WHAT ARE THEY TEACHING???

So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.

Romans chapter 8, verses 6-7; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Recently I had a conversation with a fellow United Methodist clergy on Facebook. It was focused on a post this individual had made. It was surprisingly civil (up to this point)–still, I couldn’t help but think: What are they teaching now in United Methodist Seminaries? Here’s the screenshot of that comment:

This person compared understanding Scriptures to a 3-legged stool. The top is the Scriptures and the 3 legs are tradition, reason, and experience. Thus, without tradition, or reason, or experience, one cannot adequately understand Scripture. The primary (and often times “sole determining factor”) way to understand Scripture is through tradition, reason, and experience. Now, before you call me that dreaded “fundamentalist”, hear me out. We do not study the Scriptures in a vacuum. There are traditions. We all have experiences. And God created us to be able to reason, or think if you prefer.

But it seems that many of our clergy are using reason as the final determining factor. In other words, if it doesn’t make sense to us, or if the culture tells us something contrary, then we are free to change or ignore what the Bible clearly teaches. This is what many seminaries are teaching. Not all of them, mind you; but enough of them are and the result has been the dilution and devolution of the power of Scripture to guide us and form in us the life of Holiness demanded by God for His Image Bearers. Go back to the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool.

The writer is correct in stating that for a three-legged stool to be secure enough to sit on, it needs all three legs. And, by implication, those 3 legs need to be the same length. Otherwise it is unstable. But do not overlook the other implication–that Scripture (the seat of that three-legged stool) cannot safely support us until all three of those legs are the same length. In other words, Scripture is to be formed by OUR traditions, experiences, and reasoning.

Can I be frank with you? I know, my name is Randy. But I need to be FRANK with you this morning. Using the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool, when those who are supposed to be our Spiritual Leaders are taught that human reasoning overrides the Scriptures and that we need to change our beliefs about anything in the Bible, then the result is the chaos and soon to follow destruction of the United Methodist, and any other church that follows the same primrose path. And to my fundamentalist friends, if you allow your traditions to determine your beliefs about the Bible, then your three-legged stool is just as unsteady.

Hear me out! Yes, reason, tradition, and experience are helpful tools when it comes to understanding Scripture! But they do not determine what is THE TRUTH! The Truth is set by the Bible for all matters of faith, life, and conduct. But none of them gives us the permission to change The Standard clearly set in The Bible! From my perspective, many seminary professors took a bite of that apple Satan offered Eve and Adam, and unlike Eve and Adam who recognized the shame and mistake, they “reason” that the apple is good, and that Satan was right. Is there any doubts now as to why the United Methodist Tribe is imploding? It looks like that three-legged stool analogy doesn’t work after all.

it’s exam time!

1 Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit.  You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God.  For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God:  If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God.  Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

1 John chapter 4, verses 1 thru 3; from the New Living Translation

The days of business as usual for what is commonly called “the church” are over.  Truth of the matter is, those days have been gone a long, long, time.  But People Still Are Trying To Operate The Mission And Ministry Of Jesus As “Business As Usual”.  Some may not be happy with me that I am bring this up.  But I would rather they be unhappy with me because I’ve brought this up—than for God to be unhappy with me for NOT bringing it up.

There is a game that has been and is being played by a lot of folks.  It’s called Kick The Can Down The Road.”  Some have been intentionally playing the game, and even more have been playing it because they haven’t been told the truth—or have simply ignored the truth.  And here’s the 2 things we need to know right now about that can: 

  1. The Can That’s Been Kicked Down The Road Has Been Disintegrated By All That Kicking It Down The Road.  Piece by piece, atom by atom, the can doesn’t exist anymore.  Ever noticed how a can will eventually cease to exist?  Either by wear and tear or rust?
  2. Even If There Was Any Can Left To Kick Down The Road, There’s No More Road Left To Kick It Down.  All roads end somewhere.  And this road has reached that end!

We did not reach this moment overnight.  It didn’t happen because of the past few months, years, or even decades.  It’s been generational.  We can also say that it’s been happening ever since The Koinonia came to life.  But now it seems to me that it has intensified.  Maybe it’s because it’s happening in my time.  But for generations now we have neglected John’s Most Important Words For The Future Of The Koinonia:

You Must Test Them To See If The Spirit They Have Comes From God.

False teachings have been a part of what you might call “the church” and what I love to call “The Koinonia” ever since its inception.  Satan is at the root of it all because he knows that The Koinonia is all that is standing between him and the people in the world.  And now for generations, he’s been having a party—at the expensive of human lives.

This Season Of Discernment May Well Be Your Last Opportunity To Discern What Is Being Promoted And Taught.  And to discern exactly what you are going to do!  You have to “test the spirit” of those who want to lead you in a different direction from where you started.

It’s interesting that in writing his letter, John chose the Greek word “dokimazō (dah-key-mah-zo)” that’s translated “test” or “try”.  It means:  To Test, Examine, Prove, Scrutinize (To See Whether A Thing Is Genuine Or Not), As Metals.”  If someone offers to sell you some gold jewelry, are you going to buy it just because it’s color is gold?  I don’t think so.  If you would, then see me tomorrow after the Dollar Tree opens, and I will be glad to sell you some gold jewelry.

The only accurate way to test a teachingis to compare it to The Bible.  And all of the Bible.  For hundreds and hundreds of years, people have misused and misapplied the verses of the Bible to support their own positions.  I’m talking about using the whole Bible. 

Those in our Tribal Leadership are promoting ideas and a life that contradictions thousands of years of the teachings in the Bible.  They are leading a movement that in essence—and at its core—is saying that God has been waiting for a long time for some people to finally get the Bible right.

Now, if you’re OK with that kind of leadership—or if you believe that leadership—then there’s no need to discern anything.  However—I said However!!!—if you think and believe that God’s Word is true and reliable, then you must discern whether you can follow God and align yourselves with their leadership. From the very beginning—I’ve been very clear.  This Is YOUR Decision About The Future Of This Place.  It’s not about me.  It’s not about the decision Debbie and I have already made. 

It’s About DiscerningTestingTryingThe Teachings Of Your Leadership To See If It’s Really Of God Or NotAnd If You Can Live Under That Kind Of Leadership. I can say so much more—but this morning is the time for you to seek, ask, and yes, especially pray.  And I want to leave you with some words from Paul.  This is why it’s necessary that NOW you determine which way you will go—Because The Way You Go, Determines The Future That Awaits You.

6 I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ.  You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News 7 but is not the Good News at all.  You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. 8 Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. 9 I say again what we have said before:  If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.

Galatians chapter 1, verses 6 thru 9; from the NLT

I hear a lot–I mean A LOT–of people complaining about the Walmart Self Checkout system. And if you would allow me to be blunt-honest with you, I would say that I ABSOLUTELY LOATHE that self checkout system. I don’t go to Walmart to become their unpaid cashier associate. And to make a bit of confession, I have used it before because of time restraints. But now I simply don’t go if I am under time retraints. Now I patiently wait in line for that lonely, single cashier (occasionally there are 2).

And that’s what got me to thinking–about people. No, not Walmart’s corporate board who made this horrible decision; the people, and in particular those poor souls who use the self checkout system. Every time I go in to our local Walmart I see several people using that system. Do they realize they are only adding to the corporate pockets more money and denying people a job? But they look like sheeple–you know–a cross between sheep and people.

So many, TOOO many people are choosing for themselves this Walmart kind of life. What am I ranting about? Look at that first word in the sign:

SELF! Our culture is putting the emphasis on SELF! What WE want. What WE deserve. How that WE are capable of figuring out this thing called life without any other help. And for God to help us out? Jeez Louise, we don’t need His help at all. We can do it ourself! And now we are being overwhelmed by a tsunami of consequences. Lives are being crushed and pushed around; only to be swept out to sea. I remember a song from my teenage years, “The Age Of Aquarius”! Well, 2022 is The Age Of Self-Aggrandizement!

REALITY CHECK! We can’t handle life by SELF! We need help–but not just any help. We don’t need Dr. Phil, or Oprah, nor the advice of Trevor Noah. And we really need to stop talking to ourselves in order to get sound advice. When we talk to ourselves like this, what we end up with is a lot of sound and very little advice. What we need is to look–look above this mess to the only ONE who took the chaos and created the earth and the universe. And for heaven’s sake–stop using the self checkout line at Walmart!

In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.

