Used car salespeople. Politicians. Late night infomercial hucksters. Major news outlets. Weather forecasters. What do the aforementioned persons have in common? They are capricious and dubious at best–especially the last one. I remember in 2014, I was living in metro Birmingham. There was snow in the forecast–but all the local forecasters said it would all be south of us and for us not to worry. That should have set off alarms! Our vacuous and insipid state highway department sent all their equipment to where the weather forecasters said it would snow. Not long after midday, metro Birmingham was turned into the world’s largest parking lot.
And yesterday. Here in lovely Mount Vernon, we are in a dry spell–very dry spell. Yesterday’s forecast, by these alleged experts, were only predicting a less that 20% chance of rain. So our expectations were another dry and very hot day. However, despite the forecast, we GOT RAIN! Six-tenths of an inch, Praise God! So where am I going with this rant against forecasters?
I can’t help but wonder how many people are getting their–call it Life Forecast–from unreliable sources? “They” say “There’s not a snowball’s chance in you know where you could ever do that!” They give up and capitulate that their life will ever change. They life in subjugation to a Life Forecast that crushes their hope and thus–live in defeasance to a Life Forecast that is inaccurate–like yesterday’s weather forecast.
When you are leaning towards and into that dark abrogation of the life you were created for–remember Abram and Sarai. This was their names before God changed their future. Before Isaac was born–God changed their name to reflect a new future. From now on, they would be known as Abraham and Sarah. The change happened before the reality of The Promise.
A short time later, Abraham received some visitors (sent from Heaven by God) with an important announcement: You are Sarah will have a son! Both are past their prime and the Life Forecast for them was they were too old to have children. When Sarah overheard the conversation she laughed–she believed the wrong Life Forecast! And my last word to you today is what God’s Messenger asked:
“Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
Genesis 18:14 (NLT)
It may seem too hard to your Life Forecasters to see a different future for you. But it’s not too hard for God!
Sign, sign Everywhere a sign Blockin’ out the scenery Breakin’ my mind Do this, don’t do that Can’t you read the sign?
“Signs” performed by Five Man Electrical Band, written by Arthur Thomas
If you were not singing along with the above lyrics, you are NOT a part of the best and coolest generation ever! Yep! I’m thinking about signs today–and the messages they disclose. When I’m on my motorcycle, I absolutely LOVE this next sign! As I recently posted on Facebook, sometimes you need a really crooked road to get your head straight!
There are more signs that just highway signs. Signs of summer:
Signs of fall:
Signs of winter:
And the ever popular signs of Spring:
But I am aberrating. There’s a road sign I’ve seen a few times, and today I started thinking about that sign. Can I be honest with you? It’s a sign that bemuses, bewilders, and stupefies me. And here it is:
I realize that a lot of churches are indeed slow, but I wonder what are the qualifications to receive such a designation? If I was the pastor of the church that had this sign–I would seek a new appointment. If I was a member, I would insist that the highway department take it down immediately. I mean, who wants to lead or attend a slow church? Apparently, there’s a lot who will fit the bill.
I call them Tenured Pew Sitters. The church has been SLOW to realize it doesn’t exist to serve it’s members. The church has been SLOW to accept people who don’t dress, think, or vote like them as people who need God’s grace. The church has been SLOW understanding that our story isn’t the story about the church, but the Saga Of The Kingdom Of God. The church has been SLOW recognizing the it isn’t a building but supposed to be a people.
It seems the church has been SLOW in responding the Great Heresy Of The 21st Century–that of progressive theology. This started back in the 1960’s. Yet Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters refused to believe it would ever gain traction. So…they remained silent.
And now it threatens to ripe apart the fabric of many churches. It’s a theology that depends and relies on human intellect and logic. And that is a train wreck about to happen, the likes of which have never been seen before. In it’s carnage will be victims of both sides–you see falsehood and heresy doesn’t care who it hurts–it will even hurt it’s most ardent supporters. The wake that will be left by progressivism will be a bloody mess of anger, doubt, fear, and broken spirits.
Slowness is killing the church in the U.S. of A. Elsewhere in the world, where the church isn’t SLOW, the Body Of Christ is Alive, Vibrant, and bringing new citizens into the Kingdom of God. Perhaps in the U.S., they should change words to a familiar hymn: Like a little snail, move the U.S. Church. But that’s just how I feel.
Good morning! It was William Shakespeare who wrote “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” Maybe so if one is looking from the outside in. But eyes are designed to look outward. . .provided they are functioning as they should–which leads me to this morning’s reflections.
