3 Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to His holy people. 4 I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Jude verses 3 and 4, from the New Living Translation
As I’ve been sharing the past few days, there are words that once had a good and powerful meaning–but now in the United Methodist Church have become the new cuss words. They say there are words we just don’t use in public because they sound offensive; at least to them. Today’s new cuss word is Faithfulness!
When I was ordained in the UMC, there was a series of questions asked of me. It was a serious and holy moment for me. I was making a commitment for my future. And I was expected to be Faithful to them. They were the same questions asked to every person seeking ordination. These came from John Wesley, himself. To answer NO to any of these questions would result in denying a person ordination. Here they are:
Have you faith in Christ?
Are you going on to perfection?
Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?
Are you earnestly striving after it?
Are you resolved to devote yourself wholly to God and his work?
Do you know the General Rules of our Church?
Will you keep them?
Have you studied the doctrines of The United Methodist Church?
After full examination, do you believe that our doctrines are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures?
Will you preach and maintain them?
Have you studied our form of Church discipline and polity?
Do you approve our Church government and polity?
Will you support and maintain them?
Will you diligently instruct the children in every place?
Will you visit from house to house?
Will you recommend fasting or abstinence, both by precept and example?
Are you determined to employ all your time in the work of God?
Are you in debt so as to embarrass you in your work?
Will you observe the following directions? a) Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never trifle away time; neither spend any more time at any one place than is strictly necessary. b) Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And do not mend our rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience’ sake.
Look at questions 6 and 7–do you know the General Rules of our Church, and will you keep them? Now look at questions 8, 9, and 10. Move on to questions 11, 12, and 13. A considerable number of our Bishops and an even greater number of clergy have failed to be Faithful to their answers. I will show some grace towards them and suggest maybe they changed their minds. And if this is the case, then they should have surrendered their credentials and found a place that aligned with their beliefs. I mean, if you join an organization and later found out you disagreed with their actions, then you just quit! Right? Our disobedient clergy and bishops (who are supposed to be clergy also) have chosen to stay and break their vows of Faithfulness.
Now, there is another reason why they may be remaining in the United Methodist Church, even though their answers to questions 6 through 13 are now a resounding NO! They flat out LIED! Now, I’m not judging anyone–but Jesus did say that you would know a tree by its fruit. Many of those ordained in the past few years in our Conference are clearly on the progressive side. Again I allude to questions 6 though 13. They affirmed a Yes with their words, but now their thoughts, attitudes, and actions repudiate what they said at their altar of ordination. And I don’t think they’ve had a change of heart. It was in their mind and heart at Ordination–so the only conclusion one can reach is that they did indeed, LIE!
At the heart of the Body of Christ, the Koinonia, is the requirement, by God Himself, that we, all of us, lay and clergy, be Faithful To The Faith We Affirmed At Our Conversion, and for us clergy-types, that we affirmed at our Ordination! When Faithfulness is abandoned, thrown away like bags from a fast food restaurant out of a car window, then what can possible follow but decline and decay. This is what is happening in my beloved Tribe. We need to remember what Jesus said about making promises:
Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.
Matthew chapter 5, verse 37 from the New Living Translation
If you do what the Lord wants, He will make certain each step you take is sure.
Psalm 37 verse 23 from the Contemporary English Version
This morning I will be taking my beautiful wife Debbie to a nearby hospital for surgery on her left foot. She has some issues that causes quite a bit of pain and discomfort. Dr. DePorter will cut a couple of bones to straighten those toes and remove a couple of joins to correct a couple of hammer toes. Sounds painful, doesn’t it! But to be able to walk without pain and to enjoy her walking, it’s necessary. Oh, one other thing, this won’t be her first rodeo. Dr. Deporter did the same thing to her right foot–and it worked. So, there’s a high confidence level that how he helped her right foot will also work on her left foot.
And here’s this morning’s Kingdom Lesson: It’s safe to follow the steps of Jesus. In thinking about all the ups and downs in his life, David learned an important lesson: He will make certain each step you take is sure. But there is a qualifing condition: If you do what the Lord wants. Dr. DePorter told Debbie that her right foot healed so good and accomplished what the surgery was designed to do was because she followed his post-op instructions. And her left foot will do the same–simply by following his post-op instructions.
And though our lives may have hectic and chaotic situations, it doesn’t mean that we have to walk with a painful limp. We can rest assured and be confident that if we simply do what HE says that will make our steps sure. Dr. DePorter’s surgery worked on the right foot, so there’s high confidence that it will do the same on the left foot. And God has proved Himself to know what He is doing time after time. So, just follow in His Footsteps. The Bible let’s you know where He is going and what He is doing. After all, if He can make a stay in a tomb just temporary, there’s nothing He can’t do for you!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
Mondays tend to remind us of all the Goliaths that we will face this week. They stand taller than us and like that infamous Goliath from the Bible (see 1 Samuel chapter 17), they shout insults at us and tell us we can’t win. And though we should stand up to them as David did, we wrongly determine, “Hey! I’m no David!” And so, those Goliaths continue to intimidate you and the Monday Morning Spirit hangs over you. And you convince yourself that’s the way it will always be. But, what made David–well–David?
