It’s Right There In The Bible! NOT! Part 6

I struggled this morning–not for a lack of ideas in this series–I have more than enough ideas. No, I struggled for what I should write–more of What’s Not In The Bible or Hurricane Ida. I firmly believe that The Bible has something valuable to say about every thing that happens on this third rock from the sun. At first, I thought I was going to interrupt this series, but this I remembered something I’ve often heard people say was in The Bible:

It’s God Punishing Our Nation!

Be it floods, tornadoes, wildfires, or hurricanes–it seems to me that many believe that God is punishing the U.S. of A.

Now, if God was even interested in establishing a “Christian nation”–then it might be possible. But Jesus didn’t come to proclaim the Good News Of A Nation–rather it is The Good News Of The Kingdom! I know my friends who believe this will respond by saying, “The why did God punish the nation of Israel in the Old Testament?” Glad you asked. God established Israel for the express purpose of revealing God to ALL nations–and for one of Abraham’s descendent (that’s Jesus) to open the way for all people to have a relationship with Him! Remember, that when Jesus came in our human form, the Religious Folks were looking for The Messiah to establish a “nation” that no one would mess with. Thus, they failed to recognize the True Messiah.

And there’s a Biblical Reason why Hurricane Ida (and its ilk) is NOT the punishment of God for us not being that illusionary “Christian Nation” that God wants. The reality is there are several Biblical Reasons why disasters aren’t God’s punishments. For the sake of time, I will quickly share two. Here’s the first, and it’s a biggie:

4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down.  And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.  He was beaten so we could be whole.  He was whipped so we could be healed. 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.  We have left God’s paths to follow our own.  Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6 (NLT)

Either Jesus carried our punishment, all of it, or He didn’t. If these disasters are God’s punishment, then apparently, someone forgot to put all of our sins on Jesus! Nope, don’t think that happened! And here’s another reason of many why it just ain’t so:

“O God, declare them guilty. Let them be caught in their own traps. Drive them away because of their many sins, for they have rebelled against You.” (Psalm 5:10, New Living Translation)

Notice the underlined part: Let them be caught in their own traps. That’s what sin does–it traps us in our own traps. Paul Young, author of The Shack, wrote: “Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside.” And if you need a New Testament verse to verify it (as if the two Testaments somehow contradict each other), try this on for size:

7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.
(Galatians 6:7-8 NLT)

We bring the punishment of sin upon ourselves–through our choices and our designs. God doesn’t “punish” us–through disasters. The punishment is that we reap what we sow–we call it CONSEQUENCES. Every day–with each choice and decision–determines our eternal outcome.

Do the survivors of disasters really need to be told, “Look, it’s God’s punishment on our nation!” But what about those who are faithfully living this life of grace? Does God inflict collateral damage, cause victims of fratricidal? What about those who were on the verge of surrendering their life to Jesus? Would they want to serve a god who creates hurricanes?

If you want to do something in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, do something constructive. Help them! The best way to help them is with “Green”–not environmental green–money! But give wisely. Find an organization where your donations go to the survivors, not those sitting behind a desk. My favorite organization is UMCOR. I know how they use their funds; I have overseen several grants in our area. To donate online–click here!

And PLEASE, PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE–DON’T SEND USED CLOTHES! (this also includes your yard sale leftovers!) I served at a distribution center in Waveland, Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We built our own levy with used clothes around our center. In the aftermath of disasters, there is neither the time nor people to sort through used clothing.

For now, pray for the survivors. And if you want to do some hands-on work, wait until the local authorities say it’s both safe and OK for you to go in. Ida wasn’t God’s punished on America. America is punishing itself right now. No, it’s the result of living in the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s choice, and our own choices.

It’s Right There In The Bible! NOT! Part 5

Here is one of the most challenging things that simply are not in the Bible. You may want to don your Personal Protection Equipment for this one:

God wants me to forgive others, but He doesn’t expect me to forget it.

See, I told you this was the most difficult one–and it’s one that I struggle with perhaps the most. It definitely falls into the category of “Things I wish was not in The Bible!” One of our justifications for believing this is that God gave us the ability to remember, so surely He doesn’t expect us to forget when someone wounds us. But then, there’s this Text that fits my definition of “Things I wish was not in The Bible!”

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)

And how does God forgive us? Just look at Jeremiah 31:34 to see: “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” Tough and hard, isn’t it? So we come to another justification to alleviate our duty and responsibility: “He’s God and I’m not! God can forget, but I just can’t!” Granted, we cannot just forget–a truth I was painfully reminded of last week when an old wound opened up.

But there is a way to forgive and forget. It’s in how we treat the memory of the wound. Let me tell your a true story–a short one. I was only 6 years old when my Papa Burbank died. I was sad when it happened. But when I remember “Papa Banks” (that’s what I called him), the memory is me with him in his blacksmith shop. I remember him turning the bellows handle–the coals getting hotter–and the smell of that coal and coke. I not only smell it, I can taste it. Remembering him doesn’t make me sad, it makes me smile.

My point is, it’s not in the forgetting but in how we respond to the memory. When we remember how someone wounded us, we choose how we respond to that memory. We can either open that wound back up and feel the heat–and like I watched in Papa Bank’s smithy shop–the let all that resentment and bitterness grow and glow hotter. OR–we can respond by remembering how God has forgiven us.

We choose how we respond to our memories. It’s about maturing to the point when we remember the wound–but without the pain. It’s about releasing our pains to the One who was pained by us as He hung upon that Cross. It’s not easy to get to this point–trust me; I still struggle. Not easy–but it is possible. It will happen as we allow God to work ON us and IN us. We’re not the finished product–yet. But as we learn to think more like Jesus and less like us–we arrive at the point where we have forgiven them just like God has forgiven us–when we choose to release that pain. And God does expect us to release that pain. OUCH!

It’s Right There In The Bible! NOT! Part 4

Here’s another one of those things that many people think is there–but it’s ain’t!

Money Is The Root Of All Evil!

