The Missing 11th Commandment

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

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

XI “THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THYSELF SO SERIOUSLY!”

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

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

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

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

XI “THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THYSELF SO SERIOUSLY!”

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

Mason Jars, Flashlights, And God!

People who are full of themselves don’t have room for God. People Who Admit They Are Empty Are The Ones Who Become Full Of God!

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(This is the last message in the series, “How To Change The Culture”

9-12 That night, God told Gideon:  “Get up and go down to the camp.  I’ve given it to you.  If you have any doubts about going down, go down with Purah your armor bearer; when you hear what they’re saying, you’ll be bold and confident.”   He and his armor bearer Purah went down near the place where sentries were posted.  Midian and Amalek, all the easterners, were spread out on the plain like a swarm of locusts.  And their camels! Past counting, like grains of sand on the seashore! 13 Gideon arrived just in time to hear a man tell his friend a dream.  He said, “I had this dream:  A loaf of barley bread tumbled into the Midianite camp.  It came to the tent and hit it so hard it collapsed.  The tent fell!” 14 His friend said, “This has to be the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite!  God has turned Midian—the whole camp!—over to him.” 15 When Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he went to his knees before God in prayer.  Then he went back to the Israelite camp and said, “Get up and get going!  God has just given us the Midianite army!” 16-18 He divided the three hundred men into three companies.  He gave each man a trumpet and an empty jar, with a torch in the jar.  He said, “Watch me and do what I do.  When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly what I do.  When I and those with me blow the trumpets, you also, all around the camp, blow your trumpets and shout, ‘For God and for Gideon!’” 19-22 Gideon and his hundred men got to the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after the sentries had been posted.  They blew the trumpets, at the same time smashing the jars they carried.  All three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars.  They held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands, ready to blow, and shouted, “A sword for God and for Gideon!”  They were stationed all around the camp, each man at his post.  The whole Midianite camp jumped to its feet.  They yelled and fled.  When the three hundred blew the trumpets, God aimed each Midianite’s sword against his companion, all over the camp.  They ran for their lives—to Beth Shittah, toward Zererah, to the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. 23 Israelites rallied from Naphtali, from Asher, and from all over Manasseh.  They had Midian on the run. 24 Gideon then sent messengers through all the hill country of Ephraim, urging them, “Come down against Midian!  Capture the fords of the Jordan at Beth Barah.”25 So all the men of Ephraim rallied and captured the fords of the Jordan at Beth Barah.  They also captured the two Midianite commanders Oreb (Raven) and Zeeb (Wolf).  They killed Oreb at Raven Rock; Zeeb they killed at Wolf Winepress.  And they pressed the pursuit of Midian.  They brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon across the Jordan. Judges 7:9-25 (The Message)

Gideon’s Culture needed to be changed, and only God could change his Culture.  Remember the same holds true today for us.  And now everything is in place that God can use to bring Change.

And never forget that God chose the least and the weakest for this project.  Then He sifted and He tested.  Now the battle that will change everything is about to happen.  I need you to think about all the weapons of war that the Midianites and their allies had.

The Midianites Were The Current World Power And You Don’t Become A World Power Unless Your Weapons Are The Most Powerful Weapons Around.  (Remember This Statement Because We’ll Come Back To This Later!) 

Do you think Gideon and his army had those kinds of weapons?  I don’t think so.  Remember they were a people who had been reduced to starvation.  They had been one of those peoples that the Midianites had been intimidating and plundering.  

If they had the weapons to beat them back, don’t you think they would have already done it?  But they haven’t because they did not think neither themselves nor their weapons were stronger than their weapons.  So They Lived Defeated And Intimidated Life.  But things are about to change.  For the Culture To Change, there needs to be a plan; and what a Plan it is—and it’s absolutely insane to the world.

The Plan is to use a jar, a torch and a horn.  They divide into 3 groups and on cue from Gideon, they smash their jars in unison, raise their torch with their left arm in unison, and holding their horn with their right hand, they blow those horns in unison.  Then, in unison, they shout:  “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 

Excuse me, but I have to ask:  Where’s The Sword?  Left hand holds a torch.  Right hand holds a horn.  They’ve run out of hands.  So where is the sword?  In the belt around their waist.  They don’t need it.  Down in the Valley of Jezreel, there’s panic and pandemonium, chaos and confusion, disorder and disarray. 

They are turning on each other, killing each other and then running away.  And God did exactly what God said He would to Gideon.  “I will fight for you!  It will be so easy, even a caveman can do it!”  300 took on over 60,000 armed only with a Mason Jar, A Flashlight, And God.  And Gideon’s Culture changed through Mason Jars, Flashlights, And God.  Here’s the one thing you need to remember about how to be used for the God-Sized Task of changing your CultureTo change your Culture, it takes a Mason jar, a flashlight, and God.  I’ll explain it like this:

1.  You And I Are The Mason Jars.

God uses ordinary jars.  God could do it without any help from us.  Not a problem for God.  But God chooses to use His Image Bearers.  And He doesn’t choose based on the external measurements.  Admit it:  You think it really takes extraordinary people to be Culture Changers.  That’s because the emphasis is placed on the external measurements.  That’s not how God works.  It’s not the outer appearance that matters—it’s what’s in the jar that matters.

And the jars have to be empty, so that He can fill them with His power. 

2 Cor. 4:7 (NLT)—We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 

People who are full of themselves don’t have room for God.  People Who Admit They Are Empty Are The Ones Who Become Full Of God!

Remember that those jars were broken, and we need to be broken.  We have to allow God to use us the way God wants to use us, and not the way we want to be used.  The Broken Mason Jars set God’s Plan in motion.  Without the broken jars, the Plan doesn’t work.

2.  Jesus Is The Flashlight That Will Shatter The Darkness In Our Culture.

 This world will not be changed by force.  Too many wars have proven this true.  It’s all about Jesus and what He is doing in our life. 

John 8:12 (NLT)—I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life. 

Our Culture is just like that Army in the Valley of Jezreel—it’s in total darkness.  What our Culture needs above everything else is The Light!  In the darkness, they are fighting each other.  And WE need to stop fighting each other.

It Is Jesus, Just Jesus, All Jesus! (Say it again!  Say it with me!)  If you want your world to change, let your world see Jesus in you, in your words, your attitudes and your actions!

3. The Horns Are All About God, Not Us.

When Gideon’s 300 blew their horns, it wasn’t about music.  It was an announcement.  Horns had many uses back then, but the most important one was The Announcement—The Announcement that the King was there and had something important to say.  We need to announce to our world that the King of Kings is here and He has something to say, something important.  And what He has to say it this:

Luke 4:18-19 (NLT)—“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.  He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

If you don’t have a message—if you don’t have The Right Message—this Culture will continue to spin out of control; and it will make Chernobyl seem like spilled milk.  The damage continues to mount, and the casualties are piling up. 

But if you follow Jesus—You Have The Message That God Wants This Culture To Hear And To See Through You.  Here’s The Message that Will Change The Culture:

  • No One Has To Live As Sin’s Slave!
  • No One Has To Live In Fear!
  • No One Has To Be Consumed By Hate!
  • No One Has To Stumble In The Moral Darkness!
  • No One Has To Be Chained To What Used To Be!
  • Anyone Can Be Born Again, Have A Fresh Start In Life!

And God wants to use you—your voice and your life—to offer our world the one thing it can never find.  To find what Gideon, his clan and tribe had lost!  And that is Hope! 

God wants to use you to radically transform this Culture into The Kingdom Of God; and to lead people to Jesus and make new disciples.  You don’t have to know the 3 questions to ask a lost person.  You don’t have to memorize the Roman’s Roadmap to Heaven. 

