SAYING GOODBYE!

Later this morning I will say goodbye and see no more one of my best friends. I met her in July of 2003. The ink had barely dried on the divorce decree the first time I saw her. I don’t know what drew me to where she was. But I knew somehow she would help me through this dark night of the soul. She was absolutely beautiful and I longed for her. It took me a couple of weeks to build up the courage. I would visit her, and each time, I knew I had to have her! And finally, I pulled the trigger and put it all on the line! I made an offer and it was accepted. They took her off the show room floor. Showed me everything I needed to know, signed the papers and she was mine! Well, mine and Yamaha Credit.

And for nearly 19 years, she has been my joy and she indeed helped me sort a lot of things out back then. In fact, she helped me sort out a lot of things since those dark days. I even named her Therapist! But later this morning, she will no longer be mine. I will say my final goodbye, and probably get chocked up and shed a tear or two when she is driven away. And some may wonder why I would so casually get rid of Therapist. I mean, if she has helped me so much, why sell her? I could write some words to try and explain it, but as they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words!”

In all honesty, when I got this “her”, I really intended to keep Therapist! I really did! Just the thought of getting rid of Therapist–it would make me mad! No! I will keep her! But the thing is, I can’t ride two bikes at the same time, can I? No I can’t. So, today I say goodbye to the old, and be free to enjoy the new. By the way, I haven’t named her yet. Therapist 2 doesn’t sound right, so I’m open to your suggestions. And what does all this have to do with the Kingdom Life?

Instead of me answering my own question, I’ll let The Bible answer it for us. In Luke’s Gospel, chapter 16 and verse 13, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other.” Trying to mix Jesus and the world is one of the major reasons there is so much chaos in the church, families, and our culture. Trying to hold on to Jesus and the world is akin to me trying to ride two bikes at the same time. It’s a recipe for disaster. Besides, even if I succeeded even once, switching back and forth will get me hurt bad–really bad! Peace, true and lasting inner peace–as well a enduring joy–comes only when we let go of the world and be devoted to Jesus and Jesus only!

Jesus and the world? It’s like trying to mix oil and water, gasoline and water, mixing a rotten egg with a good egg for a scrambled egg sandwich! So, just let go of the world, as I am doing with Therapist and enjoy the new life made possible through God’s Grace and our faith. Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

And as a footnote in biker culture, do you know why female bikers refer to their bike in the masculine gender and men refer to their bike in the feminine gender? A woman biker says, “Look now! Act right! You know you’re not the only bike out there. If you act up, I’ll just go get another one!” And the reason men refer to their bike in the feminine gender is because if you respect her (the bike), treat her right and take care of her, she will give you years of great joy. But if you misuse her or neglect her, she will hurt you and hurt you bad!

JUST ADD ONE MORE THING!

Red Mountain Expressway, Birmingham, Alabama

Yesterday Debbie and I made a trip to Birmingham to see the surgeon who gave her a new knee last year. Debbie was having some pain in that knee and wanted to know it the new knee was still OK. The appointment was at 3:30 p.m. so we hoped we would get out of there before the afternoon work traffic. We didn’t, of course and it was–let’s say a challenge in both patience and hope–that we could even get on the Red Mountain Expressway. Getting onto the Expressway was difficult because of all the traffic. To make a long story short, we finally managed to get on it, and after several minutes, we were moving right along. And what does this have to do with The Kingdom Life? Glad you asked!

On the front porch this morning, thinking about yesterday afternoon, I remembered what is commonly called “The Story of the Rich Young Ruler” (see Matthew chapter 19). He was in a traffic jam of a different sort. He was trying to find real life. According to the Talmud there were 613 rules. Now that’s a lot of rules for one young man to follow. It’s worse than Expressway and Interstate work traffic! So, he came to Jesus trying to get out of his traffic jam with one statement and one question:

“All these things I have observed from my youth. What do I still lack?”

Matthew chapter 19 verse 20 from the World English Bible

You see, this young man thought there was one more thing he needed to add to his plate. Since the 613 rules weren’t giving him what he longed for, then there must be Rule Number 614. But instead of adding Rule Number 614, Jesus told him to let go of everything and follow Him. Jesus doesn’t want to be another thing added to your plate called life. He wants us to wipe the plate clean, and simply follow Him into the life our hearts long for and know it was created for. Not adding another thing–but get rid of everything! And how does this young, successful man respond?

That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.

Matthew chapter 19 verse 22 from The Message

Is you life like that congested Red Mountain Expressway in work traffic? Trying to squeeze in one more thing? Are you trying to fit Jesus into an already overcrowded life? How’s that working out for you? Why not do what Jesus said and scrape all that’s on your plate and allow Jesus to be that plate? Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!

THERE IS A DIFFERENCE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE GRIP!

The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go. This is from the encounter between Jesus and what we might call a successful young man that had everything going for him. The story is found in Mark chapter 10 and the above quote is from The Message. Think about it. This young successful man knew something was missing in his life and to his credit, he brought it to Jesus. It seems to me he was looking for Jesus to simply confirm he was getting it right–or at least tell him which one of the things he was holding on to was the best.

When Jesus told him (btw the point isn’t that Jesus was against him being wealthy, sorry you so-called ‘Christian Socialists’) what he needed to do, he would not let go of The Grip he had. What Jesus said was last thing he expected to hear and pay attention to what he does next: he walked off with a heavy heart. The Grip he had denied him the very thing he wanted. And it still happens today.

Not with money, but a lot of other things. What things? Things like bitterness, resentment, hatred of that other political party, the politics that created this mess is going to clean up this mess, fear, past mistakes OF OTHERS, anger, jealousy, and a gazillion other things. The Grip they have in reality has them in It’s Grip! So, what is The Grip that has your face clouded over? What is The Grip that is making your heart heavy? And why do you still have The Grip? Let go of it and Grip the life of following Jesus.

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

IT’S OPEN SEASON!

Sitting this morning in the darkness just before the dawn, I had this thought: Open Season! I’m not talking about hunting or fishing or trapping. It’s that assault on the very things that have kept our nation and society safe and strong. I think the term is called cancel culture. Revisionists who do not like truth have always sought to rewrite history to promote their own personal preferred future; even though that preferred future is frought with dangers and ultimate disaster.

