The Mystery

This morning I do not feel like writing. The above picture barely scratches the surface of how I am feeling. It’s all kinda knotty and strewn everywhere. It’s a tangled mess–and I really don’t feel like writing this morning–but I must! (There’s another blog idea in that statement somewhere–doing what we must do when we don’t feel like it. But that’s for another time–not this morning.)

In case you haven’t been following this most recent saga in my life, yesterday morning my sister joined my Mother in Heaven. Huh, amazing how it is difficult to say “died”. We use softer terms like: “passed away”, “is no longer with us”, “has gone home”, “left the bonds of this world”, or “is now at peace”. Truth is, Jackie died. I know, that sounds so stark–so feelingless and obtuse. But Truth is often blunt.

It happened sometime around 3:30 a.m. I spend the night with Dad Tuesday and I wasn’t going to wake Dad up with that kind of news. He was resting well, and I knew that for the next few days, resting well would not likely happen. When he did get up, I shared the news. We cried a bit, had breakfast together and prayed together. After making sure other family members were going to check on him, I started my little over 2 hour journey back to my home. I had forgotten my medications (and please, no comments about my “medications” from the peanut gallery–see I still have a warped sense of humor!).

I pulled out onto the highway, but before I did, I pulled out my phone, connected it to the speaker system in our vehicle, opened up the K-Love app to listen to music. Music is one of my solaces–and helps me stay focused. On about the second or third song–God overwhelmed me with the reminder of His faithful presence–and His healing. Whoever set up the music to be played yesterday morning did not know me, or my deep, deep needs. But God did–and The Spirit made sure I heard this song at just that exact moment. Who but God, can see like that! It is a mystery–a mystery I live within each day. Here’s song. Hope it relates to you in what you are facing.

What Would You Like Today?

“Place your order when you’re ready.” “Would you like to try our new chicken sandwich today?” “What can I get for you?” “What would you like today?” It’s what we hear from our favorite (or most convenient) waist building, cholesterol raising, arterial clogging fast food joint. Whatever form the question takes, it all comes down to this: “What do you want today?” Now there’s a question, a question we all answer–but seldom think about HOW we answer it.

Yesterday as I sat in the doctor’s waiting room with my Dad, waiting for his name to be called, there was a certain gentleman (I use this term very loosely) who wanted to be annoying by talking very loud on his cellphone. Fortunately he did not have it on speakerphone. That was left up to another person who answered one of those calls, ON SPEAKERPHONE, where everyone in that large waiting room heard, “Press 1 for blah blah blah, Press 2 for more blah blah blah…” Oh, and let’s not forget the individual who was watching some ad on his tablet WITHOUT Bluetooth ear buds. I doubt–I hopefully doubt–that none of the 3 aforementioned individuals wanted to be annoying when they awakened from their sleep. Nonetheless, their decisions and actions said, “Today I want to be annoying!”

What’s my point, other than silence that %$%^&**# phone when at the doctor’s office? Today, July 31, 2021 you choose what you want for this day. It can be a day of joy or misery. A day peace or heartache. A day of contentment or a day of contentiousness. We can’t always control what happens to us–but we are in control of how we respond. How we respond comes out of what we want.

When Nehemiah finished his building project, the people came together and Ezra began reading God’s words to their ancestors. Those words made them realize they had been wanting the wrong things–so they started wailing and crying. But listen to what Nehemiah told them in Nehemiah chapter 8 verse to: “This day is holy to God. Don’t feel bad. The joy of God is your strength!” (The Message).

Order when you are ready. I think I will have the Joy of God! Your turn, make your choice, but make it wisely!

We Need Graciousness!

I remember back when (dear Lord, I’ve turned into an old coot!) the gas lines in 1974. For you who haven’t a clue of what I’m talking about, and for those who forgot about it, I’m talking about “The Great Gasoline Shortage of 1974. I admit that even as a teenager I was frustrated with the long lines. But there is an even greater shortage today, this very moment–and that is the shortage of Graciousness.

Maybe I need to define Graciousness since there is so little of it going around. You may notice (hopefully!) that you can hear that word Grace! There are a lot of ways of defining Grace, but my personal favorite is this:

Unmerited and unconditional kindness and favor extended to everyone.

As a people and as the People of The United States of America, it seems that the majority have forgotten both the value and importance of Graciousness. Please, for the sake of this Republic and for the sake of the human race, Be Gracious! And in the morning and all day long, Be Gracious! Then on the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after than, and. . .hopefully you get the point. And the point is BE GRACIOUS!

Stuck In The Mud–Saturday Stories 18 January 2020

So far my Saturday Stories have been about moments where God shows up in unexpected places. Well, this Saturday Story is about what the phrase “young and dumb” looks like…in me.

STUCK IN THE MUD

It was back in 1977; I had my first pick-up truck.  One day I decided to take it off the paved road through some trails.  I had been on this particular trail before, but on a dirt bike.  It had rained that week and my truck was only a two-wheel drive, but I felt confident I knew that trail well enough to stay out of trouble. 