Since the seventh grade, I wear glasses–if you haven’t done the math, that’s 53 years. Other than that, and cataract surgery a few years ago, they have served me well. . .until recently. For the past several years I’ve noticed these things called “floaters”. At first I thought I was swatting at a gnat. My previous optometrist informed me that it was just little bits of something in the vitreous fluid in my eyes, and were common with people of a certain age. Oh, God, how I hate that term!
Here’s the thing about those floaters, I don’t notice them until I do notice them–and then they keep hanging around–until I forget about them. They are still there, I just don’t notice them. Well, a couple of weeks ago I went to a new optometrist since my old one was a couple of hours away. After he dilated them, he spent a lot of time–I mean a LOT of time–looking into what Shakespeare called the windows to the soul. It was more time than I thought he needed.
He then showed me something abnormal about my eyes–in particular–in the back of my eyes–left and right. There was a bulging at the back. It wasn’t a detached retina–Praise God!–but, it was something that concerned him, and told me I needed to see a specialist to see if my eyes needed surgery to fix and prevent future problems. I could say I didn’t have a clue about this condition–but I remember a few months ago having this sharp pain behind my eyes–but passed it off as a sinus headache–something I have from time to time.
So, this morning at 8:15 CDT I will see the doctor for a further diagnosis. I want to say I’m not concerned–but we are talking about MY eyes and MY future vision. But then I remember the prolific hymn writer Fanny Crosby who wrote tons of hymns about the glory of God–though she was blind. So, I’m thinking to myself, “Self, what’s your issue? If Fanny could see God’s glory though she was “blind”, you need to keep your eyes on Jesus.”
And here’s my point for today. Whatever comes your way in life, keep your eyes, your spiritual eyes, on Jesus. The Bible has something to say about this. It comes in Hebrews chapter 12–right after that long list of people who experienced many difficulties but maintained their faith. Verses 1 and 2:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)
When life throws you a curve ball or a change-up, just keep your eyes on Jesus–like Fanny Crosby did. And everything will ultimately be good–God promises us this. I will SEE all of you tomorrow!
The greatest generation ever was those who fought in World War II. I would like to think that my generation was the second greatest generation. Why? We spent more time outside than inside. We had sweat beads around our necks in the summer. We could turn the right stick into a Thompson sub-machine gun. We didn’t think much about stepping in cow manure. We drank water from the hose pipe. We jumped off of bridges into creeks. Best friends could have fights and after the fight, still be best friends.
We watched violent cartoons with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd, the Road Runner and Wile E Coyote, yet we never had the desire or even urge to to shoot someone or order bomb making materials from Acme. Oh! One more thing–we had the very best music! Country music was COUNTRY Music and rock-n-roll was ROCK-N-ROLL. One of our songs was “What The World Needs Now Is Love”, recorded by Jackie DeShannon in 1965.
And now it is 2021, and the question begs to be asked and answered: What Are The Three Most Important Words For Right Now? I have been listening, and have advanced to the level of Intermediate Noticer. Based on what is being said and shouted, here is my comprehensive yet incomplete list of what different people are thinking is the answer to the 3 most important words needed for these times. In no particular order they are:
We need Trump
We need Biden
Ban all guns
Need more guns
Prayer in schools
Bibles in schools
Close the borders
New American revolution
End foreign aid
Drain the swamp
More government aid
Congressional term limits
Less on defense
More on defense
Change your mind
Change YOUR mind
We need love
We need peace
We need hope
Have judicial reforms
No more racism
New political party (I must say this, “Really??? Aren’t political parties part of the problem??? And you want to add to the sewage?”)
We need kindness
We need determination
Deport all Republicans
Deport all Democrats
New moral values
Old moral values
Legalize more drugs
Government medical care
Defund Law Enforcement
Something, Anything, Everything
There are more to add to this list. Some “imagined” solutions are more complicated than three words. As if our world isn’t complicated enough. There are no simplistic solutions to the problems our culture and nation are facing. But. . .the solution is simple; just that simple. This list reflects groups of people–group mentalities. Group mentalities tend to produce complicated, complex, and irrelevant solutions. The answer–the simple but not simplistic answer–is found in three words:
I Need Help!
All of the fake solutions to our issues are focused on what others need to do–never on what the individual needs to SAY! To say “I NEED HELP” is to acknowledge that NOTHING–NO THING OUT THERE–can help heal our brokenness and help us navigate this total mess. If nothing OUT THERE (I refer you to the above list as being “out there”) that can help and heal us–then the answer must be UP THERE! I’m talking about the One Constant in an ever changing universe and culture–the Throne of God.
To end this madness, the place to begin is with the person in your mirror–that’s YOU! To say “I Need Help” is to admit the limitations created by sin and the Hope found only when we surrender completely and unconditionally to God. My best days happen when I begin the day, end the day, and admit every moment between beginning and ending, “I Need Help!” My worst days happen when I fail to say it. My mediocre days happen when I forget to say it throughout the day.
