog that few people read with a message most people don’t want to hear.  I don’t white-wash it, sugar coat it, and I ain’t overly nice about it either.  I’m offensive.  I embrace being offensive.  Not because I want to keep you at arm’s length or run you off, not because I want to get in a good lick in the fight.  None of that.

No.  I want to be REAL with you.  And whenever you get to where you can actually HANDLE THE TRUTH, you will see what I mean, and we will get along fine!

You see, I am offensive because I was Born Again This Way.

What WAY was I born again?

Well, if you follow me to the white, middle-class, Protestant, American, Evangelical church I am most likely to attend and look and listen very carefully, you would be pardoned by thinking the…

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Saturday Stories–I Will Be Joyful Even If It Kills Me!

Last Saturday I told a story about my son, Matthew. Now, I never used my kids as examples in my sermons. . .while they were living at home. After they left the nest–they became fair game. This week’s story is about yours truly. But unlike Matthew’s story, I’m NOT the hero. It was from December of 2007. I’m calling this story:

I Will Be Joyful, Even If It Kills Me!

In December, 2007 I was forced to do something (again) that I claimed I would never do this time of year.  It is something I absolutely loathe.  Every year at this time I say I will not do it, I will not do it!  And every year I find myself forced to do it.  I find myself groaning in my heart, much like Paul when he wrote in Romans 7:15—For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  What was it so terrible I found myself forced to do?  I HAD to go to the local discount super center to pick up some things.  The items I needed were only there, and if I could have made myself get up at 2:00 am, I would have gone then—but that’s when I do my best sleeping.

Understand something. . .these are “my” people. This is the area I grew up in as a child. For the most part, these are good, solid, salt of the earth people; EXCEPT when it comes to Christmas shopping. My people turn into monsters and vile, evil hordes. Oh, there are those exceptions; but those exceptions are almost as rare as the winning lottery tickets. If Dante lived today, I’m sure he would have included an extra level of hell!

 So, with a sense of dread and angst, I entered the challenge—of finding a parking place, and then dealing with those annoying people who stop on the main aisles to converse with friends and family.  (I’ve often wondered why some families don’t just go ahead and announce that their Family Reunion will be held at the local Wal-Mart.)  Some people seem to find it a thrill to go shopping this time of year—I am not one of those. 

I suppose my dread comes from my past experiences of having worked in a retail environment during this time of year.  Not that I believe in different levels of hell and punishment (because I don’t)—but if I did believe that, working retail during Christmas would certainly be classified as one of the lower levels.

But before I left the house, I decided this time I would, no matter what, display in my face and words and actions, the spirit of joy, love and peace. On the drive there I kept reminding myself, “Self, be joyful!” The idiots and morons on the highway was challenging my resolves. And once in the parking lot, there were those asinine people just sitting there, waiting for someone to leave so they could have a close parking place. They’re too lazy to walk, but not too lazy to fight like a barbarian for those specials.

Still, when I parked, my resolve was intact, a bit battered, but intact. I began the walk smiling and being joyful.  (Yes, sometimes preachers do practice what they preach!)   I made it a point to tell everyone “Merry Christmas” with a smile and sincerity in my voice.  And, I must confess, I saw a change in people’s expressions when I am joyful toward them. (Hmm?  Could it be something to this thing of sharing joy?)

Well, to make a short story long, I finally navigated several detours (because of people conducting family reunions, don’t get me started again) and like St. Nick, checked every item off my list and entered the next challenging level of holiday shopping—finding the check-out with the fewest people.  Having conquered that level, I placed my items on the counter and thought about what a stressful day she must be having. So I started to engage the cashier in some cheerful conversation–God knows she needed it. Then she had the nerve to be cheerful to me first.  Quite frankly, I don’t know how she managed it, but she did.  When she asked me how I was doing, I thought, “Now, here’s a great opportunity to witness!”

 What happened next was one of those moments when the Holy Spirit just blind sides us with grace and love.  My reply to her (and I thought it a clever opening line), “I am blessed by the Lord.”  And without missing a beat, her reply was “And highly favored!”  The sound of joy in her voice when she said that was so uplifting to me (so much for me being a witness, in fact, I stopped witnessing and started be witnessed to).  But what she said next, spoke so powerfully to me that I need to share it with you. 

