MOTION OR MOVEMENT?

One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way.

Acts chapter 13, verses 2 and 3; from the New Living Translation

Any given moment of every day–you are either in motion or you are in a movement. Think about this definition of Motion: the action or process of moving or of changing place or position. In other words, something is moving. When I think of Motion, I think about a rocking chair. There’s motion in a rocking chair. Am I right? Well, of course I am. But where does that motion take you? Well, when you stop rocking, you’re still where you started. Capeesh? Motion, but going nowhere. Or think about a playground swing. Lots of motion going on. Right? But when the swinging stops you’re right back where you started. Well…unless you fell off or jumped out of the swing. Motion happened, but you really didn’t go anywhere. Ever heard the expression: “Going through the motions”? It describes life that is dull, drab, and empty.

But what about a Movement? Here’s the definition of Movement: abundance of events or incidents. With a Movement things are happening–and often at a rapid pace. Right now I’m thinking about a bulldozer! Yes, I am a man! Now there’s some Movement! When it’s done with it’s work–the landscape changes when there’s movement with that bulldozer! It just isn’t the same. It can’t be the same. I can’t speak for you, but I can, and will, speak for myself.

I want to be a part of a movement. But not just any movement, mind you! I’m talking about that Barnabas and Saul moment you just read about. If doing what you’ve always done is still leaving you bored and a bit empty–if all your motions (you know, all the things you’ve been doing to have a better life) you’ve gone through is leaving you with the same scenery, I would suggest–Nay! I urge and beseech thee by the mercies of God to stop going through the motions and get involved with The Movement Of The Holy Spirit!

Remember my analogy of that bulldozer? The Movement of the Holy Spirit that is happening all around us even as I write, is intended and designed to change our scenery. Church as usual is going away. Church as usual has a lot of motion but it’s not changing the landscape. But I sigh and say Alas! Some people want the motion more than the Movement! Not me! Ever heard of this thing called motion sickness? A lot of folks, and way too many churches are suffering from motion sickness. The sad thing is that some don’t even realize it.

But I’ve never heard of a condition called Movement sickness! That ought to tell you something right there!!! If you will allow me a bit of literary license, I want to say: Choose today! Choose right now whether you will embrace motion or movement! If motion seems better to you, then own it! But as for me and my house, we choose The Movement! So make up your mind! But don’t be surprised if the landscape changes and business as usual goes away–if your choice is The Movement.

it’s exam time!

1 Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit.  You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God.  For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God:  If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God.  Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

1 John chapter 4, verses 1 thru 3; from the New Living Translation

The days of business as usual for what is commonly called “the church” are over.  Truth of the matter is, those days have been gone a long, long, time.  But People Still Are Trying To Operate The Mission And Ministry Of Jesus As “Business As Usual”.  Some may not be happy with me that I am bring this up.  But I would rather they be unhappy with me because I’ve brought this up—than for God to be unhappy with me for NOT bringing it up.

There is a game that has been and is being played by a lot of folks.  It’s called Kick The Can Down The Road.”  Some have been intentionally playing the game, and even more have been playing it because they haven’t been told the truth—or have simply ignored the truth.  And here’s the 2 things we need to know right now about that can: 

  1. The Can That’s Been Kicked Down The Road Has Been Disintegrated By All That Kicking It Down The Road.  Piece by piece, atom by atom, the can doesn’t exist anymore.  Ever noticed how a can will eventually cease to exist?  Either by wear and tear or rust?
  2. Even If There Was Any Can Left To Kick Down The Road, There’s No More Road Left To Kick It Down.  All roads end somewhere.  And this road has reached that end!

We did not reach this moment overnight.  It didn’t happen because of the past few months, years, or even decades.  It’s been generational.  We can also say that it’s been happening ever since The Koinonia came to life.  But now it seems to me that it has intensified.  Maybe it’s because it’s happening in my time.  But for generations now we have neglected John’s Most Important Words For The Future Of The Koinonia:

You Must Test Them To See If The Spirit They Have Comes From God.

False teachings have been a part of what you might call “the church” and what I love to call “The Koinonia” ever since its inception.  Satan is at the root of it all because he knows that The Koinonia is all that is standing between him and the people in the world.  And now for generations, he’s been having a party—at the expensive of human lives.

This Season Of Discernment May Well Be Your Last Opportunity To Discern What Is Being Promoted And Taught.  And to discern exactly what you are going to do!  You have to “test the spirit” of those who want to lead you in a different direction from where you started.

It’s interesting that in writing his letter, John chose the Greek word “dokimazō (dah-key-mah-zo)” that’s translated “test” or “try”.  It means:  To Test, Examine, Prove, Scrutinize (To See Whether A Thing Is Genuine Or Not), As Metals.”  If someone offers to sell you some gold jewelry, are you going to buy it just because it’s color is gold?  I don’t think so.  If you would, then see me tomorrow after the Dollar Tree opens, and I will be glad to sell you some gold jewelry.

The only accurate way to test a teachingis to compare it to The Bible.  And all of the Bible.  For hundreds and hundreds of years, people have misused and misapplied the verses of the Bible to support their own positions.  I’m talking about using the whole Bible. 

Those in our Tribal Leadership are promoting ideas and a life that contradictions thousands of years of the teachings in the Bible.  They are leading a movement that in essence—and at its core—is saying that God has been waiting for a long time for some people to finally get the Bible right.

Now, if you’re OK with that kind of leadership—or if you believe that leadership—then there’s no need to discern anything.  However—I said However!!!—if you think and believe that God’s Word is true and reliable, then you must discern whether you can follow God and align yourselves with their leadership. From the very beginning—I’ve been very clear.  This Is YOUR Decision About The Future Of This Place.  It’s not about me.  It’s not about the decision Debbie and I have already made. 

It’s About DiscerningTestingTryingThe Teachings Of Your Leadership To See If It’s Really Of God Or NotAnd If You Can Live Under That Kind Of Leadership. I can say so much more—but this morning is the time for you to seek, ask, and yes, especially pray.  And I want to leave you with some words from Paul.  This is why it’s necessary that NOW you determine which way you will go—Because The Way You Go, Determines The Future That Awaits You.

6 I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ.  You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News 7 but is not the Good News at all.  You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. 8 Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. 9 I say again what we have said before:  If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.

Galatians chapter 1, verses 6 thru 9; from the NLT

YOU CAN LEAD A HORSE TO WATER, BUT YOU CAN’T MAKE HIM DRINK!

12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

Romans chapter 12, verses 12 thru 14; from the New Living Translation; emphasis mine)

God’s grace is always amazing and mind-blowing! Not only does He love me, He saw fit to let me grow up in the South; where life moves at a different pace. I was blessed to be surrounded by people with a lot of common sense. I’m not saying you can’t find that North of the Mason-Dixon Line–I’m just talking about where I grew up. There are lots of colloquialisms, one of which being, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Simple meaning: Everyone has a choice. It’s their’s to make or not make.

And that got me to thinking this morning about Romans chapter 8; specifically verse 14: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. As a child I remember playing the game Follow The Leader. If you don’t know about this game, you had a deprived childhood; Google it if you need to. And just about everyone wanted to be the leader. And that childhood desire to be The Leader continues on into adulthood. Uh, Houston, we have a problem.

The chaos in culture, politics, and yes, even the church, is the result of either US wanting to be the leader, or worse, following the wrong leader. Let me speak now about the church. There is only one “Leader” to follow when it comes to the church. And that’s the Holy Spirit! Reality Time: We are all being led by something or someone! And we choose that Leader. Not heredity. Not politics. Not culture. Not our circumstances. Nothing chooses who we follow but WE!

Did you notice the first word in Verse 12: Therefore! It’s the word that speaks about consequences! And in chapter 8, it’s about being justified (made right with God) by faith in Jesus and what He did for us in His life, death, and Resurrection. And Paul writes in Verse 2: “And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” Yet so many today want to think, nay, even BELIEVE, that are now free to live the way they want to or feel like.

