I Think It's Time–Monday Musings 20 January 2020

Pernicious. Virulent. Mephitic. Pestilential. Nefarious. Miasmatic. Pestiferous. Deleterious. Iniquitous. Maleficent. Rancorous. These words are in my Monday Musings. These are big synonyms for a simple word that is at the core of these Musings. The simple word is Toxic. It is my culture, perhaps I should say, my perspective of my culture that is leading this rumination this morning.

But it’s not just my culture–it’s a word, verses from one of the wisest persons to ever live. This sage wrote one of the rawest in terms of human emotions books ever written. Maybe you’ve heard of it: Ecclesiastes. And here’s the part I’m musing on:

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)

Solomon then sets out a series of contrasts about appropriate “It’s Time” moments. I’m drawn into this series of contrasts:

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.

Ecclesiastes 3:5-6 (NLT)

Now, add that word Toxic. No one would intentionally build their dream home knowingly on top of a Toxic Waste Dump. Yet, many persist and hold onto Toxic Relationships. By the very meaning of that word Toxic, people hold on to relationships that are deleterious to their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. Toxic Relationships happen at all levels. Familial. Friends. Spouses. Significant Others. Work. And yes, even in Church.

Allow me to cut to the core of it all. A Toxic Relationship is any relationship that consistently and constantly rips us apart or lives to create chaos. Lots of things can rip us apart. Even more things creates a tornado-earthquake-hurricane-tsunami kind of chaos. Even in the church this happens. I’m watching it in my own Tribe, the United Methodist Chaos, I mean Church.

So, how long should one stay in the chaos? As a traditional, orthodox kind of guy, I will probably be asked to leave. Some of my fellow kindred hearts say we should stay together to change things. Others of my kindred hearts say it’s not fair to ask us to leave–after all, we are the majority, and we embrace the authority of God’s Word.

But then there’s these words of Solomon: A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. Oh, and that next verse: A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.

There comes a moment in relationships where the only option is the other option. A time to scatter stones. A time to turn away. A time to quit searching. A time to throw away. And this is where I see this Tribe. I say this not with deep resignation and despair. No! I say this with great hope and greater expectations. The chaos in the United Methodist Church is pestilential.

And you may find yourself in a pestiferous relationship. You can try to ride it out, hope it will change; but it may crush you instead. Or you can accept that some relationships will never be mended. So when is the time to give up? When it poisons your attitude, your mind, your heart, and when you allow it to shape your perspective–Solomon would tell you, it’s time.

But always remember that God has another time, another season for you. And HIS new season for your life will be different–probably difficult–but it will NOT be Toxic. And it will be good.

One Resolution: One Purpose!

Your Life Purpose Isn’t About The What You Do, But The Why! The What causes us to think about The How: How will we do it? And The Why is completely ignored.

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 1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if His love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor:  Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.  Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.  Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.  Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.  Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. 5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself.  He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of Himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.  Not at all.  When the time came, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human.  It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges.  Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Philippians 2:1-8 (The Message)

We are in the 3rd week of looking at One Resolution that will give our hearts the one thing it longs for most of all:  Contentment.  This One Resolution is to Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel!  Not the “Gospel of Our Best Efforts” but the Gospel of Jesus—God’s Best Effort For Us.  Because it’s all about God’s Grace, it’s not left up to our best efforts to honor Christ, But To Honor Christ By Allowing Him To Live In And Through Us With The Power Of Resurrection! 

It comes by making 6 Conscious Choices every day.  Here’s the first 2:

  1. Live With An Undivided Heart—That’s the One Spirit.  Your loyalty and allegiance is to Jesus and His Work in our world.
  2. We Need To Be The Community That Has A Pinpoint Laser Focus On The Kingdom Of God—That’s the One Mind.  We focus on each other and those who are not here yet.

Now we come to that Third Key Decision in finding the life of real Contentment.  It is so obvious, yet so difficult for so many people.  And Here Is The One Thing You Need To Remember From Today’s Message:  To Live In Contentment, Find Your Unique Life Purpose.  Few things make contentment more elusive than not knowing our Unique Life Purpose.  And most folks have no idea how to discover their Unique Life Purpose

And I’m about to say could make it even more frustrating.  Your Life Purpose Isn’t About The What You Do, But The Why!  The What causes us to think about The How:  How will we do it?  And The Why is completely ignored. 

Purpose, Your Unique Life Purpose comes out of The WhyWhy Did Jesus Die On The Cross For You?  Why Did He Save You?  And the Pivotal Question is this:  Why Are You Here?

