We see these ads multiple times from different organizations every day. And NO! I am not against any of these organizations who run these ads. Their work is closer to the work of the Kingdom of God than many church programs and ministries. However, do wonder about a couple of things. Why $19 a month? And does $19 a month really show you care when you’re in a nice, comfortable home or driving a really nice car all while compromising your integrity?
Granted, they do a great job at pulling at our heart strings when showing us pictures of things like abused animals. Don’t get me wrong–I am against the abuse of animals. But I am also against the abuse of humans. They show the worst conditions that some animals live in. BUT. . .for only $19 a month you can change it AND get this limited edition T-Shirt that shows you care.
But what about unborn children? Why don’t we see ads of children being aborted because someone doesn’t want to be a parent, or because the child may have a birth defect, or because the child is the wrong gender, or simply because they changed their mind about being a parent? If we, as a nation, really care about the neglected, abused and abandoned, then $19 a month for a magazine subscription, a T-Shirt or a throw doesn’t cut the mustard when THE MOST VULNERABLE are allowed to be discarded like yesterday’s trash.
Here’s my point–$19 a month, just pennies a day will NOT change our culture as long as an unborn child isn’t protected. An expectant mother who uses Meth is arrested for abuse. But, if the day before she went to an abortion clinic to have an abortion, it’s OK. I think not. If you feel like you are a better a better person for wearing that T-Shirt or wrapping up with that blanket, go right ahead. But it takes more than $19 a month to really care. Think about James 1:27
True spirituality that is pure in the eyes of our Father God is to make a difference in the lives of the orphans, and widows in their troubles, and to refuse to be corrupted by the world’s values.(The Passion Translation)
If $19 a month, just pennies a day makes you think you really care–then you have been corrupted by the world’s values.
Today can be just another day in your life or. . . it can become the beginning of a journey into an adventure. This adventure is not for the weak or faint of heart. And it’s certainly not for those who choose the predictability of their current misery over the adventure that is anything but predictable. I’m speaking now to those who are willing to admit that the life they have been living is boring, painful and certainly unfulfilling.
Ash Wednesday is God’s invitation to leave behind everything in order to be filled with His Life. Jesus left behind everything in Heaven so that we could be set free. And face it, all of us are in some type of prison. An addiction. Fear. Anger. Disappointment. Despair. Frustrations. These are just a few of the names of our jailers. The Ashes of Ash Wednesday holds the key to be released from our jail cells.
For the last several days I have been praying the Scriptures and one verse has captivated my attention. Isaiah 61:3 says–“To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.” Do you know what ashes are? One definition of ashes is “the remains of something destroyed”. We can never have the life God intends for us until the old life–those old ways–are completely destroyed in us.
We cannot have a crown of beauty, a joyous blessing, and festive praise until the things that imprison us are turned into ashes. This process of turning our old life into ashes can be painful–but it’s not all that complicated either. Do what Paul did when he turn away from his old life and began his adventure with Jesus: “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8 NLT)
I want to challenge you today to reflect on two things: 1. Are the things I’m holding on really creating beauty, blessing and praise? 2. Have I given up everything, considered it garbage, so that I might have Jesus as my Lord and Savior? Learn the lesson from the ashes of Ash Wednesday. Then go and receive the sign of those ashes–at a church service, or with a friend, or if you’re alone, do it to yourself. You don’t need a seminary degree to impose the sign of The Ashes. Just a willingness to give up that old life in order to begin the journey into an adventure.
Lent is our reminder that following Jesus isn’t about Sunday Church.
Today is Fat Tuesday. No, I’m not making fun of someone’s weight. Go to New Orleans today, or go to where Mardi Gras really started, Mobile, Alabama and you will see what I mean. It’s the last day for indulgences before the Season of Lent begins. I guess it’s because I’m making preparations for our Ash Wednesday Service that has prompted this edition of Tuesday Thoughts.