This is typically said by those who do not have a lot of it. But the thing is, they use this fake truth to justify their own sense of moral superiority over the rich. The lack of money doesn’t make anyone morally superior; nor does having a lot of money mean that God favors you more than He does others. Let’s look at exactly what the Bible says:

For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10 NLT; EMPHASIS mine)

See? It’s right there! My point here, as in this whole series, is that we often read –make that misreadThe Bible without listening to The Bible. There are two points that are often missed:

  1. It’s not money, but the LOVE of money; and
  2. That LOVE is the root of a variety of evils–not ALL evil.

So, if the LOVE of money isn’t the root of all evil, what is that root? Glad you asked! Have you ever read 1 John in The Bible? Look at Chapter 2, Verse 16 where John writes:  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” The root of each and every sin comes from these 3 arenas of life, and they have nothing to do with money.

Until next time, friends–be careful with wanting to please your flesh–be careful what you look at and want–and really be careful about feeling morally and spiritually superior to ANYONE! Here is the root of all evil!

It’s Right There In The Bible! NOT! Part 3

Well, here I go with yet another one of those incongruous and cacophonous things some people believe are in the Bible. Today’s episode is:

The Lord Helps Those Who Help Themselves!

Now, I do agree that way too many people live out their paltry and pathetic lives as if there are no consequences for their decisions, choices and actions. Way too many are waiting for a free lunch that isn’t going to be delivered. Heck, there’s no one even in the kitchen cooking that free lunch. And The Bible is clear that whatever kind of seeds we plant, THAT is going to be the crop we produce. But this? The Lord helps those who help themselves? That’s a train of thought that derailed at the station! This kind of thinking isn’t a train without a caboose (this analogy goes back to the days when trains had a caboose)–it’s a train without an engine! It doesn’t get us anywhere!

It’s preposterous and maniacal to think that God is waiting for us to do something to help ourselves before He is willing to lift a finger to help us. It only makes sense to those who live in the futility of believing that we, broken and messed-up human beings are au fait when it comes to fixing the messes we create. Do you want the truth about the human (in)ability to help ourselves?

SPOILER ALERT! We cannot help ourselves. Our best efforts are always tainted by our sinful and fallen nature. Here’s the Truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! It takes the Grace of God to help us, period! God doesn’t give His Grace to those who are trying–and certainly not to those who think they deserve His Grace. If we deserve Grace, then it’s no longer Grace. It’s payment for our efforts. Do you want a Bible Verse to prove it, and thus make me “Biblical” in this assertion? OK, buckaroo, you got it!

The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.

Romans 8:3 (NLT)

So, quit tell others that if they want their lives to change, they have to help themselves first before God will help them. And if you still believe this anathema and abomination–all I can say is: God help you! Please God, help them!

It’s Right There In The Bible! NOT! Part 2

Loopholes! Admit it, we all look for them. Whether it is in a legal contract, or tax laws, and even in The Bible. Loopholes relieve us of something we should do, but don’t want to. And the best part of loopholes is that we rest easy at night thinking we are justified. And here is one of the oft used loopholes by those who self identify as Christians:

I love them but The Bible doesn’t say I have to like them!

I wonder if God looks like this when people say this? Well guess what, buttercup? That’s not in The Bible. To those who hold tightly onto this loophole, it may hurt your brain–but think about it. Now, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, as a verb the word like means “to feel attraction toward or take pleasure in; enjoy”.

Now if you don’t like someone, it means that you dislike them. And what do you suppose the word dislike means? It means “to regard with displeasure, antipathy, or aversion”. Look at that word antipathy! It means “an instinctive contradiction or opposition in feeling”. Catch it? CONTRADICTION! When you say, “I love them but I don’t like them” you are contradicting yourself. And it certainly doesn’t look like the kind of Love that Jesus modeled, and expects us to do.

Here is what The Bible says about Love: “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.” (Romans 12:9) And please, please, please, notice that Paul said hate WHAT is wrong–not WHO IS WRONG! What is a THING and not a PERSON! If you don’t like someone, this means you have an aversion towards them. And God doesn’t have an aversion towards any person.

To say you love someone but just don’t like them and think it’s OK because The Bible doesn’t say you must like them–my response to you is: Negatory! Nope! Absolutely not! No way! Not at all! Nay! Never! And in the words of the immortal philosopher Barney Fife: Andy, you gotta nip it! Nip it in the bud!

And hear the conclusion about this loophole:

If you don’t like them, you can’t love them.

It’s Right There In The Bible! NOT! Part 1

This is the first of I don’t know how many blogs on Things In The Bible–NOT! Isn’t it amazing how many things people believe are in the Bible–but it’s just not there. Maybe amazing isn’t the word–sad is a more apt description. Some of my fellow members of The Order Of The Backwards Collar (a.k.a. preachers) have done a whole series of sermons on this issue. I promise you that these thoughts are my thoughts–not someone else’s. With this said, please put your trays in the upright position, turn off all electronic devices (except the one you are reading this on), and fasten your seatbelts. We are about to take off!

The Lord never puts more on you than you can handle!

Oy vey! This one is absolute bupkes (Yiddish word for “goat droppings” or “horse droppings”, and in the South we say “bull s&%#”)! Show me in The Bible where it says such a heinous and horrid thing! This is wrong on so many levels, where do I begin? What besotted person would even contemplate such a thought?

Well, what does the Bible actually say? I hear some referring to 1 Corinthians 10:13–“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” Now, this I do believe. God will not allow a temptation to be more than I can handle and will be with me in it to show me the way out. That’s temptations, not life.

Listen! There’s a difference between temptations and life as it happens on this spherical orb called earth. NEWS FLASH! God doesn’t cause everything to happen that happens on this spherical orb called earth! Sorry Calvinists! NOT SORRY! Here’s another NEWS FLASH! We live in smack dab in the middle of a fallen creation. And right now, I’m still struggling with something that is too hard for me to handle. I’m having trouble focusing on the tasks in front of me. I’m grieving. I’m grieving for my Dad. I’m grieving for my family. One more NEWS FLASH! It’s more than I can handle! And God didn’t put this on me. Life did; more exactly–death is the cause. And God doesn’t cause death! And I pity the fool who believes God is the cause of any death.

I just wrote “one more NEWS FLASH”–but that’s not so. I have yet another–let’s call this one a GOOD NEWS FLASH! I’m not alone! I have the Body Of Christ surrounding me with prayer, compassion, and presence–literally being the presence of Jesus to me in this season of life when it is too much for me to handle. And just what does the Bible say exactly, when life is too much to handle? Does it say that I just need more faith? Oh, heck NO! A million times NO!