Tell them what Jesus has done in your life.  Tell them what Jesus is doing in your life.  And for heaven’s sake, tell them what Jesus will do in your life; and That He Will Do The Same In Their Life.

Only The Message Of Jesus Will Transform The Culture—And It Is The Only Message That Has The Power To Transform This Culture!  If you don’t think so, then why in world are you even here?

Test time—do you recall what I asked you to remember near the beginning of this message?  Here it is:  They Were The Current World Power And You Don’t Become A World Power Unless Your Weapons Are The Most Powerful Weapons Around. 

The reason churches are not making a difference in the world is because they don’t realize that WE Have The Most Powerful Weapon Around—The Risen Lord Living In Us! 

But don’t overlook what happened just before the battle.  Gideon was still afraid.  Look at Judges 7:10-15—But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah.  Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack.”  Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his companion about a dream.  The man said, “I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp.  It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!”  His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!”  When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the Lord.  Then he returned to the Israelite camp and shouted, “Get up!  For the Lord has given you victory over the Midianite hordes!”

And we have come full circle to where we started.  It’s about God doing it through you.  And it begins with a relationship that can happen only because of what Jesus did for you and me on that cross.

  • God changed the Jewish world with that Cross. 
  • God changed the Roman world with that Cross. 
  • When darkness swept across Europe, God changed the Dark Ages with that Cross. 
  • When England was dull, stuffy, empty ritual, God changed their world with that Cross. 

And don’t you think He will change OUR world with that very same Cross?  And if you are afraid, God will do for you just as he did for Gideon.  And the Lessons from Gideon, are the Lessons God has for us today.

Here is your Next Step:

Decide today that you are tired of this culture, and that you believe God has The Message that will end your Turmoil, Anxiety, and Unrest that is infecting your culture and the culture around you.

When Not Enough Is Too Many!

God Uses The Sifted And The Tested!

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Let’s do a quick review.  This series has been about how we can be a part of the God-Sized Task of Changing The Culture, and we are looking at Gideon for our pattern.  Remember the definition of this word Culture:  Culture Is The Attitudes, Values And Morals Shared By People In A Particular Place And Time.

  1. Attitudes shape how we see life
  2. Values determine what is important and what’s not important
  3. Morals declare what is right or wrong

They needed their culture to be changed.  Gideon’s culture was filled with the oppression of the Midianites.  No one was strong enough to stop these marauders, muggers, and murderers.  This was a God-Sized Task.  The Hebrews cried out to God for help and God started looking for the right kind of person for such a God sized task—and it was Gideon.  And here is why: 

1. Rather than Gideon doing it through God, it would be God doing it through Gideon;

2. He got rid of his Asherah Pole, things that he thought gave him power and held power over him.

 3.  Gideon looked for the signs that God would do this through him, and our signs that God will do this through us are the Cross, the Resurrection and the Holy Spirit. 

4.  And last week we hit the pause button for perspective and clarity.  Gideon operated out of his faith rather than through his circumstances—by seeing an opportunity rather than a problem. 

Now we come down to the preparation for battle.  This moment is Crucial; So Crucial That Success Or Failure Lies In The Balance.  And the same holds true for us if we are going to be part of God changing OUR Culture.  Let’s pick up the story in Judges 7:1-8 (NLT)

So Jerub-baal (that is, Gideon) and his army got up early and went as far as the spring of Harod.  The armies of Midian were camped north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you.  If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength.  Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain and go home.’”  So 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight.

But the Lord told Gideon, “There are still too many!  Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.”  When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the Lord told him, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. 

In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.”  Only 300 of the men drank from their hands.  All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream.

The Lord told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites.  Send all the others home.”  So Gideon collected the provisions and rams’ horns of the other warriors and sent them home. 

But he kept the 300 men with him.  The Midianite camp was in the valley just below Gideon.

There are more people than you can shake a stick at in the Valley of Jezreel.  It was bad enough with just the Midianites; now there are 3 times as many people.  There may have been as many as 60,000 or more in the Valley of Jezreel.  Do you know what the name Jezreel means?  It means “God who sows.”  To the average Hebrew it probably looked like God has sown seeds of destruction against them. 

Be honest, how many of you have felt the same way?  Ever felt like God’s hand was against you?  You wonder to yourself, or even out loud:  “God, where are you?  Don’t you see what’s going on?  Don’t you care how I feel?”  This is where Gideon was emotionally, spiritually, and physically.  He is at the place where God sows and it looks like God has sown the seeds of fear and destruction.

But now he has an army of 32,000 warriors.  They are still outnumbered—at least 2 to 1—but Gideon is cool.  Gideon knows that God is with him and God has given him the signs of assurance and reassurance.  Now he thinks the time has come to act and if Gideon is a real person he probably has some butterflies in his stomach, but that’s OK.  God is with him.  But God still isn’t ready to act. 

If his faith hasn’t been stretched enough, God stretches it some more.  “You’ve got too many warriors.”  The butterflies are probably gone now because his stomach is in a knot.  “Excuse me God, outnumbered 2-1 and there are too many?  Why don’t you trim down their army?  How about making my job a little easier instead of harder?”  Have you ever asked God to make your life a little easier?  But God has a reason.  He doesn’t always tell us His reasons, but this time He does:  “If I let all of you fight the Midianites, then they will brag about how they did it all!”

Have you ever done something for the church that God blessed but you said, “Look at what I did!  This is MY ministry.  I worked hard and look at the results!”  Or have you ever been in a really tight place where you were struggling and thought you were going down for the count but God delivered you?  Instead of giving God ALL the glory, you said, “Man, if it hadn’t been for MY faith and MY wisdom I would have been a goner!  But I got through it!”  We must always be on guard against the temptation to take the credit that belongs only to God.  To help keep them And Us from taking any of the credit, God does 2 things:  a sifting and then a testing. 

1.  First There Is A Sifting

Anyone here know what sifting is?  It’s taking something such as flour and passing it through a sieve or like a wire screen to remove the lumps from the flour.  It’s getting rid of the things that get in the way that thwarts or distorts the intended purpose.  OK, It Gets Rid Of What Messes Up What’s Going On! 

God’s sifting comes this way:  “All those who are timid or afraid, exit stage left.”  That word for “Timid” means to be consumed Not By What IS, But What MIGHT Be.  They haven’t gone into battle yet, but God has guaranteed victory.  But they are consumed by what might be, and what might be?  They might be defeated.  They might be killed by the Midianites. 

And that word for “Afraid” means literally Trembling Because You’re Consumed With What “Might” Be.   And 22,000 left even before God revealed His Glory, Power and Majesty!  I’m going to get really annoying with this question:  Have You Ever Left The Battlefield Before The Battle Started And Missed Seeing His Glory, Power And Majesty?

Here’s my take on this:  It wasn’t their fear of the Midianites and their allies that made them leave.  Their fear wasn’t in the Valley or in their head—it was in their heart.  I Believe They Were Afraid That God Would Not Come Through For Them

Don’t you think Gideon told them about what happened in the pit?  Don’t you think Gideon told them about what happened to the fleece?  Don’t you think that the assurance and reassurance God gave to Gideon that he gave it to them?  I won’t be too hard on the 22,000.  Maybe they thought that God would do it through Gideon, but not through them.  Perhaps they thought ordinary people couldn’t do something like this—only extraordinary people could.

Have you ever felt that way?  That God would use someone else to change the culture, but that He surely couldn’t use someone like you?  Ever felt like there’s too much shame, guilt, or failure in your life?  That’s The Fear!  Fear That God’s Grace Is Not Big Enough For You.  And so you go back home Sunday after Sunday.  But God’s grace IS big enough for you. 