There is a “flip-flop” quality to understanding today’s scripture.  It goes counter to our usual way of thinking.  America is the home of Davey Crocket who conquered the wild frontier and Wyatt Earp who tamed the Wild West.  We honor and value independence, self-sufficiency, strength and the glory of a “self-made” man or woman.  

Surrender is what we did NOT do.  With brains and brawn we became a super power in the world.  “American Ingenuity” is the brilliance that made us great.  Then Jesus comes along to say that strength and intelligence does not make the cut when it comes to Contentment.  He dares to tell us that the way to Contentment is through Him.  And then Jesus has the audacity to tell us that to live with and for Him, and for Him to live in and through us we are to live like a servant.

Then this fellow named Paul comes along and tells us to have the same attitude that Jesus had.  Jesus had no business empire; no college degree; never owned a fancy house; never wore designer clothes; never rubbed elbows with those considered the cultural elite.  How counter-cultural can you get?  We cannot fight, or think or power ourselves into the Life Of Contentment

Former Guideposts editor Arthur Gordon told the story of a kindergarten class he visited where the teacher frequently reminded misbehaving children to stop being a WAM.  The kids straightened up as soon as their teacher pointed out they were being a WAM.  He had to know: What was a WAM?  The teacher explained that WAM stands for “What About Me?”  She was training the children to be less self-centered.  She wanted them to think of others’ needs; not just their own.  

She taught them that no one liked a WAM, a self-centered person who only asks, “What About Me?”  Instead, she was teaching the children to be a WAY, or as she explained it, people who ask, “What About You?”  She was teaching those 5 year old kids about Contentment.

You and I are people of the WAY.  We ask “What About You?”  We get lost and lose our Spiritual Foothold when we become a WAM.  But the life of Contentment is for people of the WAY.  So, are you a WAM or a WAY?

Let me show you what happens when we become a WAM instead of a WAY.  In the 1800’s the train ruled the day.  Owners of railway companies prospered and were called barons.  But the automobile came along and the railroad barons forgot they were in the transportation business.  They thought they were in the train business and most of them went broke. 

The Swiss had dominated time keeping.  At one point they controlled over 50% of all revenues made in watches and clocks.  They made the most precise gears and springs in the world.  Their watches and clocks were perfect.  Then something new happened called the Quartz movement. 

Guess who invented it?  A Swiss man.  But because it had no gears or knobs or springs it was overlooked.  They failed to recognize that they were in the business of helping people tell time not making precision gears.  They lost their dominance in the industry now controlling somewhere about 15% of all revenue.  

If Sports Illustrated magazine understood it was in the sports information business, not the publishing business, we would have the Sports Illustrated Channel, not ESPN.   And folks, if we forget that our Why is to bring people to Jesus, we will also become obsolete.  If we lose our Why by getting distracted with tradition, habit, custom, ritual, or routine, we will go the way of the trains, the Swiss watch makers, and Sports Illustrated.  We must remember our Why.  We must at all costs, fulfill our Unique True Purpose—that comes out of knowing Our Why!

Every person has a Unique True Purpose that God has given to them.  Not for just the few and special; but all of us have a purpose from God that is uniquely our own.  Yours will be what God has designed you to be.  But before we can know the purpose that is uniquely ours, we must be clear about our Why in life.  Without understanding and accepting this Why in life, we will never discover our unique purpose.  And Paul lets us know that there is a Why for every one of us. 

He lets us in on God’s Why for our lives.  He states it in verse 5:  Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself.  He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of Himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.  

They do not teach this in high school; it’s not offered as a degree in universities; and it’s not taught in graduate school.  Yet this is exactly what God tells us is the key to finding our Unique True Purpose—that comes out of knowing Our Why!  It’s not about money, prestige or power.  It is all about relationship—with God at the very center of our lives.  Our Purpose will be found by discovering The Why.  It’s a 3 step process that Jesus followed as our example.

1.  He Emptied Himself

Jesus, who had it all in Heaven—gave it all up to become one of us!  Unlimited in space, unfettered by time, adored and worshiped by angels and saints—He chose to be one of us.  In becoming one of us He is now limited in space, and bound by time—He allowed people to talk ugly about Him—He allowed Himself to be falsely arrested—and when they couldn’t find a reason to have Him executed, He gave them one. 

Jesus allowed Himself to be publicly humiliated and finally nailed to a Cross as a common criminal to bring back His Image Bearers.  This was His Why and this is to be our Why.  And He could not have done this unless He first emptied Himself into the relationship with Abba!  Papa!  Dad!

