I have been a life-long pastor but recently God has kindled a fire in me about His calling for my life. For nearly 40 years my life and this ministry was centered on "the church". God has set me on a journey to become more than a "church" pastor, but to be a "Kingdom Pastor". Join me in this new journey of God's plans and purposes for HIS Kingdom
16 There are six things the Lord hates— no, seven things he detests: 18 . . . feet that race to do wrong,
Proverbs 6:16, 18 NLT
And the race is on–to do what is wrong. This Disgusting Thing is about making Quick Choices–and with any and all choices, there is always a consequence. The word I’m looking for is Impetuous.Impetuous Choices are those decisions we make abruptly, even eagerly, because–well–just because. They lack the rhyme and reason that comes only from Godly Wisdom.
When questioned, What were you thinking?”, many folks try to excuse their Poor Choices by saying, “Well, I wasn’t thinking.” This simply isn’t true. They chose their thinking by not thinking. Not thinking is a prevalent form of thinking these days–well, this has been around since Adam and Eve. Their choice to eat from the forbidden fruit was to think by not thinking. If they had chosen to think through their decision, the outcome would have been much different.
The Hebrews phrase Solomon chose means “evil, misery, distress, injury“. As we rush to wrong actions, wrong conclusions, and wrong thinking–it opens the door to evil–it creates misery, puts us in distress–and causes injuries, to us and those around us. God created us to be thinkingbeings–to analyze, discern, and discover. The key, though, is to think throughBEFORE a decision is made. We reach the wrong decisions about events, circumstances, and people when we rush by choosing to think by not thinking.
Correct decisions come as the result of seeking God’s Wisdom–AND using His Wisdom to make the right choice. We rush and race towards decisions because we are not desiring God’s wisdom–and it is always leads us to the wrong choice. Created in His Image–made to think things through like He does–but when we rush–it’s Disgusting to God.
16 There are six things the Lord hates— no, seven things he detests: 18 a heart that plots evil,
Proverbs 6:16, 18 NLT
Today’s disgusting thing to God is a heart that plots evil. And this is one that most folks say is easily identifiable–in others. Isn’t it amazing that it is so easy to identify evil in others–but fail to see it in ourselves? I remember what a friend, Ronnie Wicks once said in a small group: “My sin is not as bad as your sin.” Ronnie wasn’t being self-righteous–simply stating the attitude that so many Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters have.
Have you ever taken one of those surveys that asks you to rate your experience? People tend to follow that same format when looking (which is a polite way of saying judging) at others. We rate them on this scale: Very Good (which are those folks who go the extra mile to be good)–Good (which is simply another word for mediocre)–Bad (typically those who aren’t like you)–and Evil (this is the elite of the Bad who do unspeakable things). And most folks would never see themselves as Evil.
We don’t like that word Evil; it’s rarely used nowadays, and it’s used to describe something out there. But Solomon is very clear that Evil exists–and it exists in the human heart. There are 2 words Solomon uses: machăshâbâh and ‘āven. Machăshâbâh is a contrivance–which is a ruse or scheme. ‘āven is used for the word Evil or Iniquity. But here’s something interesting about that word–the proper meaning is to pant, to exert oneself, usually in vain; to come to naught.
What’s my point? Here’s my point. Evil is everything we do to avoid living under God’s rule–the way we are created to live. It’s the plans, schemes, devices, the machinations (another strong word) we conspire with to avoid the life, the only life we need. There is no difference between bad and evil. Rebelling against God, choosing our own way–is simply Evil.
Now, let’s get back to that word machăshâbâh. Remember that its proper meaning is to pant, to exert oneself, usually in vain; to come to naught. Whatever we do that fails to produce the life of holiness, as God designed it–all the different spins we put on The Gospel to justify ourselves and our views–are only exertions of our imaginations that leave us exhausted and produces nothing!
There is not difference between Bad and Evil. Exerting our own ways over God’s way is Evil–and God finds this Disgusting!
16 There are six things the Lord hates— no, seven things he detests: 17 . . .hands that kill the innocent,
Proverbs 6:16-17 NLT
If you have been following this thread, perhaps you are thinking, “Well, I may have disgusted God with the first two, but I’m free and clear on this one.” Oh, really?
OK, so maybe you haven’t taken a knife and eviscerated someone; or a club and bashed in someone’s skull; or a gun and dispatched them to the Almighty. This view is a frivolous and perfunctory treatment of Solomon’s words. You need to go deeper–but I warn you–it might hurt.
