Details, Man, Details!

Last night I completed yet another course in another advanced degree from The School Of Experience! I decided to go pick up a few things at Sam’s Club. More context: The nearest Sam’s Club is about 45 miles away. I thought (my first mistake), “Well, it’s late Sunday afternoon, surely all the Black Friday shoppers are at home admiring their latest conquests.” So, I get ready and head out. This was my second mistake.

My first stop, though, was to stop by at the local nursing home for a party. One of those given to me in my care grandmother resides there. They were having a birthday party–she will be 100 years old on Wednesday. After enjoying the time there and talking with her, I headed out to Tuscaloosa. It was an uneventful trip; that is, until I got to the intersection of McFarland Boulevard and Skyland Boulevard.

Sam’s closes at 6:00 p.m. I arrived at that intersection at 5:04. I wasn’t worried because I wouldn’t be in there that long. After several cycles of changing lights, at 5:15 p.m. I got through the intersection. No problem. Still have time. I found a parking place; got out of my car; locked the doors and headed to the entrance. As is my habit, as I walked I reached into my pocket to get my Sam’s Card out. . .

Here’s why I completed another course for another advanced degree from The School Of Experience. Imagine my frustration when my hand discovered I forgot one thing: The Billfold. I had my keys, put on a cap, holstered the Ruger (I have a concealed carry permit), grabbed my sunglasses, and put on a jacket. Only one detail I forgot; and it was the most important one.

There was a time, not all that long ago, I would have allowed my frustration to take over my feelings. But I didn’t; that was the Holy Spirit working in me. I called my wife, Debbie, and when she answered I said, “Call me an idiot!” She asked me why and I told her just call me an idiot–with which she complied! Then I told her what had just happened and we got a big laugh out of it.

On the way home I was thankful–thankful I had enough gas in the tank to get home because gas is about 15-20 cents cheaper and I always fill up when leaving Tuscaloosa. After talking to Debbie, I pulled up the Andy Andrew podcasts and enjoyed a better learning experience.

And if you have not figured out the lesson I learned from this latest course in The School Of Experience, here it is: PAY ATTENTION TO ALL THE DETAILS! And the most important thing is to seek out the most important detail of all. No, not the billfold. If you just thought that, then you failed the course, and will have to take it again.

The most important detail is seeking and inviting God to be with you wherever you go and whatever you do. Talk with Him. Listen to Him. Who knows, maybe the 4 of you (remember that God is Father, Son, AND Holy Spirit) will have a good laugh together like we did in the parking lot of Sam’s Club. I leave you with these thoughts:

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:6 (ESV)

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him! Now, please excuse me. I need to shopping this morning. . .and yes. . .I will have my billfold with me.

Step 7—Live With Focus!

You And You Alone Choose Where You Will Focus.

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This is the very last message in this series about how to become a water-walker.  So, let’s look at that passage one more time.  

25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” 27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”  28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”  29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.

Matthew 14:25-32 (NLT)

Let’s do our final review today.

  • Step 1—Get Out Of The Boat.  You will never walk with Jesus UNTIL you’re out of your boat.
  • Step 2—Have The Right Attitude.  There will be challenges —just remember Jesus is with you.
  • Step 3—Discover Your Gift.  This comes out of your giftedness and God gives all of us gifts.  Discover them.
  • Step 4—Use Leverage.  The leverage we use is our weaknesses against the Power of God.  
  • Step 5—Overcome The Fear.  The way to overcome fear is to Rehearse His presence.  Renew your mind.  And Refocus all your attention on Jesus.
  • Step 6—Know That It’s More Hazardous In The Boat Than It Is Risky On The Water.  Water-Walkers will not live in hazardous waste—but they will live in the Risks.

Now, we come to the last step in this series—Living With Focus.  And here is the one thing you need to remember:  You And You Alone Choose Where You Will Focus. It’s your choice.  Your Choice Has Implications Beyond Your Imaginations—Extending Even Into Eternity.

Now, we come to the last step in this series—Living With Focus.  And here is the one thing you need to remember:  You And You Alone Choose Where You Will Focus. It’s your choice.  Your Choice Has Implications Beyond Your Imaginations—Extending Even Into Eternity.

Now, we come to the last step in this series—Living With Focus.  And here is the one thing you need to remember:  You And You Alone Choose Where You Will Focus. It’s your choice.  Your Choice Has Implications Beyond Your Imaginations—Extending Even Into Eternity

Everybody has chosen a Focus—without exception.  Even those who you clearly see are living without a Focus.  Even those who admit their lives are not focused—They have chosen a Focus for their lives—it’s just in the wrong place.  Focus Plays Out Every Day, In Every Moment And Situation.

What happens when we Focus in the wrong place?  We see danger, trouble and problems.  And we open the door to uncontrolled, ferocious fear.  I’ve been saying all along, that water walking is risky business. 

But the only way we can grow in our faith is through taking risks, and risks always involve having the Right Focus because we’re stepping out of our comfort zones into new territory.

This is the way it was for Peter.  He’d been on this lake thousands of times.  But every time he was IN The Boat.  Now he is about to take a stroll ON the lake WITHOUT The Boat.  This is a new experience, a new adventure for Peter.  He has always been comfortable in the boat.  It was his livelihood.  So, Peter takes his leap of faith, and focuses on Jesus, who had just invited him to join him for a leisurely stroll on the water. 

And guess what, Peter actually walks on the water.  As long as Peter kept his Focus on Jesus, he didn’t sink.  But the moment his Focus changed—he immediately sank!

Unfortunately, some people choose to Focus only on the winds and the waves, and so they, like the others, stay in the boat.    Today, I want us to learn how to keep our Focus on Jesus, and thus continue the most exciting adventure ever; an adventure that fills the heart of God with indescribable joy. 

If you are one of those unfortunate people who have chosen to Focus on the negative that has saturated our culture and politics rather than the mission of God—Then Change Your Focus—And It Will Change The Way You See Your Life—And That Will Change Why You Live Your Life

To have be a Water-Walker, it takes the Right Focus.  When you are on the Water, Focus alone determines whether you walk or sink.  We know what happened when Peter’s Focus turned to the waves and the wind.  So let’s look at Peter’s Focus while he was Walking On The Water.  Let’s start with the easiest and most obvious:

1.  Focus On Jesus

When Peter accepted the Opportunity to Walk on Water, His Focus was on Jesus.  Water-Walkers Focus on Jesus.  Water Sinkers sink because they have Focused on the wind and waves—or they have chosen to Focus on the Jesus of their imagination and understanding.  To Focus On Jesus Requires Us To Focus On 3 Truths About Jesus:

Focus On His Nature—His nature is what always comes to the surface.  It’s the way He responds to us.  He responds to us out of and through His unmistakable love.

Focus On His Desires—His biggest desire is to see a different world filled with different people.  The way Jesus fills the world with different people is by Delivering captives—releasing prisoners—filling the hungry and empty with His Resurrection Presence.  Jesus intentionally redeems and restores His fallen image bearers.

Focus On His Character—His Character is that of A Warrior!  Gentle Jesus meek and mild doesn’t exist!  He was meek on the Cross—but He Is The Bold Warrior coming out of the Grave!  He’s not giving up or backing down.  The commitment He had on the Cross—the determination He had in that tomb—and the lengths He goes to get us to turn away from sin and the power of sin in us is His Character.  If we Focus On The True Character Of Jesus—then we will not stay in The Boat.  We will join Him on the Water.

2.  Focus On Your Purpose

Your Purpose Is To Be Involved With What Jesus Is Involved.  Jesus is involved in a lot of things—but it will always be found where people struggle—where people need encouragement.  Put it this way:  Jesus Is Involved With People.  Good people.  Bad people.  Ugly people.  Mean People.  Nice People.  Broken-Messed Up People.

