AND GUESS WHAT HAPPENED THIS MORNING?

Before my thoughts spill out all over the Wacky World Web, take a moment and slowly read this passage. Just one time. Wait! Scratch that. Read it slowly 3 times.

22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

Lamentations chapter 3, verses 22 and 23 from the New King James Version

Did you read this slowly 3 times? I think not! Go back and read it slowly 3 times. Now we can proceed. Back to my opening question: AND GUESS WHAT HAPPENED THIS MORNING? Now, write down your guess and we will see if you win today’s grand prize! Got you answer? Good. And the correct answer is There’s A Brand New Sunrise! It’s not like yesterday’s or last week’s or last year’s! It’s brand new! Now, let’s cut to the chase: Does this excite you about the potential for today? Or does it fill your mind and heart with fear, anxiety, and dread?

Now go back to the words from Jeremiah’s heart! Do you know when and why he wrote those words? Knowing what’s happening as the writers share their heart helps us see the power of their words! Jerusalem and Judea had just be invaded by their neighboring enemies, the Babylonians. The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and looted and devastated The Temple. And the people who lived through the onslought are carried away into capativity as prisoners of war and slaves.

Yet, I said YET! Jeremiah sees the sunrise! “They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” What is the They? God’s mercies! If on this Saturday morning you feel like a prisoner of war, or something’s slave, listen to the hope from Jeremiah. With this newest sunrise, God has brand new mercies and They are new this morning. This is good news because what we think is the outcome of our messes, His Mercies provide a different outcome. As bad as it may seem sometimes, the problems will not consume you! All you have to do is give up! Give up everything inside of you and ask God for His Mercies! Then believe there is an abundance of Mercy all because of what Jesus did on the Cross for all of us.

It’s a new day, and it’s filled with Fresh Mercies! His mercy always delivers us! Always! Now go out there and love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him! Now, if you will excuse me, there are some new mercies on this Saturday for me. . .and for you!

WHERE DO YOU BELONG?

The longing to belong is one of the most basic human emotions! I know there are those we call hermits who cut themselve off from all human contact. They achieve this by building a stone wall around that desire to belong to keep it under control. But this does not negate that most basic desire: the longing to belong! So, let me ask you this morning, “Where do YOU belong?” The answer lies in our true identity. And this is where all the chaos and problems begin.

Some think their identity is found in who they want to have sex with. No, this Preacherman isn’t afraid to talk about sex. Others think their identity is found in those who think just like them. Still others think their identity is found with those who have the same fashion taste as they do. Still others think their identity is found with those who societal norms have declared they are the “in” group. Still others think their identity is found with those who have the same political views. Still others think their identity is found with those who like to do the things they like to do. Still others think. . .get my point?

But what if I told you that the longing to belong isn’t in any of these types of things? It’s the truth, whether you believe me or not. Remember that the longing to belong is the one of, if not the most basic human need. Where does it come from? Glad you asked! It comes from The One who created us–God! God the Father! God the Son! God the Holy Spirit! Why do I say this? Because of all that God created only one thing bears His Image–and that’s us Human Beings! Not the trees, not the skies, not the stars, not the fish or any other critter. It’s Us Human Beings!

And why is this truth so important? (And it is very IMPORTANT!) God created us for intimate friendship and fellowship with Him and all the other Image Bearers! But with the introduction of sin (thanks, Adam and Eve!), that friendship and fellowship was broken. But don’t despair! God did something about that sin. He didn’t change His mind about sin! Au contraire, my friend. In fact, He showed us how damaging and destructive Sin is when His Son, Jesus, died on that Roman Cross. And through our faith in His act of grace filled love, the disease of sin is taken out of us!

And we BELONG to God, Our Creator, Father, Savior, and Sustainer! Now some want to say that it’s love–love is what makes us holy! Whoa! Wait a second buckeroo! It isn’t love that makes us holy. It’s Holiness that makes us Love! And holiness is clearly defined by the Bible, not the so-called experts on the Bible. Holiness is more that what we do and don’t do. Holiness is the life long transformation back into our original image. And don’t think for a nano-second that means you have to give up your individuality. God doesn’t use a cookie cutter–that’s what Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters do.

No, God made you uniquely YOU! Within this human form there’s no way any one of us can fully express God’s Glorious Image! So God gives His Image Bearers (at conception, I might add!) each a uniquely personal way to reveal His Glory. But if we let other things tell us where we belong–well–we just end up angy, bitter, and hateful. More than this, we end up empty. So don’t worry if others tell you that you don’t belong! After all, they didn’t create you. You belong to God who is working to bring HIS glory out in you!

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

And I leave you with this song:

JUST ONE MORE SUNSET AND THEN BACK TO THE REAL WORLD!

We have just one more sunset and then it’s back to the real world. Debbie and I left Easter Sunday afternoon for our semi-annual retreat to visit family and friends near Bartow, Florida. I drove all night to get here because Debbie’s recent foot surgery prevented her from driving. But it’s been worth the drive just to be here and relax. Yes, Virginia, you can go to Florida without going to a beach. We’ve spend priceless time with family and friends we’ve made down here. We’ve also eaten a lot–I mean —A LOT! And since I’m not retired (yet), we will head back to Alabama early tomorrow morning. Today’s topic is the need for–call it–Vacation!

I’m not talking about having to be here at 10:00 and at 12:00 be there. I’m not talking about running to see this, that, and the other. And I’m certainly not talking about having to be entertained or keeping the kids entertained. This kind of trip isn’t a vacation. It’s work, HARD work! I mean, have you ever said when you got home, “Boy, I need a vacation to get over the vacation!” If you get home tired and worn out, you’ve been working! No, it’s about vacation!

Ever looked, I mean really looked at this word VACATION? And when you hear it, does your credit cards tremble at how expensive it is? There’s a word inside VACATION that most folks can’t seem to see or recognize. If you, the reader, can’t see it–then I’ll tell you. The word is VACATE! And here is what it means:

I love definition number 3: to render inoperative; deprive of validity! When was the last time you deprived validity to the pressures and stresses of life? Have you ever made those forces of every day life inoperative? Well, you should! My ESPN just kicked in; someone is thinking, “But the kids! They will be miserable!” What’s your problem? Have you never said NO to them? Well, maybe you should. Definitely you should. When they are young is the time to teach them the importance of self-care and how not to be pushed and driven by the stresses and pressures of life. And if they get bored, it will be an opportunity for them to engage their creativity instead of being locked in being entertained. And for them to learn how to be creative, you have to deprive them of their electonic devices.

