Signing bonuses! There was a time when this term was used for professional athletes, high-up the totem pole white color jobs, and truck drivers. It was reserved for those with certain skillsets from among a limited pool of people. But in these times, it appears that everybody and their cousins trying to hire employees are offering signing bonuses. Many businesses are desperately short of employees–and the minimum standard has been reduced to “pass the drug test”!
Why? It appears that the reason is NO ONE WANTS TO PURSUE A JOB, MUCH LESS A CAREER! Unless one counts sitting around doing nothing while expecting their boatload of money to dock at the pier. Pursuit has become both a lost art. . .and a lost desire. I’m not writing about the pursuit of the wrong things. I’m talking about the failures to pursue anything! Give me someone who pursues the wrong things–and maybe I can help them pursue the right things. Think about the Pharisee named Saul. Pursuing the wrong thing with all his energy–then Jesus turns him around to pursue the right things.
Just look at the chart above–how over time the use of the word pursuit has declined. And if the word isn’t being used–then the energies are not being seen. Notice the definition; It’s The Title Of This Edition! Where does the definition start? EFFORT! This means you have to pull yourself up by your boot straps; put your big girl panties on–and go all out. As bad as apathy was starting in the 60’s (remember Alfred E. Neuman? Mad magazine?)–today it has been elevated to a virtue. And that’s sad. . .so very sad.
Whoever goes hunting for what is right and kind finds life itself—glorious life!
Lots of money or great looks? Unhappy CEO or happy sales clerk? Car or truck? Big mansion or cabin in the mountains? To be feared or liked? To be revered or loved? Sports car or pick-up truck? New vehicle or customized hot rod? Communism, socialism, or representative democracy? Smokin’ hot body or inner peace? To have others wait on you hand and foot or help others? The red one or blue one? Swimming pool or hot tub? I’d druther have the hot tub!
Perhaps in other parts of the world the word “druthers” isn’t often used. But here in the South, it often helps determine if you are really Southern or just a “wanna be”. Druthers are not necessarily a bad thing. For example, “I druther have some rain than this dusty dry condition.” Or, “I druther not have to go through another hurricane or tornado.” Or even, “I druther my car’s air conditioner work than having to keep all the windows rolled down.” The Druthers can inspire to us dream and work hard to achieve those dreams.
But there is another side to the druthers; one we all need to fend off. It’s the druthers of discontentment with life as it happens. It happens when we believe that life is unfair and unreasonable. It happens because we think that life owes us. It happens when we want an easy and comfortable life. It happens when someone has something we don’t have, that we think we deserve. It happens when we look for things to make us more than happy–but fulfilled and content. Can we be honest with each other? Our culture is running on empty and about to collapse because so many want their druthers rather than fulfillment and contentment.
Unfortunately, these same pursuers of druthers cannot see, will not see–there is a better way of life. You see, even IF we get our druthers, sooner or later (usually sooner) something else catches our eyes and we desire another druther; then another and another and another! Get the point? But what’s the alternative? And here is where so many get it wrong–oh, so wrong! They resign to misery and despair. But what if–WHAT IF I say–there is another alternative that will never leave you in discontentment, misery, and despair? Would you be interested in knowing what that is?
Here it is: Surrender and submit your moments, your each and every moment to Jesus!Druthers will never give you what Jesus gives us when we follow God’s Plan for our life. God isn’t interested in taking away the joy and fun of life. God is interested in keeping your from the discontentment, misery, and despair that marks and mars so many lives. He does this by giving us the life we are created to have–a life than doesn’t depend on our DRUTHERS–but lives within His grace and mercy–which is His Love. Things you love cannot love you back. But God–well, His love is always there–even when we can’t get our druthers!
Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.
Philippians 4:11-13 (The Message)
By the way, that mansion and fancy car? They have a lot of maintenance needs. But Jesus gives us everything we need–maybe not our druthers–but always what we need!