I choose to listen to the one who experienced life’s crushing experiences–Jesus! As a matter of fact, here’s what Jesus and The Bible says: “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT) He overcame the world AFTER He fell beneath the weight of that cross when he was being led to His place of execution!

God doesn’t put grief, pain, disappointment, hurt, nor anything else that crushes our hearts. But He is with us in the crucible–and He will guide us out of it. Just ask Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. God hasn’t given me more than I can handle. But life has–so I cling to the one who conquered both life and death!

Oh–and if you have a favorite pet peeve on something that people say is in The Bible, but it’s not, share it in the comments section! See ya’ tomorrow!

Who Deserves Forgiveness?

My brain operates on a level different from most. Of course you who know me, have heard me preach, and read my thoughts here on this blog have been aware of this for a long time. I offer no excuses or justifications for the way I process my thoughts. I own it! And with all the humility I can muster, I must say that I am quite proud of it. And I’ve discovered that sometimes God actually uses my “unique” ways of thinking. Who woulda thunk it? Certainly not my critics, or even myself most times.

And this morning, I find that it’s amazing how mortality and the death of my sister, have been churning my thoughts. And though I have an advanced affliction of random thoughts, there is nothing random about this line of thought. It hit me on the morning (perhaps the word should be mourning) after my sister’s death as I sat alone on Dad’s front stoop dreading sharing the news of her death with him.

That dark morning around 4:30 a.m. I was hit and hit hard with the names of 3 people. My thoughts about these 3 individuals were not kind; I repeat myself–NOT kind nor gracious. One of them had wounded me over 3 years ago. Honestly, I thought I was over that wound–but it appears I’m not! The other two individuals, their wounds are fresh and still bleeding profusely. And no, these two are not, nor have they ever been, my enemy. But if I was a prolific song writer like David, I could write a scathing imprecatory song about all 3 of them.

And what I am still struggling with (and I ask for your prayers so that I will change my feelings about them) is that…can I be honest with you? To you who just nodded your head in the affirmative, thank you for letting me be real with you. I do not want to forgive them. Yes, this pastor and proclaimer of Grace, is fostering and nurturing one old wound, and two new wounds. I know, I know, that holding tightly onto resentment and grudges as if they were my only friends, serves only to hurt me and open those wounds even more–adding more bleeding and unbearable pain.

And the Holy Spirit led me to this Very Intentional Thought: Who Deserves Forgiveness? Knowing that it’s the enemy who wants me to feel this way doesn’t really help me. One of my theme Bible verses that often describes me is this: “But I need something more! For if I know the law (or as in my case, knowing it’s the enemy polluting my mind with such thoughts) but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.” (Romans 7:17-20 The Message; EMPHASIS MINE)

And even this Monday morning, the Intentional ThoughtWho Deserves Forgiveness?–is playing in my mind like a kid in a mudhole. And PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, don’t tell me how sorry you are that I’ve been wounded–even by some closest to me. It won’t help me–it will only fuel my resentment and bitterness. And I have reached an answer and come to a conclusion–No one deserves forgiveness! Not these 3! (And here is the bitter pill I am trying to swallow even as I write) NOT EVEN ME!

And if The Spirit hasn’t poked and prodded me enough, yesterday as we headed home, 2 very good friends of ours wanted the four of us to break bread together before we returned. They had come to the visitation and attended the funeral; so how could we decline. In fact, we were looking forward to that sacred meal. Oh, their names are Jim and Grace; yes “Grace” is her real name–and she lives up to that namesake. They are members of the church I previously served–and we have stayed connected as fellow Disciples of Jesus Christ. Their faith and witness are powerful!

In their conversations they mentioned they had recently been to a Revival Service, and one night the preacher, another good friend of mine, was preaching about the very issue I am toiling with–Forgiveness. Mark, my friend and fellow preacher, said that not only are we to forgive those who wound us, but we are also to pray for God to bless them. I knew that The Father arranged this meal without me being aware of it! Sneaky Grace is what I call it! The nerve of my Heavenly Father doing such a thing! He wants ME not only to forgiven them–but to ask HIM to bless THEM!

I don’t know which text Mark used, but right now I am remembering some words of Jesus Himself, words I wished He had never spoken: “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” (Luke 6:27-28 NLT; EMPHASIS MINE) None of us deserve forgiveness. It doesn’t matter how sanctified, sanctimonious, or goody-two-shoes you are. Yet He forgives and blesses us–and He expects no less from us to the same toward others–when those others deserve neither to be forgiven nor blessed.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have some work to do–I mean–a LOT of work to do on me! Random Thought: I wonder, if there are others out them who are struggling with this same issue?

What’s An Apple Pie Without Apples?

What’s an apple pie without apples? Or a banana pudding without bananas? Or a meatloaf without meat? The answer? One could say, “It’s not the same.” This is true–but let’s dig a little deeper. The correct answer is: “They are not!” Without apples, it’s not an apple pie! Without bananas, it’s not banana pudding. Without meat, it’s not meatloaf. What’s my point this morning, other than making you crave these and other foods?

Love without the corresponding actions is an apple pie without apples. BUT…when we love in ways that touch another human heart with kindness, care, and concern–it puts the apples back into the pie; the bananas back into the banana pudding; and puts the meat back into meatloaf. John had something to say about this: “My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. “ (1 John 3:18 The Message)

This week I have been reminded in powerful ways the value of love when others (as The Message puts it:) Practice Real Love! This morning we are packing our bags to go back to my childhood home as we prepare for my sister’s visitation and funeral–and to help share the burden of my Dad–who shared my burdens when I was hurting.

And I am once again overwhelmed with the love of others. Your prayers, comments, messages and phone calls–are powerful means of God’s grace in my life in a season when I am needing them most. There are a few who haven’t reached out to me that I thought would–and it only adds to my pain. But to you who are reaching out, who are practicing real love–are helping ease that pain and hurt as well. And until that day we are all in The Eternal Kingdom–you will never know how much YOU are helping me in this season.

