TO INSANITY AND BEYOND! (The U.M.C.)

As an adult, I absolutely loved the movie Toy Story. And some will want to flog me with a wet noodle for saying this–but Buzz Lightyear is my favorite character. Even though that was nearly 25 years ago, I still love to watch that movie. Now I am seeing why I am drawn to Buzz Lightyear. It was his catchphrase: To Infinity And Beyond! But seriously, how can one go beyond infinity since infinity has no end?

And for the last few weeks, I have taken his catchphrase and replaced one word–and it is a word that describes my beloved United Methodist Church; and thus the title of today’s edition: To Insanity And Beyond! How does one go beyond insane? Clinicians in the world of behavioral science have pretty much agreed upon their definition of “Insanity”! But there is a better definition that is easily understood and on which there can be no disagreement. Well. . .unless you are insane. OK, here it is:

Insanity is doing the same things over and over and over–and expecting different results.

I am hearing, and I’m being told by my fellow United Methodists, that we are at a critical crossroads in our Tribe. I laugh to myself when I hear the word “crossroads”. The United Methodist church is at a crossroads, and the Democrats and Republicans want to be nice to each other. HAH! This may hurt the feelings of some of my fellow United Methodists, but. . .oh well! Toughen up, buttercup.

To say we are at a crossroads in the United Methodist Church declares that we have four options: go straight, turn right, turn left, or go back the way we came. This has been the situation going on for 5 decades, and the United Methodist Church continues to be in a serious state of decline every year. And what should have been decided this year has been postponed until 2021–the affect of COVID-19.

A group in my own Conference has started a movement called Stay UMC (click here for their website). Centrists and Progressive sincerely believe that we can stay UMC and maintain a diverse view of the authority and reliability of the Bible. Friends, this has been attempted now through 5 decades and we continue to be in a state of decline. It is insane to continue this way.

The image of where the United Methodist Church is at is not a crossroads, but we are at the T-Intersection!

At a T-Intersection you can’t go straight. The road has ended. Now you must choose a different direction. And because it will be a different direction, it means that we will no longer together be United Methodists. Truth is, it’s insane to think over the past 5 decades that we have even been in the same area code of United. We are fragmented and broken and the time has come for a kind and civil farewell to each other.

Make your choice because the road that the United Methodist Church has been traveling has come to a T-Intersection. It is insane to think that doing what we’ve been doing is going to produce a different outcome. If you believe that, then I refer you to my statement after paragraph 2. My fellow United Methodists, this madness must stop! I join the growing crowd who is giving up this game of Kicking The Can down the road. I know that this moment is not a Crossroads moment. Make a choice. Either we can trust The Bible or we can’t trust The Bible. Really, one cannot go beyond insanity.

And The Verdict Is. . .

Most people in the United States are found GUILTY of Having No Common Sense And Are Acting Stupid!

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As of last night the CDC reports there are 122,653 of confirmed and presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 reported to CDC or tested at CDC since January 21, 2020 in the United States. This number is up from Saturday evening’s number of 103,321. People in the U.S. are panic buying. It started with toilet paper and hand sanitizer and now it’s milk, bread, eggs and God knows what else. People are scooping up self-rising flour who have never made a biscuit in their life! And the jury has reached a verdict.

Most people in the United States are found GUILTY of Having No Common Sense And Are Acting Stupid! It took the jury only 3 seconds to reach this verdict. When you consider the evidence it is no surprise at all. Just look at the evidence:

  • You ask a student “You have 3 apples and give 1 apple to your friend, how many are left?” and rather than the student imagine 3 apples, take away 1 and count what’s left, which is 1 then 2, 2 apples left, they have replaced it with common core math. To find the answer you take the circumference of Saturn, divide that by the number of species of ducks, multiply that answer by the temperature on the surface of Mercury, then subtract the number of Wal-Marts in the world, divided by 7.68345690 and subtract the number of people who will buy eggs today and Voila! The answer is 2!
  • Participation Trophies! You have achieved greatness by simply being present. Forget effort. Forget skill and ability. Besides, it’s plain meanness to reward success!
  • Entitlement has become the norm. Who needs perseverance? What’s the value in trying and learning from failure? You exist therefore you deserve!
  • Administrators tell teachers, “You have to teach for the state tests. Forget knowledge and wisdom–it’s the scores on those tests that matter most. NOT the students needs, but OUR need to score high on those tests!”
  • Many school systems have taken out vocational/technical schools because it’s more important for the students to go to college in order for them to ask “Would you like a fried apple pie with this order?” The number of high school students who receive a college degree looks great on the paperwork!
  • Speaking of college, OY VEY! Professors have concluded that they are the experts in their fields and are the sole depository of knowledge, and expect their students to be their little minions who perpetuate their jabber and twaddle. (if you don’t know the meaning of twaddle, look it up!) Cemetery Professors, excuse me, that should have been Seminary Professors, are the absolute worst!
  • And parents? OY VEY! OY VEY! OY VEY! They want to be their child’s friend! Great gobbledygook! This is enough evidence by itself to arrive at that Guilty Verdict!
  • Morality, what is right and wrong, good and bad, is determined by the individual rather than proven standards, such as the Bible. They even encourage their children to find their own gender rather than accept what nature gave them.
  • Consequences? What’s that? People are protected from the consequences of their choices and actions. There is always someone else, something else to blame. Oy gevalt! Bupkes! That’s mishegas! It’s bupkes! Go ahead and kvetsh if it makes you feel better! (I love Yiddish!)
  • And finally, it’s more important to be kind than truthful–especially when truth hurts. A president once challenged this nation to be a kinder and gentler nation. Well, people accepted the challenge, and look at the mess we’re in!