He had confidence in God
He saw the big picture
He remember God’s faithfulness
He was human
First, his confidence was in God, not in what logic or others said. To boost your confidence you can believe Philippians 4:13–I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. But it’s better to have the faith like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In case you haven’t heard the story, here’s what they said–“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if He doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (Daniel chapter 3 verses 17 &18, NLT, emphasis mine) We all need that even if He doesn’t kind of faith.
Second, he saw that this was a Kingdom of God issue, not a military problem. This was all about God’s reputation. It wasn’t about who had the biggest, strongest, and best warrior. It was about what will God do in the moment. David understood that it wasn’t Saul’s reputation or the army’s reputation that was at stake. It was about God, and God alone.
Third, he remembered all those other times God delivered him. David had a history with God. That history revealed both God’s strength and God’s faithfulness. Because of #1 he knew that God was able to take care of Goliath. Now, notice, I said that God is capable–not that it would happen–just that God was capable. But unless and until someone stood up to Goliath–the world would never see it.
Finally, David was human! He wasn’t Kal-El. What? Don’t you know the story of Superman? David was just as human and you and me! Did David never make a mistake after his victory over Goliath? He did–several of them. Don’t allow past mistakes (sins) nor the possibility of future mistakes (sins) keep you from facing your Goliaths in life. God does His best work in human vessels who know both their weaknesses AND God’s strength.
When you have confidence in God’s unfailing grace, and are willing to remain faithful to God even if not situations, then you can say: Good! Lord, it’s Monday! What shall we do together?
Once upon a time, at a tractor dealership, there were two tractors–Billy and Franklin. They couldn’t possibly be any more different. Billy was a used Kubota L180 and Franklin was a brand new, shiny John Deere 8345R. It was truly a Mutt and Jeff kind of difference. Franklin’s paint was green and pristine–not a scratch or dent anywhere. But Billy, well his orange pain was faded from decades of use. And their sizes? Just one of Franklin’s tires was taller than Billy.
Everyday Franklin would tease and torment Billy because of his small size. Franklin would say things like, “You only have 17 horsepower, but I, I have 345 of them bad boys! I have 4 wheel drive and you–you’re just a pitiful 2 wheel drive! I can do 1000 times more work than you! I can work 100 acres in less time that you could do just 2 acres! Look how clean my lines are–and just look at your faded paint and those scratches. I have a cab with an air conditioner for the summer and a heater for the winter to keep my owner comfortable! You don’t have a cab–and if anyone DID buy you, they would be forced to endure the heat and cold! Who in the world would want you?” Well, Billy just couldn’t help himself–next to Franklin he was indeed small and he believed he was useless. No one would want him.
One day a customer walked across the lot and was checking out Franklin. Franklin whispered to Billy, “See! I told you no one would want you.” The salesperson and the man talked a while and Franklin was so proud. The customer climbed up into that awesome cab and fired him up. The roar of power was something else! He gave that look of gloat in Billy’s direction. But to Billy’s surprise another man walked up to him, checking him out carefully. Billy thought, “He doesn’t want ME!” The customer climbed up on his seat and Billy also fired right up–but he didn’t sound anything like Franklin!
After the sound of their engines ended, Billy heard the man look at Franklin and say, “Oh, yes! I’ll take it!” Franklin had a smile as big as the Big Dipper as he looked at Billy. Billy was even sadder than before, though he was glad he wouldn’t have to hear Franklin’s boasting anymore. And he almost missed hearing the man looking at him say, “This is perfect and exactly what I’m looking for and need! I’ll take it!” Billy was confused; “How could I be perfect when Franklin, well, Franklin is everything I’m not?”
Customers and salespersons headed for the office. In just a short while, the man who said he wanted Billy came out with a smile bigger than Franklin’s. Franklin said, “I bet he’s changed his mind and wants a tractor like me!” As the man got closer, he saw he had some papers in his hand and said, “OK, let’s go home!” The other man was still busy filling out paperwork and arranging financing. Billy’s new owner climbed onto the seat, fired up his engine loaded Billy onto his trailer and went to Billy’s new home.
