WHAT DOES YOUR SHADOW DO?

“As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by.” (Acts chapter 5, Verse 15 NLT) On a hot, muggy day in an Alabama month of May, shadows of trees offer great relief from the heat. But shadows seen in the middle of the night? Not such a great relief. And the other day, I was thinking about shadows–and how they influence us and others. And the saga of the apostles came to my mind and heart. And that single line written by Luke: so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by.

Who were them? Sick people! Wow! What an influence Peter and the others had in their culture! And notice, it wasn’t because of Peter. Look at that opening line again: As a result of the apostles work! The Greek word is about consequences! The consequences of their fire and passion for Jesus and the Kingdom was that even Peter’s shadow would heal Sick People! Can you imagine them walking down a road and just up ahead, family and friends sitting, even laying down, all sorts of sick people? Can you see the hope in the eyes of all those people? Not just the sick, but those who cared enough about them to take time from their busy schedules just to help!

And what about us apostles today? What??? Did you just think, “I’m not an apostle!” Why would you even think such a falsehood? I’ll tell you why you bought in to this horrible lie. You’ve been influenced to think you can’t make a difference in the lives of sick people. What if I told you:

My shadow, YOUR shadow has an influence on others. It can be a good influence or a bad influence. Think about it. What causes “shadows”? Light! And guess what? Jesus said “I am the light of the world!” To bring change into our culture all depends on what our shadow does for other people. If, like these first apostles (notice the use of lowercase), we have a fire and a passion for Jesus, then our shadows can and will change sick people. And who knows, our shadow may fall on someone who doesn’t realize they are sick–but then they encounter Jesus and are made whole. So, what kind of shadow do you cast?

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

scars!

Let’s see! There’s one on my left shoulder. I’ve got one on my right thumb. Oh, and there’s that long one across my abdomen. There’s two on my groin area. There’s even a small one just above my right knee. And there’s a story that goes with each one of them. And the stories are all painful; every one of them. Some more painful than others, but painful nonetheless. I’m talking about my scars.

I won’t go into any details about any of them. They exist with a story. Not all scars though are visible to the human eye. In reality, those unseen by human eyes scars are the most painful ones of all. And I’ve got even more of those scars, as most people do. Scars are reminders of events in our life. And they remind us of what happened before and after the scars developed. My physical scars? Well, they remind me my left shoulder doesn’t hurt anymore. Neither does my thumb nor right kidney. The hernia is gone. And that

I won’t go into any details about any of them. They exist with a story. Not all scars though are visible to the human eye. In reality, those scars unseen by human eyes are the most painful ones of all. And I’ve got even more of those scars, as most people do. Scars are reminders of events in our life. And they remind us of what happened before and after the scars developed. My physical scars? Well, they remind me my left shoulder doesn’t hurt anymore. Neither does my right thumb nor right kidney. The hernia is gone. And that scar above my right knee reminds me not to try to lift something too heavy–it might fall on me.

Wouldn’t it be great is those unseen scars could produce the same outcomes? Usually those unseen scars, of the heart and mind, seem to produce nothing but pain. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Think about Paul from the New Testament. He had plenty of scars, both seen and unseen. Yet he wrote in Romans Chapter 8 and Verse 28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (NLT)

Scars can and will tell 2 stories. The first story scars tell is of pain and hurt. But don’t allow that to be the only story. When we bring our pains, hurts, yes even our scars to God, He manages to make a powerful story about His Grace. Remember that Jesus invited Thomas to touch His own scars. Scars that have been healed by God tell another story–a story someone needs to hear. Truthfully, my phsyical scars haven’t opened a single opportunity for me to share the Good News Of The Kingdom Of God. But my mental, emotional, and spiritual scars? They’ve opened more doors for me than I can count.

So don’t allow those memories of the pain to define who you are! Scars tell another story–the story of healing. God will use the story of your scars–because somebody is struggling under the same pain that caused your scar. Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him! Oh, I leave you with this song:

THE GARDEN

This morning I’m a little sore. All yesterday afternoon, I worked in The Garden. Not the vegatable garden, but a new Flower Garden. Around here, we love all kinds of flowers. Debbie had been wanting one in a particular spot of our yard between and around 2 forsythias. So, I worked on preparing it. Can’t really plant any flowers just yet. Though it’s Spring, in Alabama, you never know what kind of weather we will have in March. Heat is on in the morning, and the a/c in the afternoon.