“Place your order when you’re ready.” “Would you like to try our new chicken sandwich today?” “What can I get for you?” “What would you like today?” It’s what we hear from our favorite (or most convenient) waist building, cholesterol raising, arterial clogging fast food joint. Whatever form the question takes, it all comes down to this: “What do you want today?” Now there’s a question, a question we all answer–but seldom think about HOW we answer it.
Yesterday as I sat in the doctor’s waiting room with my Dad, waiting for his name to be called, there was a certain gentleman (I use this term very loosely) who wanted to be annoying by talking very loud on his cellphone. Fortunately he did not have it on speakerphone. That was left up to another person who answered one of those calls, ON SPEAKERPHONE, where everyone in that large waiting room heard, “Press 1 for blah blah blah, Press 2 for more blah blah blah…” Oh, and let’s not forget the individual who was watching some ad on his tablet WITHOUT Bluetooth ear buds. I doubt–I hopefully doubt–that none of the 3 aforementioned individuals wanted to be annoying when they awakened from their sleep. Nonetheless, their decisions and actions said, “Today I want to be annoying!”
What’s my point, other than silence that %$%^&**# phone when at the doctor’s office? Today, July 31, 2021 you choose what you want for this day. It can be a day of joy or misery. A day peace or heartache. A day of contentment or a day of contentiousness. We can’t always control what happens to us–but we are in control of how we respond. How we respond comes out of what we want.
When Nehemiah finished his building project, the people came together and Ezra began reading God’s words to their ancestors. Those words made them realize they had been wanting the wrong things–so they started wailing and crying. But listen to what Nehemiah told them in Nehemiah chapter 8 verse to: “This day is holy to God. Don’t feel bad. The joy of God is your strength!” (The Message).
Order when you are ready. I think I will have the Joy of God! Your turn, make your choice, but make it wisely!
I have no clue as to what you are thinking about today’s Title: The Rich Lighter Life! Maybe you thought about a gold plated with diamonds Zippo lighter. Nope, that’s not it. Unless you are from the country, you may not know what Rich Lighter is. Well, I’m from the country. In fact, a friend posted one of those “tests” to see how “country” you are. Out of a possible high score of 30, I scored 28. I could have scored 29 but I have never touched an electric fence. I’m not as dumb as I act.
As you may know now, Debbie and I are on our annual spiritual retreat to the Smoky Mountains. We rent a cabin for a week and only venture out once, twice at the most. The remainder of our time is spent here in this cabin. This particular cabin has a wood burning fire place. Being winter and all, I decide to pack some fire wood to enjoy the fireplace. You know that to have a fire in the fire place, one needs something to start the fire. I could have cheated and went to WalMart and purchased those neat little fire starters. But remember, I’m a country boy.
Before we left I went just to the edge of the woods surrounding our home and found some Rich Lighter. Researching for this post I discovered that some call it Fatwood. When a pine tree is either cut or is knocked over when it is alive, it is filled with sap. The sap, or resin if you prefer, trapped in the stump becomes hard over time. This sap contains terpene, a volatilehydrocarbon. I know you are not wanting a lesson in organic chemistry, so I will get to the point.
This hardened resin is very flammable. With just a small handful of Rich Lighter, one can easily start a fire. I put some newspaper in the fireplace, added my Rich Lighter, then the kindling and the wood and lit the newspaper. The picture above is the results of my endeavors. And to show you how little it takes, the picture below is how much I used. The Alabama Crimson Tide mug is symbolic of the power of Rich Lighter:
The Holy Spirit prompted me to do some thinking about Rich Lighter and fire places. The question many folks are asking, especially “church folks” is, “What is it going to take to change our churches, our communities, our nation, our world? Things are out of control!” It’s a great question to ask–IF–you are willing to dig deep for the answer. Asking the question in the expectation of someone else answering it is futile, ineffective, and fruitless. Nothing CAN change unless one knows the answer–and I found the answer in a handful of Rich Lighter.
What’s the answer to this “burning” question? YOU! That’s right, YOU! You may be thinking, probably ARE thinking, “How can I change what’s happening in Washington D.C.? How can I end domestic violence? How can I feed all those hungry families? How can I get people to listen and respect each other? How can I keep our church from closing its doors? How can I help people imprisoned by addictions? How can I do this in a way that really makes a difference? It’s really simple, folks. Remember my handful of Rich Lighter.