The man soon begin to put Billy to work, preparing a garden. Franklin eventually made it to his new home and began preparing the man’s crops. As Billy worked, he thought, “You know, I’m not doing near as much ground as Franklin. How can I be useful?” Harvest time came, and the ground Billy worked, though small in comparison to Franklin’s gound, did look good and bountiful. His owner gathered in those vegatables, and those vegatables fed his owner’s family, and even had enough to share with others who didn’t have any! He watched as people gratefully accept what Billy had helped to grow.
Now when Franklin’s crops came in, it took big trucks, lots of big trucks to haul off all he had helped produce. Those crops went to places where they were processed and prepared for people to buy. Franklin was very contented knowing he had produced far more in that one season than Billy could produce in years. But Billy–well, he was thankful that he had a part in helping some people enjoy fresh vegatables, and even enough to put up for later. Billy knew it wasn’t as much as Franklin’s harvest–but his little harvest meant a lot to those who enjoyed the fruits of his labors.
And the Moral Of Today’s Story is this: Our contributions to the Kingdom may not be as big and impressive as those in the limelight–but they are important, very important, to those who benefit from our contribution!
I remember back when (dear Lord, I’ve turned into an old coot!) the gas lines in 1974. For you who haven’t a clue of what I’m talking about, and for those who forgot about it, I’m talking about “The Great Gasoline Shortage of 1974. I admit that even as a teenager I was frustrated with the long lines. But there is an even greater shortage today, this very moment–and that is the shortage of Graciousness.
Maybe I need to define Graciousness since there is so little of it going around. You may notice (hopefully!) that you can hear that word Grace! There are a lot of ways of defining Grace, but my personal favorite is this:
Unmerited and unconditional kindness and favor extended to everyone.
As a people and as the People of The United States of America, it seems that the majority have forgotten both the value and importance of Graciousness. Please, for the sake of this Republic and for the sake of the human race, Be Gracious! And in the morning and all day long, Be Gracious! Then on the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after than, and. . .hopefully you get the point. And the point is BE GRACIOUS!
This Wednesday I’m wondering about. . . faith; more exactly, Where Is The Faith In God Today? Clarification is in order: By the word FAITH I am talking about unconditional and unlimited trust in God–in God’s ways, timing, and most of all, in His Word to us, The Bible.
While the Church is supposed to be the one who leads the way in understanding and living in and by Faith, it seems that this huge corporation called AT&T® has a better grasp on Faith. Maybe you’ve seen this commercial:
For many who wear the name “Christian”, they think Faith is a set of beliefs and creeds. That is the context in which they use and apply Faith. If you are one of them, how can I say this??? You missed the boat. The plane has already taken off. You’re playing solitaire with a deck of 49 cards. Too many won’t believe until they see it. But AT&T® understands the power of Faith.
“A lot of people say I’ll believe it when I see it. But I’ll tell you what. They got it backwards. Because there are certain things in life that you can only see when you first believe.” Whoever wrote this script must have read at some point in their life Hebrews 11:1–“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”
In the midst of this political chaos, if you do not believe there is a way forward for us as a nation, then you don’t have Faith. If you think your vote, your voice, your life will never make a difference, then you don’t have Faith. And for my United Methodist friends, if you think the future of our Tribe is gone, then you don’t have Faith.
Too many are living each day with those sleep masks, blind and oblivious to what God is doing right smack dab in the middle of all this messiness. Without Faith you are doomed to your petty, minuscule world and you will end up looking like and acting like that nameless Speaker of the House did last night.
On the other hand, there are certain things you cannot see until you first believe. Faith empowers and emboldens people to see beyond the immediate to what can be when we cooperate with God. Think about those 10 lepers who approached Jesus. Man! Talk about messiness. And Jesus had the audacity to tell them, “Go show yourselves to the Priests and get your certificate of clean health so you can be reunited with your families and communities!”
Now get this–they were STILL lepers. The signs of leprosy was all over them. The “rule” was you had to be clear of leprosy, now make sure you get this part, BEFORE YOU GO TO THE PRIEST FOR YOUR CERTIFICATE OF HEALTH! But these lepers didn’t go by the “rule”; while they were still messy lepers they acted as if they were already healed. They couldn’t see themselves healed until they believed they were healed.
And how did that work out for them? Well, they got a clean bill of health from the Priest. They were reunited with families, friends and communities. And it was all because they knew that certain things couldn’t be seen until they believed. And if you believe this nation, your state, your family, your community, and your church is doomed–then it’s time for Faith. Not faith in yourselves, but FAITH in Jesus who said…
17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: 18 “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, 19 and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” 20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
If you can’t see this happening in our time, take off that sleep mask and start living out your FAITH!