PS: I will be taking a couple of days off from blogging. And in the immortal words of General Douglas McArthur, “I shall return!” And it’s because of those who practice real love.

The Mystery

This morning I do not feel like writing. The above picture barely scratches the surface of how I am feeling. It’s all kinda knotty and strewn everywhere. It’s a tangled mess–and I really don’t feel like writing this morning–but I must! (There’s another blog idea in that statement somewhere–doing what we must do when we don’t feel like it. But that’s for another time–not this morning.)

In case you haven’t been following this most recent saga in my life, yesterday morning my sister joined my Mother in Heaven. Huh, amazing how it is difficult to say “died”. We use softer terms like: “passed away”, “is no longer with us”, “has gone home”, “left the bonds of this world”, or “is now at peace”. Truth is, Jackie died. I know, that sounds so stark–so feelingless and obtuse. But Truth is often blunt.

It happened sometime around 3:30 a.m. I spend the night with Dad Tuesday and I wasn’t going to wake Dad up with that kind of news. He was resting well, and I knew that for the next few days, resting well would not likely happen. When he did get up, I shared the news. We cried a bit, had breakfast together and prayed together. After making sure other family members were going to check on him, I started my little over 2 hour journey back to my home. I had forgotten my medications (and please, no comments about my “medications” from the peanut gallery–see I still have a warped sense of humor!).

I pulled out onto the highway, but before I did, I pulled out my phone, connected it to the speaker system in our vehicle, opened up the K-Love app to listen to music. Music is one of my solaces–and helps me stay focused. On about the second or third song–God overwhelmed me with the reminder of His faithful presence–and His healing. Whoever set up the music to be played yesterday morning did not know me, or my deep, deep needs. But God did–and The Spirit made sure I heard this song at just that exact moment. Who but God, can see like that! It is a mystery–a mystery I live within each day. Here’s song. Hope it relates to you in what you are facing.

Expiration Date!

Many things have them. Passports. Driver’s Licenses. Credit Cards. Debit Cards. Security Clearances. And so does life–the ones around you as well as your own. I’m talking about Expiration Dates. This morning it is not only reasonable–but paramount–that I speak to you about this issue.

In just a short while my Dad will awaken from a not so restful sleep. I spent the night here because my sister has been near death–and I wanted to be here when it happened. At approximately 3:30 a.m. CDT, my sister, his daughter, came to her expiration date. And now I will be the one to share this heart-breaking news.

Here’s my point this morning: We cannot avoid this expiration date–so always make sure there is no unfinished business to deal with. Mend those fences. Forgive the people in your life who you feel haven’t treated you right. Enjoy the scenery. Express gratitude. Find the joy. Stop dwelling on the wrong. Focus on the present, not the past or future. Appreciate, love, and forgive family and friends. One day–the Expiration Date–will come and you will not be able to.

And you will not be able to undo what you never got around to doing. We accuse teenagers of thinking and acting like they are immortal. It’s not just teenagers who think they have plenty of time left. Adults are the world’s worst!

Oh, one more thing. Not only is there this thing called Expiration Date, there is also a:

And this date for you life is RIGHT NOW–THIS VERY MOMENT! Make sure you get right family. Get right with your friends. Make sure you have that life-giving relationship with God made possible only through Jesus. Jacque did. And for this I am thankful. She is reunited with Mother, and is finally meeting face to face with Marilyn–the sister we never met nor knew. Give all the excuses and reasons you want for putting off making things right–but it’s all just a load of bull manure.

Grudges And Garbage

Today’s thoughts will be short. I am heading back home to be with my family. My sister is still near death–and I need to be with my Dad. So here goes. The idea that is in my heart and mind is this: The Fragileness Of Life. In just a couple of days–a couple of minutes–a couple of seconds–in an instant, what was isn’t anymore.

One of the most precious gifts, after the gift of Jesus and The Kingdom, is family, followed by friends. Yet relationships are broken, not by death–but by Grudges! Fortunately my sister, Jacque and I, we don’t have any Grudges. And for this I am most thankful. But not everyone in life can say this, and it’s sad–so very sad. I’ve seen it lot–and still see it today.

It’s not just hard, but impossible to deal with Grudges when one party isn’t able to communicate with the other. Grudges is just another word for Garbage! Why do I say this? Think about it. It piles up big over time. It’s useless. It’s ugly. It stinks! We expect someone else to take care of it. And it pollutes environments.

And the stinkiest stench is from those who call themselves “Christians”. If you really listened to Jesus, how can you hold a Grudge? His mandate is clear: FORGIVE! And I am amazed at how some Christians, think they have found loopholes that allows them their Grudges. Here’s a few:

  • “I’ll forgive but I won’t forget!” Okey Dokey! Does God remember every single sin of yours that has been forgiven? Do you really think that Jesus is still carrying around that rugged old cross?
  • “Well, they just hurt me too much!” Oh? Really? Do you really think that the Cross didn’t hurt Jesus too much? That Jesus carrying all of your sins while suspended on the Cross was only slightly painful? Maybe a 2 out of 10 on the pain scale?
  • (This one is the biggest pile of Garbage) “Well, I do love them, I just don’t like them, and I’ll never have anything to do with them ever again!” OK buckaroo! You’re about to fall out of your saddle. Is that how Jesus treats you? Is that how God loves you? They will say, “Of course not!” Then what about these words?

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, JUST AS GOD through Christ has forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)

To you who make the intentional choice to hold a Grudge and refuse to mend the fences–listen to this one who is about to say goodbye to his sister–Life is fragile, too fragile to hold Grudges. You really haven’t forgiven anyone if you still hold a Grudge. And that, my friend, is the antithesis of Jesus. Your Grudge isn’t paying the other person back what they deserve. It isn’t punishing them. You are punishing yourself–and you are being covered up with stinky, ugly, disgusting Garbage–and the odor is on YOU!

When The Wind Is Taken Out Of Our Sails

Satan is a sneaky you-know-what! Known this for decades. He doesn’t always successfully sneak up on me, but yesterday, he succeeded–and of all days–it was SUNDAY! The nerve of that reprobate! And thus the inspiration (or disconsolateness) for today’s musings.