Just as a roaring fire can happen in a fireplace with just a handful of Rich Lighter, people, places, and situations change–just one person at a time. And YOU are the person that will start that Fire that will bring lasting change. It’s just that simple–not easy–but simple. Decades ago Kirk Kaiser wrote a song that I still sing today. The name of it is Pass It On. The first time I heard it was in 1971. It was a Sunday night Youth Service. I knew God was calling me into a relationship with Him. But I fought it off by holding on to the oak pew in front of me. I held on so tight I know that my fingerprints are permanently embedded in that pew at Green’s Chapel. That’s what it took for me to resist God’s Grace. And I succeeded. But, a little over a year later, in not so dramatic a moment, I finally surrendered to His Grace. And as the saying goes, “The Rest Is History!”
If you have the Holy Spirit inside you, (you do if Jesus is your Lord and Savior), that Fire is more than enough to start the process of transformation in people, places, and situations. Just as Rich Lighter easily ignites and spreads its fire to other wood, YOU can spread the Fire that will make the difference. But changing the world will never happen as long as you expect someone else to answer the question. I leave you with two songs–one is for me because I am a country boy–the second one is for YOU, Just listen to it:
24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in His side.”
26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” He said. 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at My hands. Put your hand into the wound in My side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”28 “My Lord
and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. 29 Then Jesus told him, “You
believe because you have seen Me. Blessed
are those who believe without seeing Me.”
Doubt can be called the leprosy of
faith, eating away at our hearts until we are unable to sustain that
Doubt can be called a thief,
robbing us of the truth of God’s unfailing grace.
Doubt can be calledblindness, causing us to believe that God doesn’t love
Doubt can be calleddemoralizing, making us feel unworthy to ask God to forgive
Doubt can be calleddeafening, denying us the ability to hear God calling us to
Doubt CAN Be All Of This WHEN We Refuse To Acknowledge It And
Deal With It In The Presence Of God.
This leads me to the one thing you need to remember:
Knowing About Jesus Is No Substitute For Knowing Jesus In Our Heart.
It seems that after I turned 50, a lot of my notions
and ideas began to change, and one of them is about Thomas. When someone doubts something, we often say,
“Oh, don’t be such a doubting Thomas.”
Doubting Thomas. What a moniker
to be stuck with nearly 2,000 years later.
Now I have come to a different opinion of Thomas.
Some of it has come out of my own personal
experiences, and some of it has come by reflecting more on the Scriptures
without the usual and typical comments people make about him. I have found that Thomas’ strength comes out
of what WE
Be fair to Thomas.
He wasn’t there the first time Jesus appeared to some of the disciples—the
same disciples who Doubted the report of Mary and the
other women. And don’t make a big deal
about him not being there. The
scriptures do not say why he wasn’t there.
Maybe the others sent him out to Burger King for some
food, or to Publix for some groceries.
They were afraid of the Sanhedrin, but it was Thomas who said, “Let
us go to Jerusalem with Jesus that we may die with Him.” He’s not afraid of the Sanhedrin, send him
out. And we don’t know When
Thomas was back with the other disciples.
And it doesn’t matter When he came back. Point is, He Came Back!
Now they are telling him, “We saw Jesus and He’s
alive! Isn’t that great Thomas?” And Thomas should believe them, right? After all, these guys believed the women’s
report from the cemetery. I mean, James
and John were fishermen and we all know fishermen never lie.
And there’s Matthew who was a tax collector and
everyone knows how truthful and honest tax collectors are. And there’s Peter telling the same story and
we all know how reliable and stable Peter is.
And Mary Magdalene is saying the same thing, and everyone knows she’s
always been the sanest person around. I
mean, with these kinds of witnesses, Thomas should be saying. “All right!
I just knew Jesus would do something else!”