Psalm 120, verse 1; from the English Standard Version

Wanting One Thing, But Doing Another

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 

Romans chapter 7, verse 15, from the New Living Translation

The news is filled with stories about conflict. From homes, communities, within nations, and between nations. Even the “Church” is not exempt from conflict. But this morning I want to bring that word closer to home. And the word I am using isn’t conflict–but Conflicted. The definition of Conflicted is “having or showing confused and mutually inconsistent feelings. Notice those last 3 words: mutually inconsistent feelings. In this morning’s passage, Conflicted is what Paul is talking about–mutually inconsistent feelings.

It’s not enough to say there is conflict. Nay! It must go deeper within each person to realize that one is wrestling between 2 mutually inconsistent feelings. For example–let’s say someone has hurt you and you refuse to forgive them. And maybe it doesn’t bother them that they refuse to forgive that person. BUT. . .one day they read Ephesians chapter 4 verse 32: “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (NLT) Now, if they are serious about following Jesus there is more than a conflict going on. They should be Conflicted.

There are 2 mutually inconsistent feelings happening. More than feelings, it’s conflicting ideas; more than ideas–it’s between truth and THE Truth: Unforgiveness versus Forgiveness. Our “truth” (not being willing to forgive, as in this example) is in conflict with THE Truth (that forgiveness is uncondition)! If we are serious about following Jesus, the result should be that we become Conflicted! Like with Paul, we know what we should do–maybe even “want” to do it. But instead we don’t. In every issue of life there is our “truth” and THE Truth.

Until we are Conflicted we will never deal with the difference between our truth and THE Truth. And when we become Conflicted, what should we do? Well, simple! First become Conflicted! In verse 24 Paul wrote: “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” Thankfully for us, Paul answered his own question (and what should be OUR question) in verse 25: “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”

Jesus delivers us from whatever it is that is Conflicted with THE Truth. He doesn’t bless our truth–but works to take away that Conflicted desire we have. And to my fellow United Methodist Institution tribal members, we should be Conflicted over what is happening. We have mutually inconsistent feelings within this Tribe. So, will you live with and in “your” truth, or will you trust God enough to take you into THE Truth? Being Conflicted is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing. Now we are contronted with truth versus THE Truth. Don’t allow truth to guide you to your conclusions. Instead, let THE Truth guide you and trust God with the results.

WHAT’S YOUR HISTORY?

The Boundary Lines Have Fallen For Me In Pleasant Places; Surely I Have A Delightful Inheritance.

Psalm chapter 16 verse 6

What’s your history? Everyone has a history. Yesterday I had an appointment with a new cardiologist. I haven’t seen one in nearly 5 years, so it was time. I had one where we lived back then but he’s over 2 hours away. So it was time to find one closer. Past time, truthfully. I went to see him not because I was having chronic symptoms, but because of my history. I have hypertension (how weird that a pastor would have high blood pressure, right?) and a few years ago I had severe tachycardia–which was fixed with an ablation.

But there’s more to my “heart” history. Both of my grandfathers had heart issues. My paternal grandmother died from a heart attack. Along with some of my Dad’s brothers. My maternal grandmother and my mother had congestive heart failure. And my Dad had double bypass surgery. And when we went through my history and my family’s, Dr. Carraway concluded I needed a stress test. So on July 9, guess where I will be. I’m not anticipating anything to be wrong–but with my medical history, it’s just safer this way. And all this thinking and talking about “history” prompted today’s musing.

So I ask you again, What’s your history? Not your medical or your family’s medical history, but your history with Jesus? Though your medical history IS important, your history with Jesus is even more important. Think about David’s history with God. God provided for and protected David as a shepherd. He took that one smooth stone David had and sent it perfectly to the one place Goliath didn’t have any armor. Gave him the ability to write songs. Raised him up as a mighty warrior. Annointed him to be King. But David also had another history with God. On one occasion he plotted the murder of one of his best friends. Had an illicit affair. Became arrogant. And more things than we know. But it wasn’t just the horrible things David did–but where he went after the fact. David always went back to God! He knew that there was always mercy and grace with God. His own personal history testifies to this fact.

And what about you? Some say you can’t allow your history to define you. Well, this is true–but only to a certain point. When we take our sins to God and admit our failures, and trust in His Grace, God does what God does. He shows mercy and grace! If we fail to admit our sin before God, then our history defines as as such. BUT!!!! If we bring it to Jesus, admit we are a sinner and want to different future–then The Father grants that desire. But don’t limit your history with Jesus to just running to Him for forgiveness. Have a history of walking with Jesus, talking with Jesus, listenting to Jesus, and allowing The Holy Spirit to work in your heart and life so that you become like Jesus! We all have a history with Jesus. Make sure you have a history with Jesus–a history of living for Him!

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

AND IT’S CRAZY OUT THERE FOLKS! ABSOLUTELY CRAZY!

Warning: This is NOT about life in The Kingdom. But it is about life, and death, as it is right now. It may be offensive to some. You have been warned!

Yesterday I was reading some news online from back home when I came across this story, about some locals who were up for parole. In one situation, the inmate up for parole was convicted of manslaughter. His defense for shooting the man was “self-defense”. But get this–he shot the victim 6 times! 3 times in the chest. Twice in the back. And once in the victim’s hand. But–it was self-defense! And as crazy as this sounds, the jury bought hook, line, and sinker the charge of manslaughter, rather than second-degree murder. Three times in the chest, twice in the back–and for it to be manslaughter it means there was no malice aforethought. Geeze, Louise! What’s this world coming to?

I’ll tell you what it’s come to–the value of human life is, for all practical purposes, is worth very little! But then what should I expect when an unborn baby can be thrown away like yesterday’s garbage? The careless monster of callousness gathered steam January 23, 1973 when the Supreme Court determined that “Jane Roe” had the right, without government restrictions, to end the life of a baby. So, it only follows the path of least resistence that when the most vulnerable are considered worthless, it won’t be long until all forms of human life are considered worthless.

It appears to me that Darwin’s Theory of the Survival of the Fittest isn’t an explanation of the past–but a prophesy about the future. And that future is right now. The only human being that other human beings care about is themselves. Freud’s concept of ego and super-ego are tame when compared to the narcissism of many people today. Many want a paycheck but they don’t want the work that goes with earning it. The Zombie Apocalyse isn’t about a bunch of corpses walking around looking for brains to eat. It’s people who have their eyes and nose stuck in their cell phone and pad–checking how many likes and followers they can get. Talk about pompous–well never mind. I won’t use that word. To call them that is an insult to all proctologists everywhere.

Fortunately, I know a lot, I mean A LOT of great and kind people. And reading stories like the aforementioned only makes me appreciate them more. But folks, our culture is in real danger of self-destruction. Only God and His committed people can stem the tide of this disaster. And that’s the way it is, May 24, 2022!

OH, LORD! IT’S MONDAY! PUNISHMENT

Mondays are the punishment for what we did over the weekend! This is what Monday feels like for many of us on the third rock from the Sun. The feeling of being punished is both painful and it makes Monday seem like it’s an impassable situation. And it prevents us from seeing and experiencing the joy of life–the Joy that God wants us to have. This past weekend a conversation with a friend brought this to light for me.

My friend said, “I guess it’s God punishing me.” And to prove the Holy Spirit is still at work today, I replied, “No, it’s just the consequences of our stupid choices.” Yes, Jesus was punished for our screw-ups, a.k.a. SIN! But His Payment doesn’t negate this consequences of our choice to ignore The Truth. Every word spoken, every chosen attitude, and every action has consequences. Newton’s Third Law of Motion applies not only to physics–but to our spiritual life. In case you forgot it, Newton’s Third Law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Sin has it’s own consequences, always! Though God’s Grace releases us from the punishment of sin, the consequences is a whole other matter. But rather than bemoan and wail about those consequences, why not do something different? And just what would that be? Glad you asked. We call it “learning”! For example, say there’s a hot iron skillet on the stove. You grab it by the handle and discover just how hot it is. So, what do you do? Try the same thing again? Or, would you take a pot holder and remove that hot cast iron skillet? Makes more sense to use a pot holder. Am I right? Why would you do that? Because you learned, the hard way, that not using that pot holder brings you pain.