Welcome to another Saturday Story. Today’s story is from several years ago; it was such a powerful moment that I still remember it as if it occurred yesterday. Listen to it, and maybe Dad has something to say to you…
TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY
Ernie was a retired sheet metal worker. He and his wife Bettye had retired to Scottsboro. They never had children, so they “adopted” kids of all ages, including me. Both spent many hours serving Jesus at Randall’s Chapel (no, that church wasn’t named after me!). Ernie served Jesus in so many ways. Teaching, leading committees, the men’s group, serving in whatever way he was asked. Needless to say, this pastor fell in love with them.
Ernie was the epitome of an “active member”; but I and several others noticed Ernie didn’t have his usual level of stamina. Ernie noticed it too, so he went to his doctor to find out why. After several tests, Ernie was given the diagnosis of ALS (I refuse to call this evil disease by the name of one of baseball’s greatest players).
Word reached me of this diagnosis. As “pastor”, my job was to give him and Bettye words of encouragement and wisdom. This wasn’t my first encounter with someone dehumanized by ALS. I knew what Ernie’s future would look like. The day after his diagnosis I was going to “visit” with them and share those “words of encouragement and wisdom”. And as I sat in my office that morning, I struggled to find any such words. But it was my “job” to do it, and honestly, I felt like a failure because I simply couldn’t find the right “words”.
Just then (remember that “just then” or “it just so happened” are usually God prepared and ordained moments) I heard Ernie come in. He stuck his head in my office and asked, “Bro. Randy, do you have a few minutes, I need to talk about something.” Of course I had time, I always have time for a good friend; but this time my mind is in panic mode. I still didn’t have those words of “encouragement and wisdom”. In my heart I said, “OK, Holy Spirit, you’re going to have to do the talking because I don’t know what to say!”
And my, oh, my did my Friend, the Holy Spirit, do some talking. But it wasn’t me doing the talking–it was Ernie. “Randy, I know you heard about my diagnosis. And I need you to understand that one day I won’t be able to teach the Sunday School class. One day I won’t be able to be involved in the men’s group. One day I won’t be able to serve this church. One day I won’t be able to do all the things I love doing around here.” And what Ernie said next is still with me.
With a love and fire in his eyes he said, “But today is not that day! I’m going to continue to do all the things I’ve been doing. Whatever you or this church needs me for, I’m here! I know that day will come, it’s just that Today Is Not That Day!” The words of encouragement and wisdom wasn’t meant to be shared by me; that Holy Moment was given to Ernie.
And Ernie kept that Sacred Vow. He kept on working and moving forward with Jesus. And a little over a year later, that day finally came. Bettye asked me to do the funeral service. And the message I shared? It was the very same one Ernie shared with me that morning in my office. Ernie prepared his own eulogy and funeral message: Today is not THAT day to give up. God is with you every step of the way. And on that sad day, God’s Grace abounded.
We all face difficult, even terrifying moments in life. The temptation, even the urge to give up can seem overwhelming. I know, I’ve faced many such moments. And in those moments, I see Ernie, sitting across my desk. He’s smiling and saying to me, “Now Randy, you know Today Is Not THAT Day!”
Whatever it is that you may face in life; whatever you ARE facing right now that is overwhelming you with the feeling of helplessness or hopelessness and you want to give up; remember my good friend Ernie’s words: Today Is Not THAT Day! Ernie lived with the confidence that whatever the future held, HE was held by God and was secure in that knowledge.
OK, I’m ready for the blast from the fundamentalists, churchians, tenured pew sitters and all those others who “think they know the Bible but only know what they’ve been told”. Have you ever believed something to be true, but it’s not really true? Case in point: Have you heard about The Patience Of Job? Many say, “Job teaches us HOW to be patient.”
Granted, chapters 1 and 2 can be seen as Job being patient, but as the late Paul Harvey would say, “Now, for the rest of the story.” To keep this from being extra long, I’ll just give you some examples:
Chapter 3–He wishes he had been a stillborn infant, better yet, not even born.
Chapter 6–It’s all God’s fault!
Chapter 7–He has a death wish, and after he dies, God won’t know where he is, in essence, God will soon forget about him.
Chapter 9–God doesn’t care if I’m guilty or innocent
Chapter 10–God made me and now He wants to crush me.
There’s more–read it for yourself!
I honestly can’t see how anyone can tell me, “You need to have the patience of Job!” My response will always be:
Now if all you fundamentalists, churchians, tenured pew sitters and all those others who “think they know the Bible but only know what they’ve been told” are fuming at me but still reading–maybe you will like this next part: Job Doesn’t Teach Us About Patience, But He Teaches Us Much About Faithfulness. Hear me out please!
Job is depressed, discouraged, and angry at God. Yet with all that depression, discouragement and anger at God–He cries out TO and FOR God. I mean, if you thought someone intentionally hurt you, would you turn to them to help heal those wounds? I didn’t think you would. Yet Job turns to the ONE He thought caused all of his suffering. So. . .what’s the great lesson Job does teach us?