And what are you holding on to?  What is it that you have not relinquished into God’s hands?  Is it time?  A habit?  Pride?  Fear?  Is there this one room in your heart that you’ve kept locked up in order to keep God out either because you don’t want to give it up or you’re afraid God won’t love you?  Before we can find that Unique True Purpose for which we are created, we have to let go of everything and to be completely emptied. 

And in that process of emptying ourselves, we also have to let go any and all sense of being self-sufficient.  We have to be absolutely vulnerable before God and in that moment of total vulnerability we have to trust 2 things:  God is always good; and God is pure, complete and unconditional love.

2.  He Accepted His Place

You won’t hear Jesus saying, “Oh, Dad, do I have to become one of them?”  Instead: He took on the status of a slave, became human!  Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process.  Jesus reached out and took on being human because the Father chose it for Him.  It was the Father’s plan to show us that He is not a referee, dictator or stern judge.  God wants us to know that His character is not in the rules and regulations that we think about when it comes to His Kingdom.  God wants us to know that His absolute, all the time, for all eternity character, is Love. 

We do not tell God what is our Unique True Purpose; God tells us!  We don’t inform Him of our Why:  we allow Him to tell us Our Why.  His Purpose for your life will be about what HE can do.  God wants to move us beyond ritual and rules, beyond history and traditions and step into His very character.  This Is Your Why!  Accept that place God has for you where you must rely on His strength and not your own. 

3.  He Surrendered To God’s Plan

Jesus did not just die—He died on the Cross.  The Greek word for Obedient means To Give An Ear To—in other words, Jesus was listening to the Father.  God had the plan and Jesus listened to that plan and surrendered to that plan. 

And that plan was to become the one and only sacrifice that would atone for everyone’s sins so that anyone who wanted could have a deep and intimate relationship with God.  Jesus surrendered so that we can have the relationship that God yearns for us to have with Him, the Father, Abba, Papa, Dad!  The Cross is about bringing people into a relationship with God!

The Why for your life is all about letting this world—your world know that God loves them and yearns to bring them into relationship with Him.  And Here Is Where You Find Unique True Purpose!  The only way our world can know God’s love is when they see us sharing our love for God with others.    Jesus Died So The World Could Know God’s Love—we should live the same way—To Live So That The World Will Know God’s Love For Them!

Your exact Life Purpose is as unique as you are—but each of our Unique Purposes is designed for one thing:  To Help Bring Others Into A Relationship With God, Who Is Always Good And Always Full Of Love.  As much as we are to yearn for God, understand this:  That God Yearns Infinitely More For You And Everyone! 

OK, you know what’s next.  Because you can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are, here’s your Next Step:

Find a way to do something for another person to know that God loves them.  Get personally involved with another life in a way that reveals your Why—To let them know that God wants a relationship with them.  Or is your Why for some other reason?  Give up your Why For The Why That Always Gives You Contentment!

Stuck In The Mud–Saturday Stories 18 January 2020

So far my Saturday Stories have been about moments where God shows up in unexpected places. Well, this Saturday Story is about what the phrase “young and dumb” looks like…in me.

STUCK IN THE MUD

It was back in 1977; I had my first pick-up truck.  One day I decided to take it off the paved road through some trails.  I had been on this particular trail before, but on a dirt bike.  It had rained that week and my truck was only a two-wheel drive, but I felt confident I knew that trail well enough to stay out of trouble. 

Things were going pretty well, I had made it through some rough parts of the trail when I came upon a place in the road that was covered in water.  I stopped and looked at it carefully. I knew what this place in the road looked like when it hadn’t rained, so  I decided on a course of action that would I felt would take me safely to the other side. 

I really believed that if I backed up a bit and went through the right side of the mud hole I could get to the other side.  I really believed I could get to the other side.  So, I backed up a bit and moved full speed ahead.  Now, I believed I was well on my way to the other side.  About one-fourth of the way through I slowed a little but I kept on going, confident I was about to get to the other side. 

About two-thirds of the way through, I found that my faith in my reasoning ability was wrong, seriously wrong.  My truck came to a complete stop and would not move.  No matter how hard I tried, I remained stuck in the mud.  This was in the days before cell phones, so there I was, miles from the main road, and not another person in sight.  My choice and my decision were seriously flawed even though my confidence was high.  There I was on LaGrange Mountain, alone and stuck, unable to go any further, or even go back. It was the middle of the week and the likelihood of someone coming along in another truck was the same odds as a snowball’s chance in that certain place.

