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.
Welcome to Jeopardy, Randy. “Thanks, Alex, I’ll take Chaos and Stress for $1,000.” And the answer is: “This picture is what it feels like.”
Yes, Randy: “What is the feeling you have when the moving truck will be here in 2 days?” Correct!
Well, today started like usual. Packing some more, taking some more to the curb, headed to the office, and the Funeral. Debbie and I had visited Wynette in the hospital the day before she conquered death. Watching her struggle to breathe reminded that about a month ago I watched my own Mother struggle to breathe. God was faithful, not that I doubted Him, especially in a time such as this, and He gave me words to share with her Family and Friends that both honored her memory, her life and The Good News. A trifecta, if you would. The graveside portion was about an hour and a half away.
Then I returned to the church for one last team meeting before we leave. It was the Finance Team. Within my first year here, I was confronted with the fact that the accounting system was, well, what’s a word that I could use in a Christian blog? Chaotic to the Nth degree. Nothing illegal mind you, just poor accounting practices. Nothing balanced and I promised the Finance Team that before I left, everything would be in order and balanced. Thanks to my Office Manager, Samantha, she brought in a friend who loves accounting, loves numbers, loves problem solving (though I think this episode may have broken her from wanting to solve problems). Jennifer committed and donated her time and skills for the past 6 months. She managed to balance 2017, and set up a new system so they could say goodbye and good riddance to a system called Shelby and a new and easier to understand system (ACS) is up and running CORRECTLY. I kept my promise. I didn’t promise I would solve the problem, but would get the problem corrected! Thank you Samantha and Jennifer. After the meeting, I said goodbye to Samantha, who is more than a staff member, and she informed me I was like a big brother to her. These words coming from an only child–priceless. Samantha, you are like the younger sister I never had! I wish I could get rid of my older sister and have Dad adopt you.
So, what have I learned today? I’m so glad you asked:
Keeping your word is important. Whether it is to a congregation, at work, with family, your neighbors, or even a stranger, keeping your word matters. In this era, words of promise are casually thrown around, such as, “Oh yes, I’ll pray for you.”, only to never mention it in your prayers to God. Well, maybe once. When I make a promise, that is the same thing as making a commitment. It’s true for you, too.
There’s always “stuff” that needs to be thrown away in our hearts. Tonight I made more trips to the curb because tomorrow is pick-up. I did not want to leave anything on the curb for my replacement. And I didn’t want to just leave it here for someone else to deal with. Cleaning out, or in a more biblical image, purifying the heart isn’t a one time thing. And it’s more than a thing to do every 4 or 5 years. Guard you heart from collecting stuff–stuff that doesn’t matter to the Kingdom of God–and matters even less to Jesus.
People matter and need to be appreciated–TOLD they are appreciated. What else can I say about this? Nothing! If you can’t understand this….you are seriously messed up.
Even in dark times–there is still Good News! Less than a month after Mother’s funeral, I would have had a good excuse to say no, or just put in a minimal effort into today. But Jesus did not give his minimal effort for me, and it was infinitely more difficult for Him to do what He did, that what I was called upon to do. The result was exactly what God promises–that good comes out of evil–for a time I forgot my own grief and God used my tears to bring hope to others. Our circumstances do not dictate whether or not it is a time for the Good News. Any time, especially dark times, is the perfect time for the truth that there is Good News. Seems like that there’s a story in the Bible about the best news ever coming from a cemetery.
Well, it’s time to take my medicines, and hopefully sleep all night. Now that would be great! But if I don’t….God has this, and He has me! Good night, John Boy.
Well, good evening to all. I’m sure this journal has you sitting on the edge of your chair. Yeah, Right. Even I’m not that delusional. Well, today can you guess what we did? If you guessed that we sat in easy chairs watching TV, you will not make it to Final Jeopardy. More packing and today I moved my boxes of books and office stuff from the office into the garage here at home. Did some more packing here, and still throwing away. And now I’ve been told by the Boss Lady that I need to get more boxes.
Gee Whiz! How much stuff is there around here? Truthfully, I don’t want to know the answer. Oh, and I just ordered Direct TV to be installed a week from today. Man, I hope we have enough boxes unpacked in the rooms for the installation guy. And then there’s that other thing: a funeral message tomorrow morning. More tearful goodbyes. It was hard to say goodbye to the Tuesday Morning Prayer Warriors group, though they call themselves the Women’s Prayer Group, I know that are Prayer Warriors. I know they will continue praying for me and Debbie, because it’s in their DNA to pray. I’m thankful they keep us in their journals. Still, they had to give me their verbal assurance that they will keep praying for us.