But Thomas doesn’t say that. His response to all these witnesses is: “Unless I see . . . I won’t believe it.” I have come to like Thomas and even more—I
love his response. Of all the
things said by them after the resurrection, Thomas makes the most profound
statement of all. His Heart Is The Heart Longing
For Faith. He does not want
to be known as the doubter. His heart
wants to believe in the deepest way possible.
So I have sat in the class taught by none other than
Thomas, and I want you to join me as Thomas teaches us some powerful lessons
about what it means to be a Real
Disciple of the Risen Jesus! Don’t
call him the Missing Disciple. Simply mark the role of who is there and who
is not present. Don’t read more into
this than what’s here.
Sure, he may have had his doubts about why Jesus had
to die, but so did all the others. They
have been on a roller coaster ride. One
day Jesus is hailed as King, and a few days later called a criminal.
Each of them had their own notions about what Jesus
should do. Each of them was weighed down
with the traditions they had been taught about the Messiah. And Jesus met none of their expectations or
traditions. It was bound to be
disappointing. But none of them seem to
say what they are feeling. None of them
seem to be willing to deal with their doubts.
Only Thomas has the courage And The Faith to deal
with his doubts. And here is the first
lesson Thomas teaches us:
1. Doubting Can Be The Most Fertile Ground For
Faith To Grow.
When We Seriously Deal With Our Doubts Before God, It’s Ripe For
Growth. Why do you try to hide your doubts from
God? Do you honestly think God doesn’t
know when you doubt? Life can be tough
and there can be lots of things that make us question our faith and even
question our God’s goodness and love.
A child is stillborn.
A promising high school student dies in an automobile accident. A trusted spiritual leader falls flat on his
face. Someone’s son commits
suicide. A faithful leader and servant
in church dies from ALS. My Mother
suffered from dementia. Bad things,
horrible things happen to good people.
So we seek God’s counsel. We pound on the doors of heaven but there’s
no answer. But because of the seed of
faith that God put in us, we keep on pounding. And It Is Faith Making Us Pound On Heaven’s Door
Because We Know There’s No Other Place Where We Can
Find The Answer. It is
in these moments that our faith can grow the deepest—when we know that we can
keep coming back and that God will not stop loving us. Where else can Thomas turn with these
Their word about the Resurrection is not enough for Thomas.
Their experience does not satisfy the hungering and thirsting of his heart.
Thomas is living out one of those beatitudes: Blessed Are Those Who Hunger And Thirst For Righteousness For They Will Be Satisfied! In my imagination, I can just see Jesus doing a fist pump when Thomas makes that declaration and saying, “He gets it! I’m proud of Thomas! Just look at that hunger of his!”
So Thomas says out loud for everyone to hear: “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands,
put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe
it.” And if you are paying attention,
you will hear the second lesson from Thomas:
2. You Can’t Live On The Experiences Of Others!
Some people never get close enough to God, they never surrender
their heart completely—in order to have a faith story about
God in their life. They Want Just Enough Of God In
Their Life To Feel Comfortable In Their Complacency.
They listen to the stories of others and protect the
traditions and say “This is enough! This
is all I need!” And Those Without That Genuine
Experience Will Fight For Those Traditions More
Than They Will For The Message And Ministry Of Jesus Christ. Our culture is sick to death of precious
traditions and ancient stories. They told
their story. But Thomas wanted more.
And the good news for those witnesses is this: They Were So Genuine, So Convincing That Thomas Wanted That Same Presence In His Life! No Bible stories about Jesus for Thomas, no sir! He wanted the real presence. And our culture wants none of the traditions and ancient stories—
But They Do Want A Genuine, Authentic Story Of What Jesus Is Doing Right Here And Now In Relationship With Us.
The Greek word for I see is eidō. It means more than to see with the eye. It Means: To Cherish. To cherish means we recognize the real value. There are many things we cherish which have little or no monetary value. But they are important to us because they have personal meaning.
Resurrection Had To Have Personal Meaning For Thomas Or It Was Nothing.