In order to have this flower garden I needed to till up the ground and get rid of the grass. It’s too small for my tractor, so I had to use the good old fashioned tiller, garden rake, wheel barrow, shovel, and a lot of scooping up and bending over. Thus the sore muscles and aching bones this morning. And I’m excited for what lies ahead. Sure, we can’t eat what will grow there–but we can still enjoy them. And not just us, but others who notice it as they travel down Alabama Highway 18. And–have you ever heard the expression, “Take time to smell the roses.”? What’s the purpose of my musings about a flower garden? Glad you asked!

We live in a time when the simple things of life are both ignored and neglected. So many times we are obsessed with what we want, what we think we need, that we fail to enjoy life. And agendas seem to be drive by what’s next. Sometimes what we need most of all is to stop and take it all in. Perhaps this is why David wrote in Psalm 23 this verse: “He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams.” It is so important for our emotional, mental, relational, and physical health and well-being that we stop and take in the beauty that does exist in this world. Yes, feed the belly–but also make sure you feed your heart and mind with the beauty of God. Yes, there is beauty to be seen in this broken world, and you never know where it will be. I know some of it will be seen along Alabama Highway 18. Right now in our newest flower garden there’s only brown dirt and a couple of forsythias, but more is coming.

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

OH, LORD, IT’S MONDAY! S.O.S.O.

“But what good is that with this huge crowd?” (John chapter 6, verse 9) This was Andrew’s question to Jesus when He had told them to find food to feed the crowd that day. All Andrew thought he had found was a young boy with a small sack lunch. Andrew’s thought process is still seen in these days. I call it S.O.S.O. thinking. Though S.O.S. is recognized as the international sign of distress–S.O.S.O. is not so easily recognized, though the signal is being broadcast every day and all day long. And it creates that harrowing and hideous Monday Morning Attitude. Perhaps I should provide the explanation of S.O.S.O.

S.O.S.O. stands for Same Ol’ Same Ol’! Mondays come around every week–and it seems like at times that every day is a Monday. Monday’s feel like whatever happens, whatever comes along, it’s simply the S.O.S.O. Have you ever felt like this? I’ll be honest and say, “You darn tootin’!” S.O.S.O. comes from expectation. Think about my personal hero, Andrew. The same kind of thinking that he had been living with his whole life concluded that this sack lunch wasn’t enough. And when we approach every Monday (and every other day for that matter) with the attitude that nothing is going to change–we draw the same conclusion as Andrew did: “But what good is that with this huge crowd?”

We need a different kind of thinking to overcome the Monday Monster! Think about Abraham and Sarah, promised a child but none had arrived. Or David facing Goliath. Or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego facing the furnace. Or Daniel in the lion’s den. S.O.S.O. thinking concludes that it’s hopeless for anything to change. But these, and countless others, reached a different conclusion. Back to my hero, Andrew!

Though S.O.S.O. thinking said it wasn’t enough, still–I said STILL–he brought what he had to Jesus. And if you are fed up with the Same Ol’ Same Ol’ follow the hero’s example–bring it to Jesus anyway! Andrew did see a different outcome and you may not see a different outcome for your Mondays–but Andrew brought what he had to the only one who could see a different outcome! And what a different outcome it was! Not only did Jesus feed all those folks until their bellies were full–there were leftovers!

When you doubt anything will be different–but you still bring it all to Jesus who always sees a different outcome–then you can say: Good! Lord it’s Monday! What shall we do together?

AND THE BID IS. . .

This morning I’m at this auction. It’s been a while since I’ve been to an auction. And this will be my first equipment auction. Since I now have a hobby garden tractor, I’m looking for any other implements I might need. I know, a man and his toys. There will be lots of stuff there; some things that someone doesn’t need anymore; some things that someone bought with the intent of reselling at a profit, and some things–well, they just seem to show up. It’s a macro-system of buying and selling.

It depends on how bad someone wants an item, and how bad someone wants to sell an item. I guess you could say price is determined by want. And that got me to thinking. I know–strange thing to get me thinking. But great minds see things most folks can’t see. I don’t know why I can. But here’s what I found–from the Bible, no less.

36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul?

Mark Chapter 8, Verses 36 and 37

There is an auction going on every moment of every day. The item being auctioned is your heart and mind. And there are only 2 bidders in the action. Each is offering you something in exchange for your heart and mind. One is offering you the world. Well, not exactly ALL of the world–but enough to make his bid seem enticing. If you accept his bid, you will get exactly what he promised you–and a whole lot more. The problem is “the whole lot more” isn’t explained to you–and you can’t see it at that moment. You get something–but you lose a whole lot more. You lose your soul, and miss spending eternity with God.