Yesterday morning started out great–really great. The Holy Spirit showed up and showed out in worship. The anointing was great. The message was so good that I started taking notes on myself! (Kidding folks! I’m NOT that vain!) But both services were powerful, not because of me, but because of The Holy Spirit. And when He has the freedom to move–it’s whatever the word is for better than the greatest–that’s what it was.

Came home with the intent to unwind through my spiritual discipline known as The Sunday Afternoon Nap. Between churches, my son had texted me to call him after church. I did, and that’s when the wind was taken out of these sails full of wind, the Holy wind! And I know that’s how Satan planned it; sneaky-you-know-what. There is 2 hours of travel time between me and my sister and my dad, but Matthew lives just minutes away.

My sister, Jacque, hasn’t been feeling well at all lately. Her symptoms sounded very similar to when my gallbladder needed to be kicked out of my body. She called me Tuesday to say she had been admitted to the local hospital for testing. We were both hopeful the doctors would agree with my diagnosis–and she would be on the way to full recovery. Sneak Attack!

The news Matthew shared wasn’t good at all–and my sails that were full of the Holy Wind collapsed. Since Tuesday she had become non-communicative–and when she did talk, it wasn’t making sense. She is diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and there is fluid around her brain. She was transferred to a physical rehab center. The prognosis is not good. I thought of her 2 children, my niece and nephew. And I thought of my 95-year-old Dad.

Dad stood by the grave of his firstborn, and now–well, you know. In 2019 he wept at the grave of his 70 years plus bride. And now it is looking like he may stand by the grave of his second-born child. I felt numb all afternoon long. My own sails were flat. I didn’t feel like I could even fall asleep last night. But God knew I needed some rest–and He made sure I got what I needed.

This morning I did my First-Thing-First, connected my earbuds to my phone, and listened to my morning music list. It’s set on shuffle, so I never know what’s coming up. Would you believe the first song was I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe? Who says God’s timing is ever off? My phone didn’t cause that song to come up. It was the Holy Spirit shuffling through my list and finding me the song I needed to hear! And now, I am feeling a gentle breeze starting to stir these lifeless sails of mine.

When that sneaky you-know-what hits you and hits you hard, and the wind is taken out of your sails, remember that you are never alone! Remember one of the songs written by the prolific songwriter David:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

Psalm 139 (NIV)

When the wind is taken out of our sails for any reason–count on God being there. And He comes with His own source of wind–The Holy Spirit! Oh, just one more thing. Wanna know what the last song the Holy Spirit planned for me to hear this morning? Here it is!

PS: Prayers greatly appreciated for our family!

Saturday Shorts–The Smiling Jesus!

Starting the Saturday, and hopefully every Saturday after this–I’m going to do a “short” reflection. I know I have the tendency for verbosity–but not on Saturdays. You got stuff to do. I got stuff to do. Now I getting verbose–on to the point.

My evening reading is a book by Michael Murray called Nobody Left Out; Jesus Meets The Messes. No typo–the word really is Messes. It’s a 40 day devotional book (and I’ll just quote him) “for messy, broken people (like me).” Night before last I was reading about how Jesus invited himself to a party at the home of Zacchaeus. Remember that moment? Zach is up in a tree trying to see Jesus because he was short. Remember that song as a kid we sung at church? “Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he.” I’m not so sure that was a good song to teach us kids at church. Oops, verbosity is creeping in.

On to my short point. Murray paints a word picture of Jesus by pointing out that as Jesus called Zach down from the tree, He was smiling at wee, little Zach. Of course Jesus was smiling! Jesus was smiling because He knew that the future of wee, little Zach was about to change. And what about you? Do you look like the frowning, angry Jesus? Or do you look like the Jesus who is smiling because somebody’s life is about to change for the better?

Today’s Forecast For You

Used car salespeople. Politicians. Late night infomercial hucksters. Major news outlets. Weather forecasters. What do the aforementioned persons have in common? They are capricious and dubious at best–especially the last one. I remember in 2014, I was living in metro Birmingham. There was snow in the forecast–but all the local forecasters said it would all be south of us and for us not to worry. That should have set off alarms! Our vacuous and insipid state highway department sent all their equipment to where the weather forecasters said it would snow. Not long after midday, metro Birmingham was turned into the world’s largest parking lot.

And yesterday. Here in lovely Mount Vernon, we are in a dry spell–very dry spell. Yesterday’s forecast, by these alleged experts, were only predicting a less that 20% chance of rain. So our expectations were another dry and very hot day. However, despite the forecast, we GOT RAIN! Six-tenths of an inch, Praise God! So where am I going with this rant against forecasters?

I can’t help but wonder how many people are getting their–call it Life Forecast–from unreliable sources? “They” say “There’s not a snowball’s chance in you know where you could ever do that!” They give up and capitulate that their life will ever change. They life in subjugation to a Life Forecast that crushes their hope and thus–live in defeasance to a Life Forecast that is inaccurate–like yesterday’s weather forecast.

When you are leaning towards and into that dark abrogation of the life you were created for–remember Abram and Sarai. This was their names before God changed their future. Before Isaac was born–God changed their name to reflect a new future. From now on, they would be known as Abraham and Sarah. The change happened before the reality of The Promise.

A short time later, Abraham received some visitors (sent from Heaven by God) with an important announcement: You are Sarah will have a son! Both are past their prime and the Life Forecast for them was they were too old to have children. When Sarah overheard the conversation she laughed–she believed the wrong Life Forecast! And my last word to you today is what God’s Messenger asked:

“Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

Genesis 18:14 (NLT)

It may seem too hard to your Life Forecasters to see a different future for you. But it’s not too hard for God!

What’s Your Sign?

Sign, sign
Everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery
Breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that
Can’t you read the sign?

“Signs” performed by Five Man Electrical Band, written by Arthur Thomas

If you were not singing along with the above lyrics, you are NOT a part of the best and coolest generation ever! Yep! I’m thinking about signs today–and the messages they disclose. When I’m on my motorcycle, I absolutely LOVE this next sign! As I recently posted on Facebook, sometimes you need a really crooked road to get your head straight!