Some folks are not familiar with or even know about Lent. The only Lent they know about is the Lint in their belly button or dryer. Yet Lent (spelled with an e and not an i) is the oldest tradition observed in the Church. Long before the Church recognized and celebrated the Incarnation, they recognized this Season of Lent. For the uninformed, Lent is a period of 40 days beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Morning when followers of Jesus are challenged to give up something–we call that Fasting. But there’s more than 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, right? Well, you don’t count Sundays because Sunday is to be a day of Feasting not Fasting.
There are those who consider this “too much Roman Catholic” for a good Protestant boy or girl. Others think that it is too formal or too high-church for a real believer. Well, I observe Lent and I’m not considered high-church. Good grief, I have a pony tail, beard and ride a loud motorcycle. The third highest compliment I’ve ever been given is that I don’t look like a preacher. What was the second and the highest compliment? I’ll save those for a later post. Back to Lent.
Lent is taking a journey with Jesus as He draws closer and closer to True Purpose for becoming human. His True Purpose was giving up His Eternal Nature and become one of us–the Creator became a creature. And in that act, taking it all the way to The Cross to die for all of us. So, for the next 40 days, starting tomorrow, we are challenged to walk with Jesus in light of His Sacrifice for us. He Gave Up Everything For Me, so why shouldn’t I give up something for Him?
But if I’m going to give up something for Lent, and then pick it back up AFTER Easter, have I really given up something in order “pick up my cross daily and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23) ? Not really; I’ve just left it on a shelf so that I can resume it after Easter. So I’ve got to go deeper and find those things I need to give up permanently. And today I will be doing just that–looking through all my “indulgences”, those things that prevents the image of Jesus from being clearly seen in me, and give at least one of them up permanently.
Wait, I just heard someone say, “Lent isn’t Biblical. Where does it say I should remember something that happened so long ago?” It does seem, that with the upheaval in the Southern Baptist Convention, that the Bible Thumping Fundamentalists are coming out of the woodwork. So allow me to set the record straight that God DOES WANT us to Remember. In Exodus, God commanded His people to remember their deliverance each year. It’s called Passover. Each of their other 6 Feasts were observed to remember what God had done for them.
I just heard my skeptic say, “Well, that’s the Old Testament! You won’t find that in the New Testament!” Oh, really grasshopper? How about Luke 22:19–And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” And how about Bro. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26–
23 For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread 24 and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.” 26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.
No, God does’t need the Season of Lent; but we sure do! Lent is our reminder that following Jesus isn’t about Sunday Church. It’s about following the example of Jesus to Surrender and give up everything that we like and want in order to fulfill God’s desires for us. I will be reflecting all day about what I need to give up in order for the fullness of Christ to live in me. How about you?
Actions, Not Intentions, Produce The Right Outcomes.
This is the second and last of the series Getting The Word In Our Feet. We need, more than anything else in these times of chaos and fear is Direction. Not just any direction; but a New And Different Direction. Choosing a direction is not enough. Choices without action are worthless.
Last week we learned that Any Choice That Doesn’t Come With Action Is Just Wishing And Useless. That’s what the Old Testament illustration of the Hebrews at the edge of the Promised Land teaches us. All those over 20, except Caleb and Joshua, never got to live within God’s promise. Their direction was cemeteries scattered throughout the wilderness. Now we look at a New Testament story about a single cemetery that illustrates the need for Both Direction And Action. Turn to John 20:1-9 (N.L.T.)
Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed—for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.
Decades ago, before radar and computer flying, an airplane was somewhere over the Rockies in a fog that went from the ground to way above the clouds. The pilot came over P.A. and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have some good new and some bad news. First, the bad news: we’re lost! But the good news is, we’re 2 hours ahead of schedule.” This describes the culture we live it; it describes people all around us—2 hours ahead of schedule but lost.
When times seem to be the darkest, people struggle to find the right direction and the subsequent actions that will bring them out of the darkness. And here is the One Thing you need to remember today and it’s a principle that will always work: Actions, Not Intentions, Produce The Right Outcomes. The Good News Of God’s Kingdom isn’t about changing our intentions—it is about changing our actions. It’s not all that complicated. Intentions cannot produce faith. Cannot manufacture hope nor deliver us from our fear and despair.