To be a son or daughter of God, there’s only one way–be led by The Holy Spirit. And always, always, ALWAYS remember that The Holy Spirit will never lead us outside the boundaries of The Bible. And for my fellow Tribal Members of the United Methodist Church, I urge you to follow the lead of The Holy Spirit. Don’t leave the UMC just because many of our leaders aren’t following The Holy Spirit. Follow that same Holy Spirit that they are not following! Disaffiliation is your opportunity to put the Holy Spirit right back where He belongs–out front and leading us! And remember that childhood game of Following The Leader: you do what He tells you to do, say what He tells you to say, and go where HE is the one out front! The Holy Spirit will always lead you to The Truth! But He won’t make you drink. That, my friends, is your choice!

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave,[a] you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

Psalm 139, verses 7 through 12; from the New Living Translation

Rather than my ponderings, reflections, and musings–you get to write today’s blog. At the risk of sounding like an English teacher, write your essay–in your heart and mind, and in the comments below if you are so inclined–write an essay answering these 4 questions:

  1. Where are you seeing God today?
  2. What is He saying to you today?
  3. Where do you see God at work today?
  4. Where is He asking you to join in with Him today?

WHEN YOU HAVE THE KEY!

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.

1 John chapter 4, verse 1; from the New Living Translation

Have you ever come to a door, turned the knob, but couldn’t get in because it was locked? Try with all your might, it just won’t turn. And you can’t get in unless you pick the lock, bust down the door like you’re in an episode of “Cops”, or better yet, you have the key. Not just any key, but the right key. Every lock (unless it’s one of those “computer chip” locks) has a key with a specific series of cuts. A key that opens one door will not open another door, that is, unless they are “keyed” together. What does all this talk about keys and doors have to do with the Kingdom Life? Glad you asked this question!

There are a variety of locked doors we face in life. One of them is having a relationship with God. That door is clearly locked. And to get the door unlocked, we need faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus; the sacrifice that calls for our admission of guilt, trust in God’s grace, and the desire to change our life by living it in Christ and Christ in us. That’s the simple part. But what about once we get on the other side of that door?

On the other side of that door is the life of walking with Him in the way that honors Him! We call this The Life Of Holiness! Where do we find exactly what this kind of life looks like? The life that honors God is found within the pages of The Bible. But, if we are honest, we find another locked door and we urgently need the key. Now, don’t misunderstand me on this point (though someone most definitely will). I’m not suggesting or even hinting that The Bible is some kind of mysticism. Though The Bible is clear about many things, there are some things that we have to, call it “wrestle with”.

How do we come to understand The Truth of and IN The Bible in ways that enable and empower us to live in the way that honors God? Now, there are some out there who sincerely believe that we have both the capacity and the ability to figure out on our own how to do this. In other words, human knowledge, logic, and wisdom are all we need to understand The Bible so that we can live in the way that honors Him!

The Key to understanding The Bible, and thus to live the life that honors God is The Holy Spirit. Now, The Spirit can and does use the insights of others. But the ultimate Guide to understanding the entire Bible is The Holy Spirit. Jesus promises this in John chapter 16, verse 13: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.” (New Living Translation) It is God’s Holy Spirit, and never the human spirit, that will open the treasure of The Truth found in the Bible. Allow me to close out with a personal example.

Decades ago I avoided reading and especially preaching, anything from the Book of Ecclesiastes. But now, it’s one of my very favorite books. What happened? Well The Holy Spirit introduced me to one of my mentors, Chuck Swindoll. It was his book Living On The Ragged Edge. One phrase that Chuck brought to light that is repeated throughout the book of Ecclesiastes is under the sun! Chuck brought out that Solomon is describing life without God. And the Holy Spirit leaned in, whispered in my ear, “Did you see that?” That key and the faithful presence of The Holy Spirit opened the door for me in understand Ecclesiastes. And to this day, The Holy Spirit continues to help me see, not only Ecclesiates, but the entire Bible.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
    Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

Proverbs chapter 3 verses 5-7, from the New Living Translation

SPIRITUAL EUNUCHS

1 You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1 through 5, from the New Living Translation

Just the other day I was reading what a fellow clergy from my Tribe was writing about some things written by John Wesley. He took a snipet here and there, and concluded that the word “eunuch” really mean effiminate–not someone who had been castrated. Another one of his conclusions was that Wesley would have accepted homosexuals as “ministers of the Gospel”. In other words, homosexuality isn’t actually a sin. And this is not an isolated view unfortunately. Claiming to be inspired by The Holy Spirit, 2,000 years of Orthodox teaching about God’s designed Sexual Ethic, as well as the Old Testament, has been flawed.

And now, our Tribal Leadership is declaring that they are being inspired by The Holy Spirit to lead the rest of us down a path that was described by Paul in his last letter to Timothy. The result for our Tribe, and other Tribes as well, is an institution that has denied the true work of The Holy Spirit. Now, I don’t doubt their sincerity; but since when has sincerity been exclusively tied to The Truth? They have a “spirit” leading them, for sure. But it’s not the Holy Spirit! Why say this? Because The Holy Spirit will never lead us to something that is outside the boundaries of The Bible. The Bible is the Boundary Lines for us in all matters of faith and conduct. Some are denying this to be true; but they are wrong!

The prophet Jeremiah wrote in Jeremiah chapter 17, verse 9: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” This is exactly why we need The Bible. Notice the words Jeremiah used: most deceitful and desperately wicked. Without The Holy Spirit we are powerless to change this! AND without The Bible as The Truth, the result is spiritual eunuchs. They are incapable of reproducing Followers Of Jesus, just as a literal eunuch doesn’t have the balls to reproduce another human being. We can be led by The Holy Spirit or we can be led by spiritual eunuchs. The choice is ours. One will lead us into a spiritual awakening that hasn’t been seen in a very long time. The other will lead us into–NOTHING! I close today’s musings with one of John Wesley’s thoughts–thoughts that are truly prophetic within the United Methodist Church leadership:

“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.”

John Wesley, August 4, 1786

PRODUCE OR PRODUCE?

Have you ever considered how difficult it is to master the English language as a second language? There was a time in my life when I thought that whoever invented this language was really bright and creative. I mean, creating a language–that takes some serious moxie. It takes a lot of imagination and creativity. Doesn’t it? That’s what I’m thinking about this morning. And as I am thinking, I have drawn a different conclusion about whoever invented the English language. Would you like to know what it is? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway!

Whoever invented the English language was lazy and had little to no imagination! There! I said it and now just think about it. There are words spelled identical but have completely different meanings. R-E-A-D is an example. It can be used this way: “I need to READ this book.” OK? Or it can be used this way: “I READ the entire book and didn’t like it.” Oh, and there’s another word that sounds like READ but has another different meaning–R-E-D–which is a color. Oh, and for the other READ, there’s REED which had nothing to do with books or colors. See? No imagination or creativity–just laziness in my opinion.

Then there’s today’s two words: P-R-O-D-U-C-E and P-R-O-D-U-C-E. Two identical words, that sounds almost identical, but each with its own uniquely different meaning. As a verb it means in the simplest of terms–to make something happen! As a noun it means in the simplest of terms–the result of something happening! Are you with me so far? Good! Let’s apply the results of those uninspired and unimaginative creators words. When it comes to the life of Grace, we don’t PRODUCE, we are the PRODUCE! And I daresay with the utmost confidence that any mess in churches in any place and at any time is the result of Tenured Pew Sitters thinking they are the verb and not the noun–that they are to produce rather than be the produce!

In other words, we are to be the results of a the processes done by an outside Source! That Source is the Holy Spirit. When we try to be the verb rather than the noun–the results are catastrophic and cataclysmic. We use up too much energy and time when we attempt to be the verb; which is a waste of both. Being the noun is–well, it’s a whole lot easier and a heck of a lot more enjoyable. What did someone just think? Did someone really say, “Show me in the Bible where it says that!” OK, dunderhead, you asked for it!

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Galatians Chapter 5, Verses 22 and 23 (NLT)

And please note that the word “fruit” is singular! I see way too often the plural form: “fruits”! This isn’t the produce section at the grocery store where you are free (provided you have enough money) to pick and choose what you want. We are to be the result, the product if you would, of the work of The Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the verb–the forces acting upon us–to PRODUCE the PRODUCE that this world and culture urgently and desperately needs. But for The Spirit to Produce the Produce we have to be yielded and surrendered to God. Don’t make it happen in your life! (Produce) Allow it to happen–the Produce of the Holy Spirit–which is always a Single FRUIT! Who said the English language is easy?

his bed

This morning I am thinking about yesterday. I know, oh, do I know! As followers of Jesus we’re not to live in the past. But here I am! Honestly I don’t know how people live in the past–be it sad, bad, or even good. But like an old snapping turtle, yesterday has bit me and it’s not about to let go–and it’s painful. So, what has caused this harbinger of Good News to do the very thing he counsels people in hard times not to do? Let me tell you and perhaps it will help me let go.