Cancel culture is not only attacking in an open season style against individuals –but the values and ethos that have consistently proven to be favorable for a stronger nation and culture. Cancel culture is fighting tooth and nail against the highest ideas and deepest morals that are challenging to follow–but they build up people, families, institutions, and the world as a whole. Alas, cancel culture refuses to see it and so have declared open season and war on the tried and true.

And it is a war–a war against kindness, goodness, courtesy, respect, decency, determination, and so much more. And whenever there is a war–there is an aftermath and it’s ugly. Battlefield memorials are indeed pristine–but in those moments when the bullets and bombs are flying, it’s ugly devastation. So what are we, the bullseye for cancel culture, to do? Well, we have three choices–but only one of them will turn the tide of the battle.

First, we can just throw up the white flag of surrender–leaving the battlefield in our rear view mirror. This choice declares that it’s a fight not just worth fighting–so retreat to our preppers hideout and bemoan about the good old days. This is a pathetic choice. Second choice is that we viciously counter-attack the people who have been deceived by this cancel culture. Make them hurt as badly as we are hurting! An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth! This only creates more casualties and it is a poor choice.

Third choice is to stay with the battleplan. Yes, God knew this battle would happen. He’s prepared for it. And He has the perfect plan–and we need to trust that plan. Soldiers who don’t trust their leaders, make poor soldiers. You can trust God’s plan–so stay in the battle and follow His battleplan. Oh? Who just asked, “Well, Preacherman, what’s that plan?” Whoever that was, thanks for asking this question. Here’s the plan–Right out of God’s Battle Manual:

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Romans 12:21

Taking one on the chin for the team and being passive isn’t the plan. Our weapons for conquering evil–and thus this cancel culture–is to do good–just like Jesus did. Sure, His doing good led to that cruel Roman Cross–but that was all part of God’s battle strategy. He knew death would lead to Resurrection! So stop bemoaning what cancel culture is doing and start doing good! Be kind! Be gracious! Be merciful! Be helpful! Be friendly! Hold a door open for someone! Call that frazzled server by their firstname! Smile at those who are being hateful and ugly! Jesus is not a revolutionary–He is a Counter-Revolutionary. Tend to the wounds of those fighting with you. Ask for support when you need it. But never give up the fight! Jesus didn’t when He was on the Cross, and He didn’t when He was in the Tomb!

THE MOST POWERFUL WORD IN THE UNIVERSE!

Question Of The Day And Every Day: WHAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL WORD IN THE WORLD? How would you answer this question? Before you give your answer (oops, some of you already have), think in terms of impact. The power of words is undeniable. The course of nations has been altered by words. Families and individuals have been changed by words. Though collections of words have impacted people, families, nations, and cultures–there is a single word that is (in my humble opinion) that has the greatest impact of all.

Words have both a positive and a negative impact. They build up or they tear down. And it doesn’t take a plethora of words. There is a single word that will either obliterate or revolutionize a life, family, community, nation, culture–and even the world. So, what say ye? Do you know that word? Would you like to know what that word is? Really? Are you sure and for certain? Answer me–do you want to know the single most powerful word in the universe? Think you know it already? By the way, it only has 2 letters; no more and no less. Well. . .let’s see if you do.

IF is the single most powerful word that we can utter. What??? You just disagreed with me? Oh well, that’s ok–you can be wrong. Think about this word. IF describes outcomes–more specifically–different outcomes. IF is the sum of what could have been–or–what will be. IF is the cry from the ruins of a life broken, crushed, and annihilated by the wrong choices. IF expresses regret and remorse. IF is the sound of fading hope. IF is the ashes of dreams. That’s one way that IF is the most powerful word in the world.

But there is another side to IF that is diametrically different. IF can change your future into the best life possible. IF offers renewed hope and new dreams. IF will change the entire course of your life. IF will restore far more than life as it happens has ever taken away from you. IF is all about the only life you were ever created for–it’s the life worth fighting for IF that’s what you want. Here–let me show you the most powerful part of the most powerful word called IF:

  • IF my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
  • Even IF my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close. (Psalm 27:10)
  • But if you live in life-union with me and IF my words live powerfully within you—then you can ask whatever you desire and it will be done. (John 15:7)
  • IF we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. (Daniel 3:17)
  • (And one of my personal favorites:) But IF we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

Hopefully, you can now see that IF is the most powerful word in the universe. And it’s all in how you use that word. Listen carefully to how YOU are using this word. Use it in the proper way, it changes everything. Use it in the wrong way, it changes everything.

THE MORNING AFTER

Well, it seems that another National Championship wasn’t in the cards for The Crimson Tide. And the morning after? Here’s what I noticed. The Sun still rose. There was no Zombie apocalypse. The mountains didn’t collapse. There is no anarchy in the streets. My family and friends are still around. We have winter weather here in Alabama (which is still subject to change). Wall Street didn’t crash. The electrical grid didn’t fail. In short, life goes on. As I knew it would when I went to bed last night at 11:00 p.m. CST.

This is the nature of life on this orb called Earth. But serious things can happen to us and around us that may cause us to ask that question: “How can I go forward? How can I face The Morning After?” It may be the loss of income; the diagnosis of cancer; coming face to face with dementia in a loved one; your vehicle dies and leaves you without transportation; your spouse leaves; a family member dies; a close friend betrays you; you give in to temptation and the guilt is eating you alive. Or any of a countless number of things that leave us feeling crushed, guilty, disappointed, doubtful, hurting, or confused.

The Morning After can, I said CAN, result in the loss of peace, joy, purpose, and hope. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, there is another way to face The Morning After. Regardless of what caused it, or how we feel The Morning After, we have a choice in how we deal with it. If it is some sin you committed, choose 1 John 1:9–“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” If it’s feelings of abandonment by God, choose Psalm 23:4–“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.  Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” If it is doubt, then choose Philippians 5:6–“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Every “The Morning After”, God has a promise for you. In His Promises are the means and the strength to get through to that other side. The causes do not define the outcomes for us. The outcomes are chosen by us. Make sure that your choice is to run back to God, and cling to Him as if your life depends on Him. Because it does!