With the sound of holy laughter and joy in her voice, this lowly cashier said to me:  “Too blessed to be stressed!”  Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, my drive home was much more full of joy than my drive there, and it wasn’t because the adventure was over, but because God used an ordinary cashier to remind me what this wonderful season is all about—That We Are Too Blessed To Be Stressed!

Can you even imagine a portion of the stress that young Mary must have felt when Gabriel first announced God’s plan for her life?  But Mary’s faith was able to override her emotions (and some might say logic) and her faith enabled her to become an instrument of God’s presence and His love, as I was reminded of God’s love and presence by that cashier. 

Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.  Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me?  When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.  You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said. Luke 2:42-45 (New Living Translation)

And in our text today, her cousin Elizabeth affirms God’s activity in Mary’s life with that power line in verse 45:  You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said!  And in response, Mary burst forth in song, like in a Broadway musical.  Mary gave us the very first Christmas song as she sang praise for the presence, power and activity of God in her life.  Mary was way too blessed to be stressed!           

And so can you!  When you believe that God will do what God has said that He will do in you, for you and through you, the blessing continues.  So, as the countdown continues—more parties, more gatherings, more shopping, don’t get stressed out like I did.  Be ready and be alert because God is going to break into your ordinary and sometimes stressful days with joy and love.  For many people, they are too stressed to be blessed.  You do not have to be one of them because of God’s presence and power.  Open your eyes and hearts to see the ways God is blessing you. 

Throw It Out There Thursday–Emotional Slothfulness

Remember that this is Thursday–when I just throw stuff out there to see what sticks and what doesn’t stick. As I sit here in central Florida, far from the freezing temperatures of West Central Alabama, I admit it’s hard to focus on writing. But it has freed me up to do some “off-the-wall” thinking. I wonder if that is another one of my “spiritual” gifts, like snarkiness and sarcasm?

Somehow, this thought invaded me: Emotional Slothfulness. I looked up that word slothfulness and here is what I found:

sluggardly; indolent; lazy.

http://www.dictionary.com

Indolent? What does this word mean? Well, here is what I discovered:

having or showing a disposition to avoid exertion;

http://www.dictionary.com

Now you have a context for this week’s “Throw-It-Out-There-Thursday” words. Typically when thinking of being slothful, it seems to be limited to physical activity. I propose to you today, 12 December 2019, that people today are not only physically slothful, but they are also emotionally slothful. By this I do not mean that there is an absence of emotions today. Dear Lord, in heaven! That’s so not true!

By the term “Emotional Slothfulness” I refer to the fact that there is so much uncontrolled emotional reactions to what is happening in our culture. Instead of thinking and evaluating for themselves, they get caught up in the emotions of others. Just the other day some TwitFace, excuse me, that should have been “Twitter” was blasting away at the unfairness that every state gets 2 senators. They said it shows the Constitution is “just stupid”.

I look at our culture and I am reminded of a bird’s nest with newly hatched babies. Their mouths are wipe open waiting for Mother or Daddy to regurgitate something to put inside them. Then they are happy, until they need some more regurgitation. So many. . .TOO MANY today are too slothful to analyze situations and circumstances and thus rely on what someone, who someone else told them was the person to listen to, tells them to feel about…WHATEVER.

The result is wild and unrestrained emotions. And in that process, there are many casualties of emotional slothfulness, such as

  • Common sense
  • Compassion
  • Kindness
  • Maturity
  • Creativity
  • Dignity
  • Respectfulness
  • Humility

If you can think of other casualties resulting from this emotional slothfulness, please add them in the Comments Section. Emotional Slothfulness isn’t the absence of emotions–that is known as Stoicism. Emotional Slothfulness is too much and unrestrained emotions. Emotions then become elevated to the status of Deity, and quite frankly, emotions are a poor deity to follow.

In short, they are too darn lazy to form their own emotions (from a well thought out conclusion), so they allow others to tell them how they should feel!

The Not-At-All-Patience Of Job!

OK, I’m ready for the blast from the fundamentalists, churchians, tenured pew sitters and all those others who “think they know the Bible but only know what they’ve been told”. Have you ever believed something to be true, but it’s not really true? Case in point: Have you heard about The Patience Of Job? Many say, “Job teaches us HOW to be patient.”