Yesterday it didn’t rain, so I headed off to Dad’s. There’s still a lot to sort out and make decisions about. No one wanted Dad’s bed, so Debbie and I decided to get it. Tuesday Debbie will have a “foot overhaul”. The bed she and I sleep in is high–his bed is low to the floor. It will be easier for her to get in and out of bed after surgery. There were some other things he wanted us to have still there–so off I went. My truck and trailer headed out, and when I got there, I and a good friend started to work. As we went into his bedroom, I remembered the last time I saw him there. The hospice nurse had changed his clothes and made up that bed–and for the first time in a long time he didn’t look like he was in pain. But I was–I was visually reminded of how life changes. And now there was no bed in HIS bedroom–and what’s a bedroom without a bed?

When we arrived back home, we immediately went to work unloading and moving things around. And last night as I prepared to lie into that bed, it hit me hard. I was sleeping on HIS side of the bed–the same side I last saw him in HIS home. And this morning–Yesterday is doing a number on me–in my heart and mind. Did I sleep good on that bed last night? Sure–but I was physically exhausted. I could have slept good on a floor. And this morning–I am sorting through the morning after. And truthfully, I haven’t done well with it. And as God and I were sorting through this heavy grief, He came to me. Not with answers, but His very Presence.

Has my ache and pain disappeared? Absolutely–NOT! I am just as heartbroken right now as I was Yesterday, and This Morning. The snapping turtle that bit me doesn’t seem to be inclinced to let go of me–if anything, he seems more determined. But I am different–different because God sent me Himself, my very best friend–The Holy Spirit. So, I know that this voracious snapping turtle will release his bite on me–at some point, because he has no choice because I am leaning into and leaning on The Holy Spirit. This moment’s power filled truth came into my heart as I listened to this song. I pray it speaks into you as it is speaking into me–as I deal with Yesterday!

NEW YEAR’S EVE 2021

Today is New Year’s Eve 2021. If you look at calendars, there are only two days with that designation of “Eve”–Christmas and New Year. There is no Thanksgiving Eve, Valentine’s Day Eve, St. Patrick’s Day Eve, Mother’s Day Eve, Father’s Day Eve–nope it’s not on the calendar. Never has been, and probably never will be. But today is one of two days designated as “Eve”. Look at the picture above and definition number two: the period preceding or leading up to any event. Let’s take a deep dive into the idea of an Eve.

Are you excited that this is New Year’s Eve? This morning I was thinking about other New Year’s Days. Specifically 2019–I mean who could have imagined what 2020 was going to bring? Church sanctuaries were closed. Businesses considered non-essential were closed. Stores had limited capacities. Us preachers unfamiliar with live-stream learned how to use Facebook Live (and I still use it). We had to purchase equipment to enable us to do drive-in church. People who were in the hospitals and nursing homes were denied visitors. And so much more. Then New Year’s Day 2021 shows up–and while some of the restrictions have been lifted–this ain’t been a glorious year for most.

But we’re talking about 2022. Are you excited about 2022? Today I am truly excited for several reasons. I don’t have to worry about a ruptured appendix, that happened in 2020. I am excited that today THE University of Alabama (Roll Tide!) will be playing in the Semi-Final for another National Championship (Roll Tide)! Yes, I get excited over certain things. Don’t you think Jesus was excited at the home of Zacchaeus when He said, “Salvation has arrived in this home!” Personally, I think Jesus was shouting at the top of His lungs! If your image of Jesus saying that is one of a solemn face and monotone voice–you need a different Jesus.

Every morning is an Eve–leading up to some event! And I believe this event is the Eve of God pouring out the fires of Revival across our nation and around the world! Why would I believe such a thing with the ways things are? Because I’m not looking at the way things are–I’m seeing them the way that God wants them to be. Each morning is The Eve Of God Doing Great Things In Hearts And Lives! See, there are more than 2 eves–every morning has both the potential and very real possibility to be a life-transforming day for us and everyone else. It’s there–we just need to recognize it.

When we get excited about the movement of The Holy Spirit–before we ever see it–we call that Faith! Faith isn’t about WHAT we see–but WHO we see! Today is the Eve of God doing what Paul said God does in 2 Corinthians Chapter 5 Verse 17 from The Message–Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges! Did you see that word anyone? Anyone means anyone. Isn’t it exciting to see new life emerge? In just a very few weeks a new life will emerge in our family–our first great-grandchild! He’s going through a process, as is his Mommy. It’s not always been pleasant–and the delivery won’t be easy. But all of us will be so very excited about this precious wonderful new life! Will you get excited each morning knowing that this moment is the EVE of God bringing another Great Awakening? I’m excited! If you’re not, then you’ve got a serious problem. Now if you will excuse me, I’ve got some exciting things to do before Kickoff! And Roll Tide! Oh, here’s a song to help your mindset in the right place on this and every following Eve!

It Matters!

It Matters! There’s so much talk–scratch that–there’s so much SHOUTING about WHO matters. Black Lives. Blue Lives. Asian Lives. White Lives. All Lives. But this morning I don’t want to talk about WHO matters. The burden that has been in my heart for some time now has been IT MATTERS! The reason being is that there are so many–way too many–who believe IT DOESN’T MATTER–though it does. What is the IT I’m talking about?

The IT is What We Believe About God And His Word–otherwise known as The Bible! Theological progressives are promoting this crazy idea that when it comes to God and His Word, it doesn’t matter what we believe, as long as we believe, especially that part about Love. Progressives say, “Just let us believe what we want. And you can believe what you want. And let’s just live together side by side. As long as we love each other, then the rest doesn’t matter.” But IT does MATTER!

People are heading down what they believe is the yellow brick road to enlightenment full speed ahead. But left in the wake of their ignis fatuus are broken, disillusioned, and deeply wounded people. They live a disconsolate and wistful existence. And the Progressives blame that lugubrious state of mind on those who of us who understand that IT DOES MATTER what we believe. While their mantra has been “You believe what you want and we believe what we want and we can still get along” is an incongruity because it elevates US human beings as the highest and final authority of what it means to put our faith in Christ–and to be His disciple and follower.

This kind of thinking is built upon a supposition that we humans are fully capable of understanding the heart and mind of God. That WE have the mental acuities to determine who God created us to become. That WE are free to determine what is right and what is wrong; what is acceptable and what is unacceptable; what is sin and what is not sin. In an online conversation with a progressive, she told me, “The Fall was a good thing because it freed us to determine our own life.” Excuse me, but isn’t that what Satan told Eve and Adam? I think it was.

Another alleged Gospel has been presented–it may sound good and reasonable to the human mind. It even sounds like it’s the way for all of us to get along. But sounding good and being good isn’t the same. Paul warned about this in Galatians Chapter 1, Verses 8 and 9–“Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you.  I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.”

Good News includes the truth that there is also Bad News! The bad news is that we are all infected, tainted, and under the influence of sin. This infection has corrupted our mind, and thus our ability to understand exactly what God wants of us. And the only reliable source to understand both the nature of sin and how it is affecting us is found in The Bible. Though the Bible was written by human hands, and though human minds brought together all these books as our Canon–our source for authority over us–I maintain that God was watching over these processes ensuring that today we have an accurate and reliable foundation, both about sin and God’s Grace. If God cannot protect The Truth from being transmitted through the millenniums, then God cannot be trusted at all.

We are not equipped mentally nor spiritually to determine what is or isn’t sin. Besides, we already have those definitions. It’s called The Bible. Here in The Bible is where we find Personal Holiness. Do we always get it right the first time? Hardly! But we are not left alone to our own devices to figure it out. We have many centuries of writers and witnesses who attest to the Truth of God’s Word. The Orthodox ways, though not perfected completely, reveal to us that Truth is Truth is Truth. And we are not free to redefine things like sin and personal holiness.

We have the Holy Spirit to help us. And the Holy Spirit will not, cannot contradict The Bible. We need to be careful, very careful, how we handle This Word. It matters what we believe–when it comes to sin, salvation, and a life of holiness. It matters, even if you think it doesn’t matter.