Look at this nation now. More and more people are thinking more and more about themselves while thinking less and less about others. I heard one story of a shopper who was buying up milk. The business only allowed 2 gallons to be purchased. So she bought 2 gallons; then went back in a went through the self checkout with 2 more gallons. This continued until she had her minivan full of milk. Another shopper was doing the same with toilet paper until an astute associate saw what she was doing and cut her off!

There was a time when you didn’t need a declaration from the government to stay at home if you were sick. It was called Common Sense and Decency! There was a time when people cared more about others than themselves. There was a time when valor and restraint were considered virtues. There was a time when hard work was noble and the dream people held dear. And there was a time when it was appropriate to call out, in a kind way, stupidity in others. Well. . . what can I say? Too many people are null and void when it comes to common sense–and are stupid, I say, absolutely stupid! They make the 3 Stooges look like clones of Albert Einstein.

The Real Cause Has Been Identified

The prevalent question among the sane and those of us blessed with common sense is, “Where is all this fear, panic and hoarding coming from?” I know the answer. But before I share it with you, a little bit of perspective from me. In previous times when we’ve seen this kind of behavior and I’ve been asked “Why is this happening?” My answer was, “They don’t have any perspective.” Well, I was wrong.

Everybody has a perspective. Each person’s perspective is never chosen for them by someone else; each person chooses their perspective. And in these times they may want to blame the Chinese, news media, health care system, pharmaceutical companies, the Illuminati (yes, I’ve heard this as to blame for the current fear and chaos), or the ever favorite scapegoat, President Trump. Not so fast, Buckaroo! NO ONE CHOOSES YOUR PERSPECTIVE AND NO ONE FORCES YOU TO HAVE YOUR CURRENT PERSPECTIVE! It is never chosen for you. People may, and in fact do make many of your choices for you. But perspective? ONLY YOU CONTROL YOUR PERSPECTIVE.

What? What’s that you say? Someone just disagreed with me. You said, “No! It’s the fault of the Chinese, news media, Trump that’s causing me to fear!” No it’s not and just because you say it’s the reason why doesn’t make it the reason why. You have taken life as it happens and have chosen your perspective. That’s a fact, Jack! You can disagree with me but…

The mass fear, pandemonium, and chaos comes from the perspective of, guess what? The Perspectives of Fear, Pandemonium or Chaos. And the wonderful thing about perspective is that it can change–for the better or for the worse. Allow me to share some “different” perspectives in these times:

If you have an autoimmune disease, respiratory issues, or are on chemo or radiation therapy, choose to stay at home. Your perspective in this time is to prevent you from becoming sicker than you already are. Call a friend, family member or neighbor to go shopping for you. It’s not just the COVID-19 virus that you should be concerned about, but Type A and Type B flu is a threat to you. More people have died from Type A & Type B flu than from cornavirus.

If you have a sore throat, coughing, fever or sinus issues, get diagnosed by a doctor. Your perspective in this time is to make sure whatever it is, you don’t share it with anyone. Sure, it may be just allergies; but let a doctor make that call. And if you are diagnosed with Coronavirus or the Flu, stay out of contact with anyone until the doctor declares it to be safe for you to go out. And follow the treatment plan your doctor gives you. Don’t stop taking any medicines just because “you feel better now”.

And if you are healthy, no flu or other symptoms, carry on with your life and respect the space of others. Your perspective in this time is to be hopeful and upbeat, kind and encouraging. Now, I’m a hand-shaker and a hugger. It’s just who I am–I love and care about people. And I admit it’s a challenge not to extend the hand or arm for a hug. But it’s a challenge I’m up to–and so can you. Not only is the flu virus and coronavirus contagious, but so is a smile, as well as kind words. Greet people with a “Hello, how are you doing?” or something similar. Choose to be cheerful, optimistic and encouraging. You will be amazed at how social spaces are changed by a smile and kind words.

So, remember, you get to choose your own perspective in these times. In fact, every day you get to choose your perspective–and you DO CHOOSE YOUR OWN PERSPECTIVE. Just remember this scene from the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”

You can choose your perspective poorly or you can choose your perspective wisely…

You’re NOT You When–Tuesday Thoughts 11 February 2020

Maturity happens as we align our heart, mind, and purpose to the will and desires of God.

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The other day I was thinking about something that, well is missing in our culture. OK, I know, I know there’s a lot missing in today’s culture. So I will be specific–there is a lack of maturity. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines maturity as “he quality or state of being mature“. OK, so what mature? One of the definitions given is: “of or relating to a condition of full development“. EUREKA! THAT’S IT!