I think this is about it. So what have I learned today? Honestly, this morning I was thinking to myself, “What other lessons could I learn than what I’ve already learned?” Well, that’s the danger of thinking TO yourself. I almost skipped class, but this evening, here is what I have learned:
Don’t talk to yourself. Talk to Dad, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. My shortcomings happen when I narrow the scope of who I talk to. Talking to myself, well that just doesn’t work.
Lose sight of yourself in order to lose sight of the stresses of life. Saturday afternoon we had visited with Wynette, the one whose funeral I am doing tomorrow. As I watched her struggle for breath, I had vivid images of 3 weeks ago when I watched my Mother struggle for her breath. I honestly thought the worst was behind me. Boy, was I wrong. But in preparing for tomorrow, sharing with family and friends today, I soon found my heartache being comforted by the Comforter. For a while, I forgot about my heartache as I focused my attention on their heartache–and I am being strengthened.
Goodbye Is NEVER easy because it’s not meant to be easy. Especially when it comes to those who care about you, and for whom you are about, too. I’ve been moving stuff to the curb I don’t want to move to Fayette, Alabama. But my friends? I’ve carried them in my heart and I will continue to carry them in my heart. That is one thing the movers can’t charge us for. I can take stuff to the thrift store and stuff to the curb. But I cannot let go of those relationships that we have built over the past 4 years. Honestly, I don’t want to let go of them and I won’t.
There is still a little bit of bitterness in my heart. I was talking with a very good friend and someone in my Band of Brothers, who wasn’t happy with me moving. I felt it again–my bitterness. It wasn’t a lot, but it is still bitterness that will grow if something doesn’t happen. Only the presence and power of God–and His Grace–through the Holy Spirit’s work, will ever get rid of it all. I’m counting on Him and I must not forget that not even the smallest root can remain in my heart.
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.
Well, Day 2 has come to an end in this adventure of preparing for the move. Today I preached my final message at this church. It was indeed a mixture of great joy and sadness. Hugs were everywhere–tears offered and tears fought back. Over these many years of preaching, the Spirit always challenges me and inspires me to speak about the future. Since at least 1984, the passage was always John 2–Jesus turning the water into wine. This miraculous sign tells us that the best is yet to come when we keep our focus on our purpose.
This year it was the Luke 7 passage about that “sinful” woman. I couldn’t figure it out, but the Spirit finally got through my thick skull. I challenged them with this question: “What do you do with broken people?” The future of any church is hopeful and bright when we deal with broken people the way Jesus dealt with this “sinful” woman. Maybe I will post that message here some day.
At the end of the service, there were more tears–a faithful follower of Jesus and a great friend had just died after an extended illness. I grieve her loss because she was an encourager in my life. So now, we are planning a funeral probably Wednesday.
And being Father’s Day, I heard from all my children and grandchildren today. And I was thankful to be able to call Dad to say “Happy Father’s Day” to him. It was just about a month ago when I said my last “Happy Mother’s Day” to Mother. It was the last time she knew who I was–so even more gratitude from me. Oh, one more thing, one of our friends and his family took us out to eat, and shared a great time around a table.
So, what have I learned at the end of Day 2? So glad you asked me:
Life and death still happen as we make our various journeys through life. At the early service I was blessed to perform an infant baptism service. And at the close of the second service, I was confronted with grief with the death of Wynette. In the midst of changes, everyday things still happen.
I learned that God moves in different ways at different times. He wouldn’t let me preach my standard “farewell” message. Instead, He had a timely and timeless message. I have to be more careful when I start thinking that God moves the same way and does the same thing every time. God loves to surprise us.
And I learned today the value of friendships. It is our friends that are holding us up at this time. It is my Band of Brothers that has my back and will fight for me against The Enemy. And time around the table, with a meal, is a sacred and holy time that should be cherished and like it says on shampoo bottles: “Lather, Rinse, and Repeat”–especially that part about repeat. The food where we ate is noted for being excellent–but somehow it tasted even better because we shared that time with Dennis and his wonderful family.
I didn’t sleep well at all last night. I don’t know if it was the “Last Sunday” jitters or dread. But I know God has been with us throughout this day–and He will be with us again, tomorrow.
The work of God’s Grace is always about transforming us into the instruments He wants in order to reclaim His Creation’s Image Bearers. Being “in the world but not of the world” is not only possible through His Grace, it is ESSENTIAL to be a real follower of Jesus!