Sighs Of The Times

Not a misprint–I said SIGHS of the time. I hear of lot of sighs around me. And for some time now–I’ve been SIGHING a lot.

  • I sigh when I hear people say we don’t need to talk about racism–though nearly every day I hear a racist statement or two or three or four…
  • I sigh when I hear people say that anyone younger than them “ain’t got a clue” about life–though they never try to teach…
  • I sigh when I hear people whine and complain that they are not getting their fair share of life–though they are unwilling to apply themselves to the challenges of life…
  • I sigh…when I hear employers complain they can’t find decent employees–though they regularly reject applications of people they think won’t fit in…
  • I sigh when I hear church folks wonder why people don’t come to their church, after all, they are a friendly church–though they take neither the time nor the effort to get to know others…
  • I sigh when I hear people complaining about the government–though they keep putting career politicians back in office…
  • I sigh when I hear people say that Democrats are the answer to our problems–though they have helped create those problems…
  • I sigh when I hear people say that Republicans are the answer to our problems–though they have helped create those problems…
  • I sigh when I hear people complain about the culture–and that’s all they do: COMPLAIN
  • I sigh when I hear people speak hate about other people today because of what other people did 175 years ago–as it they were the cause of poor decisions…
  • I sigh when I hear when folks point out the sins of others–why they ignore their own sin…
  • I sigh when I hear the researchers throwing out their fake science that is ruining so many lives–and vainly believe they are helping…
  • I sigh when I hear self-identified Christians say they want Jesus to come back right how–not thinking about all those who will not be ready for His Appearing…
  • I sigh when I hear me confess my sin–knowing I had the power of The Holy Spirit to successfully resist…
  • I sigh when I hear hate and anger catapulted at those who wear the badge–and don’t seem to care they are human beings who want nothing but to help others and keep us all safe…
  • I sigh when I hear nothing but silence–when it comes to the Truth of God and His Word…

What makes YOU sigh today? I could go on and on and on; and on some more about what makes me SIGH. But I am hit–and hit hard–by the Holy Spirit this morning. He asked me: “Randy, can you kindly tell me what all your SIGHING has accomplished? I mean other than made you feel sad, even an unhealthy bit of despair? After all, any amount of despair ain’t heathy for you.” So, I let that thought sink in a little bit. I refrained from that knee jerk reaction of: “I’m justified in this because that’s the way it is!” As His question marinated in my heart and mind, I finally answered Him: “It would be better for me, and my world, if I prayed instead of SIGHING!” And I could swear that I heard The Spirit say, “Mm-hmm.” Instead of SIGHING today, I’ll pray today, tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and the next, and the next… Will you join me in giving up SIGHING and replace it with PRAYING?

When The Wind Is Taken Out Of Our Sails

Satan is a sneaky you-know-what! Known this for decades. He doesn’t always successfully sneak up on me, but yesterday, he succeeded–and of all days–it was SUNDAY! The nerve of that reprobate! And thus the inspiration (or disconsolateness) for today’s musings.

Yesterday morning started out great–really great. The Holy Spirit showed up and showed out in worship. The anointing was great. The message was so good that I started taking notes on myself! (Kidding folks! I’m NOT that vain!) But both services were powerful, not because of me, but because of The Holy Spirit. And when He has the freedom to move–it’s whatever the word is for better than the greatest–that’s what it was.

Came home with the intent to unwind through my spiritual discipline known as The Sunday Afternoon Nap. Between churches, my son had texted me to call him after church. I did, and that’s when the wind was taken out of these sails full of wind, the Holy wind! And I know that’s how Satan planned it; sneaky-you-know-what. There is 2 hours of travel time between me and my sister and my dad, but Matthew lives just minutes away.

My sister, Jacque, hasn’t been feeling well at all lately. Her symptoms sounded very similar to when my gallbladder needed to be kicked out of my body. She called me Tuesday to say she had been admitted to the local hospital for testing. We were both hopeful the doctors would agree with my diagnosis–and she would be on the way to full recovery. Sneak Attack!

The news Matthew shared wasn’t good at all–and my sails that were full of the Holy Wind collapsed. Since Tuesday she had become non-communicative–and when she did talk, it wasn’t making sense. She is diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and there is fluid around her brain. She was transferred to a physical rehab center. The prognosis is not good. I thought of her 2 children, my niece and nephew. And I thought of my 95-year-old Dad.

Dad stood by the grave of his firstborn, and now–well, you know. In 2019 he wept at the grave of his 70 years plus bride. And now it is looking like he may stand by the grave of his second-born child. I felt numb all afternoon long. My own sails were flat. I didn’t feel like I could even fall asleep last night. But God knew I needed some rest–and He made sure I got what I needed.

This morning I did my First-Thing-First, connected my earbuds to my phone, and listened to my morning music list. It’s set on shuffle, so I never know what’s coming up. Would you believe the first song was I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe? Who says God’s timing is ever off? My phone didn’t cause that song to come up. It was the Holy Spirit shuffling through my list and finding me the song I needed to hear! And now, I am feeling a gentle breeze starting to stir these lifeless sails of mine.

When that sneaky you-know-what hits you and hits you hard, and the wind is taken out of your sails, remember that you are never alone! Remember one of the songs written by the prolific songwriter David:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

Psalm 139 (NIV)

When the wind is taken out of our sails for any reason–count on God being there. And He comes with His own source of wind–The Holy Spirit! Oh, just one more thing. Wanna know what the last song the Holy Spirit planned for me to hear this morning? Here it is!

PS: Prayers greatly appreciated for our family!

A Fraction Of God

Last night God provided me today’s topic. It comes from a book I am reading, Praying The Promises: Anchor Your Life To Unshakable Hope, by Max and Andrea Lucado. Here’s what made me think, and also made me sad, very sad.

Many believers settle for a two-thirds God. They rely on the Father and the Son but overlook the Holy Spirit. The Bible makes more than a hundred references to the Holy Spirit. Jesus said more about the Holy Spirit than He did about the church or marriage. In fact, on the eve of His death, as He prepared His followers to face the future without Him, He made this great and precious promise: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” (Acts 1:8 NIV)

Praying The Promises: Anchor Your Life To Unshakable Hope, by Max and Andrea Lucado

Two-thirds of God? How is that even possible? I mean, the bare minimum standard of God (the whole God) is daunting: “You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2). What? My ESPN just kicked in again, and on a Monday. Someone just thought, “Oh, that’s Old Testament stuff. I’m a New Testament person.” OK, if that’s the way you feel, try this on for size, and it’s from Jesus, Himself: “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 NLT)

See? It’s daunting, difficult, and down right IMPOSSIBLE! Why would God even expect us to be “perfect” if it can’t be done? That’s where that other one-third comes in–The Holy Spirit! But if you don’t know or understand The Holy Spirit, how do you get to “perfect”? Living with only a two-thirds god (notice, I used the lower case “g”!), how does one even get close to perfect? Well, here are some (poor, very poor) substitutes I’ve seen people use in a vain attempt to fill up that missing one-third:

  • Sunday attendance at church
  • Sitting in the same pew (that’s to make sure that God sees you)
  • Giving some money to the church
  • Able to recite The Lord’s Prayer without looking at the bulletin or screen
  • Keep the same traditions–and oppose any changes
  • Wear your finest clothes to church and frown on those who don’t
  • Pick up from your church a “devotional booklet” and read it, sometimes
  • Say a blessing before each meal
  • (Here’s a good one:) Point out where others aren’t “holy” and “perfect”
  • Align with a political party you think best follows what God wants
  • Make sure no other person sees or hears you “sin”–after all, appearances are everything, right?
  • And last, but not least (and this one is absolutely hilarious!) Trust your own intellect and abilities

I could go on with this list, but suffice it to say, my point is made–the one that Max and Andrea made in the book–We need the Holy Spirit–not only do we need the Holy Spirit–we need to understand His work and purpose in our life. What is that “work and purpose” in our life? Glad you asked! See the aforementioned passages–oh, let me reiterate them again:

“You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2)
“But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

New Living Translation

You and I need God, the WHOLE God and nothing but God–who comes to us through The Holy Spirit!

Running On Empty!