Things were going pretty well, I had made it through some rough parts of the trail when I came upon a place in the road that was covered in water.  I stopped and looked at it carefully. I knew what this place in the road looked like when it hadn’t rained, so  I decided on a course of action that would I felt would take me safely to the other side. 

I really believed that if I backed up a bit and went through the right side of the mud hole I could get to the other side.  I really believed I could get to the other side.  So, I backed up a bit and moved full speed ahead.  Now, I believed I was well on my way to the other side.  About one-fourth of the way through I slowed a little but I kept on going, confident I was about to get to the other side. 

About two-thirds of the way through, I found that my faith in my reasoning ability was wrong, seriously wrong.  My truck came to a complete stop and would not move.  No matter how hard I tried, I remained stuck in the mud.  This was in the days before cell phones, so there I was, miles from the main road, and not another person in sight.  My choice and my decision were seriously flawed even though my confidence was high.  There I was on LaGrange Mountain, alone and stuck, unable to go any further, or even go back. It was the middle of the week and the likelihood of someone coming along in another truck was the same odds as a snowball’s chance in that certain place.

Just then I heard a dirt bike coming down the trail. Good news to me. Better news he stopped. Best news was he went back to get his truck and a chain and pulled me out of my created mess. Reflecting now on that “young and dumb” moment, I wondered why did this stranger decide to go riding that day? And of the many off-road trails, he ended up where I was stuck in the mud. Call me simple-minded and naive, but I think God may have been at work that day–even though I wasn’t aware of it.

The Moral Of The Story

Our choices and decisions can be…often are flawed. Without the right information that fits the situation we can end up where I was that day in 1977, stuck in the mud. But because of His Grace, God has already been at work. He’s ready for our “stuck in the mud” moments. It may not be as dramatic as a lone dirt bike rider who had his truck and chain ready to help, but God knows where we are, what we are facing–and best of all, He has a plan–and if we follow His plan, we get unstuck.

Addendum to my story: Once I got unstuck, I went back the way I came in and left that mud hole in my rear view mirror. I learned enough not to try that again! Allow God to help you make more than good choices, but the best choices of all.

EVEN THERE IN THAT PLACE–Tuesday Thoughts 14 January 2020

My Tuesday Thoughts on what to write this morning were running wild–wild as a trio of adolescents on a 3 day binge on candy kind of sugar rush. When my thinking gets like this, I have to really force myself to stop thinking–so that I can listen. Now I have it–it’s Psalm 139 and three words from that Psalm–YOU ARE THERE!

Who’s there? God, of course. Most of us like to consider ourselves Masters Of Camouflage. Like an Army sniper in the field, we think we can hide and no one see us–or see what’s going on inside us. But regardless of how or even where we hide, Even There God finds us. When God asked Adam and Eve, “Hey, guys! Where are y’all?”, He knew where they were.

It wasn’t a question of confusion; it was a question of trust. God was asking Adam and Eve, “Do you still trust me, trust my love and that I am still good even though you did what you did?” Smack dab in the middle of their self-imposed mess, they did trust God. And in this Psalm David seems to be reflecting on his life. He’s known up and downs. He’s been faithful to God and been a rebel against God. He’s hidden in caves from King Saul, and he’s tried hiding from the King of Kings.

And what he could do with Saul, successfully hide, he never could do with God. He found out what Adam and Eve discovered–in the middle of our messes–Even There God Is Present. And in His Presence, He is still trustworthy, He is still loving us, and most of all, He is still GOOD! For the life of me, I cannot figure out why some people think God is out looking for people just to punish them. And if this day you are trying to hide from God because you “think” He’s mad at you, or that He doesn’t want you–Think Again! In your fear, confusion or despair–Even there in that place He is present and He is still Good And Loving On You.

And it’s just not in the places where we try to run and hide from God, but it’s true also in the places where circumstances and consequences have placed us. Problems at work. A “we no longer need your services” moment. Chemo or radiation therapy. A disintegrating family. A nursing home. A funeral home. Even in church.

My beloved Tribe, the United Methodist Church, is in utter chaos; or so it seems to many of us. But even there, God is Present. God Is Faithful. God Is Loving Us. God Has A Plan. And God is still GOOD! What I’m saying is this: Wherever you are–whether it’s the result of you poor choices or whether it’s the result of forces beyond your control–Even There God Is Present. Even there He is still Faithful to you. Even there He still Loves you. Even there He is still GOOD. Even there, He will lead you out and back to where you belong!

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

Wednesday Wondering-The Long Suffering Of God

Last night as I was lying in bed I heard in my heart “long suffering”. And the passage I thought of first was Psalm 86:15. Even though I cut my teeth on the King James Version, for decades I’ve used more recent translations. But those other translations miss something, in my humble opinion, that the translators used in the King James Version; and here it is:

But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

The subject is God and David proceeds to add some descriptive words about Him. Most like the idea that God has tons of compassion, grace, mercy and truth; and why not like that idea. But there is another description David has: Long-Suffering!