Granted, chapters 1 and 2 can be seen as Job being patient, but as the late Paul Harvey would say, “Now, for the rest of the story.” To keep this from being extra long, I’ll just give you some examples:

  • Chapter 3–He wishes he had been a stillborn infant, better yet, not even born.
  • Chapter 6–It’s all God’s fault!
  • Chapter 7–He has a death wish, and after he dies, God won’t know where he is, in essence, God will soon forget about him.
  • Chapter 9–God doesn’t care if I’m guilty or innocent
  • Chapter 10–God made me and now He wants to crush me.
  • There’s more–read it for yourself!

I honestly can’t see how anyone can tell me, “You need to have the patience of Job!” My response will always be:

Now if all you fundamentalists, churchians, tenured pew sitters and all those others who “think they know the Bible but only know what they’ve been told” are fuming at me but still reading–maybe you will like this next part: Job Doesn’t Teach Us About Patience, But He Teaches Us Much About Faithfulness. Hear me out please!

Job is depressed, discouraged, and angry at God. Yet with all that depression, discouragement and anger at God–He cries out TO and FOR God. I mean, if you thought someone intentionally hurt you, would you turn to them to help heal those wounds? I didn’t think you would. Yet Job turns to the ONE He thought caused all of his suffering. So. . .what’s the great lesson Job does teach us?

Glad you asked that last question. Job teaches us the value and power of faithfulness. In Philip Yancey’s book Where Is God When It Hurts? gives the best definition of faithfulness I’ve ever heard. Faithfulness is crying out to God when everything inside you tells you to let go! Job had every logical reason possible to just let go and walk away from God. But he didn’t! Why? I think it was because somehow, Job still trusted God. He didn’t understand what was happening to him; he just thought he saw God was the cause behind it all. Yet Job somehow knew that if he was ever to be made whole again, it would happen in the presence of God.

Oh, one other thing. Job wanted to face God in a One-On-One Challenge. And when finally did show up–it was a challenge Job found out he didn’t really want. The one question God posed to Job that changed his song was this: “Are you God?” Job had some issues, but he brought every one of them to God. And though Job’s thinking was stinking, God healed and restored Job.

Job teaches me (and hopefully you, too) that I can be really honest in how I feel with God. If Job hadn’t brought his honest feelings to God, he would have continued to believe those feelings were truth, even though they weren’t. Don’t be patient like Job–Be Faithful Like Job!

Then you can love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And then all the glory will go to HIM!

Going Out Of Business

He left there and returned to his hometown. His disciples came along. On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place. He made a real hit, impressing everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?” But in the next breath they were cutting him down: “He’s just a carpenter—Mary’s boy. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?” They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further. (Mark 6:1-3, The Message)

Going Out Of Business Sale!  We see such signs so often that we don’t pay much attention to them (until it says “75-90% Off!”).  But in an obscure dot on the map town like Nazareth, it was probably very noticeable.  There on the corner of Jezreel Street and Cedars of Lebanon Lane was the Carpenter Shop.  They always thought it would be there.  His father ran it before him, as did his father. All assumed he would eventually get married (if Mary was any kind of a mother, he would) and his son would continue the family business.  Need a new platter for Passover this year?  Go to the Carpenter’s Shop.  Chair broken because Uncle Jethro has a tendency to eat way too much charoset?  Go to the Carpenter’s Shop.  Need a new dining room suite?  Well, you get the idea.

But then there is that sign:  Going Out Of Business Sale!  They wonder what could be more important than being a carpenter?  But He knows!  He knows his purpose is not to make oxen yokes, but to show humanity that His yoke is easy and his burden light.  He knows his purpose is not to repair plow handles, but to show the world you don’t need to look back, but look forward to be a part of God’s Kingdom.  He knew His purpose wasn’t to make dining room tables, but to build a table where all kinds of people are made to feel welcome, especially broken people; it is broken people who need the broken bread. 

His purpose was not to make another platter for the roasted lamb at Passover, but to become the Passover Lamb and in one single act for all time and eternity to pay the penalty for our sin and folly.  His purpose wasn’t found in the wood pile at the Carpenter’s Shop in Nazareth, but on two rough beams of wood on a hillside outside Jerusalem!  He knew His purpose!  And when he went to His home synagogue and those with whom He had lived with for nearly 30 years rejected His “new” vocation, He refused to give up.            

And what about us?  Have we “sold out” to an earthly purpose for living in order to embrace a Divine Purpose for life?  Any vocation becomes a holy vocation when we do it with only one objective in mind:  To make the love of Jesus known!  Whether we are a cashier or construction worker, sales associate or security guard, a C.E.O. or a PTA Mom—each of us has the wonderful opportunity to make our vocations holy.  It happens when we live our ordinary daily lives with the sense that God is with us and that He wants to use our ordinary life to express His love and grace in extraordinary ways.  Go about your Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday and…) not with a sense of dread (Oh Lord, it’s Monday) but with the sense of power that comes from purpose. 