Full development as a whole person. But like the description of some nations, many are underdeveloped. They remind me of this Commercial:

Many people today just aren’t themselves because they have failed to mature. To reach full development as a whole person, we need to turn to something more than the culture of today offers. The views and values of this current culture has only promoted and provided a level of immaturity rarely seen in the history of humanity. And many need more than a Snicker’s Bar.

I’m reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 3:18–“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” Maturity happens as we align our heart, mind, and purpose to the will and desires of God. Problem is people are too often absorbed and focused on their will and desires. The result of self-absorption is a pettiness and narrow-mindedness that has made people feel and act like they are miserable. Worse than this, they believe they are miserable. Event worst, they ARE miserable.

But to change this environment, we need to get back to Paul’s words. We need to allow The Holy Spirit to change us more and more to become like Jesus. Maturity happens as our hearts, minds and actions reflect Jesus rather than the world. You can’t be yourself, if you are like the world. You are made for something better. You’re not you when you’re not hungry for Jesus. Not even a Snickers Bar can help.

(I just added this one because I love Don Rickles.)

Double Down–Monday Musings 10 January 2020

Something designed to produce only one thing, cannot produce something different.

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When playing blackjack, there’s a certain set of conditions when you want to “double down”; or so I’m told. The reason is to have an opportunity to double your winnings, or so I’m told. Today’s Monday Musing is about doubling down but not at the blackjack table–but in one’s spiritual life. Now here’s the passage I’m looking at this evening–James 3:10–12

10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.

The context of these words of James is about our words. And I would never take Brother James out of context. But. . .there is a principle that is also present. Principles work in every situation. The Principle that Brother James applies to the “tongue” is verse 12. It’s a basic principle from nature: Something designed to produce only one thing, cannot produce something different.

Yet, there are many today who have forgotten this most basic Principle. So they have doubled down and actually think it works. We are seeing a culture of people who are trying to navigate life by doubling down. Unlike in blackjack where there are certain card combinations you would NEVER double down on, there are those who double down with the wrong “cards”. They live and operate with a double heart and a double mind.

They do this by mixing Biblical Truths with Cultural Values, with Cultural Values being the “Wild Card” that overrides Biblical Truths. They embrace their Cultural Value and then find a Bible verse to support it. And the verses that don’t support that Cultural Value–they either find an excuse why the Bible is wrong, or they simply ignore it altogether.

Truth is you cannot follow Jesus by trying to align the Bible with Cultural Values. Remember Brother James’ Principle: Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. You simply cannot align Biblical Truth with some Cultural Values. But you can do this: You can transform Cultural Values by faithfully living by Biblical Truths. You can try to Double Down with Cultural Values AND Biblical Truth–but The House will win every time, and you will lose.

THE GREAT AND HORRIBLE WAR!

“This morning is hell!” Doesn’t sound nice, does it? Yet this is exactly what many are feeling; not just a morning feeling–but an all day kind of feeling for many. It’s because of the Great War And Horrible War. And yes, even this Preacherman understands this feeling–because sometimes. . .it’s the truth about me. If you think this isn’t you–Remember The Eighth Command–Don’t you dare lie–to others, about others, or even to yourself! I know it says “your neighbor”, but who lives closer to you than YOU?

Satan knows which buttons to push. His strategy in this Great And Horrible War is rather simple–but effective. Successful military strategists understand this and put it into practice–if they want to win a battle. Satan’s strategy is this: Hit At The Weakest Points! He does this daily. . .constantly. And the casualties he causes–though they won’t make the news this evening–are mounting up into catastrophic proportions.

And one of the weakest points in many lives, even mine, is our Will! But something my mentor, Andy Andrews, is teaching me is that our Will is stronger than our feelings. But the Opposing General doesn’t want us to believe this truth. There’s much I could say at this point. . .but I defer to someone with more battle scars than myself–a guy known as Paul. Read carefully what he wrote in Romans 7:14-25. This is my personal autobiography. Here’s what it looks like from The Message:

14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Be honest with God. He is GOOD, you know. He will change you from having your feelings into knowing His Will in your life. And more–HE will give you HIS strength to live in that Will rather than your feelings. WE cannot stop this Great And Horrible War, but we can’t stop becoming another casualty by asking HIM to change our “want to”, which is nothing more than our feelings, into Will; and Satan can’t stop that Will. He tried in the Garden of Gethsemane–and failed. He tried on that cruel Cross–and failed. And he tried in that Tomb–AND HE FAILED! Daddy’s Grace is the field hospital where our wounds are tended and our hearts are mended. . .and our feelings are transformed into HIS WILL!

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

The Missing 11th Commandment

Yesterday we went to spend Thanksgiving with my Dad. He lives about 2 hours away. Debbie and I went in separate vehicles; NO, we weren’t having a disagreement. She was going further to spend the weekend with her daughter and granddaughter. In moments where I am alone in the car, I listen to podcasts–in particular Andy Andrews’ “In The Loop”. (You can get them on i-Tunes or from his website–click here–and they are FREE!)

In the episode I was listening to, Andy brought up the 10 Commandments. He said he had no issues with them and used them as boundaries for his life. But then he mentioned something about being glad there wasn’t the “11th Commandment”. Well, being a preacher-type, I leaned in (figuratively, of course) and wondered was this something else they failed to teach me in my cemetery classes–excuse me–that should have been “seminary”. And after he shared it, I joined Andy in Thankfulness on Thanksgiving Day there wasn’t that “11th Commandment”. Want to know that “11th Commandment”? Here it is:

XI “THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THYSELF SO SERIOUSLY!”