The Hebrew word is shâphak, it means to spill forth (blood, a libation, liquid metal; or even a solid, i.e. to mound up); also (figuratively) to expend, gush out, to pour out. Still think you’re innocent of this disgusting act? There are more ways to kill someone other than taking away their life.
If you crush another person’s dream–Disgusting! If you take away their hope–Disgusting! If you diminish their worth as a human being through criticism or condemnation–Disgusting! If you quickly point out another’s shortcomings–Disgusting! If you laugh at another person’s tragedy or pain–Disgusting! If you talk at someone like they are dumb or stupid–Disgusting!
Oh, no! One of you just thought: “But that talks about blood! Where’s the blood in what you just described?” There is more to human life than literal blood flowing through the veins and arteries. We all have hopes, dreams, plans, and goals. To take these things away from another person–well–It’s Disgusting To God!
There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests:
. . .a lying tongue
And the category is: Things That Disgust God! Today’s subject is a lying tongue. I have been in deep thought about this one. On one hand, it is easy to understand. It is when someone doesn’t tell the truth; trying to hide something; or attempting to cover up the truth. But I think differently from most folks, so I am not satisfied with just that explanation. It is easy to just excuse ourselves by saying, “It’s just a little white lie” and never consider that it is disgusting to God. It’s like that word “white” makes it digestible for God.
At the core of a lying tongue is something much deeper and darker. The word I use to describe it is a word not just much anymore. That word is Chicanery. I like this word because it is a strong word–something we don’t see much of anymore for fear of offending someone. I would define Chicanery as the art of deception. And isn’t that what lying is all about? To deceive? To promote a lie as being true?
Chicanery uses a process called Sophistry (another strong word). Sophistry is defined as: “a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning.” Over the years I’ve seen a lot of theological chicanery. At one time it was what I called “the name it and claim it” fallacious method of reasoning. It claimed that you could have whatever you wanted if you just had enough faith. If you didn’t get it, then you just needed more faith.
Today there is “the prosperity” fallacious method of reasoning. God wants all of His people to be wealthy. And the most prominent (at least in the United States) for is “the progressive” fallacious method of reasoning. It states that Jesus came to show us how to love–by eliminating the idea of any form of sin that contradicts how one feels. All one has to do is show unconditional love to everyone–well, except to those who cannot agree with them. Then it’s OK to be mean, hateful, and downright ugly.
Anyone can be wrong about something we believe as true. To exclude one’s self from being wrong is–well just wrong. This is why it is essential that we constantly evaluate and re-evaluate anything and everything we believe. If we are willing to listen, The Holy Spirit does what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do. (John 16:13) “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own but will tell you what He has heard. He will tell you about the future.” Notice the word Jesus carefully chose: “Guide”. It’s not instantaneous. The Greek word used means “to give guidance, instruction or assistance to another“. And it is in the future tense–which means we haven’t arrived at the point of perfection–in this life. Personally, I’ve learned more the past 15 years of my life than the previous 50 years.
When deception is used to promote an idea or belief, it is plain old-fashioned Sophistry. And Sophistry, no matter how cleverly disguised, is just odious, trickery, treachery to God. And He finds that disgusting!
Call it disgusting, gruesome, loathsome, obnoxious, odious, or an abomination–would you believe that there are things that make God feel like that? You bet your sweet bippy there is. So what makes God feel disgusted? Some of my fundamental friends would say, “It’s homosexuality!” In the words of the late Alex Trebek, “I’m afraid that is not the correct answer. How much did you wager?” The correct answer is “What doesProverbs 6:16-19 say?”
16) There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests:
17) haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that kill the innocent,
18) a heart that plots evil,
feet that race to do wrong,
19) a false witness who pours out lies,
a person who sows discord in a family.
New Living Translation
Let’s take a moment to look at each one of these beginning with “haughty eyes”. The knee jerk reaction to this phrase (and unfortunately too many folks respond to The Word with the “knee jerk” reaction–often emphasizing the word “jerk”) that Solomon is writing about snobby and snooty people–who spend time looking down their noses at other people. But this is too shallow of a view for this passage.
According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance here is the full application of the word Haughty: ‘rûwm’, a primitive root; to be high actively, to rise or raise (in various applications, literally or figuratively):—bring up, exalt (self), extol, give, go up, haughty, heave (up), (be, lift up on, make on, set up on, too) high(-er, one), hold up, levy, lift(-er) up, (be) lofty, (× a-) loud, mount up, offer (up), presumptuously, (be) promote(-ion), proud, set up, tall(-er), take (away, off, up), breed worms. (Emphasis mine)
Haughty is a verb–describing an action or state of being. Eyes is what is being impacted by the action of the verb. And Rev. Strong has a good definition of the means of that word: “ayin“–of mental and spiritual faculties”. Put the two words together and it means someone whose mental and spiritual faculties are breeding worms!