A Saturday Fairy Tale

(This will become a Saturday Series for me; as I am inspired)

Once upon a time, there was a man named Bennie. Bennie was always talked about by the community as a good man. He went to church every Sunday. He could be seen welcoming guests who came to church. He sang in the choir. Whatever the Nominating Committee asked of him, Bennie always said yes. He volunteered for every project and event. His pastor frequently called him “The Salt Of The Earth” kinda man!

One Sunday morning as he was sitting in the choir, Bennie started noticing the other people. He was so caught up in noticing, his heart wasn’t in the choir’s anthem. Music that had stirred his heart was just another habit. He was so caught up in noticing others, that he wasn’t listening to his pastor’s message. He could not help but notice that Fred from work was there. He knew Fred was living with his girlfriend with the proper marriage certificate. After the service was over he congratulated his fellow choir members for another great anthem, though he didn’t remember the name of the song.

Then came the following Sunday and Fred was noticing again. He saw Carol coming into the sanctuary. He thought to himself, “That’s not appropriate clothing for church! She’s showing way too much flesh.” Jim and Betty came in, “Late again!” he muttered to himself. When the offering plate was being passed along he noticed The Widow Jones put in a five-dollar bill. He knew her late husband left her well-off. He thought about that fancy house where she lived. “She could do a whole lot better than a fiver”, he said to himself.

Sunday became Fred’s day of noticing other people. When Henry and Liz came in holding hands as they always did, he remembered, “Wasn’t that Henry’s truck over at Jessica’s house the other night? I believe it was! I KNOW it was! Liz was out of town with her job. And Henry is looking so, so–what’s the term? Smug and self-righteous, that’s the term!” After complimenting his Pastor for another great message, which he never heard because he was noticing people, Fred went home.

That afternoon Fred did a lot, I mean a lot of thinking. He thought to himself, “You know, I’m a whole lot better than all those hypocrites! And after all these years of faithful attendance, I do know a lot about Jesus and the Bible. In fact, I know enough, more than enough, that I don’t need to go to church anymore. Besides, the people are so distracting!”

The very next Sunday, Fred remembered what he thought about the previous Sunday, so he decided to stay home. But something didn’t seem right to him. So he went to his computer and found a different church’s live stream. The musical production was awesome and the preacher was engaging. After watching it, he felt a little better. The next Sunday Fred decided to try attending in person at HIS church. But the distractions persisted and consumed his noticing.

Fred’s attendance became more and more sporadic. He quit the choir and resigned from all the positions that blessed Nominating Committee had put him on. Now, on the Sundays he was attending in person, he watched a variety of churches streaming services. Then he noticed that he didn’t have to watch them live–for his convenience those churches saved those services to watch later.

Since Fred didn’t have to busy himself on Sundays watching worship services, and being his day off, he found other things to occupy his time. He could always watch that streaming service later. Finally, he stopped watching them altogether. And Fred was feeling so much better without being surrounded by all those pitiful church people, or so he thought.

But life changed, as it always does. His Dad died and not a single person from church was there offering love and care. His new friends were there, but their advice was shallow and didn’t help. Then Fred had a crisis at work–he was let go. Again, no one from any church came to his side. Fred was all alone. It made him a little sad–but when he thought about all those hypocrites, what was the name of the church he used to attend? Nevermind! He didn’t need them! He was very content living without those annoying connections with other people.

Fred adjusted very well to his life. He became very self-reliant and self-sufficient. All that talk he had heard about the importance of the Body of Christ in one’s life seemed so foolish to him. How in the world could he be so deceived. He was a bit mad at himself for believing all that baloney! And so Fred lived in isolation for the remainder of his earthly life.

One day death was approaching Fred. He knew it would. In his mind, he reviewed all that huge amount of information he knew from the Bible. He remembered the day he was baptized and joined that church, the name he couldn’t remember–but he was a member there. One night Fred closed his eyes as death came to him. When he opened his eyes again, he expected to see pearly gates, walls of jasper, streets of gold, and his very own mansion that would put Widow Jones’ mansion to shame.

Instead, Fred was in this large room by himself. Not another soul in sight! He was a bit confused because none of this matched what he learned those years he went to church. He thought to himself, “Maybe this is just a waiting room–a holding area–while they do the finishing touches on my mansion. And where are all the people who should already be here?” Not another soul could be seen. He wondered how long he had been in that lonely room. But then he remembered that in eternity there was no such thing as time. But he still wondered, “Where is heaven? Is this heaven?”

Panic set in and Fred screamed out, “What’s going on? What’s this place? It doesn’t look like anything I learned from the Bible! Where all you, God?” A bright light shined, it hurt his eyes, and he heard a voice, the voice of God. “What’s wrong, Fred?” Fred replied, “This doesn’t look like heaven!” God replied, “It’s not.” Fred started to tremble, thinking he was in hell. But he knew this wasn’t like the place he learned about. This time Fred shouted, “This doesn’t look like hell, either!”

It sounded to Fred like God let out a little chuckle. Then God replied, “It’s no.” Frustrated Fred said, “Just then what is this place?” There was silence, and Fred swore he just heard God sigh–it was a deep and sad sigh. “This place”, God replied, “is the place you longed for, sought hard for, and the place on earth you became contented. Fred, this is what you wanted while on earth–so now you have an eternity of it. Being alone.” The end.

The Moral Of The Story

No, this is NOT a lesson on what heaven and hell are about. It’s a lesson about what we desire when it comes to the Community of Faith. There are all kinds of good excuses to avoid being with others in the Body of Christ. Even with her faults and flaws, truth is we need the Body of Christ–the Fellowship Of The Broken Who Need To Be Whole. And the bottom line of The Moral is this: Whatever you desire the most–you will get. So, ask yourself–will it satisfy you for eternity?

The Domino Effect

Back before the swill and slop of Late Night shows such as Stephen Colbert and Noah Trevor, there were some good Late Night shows–Johnny Carson being one of them. I remember one of his guests was this person who had built an enormous display of falling dominoes. I couldn’t find it on YouTube, but the above video shows what I’m talking about. This incredible demonstration all began by knocking over one domino. All the others fell because of that one, single domino.