It’s simplistic to approach life saying that others need to change. Simplistic solutions have never worked. But solving this crisis is really simple. Admit your own need for God and trust God to both change and guide YOU–not “them”! Let your words be the words of the Psalmist:
1 I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!
3 He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. 4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
5 The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. 6 The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
7 The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. 8 The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.
As long as I can remember, Dad had a garden. I mean a BIG garden. I think it came from his growing up years when times were hard. In spite of those hard times, he absolutely loved planting a garden! I remember him coming home from an 8 hour day at the local Reynolds plant and working until dark. His Saturdays found him working in the garden. And when they decided to build a new home in a subdivision he purchased 2 lots–one for the home and the other for the garden.
Even after my sister and I grew up and moved away, Dad continued his garden. After he retired, I remember my Mother fussing because he was working so hard in that garden. At first I suggested he slow down; but then I realized if he died working the garden, he would have died happy. Lord knows I’ve seen enough people die in misery. But as the years passed, he made his garden smaller. The only way he could do that was to plant some fruit trees so there wouldn’t be room to plant something else.
Finally, time did catch up with Dad and he just couldn’t garden the way he wanted. So he would plant in buckets and the inside of a washing machine tomato plants, squash and sometimes a cayenne pepper. But this spring, I was worried about him. Recently I asked him about his tomato and squash plants he told me, “I don’t think I’ll be doing them this year.” Understanding my Dad, I knew this wasn’t a good sign.
A bit of context. Dad just turned 94 years old. My Mother, his wife of 72 years, died 2 years ago come May. He still lives in that house he had built in 1962. It is filled with many wonderful memories, for him and us. He sounded tired, and I know he is; at times his grief is almost overwhelming. And for him not to plant at least 1 tomato plant and 2 squash plants meant he didn’t see a future for himself here on earth. I know he longs to go home to be with The Father.
But this week, 3 plants changed everything: 1 tomato plant and 2 squash plants. When I called him he proudly told me that he had put out his “garden”. That, my friends, is what is known as hope. Hope doesn’t blossom and become fruitful in the best of times–but in the most difficult of times. My Dad’s hope has grown. I realize that at 94 years old he may not eat a single tomato sandwich or fry up a skillet of fried squash–but he is planning on it. That is when hope becomes visual.
And the lesson, my dear readers, is clear in these days. COVID-19 is scary and there are many, maybe some of you, who have ONLY hunkered down and you do not see a future filled with hope. Let me ask you this question: What are you doing right now to plan for the future? I’m not talking about hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer. What are your plans WHEN this pandemic is over? And are those plans simply a reflection of what you are doing now? Where’s the hope in that?
So start “planting” now how to enjoy life more than ever. “Plant” those plans of spending more time with family and friends. “Plant” those plans of reconnecting with the Body of Christ. “Plant” those plans of being kinder in public. “Plant” that plan of a special trip with your family. Don’t wait until the pandemic is over to “plant” your hope. Do it now! Otherwise, your current mindset will continue to control your life. Three plants changed Dad’s perspective. It doesn’t take a whole lot to change your perspective. After all, only you can determine your perspective.
New Year’s offers for many the opportunity for more than a different life, but stirs in us the longing for a better life. The human heart is made for something that is better—and that something better is Contentment. So we make resolutions that we hope will make life better by improving the quality of our experiences. I thought it would be interesting to see what the top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for 2020 are. I surfed the web and here is what I found:
Learn a new skill or hobby
Live life to the fullest
Save more money / spend less money
Spend more time with family and friends
Here’s what else I found: It was pretty much the same for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and you get the point. Now we can download apps that promise ways to help you keep your resolutions. And we would all agree that it’s easier to make resolutions than to keep them. Wouldn’t it be great if we could slip on a pair of shoes, take a supplement, join a gym and at the end of the year discover that we kept all our resolutions? I believe that New Year Resolutions are The Cry Of The Heart For Deep, Abiding Contentment. When it comes to the issue of contentment, there are 3 things about people and our culture that are true:
Most People are not content with their lives. In spite of all the promises of hope from the latest trends, advertisements and self-help gurus, most people realize that something is still missing in their life.
Most people feel powerless when it comes to developing lasting and significant change in their lives. According to a couple of surveys, only 40-45% of Americans even take the effort to make one or more New Year’s Resolutions. This is down from last century’s high mark of 80%.
Every human heart longs for contentment. Even among that 55-60% who make no Resolutions, and among those who say they have given up hope, The Longing Of The Heart For Contentment Never Goes Away.