True Water-Walkers accept, even at times with a bit of reluctance—that Real Disciples Of Jesus Are Focused On God’s Purpose For Their Lives.  Water-Walking Is Living In Confidence That Your Purpose Is Both Divinely Given And Worthwhile In Your Life.

God’s purpose for your life is important. Your role in the Kingdom of God is essential and significant.  Focus on Jesus and your life makes a difference in the world.  If You Don’t Believe That, Then You Are Not Focused On Your Purpose, Not Focused On Jesus And You’re Not Really Following Jesus.  When you say that you don’t have much if anything to offer—you’re saying God is lying.

3.  Focus On The Partnership

This is not something we do alone.  Remember what Peter said in the boat:  If it is you, Jesus, then invite me to join You.  It is impossible to sink when you partner with Jesus in your life.  Remember what we said about leverage:  God’s Strength Is Made Perfect Through AND In Our Weaknesses. 

The Partnership with God is simple—bring it all to Him and give to Him all of your weaknesses—all of your fear—all of your excuses about what you can’t do—then Accept From Him, His Strength.  This is what Partnership With God looks like.

The Story Of Every Person God Uses In The Bible Is The Story Of Focus.  Focus is what made Abraham leave his home.  Focus is what made Moses willing to challenge the Pharaoh.  Focus is what led Gideon into battle with only 300 soldiers against 10’s of thousands.  Focus is what drove the prophets to proclaim their message, even when it seemed no one was listening.  Focus is why Peter and the others stood up at the Feast of Pentecost to proclaim the Good News Of The Kingdom of God.  Focus is what led Paul into unknown territory—all the way to Rome.  Focus is what led people like Martin Luther, John Knox, John Wesley, Charles Finney, C.H. Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, A.W. Tozer to change their world.

If You Believe Or Even Think That This Culture We Live In Is Beyond Revival—Then You Are Not Focused On The Partnership.

The Bible often uses the term:  “losing heart.”  Losing Heart Is Just Another Way Of Saying Losing Your Focus.  It’s not what we’re capable of doing—it’s about what God wants to do through us. 

Whenever God calls you to get out of the boat, He gives you the power to walk on the water.  He never calls anyone to sink.  Water-Walking Is Not The Conviction That Something Will Turn Out Well, But The Certainty That Something Makes The Difference, Regardless Of How It Turns Out. 

Every person submits to some thing or some one who will be their source of authority.  That authority has control over your mind, heart and actions.  Authority defines your values and your ethics—that moral compass of what is right or wrong, good or bad. 

Who or what is the authority over your life?  Before you give the “I’m-in-church” answer, answer this question first:  “Where Is Your Focus?”  Focus Reveals Who Or What Gets Your Immediate And Primary Attention.

Focus Is About Your Definition Of Authority.  You Determine Who Or What Has Authority Over Your Life.  That source of authority demands your attention—and you will give your Focus to that Authority.  Authority is what influences your decisions.  Authority is where you look for answers and for guidance in the choices you make.  In The Boat, your Authority is the comfort of the familiar—playing it safe—choosing fear over adventure.

Focus defines and ultimately reveals your Primary Priority. Through Focus, we declare that God is real!  Through Focus, we remember that reality is more than what we can touch or see or hear.  It is about the God who is ALL power, ALL seeing, ALL knowing, ALL caring and loving.  Focus Is About Magnifying God—Enlarging Our Understanding Of Who He Is And How He Moves In And Through Our Lives. 

I’ve intentionally left Verse 33 in the reading each week.  The Spirit has been saving it for now.  Listen again to Verse 32 AND Verse 33—

32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

Matthew 14:32-33 (NLT)

There’s a word of tragedy in Verse 33—It’s The Word Of Missed Opportunity, Missed Moments, And Missing The Reason.  Figured out the word?  It’s the first word in that verse:  THEN!  Not during the moment—just THEN.

I’ve heard teachers, preachers and people say, “The rest of the disciples finally understand Jesus, praise God!”  Well…I’m going to burst some bubbles this morning.  They did NOT understand Jesus.  They did not acknowledge Jesus until He stopped the Wind.  Jesus isn’t just the one who controls the wind—He’s The One In Complete Control IN The Storm.

I always try to give you something to try each week.  That’s why I call them Your Next Steps.  I always try to find some Step that will help you put the Scriptures we looked at into some tangible act or decision on your part.

Today’s Next Step is more important than any other Next Step I’ve challenged you with.  How important?  I’m glad you asked.  Here’s how important this Next Step is—Your Future, The Future Of Your Families, The Future Of Your Friends, The Future Of This Place Will Begin To Change—For The Better If You Take It—Or It May Take A Change For The Worse If You Don’t.

It is never too late—and you are never too old to make choices that will become positive changes—in your family, with your friends, in the community—and especially in the Kingdom of God.

If you trust God, make your choice to do this Next Step to see the future change—for you and for others:

If you trust God, make your choice to do these Next Step to see the future change—for you and for others:

  1. You Can Choose To Focus In The Boat. 
  2. Or You Can Choose To Focus On Jesus.

Your choice–and as the Knight said in the movie Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, “Choose wisely.”

I Choose Focus

Even when “we” say we aren’t focused. . .reality is we are focused on NOT being focused.

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(Photo from medium.com)

Tuesday I chose to be joyful. Yesterday I chose to be hopeful. Early this morning as God and I were talking, He reminded me that those 2 choices need to be made everyday, all day long. So at 4:45 a.m., reflecting on what I would write this morning, here is what I said. “Today I choose to be joyful. Today I choose to be hopeful.” Now, what do I add to these two? OK, here it is: “Today I choose to be focused.”

OK, OK, what’s the big deal? What’s the difference? People, that includes you and me, are focused every day. Even when “we” say we aren’t focused. . .reality is we are focused on NOT being focused. Not being focused IS a choice of focus. I’ll leave this thought for another blog.

Today, I will choose, carefully choose I might add, the objects of my focus. It is going to look something like this:

  1. I will focus on my relationship with Abba, Poppa.
  2. I will focus on maintaining a pure heart, for HIM.
  3. I will focus on Defining Moments that will take me deeper in Him.
  4. I will focus on on those Divinely Engineered Moments HE prepared so that I can have even a small part in the work HE is doing in the hearts and lives of others, even those who in the moment annoy me.
  5. I will focus on people who show kindness, and express to them my personal appreciation.
  6. In short: I choose today to Focus On The Kingdom Of God.

Deliberate, laser beam focus is the choice I make today. . .along with being joyful and hopeful, I choose to focus on The Kingdom Of God. This means I look for His Kingdom in the expected places. . .but most of all in those UNEXPECTED places. . .ESPECIALLY in those UNEXPECTED places. Whoever would have thought that God’s Kingdom, and His Glory would have been found on a Roman cross? Jesus did.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed (by the way this is the definition of focus)—that exhilarating finish in and with God—He could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now He’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God

Hebrews 12:2 (The Message)

Today I choose to be joyful, hopeful, and focused. Will you join me in this? I pray so. And remember. . .Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him.

Whatever

When my daughter Leslie was a teenager, there was a word she would say that drove me insane. I know that’s only a short trip for me, but still… It wanted me to shake the teeth out of her mouth, but then there would be that dental bill. So I restrained myself. “What was that word?”, you ask? WHATEVER. I was boring her.

It was more than the word, it was the way she said….and her tone of voice. It would usually come at the end of a discussion about getting her to do something, or not do something. Honestly, I believe she said that word because she knew what it did to me. What does this have to do with Kingdom Life? I’m glad you asked.

