You Can Pine, You Can Whine, Or You Can Shine!

This morning my inspiration came from Terry Teykl (check him out here). It was yesterday’s email that I finally got around to reading this morning. He said, well, just let me Control C and Control V (that’s “copy and paste”): “Jesus was crucified between two thieves, one on each side of him. Today, we also live with the possibility of two thieves taking their place on each side of us.  One thief is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow.  Both of these thieves steal from us and stop us from living in the present. But gratitude is an antidote to their thievery.”

When we allow the chaotic culture that is inundating us to hold our attention, then Terry’s 2 thieves get on each side of us; and the results are annihilating any sense or hope of being Kingdom People. You’ve seen it: people who are pining day after day for what use to be. Then there are those whining that the future is hopeless. Two thieves who taunt us into submission. And we, who should be That Different Voice, have pined and whined our way into The Enemy’s Camp. Trust me on this one, The Enemy takes great joy when those who should be following Jesus allow the thieves to steal our purpose.

I propose to you today that there is a third option. Instead of pining and whining why not start Shining? Supposedly the British author Charles Dickens once said that in America we have it all mixed up. He said, “Use that one day just for complaining and griping. Use the other 364 days to thank God for the many blessings he has showered upon you.” Sound advice, even if he is from across the pond.

What better way to counter the culture than choosing to be grateful! Read and listen carefully to what Paul wrote:

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)

Paul didn’t say to be thankful for, but be thankful in! Think you don’t have anything to be thankful for? Check out Joe’s story! He was pampered and spoiled by his daddy. He was daddy’s favorite and he loved to brag about it. But one day his brothers threw him in a hole, took his prized coat, covered it with blood to pretend he had been dragged off by a wild animal, and then sold Arrogant Joe into slavery. If that wasn’t bad enough he was sold again in a country where he didn’t know their language. He managed to rise up only to be lied about and thrown into prison. If that wasn’t bad enough, he helped a fellow prisoner who said he wouldn’t forget Joe–but he did; for 2 years he forgot all about Joe.

Joe could have pined for the days when he was his daddy’s favorite son with all the perks it brought. Joe could have whined about his situation in that Egyptian prison–which was not much more than the hole his brothers pushed him into. Two thieves on each side of Joe; but Joe did not choose to pine or whine. He made the conscious choice to Shine! All those bad times really did to Joe was sand off his arrogance and taught him the importance of Godly Character.

And when Joe could have exacted revenge on those brothers–he didn’t listen to Pining and he ignored Whining. Here’s what he said:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Genesis 50:20 (ESV)

I love how The Message renders it: “Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people.” Joseph was not thankful for the pit or the prison or the injustice. Joseph was thankful that God was busy at work redeeming all the bad in order to bring out The Shine!

Don’t let those treacherous thieves called Pining and Whining steal your life. Do what Paul said, Be thankful! So today, go out there and be thankful. When you’re thankful you can’t help but be joyful, kind and helpful. It will make you Shine like the sun; better yet–Shine Like The Son! God is working for good in your life and mine–even if we are unjustly thrown in prison like Joseph. And if that’s not enough to cause you to desire Gratitude in this day–do it anyway because it will annoy the stew out of the piners and whiners. I’d call that a great day!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him–and it will when you choose GRATITUDE!

GOING AND DOING!

When we are going our own way and doing it our way, Jesus isn’t with us. But, When We Are Going And Doing What Jesus Wants, We Are Never Alone.

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The Final Installment of this sermon series….

As we close out this Blueprint For A Brand New You, I wanted to find the word that brings all this together.  When it comes to following blueprints for a house, each specialist looks only at their part.  But for the home to be built everything needs to come together in the right way at the right time, otherwise there is chaos and confusion.  I want you to be able to see clearly how thinking in a new way, having eyes that are open, and learning to step out in faith can transform you into a brand new person. 

Neither God nor I want you to just become a different person, but to become the person that God Created And Redeemed you to become.  God takes the junk out of our lives but He also gives us a reason and a purpose in life

This God-Created, God-Honoring Purpose is where we truly find the life that our hearts are hungry for.  More than just you being a different person from last year, God Wants Us To Become Who He Wants Us To Become By Going And Doing What He Has Designed For Our Life In Christ.  And the only text that God would allow me to use is from Matthew 28:16-20 (The Message)

Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion.  The moment they saw him they worshiped him.  Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.

Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge:  “God authorized and commanded me to commission you:  Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  

Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you.  I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”

Anyone here ever heard of the Kodak Company?  At one time it was one of the top corporations.  Where is it now?  On Jan. 17, 2012, it filed for bankruptcy.  It took them years to get out of bankruptcy.  Why?  They forgot their purpose.  They thought their purpose was to produce film for cameras.  In 1975, one of their researchers developed the first digital camera, but company executives told him to keep it quiet.  In 2006 they stopped manufacturing Kodachrome Film after 74 years. They thought their purpose was making film—when their true purpose was creating images. 

Ever since then, they have been playing catch-up instead of being the leader in their industry.  Imagine people going to work day after day without knowing their company’s business, yet that’s exactly what happens when churches don’t know where they should be going and what they should be doing.  

Rather than try to find out what they should be doing, they keep doing the same things, expecting different results.  To become the Brand New You that honors God and gives us that life of purpose and meaning, then we need to know where we need to be going and what we need to be doing. 

In the beginning of the Church, it was clear to them—they knew where to go and what to do.  It was going into their world and doing the very thing Jesus told them to do.  They didn’t have anywhere else to go or anything else to do, but the One Thing Jesus told them to do:  Make Disciples Of Others Through Loving Them And Sharing With Them What Jesus Had Done In Their Life

The One Thing that EVERY Church and THIS Church must be is that Community of Believers who GO into the world and DO what Jesus wants, and what Jesus wants is for the lost to know they are loved by the Father and can have a relationship with Him! 

We need to know that our One Thing, the ONLY Thing Jesus wants is for us to Make Disciples By Showing Them God’s Love, Sharing What God Has Done For Us, And Inviting Them Into That Most Important Relationship Of All.  It is about becoming The New Creation by The Blood Of Jesus Christ.

Too much of what happens in many churches today is about consumerism.  We think that the church is all about meeting our needs.  Have you ever heard anyone say, “Well, I’m not going back to that church because it’s not meeting my needs.”?  They’ve made the church about what they want more than what Jesus wants! 

Purpose Is God’s Gift To Us, Not Our Offering To GodThis Means We Exist To Show The Real Love Of God To Real People In Real Ways So That They Can Become A Real Disciple Of Jesus.  

To be the person that God created you to become, to live the life that Jesus died to give you, there are two steps to take and one thing to remember:  Step One

1.  Make The Commitment To Go Into This World!

It is a world that is not very nice.  Sometimes it’s dirty and ugly.  It’s a world that is filled with a lot of pain.  It’s a world that is scary.  It is a world that is unfair and unreasonable.  It is a world that is selfish and narrow minded.  It is a world that is torn apart by disasters and wars.  It is a world that is filled with darkness and sin.  That’s what Satan is doing with God’s creation.

But it was into this same world that Jesus left heaven and entered into.  Jesus Entered Into The Pain, The Filth, The Brokenness And The Sickness Of This World.  Sometimes, people came to Him wherever He was; but Jesus didn’t wait for them to show up.  He went to them.  Jesus sat and ate with the worst sinners of that day—Tax Collectors. 

He reached out to everyone who was called unclean—the prostitutes, the adulteresses, the lepers, the poor—by those who thought themselves to be religious and godly.  Anyone who had been pushed aside by the world, Jesus reached out to them.  And if we are going to be His Disciples, then we follow his example!  In order to be a Brand New You, we stop going where we want to go and start going where Jesus goes. 

Make your commitment to go into this world.  Now Step 2:

2.  Make The Commitment To Do Something Only Jesus Would Do!

Do you know what Jesus is doing in our world today?  He is loving every single person.  When Jesus walked this earth as a human, He came to show a world that for some who wondered if God loves them, and for others who felt like God didn’t love them—to show that God has unconditional love for everyone! 

It is really clear what Jesus wants us to do—To Love Others Like Jesus Loves Us!  Jesus loves us completely, unconditionally and sacrificially.  None of us deserves this.  Yet Jesus shows us how much God loves us at the cross. 