But what if there was a way to bring that Deep, Abiding Contentment to your life? And what if there was a way that you could model contentment in a way that would inspire those closest to you to experience that same Sense Of Contentment in their life? Does that sound good to you? But wait! There’s more.
What if I could show you that to achieve this life that is more than different, more than better, but fills anyone with Contentment, can be achieved with One Resolution, would you be interested? Not 10, not 5, no, not 3 resolutions, there is only One Resolution that all of us need to make. Want to know what it is? Let’s look at Paul’s letter to the Philippians in Philippians 1:27-30
27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.
According to Paul, the 1 Resolution is this: Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel! “Oh, is that all it is preacher? Why didn’t you tell me to paint the Golden Gate Bridge; or—Find the cure for cancer; or—Get every nation to sign a peace accord and end all wars; or—Put an end to world hunger; or—Get Democrats and Republicans to put the American citizen first and forget party politics? I could do that long before my life is worthy of the Gospel! Thanks for nothing!”
And if the Gospel was about what we could do and accomplish, then that’s the way we all ought to feel. We try to do our very best, but then we lose our temper, we lust, we envy, feel jealousy, say a dirty word, become greedy, act harshly, become resentful and are unforgiving. And we realize that is just not worthy of the Gospel. But The Gospel Is Not About What We Can Do.
The Gospel is all about what God has done, is doing and will continue to do for us because of His heart for us. It’s Not The “Gospel Of Our Best Efforts” But The Gospel Of God’s Best Effort For Us. It’s all about God’s Grace; it’s not left up to our best efforts to honor Christ. We Are To Honor Christ By Allowing Him To Live In And Through Us With The Power Of Resurrection! We often lock in on that word found in the KJV Conduct. But remember Paul didn’t write in English. He wrote in Greek and in Greek, the NLT gives us the best understanding of that word: Live As Citizens of Heaven.
This means we live according to God’s ways, plans and purposes that are rooted in His Grace. And at the heart of Grace is that we allow Him into our hearts and We Rely On His Strength Rather Than Our Own Strength. And Paul’s letter to the Philippians doesn’t end with that verse. For the rest of this letter, Paul shows us how to live a life worthy of the gospel by allowing Christ to live in us and through us! Contentment Is Found By Surrendering Moment By Moment To The Process Of Grace, And Not Giving Up On That Process, Especially When We Mess Up.
And this process is found in ONE: One Spirit, One Mind, One Purpose, One Goal, One Hope And One Secret. And this process is what we will begin looking at in this New Year. So, how can we live this Life Worthy Of The Gospel By Allowing Christ To Live In And Thru Us?
It comes by making 6 Conscious Choices every day. The Process Begins By Living In One Spirit. And here’s The1 Thing you need to remember from today’s message: Contentment Begins When We Think, Speak, Act, React And Make Decisions Based On One Spirit.
Paul is not talking about the Holy Spirit here, but our spirit. What Is Your Spirit? The first response is to say, “That’s the part of me that lives on after death.” And it is, but I want you to go deeper. Think Of Your Spirit As That Part Of You That Makes You Think, Speak, Act, React And Helps In Your Decision Making Process. And this is the real problem. Without a deep and committed relationship to Christ, we live with A Divided Spirit. Living life with One Spirit does not happen automatically nor is it easily attained. Allow me to define for you what I mean by One Spirit: One Spirit means living each day with an Undivided Heart! So think of One Spirit as that heart that gives its loyalty to God.
And to help us live with One Spirit, God offers us transformation—A New Spirit—A New Way To Think, Speak, Act, React And Make Decisions. He offers to help us live with One Spirit that is worthy of the Gospel Of Grace through The Desire To Have That Undivided Spirit. Here is how to develop this One Spirit.
1. Have That Unbridled Desire For God’s Grace
Remember that this Process of One, this resolution to Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel does not depend on your abilities; just God’s grace! And is there anything better or more reliable that God’s Grace? Jesus uses 2 powerful human experiences to describe what it means to desire God’s grace: hungering and thirsting. Jesus said in Matthew 5:6—Blessed Are Those Who Hunger And Thirst For Righteousness, For They Will Be Filled.
It’s About An Unquenchable Appetite For God. It’s not about a Sam’s Club sample taste, or a small Hors d’oeuvre tray. It is about all that God offers. And trust that God will provide His grace. When you get up in the morning have that unquenchable appetite for God. When you go to bed at night have that unquenchable appetite for God. And every moment between getting up and going to sleep, have that unquenchable appetite for God.