Yesterday I was returning from making a hospital visit in Columbus, Mississippi and it was lunch time, but I also needed to get back home. So I decided to stop at a certain fast food chain and get something to go. I needed to make a pit stop, so I went inside to get my order to go. Remember, I needed to be somewhere else.

I walk up to the counter to get some “fast food” and be on my way. And…nothing. The employee who was covering the counter was looking away…looking bore. I looked at the other employees, even the shift manager….there it was–the Look of Boredom. Even after she finally saw me there that look on her face said, “Whatever.” That entire shift looked like prisoners to boredom…to “whatever”.

This time I didn’t lose my cool. I am finally discovering that with age, comes wisdom. Not always, mind you…I can show you many examples from a lot of people where age comes alone. I wasn’t impatient or demanding. Honestly, it surprised me that I wasn’t. Patience isn’t one of my strong suits. Instead of being impatient, my heart was breaking for that shift of workers.

And this morning I realized one of the reasons why my knack for impatience didn’t kick in at that “fast” food restaurant. It’s a disease that has infected and affected so many in my culture–the disease of boredom. Boredom is the result of feeling empty…yet longing for a life that has purpose, more purpose than is found in the 9-to-5 life.

It’s even in churches. Some may want to blame the music or the preacher for making it boring. Granted, some preaching and some music is boring. But boredom? That’s a carrot of a different color. Boredom, as I understand it, is the result of how one thinks–that “whatever” attitude comes from that deep well of emptiness.

Our desire for a life with meaning and purpose comes from our Creator. He put His image in us, and trust me on this, there’s nothing boring about God! And honestly, it is hard to be excited about asking, “Would you like a pie with this order?” But it’s more than what job we have or what we do in our ordinary days. It is about living with that razor-sharp focus–like Jesus did when The Creator walked among the creation as one He created.

There are many who think that boredom will disappear if they had a different job, a different person in their life, a different house, a different car, lived in a different place. Spoiler alert! If you do get that different job, person, house, car or “whatever”–your boredom will follow you…and patiently wait for that opportune moment to make you bored again. Then it becomes an endless cycle of “whatever”. So how does one break free of this cycle? Glad you asked!

It comes down to our thoughts–specifically–what we think about. Paul gives some wise advice on this in Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

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

Eugene Peterson and his crew renders it this way in The Message: “I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” In case you are still confused about how to break free from boredom, allow me to break the code.

Focus on where God is at work. And where is God at work in our culture? Think back to the pattern He revealed when Jesus was in our flesh. Where was Jesus at work? Jesus was drawn towards both the best and worst places. A wedding in Canaan, a leper, a tax collector, a fishing village, the metropolis of the day known as Jerusalem. In short, wherever there were people, people broken and hurting and wounded–where people were joyful and full of praise–there we find Jesus.

He’s all around you. He’s got so much for you to discover–even at the counter of a fast food joint…even in dull music and even more dull preaching… But you will not find it until you surrender–your dreams, your will, your vision, your own interpretation of what will make you truly happy–to the one who “did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.  Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.  When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

I know, you think it would be easier to be bored with 10 gazillion dollars in the bank–but it won’t be easier. Happiness will not overcome boredom. The Enemy will make sure of that. But Joy–Joy that flows from what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable, will smash boredom like smashing that mosquito that has just come out of its winter hibernation. Don’t like the “Whatever Life”–live the Life Jesus revealed in His Life, His Death and best of all, His Resurrection.

And remember, Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him. It may be tough sometimes, but it is never BORING!

THE LIVING BREAD LIFE!

Your Heart, Life, And Mind Is Being Fed By Either The Manna Life Or Living Bread Life.

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(This is the second in the message series “YAHWEH! THE GREAT I AM”

We are continuing to look at The Boldest Statements Jesus Ever Made.  We are looking at some of those times when Jesus said:  “I am.”  Last week we looked at the Story of the Woman at the Well.  But remember that Jesus never said “I Am” because He didn’t speak English.  He would have spoken Hebrew and the word he would have used was Yahweh.  Yahweh is the name God revealed to Moses.

It is God’s eternal name, His name for all generations to remember.  It was illegal to use that word in public, yet Jesus used that Name when He revealed himself to that woman. Claiming to be Yahweh, He backs up that claim with another moment when Jesus uses His Eternal Name.  It’s found in John 6:32-51 (The Message)

32-33 Jesus responded, “The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread.  The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world.” 

34 They jumped at that:  “Master, give us this bread, now and forever!”  35-38 Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life.  The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever.  I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me.  Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me.  And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go.  I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.

39-40 “This, in a nutshell, is that will:  that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole.  This is what my Father wants:  that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life.  My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.”

41-42 At this, because he said, “I am the Bread that came down from heaven,” the Jews started arguing over him:  “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?  Don’t we know his father?  Don’t we know his mother?  How can he now say, ‘I came down out of heaven’ and expect anyone to believe him?”

43-46 Jesus said, “Don’t bicker among yourselves over me.  You’re not in charge here.  The Father who sent me is in charge.  He draws people to me—that’s the only way you’ll ever come.  Only then do I do my work, putting people together, setting them on their feet, ready for the End.  This is what the prophets meant when they wrote, ‘And then they will all be personally taught by God.’  

Anyone who has spent any time at all listening to the Father, really listening and therefore learning, comes to me to be taught personally—to see it with his own eyes, hear it with his own ears, from me, since I have it firsthand from the Father.  No one has seen the Father except the One who has his Being alongside the Father—and you can see me.

47-51 “I’m telling you the most solemn and sober truth now:  Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life.  I Am The Bread Of Life. Your ancestors ate the manna bread in the desert and died.  But now here is Bread that truly comes down out of heaven.  Anyone eating this Bread will not die, ever.  I Am The Bread—Living Bread!—who came down out of heaven.  Anyone who eats this Bread will live—and forever!  The Bread that I present to the world so that it can eat and live is myself, this flesh-and-blood self.”

Have you ever thought about how images of bread are used in our ordinary day to day life?  “That’s the best thing since sliced bread.  He’s rolling in the dough.  Hey Dad, I need some bread, (meaning money).  Their bread isn’t buttered on both sides (meaning they lack common sense).  Man, he’s toast.”  In Middle Eastern culture, and Mediterranean culture, eating bread together is a sign of friendship and connection.  Bread is a symbol for life.

When it comes to people’s spiritual lives, they will be living either the Manna Life or the Living Bread Life.  There is a sharp distinction between the two.  There is no confusion about which life we are choosing the live.  And make no mistake about it; it is our choice whether we live the Manna Life or the Living Bread Life

Let’s find something we can all agree on:  We have no control over some things that come our way in life.  There are some things that happen to us that are absolutely beyond our control.  Does everyone agree with this?  I didn’t say we liked it; just that it happens.  Now, my next point is something that you may dislike even more, but it’s the truth:  We Do Have Control Over How We React To Those Times.  How We Live Each Day And Our Reactions To Life As It Happens Come Out Of The Life That Is In Each Of Us. If you can remember only one thing today, then remember this: 

Your Heart, Life, And Mind Is Being Fed By Either The Manna Life Or Living Bread Life.

One life never satisfies and the other will always satisfy and see us through anything that life throws our way.  Let’s see the difference by setting up today’s passage.  The day before Jesus had fed a large group of people with a young boy’s sack lunch of 5 barley loaves of bread and 2 fish.  Now Jesus and the 12 are on the other side of the lake, and the people have come to Jesus again.  This time they are seeking a sign.  They wanted a sign from Jesus before they would accept Him as Messiah.  They pointed out the Moses had given them Manna as a sign that God was with them.  Now they want Jesus to give a sign that God was with Him. 