I know I sound like an old curmudgeon, but there is an invaluable truth for you. Being stressed and staying stressed out isn’t healthy for anyone–physically, emotionally, nor spiritually. We need to render inoperative those things that threaten our safety and wholeness. Think about all those Hebrews who had just been released from a life of slavery. Then they get to the Red Sea and look behind them and there’s the Egytian Army coming after them. Fear swept over them. Fear was both operative in their thinking and that thinking validated the fear. So what does Moses say?

But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

Exodus chapter 14, verses 13 and 14 from the New Living Translation

Picture this: an army behind them intent on bringing them back into slavery and a sea in front of with with no bridge to cross or ferries to carry them to the other side. And God is telling them Just Be Calm! In other words, vacate those thoughts for a moment. Make them inoperative. And invalidate any influence they are having over you right now! OK, I’m getting a little lengthly this morning so let me get to the point. God holds the Army at bay, then parts the sea in front of them. They make it safely to the other side, and God releases the Army and they try the same thing they just did. But there was a different outcome: the waters closed back together and they never had to face them again!

Regularly vacate for a season what is in front and behind you. Make that authority inoperative and invalid in your life. You can do this weekly by withdrawing from everything,, and focus on God who is at work in your life. But also make sure you vacate instead of vacation at least once or twice a year. Debbie and I do it three times a year. And after we arrive back at home tomorrow evening–we will be refreshed and renewed. And it’s all because we have invalidated the normal routines for a season. And now we can get right back in the saddle with a new zeal and strength!

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

PS: I won’t be writing tomorrow morning, but I’ll be back!

RIPPING APART AT THE SEEMS!

The fabric of our culture is being ripped apart at the seems. And please don’t call the Grammar Police that I have used the wrong word. It’s the correct word. I wrote what I meant and I meant what I wrote. SEEMS! Here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. the fabric of our society is being ripped to shreads at the seems. I came upon this thought through remembering a certain passage from The Bible. In fact, it’s been roaming around in my gray matter for several days. Here is is:

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.

Proverbs chapter 14 verse 12 from the New Living Translation

Some might think it’s amazing that a book as old as Proverbs can be so relevant to these times. But it’s not really amazing to me. These books of The Bible continue to be both timeless and timely. But let’s get back to those seems. Consider this:

  • It seems right to the LBGTQI culture that if society just accepted them, they would be happy.
  • It seems right to the gay community that if they could just get married like any heterosexual couple they would be happy.
  • It seems right to the project manager since their assistant is so capable to let them do all the work and they take all the credit.
  • It seems right that since that other person is so good looking, that a night in the sack is OK.
  • It seems right that if they child shows up for the games they should get a participation trophy.
  • It seems right that since they have a college degree they should start at the top.
  • It seems right that since that drug helps take away their stress they should reach for it.
  • It seems right that since a child would impede their lifestyle and goals, an abortion is the right choice.
  • It seems right that the government should be responsible for us from craddle to grave.
  • It seems right that if someone doesn’t agree with you that they must then hate you.
  • It seems right ad nauseam…

Now before you Tenured Pew Sitters finish saying, “Amen! You tell them Preacherman!” Let’s look at our church culture.

  • It seems right that Jesus should just come back and take us good ones on to our reward, since this world will never change.
  • It seems right that if the church could just go back to the good old days, we could stop the hemorrhaging members and doors closing.
  • It seems right that if their church started catering to them, then all the problems would go away in their church.
  • It seems right the church’s sole job is to point out the sins of others.
  • It seems right that everyone in their church should dress a certain way, think a certain way, and believe a certain way.
  • It seems right that the church should only help those who deserve it.
  • It seems right that they should only sing the songs they like.
  • It seems right ad nauseam…

It seems that many, too many people, are living by the seems–and life is ripping apart at the seems. And then Proverbs Chapter 14 Verse 12 proves itself to be absolutely true. What seems to be true is proven false by life itself. And things begin to rip apart, at the seems. This is life without God–life without Jesus as BOTH Savior AND Lord. Contrary to the opinion of alleged experts, we are simply not qualified, and certainly not capable, of determining what is right and what is wrong.

But there is an alternative and it’s the only one who will keep our lives from falling apart at the seems. It’s really simple and easy–that is–if we can get over ourselves. We find it in another book of The Bible. It’s in Matthew chapter 11, verses 28 and 29:

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

from the New Living Translation

The word yoke doesn’t refer to the kind worn by oxen and mules. It’s about the Teaching Of The Rabbi. Back then what Rabbis taught was called The Yoke. And if you think the teaching of Jesus is too hard and difficult (because He did say: Be holy as I Am holy), read these words again. But this time from a different Translation:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

from The Message

Be and become whom God made you to be and become, and NOT what seems right to you. You and our society will be and become something so much better. 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! PUNISHMENT

Mondays are the punishment for what we did over the weekend! This is what Monday feels like for many of us on the third rock from the Sun. The feeling of being punished is both painful and it makes Monday seem like it’s an impassable situation. And it prevents us from seeing and experiencing the joy of life–the Joy that God wants us to have. This past weekend a conversation with a friend brought this to light for me.

My friend said, “I guess it’s God punishing me.” And to prove the Holy Spirit is still at work today, I replied, “No, it’s just the consequences of our stupid choices.” Yes, Jesus was punished for our screw-ups, a.k.a. SIN! But His Payment doesn’t negate this consequences of our choice to ignore The Truth. Every word spoken, every chosen attitude, and every action has consequences. Newton’s Third Law of Motion applies not only to physics–but to our spiritual life. In case you forgot it, Newton’s Third Law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Sin has it’s own consequences, always! Though God’s Grace releases us from the punishment of sin, the consequences is a whole other matter. But rather than bemoan and wail about those consequences, why not do something different? And just what would that be? Glad you asked. We call it “learning”! For example, say there’s a hot iron skillet on the stove. You grab it by the handle and discover just how hot it is. So, what do you do? Try the same thing again? Or, would you take a pot holder and remove that hot cast iron skillet? Makes more sense to use a pot holder. Am I right? Why would you do that? Because you learned, the hard way, that not using that pot holder brings you pain.