2. Give Him Your Unrestrained Devotion
Use the word “Devotion” and many think about The Upper Room, Guideposts, Daily Bread or some other devotional material. Reading these devotional materials are great acts that we need to engage in daily. But that’s not Devotion. The Dictionary Defines Devotion As: Profound Dedication. It is moving your life in the direction of God. This movement in the direction of God is best described in Philippians 3:13-14—I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Whatever it is that you talk the most about, that is your greatest passion, and that is what you are giving your devotion to. Your Greatest Passion Reveals Your Devotion. If your greatest passion is football, then your devotion is to football. If your greatest passion is to be recognized and praised by others, then your devotion is to self. Devotion to God is choosing to focus on God’s presence. It means we look for and find God’s presence every day and everywhere. Make God your greatest passion.
3. Live With Total Determination
It’s easy to give up on dreams when life gets tight. It’s easy to turn around when life gets tough. Our world, your culture, is filled with those who would rather quit than fight on—surrender rather than overcome. To Live In One Spirit Requires Resolve And Determination Because It Is On The Other Side Of The Struggle And Conflict That We Understand What The Life In Grace Is All About.
It is by going through the tight, tough and difficult places that we really discover just how much God does for us. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10—We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
Without Grace, without the Christ of the Cross, our own spirit becomes divided and it’s all because of the problem of sin. But Jesus has defeated the sin-problem for us by carrying our sins to the Cross. Contentment begins when we take our relationship with God seriously—By Making This Relationship The MOST Important Priority In Our Life. Jesus lived with One Spirit—to honor God by allowing God’s heart, the Father’s Presence to live in Him and through Him.
Remember: You Can’t Follow Jesus And Stay Where You Are. So here’s your Next Steps:
Do something to show your hunger for God’s Grace
Join a Bible study group, maybe 2 groups
Begin to read the Bible, just the Bible. Begin with Philippians
Get directly involved helping people know that God loves them
“This morning is hell!” Doesn’t sound nice, does it? Yet this is exactly what many are feeling; not just a morning feeling–but an all day kind of feeling for many. It’s because of the Great War And Horrible War. And yes, even this Preacherman understands this feeling–because sometimes. . .it’s the truth about me. If you think this isn’t you–Remember The Eighth Command–Don’t you dare lie–to others, about others, or even to yourself! I know it says “your neighbor”, but who lives closer to you than YOU?
Satan knows which buttons to push. His strategy in this Great And Horrible War is rather simple–but effective. Successful military strategists understand this and put it into practice–if they want to win a battle. Satan’s strategy is this: Hit At The Weakest Points! He does this daily. . .constantly. And the casualties he causes–though they won’t make the news this evening–are mounting up into catastrophic proportions.
And one of the weakest points in many lives, even mine, is our Will! But something my mentor, Andy Andrews, is teaching me is that our Will is stronger than our feelings. But the Opposing General doesn’t want us to believe this truth. There’s much I could say at this point. . .but I defer to someone with more battle scars than myself–a guy known as Paul. Read carefully what he wrote in Romans 7:14-25. This is my personal autobiography. Here’s what it looks like from The Message:
14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.
17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
Be honest with God. He is GOOD, you know. He will change you from having your feelings into knowing His Will in your life. And more–HE will give you HIS strength to live in that Will rather than your feelings. WE cannot stop this Great And Horrible War, but we can’t stop becoming another casualty by asking HIM to change our “want to”, which is nothing more than our feelings, into Will; and Satan can’t stop that Will. He tried in the Garden of Gethsemane–and failed. He tried on that cruel Cross–and failed. And he tried in that Tomb–AND HE FAILED! Daddy’s Grace is the field hospital where our wounds are tended and our hearts are mended. . .and our feelings are transformed into HIS WILL!
Continue then, to love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!
This week as I was preparing for the small groups I lead, a “not-so-random” thought hit me. If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know I have a severe case of “random thoughts”. But this time–it wasn’t so random. I’m leading the 2 of the 3 churches I serve in a weekly study and we are looking at the book of Acts. By the way, the third church I serve is at the local McDonald’s–a diverse group of employees, regulars, and the frequent visitor.
Here is where this “not-so-random” thought hit me:
About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. 2 He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. 3 When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.) 4 Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover.
Acts 12:1-4 (NLT)
It’s Verse 4 that deserves our attention, if we are followers of Jesus. “Then he (Agrippa) imprisoned him (Peter), placing him (Peter)under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each.” Can’t you see it?????
Well, allow me to explain this for the less informed. Agrippa was a king-granted, placed their by Rome-but he’s a king. Because he’s a king and endorsed by Rome, he has a ton of power and authority. His authority reigns. Anyone who disagrees with that authority faces the might of Rome. Agrippa is indeed a powerful man. Got that part? Good!