OK, excuse me, but He has turned dirty water into the most extraordinary wine, healed every disease put before Him, cast out demons, opened eyes and ears, and gave voice to those who could not talk.  And added to all that, He taught the Kingdom principles with authority, like no one else ever had.  And NOW, they want a sign?  Jesus doesn’t waste His time or their time.  More than a sign, Jesus talks about life through the images of Manna Life and Living Bread Life.  Think about the differences. 

1.  What Does The Manna Life Look Like?

What does this life feel like?  Well go back to the time when God gave them Manna.  It appeared every morning on the ground.  Each family could pick up enough for just 1 day, and no more—except on Friday.  Then they could pick up enough for 2 days.  It never lasted longer than that.  Any thing left over would be ruined the next morning, so they would have to go out and pick up more. 

Every meal was the same.  The husband or kids never asked “What’s for supper?”  It would be manna casserole, manna pot pie, manna sandwiches, manna stew, manna soup—and for dessert it was always manna cake.  I mean, there was not a whole lot of variety to their meals.  And they had to do nothing to do to get it.  They didn’t have to trade or buy or barter for it.  Every morning, day after day after day, there it was.  And every morning, whatever was left in the jar was ruined.  And here was where the problems started.  It produces the same problems today:

  1. They Believed They Were Entitled To ItThey did not have to buy it and it was always there every morning.  They begin to feel like they were entitled to it.  Few things are worse than living every day with a sense of entitlement—that life owes you something simply because you are breathing and alive.  Living With That Evil Spirit Of Entitlement Will Remove From Your Heart Any Sense Of Gratitude.  Oh, for sure, at first they were grateful.  But after only a few weeks of it, things changed.  First, they always expected it to be there,
  • They Got Tired of it.  But can you blame them?  The same meal day after day after day is enough to make them want something else.  This is what the Manna Life is like.  It’s waking up every morning to the same routine. 
    • There Is No Sense Of Excitement In The Manna Life.
    • There Are No Adventures To Explore in the Manna Life.
    • There Is No Anticipation For Anything Different To Happen in the Manna Life
  • It’s The Dull Life.  Nothing to inspire the mind or stir up the heart.
  • It’s The Life That Is Afraid To Get Out Of That Comfort Zone.  Comfort is more important than Purpose.
  • It’s The Life That Is Unwilling To Take The Risk.  Playing it safe is the key to survival for them.
  • It’s The Life Spent In Waiting And Then Wondering Why They Never Experience The Great Victories In Life.  Now mind you, they haven’t sought great victories, they’ve never engaged in the battle—but they expect great victories and are disappointed.
  • And For Church People, It’s The Life Sitting In The Pew Sunday After Sunday, Who At Best Think It Is Enough, And At Worst Think This Is All There Is To It.  They never get to experience the surprises of God’s presence, God’s grace, and God’s activities.  And sadly, they never experience the joyful surprise of being used by God to touch another life and watch God change that life. 

It’s routine life, and nothing is more boring, nothing is more unfulfilling, and few things make a life more ungrateful, than the Manna Life.  These people around Jesus thought they wanted the Manna Life.  But Jesus did not come to bring the Manna Life, but something so much better.  He came to bring them and us the Living Bread Life.  Jesus is much more than a free lunch—more than a vending machine dispensing what we want.

2.  What Exactly Is The Living Bread Life?

What does it feel like?  Look like?  Allow me to sum it up for you. 

  1. It Is The Life That Is Deeply And Intimately Connected To Our Heavenly Father Through Christ Living In Us.  It is living your life with the assurance and confidence that Jesus actually lives in your heart—lives in you so that you can grow to become all God sees in you!
  • It’s A Life That Is Abundant In Power, Love And Grace.  There is more than enough of Jesus living in the heart of every believer to accomplish anything that God wants.  It’s not just enough for today.  It’s enough for tomorrow, and the next day and the next, all the way to eternity.  There is enough grace, enough mercy, and enough love to lead us right up to the very throne of God.
  • It’s The Life Of Adventure.  When the Hebrews would wake up each morning in the wilderness, they didn’t have to look far to find the manna—just go outside and pick it up.  But Living Bread Life calls us into an adventure where we trust in Him to provide what we Cannot See Or Even Imagine.  God wants to take you on an adventure in life where nothing is bland or dull.  It’s the life of excitement knowing that Jesus lives in you, and that He is going to use you in ways you never imagined. 
  • It’s The Life Of Exploration.  It’s going down different paths, trying new ways.  The only thing we know about the future of this life in grace is that one day, we will end in His eternal presence.  So every day offers us the opportunity to find that God is always doing something new.  It’s exciting to be a part of what God wants done.  God is anything but predictable when it comes to how He works in this world.
  • It Is The Life Of Contentment.  Let me tell you something about real life.  There will be times of abundance in our life.  And there will be times of scarcity.  There will be times when all of our ducks are in a perfect row and all marching to the same beat.  And there will be times when the ducks will scatter in all directions.  There will be times when the sailing is smooth as silk.  And there will be times when it will feel like we are on a monster roller coaster.  But the one thing about the Living Bread Life is that in every condition and situation, we will learn to be content—that we are at peace with God, self and the world. 

The only source of life for all of this—comes through the only thing—rather the only ONE—who will be present in both extremes and every point between them.  I’m talking about Jesus living in your heart.  You know He is the one who blesses us far more than we deserve.  And you know He is the ONLY one who will stand with us to strengthen us and guide through the rough waters and over the steep mountains.

We can choose to accept the Manna Life with all its hollowness.  Or we can choose to accept The Living Bread Life with all its Hallowedness—by inviting Jesus, The Living Bread, into our hearts.  For someone here today, this may be the very first time for you to invite Jesus into your heart.  For the rest of us, it’s our time to renew our decision by inviting Jesus to go deeper into our hearts.  Just bread on the table will leave us hungry again.  But the ONE who dares to call Himself YahwehLiving Bread, can and will satisfy our deepest hunger and deepest thirst.

Next Steps

  1. Come Up With An Idea Of A Way We, As A Church, Can Get To Know People Around Us.
  2. Come Up With An Idea Of How We Can Connect Other Churches Around Us In Order To Do More For The Kingdom Of God!

THRIVING IN THE KAIROS LIFE IN CHRONOS TIME!

When We Are Controlled By Chronos Time, It Limits, Even Eliminates, Our Ability To See God’s Time Of Kairos.

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(This is the second in my current Message Series, “Kairos Living In A Chronos Life!” You can find the first message here)

Remember from last week that Chronos Is Measured by Quantity.  Kairos Is Measured By Quality.  Kairos Time reveals and expresses quality moments that First Changes Us, and then Changes Our Surroundings

Our passage today is taken from Habakkuk 2:1-3.  Here’s the background you need to understand before we read it.  Habakkuk was a prophet just before the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem.  He senses doom is just ahead, and he does a very human thing:  He complains.  First he complains about his culture and why God doesn’t do something to change it.  God answers his complaint with the truth. 

Because they have been unfaithful, just as Habakkuk complained, He’s about to send Babylon to bring judgment.  Habakkuk doesn’t like God’s answer, so he complains again—complains about HOW God is addressing the problem.  All of this is chapter 1.  Now let’s look at the heart of God’s reply to Habakkuk’s complaining in Habakkuk 2:1-3 (NLT)

I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post.  There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint.   Then the Lord said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time.  It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled.  If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently,
    for it will surely take place.  It will not be delayed.”

This passage talks about the impending judgment on Jerusalem.  But it also says something about God’s Time and Timing, especially that last sentence:  “It will not be delayed.”