So, what if we see the Monday Morning Attitude not as a punishment, but as a learning time? One benefit would be to make better choices in life. If we know some choice is going to end up making us feel miserable, then we learn “Don’t do that again!” Unfortunately, we often don’t have what it takes to avoid those poor decisions. This is where The Gospel comes into play. God offers to help us–SUCCESSFULLY HELP US–make the right choices. Even the apostle Paul struggled. In Romans chapter 7 he wrote about wanting to do good, but didn’t. He didn’t want to do wrong, but he did anyway. At the end of his soliloquy he discovers The Good News (verses 24 and 25)–“Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Throught the Holy Spirit we are given the knowledge, wisdom, and power to make the right choices and thus avoid sin with all its consequences.

When we accept the fact we are sinners and embrace the Presence and Power of The Holy Spirit in all our decisions, then we can say: Good! Lord, it’s Monday! What shall we do together?

RIDICULOUS!

It’s a crazy, crazy world! Or is it? Looking at the above snyonyms I am forced to conclude that it’s NOT crazy–but Ridiculous! I mean, how preposterous is it that good olf fashion science has been replaced by feelings? Yet this current culture wants to emphasize feelings over reality! Isn’t it ludicrous to ignore eons of scientific advance in favor of how one feels? How silly is it to abandon the facts of biology and pursue a life built around how one feels? It’s absurd to even contemplate that human beings are more capable to make important decisions based on feelings rather than scientific fact. It’s just plain

We see and hear this every day with increasing frequency! Even the truth can’t be told today without being accused of being mean, vicious, ugly, phobic, and full of hate. Here’s just one example from many that bears this out: Gender! Eons of biological facts have testified and verified that if one has a penis they are male and if they have a vagina they are female! (What? A preacherman using the words penis and vagina? Ridiculous!) This is the way it is–with the rare exception of a genetic abnormality of hermaphroditism, being born with both genatalia. It’s estimated that 1.7 percent of people are born with this condition. This can be blamed on Adam and Eve–along with tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and a plethera of natural disasters. Not only did Adam and Eve fall, so did all of creation! Oops, I am off-track. Back to my original thoughts.

Now days the number of genders has grown beyond two! One site on the World Wide Wacky Web says there are 72 different genders. Now, let me be very, very clear on this point I am making. I do not blame any of those who identify with any of those 72 alleged genders. If anything, my heart breaks for them. You see, they have been lied to! They are being told to ignore basic scientific law and replace it with how they feel. I blame those who promote and encourage this pseudo-science–all in the name of trying to make people feel better about themselves. And this attempt has utterly failed and created a culture of unhappy people that want to and actually blame their misery on us who just so happen to believe in the science and The Bible. (Yes, Virginia, you can embrace both factual science and The Bible.)

So, what are we to do? We who embrace the science and The Bible? We cannot afford to be silent–for the sake of the misguided. We can’t allow being called homophobic, xenophobic, mean, and hateful stop us from speaking the truth–In Love! Face the truth, some people are ugly and hateful towards the deceived. And this must stop IMMEDIATELY! There are ways to be both gracious and truthful–firm and loving–at the same time. Don’t allow their hate to make your hateful. And don’t allow their anger create anger in you! Feelings will never trump truth. Never!

I CAN’T CALL HIM! missing my dad!

Well, I made it through Dad’s birthday–it was challenging, but I made it through! I made it through my birthday–another challenging day, but again, I made it through. And this week has been another challenge. Twice a year we come down here to Lake Millsite (Florida) to visit family and friends. I would always call Dad to let him know we made it safely. And then call him every day we were here. And when we arrived here Monday, I couldn’t call him. And once again, here’s that challenge that reminds me of how much I miss him.

God is pulling me through each of these challenges–and to be honest with you (can I be honest with you?)–I don’t like these recurring challenges. I want them to be over–but I still find myself missing Dad. And the pain becomes fresh again, and the loneliness that comes with it–I think I would rather get a root canal without that numbing stuff. Something is missing–someone is missing in my life. But God? He keeps pulling me through these moments. I say pulling because, well, you may find it hard to believe–but I can be stubborn and hard-headed.

I am learning something, in spite of my stubborn side: I can count on God! He gives me a song; sometimes a scripture passage; sometimes a person; sometimes a scene in nature; and always His Presence. And if you are facing a challenge today–you can be assured that God is Present and He is at work in your challenges. My grief is roaring and rolling over me right now. I’m hurting. And I wish I wasn’t. But know what? God is pulling and tugging, tugging and pulling me to help me get through this moment. Our Heavenly Father is a mighty tugger and puller. Count on Him today, tomorrow, and every moment of every day.

When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.

Isaiah chapter 43, verse 2 (New Living Translation)

OH, LORD! IT’S MONDAY! TICK TOCK TICK TOCK!

Tick Tock! Tick Tock! And more TICK TOCK! God created life to be explored and enjoyed. And here’s the thing: We only have so much time to do this on the third rock from the Sun. And we might do more of it–if it wasn’t for that infernal Tick Tock! So many, way TOO many, are living from their calendar. Appointments! Agendas! And STUFF! It all robs us of the adventure and joy in life. So, when Monday rolls around like clockwork (see what I did?) the Tick Tock controls our life. To explore and celebrate life we have to make time to break free from our calendars and the Tick Tock.

Notice that I said MAKE time! The calendar and the clock are the prison wardens that keep us from the very thing we are created for: to explore and enjoy life! You must deliberately fight to provide yourself a season, even if only for an hour or 2, to get away from the Tick Tock! As you are reading this, Debbie and I are either near Bartow, Florida or IN Bartow, Florida beside Lake Millsite. Some might say we are on vacation–but we see and accept this time as the gift of sabbatical. No rushing from this to that to the other. Just being with family and friends. Of all the things we carry with us (my golf clubs go in first!), one thing I do not have is a watch. Time is one of the many gifts that God gives us–not to be busy–but to explore and enjoy!

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

GRUESOME, GHASTLY, AND GRISLY FRIDAY!

We need to have the tax collector moment before we can call it Good Friday! (see Luke chapter 18) Maybe we need more than just one moment. Do you think it would help us if we really could see what Jesus went through that gruesome, ghastly, and grisly Friday?