We urgently need more martyrs today! Can you imagine the revival that would happen in the U.S. if “Comfortable Christians”, Tenured Pew Sitters, Churchians and others who are more focused on their little piece of the church than the Kingdom of God would embrace J.D.’s challenge?
(Note: This is the third in my Lent Series “Give It Up!” It is about the things we need to give up and not take back up at Easter)
2 Kings 6:8-17The Message
8 One time when the king of Aram was at war with Israel, after consulting with his officers, he said, “At such and such a place I want an ambush set.” 9 The Holy Man sent a message to the king of Israel: “Watch out when you’re passing this place, because Aram has set an ambush there.” 10 So the king of Israel sent word concerning the place of which the Holy Man had warned him. This kind of thing happened all the time.
11 The king of Aram was furious over all this. He called his officers together and said, “Tell me, who is leaking information to the king of Israel? Who is the spy in our ranks?” 12 But one of his men said, “No, my master, dear king. It’s not any of us. It’s Elisha the prophet in Israel. He tells the king of Israel everything you say, even what you whisper in your bedroom.” 13 The king said, “Go and find out where he is. I’ll send someone and capture him.” The report came back, “He’s in Dothan.” 14 Then he dispatched horses and chariots, an impressive fighting force. They came by night and surrounded the city.
15 Early in the morning a servant of the Holy Man got up and went out. Surprise! Horses and chariots surrounding the city! The young man exclaimed, “Oh, master! What shall we do?”
16 He said, “Don’t worry about it—there are more on our side than on their side.” 17 Then Elisha prayed, “O God, open his eyes and let him see.” The eyes of the young man were opened and he saw. A wonder! The whole mountainside full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha!
How Big Is Your God? This question is the one I wanted to open this message with today. I allowed it to float around and started developing more thoughts around it—until—until the Holy Spirit screamed at me: “Have you lost your ever-loving mind? That’s the wrong question to ask!” Then He gave me the right question:
Is Your God Too Small? What fueled this question for me is from a book written by J.B. Phillips called Your God Is Too Small. It’s interesting that God brought me back to this book. J.B. talks a lot about the “modern church”. By the way, J.B. is not one of those young skinny-jeans-wearing preachers who doesn’t understand preachers do better wearing a suit, or even better wearing a robe. What makes this unique is that J.B. wrote this book in 1953—modern church of 1953. And now, I see this book as prophetic, for many of the issues he raised in 1953 that were tumors in the church are 65 years later, full-blown malignancies in the church of 2018.
And if you can remember only 1 thing from today’s message, this is it: One Of The Problems Of Church Today Is That Many Have A god That Is Too Small. God cannot be reduced to what we want him to be. The God we envision, in some ways, will always be too small. And when your god is too small on any level, that god in whom you believe is not the true God.
Putting it this way:
If your god’s job description reads “Make my life more comfortable and easy.”—Then your god is too small.
If your god says things to you like, “Don’t take a risk, just play it safe.”—Then your god is too small.
If your god operates on your time-table, if you are in control of his calendar—Then your god is too small.
If your god’s job is to obey you, by doing what you want when you want him to do it…if your god is a genie that exists to grant your wishes—Then your god is too small.
If your god is a white guy that has a closet full of suits and ties… if your god always wears a white robe, looks old and has a long white beard—Then your god is too small.
If your god loves Americans more than Muslims—Then your god is too small.
If your god is always saying “Come” but never says “Go”…if he always says “Learn” but never says “Do”—Then your god is too small.
If your god never wrecks your schedule, or messes up your plans, or never asks you to do something that’s not in the budget—Then your god is too small.
If your god needs a certain president in office to achieve his plans and purposes for this nation—Then your god is too small.
If your god has never filled your eyes with tears because of his grace and left you breathless because of his power—Then your god is too small.
If your god always agrees with you…if your god likes only the things that you like….and dislikes everything that you dislike—Then your god is too small.
If your god always thinks that your opinion is the most important one… that the decisions of the church should fall in line with your opinions—Then your god is too small.
If your god is OK with you spending just an hour or so a week with him on Sunday in church—Then your god is too small.
If your god doesn’t convict you to speak up when you know something is wrong, or he says, “Oh, it’s OK to remain silent. They won’t listen to you and it will make it hard on you, so I’ll just have to work around them.”—Then your god is too small.
If your god is OK with you withholding his tithes and your offerings because you don’t like the preacher or like a decision the church made…if he is OK with you giving to a designated fund rather than the operating fund—Then your god is too small.