I can intend to do something all day long and will accomplish nothing. If you don’t believe this, just trust me on this because I’ve done it enough to be an expert. Just suppose Debbie asks me to do something before the day is done, I’ll say, “OK, dear, I’ll do it.” Well, I intend to get that done. But come the evening, if I haven’t done that, she’s going to get upset at me.
But why? I mean I intended to do what she asked. I intended to do it better than she thought I could do it. Why is she so upset? I intended to do it. It’s just unbelievable that she would get upset that I didn’t do that—even when I intended to do it. Are you starting to get the picture here?
Let’s bring this down to this principle and the passage behind it. Easter Morning. I don’t know what went through your minds then I read the text. Maybe you thought that Easter’s not here yet. Lent doesn’t even start until Wednesday. I still have a couple of days of indulgence left.
When I read this, I focused on what was happening to the people. Mary Magdalene RAN to tell the disciples. The disciples RAN to the tomb. These folks were RUNNING! There was motion and movement by these people. The Resurrection got the disciples involved with direction, motion and movement. They no longer stood still! Christians are people who Run! The question for us here and every church is this: How Can We Get The Word In Our Feet So That We Can Get Motion And Movement On Our Part Into God’s Promises?
Well you have to understand that there are Sitters and there are Runners. One of the ways you can sort out people in church is to say they come in 2 types: Sitters and Runners. OK, let’s look at each.
1. First, Let’s Look At The Sitters.
The best way to describe sitters is to image them in a rocking chair, rocking and watching the world go by. Sitters Are Those Who Are Content With Motion Without Movement And Momentum. They Have Been Deceived Into Thinking Motion Is Movement When It’s Clearly Not Producing Momentum.
Well, here, let me show you with this rocking chair. There’s motion, but nothing is really changing. If you’re not prone to motion sickness, rocking really is relaxing—if you’re into that sort of thing. There’s activity and motion, but look—this rocking chair is still here. Am I right? I’m moving; I’m just not going anywhere. If I turn the rocking chair around, nothing’s really changed—I’m just looking in a different direction. OK, I’ve changed direction, but I still in the same place. The only thing that has changed is my view. I’m not in a different place—I’m in the same place, just a different view. And nothing has really changed.
Sitters Are Those Who Are Deceived Into Believing That Because They Are Rocking—There’s Motion—That This Motion Is Enough. While rocking in a chair may be relaxing and enjoyable it is not accomplishing anything—other than make us feel better about ourselves.
2. Now, Let’s Look At Runners.
Runners are different! They don’t stay in the same place. And their view is always changing. Runners have direction and motion—just like the sitters—but runners add the all important element of forward movement. It Is Movement Not Motion That Always Creates Momentum. Movement and momentum described what was happening in that cemetery just outside of Jerusalem. Transformation began when they started running. Running Produced Movement And That Movement Starting Producing Momentum.
Churches Are Dying Today. It’s Not Because Of A Lack Of Direction. Everyone is pointed in some direction. It’s Not Because Of A Lack Of Motion. Ever heard the phrase “Going through the motions”? It’s Because They Have Lost Movement And Without Movement There Is No Momentum. Remember the rocking chair. There is always motion—but no real movement or momentum.
There was a runner by the name of Saul of Tarsus, running as hard as anyone against Jesus. But God grabbed him on the Damascus Road, turned him around, and he kept right on running, this time as Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles! Give me a church full of runners every time; even if like Saul, they are running in the wrong direction.
Because when you get runners going in the right direction, things happen! Communities change for the better. Families become stronger. People quit complaining and whining so much. People meet and follow the real Jesus. And The Very Foundations Of Hell Tremble And Shake In Fear! God Wants Runners!
We need to get the Word in our feet and start running! How? Well, the Nike commercial says it best: Just Do It! Don’t talk about it, plunge in with both feet. The problem with a lot of congregations is that they want a pastor to be successful for them—to do the praying, serving, witnessing and get more members. But this is not what God has called the pastor to do.