All night long, He had been questioned, insulted, and abused. Deprived of sleep He was carried to the Roman’s governor’s palace. There He was questioned more. Then taken to the courtyard of the Roman Garrison where He was bound to a post. Two Roman soldiers began to flog Him. The Roman flagrum was a whip with at least 3 stips of leather. Attached to each end was a piece of metal or a sharp bone fragment. Each lash left its mark; sometimes ripping a piece of flesh from Him. Then a crude crown made from a thorny bush was forcefully pushed down on His head. He was mocked and slapped and hit.

Then He was presented to the crowd with an option. Instead of calling for His release, they shouted, “Crucify HIM, yes crucity HIM!” The patibulum (the crossbeam of the Roman cross) was placed on His already bleeding shoulders. It weighed about 70 pounds, or more. The splinters went into those open wounds, adding to His torment. He walked approximately half a mile with the patibulum, at one point falling to the ground. When He finally arrived at the place of execution, He was forced on the ground where one of the soldiers drove long nails in His wrists. Another soldier climbed a ladder, threw a rope that was attached to each end of the patibulum, and was lifted up to the notch made for the patibulum.

As He was being lifted up to that notch, He was unable to breathe at all. The weight of His body was held by those two nails. Once the patibulum was in securely in place, His feet were positioned one on top of the other. His knees were pushed up sightly and another nail driven into both feet. This enabled the condemned to push up so they could breathe. You see, the cause of death from a Roman crucifixion was suffocation. From there the insults and mockery continued. He pushed against those nails to get another breath. Then His Father treated Him like the sinner. Now alone, He continued to suffer. He struggled to push up again just to breathe. Until. . .until He had no strength left. Without breathe in His lungs, He suffocated. And the one who breathed the breath of life into Adam, was dead. THIS was that Friday we call Good. But if you had been there as an outside observer, seeing it for the first time, it wasn’t good. It was gruesome, ghastly, and grisly.

And this morning I can’t help but to think and wonder how much it cost for us to call it good. And I’m wondering if truly know how it really was that day, for Jesus. That’s why I said We need to have the tax collector moment before we can call it Good Friday! In that parable the tax collector realized how messed up, broken up his life was. He felt the pain of his sin. And all he could utter in that moment was “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” If we do not know we are sinners, how on earth can we know we need a Savior?

So rather than call this GOOD Friday, I challenge you to do something different! See the beaten, bruised, and bloody Jesus on the Cross. Watch Him painfully struggle for a brief gasp of air. See His agony. And know. . .know He did it all for you. Maybe, just maybe, we will stop thinking some of those horrible thoughts we have. Maybe, just maybe, we will stop justifying ourselves. Maybe, just maybe, we will see that we can’t liberate ourselves from the power of sin. Maybe, just maybe, we will finally see that it’s time to stop pretending–and become broken. Then. . .and only then can we be liberated from sin’s destructiveness. . .and begin a new life. . .the life that Jesus paid for with His Life.

WILL YOU WASH SOMEONE’S FEET TODAY?

Will your agenda for today include washing feet? It’s Thursday. Jesus does no public teaching. It would seem to the discerning eye that Jesus’ thoughts are elsewhere. And they are. He’s thinking about all those lambs that will die tomorrow, but never be able to do what HE is about to do. In 24 hours He knows that He will die. It will be the most horrible way to die–on a Roman cross. And more than the horrendous pain He will face from the scourging, the nails, and hanging from that cross–He knows He will face the penalty for every sinner. So, yes, there’s a certain look on the face of Jesus they haven’t seen before.

Jesus tells Peter and John to go to Jerusalem and reserve an upper room. So, they do what Jesus tells them not knowing the implications. That evening the mood is festive. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a good meal with good friends. They watch Jesus as He gets up from His reclining position, the position of a free person by the way. Sorry, Mr. Da Vinci, there were not sitting in chairs. He deliberately removes His outer garment, takes an empty basin, a pitcher of water, and a towel. They are wondering, “What’s He up to know?” And the mood changes from festive to somber as they watch Him kneel and begins to wash feet. Dirty feet. Feet, that in hours, will run and hide. The feet of The Betrayer. The feet of the denier.

Amidst objections, Jesus continues to wash those dirty (in more ways than one) feet. Do they realize they have been touched by the hand of God, Himself? When He is finished, the basin, pitcher, and towel are set aside. He puts His robe back on. Silence fills the room. Then His lips begin to move and He says, “Do you understand what I was doing?  You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am.  And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.  I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” (Gospel of John, Chapter 13, Verses 12-15 New Living Translation)

Now, back to the title of today’s thoughts: Will you wash someone’s feet today? Will you remember verse 15? “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.”  Never forget whose feet He washed. No one was excluded. Not Peter. And not even Judas! Can you do this? Are you willing to do this? Will you follow Jesus’ example? Or not? Think about it!

IT’S SPY WEDNESDAY!

Did you know that today, Wednesday of Holy Week, is called Spy Wednesday? It is so called because it is commonly accepted that this was the day that Judas struck his deal with the Sanhedrin. And this got me to thinking . . . about Judas. Judas is depicted as the quintessential villian in the minds of most. He’s the villan who is trying to steal the widow’s house. The land barron trying to grab the family ranch. The pimp who sells the bodies of his stable. Images of Judas are usually that of a–well he just looks like a bad and nasty guy. There’s a greed in his eyes that is unmistakeable.

But are we treating Judas fairly? Our knee-jerk reaction is probably, “Well, yeah! He betrayed Jesus for 3 months salary! All he cared about was money!” Isn’t that what we’ve always been told? Well, what if that wasn’t the reason why Judas did what he did? A Calvinist would say it was predestined by God and that Judas had no choice in the matter. The deck was against him from the very beginning! And I know John called him a thief in his Gospel (and a gazillion preachers and teachers)–but it’s an opinion not reflected in the other 3 Gospels. What if. . .mind you I’m only asking What If. . .there was another reason? And what if that reason seemed to make sense, if only to him? What if Judas wasn’t after the money, but for Jesus to assert Himself? Perhaps Judas was simply impatient because Jesus hadn’t asserted Himself as the kind of Messiah that Judas thought He should have been. You know, another King David that would whip the pants off the Romans and send them running away with their tail tucked beneath them.