I have to confess (confession is good for the soul they said, but not so good for the ego), I wondered, “Did Moses leave the mountain too soon? Did he nod off at some point? Was he doodling on the bulletin? Did he have to slip out for a bathroom trip?” Unlike “some” people, I know I’m NOT God, though at times I try to give Him some sound advice.

And while thinking about all those people who have been out there since last night acting like total idiots at those “Black Friday” sales, I want to find a computer hacker to hack into those store intercoms and shout to the top of my lungs: THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THYSELF SO SERIOUSLY!

If there has ever been a culture that needs the 11th Commandment, then it’s this 2019 U.S. culture. I mean, really–watch the news–watch Washington D.C.–watch your neighbors–and look in your own mirror. When law enforcement has to be in store parking lots, even inside stores–because of the spirit and attitude of many shoppers–ya’ gotta’ say: THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THYSELF SO SERIOUSLY!

Go back to my earlier comment: “Confession is good for soul–but not so good for the ego.” Are you tired of the chaos and madhouse? No, not the Black Friday Sales–I’m talking about the day to day environment we struggle through most days. Want to see a more calmer and peaceful neighborhood, community, town, city, state, nation and world? Then, I highly encourage you to do this:

XI “THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THYSELF SO SERIOUSLY!”

Then make sure you love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure God gets ALL the Glory. Oh, one more thing:

Stop Feeling Your Age!

How we feel is the direct result of how we think, the relationships we become a part of, how we act, and the condition of our heart.

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This morning, while it was still dark, as I was walking about our yard, after my first cup of blessing (some call it coffee), something hit me. Actually it was the Holy Spirit because my walking about the yard is all about a spiritual discipline I have been doing–and that is connecting with the Holy Spirit. And here is what hit me: Stop Feeling Your Age. Here’s the backdrop.

Yesterday when we arrived back at home after a weekend wedding of our first granddaughter, the first one who called me Grampa (I spell it like she said it the first time and every time since) of which I was blessed and honored to preside over, I went to my hunting spot and planted a green field. Though it has been drier than a sermon on predestination, I operated out of faith. Needless to say I was exhausted and this morning, and I was reminded that 63 is different than 23.

And as I was walking about and tuning in to the Spirit, this thought hit me about not feeling my age. For a moment I thought that the Holy Spirit got it wrong–it should be Start Acting My Age; that I should not do things too hard for someone of my age. But you see, I don’t like being put in a box–and I was putting myself in a box. I hate boxes.

The Spirit reminded me, again, of the value and power of choices. Feeling my age isn’t something that just goes away. I must discipline my life through my choices in order to see a different me. And, as I have so often wrote and preached, life is much more than feelings. If I am not going to “feel” like a 63 year old man, I need to make the choices that go along with this quest.

God created us in a most incredible way. He didn’t create us like the animals and plants. We are created a most complex way. We have a body, which for people of my age thinks defines us. We are more than a body.

God created us with a mind that is only limited by us. We are able to experience and process life as it happens around us. Then, through the Gift of Free Will, decide what we will do and how we will respond. We human beings are created to be Thinking Beings. Unfortunately a lot of people in our culture are infected and infatuated with Stinking Thinking. My gift of snarky is saying right now, “Obviously there are a lot of people who have put their minds in neutral and have left their minds in some dusty corner of the utility room.” Nonetheless, in spite of so many who have chosen NOT to think for themselves, we remain a Thinking Being.

God also created us with the desire for community. I’m not talking about counties, parishes, or city limits. And I’m not talking about gated communities. God created us to experience life Together. We are Social Beings. Our true nature longs to experience life with other people. Some of those connections with other people are short, brief even. Others are a little longer. And yet others are lifetime connections. Since it was quite a distance between us and where our granddaughter lives, we chose to reserve a hotel room for 2 nights. While there, we met another person and her family, who were also there for a wedding (not the same one). We had many good conversations with her and her family.

God also created us with Emotions. Emotions are an essential part of who we are. Emotions become the expression of our choices in how we process life and life’s experiences. Some people, too many people, allow emotions to rule their life. What a sad and pathetic lot they are; but just because they misuse their emotions does not diminish the importance that we are created to be Emotional Beings.

God also created us with a physical part. We are Physical Beings. This is the part I’m having trouble with. Now, I’m not going all fundamentalist again smoking and drinking. What I am saying is that we have a choice of keeping our bodies in the best shape possible. Alas, here is where I have been lax. Since our Physical Being is a part of who we are, need to do the things that help us be in the best physical shape.

God also created us with a spiritual part; this is the most important part. We are Spiritual Beings. This is the part that we call the Heart. This is the part of us that longs for more than we can think, feel or see. Unfortunately, a lot of folks think the Spiritual Being is the result of how we feel, think and act–or sadly–that it doesn’t exist at all.