The pastor is one called out of the life of the church, trained and approved to help you, the lay people do your ministry. The pastor is not to be a busy body, his job is to get the body busy! Now, I can back this up with scripture, Eph. 4:11-12—“These were his gifts: some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers for the building up of the body of Christ!”
Who is the body of Christ? Those outside waiting to be saved? NO! You are! How do we become Runners rather than Sitters? Allow me to give you a few principles:
- Begin By Being Still. We can’t be running in just any and every direction. We need focus. Being still before God gives us the direction to begin running. Think about Elijah in that cave at Mt. Horeb. He was running in the wrong direction. But when he stood still before God, and listened, he found that new direction—and that new direction created Movement And Momentum.
- Don’t Question Or Think About The Direction, Just Run. Try to do a cost or risk analysis on the direction—and Satan will convince you it won’t work. Think about that day Jesus told the disciples to find something to feed that crowd. They found a boy’s small sack lunch. They should have been ready to run—but they did the cost/risk analysis and concluded it wasn’t enough. If Jesus sends you to do something, then He knows what’s out there and He knows it will be more than enough.
- Build Upon Even Small Successes. Your running doesn’t have to produce things worthy of a page in Guide Posts. Think about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. After discussing buckets and wells, Jesus led her to thinking about the Messiah. In the world’s economy it was a small success. When He had her thinking about the Messiah He was able to get her thinking about herself. And when He got her thinking about herself and The Messiah, she went and told her whole village about Jesus.
- Sustain Momentum. Keep on praying. Keep on studying The Word. Keep up the pace. Keep on living this Life In Grace. Don’t ever settle in one place of success. Think about those Disciples after Pentecost. About 3,000 people were saved. Hey, that’s a lot. Time to rest, right? Wrong! They kept it up—sharing life together in meals, Holy Communion, praying and growing in maturity.
And since you can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are, here’s your Next Step:
Decide Right Now If You Are Going To Be A Sitter Or A Runner!
Years ago, someone gave me this poem, called “Sitting By The Fire” and it’s on the back of your sermon notes page:
Sitting By The Fire
He wasn’t much for moving about, it wasn’t his desire,
No matter how hard the others work, HE WAS SITTING BY THE FIRE!
This went on from day to day, he never seemed to tire,
when others were working so hard in the church, HE WAS SITTING BY THE FIRE!
He died one day as all must do, and some say he went up higher,
but if he’s doing what he’s always done, HE IS SITTING BY THE FIRE
Are you a Sitter? Or will you become a Runner?
Children can teach us a lot and we need to learn from them. Today’s Saturday Story is about the power of imagination and it comes from another one of our grandchildren, Caroline. Enjoy!
When I Grow Up I’m Going To Be. . .
Caroline has quite the imagination, even if I say so myself. I think it’s because she inherited it through her Grandpa! She was always telling anyone who would listen what she was going to be when she grew up. Once she announced she was going to be a “Petanarian”–that’s a doctor who takes care of people’s pets. That is, until one day she asked me if Petanarian’s had to go to school. When I told her “Yes”, she kinda lost interest in that.
But before she was going to grow up to be a Petanarian, she told her parents that she was going to be a Ninja Missionary. Though her body was small, I think she was about 3 or 4, her imagination was enormous. She explained it like this: “I’ll go out and do ninja stuff and when I’m not out doing ninja stuff I’ll be a missionary doing missionary stuff.” And the wonderful thing is–She Believed That She Could Do Just That! One day be a ninja doing ninja stuff and the next day be a missionary doing missionary stuff. Who could ever come up with a combination like this–but a child like Caroline!
Moral Of The Story
Children like Caroline see the future with unlimited potential. They even see the most unlikely things as a real possibility. They see things that we adults see either as impossible or incompatible. And because we have lost the imagination to have unlimited dreams, we lose that God-Given Gift of Seeing Potential. Adults today are living with self-imposed blinders that limits both our potential and what God has designed for us to do and to be. This has produced a dull and painful existence; when we forget how to dream without limits.