Is this really impossible? Think about it. On Sunday Jesus road into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt. It’s right there in the book of Zachariah, chapter 9 and verse 9! That’s the sign that the Messiah has arrived! Then on Monday Jesus purges The Temple of merchants and money changers. Now Judas’ hope is rising! His next step should have been to rally the people together in a new revolutionary war against Rome. But it doesn’t happen. Perhaps Judas was thinking, “What gives? Why isn’t He asserting himself as the next and final King David? He hasn’t made a move towards that. I know, I’ll help Him out! I’ll set up His arrest. He won’t allow that pompous you-know-what Caiaphas harm Him. He will put Caiaphas in his place and begin the new revolutionary war!” But that’s not what Jesus did. And Judas realized he made a mistake–a mistake that he would never be forgiven of, or so he thought; so he took his own life. Does that really fall into the Twilight Zone? The realm of impossibilities?

But what about us? What are our expectations from Jesus? Have we ever been guilty of trying to help Jesus out with His work? To do what WE think He should do? And IF Judas sold out Jesus for those 30 pieces of silver for that reason only–what price have we sold Jesus for? Where have we compromised the Truth for our personal convenience or our desires? Have we tried to justify our actions because we sincerely believe we are right, though we never really listened to what Jesus wants? On this Spy Wednesday, 2022, could it be there is more of Judas in us than we want to think about? Admit to? So, What say ye?

LOVE LOWERS THE BAR! REALLY?

Love lowers the bar! That’s right, forget about Biblical Holiness, just love others as they are and forget everything else! What?????? Well, at least that’s what Progressives want everyone to believe. Over the years, our cousins–The Episcopal Church, and the United Methodist hierarchy have been exploring what they call “Communion”. In simplest terms, it means we recognize each others contributions to the Body of Christ, and will work together to further The Kingdom. But recently the Episcopals decided to put it on hold because of our current quagmire about human sexuality. The Episcopals have decided to wait until 2024 to see what our governing body decides about this issue, even though the issue was settled in 2019; a decision that hasn’t been followed hardly at all in the United Methdoist Church. (Read the article here)

What the progressives, or as I am prone to call them, Pro-Agressives, wants is for us to have a new God-Approved Definition of human sexuality. In other words, let each person decide–their gender, if they even have one, and with whom they want to have a sexual relationship. But wait! There’s more! One cannot love them unless they approve of their self-designed sexual designation! If you don’t approve–meaning it’s OK for them to be pastors and missionaries and such–then you hate them.

Their (twisted) logic is that Jesus came to show us what love looks like; and He loved everyone unconditionally–and this means He approves of their lifestyle, including sexual identity. Therefore, if we want to follow Jesus, then to love them we must place our stamp of approval on their lifestyle as well. So, when Jesus told the woman, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”, He meant, “Now you are free to commit adultery, if that’s how you feel about yourself.” And when Jesus said, “Be holy as The Father is holy”, what Jesus meant was, “In about 2,000 years you will be smart enough to define what it means to be holy! Forget what the Bible actually says. You get to decide! That is, if you will approve of what others believe!” (If you would like to read some of the comments about this article, go to the United Methodist News Facebook Page.)

Crazy, crazy, and more craziness! Right? And since we as human beings love to point the finger of blame at someone, where do we place the blame for this craziness? Personally, I want to blame the fundamentalists, for they are the 21st Century Pharisees. And we all know how Jesus felt about Pharisees! I would like to blame the Churchians and Tenured Pew sitters who want people to be conformed to their opinions rather than be Transformed by the mind of Christ. I would like to blame the Pro-Agressives for demanding their view be the only view. But then, I would miss the mark of who is really to blame.

And who is to blame? The answer is clear: Satan! He rejects The Truth and promotes The Lies. If anyone knows about the trickiness of Satan, it’s Peter. Remember, he denied Jesus 3 times. But later on, Peter wrote in 1 Peter chapter 5 verse 8: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” He has devoured this culture by those who have bought into his lie that we are smart enough to define Holiness for us today. Well, that’s just a bald-faced lie! Wake up, folks! We can love everyone without condemning them. And we can love them without putting the church’s stamp of approval on their life choices. To some it may sound crazy to say this–but it is what it is!

OH, LORD! IT’S MONDAY! WHY, OH, WHY?

Another one of those dreadful things about the Monday Morning Spirit happens as we either don’t know our WHY, or we’re living with the WRONG why. And without the right WHY, we end up sounding like our kids when we tell them they can’t do something. Is your WHY for this Monday the bills that need to be paid? Duties and responsibilities? Obligations? More bingeing? Maybe you don’t know??? Life is meant to be lived for a purpose, with a purpose, and ON purpose! Get the wrong WHY, and it’s dread and emptiness. Would you believe there’s a writer from the Bible who understood this? Yep! Solomon! He wrote in Ecclesiaster chapter 1, verse 14: “I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.”

But what can we do to break this monotonous cycle; the cycle that is sucking the life out of us like a Hoover vacuum cleaner? May I offer you a suggestion? Well, I’m going to anyways! Let Jesus turn over your tables! I say this because it’s Monday of Holy Week. And on that last Monday before his execution, Jesus turned over some tables (see Matthew’s Gospel chapter 21)–tables that had no place in God’s Temple. And this wasn’t the first time He did such a thing. Seems like someone didn’t learn the lesson from the first time! Those tables in The Temple were put there by those who thought they knew the real purpose of The Temple–to make them more money–while pretending to help those who came to encounter God. Currency changers! Sheep market peddlers! Dove sellers! All those tables–but all of them were the wrong table.

Are you living at the wrong Table? Herod’s Temple (the one where the story I aforementioned occured) is nothing but an archeological site. But God’s Temple still exists. Wanna know where? Well, I’m gonna tell you! It’s found in First Corinthians, chapter 6, verses 19 and 20: “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” If this Monday is a dread and a pain–you’re sitting at the wrong table. Jesus loves turning over the wrong tables. He’s quite good at it. Allow Him to turn over your tables–then step up and have a seat at the correct table. It’s the one that gives your life a purpose that you can live with–and spend your day ON purpose. It’s like Paul reminds us from First Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 31: “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

When your life has the right purpose, then you can say: Good! Lord, it’s Monday! What shall we do together?

IN THE PIECES, THERE IS PEACE!