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

Finding The Perfect Gift: God’s Gift Is The Best In The Worst Times!

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah.  Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf. The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies until the woman in labor gives birth.  Then at last his fellow countrymen will return from exile to their own land. And he will stand to lead his flock with the Lord’s strength, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.  Then his people will live there undisturbed, for he will be highly honored around the world. 5 And he will be the source of peace.  When the Assyrians invade our land and break through our defenses, we will appoint seven rulers to watch over us, eight princes to lead us.

Micah 5:2-5

Today we are in the Second of our Advent Series we’re calling:  Finding The Perfect Gift.  In a season where people should be celebrating God’s gift of love by sharing gifts of love with each other, it seems so many are obsessed with finding that perfect gift.  We think of the perfect gift as the one that satisfies the desires of the heart.  Truth is the perfect gift has already been given; and found by  those who can recognize it:  Emmanuel, God With Us.  And this perfect gift comes to us even in, NO, Especially In The Worst Of Times.

These are difficult times.  Soldiers are still being scattered around the globe trying to bring peace, trying to end terrorist threats.  Washington D.C. who should be leading us forward, is spinning in circles.  For many, maybe even some of you, there is not much joy or hope in this Christmas Season.

On Hampton Plantation in coastal South Carolina, there was an elderly sharecropper, illiterate but very wise.  One of his favorite sayings was this:  If you ain’t in trouble, your prayers ain’t got no suction.”   The Bible declares that our impossibility is God’s opportunity.  God is found at your wit’s end, just when you need Him most, when you have run out of answers and almost out of hope.

The Old Testament prophets were not called in good times.  They were called up by God in times of crises.   Jesus did not visit this planet when we became good enough to receive him. The Bible says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”  He faced us at our worst, and loved us anyway, all the way to a cross.

If you can remember only 1 thing from today’s message, then this is it:  Those Who Enter This Holy Season With The Greatest Needs Stand The Best Chance Of Encountering The Messiah.  Jesus did not come to the healthy but to heal the sick.  His mission is not to round up the pious, but to draw in the worst.  If you are hurting or lost or spiritually hungry this season, the odds are in your favor that you will encounter Him.

What causes me to believe this?  I got it straight from an Old Testament prophet named Micah.  Here is yet another reason why I loathe what well-meaning editors and scholars have done to God’s Word. One reason is they put misleading “headings” above passages that obscure greater truths. Another reason is their use of the term “minor prophets”. No prophet is minor and neither are their messages. Case in point is Micah.

700 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Micah was called by God to speak His word to the nation of Judah.  Though he was a simple farmer, he was outright fearless.  The national situation was awful:  morals were low, crime was raging, the government was immoral, the courts were corrupt, most organized religion was formalistic and cold, and the dominant religion was materialism.  Sounds just like today, doesn’t it.  To make matters worse, Judah was a tiny nation positioned dangerously between two hostile superpowers—Assyria and Egypt.  

They had as much security as a gambler’s dollar in Las Vegas.  At that critical moment, Micah attacked the nation’s sin.  But he did much more than that.  Inspired by God, he looked out into the future and said:  A Messiah will be born in tiny Bethlehem.  God is going to send someone great to us.  So, don’t despair.  God has good news coming!

Micah and his people could only look forward to the Messiah’s coming at some future date.  But it’s different for us.  We live in the excitement of A Bethlehem Manger, An Atoning Cross, And An Empty Tomb.  What Micah could only promise, we can receive and experience.  Look with me at the specific promises from Micah concerning the Messiah:

1.  In The Worst Of Times, The Messiah Will Restore Us.

If you can handle it, here’s the truth:  We Are All Broken Somewhere.  Somewhere We Need To Be Restored To The Person God Created Us To Become.

Being in a relationship with Him is more than making it a habit of coming to church for an hour or so on Sunday morning.  It’s more than saying before the meal:  “God is great God is good, let us thank him for our food.”  It’s more than saying at bedtime:  “Now I lay me down to sleep.”