Glad you asked that last question. Job teaches us the value and power of faithfulness. In Philip Yancey’s book Where Is God When It Hurts? gives the best definition of faithfulness I’ve ever heard. Faithfulness is crying out to God when everything inside you tells you to let go! Job had every logical reason possible to just let go and walk away from God. But he didn’t! Why? I think it was because somehow, Job still trusted God. He didn’t understand what was happening to him; he just thought he saw God was the cause behind it all. Yet Job somehow knew that if he was ever to be made whole again, it would happen in the presence of God.
Oh, one other thing. Job wanted to face God in a One-On-One Challenge. And when finally did show up–it was a challenge Job found out he didn’t really want. The one question God posed to Job that changed his song was this: “Are you God?” Job had some issues, but he brought every one of them to God. And though Job’s thinking was stinking, God healed and restored Job.
Job teaches me (and hopefully you, too) that I can be really honest in how I feel with God. If Job hadn’t brought his honest feelings to God, he would have continued to believe those feelings were truth, even though they weren’t. Don’t be patient like Job–Be Faithful Like Job!
Then you can love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And then all the glory will go to HIM!
One day you go to the closet and get a jacket. The next day you leave the jacket in the closet. The following day you’re looking for your flip-flops. We call this “The Weather” in an Alabama typical fall week. This is one of the unique “pleasures” of living in Alabama–to experience all 4 seasons in one week. Sometimes we get to experience at least 3 seasons in one day!
The above screenshot is today’s forecast for us here in scenic Fayette County. Here, allow me to show you the rest of today’s temperatures:
Yep, 62 degrees right now. And this time tomorrow it will be 33 degrees. Some of us Alabamians keep a change of clothes in our vehicle for such a time as this. If you see a car with Alabama license plates and there are extra clothes in the backseat–we’re not homeless; we’re just prepared for today’s weather. And as I was thinking about our weather here, The Spirit put another thought in my head:
Even though our culture changes more than our weather, inside we are to be the same people–Followers Of Jesus!
Too many who bear the name of Christ, are looking for an environment that makes it easy to share their faith. Well, guess what Buttercup! Sometimes it IS easy to share our faith. But most times . . . it’s not so easy. Sure, who wouldn’t want to share their faith when it’s 78 degrees with a relative humidity of 10 percent. I find those kinds of weather days in Alabama extremely rare–even rarer are those kinds of days in real life with real people and real situations. So, what do you do?
You dress appropriately. Not just for the weather, but for life. Though the outside circumstances each day change like the weather in Alabama, we are to remain the same inside. It’s hard around here to decide how to dress for the weather many times. But it’s simple, not easy–but simple–to know how the dress for our culture and environment. Here is the ageless “fashion wear” of God:
12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. 15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
Colossians 3:12-17 (The Message)
If you are a serious follower of Jesus, then you know you have the Holy Spirit living inside you. The Spirit is God’s Fashion Consultant for you, and He will always provide you the perfect attire, whatever the “weather” is like outside. The Fashion Attire God provides for serious Followers of Jesus is always perfect–even if the weather changes like it does here in Sweet Home Alabama!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
“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.
6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 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, 8 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!
The With Us God: The God Who Fights For Us! Exodus 17:8-16 NLT
This Advent season we are taking a journey deep into this name, Immanuel. We know what this name means thanks to Matthew—God is with us. In the Hebrew, this name is comes from two words: ‘Immanuw’ which means“with us, or toward us. The other word is ‘El’ which means “God.” To look at this word literally, we could say it means: The With Us God. He moves from the realm of eternity and infinity and steps across into the limitations of time and place. He is the With Us God because He became one of us.
Have you ever been talking about an issue or problem and shared with someone what you think ought to be done and their reply was “I’m with you.” It means they understand and more than understand, they are willing to put themselves on the line with you. This is what Immanuel means. God puts himself on the line with us. God has chosen, out of His infinite love and grace, to be with us in the most unique way. He surrenders His place in heaven and chooses to become wrapped in human flesh.
And why? Why would God enter our world as one of us? I mean, He has the ability to step out of eternity and into our world without ever shedding any of His eternal nature. Yet He emptied himself of that eternal form and exchanged it for a human form. Why did God do that? The most obvious answer is because He loves us enough to do just that. But my inner child wants to know more; more than just the “why” of incarnation, but I want to know the what!
What is God seeking to do in humanity, and what is God seeking to do in me? The“Why” Of Love Is Found In The “What” Love Does For Us. So this Advent season we are going to be looking at just what God wants to do in us, for us, and through us.
We are looking at this through some of the names that God revealed Himself through in the Old Testament. Each of these names reveal something about God and something about WHAT it means to have this “With Us God” as we go through life with all of its ups and downs.