The other offer doesn’t have the flash and splash of the previous bidder. In fact, He will tell you that sometimes what He gives you costs you something more. He will tell you that sometimes it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient–but only temporarily. His offer also has more than you can see. But what you can’t see–let’s just say it has a lot better outcome–even a perfect outcome. Eternity with Him in perfect joy and love.

The winning bid is selected by YOU. So, what’s your soul worth? One bidder says, “Not very much!” And the other bidder says, “I give up my Son for you!” So, which one wins? You choose, just make sure you choose wisely!

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

HAVE YOU HEARD YOUR NAME CALLED?

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”). (John chapter 20 verses 15 and 16 NLT)

This is the epic saga of Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Jesus on that first Easter morning. I know it’s not Easter and I’m not jumping the gun. But who says we can’t talk about The Resurrection unless it’s Easter? This was one of the core parts of The Message by those first dedicated disciples.

Limiting The Resurrection to just a specific season is one of the many reasons for the Spiritual Confusion of our time. People are confused about gender identity; confused about their true purpose; confused about ethics; confused about right and wrong; and confused–well–just confused. And it comes down to just one single fact: They haven’t been Resurrected! They’ve wanted to be reformed, but not transformed. So, they ask God to bless their mess and sancitfy their stuff. But that’s not how it works.

Mary was broken–not just broken-hearted–she was broken to her core. She was a dead person walking. And the only way anything would change for her and in her was this: She needed A Resurrection! Fortunate for her, she came to the right place–A Cemetery! But she needed more–WE need more. We need to hear Jesus call us by our name–and then be willing to walk away from our old and very dead life. Resurrection isn’t about self-improvement. It’s about leaving the old things so that we can follow The New!

Do you need A Resurrection? Where do you need A Resurrection? Do you WANT A Resurrection? Mary’s answer to these 3 questions was the same–a resounding YES! What say YOU to my 3 questions? LISTEN! He’s calling you by your name! And He’s offering you what is His alone to give–Resurrection!

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

THE HIGHEST FORM OF

Did you see or hear it? I’ve been on a self-imposed hiatus from national news. Turns out, I was in a self-imposed exile. And exile is never a good thing–because I almost missed it. President Biden, and on board is Canadian Furhrer Trudeau, is saying it’s time for a New World Order. So that you know I’m not repeating what the empty talking heads are saying, here he is in his own words:

The first President Bush used this term in the context of the fall of the Soviet Union. But this latest attempt at resurrecting this term is in a completely different context. It’s not about how to reorganize after the collapse of a major government–it’s about taking away control from ordinary citizens and giving it to an elite group of people whose vanity makes them think they know what is best for the rest of us. The Revolutionary War happened because of this very thing: a select few determining what is best for the rest of us. Self-determination as a nation was frowned upon then, and it seems to be happening again.

And my question this morning is this: “Who is willing to oppose this move away from our representative republic?” It is the epitome of arrogance, oppression, and ignorance for any one or any group to think they are more qualified to think for the rest of us. And note, I didn’t ask who was willing to go along with the new world order. I didn’t ask that question because those who go along with this new world order do not have a will. They have surrendered over to others their rights and freedoms. Those who follow such deranged ideologists are dim-witted and imbeciles.

Will this great representative republic conquer these asinine ideas, or will it fall to that new world order? Time will tell–but it’s imperative that we counteract this movement starting now at the ballot box. Otherwise…there might be another American Revolution.

THE GRIP!

The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go. This is from the encounter between Jesus and what we might call a successful young man that had everything going for him. The story is found in Mark chapter 10 and the above quote is from The Message. Think about it. This young successful man knew something was missing in his life and to his credit, he brought it to Jesus. It seems to me he was looking for Jesus to simply confirm he was getting it right–or at least tell him which one of the things he was holding on to was the best.

When Jesus told him (btw the point isn’t that Jesus was against him being wealthy, sorry you so-called ‘Christian Socialists’) what he needed to do, he would not let go of The Grip he had. What Jesus said was last thing he expected to hear and pay attention to what he does next: he walked off with a heavy heart. The Grip he had denied him the very thing he wanted. And it still happens today.