I’ve said all this to say this: How we feel is the direct result of how we think, the relationships we become a part of, how we act, and the condition of our heart. Back to my choice; here is how I framed my choice: Today I my choice is to Stop Feeling My Age By Making Decisions And The Follow-Up Actions To End This Feeling. To accomplish this I need to do some things, a lot of things, that I understand will change my Feeling about 63 years old.

I have to become more physically active. I have to bring friends in close who will hold be accountable. I have to read and study to keep the mind sharp. I must keep my focus on Jesus and live how HE says to live. I have to align my emotions with my goal. Through an active and aggressive series of choices, I am confident I will stop feeling 63 years old. Perhaps I fell victim to the thought that crushes the ways we are created: That I MUST act my age. To heck with that saying; I’m going to act the way I’ve been created. So, excuse me while I go to apply some “pain” ointment to my joints–and then choose to do it again today.

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

Step 7—Live With Focus!

You And You Alone Choose Where You Will Focus.

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This is the very last message in this series about how to become a water-walker.  So, let’s look at that passage one more time.  

25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” 27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”  28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”  29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.

Matthew 14:25-32 (NLT)

Let’s do our final review today.

  • Step 1—Get Out Of The Boat.  You will never walk with Jesus UNTIL you’re out of your boat.
  • Step 2—Have The Right Attitude.  There will be challenges —just remember Jesus is with you.
  • Step 3—Discover Your Gift.  This comes out of your giftedness and God gives all of us gifts.  Discover them.
  • Step 4—Use Leverage.  The leverage we use is our weaknesses against the Power of God.  
  • Step 5—Overcome The Fear.  The way to overcome fear is to Rehearse His presence.  Renew your mind.  And Refocus all your attention on Jesus.
  • Step 6—Know That It’s More Hazardous In The Boat Than It Is Risky On The Water.  Water-Walkers will not live in hazardous waste—but they will live in the Risks.

Now, we come to the last step in this series—Living With Focus.  And here is the one thing you need to remember:  You And You Alone Choose Where You Will Focus. It’s your choice.  Your Choice Has Implications Beyond Your Imaginations—Extending Even Into Eternity.

Now, we come to the last step in this series—Living With Focus.  And here is the one thing you need to remember:  You And You Alone Choose Where You Will Focus. It’s your choice.  Your Choice Has Implications Beyond Your Imaginations—Extending Even Into Eternity.

Now, we come to the last step in this series—Living With Focus.  And here is the one thing you need to remember:  You And You Alone Choose Where You Will Focus. It’s your choice.  Your Choice Has Implications Beyond Your Imaginations—Extending Even Into Eternity

Everybody has chosen a Focus—without exception.  Even those who you clearly see are living without a Focus.  Even those who admit their lives are not focused—They have chosen a Focus for their lives—it’s just in the wrong place.  Focus Plays Out Every Day, In Every Moment And Situation.

What happens when we Focus in the wrong place?  We see danger, trouble and problems.  And we open the door to uncontrolled, ferocious fear.  I’ve been saying all along, that water walking is risky business. 

But the only way we can grow in our faith is through taking risks, and risks always involve having the Right Focus because we’re stepping out of our comfort zones into new territory.

This is the way it was for Peter.  He’d been on this lake thousands of times.  But every time he was IN The Boat.  Now he is about to take a stroll ON the lake WITHOUT The Boat.  This is a new experience, a new adventure for Peter.  He has always been comfortable in the boat.  It was his livelihood.  So, Peter takes his leap of faith, and focuses on Jesus, who had just invited him to join him for a leisurely stroll on the water. 

And guess what, Peter actually walks on the water.  As long as Peter kept his Focus on Jesus, he didn’t sink.  But the moment his Focus changed—he immediately sank!

Unfortunately, some people choose to Focus only on the winds and the waves, and so they, like the others, stay in the boat.    Today, I want us to learn how to keep our Focus on Jesus, and thus continue the most exciting adventure ever; an adventure that fills the heart of God with indescribable joy. 

If you are one of those unfortunate people who have chosen to Focus on the negative that has saturated our culture and politics rather than the mission of God—Then Change Your Focus—And It Will Change The Way You See Your Life—And That Will Change Why You Live Your Life

To have be a Water-Walker, it takes the Right Focus.  When you are on the Water, Focus alone determines whether you walk or sink.  We know what happened when Peter’s Focus turned to the waves and the wind.  So let’s look at Peter’s Focus while he was Walking On The Water.  Let’s start with the easiest and most obvious:

1.  Focus On Jesus

When Peter accepted the Opportunity to Walk on Water, His Focus was on Jesus.  Water-Walkers Focus on Jesus.  Water Sinkers sink because they have Focused on the wind and waves—or they have chosen to Focus on the Jesus of their imagination and understanding.  To Focus On Jesus Requires Us To Focus On 3 Truths About Jesus:

Focus On His Nature—His nature is what always comes to the surface.  It’s the way He responds to us.  He responds to us out of and through His unmistakable love.

Focus On His Desires—His biggest desire is to see a different world filled with different people.  The way Jesus fills the world with different people is by Delivering captives—releasing prisoners—filling the hungry and empty with His Resurrection Presence.  Jesus intentionally redeems and restores His fallen image bearers.