To cherish the Resurrection, it must have personal
meaning for us. Thomas wanted the
relationship, not the Cliff Notes and not the Readers’ Digest version. And if you are paying attention to Thomas,
you now know the third lesson he teaches us:
3. He Stayed Until Jesus Came To Him!
Even with those doubts Thomas stayed with it for 8 days. And because he did, he was there when Jesus came again.
Our Doubts Never Disqualify Us From The Relationship God Seeks To Have With Us.And Our Doubts Do Not Disqualify Us From Serving God.
Thomas chose to hang in there, to wrestle and struggle and seek for himself the reality of the Risen Lord. His hunger for God couldn’t be satisfied with “their” story—he knew that the only way his hunger would be satisfied is through HIS own story.
Personally, I would rather go into battle with 1
Doubting Thomas than 100 comfortable pew sitters. There are too many sitting in churches this
morning who want an Easy Faith, so easy even a caveman can do it. They want it to be neat and tidy. But life isn’t so neat and tidy, and Jesus
That’s why Jesus came back 8 days later for Thomas, to
bless Thomas with His presence. Some
people look at verse 29 and think Jesus is chastising Thomas: “Why couldn’t you believe without seeing?” But most of the ancient manuscripts do not
use Thomas’ name. The pronoun used by
John can be plural: Jesus said to THEM.
Literally it says: “Blessed
are they, believed, and now you (plural) are blessed; yet no less blessed those
be who believe in my resurrection, without the evidence.”
Now I understand: the blessing is equal for Thomas and the others and for us. Their blessing is not greater than ours, nor is ours greater than theirs.
The Blessing Is In Coming Face To Face With Jesus.
And if you are struggling to believe, then remember
He Stayed Until Jesus Came To Him, And Jesus Did. And Jesus Will Come To You.
life can be a real mess and the upheaval can feel like an erupting
volcano. What do you do when life is like
that? What do you do when there are more
questions than answers? What do you do
when the neat answers don’t fit the messy questions?
Be a Doubting Thomas.
It’s looks like this:
Refuse To Settle For Neatly Packaged Answers That Rarely,
If Ever, Satisfy The Heart.
Don’t Be Content With What Someone Else Says About Jesus.
Yearn For Your Experience—Know That The Force And The
Power Of Resurrection Can And WILL Have Meaning For You!
Have That Unquenchable Thirst And Appetite To Cherish
The Living Presence Of Jesus Himself.
Our culture isn’t interested in our traditions or
stories told of long ago. But they are interested
in and are hungry for a relationship. Be a Thomas—and hang in there, because Jesus
is coming to you. A lot of people know
ABOUT Jesus, and that is good—But…It…Is…Not…Good…Enough!
The Gospel insists and demands that you KNOW Jesus
personally. Have you been
struggling? Doubts can only lead to
growth when we bring them into the presence of God.
The Good News about bringing our doubts to God is
this: Jesus is coming for you, and He’s
coming with the blessing. Will you
accept Him today?
Do You Know More About Jesus In
Your Head Than You Have Experienced In Your Heart? Then today is
the day like Thomas had—to experience the Risen Lord and fall in love with
Him—and His beauty. To give up WHAT you
know, for the One who knows you and desires for you to know Him!
Are You Having Any Doubts
About The Future About This Place? Thomas was looking for a future with Hope And
Promise. He would not have
found it unless he brought it to Jesus.
When he brought those doubts to Jesus, everything changed. I’m asking you to bring your doubts about the
future of this place to Jesus. It
changed the outlook of Thomas—it will change your outlook, too!
As a pastor, I admit I tend to first read a passage through the lens of a pastor. I look for what I need to teach, share and preach in order to fulfill what I like to term the Ephesians 4:11-12 model–to build up and equip the body of Christ. But this journey through Acts, I’ve sought to read this first and foremost as a disciple of Jesus. And as I look at this journal I’m keeping, there’s this haunting question I wrote: “How devoted am I to Jesus?”