The Domino Effect doesn’t happen with only dominoes. One single event creates a cascade of effects beyond the initial event. Here’s a modern day example. President Biden orders the halting of the Keystone XL pipeline. This in turn created an instantaneous hike in the prices for fuel. This increase in fuel costs caused the agricultural industry to spend more to gather and process their products leading to an increase in food prices. It now costs more for shipping companies to get the goods to our stores. The retailer in turn has to charge more otherwise they go bankrupt. It costs us consumers more to go to the stores. Rising costs of fuel and staple items cost families and individuals more–leaving them with less disposable income. The same amount of income buys less since prices have risen and continue to rise. This is just one example of how one decision has an effect on so many other things.

And it’s not only in the arena of economics. One decision, one choice on our part has an impact–sometimes immediately–but always inevitably. The decision to be angry at someone or some event leads to frustration. That frustration creates anxiety. That anxiety fuels distrust. The distrust leads to doubt. The doubt leads to the loss of peace. The loss of peace leads to despair. The despair leads to that dark place where we either become bitter–or worse–we become apathetic.

The power of one decision goes way beyond the moment. As Serious Followers Of Jesus, as Citizens of the Kingdom of God, cannot afford to be involved in this downward spiral. And our world cannot afford it. There have been periods in the history of humanity, where one decision led to the collapse of friendships, families, communities, nations, and empires. And in those same times, the One Choice by a follower of Jesus became that First Domino that created opportunities for the transforming power of God’s grace to produce a different outcome. Think about this Domino Effect:

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

KICKING AND SCREAMING!

Today’s cogitating thoughts are circling around KICKING AND SCREAMING! No, I’m not talking about the spoiled brat of a child of parents who are clueless about being parents who is making a scene at WalMart or McDonald’s. Even though I could write several episodes about this annoyance–I’m staying away from those thoughts. I’m reflecting on my own desire to be KICKING AND SCREAMING–and how I wish others would join me.

Understand what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about being a spoiled and unhappy adult. I’m vocalizing the urgent need for those who align themselves with Jesus–to stop giving up and waving the white flag of surrender! I am hearing so much–WAY too much–from allegedly good Christian folk that this world and culture is so bad–so far gone–that the only thing that will change it is for Jesus to return. I mean–how many social media posts–how many conversations today–are revolving around the thought that the end of time is near! So, come Lord Jesus, come!

There’s a problem with that kind of thinking. And the problem is this: When we conclude and believe that the only remedy for this current mess is the return of Jesus–then we have thrown up the white flag of surrender to Satan! This kind of libidinousness declares that God can no longer work through His people. That God has reached the end of His abilities and capabilities. It’s manifesting that maleficent perspective that we just want to give up and go home.

Granted, to be absent from this body is to be presence with The Lord. And make no mistake about it–I will overflow with Joy to see The One who suffered on the cross for me. But I’m not longing nor am I begging for the return of Jesus–just yet. There are so many hearts who have been blinded by the god of this age who will not experience the Joy I will when I see Jesus face to face. I refuse to give up to the Devil–and I will not abandon a fellow person who is also made in the Image of God.

Kicking And Screaming! That’s what I’m doing! I am going to stay in this fight–and I fight with the living hope that God is going to make the difference in another person’s life–even if so many others have given up The Good Fight Of Faith. What if the Apostle Paul had given up? What if he thought that the Roman Empire was so wicked, so vile and evil–that the only hope was for Jesus to come back quickly? And what if James, Peter, Jude, and John agreed with Paul? What if Timothy and Barnabas threw up the white flag of surrender and defeat?

If that happened, the New Testament would be mighty small. And who knows, you might now even be reading my thoughts right now. I will close with a story about the late Paul “Bear” Bryant. It cannot be verified as being truth–nonetheless it makes a powerful point. One of his players graduated and became a graduate assistant on Bear’s coaching staff. One day he was told to go out looking for potential recruits. But he wasn’t certain what kind of player The Bear wanted. So he went to his office and asked, “What kind of player do I need to be looking for?”

The Bear leaned back in his chair and said, “You know, there’s that kind of player that gets knocked down and stays down. We don’t want him. Then there’s that player that gets knocked down and gets right back up. He gets knocked down again, but he gets back up again. Every time he gets knocked down he gets right back up.” Excitedly, the graduate assistant said, “And that’s the kind of player you want me to get!” The Bear leaned forward, and with a scowl on his face said: “Heck no! Get me that player that keeps knocking him down!”

Give up if that’s what you want. That’s your choice. Wave the white flag of defeat and shout it loudly so all of heaven can hear you: “I surrender! There’s nothing else we can do to change this mess! Come Lord Jesus, come!” But me??? I ain’t looking to raise no white flag! I’m 65, but I ain’t dead! And my hope and confidence in Jesus is more alive now than ever! The Good News of Jesus may seem to many to be a foolish way to transform this world with all its messes. But not me! I say to you, Devil–you better run, because I’m still kicking and screaming! And if you ain’t got something to make the devil run–you ain’t got nothing!

I Owe Ya’ One!

One usually hears these words on certain occasions. “Have an extra cigarette? Thanks, I owe ya’ one!” “Got an extra beer in that cooler? Thanks, I owe ya’ one!” “Can you help me move some furniture around? Thanks, I owe ya’ one!” Can you help me fix this? Thanks, I owe ya’ one!” And the list goes on. Well, Saturday I had one of those “Thanks, I owe ya’ one!” moments.

First thing I did was stop by at one of the local “institutes of higher learning”, also known as McDonalds. Sat with some friends, heard some interesting stories–and laughed a lot. Then it was on to the local Wally World. I was there yesterday, but that day I needed 4 items not on yesterday’s list. I got those 4 items, and only those 4; kinda proud of this fact. Midway through that episode I needed to visit the men’s room. Accomplished my objective and headed home. Again, very proud of myself.

Arrived at home, got the Wally World bags out and in the house. And then, I said AND THEN! I realized I had left my phone at Wally World. Hoping no one thought it was a free gift from Wally World, I rushed back as if there were no state troopers or local police out there with radar; thankfully there wasn’t. And I was also praying–not the driving part–praying that my precious phone would still be there. I parked, walked as fast as I could–then low and behold, There Was My Phone Right Where I Left It!