So, what if we see the Monday Morning Attitude not as a punishment, but as a learning time? One benefit would be to make better choices in life. If we know some choice is going to end up making us feel miserable, then we learn “Don’t do that again!” Unfortunately, we often don’t have what it takes to avoid those poor decisions. This is where The Gospel comes into play. God offers to help us–SUCCESSFULLY HELP US–make the right choices. Even the apostle Paul struggled. In Romans chapter 7 he wrote about wanting to do good, but didn’t. He didn’t want to do wrong, but he did anyway. At the end of his soliloquy he discovers The Good News (verses 24 and 25)–“Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Throught the Holy Spirit we are given the knowledge, wisdom, and power to make the right choices and thus avoid sin with all its consequences.

When we accept the fact we are sinners and embrace the Presence and Power of The Holy Spirit in all our decisions, then we can say: Good! Lord, it’s Monday! What shall we do together?

WHAT DOES YOUR SHADOW DO?

“As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by.” (Acts chapter 5, Verse 15 NLT) On a hot, muggy day in an Alabama month of May, shadows of trees offer great relief from the heat. But shadows seen in the middle of the night? Not such a great relief. And the other day, I was thinking about shadows–and how they influence us and others. And the saga of the apostles came to my mind and heart. And that single line written by Luke: so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by.

Who were them? Sick people! Wow! What an influence Peter and the others had in their culture! And notice, it wasn’t because of Peter. Look at that opening line again: As a result of the apostles work! The Greek word is about consequences! The consequences of their fire and passion for Jesus and the Kingdom was that even Peter’s shadow would heal Sick People! Can you imagine them walking down a road and just up ahead, family and friends sitting, even laying down, all sorts of sick people? Can you see the hope in the eyes of all those people? Not just the sick, but those who cared enough about them to take time from their busy schedules just to help!

And what about us apostles today? What??? Did you just think, “I’m not an apostle!” Why would you even think such a falsehood? I’ll tell you why you bought in to this horrible lie. You’ve been influenced to think you can’t make a difference in the lives of sick people. What if I told you:

My shadow, YOUR shadow has an influence on others. It can be a good influence or a bad influence. Think about it. What causes “shadows”? Light! And guess what? Jesus said “I am the light of the world!” To bring change into our culture all depends on what our shadow does for other people. If, like these first apostles (notice the use of lowercase), we have a fire and a passion for Jesus, then our shadows can and will change sick people. And who knows, our shadow may fall on someone who doesn’t realize they are sick–but then they encounter Jesus and are made whole. So, what kind of shadow do you cast?

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

THE HIGHEST FORM OF

Did you see or hear it? I’ve been on a self-imposed hiatus from national news. Turns out, I was in a self-imposed exile. And exile is never a good thing–because I almost missed it. President Biden, and on board is Canadian Furhrer Trudeau, is saying it’s time for a New World Order. So that you know I’m not repeating what the empty talking heads are saying, here he is in his own words:

The first President Bush used this term in the context of the fall of the Soviet Union. But this latest attempt at resurrecting this term is in a completely different context. It’s not about how to reorganize after the collapse of a major government–it’s about taking away control from ordinary citizens and giving it to an elite group of people whose vanity makes them think they know what is best for the rest of us. The Revolutionary War happened because of this very thing: a select few determining what is best for the rest of us. Self-determination as a nation was frowned upon then, and it seems to be happening again.

And my question this morning is this: “Who is willing to oppose this move away from our representative republic?” It is the epitome of arrogance, oppression, and ignorance for any one or any group to think they are more qualified to think for the rest of us. And note, I didn’t ask who was willing to go along with the new world order. I didn’t ask that question because those who go along with this new world order do not have a will. They have surrendered over to others their rights and freedoms. Those who follow such deranged ideologists are dim-witted and imbeciles.

Will this great representative republic conquer these asinine ideas, or will it fall to that new world order? Time will tell–but it’s imperative that we counteract this movement starting now at the ballot box. Otherwise…there might be another American Revolution.

Saturday Fairy Tales: The Other Side Of The Road

Welcome to another edition of Saturday Fairy Tales! Today’s Fairy Tale is about Pete the Possum. Pete was just a young possum. He had 16 brothers and sisters. But rather than playing with them, Pete loved to go to The Stump and listen to the stories told by the old possums. And the story he loved most of all was the one about The Other Side Of The Road!

The Elder Possums told fanciful tales about a place of grand abundance. There were all sorts of varieties of berries to feast upon all day long; on the other side of the road. Oh, the size of the insects, so fat that just 2 of them would fill your belly, on the other side of the road. Even the humans would lay out food just for them, on the other side of the road. These tales were spun every day.

One morning Pete noticed Frank, one of the Possum Elders, wasn’t there. The day before Frank talked about going to the other side of the road. Pete wondered if Frank had gone there. Every so often, one of the Elder Possums would be missing. Pete said to himself, “I bet he went to the other side of the road! It must be a wonderful place on the other side of the road since none of them returned.

This excited Pete. He began to daydream about the other side of the road. Pete began telling his friends at school about the other side of the road, how marvelous and wonderful it must be. Perry spoke up, “My Granny Mae told me it was too dangerous the other side of the road. They made fun of Pete for believing such a thing. But Pete wouldn’t hear anything about the danger–just all the wonderful things on the other side of the road.

One day Peter was at The Stump to hear more tales about the other side of the road, but no one was there. He wondered where they were? Had all of them gone to the other side of the road? Pete said out loud, “Is it too dangerous to go to the other side of the road?” He heard someone say “Oh, no! The reason you don’t see them is because they are so happy over there!” Looking around and seeing no one, Pete shouted out, “Who’s there?” “Up here!”, the voice said.

Pete looked up and it was Bufford the Buzzard. Pete replied, “But I’ve heard it’s a dangerous place.” “No it’s not”, said Bufford. “How would they know? They’ve never been there! But you should go there, to the other side of the road. Pete thought for a moment–his thoughts fixated on all the wonderful food over there. “And all the Elder Possums are there, too. Don’t you miss their stories? They will gladly show your where to find the best feasts! And I heard them talking the other day about you, Pete! Oh, how they wished you were there!” Pete thought a few more moments. Surely Bufford wasn’t lying! Why would he lie?

Pete made up his mind to go to the other side of the road. He came to the edge of the road. Looking to his left and then to his right, Pete saw nothing dangerous about it. And he saw all kinds of berries waiting for him. He chuckled to himself, “Perry is going to miss out on all the wonderful feasts awaiting me! Dumb Perry, listening to Granny Mae.” Looking again to his left and then right, seeing no danger–Pete set out to the other side of the road. He started slowly, just in case some unknown danger approached. He safely crossed over to the other side of the road. He ate his fill of berries and went back across the road.

Feeling proud of his accomplishment, Pete started to go back home. He looked over his shoulder at all those berries. “Why should I go back home? This place has all I’ll ever need!”, he reasoned. There was no danger at all! It was so much better on the other side of the road. So, he turned around and as he crossed the centerline of the road and was about to obtain all he could ever want or need when he heard a strange noise–and the last thing Pete saw was the tires of that big truck. And Bufford the Buzzard smiled at his next meal. The end.

The Moral of the story is: the other side of the road isn’t what we think it is! Temptations come and offer us something better than what we have right now. More fun! More happiness! More of everything! But temptations turn into sin–and the outcomes from sin are never good!

Sow What?

Image from Humintech

The title is not a typographical error nor is it an example of using a wrong word that sounds like another word. The word is: Sow! Early this morning, while it is still dark, I was wondering what to write about today. And there wasn’t any idea floating around in my gray matter. Then it hit me! Not an idea! But a pain–a pain caused by yesterday’s activity.

Rain was coming, and I needed to get a green field planted for the upcoming deer season. I do not have a tractor–but I do have a tiller and hand tools. I loaded up the tiller, fertilizer, and seeds and off I went. I tilled up the soil, fertilized it, tilled it again, then planted the seeds. Not just one kind–but a variety of seeds. Oats. Winter Wheat. Rye grass. A variety of clover. And turnip greens.

Though the air temperature wasn’t all that bad yesterday, we did have typical Alabama humidity of somewhere around 110-125%. There were more than a few moments when I just wanted to stop and wait until another day to finish this project. But I set myself a goal–and I completed it. And now my bones, joints, and muscles ache–oh, brother do they ache! But it did get me to thinking–about Sowing Seeds as well as the end results.

Why plant such a variety of seeds? I want the deer to see a smorgasbord of great and wonderful things to eat–things that are proven they like to eat. I want to attract them in–so why plant anything they won’t eat? And what does all this have to do with Kingdom Living? This is what.

Every moment of every day every person is sowing seeds of some type. And those seeds will produce something that will either attract or repel. You can’t plant saw briars and hope to produce roses.