And He wants us out there showing others how much God loves them.  We love others with our actions and not our words.  We show our love for Jesus when we give food to the hungry, clothes to those who have little or none, when we offer care to those who are sick or lonely, when we care for those who are in prison.  It’s not what we talk about that shows our world the love of God, it is what we actually do to help those who are among the least, the last and the lost.  Your world will never see how much God loves them until they see AND experience how much you love them.  Do Something Only Jesus Would Do!

3.  (And Here Is The One Thing You Need To Remember:)  Go And Do Because Jesus Is With You!

When we are going our own way and doing it our way, Jesus isn’t with us.  But, When We Are Going And Doing What Jesus Wants, We Are Never Alone.  He is with you. 

Did you hear how The Message translation puts it?  “I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day.”  He has never asked you to go and to do it alone.  In fact, He Insists That You Don’t Go Or Do It Alone.  In order to be a Brand New You, it takes confidence, the confidence that what Jesus said to those disciples, He really meant it and He really means it for you, too

And You Must Believe That It Is His Presence That Will Make The Difference In Our Life, And In Those Lives We Are Called To Go To, And To Love.  Our Life Purpose is to make new disciples for Jesus, by going to them, by doing for them in love, sharing with them all that God has done for us, And Then Inviting Them Into The Relationship With The Father. 

Churches that close their doors when there were people around them without Jesus, didn’t know what their business was.  To be a real disciple of Jesus, to be an authentic Christian, to be a real church, we have to remember that our business is all about bringing people into a relationship with Jesus.  You have to know why you are here.  Do You Know?

NEXT STEPS

  1. Is Jesus Living In You?  Galatians 2:20—“My old self has been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  I’m not asking how much you know about Jesus.  I’m asking:  Is Jesus living in you?  The only way He can live in you is that you ask Him and surrender everything in you to Him—your will, guilt, fear, your days, your relationships, ALL that makes you who you are.
  2. Ask Him To Give You This Week and Every Week The Opportunity To Show The Real Love Of God To Real People In Real Ways So That They Can Become A Real Disciple Of Jesus.  You can do this in many ways:
    1. Don’t judge them.  Sinners know they are sinners without you reminding them.
    1. Forgive Someone who has hurt you.  The best way someone can know that God will forgive them is to see that same forgiveness in you.
    1. Help Someone who needs help.  Open a door, give up your place in line, help change a tire, share an unexpected gift, encourage someone with your acts rather than your words, take someone to lunch—do you get the idea?
    1. Tell someone what God has done for you, especially if you didn’t deserve or earn it.  The world sees us who follow Jesus as a people who feel superior to others, or that we never have problems.  This just isn’t true.  Change that perception by being honest about your issues and struggles—and how Jesus came to you in the middle of those struggles.

Did You Know Someone Touched You?

Jesus knew when she touched that hem, and you can know it, too–when you are tuned in to the Holy Spirit!

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Well, God just wouldn’t leave me alone about this, so here I go.  Before I start, please know this isn’t about me.  It is about something I did, but it’s not about me.  Now that this is clear as muddy water, on to what happened to me.

Yesterday I delivered a gift from Mt. Vernon to a young single parent who is living like many single parents–under great pressure.  I went to the home, introduced myself, and presented her with a gift from the Body of Christ at Mt. Vernon.  As with baptisms and weddings, this is the part of my job I absolutely love.  I simply told her, “God loves you and so do we.”  I left and went to Wal Mart to exchange something and pick up a few more things.

I’m waiting in the refund line when my phone rang.  OK, here’s where the story takes a twist.  When I’m in a line I NEVER answer my phone.  I consider it rude and a tarnishing of the image of me as a citizen of the Kingdom of God.  The number that came up was not in my contacts.  My natural response to a number not in my contacts is, “Oh, dear Lord, another telemarketer!”  Usually at that point, I send it to voicemail.

But this time, I didn’t.  Something, well, actually SOMEONE said, “Answer it Randy!”  So, I did.  On the other end of that call was that single Mom crying profusely, telling me how much that gift meant to her.  She needed to express her gratitude.  And God selected me to hear that gratitude.  And I was overwhelmed with gratitude that I had a small part in reminding this single Mom, she was loved by God and that He remembers her every need.