I’m talking about those who think that their spiritual knowledge is so far above the rest of us that it is their duty in life to correct people who do not view The Scriptures the way they do. They insist they are correct and we are wrong. They go to great lengths to “reveal” how wise they are, especially on social media. They are pumped up, puffed up, filled up with an over-exaggerated sense of being both wiser and better than the rest of us. They are indeed pumped up, puffed up, filled up, but they are full of…I just won’t go there. Surely, you get the picture.
Spiritual arrogance is odious, disgusting, gruesome, loathsome, obnoxious, and an abomination to God! Don’t be like that!
Nothing spiritual this morning–just a reflection that is the result of picking up trash along the road in front of our home. This is a constant battle and it made me think, “Why do so many people litter our roads?” It’s not just limited to our home–trash is everywhere. And honestly, I really wanted to use my talent for snarky and explode all over those who litter. But then it hit me: “They are either ignorant or stupid.” As Sy Robertson once said, “You can’t fix trash. You can’t fix a neutered dog. And you can’t fix stupid.” But ignorance can be fixed with knowledge.
I refuse to believe there are that many stupid people. So it must be ignorance–and ignorance is defeated with knowledge. Obviously those who litter are unaware of this modern marvel called a trash can; also known as a garbage can. I can understand why; the garbage can has only been around for about 136 years. And the amazing thing is that you can find them just about anywhere; convenience stores, in front of many businesses, and other locations. And here’s what makes it a marvel: there are companies that pick up the contents of those trash cans and will properly dispose of that litter–and it’s not along our highways and roads.
And, get this, there is this Modern Marvel at your home. You can take the litter from your vehicle and actually put it in your garbage can (or trash can if you prefer that term). It is not illegal to do this and it will not cause termination of your agreement with your trash pickup provider. Yes, it’s true. Trash in your vehicle can be put in that Modern Marvel we call trash cans. So, now that you know about this 136 year old Modern Marvel, you can stop littering our roads and highways. I am so glad to provide all the many ignorant people this illuminating knowledge. Now when I see litter, I know it’s not the result of ignorance, but absolute stupidity. You’re welcome.
There are some who question the Season of Lent. Some say that Protestantism do so to maintain a connection to Catholicism; even being under its influence rather than God’s. The thing is that there are historical documents that precede the formation of the Roman Catholic Church that indicate early Followers of Jesus engaged in this discipline. There is even a connection to it at the Council of Nicaea, which produced the original Nicene Creed in 325. Though Roman Catholicism says it began with Peter, most historians agree it began after the Council of Nicaea where Constantine was trying to unite the Roman Empire through Christianity.
Some say that it isn’t commanded for Christians to do in the Bible; only Baptism and Communion. Well, didn’t Jesus say something about Foot Washing? Besides, there is nothing commanded about stain glass windows, pipe organs, projectors, Sunday School literature, or padded pews and seats.
Some say that it’s origins come from pagan religions in Babylon and Egypt; as such, it is idolatry and blasphemy. What about when God instructed Moses to make that bronze serpent to heal all those who were bitten by the snakes? The Asp was a sacred idol in Egypt who was supposed to protect the Pharaoh. The Asp was included on the Pharaoh’s crown for people to see. Was God ignorant of that? Did He promote idolatry? For those who say Lent promotes idolatry, then so did God.
Others say that it’s simply not needed to be a Christian. Well, on this point I must say that I wholeheartedly agree. To BE a Christian rests solely on the atoning work of Jesus and our faith in that work. We need to change one word in that statement: the words TO BE. Change it to AS; so that it reads: “I need Lent AS a Christian!” I need this time to give up something important to me so that I can focus more on my relationship with Jesus.
I admit that I am not yet exactly like Jesus. To become like Jesus I must change even more things in my life, my heart, and my mind. It’s backed up in the Bible. Moses fasted 40 days and 40 nights on Mt. Sinai while God gave him The Law (Exodus 34); he did it again on the behalf of the Hebrews (Deuteronomy 9). Elijah fasted 40 days and 40 nights on his way to Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19). And Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness before He began His public mission (Matthew 4).
In paganism it was the god or goddess who needed its worshippers to fast. It was a demand from them because the god or goddess required it from them to remain a god or goddess–i.e.–it gave the god or goddess power. But in one of my favorite liturgies for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, says: “God does not need Lent. But we do.”