Not with money, but a lot of other things. What things? Things like bitterness, resentment, hatred of that other political party, the politics that created this mess is going to clean up this mess, fear, past mistakes OF OTHERS, anger, jealousy, and a gazillion other things. The Grip they have in reality has them in It’s Grip! So, what is The Grip that has your face clouded over? What is The Grip that is making your heart heavy? And why do you still have The Grip? Let go of it and Grip the life of following Jesus.

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

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THINKING?

Whatever happened to thinking? Listening to people talk, watching the news, seeing how some people drive, and observing what they do, I am compelled to ask: Whatever happened to thinking? I wanted to conclude, “Well, they just aren’t thinking! If they were then they wouldn’t say and do all those stupid and insipid things!” But I’m wrong! Yes, mark this date on your calendars, Preacherman admitted he was wrong! It doesn’t happen very often, but it did this morning! Contrary to my errant conclusion, people do think–even when it seems like they aren’t. I mean, have you ever said to someone, “What were you thinking?” The implication is they weren’t–but they were. Thinking is controlled by our mind.

You see, if we are walking, talking, and breathing, then we are also thinking! It’s how we are wired, how we were created. The problem isn’t NOT thinking–the problem is HOW we think. The HOW of thinking is controlled by one thing and one thing only: PERSPECTIVE! And PERSPECTIVE is influenced by the things and people we allow to shape our values, beliefs, and attitudes; and these things form our words and actions. If we allow the gibberish thinking of others influence us, then the outcome is, well, what we see so much of today.

There’s a line of thinking around the concept of mind control. Research has been done in the hollow halls of academia, the maladriot back rooms of Washington D.C.–even the military has explored it has a weapon of war. But the truth is there is no such thing as someone else controlling how a mind operates. Thinking is controlled by our own mind. We allow and we turn away, we permit and reject, what goes into and out of our minds. So the question of the hour–heck! The question of the ages is: Who Or What Controls Our Mind?

Many seem to be at a loss for the answer to this question. Fortunately for you, I’m not at a loss for the answer. It’s the heart! Think for a moment about what Paul wrote in Philippians Chapter 4, Verse 5: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Think of your heart as the throne room of your life. Someone or some thing rules from your heart. Whoever or whatever is sitting on that throne at the time is your Ruler. Remember, that rulers can be ruthless, rancorous, and remorseless. Make sure your Ruler isn’t that–and the only one who isn’t ruthless, rancorous, and remorseless is Jesus! His heart is kind, merciful, and gracious. There is never a moment when He isn’t!

By surrendering your Throne to Him, He’s right there doing what only HE can do–Giving Us A New Heart! That heart He transplants into us is His Heart. And what does His Heart look like? Well, read the Manual–it’s also known as The Bible. And when (not if) you have trouble understanding The Manual, The Holy Spirit is right there to help us understand God’s Heart! But be aware, The Holy Spirit often contradicts what we and others think. But remember He is Safe because He is Kind and will never do anything to harm us. And as far as the mind goes? Well, the New Heart is instantaneous. But the Renewed Mind takes time and effort on our part. After all, you control your thinking! And your thinking comes out of whatever, or whoever, is sitting on that Throne!

OH, LORD! iT’S MONDAY! AVERAGE

Average. Ever pondered on the meaning of this word? The contexts that it is used? Some think average is OK, if it’s a good average. A baseball player who has a batting average of .350 is considered really good and worthy of a multimillion dollar contract. But a surgeon with a .350 success rate? Can you spell malpractice? A car that can be counted on running 35 times out of a hundred? Can you spell lemon?

Average means some are lesser and some are greater. Average is for final grades in school. For baseball players. For women’s clothing sizes. For statistical mathematics. But not for the followers of Jesus. Average life is another one of those cursed Monday Morning Attitudes that robs us of the joy of life. Here’s something to ponder for your Monday: Average is boring! It makes Monday and every day tidious and it’s an insipid way to live.

But God has another way–that’s way above Average. Each and every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday is filled with multiple opportunities to rise above the Average into a life that is Excellent! How can I say this? How can you believe this? Remember! Remember what Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations Chapter 3, Verses 22 and 23: “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.

When we remember that God’s love and mercies are right here for us in this moment–and that He will sustain us and help us rise above Average, then we can say: Good! Lord, it’s Monday! What shall we do together?”

PRODUCE OR PRODUCE?