We don’t use that phrase in our everyday conversations and rarely consider what it means when it comes to God. It’s my contention that it’s because those two words, long and suffering, are words our culture does not like nor appreciate. We avoid long–long lines and long waits; and we avoid by all means possible suffering –because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable so we avoid the vexatious.

I took a moment this morning to look up that word/phrase long-suffering in both the Hebrew and from the dictionary. The Hebrew word is ‘arek and it comes from another Hebrew word ‘arak. It means to draw out, lengthen. From the dictionary it defines it as: having or showing patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people.

And I realize that God experiences LONG-SUFFERING in dealing with me. There are still moments when, after I fail, I wonder how in the world God puts up with me. The Enemy whispers, “You blew it again, Randy, and God is through with you.” If you’ve faced many failures, it’s easy to believe him; that God is simply tired of you.

But then I remembered King David. He lied to protect himself; lusted for his friend’s wife; murdered that friend; sought to do things without seeking God’s guidance–and here in Psalm 86:15 David proclaims hope–through God’s Long-Suffering. God prolongs giving up on me–prolongs giving up on you. He persists for us because of His love. He shows patience in spite of the trouble we cause Him.

So, today, I want to remember God’s Long-Suffering, not as an excuse to keep on failing, but as a reminder that HE loves me so much that Jesus Long-Suffered in the Wilderness, in the Garden, and on the Cross–and I don’t want Him to Long-Suffer again because of me. At times my heart is divided, but today–in this moment–I choose to have an undivided heart for the ONE who is LONG-SUFFERING for me. I can’t give up–YOU can’t give up–because HE never gives up on us. HE goes the distance for us–whatever it takes. So, why would any of us do less for HIM!

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

It Should Only Take A Couple Of Hours–But 6 Hours Later

You And I Need Mentors Who Will Give Us Wisdom!

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Yesterday, while on our Holy Hiatus with family near Bartow, Florida I had an experience. . .and another Tuesday Thought. They wanted a digital TV antenna installed and asked me if I would install it so they could disconnect completely from cable TV. I thought it would be in my wheel house though I had never attempted such a feat. “After all,” I thought, “how hard can that be? Cable are already there; just put up that antenna and rearrange a few cables and viola! Project completed.” That was my first mistake–thinking!

So I began this “2 Hour” project. Four hours later, no signal or channels. In addition they lost their internet; something they didn’t want! Got the internet problem fixed, but still no signal or channels! Oh, I forgot to mention I hit my head on a floor beam crawling under the house–twice! That beam didn’t move a fraction of a millimeter. And making several trips, crawling on my knees, (did I mention hitting my head twice on the same beam?) isn’t good on these 63 year old knees, legs, shoulder, and back!

It was time for a break. Yes, I had looked at the limited printed instructions, such as they were, and even tried YouTube. As I sat there looking one more time at the instructions (and you say men don’t read instructions), I noticed something in the schematic drawing and I had an Epiphany Moment! Crawled under the house for the umpteenth time. Redirected a few cables, moved a couple of components and 7 Hours Later, I became a certified digital antenna installer.

What’s the lesson in all this? Well you need to know my attitude and perspective through this swamp. There was a time, not all that long ago, when my attitude would have been nothing but frustration, agitation and aggravation. Not so yesterday. I’m not bragging. . .but I was cool, calm and pleasant to be around. What is making this profound difference in this flawed Kingdom Pastor?

I’ve been spending more time with 2 of my mentors, Max Lucado and Andy Andrews. These famous people don’t know me from Adam’s house cat (I didn’t even know Adam had a house cat). But they are my mentors. Here’s how they have been mentoring me in 2 different ways. First, Andy has been helping me with Perspective and I am living with a different Perspective because I am NOT allowing my circumstances be THE determining factor for how I see my life.

Second, Max gave me (actually it was to all those who read his daily devotions) a challenge: To pray the Lord’s Prayer for 4 minutes for 24 days. Here’s how Max breaks down this prayer challenge:

  • Father, Daddy, You are good. Spend a few moments praising Him for who He is, not what He does.
  • I need help! Heal me.
  • They need help! Heal them!
  • Thank you, Daddy.

Now, these 2 things may not help you. But here’s the Thought: You And I Need Mentors Who Will Give Us Wisdom! To have wisdom, you must SEEK wisdom (thank Andy Andrews for this priceless gem). But not just any Wisdom; the Wisdom of The Ages, Wisdom that only comes from God. You need mentors who Seek Wisdom For Themselves. They can be people you know well, barely know, or as in my case, people who don’t know you.

If you won’t read or listen to Andy or Max, find someone who speaks into your heart and minds. But remember, make sure they are people who Seek Wisdom For Themselves. You need to spend dedicated time with your mentors. Maybe not hours, maybe 15 minutes, maybe just 3 minutes. But do it every day. Wisdom gives you the perspective to handle what should be a two hour project but turns into a seven hour project and remain a person that others like to be around.