Now here’s the one thing you need to remember today:  When We Are Controlled By Chronos Time, It Limits, Even Eliminates, Our Ability To See God’s Time Of Kairos.

The life that God offers us is The Kairos Life—moments full of God’s Kairos Time.  And as I said last week, we live IN a Chronos World.  We are surrounded by Chronos.  Until we die or unless Jesus comes back there’s no escaping Chronos Time.  And there are demands that Chronos puts on us.  To deny this truth is to live in a fantasy land.  It’s unrealistic and untrue. 

And as God’s messenger, I’m not going to deceive you into thinking that Chronos Time is no longer real once we become a disciple of Jesus.  There’s no way around it; but we do not have to be controlled nor limited by Chronos Time, because God has another Time and it’s the Life called The Kairos Life.  So, how can we thrive in a Chronos World with a Kairos heart? 

If give our heart to Jesus and throw our life into the Kingdom of God, Chronos Time remains for now.  But we do not have to live in Chronos Time the same way.  It’s all a matter of the mind and heart—and where we hitch our hearts and minds. 

At every given moment, our minds and hearts are attached—tethered to either Chronos or Kairos time.  Chronos remains dull, boring, and a difficult thing to endure without being connected deeply and strongly with Kairos Time.  But, When we are tethered to—fastened to The Kairos Life, it changes how we live in the Chronos Time.

Kairos changes our perception to see beyond times and appointments and duties.  Kairos opens us up to the true power of the Kingdom of God that redeems and transforms anything and anyone—that brings God’s glory into everything and everyone.  You just have to be in that place to see Kairos Time.  To make sure you can thrive in The Kairos Life in Chronos Time, allow me to share some steps you can take so you will Thrive In The Kairos Life:

1.  First, Check To See If What You Are Doing Really Matters To God & The Kingdom

Luke 17:21—“You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.”

When your focus is on what you are doing it’s hard to focus on what God is doing. (Allow me to repeat this: When your focus is on what you are doing it’s hard to focus on what God is doing.)  Our focus tends to be on the external trappings of what we see with our eyes, hear with our ears, touch with our hands.  It’s not that way with the Kingdom of God.  And what matters to God and His Kingdom?

Your salvation!  Your spiritual maturity!  Speaking to each other rather than about each other!  Helping others!  Getting to know people, their hurts and their hopes.  Caring about others more than yourself!  How much more time do I have?  Well, obviously not enough.  Let me put it this way—God cares more this community than He does about this building.  And if you want to live in Kairos Time, then you need to do the same.

2.  Second, Kairos Is Planned By God’s Time And Not Us

Ecclesiastes 3:11—Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

Kairos is that Moment where God is making a move—in the hearts of people and at the center of communities.  It is all about trusting in God’s timing.  I have moments where I have issues with that timing.  But God sees farther ahead than we do.

This requires us to make a mental shift.  Instead of looking at our time as grains of sand slipping through an hourglass, we view our time as opportunities that God has been planning.  Trying to control as much as possible is living in Chronos time.  We need to live into time by seeing it as Kairos time, God’s time.  Instead of viewing our time as seconds ticking by, we can see God’s grace at work.

3.  Third, Kairos Time Is Big Picture Time

Isaiah 55:8-9—8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

In Chronos Time we get locked in our stuff—our abilities, our limitations.  Human reasoning and human logic are under both the influence and the control of Chronos Time. 

Kairos Time Is Under The Influence And Control Of God.  “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts.”  God’s thoughts are rooted in His Power and His heart, not our abilities nor our desires.  God knows what He can do while we think about what we can’t do.

And look at that other part:  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”  As wild as my imagination can be at times, it’s nothing compared with God’s imagination! Our perspective is always limited by time and space—so we imagine in ways that are limited by Chronos Time.  So we use time selfishly—what we want and desire.

God’s perspective is unlimited because there are no boundaries to eternity.  Kairos Time reveals that unlimited perspective and unlimited opportunity that God sees because of Eternity.  When you lock God into Chronos Time, you deny yourself Kairos Time!  Last, but by no means least—

4.  Kairos Is An Invitation Time

Matthew 28:19-20—“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Some moments are more valuable than other moments.  The five minutes that I have to share the gospel with an unsaved stranger is more valuable than the five minutes of listening to people complain.  I must take advantage of my opportunities—and so must you.

Kairos Time is when we accept God’s Invitation to be involved with Him, rather than us asking Him to be involved with what we are doing.  (I need to say that again)  Chronos Time is doing what we want.  Kairos Time is living in what God wants.  Chronos Time is killing the church.  But Kairos is bringing the Kingdom that will never die! 

God is looking for those of us who are sick and tired of living with a Chronos Heart—and who long to live with The Kairos Heart–to lean in and step into what God is doing, unlike what King Asa did. The story is in 2 Chronicles 16. King Asa saw his Chronos as what Chronos ends up being: HOPELESS! So he made a treaty with his enemy. But the prophet Hanani calls Asa on this and gives us hope:

2 Chronicles 16:9 (The Message) – God is always on the alert, constantly on the lookout for people who are totally committed to him.

Asa saw his future as Chronos time but Hanani saw it as Kairos Time. Your current situations are the direct result of your past decisions.  Your future situations depend on your current decisions.  It comes in the moment of opportunity. 

The perfect moment is perfect because God has been planning it and now invites you into a moment that can never be measured.  When you realize the Kairos moment, take a breath and pause before you exhale.  If you do this your life will be changed.  We only have such a brief opportunity to shepherd our kids and grandkids when they’re still young children. When a friend is experiencing pain, we have a brief window of time in which to reach out to them.  You never know when the Chronos Time you spend with any person is in reality—a Kairos Time for both of you.

Next Steps

  1. Each day this week invest some of your Chronos Time in prayer.  Specifically in 3 areas: 
    1. Someone who has been on your heart
    1. The upcoming General Conference
    1. Our future as a church
  2. Get involved in our new Bible Study Group that begins Feb. 27 on the Book of Acts

Kairos Living In A Chronos World

This is the first of my latest Message Series, “Kairos Living In A Chronos World)

I have a riddle for you. 

  • It’s free, but it’s priceless. 
  • You can’t own it, but you can use it. 
  • You can’t keep it but you can waste it. 
  • Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back. 
  • In one person’s hands it brings hope and in another person’s hands it brings pain. 
  • It can crawl or it can fly, but it has no hands, legs or wings.

Think you know the answer?  It’s Time!  Let’s take a look at today’s passage found in Ephesians 5:16-17 (NLT):

Today we begin a new series called Kairos Living In A Chronos World.  The 1 thing you need to remember from today’s message is a question:  What Are You More Interested In–Counting Your Days, Or Making Your Days Count?  Let this question roam freely in your mind this week.  In fact, I will beg you NOT to answer this question until you have spent a lot of time thinking about it.

Have you ever slowed down enough to do serious reflection on time?  When it comes to “time”—what thoughts do you have?  What effect does that word “time” have on your emotions?  Are you overwhelmed?  Frustrated?  Fulfilled?  Stressed?  Fearful?  Anxious?  Happy?  Joyful?  Depressed?  Discouraged?  How do your emotions respond to “time”?

Think about how often we use that word “time”:  What time is it?  What time is the next doctor’s appointment?  I can make it on time.  There’s not enough time in a day to get everything done.  What time is practice?  What time does the movie start?  It’s time to move on.  It’s time to give up.  And, my favorite, TIME OUT! 