Even The Bible teaches this horticultural principle. Look at Galatians 6:6-7 (NLT)“Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.” Many people are sowing seeds of:

  • Anger
  • Apathy
  • Resentment
  • Bitterness
  • Rage
  • Prejudice
  • Hate
  • Malice
  • Selfishness
  • Fear
  • Doubt
  • Mistrust
  • ad infinitum
  • ad nauseam

Just look around! Watch the news! Listen to people talk! Such seeds as the aforementioned are growing everywhere. They repel people. They are repulsive and destructive. The fields look like kudzu patches–choking the life out of anyone and everyone. It’s not surprising to see what grows from such sowing. It’s that horticultural principle–sow seeds, add nutrients and water–and they grow into their nature. You can’t plant spinach seeds and expect to see watermelons.

But here’s the thing. There are a lot more varieties of seeds that can be planted, other than the aforementioned list. And these seeds live by the very same horticultural principles. Humor me with a few examples:

  • Kindness
  • Graciousness
  • Helpfulness
  • Mercifulness
  • Love
  • Tenderness
  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Forgiveness
  • Patience
  • Peacefulness
  • Hopefulness
  • Faithfulness
  • Joyfulness
  • Sincerity
  • Genuineness
  • Truthfulness
  • Honesty
  • Selflessness
  • And so many more wonderful seeds!

These types of seeds are far more attractive than repulsive. These types of seeds come from Jesus Christ. And Jesus promised that if He was lifted up, people would come to Him. I want to close out with a word to those who think they are or self-identify as “Christians”. Make sure the seeds you are sowing are the seeds that produce the character of Jesus. When Jesus was walking in the midst of His creation as one He created, sinful, messy, broken people were attracted to Him. Religious folks, not so much–with a few exceptions. There’s another verse in Galatians 6 related to sowing. Verse 9: “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

After 4 hours of working on my greenfield, I was giving serious contemplation to giving up. But I let the thought of what it will produce override my pitiful desire to quit. So, what are you sowing today?

It’s Right There In The Bible! NOT! Part 6

I struggled this morning–not for a lack of ideas in this series–I have more than enough ideas. No, I struggled for what I should write–more of What’s Not In The Bible or Hurricane Ida. I firmly believe that The Bible has something valuable to say about every thing that happens on this third rock from the sun. At first, I thought I was going to interrupt this series, but this I remembered something I’ve often heard people say was in The Bible:

It’s God Punishing Our Nation!

Be it floods, tornadoes, wildfires, or hurricanes–it seems to me that many believe that God is punishing the U.S. of A.

Now, if God was even interested in establishing a “Christian nation”–then it might be possible. But Jesus didn’t come to proclaim the Good News Of A Nation–rather it is The Good News Of The Kingdom! I know my friends who believe this will respond by saying, “The why did God punish the nation of Israel in the Old Testament?” Glad you asked. God established Israel for the express purpose of revealing God to ALL nations–and for one of Abraham’s descendent (that’s Jesus) to open the way for all people to have a relationship with Him! Remember, that when Jesus came in our human form, the Religious Folks were looking for The Messiah to establish a “nation” that no one would mess with. Thus, they failed to recognize the True Messiah.

And there’s a Biblical Reason why Hurricane Ida (and its ilk) is NOT the punishment of God for us not being that illusionary “Christian Nation” that God wants. The reality is there are several Biblical Reasons why disasters aren’t God’s punishments. For the sake of time, I will quickly share two. Here’s the first, and it’s a biggie:

4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down.  And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.  He was beaten so we could be whole.  He was whipped so we could be healed. 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.  We have left God’s paths to follow our own.  Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6 (NLT)

Either Jesus carried our punishment, all of it, or He didn’t. If these disasters are God’s punishment, then apparently, someone forgot to put all of our sins on Jesus! Nope, don’t think that happened! And here’s another reason of many why it just ain’t so:

“O God, declare them guilty. Let them be caught in their own traps. Drive them away because of their many sins, for they have rebelled against You.” (Psalm 5:10, New Living Translation)

Notice the underlined part: Let them be caught in their own traps. That’s what sin does–it traps us in our own traps. Paul Young, author of The Shack, wrote: “Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside.” And if you need a New Testament verse to verify it (as if the two Testaments somehow contradict each other), try this on for size:

7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.
(Galatians 6:7-8 NLT)

We bring the punishment of sin upon ourselves–through our choices and our designs. God doesn’t “punish” us–through disasters. The punishment is that we reap what we sow–we call it CONSEQUENCES. Every day–with each choice and decision–determines our eternal outcome.

Do the survivors of disasters really need to be told, “Look, it’s God’s punishment on our nation!” But what about those who are faithfully living this life of grace? Does God inflict collateral damage, cause victims of fratricidal? What about those who were on the verge of surrendering their life to Jesus? Would they want to serve a god who creates hurricanes?

If you want to do something in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, do something constructive. Help them! The best way to help them is with “Green”–not environmental green–money! But give wisely. Find an organization where your donations go to the survivors, not those sitting behind a desk. My favorite organization is UMCOR. I know how they use their funds; I have overseen several grants in our area. To donate online–click here!

And PLEASE, PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE–DON’T SEND USED CLOTHES! (this also includes your yard sale leftovers!) I served at a distribution center in Waveland, Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We built our own levy with used clothes around our center. In the aftermath of disasters, there is neither the time nor people to sort through used clothing.

For now, pray for the survivors. And if you want to do some hands-on work, wait until the local authorities say it’s both safe and OK for you to go in. Ida wasn’t God’s punished on America. America is punishing itself right now. No, it’s the result of living in the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s choice, and our own choices.

A Different View

Alas! Our culture continues to persist, wallow, and drown in “the immediate”. The technical term is “instant gratification”. Some things are not meant to be instant. Instant mashed potatoes? Dear Lord, NO! Instant tea? Heaven forbid! And instant coffee? That is an abomination straight out of the depths of hell! While this phenomena of “instant gratification” has been around several decades, today’s culture has improved and refined it to a lower art form and a whole new depth of wretchedness.

Now it is more than “instant gratification”–it has become The Culture Of Ignored Consequences”! But why am I surprised at this development? Focusing only on the present always leads to heinous and horrid conclusions. At one point our culture could not see beyond the end of their nose. Now they cannot see beyond the bridge of their nose. It is daft, demented and deranged that they become so upset when those Ignored Consequences come in like a storm surge in a hurricane.

But what if? What if we started looking further than the roots of our eyelashes? What if we started taking a longer view of life? What if we started looking further down the road BEFORE we made decisions, choices, and taking action? I know that to many I may sound like a schizo and have several loose screws–but there really is both hope in wisdom in taking The Longer View Of Life.

The Longer View will eliminates things like fear, dread, confusion, chaos, and anxiety. The Longer View is where we begin to form deep, lasting strength and maturity. I mean, who makes one visit to a fitness center and expects to walk out with 40 pounds less fat and 20 pounds of more muscle? The writer of Hebrews gives us both insight and a reason to take This Longer View Of Life.

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.

Hebrews 11:13 (NLT)

Tell you what! If you do not like The Longer View, go out right now and run your own marathon–and finish it! Most of you would think such a task would be more than crazy–but impossible. And you would be right. Marathon runners know it takes time–a long time–to build up the strength to run a marathon–and in case you did not know or forgot–a marathon is 26.2 miles. And life is more than the present moment–it is even more than a journey of years. It is an eternity. So start looking for what lasts longer than one day after the factory warranty expires–starting looking for and investing your life in what will last for eternity. You will be a lot more happier if you do.

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.

7 Things God Finds Disgusting: Feet That Race To Do Wrong!

Drivers, start your engines!

16 There are six things the Lord hates—
    no, seven things he detests:
18 . . . feet that race to do wrong,

Proverbs 6:16, 18 NLT

And the race is on–to do what is wrong. This Disgusting Thing is about making Quick Choices–and with any and all choices, there is always a consequence. The word I’m looking for is Impetuous. Impetuous Choices are those decisions we make abruptly, even eagerly, because–well–just because. They lack the rhyme and reason that comes only from Godly Wisdom.

When questioned, What were you thinking?”, many folks try to excuse their Poor Choices by saying, “Well, I wasn’t thinking.” This simply isn’t true. They chose their thinking by not thinking. Not thinking is a prevalent form of thinking these days–well, this has been around since Adam and Eve. Their choice to eat from the forbidden fruit was to think by not thinking. If they had chosen to think through their decision, the outcome would have been much different.