(Image from MentalFloss.com)

If you ever see the above picture while driving your vehicle–you better be hoping that a gas station is just ahead. Here’s an eye-opener: Our vehicles will not operate without fuel–be it gasoline or diesel. And if you have ever heard the dying sound of an engine when the last drop of fuel is consumed. . .well, it just doesn’t sound good. You can trust me one this one. Yes, yours truly has been guilty of saying, “Oh, I’ve got plenty of gas to get there.” I was wrong!

What does an empty fuel tank have to do with the Kingdom Life? Glad you asked! It’s the perfect analogy of what happens to our life when we ignore our need to be refueled with the Holy Spirit. We sputter, jerk, and slowly come to a complete stop–and we can’t get to our next destination. While I’ve been guilty only a couple of times of running out of gas–this latter image of running out of spiritual fuel has unfortunately happened more that a couple of times.

Our–call it “heart”, “spirit”, or “soul”–needs constant attention. Without this constant attention to the “fuel gauge” we will, sooner than later, run out of the fuel we need in this journey with Jesus in His Kingdom. So how do we keep the tank full, as it were? The price of fuel for our vehicles is getting higher, and it can put a dent in our household budget. But the fuel for our Life In Christ? It’s already been paid for by our Heavenly Father. We call that Grace.

How do we fill ‘er up? The same way as we do our vehicles. We pull up to the pump and either get out of the vehicle or have someone pump it for us. The spiritual version of this event is that we come to our Father, and ask for a fill-up. My way of doing this is starting my day with music and prayer. Sometimes the song I’m listening to becomes my prayer. I block out any distractions–and when those distraction get through, I consciously choose to give them the boot. After all, this is My Father’s and I time. My “tank” isn’t full and for what I will be facing each day–it needs to be full even before I start–and often times I have to stop in the middle of the day for some more “fuel”.

The “fuel” we use is none other than The Holy Spirit–God’s Holy Presence. You don’t fill up you vehicle just once–depending on how far you’re going–you may need even more fuel. So, remember what Paul tells the folks at Ephesus Church:

17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.

Ephesians 5:17-19

The Rich Lighter Life!

I have no clue as to what you are thinking about today’s Title: The Rich Lighter Life! Maybe you thought about a gold plated with diamonds Zippo lighter. Nope, that’s not it. Unless you are from the country, you may not know what Rich Lighter is. Well, I’m from the country. In fact, a friend posted one of those “tests” to see how “country” you are. Out of a possible high score of 30, I scored 28. I could have scored 29 but I have never touched an electric fence. I’m not as dumb as I act.

As you may know now, Debbie and I are on our annual spiritual retreat to the Smoky Mountains. We rent a cabin for a week and only venture out once, twice at the most. The remainder of our time is spent here in this cabin. This particular cabin has a wood burning fire place. Being winter and all, I decide to pack some fire wood to enjoy the fireplace. You know that to have a fire in the fire place, one needs something to start the fire. I could have cheated and went to WalMart and purchased those neat little fire starters. But remember, I’m a country boy.

Before we left I went just to the edge of the woods surrounding our home and found some Rich Lighter. Researching for this post I discovered that some call it Fatwood. When a pine tree is either cut or is knocked over when it is alive, it is filled with sap. The sap, or resin if you prefer, trapped in the stump becomes hard over time. This sap contains  terpene, a volatile hydrocarbon. I know you are not wanting a lesson in organic chemistry, so I will get to the point.

This hardened resin is very flammable. With just a small handful of Rich Lighter, one can easily start a fire. I put some newspaper in the fireplace, added my Rich Lighter, then the kindling and the wood and lit the newspaper. The picture above is the results of my endeavors. And to show you how little it takes, the picture below is how much I used. The Alabama Crimson Tide mug is symbolic of the power of Rich Lighter:

The Holy Spirit prompted me to do some thinking about Rich Lighter and fire places. The question many folks are asking, especially “church folks” is, “What is it going to take to change our churches, our communities, our nation, our world? Things are out of control!” It’s a great question to ask–IF–you are willing to dig deep for the answer. Asking the question in the expectation of someone else answering it is futile, ineffective, and fruitless. Nothing CAN change unless one knows the answer–and I found the answer in a handful of Rich Lighter.

What’s the answer to this “burning” question? YOU! That’s right, YOU! You may be thinking, probably ARE thinking, “How can I change what’s happening in Washington D.C.? How can I end domestic violence? How can I feed all those hungry families? How can I get people to listen and respect each other? How can I keep our church from closing its doors? How can I help people imprisoned by addictions? How can I do this in a way that really makes a difference? It’s really simple, folks. Remember my handful of Rich Lighter.

Just as a roaring fire can happen in a fireplace with just a handful of Rich Lighter, people, places, and situations change–just one person at a time. And YOU are the person that will start that Fire that will bring lasting change. It’s just that simple–not easy–but simple. Decades ago Kirk Kaiser wrote a song that I still sing today. The name of it is Pass It On. The first time I heard it was in 1971. It was a Sunday night Youth Service. I knew God was calling me into a relationship with Him. But I fought it off by holding on to the oak pew in front of me. I held on so tight I know that my fingerprints are permanently embedded in that pew at Green’s Chapel. That’s what it took for me to resist God’s Grace. And I succeeded. But, a little over a year later, in not so dramatic a moment, I finally surrendered to His Grace. And as the saying goes, “The Rest Is History!”

If you have the Holy Spirit inside you, (you do if Jesus is your Lord and Savior), that Fire is more than enough to start the process of transformation in people, places, and situations. Just as Rich Lighter easily ignites and spreads its fire to other wood, YOU can spread the Fire that will make the difference. But changing the world will never happen as long as you expect someone else to answer the question. I leave you with two songs–one is for me because I am a country boy–the second one is for YOU, Just listen to it:

The Living Bread Life

We are continuing to look at The Boldest Statements Jesus Ever Made.  We are looking at some of those rich and powerful moments when Jesus said:  “I Am.”  Remember that Jesus never said “I Am” because He didn’t speak English.  He would have spoken Hebrew and the word he would have used was Yahweh.  Yahweh is the name God revealed to Moses.

It Is God’s Eternal Name, His Name For All Generations To Remember.  Jesus uses that Name at Mission Critical Moments. He doesn’t just claim to be Yahweh; He backs it up with truth and Kingdom Principles.  Let’s look at John 6:32-51 (The Message)

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

34 They jumped at that:  “Master, give us this bread, now and forever!”  35-38 Jesus said, “I Am The Bread Of Life.  The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever.  I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me.  

Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me.  And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go.  I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.

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

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

43-46 Jesus said, “Don’t bicker among yourselves over me.  You’re not in charge here.  The Father who sent me is in charge.  He draws people to me—that’s the only way you’ll ever come.  

Only then do I do my work, putting people together, setting them on their feet, ready for the End.  This is what the prophets meant when they wrote, ‘And then they will all be personally taught by God.’  

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

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

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

When It Comes To People’s Spiritual Lives, They Will Be Living Either The Manna Life Or The Living Bread Life.  There is a sharp distinction between the two.  There is no confusion about which life we are choosing to live.  And make no mistake about it; it is our choice whether we live The Manna Life Or The Living Bread Life

Let’s find something we can all agree on:  We have no control over some things that come our way in life.  There are some things that happen to us that are absolutely beyond our control.  Does everyone agree with this?  I didn’t say we liked it; just that it happens. 

Now, my next point is something that you may dislike even disagree with, but it’s the truth:  We Do Have Control Over How We React To Those Times.  How we live each day and our reactions to life as it happens is the result of what we feed upon each day.  If you can remember only One Thing today, then remember this: 

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

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

1.  First, Look At The Manna Life.

What does this life feel like?  Let’s go back to the time when God gave them Manna.  It appeared every morning on the ground.  Each family could pick up enough for just 1 day, and no more—except on Friday.  Then they could pick up enough for 2 days.  It never lasted longer than that.  Every meal was the same.  The husband or kids never asked, “What’s for supper?”  It would be manna casserole, manna pot pie, manna sandwiches, manna stew, manna soup—and for dessert it was always manna cake.  I mean, there was not a whole lot of variety to their meals.  And they had to do nothing to do to get it.  They didn’t have to trade or buy or barter for it.  Every morning, day after day after day, there it was.  And here was where the problems started.  It produces the same problems today:

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

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

2.  Now Look At The Living Bread Life.

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

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

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

We can choose to accept the Manna Life with all its Hollowness.  Or we can choose to accept The Living Bread Life with all its Hallowedness—by inviting Jesus, The Living Bread, into our hearts.  For someone here today, this may be the very first time for you to invite Jesus into your heart. 