Our word “time” covers a variety of settings, each with its own unique “ambiance”.  Verse 16 says, “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”  Some of you may be more familiar with the KJV:  “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”  While our language has only 1 word for “time”, the classical Greek has 2 words—words that have different meanings: 

Chronos and Kairos.  Both words are accurately translated as “time”—but they are diametrically opposite in meaning.  So, let’s spend the first Sunday in this series looking and exploring at those 2 words.  Bonus information, the word in this text is Kairos:

1.  Chronos

Here is definition for Chronos:  Chronos is a duration that can be measured.  It has a certain set of values.  Seconds, minutes, days, weeks, month, years, decades, centuries, millenniums, is how we measure Chronos.  Chronos Is Quantitative Time.  A second here has the same quantity as a second at the Beach or in the Mountains.  It just seems longer here.  The duration of a second in the U.S.A. is the same duration in every other country.

Chronos Time is the ticking of the clock.  Chronos is where we get our word chronological.  To keep up with Chronos we wear these things on our wrists called a watch.  Do you know why it’s called a watch?  It’s so we can watch Chronos go by. 

Chronos Time Is Found In Our Agendas, Calendars And Bulletin Announcements.  Chronos gives identifying labels to those measured durations.  The labels are not just the units of measurement, but about the power that Chronos Time has to drain and debilitate those held captive by Chronos Time.  Chronos is driven by very human-centered sets of values.

Each day contains 86,400 seconds of time—which represent 1,440 minutes—which equal twenty-four hours each day.  It never fluctuates or varies.  And truth is we live in a Chronos World.  You have appointments, places to go, bills to pay, TV shows to watch, church to attend, practices, games and recitals to attend.  And all of this happens in that measured duration of Chronos.  Now let’s look at that other word:

Kairos

Kairos cannot be measured by the ticking of a clock, but by the beating of the heart. Here is the definition for Kairos:  Kairos is when God steps into time and space and does something incredible.  Kairos are the moments that are Right, Ripe and Rich with meaning.  Think about each of these:

Kairos are the moments that are RIGHT.  They fit into the rhythms of life as The Creator intends.  Debbie and Sandy love to work jigsaw puzzles.  And there’s the truth about jigsaw puzzles:  Each piece will only fit where it is made for.  Kairos never contradicts God’s Design and Purposes—It fits perfectly.

Kairos are the moments that are RIPE.  They are moments designed and prepared by God for His Image Bearers.  Have you ever read something or had someone call you and it was words that you were needing in that moment?  This is what Ripe means.

Ripe means it is the perfect moment.  The Time was Ripe when He called Abraham.  Ripe when He called Moses.  Ripe when He anointed David to be King.  Ripe when Jesus was born in that Manger.  Ripe when He died on that Cross.  And Ripe when He conquered death!

Kairos are the moments that are RICH with meaning.  These are the Epiphany Moments, when the Light Bulb comes on and clarity happens for us.  Epiphany Moments—Discovery Moments that define and redefine us—that shape and reshape us—that form and transform us—only happen in Kairos Time.

Kairos are the moments provided by God to know Him more deeply.  Kairos is about seizing the opportunity God provides in that moment.  Chronos drains life and hope out of us but Kairos enriches our lives with hope, love and grace. 

Understanding these differences, what you need to decide is this: Will You Live ON Chronos Time Or IN Kairos Time?  Where Chronos Is Quantitative Time, Kairos Is Qualitative Time.  Chronos Time measures seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks and years.    Kairos Time reveals and expresses quality moments that first changes us, and then changes our surroundings.  It is easy to think that our time is the most important time.  It is easy to be controlled and consumed by Chronos Time.  But What Are You More Interested In–Counting Your Days, Or Making Your Days Count? 

Every one of you will face multiple defining moments in your lifetime.  Defining Moments Are The Moments That Will Shape And Determine Your Character, Your Attitude, Your Altitude And Your Future

It changes your future course by changing how you see your life.  Defining Moments happen in both Chronos Time and Kairos Time.  But Defining Moments that will transform your life into that life marked by holiness are never found in the Chronos Time of schedules and calendars, but only in Kairos Time of following Jesus.  The reason why your life will remain empty and dead in Chronos Time is that Kairos can’t be planned, and it certainly can’t be forced. 

Kairos Time does not wait for you to fit it into your schedule.  It simply happens, and if you miss one—it’s gone and won’t come back. This doesn’t mean that there will be no more Kairos Moments. More Kairos moments will indeed come, but they are new and different ones.  Kairos Moments happen one at a time.  Unlike network TV there will not be any reruns of what you missed.  This is what makes them priceless.

The “Kairos” Opportunities we face in 2019 speak into what is God calling this church to be!  And with this in mind, it’s important to ask—are we a community of people who simply gather each Sunday with good memories to celebrate—or

Are We A Community Of People Who Are Willing To Listen To The Stirring Of The Spirit, Who Are Ready To Explore New Ideas And Who Are Prepared To Embrace Where Change Needs To Happen And To Be The Church In New, Creative And Even Uncomfortable Ways?

The decision you make today about time—is a decision only you can make.  Your Next Steps will be your answer to this question.

“Where Do I Need To Change So That I Will Experience More Kairos Time And Less Chronos Time And Am I Willing To Do It?”

The answer is as unique as you are.  Perhaps it’s spending more time in the Bible.  Maybe it’s having that dedicated time to pray.  Maybe even change HOW you pray.  Maybe it’s getting to know your neighbor better.  Maybe it’s in stopping your voice of fear about our future.  Will you live BY Chronos Time, or will you live IN Kairos Time?

As we step into this moment of Holy Communion—it can be for you a Chronos Moment—where you step in and do something. 

Or—it can be for you a Kairos Moment where God steps in and He does something.  It all depends on that 1 Thing You Need To Remember:

Are You More Interested In Counting Your Days, Or Making Your Days Count?

When Jesus walked this earth as one of us, He was more interested in making His days count.  And we see it here on This Table.

What The Church Should Learn From Bikers

 

 

I started to title this “What The Church Can Learn From Bikers”, but I realized that should is the word that fits.  Now, a bit of explanation of my terminology.  When I say “biker”, I mean BIKER!  Not those people who wear spandex peddling those steel  or some alloy tubes on skinny wheels.  Those are called bicycles, not bikes.  Cyclists are NOT bikers.

Bikers wear leather, not spandex.  I know, because I am one.  In 2003, after my divorce ended 29 years of a marriage, I set out to “redefine” myself.  Decades ago I had a dirt bike and then a smaller street bike; but that was decades ago.  I found myself drawn into a local dealer and started looking.  Then I even went out price shopping at other dealers.  Then I bit the bullet, and picked one out.

Being a preacher, it had to be black and it must have lots of chrome.  I love chrome!  I thought at the  talledegatime I was redefining myself from the rubble of my life.  It turns out, though, that God was taking me on a journey to DEFINE my life, the person HE created.  For over 4 decades I allowed others to define me; that’s my fault.  I needed God to define me, and He did.  Not that I always got it right, but I kept coming back.  And HE kept accepting me back.  That’s how I became a biker.  Now, back to what I’ve been learning.  One thing I’ve learned is that many churches look nothing like the Body of Christ, but Bikers….they get it!  And here are 6 things the church today needs, urgently needs to learn from bikers.

1.  We Love What We Do!

We take great joy in what we do.  There are few things more exhilarating than finding a winding road with the wind in your face.  I never have heard a biker complain about going for a ride.  However, I have heard bikers lament when they had to hang up their174809558-612x612 leathers.  Now that’s a sadness that words cannot describe.  No whining.  No complaining.  Just loving what we do at the end of the day and wishing for more time and planning the next ride.  You will never hear a biker say, “You know, this morning I just don’t feel like riding today.”  If you do, immediately dial 911 and get her or him to a level 1 trauma center.  One of my Biker friends had this pillow on his book-case that said:  “You never see a bike parked in front of a psychiatrist’s office.”