OK, back to the story.  Now Gideon’s army is down to 10,000.  At first they were outnumbered at least 2 to 1, and now they are outnumbered at least 6 to 1.  I would imagine by now that the knot in Gideon’s stomach has eased up, and the butterflies are coming back in.  God has stretched his faith twice.  Now they are ready to fight.  Right?  Wrong!  God tells Gideon, “You Still Have Too Many!”  Gideon thinks it time to fight, but God is still doing stretching exercises.  If I had been Gideon then, I would have been thinking, “Well, now what, God?  The fearful are gone, who else needs to leave?  Excuse me, God, but have you ever heard of Gen. George Custer?” 

2.  Second There Is A Testing

God tells Gideon, “I will test them for you.”  He didn’t tell Gideon to Test them.  God determines who can be used, not us.  That word Test is rich.  It means to smelt or refine.  It’s what a silversmith does before they make their jewelry.  Today that is done through the use of chemicals and electricity.  Back then it was done with heat.  If it didn’t stay in the heat long enough, it lacked quality and was worth far less.  If it stayed too long, it resisted the master craftsman work.  Even though 10,000 were not terrified, they needed to still have other impurities removed from their hearts.  They need a test.

God tests them in a simple way.  He tells Gideon “Tell everyone it’s time for a water break.  Watch how they drink. Put the ones who get down on their hands and knees to drink on one side, and the ones who cup their hands to drink on the other side.  The ones who cup their hands and drink, there’s your army!”  Why this test?  I think I know why.  Those who drink from their hands are alert to what’s going on around them.  They can see more than those who are down on their hands and knees drinking out of the river.

And this same principle holds true today.  We can get down on our hands and knees and moan about how bad we have it.  When we get down on our hands and knees and all we see is our own reflection.  We can’t see God at work. 

Now there are only 300 left.  Start with 32,000 subtract 22,000 timid and fearful and subtract 9,700 clueless = and you have 300 Culture Changers.   And God says, “Now, we’ve got the right number!”  300 versus over 60,000.  Outnumbered 200 to 1.  Do you feel like that in your culture?  You want to witness to others about Jesus but you feel outnumbered and outgunned!  But God does His best work in this kind of environment. 

And Here is the one thing you need to remember: 

God Uses The Sifted And The Tested!

We need to allow God to sift us—to get rid of the timidity and fear that can paralyze us.  What are you afraid of?  What makes you tremble with terror?  You must allow God to sift that stuff, that junk, out of you.  We need to get rid of our pride and arrogance. 

We need to be tested, refined to get rid of the things and attitudes that prevent us from completely trusting in God’s Promise, Presence, and Provision.  We need to be alert and sensitive to what God is doing every day.  And God is at work, we just need to be in a position to see His work. 

Notice carefully what Gideon does next.  He sends the rest home, but before they leave, he takes their provisions and horns.  Why?  Well If They Weren’t Alert To What God Was Doing, Then Leave It For Those Who Are Alert To God’s Activity.  Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25 about the talents wasn’t new.  Here it is in real life—take from the ones who aren’t aware and give to those who are.  Yes, God is gracious and merciful.  He’s always ready to forgive and give us a fresh start. 

But if we are not in tune, in sync with God when God acts, He’s not going to waste what He has given you.  He will give your place, your service, your worship, your gifts to another who IS in tune and in sync with Him.  Now We’re Ready For The Game Plan, And YOUR Next Step:  The Next Steps are the 2 questions that has been filling this place even before you arrived here: 

  1.   What is it in your life that is keeping you from unconditionally trusting The Father?  Allow Him to get rid of the stuff that is getting in the way.
  2.   Are you really alert and aware of what’s going on?  God is looking for those who will always be on the lookout for what God is doing. 

Be honest, are YOU that person?  God is going to change this place and community, even if those who are ready are outnumbered 200 to 1.  It takes absolute and complete surrender to Him.  What Are You Holding Back From God’s Grace That Is Big Enough To Change Your Culture Even If You Are Outnumbered 200 To 1?  Will you allow God to Sift your heart?  Will you accept God’s tests that are not designed to crush you, but to Refine your heart?

Next week it’s all about Mason Jars, Flashlights, And God!

Enough Is Enough!

The time has come for us as Followers of Jesus to become known for what we are FOR rather than what, especially WHO we are AGAINST.

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After my first cup of coffee and morning worship music, I begin my morning devotions. The first one I always read is from J.D. Walt. (You can find it at https://www.seedbed.com/daily-text/ ). This morning’s title was Are You a “For” Person or an “Against” Person? (You can CLICK HERE to read it). Here is the first paragraph:

Let me ask it another way. What are you for? Many people (if not most) cannot answer this question with any sufficient or satisfying detail. Over the course of life and time, people slowly become cynical about their ideals, hopes, and aspirations (and even their faith) and wind up becoming more defined by what they oppose than what they are for.

J.D. Walt (Seedbed Daily Text)

And immediately, this thought hit me hard: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

ENOUGH of being ugly towards other people. ENOUGH of the negative comments about this, that or the other. ENOUGH pointing the finger of blame at this person or that group. People, HEAR ME! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

The time has come for us as Followers of Jesus to become known for what we are FOR rather than what, especially WHO we are AGAINST. I’ve seen and heard too much of it already. And, I shamefully confess before you the reader, I’ve been guilty of this!

THEREFORE I resolve to immediate resign from the “I’m Against Committee”. But this isn’t enough. I resolve to be, in J.D.’s words, a FOR PERSON. Here are some of the things I am FOR:

  • First, and foremost, I am FOR Jesus and I will reveal this through my thoughts, attitudes, words and actions.
  • I am FOR kindness and compassion.
  • I am FOR helping people any way I can, regardless if they “deserve” it or not.
  • I am FOR saying and doing things that builds up others rather than tear them down.
  • I am FOR seeing the beauty around me, especially in the chaos around me.
  • I am FOR being grateful for everything I have.
  • I am FOR being both sincere and authentic, warts and all.
  • I am FOR holding the door open for others.
  • I am FOR listening to others with all my attention.
  • I am FOR forgiving others regardless of the offence or depth of the wound.

I could keep going on and on, and you would give up reading my list of what I am FOR. So let me leave you with Paul’s thoughts about what to be FOR.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

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

Here’s Your Sign!

The Signs That God Will Change Our Culture Are Here—We Just Need To Follow Them.

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Comedian Bill Engvall made a comfortable living for his family through his “Here’s Your Sign” routine.  Just in case you haven’t heard of Bill, allow me to explain.  He talks about some of the not so bright things people do and say.  For example, at an airport the airline had lost his luggage.  He went to the lost luggage department to report it.  The girl at the counter asked, “Has your flight landed yet?”  He replied, “No, princess. I’m having an out of body experience.  I’m just checkin’ on it.  Here’s your sign.”

I moved in 2004 and I was looking for a doctor.  I made an appointment and when it was time to go, I decided to ride my bike.  After waiting, my name was called.  I grabbed my motorcycle helmet to follow the nurse.  As we walked into the hall, she looked at my motorcycle helmet and asked, “Oh, do you ride a motorcycle?”  But before I could reply, “Nope, always wanted one but this is all I could afford.” she laughed and said, “Well, here’s my sign!”

Seriously, signs are very important.  If we are going out of town on vacation, business or family business to a place we’ve never been before we watch the signs.  Signs show us when to stop, where to turn, how fast to safely go.  Can you imagine highways without signs?  That’s a horrible thought. 