Then, there’s Peter. Peter grew up to be a fisherman in an obscure village. He wields no great authority. He has no mighty army behind him. He has no endorsements from Rome. He’s just one person. OK. Got this part? Good!
In case you haven’t gotten my point, maybe this picture will help you understand, FROM A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE, the difference in the two men.
In human terms, Agrippa is the Great Dane, and Peter is that little Chihuahua. And there’s another group involved: 16 Roman soldiers, and there’s nothing sweet about this 16. Agrippa orders 16 highly trained, battle tested soldiers to guard this one man 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Can you see it now?
Agrippa is intimidated by none other than Peter. I mean, why else would he order Peter to be guarded by 16 soldiers 24 hours a day 7 days a week. As bad as Agrippa is, he recognizes that Peter is a dangerous man to him. As much power and authority as Agrippa has, he senses that his power isn’t enough to contain Peter. Thus, the 16 soldiers, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Man, that little Chihuahua is intimidating the Great Dane.
My Point? Glad you asked. Why are so many followers of Jesus being intimidated by our culture? Why are so many followers of Jesus afraid to speak up and out against a culture that is determined to undermine the ethics and authority of God and His Word? Why are so many pastors silent when confronted with the false ideology of liberalism? Why will Tenured Pew Sitters complain rather than engage?
It’s rather simple, the why that is: We, who should be The Intimidators, are being The Intimidated! Let’s end this now! I’m not telling, or even suggesting, that we become the new bullies on the block. The church tried that back in the Dark Ages, and it did NOT work.
Let’s be full of Grace, Love AND Truth. Don’t apologize for standing with The Word of God. Let’s become a Force for Good. Listen, followers of Jesus–the Devil is more intimidated by you when you follow Jesus as The Truth, than Agrippa was intimidated by little old Peter.
My dear children, you come from God and belong to God. You have already won a big victory over those false teachers, for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world.
1 John 4:4 (The Message)
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him….Dale, Sr. wasn’t intimidated by all those other drivers…and don’t you be intimidated!
Thursday, we marked the 75th Anniversary of
the D-Day Invasion, the day that marked the beginning of the end of WW 2. Nonetheless, it was a horrible day. German casualties on D-Day have been
estimated between 4,000 to 9,000 men. Allied casualties were at least 10,000, with
4,414 confirmed dead on just that first day.
Stories of those from that day were stories about survival—just to get
through those initial first hours—and the days that followed.
Today we’re beginning a new series called “Surviving Your Personal D-Day Invasion.” This series addresses some of the tough
issues that many of us have to face from time to time. These
Invasions Are Designed To Enslave You. There
Are No Vaccinations Against These D-Day Invasions, And No One Has Natural
Immunity From Them.
We’ll journey together through God’s word as we talk
about these D-Day Invasions.
I want you to know something about this series.
I’m not teaching theory here—I’m teaching from the scars of my
experiences. I’ve learned that
everything Jesus promises is absolutely true.
The invasion may be happening right now, but it is not
a battle that you have to lose. In this
series, we’re going to learn that surviving our Personal D-Day Invasion will take complete trust—and it
will take complete hope—in God alone. I
want you to discover that through Christ we have overwhelming victory—no matter
what we face. This morning our passage
is found in one of the most misunderstood books in the Bible. Job 1:13-21 (NLT)
13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting at the oldest
brother’s house, 14 a messenger arrived at Job’s home with
“Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding
beside them, 15 when the Sabeans raided us. They stole all the animals and killed all the
farmhands. I am the only one who escaped
to tell you.”
16 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “The fire of God has fallen from heaven and
burned up your sheep and all the shepherds. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
17 While he was still speaking, a third messenger arrived with this news: “Three bands of Chaldean raiders have stolen
your camels and killed your servants. I
am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
18 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “Your sons and daughters were feasting in
their oldest brother’s home. 19 Suddenly, a powerful wind swept
in from the wilderness and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed, and all your children are
dead. I am the only one who escaped to
stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then
he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. 21 He
“I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be
naked when I leave. The Lord gave
me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!”
Today’s topic is Disillusionment. I’m
not talking about disappointment
or discouragement. These emotions are painful, but
disillusionment is much, much deeper—and so much darker.
Disillusionment comes when what we thought was going to happen seems
to be impossible. It is losing the
ability to dream and vision about your future.
Disillusionment is what causes us to feel despair—the feeling that we
will not survive.
Disillusionment is what makes
us cynical—and cynicism always makes us bitter.
We say, “Oh, I’ll never become disillusioned!” So we turn to motivational speakers and
posters. But they don’t really
help. In fact there is a website called http://www.despair.com
operated by a company called Demotivators.