Today we are going to look at another name: Yahweh-Nissi. It means: The Lord Is Our Banner. This name is found in Exodus 17:8-16 NLT:
“8 While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek attacked them. 9 Moses commanded Joshua,“Choose some men to go out and fight the army of Amalek for us. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill,holding the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill.
11 As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage.
12 Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. 13 As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.
14 After the victory,the Lord instructed Moses, “Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”
15 Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means “the Lord is my banner”).16 He said, “They have raised their fist against the Lord’s throne, so now the Lord will be at war with Amalek generation after generation.”
As you know, the Exodus from Egypt to The Land of Promise had more than its share of problems. But still they are moving every closer. Earlier they were running out of food, and God provided them with manna and quails. They were running out of water, and God gave them water out of a rock. And now they are facing a battle with the Amalekites but these are people who had been slaves, notwarriors. Moses instructs Joshua to assemble an army to go out to fight. That next day Moses stands on a hill overlooking the battle.
As he raises the Staff, that Staff that Moses held when he encountered God at the burning bush. That staff represented God’s calling and anointing. As Moses holds up that anointing and calling, Joshua and the army gets the upper hand. But when Moses’ arms get tired and he lowers them, the Amalekites get the upper hand. Aaron and Hur support Moses’ arms and finally they win the battle. Then Moses gives that place a name that reflects the truth that God had fought for them. He names the place YAHWEH-NISSI! The idea of “banner”isn’t a sign. It’s the banner of an Army—the Army of God. But spiritually it means that God fought the battle for them.
This is more than
history. It’s about the one who is
always raising his fist in defiance against the God of Heaven. No, not the descendants of Amalek. It’s none other than Satan himself. Satan is waging war against God and His
And the battle is not a valley in the Sinai desert. The battle is going on inside every person, and inside each of us. If Satan is anything, he is persistent, and he does not give up easily. And you and I know that battle all too well. Just when we think we are getting the upper hand, we get beaten back again and again and again.
Maybe someone here this morning is fighting a battle deep inside you. Maybe it’s an attitude that you don’t like but it keeps coming up again and again. Maybe it’s a habit that you are trying to break, but it has broken you. Maybe it’s the feelings of guilt and condemnation that you just can’t shake off.
Maybe it’s over some thing that is controlling your life and making you miserable. You struggle and struggle and struggle, but the result is always the same: defeat! And maybe you have reached the point where you wonder, “Why keep on trying?” Maybe you have even raised the white flag of defeat and the banner that is flying over you is defeat and despair.
God knows that when it comes to warfare with Satan, we cannot win. We are like Joshua’s army when Moses’ arms dropped. Satan gets the upper hand. Regardless of how hard we try and fight, we always lose the battle with Satan when all we have is our own strength. God knows how weak we are in this battle.
So 2,000 years ago, God sent an angel to a carpenter named Joseph with an incredible message: “Your fiancé is pregnant and you, Joe, will be the father on earth to the Son of Heaven. This Son will be known as Immanuel—The With Us God!” This With Us God is the Yahweh-Nissi—The God who fights for us!
As when Moses raised his staff and the battle with the Amalekites changed, so The Battles We Face Change When We Know That With Us In The Battle Is Yahweh-Nissi. There are three things you can count on when you give your life to Yahweh-Nissi:
1. He Fights For You Even When You Are Unaware Of His Presence.
Do you doubt this? Do you feel, “Well, if God is so concerned about me where is He now? Why can’t I beat this habit? Why is all this happening to me?” Listen carefully to Paul in Romans 5:8—But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. The battle Jesus fought in the Garden of Gethsemane wasn’t just about Him.
It was about humanity and about us. At stake was whether or not we could be forgiven of our sins, released from our guilt and condemnation, have a real purpose for life, have a relationship with God now and a home in heaven later. THAT was the battle that Jesus fought in that olive grove. And if He fought that hard for you then, don’t you think He still fights for you now? Does a bear like honey? Does a cow eat grass? Do gasoline prices go up? Does Immanuel fight for you even when you are unaware of it? The answer is the same of all these questions: unequivocally YES. He stepped out of eternity and into time to be with you in the battle for your soul.
2. He Equips You With The Weapons To Win Those Battles.
Because this is a spiritual war, conventional weapons of strength and knowledge will not work. Spiritual battles require spiritual weapons. And Paul tells us what we can count on from The With Us God in Eph. 6:12-17…
“12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
The Message puts it like this: Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. The weapons we need come from the arsenal of God himself. Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Faith, Salvation,And The Word Are More Than Words. They are the weapons of God’s design that Satan can never defeat. He is with us to equip us so that Satan will lose the battle.