And should you doubt this Process, remember these words from Paul:

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

God’s work does it’s best in those who are willing to make the commitment to Seek Wisdom! I have been constantly seeking wisdom, so I never lost the Right Perspective when nothing was working right. And because of my persistence, the project was successfully completed.

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM…by SEEKING PERSPECTIVE AND WISDOM–THE RIGHT KIND!

THE GREAT AND HORRIBLE WAR!

“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!

Surviving Your D-Days Of Defeat

Getting Knocked Down 7 Times Does Not Make You A Failure, If You Get Up 8 Times.

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Many of you may remember the theme of ABC’s Wide World of Sports:  The Thrill Of Victory, And The Agony Of Defeat.  Isn’t it true?  You play any sports, take a standardized test, work in sales, or just live in our culture and you will understand one thing about our culture.  We love winners.  We love champions. 

I, like most of you, have lived long enough to experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  When you experience victory, the crowd cheers and you hear the roar of your name.   But, if you experience defeat, crowds “boo and hiss”, people avoid you and they reject you.  I’ve had my agony of defeat and maybe you’ve had yours.  Here’s what I’ve noticed and experienced:  People Are Drawn Towards Those Who Have Won By Defying Adversity.  They’ve Beat This Thing Called Defeat.

I think this cultural bias is why people are drawn to the story of Job.  We are using this story from the Bible to go through this series:  Surviving Your D-Days.  As we described last week, Job is the classic story of this struggle between good and evil, of someone who is a great guy who doesn’t deserve to have bad things happen to him; but who has to deal with evil things.  He has to overcome life’s most challenging obstacles. 

As we’ll see today in Chapter 2, he had to survive the worst kind of invasion—the invasion that becomes personal.  It’s different when the invasion hits our friends, work, our nation, or even our family members.  It’s not that we don’t care about what is happening to our family and friends.  But when it becomes personal, it’s a different movie all together.  For Job, this is personal; it became a personal defeat, a personal D-Day invasion for Job. 

Job 2:1-7 (NLT)

1 One day the members of the heavenly court came again to present themselves before the Lord, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them. 2 “Where have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan.  Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”

3 Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job?  He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity.  He fears God and stays away from evil.  And he has maintained his integrity, even though you urged me to harm him without cause.”

4 Satan replied to the Lord, “Skin for skin!  A man will give up everything he has to save his life. 5 But reach out and take away his health, and he will surely curse you to your face!”

6 “All right, do with him as you please,” the Lord said to Satan.  “But spare his life.” 7 So Satan left the Lord’s presence, and he struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot.

Job is afflicted with a painful skin disorder from head to toe.  It’s probably not that long since he was grieving in Chapter One.  Now he is grieving in a culturally relevant way.  He is sitting in a pile of ashes and he’s shaved his head but this time he’s covered in sores from head to toe from this disease. 

He is in pain, and this pain takes on a whole new meaning.  He has broken pieces of pottery and he begins to cut at his sores to relieve the pressure and pain.  Listen, defeat cuts us to the core because it’s personal.  Satan, our adversary, knows that.  However, Job shows us that the main way to survive the D-Day Invasion Of Defeat And Failure is to not let it become personal. 

It takes Job a while before he understands this.  It can’t be personal in the sense of who we are!  We may suffer defeat or may fail at things but it does not mean we are failures, and that we are forced to live defeated lives.  So, Here’s the one thing you need to remember: Getting Knocked Down 7 Times Does Not Make You A Failure, If You Get Up 8 Times.

The movie “The Rookie” tells the true story of Jimmy Morris.  Jimmy grew up in a poor town in Texas.  It was an oil town that knew defeat when its booming oil industry dried up and the town dried up too.  He had an unsupportive father.  Because of injuries he was never able to go beyond 1A Baseball after high school. 

Jimmy stayed in the same dead town and was a high school science teacher, but it’s not what he dreamed of being.  He’s coaching a losing team in a failing baseball program.  They had only won one game per year from 1996-98.  In 1999, spring baseball had begun.  The school doesn’t want this team; no one comes to see these boys play.  They play their first game and they lose. 

But more than just lose the game, Jimmy sees the bigger picture.  They aren’t just losing on the baseball field.  They are growing up to be losers.  They are growing up to be failures.  They aren’t just failing; they believe it about themselves.  After this game, he gives a speech that will forever change their life and his.  He tells them, “You’ve given up even before you started.  And the sad thing is you don’t even know it.” 

Let me ask you some questions: 

  • What Kind Of Failures From Your Past Or Even Your Present Haunts You
  • What Areas Are You Feeling An Invasion Of Defeat In Right Now?
  • Have You Given Up On Dreams Because Of Some Failure? 

Have you ever said, “That’s who I am; I’m just a failure.  That’s all I will ever be.  I will always be dumb, or poor, or divorced or had or did or whatever.”?  What is it for you? 