Just then I heard a dirt bike coming down the trail. Good news to me. Better news he stopped. Best news was he went back to get his truck and a chain and pulled me out of my created mess. Reflecting now on that “young and dumb” moment, I wondered why did this stranger decide to go riding that day? And of the many off-road trails, he ended up where I was stuck in the mud. Call me simple-minded and naive, but I think God may have been at work that day–even though I wasn’t aware of it.

The Moral Of The Story

Our choices and decisions can be…often are flawed. Without the right information that fits the situation we can end up where I was that day in 1977, stuck in the mud. But because of His Grace, God has already been at work. He’s ready for our “stuck in the mud” moments. It may not be as dramatic as a lone dirt bike rider who had his truck and chain ready to help, but God knows where we are, what we are facing–and best of all, He has a plan–and if we follow His plan, we get unstuck.

Addendum to my story: Once I got unstuck, I went back the way I came in and left that mud hole in my rear view mirror. I learned enough not to try that again! Allow God to help you make more than good choices, but the best choices of all.

Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead–Throw It Out There Thursday, 16 January 2020

It’s the subculture of people thinking AND acting without thinking about the consequences that is corroding the very fabric of civilized society.

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Welcome to another edition of Throw It Out There Thursday! The target today is something is filling the headlines today. No, not the impeachment. No, not the impending death of the United Methodist Chaos, excuse me, “Church” (if you can actually call it that with a straight face or without regurgitating). But it is behind these and all other expressions of hate and confusion that invades and pervades our culture.

It’s Admiral Farragut’s famous expression: Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead. And what once was the motto for courage and determination in the face of danger has become the Mantra for a subculture of folks from all walks and stations in life. It’s the subculture of I WANT WHAT I WANT BECAUSE I KNOW WHAT’S BEST AND I’M THE ULTIMATE AUTHORITY!

It’s the subculture of people thinking AND acting without considering the consequences that is corroding the very fabric of civilized society. In the 60’s the mantra was “If it feels good, do it!” Again, never thinking about the consequences. Ask some of the rockers from that era who indulged in drugs how that worked out for them. But now? The attitude of Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead is exponentially growing like Kudzu.

Kudzu is defined as an Invasive Species (click here if you don’t know kudzu). According to scientists, an invasive species is an organism that causes ecological or economic harm in a new environment where it is not native. … Invasive species are capable of causing extinctions of native plants and animals, reducing biodiversity, competing with native organisms for limited resources, and altering habitats. Did you notice the scientific word ORGANISM? This means it has a life all it’s own, independent of anything else.

And like Kudzu, Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead Mentality is taking over and killing everything around it. Like Kudzu, Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead Mentality isn’t native to civilization. Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead Mentality is causing the extinction of what really makes us Humans created in the image of God.

Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead Mentality robs people of their civility and capacity to care about something bigger than themselves. And this is sad, tragic, appalling, calamitous, deplorable, dreadful, fatal, cataclysmic, gruesome, woeful and your own synonym here. Just as Kudzu is fatal for the native vegetation, Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead Mentality is fatal for civilized society. And it is IRRESPONSIBLE by those who lead others to join in their mental and emotional Kudzu.

Lips And Hearts–Wednesday's Wonderings 15 January 2020

Wednesday is the day I’ve chosen to wonder about. . .well about life and God. And today I’m adding another point to wonder about–people. Oh, yeah, I know I’ve wondered about people before, but usually in the context of my gifts of sarcasm and snarkiness. But this morning I’m setting aside those gifts. . .because my heart is breaking for a group of people.

My heart always breaks for the least, the last and the lost–people hurting, struggling, and doubting that there’s enough grace with God for them. The group my heart breaks for this morning is. . .well, look at how God describes them:

Most preachers, myself including myself, quote this passage with the sense that God is angry. That God is criticizing these people of lips without hearts. Even Jesus quoted this passage and we envision Jesus full of anger and foaming at the mouth. So we point out with criticism and anger these people who’s lips say one thing about God, but there hearts are far from God. Could it be, that when God said that to Isaiah, and when Jesus quoted this passage that there was sadness in His heart? Could He have been crying for them?

Many times I have questioned…scratch that…criticized Churchians, Tenured Pew Sitters and Progressives for their attitudes and ways of thinking. But this morning…my wondering has my heart breaking for them. I’m grieving because they are missing so much of who God is and what God wants to do in their day to day life.