This world keeps getting more chaotic and crazier every minute! I could have said that it SEEMS LIKE the world is getting more chaotic and crazier–but that would be a lie! And this Preacherman would never intentionally lie to you. And in the chaos and craziness, hearts and lives, plans and dreams, are being broken and scattered in a gazillion pieces, like glass hitting the floor. And for many, the Pieces have displace the Peace. And so countless people either choose medication, legal and not so legal, OR to surrender. And even more are contemplating these two choices as their only choices. But what if there was a different choice? And what if I told you that the is a different choice?

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John Chapter 14, Verse 27 N.L.T.) How can these words apply to your pieces? Do these words of Jesus even apply to you? Yes, and a million times YES! Jesus shared these words with His closest friends on the eve of His arrest, trial, and death. But I just heard someone thinking, “Yeah, sure! But how can there be peace when the chaos and craziness is all around them and me?” Glad you asked that question. Jesus never speaks in platitudes or triteness. He has the power to back up His Words. Three days later, Jesus did just that for them; and He will do it for you!

“That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said.” (John Chapter 20, Verse 19 N.L.T.) Before His death He told them He was leaving them the gift of peace of mind and heart–something the world cannot give! And in His first appearance to them, His words were, Peace BE with you! Did they understand everything? Were they going to be set free from future problems, headaches, and heartaches? Absolutely NOT! God’s peace isn’t located in the world! His Peace is located in His Presence–THE Presence that can and will live in YOUR HEART, if you allow Him into your heart. I leave you this morning with a song that reminded me, in my chaos and craziness, of His Peace. And though the chaos and craziness is till around–SO IS HIS GIFT OF PEACE!

YOU CAN’T ALWAYS WAIT!

You just can’t always wait! Today I am starting to plant the seeds for our garden. Now, the old folks always said that you can’t plant your garden until Good Friday. And today is NOT Good Friday, and I just can’t wait. “Why?”, you ask. Because The Weather Channel app shows that it’s going to be raining some next week. I know, I know, meterologists aren’t always right. But sometimes they are; so I need to start today. Otherwise, the garden spot will be too wet to work. So it has to be today! And what does all this have to do with Living The Kingdom Life?

Life is meant to be lived on purpose with a purpose! As citizens of God’s Kingdom our only purpose is to share The Good News Of The Kingdom in ways that reach deep into the hearts and lives of others. We Citizens have the responsibility of sowing The Seeds. And it’s easy to say, even easier to think, that we have plenty of time to do this. NEWS FLASH! We don’t–and those around us don’t either! One thing those earliest disciples had that many don’t have today is that Sense Of Holy Urgency! If I don’t believe The Weather Channel app and wait until next Friday, I’ll have to wait an additional 2 weeks because we are going on another sabbatical after Easter. If I wait too late to plant, I will not get the harvest that I should have. Paul had something to say about not waiting!

In Ephesians chapter 5 and verse 16 he wrote: “These are evil times, so make every minute count.” (from the Contemporary English Version). The ever familiar King James Version puts it this way: “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. I looked up that word, “redeeming” in the Greek and found out it means: “to make a wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good.” And when does that opportunity come up? Every moment of every day. Folks, we can’t afford to wait to share God’s love until the time is just right. And neither can the people around us. So, get busy! Plant those seeds!

And if you have been putting off surrendering your life to Jesus, the time is never better than right now! Because I didn’t wait until Good Friday, some of those old folks will say that my garden won’t do well. But I can’t wait hoping The Weather Channel got it wrong. So, I will plant some of those seeds today. And trust The Master Gardner for the outcome.

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

TODAY’S GOING TO BE GREAT!

Today’s going to be great! I don’t know what all is going to happen. Still, today is going to be great. Of this I am confident! Without knowing any single detail, it’s going to be an amazing day! It’s not because it’s my birthday–but because of The One who gave, is giving, and will always give me life. And the source of this confidence is found in Psalm 118, verse 24: “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” I haven’t always been able to have such resoluteness. There have times and seasons where I dreaded getting up. But not today; or any day for that matter.

Today God is going to keep revealing His heart for me! And for you! He is going to stand by me, helping me to cope with the hard stuff. He is going to show me the wonder of His creation. He is going to reveal how much He loves me. He is going to throw in some surprises of His Grace. He is going to be faithful to me, even if I slip and become unfaithful to Him. His arms and heart are wide open for me. He’s going to show me some moments that seem at first to be ordinary–but He is going to make them extraordinary. And if I find a moment I need to cry? Well, He has an unlimited supply of Kleenexs and will gently wipe away my tears. He’s going to protect me–and do more than I can even imagine!

What about you? Do you have this confidence? Perhaps you’re facing another round of chemo. Perhaps this is your last day at your job. Perhaps this is the day divorce papers are finalized. Perhaps your day includes visiting a family member who doesn’t remember who you are. Perhaps it’s another day of waiting for your prodigal to come home. Perhaps there is a funeral you will attend today. So, this kind of confidence is missing in action for you. But remember that God is never missing in action. When our heart is open to Him and our trust in Him is unconditional–God is always with you. And even when it feels like He’s no where to be seen, He is still there because that’s WHO He is!

Rejoice that God has made this day, for in this day He is at work in your life. And His work is always good–and more than good FOR us–it’s the BEST work because you are made in His image. God is doing something right now–so REJOICE! Today is full of unlimited and unimagined opportunites to experience His love and grace for you.

So, Love God With All Your Heart. Love Others The Way Jesus Loves You. And Make Sure All The Glory Goes To Him!

LONGING TO BELONG!

Where do you belong? There’s an old story about a preachers’ conference where they got into an argument over free will and predestination. It became so heated that they divided into sides to determine how to counteract the others belief. One group went to one side, and the other group to the other side. All went, except one. He couldn’t decide which group to belong to. Finally he went over to the predestinationists side. When he got there someone asked, “Why are you here?” He replied, “Well, I chose to be over here.” They all shouted angrily, “You belong on the other side!” So he went. When he arrived with the other group someone there asked him, “Why are you here?” And he replied, “Well, because they sent me here.” The leader of the group said, “Get out of here! You can’t be here unless it’s your choice! You belong with that other group!” And he wondered where he did belong!