Have you ever considered how difficult it is to master the English language as a second language? There was a time in my life when I thought that whoever invented this language was really bright and creative. I mean, creating a language–that takes some serious moxie. It takes a lot of imagination and creativity. Doesn’t it? That’s what I’m thinking about this morning. And as I am thinking, I have drawn a different conclusion about whoever invented the English language. Would you like to know what it is? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway!

Whoever invented the English language was lazy and had little to no imagination! There! I said it and now just think about it. There are words spelled identical but have completely different meanings. R-E-A-D is an example. It can be used this way: “I need to READ this book.” OK? Or it can be used this way: “I READ the entire book and didn’t like it.” Oh, and there’s another word that sounds like READ but has another different meaning–R-E-D–which is a color. Oh, and for the other READ, there’s REED which had nothing to do with books or colors. See? No imagination or creativity–just laziness in my opinion.

Then there’s today’s two words: P-R-O-D-U-C-E and P-R-O-D-U-C-E. Two identical words, that sounds almost identical, but each with its own uniquely different meaning. As a verb it means in the simplest of terms–to make something happen! As a noun it means in the simplest of terms–the result of something happening! Are you with me so far? Good! Let’s apply the results of those uninspired and unimaginative creators words. When it comes to the life of Grace, we don’t PRODUCE, we are the PRODUCE! And I daresay with the utmost confidence that any mess in churches in any place and at any time is the result of Tenured Pew Sitters thinking they are the verb and not the noun–that they are to produce rather than be the produce!

In other words, we are to be the results of a the processes done by an outside Source! That Source is the Holy Spirit. When we try to be the verb rather than the noun–the results are catastrophic and cataclysmic. We use up too much energy and time when we attempt to be the verb; which is a waste of both. Being the noun is–well, it’s a whole lot easier and a heck of a lot more enjoyable. What did someone just think? Did someone really say, “Show me in the Bible where it says that!” OK, dunderhead, you asked for it!

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Galatians Chapter 5, Verses 22 and 23 (NLT)

And please note that the word “fruit” is singular! I see way too often the plural form: “fruits”! This isn’t the produce section at the grocery store where you are free (provided you have enough money) to pick and choose what you want. We are to be the result, the product if you would, of the work of The Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the verb–the forces acting upon us–to PRODUCE the PRODUCE that this world and culture urgently and desperately needs. But for The Spirit to Produce the Produce we have to be yielded and surrendered to God. Don’t make it happen in your life! (Produce) Allow it to happen–the Produce of the Holy Spirit–which is always a Single FRUIT! Who said the English language is easy?

SPEAKER PHONE CULTURE

(Pic from memesmonkey.com)

Annoying, isn’t it! Or is it just me? Whether it’s out shopping, eating, or just walking in a public place. They seem to be everywhere–even in waiting rooms. Excuse me, but neither myself nor the people around you are interested in your phone call. Well, maybe there are a couple of nosey people who want to know. Come to think of it, without a doubt there are some nosey people wanting to listen in–but I’ll save my snark and sarcasm for another blog.

This has become more than an everyday occurence–it’s reached an epidemic proportion. And quite frankly, no pharmaceutical company can find a cure nor vaccine to fight this horrid plague. Why? Why? Why? A lack of thinking through? A lack of common courtesy? A lack of common sense? Or could it be they are just take a sadistic pleasure in the annoyance? Probably all four, with a heavy leaning towards the last reason. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes chapter 3, verse 1: “There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth.” (The Message). And as we read that list, you won’t find an opportune time to use that speaker phone in public! OK, so Solomon didn’t know what a cell phone is, but if he did, trust me when I say that he wouldn’t have included the cursed speaker phone in that list.

But there’s another side to this issue that the Spirit has shown me this morning! It has nothing to do with cellularized contraptions. It has everything to do with how we are to live as citizens of the Kingdom. Some seem to think that it’s about looking good and holy on the outside. Can anyone say “Pharisee”? Others seem to think it’s an inward and personal thing to be kept inside. But…Why? Why? Why? Why does it have to be one or the other? It doesn’t.

Ever heard the saying “Actions speak louder than words?” But the opposite is also true–sometimes words speak louder than actions. Sometimes that’s a good thing–when we share the story of God’s Grace in our lives–provided our story is backed up by our actions. There will be moments we need to reveal our Grace Story with our words. But without the obvious actions that accompanies our Grace Story, our words are just as annoying as those poor, pitiful, and pathetic souls who use the speaker phone in public places. Yes, someone needs to hear my Grace Story–AND your Grace Story. Our Grace Story doesn’t have to be a “made for TV true life story”–it just has to be real and genuine.