For many of us, we have lived with or we are living now with the sense that we are a failure and that we will always be just that: A Failure.  So we live a defeated life.  We allow the invasion of defeat take control and wipe us out.  Allow me to share 4 quick lessons with you today from the life of Job, and from my own experiences:

1.  Failure Is Inevitable

Failures can be of a spiritual nature or a non-spiritual nature—both kinds are normal and unavoidable.  God understands that we are human and we make mistakes.  If you are a Christian, you have to know this to be true.  And we should be glad that God understands that we are just created from dirt. 

He knows that we are not god and not perfect.  You should know that God, who desires a relationship with you, knows you aren’t perfect.  He doesn’t expect you to be—just yet.  God understands that we are going to fail sometimes and fail miserably and that it’s unavoidable. 

We need to understand that too, so that we can deal with it in a constructive, not destructive way.  Listen, Our View Of These Life Failures Determines If We Will Truly Survive Them. 

Haunted by the jeering of his father, Jimmy Morris took one failed attempt at the Big Leagues and made that who he was.  He made one try towards his dream and put it together with what his father said and decided that’s who he was. 

He thought, “If I really was a great baseball player then it would come easily for me and failure would have been avoidable.  I am just a failure.”  He didn’t understand what the Bible says.  Failure is unavoidable and normal.

2.  Failure Is Something We Experience But It’s Not Who We Have To Be

When we make a bad decision or we make a dumb choice as a teenager, or our life as adults takes a different path than we intended, understand that It Doesn’t Define Us; It Defines Only A Moment, An Experience! 

Who Are You?  How do you answer that question?  How you answer that question speaks volumes about how you perceive yourself, your self-image and your self-esteem.  Do you answer it with the role you play in your life?  Do you answer that question with “I’m a father, mother, grandparent, farmer, retired?”

Those are roles you play.  That’s not who are you.  Listen to this:  Our Self Esteem Should Not Be Wrapped Up In What We Do But In Who We Are In God’s Eyes.  God loves you.  He says this about all of us—this is who we really are. 

We are fully loved and accepted unconditionally.  We are always forgiven when we ask.  We are special and one of a kind.  Failure is not who we are.  God never sees us that way. 

3.  Failure Is Not An Enemy

Some of us are so afraid of what people may say if we fail that we don’t take any risks.  Failure is treated as if it was cancer.  Failure is not the enemy, though often we think it is an enemy to faith.  If You Are Afraid Of Failing, You Will Achieve Small Things, But You Will Never Achieve Anything That’s Really Important. 

(Repeat that to yourself!  Say this out loud:  If I Am Afraid Of Failing, I Will Achieve Small Things, But I Will Never Achieve Anything That’s Really Important)

You will achieve some things that are easy but you’ll never achieve the passions in your heart that you really could have achieved if you had taken the risk.  The bottom line is this:  Fear Of Failure Creates Inaction.  It has a name:  Atychiphobia.  It’s living under the persistent fear of failing.

It paralyzes people and keeps them from reaching their God-given aspirations and goals.  It keeps them from moving on after the invasion of defeat has paralyzed them.  They don’t move on because they don’t want to do it anyone.

The question for those of us who are Christians should be, “What Is God Asking Me To Do?”  Even those who haven’t crossed the line of faith know something is bubbling up inside of them. 

We know what the Creator has put inside of us, what really moves us and makes us different.  We should want that and we should know that failure will come as an opportunity to learn and to grow.  Anything that helps us grow is NOT an enemy.

4.  Failure Is Not Final Unless You Give Up

God doesn’t care how many marriages you’ve been though, how many times you’ve done this or that.  That simply does not matter.  You are not a failure.  You may have failed, yes, but You Are Not A Failure Until You Give Up.  You can move on.  You can keep your eyes on your dream. 

You understand that God loves you unconditionally so that you can take responsibility for your actions and then continue to press on.  And Jimmy Morris?  He made a promise to that high school team if they made it to the District Playoffs, he would try out for a major league team.  That group of players, known as losers, not only made it to the playoffs, they won! 

In 1999 at the age of 35, Jimmy made his Major League début for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays striking out Royce Clayton.  OK, so his major league career did not last long, but how many 35 year old rookies have played in MLB?  He said, “It’s amazing what you can achieve when you don’t quit.”

Do you doubt these 4 truths?  Maybe you’re thinking, “Preacher, you don’t know how bad I’ve failed.”  Listen, on the Cross, people looked at Jesus and thought he had been defeated and that it was over.  Even those closest to Him had those thoughts. 

But Jesus’ death on that Cross had a purpose.  And that Cross was not final.  Jesus knew if He laid down His life for us that there would be a Resurrection. 

If Someone Wrote A Book On Your Life, The Most Important Chapter Would Be The Last Chapter.  Would it reveal the spirit of determination?  Or would it reveal the spirit of failure, of quitting?

It Is Not About Who You Have Been, And Not So Much About Who You Are Right Now.  It Is About Who You Are Becoming.  The only way, the only way, the only way, we can push on through life is with a connection to God.  That happens only by faith, by saying a definite YES to Jesus.