And we know we can trust and rely on these weapons to work because Jesus used these same weapons to conquer Satan. He is With Us so that we can win the battles that wage inside us by giving the only weapons that are proven successful again and again and again. The proving ground of these weapons was a cemetery outside Jerusalem that failed to hold on to the body of Jesus.
3. He Will Stay In The Battle With You Until The Final Victory.
Maybe you heard the joke about a time when the Lone Ranger and Tonto were surrounded by the Apaches. The Lone Ranger looked at Tonto and said, “It looks like they have surrounded us.” And Tonto replies, “What do you mean, us, pale face?” Have you ever had been abandoned by someone you thought you could count on? It hurts, doesn’t it. The sting is painful and the bruise goes deep. But God will never do that to you.
In Deut. 31:6, God reveals something of His heart to Joshua as he is about to lead the Hebrews into the Land of Promise—The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. This is the nature of God’s heart to you. Skip town on you? Never! Run and hide in the thick of battle? Forget that ever happening! Slip away during the night? Ain’t gonna happen! How do I know this? How can you know this? Listen again as Paul opens the door of heaven and gives us a glimpse of the With Us God: Phil. 1:6—And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. And you can be certain too, that God will continue His good work within you until the day when Jesus returns.
How? Because one night a long time ago, an angel visited carpenter with a message and a name—Immanuel! The With Us God. If you think your god is far off and distantly removed from you, then it’s time you meet the only God who dared to do the unthinkable: He became the With Us God. And one reason He came to be the With Us God is so that we might know Yahweh-Nissi: The God Who Fights For Us. You can run away from Him this morning—but He won’t ever give up His pursuit of love for you.
Step: Get To Know The Weapons
Truth, Righteousness, Peace,
Faith, Salvation, And The Word. Make a commitment now to study, then use them.
1-3 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so they could embalm him. Very early on Sunday morning, as the sun rose, they went to the tomb. They worried out loud to each other, “Who will roll back the stone from the tomb for us?”
4-5 Then they looked up, saw that it had been rolled back—it was a huge stone—and walked right in. They saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed all in white. They were completely taken aback, astonished.
6-7 He said, “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He’s been raised up; he’s here no longer. You can see for yourselves that the place is empty. Now—on your way. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You’ll see him there, exactly as he said.”
One of my favorite children’s story writers is Dr. Seuss. The best character Dr. Seuss ever came up with has got to be Horton the elephant. I love that guy. Remember that flaky duck mother who left her egg with Horton and said, “Would you watch this egg please?” She leaves that egg and hits the road. Horton stays with that egg until it hatches. He’s a wonderful mother. Remember that great line Dr. Seuss gives to Horton? He says, “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant is faithful 100 percent.”
It’s devastating when people break their word. It can feel like betrayal. It crushes the spirit, drains the hope and often the joy of living right out of us. This is where those first disciples were on that Sunday…
When Jesus came on the scene preaching the Good News of God’s Kingdom, people found hope. Many believed in what Jesus was saying. It seemed to ring so true in their life. Incredible as it seemed, somehow they knew, deep down inside—man, this is the real stuff.
Many believers abandoned their old lifestyles and followed Jesus full-time; a few even gave up very lucrative careers, all to follow Jesus. And they did it without regret or remorse. But then it happened. Jesus was arrested—fairness was nowhere to be seen. He was delivered into the hands of Roman authority—Justice was thrown out the window. And when that wasn’t enough—the religious leaders incited the crowd to cry out for Jesus’ crucifixion.
They saw him after the Roman soldiers had beaten Him; bleeding stripes on his back, with chunks of flesh missing or just hanging there. They saw him led to Golgotha, and they watched the spikes being driven into His hands and feet. They watched as he hung in agony, and then—die! As bad as it was to watch the death of Jesus, it was even worse for them—for their hope and peace and joy died also. Maybe some of them felt betrayed by Jesus. They thought he hadn’t kept his word to them. We all need people who will keep their word.
When you experience a person who keeps promises, it’s a life-changing experience. Some of the greatest historical moments have been moments where people kept their words. In May of 1942, when the United States evacuated Corregidor, a submarine came to take General MacArthur and his staff to Australia. Before MacArthur got on that submarine, he made a very famous promise: “I shall return.” MacArthur had a flair for the dramatic. But it went deeper than that. When the war in the Pacific turned, American troops began to fight their way back toward the Philippines.
Some advisers in the Pacific theater felt it was foolish to try to go back. They said, “Just bypass the Philippines, and go on.” But MacArthur felt a sense of history—a promise had been made. He went back to Leyte Gulf, and you may remember the famous Life magazine photograph as MacArthur stepped on the beach to keep a promise.