Lips say one thing but the heart says something different. It’s not just the aforementioned Churchians, Tenured Pew Sitters and Progressives who are herein described. I’ve seen Conservative and Orthodox folks who fit the bill of what God is saying through Isaiah. And even yours truly has been guilty of this. Seeing and believing only what we want to see and believe, and then say it’s God.

Why have we limited God? It’s easy to say, “Well, it’s the Devil! That’s what he does!” No doubt, that IS his job. But right now I’m remembering a sign on President Harry Truman’s desk:

WE have a choice; sadly many of us have chosen poorly. So today, I choose to accept responsibility for my lips; and My Heart! I choose to wonder about the Wonder Of God! I choose to remove the fences and walls that keeps me knowing ABOUT God to KNOWING GOD! I set aside whatever I’ve thought about God. I set aside everything others have said about God. And I open MY heart to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the mysteries of God. I long for this, and so I choose to start with a clean sheet of paper and let God write what I need so that His Image becomes more clearer and brighter in me.

And thus I wonder: “How could I even think that MY understanding of God (which is spoken by my lips) is the ultimate expression of God?” Yes, we need to fight Satan in this world. But before we go to battle, let’s make sure that we honor God With Our Hearts. And the best way to do this is to quit pretending we’re the experts and surrender our heart to the wonders of God. Only as we give up our concepts can the heart be cleansed–and be drawn closer to God.

EVEN THERE IN THAT PLACE–Tuesday Thoughts 14 January 2020

My Tuesday Thoughts on what to write this morning were running wild–wild as a trio of adolescents on a 3 day binge on candy kind of sugar rush. When my thinking gets like this, I have to really force myself to stop thinking–so that I can listen. Now I have it–it’s Psalm 139 and three words from that Psalm–YOU ARE THERE!

Who’s there? God, of course. Most of us like to consider ourselves Masters Of Camouflage. Like an Army sniper in the field, we think we can hide and no one see us–or see what’s going on inside us. But regardless of how or even where we hide, Even There God finds us. When God asked Adam and Eve, “Hey, guys! Where are y’all?”, He knew where they were.

It wasn’t a question of confusion; it was a question of trust. God was asking Adam and Eve, “Do you still trust me, trust my love and that I am still good even though you did what you did?” Smack dab in the middle of their self-imposed mess, they did trust God. And in this Psalm David seems to be reflecting on his life. He’s known up and downs. He’s been faithful to God and been a rebel against God. He’s hidden in caves from King Saul, and he’s tried hiding from the King of Kings.

And what he could do with Saul, successfully hide, he never could do with God. He found out what Adam and Eve discovered–in the middle of our messes–Even There God Is Present. And in His Presence, He is still trustworthy, He is still loving us, and most of all, He is still GOOD! For the life of me, I cannot figure out why some people think God is out looking for people just to punish them. And if this day you are trying to hide from God because you “think” He’s mad at you, or that He doesn’t want you–Think Again! In your fear, confusion or despair–Even there in that place He is present and He is still Good And Loving On You.

And it’s just not in the places where we try to run and hide from God, but it’s true also in the places where circumstances and consequences have placed us. Problems at work. A “we no longer need your services” moment. Chemo or radiation therapy. A disintegrating family. A nursing home. A funeral home. Even in church.

My beloved Tribe, the United Methodist Church, is in utter chaos; or so it seems to many of us. But even there, God is Present. God Is Faithful. God Is Loving Us. God Has A Plan. And God is still GOOD! What I’m saying is this: Wherever you are–whether it’s the result of you poor choices or whether it’s the result of forces beyond your control–Even There God Is Present. Even there He is still Faithful to you. Even there He still Loves you. Even there He is still GOOD. Even there, He will lead you out and back to where you belong!

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

Thinking! Monday Musings 13 January 2020

It’s too big a task for me to change how people think. That task is way above my pay grade–and it’s task that was never given to me. . .or any human being for that matter.

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Today, my musings are: “How in the world can people believe and act like they do now?” I found the answer: It’s In How They Think! And I thought that I needed to help them change their thinking; and I have been trying to do this with questions, suggesting other views, and even with sarcasm and snarkiness.

As much as I’ve seen and heard, I am still shaking my head at the way many people are thinking. You would think by now that in the realm of asinine thinking nothing would surprise me now; but it still does. So, I begin to muse, “How can I change the way people think?” I’ve tried to correct their thinking, but they just seem to hate me and hate me more.

Then I remembered hearing a Rabbinical story that goes something like this. There was a man who decided the world needed to be changed, to be a better place. But he thought, “The world is too big. I need to start smaller. My country, yes, I will start with my country. But that is still too big. I will start with my town. But that’s too big. I will start with my neighborhood. That’s still to big. I will start with my street, wait, I will start with my home. Oh, I will start with me!”