To be a Kingdom Witness it takes both actions and words! Those first disciples were Kingdom Witnesses because they had their experiences with God’s Grace and they both showed and told with words their Personal Story Of God’s Grace. And their words carried weight because their actions verified what they were saying! So, stay off the speaker phone in public–but let your Grace Story be seen by others–and then you will have the opportunity to tell in your own words, what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do in your life.

Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.

1 John Chapter 3 Verses 18 and 19 (New Living Translation)

DENSE FOG ADVISORY

Dense Fog Advisory! Sometimes this warning shows up on our weather app; sometimes the local meterologist tells us that; and sometimes–well–it’s obvious! Am I right? Do we really need an app or the local weather person tell us this when it’s so obvious? Are there really people out there who don’t know there’s dense and dangerous fog out there unless an app tells them? (Heavy, heavy, heavy sigh here) It grieves me deeply to say this–But, Yes! Absolutely there are people out there who don’t know there’s a dense fog out there unless someone tells them! There was a season when this thought made me angry. And now? It makes me sad and literally breaks my heart.

It’s not just the weather fog people cannot see–there’s a denser fog out there that’s more dangerous than the fog those apps warn us about; it fact–there’s a myriad of fogs that will cause bigger crashes that the fog on the highways. There’s the political fog that is so dense and many cannot see the danger right in front of us. I’m not singling out “a” political pary–it’s ALL OF THEM! Then there’s that cultural fog where people think they can think for themselves, resulting in norms that are twisted beyond intelligent reasoning. There’s that moral fog that deceives the person into thinking they can do whatever they want and escape the consequences. There’s what I call the family fog–where parents want to be their kids friend rather than their parent–where fathers and mothers are missing in action. I could go on, but hopefully (unless you are in a dense fog of your own) you see my point.

Where do all these fogs come from? Glad you asked this question because I have the answer. It’s that Spiritual Fog! People will disagree about anything and everything. One sees one thing and another sees another thing and another sees yet another thing and–it goes on ad nauseam–and the fog gets thicker and thicker and thicker. Imagine, if you will, morning commuters driving in a dense fog at the same speeds as a bright, sunny morning. The dense fog doesn’t seem to phase them. But sooner or later–more likely to be sooner–what they don’t think is in front of them–IS in front of them–and the chain reaction wreck begins. More cars and trucks plow into the mess–and when the fog clears? Carnage and devastation appears.

Without a set in stone foundation for our lives, what happens on highways and interstates happens to people, families, communities, and corporations. But we do not have to live in a spiritual fog because we have God’s Word, otherwise known as The Bible. Every issue of life is addressed in The Book! But more and more have turned their backs on The Book. Why? Well, The Book tells us why–THE BOOK that so many think is irrelevent and unreliable. The Book tells us in Proverbs chapter 14, verse 12–“There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.” (NLT) The Message makes it even clearer: “There’s a way of life that looks harmless enough; look again—it leads straight to hell.” When we think we know everything, WATCH OUT! And when you recognize the dense spiritual fog all around–there’s an app for that–we call it The Bible. Turn to The Book! Run to The Book! And ask The Teacher (The Holy Spirit) to help you–and He will!

PERMISSION GRANTED!

I was thinking this morning–even though sometimes I shouldn’t. But I was. I was thinking about a lot of stuff–why was this happening, why wasn’t that happening, what’s wrong with the world? Then a sombering thought broke through: What’s wrong with me? Please, no comments from the peanut gallery–I was dead serious. What was to be my time with The Trio (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) was constantly being interupted by this plethera of thoughts. Finally The Spirit was able to get a word in edgewise in the midst of all this thoughts of mine; He said, “Give us permission, and we will help you get your focus back.”

Permission! I hit the breaks to all those other thoughts, stuffed them back into the closet where they belonged, and I gave my Permission to The Trio to take control. All it took to settle my gray matter down, was to give my Permission to The Holy Spirit to take control. And thus this morning’s musings about Permission. Whatever thoughts we have are there because we have given them Permission to be there. And whatever is in our heart? You guessed it! It’s there because we have given it Permission!

And just as quickly as we gave something else Permission to run wild in our heart and mind, we can give Permission to our Heavenly Father! Giving God Permission is quick–but not always easy. Giving God Permission to take over contradicts what we’ve been taught, what we believe, and how we see life. Those thoughts, ideas, and beliefs will cry out that you’ve been wounded by God. But you haven’t been wounded by God–only those thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that have set up shop in your mind and heart have been wounded. But you? You are being set free and liberated from the chaos and confusion that comes without God on the throne of your heart. I leave you this morning with these words about Permission–straight out of the Bible; the Old Testament even!