Our response to Caroline’s dream of becoming a Ninja Missionary should not be “Oh, that’s just childish imagination.” No! Our response should be like Elisha’s prayer in 2 Kings 6:17–Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire. What if you stopped being disappointed, sad, disillusioned, angry and similar ways of thinking? What if, like Caroline, you could dream of being the second Ninja Missionary? You can’t the be first, Caroline was the first Ninja Missionary. Stop thinking about what can’t be done and begin seeing what could be, in your life, your family, your neighborhood and in the world. Use God’s gift of IMAGINATION!
FYI, Bart Mallard originally gave the rights to this song to Amy Grant because he couldn’t imagine himself recording it. But she had enough imagination for both of them. And as the saying goes, the rest is history–a double platinum album for MercyMe.
If we had referees at worship services….lol
(WARNING: Throw It Out There Thursday posts examines social, cultural, political and religious issues without consideration of political correctness nor prevailing theories. Reader discretion is therefore advised.)
This edition of Throw It Out There Thursday is a little later than the others because I’ve been busy doing research and homework; something that many social, cultural, political and religious theorists have a difficult time doing. I’ve looked at this from many angles and perspectives; and my conclusion is that that are millions of hostages out there. Most don’t even realize they are a hostage–but their captors know they are. What’s a hostage?
Now that you know the definition of “hostage” and now that you have been made aware that there is a current hostage situation, you may be wondering, “Who are the hostages?” The hostages are those are identified within the LBGTQ+ Community. Look again at those definitions of the word hostage. How can you NOT say that the LBGTQ+ Community is not being held hostage? Think about it.
It is a scientific and biological fact that there are only 3 genders. Male, female, and a rare anomaly affecting approximately 1.7 percent of people born with genitalia of both male and female. Social scientists, cultural hacks, and half-wit theologians have decided that an unproven truth is a fact without consistently reproducible results. They have declared that “gender” is a spectrum where people can choose where they land based on a feeling or desire. Biological science has been abandoned and the result is that there are millions of people held bondage to the Dr. Feel-Good plan of life.
Ben Shapiro took on this lie on 17 February 2017 in a question and answer session after a speech he gave at Ferris State University. When dealing with the transgender issue here is some of what Ben had to say:
The idea that sex or gender is malleable is not true. I’m not denying your humanity if you are a transgender person; I am saying that you are not the sex which you claim to be. You’re still a human being, and you’re a human being with an issue then I wish you Godspeed in dealing with it in any whatever way you see fit, but if you’re going to dictate to me that I’m supposed to pretend, I’m supposed to pretend that men are women and women are men, no. My answer is no. I’m not going to- I’m not going to modify basic biology because it threatens your subjective sense of what you are.Ben Shapiro
Gender Dysphoria, Sexual ethics–based on a theological, psychological and sociological unproven theory. This has fed a lie to those who are most vulnerable–and have created a bondage of sexual dysfunction and dysphoria. Yet, fundamentalists and some conservatives have villainized them. Would we villainize a group of people held captive by terrorists? Would we speak evil of them, blame them for their situation?
They are held as hostages by charlatans who feed them a steady diet of what these scam-artists consider to be liberating truth. They aren’t interesting in liberating, but creating a culture that justifies their own over-inflated sense of self-importance in an ostentatious attempt to exert their mental supremacy. So they capture and hold hostage those who are most vulnerable to their nonsensical drivel. These impotent thinkers want to create socially constructed genders rather than accept biologically provided genders.
I do not see the LBGTQI+ Community with disdain or hated. I see them for who they are, hostages to the inane and sophomoric views of those who see themselves as the intellectually and spiritually elite. They are discouraged from thinking any other way about themselves than the way they tell them to think about themselves. Remember that one of the definitions of hostage is someone who is made a prisoner in order to force other people to do something. These pseudo-quasi-thinkers wants everyone to agree with them, so they hold the LBGTQI+ Community hostage. Do the science. Do the math. And please, please, please, don’t be mad the LBGTQI+ Community, they are hostages that need to be set free. Jesus declared that one of the reasons He came was to deliver the captives. I am praying and seeking for ways for God to use me in this Kingdom Task.
The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.