It seems I’ve been so focused on building up others, that perhaps I’ve forgotten how to build myself up. But any pastor who never or rarely asked themselves the tough questions they pose to the flock, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t stay with that flock very long. The verse that leaped off the page and sliced open my heart is in chapter 2, verse 42
All the believers devoted themselves…
Acts 2:42 (NLT)
It seems I’ve been quick to do my “devotions”, but I’ve come face to face with the issue of being “devoted”. These words sound similar, but they are light years away from being the same thing. I can’t complete shake the lens of being “Preacherman”, so I know that I am not alone in this issue. I have seen many others who have substituted “doing their devotions” for “being Devoted“.
I am coming to understand what being devoted as a follower of Jesus should mean. It is found in how Dr. Luke paints a powerful word picture of being devoted. As the Holy Spirit was wiping up all that blood that had gushed from my heart when He sliced it open, He looked up at me and said, “It’s about the foundation, Randy. The foundation holds up everything on top of it. If the foundation is solid and strong, it holds up the rest of it. But if it’s not……well, you know what Jesus said about that.”
After regaining my composure, I looked for that foundation built by those first believers. It’s found in what they were devoted to. I read that list, and saw ever so clearly why the Body of Christ in Africa, Russia, Asia and other places were growing and thriving, and why the Body of Christ in the Western World is declining and in such chaos. It all comes down to that word “devoted“, and what they were devoted to.
1] The Apostles Teaching: There was an insatiable appetite. It seems that they could not get enough of it. They were hungry for what God had to say. This formed their core beliefs. These would be the things that everything else would be built around. We would call them the non-negotiables. And what they were teaching was what they were learning—from Jesus and through the Holy Spirit. This happened because Jesus promised it would happen with the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
2] Fellowship with each other: The Greek word Luke used is “koinonia”. It means “joint participation”. It’s a word used to describe close and caring relationships. In fact, as the Gospel continued to spread, they weren’t known in their culture as “churches” but as Koinonia. It was something everyone had a share in—a belonging. It wasn’t a building or denomination that marked these early believers—but their desire to be deeply connect TOGETHER in Christ and with each other
3] Sharing in meals: The Greek used by Luke is literally “the breaking of bread.” Now, when we think about the breaking of bread, what do we usually think about? Holy Communion. But in the Middle East, and most of the Mediterranean breaking of bread meant a meal. Meal time was considered special. In fact, if someone invited you to a meal and you refused, it was considered offensive. I know that one time my son Matthew told me when he was in Iraq, sometimes he had no idea what he was eating—but he never turned down any invitation to a meal. Whether it was a meal or The Lord’s Supper, breaking bread was considered a sacred and holy moment. See, there is something Biblical about Methodists loving to Meet And Eat.
4] They prayed: Early on they knew the importance of prayer. Remember we are talking about the foundation. Prayer wasn’t a last resort—but the first step. They really believed in the power of prayer because their faith was filled with that hopeful expectation that God was present and at work. And honestly, I don’t think their prayers were anything at all like those “stained glass prayers” spoken in church. For them, prayer was dialogue with God–both talking to and listening. They may have been considered by today’s standards, rather simple minded, but oh what results came from those prayers.
5] And remember, they did all this TOGETHER! What those disciples did just before the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, being together, was so important and it continues to be important today. Some of the later writing by Paul focused on the importance of TOGETHER, and said a lot of harsh words when TOGETHER was being broken.
This is the Kingdom Foundation. What happens next comes out of that Foundation. Well, the Holy Spirit has stitched up my heart where He sliced in open, and it’s better now than before. So, to you the reader, remember the difference between devotions and devoted. Devotion are what we do. Devoted is the pursuing the Kingdom of God with all that is in us. It’s following the pull of the Holy Spirit into the direction of what God is doing in our world. Being devoted isn’t a casual thing, or a part time job as a follower of Jesus. It’s throwing yourself completely into the Kingdom of God and what HE is doing in our world.
Remember, love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
(P.S.–the next edition is about the kind of life that comes from our devoted foundation….)