  • It Is All About Intimacy—Knowing And Sensing The Nearness Of His Presence. 
  • It’s Living Out The Name Joseph Was Given To Name That Child—Emmanuel-God With Us.  God Offers Us More Than Nice Sounding Words Or Lofty Ideas And Virtues.  He Offers Us The Nearness Of Himself. 
  • And In The Worst Of Times—It Is That Holy Presence That Restores Us Where We Are Broken. 

Now, I’m about to meddle in your life:  What Are You Doing To Cultivate And Nurture That Nearness?  Are you spiritually hungry and thirsty this Christmas?  If so, Jesus wants to be for you The Bread Of Life and The Living Water.  Let the Messiah feed you during this Holy Season and all the seasons afterwards.  Invite him into your life as Savior and Lord.  Allowing God to restore you will be The Best Gift In The Worst Of Times.

2.  In The Worst Of Times, The Messiah Will Lead Us.

Do you feel insecure in this Advent season?  You do if your marriage is less than solid.  You do if your job is at risk.  You might if you or a loved one has a medical problem.  You might if you have lost a loved-one in the last year.  You might if you have had a lot of “stuff” to deal with.

Preacher and writer Dr. James Moore tells a story about a young man whose wife had died, leaving him with a small son.  Back home from the cemetery, they went to bed early because there was nothing else he could bear to do.  As he lay there in the darkness—heartbroken, the little boy broke the silence with a disturbing question, “Daddy, where is mommy?”  The father got up and brought the little boy to bed with him, but the child was still disturbed and restless, occasionally asking questions like “Why isn’t she here?” and “When is she coming back?” 

Finally, the little boy said, “Daddy, if your face is toward me, I think I can go to sleep now.”  And in a little while he was quiet.  The father lay there in the darkness, and then in childlike faith, prayed this prayer:  “O God, I don’t see how I can survive this.  The future looks so miserable.  But if your face is toward me, somehow I know I can make it.” 

That’s what the Messiah came to teach us:  That God’s Face Is Always Towards Us.  Let the Messiah replace your uncertainty this Advent with this bedrock conviction:  God And You Are In This Together.  Nothing can happen that God and you together cannot manage.  Nothing will ever be able to separate you from his love.  That is how He leads us.

3.  In The Worst Of Times, The Messiah Will Be Our Peace.

We need peace!  Inner War and turmoil is everywhere and it spans the globe. Some of the streets resemble a war zone as drugs, greed, poverty, and anger create an explosive mixture.  In America people yearn for inner stillness and the absence of turmoil.  So, they turn to alcohol, drugs, sex and anything else that will help them forget their pain, trouble and sense of chaos.

Peace is not placing a police officer on every street corner and U.N. Peacekeepers in every troubled nation.  

  • Peace comes when Jesus Christ washes sin from human hearts.
  • Peace comes when Jesus opens eyes so that people will see each other as brothers and sisters
  • Peace is a personal friendship with Jesus who said, I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give.  It isn’t like the peace that this world can give. So don’t be worried or afraid.  (John 14:27)
  • Listen to how The Message puts it:  That’s my parting gift to you.  Peace.  I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft.  So don’t be upset.  Don’t be distraught.

During Advent, The People Who Most Often Meet The Messiah Are Those With The Greatest Needs.  It seems that Jesus seeks them out.  Just as Micah declared 700 years before Jesus’ birth, God’s best gifts are given in the worst of times.  

Are you experiencing the worst of times right now?  Do you need strength?  Is it security you hunger for?  Are you longing for a deep and lasting peace?  Ask Him for it. His Nature Is To Give It And So Much More.  The Messiah comes to us offering Himself as our gift.  When we accept the gift of the Messiah, it matches exactly Our Hurt, Our Fear, And Our Need.  When we tie our destiny to this Messiah-King, we can face whatever the future brings, knowing that we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us.

Knowing the He will restore you, lead you, and give you peace, What are your Next Steps?

  1. Find Ways To Build People Up, Especially Those You Don’t Like.
  2. Seek The Power Of The Holy Spirit And Treat Him As A Real Person Because He Is.
  3. Be A Peace-Maker, Not A Peace Breaker.

Saturday Stories-One Proud Daddy

When my son, Matthew graduated Deputy Academy

I’m trying to stay focused on this gift (some may say curse) of writing. Not as faithful to it as I should be, so I am trying to develop some “themes” for each day. For this and future Saturdays I will share stories as I find them with you. This particular is from my son, Matthew. After a long career in the military, he is now a Deputy Sheriff with the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department. By the way, he was the oldest cadet in his class. He was The 40 Year Old Rookie! His nickname was Old Man. Now, on to HIS story as told by him; a story that makes me proud of him.