Now, if you want to make Lent about paganism and Roman Catholicism and idolatry and being unnecessary–well you are within your rights and free will to do so. As for me? Moses, Elijah, and Jesus Himself thought it important to spend a time away from things in order to focus on God. So, I will embrace it as important in my growth as a Disciple and Follower of Jesus. The Discipline of Lent isn’t about giving up something only to pick it back up later. It is about reflecting on ALL that Jesus gave up for us. Whatever we give up, we spend that time remembering how it came to be that we have been made right with The Father. This season I’m giving up sweets–and those moments I long for something sweet, I will remember what Jesus gave up for me.
This morning I’m stuck inside the house–because of ice and snow. It’s currently 14 degrees with a wind chill of 7 degrees. I know, those of you north of the Mason-Dixon Line aren’t impressed. But here in Alabama–it is a big deal! I just finished my shave and shower because I have yet another Zoom Meeting. And I started thinking. So fasten your seat belts and hold on.
What I am thinking about are things that simply DO NOT GO TOGETHER. More than just not fitting–they do not even belong in the same universe. Here’s my list:
ICE, SNOW, AND THE SOUTH!
HYPER-CALVINISTS AND WESLEYANS
OIL AND WATER
ELECTRIC MUSTANGE (who is the moron that had this idea? They need to be sterilized to save future generations from this idiocy. They are genetically related to the next one.)
ELECTRIC MOTORCYCLE (Sorry, sissies, it ain’t a motorcycle without the rumble!)
GOING FISHING WITH JUST ONE BAPTIST! (If you don’t take two Baptists with you, they will drink all of your beer)
BAPTISM BY IMMERSION AND A CAT
TREE HUGGERS AND LOGGERS
ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS AND HUNTERS, CATTLE-CHICKEN-HOG FARMERS
DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS
There’s more but let’s take a quick and honest look at the last two. In both cases, it’s that demonic influence of what is called THE JESUS AND DISEASE. If you lean to the Democratic Party, that’s your choice. If you lean to the Republican Party, that’s your choice. Just don’t mix the two of them. When you mix your religion with your politics it is a recipe for disaster. Jesus refused to align with politics. Paul refused to align with politics. And if you aren’t convinced, then you have not learned from history or have forgotten history. Does anyone remember The Inquisition?
Some things simply do not go together–and they never will. The Kingdom Of God and anything else. Don’t go together. Don’t work together. Don’t fit together. Never have. They never will!
A text message this morning got me to thinking. My thinking went way back in time–October 1974 to be exact. This was when I was appointed to serve 2 small congregations while I pursued licensing as a pastor at the ripe old age of 18 years old. I mention this because we all know that beginning at 18, we tend to be full of vim and vigor; or was the vim and vinegar? Come to think of it, the latter is more true for me than I want to admit. My thinking moved forward through all the years I served as a pastor all the way to right now.
And now? I have less vim, but at times, a whole lot more vinegar. If you have followed me here on this blog, you know it’s true. And you may wonder who is about the become the object of my vinegary thoughts. It is my profession–“the” pastor. I was trained in the classical model of “The Professional Pastor”. I had someone whom I thought was a colleague, tell me once after I made the decision to remain in serving small and medium churches as what we call a “Local Pastor”, “You really need to become one of us.” His poke was that until one was an ordained elder in the UMC, they weren’t really pastors. By the way, I was eventually ordained, but not to be “one of them”.
The text message from this morning, well, it brought me under conviction of the Holy Spirit. Stay with me a moment, especially if you are a pastor. And really hang in with me if you are studying to become a pastor. In reflecting over these past 46 plus years, one picture stands clear to me. The church in the U.S. has been in a steady decline; almost to the stage of an avalanche. There have been all kinds of explanations, even justifications (even though we can never justify decline) for this event. But the biggest thing is the placing of blame on this state of disgrace.
I realize that some of this decline is caused by Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters who vainly think the local church exists for them–and who fight tooth and nail to keep their control. But from my perspective–we pastors share the major share of the blame. We were trained to be professionals rather than authentic people who are to be servant leaders. I remember an incident at my previous appointment. After a funeral in my first year, the family was gathered for a meal in the church fellowship hall. I noticed the tea glasses, water glasses, and coffee cups were nearly empty. Well, I proceeded to go to each table refilling their beverage of choice. One of the church members mentioned, “This is our new pastor.” and the response was obviously one of shock when she said, “Oh, really?” To my fellow pastors–if you expect church folks to do things you are unwilling to do or think it is beneath your training, then you’re in the wrong place.