But…WHAT IF….I sent that message to Voicemail?  Maybe in a couple of days I would have listened to it, since it was from someone NOT in my contacts….and I would have missed the joy of her heart….and being humbled to be a part of God’s Kingdom work in even a small way.

And then I remembered….on one of those typical days when Jesus walked this earth.  There was a crowd, pressing against Him.  When…well just read Luke 8:45–“Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”  It was that woman who had run out of hope that she could ever be whole.  But she believed if she could just touch the hem of that garment, it would be OK.  And Jesus knew the moment she touched that hem.

And I wonder, how many people today are looking to touch the hem of hope and reach out to us for that hope, but we are unaware of it?  We live in a “Way Too Busy Culture” to notice the people pressing in against us.  And that is sad….too sad.  So be aware of those pressing in against you.  They just may be looking for Hope!  You are the HEM of HIM!  If you’re too busy to help someone find Hope, you’re just too busy.  Jesus knew when she touched that hem, and you can know it, too–when you are tuned in to the Holy Spirit!

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

I Found The Wayside!

(I must insert this disclaimer at the beginning of this blog that by no means do I consider the people in this community to be fallen, forgotten or obsolete.  It’s only an illustration of my point.)

Wayside.  Are you familiar with that word?  Usually it’s connected with 2 statements:

  1. Gone by the Wayside
  2. Fell by the Wayside

I’ve wondered where in the world is Wayside?  Well, I found it.  I noticed it the very first time we traveled down to see our new pastoral appointment.  I’ve been meaning to do this post, but wouldn’t until I stopped and got my proof.  Well, Saturday on my motorcycle pilgrimage, I stopped and got these pictures as proof I know where the Wayside is located.  Think about the previous 2 statements concerning the Wayside.

Gone by the Wayside.  This means that something has become obsolete, like those heavy “brick” looking cell phones, which by the way, was my very first cell phone.  Fell by the Wayside.  This means to fail to continue or to drop out.  Obsolete.  Dropping out.  These images are used to describe some values and people.  I’ve always wondered where they went, and now I know.

When people “fall by” the Wayside, often they are either treated with great disdain or completely forgotten.  People shake their head with a degree of sadness and leave them there, by the Wayside.  And when long-standing Christian-Judeo values are considered “gone by” the Wayside, people shrug their shoulders, forgetting those values and declare they are now more enlightened than their superstitious ancestors.  So, the Wayside becomes the place of the forgotten.

I know where the Wayside is, but does Jesus know?  Absolutely He knows!  The fact is He does far better and far more work in the Wayside than in many sterilized and sanitized sanctuaries.  Jesus leaves no one behind.  He came back for Peter after His Crucifixion, though Peter denied 3 times that he knew Jesus.  Remember the Angel’s message to the women that first Easter morning?  Mark 16:7 (NLT) records:  “Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”  He would have come back for Judas, if Judas had not given up too soon.

The work of Jesus and the Kingdom of God is for people who have fallen by the Wayside.  Paul reminded the Corinthian church of this fact in 2 Corinthians 5:18 (NLT)–“And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.”  Look again at the bottom of this sign welcoming people to Wayside:

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“A Little Bit Of Heaven”.  If you feel like you have fallen by the Wayside, hold on to that last line.  Wayside is a little bit of heaven because it’s a place filled with God’s grace that will forgive, redeem and restore anyone and everyone who has fallen.  Jesus doesn’t hesitate to go by the Wayside because it’s filled with those for whom Jesus insisted on dying for.  And where should the church be today?  Well, I think that other sign says it all:

IMG_20180915_130419

What if we all became the Church for The Wayside?  It would probably be a bit messy, but it would also be a bit of heaven.  Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

Postscript:  Don’t consider yourself obsolete if you embrace and try to live by the values of the Kingdom of God.  And don’t consider His Values obsolete.

What Happened To Being Friendly?