If your god looks at your sin of lust or greed or gossip or whining and says, “Oh, that’s no big deal. You’re better than most.”—Then your god is too small.
If your god says you’re too messed up, too broken, too guilty, too poor, too ignorant, too young, too old to make a difference—Then your god is too small.
If your god fits nicely into a box—then that’s not God. And if you would take the time to look inside that box, you will find that God is not there because God Doesn’t Do Boxes.
Today’s scripture is about a man whose God wasn’t too small. Elisha knew that God would never fit into any of our human boxes. Here’s the story. The King of Aram had been trying to ambush the army of Israel, but every time, Elisha would warn the King of Israel.
If you were commander-in-chief of an army, and your enemy knew everything you were doing, what would you think? “There’s a spy among us!” Logical, right? And you know what happens to spies. But his military leaders quickly reveal the real problem—it’s Elisha. When the King of Aram finds out its Elisha making the problems, he sets out to find him and capture him. He finds Elisha in Dothan and surrounds the city one night.
That next morning, Elisha’s servant goes out and sees the city surrounded. He did not know what to do. In his mind, the situation was hopeless. But God has something else in mind. When you think there’s nothing that can be done about a situation, God has something else in mind. But to see God’s “something else”, you must choose what kind of god you are going to give your heart to—the god created by your minds or the God who created you. In today’s story, there are 3 things you need to learn from Elisha to help you give up your god that is too small:
1] Elisha Remembered The Mantle.
What’s the Mantle? Glad you asked. The Mantle was the Mantle of Elijah. It was like a cloak and it represented 2 eternal truths: Authority and Power. Elijah had the Authority and Power to speak on God’s behalf and to do what God wanted done.
Before God took Elijah into heaven, Elisha made a request: to have a double portion of the Spirit that lived in Elijah. Elijah said he could have it, only if he was with him when God came for him. And Elisha was there. As Elijah was carried into heaven by the Chariot of Fire, his mantle fell to the ground and Elisha had a choice: give his heart to a god that was too small or pick up the Mantle. He chose the mantle of Elijah. When he looked at the mantle, he remembered that the Authority And The Power was still there.
Our mantle is the promise of the authority and power of the Holy Spirit!
We carry into our daily lives the Mantle of The Holy Spirit—that God promised would bring power and authority, dreams and visions—to everyone. Young and old, men and women.
Gods that are too small have no such mantle of power and authority for anyone. Only the Holy Spirit brings that, and only to those who have that desire to be filled with the Double Portion. You then live in and live out what the Holy Spirit wants—not the things you want.
2] Elisha Kept The Vision
He saw the Chariot Of Fire take Elijah into heaven. He knew the plans and purposes of God. He knew what the King of Aram was doing. He could not go to the kitchen without Elisha knowing what kind of sandwich he ate, whether it had mustard or mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato. Elisha even knew what kind of bread was used.
Elisha wasn’t worried when the news came, “We’re surrounded”. He saw the Chariot of Fire take Elijah into heaven, and he never lost sight of that Chariot of Fire. It was a Chariot of Fire, not a Prius. He wasn’t worried about the enemy’s army, he knew that the was surrounded by the Hosts of Heaven’s Armies. The sight of Elijah being carried away stayed with him, even in the tough times.
God’s Vision Is Always Something You Cannot Do Without Him.
When you follow gods that are too small, they give visions that are too small. Gods that are too small give visions of things that you can accomplish with your intellect, your abilities and your strength. In other words, small gods give you projects to complete. It takes Fire, Authority and Power to live in and through His Vision.
3] Elisha Lived In Confidence
Elisha saw the army of Aram around the city—but Elisha saw more. He saw the Hosts of Heaven’s Armies! He knew the battle did not belong to the one who had a powerful army. He knew the battle belongs to the Lord of Hosts who has ALL power at his side!
Elisha Wasn’t Concerned About His Physical Circumstances Because He Had Confidence In His Spiritual Circumstances.
He knew those hills around him were alive with the presence of God. This is the kind of faith that sustained Elisha and so many others. And it’s the faith that will sustain you in times like these. The challenge of faith is to see that the hills around your life are alive with the Living Presence of God!
Gods that are too small will never give you confidence about your future when the enemy surrounds you. Your focus will be on what’s wrong or what’s missing, rather than seeing your situations through faith. Hebrews 11 says that faith is trusting and having confidence in what isn’t seen with the eyes or understood by the mind.
There’s a simple rule of human behavior that states: What You Take Seriously, You Treat Seriously.