And this morning, my best Friend, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the wisdom of that old Rabbi. It’s too big a task for me to change how people think. That task is way above my pay grade–and it’s task that was never given to me. . .or any human being for that matter. I know it’s shocking for some to hear that they aren’t called to change how others think. Get over it. . .get over yourself. I know. . .I needed to get over myself.

The only thinking that I can shape and control is my own thinking! So, how can I do that? This is why the Bible is ageless and powerful. When you think about yourself and how you can grow and mature–The Bible always has the answer. When you think about how to change the way others think, it’s highly possible you will get the wrong answer from even the Bible.

So, how do I make my thinking better? Paul said it best in Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

And now my task is to think in this way in such a manner that others will begin thinking about their thinking. Maybe they will ask me why I think the way I do. Better yet, maybe they will ask Dad to help them think in a different way.

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

One Resolution: One Mind!

We Need To Be The Community That Has A Pinpoint Laser Focus On The Kingdom Of God.

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We are in the 2nd week of looking at One Resolution that will give our hearts the one thing it longs for most of all:  contentment.  And remember that this One Resolution is to Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel!  Let’s look again at our Scripture from Philippians 1:27-30 (NLT)

27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.  Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies.  This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together.  You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.

The Gospel is not about what we can do.  The Gospel is all about what God has done, is doing and will continue to do for us because of His grace.  It’s not the “Gospel of Our Best Efforts” but The Gospel Of Jesus—God’s Best Effort For Us.

And because it’s about God’s Grace, it’s not left up to our best efforts to honor Christ, But To Honor Christ By Allowing Him To Live In And Through Us With The Power Of Resurrection!  There are 6 Key Decisions you must make in order to experience Contentment—the first Key Decision is to have an Undivided Heart for God and what HE wants for our lives.

We have come to that second part of verse 27.  On the surface, this seems to be one of those verses that translators can’t agree on.  Allow me to explain:

  • The KJV—“that ye stand fast . . . with One Mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” 
  • The NIV—“that you stand firm . . . contending as One (Meaning Person) for the faith of the gospel.” 
  • And in our reading today, the NLT—“that you are standing together with . . . One Purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.”

OK, we have One Mind, One Person, One Purpose; Which is correct?  All Of Them!  In the process of translating the ancient texts, it’s not a word by word translation but involves the context of the phrases around each word.  The Greek word used is psychē (psü-khā’) and by itself it means The Soul, that deepest part of who we are. 

It refers to the essence of a person—their mind, their purpose in life, their identity in life.  But more than just the word psychē (psü-khā’) is the phrase Stand Fast, Standing Together, Stand Firm. 

And then there’s that other phrase:  Striving Together, Fighting Together, Contending.  Now we come to the next step in the life that is worthy of the Gospel—Living Together In Community, and not just any community.  And here is the One Thing you really need to remember from today’s message:  That We Need To Be The Community That Has A Pinpoint Laser Focus On The Kingdom Of God.

The community we are called to live in is the community of faith.    Call it the church, the body of Christ, or community of believers—this is where God is calling us to live this life of contentment.  The world says contentment is found in what you can do yourself. 

But that deep and abiding contentment, that contentment which can fill any and every heart is found in our relationships of working together in a common bond.  When we put our life in grace smack dab in the middle of a bunch of other lives in grace, the power of God’s grace intensifies in each of us. 

Don’t put your life in with a bunch of people living by rules and regulations and doctrines.  Put your heart and life in people who know that it’s all about the relationship God gives us in Jesus!  You have a choice:  to be a Pretender or to be a Contender in the pursuit of contentment.

To go at this life of contentment by yourself makes you a Pretender!  You can have all the trappings of success—the job, the house, the car, the toys—but these things will not give you the necessary strength to maintain that One Resolution!

I need others around me who share my passion for Jesus.  You need others around you who live passionately for Jesus.  Wrap it up in a box, take it to the bank and cash it, put it in the display case—Unless You Commit And Invest Time With People Passionate About Jesus, You Will Lose Your Passion For Jesus.

That’s why you need more than an hour on Sunday morning.  I’m talking about developing and nurturing those key relationships that will enable us to allow Christ to live in and through us.  Our greatest desire should be for God and one of the most powerful ways we find and experience God is through the Body of His Son—The Community! 