I am convinced that Professionally Trained Pastors are the Achilles Heel of the U.S. Church. It did not happen overnight–it took centuries for this to develop and in 2021, we are reaping the harvest of this with declining congregations. When I began this journey, I thought my job was to herd them up and get them moving in the right direction under MY leadership. What I discovered was that this model was more like herding cats. So I started looking for a different model to emulate. Here’s what I noticed over the past 4 decades plus of noticing.
The Underachiever Model. This is the pastor who really doesn’t care about the flock, just the paycheck, and the next church.
The Don’t Rock The Boat Model. This pastor is focused on survival–their own and that of their family. These fear confrontation–and as such, cannot guide the church to where it needs to be.
Then on the opposite end is The Dynamite Model. I do not mean as in dynamic–but dynamite, C-4 explosives, and the like. They are convinced that their job is to correct the problems that they see as the real problems. Their definition of “real” problems are typically about 7 bubbles off plumb. They do catastrophic damage to a congregation and leaves the damage behind for the next pastor to deal with. And you can always count on The Dynamite Model to leave a few unexploded devices behind which will explode at the worst possible moment.
The One Issue Model. This pastor has defined the one issue that a church needs to address even before they arrive. They are convinced that their own wisdom knows which issue the church MUST address.
The Goodyear Blimp Model. I’m not talking about their physical size. It’s the size of their ego. It is large and very inflated. They want the church to know that they have the latest Rock Star Pastor. I once listened to a mega-church’s podcast of a worship service. Truthfully, I only listened for about 3 minutes. The person who was going to bring God’s word opened up that “their” pastor and wife would be back next week. And she said, “Let’s give a hand to Pastor ________ and his wife _______ and let them know how much we missed them. I changed to another podcast–it was about herding cats.
And last but by no means least, The Control Freak Model. Churches are not churches without them. Instead of checking the pulse of the congregation, they are putting the thumb down on folks. Nothing can be done without their permission. If something is done without their permission? Forget that adage that says it is easier to ask for forgiveness after the fact rather than seek permission first. Obviously, whoever came up with that adage never had to deal with The Control Freak Pastor. They make Kim Jong-un look like the second coming of George Washington.
Why do I say that The Professional Pastor the primary cause of church decline? I look at the first Models of the church. There was leadership, trained leadership–but that leadership did not get in the way of the church reaching thousands and thousands of people. Oh, for sure, when a local church lost its sense of its true mission, someone was there to set the record straight. And then turned them loose to be The Body Of Christ. No one had to ask permission to lift up the name of Jesus. No one had to ask approval to feed the hungry, take care of the widows and orphans, and bear witness to Jesus and the power of the Cross to save. No one waited for some Professional Pastor to do the work.
There is another Model, a Model that the U.S. church in particular needs today. I would call us The Pastor Model. This pastor guides the congregation into a deeper relationship with Jesus, first and foremost. Then The Pastor Model challenges and equips the Congregation to BE the Body of Christ. And when the Congregation wants to be that Body–he or she gives them PERMISSION to be the Body Of Christ. The congregation doesn’t have to ask The Pastor Model for permission to do anything that lifts up the name of Jesus–and lifts up the least, the last, and the lost. In recent years, when someone comes to me and asks, “Is it OK with you if I do this, that, or the other?”, my response now is: “If it exalts Jesus, if the honors God and the Holy Spirit, if it touches the least, the last, or the lost, then know you have God’s permission and that’s good enough. Now, can I help you or do I just need to stay out of the way?”
In my tribe, only Ordained Pastors can administer the sacraments–as if we are somehow more holy than anyone else. Local pastors can administer the sacraments ONLY in the church they serve. The irony of my tribe is that it also professes the power and importance of the priesthood of all believers. I guess all doesn’t mean all. Before this pandemic hit, there was a significant rise in the number of House Churches. These are homes where people are hungry for a deeper relationship with Jesus, a connection with other Followers, and believe that the Kingdom Of God is needed in their neighborhoods, towns, cities, communities, states, and nation.
To my fellow Pastors, encourage your congregations. Inspire your people given to your care (not your dictatorship)! Don’t be afraid to give them permission to be who God calls them to be, The Body Of Christ. Support them in what they do. Help them but only when asked. Praise them when they look like Jesus. And if they get off-mission–gently take them aside and remind them who WE BOTH serve. You can’t build someone up (remember Ephesians 4:11-12) if you constantly tear them down, or worse, never give them the opportunity to do the real work of Jesus Christ.