Today I have my conception of God. That conception is different from when I was a kid, different than when I was saved, different than when I started to preach, even different from 5 years ago. And hopefully, will be different in another 5 years. My understanding of God must change as I discover more and more about Him. When my concept of God becomes static, that there is nothing more I need to know about Him, then my god is too small. So, I keep growing…
And now you must choose: Have you given your heart to a god that is too small? Or have you given your heart to the True God who is more than all other gods combined. Life is not always simple, but this issue is simple. For Lent, give up your small god.
The hope for your communities does not lie in who occupies the pulpits nor who sits in these pews, but in Who occupies your hearts and minds with the double portion. And that is a choice that only you can make.
If you are not a United Methodist, or have not been following “The Great Controversy”, or are simply a United Methodist who has had their head buried in the sand while hoping “The Great Controversy” will just go away, these words from my heart and mind will probably not mean much to you and you will just pass over these words. As “The Preacher”, called by God’s infinite Grace and ordained by God and my Tribe, I am compelled by the Holy Spirit to speak into “The Great Controversy”. I do this with great humility because I know I am far from perfect; but I also know that God, through the Holy Spirit, is working on my imperfections.
To my friends who identify themselves as “gay”, and to my friends who support being “gay” as being acceptable to God, I know we are on different sides of this “The Great Controversy” and my heart and mind could cause you to “unfriend” me. I pray that our connection is deeper than one issue. I believe it is.
In a recent small group I was leading that focused on the question of human sexuality, the question was asked of me: “Can a person be gay and be a Christian?” Because I had spent a lot of time in prayer and meditation in The Bible before we began this small group, I know it was the Holy Spirit that inspired my response. I replied, “Can a person who cheats on their income tax be a Christian? Can a person who steals office supplies from work be a Christian? Can a person who engages in premarital or extramarital sex be a Christian? My answer is yes. But one cannot be fully formed and developed in Christ as long as any sin remains in us.” And to my hyper-conservative friends (and foes), I ask again that you refrain from using that horrible word “abomination” against the LBGTQ community. Truth is, all expressions of sin is an abomination to God. Those who insist that they don’t struggle with some recurring sin is not, in my humble opinion, being honest. What they have done is made peace with their “sin of choice”. And now the reason I am writing this blog.
The article (you can see the entire article here) opens with this line: “Placing emphasis on the values of unity, space and contextuality – all for the sake of mission – the Council of Bishops (COB) is exploring sketches of three models as possible directions for a way forward for The United Methodist Church over LGBTQ inclusion.” But what about The Bible? Does it no longer hold any value? Is unity, space and contextuality more important than Truth? More important than God’s Grace that transforms us into HIS image?
Here are the “options” presented to the bishops:
Affirm the current Book of Discipline language and place a high value on accountability. The church policy book says the practice of homosexuality “is incompatible with Christian teaching” and lists officiating at a same-gender union or being a “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy member as chargeable offenses under church law.
Remove restrictive language and place a high value on contextualization. This sketch also specifically protects the rights of those whose conscience will not allow them to perform same-gender weddings or ordain LGBTQ persons.
Create multiple branches that have clearly defined values such as accountability, contextualization and justice. In other words, “Choose which branch of the United Methodist Church you like. “
And what about The Bible? Everything in each “option” is about “their view”. And thus the source of humanity’s mess that goes back to “the view” of Adam and Eve. Truth is that our view can and will violate God’s view without a commitment to and trust in God’s intended design and purposes. I realize that mean and vicious people have twisted the Bible to fit their views rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to renew and transform what can only be called stickin’ thinkin’ so that we may be formed in God’s intent and design. But alas, it seems the church that God used to save this wretch like me, would rather I and others, even everyone, be formed by “their view” than transformed by God’s truth.
So, as I await the decision coming in February 2019 from the governing body of my Tribe, a Tribe of which I have been in my entire life, I have made my decision. My decision is to become the person God intends for me to become and be faithful to His design. After all, HE created me. Furthermore, as one called out because of God’s grace, I will no longer be tied to a group that emphasizes feelings over truth. I grieve deeply over this informed decision in my heart, but I will be faithful to this decision with deep humility. Though I grew up in the United Methodist Church, and have served Jesus for over 43 years in this church, I probably will not finish my race in this life in this Tribe if the decision is “choose your own way”. As Joshua challenged the Hebrews, his challenge is now before me from Joshua 24:15 (NIV)
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
It is better to serve the Lord…and this is my choice, my only “option”…