What you need to remember this Easter and for the rest of your life is this: God Meant What He Said And He Said What He Meant. God Is Faithful 100 Percent! He promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him. And He kept that promise. He promised Moses that He would deliver the people from slavery. And He kept that promise. He promised Joshua that He would fight for them. And He kept that promise.
He promised David that he would be king. And He kept that promise. He promised through the Prophets that the Messiah would come. And He kept that promise. He promised Joseph that Mary’s child was the Messiah. And He kept that promise.
Easter is a wonderful time to remember that God keeps His promises to us. Easter isn’t about new clothes and dinners and egg hunts. Easter is about Jesus—The One who keeps His word to us. There’s not a single promise that God makes to you that He doesn’t keep.
The angel says to the women, “He’s alive.” Jesus of Nazareth is alive. There’s no mistake about it. It’s not a phantom-spiritualized-Christ that the angel is talking about. It’s Jesus of Nazareth. This is the historical name of our Lord—His name, plus the city, Nazareth. Jesus of Nazareth is alive. He has conquered death. And He kept that promise. He will meet his friends in Galilee, as he said He would.
Everything that Jesus had told them—it’s all true! “Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You’ll see him there, exactly as he said.” That’s what the angel said. Jesus keeps his word.
I want to reflect upon the amazing fact that Jesus still keeps His promise. God meant what He said, and He said what He meant. God is faithful 100 percent! This Easter and for the rest of your life, you need to remember:
He Loved Us Then, He Loves Us Now, And He Will Always Love Us—Just Like He Said.
Before the Cross, Jesus said in John 15:12-13, This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. The fact of the Cross is nearly 2000 years old. If He loved us while He hung on that Cross—and He did love us—do you really think at any point now he will stop loving us?
Nothing you can do will make God love you more than when Jesus hung on the Cross. And nothing you can do will make God love you less than when Jesus hung on the Cross. His love is given to you without any conditions. His love never has any small print. There are no exclusionary clauses.
You can count on God’s love. 1 John 4:16 says, “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” God is offering us all a love relationship because He is love. God meant what He said and He said what He meant. God is faithful 100 percent.—Just like He said He would.
God Will Forgive Us—Just Like He Said.
On that Cross He said it. In the middle of that pain, He said it. While people were mocking Him, He said it. While soldiers were gambling for His clothes, He said it. While those who were closest to him were doubting and giving up hope, He said it! What did He say? Luke 23:34“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And if there is sin that has not been confessed and if there are sins you haven’t repented of, Jesus says it to you: “Father, forgive him, he doesn’t know what he is doing. Father, forgive her, because she doesn’t have a clue.”
Forgiveness was extended from the Cross to all those who were inflicting that pain and mocking his Mission. His forgiveness is not just to those around that Cross. This to us as well. It’s this Word that Jesus still speaks today. He speaks it into every broken heart—every filthy-sin-stained heart every moment of every day. And if there is anyone here today who thinks that they have gone too far to be forgiven, remember—God meant what He said and He said what He meant. God is faithful 100 percent. —Just like He said He would.
Finally, God Will Stay With Us—Just Like He Said.
Tombs are memorials and markers to what used to be; monuments to the past. They are designed to remember what was is not forgotten. But The Tomb on that first Easter was empty then because He was alive. There’s all kinds of speculations about where the tomb of Jesus was around Jerusalem. Some say it’s The Church of The Holy Sepulcher, and others day it’s The Garden Tomb. Several spots claim to be that place, but know what? That doesn’t matter—because He’s not in tomb. Tombs are for dead people.
Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Stalin is buried in Moscow. Mohammed is still in a burial vault in the city of Medina. But I don’t care about which place Jesus was buried. Truth is, He’s alive. He conquered death, and now He seeks to live in the hearts and lives of those who accept Him. Jesus Lives Today, and He comes to live in us by the Holy Spirit because God meant what He said and He said what He meant. God is faithful 100 percent.
Can you really walk away this morning, of all mornings, when you remember that God meant what He said and He said what He meant? God is faithful 100 percent? Can you really put off going deeper in your relationship with Jesus? How can you hold back a part of you knowing that God meant what He said and He said what He meant? God is faithful 100 percent? How can you pass this off as just another holiday and go back to life as usual knowing that God meant what He said and He said what He meant? God is faithful 100 percent? He was faithful to those first Followers, and He will be faithful to YOU 100 percent.
And the beauty and wonder of all of this, is that He doesn’t expect you to understand 100% how He will transform your life back into the glory of His Image. Because He is faithful 100%, He doesn’t give up on His plans when you try to make changes to that plan. And because He is faithful 100%, He will not stop loving, forgiving or transforming you when you mess up or want to give up. God meant what He said and He said what He meant. God is faithful 100 percent!