It takes more than a sign with a name on it to be the Body of His Son.  There has to be a connection, not to rules or creeds, but to that sustaining and life-giving connection to Jesus.  There has been this long running theological question:  Can A Person Be A Christian Without Going To Church? 

One side says, “Sure, because it’s about faith in Jesus’ work on the Cross.”  But that’s the wrong question to ask.  The real question that needs to be asked often is this:  “How Long Can A Person, Who Is Able To Go To Church, Remain A Christian Without Going To Church?” 

And the answer?  “Not As Long As It Takes!”  Why?  Because there’s some tough stuff out there that you just can’t handle alone.  Let me ask you this:  Would you want to go face to face with someone like Terrance Cody alone?  Now, for you unfortunate people who don’t remember Terrance, he played nose guard for the University of Alabama in 2008 and 2009.

Terrance weighed 360+ pounds.  His job was to push aside 300 pound offensive linemen in order to tackle the unfortunate soul who had the football.  And when coaches prepared to play against Terrance they always had at least 2 linemen assigned to the difficult task of blocking him.  Knowing this about Terrance, back to my original question:  Would you want to go face to face against someone like Terrance Cody?  Of course not, unless you have a masochistic personality and love getting beat up.

Listen, there are spiritual forces out there that make Terrance Cody look like a 96 pound weakling and you do NOT want to face them alone.  Their Sole Task Is To Cause You To Lose Your Hope, Lose Your Faith, And Lose Your Joy So That You Lose Your Contentment.  It’s a struggle at times; it’s always a battle to live a life worthy of the Gospel by allowing Jesus to live in you and through you.  That’s why the gift of God’s Grace includes the gift of the Community Of His Son. 

And as Goliath shouted insults at David, your enemy will shout insults at you.  Pretenders in the pursuit of contentment go at it alone. But Contenders For Contentment Surround Themselves With Those Who Have The Same Desire To Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel Of God’s Best Effort. 

We need each other and we need to be here for each other.  Now, we will not always agree on every little thing, but we can agree on the main thing:  That We Need Stand Together Being The One Person For The Gospel Of God’s Best Efforts

This is the One Mind:  That We Stand Together As ONE!  Here’s how we Stand Together As One Community:

1.  Being The One Mind—In Faith

Being The One Mind In Faith is all about The Cross.  It’s not that we all agree on doctrines or interpretations, but that we all agree that the main thing is The Cross.  The Cross levels the playing field.  No one here is better than anyone else.  Flip the coin over and we see that no one here is any worse than anyone else. 

We are bound together by one common need:  A Savior.  And we are bound together by one common remedy:  The Cross.  Whether we like different styles of music, whether we want different forms of worship really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that we all stand beneath the One And Same Cross with the conviction that This Cross makes all the difference in our lives.  Our connection is to the relationship with God.

2.  Being The One Person—In Witness

Being The One Person In Witness is all about The Gospel!  What if a researcher stumbled across a vaccine that would prevent anyone else from ever contracting cancer again?  Do you suppose that researcher would hide his discovery? 

Do you think he would place it under lock and key and never let the world know about it?  I don’t think so!  He would call a press conference, call all the drug manufacturers, and start the process for FDA approval because that would be good news for the world. 

We have the best news for our world—Redemption And Release.  We add value and credibility to each other’s witness when we show The One Person to our world:  That We Are People Changed By The Love Of God And Are Committed To Sharing God’s Love Together To Our World 

Your life will validate the witness of another and their witness will validate your witness.  When we stand together believing that God’s love is for everyone, that we will not judge or turn our back on anyone and that His love will change everyone who accepts His love, then we make an impact on our world. 

3.  Being The One Purpose—In Action

Being The One Purpose In Action is all about The Mission!  It doesn’t do us any good if we sing, pray and study if there is not subsequent action.  Every Community of Jesus has a God-given Mission and every believer has a God-given mission that will be related to the Mission of our church. 

This is where we will find God’s Vision for this place and where you will find your place in that Vision.  God Does Not Give A Mission Without Also Giving The Means To Accomplish That Mission.  Inside of every one of you is a passion, an ability, a skill and a spiritual gift that is a perfect fit for this Mission.  Some of you will be out front doing this work. 

Some of you will be behind the scenes praying or organizing or sharing your resources for this God-Given Mission.  If I could afford it, I would have bought every one of you a mirror this week and right now have you look in that mirror and tell you:  The Mission Of This Church Is Counting On The Person You See In That Mirror.

To Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel Of God’s Best Effort You Must Become A Part Of Something Much Bigger Than Yourself—The Citizens Of The Kingdom Of God.  Look around you; go ahead, I said “Look around you!”  We Are Here, In This Place, Because Of The Cross And For Each Other And For Those Not Here Yet. 

Contentment grows in each of us when we become a servant to the people you just saw.  The Kingdom Is Not About You—It Is About Each Other And Those Not Here Yet That We Should Be Inviting Into A Relationship With Jesus.  Jesus makes a promise that you can count on to always be true and never fail:  If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matt. 10:39 NLT)

Because you can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are, here’s your Next Step:Designate A Fast And Prayer Time at least 3 times a week.  Fasting means giving up something in order to focus on God.  Here are some suggestions for your Fast:

  • Give Up A Favorite TV show
  • If you do social media, give it up for a morning or evening.
  • Give up a meal
  • Give up a hobby
  • Give up watching the morning or evening news
  • Give up something you do regularly or enjoy
  • Then spend that time focusing on God through prayer

Remember One Resolution for the rest of your life:  To Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel Of God’s Best Effort!

Saturday Stories–Ernie And Today Is Not That Day!

Welcome to another Saturday Story. Today’s story is from several years ago; it was such a powerful moment that I still remember it as if it occurred yesterday. Listen to it, and maybe Dad has something to say to you…

TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY

Ernie was a retired sheet metal worker. He and his wife Bettye had retired to Scottsboro. They never had children, so they “adopted” kids of all ages, including me. Both spent many hours serving Jesus at Randall’s Chapel (no, that church wasn’t named after me!). Ernie served Jesus in so many ways. Teaching, leading committees, the men’s group, serving in whatever way he was asked. Needless to say, this pastor fell in love with them.

Ernie was the epitome of an “active member”; but I and several others noticed Ernie didn’t have his usual level of stamina. Ernie noticed it too, so he went to his doctor to find out why. After several tests, Ernie was given the diagnosis of ALS (I refuse to call this evil disease by the name of one of baseball’s greatest players).

Word reached me of this diagnosis. As “pastor”, my job was to give him and Bettye words of encouragement and wisdom. This wasn’t my first encounter with someone dehumanized by ALS. I knew what Ernie’s future would look like. The day after his diagnosis I was going to “visit” with them and share those “words of encouragement and wisdom”. And as I sat in my office that morning, I struggled to find any such words. But it was my “job” to do it, and honestly, I felt like a failure because I simply couldn’t find the right “words”.

Just then (remember that “just then” or “it just so happened” are usually God prepared and ordained moments) I heard Ernie come in. He stuck his head in my office and asked, “Bro. Randy, do you have a few minutes, I need to talk about something.” Of course I had time, I always have time for a good friend; but this time my mind is in panic mode. I still didn’t have those words of “encouragement and wisdom”. In my heart I said, “OK, Holy Spirit, you’re going to have to do the talking because I don’t know what to say!”

And my, oh, my did my Friend, the Holy Spirit, do some talking. But it wasn’t me doing the talking–it was Ernie. “Randy, I know you heard about my diagnosis. And I need you to understand that one day I won’t be able to teach the Sunday School class. One day I won’t be able to be involved in the men’s group. One day I won’t be able to serve this church. One day I won’t be able to do all the things I love doing around here.” And what Ernie said next is still with me.

With a love and fire in his eyes he said, “But today is not that day! I’m going to continue to do all the things I’ve been doing. Whatever you or this church needs me for, I’m here! I know that day will come, it’s just that Today Is Not That Day!” The words of encouragement and wisdom wasn’t meant to be shared by me; that Holy Moment was given to Ernie.

And Ernie kept that Sacred Vow. He kept on working and moving forward with Jesus. And a little over a year later, that day finally came. Bettye asked me to do the funeral service. And the message I shared? It was the very same one Ernie shared with me that morning in my office. Ernie prepared his own eulogy and funeral message: Today is not THAT day to give up. God is with you every step of the way. And on that sad day, God’s Grace abounded.

Application Time

We all face difficult, even terrifying moments in life. The temptation, even the urge to give up can seem overwhelming. I know, I’ve faced many such moments. And in those moments, I see Ernie, sitting across my desk. He’s smiling and saying to me, “Now Randy, you know Today Is Not THAT Day!

Whatever it is that you may face in life; whatever you ARE facing right now that is overwhelming you with the feeling of helplessness or hopelessness and you want to give up; remember my good friend Ernie’s words: Today Is Not THAT Day! Ernie lived with the confidence that whatever the future held, HE was held by God and was secure in that knowledge.