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    He’s the one who will keep you on track.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message)

AND THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

“Raising up to the skies” has taken on a new meaning these days. What once was the price going up 2 cents a gallon, has become 10 cents or more a day for fuel. What gives? What’s happening? Who’s to blame? Some want to say it’s Putin’s insane invasion of Ukraine. And many more want to say it’s President Biden’s fault. And the ones who are struggling and suffering because of these ludicrous increases are individuals and households who have a low and limited income. But let me give you a different perspective–one that goes deeper than finger pointing.

Decisions! Decisions are causing this economic disaster–and it is a disaster. A decision was made that everyone must give up hydrocarbons. A decision was made that the world would be better with nothing but electric cars, and electricity produced only by the wind and sun. And the biggest decision made was to shut down the Keystone Pipeline. The decision was made that the masses did not know what’s best for them, so a decision was made for them.

These decisions were not made by a single person–but a block(head) of people who think themselves so enlightened that they are qualified and empowered to make decisions for anyone else–for everyone else. And how did these pompous elitists come to have so much power? Simple–A decision was made! At the ballot box a decision was made to listen to the hype rather than the truth. At the ballot box a decision was made that it makes sense to turn our lives over to the government to take care of us from craddle to grave. A decision was made to stay away from the ballot box.

Decisions, however they are made, lead to consequences. Even decisions made sincerely and with the best of intentions, can lead to horrible consequences. So, does this mean we are all chained to an Orwellian life? Well, you can make that decision to say, “Yes”! Or, you can make another decision. But this other decision will require you to think–think long and hard–for yourself, using the wisdom of those outside the news media, social influencers, and political parties.

This debacle did not happen overnight–and to reverse this tousled train wreck will not happen overnight either. And the first way to begin the reversal of this mussed up mess, is to form a decision at the upcoming primaries. Decide that enough is enough–of career politicians. Then you can make a decision to reduce your personal consumption of fuel–don’t go to the store for just one item. Plan your shopping trips. Don’t go shopping just to go looking. Don’t go out to eat–there’s a marvelous invention called the kitchen stove. And the best decision you can make right now is to not give in to fears and frustrations.

OH, LORD! IT’S MONDAY! LOOKING FOR A BARGAIN!

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.

Matthew 16:24-25 (New Living Translation)

Often times people come to church looking for a bargain.  Our natural self wants just enough religion to make us feel comfortable; just enough to make us different from the riff-raff out there in the world; just enough to make us think there’s a possibility we can make it into heaven.  Something that would fit nicely into their lifestyle.  Something that would look good on the mantle or in the curio cabinet.  Don’t want to pay a whole lot.  In fact, if we could barter and negotiate a lower price, it would be even better.  Does this sound like someone you know?  Or does it sound like you?  Now before you answer the question, let’s take a close look at how Jesus describes those whom He considers to be true followers.

We have all heard, and probably quoted verse 25:  “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”  But do you remember what set this passage up?  Simon had made that famous profession:  You are the Christ!  And Jesus blessed Simon with a new name:  You are now Peter, The Rock!  Then Jesus tells them of His impending death.  And Peter absolutely loses it.  He misses the point, and in an instant, lost his focus.  He dares to tell Jesus, “Oh, no, Lord, this kind of thing will never happen to you.”  And Peter experiences yet another name change, “Satan, get behind me!”

Then Jesus proceeds to explain what a real follower is like, what it really means to be a genuine disciple of Jesus:  “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”  The Message puts it like this:  “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.”

In being a real disciple of Jesus, there are no bargain rates, no bargain prices, no short cuts to the life He offers us.  Second hand experiences will not even help us.  Jesus calls to step more than just outside of ourselves; He calls us to step beyond ourselves.  He calls us to be beyond selfish interests and personal preferences and personal opinions.  He calls us to move forward through the path of sacrifice.  Sometimes this means we don’t get it our way.  Sometimes this means that unfair things happen to us.  Sometimes this means heartache and pain are a part of our normal experiences.