(1 Kings 19:11-12
Silence! Sometimes silence speaks louder than words. Sometimes silence is extremely awkward. Sometimes silence is welcomed, especially after the grandkids leave after a 2 day visit. Sometimes silence is painful, as when someone goes home, alone, after a funeral or divorce proceeding. But the most painful silence of all is when it seems, at least to us, that God and heaven are silent to our prayers and our needs.
It is not only painful, but as we see in the story of Job, it is often frustrating when God not only seems to be silent, but actually is silent. We don’t like it when God is silent and demand that God speak and speak right now. But God doesn’t always speak out. He chooses a time of silence. So, how do we deal with and respond to those times when God and heaven are silent?
Elijah had remained faithful to God even though many of his fellow Israelites have turned to worshiping empty, dead gods. Then comes the great victory at Mt. Carmel where Elijah challenged the priests of Baal to a contest. Prepare a sacrifice, one for Baal and one for the Lord God of All. The God who answered by fire would be the God of everyone. And we know that God answered Elijah’s prayer.
But then comes the threat from Jezebel: “I will make you like one of my priests of Baal, dead as a door nail!” Elijah, the man of courage and conviction at Mt. Carmel, becomes Elijah, a man filled with fear. He runs away and wishes to die. Yet God lets Elijah know that He, God, is not finished with him. He goes to Mt. Horeb, anticipating a meeting and a word from God. But when he arrives, something is wrong, or so it seems to the normal eye.
The Lord was not in the wind, not in the earthquake, and not in the fire. In other words, God was silent. In all of the normally expected ways that God spoke in that day, He chose to remain silent; not a word of confirmation of His awesome presence in any shape, fashion or form. If I had been Elijah I would have demanded: “OK, God, you called this meeting. You wanted to talk and I needed to hear and talk. What’s all this silence about?”
Truth is, that God uses those times for silence for something far bigger and much better for us, even when we cannot see how His silence helps us. I believe there are certain specific things that God teaches us individually in these times of silence. God will reveal principles and truths that relate directly and specifically to us and where we are in life at that particular moment. It depends on the situation what God is trying to teach us. However, there is at least one principle that applies to us all; a single overriding truth that fits us all. The fact is that the time of silence is the best way to discover the power and strength that wells up inside us during the times of silence.
Here is the principle: God is trustworthy! God does not have to move, or speak or do anything to prove that He and He alone can be trusted. When we are silent, usually, but not always, it means we are not doing anything. This is not true with God. Because God can be trusted, His silence does not mean is not that He is not working on our behalf. Truth is, God is hard at work for us, even when we can’t see or hear him; ESPECIALLY when we can’t see or hear God.
And even though God and heaven is silent, it never means that God has forgotten us. And, it NEVER, EVER, EVER means that God has turned His back to us. Remember the principle: God can be trusted! How can we be this confident that God hasn’t turned His back on us, even in the times of silence? The answer is clearly simple: because of the Cross!
This morning I was thinking about something I was reading from a book and from the Bible. It started with Paul’s thoughts in Colossians chapter 3 verse 5–“So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” (emphasis mine) The other was what an author wrote in a book I’m reading:
I have inquired before many church and parachurch groups regarding their plan for putting to death or mortifying “whatever belongs to your earthly nature” or flesh. I have never once had a positive response to this question. Indeed, mortifying of putting things to death doesn’t seem to be the kind of thing today’s Christians would be caught doing. Yet there it stands, at the center of the New Testament teachings.The Great Omission by Dallas Willard (emphasis mine)
Today people are promoting the idea that God is love; certainly better than the old “God is a strict judge waiting to catch you doing something wrong so He can punish you.” God IS love; no argument from me here. But there is a growing number of people in the Western Church who have twisted this truth. They are saying and teaching “God is love and all we have to do is love God and love others. The way you love others is to accept them the way they are and not ask or expect them to change.”