But church?  Whining?  You bet!  Complaining?  You can take it to the bank.  Missing church?  There is an unending list of really good sounding excuses.  And when at church?  Not much joy, except that it’s over for another week.  Like Bikers, we should love what we do, but….here’s another lesson for church today.

2.  We Are A Diverse Group

White collar, blue-collar, dog collar….a model of diversity.  I’ve met factory workers, farmers, retirees, a federal judge, dentist, lawyer, small business owner….and yes, other preachers.  But in leather, we are held in a common bond.  Our backgrounds do notBiker matter.  There is a brotherhood and sisterhood that is not formed by how we are alike–but by our differences held together by a common passion.  Whatever you do the rest of the week doesn’t matter when you fire it up, put on the leather and ride.  It doesn’t matter how much money you have, what your politics are or where you live.  The diversity adds beauty and strength to this ‘Hood of Bikers.

And church?  Martin Luther King, Jr. was right then, and still right today when he said, “Sunday morning at 11:00 is the most segregated hour every week.”  And today, segregation still happens.  In some churches it’s race.  For others, it’s political views, traditions, economic status, where you work, where you live.  The church for decades has tried to be a cookie cutter factory, where we all look and sound alike.  I don’t think those 12 guys Jesus hand-picked for the first disciples looked alike, talked alike and acted alike.  I love seeing a congregation that’s gathered, reflecting the diversity of the community around it.  But it’s rare to see it.  Conformity rules the group.  But like Bikers…we should be a diverse group.  Another lesson we should learn from Bikers.

3.  We Are Friendly

Bikers who do not know each other, never met before, meet at the gas pump , we talk to each other.  In a meat and 3 diner, we talk to each other.  If a biker is having trouble with their bike, we do more than just talk, we help each other.  There’s a lot of people who act afraid of bikers.  I don’t know why.  They are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.065.jpg  Ever noticed how Bikers acknowledge each other on the road?  Usually with 2 fingers down.  It mainly means “keep 2 wheels down”; that’s important on a bike because you don’t want them on their side, because you will be, too. The bike, the leather, the road–is a culture of friendliness.

I know that churches like to say they are friendly.  And they are friendly–if you talk like them, act like them, believe like them.  They are friendly, as long as you don’t sit in their pew or try to change something in their church.  Then it’s Katie bar the door.  Friendliness stops.  Bikers are friendly because they don’t focus on the surface things.  They focus on what matters the most to them.  But we Bikers are more than friendly–we are friends–even if we don’t know each others names.  It’s unconditional friendliness, a lesson the church should learn.  Another lesson we should learn from bikers is:

4.  We Are Loyal To Each Other

Bikers have each other’s back.  They stand up and support one another.  Even among thef220bc461577d6409506165d8758af56 “One Percenters” (that’s outlaw biker clubs for the uninformed) there is a loyalty for those in their club.  If someone gets hurt and can’t work?  Forget Aflac, they hold a Rally, a Poker Run, or simply pass the helmet to help the one who’s hurt and their family.  Bikers stand with and by each other, through good times and hard times.  They even help others.  There are Rides to benefit St. Jude’s, March of Dimes, Toys For Tots, and the list goes on.

And the church’s track record on loyalty?  As long as everyone behaves themselves, and does what they are told to do, yeah. they’re loyal.  But when one falls, when one is hurting, when one is struggling–many churches either kick them out, or even worse–they simply ignore the fallen and the hurting.  Speaking as one wounded (more than twice) by the church, I didn’t see a lot of loyalty.  Honestly, I didn’t expect it because their track record had already been establish–and it wasn’t good.  But there should be a strong sense of loyalty to each other in the church.

5. We Don’t Worry About What Others Think About Us

We accept that some people will never accept us because, well, we are different.  We look different, act different, talk different.  Though I’m a preacher, truthfully when I have 3jpeg days growth of beard and in all my leathers on my loud bike, I can see why some good honest church folks who don’t know me might think not so nice things about me.  One Saturday I went riding with some friends, all of us with at least 2 days worth of beard, full leathers and we stopped at a little diner for lunch.  As we walked in I noticed people staring at us, and not in a good way.  Know what?  I’m OK with that.  I’m not out trying to win the approval of others.  There’s only One whose approval I need.  We don’t care about external stuff, well maybe except for our bikes.  We are comfortable in our own skin and do not need validation through the approval of others.

And in the church?  Nearly, if not everything is about appearances and outward stuff.  Emphasis is on the external, the very thing that angered Jesus about the Pharisees.  Being a Christian becomes more about what one does NOT do than what one actually does; more about how they look more so than who they are deep inside; more about certain beliefs than Kingdom Living.  When it’s all about appearances, we lack the substance of the Kingdom Life.  Bikers teach us not to worry about appearances and what others think.  Here’s another thing that Bikers can teach the church.

6.  We Know The Risks And Ride Anyway

We realize the being a Biker isn’t for everyone.  It is risky.  There’s a motto often seen in motorcycle-wreck-maggieour community.  “Live To Ride.  Ride To Live.”  There are inherent dangers.  In my part of the world one of the dangers is deer.  You’ve seen the damage they inflict on a car, think about a bike.  Then there’s the dangers of car drivers.  Road conditions.  And when we are inattentive to those dangers.  Honestly, there are tons of reasons not be to a biker.  Yet, each day we gear up and ride.  Are we oblivious to the dangers?  Absolutely not.  But we believe that the rewards most definitely outweigh the risks.  Do I pray before I ride?  While I ride?  Is the Pope Catholic?  We respect these machines but we don’t allow the fear to keep us from riding.  When fear does override the joy, they sell those bikes and buy a convertible.  What should the church learn from this?

A malady that has inflicted the 21st Century Church is the unwillingness to take risks for Jesus and the Kingdom.  They want to play it safe.  They want to know the outcome before venturing out, and that the outcome is worth it; meaning, the church will get new members.  If you can’t get new members then it’s not worth the risk.  The Devil knows he can’t defeat The Kingdom; he’s already tried and failed.  Remember that empty tomb?  Instead of attacking The Kingdom, he has filled many local churches with the need for playing it safe, and avoiding the risks.  He won’t win the final victory, but he takes great delight in the impotency of churches unwilling to risk it all for Jesus.  People risk eternity for the sake of time.  Why not risk Time for the sake of Eternity?

 

Well, that just 6 of the lessons many churches should learn from Bikers.  It’s 5 lessons the church MUST learn if it is ever to escape the current “survival mode” and once again THRIVE!

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

Now, if you will excuse me, I think there’s a curvy road calling out to me….

A Lesson From The Pelicans!

God is a Great Teacher; the best ever.  I say this because He uses so many “styles” and “ways” of teaching the lessons we need in order to be equipped to live life the way it’s designed, by Him, to be lived.  In my journey, He has used our children, grandchildren, TV commercials, billboards, signs, and even my own life experiences.  Not just my good experiences, but especially the not-so-good experiences.

I have found, and continue to find that the world around me is God’s Classroom where timeless treasures and wisdom await my discovery.  This week is no exception.  We are on our annual summer spiritual retreat–at Ft. Morgan Beach.  Nothing like having the toes in white sand while listening to the waves to help us recharge our spiritual batteries–unless it’s at a cabin in the Smoky Mountains in the Fall.  God uses nature to teach me something about Grace and Life in His Kingdom through the pelicans.

I noticed them yesterday, and remembered other times when they would be in search of something to eat.  As they would be gliding over the water, they suddenly folded their wings and dived into the water–like an old World War 2 dive bomber.  No reluctance.  No hesitation.  Head long as fast as they could go into the water.  They saw their next meal and went after it with abandon and no hesitation.  I’ve never seen a pelican pull up out of that dive.  Not to say it’s never happened; I’ve just never seen it.  Watching them yesterday and thinking about seeing it happen so many times, it got me to thinking about what it should mean to us as followers of Jesus.