For the rest of us, it’s our time to renew our decision by inviting Jesus to go deeper into our hearts.  Just bread on the table will leave us hungry again.  But the ONE who dares to call Himself YahwehLiving Bread, can and will satisfy our deepest hunger and deepest thirst.  Since you can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are, here’s a Next Step: 

Select A Verse Or Passage That Speaks About God And Your Relationship With Him—Then Read That Verse First Thing Every Morning And Make It The Last Thing You Read At Night.

Change the verse or passage every Sunday.  Here’s mine for this week:  Isaiah 55:10-11

10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens
and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
producing seed for the farmer
and bread for the hungry.

11 It is the same with My Word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

Learning To Be Led–Monday Musing 17 February 2020

Several years ago Debbie and I had been taking care of 3 of our grandchildren:  Rileigh Breeze was our 10 year old granddaughter who loves to talk, Hampton was our three year old grandson who MUST talk, and then there was Cooper, a year and a half old who talks with his hands.  I am so grateful for all of our grandchildren because they teach us so much about life and even more about God.  And I discovered something through little Cooper.

Cooper was learning how to talk.  But at that time his talk was limited to a few words and a lot of gibberish.  But one thing I noticed during that recent visit was the way he communicated when he wanted me to do something.  Rather than calling me by name (which then was Paw) he extended his hands, palms upward, and then he proceeded to move his fingers, much like squishing an overripe tomato.  If that didn’t get me moving, then he would come over to me and take hold of my finger and tug on me.  Of course he wasn’t physically strong enough to move me, but my love for our grandchildren moved me.  Then, still holding my finger, he led me to where he wanted me, and then pointed to what he was after.  If I reached for the wrong thing, he shook his head NO and pointed again at what he wanted.  This cycle of events continued until I got the right thing.  When I succeed at his appointed task for me, Cooper then told me “Tanks!”  He acknowledged the completion of the task with gratitude.

This scenario was repeated many times that weekend.  And as I sit here at my desk, I had (not another random thought) an epiphany, an “AH HA!” moment struck me.  So I took a moment to say to God, “Tanks for revealing your heart and mind to me, again, through the eyes of a little child.”  I do not know why I was so amazed; after all, Jesus said the Kingdom belongs to little children.  And here is today’s lesson I want to share with you, a lesson I “re-discovered” through Cooper.

As I read the Word, there are times when a single word leaps from the pages and captures my attention.  Listen to Romans chapter 8 verse 14, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”  The word that leaped from the passage is LED!  To be led means that Someone has to do the leading.  It also means that someone must follow that lead.  It means that I cannot do both (be led and do the leading), so I must make a choice.  Will I lead or will I be led?

As the people of God we get to be a part of the many wonderful things that God is doing.  Being a part of God’s activity is both humbling and exciting.  Isn’t it great to be used by God!  But if we are not careful with that excitement we may jump ahead of God and move from being led to taking the lead.  The nature of our relationship with God requires a hierarchy of leadership.  There have been many moments in my life where God has used me to reach another person with His love.  But then I get feeling pretty good about myself and I rush forward because I want to do so much more for Him who died for me.  But in that rushing to do more, I have found myself at times switching places with the Holy Spirit.  I have found myself taking the lead, grabbing the Holy Spirit by the finger and saying, “Come on, let’s get going!  There’s so much more to do!”

And when I do that, the dynamic of our relationship has changed.  When I jump out front, I not only leave the Holy Spirit behind me, but I also put His power behind me.  Even though my intentions are good and honorable, I have abandoned the place of real power and strength.  In those moments, I was trusting in my abilities, rather than relying on His grace.  When I realize I have done this (usually after I fall flat on my face in failure), I have to stop and repent, and seek God’s forgiveness.  And you know what?  I have always found God’s grace truly is greater than all my sin.  The Spirit picks me up, dusts me off, bandages my wounds, and says, “Next time, let Me lead.”

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

Keeping Cadence–Saturday Stories 8 February 2020

This Saturday’s story goes back to 1996. I remember it because of 2 unforgettable things happened. For the first time in his 18 years of life, my son said, “Daddy you were right.” I had been trying to help him understand you could work hard or you could work smart. I was right; he said it and even if he doesn’t remember that moment, I always will. The other thing that happened that led to that utterance of Matthew was when he graduated Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Here’s the story.

KEEPING WITH THE CADENCE

When my son Matthew graduated from the Army’s Basic Training, I made the trip to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri to see his great accomplishment.  One of the many images that was engraved on my mind was the way they walked as a unit.  Each member, each soldier was in step with the other.  Their lines were sharp and crisp because only ONE was calling the cadence.  Their Drill Sergeant was the only voice heard.  Their ears were in tune with only their Drill Sergeant. 

I don’t remember the exact cadences they used. I remember some of them were…well it was 1996 before political correctness was fully operational…some couldn’t be repeated. But I do remember part of one of those cadences. It was something like this: “My buddy’s in a foxhole, a bullet in his head. The medic says he is wounded, but I know that he is dead.”

Then their Drill Sargent would start a new cadence call; and they never missed a step. And not far away you could hear other Drill Sergeants calling cadence, but their platoon did not heed the other voices, only the voice of one kept their focus and attention.  They were not distracted by any other voices. It was impressive, to say the least. Many cadences, many voices–but he and his platoon were in tune to only one voice. And they moved as if they were one person.

MORAL OF THE STORY

We need someone to call cadence for us. But not just anyone–The ONE who is been given that responsibility–for us as individuals and us collectively as the Body of Christ. That’s Jesus. And He does give us the cadence call through the Holy Spirit. It’s like Paul wrote in Galatians 5:26–

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

In real life, there are a lot of things that demand our attention:  family, jobs, appointments, and activities.  It is easy to find ourselves frustrated or disappointed at the end of the day because of the busyness with which we are seemingly perpetually engaged in.  And this is where the stress comes in and often overwhelms us. 

I’m glad Jesus taught us to pray saying “Our Father” rather than “Our Drill Sergeant.”  So, if you find yourself out of step and full of stress, remember my lesson.  Let God lead the parade called life.  Listen to His voice as He calls out the cadence.  Life flows much better when we cooperate with God, much like that platoon that followed only one Drill Sergeant’s cadence.

An Open Letter To Young Clergy In The North Alabama Conference

It has been nearly a month. I have had time to process it, so now I will write.

Well, I have just been to Dante’s 45th Level of Hell. Excuse me, I meant to say my 45th consecutive North Alabama UMC Annual Conference. For those unfamiliar with my Spiritual Tribe, it’s that annual gathering of pastors and laity to “do” the “business” of UMC congregations within the boundaries of the North Alabama Conference. The italics and bold font indicates it’s alleged purpose. Honestly, sometimes I wonder how much we really do and how much of what we do really is the business of the Body of Christ and the Tribe known as United Methodists or the business of our personal opinions and beliefs.

To the young clergy and and young Christians, I want you to know I heard you cries of despair; of your feelings of being neglected because you felt your voice wasn’t important. It is important, but not in the way you may think. I also heard your anger because…well…because you did not obtain the results you wanted.

It appeared that you felt like BECAUSE you are young, your voice and your beliefs are the most important one. You were disappointed that none of you were elected to attend our General and Jurisdictional Conferences…and thus you assumed we weren’t listening. Au contraire, my sisters and brothers. You were heard, and there were many times when your voices did not sound like our Head, Jesus Christ.

With youth comes many advantages, but also disadvantages. The advantages of youth are qualities and virtues we all need to reclaim. We need to reclaim the excitement of the sense of unlimited possibilities. We need to reclaim the excitement of new discoveries. We need the stepping stones of fresh perspectives. These are just a few of the things you youth can teach us old fogies.

But there are also some disadvantages to youth, disadvantages us old fogies also had. The lack of depth of wisdom comes to mind. Wisdom doesn’t come from the surface of information, but from the depths of God’s heart and mind. This takes time…a lot of time. You lack the scars of battle with the Enemy. Don’t misunderstand me on this point. I know you have faced and done battle with the Enemy…otherwise you would’t be here.