Here’s their mission statement on their website:
No industry has inflicted more suffering than the
Motivational Industry. Motivational
books, speakers and posters have made billions of dollars selling shortcuts to
success and tools for unleashing our unlimited potential. At Despair, we know such products only raise
hopes to dash them. That’s why our
products go straight to the dashing.
The fact is that there will come a day when you will
experience the D-Day Invasion Of Disillusionment. When things start crumbling around you, you
will need something to hold onto, something that’s steady and constant. And what you may have thought you could count
on—evaporates before your very eyes.
So here’s the one thing you need to remember: The Only
Way You’ll Be Able To Survive Is If You Have Learned To Put Your Trust And Hope
In God Alone. True survival
for now and for eternity comes when you know God personally in a deeply
intimate and personal way.
There is classic story in the Old Testament—nearly
everyone is familiar with Job. It’s the
story of a man who suffered much during his Personal
Invasion, yet he was able to survive. We’ll look at his story and others during the
course of this series and learn how they did it and how you can do it,
You need to understand that it wasn’t easy for Job nor
did his victory come instantly. Job was
a man who loved God deeply and had life going his way. Then comes Satan, who accuses that Job only
loves God because of his blessings. The
eternal conflict between good and evil is revealed once again.
Are you experiencing disillusionment in your life
today? The disillusionment of being in a
dead-end life? Of struggling
financially? Of a crumbling health? Of rebellious children? Of broken dreams? What’s disillusioning you? Job faced his Personal D-Day Invasion.
Let’s take a look at three survival tactics Job used to survive—these
same tactics worked for me and they will work for you. Here are 3 things that Job did that you need
to do in the face of Disillusionment.
1. Be Open And Honest About Your
Job didn’t try to hide the pain in his life—he grieved openly and admitted his
suffering. In order to get beyond pain and experience healing in our
lives, we have to grieve.
Too often, we try to mask our pain through denial,
through superficial spirituality, through a drink or pill, or some other thrill. Job doesn’t do this. And he doesn’t resort to clichés, “Hallelujah;
I’m just going to let go and let God. I’m
just going to claim my victory.” Instead, Job Grieved. He tore his clothes, he put on sackcloth,
covered himself with ashes, and he began to mourn.
This is how grief was expressed in his time and
culture. And in doing this he was
telling everyone there that he was grieving—he was being open
and honest about his suffering. It’s normal to grieve.
In fact, it’s abnormal not to grieve. Through grief we can express our feelings about the situation.
This is what Job did—He expressed all his feelings about the situation. Through grief, we are able to gripe and express
our desire for the circumstances not to be true.
Job was brutally honest with God, and when we go
through struggles, we can be brutally honest with God about what is going on in
our lives. Grieving helps us to express the effects that
we’ve experienced from the impact of The
Invasion. We can begin to
tell God and even other people how we really feel.
Grieving has a purpose.
It Forces Us To Become
Honest With Ourselves So That We Can Begin Making The Necessary Changes In Our
Lives. Grieving gives a
chance to ask the hard questions that we need to ask—“Why did this happen? Is it God’s will? Did God do this? Is it my fault?” As we ask the questions, we can then begin to
discover the source of our disillusionment.
Like Job, sometimes it’s the result of evil, like
planes flying into buildings. Sometimes,
it’s the result of wrong choices on our part.
Through either situation, there are lessons to be learned, and we can’t
learn them until we Grieve,
until we ask the tough questions. That’s
the first tactic to handling disillusionment.
The second is:
2. Choose To Put Your Complete
Trust In God.
We don’t know how long Job grieved, but we do know
there was a day when he stopped. He grieves,
but he doesn’t stay in grief.
Did you notice verse 21?—“Then Job fell to the ground and worshipped
God!” Real trust comes only
through a personal relationship with God.
I want to make sure you understand this.
We can do a lot of different things to feel good once
in a while—but true faith, true trust comes only through a personal
relationship with God. When we trust or
value anything more than God, guess what happens? We’re setting ourselves up for Disillusionment.
You can’t trust in your money; money can be lost. You can’t trust in your skills; there are
some things your skills can’t get you through.
You can’t trust in your relationships; relationships can unravel. Where do you put your trust and hope? If you put it anywhere else than God for here
now and for eternity later, you will become a disillusioned
I Have Learned That I Can
Trust In God Because He Loves
Me Unconditionally. It doesn’t matter what I’ve done, what I’m
doing, or what I will do. God loves me
unconditionally and I cling to this truth.
And so can you! I discovered that I can cling to this truth and I
can trust God because He’s always in control.
In your D-Day Invasion, you need to know who’s in control. God is—and you can trust in God.