Men, we would be forced to ask for directions.  I hate asking for directions because it means either I don’t know how to get somewhere, or I don’t know where I am.  Signs Are For Protection, Direction And Clarity.  Let’s  pick up the story about some signs God knew Gideon needed in Judges 6:33-40 (N.L.T.)

Soon afterward the armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east formed an alliance against Israel and crossed the Jordan, camping in the valley of Jezreel. Then the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon with power.  

He blew a ram’s horn as a call to arms, and the men of the clan of Abiezer came to him. He also sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, summoning their warriors, and all of them responded.

Then Gideon said to God, “If You are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, prove it to me in this way.  I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight.  If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.”  And that is just what happened.  When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water.

Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request.  Let me use the fleece for one more test.  This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.”  So that night God did as Gideon asked.  The fleece was dry in the morning, but the ground was covered with dew.

Gideon has assembled an army to fight the Midianites.  But it’s not just the Midianites this time.  They have come with the Amalekites, and what is called the people of the east.  Now there are at least 3 times as many as before—bullies, thieves, and killers as far as the eye could see.  When Gideon accepted the assignment, it was just the Midianites, and that was more than enough to face. 

Now the threat has tripled.  Gideon does the wise thing, he asks for clarity.  “God, are you sure you want me to still go?  It’s not just the Midianites down there.”  So, Gideon asks for a sign.  He puts a wool fleece on the threshing floor and asks God, “If YOU are really going to do this, in the morning let the fleece be wet and the ground be dry.”  Next morning God makes the dew fall on the fleece but not the ground. 

Good enough, right?  But Gideon needs some reassurance, so he asks for another sign.  This time let the fleece be dry and the ground be wet.  And that’s exactly what happened.  Who says men never asks for directions?  I’ve heard some preachers and teachers criticize Gideon because he asked for a sign and then a second sign. 

Can we talk?  I don’t think this is a character flaw or lack of faith on Gideon’s part.  In fact, today I Highly Commend Him For It.  He is about to engage in the God-Sized Task of Changing His Culture.  Look at Gideon’s culture. 

He does not have scriptures for guidance.  The Midianites were the most powerful army at the time and this time they’ve brought extras.  They were ruthless killers.  But one good thing Gideon did not have was a church full of folks to tell him, “We’ve Never Done It That Way Before!  It costs too much!  It doesn’t match up to what we want to do!  It may bring in people who don’t fit in here!”

Gideon wants direction—not just any direction—he wants Clear Direction.  Gideon needs The Assurance And The Reassurance that he has heard God correctly.  Not one sign, but two.  But don’t overlook what Gideon is seeking.  Words and their placement in a statement is everything.  “If You are truly going to use me…”  Gideon does not ask, “Give me a sign that I can do it.” 

Be honest now, how many times has that been your prayer.  “Lord, if I can do this give me a sign.” I have!  I’ve even asked God to give me one of those huge billboards with flashing arrow signs pointing at it. The Sign Gideon Seeks Is Not About His Abilities, But The Assurance Of God’s Presence.

And if you can remember just one thing today, it is imperative that you remember this:  The Signs That God Will Change Our Culture Are Here—We Just Need To Follow Them.  Did you hear how I phrased this:  I did not say God can change the culture—God Will Change The Culture.  To say our Culture cannot change is the Sign that we’ve lost our Confidence in God.

Gideon will go into battle, Gideon will change his Culture, but only If God Is With Him.  Gideon assumes nothing.  I’m sure at times it felt like it was a dream for Gideon.  And I do not see God getting aggravated with Gideon.  What I See Is That God Answers With The Assurance AND Reassurance Of His Promise!  To change his Culture, Gideon needed the signs.  To change our Culture, we need the signs.  No, not putting the fleece on the ground, but something better. 

God has signs of The Assurance And Reassurance that He is going to change our Culture and That He Is Going To Do It Through Us.  We just need to know the signs, and we need to learn like Gideon, to follow the signs to wherever it is that God leads us.  Gideon only needed 2 signs; but God has given us 3 (1-2-3) signs that He is going to change the Culture through you.  Need a sign that God can use you to change the Culture?  Well, here’s your first sign of the Assurance And Reassurance That God Will Do It Through You:

1.  We Have The Sign Of The Cross

The Cross is more than an ornament in the Church or in our homes—much more.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18—The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction!  But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.  We don’t try to reform people to help them become better people. 

We Lead Them To Jesus Where The Cross Transforms Them.  On that Cross evil men did their worst to Jesus.  They thought the Cross would silence Jesus and put an end to the Message.  What they failed to recognize is that The Cross Intended To Silence The Message, Is In Fact THE Message

On that Cross Jesus conquered our biggest problem—SIN!  What we couldn’t do about our sin, Jesus did for us.  He took the penalty for my sin, your sin, everybody’s sin and paid it in full.  Now, if God can do that—and He did—don’t you think He can use you to change the Culture?  That Cross Has Already Changed The World And God Invites Us To Join Him In Changing The Culture.  Need a sign that God will use you?  The Cross—Here’s your sign!  Here’s your second sign:

2.  We Have The Sign Of The Empty Tomb

When all those Mary’s went to the tomb, they didn’t find Jesus in a tomb.  They found an angel with a message.  The message we find in Mark 16:6-7—

“Don’t be alarmed.  You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He isn’t here!  He is risen from the dead!  Look, this is where they laid his body.  Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.  You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.” 

The message of the Resurrection is that Jesus is always going ahead of us and we will see him.  And what Jesus does is share with us the Resurrection.  He Resurrected the hopes of Mary and Mary and Mary and the other Mary, and Peter and John and Thomas and all of them.  He took on death and made it look like a wimp. 

If He can do that to death, You Cannot Imagine What God Can Do Through You.  To know Jesus as Savior AND Lord is to know the power He has over death.  That power of Resurrection lives in us who are following Jesus.  Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10—I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. 

You Don’t Have To Ask For That Power To Come To You.  That Power Lives In You When Jesus Lives In You.  Need a sign that God will use you to change your world?  The Resurrection—Here’s Your Sign!  And here is your third sign:

3.  We Have The Sign Of The Spirit

There is not a single ability that we all have.  We all have different abilities.  There is not a single talent that every one of us have.  We all have a variety of talents.  There is not a particular spiritual gift that we all possess.  We have different spiritual gifts.  This is the way God designed the Koinonia.  But there is something—rather some ONE—that lives inside of every believer. 

He is the same inside me as He is in you.  He is the same inside you as He is in the person sitting next to you.  Though we have different abilities, different gifts, different levels of maturity—we have living inside us the same Spirit—God’s Spirit—The Holy Spirit.

And Because He Is The Same Spirit, We All Share The Same Result Of The Spirit.  It’s Called The Fruit Of The Spirit.  Listen to how Paul describes the result of His Spirit living in us from Galatians 5:22-23—

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Here’s another one of my personal missions in life.  It’s Not FRUITS Of The Spirit, Meaning Many.  It IS The FRUIT Of The Spirit—Meaning One Single Fruit Produced By The Holy Spirit.

The Sign That The Holy Spirit Is Living Inside Us Is Not In An Ability Or Ministry—It Is The Fruit That Only He Can Produce In Us! Let me repeat this: The Sign That The Holy Spirit Is Living Inside Us Is Not In An Ability Or Ministry—It Is The Fruit That Only He Can Produce In Us! If that fruit Is Growing In Us, it means that HE Is Living In Us.

AND—If HE Is Living IN Us, Then We Can Count On Jesus Living THROUGH Us To Change Our World!  The Sign Of The Spirit Is That We Can Count On God!  Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22—“He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”   Need a sign that God will use you to change The Culture?  The Holy Spirit—Here’s Your Sign!