Feeling most thankful–and a bit dumb for forgetting it–on my way back home I expressed my thankfulness to God with a “Thanks, I owe ya’ one!” And the Spirit leaned in and whispered in my ear, “One what?” I thought for a quick moment, and gave what I thought was a very spiritual answer: “I owe you one life, mine!” Feeling a bit smug with my answer, the Spirit leaned in and whispered this: “Nice try, but that’s not enough. What else ya’ got?”

Now that one caught me a little off-guard. So, I doubled that quick moment time and replied with what I thought was an even more spiritual answer: “I owe you one day, TODAY!” And the Spirit leaned in a third time and whispered: “Another nice try, but that’s still not enough. What else ya’ got?” I admit I was a bit bumfuzzled. Two spiritual answers that’s just not enough? What else do I have that He could possibly want?

It was then that Wisdom spoke up and gave me an answer; the answer that was absolutely the correct one. So I said, “I owe you one moment, this moment. Not tomorrow. Not next week or next month or next anything. Just this moment–that’s what I owe ya’!” And the Spirit leaned in yet again and whispered: “I’ll take it, after all, that’s all you have.”

How many times do we put off life? How often are we thinking about waiting until “the right moment”? I’m not talking about goals and dreams we have for our lives; we need those. I am talking about the moment right now! How are we using the ONLY thing we have that is related to this thing called timethis moment? The single most important asset we have is this moment. Nothing else matters. And nothing else is guaranteed in this journey of life. Think about these words from Paul:

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.  Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.

Ephesians 5:15-16 (NLT)

Look at that word opportunity! The Greek word Paul used is Kairos. Kairos is not the ticking of the clock nor the days on the calendar. It is that moment where things happen that are full and rich with meaning. Yes, Jesus did so much for us–let me rephrase that–Jesus did for us what we could never do for ourselves. Therefore, we need to be thinking and saying, “Thanks! I owe ya’ one! And allow that owe ya’ one be paid back every moment you breathe. Moments are important–very important–eternally important. And the only moment any of us have is the one right now!

Wha?

Garmin. Waze. Tom-Tom. Google Maps. et.al. All of these GPS based systems promise to get us to a destination we are looking for. Right? But! Have you ever had the experience of using one of those GPS things and it tells you You Have Reached Your Destination only–it’s not the place you’re looking for? Yes or No?

That you are looking for a place you really want to be–so you enter it into your GPS. It does its calculating and off you go. You turn left. Then turn right. Then turn left. Then turn right. Go 5.2 miles. You hear the glorious words, “Your destination is a quarter of a mile on your right. In 100 feet turn right. TURN RIGHT!” Then! You find yourself at a cemetery and the GPS proudly announces You have reached your destination! Wha?????

While this parable (maybe it’s happened to some of you) would make a great episode of “The Twilight Zone”, it’s an every-day-often-all-day-long experience for people today. And it’s not a GPS thing. It’s a life thing. They try to find more than a tourist attraction or great restaurant. It’s trying to find satisfaction for their life. They seek The Promise but only find a cemetery. Solomon warned us about this in Proverbs 14:12–“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” So they think, “Well, Google Maps was wrong–I’ll try Waze!” More left turns. More right turns. But they end up in the very same cemetery. What’s a person to do? Isn’t there anything that can get us to where we long to be?

I’m probably about to appear to some to be a simple-minded dolt, but if nothing in this world gives us what we long for–then perhaps we should try God’s Word–The Bible. We read in Psalms 119:105–“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” If the directions you have been following hasn’t gotten you to where you long to be, then may I suggest you turn to God’s Word–The Whole Word–And Nothing But The Word? After all, isn’t insanity defined as trying the same thing over and over expecting different results?

Surrender your life to God. Then, when the undertaker reaches that final destination, it won’t be your final destination. With Jesus leading the way, our final destination is life!

It’s Out Of My Hands–But I’m Still In Control!

Here’s one of those, call it, Inconvenient Truths: Much of life is way above our paygrade! We lack the skillsets and knowledge to handle it. Deep down we know this is true. But that craving to be in control is the impetus induces us to hold on and not let go. I’m trying to think of an analogy to describe this choice to not let go. It’s like seeing a hornet’s nest and thinking how good it would look over the mantle. So we reach out to take it down and the hornets attack. But we won’t let go because we want it on our mantle–and the stings of those hornets keep on multiplying. But we want it. Got the mental image of this? Good!

There have been, are now, and until Jesus returns, continue to be problems and botherations that we cannot fix! And for most of us–that’s the irritation and vexation, and it’s becomes that hornet’s nest. Though the pain persists and intensifies–we refuse to let go of being in control–even though it’s conspicuous that we are far from it. And if we continue that hunger and aspiration to be in control, our life will reach terminal velocity–and the resulting crash leaves us unrecognizable.

Why do we have this hankering to be in control even though we know the outcome? Blame it on Adam and Eve–Satan promised them something he couldn’t give them and that they were incapable of–Being In Control! Now that the blight and debility has been identified, what can we do? Would you believe there’s a story in The Bible about this very thing? Who wouda thunk it?

It’s in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 19, starting at verse 16. Some think it’s about the evil of being rich. Only a dolt would see it that way. It’s the story about a young man who realizes something is amiss with his life–and so he comes to Jesus. A good place to go. It’s the question about life–lasting life–enduring life–life now and life forever. The first thing Jesus tells him are the things he already knows–and also knows that aren’t really helping him.

So Jesus tells him to do one more thing–let go of your wealth and pursue God’s Kingdom. In other words–stop trying to be in control! After hearing what Jesus had to say, I love how The Message puts it in verse 22: “That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.

Listen to me people! We got mega-tons of problems–in politics, in the economy, in society, in our culture. Add to these, we all have issues that are draining the life right out of us. And as long as we hold on to them–and refuse to give up CONTROL–they will persist to our annihilation and the lights go out.

Give up the futility, senselessness, and ineffectuality of holding on to that illusive and imaginary thing we call being in control. Ask the Nail Scarred Hands to take it out of your hands. I commend this song to your listening:

Don’t be like that young man who refused to give up control and left the presence of the Only One who is in absolute control–with that hangdog look.

But I’m Knot!