Yesterday afternoon I was at the Opening Session for our Tribe’s thing called “Annual Conference”. It was my 43rd consecutive Conference. For “outsiders”, Annual Conference is this thing that when all is said and done, more is said than done. Bishop Sharma Lewis preached for our opening Worship, and normally I would have considered it a great and powerful message. She chose the passage from Colossians 3, verse 12 and it was about putting on the new clothes of love and she presented us with a great question: What are you wearing?
Normally, I know there’s nothing normal about me in many folks eyes, but that’s their problem, I would have really been inspired by the message. I mean, what’s better than wearing the new clothes of love. Or, as The Message puts it:
Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it.
But this crisis that the United Methodist Tribe is facing, has caused me to have this deep-seated thought that Bishop Lewis was only telling half of the story–literally a half-truth. And a half-truth is at its root and core, a lie! As I was talking to God about this “disappointment” in my heart, it hit me. She, like so many in our culture today, didn’t talk about the first part of Paul’s letter. Yes, be clothed in God’s love–after all, it’s His personal label. But….
But these new clothes don’t fit or look well as long as you keep wearing the “old” clothes underneath them. He starts off in Verses 1-2
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.
It’s one of the few things I remember from my cemetery, excuse me, seminary days–that a text without its context is only a pretext. Bishop Lewis never mentioned verses 1 and 2. And there’s more to the context, and it’s summed up in verse 5
And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God.
Our Tribe is being asked to change our church polity and order to accommodate what is now called “Progressive” theology. We are being asked to give up the traditional view of human sexuality in order to not only accommodate our culture–but here’s the BIG LIE–but because of God’s love, it’s OK to be “gay”. Progressive theology on human sexuality says that God created some people “gay”, ergo, it’s no longer a sin. Just wear love!
Yet how can anyone put on God’s love, wear these perfectly fitting clothes, IF we continue to wearing the old clothes? The truth is, the painful truth is, you can’t! In the south we would say it like this, and for you poor unfortunate souls who aren’t in the south, I will help translate this for you: Put a silk dress on a sow (NOUN: a female pig) and she’s still a sow, and she’ll get that silk dress muddy. And we cannot wear God’s New Designer Label of Love until we get rid of the old clothes of sin.
I say this not from the “high ground” of being morally superior to others, but from the “low ground” of realizing that I still have sin in me. I admit that I’m broken and am always turning back to God to help put shed off the old clothes so that I can be fitted with the right clothes. Those who insist that sexuality outside of the husband (man) and wife (woman), in other words, being “gay”, is their identity. There is no offer of personal transformation into the identity that has nothing to do with sex–but everything to do with The Creator.
Progressives offer no hope for a new identity–just put on the new clothes of love without ever taking off the old clothes of, as The Message puts it, “doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God.” I am wondering now, could it be that the suicide rate is above average in the LBGTQI community, especially among teens who feel or believe they are gay, because they are not offered Hope–hope for not just a new identity–but their TRUE identity. A person’s true identity is found in their relationship with God–NOT with whom they are having sex.
And my heart breaks for the LBGTQI community because they have been told to believe that there is no way to shed their old clothes for the new designer clothes. As long as we try to wear the Divine Designer Clothes of Love OVER the old clothes doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy you will never be able to wear them as they are designed.
I’m not saying homosexuality is the worst sin. And it certainly isn’t the only thing that can be called an abomination. Proverbs 6:16-19 (NLT) describes those things this way:
17 There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, 18 a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, 19 a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family.
One time I was asked, “Bro. Randy, what do you think is the worst sin? Rejecting Jesus?” I think my response shocked her. I said, “No, even that’s not the worst sin. I believe that the worst sin is the one that makes God want to vomit–and that is being lukewarm (Revelation 3:16). No other condition, no other sin that I can find in the Bible makes God want to puke. I just noticed something–3:16. One 3:16 tells us we can have eternal life (John 3:16). This other 3:16 says we make God want to puke, and thus, be eternally separated from Him.