If some pastor (or Churchian or Tenured Pewsitter) is upset with me, understand I will soon be 65, closer to the moment I stand before my Judge. The last thing I want to be held accountable for is my failure to speak the truth in love. So if you are offended–it is what it is. I still love you and my prayer for you is that your heart, mind, and eyes will be opened to the Mission God has called us to do.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him.
Well, our last full day at this cabin. As I was sitting on the back porch, my eyes were not drawn to the beautiful mountain peaks, but to something unexpected. It wasn’t beautiful at all. In fact, it was in great contrast to those Smoky Mountain peaks we have enjoyed this past week. Would you like to see what I noticed? It’s nothing like the pictures I have posted, so a disclaimer is in order: Not for immature audiences due to it’s starkness:
One might wonder why in the world would someone, anyone cut down those beautiful trees? I’m not a ultra-extreme tree hugger, so it did not take me long to figure it out. They were cut down so we, and others who stay here, could see those majestic peaks. See?
There are other benefits to the removal of those trees. One is that the undergrowth is given a better opportunity to grow, thus reducing the amount of erosion. The tree trunks and limbs begin decaying, adding back to the soil, making it richer and better. Then there’s that view. None of these would happen without the chainsaw cutting down those trees. There’s a spiritual lesson for us right here. Tree huggers may not see it, but it’s here.
Remember the benefits of controlled cutting: undergrowth can thrive reducing erosion, decaying limbs and tree trunks add nutrients to the soil for plants to grow better, insects collect around the cuttings for birds to have food, and one can see the view for which we came. Sometimes things in our life can grow so tall that we cannot see our God’s desired destination for us–which is to become more and more like Jesus.
Sometimes there are things in our heart and especially our mind that must be cut down. We call this “God’s pruning”. He cuts off the dead parts of our life because they are a threat to the living parts. Now get this, He even cuts off productive parts of our lives as well. Why would he do that? Glad you asked. The answer is found in John 15, verses 1 and 2:
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of Mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.
New Living Translation (emphasis mine)
Speaking from personal experience, pruning is neither easy nor pleasant. Truth be told, pruning is downright painful. But I am understanding the purpose, and the love behind God’s pruning. What is cut away in my life is like those limbs and tree trunks–it’s enriching the soil of my life. My “mess” becomes His “Message”; not a bad trade if you ask me. Furthermore, the pruning of my productive part will decrease my production for a short time, but the long-term result is an even greater production for my Father. Again, however you look at it, this is a really great deal. It’s like trading in an old clunker car for a brand new car–without paying for the difference between the two.
So, if it feels like God has had His chainsaw out–it’s for our good. And when the pruning shears come out–get excited! There is a greater harvest coming for Our Father!
I have no clue as to what you are thinking about today’s Title: The Rich Lighter Life! Maybe you thought about a gold plated with diamonds Zippo lighter. Nope, that’s not it. Unless you are from the country, you may not know what Rich Lighter is. Well, I’m from the country. In fact, a friend posted one of those “tests” to see how “country” you are. Out of a possible high score of 30, I scored 28. I could have scored 29 but I have never touched an electric fence. I’m not as dumb as I act.
As you may know now, Debbie and I are on our annual spiritual retreat to the Smoky Mountains. We rent a cabin for a week and only venture out once, twice at the most. The remainder of our time is spent here in this cabin. This particular cabin has a wood burning fire place. Being winter and all, I decide to pack some fire wood to enjoy the fireplace. You know that to have a fire in the fire place, one needs something to start the fire. I could have cheated and went to WalMart and purchased those neat little fire starters. But remember, I’m a country boy.
Before we left I went just to the edge of the woods surrounding our home and found some Rich Lighter. Researching for this post I discovered that some call it Fatwood. When a pine tree is either cut or is knocked over when it is alive, it is filled with sap. The sap, or resin if you prefer, trapped in the stump becomes hard over time. This sap contains terpene, a volatilehydrocarbon. I know you are not wanting a lesson in organic chemistry, so I will get to the point.
This hardened resin is very flammable. With just a small handful of Rich Lighter, one can easily start a fire. I put some newspaper in the fireplace, added my Rich Lighter, then the kindling and the wood and lit the newspaper. The picture above is the results of my endeavors. And to show you how little it takes, the picture below is how much I used. The Alabama Crimson Tide mug is symbolic of the power of Rich Lighter:
The Holy Spirit prompted me to do some thinking about Rich Lighter and fire places. The question many folks are asking, especially “church folks” is, “What is it going to take to change our churches, our communities, our nation, our world? Things are out of control!” It’s a great question to ask–IF–you are willing to dig deep for the answer. Asking the question in the expectation of someone else answering it is futile, ineffective, and fruitless. Nothing CAN change unless one knows the answer–and I found the answer in a handful of Rich Lighter.