Next Step

  1.   When you believe that failure is fatal, it’s toxic to your soul, heart and mind. Jesus knows how to deal with what appears to be a failure.  Remember the Cross did not have the last word.  And Jesus knows how to deal with your failures.
  2.   It’s a proven fact, that the fear of failure can become stronger than our motivation.  It’s because the event of failing is mistakenly believed to be the final defining moment of our life.  Remember Henry Ford’s words:  Whether You Believe You Can Or You Can’t, You’re Right!

God Chooses You!

God speaks of his relationship with you in permanent, irrevocable terms of adoption, ransom and guarantee. God chooses you, and that will never change.

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(Sermon for June 2, 2019)

I remember playground games.  Whether it was softball, kick-ball, football or dodge ball, we would divide into teams.  Sometimes the teacher would select captains, sometimes 2 would just volunteer.  But one thing I remember most, is that in the process of selecting teams, no one wanted to be the last person picked.  It meant people didn’t see much in you, that you lacked the skill necessary to be a vital part of the team.  Being picked last was often humiliating.  As we celebrate Communion, I want you to know that in God’s eyes you are never the last person picked for God’s team!  Let’s look at today’s passage from Ephesians 1:3-14 found in The Message

3-6 How blessed is God!  And what a blessing He is!  He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in Him.  Long before He laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love.  Long, long ago He decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure He took in planning this!)  He wanted us to enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving by the hand of His beloved Son.

7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, His blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds.  And not just barely free, either.  Abundantly free!  

He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans He took such delight in making.  He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in Him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

 11-12 It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.  Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, He had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.

13-14 It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit.  This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.

Today is the most important day in your life.  Not yesterday, not tomorrow, not next week or next year.  This leads me to the one thing you need to remember from today’s message:  God speaks of his relationship with you in permanent, irrevocable terms of adoption, ransom and guarantee.  God chooses you, and that will never change.

If you’ve ever felt unsure about your usefulness in God’s plans or if you are acceptable to God, then I want you to pay close attention for the next few minutes, because these few verses tell you three important things about You in God’s eyes.  Embrace these 3 truths into your life, you will experience a greater sense of self-worth and more spiritual confidence than you have ever known. 

1.  You’ve Been On God’s Mind From The Beginning.

Go back to my image of standing on the playground.  At first, you were just part of a crowd, but now selections have been made and now you are standing alone, and the captain who has the last pick, says “Oh well, I guess I’ll have to take them.”  I think all of us can relate to this feeling; we all know what it is like to be the last chosen—the least talented in at least some area—academically, athletically, musically, and so on.  But there is an area where you never need feel that way: Your Relationship With God

Probably all of us have wondered, at one time or another, “If they had it to do all over again, would they choose me?  Would they hire me?  Would she marry me?”  Maybe some of you have even thought, “If Jesus had to do it over, would He die for me again?”  Some of you may believe that you have been such a disappointment to God that you would have been better off not to have been born.  The message from God is the exact opposite. 

The message from the heart of God is that you are accepted not because He had to, but because He wanted to.  You are part of His plan.  From The Beginning, He Has Wanted You To Be A Member Of His Family.  Whether or not you think it’s possible, the Bible makes it clear that God Believes It Is Possible.  Whether or not you believe in your potential, God Believes In Your Potential.  You are part of His plan.  

God knew that you would be where you are today in all areas of your life.  He knew you would be here at this moment and for some, it may have been a rough ride.  There may have been mistakes and disappointments along the way and you may have wanted to give up many times.  Even though your past may be littered with failures, it doesn’t change the fact that God Loves You, He Chooses You, And He Believes In You.  You have been, are now and will always be on His mind and in His heart.  This is RANSOM!

2.  You Belong To God, And That Will Never Change.

This passage defines your relationship with God in permanent terms.  It says, first of all, that we have been adopted.  The citizens of Ephesus understood the significance of adoption, because it was common in their society. Adoption wasn’t just a case of parents choosing to provide a home for a parentless child. 

Adoptions also frequently occurred for business or political reasons—for one grown man to adopt another grown man to ensure that his wealth and power were passed on in the way that he intended it to be.  The Most Important Thing To Remember Is That Adoptions Were Irrevocable.  A man could disown his birth son, but could not disown his adopted son.  It was a permanent relationship. 

Paul said, “You’ve been Adopted into the family of God.  Get comfortable because He’s not going to give up on you.”

3.  Everything You Need, You Can Have.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross just to abandon you now.  God is generous.  He doesn’t withhold His kindness, His love, His mercy, His forgiveness, His compassion, or His blessings from you.  He showers you with kindness.  He will lavish His generosity on you, If You Are Willing To Receive It

It’s not just about your physical needs; he is referring to your spiritual and emotional needs as well.  God will give you All The Joy You Need—All The Love You Need, All The Faith You Need, All The Mercy You Need, And Much More

You may have spent most of your life thinking that you had to manufacture these things on your own, and that most of the time God is ticked off that you don’t do a better job at it.  You may have spent most of your life thinking that God doles out blessings only with great resistance, and only to the most deserving. 