I am smart enough, wise enough, and humble enough to know that I still have times when I try to wear God’s Designer Jeans over my filthy yard clothes. They don’t fit, they don’t look good because that’s not the way these “Designer Jeans” are “DESIGNED” to be worn. We have to put off the old in order to wear the new. So I pray, pray hard first for me to be sure I’m not trying to wear the new over the old. Second, I pray hard for the LBGTQI community to stop believing the Great Lie. And third, I pray for those who are deceiving the LBGTQI community WITH the Great Lie.
Before new life happens–before we can experience the Resurrection Life–there are things that need to, MUST die in all of us. Otherwise, we’re just an old sow wearing a silk dress. That’s not how this works!
OK, since God calls us to be a Kingdom of Priests (1 Peter 2:9) I ask you: Whose altar is it? Priests in the Old Testament served before the Altar of God, meaning God owned that altar. If the altar is yours then the Fire of Revival will never fall on it. The fire from Heaven didn’t fall on the altar of Jezebel’s priests because it wasn’t God’s altar. As long as we try to control the altar, God’s fire won’t fall on it!
I was just thinking this morning. In my world of those who know me, many shudder when I say this. Some even do the face palm thing while shaking their heads wondering to themselves, “Dear Lord, what is this man up to again?” And a few even run and hide. I’m OK with that because I am convinced God gave me a mind–a mind to learn with and a mind to question things–sometimes everything.
I am thinking about that word “TAME” and its partner word “DOMESTICATED”. Somehow, there are those who think that the purpose of a relationship with God is about taming us. There are many tribes (tribes are groups of people with a similar belief system and mindset about God, also known as denominations in some circles) who believe that in order to follow Jesus, we must be tamed. They treat desire as if it were the modern-day equivalent of Biblical times leprosy.
And so this idea of desire is pushed back and beaten down so that respectability can rule and reign. As I was thinking about that word TAME I realized that it rhymes with another word: LAME. So what if we started seeing DESIRE as something to, well DESIRE, to want, to insist on having? Not just any DESIRE, but to have DESIRE for God–for what God is doing–and especially for what God wants us to do!
Can we agree, at least those smart enough to believe in Intelligent Design, that we have been created in God’s image? OK! God has DESIRES. So if HE has DESIRES, why shouldn’t we? Unfortunately many have traded in the God who has Great Desires for a god who is nice and kind and always gentle. In others words, a domesticated god. When something is domesticated it means we have TAMED it for OUR use, to use the way we want.
The True and Living God is neither TAME nor DOMESTICATED. He is wild with DESIRE! Oops, someone just said, “I don’t believe that! Prove it from the Bible!” Okey Dokey, be careful what you ask for; you just might get it, as in this case. God sent a messenger to Eli the priest saying He, God, would take away the priesthood from Eli and his sons and raise up priests who do what, and I quote God, “I DESIRE!” And in Isaiah 55:11–“It (His word) will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what IDESIRE and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” And Jesus said in John 17:24–“Father, IDESIRE that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”
Now, when it comes to US, should their be desire? Now David was called a man after God’s own heart. When he selected a worship leader, he chose Asaph. I am sure David, who loved to worship God, wanted someone just as passionate as he. Read these words of Asaph:
24 You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? I DESIRE you more than anything on earth.
26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever. (Psalm 73:24-26 NLT)
Let’s stop being Tame And Lame, and reclaim that word DESIRE. The enemy has used it for too long as a sign of evil. Desire, as God put it in us, is both good and necessary. When we become “tame”, the enemy no longer fears us. He has domesticated us, meaning, we are here for his pleasure and guess what else. His “desires”, desires which are to keep us away from our created purpose and to prevent us from being Warriors. One of the things that makes the enemy tremble with fear and trepidation is when he sees one of God’s Image Bearer’s doing exactly what Asaph wanted, to DESIRE God more than anything else. When God’s designed DESIRE flows through you, the enemy runs and hides. He wants you domesticated, God wants you wild and free as He designed you. If you are not living out your relationship with God with that God-Designed-And-God-Pleasing DESIRE, you have been Tamed And Domesticated by the evil one. And you are just plain old LAME. And that is so sad, so very sad!
Love God with all you heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him and it will as you DESIRE Him more than anything else on earth.