Focus On His Character—His Character is that of A Warrior!  Gentle Jesus meek and mild doesn’t exist!  He was meek on the Cross—but He Is The Bold Warrior coming out of the Grave!  He’s not giving up or backing down.  The commitment He had on the Cross—the determination He had in that tomb—and the lengths He goes to get us to turn away from sin and the power of sin in us is His Character.  If we Focus On The True Character Of Jesus—then we will not stay in The Boat.  We will join Him on the Water.

2.  Focus On Your Purpose

Your Purpose Is To Be Involved With What Jesus Is Involved.  Jesus is involved in a lot of things—but it will always be found where people struggle—where people need encouragement.  Put it this way:  Jesus Is Involved With People.  Good people.  Bad people.  Ugly people.  Mean People.  Nice People.  Broken-Messed Up People.

True Water-Walkers accept, even at times with a bit of reluctance—that Real Disciples Of Jesus Are Focused On God’s Purpose For Their Lives.  Water-Walking Is Living In Confidence That Your Purpose Is Both Divinely Given And Worthwhile In Your Life.

God’s purpose for your life is important. Your role in the Kingdom of God is essential and significant.  Focus on Jesus and your life makes a difference in the world.  If You Don’t Believe That, Then You Are Not Focused On Your Purpose, Not Focused On Jesus And You’re Not Really Following Jesus.  When you say that you don’t have much if anything to offer—you’re saying God is lying.

3.  Focus On The Partnership

This is not something we do alone.  Remember what Peter said in the boat:  If it is you, Jesus, then invite me to join You.  It is impossible to sink when you partner with Jesus in your life.  Remember what we said about leverage:  God’s Strength Is Made Perfect Through AND In Our Weaknesses. 

The Partnership with God is simple—bring it all to Him and give to Him all of your weaknesses—all of your fear—all of your excuses about what you can’t do—then Accept From Him, His Strength.  This is what Partnership With God looks like.

The Story Of Every Person God Uses In The Bible Is The Story Of Focus.  Focus is what made Abraham leave his home.  Focus is what made Moses willing to challenge the Pharaoh.  Focus is what led Gideon into battle with only 300 soldiers against 10’s of thousands.  Focus is what drove the prophets to proclaim their message, even when it seemed no one was listening.  Focus is why Peter and the others stood up at the Feast of Pentecost to proclaim the Good News Of The Kingdom of God.  Focus is what led Paul into unknown territory—all the way to Rome.  Focus is what led people like Martin Luther, John Knox, John Wesley, Charles Finney, C.H. Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, A.W. Tozer to change their world.

If You Believe Or Even Think That This Culture We Live In Is Beyond Revival—Then You Are Not Focused On The Partnership.

The Bible often uses the term:  “losing heart.”  Losing Heart Is Just Another Way Of Saying Losing Your Focus.  It’s not what we’re capable of doing—it’s about what God wants to do through us. 

Whenever God calls you to get out of the boat, He gives you the power to walk on the water.  He never calls anyone to sink.  Water-Walking Is Not The Conviction That Something Will Turn Out Well, But The Certainty That Something Makes The Difference, Regardless Of How It Turns Out. 

Every person submits to some thing or some one who will be their source of authority.  That authority has control over your mind, heart and actions.  Authority defines your values and your ethics—that moral compass of what is right or wrong, good or bad. 

Who or what is the authority over your life?  Before you give the “I’m-in-church” answer, answer this question first:  “Where Is Your Focus?”  Focus Reveals Who Or What Gets Your Immediate And Primary Attention.

Focus Is About Your Definition Of Authority.  You Determine Who Or What Has Authority Over Your Life.  That source of authority demands your attention—and you will give your Focus to that Authority.  Authority is what influences your decisions.  Authority is where you look for answers and for guidance in the choices you make.  In The Boat, your Authority is the comfort of the familiar—playing it safe—choosing fear over adventure.

Focus defines and ultimately reveals your Primary Priority. Through Focus, we declare that God is real!  Through Focus, we remember that reality is more than what we can touch or see or hear.  It is about the God who is ALL power, ALL seeing, ALL knowing, ALL caring and loving.  Focus Is About Magnifying God—Enlarging Our Understanding Of Who He Is And How He Moves In And Through Our Lives. 

I’ve intentionally left Verse 33 in the reading each week.  The Spirit has been saving it for now.  Listen again to Verse 32 AND Verse 33—

32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

Matthew 14:32-33 (NLT)

There’s a word of tragedy in Verse 33—It’s The Word Of Missed Opportunity, Missed Moments, And Missing The Reason.  Figured out the word?  It’s the first word in that verse:  THEN!  Not during the moment—just THEN.

I’ve heard teachers, preachers and people say, “The rest of the disciples finally understand Jesus, praise God!”  Well…I’m going to burst some bubbles this morning.  They did NOT understand Jesus.  They did not acknowledge Jesus until He stopped the Wind.  Jesus isn’t just the one who controls the wind—He’s The One In Complete Control IN The Storm.

I always try to give you something to try each week.  That’s why I call them Your Next Steps.  I always try to find some Step that will help you put the Scriptures we looked at into some tangible act or decision on your part.