The Hebrew phrase Solomon chose means “evil, misery, distress, injury“. As we rush to wrong actions, wrong conclusions, and wrong thinking–it opens the door to evil–it creates misery, puts us in distress–and causes injuries, to us and those around us. God created us to be thinking beings–to analyze, discern, and discover. The key, though, is to think through BEFORE a decision is made. We reach the wrong decisions about events, circumstances, and people when we rush by choosing to think by not thinking.

Correct decisions come as the result of seeking God’s Wisdom–AND using His Wisdom to make the right choice. We rush and race towards decisions because we are not desiring God’s wisdom–and it is always leads us to the wrong choice. Created in His Image–made to think things through like He does–but when we rush–it’s Disgusting to God.

Time To Turn The Collars Around, Or So It Seems

This post may be offensive to pastors, but please read the entire post before making up your mind about me

A text message this morning got me to thinking. My thinking went way back in time–October 1974 to be exact. This was when I was appointed to serve 2 small congregations while I pursued licensing as a pastor at the ripe old age of 18 years old. I mention this because we all know that beginning at 18, we tend to be full of vim and vigor; or was the vim and vinegar? Come to think of it, the latter is more true for me than I want to admit. My thinking moved forward through all the years I served as a pastor all the way to right now.

And now? I have less vim, but at times, a whole lot more vinegar. If you have followed me here on this blog, you know it’s true. And you may wonder who is about the become the object of my vinegary thoughts. It is my profession–“the” pastor. I was trained in the classical model of “The Professional Pastor”. I had someone whom I thought was a colleague, tell me once after I made the decision to remain in serving small and medium churches as what we call a “Local Pastor”, “You really need to become one of us.” His poke was that until one was an ordained elder in the UMC, they weren’t really pastors. By the way, I was eventually ordained, but not to be “one of them”.

The text message from this morning, well, it brought me under conviction of the Holy Spirit. Stay with me a moment, especially if you are a pastor. And really hang in with me if you are studying to become a pastor. In reflecting over these past 46 plus years, one picture stands clear to me. The church in the U.S. has been in a steady decline; almost to the stage of an avalanche. There have been all kinds of explanations, even justifications (even though we can never justify decline) for this event. But the biggest thing is the placing of blame on this state of disgrace.

I realize that some of this decline is caused by Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters who vainly think the local church exists for them–and who fight tooth and nail to keep their control. But from my perspective–we pastors share the major share of the blame. We were trained to be professionals rather than authentic people who are to be servant leaders. I remember an incident at my previous appointment. After a funeral in my first year, the family was gathered for a meal in the church fellowship hall. I noticed the tea glasses, water glasses, and coffee cups were nearly empty. Well, I proceeded to go to each table refilling their beverage of choice. One of the church members mentioned, “This is our new pastor.” and the response was obviously one of shock when she said, “Oh, really?” To my fellow pastors–if you expect church folks to do things you are unwilling to do or think it is beneath your training, then you’re in the wrong place.

I am convinced that Professionally Trained Pastors are the Achilles Heel of the U.S. Church. It did not happen overnight–it took centuries for this to develop and in 2021, we are reaping the harvest of this with declining congregations. When I began this journey, I thought my job was to herd them up and get them moving in the right direction under MY leadership. What I discovered was that this model was more like herding cats. So I started looking for a different model to emulate. Here’s what I noticed over the past 4 decades plus of noticing.

  • The Underachiever Model. This is the pastor who really doesn’t care about the flock, just the paycheck, and the next church.
  • The Don’t Rock The Boat Model. This pastor is focused on survival–their own and that of their family. These fear confrontation–and as such, cannot guide the church to where it needs to be.
  • Then on the opposite end is The Dynamite Model. I do not mean as in dynamic–but dynamite, C-4 explosives, and the like. They are convinced that their job is to correct the problems that they see as the real problems. Their definition of “real” problems are typically about 7 bubbles off plumb. They do catastrophic damage to a congregation and leaves the damage behind for the next pastor to deal with. And you can always count on The Dynamite Model to leave a few unexploded devices behind which will explode at the worst possible moment.
  • The One Issue Model. This pastor has defined the one issue that a church needs to address even before they arrive. They are convinced that their own wisdom knows which issue the church MUST address.
  • The Goodyear Blimp Model. I’m not talking about their physical size. It’s the size of their ego. It is large and very inflated. They want the church to know that they have the latest Rock Star Pastor. I once listened to a mega-church’s podcast of a worship service. Truthfully, I only listened for about 3 minutes. The person who was going to bring God’s word opened up that “their” pastor and wife would be back next week. And she said, “Let’s give a hand to Pastor ________ and his wife _______ and let them know how much we missed them. I changed to another podcast–it was about herding cats.
  • And last but by no means least, The Control Freak Model. Churches are not churches without them. Instead of checking the pulse of the congregation, they are putting the thumb down on folks. Nothing can be done without their permission. If something is done without their permission? Forget that adage that says it is easier to ask for forgiveness after the fact rather than seek permission first. Obviously, whoever came up with that adage never had to deal with The Control Freak Pastor. They make Kim Jong-un look like the second coming of George Washington.

Why do I say that The Professional Pastor the primary cause of church decline? I look at the first Models of the church. There was leadership, trained leadership–but that leadership did not get in the way of the church reaching thousands and thousands of people. Oh, for sure, when a local church lost its sense of its true mission, someone was there to set the record straight. And then turned them loose to be The Body Of Christ. No one had to ask permission to lift up the name of Jesus. No one had to ask approval to feed the hungry, take care of the widows and orphans, and bear witness to Jesus and the power of the Cross to save. No one waited for some Professional Pastor to do the work.

There is another Model, a Model that the U.S. church in particular needs today. I would call us The Pastor Model. This pastor guides the congregation into a deeper relationship with Jesus, first and foremost. Then The Pastor Model challenges and equips the Congregation to BE the Body of Christ. And when the Congregation wants to be that Body–he or she gives them PERMISSION to be the Body Of Christ. The congregation doesn’t have to ask The Pastor Model for permission to do anything that lifts up the name of Jesus–and lifts up the least, the last, and the lost. In recent years, when someone comes to me and asks, “Is it OK with you if I do this, that, or the other?”, my response now is: “If it exalts Jesus, if the honors God and the Holy Spirit, if it touches the least, the last, or the lost, then know you have God’s permission and that’s good enough. Now, can I help you or do I just need to stay out of the way?”

In my tribe, only Ordained Pastors can administer the sacraments–as if we are somehow more holy than anyone else. Local pastors can administer the sacraments ONLY in the church they serve. The irony of my tribe is that it also professes the power and importance of the priesthood of all believers. I guess all doesn’t mean all. Before this pandemic hit, there was a significant rise in the number of House Churches. These are homes where people are hungry for a deeper relationship with Jesus, a connection with other Followers, and believe that the Kingdom Of God is needed in their neighborhoods, towns, cities, communities, states, and nation.

To my fellow Pastors, encourage your congregations. Inspire your people given to your care (not your dictatorship)! Don’t be afraid to give them permission to be who God calls them to be, The Body Of Christ. Support them in what they do. Help them but only when asked. Praise them when they look like Jesus. And if they get off-mission–gently take them aside and remind them who WE BOTH serve. You can’t build someone up (remember Ephesians 4:11-12) if you constantly tear them down, or worse, never give them the opportunity to do the real work of Jesus Christ.

If some pastor (or Churchian or Tenured Pewsitter) is upset with me, understand I will soon be 65, closer to the moment I stand before my Judge. The last thing I want to be held accountable for is my failure to speak the truth in love. So if you are offended–it is what it is. I still love you and my prayer for you is that your heart, mind, and eyes will be opened to the Mission God has called us to do.

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

The Myth Of Unintended Consequences!

We are experiencing the devastation and fallout of another myth: UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. In case you forgot, a myth is a widely held but false belief or idea. You’ve heard people say, maybe you’ve said it: “That not what I meant. I didn’t intend for it to happen like this.” It’s as if that statement absolves and forgives that person’s choice, actions or words. The slate is wiped clean. It creates the illusion that the damage caused by those UNINTENTIONAL CONSEQUENCES is lessened.

Let’s get it out in the open: “There is no such thing as unintended consequences! Never has been, is not now, nor will it ever be!” I have a deep seated suspicion that many disagree with my assertion. Well, guess what? Your disagreement doesn’t change the facts. Do you need proof that this is the truth? I refer you to Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “For every actionthere is an equal and opposite reaction.” Denying the reality of Newton’s Third Law of Motion doesn’t change the reality of this Law. “How does this apply to unintended consequences?” Glad you asked this question.