Allow me to give you the image of my son, now retired from the military. He has been in many literal battles. And when the battle was intense, he did not look to that fresh out of West Point or ROTC second lieutenant for guidance and courage, he looked to the seasoned officers who had more experience in battle. What I want to say is that experience trumps youthful enthusiasm every time. Experience helps steady the ship when the storms are intense.

Young clergy and laity, you bring much to our Table. We need what you offer. But you also need what we old fogies bring to the Table. We bring years of failure and success. We bring hearts and minds deeply rooted in the Truth of Scriptures (well most of us anyway). We also bring a knowledge of our processes.

Do not think you are unimportant because you did not get your way at the North Alabama Annual Conference 2019. The anger many of you manifested at Annual Conference did not serve your purposes at all. Take a moment to breathe, and reflect in the presence of the Holy Spirit. And for a moment, set aside all that your seminary professors told you–and simply seek the Holy Spirit–then listen.

I do not blame you for feeling disappointed. I do blame those who told you that you have the only answer for the problems ad issues of the church in the 21st century. The Body of Christ has many parts, and you are one of those parts. Bring your energy and insights to the body of Christ.

But also listen…listen to the scars of us old fogies…listen to the wisdom from above that we have because we have been on the front lines for a while. The, when it’s time for decisions to be made, contact those delegates elected, and with the spirit of grace and kindness, share your views and opinions. Those will be a part of the mix that helps us ALL, regardless of age, to move forward with the Kingdom of God.

And most of all remember Paul’s words to young Timothy. Study…learn…seek wisdom from Above. Rejoice in your successes but also learn from your failures. The scars we bear are the most fertile ground for spiritual maturity…

Never Too Far!

Seems I remember somewhere about a certain road paved with good intentions; but it leads you to a not so nice place. Well, I’m guilty. I have good excuses, really good excuses; but I don’t have a good reason for failing to share what I’ve discovered as I read with fresh eyes the Book of Acts. So, forgiveness please….and my next “insight” says much, so very much, about grace. It’s Acts 2:39 NLT)–

This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.”

The struggle in the arena of self-esteem has two extremes. At one end of the spectrum are those whose ego is over-inflated. They see themselves as “God’s Gift” to the world. That somehow, everything would collapse were it not for them. Know anyone like that? I sure do! I’ve even had the occasion (more accurately “burden to bear”) of being their pastor. But today, I’m putting them back up on the shelf. Maybe I’ll write something about them at a later time.

Today I want to focus on those on the other extreme, and those words of Peter in that famous Pentecost Message: “This promise is … to those far away.” I’m talking to those who feel totally, completely, absolutely worthless. I know how you feel. I’ve been there, done that, and got the scars to prove it. When it comes to the personal sense of well-being and worth, it’s a vacuum.

I compare this feeling to road kill. You know, that critter that wasn’t just hit once by a vehicle. It has been run over multiple times…and now is just a flat disk on the pavement. One would have to really focus to make out what it once was. It’s original image is gone.

There is nothing there at all. Well, there is that gnawing feeling of worthlessness. And being created in the image of God, and you are created in His image, this is a burden we were never equipped to carry. God knows this, and so even before The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit said, “LET THERE BE LIGHT!”, the 3 of them sat down and talked. They talked about you….and me.

And what was the subject of their conversation? Our redemption! My redemption! YOUR REDEMPTION! As they were planning this wonderful, beautiful, awe-inspiring creation, they were determined to put God’s image upon it. That image wasn’t placed in trees or any other created matter–it was on the last day they added it–when they created human begins. As they discuss this, the Father looks at the Son and says, “You know Jesus, part of our image is free-will. Unfortunately, they are going to use this precious gift for their own design, and we will be cut off from them, forever. Forever, unless you agree to become one of them, live like them, and also die FOR them a horrible, painful death. But it’s the only way to bring them back to us in this perfect relationship. So, Jesus, what do you say?” And Jesus said, “They are so wonderful and awesome I will do anything to restore them, restore them back to us! Let’s get busy creating!”

Does that conversation sound a bit far-fetched for you who feel so far away from God. Well, try this on for size…it fits you perfectly:

18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake. (1 Peter 1:18-20 NLT)

Remember that these words were written by a man who said he would never, never, never deny Jesus. But he did; 3 times to be exact. If anyone ever felt far from God, it would be Peter. Yet on Pentecost, this same man stands up, without a prepared script, to proclaim the truth–this truth–YOUR TRUTH–that God has come looking for you. And you are never too far away for Him to find you.

Right now I’m thinking about another man who must have felt far away from God after Jesus was arrested. That would be Judas. He felt so far away from God that he could not see what was right in front of him. Earlier that night, Jesus took the Cup, gave thanks, and passed it to them, including Judas, and said, “All of you drink from this cup. This cup is my blood poured out for you and for many–for the forgiveness of sin.”

Judas felt remorse for his actions. Peter felt remorse for his actions. The self-esteem of these 2? Flattened Road-Kill. Peter, though, stayed around long enough for the Resurrection and experienced a resurrection of his own. And Judas? He just couldn’t see it. Can you image the impact of the testimony of Judas if he could have just held on to that Sunday? But the world will never hear of that kind of testimony because he gave up, too soon…

For those who feel so far away…..you are NOT too far away. God knows where you are,exactly where you are. He has a testimony for you to share with others living in that land of far, far, away. Remember that whatever led you to this “far away” place–also remember that God has the Promise–of forgiveness, a new beginning, and the indwelling of The Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit will help keep you from going back to that “far away place.”

And should you ignore Holy Spirit and go back again to the far away place, He will find you even there and lead you back home….I know….He did it for me! You are never too far away for God to find you, and lead you home.

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

Far, Far Away

Who did Jesus die for? Well, if you listen to the Calvinists, He died for the Frozen Chosen. If you listen to the Universalists He really didn’t have to die because if we all get in, why did He die? If you listen to the Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters He died for the good, honest folks. If you listen to the Unitarians, “Who’s Jesus?”

The death of Jesus was the first step in God’s wonderful design to take back what The Enemy has stolen from Him. There had to be another step, otherwise people would fall back into the trap of legalism. In my reading of The Book of Acts Of The Holy Spirit In Surrendered People, I came upon this in Chapter 2, Verses 38 and 39.

Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” (emphasis mine)

For many it’s easy for them to comprehend that Jesus died for them. After all, they aren’t all that bad; at least not as bad as most. But for many more it’s difficult because they are beaten back and beaten down to a pulp by guilt and shame. And if that’s not bad enough, they are beaten down by self-promoting, self-righteous ingrates who forgot they are sinners, too.

I love that inspired line of Peter’s message that in Jesus we are both forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit–to those near–and hear this–TO THOSE FAR AWAY! The Cross can step across any length of chasm to reach anyone and everyone. Here’s some of my personal observations about many churches today:

  • Some won’t cross the street and get to know their neighbors
  • Some are consumed with only reaching folks who are like them
  • Some are more interested in preserving their traditions and Tribe
  • Some are more concerned about keeping buildings open
  • Some are afraid of the future, that “their” church will close its doors

My friends, it’s time to remember both the “near” and those “far, far away”. If you are one of those who are “near”, meaning you’ve been in church most of your life, then start reaching out to those “far away” by getting to know them and become their friend. And if you are one of those who are “far away”, then please, please know, Jesus wants you,too! Hope is available for everyone, so we need to stop saying that anyone is ever “hopeless”. Remember….He came for both the near and the far away…..

Jesus went the distance for us who were far away. Let’s follow Jesus and go the distance, do whatever it takes, to let those far away know that they can be forgiven and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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

Step Up To The Plate

Welcome back to my musings from the Book of Acts. In case this is the first one you’ve read, or if you have forgotten, this is a different kind of journey as I read the Book of Acts. This is NOT a chapter by chapter, verse by verse exegesis. I am reading this powerful book about The Holy Spirit looking for either those things I have forgotten, or for those truths that I’ve been missing these past 45 years since I first welcomed Jesus into my heart. Honestly, I not looking for the obvious, but for those nuances that I’ve been overlooking since I started this journey of faith.