What’s the answer to this “burning” question? YOU! That’s right, YOU! You may be thinking, probably ARE thinking, “How can I change what’s happening in Washington D.C.? How can I end domestic violence? How can I feed all those hungry families? How can I get people to listen and respect each other? How can I keep our church from closing its doors? How can I help people imprisoned by addictions? How can I do this in a way that really makes a difference? It’s really simple, folks. Remember my handful of Rich Lighter.
Just as a roaring fire can happen in a fireplace with just a handful of Rich Lighter, people, places, and situations change–just one person at a time. And YOU are the person that will start that Fire that will bring lasting change. It’s just that simple–not easy–but simple. Decades ago Kirk Kaiser wrote a song that I still sing today. The name of it is Pass It On. The first time I heard it was in 1971. It was a Sunday night Youth Service. I knew God was calling me into a relationship with Him. But I fought it off by holding on to the oak pew in front of me. I held on so tight I know that my fingerprints are permanently embedded in that pew at Green’s Chapel. That’s what it took for me to resist God’s Grace. And I succeeded. But, a little over a year later, in not so dramatic a moment, I finally surrendered to His Grace. And as the saying goes, “The Rest Is History!”
If you have the Holy Spirit inside you, (you do if Jesus is your Lord and Savior), that Fire is more than enough to start the process of transformation in people, places, and situations. Just as Rich Lighter easily ignites and spreads its fire to other wood, YOU can spread the Fire that will make the difference. But changing the world will never happen as long as you expect someone else to answer the question. I leave you with two songs–one is for me because I am a country boy–the second one is for YOU, Just listen to it:
This is from an older post. When I started blogging I made a promise to myself to never re-post a blog because I wanted my material to always be fresh. Well, early this morning, The Spirit asked me, “Would you like salt and pepper for eating crow?” Needless to say, this morning’s post was from a few years ago, August 3, 2016. I’ve updated some personal references and edited some of my typical errors, a.k.a. typographical errors. It just seems that this is the Word God wants me to share this morning. It seems that Solomon was right, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
Before I begin sharing my heart I must, in all honesty, begin with a warning and a disclaimer. The warning is that due to the mature subject matter, some may find this offensive, even to the point of labeling me something I am not. The disclaimer is that I am NOT being unpatriotic. I fly our country’s flag at our home. I stand at attention with my hand over my heart when the national anthem is being played. I am very patriotic for many reasons–I appreciate the many freedoms we enjoy and I have a son and son-in-law who are combat veterans. Since this was first published my son, Matthew has retired from the military (and now serving in law enforcement). My son in law, Michael, continues to serve in defense of our wonderful nation. I am very proud of Matthew and Michael and every day I pray they will never have to go back into harm’s way. With this being said, I want to share something with you that has been troubling my heart and mind.
I am acutely troubled by the emotional climate that exists in our nation in this current election cycle. I am seeing and hearing a lot of conversations that are soaked with frustrations, anger and fear, especially around this current Presidential election. My deepest concerns are the words I see and hear from the “Christian” community. Many of my friends are saying that this is THE sign that Jesus is about to return because the wrong person was elected. Others are saying that America is doomed.
I am left wondering, “Why so much concern about who sits in the chair behind that desk in the Oval Office? Why does that thought create such anger or even fear?” Regardless of who sits there, God is still God. He is still sovereign. He is still in control. The waves and the winds still know and obey the voice of Jesus. In a message series it was something I said that inspired this blog. It came from a series based on Ecclesiastes, that book where Solomon shares all the things he tried to find a life with meaningful purpose that would give us that deep and abiding peace with joy. Of the many things Solomon tried one was the political process. He described putting our hope on the political process was like “chasing the wind.” During that message, here is what I said: “The hope for the United States is not about who sits in the chair behind the desk of the oval office, but rules on the throne of your own heart.”
I listen with all respect to the passion of the many voices who spend their time and energy on their desire for the United States to become once again a Christian nation. There seems to be a lot of passion and energy as well as fear being expended in this idea that God, and thus the Gospel, wants us to create a Christian nation. Now comes the offensive part so brace yourselves for you have been warned. Jesus never asked us to follow Him in order to set upon this earth a Christian nation. God hasn’t called us or anyone to create a Christian nation.
If you, the reader, are among the many here in the United States that sincerely believe that God wants us to create and maintain this Christian nation and are now offended (and maybe even labeled me a heretical liberal), I have one word for you: Good! About six and a half ago years God turned my theology and understanding about the collective gathering we call the church on its ear. Well, actually He helped me move from upside down to right side up, by reminding me the work of the collective body called the church is not about what we call church work, but Kingdom Work.