Every choice you make, every act, and every word spoken has a subsequent equal and opposite reaction. Good or bad, it happens. This is NOT affected by your intention. Unintended Consequences are nothing new. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden with Eve’s choice and Adam’s silence. I don’t think their intention was to get booted out of the Garden. They only intended to be a god. How did that work out for them? Allow me to show you a recent example.

COVID-19 PROTOCOLS! If these protocols had been followed, we would be seeing a decline in the number of cases. But, no! Social distancing? “What’s that?” Face masks and gloves? “You’re kidding right?” Stay at home and go out only for what is essential? “Well what I want to do IS essential!” Don’t panic buy and leave important supplies on the shelves for others? “You’re hilarious Preacherman! I’m taking care of me and to hell with everyone else.” Being out in public may expose you to the virus? “You’ve lost your mind. I’m invincible!”

Well, I could go on, but let me get to the point of the INTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF THIS WAVE OF SELFISH IGNORANCE HAPPENING HERE IN THE U.S. Bear in mind, with the exceptions of narcissists and sociopaths, this is not what these selfish, ignorant people intended; it is, though, the consequences–and because they made those decisions–THEY ARE THE INTENTIONAL CONSEQUENCES OF ALL THOSE WHO IGNORED AND VIOLATED THE PROTOCOLS! Here’s a few of those INTENTIONAL CONSEQUENCES:

  • People have lost their jobs. Some employers and still paying their employees, but this can’t go on indefinitely. Others are NOT receiving a paycheck.
  • Family and friends are unable to visit loved ones in a nursing home or skilled care facility. Imagine, if you even can, the loneliness of those residents.
  • We have family in hospitals with other illnesses, but we can’t be there with them! I’m one of countless others in this situation. We can’t be there for them. A friend of ours, Krissy, shared with me that her grandfather is in ICU but she can’t be there for him and with him. It’s all because of all you who violated the Protocols. This is what you intended!
  • People with autoimmune diseases and respiratory conditions cannot find disinfecting supplies. Those with autoimmune diseases and respiratory conditions are highly susceptible to other conditions. A common cold or “ordinary” flu can devolve into pneumonia and respiratory failure resulting in death. A part of me secretly wishes law enforcement could find these hoarders and charge them with at least manslaughter; preferably second degree murder.
  • Families who have had a death in the family are restricted from the love, care and comfort of friends in a time they really need it. A couple of weeks ago I did a graveside service for a good friend. Only a limited number of people could gather in the parking lot, and only 10 at a time could go in for what we in the South call “a viewing”. At the cemetery it was only a limited number of family members who could be there. It broke my heart.
  • Couples who planned that special wedding day have had to postpone or do something different, without friends and family. Weddings are a time of great and shared joy. But they can’t happen because of you who violated the Protocols.
  • Children who live in an abusive home could look forward to being at school for a few hours of respite from their abusers. And now they are trapped with their abuser 24/7. This is what violators of the Protocols intended to happen.
  • Spouses/significant others who are abused could look forward to going to work or their abuser going to work, but if they aren’t “essential workers” they are trapped with their abuser. This is the intent of those violating the Protocols.
  • Violators of the Protocol who bring their children with them to the stores still open are abusing those children. They are intentionally exposing them to grave danger. In my book, they are child abusers. And we know what Jesus said about abusers of children!
  • Medical personnel cannot hug their family members; some even staying away from their home to protect their loved ones. Numerous cases of COVID-19 have happened within the medical community. Violators have put at risk and added stress to the very ones who are trained, skilled and committed to taking care of you. That’s the equivalent of you cutting off your toe because you have an ingrown toenail.
  • First responders–law enforcement personnel, fire and rescue personnel, EMTs and paramedics are risking their lives even more. Their jobs are to protect you and there were already enough dangers they face to protect you violators of the Protocols. Now they are facing even greater dangers and us family members are worried even more about them.

Well, I could go on; feel free to add other INTENTIONAL CONSEQUENCES in the comments section below. But the point is clear! Every decision, word, and action, as in Newton’s Third Law of Motion, has consequences. Your intentions are absolutely meaningless. Now, you can continue to expand the chaos. . .or. . . you can think things through beforehand. Your choices. . .your words. . . your actions carry with them CONSEQUENCES THAT ARE UNINFLUENCED BY YOUR INTENTIONS. Perhaps the death of this myth will be another consequence of this pandemic. And that would be more than good. . .that would be, as Tony the Tiger would say: GRRRREAT!

Stuck In The Mud–Saturday Stories 18 January 2020

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

STUCK IN THE MUD

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

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

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

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

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

The Moral Of The Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recalculating: When You Don’t Change Direction!

We are looking at the process of discovering God’s vision for you and this church, to discover God’s purpose for this place.  To do this, I want us to look at a couple of examples we need to learn from:  Jonah and Esther.  Today, let’s look at Jonah 1:1-5

 1 The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh.  Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”

But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord.  He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish.  He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.

4 But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. 5 Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.  But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold.

If You Can Remember Only One Thing, This Is It: When We Follow The Directions But Without The Heart Of God—We Become The Refuser Of Festivities—And The Consumer Of Blessings.

When God gives us a Recalculating Moment, He does so to transform us into what can only be described as Becoming Peculiar People.  In other words—to stand out from everything else.  Always to be different from the world.  But sometimes God’s Recalculating Moment is for us to be different from the Religious Culture.

Don’t you want to be a peculiar people?  The phrase is Peter’s, from the King James Version of 1 Peter 2:9: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a Peculiar People; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 

In Greek, the phrase A Peculiar People means “a purchased possession”—something that uniquely belongs to God, acquired at great cost.  We are to be Holy Oddities—Sacred Misfits. You can’t make heads or tails of us unless you bring God into the equation.   But we’re going to look at one way to not be peculiar.

It’s the story of Jonah.  When I was a child in Sunday School, I heard the story of Jonah from the perspective that here is a hero of the faith.  At first, he didn’t want to go—in fact he would rather die than go.  But God showed grace in the form of this big fish.

Jonah changed his mind and would go.  The Hero, right?  Wrong.  Jonah refused God’s Recalculating Moment at first.  Eventually he followed God’s Recalculating Moment, but he did so without The Heart Of God.  Jonah shows us that it’s not enough to simply change direction.  Here’s the Lessons he teaches:

1.  Jonah Was A Prophet Who Wanted Nothing To Do With God.

Jonah—his name means dove.  Ironic, isn’t it?  Jonah’s name doesn’t fit his heart nor his attitude.  Biblically, the dove was a sign of hope and peace.  In the Old Testament, Doves represented hope, renewal, grace, beauty, innocence, swiftness, sacrifice, peace and good news.  In the New Testament, the dove is one of the principal symbols of the Holy Spirit—a sign from Heaven.  Jesus instructed his followers to be “harmless as doves.”  

Hope.  Renewal.  Grace.  Beauty.  Innocence.  Spirit.  Swiftness.  Sacrifice.  Good News.  Peace.  Jonah is none of this.  Jonah’s no dove!  He’s a hawk, a vulture.  Jonah’s a harbinger of judgment, a conjurer of despair, and a herald of bad news.  He’s a scrappy, noisy, crow!  And that’s the point.  Jonah is a prophet that wants nothing to do with God.  He’s an evangelist who wants nothing to do with the lost—except to see them punished and banished. Jonah Is A Portrait Of Those Who Were A People Of God But Who Have Lost The Heart Of God.  

He’s a picture of a person who is Christian in name only—not in character, conduct, or conviction.  He is an example of what happens to many Christians and many churches—we get turned in on ourselves, self-satisfied, self-indulgent, and happy to let the world go to hell.  Jonah avoids sinners.  When that’s no longer possible, he crusades against them, picketing their towns.  

He first tries to ignore their existence, then he protests against them, and then he seeks to annihilate them altogether.  If I had to identify the primary question that drives the Book of Jonah, it’s this:  Will Jonah Ever Learn To Be A Dove, Not Just In Name But Also In Heart?  And that’s the question the church must continually wrestle with: Will We Ever Learn To Be Christian, Not Just In Name But Also In Heart? This is Lesson 1 from Jonah.