Paul once wrote: “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” (Philippians 4:11 NLT) But I’m not! Paul once wrote: “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT) But I’m not. The Psalmist wrote: “When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” (Psalm 94:19 NLT) But I’m not. And because I’m NOT I’m in a KNOT! Here’s why.

My sister recently died. I’m deeply concerned for my Dad’s health and emotional state. Two people close to us won’t talk to us. My deep concerns for the two wonderful churches we serve. The state of our culture. COVID-19. Add to this all the other “stuff” too numerous to mention. And now, there’s another thing. This week my wife Debbie, God’s gift to me, found a lump in her breast. Yesterday she had an ultrasound. And we are impatiently waiting for the results. It’s impossible not to ponder about all the possible results.

I know, I know! But in this very moment, I’m not all those good and wonderful things I know. So, what do I do? Give in? Give up? Wallow around (if you’re from the south, the word is woller) in this NOT, or should I say KNOT? I could do that–and honestly–it’s very tempting to do this. So, what am I going to do?

One thing is that I will wrestle to get free of this NOT! And this is where YOU, the Body Of Christ comes in. Pray! Friends, we are in a war and the battleground is real life–as it happens. Though at this moment I’m a Not/Knot, I choose to fight. But I need some reinforcements. I know the rest of the Philippians passage–“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.” (Philippians 4:13-14) I know it, I just need to KNOW it is true on this battlefield. Thanks in advance for your prayers–and thanks for NOT telling me I should know better. Yes, I’m wollering around–and with the Grace of God, and your support, I’m getting out of this mudhole!

One Thumb Down!

Well, yours truly, experienced a moment yesterday that was not even close to my finest moments–not even in same zip code. A friend and I were adding a gate to our chain link fence. It required new post holes. I had 2 options–post hole diggers (which require a lot of physical exertion) or a drill with an auger. The drill and auger was the choice–after all I may not look very bright, but I do have my moments. That choice was my only moment yesterday.

As I was drilling the last hole, THAT’S when my common sense decided to take a break. As the auger was turning it hit a tree root. So what, you may ask. Well, here’s a lesson in physics. Since the auger was NOT turning all that energy had to go somewhere. That somewhere was up to the drill, that I was holding, and it violently began to twist, bending my right thumb in a direction it wasn’t meant to be bent. It wasn’t the drill’s fault, or the tree root–it was my fault. As you can clearly see from the picture below, there are two handles on the drill–one on top and one to the side. And this is why my not so bright moment occurred. I was holding on to the top handle instead of the side handle. Had I been holding that side handle, it would not have given my right thumb this lingering pain.

And now on my right hand, I have an unusable opposing digit. One usually doesn’t think about their thumb–that is–until you cannot use it. Being left handed I do not think much about my right thumb–but this morning my right thumb is saying: “See, you do need me!” Opposing digits, as thumbs are often called, are what make us different from most in the primate family and most of the animal kingdom. OK, what’s my point?

My point today is why are so many basing their beliefs and values on those who act and make decisions all the time the way I made one wrong decision? Look folks, too many who are not the sharpest tool in the tool shed, not the brightest bulb in the box (heck, their bulb hasn’t worked in years–if ever!) are influencing others–and the masses who refuse to think are following their lead.

So, who is influencing you? Who sets the cadence for your life? Who are you listening to? Those who don’t have a clue? Or, those who have the common sense, wisdom, and experiences to know better? Take it from me, if you are using an auger on your drill to dig a hole, make sure that drill has a handle on the side–and use it! This is the voice of experience! I close with this cartoon I recently shared on Facebook:

Near the end of the movie The Last Crusade, they find the Holy Grail–actually scores of them. But only one was the authentic Holy Grail. The Templar Knight guarding it said, “Choose wisely.” The villain in the movie, Walter Donovan, choose what he thought was the Holy Grail. After drinking from the cup–he rapidly and painfully returned to dust. And the Templar Knight said, “He chose poorly.” Yesterday, I chose poorly. Make good decisions–because they do have consequences. Remember Walter Donovan’s choice, and my poor choice. Just ask my right thumb! For a few days now, I’m going to be one thumb down!

Name That Druthers!

Lots of money or great looks? Unhappy CEO or happy sales clerk? Car or truck? Big mansion or cabin in the mountains? To be feared or liked? To be revered or loved? Sports car or pick-up truck? New vehicle or customized hot rod? Communism, socialism, or representative democracy? Smokin’ hot body or inner peace? To have others wait on you hand and foot or help others? The red one or blue one? Swimming pool or hot tub? I’d druther have the hot tub!

Perhaps in other parts of the world the word “druthers” isn’t often used. But here in the South, it often helps determine if you are really Southern or just a “wanna be”. Druthers are not necessarily a bad thing. For example, “I druther have some rain than this dusty dry condition.” Or, “I druther not have to go through another hurricane or tornado.” Or even, “I druther my car’s air conditioner work than having to keep all the windows rolled down.” The Druthers can inspire to us dream and work hard to achieve those dreams.

But there is another side to the druthers; one we all need to fend off. It’s the druthers of discontentment with life as it happens. It happens when we believe that life is unfair and unreasonable. It happens because we think that life owes us. It happens when we want an easy and comfortable life. It happens when someone has something we don’t have, that we think we deserve. It happens when we look for things to make us more than happy–but fulfilled and content. Can we be honest with each other? Our culture is running on empty and about to collapse because so many want their druthers rather than fulfillment and contentment.

Unfortunately, these same pursuers of druthers cannot see, will not see–there is a better way of life. You see, even IF we get our druthers, sooner or later (usually sooner) something else catches our eyes and we desire another druther; then another and another and another! Get the point? But what’s the alternative? And here is where so many get it wrong–oh, so wrong! They resign to misery and despair. But what if–WHAT IF I say–there is another alternative that will never leave you in discontentment, misery, and despair? Would you be interested in knowing what that is?

Here it is: Surrender and submit your moments, your each and every moment to Jesus! Druthers will never give you what Jesus gives us when we follow God’s Plan for our life. God isn’t interested in taking away the joy and fun of life. God is interested in keeping your from the discontentment, misery, and despair that marks and mars so many lives. He does this by giving us the life we are created to have–a life than doesn’t depend on our DRUTHERS–but lives within His grace and mercy–which is His Love. Things you love cannot love you back. But God–well, His love is always there–even when we can’t get our druthers!

Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. 

Philippians 4:11-13 (The Message)

By the way, that mansion and fancy car? They have a lot of maintenance needs. But Jesus gives us everything we need–maybe not our druthers–but always what we need!

What Would You Like Today?

“Place your order when you’re ready.” “Would you like to try our new chicken sandwich today?” “What can I get for you?” “What would you like today?” It’s what we hear from our favorite (or most convenient) waist building, cholesterol raising, arterial clogging fast food joint. Whatever form the question takes, it all comes down to this: “What do you want today?” Now there’s a question, a question we all answer–but seldom think about HOW we answer it.

Yesterday as I sat in the doctor’s waiting room with my Dad, waiting for his name to be called, there was a certain gentleman (I use this term very loosely) who wanted to be annoying by talking very loud on his cellphone. Fortunately he did not have it on speakerphone. That was left up to another person who answered one of those calls, ON SPEAKERPHONE, where everyone in that large waiting room heard, “Press 1 for blah blah blah, Press 2 for more blah blah blah…” Oh, and let’s not forget the individual who was watching some ad on his tablet WITHOUT Bluetooth ear buds. I doubt–I hopefully doubt–that none of the 3 aforementioned individuals wanted to be annoying when they awakened from their sleep. Nonetheless, their decisions and actions said, “Today I want to be annoying!”

What’s my point, other than silence that %$%^&**# phone when at the doctor’s office? Today, July 31, 2021 you choose what you want for this day. It can be a day of joy or misery. A day peace or heartache. A day of contentment or a day of contentiousness. We can’t always control what happens to us–but we are in control of how we respond. How we respond comes out of what we want.

When Nehemiah finished his building project, the people came together and Ezra began reading God’s words to their ancestors. Those words made them realize they had been wanting the wrong things–so they started wailing and crying. But listen to what Nehemiah told them in Nehemiah chapter 8 verse to: “This day is holy to God. Don’t feel bad. The joy of God is your strength!” (The Message).

Order when you are ready. I think I will have the Joy of God! Your turn, make your choice, but make it wisely!

Time Sensitive! Open Immediately!

Long before the Wacky World Web, it was the U.S. Postal service that faithfully delivered the email equivalent of spam: Junk Mail. Most of them had these infamous words: Time Sensitive, Open Immediately. Oh my gosh! We better open that letter up or we are going to miss out on something absolutely fantastic; so wonderful that if we don’t open it up our lives will somehow be less fantastic and wonderful. Hopefully no one feels that way. This type of Snail Mail has a special location for it: We call it File 13. For the pitiful souls who do not know the meaning of File 13, I’ll explain it to you: It’s the trash can!

And once it is placed in File 13, no one wakes up in the middle of the night rummaging through File 13 to find that piece of mail and see what they almost missed; at least I pray not! Though in these times, I would not be surprised if people did this–not in the least surprised. But–there is another Time Sensitive, call it a package, that many people place in File 13. It’s is called Time! It is delivered to us–well–all the Time. And it is “Time” Sensitive. When it’s gone, it’s gone–novel idea! And when it’s wasted–you can’t go back. It’s like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube after you sneezed as you were applying it to the toothbrush. Once out it doesn’t go back in!

Not only is Time being wasted by so many–there is an even a worse phenomenon happening–it’s called Trifling it away. We don’t use this word much anymore–but we should. It’s spending the most important gift of all on things that can only be described as niggling, nugatory, vapid, jejune, banal–and if you don’t know the meaning of those words, here’s a word your size: Valueless. Would you go into the convenience store to buy a candy bar and give the clerk a hundred dollar bill and walk away without the change? Of course not! (I use this illustration fully aware that with the current inflation, that is what a candy bar may cost–when you add the extra taxes government wants to add because you aren’t eating healthy foods!)

So, starting right now–not today, because that gives you the opportunity to continue Trifling away this Sensitive gift called Time–open up this gift to all the adventures and opportunities that are awaiting you! And do not forget that opportunities often come with challenges–but the good ones are worth whatever challenges there may be. Time is to be used wisely. I don’t mean we live like a Gloomy Gus! God wants life to be enjoyed. But it will never be fully enjoyed by Trifling it away. Trifling has hard and painful consequences.

Tons of items have that mandatory Best If Used By date. So does your life–but that date isn’t stamped on the bottom of our feet. Today you may get that Time Sensitive phone call about the extended warranty for your vehicle because everything that makes your vehicle go has an expiration date. Milk has an expiration date. Our life has an Expiration Date–you just don’t know that date. Here is a Truth that will stand for all Time from James chapter 4 and verse 14–“What do you know about tomorrow? How can you be so sure about your life? It is nothing more than mist that appears for only a little while before it disappears.” (CEV)

Use your Time in ways that increases the value–of your own life and the lives of others! And you will not get a phone call offering you an extended warranty for your life. Wait a minute–as a matter of fact–you are receiving that call RIGHT NOW and it is TIME SENSITIVE! Jesus said in John chapter 10 and verse 10–“A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.” Don’t Trifle your Time away. Make it like a Chocolate Truffle–a sweet delicacy meant to be enjoyed!

THE DANGEROUS ELMER FUDD

Yesterday I said I would be back with God helping me. Well, He did and here I am. Not all of my reflections are on God’s Kingdom, but they are influenced by His Kingdom. So today I must issue this Disclaimer: This isn’t a spiritual subject I’m addressing today. It is, though, a very human subject that penetrates to the core of our culture in the good old U.S. of A. And if other alleged “experts” can speak into this mess, then so can I; so here goes!

I’m 65 years old. As a kid, I watched Elmer with a gun. But I never shot anyone. I saw Bugs Bunny doing all kinds of violence against other Daffy Duck and others. Yet I never acted violently against anyone. I watch Yosemite Sam’s outbursts and shooting his side arm. But I never went ballistic, shooting up any place. I watched Wile E. Coyote try to catch the Roadrunner. And amazingly, I’ve never ordered dynamite, missiles, or traps from Acme.