What is God guaranteeing that is to come?  Oh, yes, most definitely our home in heaven.  But before we get to heaven, there is something else to do.  It’s the reason why we are the Church.  Matthew 28:18-19—Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” 

But before we get our guaranteed home in heaven, we have a God-Sized mission—to change The Culture by making more disciples for Jesus.  The story of Gideon Should Become your story.  The story of Gideon Can Become your story. 

Are serious about Following Jesus?  Then The Story Of Gideon IS Your Story, If You Can Read And Follow The Signs.  Gideon changed his Culture because God was working through Gideon.  And God can change our Culture by working through you.  And here’s your sign:

Do you have the First Sign?  Have you truly asked Jesus to forgive you and believe that His Cross is enough?  If not, then come to His altar because He has a Sign for you. 

If you’ve done this, have you taken the second step?  Do you truly believe that the Power that conquered death is living in you and are you living in and with that power?  If not, come to His altar for He has a sign for you.  If you’ve done the first two, let me ask: 

Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit in you?  In other words, does the Holy Spirit have control of your heart and mind.

And here’s your Next Step.

If You Believe God Is Going To Change The Culture Through You, Then Produce The Fruit!  These are not multiple choice of fruits—but a Single Fruit Produced By The Holy Spirit.

To be qualified for a God-Sized task Gideon has taught us the first 3 lessons:

1.  Only the weakest become the strongest.  God wants the many, the humble, the weakest.

2.  Cut down the Asherah Poles.  Get rid of those things that are holding power over us.  Our confidence and strength comes from our relationship with God—a relationship that comes through Grace, Grace revealed on the Cross.

3.  Follow the Signs—The Cross, The Empty Tomb, The Holy Spirit.  Follow these signs and you can count on God to change your world through you.

Next week we are going to see WHEN NOT ENOUGH IS TOO MANY!

Is It Time To Change The Rules?

Recently I entered a strange world–it’s called Twitter. Oh, I’ve had a Twitter account and these musings here show up in my Twitter feed. But instead of just “tweeting”, “liking”, and the occasional “retweet”, I decided to dive in to a thread that, well, got my attention.

It was about doing away with the Electoral College because it wasn’t . . . fair. I was amazed at the number of people wanting to abolish the Electoral College all because “their” candidate wasn’t elected. The theme of being unfair rang throughout the rants.

And I was dumbfounded by those who didn’t understand it. I made a simple comment, excuse me, “tweet”, that the U.S. is a Representative Republic and not a democracy. One “twit” (I know my snarky is coming out) corrected me by saying that Google corrects it to “Representative Democracy”. I tweeted that just because Google said it doesn’t make it true. Right now I’ve drawn all the curtains and regularly peek outside to see if the mob armed with torches and axes are approaching the house. And I wept that so many were being educated by Google rather than knowledge and common sense.

I could go on about what I encountered, but another thought came over me. It was the question that is the title of this post: “Is It Time To Change The Rules?” It seems to me that our culture is being driven to accept only the results that it desires in the moment. If rules gets in the way of achieving those desires, then the rules need to be changed in order to achieve the wanted outcome.

Now, those who know me knows that I can be a rebel by breaking some of the rules. And there are some rules that indeed need to be changed. Our nation has a history of changing rules, rules that are unjust, rules that demean human life, or make it impossible for citizens to reach out for their potential. Some rules have taken a long time, too long of a time, to be changed.

It has happened even in the church. Wrong and sinful things were justified and approved. People were segregated by social status and the color of their skin. Women were denied the opportunity to pursue God’s call on their life. (Some still deny them that right. And for those who sincerely believe I am wrong on this, it’s OK for you to be wrong. And if you take Paul’s “let women be silent in church” out of context, then I’ll take it out of context and say that women can’t sing in church! Yes, that’s me being snarky.)

Yes, rules have been changed. Those changes happened because there were rules that needed to be broken, urgently needed to be change. Why? Not because a group decided those rules were unfair. The rules weren’t changed so that some group could get their way. They were changed because those rules were unjust.

It’s the desire to change the rule in order have one’s own way at any cost that disturbs me most. There is an attempt in my Tribe to change the rules on Christian conduct; to change the definition of God-Approved Marriage. And when the rule won’t change, they live in open disobedience, with little or no consequences. And this desire to change the rules in order to get one’s desired outcome has led to chaos and anger; anger and chaos; and it’s ripping apart both our nation and church.

Yes, some rules need to be changed. But never, ever, ever simply to achieve some personal desire or wish. Rules that need to be changed are those of justice and keeping the doors of opportunity open to anyone and everyone. Changing the rules needs to be done through discernment, deep thought, and focused on the issues of justice and human dignity. The Electoral College is about as fair as it gets–so it’s not about justice. The Electoral College doesn’t take away human dignity. And this is for the cupcakes–when your candidate isn’t elected, it’s NOT a matter of dignity; it just that you act so UNdignified. So why change that rule? Changing rules to achieve one’s personal (and often selfish and void of common sense) desires, will only devolve into chaos–and that chaos will invite tyranny into the U.S.; something the Founding Fathers worked hard to prevent.

Everyone Can’t Get Along

We hear a lot, I mean a lot, of people saying, “Can’t we just get along?” My answer is a resounding

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“Whenever the inappropriate fear of people eclipses the appropriate fear of God, it’s a short step to image management and control tactics. When we fear people, we tend to develop appeasement strategies in order to manage any perceived volatility. The tendency is to manage appearances in order to keep the peace. The truth? It’s really just conflict avoidance in order to get around dealing with dysfunction.

J. D. Walt

The above words were the opening lines of one of my daily morning readings. We hear a lot, I mean a lot, of people saying, “Can’t we just get along?” My answer is a resounding

Does this mean I’ve lost all hope for and in humanity?

It’s thin sometimes, but no, I haven’t lost hope for and in humanity. This being said. . . we can’t get along. Now hear me carefully: WE CAN’T GET ALONG. . .IN THIS CURRENT CLIMATE. . .UNTIL WE CHANGE OUR PERSPECTIVE! You might have thought I would say “attitude” rather than “perspective”. But that’s not how this works. . .that’s not how any of this works!

Perspective is what influences and creates attitude. And in the current climate, the perspective is “peace at all costs.” Some call it “political correctness”. . .so do I. Now, I’m not advocating attitudinal anarchy. . . but there comes a moment when we have to accept that this fallen human nature is incapable of getting along. I said “fallen” human nature.

Fellow Disciples Of Jesus, Followers Of The Way, we cannot get along with the world . . . nor with each other as long as “getting along with each other” involves keeping the peace through compromise. Again, I’m not promoting attitudinal anarchy–but truth is–there’s a lot of it out there, including in the church.

So, what’s the option? Is there an option? There is an option–but we have to accept that not everyone is going to agree with it. The option we can choose . . . MUST choose . . . is to be true to God by becoming like Jesus. Jesus is the perfect model of graciousness AND truthfulness. Jesus chose appropriate moments and words that intentionally dwindled the number of “followers”.

Why? Because Jesus would not offer nor accept a fake peace built on compromise. Jesus DOES offer peace and it happens as we live each moment of each day by God’s Truth. And we offer the world The TRUTH. Not with arrogance . . . there’s too much of that already . . . but with the perspective of Jesus . . . the perspective that formed his attitude in life. What is that perspective? So glad you asked. . .

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8 (NLT)

There comes a time, a moment in a culture, when the desire to get along must die in order for the attitude of Jesus to be clearly seen so that Truth becomes clear. And it will be clear if we speak with graciousness and truthfulness. Today is such a time. We can’t get along–but we can be kind, like Jesus . . . and be faithful to God.