2.  Jonah Rejects God’s Word.

The Book of Jonah begins with a miracle—God speaks to Jonah.  But Jonah resents and resists the word of the Lord, finding it to be a mighty inconvenience.  It doesn’t fit into his plan.  It doesn’t meet his expectations.  It doesn’t agree with his beliefs.  But the word comes anyway.  

The miracle is that the word of the Lord still breaks in on those who have long given up listening for it or attending to it; it still comes to those who have not hungered and thirsted for it for years—if ever! 

The word that comes to Jonah is firm and fixed:  Go. Jonah is to proclaim the Word of the Lord to Nineveh.   Nineveh was the capital of the blood thirsty Assyrians.  They are the enemy.  Jonah is called to go to the enemy.  But the crucial thing is how God sees this enemy.  

First of all, He sees they are wicked. In fact, their wickedness has come up before God and reached a tipping point in heaven.  God’s had enough; He’s going to act.  

But notice the second thing God sees in Nineveh—she is a great city.  Her greatness is not just in sheer physical size.  The Hebrew word used in the text means more than magnitude.  It speaks of importance and weightiness.  Nineveh’s greatness is her potential—if only she turned from her wickedness. 

Unless We See People, Towns, Cities, Cultures, Civilizations, Neighbors, And Strangers As God Sees Them, We Will Never Experience God’s Heart For Them.  If all we miss seeing their greatness, we’ll miss their potential, and the dreams God has for them.

3.  Jonah Runs Away From God.

Jonah only sees Nineveh’s wickedness and refuses to see her potential for greatness, so he runs away.  He is called to something too hard, so he flees.  This is where the story gets interesting.  Jonah doesn’t just flee the call of God or sidestep his assignment; he tries to escape God’s presence. Verse 3: Jonah…went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord.  

Jonah is more than disobedient—he’s practically an atheist!  Jonah wants to live as though God does not exist—or at least as if God has no claim on him.  Those Who Have A Jonah Heart Want God’s Blessing But Want Nothing To Do With Either God’s Purposes Or Presence.  Jonah is not a worshiper—he avoids God’s presence.  He’s not a follower—he avoids God’s call,.  Jonah is a Consumer Of Blessings.

This Jonah heart is in each of us.  We all face a constant temptation to demand God’s blessing but avoid obedience and service.  Entire church communities can have a desire to seek God’s blessing, but not His Face or His Kingdom. Entire churches are sometimes preoccupied only with What’s In It For Me.  

Entire churches are tempted to be consumers but not worshipers or followers.  When that happens, everyone is impoverished. The church—which is to be the very body of Christ in the world, becomes just another country club—bored, snobbish and flabby.  The world that so desperately needs the gospel of Christ is left to stew in its own juices.  When A Church Craves God’s Blessing But Shuns His Presence And Avoids His Purpose—It Has Lost Its Heart For God.

Let’s finish the story, and see why Jonah isn’t a hero. Jonah flees, but he doesn’t get every far.  He books passage on a ship bound for Tarshish—a city at the edge of the known world.  Here’s something I learned just this week about the name Tarshish.  According to the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Tarshish is a Phoenician word from the Akkadian meaning Smelting Plant Or Refinery.  In biblical times, metals were obtained from the ore by fire.  He’s trying his best to get as far away as he possibly can. 

But Jonah jumps out of the pan and into the fire.  God Pursues Jonah Through A Storm, Still Wanting Jonah’s Heart The sailors on the boat force Jonah to confess his identity, and they discover that he’s the source of the trouble.  

At Jonah’s request, they throw him into the sea.  Jonah is suicidal.  God sends a large fish to swallow Jonah whole.  Three days later, the large fish spews him up on the shore.  Jonah, duly chastised, heads to Nineveh and does his duty.  He only does it because the pain of God’s chastisement is greater that his desire to run away.  

He preaches fire and brimstone and then goes and camps on the outskirts of Nineveh, waiting for God’s fireworks to fall on the city and its people.  But something strange takes place.  The king of Nineveh hears Jonah’s message, and he’s broken in his heart.  He puts on sackcloth and ashes and calls on the city to fast, pray, repent, and trust God’s mercy.  The entire city turns to God, and God shows mercy.  And Jonah couldn’t be more miserable.  

Jonah is a representative of a class of people we meet in the pages of Scripture, in the drama of life, and in the pews of our churches.  He is a Refuser Of Festivities.  He misses the grace of God and lets bitterness take root.  Like the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, he won’t join the party; he won’t live in grace.  

God is involved in an extravagant, surprising, mercy-drenched business—seeking and saving those who are lost, throwing feasts once they’re found—but Jonah and his ilk sit on the sidelines and sulk about how hard God is on them and how soft he is on everyone else.  They stew about things taken away from them, and things they never wanted others to have that God has given to them without measure. 

In C. S. Lewis’ story, The Silver Chair, a selfish little girl named Jill asks the great lion Aslan—the story’s Christ figure—if he eats girls.  Aslan responds, “I have swallowed boys and girls, men and women, kings and kingdoms.”  And here is an even more interesting question: Has He swallowed you? 

How are you handling God’s Recalculating Moments in your life?  With joy?  Or with the resentment of Jonah?

Your Next Steps:

  1.   Remember that to follow God’s directions, we have to change our direction.  And to change our direction, we need to bring along the right attitude.  What needs to change with your attitude?
  2.   It’s done by putting aside our fear of failing or the uncertainty of how it will happen.  Don’t wait for someone else to step up.  It’s time for you to step out.

Getting What We Ask For–But Didn’t Realize It Would Be THAT!

Image result for you asked for it

PSALM 106:6-15 (NLT)

Like our ancestors, we have sinned.
    We have done wrong! We have acted wickedly!
Our ancestors in Egypt
    were not impressed by the Lord’s miraculous deeds.
They soon forgot his many acts of kindness to them.
    Instead, they rebelled against him at the Red Sea.[a]
Even so, he saved them—
    to defend the honor of his name
    and to demonstrate his mighty power.
He commanded the Red Sea to dry up.
    He led Israel across the sea as if it were a desert.
10 So he rescued them from their enemies
    and redeemed them from their foes.
11 Then the water returned and covered their enemies;
    not one of them survived.
12 Then his people believed his promises.
    Then they sang his praise.

13 Yet how quickly they forgot what he had done!
    They wouldn’t wait for his counsel!
14 In the wilderness their desires ran wild,
    testing God’s patience in that dry wasteland.
15 So he gave them what they asked for,
    but he sent a plague along with it.

It’s amazing to me how anyone can think that The Bible is an outdated book, lacking current relevance.  Solomon was right when he wrote that there is nothing new under the sun.  This passage is just one of many that backs up this jewel of wisdom.  In this one Psalm, we have the history of God’s ancient people, and God’s current people.

Here’s the flow:  God’s people, the Hebrews, called out to God for deliverance.  They were slaves, helpless at the hands of their oppressors.  God called Moses to lead this movement.  Pharoah refused; God spoke; Pharoah still refused; pattern repeats.  Until Pharoah finally agrees to let them go.  Then he changes his mind and sets out in pursuit of them.  THEY are at the Red Sea and no bridges or boats around.  They are scared they are about to die.  They whine at Moses, but God intervenes and gives a promise:  “You will get to the Promised Land, and you will never see these Egyptian soldiers again.”  God parts the water, they cross over.  The Egyptians follow and God closes the Sea and dead soldiers everywhere.

They head towards The Promise and God does 3 things:

  1. He provides for their physical needs
  2. He leads them all the way
  3. He assures them He is with them through the Pillar of Cloud during the day and a Pillar of Fire at night

These 3 things occur 24/7.  And how do they respond?  Here’s the Cliff Notes Version:

  1. They whine about fresh food from heaven that costs nothing and which they did nothing to produce it
  2. They can’t wait for Moses to return from consulting with God, so they make an idol they can see.
  3. They whine some more, a lot more
  4. They face some enemies threatening them but God promises Victory and it happens
  5. They get to the edge of the Promised Land, God still providing, leading, and assuring them of His Presence, and they give up without even trusting.
  6. They want a new leader and go back to Egypt–to slavery–but at least they would have garlic and onions–slavery for sure–but oh, those good old onions!

So what does God do?  God gives them what they asked for:  denying them entrance into The Promise.  They all die (except Joshua and Caleb)–in the wilderness.  They never tasted those wonderful onions in Egypt–the land of slavery and oppression.  But they got what they asked for–to turn away from The Promise.