Today’s Next Step is more important than any other Next Step I’ve challenged you with.  How important?  I’m glad you asked.  Here’s how important this Next Step is—Your Future, The Future Of Your Families, The Future Of Your Friends, The Future Of This Place Will Begin To Change—For The Better If You Take It—Or It May Take A Change For The Worse If You Don’t.

It is never too late—and you are never too old to make choices that will become positive changes—in your family, with your friends, in the community—and especially in the Kingdom of God.

If you trust God, make your choice to do this Next Step to see the future change—for you and for others:

If you trust God, make your choice to do these Next Step to see the future change—for you and for others:

  1. You Can Choose To Focus In The Boat. 
  2. Or You Can Choose To Focus On Jesus.

Your choice–and as the Knight said in the movie Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, “Choose wisely.”

Today I Choose. . .Choices!

There is always a choice–even when you don’t make a choice–that is still a choice born out of cowardice–the choice to be less than you could have been.

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Today, I choose to make choices. Makes sense to me. I mean, this thread could go on and on, ad nauseam. Unless one completely void of basic common sense (and I hate to admit it, but it seems there are a lot who are void of basic common sense–sorry for the snarky–it’s one of my gifts)–every realizes that there are always choices. Every thing, every situation, every issue–they give us a choice.

I know there are some who disagree with me because they believe the lie. We live in a culture where there are a myriad of excuses that proclaim “We have choices!” Thus, people are put in shackles and chains forced to be prisoners. Some feel they are prisoners of their circumstances. Someone mistreated them. Another took advantage of them. Yet another was cruel. “He” got the promotion. “She” received the credit. “They” got the reward. OK, so they are things that happen beyond your control–things happened that we uninfluenced by you and your wishes. OK, I’ll say it: “Life Is Unfair!”

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Guess what, buttercup? (Oops, the gift of snarky comes out, again!) Life IS unfair. And recognition of this truth does not, I repeat, DOES NOT make you its prisoner. It simply recognizes the truth so that you can form your chosen response. And your response comes out of your Perspective! (Thanks again, Andy Andrews!) Your perspective will be either to surrender to fate or rise above your circumstances. And that perspective determines your Choice!

Some feel they have no choice because of their feelings. How they feel rules their life. It is true that our feelings do have an effect on us. The real issue is “Do those feelings control your life?” If feelings do control your life, then you resign to the lie that you are a prisoner to feelings. While they may NOT have a choice on how they “feel”–they do have a choice on what to do with those feelings. While the issue of “feelings” creates a cauldron of debate in the arena of sexuality, feelings go beyond who you want to have sex with or your gender. Feelings can also be about fear, worthlessness, despair, depression and the list goes on. Feelings is a cruel and harsh master, hell-bent on making you miserable. Feelings will make you miserable–if you make the choice to live by your feelings.

Life is a matter of choices–whether those choices are about personal preferences, how we react towards others, when things happen that our beyond our control–yes, even our feelings–there is always a choice. There is always a choice–because it involves a commitment to what we believe is true and best.

Choices are made from within our values–of right and wrong–of what honors God and dishonors God–of what reflects His glory and what contradicts His glory. You alone, have the choice to determine who or what has control of your life–and ultimately your destiny. YOU alone determine the values in your life. Blame the movies, blame the Democrats, blame the Republicans, blame your parents, blame Round-Up®, blame the hernia mesh repair company, blame the church, blame ____________ (fill in the blank with who you blame)–it is your choice to be their prisoner.

Jesus didn’t vacate Heaven and enter the womb of Mary as a fertilized egg just so you can feel justified about being a prisoner. He came to deliver and set you free from everything that is keeping you from charting your future to become the person God created. God offers you that Perspective that is different from–at odds with–the world around you.

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

Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message)

There is always a choice–even when you don’t make a choice–that is still a choice born out of cowardice–the choice to be less than you could have been. So Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

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I Choose To Be Calm

Pic from http://www.ohtobecalm.com

Well, this morning I was going to choose a different choice. But the Spirit reminded me that choice would require me to interact with a lot of people. I’m not because it’s Football Saturday. THE University of Alabama kickoff time is 11:00 a.m. and I must see them. So. . .since it’s Football Saturday at our home, the Spirit whispered, “Why not make the choice to be calm?”

Well, that would be a challenge for me today. You see, I get excited, I mean really excited watching Bama Football. If you are one of those unfortunate souls unfamiliar with the Battle Cry “Roll Tide Roll”, they are a really good team, I mean really good. However. . .when they don’t operate at perfect efficiency–meaning no mistakes–I tend to get a little upset. . .OK, I yell at the TV. There! Happy Now? So, today I choose to be calm.

More than a football game, calmness is essential for life on this circling orb called Earth. Yet the nature of this circling orb produces everything but calm. Global war on terrorism. Human violence. The Middle East. Disasters. The News Networks. The Politics of the Democrats AND Republicans–Oy! Oy! Oy! These alone are enough to make “calm” a rare commodity. But then add personal struggles to the mix. . .it’s that song from the old Hee-Haw show: “Gloom, despair, and agony on me. Deep dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair and agony on me.”

If you ask the average Joe on the street, “Are you calm?”, they would probably look at you like you’re crazy, shake their head in disbelief that you would ask such a question, and walk on. But. . .today my choice is to be calm. And I will be calm–oh, it won’t be easy–but it will be possible.