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

Captain, That’s Not Logical!

The trending Logic of today is driven by. . . what always drives Logic: The Current Attitudes, Values and Morals.

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(image from http://www.npr.com)

I grew up watching Star Trek (the real and original one, bad acting and all). I’ve seen all the Star Trek movies, original cast of course; after all, I am a purist. Mr. Spock has always been my favorite character. His love AND insistence on Logic and the Logical course of action was the mark of his character. I think what drew me in to this character of Logic Based Decisions was the people surrounding him. Jim. Scotty. Dr. McCoy, aka, Bones. If ever there was a trio of Illogical characters, that trio embodied it. Thus, the conflict between Logical Spock and the Illogical Trio.

And these random thoughts got me to thinking about our current state of affairs–as a nation and as a church. And that is the form of Logic being used today. The trending Logic of today is driven by. . . what always drives Logic: The Current Attitudes, Values and Morals. Attitudes are how we interpret life. Values are how we distinguish between the important and not important. Morals are conclusions on what is right and what wrong; what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.

The news outlets, political parties, analysts, noisy leaders, even church leaders, are using a Logic based on their Attitudes, Values and Morals. I think even Mr. Spock would say:

And that is The Problem. But those of us of operate out of the realm of Common Sense Logic are left wanting to scream and pull out our hair. And trust me on this one, I don’t have much hair to pull out; I’m trying to keep what little I have. But seriously, there are times I want to grab some people by the collar and give them a good old Leroy Jethro Gibbs slap on the back of the head. But. . . that would be, in the words of Spock:

The Logic of today is to argue, be hateful, condescending and plain ol’ ugly towards people who’s Logic is different. The results are deepening alienation from each other; and this is not how God designed life for us. We are created to live TOGETHER, working along side Him in discovering and tending to His Creation. The current state of Logic is ripping apart the fabric of society–and destroying countless lives.

As just one example of many, consider the number of suicides found within the LBGTQ community. The church has NOT helped them; and in my Logic if you are not helping, then you are hurting. I will NOT go as far as my progressive friends and say the high rate of suicide is the sole fault of the church. But face it–we have treated them at times badly, very badly. But even then, they have a choice in how they receive and react to the bad treatment. Here’s a bit of Side Bar Wisdom: Even if you think you don’t have a choice, THAT IS your choice.

When I say the church has done harm, it is because of the choice of words directed toward the LBGTQ community. You may say, “But Preacherman, it’s a sin–an abomination to the Lord.” So they choose ugly words and direct them towards gay people. But there are other things that are also abominations to God:

Oh, you think you haven’t done anything that’s an abomination to the Lord? Ever told a lie, even an alleged “little white lie”? Never sowed discord?

Well, I am about to chase some rabbits so I need to get back on point. The current Logic doesn’t work. It sets us up for failure. To change our Logic we need to change our, what? Attitudes, Values And Morals. Align them with God. I know, I know, all of God’s Logic contradicts human Logic. And that’s a good thing.

The Attitude of God is that we are all messed up somewhere, but there is still within all of us His Image–so He treats us with Graciousness and Mercy.

The Values of God is that we are so important to Him, that He wants us to be delivered and set free to become the person HE knows is within us–the person who reflects His Glory.

The Morals of God–what He knows is right or wrong, is what He longs to implant within us through the Holy Spirit.

Does all of this contradict the Logic of our world?

Our Logic isn’t working. Remember that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. Maybe Mr. Spock is on to something. . .but God is definitely on to something–something great:

It’s really logical to Love God With All Your Heart. Love Others The Way Jesus Loves You. And Make Sure All The Glory Goes To Him.

HOW TO CHANGE OUR CULTURE! THE WEAKEST ARE THE STRONGEST

These are serious times. You choose your Personal Culture. Your Personal Culture isn’t chosen for you by what happens in D.C. or in church meetings. It is Chosen BY you.

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Anger, No, It’s Rage—Bitterness—Resentment— Distrust—Disappointment—Levels Of Frustration Rarely Seen In Human History—Melancholy—Gloomy—Despair—Fear—Pained—Sterile—Desperate—Pessimistic—Despondent—Unpromising—Unrealistic Expectations.  These Dark Words speak about our current social, political and moral culture.

In my writing, teaching and preaching, I have found myself using the word Culture. I feel the need to define this word in the way I use it.  I could use big words to define Culture, but  Here’s the short form:  Culture Is The Attitudes, Values And Morals Shared By People In A Particular Place And Time.  Makes sense, right? 

What we see in the news on a daily basis—how politicians are acting in Washington D.C. and Montgomery—how the value system has broken down—reveals a culture that’s twisted and inept at solving the many problems we have.  And we see the same Culture in our own Tribe.  And it got me to thinking:

The new series is How To Change Our Culture.  It takes real Spirit-filled, Spirit led-people to move forward in the way that will radically transform the Culture of our nation and church. 

Unfortunately, many believe that neither our Culture nor our Tribe could ever change.  And the results, well, they are unhealthy and even devastating.  So for the next few weeks I want us to look at the story of one of the most unlikeliest of heroes of Changing The Culture—Gideon. 

His story is another one of those great lessons from the Bible about God changing the Culture Of One Man And A Whole Nation.  His story begins in Judges 6:1-16 (NLT)

The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight. So the Lord handed them over to the Midianites for seven years.  The Midianites were so cruel that the Israelites made hiding places for themselves in the mountains, caves, and strongholds.  Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, marauders from Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east would attack Israel, camping in the land and destroying crops as far away as Gaza.  They left the Israelites with nothing to eat, taking all the sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys.  These enemy hordes, coming with their livestock and tents, were as thick as locusts; they arrived on droves of camels too numerous to count.  And they stayed until the land was stripped bare.  So Israel was reduced to starvation by the Midianites.  Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help.  When they cried out to the Lord because of Midian, the Lord sent a prophet to the Israelites  He said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says:  I brought you up out of slavery in Egypt.  I rescued you from the Egyptians and from all who oppressed you.  I drove out your enemies and gave you their land.  I told you, ‘I am the Lord your God.  You must not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you now live.’  But you have not listened to me.”  Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer.  Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”  “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?  And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about?  Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt?’  But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”  Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites.  I am sending you!”  “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel?  My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”  The Lord said to him, “I will be with you.  And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

We find Gideon threshing wheat at the bottom of a wine press.  In ancient times they did not use vats or barrels to make wine.  They would find a fairly large rock formation and chisel out 2 pits.  One of them would be lower and deeper than the other so that the juice from the grapes would flow down.  It was probably 3 feet, maybe more below the ground. 

But Gideon isn’t making wine.  He’s threshing wheat in the lower pit.  Why the lower pit?  So that he couldn’t be seen.  He was scared to death of the Midianites.  They were the local neighborhood bullies.  He’s hiding, hoping they won’t see him. But get this:  his name means Destroyer, Mighty Warrior, Mighty Hero!  This mighty warrior is cowardly hiding from the bullies.  When suddenly an unexpected visitor shows up and calls him by the meaning of his name:  Mighty Hero.

Excuse me, but does anyone other than me see the irony here?  Called a Mighty Hero while he’s hiding from the local bullies.  I mean, the words and the man do not even come close.  They are not in the same zip code, not in the same county, not in the same state, not in the same country. They’re not even in the same universe.

But there is more going on here than just what meets the eye. There is more going on than bullies and cowards.  God has a purpose and a mission, and His plan surprises Gideon and even me. 

Here is where real Culture Change begins, and where our lives can turn around  Here’s the first thing you need to see:

1.  God Is With Him!

But where was Gideon spiritually?  If you listened carefully, he told you where he was spiritually.  “Lord, if you were with us, why are we being bullied by the Midianites?” 