Longing to belong is one of the basic human needs. And one of the powerful motivators to action in all of us is the longing to belong–somewhere; even anywhere. Like the above mentioned preacher, we long to belong. And often this desire leads us to the wrong places, the wrong people. And to be rejected by a group, well. . .it’s downright painful. You may be thinking about teenagers longing to belong to a certain clique. But it’s not just teenagers–we adults, of all ages, do the same thing–at work, in the community, in politics. To belong means we have to fit in. And many times we just don’t fit in. And they remind us of that. Rejection is a powerful enemy to our heart, mind, and life.

Sometimes we do manage fit in, but we find out it’s not where we belong. We lost something inside us–so we try to find another group. And the cycles of trying fitting in and rejection viciously attacks us and we become washed out, wiped out, and worn out. And sometimes, some people feel like they don’t belong anywhere. It’s a pain that works so deeply within us it makes us feel helpless and unfit. Honestly, do you feel like you belong? Belong anywhere?

What if I told you there is a place you belong? Would you doubt me? Would you wonder how much it would cost your heart and mind to belong there? Would you wonder if you fit-in, I mean, really belong there? The place I’m talking about is for the worn-out, the weary, those carrying what feels like the weight of the world, tired–and who are willing to admit it. And the Group Leader–none other than Jesus, The Christ, The Son Of The Living God, is waiting with open arms to welcome you. Are you thinking, “There’s no way I would fit into religion!”? Well, I’m not talking about religion–it’s about The Relationship Of Belonging. Personally, I hate religion!

Jesus extends the invitation to everyone; everyone fits in because everyone is made in God’s image! That why Jesus said in Matthew chapter 11, verse 28: Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” All we need is to get rid of the junk that is hiding that image. When you don’t fit in, when you think there is no place you belong–Remember that Jesus longs for you to belong with Him!

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

THERE IS A DIFFERENCE!

If you really think about it, this is true. There IS a difference! Oh, you’re wanting to know between what. There is a difference between I need to, I got to, and I want to! But there is also something they hold in common. I know, it sounds like I’m talking in circles. But hang in there just a moment. As an example, think about healthy eating. Are you thinking about healthy eating right now? I know, it’s hard to think about eating healthy when you’re also thinking about ice cream with peanut butter and chocolate syrup. But try anyways!

Deep down, and maybe your doctor told you, you know you need to eat healthy. But you’re still eating greasy fries. So finally you decide, I got to eat healthy! But be honest, just because you know you got to doesn’t stop you from eating fast food. Then you step on the scales and don’t like that number, so you declare, “I want to eat healthy!” And maybe for a week you avoid going by Sonic to get that Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshake (large, no less). But then, you go back to the old ways of eating. See, there is a difference, if only for a week.

And here is the similarity between all three decisions. There hasn’t been any real change. And it’s not just eating habits where this applies. You can need to improve your spiritual life. You can feel that you’ve got to improve your spiritual life. And you can conclude that you need to improve your spiritual life. And maybe for a season, be it ever so short, you work on improving your spiritual life. But like that conclusion you need to be eating healthy, your life goes back to the old ways.

More that need to, more than got to, and more than need to–we need to have the will! See, contrary to Calvinists, we have a will–a will that determines outcomes of our choices and our life. And without that will, nothing is really changed in our lives. But before you despair, there is a solution. Jesus gave us that solution in that powerful teaching about life in God’s Kingdom as we pray: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew chapter 6, verse 10)

Question: At this moment, are you one earth? Well of course you are! So in this simple prayer, Jesus teaches us to change our will from what we think, want, and do to what God thinks, wants, and does. And this is God’s offer to all of us–that when we need to change our will to HIS will–He is present, willing, and working to change our will into HIS will. Ever heard of having will power? There’s something far better, and it’s God’s power at work in our hearts when we give up our will!

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! THE ATTACK OF ATAXIA!

“If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what’s the sign of an empty desk?” This was the sign on Dr. Wells desk. He was one of my Old Testament professors–and that sign on his desk was appropriate. Books and papers all over his desk. And I thought to myself (something dangerous for me to do), “Self, this man is my hero!” You see, I am the world’s worst at creating clutter. I have taken creating clutter to the highest level of both art and science. But recently I’ve learned something else about clutter–and it ain’t pretty.

Clutter causes ATAXIA! No, not the pathological condition–it’s a condition of the mind and heart that permeates into our very core. It’s living with and in clutter. Clutter isn’t the same thing as procrastination, putting off what we should do today. Clutter is the outcome of not thinking further down the road. It’s the lack of organizing our things–our mind–our heart. Clutter takes on a life of its own–growing and growing until it takes over everything. What brought me here is my He-Shed. When I got through using something, rather than put it back in its place, I left it wherever. And I did this consistently. And now? I realized my He-Shed had influenced my thinking. So, I’ve been busy cleaning up the clutter. And it’s been frustrating, to say the least.

But when our heart and mind is cluttered, it’s both dangerous and deadly! Clutter robs us of the joy of life and makes Monday a pain in the, well you know what! Clutter even affects our spiritual life. And that’s why Jesus said, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew chapter 6, verse 33) And I’m on a journey to keep God first–by eliminating that He-Shed clutter–because clutter is contagious and affects every part of our life.

So, if this Monday is a dread to you–look for the clutter in your life. Then make Jesus and The Kingdom your priority. And how do we get rid of clutter? By getting rid of what we don’t need–and organizing what we need. And trust me, that takes a lot of focus and fighting against frustration. But when we stick to it, then we can say: Good! Lord, it’s Monday! What shall we do together?” Excuse me, but I’ve got more clutter to tackle today!

HE’S UP TO SOMETHING!

He’s up to something! Ever heard that? Ever SAID that? Usually it’s not something good. But Someone else is up to something today–in this very moment that you are reading this! And it’s more than good; it’s GREAT!!! Who’s up to something great? So glad you asked. It’s God! Every day, every hour, every minute, and every second of your life God is up to something! And while some may think or even say that it’s not good–they are WRONG! Others may give up–YOU may even give up! Give up on things getting better. Give up on a certain person. Give up on yourself. But not God! Listen to what He said so very long ago:

For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Isaiah chapter 43, verse 19

Whatever I was facing–whatever I am facing–and whatever I will face–God is the Great Turner-Arounder! Divorce. A mother will Alzheimer’s. Watching your dad die. Losing a child. Losing a child who has gone to the “far country”. It does not matter. God is prepared and is already on the move in your life. Even if you don’t believe me. Even if you can’t see it. God doesn’t wait for us to believe He is at work as the Great Turner-Arounder! Remember, those disciples on Saturday after Jesus had been crucified. They didn’t believe it and they couldn’t see it. But their perspective did not prevent The Resurrection! And your doubts–well, God is up to something right now FOR YOU! Just trust even when–especially when–you can’t see it or believe it. I leave you this morning with a song:

Which Do YOU Prefer? Onions Or The Promise?