It hit me this morning–why there is such an absence of calm in our culture. I’m surprised I haven’t noticed it before now–because it is so obvious. People based calmness on their physical circumstances–and that is a basis that will fail you. Without a deep relationship with God, calmness will be even more illusive than the winning Powerball lottery numbers.

There is nothing in this fallen orb that can produce lasting calm in our hearts and minds. There may be some things that provide a temporary relief–but lasting calm? Nope, nothing at all. As good as my Crimson Tide is, they are not perfect. Any given Saturday they are subject to defeat. Watch the world and expect to find calm and your heart and mild will scream, “Danger! Will Robinson! Danger!”

So is the idea of calm just another illusion, an empty pipe dream? Not at all. It comes down to a choice, THE choice to remain calm. Calmness is the result of your choice. Always had been. Always will. If this dysfunctional orb cannot provide calm, how can it be that we have a choice? I’m so glad you asked me that question. I know the answer.

“Be still, and know that I am God!
    I will be honored by every nation.
    I will be honored throughout the world.”

Psalm 46:10 (NLT)

You’ve heard it said many times, “You cannot control your circumstances but you can control your response.” My choice today is to remember the HE is God, and I am not–thus, I will be calm. Panic, fear, despair and dread–all this and much more are the consequences of forgetting WE are NOT God–but HE is! This kind of calm doesn’t happen automatically. It is the fruit of living in THE Relationship God offers us in Jesus Christ. Calm is our way of saying to God, “I know what my physical eyes see and my natural mind wants me to panic. But, I also see You, Abba! Poppa! I know You are Faithful and Loving. You sent Jesus to die on the Cross for me. My choice must be to be Calm. I trust You in the moment and I rely on You for Your strength.” Calmness comes from our roots–not from the surface.

Calm isn’t the result of your physical nor your emotional circumstances. Calm IS the result of surrendering yourself completely to God. So. . .Love God with all your heart. Love others the way HE loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM! And a personal reminder for myself:

I Choose Persistence

I need to make this choice today (and every day after today) is because in our culture, Persistence is a rare commodity.

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Tuesday I made my choice to be joyful. Wednesday I chose to be joyful and hopeful. Yesterday my choice was to be joyful, hopeful and focused. Was I 100% true to my choices? Honestly? Not 100%. . .but I was close to 90% true. Maybe it was that steroid shot I got at the doctor’s office for this hacking cough and sore throat that got me to 90%. But I was focused–so I’ve got that going for me. And you can have that going for you, too. Situations and circumstances can change your choices. . .IF you allow them to do that. Choices are within your realm. Even if you don’t make a choice, THAT is your choice. Geez, I’m sound more like Andy Andrews every day. . .but that’s not a bad thing.

So, on this Friday. . .what some call T.G.I.F. . . .My choice is Persistence. Today I will be joyful, hopeful, focused and persistent. You could say I will be persistently joyful. . . persistently hopeful . . . persistently focused . . . and persistently Persistent.

Persistence is a much needed quality in my Walk with Jesus. Life is filled with interruptions, obstacles, difficulties and then throw in the frequent visits of Murphy’s Law. Those who say Walking With Jesus is Easy Peasy all the time–well. . .they haven’t been walking with the Real Jesus. Without Persistence I will never see and never know what it means to live in and be a part of the Epic Saga known as The Kingdom Of God. Another reason I need to make this choice today (and every day after today) is because in our culture, Persistence is a rare commodity.

Now, I can choose to complain, whine and b…., almost let a bad word slip, about the lack of Persistence OR I can choose to be an example of Persistence. Choices made, every Choice we make has an outcome that is given birth with the Choice. Consider the outcome of each choice. . .and the outcomes are really obvious.

If I choose to complain that rather than persist, our culture quits, whines, plays the victim card, and says they are being disenfranchised. . .what has changed? The only thing changed is NOTHING. The result is I become angry, frustrated and agitated. And know what? These generations of quitters, whiners, and overly sensitive souls will continue to be quitters, whiners and overly sensitive souls. And I become either an angry man or a despondent man. In my book, neither suits me. . . and I know it doesn’t please Abba, Poppa.

But if my choice is to be Persistent, two things will happen. One thing is that I will achieve my goal. . .I will succeed at finishing a task. . .I will not be defeated by any obstacle. The other thing? Maybe, just maybe someone in this aimless culture of consistent quitters will notice my Persistence. Maybe it will make them curious about me. If they are curious about me and my Persistence, there’s a good probability they will, at the very least, THINK about quitting being a quitter.

Who knows, maybe it will even open up a conversation about that strange thing called Persistence! Then things will begin to be different, not the same. If 2 of us are Persistent then we can reach maybe 2 more quitters who engage us in open conversation and they decide to be Persistent. Now we have 4 of us who are Persistent. And maybe the 4 of us becomes 8. . .then 16. . .then 32. . .get the point now?

So today my choice is Persistence. Seems like a good choice to add to the others. . .don’t you think? Oh. . .one other thing: Persistently love God with all your heart. Persistently love others the way Jesus loves you. And Persistently make sure all the glory goes to Him. . .Persist!