You know what Gideon’s talking about don’t you?  If you’ve ever wondered, “Why is all this happening to me now?”,  under our breath we are thinking, “Well, God, if you really were with me then all this bad stuff wouldn’t have happened to me!”

I know what this feels like. It feels like God have forgotten us or been too busy for us; or simply that we aren’t worthy of God’s presence. When you’re hiding in the pit, when the bullies are threatening you, when it seems like God has forgotten you—He Hasn’t.  Every single thing you go through, God is with you.  He knows every ache and sees every tear and feels every fear because He is with you.  Now we come to the next thing you need to see:

2.  God Has Chosen Him For A God-Sized Task.

God chose Gideon for the task of changing his Culture.  How would God change Gideon’s Culture?  By saving and redeeming them.  God has seen them and heard their cries.  Even though they were not faithful to God and were worshipping other gods, God knew what Gideon’s world needed.  And He Calls On Gideon To Change His World.  And how does Gideon respond?  “Great, God.  ‘Bout time!  Let’s get to work!” 

No!  Gideon’s response was, “You gotta be kidding!  My family is the weakest and I’m the least in the whole family.  Gideon was of the tribe of Manasseh, which was the largest tribe of all.  Many of Gideon’s ancestors fought alongside Joshua with strength, honor and courage.  You know what he’s doing, don’t you?  He’s making excuses!

He’s saying, “Look, Lord. There are people far more qualified that I am.  There are braver people than me.”  If Gideon was right, then where were they?  According to verse 2 they were hiding in the mountain crevices and caves.  But when Gideon says this, it shows that God made the right choice.  For a God sized task, we need someone who knows that they can’t do it by themselves.  Which leads us to our final lesson today:

3.  He Can Count On God To Be With Him Every Step Of The Way.

Look at verse 16:  The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”  This is the first good news Gideon has heard in a very long time.  God promises Gideon that it will seem like he is fighting against only one man. 

How could it feel like that?  Because God is going to fight for him.  He’s With Him In The Pit, And He Will Be With Him In The Battle!  Yes, God meets us in our pits but He doesn’t leave us there! 

He wants to lead us out of our pits and into the Kingdom Battle.  But God doesn’t leave us alone on the battlefield.  He is still with us and He Is Fighting For Us!  Think back to the Hebrew children at the edge of the Red Sea, when God said in Exodus 14:14—“The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” 

God wants someone who cannot do what He wants unless they are counting on His presence and power.  God chose Gideon, not because he was the smartest and the strongest; because, simple truth is, he wasn’t.

Had Gideon felt like he was smart enough and strong enough to change his culture, he would have failed.  God could change Gideon’s world through Gideon because of his weakness.    God loves to hear us say, “Hey, I can’t do that!  I don’t have what it takes!”  Doubt that this principle of God needing the weakest really works?  Have you ever read the Bible?  Studied the history of the church?

The U.S. Marines have a great motto for a fighting group:  The Few, The Proud, The Marines.  And in their ads they asked, “Do you have what it takes?” 

God isn’t looking for the few, the proud and those who think they have what it takes.  He’s Looking For The Many, The Humble, And The Weakest.  You can only be your strongest when you become just like Gideon—and say to God, “This is too much for me.  I need your strength.”   

Our culture around us needs to be changed.  Countless lives are hiding in fear and living in caves.  God wants to bring them out and deliver them.  But he needs a Gideon, someone who is too afraid to do it alone, too afraid to seek the glory, too afraid to trust anything other than this promise of God:  I am with you!  Are you willing to be the next Gideon?

And the One Thing You Need To Remember Is A Question, Which Is Why I Saved It Until The End—“Will You Be The Next Gideon?”

Changing the Culture in Washington D.C.—that’s a task that we simply cannot do—Yet!  But you can change your Personal Culture.  I’m talking about your Attitudes, Values And Morals.  It’s how you see your personal situations and the situations we are facing as the Body of Christ.  These are serious times.  You choose your Personal Culture.  Your Personal Culture isn’t chosen for you by what happens in D.C. or in church meetings.  It is Chosen BY you.

So Choose Your Next Step Very Carefully:

1. You Can Join In With All The Mess—Complain And Then Blame—And Complain Some More And Then Blame—And Complain Some More And Then Blame. OR

2. You Can Give Up And Hope Jesus Comes Back REAL Soon.  OR

3. You Can Make The Choice To Be The Gideon Our Culture, Our Church Is Urgently Needing. 

These are your only 3 choices—Join Up, Give Up or Step Up.  Which will be YOUR next step? Gideon’s choice about his personal culture changed everything for the nation.

“Be strong.  Take courage.  Don’t be intimidated.  Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you.  He’s right there with you.  He won’t let you down; He won’t leave you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (The Message)

IT’S TIME TO STAND UP AND. . .BE CALM!

WHAT IF, we who are Citizens Of The Kingdom Of God stopped all this frenzied panic and refused to engage in this debate?

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(image generated at http://www.keepcalms.com)

I am sick and tired. . .tired and sick. . .and sick and tired of all this unrelenting caterwauling that is happening. No. . . not in Washington D.C.; rather the incessant caterwauling ABOUT what’s happening in D.C. And I’m NOT referring to newscasters or political underlings. I’m talking about. . . NO! I’m talking TO those who profess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The social cannonade that covers Social Media by those who say that Jesus Reigns but . . . are quibbling with others about this cauldron of toxicity and sewage. By the way. . . am I the only one who has notice that “Social” Media is actually “Unsociable Media”? Here’s all I have to say to Jesus followers who engage is such characterless dribble:

Oh, and those pusillanimous recreants who are saying “Well, this just goes to show that Jesus is about to return. Come, Lord Jesus, come and take me away!” I refer to them as Calgon Christians–remember those commercials? “Take me away, Calgon.” As if that’s the answer! Bejeezus, folks; where’s your fortitude? Don’t you realize that if Jesus does come today that billions of people will NOT be ready for that moment? Where’s your compassion, your heart like Jesus? Geez. . .

Come on people, think about it. What has all this pestiferous arguing achieved? I mean, what does “How can you be a Christian and vote democrat?” or “How can you be a Christian and vote republican?” produced? Has anyone really said to you, “Oh, thank you for reminding of that. Yes, I’ll change my political party immediately. Bless you my child for you have delivered me!” Nope! Ain’t happening! Here’s what I say about all that mindset:

In crisis moments, sometimes we to need to STAND UP AND FIGHT! But this, my flummoxed sojourners, IS NOT THE TIME TO STAND UP AND FIGHT. May I suggest a different tactic? Would you just love to see the pundits speechless? Would you love to see them stop and question what’s happening. . .even to entertain the possibility that there needs to be a change in how they visage the current dubbing?

What if. . . I mean we are getting nowhere fast with these current proclivities. . . WHAT IF, we who are Citizens Of The Kingdom Of God stopped all this frenzied panic and refused to engage in this debate? Oh, I just heard someone think: “Well, just what in Heaven’s name should be do? If we don’t speak out who will?” (he-he-he–I’m giggling inside with that question!) Speaking out has’t worked. What if . . .

WHAT IF we make the Choice to Be Calm? What? Did someone just ask me to prove that’s what the Bible says? OK, buttercup, I’ll give you what the Bible says about how to respond to our culture. . . any culture: (remember, you asked for it)

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:2 (NLT)

Answer me this: Is the current behavior and customs of this culture Calm? Would you LIKE to see things calm down in D.C.? How about seeing our whole nation become CALM? Then, YOU BECOME CALM! Refuse to engage in ANY political drivel. Stop equating political parties with saving our nation. Stop the name calling and belittling of others. Return to the earliest and most powerful affirmation of faith in the church: JESUS IS LORD. If HE isn’t in panic mode (by the way, God never panics), then why iterate the emotional mush being passed off as forward thinking. After all. . . that’s the source of the chaos, anger and confusion.