A Weary, Homeless Traveler

I came across a homeless gentleman a few nights ago, walking down a dark, mildly desolate spot on Highway 17. I pulled up and I bet he he thought, “Great, another cop harassing me!” I got out of the car and he immediately handed me his only form of identification……..his VA card.

From all I could tell, he wasn’t a wino. He had a long beard, skinny, and frail. But I didn’t smell one iota of alcohol on him, his eyes weren’t blood shot, or any of the other “typical” attributes you see in some of our homeless. I checked his background and the only thing that popped up was a suspended drivers license out of Florida.

I got to talking to him and learned a little bit about him. He served with the famed 82nd Airborne. I served with the 101st Airborne so immediately a little friendly rivalry ensued. I discovered he had been hitchhiking from Cincinnati and was trying to make it to Lafayette, Louisiana. I asked him why there. Did he have family there? He said he had no family left, at least none that he knew of. He did know two people there that he used to paint with and hoped they could help him out with a job. He was a painter at one time I guess.

I told him to get in the car and I would give him a ride. He asked if I could carry him to a Walmart that way he could get inside for a couple of hours. (It was extremely cold this night.) I told him that I wouldn’t do that, I would find him somewhere he could sleep proper for the night.

I tried the local Room at the Inn homeless shelter and they were full. Same with a couple of others or it was past the intake time. But do you know who took him in graciously? The Salvation Army. Even though it was past their standard intake time, they took him in graciously and gave him a bed and food.

As I was leaving him he asked if Highway 72 was a good road to walk on as he made his way west. I told him about the road, local truck stops, and where not to go. He thanked me very graciously. Salvation Army catches a lot of grief over stuff, but in this instance, I can’t say enough good things about them.

What I Discovered

Stories have lessons to discover; these are some lessons Matthew is teaching Dad:

  1. He took a risk. Law enforcement officers take a risk every time they encounter a person. He was alone and backup wasn’t even close. I’m not saying that homeless people are risky; They Aren’t! But it seems that every day, an officer gets shot or killed. Matthew left the battlefields of the Middle East for a battlefields at home. Do we only seek places to show the love of God that are safe for us, or are we willing to take a risk for Jesus? Jesus took a risk for you on that Cross. It’s time we who align ourselves as Followers Of Jesus to do the same for others.
  2. He made a connection. Matthew immediately recognized their connection was the military. I’m sure Matthew was right about what this man thought when the blue lights came on. A simple V.A. card was all it took. Combat brothers and sisters share a bond we who have not served cannot comprehend. Finding ways to connect WITH people is the key to opening doors and disarming suspicion. His connection was from this experiences. Our experiences are the doorways to connections with others!
  3. He met an immediate need. This man needed two things: a way to get out of the cold, and to get further towards his destination. The man only wanted to get to Walmart so that he could have a place to warm up for a couple of hours. But that wasn’t enough for Matthew (another proud Dad moment). He went the second mile, searching for a shelter for his brother in arms. He didn’t give up until he found him warm shelter and a hot meal. What are we doing to meet the immediate needs of people around us? The homeless? The struggling single parent? The addict? That couple on the verge of divorce? The person contemplating a permanent solution to a temporary problem? People in need don’t need our judgment about are they “worthy” of our help. Jesus didn’t consider their “worthiness”, neither should we.
  4. He offered counsel. Before they parted ways, the homeless veteran, feeling comfortable with him, sought counsel, not advice. And Matthew responded with good counsel. He didn’t give him “advice”; it was good counsel; the places to avoid as well as places that were safe. It seems to me that while most of us are good at giving advice, we are poor in giving good counsel. Good Counsel comes out of a heart that cares; a heart that seeks wisdom, a heart that bears the scars of day-to-day life. Wise Counsel doesn’t come naturally. It comes out of the desire for us to seek wisdom! If you find yourself today tempted to give advice, fight that temptation. Instead seek wisdom, the wisdom from Above.

If you think I’m bragging about my son. . .YOU’RE RIGHT! When I see Jesus in him, I just want to keep on encouraging him. When you see Jesus in action in others. . .do the same!

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

When Did Being Spineless Become Acceptable?