Image result for friendly people

Good morning.  I want to share something I learned from God’s classroom at the beach.  Yesterday the Holy Spirit excitedly whispered in my ear, “Did you notice that?”  And I replied, “Well, yes I did!  It’s wonderful that personal smiled and said to me ‘Good morning!’  You don’t see much of that in the ordinary world.”  I didn’t know that person.  Didn’t know where they were from, what their politics were, what their social status was, and I didn’t even know what college football team they supported.

It was the norm to see people smiling, saying hello, good morning, good afternoon.  and making conversation with strangers.  One man pointed out to us that there was a small stingray near us and informed us that he also saw a couple of jellyfish.  Normally you would not see this type of interaction between complete strangers.  But in that moment, that location, there were no strangers.  Simply people sharing that bond of being at the beach

We went to Lulu’s, a well known local eating establishment, last evening for seafood.  You know you can’t go to the beach without eating seafood.  We went early to avoid waiting in line.  There were several people who had our same idea.  There were lots of conversations going on.  Smiles were everywhere and lots of laughing.  It was then that I noticed 1 table, a family it appeared to be.  There was not much talking….no smiles….looking almost miserable in a place full of smiling, friendly people.  They definitely did not fit in with the rest of the crowd.  I wondered if they had brought their own misery with them, instead of leaving it at home.

We were in an environment that was counter-cultural to much of normal living–the exception being that one family.  Typically one doesn’t encounter this type of friendliness in the ordinary every-day world.  People rarely look others in the eye, smile or engage in casual conversation.  They tend to be more guarded, even suspicious of others.  And here is the question that has rooted itself in my heart and mind:  Why aren’t people as friendly in the ordinary world as they are at the beach?

Now mind you, that I’m not accusing these friendly beach-goers as being unfriendly the rest of the time.  Hopefully they are, but if you examine the ordinary world you do not see kind of friendliness this happening.  Many are like that family at Lulu’s that was a stark contrast to the rest of that environment.  Cold, reserved, disconnected from the world that is around them.

Why?  Perhaps it is suspicion that causes us to keep others at arm’s length.  It could be fear–fear that the other person will somehow take advantage of them.  What ever the reason, we tend to be more protective “out there in the real world”.  And here is where there are many moments for the Kingdom Witness–to share a smile and be friendly because we are followers of Jesus.

Why were people so quick to flock to Jesus?  I think it must have been His smile and friendly personality.  I do not believe that Jesus looked anything like He is portrayed in “official” church art.  He looks at times too sad, too mad, and way too weak.  Would you really want to be in the presence of Sad or Mad or Pathetically Weak?  Don’t think so!  I believe Jesus looked more like artist Stephen Sawyer paints Him.  Check him out on his website:  www.art4god.com

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In this suspicious, unkind and manipulative culture, we need to be more like Jesus.  And it all begins with being kind and friendly.  Being distant and rude requires little talent and no effort.  It’s everywhere.  But…a warm smile….a good morning….a timely thank you…holding a door open for another person….letting someone go ahead of you in the check-out lane…leaving your quarter in your shopping cart at Aldi’s….and best of all, listening to people and taking the time to know them without judging them.

What happened to being friendly?  Nothing.  Being friendly is still out there.  Unfortunately it seems to be reserved for special places, like the beach.  What if we, who claim to be followers of Jesus, would do what Jesus did when He walked on His Creation as one He created?  Smile and be friendly.  The times Jesus was mad was when He had to deal with the really religious people, or with people who simply wanted Jesus to entertain them.

One of the things I am absolutely enjoying in our new appointment is the setting:  rural, small town Alabama.  Friendliness and kindness are seen more often.  Who among us wouldn’t agree that our culture needs to change–radically change.  Change happens like measles spreads in schools–one person to another person.  Would you really like to be more like Jesus?  Do something that Jesus did?  What if you decided that your part of the world is as friendly as folks at the beach?  Perhaps what would happen would be that unfriendliness would look as out of place as that family at Lulu’s.  It’s easy to make it happen–smile, be friendly, engage in conversation, listen, and get to know others.  I leave you with Proverbs 15:30 (NLT)

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart;
good news makes for good health.

Now, if you will kindly excuse me, I need to leave.  The bell has rung for class to begin.  And The Teacher doesn’t like for us to be late.  Might miss something, ya’ know.  Now get out there, Followers of Jesus and be friendly!

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