The truth is, He Wants To Shower His Kindness On You.  Everything you need, He wants to provide.

See your relationship with God in a new way—in a non-adversarial way.  God isn’t mad at you.  He isn’t sorry that He chose you.  And if He had to do it over, He Would Die For You Again.  Why?  Before you were born, you were on His mind and IN His heart.  He chooses You to be His very own.  You belong with Him, and that will never change.  And He will be with you every step of the way, blessing you with what you need each and every moment.

How do I know this?  Even more important, how can YOU know this?  You and I can know this without a doubt because the Holy Spirit is given as our guarantee.  “Guarantee” Is A Term That Means The Assurance That Another’s Obligation Will Be Fulfilled

It comes from a Hebrew word that means “a pledge”—God has made a pledge to fully restore you back to His Intended Design—To be the you He created you to be.  Until that work is finished He gives us the Holy Spirit, as His Personal Pledge

The presence of the Holy Spirit is the assurance that God’s commitment to you will not stop until the final result—We become exactly like our Intended Design—The Perfect In Every Detail Reflection Of God.  We come to the table, the ONLY Table where it all starts, where we are called to live, and one day where it will be completed—the Table of Grace…

Next Step

This week it’s rather simple:  Find where God is at work and join with Him.  After all, He has chosen you to work with Him!  Or, find a place where you know God wants to work, and get started.  After all, He wants you to work with Him!

GOD MEANT WHAT HE SAID AND HE SAID WHAT HE MEANT!

(Message from Resurrection Sunday 2019)

Mark 16:1-7 (NLT)

1 Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. 3 On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.

5 When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side.  The women were shocked, 6 but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed.  You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He isn’t here!  He is risen from the dead!  Look, this is where they laid his body. 7 Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.  You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”

It’s devastating when people break their word, isn’t it.  It does much harm.

  • It Crushes The Spirit,
  • It Drains The Hope,
  • And It Steals The Joy Of Living Right Out Of Us. 

When Jesus came on the scene preaching the Good News of God’s Kingdom, people found hope.  Many believed in what Jesus was saying.  It seemed to ring so true in their life.  It was almost too good to be true, but they knew, deep down inside—man, this is the real deal.  Many believers abandoned their old lifestyles, lucrative careers all to follow Jesus.  And they did it without regret or remorse. 

But then it happened.  Jesus was arrested.  Justice was thrown out the window.  He was delivered into the hands of Roman authority—and when that wasn’t enough—the religious leaders incited the crowd to cry out for Jesus’ crucifixion. 

The women saw him after the Roman soldiers had beaten Him; bleeding stripes on his back, with chunks of flesh missing or just hanging there.  They saw him led to Golgotha, and they watched the spikes being driven into His hands and feet.  They watched as he hung in agony, and then—die! 

As bad as it was to watch the death of Jesus, it was even worse for them—For Their Hope And Peace And Joy Died Also.  Maybe some of them felt betrayed by Jesus.  They thought he hadn’t kept his word to them.  We all need people who will keep their word.

When you experience a person who keeps promises, it’s a life-changing experience.  Some of the great historical moments have been moments where people kept their words.  In May of 1942, when the United States evacuated Corregidor, a submarine came to take General MacArthur and his staff to Australia.  Before MacArthur got on that submarine, he made a very famous promise: “I shall return.”

MacArthur had a great sense of the dramatic, but it went deeper than that. When the war in the Pacific turned, American troops began to fight their way back toward the Philippines.  Some advisers in the Pacific theater felt it was foolish to try to go back. “Just bypass the Philippines, and go on.” they said.  But MacArthur felt a sense of history—a promise had been made.  He went back to Leyte Gulf, and you may remember the famous Life magazine photograph as MacArthur, with his adjutant at his side, stepped on the beach at Leyte to keep a promise.  Keeping promises is important!

One of my favorite children’s story writers is Dr. Seuss. The best character in Dr. Seuss has got to be Horton the elephant.  I love that guy.  Remember that flaky bird who left her egg with Horton and said, “Would you watch this egg please?”  She leaves that egg and never comes back.  Horton stays with that egg until it hatches.  He’s a wonderful mother.  Remember that great line Dr. Seuss gives to Horton, when his friends tried to get him off of that nest?  He says,“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant is faithful 100 percent”

Easter comes to remind us of the one thing that we need to always remember: God Meant What He Said And He Said What He Meant.  God Is Faithful 100 Percent! 

  • He Promised Abraham That All Nations Would Be Blessed Through Him.  And He Kept That Promise.
  • He Promised Isaac That The Promise Would Live Through Him.  And He Kept That Promise.
  • He Promised Jacob That The Promise Would Live Through His Descendants.  And He Kept That Promise.
  • He Promised David That The Messiah Would Come Through His Family.  And He Kept That Promise.
  • He Promised Joseph And Mary Their Son Would Save The World From Their Sins.  And He Kept That Promise.