Don’t be hard on those Hebrew children.  It’s happening in our culture today.  God offers us The Promise–The Promise of Life–Life that is full and meaningful–Life that happens through dying to self and self-interests.  Instead people choose to go back in the direction of slavery and oppression all to satisfy their selfish desires.

The Promise of God is that through giving we receive.  Through helping we are helped.  Through listening we are heard.  Through humility we are lifted up.  Through dying we begin to live, really live.  Instead, this Post-Christian culture has opted-in for selfishness, entitlement, fear, hate, blame, hate, and thousands of other destructive mindsets–all in the name of finding life.

The rejection of God’s Truth, as revealed in the Bible, has given people just what they’ve asked for–the politics of hate and fear, and settling for lifestyles that are nothing but onions in the land of oppression.  Don’t misunderstand me, I love a good onion and garlic seasoning.  But here’s what I’m learning:  When we human beings decide what is good and not good, right and wrong, people are led back to oppression and bondage.

Why is our nation in the mess its in?  Simple, the majority are wanting onions and garlic rather than The Promise of God–a life that is rich in meaning and profoundly filled with purpose.  I just remembered an old Burger King® advertising campaign from years ago:  “Have it your way.”  From thinking they are entitled to whatever they want to sexual identities to ethics to morality and even to the definition of “right and wrong”, when we have it “our way” the result is…..well just watch the news…..onions, leeks, garlic for everyone–but also bondage and oppression….

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

Spiritual Erosion

This morning a word came into my mind–yet another random thought–a condition with which I am afflicted.  I wonder, is some 12 Step program to help me with this?  It has served me well at times, so I guess I will allow this condition to continue.  Oh?  The word?  OK, it’s erosion.  One definition says:

the gradual destruction or diminution of something

In case you were wondering (I know I was) about that word diminution , here’s that definition:

a reduction in the size, extent, or importance of something.

The word “erosion” hit me this morning during the news.  Tropical Storm Gordon, flooding alerts, another teen shot in Birmingham, a mother arrested in Florida for the death of her 2-year-old child are just some of the stories that caused this word to invade my gray matter.  Most people think of erosion as something that happens to dirt and rocks.  But there is another type of erosion–spiritual erosion–that is far more dangerous and even more deadly.

I can’t remember exactly when I heard the term “Post-Christian Culture” but I am keenly aware that it exists.  My definition of “Post-Christian Culture” is as follows:

The loss or dismissing the values of  the Kingdom of God

Can you handle the truth?  Here it is:  The values and ethics of God’s Kingdom are no longer the dominant influence on our culture.  Over the years, as people who claimed allegiance to Jesus became passive, silent, or even worse–the consumers of what the church produces–it created an ethics and values vacuum.    Aristotle once hypothesized “horror vacui” which means Nature Abhors a Vacuum.  In other words, nature can’t stand for any space to be empty.  When lightning forms it creates a vacuum, so air rushes in to fill that vacuum, thus creating thunder.

It’s not just nature–but human beings also abhors a vacuum.  Way back in March 2009, Dr. Leon Seltzer wrote an article for Psychology Today titled “Human Nature Abhors A Vacuum”.  He wrote, “We humans crave stimulation, and on many different levels. To experience ourselves as fully alive, we all have various “arousal requirements”–“whether physical, mental, emotional, social, or spiritual.”  A little further into his article he makes this astute observation:

“…I’ve become acutely aware of how experiencing an inner vacuum can lead people to make poor life choices, especially in relationships.”

We are in a Post-Christian culture because the values of God’s Kingdom and Rule are noticeably absent in the American culture.  A vacuum of solid and proven values and ethics have left, creating the vacuum.  To fill that values/ethics vacuum, people are turning anywhere, everywhere to fill that void.  Entitlement, selfishness, disregard for consequences, blame, hate, distrust….and the list goes on to what has filled that values/ethics void created when people stopped being followers of Jesus and opted more for a fan or casual relationship.  “Jesus, I need just enough of you to avoid hell.  That’s all.”

So, how do we change the current values and ethics environment we find our culture in?  May I suggest we do what Jesus did and continues to do.  Infuse the values and ethics of the Kingdom of God, once again.  Here’s a list of ways we can do this, and if you have others ways, please share them in the comments section:

  1. Tip servers at 20%, or more
  2. Call the clerk, associate, cashier by their name if they are wearing a name tag
  3. Stop being a consumer of what the church does–be a producer
  4. Give up you place in the checkout line to the person behind you
  5. Put your cellphone on vibrate mode when in a waiting room and wait to call the person back
  6. Smile, smile a lot, especially in the presence of grumpy people
  7. Refuse to judge someone by their external features.  In fact, be friendly to them and get to know them
  8. Help someone do something
  9. Get acquainted with your neighbors
  10. Volunteer with some outreach program
  11. Accept and be glad that you are not entitled to anything
  12. Work hard for something you want
  13. Accept responsibility and even the blame when do something wrong
  14. Admit you’re not always right, and certainly not perfect
  15. Offer to take someone to lunch on Sunday, right after the Worship Service
  16. In church, sit next to someone you don’t know, and strike up a conversation
  17. When someone lashes out at you–respond with kindness and grace, not more heated words.
  18. Care about God’s creation by being a good steward of this earth
  19. Find common ground with others–hey, at the very least, we are all sinners.  That’s a great place to begin
  20. Simplify your lifestyle–don’t go into deep debt for the latest “toy”
  21. Do one random act of kindness a day–if someone sees your act of kindness, it doesn’t count–so keep doing it until no one notices
  22. Better yet, do random acts of kindness even if no one notices
  23. Read the Bible and ask: “What does this say to me?  About me?”
  24. Pray–not with churchy “King James” words, but as if you were talking with your best friend, because HE wants to be your best friend
  25. Allow someone to merge into traffic
  26. Freely forgive even if–especially when–they don’t deserve it
  27. At the fast food drive thru, pay for the person’s purchase behind you (I got this one from a Christian radio station)
  28. Excuse yourself from conversations that are rude, ugly or lewd
  29. Slow down and do something relaxing
  30. Love God with all your heart, mind and life
  31. Love others the way Jesus loves you
  32. Make sure all the glory and credit goes to God for everything good

I could go on, but what specific things can you do to change the Values and Ethics of our culture?  Please post in the comments….

Heaven–You Can’t Get There From Here! Part 6

So here we are, the next to the last class.  I hope you are learning something valuable here.  Yesterday we looked at the Rules Plan and its shortcomings.  Hopefully by now you know that God is not the Cosmic Warden, but that He sends The Good Shepherd to search for us.  Take really good notes as we now look at:

 

Now this plan acknowledges that we don’t always get it right.  But hey, it’s not our fault.  There’s always a reason and good excuse for whatever we do wrong.  For extra reading I encourage you to obtain the book Yes Lord I Have Sinned:  But I Have Several Excellent Excuse.   The best part of this plan is that it challenges our “creative” side to be able to justify our sins.  And if you come up with an excuse that sounds good to you–then you get into heaven.

Another bonus to this plan is that if we want to be lazy and not find an excellent excuse, then there’s someone else to blame.  It’s called “playing the victim” card.  This plan works off of a truth:  That Life Isn’t Fair.  But hey, life should be fair, am I right?  It’s about getting what we rightfully deserve, and usually without much if any effort.

Slide23In This Plan Consequences Are Inconsequential.  Either by justification (coming up with an excellent excuse) or by playing the victim card, surely God won’t keep us out of heaven.  It would not be reasonable of God to keep us out of heaven when there’s so much bad stuff out there.  It is His creation.  All He has to do is make life fair.  Yet because of the evil and unfairness in this world, God will not hole us responsible.  There are no consequences, so we get in.

Slide24But there are consequences to our choices and actions.  Paul wrote in Romans 6:23—For the wages of sin is death.  It doesn’t say, Unless you have a good excuse.  That’s not how it works.  Sin is sin regardless of our intentions or beliefs.  Our intentions may have been good, our beliefs may have been sincere, but sin pays the same dividend every time—death!  So, this plan doesn’t work either.  This is perhaps, the riskiest plan of all.  I say this because deep down inside us, we know there are consequences.  It’s called shame, guilt or that nagging sense of personal failure.

Well, class, that’s the last plan.  Tomorrow we will look at the Plan, the ONLY plan that will work.  It tripped up Nicodemus, but maybe it won’t trip you up.  And remember….love God with ALL your heart.  Love others the WAY God loves you.  And make sure ALL the glory goes to Him!  By the way, don’t forget there will be a final exam.