There are more signs that just highway signs. Signs of summer:

Signs of fall:

Signs of winter:

And the ever popular signs of Spring:

But I am aberrating. There’s a road sign I’ve seen a few times, and today I started thinking about that sign. Can I be honest with you? It’s a sign that bemuses, bewilders, and stupefies me. And here it is:

I realize that a lot of churches are indeed slow, but I wonder what are the qualifications to receive such a designation? If I was the pastor of the church that had this sign–I would seek a new appointment. If I was a member, I would insist that the highway department take it down immediately. I mean, who wants to lead or attend a slow church? Apparently, there’s a lot who will fit the bill.

I call them Tenured Pew Sitters. The church has been SLOW to realize it doesn’t exist to serve it’s members. The church has been SLOW to accept people who don’t dress, think, or vote like them as people who need God’s grace. The church has been SLOW understanding that our story isn’t the story about the church, but the Saga Of The Kingdom Of God. The church has been SLOW recognizing the it isn’t a building but supposed to be a people.

It seems the church has been SLOW in responding the Great Heresy Of The 21st Century–that of progressive theology. This started back in the 1960’s. Yet Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters refused to believe it would ever gain traction. So…they remained silent.

And now it threatens to ripe apart the fabric of many churches. It’s a theology that depends and relies on human intellect and logic. And that is a train wreck about to happen, the likes of which have never been seen before. In it’s carnage will be victims of both sides–you see falsehood and heresy doesn’t care who it hurts–it will even hurt it’s most ardent supporters. The wake that will be left by progressivism will be a bloody mess of anger, doubt, fear, and broken spirits.

Slowness is killing the church in the U.S. of A. Elsewhere in the world, where the church isn’t SLOW, the Body Of Christ is Alive, Vibrant, and bringing new citizens into the Kingdom of God. Perhaps in the U.S., they should change words to a familiar hymn: Like a little snail, move the U.S. Church. But that’s just how I feel.

An Appointment For An Adjustment

At 8:00 a.m. Central Daylight Savings Time, I have an appointment for an adjustment. NO! It is not an attitude adjustment! I know what some of you were just thinking! I don’t need an appointment for that. I have a wife. . .and God for that, thank you very much. Both quickly do that for me with me scheduling an appointment–and they do it graciously. It’s time for me to visit my chiropractor, Dr. Fetter. And don’t tell me that chiropractic care is snake oil medicine. My shoulder blades, right shoulder, lower back and right hip will, in harmony, quickly tell you that you are bonkers and to leave me alone!

But this upcoming chiropractic adjustment appointment did get me to thinking about what you just thought I needed: An Attitude Adjustment! I am totally convinced that this culture is run amuck with prodigality and profligacy abandon. In case you do not know what prodigality and profligacy means:

It seems that everywhere I turn, people’s attitudes are. . .what’s the word I’m looking for? Dense and slow on uptake. Nothing is ever right. Nothing is ever enough. I lived under those attitudes for 29 years–but never again! Attitudes like always angry. Always critical. Always resentful. Always distrustful. Always better than you. Always snarky. Well, maybe not ALL the time–just Ivory Soap time–99.9%. They dwell on things like misery, crankiness, doubt and suspicion. They are always right and you are always wrong. This list is ad infinitum.

So, how can people get an attitude adjustment–I mean, without using a baseball bat and sledge hammer? Can you believe that the Bible has the answer–and it’s all without violence? Well, not physical violence, but tearing down old attitudes can be violent, for some. It’s what Paul told the church in Rome in his letter to them.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

Changing our attitudes begins with more than changing our minds–but having our minds Transformed into the mind of Christ. But Transforming the mind takes more than decision or resolution. It takes surrender–placing it before God as an offering. Offering is something given over–and given up to another. We need–URGENTLY need to think in a totally different way–the way Jesus thinks. Then–AND ONLY THEN–will we have the right attitude!

How’s It Looking To You?

Answer me this:

  • Washington D.C. How’s it looking to you?
  • Politics. How’s it looking to you?
  • Today’s acceptable norms. How’s it looking to you?
  • The price of gasoline? How’s it looking to you?
  • Church. How’s it looking to you?
  • The stock market. How’s it looking to you?
  • The state of the economy. How’s it looking to you?
  • The performance of the President. How’s it looking to you?
  • The prices of goods available. How’s it looking to you?
  • The Pandemic. How’s it looking to you?
  • The Covid-19 Vaccine. How’s it looking to you?
  • Conspiracies. How’s it looking to you?
  • The future. How’s it looking to you?

Most would say that the answers to these questions lies in our opinions. And you know what they say about opinions: Everybody has one and it’s like a certain “part” of the body that most of the time stinks. But I’m thinking this Monday morning. So let’s try another “probing” (no pun intended) question. Where do our opinions originate (for the lesser informed that means ‘come from’)?

  • The News?
  • Other people?
  • Blogs?
  • Podcasts?
  • The Wacky World Web?
  • Google?
  • Pseudo-Wanna Be Experts?
  • Conspiracy Theorists?

Answers such as these assumes a fact not in evidence; and they open the doors to making us victims if our chosen source of opinions is–how can I put it? WRONG! There are nefarious people out there who have twisted the old motto from Greyhound Bus Lines. Greyhound once had the motto: “Leave The Driving To Us.” And these vile, flagitious, opprobrious miscreants want you to LEAVE THE THINKING TO THEM. (very long sigh happening at this moment on my end) And so it is–(even longer sighing)–it seems that many people have relegated the formation of their opinions to others. If one or more of your answers to the above questions is: It’s a mess!, you are grasping what I’m saying this morning.

Even though you may think that many have drank the Kool Aid (thank you Jim Jones for that image) and blame their sources for their opinions–this conclusion is like so many other conclusions in our day–it only scratches the surface. You see, in reality our opinions come from only one source: Perspective! And everyone–I MEAN EVERYONE–chooses their own perspective. Blaming the Pied Pipers of Opinions is a mythical hypothesis. The time has come for everyone to stand up and be a man, be a woman, and admit the blame for all the prevaricated pig slop (you have to be from the South to appreciate this analogy) lies at their own feet.

You can disagree with me–and you’re still wrong. (And if I just offended some snotty nosed millennial, “Toughen up, buttercup!”) We have no control over some of the things that come our way. But Perspective? You own it, and you control it! Do some deep thinking for yourself rather than embracing the blather and twaddle of others. Sure, deep thinking for yourself may give you a headache–but the results may surprise you. It may even contradict the flummery you had called your “opinion”. And you will become a more intelligent person.