Yes, sometimes bad things happen, but God is still in
control. I can trust God because He loves me unconditionally. He is in total control. He knows what’s going to happen. Most importantly—He promises to never leave
me and to always be there. Here’s a
third tactic to help you through the invasion of disillusionment:
3. Restate Your Eternal Hope In
We all need to believe in dreams—to believe that we
have a purpose and can achieve great things.
We should desire to be effective and successful. We should want to be the best that we can be
and drive hard towards it. However, when
these positive thinking traits are not balanced with the real world and real
life and the sovereignty of God, we can become Disillusioned.
When we develop unrealistic expectations, we’re
setting ourselves up for Disillusionment.
There’s a hard truth we have to face—The World Doesn’t Revolve Around You And It Doesn’t
Revolve Around Me. Sometimes
we have a hard time believing that, but it’s true.
Believing that the world revolves around you is a
sword that cuts you down. We have these
expectations that we should shoot for but when we don’t balance it with reality
we become Disillusioned. It’s great to dream,
and we need to work toward those dreams.
Jesus said that life would be hard sometimes. But he also promised to help us
overcome. We can walk around angry and disillusioned and wish things could
be different, or We Could Stop
And Take Responsibility For Our Own Stuff.
We Can Stop And Re-Evaluate Our Priorities—And Focus On What’s Really Important.
Really, what’s more important to you—to have a big
house and a new car, or to play catch with a child? It’s your choice. It’s perspective, isn’t it? This sword
cuts us down when we’re not honest with ourselves about our passions, our
purpose in life, and about our time constraints. Re-Evaluate
Your Expectations. Prioritize Your
Life. Set Your Face, Values And
Priorities With God And Continue To Move Forward.
The economy can crash, relationships fall apart,
health declines, but God is always the same.
Our hope is in Jesus. It’s the
confident expectation that God is willing and able to fulfill the promises that
He has made. Christian hope is based on Who He Is And What He Can Do, not on
you and me. It’s not based on our
With Christ, we are able to rise above our
circumstance no matter what they are because of who God is. Do you need that kind of hope? That firm foundation of trust? Are you wondering where your hope can be
It can only be found in the one who knows your past
and loves you anyway. He Promises To Hold Your Hand In The Present
And Has Your Eternal Security In His Heart And It’s Secure In Him. Hope and trust in God alone is the backbone
of this whole series. It’s how we can
survive and even learn to thrive in our D-Day invasions.
If You Are Hiding Your True
Feelings, Be Honest With God. You need not be afraid of telling God how you
really feel. He already knows and He’s
so full of grace and love for you, He can handle whatever it is you are
When Your Life Is Invaded By
Disillusionment, Talk It Out! I am always available to you. But find someone who will listen as you grieve, and at the right moment,
offer you hope. Make it someone who
won’t say “Let go and let God” or some other cute phrase. Make it someone who will listen to you, AND
the Holy Spirit.
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!
Well, yesterday didn’t end like I had planned it. I even forgot to publish Day 8 until this morning. Everything was supposed to be finished with just our dirty clothes, bedding and toiletries to pack. This morning was supposed to be a “chilling-out” day. Well, you know what they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Oh, and good old Murphy! How I despise that guy–you know–Murphy’s Law. If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong and at the worst possible moment. I know he’s not on that moving truck because he’s still around here. I hope we don’t pack him in our vehicles. But I suspect he will find a way to get to Fayette. He always seems to know where I am.
I woke up at 1:30 a.m. and I couldn’t go back to sleep because all those best laid plans of mine went awry. An hour or so later, I finally managed to go back to sleep. The turning point in my mind was when I said, “Jesus, you’ve got to help me!”
So this morning, it was back to the plan that wasn’t completed. Now it is. Had a representative from the church inspect the parsonage–it was in great order. After the last thing, I cleaned up, and spent some time with my Dad. He was obviously sad, but at the same time, encouraging. That’s what he does–I know a lot of people who need to learn that lesson. Stopped by my very good friend Dennis’s home for just some good conversation between friends. Now, I am home–ready for some sleep.
So, what did I learn today? I love it when y’all ask that question. Here goes:
Jesus helps us, if we will just cry out to Him!
My plans didn’t work out the way I wanted. But God’s plans always works out. Sometimes people get in the way. Sometimes WE get in the way. But neither situation will stop God’s plans. He just chooses another route to accomplish His purposes. 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!
Good night, John Boy.
Good night, Elizabeth. Good night, Daddy.
Good night, Son. Good night, Mary Ellen.
Good night, Daddy. Good night, Mama.
Good night, Mary Ellen. Good night, Jim Bob.