Walk away from it and become the model of Calm. Who knows, maybe that will change someone’s heart, mind and life. At the very least, it will drive them nuts. In my book, that’s a win-win. So . . . love Jesus with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM! Oh, one more thought:

Sometimes They Got It Wrong, So Do We; And That’s A Problem!

Humans, even those in the Bible, sometimes gets it wrong–But God Never Does!

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There is a crisis in our culture. Duh! The cause of this crisis? Well, that’s where things get dicey and heated. I may loose a few “followers” (that’s OK, just keep following Jesus) with the next few thoughts; but I believe I have uncovered the roots of this present crisis. To overcome a crisis one cannot deal with the surface issues but get to the root cause. Failure to get to the roots is like breaking off a dandelion on the surface but never extracting its roots. The dandelion will come back and bring all its cousins.

We read the Bible through a set of lenses provided by opinions–both our own and those of others. The result is we do not see Truth. We accept that it is true, but we never Discover THE Truth. And the results of such a view is. . . chaos, discord, disarray, turmoil, pandemonium, and anarchy. People are muddling through life angry, disappointed, unruly, distressed, disillusioned, disgruntled and add your own synonym here. So how do we unsnarl this mess of yarn? See the Bible for what it truly is; not what we think it is!

The Bible is a book full of human stories. Each story is unique; each story is the same. In these very human stories we find people who sometimes get it right–the rest of the time they get it wrong. But we read it is as though they were perfect saints issuing to us perfect edicts. But sometimes they got it wrong.

Abraham and Sarah got it wrong when they came up with their plan.

Moses got it wrong when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it.

David got it wrong when–where do I begin with this guy.

Solomon got it wrong when he tried to find the purpose of life outside of God (See Ecclesiastes). Just a small sampling from the Old Testament.

Even in the New Testament, some got it wrong; I’m not talking about Judas or Peter’s denials. Yes, even Paul got it wrong sometimes. Now that I’ve raised the hair on your neck with such a statement, I’ll show you some examples (This is where I may lose some followers, but I’m OK with that because I’m a “Follower” of Jesus) where Paul got it wrong. Paul, who had been the champion of the Gentiles and insisting they did not have to be circumcised, had Timothy circumcised. Paul who claimed citizenship in the Kingdom of God, played his “Roman Citizenship Card” in Philippi and insisted on an apology from the city officials. In Athens, at the Acropolis he preached without ever mentioning the name of Jesus. Enough about Paul’s getting it wrong.

Now, I am not revealing these character flaws to diminish their accomplishments; truth is, I find hope in their flaws because if God used them in spite of those flaws, He can use me. No, my purpose is to make this point:

Humans, even those in the Bible, sometimes gets it wrong–But God Never Does!

The stories of those “saints” in the Bible are that, stories; stories that reveals their ups and their downs. But they also reveal the faithfulness of God who never gave up on them.

Progressives want to take the fact these “saints” were sometimes wrong, so there must be other places where the Bible is wrong. Thus, we are free to figure out, on our own (boy, is this a disaster waiting to happen!) where else the Bible is wrong; especially in the realms of the role of women in the church, drinking, marriage, divorce, the meaning of church, politics, nationalism, and sexual ethics, just to name a few.

We need to see The Bible for what it really is: Stories of flawed human beings in the process of being restored by the Flawless God. There are things in the Bible that humans said that are sometimes Truth; and sometimes flawed. BUT. . . whatever God says is NEVER flawed. Look at the example of the Bereans in Acts chapter 17. They looked, studied, talked and did all that again and again. And Luke called the “Noble People”. Man, do we need some Noble People today!

Think about the California Gold Rush; how many people walked by looking in those streams but never saw that there was gold just lying there waiting to be discovered. It was there all along but you needed to work to get it; sifting through all the other “stuff” to get those nuggets. Now, more than ever we need to become Bereans and Gold Prospectors who will take the time and energy to sift through the “stuff” to find the nuggets of Truth. And that Truth will not be found through the eyes of others nor even through our own eyes.

We need the Holy Spirit to help us “see” the difference between the human flaws and His Eternal And Unchanging Truth! There are standards God has clearly given; but we may never see them using the wrong lens. But we can find The Truth even in the middle of this muddle of 21st Century Culture. This is possible if we commit to the effort through our time and energy under the direction and authority of the Holy Spirit to “pan for the gold” that is always there.

If I have made someone mad with this post, oh well. But. . .if this post is prompting and prodding you to open that Bible in a new light, with different “eyes”. . .you’re welcome.

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

Drout!

Are you looking at the title, scratching your head wondering, “Doesn’t this guy know how to spell?” Ile hav u no that huked on fonics wurked for me!

No, let’s get serious. “Drout” is how the dictionary says we are to pronounce “drought”. Here in West Alabama we are in a rainfall drought. It’s been at least 4 weeks since it has rained. The dust and the pollen have really agitated and aggravated these sinuses of mine. Late Tuesday afternoon I was outside looking around when I felt a slight sprinkle. Heck, that wasn’t enough for me to remember my baptism–and I’m a Methodist!

But this word drought moved me to thinking–not about the lack of rainfall–but a more critical drought crisis going on in my culture. I found this “other” definition of drought:

a prolonged or chronic shortage or lack of something expected or desired

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

My culture is in a prolonged AND chronic drought–and the evidence is everywhere. Here are some of the things I see that our culture is in severe lack of. Feel free to add to my list in the comments section.

  • Common Sense
  • Truthfulness
  • Kindness
  • Honesty
  • Jesus-Centered Ethics
  • Accepting Personal Responsibility
  • Determination
  • Inner-Peace
  • Joy
  • Contentment
  • Purpose
  • Hope
  • Forgiveness
  • Respect
  • Integrity
  • (Add your insight to the list in the comments section below)

I think perhaps the following image says something about our culture:

And here’s what irks me, aggravates me, exasperates me, irritates me, annoys me, drives me crazy, makes me want to grab a person by their shoulders and shake them: No one wants to do anything about this drought–other than whine, complain and blame; oh more thing, and live oblivious to the damage it is doing to themselves and their culture.

I’m beginning to understand that bumper sticker I see from time to time: The more I see of people, the better I love my horse! So how do I change it? How do YOU change it? Because if we are not seeking to eradicate this drought we are only contributing to it, AND reinforcing it.

The quick and easy answer is “Pray!” But I want you, our culture needs you and God desires FOR you to go deeper. Yes, pray, but What next? You cannot say, “Well, yes our culture is in a drought but I’m doing my part–I’m praying for rain! Come Holy Spirit and rain the grace of God all over this land!” If all you are doing to end this drought is praying–my friends, I say this with nothing but love in my heart for you: “You are only adding to the drought!” Don’t read what’s NOT written. I didn’t say prayer wasn’t important; It Is VERY Important. But. . .What’s Next?

Last night I read a book that is giving me insights in What’s Next. It will only take you one evening, one morning, one afternoon to read it. The book is How Do You Kill 11 Million People? Why The Truth Matters More Than You Think by Andy Andrews. To end this Moral/Spiritual Drought begins with me. . .and you. . .to pray and then to do What’s Next. You and I have a mission and a purpose–to bring Truth back into our culture in ways that helps others see The Truth! And The Truth has a name–Jesus!

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