3 “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”

Numbers 13:3-4 (NLT)

(This is from a few years ago.  Hope you find something to help you in your Journey!)

I have to admit and give credit to where credit is due.  Today’s Kingdom Musings are inspired by something I read this morning from another fellow blogger Matthew Winters.  Though we have never met, we are connected because we shared a dark journey through an identical situation-a pastor who experiences divorce first hand.  I encourage you to read his blog Does Anyone Take Risks Anymore?  Thanks Matthew for unclogging my mind to write in this blog again.

As with all Scripture, one needs to know the context of a passage in order to understand it and apply it to our lives.  God has been leading the Hebrews to the Promised Land through His chosen leader Moses.  Besides always providing for their physical needs, God has been visibly present with them.  In the daytime it was in the pillar of cloud and at nighttime it was in the pillar of fire.  Both evidences of His presence was clear and undeniable.

Even after a lot of grumbling and complaining, they are at the very edge of the land that God promised first to Abraham and now to them.  Can you imagine the people redeemed by God’s grace, mercy and love actually grumbling and complaining?  Aren’t you glad that people today redeemed by God’s grace, mercy and love never grumble or complain?  Yes, I’m being sarcastic, one of my many gifts.  To understand this passage we need to know what led up to it.  In Numbers 13:1-2 (NLT) we read:

The Lord now said to Moses,  “Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites.  Send one leader from each of the twelve ancestral tribes.” (emphasis mine)

They were to called out by God catch a glimpse of what HE was about to do.  The inhabitants were formidable, but for God who spoke light into the darkness, it would be a walk in the park.  Remember, HE is giving HIS personal guarantee that they would occupy the land and HE would give it to them.  But when these explorers came back they acted in a very human manner-there was a Majority Report and a Minority Report.  The Majority Report saw the risks and responded to the risks:  “It just can’t be done!  Before we even try, we are already whipped!”  Remember that this report is given in the light of God’s Personal Guarantee:  the land I am giving to the Israelites.  It’s a report given by those who have been witnessing God’s faithfulness.

The Minority Report saw THE SAME RISKS and said, “Look, people, if God said HE will give us this land, let’s consider this a done deal.  We don’t know exactly how He is going to pull this off, but that’s not my job.  The fact is we were never called out to determine success or failure.  We were called out to catch a wonderful glimpse of what God guaranteed HE would provide for us.”  So, the people went with the minority report, right?  WRONG!

People who had been faithfully provided food and water along the way, witnessed God delivering them in battle, AND who had witnessed the Faithful Presence of Cloud by Day and Fire by Night, want to go back to Egypt and back to slavery.  Where did this come from?  Well, it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision.  They had already given a clue to where they heart and mind was at before they arrived at the edge of risk.  It is seen in Numbers 11:4-6 (NLT)

Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!”

Rather than enjoying the faithfulness of God, they wanted onions.  The price of the onions was to go back to slavery.  The modern parallel is clear, at least to me.  Today’s people of God, the church, are facing the same moment:  Do we take the risk of going into God’s Promise or do we go maintain the status quo?  The challenge for the Body of Christ here in the United States is do we keep on doing church work as normal or dare we take the risk of becoming involved in the work of the Kingdom of God?  Congregations that have plateaued or declining are doing so for one of two reasons:  Either their community is dying out, or they are more concerned with preserving the institution of their choice rather than doing the work of the Kingdom of God.  There is an alternative to the slavery of decline.

There are congregations that are thriving and making new disciples.  These are the congregations that have made Kingdom Work more important than church work.  The promise of God is not to have a land of beautiful church buildings and wonderful church programs, but to put in the middle of the territory of the Enemy the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.  This is our Promised Land-for the Kingdom of God to reach, touch and transform lives, homes, communities and nations.  For this to happen we must be willing to take risks.  And herein lies the problem.

When taking risks, there is the potential to fall flat on our faces.  I see a lot of good people who mistakenly believe that failure is fatal.  So to avoid becoming a fatality, they seek the comfort of the familiar because in the familiar, they live in the false illusion that they do have some type of control over their lives.  And this false illusion makes them feel more comfortable than taking the risk of trusting the Guarantee of God!  Comfort rules over risks for the Kingdom.

Recently I was at an event that was led by some of the Team Pastors of Grace Church located in the Cape Coral and Fort Myers area of Florida.  One of their pastor’s, Wes Olds said, “Don’t be afraid to fail.  In fact, do what we do.  Fail early, fail often, and fail forward.”  What he meant was that we need to be willing to learn from our mistakes and then move forward.  Some of our best learning, especially in the realm of the Kingdom of God, happens through our failures.  The problems arise hard and fast when we do not learn from our failures.  Remember this:  your failures, whether in the form of sin or in the form of trying to be faithful to our Kingdom God, never disqualifies you from God picking you up, dusting off your knees and telling you, “OK, get back out there!  I still believe in you!”

So here’s what I would like to ask you to do.  Answer this question:

Which do you prefer?  Onions or The Promised Land?

Your answer is clearly revealed in how you feel about the risks of stepping into a future where success lies entirely in the Hands of The Faithful God, the hands that were nailed to a Cross, and a future that is never controlled by our hands.  I personally know what it is like to walk into a future unknown by me.  But I go ahead and walk into this future because I have chosen to hold the Hand, the ONLY Hand, that knows exactly how this future will turn out.  My unknown future is only an illusion when I realize that God is in control of my life and my future; a future filled with His Promise.  I love a good onion, especially with beans and cornbread, but I am choosing to let go of the onions of predictability and comfort and enter into an adventure with the One who redeemed me and calls me to catch a glimpse of what HE is about to do!  Save the onions for hamburgers-go against the odds and remember that the Guarantee is given by the Faithful God!

Remember, love God with all your heart; love others the way Jesus loves you; and make sure all the glory goes to Him!