Jesus reminds us that we are not to run away from inconveniences and sacrifices, but we are to run toward them.  Truth be known, we all like Easter better than Good Friday.  We all love happy endings.  But we cannot make it to the Empty Tomb of Easter until we take a trip to Calvary.  In this Lent Season we need to spend quality time at the foot of His Cross.  There’s an old word that I want to use that you don’t hear very often:  the word is TARRY.  We need to TARRY at Calvary.  Take the time to take it all in.  Don’t give the Cross a quick glance and move on.

Stay there!  Let that moment of Perfect Love flood over your life.  I would encourage you this Lent Season, that if you have a copy of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion Of The Christ”, take it off the shelf and put it in the DVD player and watch it all.  Let that emotion pour through you and out of you.  The best evidence of God’s love isn’t the empty tomb, but the Cross on which Jesus died for me, for you, and for everyone.  Then read this passage again; hear Jesus say to you, “If you want to follow me, surrender to me and then take up the Cross and follow me.”  This is no “Yard Sale” pricing here.  It’s all or nothing, but the rewards are indescribable now, and out of this world later.

When we choose to follow Jesus by total surrender and picking up the Cross, then every Monday morning we can say, “Good! Lord, It’s Monday!  What shall we do together this week?”

THE WANDERING MIND!

This morning, my mind was a wandering! I’ve noticed here lately that it wanders off more frequently–and sometimes it forgets to come home. And in the darkness before today’s dawn, The Spirit gently and softly confronted me about this. And even as I tried to focus in on the Spirit, my mind started wandering again. I tried all kinds of words to get my mind back, focused on Him–but it was still trying to wander off to a thousand and one things I needed to get done today. I was about to think it was hopeless–all my attempts to reign it back in failed. It was then I said something different and it helped me. Maybe if you have a wandering mind like I do it will help you.

Here is what I said: “I will stop wandering and keep focusing on Jesus. This is my decision for today. And I will begin every morning with this decision. And with God’s help, I will live into this decision! And instantly my wandering mind came home. Why was this so powerful for me? I surrendered my will and my inabilities to control my mind. When I surrendered, The Spirit stepped in and said, “I can handle this–I’ve just been waiting for you to me permission.”

I had to face the truth that I wasn’t able to control what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking “bad” things–I was thinking about other things–things I needed to do–things I didn’t do yesterday–things I needed to get done today. And my mind went wandering, chasing those things like a beagle chasing rabbits. My decision to admit my powerlessness opened the gates of Heaven–and two things happened. I was focused on and aware of my Companion, The Holy Spirit. And I now have clarity. I may or may not get everything done today–but I have the ONLY One to help me sort through what needs to be done today. I leave you with this:

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.

Isaiah 26:3-4 (NLT)

READING THE POLITICAL SIGNS

The signs are popping up everywhere–political signs, that is. Here in Alabama it’s campaign season for the primaries. The signs are popping up faster than buttercups this time of year. And all of them are telling us that they have read the signs of government, and that they are the ones to correct the mess. Forget that politicians created our hot mess, still there will be more who will promise to fix the political messes. I’m just a country boy, but isn’t that like hiring the fox to guard the chicken house???

Spin is the trade word they use. Just recently our POTUS declared that the economy is stronger than it’s been in over 4 decades. Excuse me, Mr. President, but nearly double digit inflation, supply chain problems, tons of people who are content to be paid by the government to stay at home rather than work, and gas prices that are rising more than homemade cathead biscuits doesn’t sound like a strong economy. But if a politician declares our economy to be stronger than the past 4 decades–then it must be so, right?

Apparently politicians have a problem reading the signs. They obviously have problems comprehending what is happening. But it’s not just politicians who can’t read the signs. As much as I would love to blame the politicians for this hot mess–the real cause is the voters. After all, they are the ones who put these knuckleheads in office, at least the majority of the voters. Many voters allow the news media determine who is the best poitician. And many simply don’t vote. And now EVERYONE is reaping the whirlwind of leaders ineptitude at reading the signs. As bad as this sound, there’s something even worse–now that ought to scare the you-know-what out of anyone.

Voters will not take the time nor effort to research the candidates for themselves! Folks, stop listening to the dribble of the news media and learn to read the signs for yourself. And all you folks who will NOT go to the polls? Get off your duff and get involved. Support and vote for even that candidate whom the news media has declared doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell! Friends, we have before us the opportunity to right this ship known as the good, old U.S. of A. And if you don’t like your choices at the primaries, then next time become one of those candidates, or encourage someone you think is a great alternative to the sewage that is out there. Only God keeps His promises! And do politicians keep their promises? Well. . .just read the signs!