Now, if I listen to the dribble being purported as the truth–by now I should be a raging man of extreme violence. According to the “experts”, my wall should be mounted with all kinds of trophies of the people I’ve killed. But the only things I have killed is some squirrels, a few rabbits (NOT Bugs), some game birds (NOT the Roadrunner or Tweety), a few coyotes (NOT Wile E.), and a healthy parcel of deer (NOT Bambi).

We are being told, on a frequent basis, that gun violence is to blame for all those tragic shooter situations. I cannot remember the exact number of guns, both handguns and long guns, that I have owned over the past 65 years. But I do know that not a single one of them ever committed an act of violence. It’s hard for me to believe that of the dozens of firearms I’ve had in my possession, all of them were defective. They must have been, and my current stock of firearms must also be defective, because not a single one of them has ever committed an act of violence. The deer might disagree with me–but the gun didn’t act on it’s own. I had a hand in it; actually my left eye and finger.

And this gets me to my point this morning. Why are people no longer being held responsible for their choices and decisions? Be it violence with a stick, a pipe, a fist, a bat, a knife, or even a firearm–what has happened to personal responsibility? They want to blame everything for this violence–except the person who commits it.

These “experts” want to blame it on cartoons. I refer you back to my second paragraph. And have you ever watch “modern” cartoons? My Dad had a conniption when Clark Gable said “damn” in “Gone with the Wind”. Today’s language is far worse. And the plots of these “kid’s” cartoons promote stupidity to infinity and back. (Sorry, Buzz Lightyear, no offense intended to you.)

And then these “experts” want to blame lifeless, inanimate objects for exerting undue and unnecessary influence on people. This is what the term “gun violence” declares, not implies. What is causing so much violence? Here are a few ideas, maybe some will think the novel or new, but they are tested and proven over the centuries.

  • There is this thing call consequences for choices and actions–and each person makes their own choices–so own those choices
  • Kids not being made to be kind, respectful and courteous
  • Kids being allowed to make decisions that they are neither mentally, emotionally, and intellectually equipped to make (such as what gender they are)
  • Being recognized for just being present; we call them participation trophies (see this previous blog of mine)
  • Giving kids everything but morals and values which put others first instead of themselves
  • Disrespecting the most vulnerable of the human race; it’s called abortion. I mean if they see that babies can be eliminated because they are unwanted or their gender (yes, gender selection is a reason for some abortions)–how can anyone respect the life of another person?
  • And above all these (and the many more I could add to this list), is that this world owes them absolutely nothing–but that they owe the world hard work, compassion, to dream of what builds people up rather than tear them down.

Our problem in this nation and world isn’t a gun problem but a human problem; it’s not gun violence but human violence. Now, you can disagree with me if you want–you have that freedom and are free to make that choice. But disagreeing with me doesn’t make we wrong. You can believe are you right–but you’re still wrong.

The Three Most Important Words. . .in times like these

(Picture at Fort Morgan Beach, Alabama)

The greatest generation ever was those who fought in World War II. I would like to think that my generation was the second greatest generation. Why? We spent more time outside than inside. We had sweat beads around our necks in the summer. We could turn the right stick into a Thompson sub-machine gun. We didn’t think much about stepping in cow manure. We drank water from the hose pipe. We jumped off of bridges into creeks. Best friends could have fights and after the fight, still be best friends.

We watched violent cartoons with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd, the Road Runner and Wile E Coyote, yet we never had the desire or even urge to to shoot someone or order bomb making materials from Acme. Oh! One more thing–we had the very best music! Country music was COUNTRY Music and rock-n-roll was ROCK-N-ROLL. One of our songs was “What The World Needs Now Is Love”, recorded by Jackie DeShannon in 1965.

And now it is 2021, and the question begs to be asked and answered: What Are The Three Most Important Words For Right Now? I have been listening, and have advanced to the level of Intermediate Noticer. Based on what is being said and shouted, here is my comprehensive yet incomplete list of what different people are thinking is the answer to the 3 most important words needed for these times. In no particular order they are:

  • We need Trump
  • We need Biden
  • Ban all guns
  • Need more guns
  • Prayer in schools
  • Bibles in schools
  • Close the borders
  • New American revolution
  • End foreign aid
  • Drain the swamp
  • More government aid
  • Congressional term limits
  • Less on defense
  • More on defense
  • Change your mind
  • Change YOUR mind
  • We need love
  • We need peace
  • We need hope
  • Have judicial reforms
  • No more racism
  • New political party (I must say this, “Really??? Aren’t political parties part of the problem??? And you want to add to the sewage?”)
  • We need kindness
  • We need determination
  • Deport all Republicans
  • Deport all Democrats
  • New moral values
  • Old moral values
  • Legalize more drugs
  • Government medical care
  • Defund Law Enforcement
  • Something, Anything, Everything

There are more to add to this list. Some “imagined” solutions are more complicated than three words. As if our world isn’t complicated enough. There are no simplistic solutions to the problems our culture and nation are facing. But. . .the solution is simple; just that simple. This list reflects groups of people–group mentalities. Group mentalities tend to produce complicated, complex, and irrelevant solutions. The answer–the simple but not simplistic answer–is found in three words:

I Need Help!

All of the fake solutions to our issues are focused on what others need to do–never on what the individual needs to SAY! To say “I NEED HELP” is to acknowledge that NOTHING–NO THING OUT THERE–can help heal our brokenness and help us navigate this total mess. If nothing OUT THERE (I refer you to the above list as being “out there”) that can help and heal us–then the answer must be UP THERE! I’m talking about the One Constant in an ever changing universe and culture–the Throne of God.

To end this madness, the place to begin is with the person in your mirror–that’s YOU! To say “I Need Help” is to admit the limitations created by sin and the Hope found only when we surrender completely and unconditionally to God. My best days happen when I begin the day, end the day, and admit every moment between beginning and ending, “I Need Help!” My worst days happen when I fail to say it. My mediocre days happen when I forget to say it throughout the day.

It’s simplistic to approach life saying that others need to change. Simplistic solutions have never worked. But solving this crisis is really simple. Admit your own need for God and trust God to both change and guide YOU–not “them”! Let your words be the words of the Psalmist:

I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever.

Psalm 121 (NLT)

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. . .

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

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

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!

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!

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!

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!”

(Image from smartegies.com

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!

(Image from success.com)