I’m calling this my “Throw It Out There” Thursday post. I am going to hit upon different subjects and just throw some words out there and see what sticks and what doesn’t. No subject, view, thought or opinion will be protected–all are fair game. Let’s get the first one out of the way:

From the picture above, you may think this is just another rant against Chick-Fil-A. I assure you it’s not. I’m not announcing that I will quit going to Chick-Fil-A. I can’t quit going to a place that I can’t honestly remember my last visit there. There’s a lot better chicken out there. I know a lot of Baptists are ill at me right now. Oh well. And I’m not calling for an all out boycott.

I am just asking a question: When Did Becoming Spineless Become Acceptable? Recently, at the behest of groups that insist everyone must agree with them and renounce their own ethos to embrace their ethos or else admit they are hate-filled homophobes, Chick-Fil-A joined a growing list of companies, corporations and organizations who have lost their spine. (Read about it here)

It’s not just a chicken place; even my Tribe has lost its spine. People are caving in to every whim and whine from a select few who are more concerned with their feelings than truth. More than cave in, those who disagree with them MUST abandon their own ethos in order to be truly a kind human being. If they don’t cave in, then they are insensitive and mean and uncaring. So, not to appear as insensitive, mean and uncaring–they relinquish the most vital parts of integrity and character–that is the willingness to take a stand for Truth.

The push for political correctness has kicked common sense to the curb like yesterday’s trash. Don’t think for a moment I’m advocating brutish words and behavior in response to those who don’t like something a company or a church does. That kind of talk and attitude has contributed to the epidemic of chaotic hate. There is a way to have a kind and civil dialogue. There is a way to be respectful to those with differing views–however this culture has closed the door to civil dialogue. It has become about wanting one’s way–regardless of how it affects others.

And so, to appease narrow-minded and hate-filled groups, organizations and corporations surrender their ethics simply to make a small group feel happy and empowered. Well, guess what, buttercup! Just because you believe something, it doesn’t mean you are automatically right. And it doesn’t mean the rest of us have to go along with you. We can be courteous and kind, yet disagree. Disagreeing with a view or an opinion is NOT an act of hate. You call it hate, but it’s not.

I hope and pray that somewhere there is a corporation or organization that will have the spine to say, “Enough is enough. We respect your views, but we are not going to cave in to your demands.” Integrity isn’t easy, and can have some short-term costs–but the long range effect of maintaining your integrity pays far bigger dividends.

Spinelessness has been elevated to a virtue to be desired. Really? Right now, as I am thinking about all those spineless individuals, corporations and organizations–I’m thinking of Jellyfish. Jellyfish don’t have a brain. Jellyfish don’t have a spine. Get too close to a Jellyfish and they will sting you and leave you in misery. Jellyfish get washed up on the beach and die. Don’t be a jellyfish.

The Wonder Of The New Day

(Morning View from my hunting blind)

Some call it “Hump Day” because the weekend is closer and they can forget about all they’ve been dealing with and unwind. Others call it just another day filled with more stuff. How do you see Wednesday? How do you see ANY new day’s morning?

How you see this and every morning is YOUR choice. You may say, “Wait a minute! You don’t know what I’m facing, what I’m forced to deal with. I can’t change my circumstances!” No. . .you cannot change your circumstances. And if circumstances determine how you see this new morning–it is because you have chosen to allow those circumstances influence how you see this morning. . .and every morning.

There is a different way, a different CHOICE about how you see each and every new morning. Look back up at my picture. Sunrise! It happens every morning regardless of my circumstances. I can be in a place to see it’s beauty and wonder. . .or I can be in a place where I miss it all. And that, my friends, is my choice.

There is a different way to see this and every morning. This guy named Jeremiah, facing some tough and horrible and ugly circumstances wrote these words:

22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Jeremiah 3:22-23 (NLT)

In every circumstance, even the toughest, count on two unchangeable truths: 1. God loves you. 2. He has fresh mercy and grace for you every morning. Your choice this morning is to allow your circumstances influence your day. . .or you can choose to allow God’s Love, Mercy and Grace to guide you and sustain you.

Some mornings the clouds block that view of sunrise. But you know what? Even if I can’t see it happen–It happens! Sunrise happens NOT because I see it happens–but because I KNOW it happens. You may not feel the faithfulness of God for you–but it doesn’t change the fact that He is Faithful to you. The choice is yours. And from that immortal line spoken by the ancient knight in the movie “Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade”: CHOOSE WISELY!

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