Here’s the Lesson He is teaching me:  We, as followers of Jesus, should pursue our purpose of bringing the Kingdom of God into hearts and lives with the same abandon as those pelicans pursued their meal.  When a pelican spotted a fish, it folded its wings, and without hesitation, pursued that fish.  What if we, when we see someone in need of life and God’s love, in desperate need of the Good News of the Kingdom, surrendered without hesitation, to reach out to them with the love that has reached out to us?  It seems that we are so good at excuses of why our effort will not make a difference.  And in those moments when we do let go, we find a reason to pull up at the last moment in fear that it won’t make a difference.

Here’s another thing I noticed about those pelicans.  Sometimes they were successful in catching their prey, and sometimes they weren’t.  And when they weren’t successful, they took to the air and tried again.  What if those pelicans decided, “Well, I missed that fish, I might as well give up.”?  They would starve; so they get back up and try again–with the same abandon and commitment as before.  And this is our lesson as followers of Jesus.

Any sense of reluctance or hesitancy on our part, needs to be surrendered to Him, and without focusing on will we be successful or not, we follow the example of Jesus.  Who dived headlong into our broken messes as one of us–from heaven to earth–in order to fulfill His purpose of redeeming us from our sins and transforming us into the life we are created to live.  Knowing that some of us would accept this new life and some of us would reject this life, He came anyway.

We need to abandon–give up–our reluctance to pursue this life of total surrender to Jesus and the purpose of the Kingdom of God.  Pelicans teach us how–fold back those wings and dive headlong to the water–with the love and compassion that Jesus shows us.  And if we fail?  Do what pelicans do.  Get back up and go at it again.  Not every attempt ends in failures.  Just ask those pelicans!

28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us.  We want to present them to God, perfect[a] in their relationship to Christ.29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”  (Colossians 1:28-29 NLT)

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him.  Now, please excuse me, it’s time to go back to the Beach Classroom.

A Moving Journal-Day 10

Well, the day has arrived.  Usually I’m sharing this at the end of the day–but at the end of this day….well, I might be a bit too tired to write.  But already this morning I have learned “another” lesson.  What is it?  Glad you asked!

Sometimes, many times, it’s not that we need God to teach us something new–but to remind us of what He has already taught us.  

The lesson I learned Saturday night and Sunday.  And it’s this:  Jesus helps us, if we will just cry out to Him!  That lesson taught me that He has control, even though I don’t have control.  So for the rest of this day, and hopefully for the rest of my life, I will remember this lesson:  I am in the middle of God’s purposes, so even though it feels like it’s out of control, the reality is it’s out of my control–but never HIS!  The Lessons We Learn At The Feet Of Jesus Are Timeless And Timely!

A Moving Journal-Day 7

Got up this morning, went out to the garage. walked into the utility room, and to my horror (deep horror–Stephen King kind of horror) there was still some things to pack.  And then there was those boxes we are opened after taping up that had to be re-taped.  Oh, my tool chest wasn’t properly prepared for moving.  I was moving from detail to detail, and about to become overwhelmed.  OK, I WAS overwhelmed.  But then this extreme ADHD man focused on one box, one thing, and I calmed down.

The movers arrived and it was going through showing what moved and what stayed.  The food pantry hadn’t been touched.  So it’s finding the small boxes left over and packing away.  The movers brought some wardrobe boxes, so Debbie boxes up my suits, jackets and more clothes.  This to pack.  This to move out of the way.  Then waiting to see what room was left on the truck and quickly adding to their load.  The pictures I shared was just a portion of what they loaded.  My wife and her sister could open a Crocheting & Scrapbooking Store with what they put on that truck.  Good thing I went to the liquor store yesterday.  I was about to think I need to make another trip to the liquor–FOR BOXES–empty boxes.

Now it is early evening.  My muscles ache, my shoulders are sore.  Honestly?  I’m thinking the only lesson here is that I should have never become a Pastor.  At the age of 17, that was my plan–until….  So what other lessons did I learn today?

  • There is still much to be done.  The work of God’s Kingdom is an ongoing work.  It is an ongoing work inside of me.  And it is an ongoing work in the world, for which God has called me to partner with Him
  • We can do more than we think.  Just as there was more room on the truck, there is a way that the Holy Spirit uses use to do more than we think we can, or even imagine we can.
  • Stay focused on the main thing.  Just as I was overwhelmed at 5 a.m. at what still needed to be done, I managed the tasks, one at a time.  As people of the Kingdom of God, we need to stay focused on the main task–which is connecting people where they are with God and His plan and purposes.

Now, if you will excuse me, it’s time to see if there is anything to eat around here.

A Moving Journal-Day 3

OK, Day 3 is in the books.  In 4 more days the moving company will arrive to pick up our belongings.  Then, on Monday afternoon we will meet them again at our new home.  I guess you could say this is entering “crunch time”.  At least it feels this way.  Here was my day.

At about 5:30 a.m. I boxed up some more of my stuff in the garage.  Now it’s trying to figure out which box will work without any wasted space.  Back to the office to finish all the filing and paperwork.  Filing and sorting was something I was going to get to, eventually.  But it is evident I never got around to it.  So now it’s sorting through documents; filing them chronologically–something that wasn’t done before I arrived, but it will be done before I leaven.  I began preparing notes for my successor of things, people and situations he should be aware of in the beginning–again, something I wasn’t given much of upon my arrival.  I’m finding duplicate documents so I am properly disposing of them.

I arrive at home and after supper, it back to “seek and ye shall find” the right size box.  I’m finding some more “stuff” that I was going to do something with eventually.  Now it’s at the curb for curb shoppers and the street department to pick up on Thursday.  I need to get everything out to the curb by Wednesday night so that my successor will arrive without “stuff” stacked by the curb.  And now, I am writing.  So, what lessons have I learned today?  To the casual observer, it might not seem like much, or worth mentioning.  But I have come to realize that the greatest bits of wisdom most often come from lessons learned; even the smallest lesson.

  • First, I learned that organizing is essential for the long run.  I mean, by putting things that will go together in the same space at the new home will make the unpacking go much quicker; not that it’s all that quick.  But if I put things from 3 different spaces in just one box, I will be spending more time going between spaces that putting those things up.  Forward thinking is either an art that is being lost in people and churches; or it is a skill that is about to become lost upon the general population; or it is a gift that no one wants anymore.
  • Second, I learned that I need to quite practicing the art of procrastination.  There you have it, the one thing that keeps me from being perfect.  I know I just heard someone I know who is reading this fall to the floor laughing.  One of my constant struggles is putting off until next week what I should have done yesterday.  I gotta work on this problem with better results.
  • Third, there are still things to be done here before I leave.  One thing I started doing today that I haven’t mentioned is I’ve been praying, listening and thinking of what to say at our friend’s funeral on Wednesday morning.  Another thing I did not mention is that I’ve been working with our financial manager and volunteer accountant on an accurate financial statement.  This church has been using a system that had 2 not so slight issues–it never balanced with the bank statements and it never balanced at the end of the year.  I made a commitment that the financial picture would be clear as a bell before I left.  And after today, I believe it is.
  • Fourth, I need to be thinking about our next place of Kingdom work.  About midway through the day I realized I have not been praying nor thinking about our new appointment.  I had not been taking time to listen to the Holy Spirit who I believe is guiding us to these 2 wonderful communities of Jesus followers.  Even in crunch time I need to also be thinking about the most immediate future of next week.