One Thumb Down!

Well, yours truly, experienced a moment yesterday that was not even close to my finest moments–not even in same zip code. A friend and I were adding a gate to our chain link fence. It required new post holes. I had 2 options–post hole diggers (which require a lot of physical exertion) or a drill with an auger. The drill and auger was the choice–after all I may not look very bright, but I do have my moments. That choice was my only moment yesterday.

As I was drilling the last hole, THAT’S when my common sense decided to take a break. As the auger was turning it hit a tree root. So what, you may ask. Well, here’s a lesson in physics. Since the auger was NOT turning all that energy had to go somewhere. That somewhere was up to the drill, that I was holding, and it violently began to twist, bending my right thumb in a direction it wasn’t meant to be bent. It wasn’t the drill’s fault, or the tree root–it was my fault. As you can clearly see from the picture below, there are two handles on the drill–one on top and one to the side. And this is why my not so bright moment occurred. I was holding on to the top handle instead of the side handle. Had I been holding that side handle, it would not have given my right thumb this lingering pain.

And now on my right hand, I have an unusable opposing digit. One usually doesn’t think about their thumb–that is–until you cannot use it. Being left handed I do not think much about my right thumb–but this morning my right thumb is saying: “See, you do need me!” Opposing digits, as thumbs are often called, are what make us different from most in the primate family and most of the animal kingdom. OK, what’s my point?

My point today is why are so many basing their beliefs and values on those who act and make decisions all the time the way I made one wrong decision? Look folks, too many who are not the sharpest tool in the tool shed, not the brightest bulb in the box (heck, their bulb hasn’t worked in years–if ever!) are influencing others–and the masses who refuse to think are following their lead.

So, who is influencing you? Who sets the cadence for your life? Who are you listening to? Those who don’t have a clue? Or, those who have the common sense, wisdom, and experiences to know better? Take it from me, if you are using an auger on your drill to dig a hole, make sure that drill has a handle on the side–and use it! This is the voice of experience! I close with this cartoon I recently shared on Facebook:

Near the end of the movie The Last Crusade, they find the Holy Grail–actually scores of them. But only one was the authentic Holy Grail. The Templar Knight guarding it said, “Choose wisely.” The villain in the movie, Walter Donovan, choose what he thought was the Holy Grail. After drinking from the cup–he rapidly and painfully returned to dust. And the Templar Knight said, “He chose poorly.” Yesterday, I chose poorly. Make good decisions–because they do have consequences. Remember Walter Donovan’s choice, and my poor choice. Just ask my right thumb! For a few days now, I’m going to be one thumb down!

Name That Druthers!

Lots of money or great looks? Unhappy CEO or happy sales clerk? Car or truck? Big mansion or cabin in the mountains? To be feared or liked? To be revered or loved? Sports car or pick-up truck? New vehicle or customized hot rod? Communism, socialism, or representative democracy? Smokin’ hot body or inner peace? To have others wait on you hand and foot or help others? The red one or blue one? Swimming pool or hot tub? I’d druther have the hot tub!

Perhaps in other parts of the world the word “druthers” isn’t often used. But here in the South, it often helps determine if you are really Southern or just a “wanna be”. Druthers are not necessarily a bad thing. For example, “I druther have some rain than this dusty dry condition.” Or, “I druther not have to go through another hurricane or tornado.” Or even, “I druther my car’s air conditioner work than having to keep all the windows rolled down.” The Druthers can inspire to us dream and work hard to achieve those dreams.

But there is another side to the druthers; one we all need to fend off. It’s the druthers of discontentment with life as it happens. It happens when we believe that life is unfair and unreasonable. It happens because we think that life owes us. It happens when we want an easy and comfortable life. It happens when someone has something we don’t have, that we think we deserve. It happens when we look for things to make us more than happy–but fulfilled and content. Can we be honest with each other? Our culture is running on empty and about to collapse because so many want their druthers rather than fulfillment and contentment.

Unfortunately, these same pursuers of druthers cannot see, will not see–there is a better way of life. You see, even IF we get our druthers, sooner or later (usually sooner) something else catches our eyes and we desire another druther; then another and another and another! Get the point? But what’s the alternative? And here is where so many get it wrong–oh, so wrong! They resign to misery and despair. But what if–WHAT IF I say–there is another alternative that will never leave you in discontentment, misery, and despair? Would you be interested in knowing what that is?

Here it is: Surrender and submit your moments, your each and every moment to Jesus! Druthers will never give you what Jesus gives us when we follow God’s Plan for our life. God isn’t interested in taking away the joy and fun of life. God is interested in keeping your from the discontentment, misery, and despair that marks and mars so many lives. He does this by giving us the life we are created to have–a life than doesn’t depend on our DRUTHERS–but lives within His grace and mercy–which is His Love. Things you love cannot love you back. But God–well, His love is always there–even when we can’t get our druthers!

Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. 

Philippians 4:11-13 (The Message)

By the way, that mansion and fancy car? They have a lot of maintenance needs. But Jesus gives us everything we need–maybe not our druthers–but always what we need!

Some Parts Are Missing

Image from Omni Containment Systems

Three of the most dreaded words to read are: “Some Assembly Required”. Maybe that’s just the “man” in me–you know–“Who reads the instructions? Real men don’t need instructions!” But have you ever tried to put something together and near the end find out that some parts are missing (or lost)? Frustrating, isn’t it!

Several years ago my fabulous wife purchased me a Smoker. I couldn’t wait to put it together and try it out! Well, I removed all the parts, found that useless Instruction Manuel, but something was missing! The nuts and bolts required to assemble it. I called myself looking, still no nuts and bolts. I started to return it to the store, but that useless Instruction Manual caught my attention. It said, and I quote: “If any part(s) are missing contact customer service. Do not take it back to the retailer.” So I called and in just a couple of days the nuts and bolts arrived. And I assembled it; mind you, without the Instruction Manual because that’s what real men do!