What a wonderful time to remember that God keeps His promises to us.  Easter isn’t about new clothes and dinners and egg hunts.  Easter Is About Jesus—The One Who Keeps His Word To Us.  The angel says to the women, “He is alive.”  Notice, that Jesus of Nazareth is alive.  The one they had put their hope in.

There’s no mistake about it. It’s not a phantom-spiritualized-Christ the angel is talking about.  It’s Jesus of Nazareth.  This is the historical name of our Lord—His name, plus the city, Nazareth.  Jesus of Nazareth is alive.  He has conquered death.  He will meet his friends in Galilee, As He Said He Would.“Do you remember what he told you?  It’s all true.”  

That’s what the angel said. Jesus keeps his word. I want to reflect upon the amazing fact that Jesus still keeps His promise.  God Meant What He Said And He Said What He Meant.  God Is Faithful 100 Percent

1.  He Loved Us Then, He Loves Us Now, And He Will Always Love Us—Just Like He Said He Would.

Before the Cross, Jesus said in John 15:12-13, This is my commandment:  Love each other in the same way I have loved you.  There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  The fact of the Cross is nearly 2000 years old.  If He loved us while He hung on that Cross—and He did love us—do you really think at any point now he will stop loving us?

  • Nothing You Can Do Now Will Make God Love You More Than When Jesus Hung On The Cross. 
  • And Nothing You Can Do Now Will Make God Love You Less Than When Jesus Hung On The Cross

You can count on God’s love.  1 John 4:15 says, “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love.”  God is offering us all a love relationship because He is love.  His love is not an emotional, mushy feeling.  His love is that radical transforming love that changes us back into His Image.  His love never fails, never gives up on that Goal! 

God Meant What He Said And He Said What He Meant.  God Is Faithful 100 Percent.

2.  God Will Forgive Us—Just Like He Said He Would.

In Luke 23:34 we read, “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”  Remember where Jesus said this!  He wasn’t writing a book when He said it.  He wasn’t leading a motivational seminar when He said it!  It wasn’t on the Mount of Transfiguration when He said it.  It’s wasn’t during Triumphal Entry a week earlier when He said it.

  • On That Cross, That’s Where He Said It. 
  • In The Middle Of That Pain, He Said It. 
  • While People Were Mocking Him, He Said It. 
  • While Soldiers Were Gambling For His Clothes, He Said It.
  • And Whatever Sin Has Not Been Confessed And Repented Of Today In Your Life, Jesus Says It To You“Father, forgive him, he doesn’t know what he is doing.”  “Father, forgive her, because she doesn’t have a clue.” 

Forgiveness was extended from the Cross to everyone who had a part in that Horrible AND Glorious Day.  Forgiveness did not end on that day.  Forgiveness continues to be extended to all people in all times in all places.  Not just to those around that Cross, but to us as well. 

God Meant What He Said And He Said What He Meant.  God Is Faithful 100 Percent.

3.  Finally, God Will Stay With Us—Just Like He Said He Would.

Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, “And be sure of this:  I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  The Tomb was empty then because He was alive.  There are all kinds of speculations about where the tomb of Jesus was around Jerusalem.  Several spots claim to be the tomb of Jesus. Some say, “It’s here.” Some say, “No, it’s over here.” Others say, “No, it over there.” But do you know know what?  That doesn’t matter—because He’s not in tomb.  Tombs are for dead people.

  • Stalin is still in a burial vault. 
  • Mohammed is still in a burial vault in the city of Medina.
  • Abraham Lincoln is buried in Springfield, Illinois 
  • Sigmund Freud’s remains are in London.
  • Princess Diana’s tomb is in Althrop, England
  • Who’s in Grant’s Tomb?  I don’t know and I don’t care!
  • And I Don’t Care About Which Place Jesus Was Buried. 

Truth is, He’s alive.  Tomb’s don’t matter for Jesus!  He conquered death, and now He seeks to live in the hearts and lives of those who accept Him.  Jesus Lives Today, and He comes to live in us by the Holy Spirit because

God Meant What He Said And He Said What He Meant.  God Is Faithful 100 Percent.

Spend a moment now, thinking about that.  Stop and think about God’s faithfulness. On Resurrection Sunday, There Is Only 1 Next Step For All of Us.

Walk Towards Jesus!  Think about this:  What would it look like in your life if you spend the rest of your life walking with Jesus?

  • How Would You Spend Your Time? 
  • What Would You Be Doing With Your Life? 
  • How Would You Make This Community Better?
  • How Would You Treat Other People? 
  • How Would You React When Life Becomes Difficult?

Don’t Walk Away From Jesus, Surrender Your Life To Him.  Can you really walk away this morning of all mornings, when we remember that

God Meant What He Said And He Said What He Meant.  God Is Faithful 100 Percent!

Can you really put off going deeper in your relationship with Jesus?  How can you hold back a part of you knowing that God Meant What He Said And He Said What He Meant.  God Is Faithful 100 Percent.