Out of this has God has brought me back to a familiar verse from which directs my thoughts and words in this blog, and why I do not think God wants us to be so adamant about this being a Christian nation. It is from 1 Peter 2:9-10 and I want to share it from both the New Living Translation and from the Message:
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”
New Living Translation
But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.
The call of God is about more than a piece of real estate. Notice Peter’s carefully selected word: YOU! We, who have been called out by God only because of His grace and mercy, are to be royal priests that are to be collectively formed, under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, to be this holy nation. It is just like the church. We never, ever go to church if we are doing it right. WE are the church, not a piece of real estate. The real church never has a single address, nor does it exist within multiple campuses.
The church exists wherever you happen to be at that moment, that is, if you are have some clarity about the nature of the church. And within our collective body our work is to be Kingdom Work. Kingdom Work is about restoring people to what Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert describe in the book When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . . and Yourself as the 4 key relationships God intended in creation for us. They describe these 4 key relationships as relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation. Poverty exists when 1 or more of these relationships are broken.
One way that I see that we have Americanized the Gospel is in how we define and treat poverty. In their book, Corbett and Fikkert point out because of our American bias, we define poverty as the lack of material substance. So we treat poverty with material substance. And be honest, how has this worked out? IF poverty is the lack of material substance (which it’s NOT), then we should have solved the problem a long time ago. Instead of solving the problem, people continue to live in broken relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation. Even we who call ourselves Christians experience poverty in one or more of these relationships.
The Work of God’s Kingdom ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve has been to restore His most loved part of creation to those 4 key relationships. It is in these 4 relationships that we reflect His nature, His heart, and His glory. And it is within these key relationships that we begin to live out our created design and purpose. And here is where I believe that we “American” Christians have forgotten something that should never be forgotten. I am convinced that much of our dysfunction as a nation (notice I did not say “Christian Nation”) is that we have chosen to ignore this absolute truth.
God calls us to proclaim the Kingdom right smack dab in the middle of the Enemy’s Kingdom. Albeit the kingdom of Satan is temporary, still at this time he rules it. Do you remember what Jesus said to Pilate when questioned about being a King?
Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36 NLT)
If Jesus wasn’t interested in establishing an earthly kingdom, meaning “a nation”, then why are so many of us obsessed with having one in the United States? Here is my thought: We have forgotten that God has placed us in the middle of enemy territory for the purpose of spiritual warfare (and remember this warfare isn’t against people, corporations or governments, but the Evil one) to reclaim those whom God created in HIS image, but have been disfigured with the image of the Enemy. I’m sitting here wondering if Christians in places like Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia, and a host of other nations ruled by petty despots, are wondering, “Why are those Americans so up in arms about that election? Every day we live under the threat of imprisonment and death and it hasn’t slowed the Kingdom down one little bit. Truth is, God’s Kingdom is growing here but declining there.”
I want to challenge you stop insisting that our job as Disciples of Jesus Christ is to make sure this great nation with so many wonderful freedoms turn back to becoming a Christian nation. You may think I am dishonoring our Founding Fathers and their desire and intent. Are you aware that some of our Founding Fathers were Deists? Deists believe in a divine creator but not in the Trinitarian God. Though they rejected the idea of Jesus, they understood the importance of freedom of thought, speech, and yes, religion.
Let’s stop trying to “make” this a Christian nation and instead BECOME the nation God has called us to be. A nation that exists, not on real estate, but a PEOPLE who faithfully live out as His priests, Royal Priests! Forget Republican or Democrat priests–let’s be Royal Priests who serve not a political ideology or party or even flag, but The King of all Kings! Would you love to see a culture shift in the United States? A culture shift that moves away from political ideologies, from greed and selfishness, from that sense of entitlement, and from the idea that as Disciples of Jesus we are supposed to establish a “Christian” nation? Then remember where your citizenship lies and under whose command you serve.
Stop freaking out about Donald and Joe and instead focus on your own brokenness in the 4 Key Relationships–God, self, others and the rest of creation. And then step into the Territory of the Enemy and share your brokenness with others who are broken and say to them, “Let’s walk together out of our brokenness towards the only One who can restore us to who we truly are.” Don’t worry about the nation–BE the Nation of people called out by God to walk through the Enemy’s territory with the light of His love, grace and mercy. I was reading the other day but unfortunately I did not write down the source of it, but here are my closing words: 95% of Christians pass the test of adversity but 95% of Christians fail the test of prosperity.