It was a work of beautiful art when I finished it. I began cleaning up all that cardboard and packing materials and something hard hit the patio floor. Can you guess what it was? Yep! The nuts and bolts. In defiance of my most diligent search, right there they were; plain as day! But how could that be? I rummaged through all that packing material and I knew they weren’t there. Put me on a lie detector machine and I would have passed it with flying colors! So, how could they have been there all along? There must be somebody to blame! They snuck in when I wasn’t looking, carefully cut the packing tape, found those nuts and bolts, and sealed the box back. Yes, that’s what must have happened! I mean, it’s impossible for me to have missed something! Isn’t it?

No it’s not impossible! And it’s not impossible to miss the presence of God. It happens with regularity to the best of us. It happens as we get more busy with things than with life. It happens as we live life haphazardly–with no real focus. It happens when, as in my case, we think we are right–but we are wrong, oh, so wrong! It happens when we look only at the surface of Scriptures without taking that deep dive where the Treasure often lies.

Following Jesus isn’t always easy–but it is really simple. So simple, that many often miss out on Real Life. We let the wrappings and “packing materials” get in the way, and like I thought about those nuts and bolts, we believe the lie that God is holding out on us. The truth is, Life has been there all along–we just didn’t look deep enough. Learn from my mistake (no, not ignoring the Instruction Manual)–take a deep breath, and look through everything. And if you want Life–I mean Real Life–I mean Life To The Max–look to Jesus. He’s been there all along!

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.

2 Corinthians 1:20 (NLT)

I Give Up On Religion!

That’s right! Yours truly is announcing to the world that I have given up on religion! From this point forward, if I am given a form asking for my religious preference, or asked the question directly, my answer is NONE! “But wait just a dog gone minute! You’re suppose to be a preacher, pastor, teacher! And now you are telling me that you do NOT have a religion?” That’s right, Buckaroo!

Now, before you begin to dislike me or unfollow me, listen to my reasons. I did NOT say that I am an atheist or agnostic–I’m not that stupid! I just said, “My religious preference is NONE because I don’t have any religion in me.” Think about what Religion has done over the ages. Here’s just a few examples, and reasons why:

  • Religion led to The Crusades
  • Religion caused The Inquisition
  • Religion was behind the genocide in Bosnia
  • Religion was why girls and women were excluded from schools in Afghanistan
  • Religion is why there is so much conflict in the Middle East
  • Religion has caused “religious” folks to look down on others
  • Religion divides people–even within Christendom
  • Religion is intertwining beliefs with politics (talk about a Train Wreck!)
  • Religion creates the illusion of moral superiority (“my brand of church is a whole lot better than yours!”)
  • It divides families and friends, creating distrust, even hate
  • It has led to a deep sense of complacency–causing apathy to the pains of real people in real places
  • And never forget what Karl Marx said about religion: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” And NO! I AM NOT A COMMUNIST!
  • And ad nauseam

So, if I’m no longer involved in religion, nor even religious; if I am not an atheist, agnostic, nor a communist; just what am I? This decision I have made has resulted in peace, hope, desire–in short–it has brought me to life. Since I an unencumbered by religion I am now free. I have to confess, sometimes I slip back into religion. But it doesn’t take as long as it once did to break free from the talons of religion. Here is how I self-identity when it comes to that horrible question “What is your religious preference?” I am a follower of Jesus!

“Why?”, you may ask. I could give you so many reasons. Instead I will give you just one, and from this single reason, begins to flow all of the other reasons:

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 (NLT)

Or, as another translation puts it:

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.

Micah 6:8 (The Message)

Think less of me if you like. Frown upon me if it makes you feel better. Me? I’m enjoying the liberty and joy of taking God seriously–instead of religion.

A Fraction Of God

Last night God provided me today’s topic. It comes from a book I am reading, Praying The Promises: Anchor Your Life To Unshakable Hope, by Max and Andrea Lucado. Here’s what made me think, and also made me sad, very sad.

Many believers settle for a two-thirds God. They rely on the Father and the Son but overlook the Holy Spirit. The Bible makes more than a hundred references to the Holy Spirit. Jesus said more about the Holy Spirit than He did about the church or marriage. In fact, on the eve of His death, as He prepared His followers to face the future without Him, He made this great and precious promise: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” (Acts 1:8 NIV)

Praying The Promises: Anchor Your Life To Unshakable Hope, by Max and Andrea Lucado

Two-thirds of God? How is that even possible? I mean, the bare minimum standard of God (the whole God) is daunting: “You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2). What? My ESPN just kicked in again, and on a Monday. Someone just thought, “Oh, that’s Old Testament stuff. I’m a New Testament person.” OK, if that’s the way you feel, try this on for size, and it’s from Jesus, Himself: “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 NLT)

See? It’s daunting, difficult, and down right IMPOSSIBLE! Why would God even expect us to be “perfect” if it can’t be done? That’s where that other one-third comes in–The Holy Spirit! But if you don’t know or understand The Holy Spirit, how do you get to “perfect”? Living with only a two-thirds god (notice, I used the lower case “g”!), how does one even get close to perfect? Well, here are some (poor, very poor) substitutes I’ve seen people use in a vain attempt to fill up that missing one-third:

  • Sunday attendance at church
  • Sitting in the same pew (that’s to make sure that God sees you)
  • Giving some money to the church
  • Able to recite The Lord’s Prayer without looking at the bulletin or screen
  • Keep the same traditions–and oppose any changes
  • Wear your finest clothes to church and frown on those who don’t
  • Pick up from your church a “devotional booklet” and read it, sometimes
  • Say a blessing before each meal
  • (Here’s a good one:) Point out where others aren’t “holy” and “perfect”
  • Align with a political party you think best follows what God wants
  • Make sure no other person sees or hears you “sin”–after all, appearances are everything, right?
  • And last, but not least (and this one is absolutely hilarious!) Trust your own intellect and abilities

I could go on with this list, but suffice it to say, my point is made–the one that Max and Andrea made in the book–We need the Holy Spirit–not only do we need the Holy Spirit–we need to understand His work and purpose in our life. What is that “work and purpose” in our life? Glad you asked! See the aforementioned passages–oh, let me reiterate them again:

“You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2)
“But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

New Living Translation

You and I need God, the WHOLE God and nothing but God–who comes to us through The Holy Spirit!