Great googley moogley, geez Louise, Mother Francis, Judas priest, heaven’s to Betsy, What The What? And many are quick to point out how the theological progressives are pushing this agenda; and they are pushing it. Suddenly nothing matters that ought to matter. Right now I’m hearing some of the more conservative crowd shouting, “Amen! Preach it brother, preach it! We need more sermons on sin!” But…
What about YOU? Yes, YOU the reader! What are YOU doing to put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you? That’s part of the nature of sin–it lurks. The definition of lurking is “remaining hidden so as to wait in ambush”. If we, as followers of Jesus want to mortify things like the new sexual ethics (this is only one example) then we need to first mortify the earthly things inside of us.
“What earthly things?” you ask. OK, remember you asked! Things like feeling you are morally superior to others. Quickness to think the worst about someone rather than getting to know their story. Thinking your sin isn’t as bad as their sin. Compromising your values and integrity because it’s easier. Pew sitting every Sunday. Helping only those who are worthy of your help. Thinking that following Jesus is meant to be easy and comfortable. Thinking your views about the Bible are always right. Using the Bible as a baseball bat. Remember what Jesus said: “4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
So, please excuse me. I’ve got some mortifying to do of the earthly things still lurking in me. Maybe you could do the same?
Several years ago Debbie and I had been taking care of 3 of our grandchildren: Rileigh Breeze was our 10 year old granddaughter who loves to talk, Hampton was our three year old grandson who MUST talk, and then there was Cooper, a year and a half old who talks with his hands. I am so grateful for all of our grandchildren because they teach us so much about life and even more about God. And I discovered something through little Cooper.
Cooper was learning how to talk. But at that time his talk was limited to a few words and a lot of gibberish. But one thing I noticed during that recent visit was the way he communicated when he wanted me to do something. Rather than calling me by name (which then was Paw) he extended his hands, palms upward, and then he proceeded to move his fingers, much like squishing an overripe tomato. If that didn’t get me moving, then he would come over to me and take hold of my finger and tug on me. Of course he wasn’t physically strong enough to move me, but my love for our grandchildren moved me. Then, still holding my finger, he led me to where he wanted me, and then pointed to what he was after. If I reached for the wrong thing, he shook his head NO and pointed again at what he wanted. This cycle of events continued until I got the right thing. When I succeed at his appointed task for me, Cooper then told me “Tanks!” He acknowledged the completion of the task with gratitude.
This scenario was repeated many times that weekend. And as I sit here at my desk, I had (not another random thought) an epiphany, an “AH HA!” moment struck me. So I took a moment to say to God, “Tanks for revealing your heart and mind to me, again, through the eyes of a little child.” I do not know why I was so amazed; after all, Jesus said the Kingdom belongs to little children. And here is today’s lesson I want to share with you, a lesson I “re-discovered” through Cooper.
As I read the Word, there are times when a single word leaps from the pages and captures my attention. Listen to Romans chapter 8 verse 14, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” The word that leaped from the passage is LED! To be led means that Someone has to do the leading. It also means that someone must follow that lead. It means that I cannot do both (be led and do the leading), so I must make a choice. Will I lead or will I be led?
As the people of God we get to be a part of the many wonderful things that God is doing. Being a part of God’s activity is both humbling and exciting. Isn’t it great to be used by God! But if we are not careful with that excitement we may jump ahead of God and move from being led to taking the lead. The nature of our relationship with God requires a hierarchy of leadership. There have been many moments in my life where God has used me to reach another person with His love. But then I get feeling pretty good about myself and I rush forward because I want to do so much more for Him who died for me. But in that rushing to do more, I have found myself at times switching places with the Holy Spirit. I have found myself taking the lead, grabbing the Holy Spirit by the finger and saying, “Come on, let’s get going! There’s so much more to do!”
And when I do that, the dynamic of our relationship has changed. When I jump out front, I not only leave the Holy Spirit behind me, but I also put His power behind me. Even though my intentions are good and honorable, I have abandoned the place of real power and strength. In those moments, I was trusting in my abilities, rather than relying on His grace. When I realize I have done this (usually after I fall flat on my face in failure), I have to stop and repent, and seek God’s forgiveness. And you know what? I have always found God’s grace truly is greater than all my sin. The Spirit picks me up, dusts me off, bandages my wounds, and says, “Next time, let Me lead.”
And remember to love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!