And today, it is Acts 2:14–

Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles …

OK, it’s 2 words….make that 3 words…rather 4 words….wait a minute….it’s all 9 words. So let’s begin….oh, what do you say….we start at the first word: Then. This word tells us something had just happened. That Promise of Jesus, that The Holy Spirit was a comin’….was no longer a promise, but the reality of Peter’s life. Peter doesn’t do anything other than wait and pray until the Then. When that Then happened, Peter stopped praying and waiting. He moved with that Spirit now living in him and every believer.

Next it’s the 3 words: Peter Stepped Forward. Why? Because of the Then. Up until Then, Peter was known as the one who would speak up without thinking. Come to think of it, I know some people like that. Oh, OK, I do that sometimes, too. He was rash and impetuous. He had the tendency for his mouth to overload his abilities. But….Then happened. With the indwelling and abiding of the Holy Spirit Peter Stepped Forward.

And why not? He had both the Power and the Message that could change his culture and world. This isn’t Impetuous Peter. This is Deliberate Peter. He saw what they did to Jesus. And he saw what Jesus did with what they did. And he paid attention to Jesus–WAIT UNTIL. Wait until…Then. Peter now has the Passion and the Focus. And he steps forward.

But today….so many….too many who profess to be a Christian….who are supposed to have the Power and the Message to change OUR culture….are either too timid….or unwilling to Step Forward. It seems to me that many Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters would rather stay isolated and insulted from the world and then complain about the condition of the world. Yet….if they have had their own “Then Moment” they have both the Power and the Message to transform their culture.

It happens through the Holy Spirit. And today? People seem to get the heebie jeebies when it comes to the power and work of the Holy Spirit. They don’t want to look “weird” or like one of “those” kind of Christians. The result is out culture continues to spiral downward.

Oh, there are those who step forward–step forward with words of anger, judgment and condemnation; whose only concern seems to be that they have the appearance of being better than others. An unholy sanctimonious attired that is repulsive to the outsider. And then, they have the gall to wonder why their culture is going to hell in a hand basket. Peter wasn’t going to live with that kind of attitude. Peter Stepped Forward.

Which leads to that last part: with the eleven other apostles…. This wasn’t a solo act, a duet, or even a quartet. It was all of them. And here’s what speaks to me that I had not recognized: The Holy Spirit Provides The Means, The Message And The Power needed to transform our Time, Place and Culture. The time has come, urgently arrived, to stop trying to compromise or allow others to dictate The Message in order to make life more comfortable and convenient.

Appeasement is defined as “the action or process of appeasing”. And the word “appease” means: “pacify or placate (someone) by acceding to their demands. I looked up synonyms for placate and here are the words I found: “lull, tranquilize, calm, mollify.” Mollify? Had to look up that word and here’s what mollify means: “Make more temperate, acceptable, or suitable by adding something else; moderate.” Since 1974, I’ve been told by my leaders (well, except one, he IS a mighty warrior for God) that I need to make sure to appease the congregations I had been appointed to. I needed to pacify them so they wouldn’t complain. In other words, let them have it their way. Having it their way may have been a great advertising slogan for Burger King years ago, but it is a pitiful way to operate the Body of Christ.

And for Peter, he couldn’t make the Message more acceptable by adding something else to it. Why? Because of that single word: “Then”–the Holy Spirit had a hold of him and he had a hold on the Spirit. And the reason for Peter’s powerful message was two-fold:

  • The Power of the Holy Spirit
  • And the willingness of the other 11 to stand with him

It’s time for us to run with those who want to run with the Holy Spirit–His Power and The Message. It’s time to leave the paths of placation that does nothing but tranquilize people and lull them into a false sense of peace and security. Appeasement is the desire of Satan. Transformation is the Great Desire of God–and it happens only with HIS Power through The Message of The Kingdom of God–and not the petty preferences of those who have neither the Power nor the Message.

It’s time for us to Step Forward because if we don’t…..well Yogi Berra puts it like this:

And remember to love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him.

More About The Kingdom Than The Church

Well, here we are, my first entry from my journal as I read the Book of Acts. As a little more background to this adventure, I’m reading with critical eyes. Hold on now! I didn’t say “criticizing” eyes–I said “critical eyes”. I’m looking for things I may not have noticed before, those “nuances” that are not often pondered. Here in Chapter 1, I’ve found a few of them.

Acts 1 is primarily taught with the emphasis on the Ascension and the waiting in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came. And as I was reading, I was captured and convicted by Verse 3 (emphasis mine):

During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.

Here is why this verse captured and convicted me. I was taught, trained, and expected to grow “the church”. The problem today is that “church” doesn’t mean what it meant by then. Besides, the Greek word used wasn’t “church”. (Sniff, sniff…I smell smoke and the heating of tar….as in being tarred and feathered). Hey, I’m just sharing what The Book says.

One would think that since Jesus knows He is shortly to be ascending back to Heaven, that He would teach and train them about the “church” and His expectation that they were to grow the church. Now, if this Book of Acts is truly more about the Apostles than the Holy Spirit, that’s what we would read.

But if Jesus is anything, He is CONSISTENT! Jesus taught about The Kingdom, not the church. OK, OK, He did mention “the church” in Peter’s declaration of His true identity. But Jesus didn’t speak English. I know, shock, shock. (Or for some, “Blasphemer! Blasphemer!”) The Greek word used was ekklēsia, and it means a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place.

Jesus focused on the instrument of God’s Power and Authority–and that’s the Kingdom of God. And I’m wondering, “What if we stopped teaching and training people for the church and followed Jesus’ own example and taught and trained people in The Kingdom?” The Kingdom is important to Jesus, because it’s important to God. And it should be important to us.

But us “Americanized” Christians would rather have the church than the Kingdom for only 1 reason. It gives us the illusion of control. But Kingdom, on the other hand, presents us with the hard truth that there is an Absolute Ruler, and it ain’t us!

There must be a new language spoken in the ekklēsia. It’s the language of The Kingdom of God. Our terminology, mindset and focus must go back to what Jesus thought was most important. That was, and continues to be the focus of Jesus. If last words are important, and they are, then let’s listen to Jesus as He teaches about The Kingdom of God. If our emphasis was on the Rule and Authority of God, rather than our own, I strongly suspect we would see the same results found in the Book of Acts.

Let me leave you with this final thought, and it’s not an original one from me:

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

Acts Of WHO???

Well, here I go again on another Journey. It seems I’ve become a bit slack in my spiritual discipline of reading the Word. I was looking at my Bible on the desk and it was like I heard, “You know, it’s been a while since we talked. Don’t you think it’s time to catch up?” So I reached over and took it; then I found me a journal to write in, and an ink pen. That’s all: the Bible, a clean sheet of paper and a pen. No commentaries and not even Google to help me look up words and thoughts. Just me, The Book, and of course, the Holy Spirit.

Speaking of which (the Holy Spirit, that is), I’m wondering right now why did I have to have all those commentaries (because I started this journey with Jesus before the internet was so readily accessible)? And why do so many today have this book, that website, that author along side THAT Book? Over the past several years, I discovered to my amazement, that the Holy Spirit actually helps me understand what I’m reading! Who could have ever imagined such a thing? Well, God could.

Back to The Book. Where would I ever begin such a journey? There are so many books to choose from. One would think I would have to spend a lot of time deciding which book to begin with. This time, I had no trouble. He, the Holy Spirit, whispered, “The Book of Acts.” So that’s what I’m doing. I’m not reading a chapter a day–nothing against people who read the Book that way–just reading until I sense Him saying, “Let that sink in for a while.”

And this morning my Companion and Comforter said, “You know, you’ve been talking, I mean talking a lot, about starting back to regular blogging. Why not share what you’re discovering? After all, I did give you that gift of writing.” So who am I to argue with the Wisdom of The Ages.

Today’s entry is simply about the title applied to The Book Of Acts. It’s been titled “The Book Of The Acts Of The Apostles.” For many, many years I’ve insisted that those earliest editors misnamed this Book. I wish right now I could borrow Doc Brown’s time-traveling DeLorean and go back to that first group of editors when they came up with this title and ask: “What are you thinking? It’s NOT the acts of the Apostles. It’s the Acts of the Holy Spirit in surrendered people!” Gee whiz, guys. You’re better than that! Think, man, then listen to that title. A bit short-sighted, don’t you think?”

Why do I think that it’s an inaccurate title? I’m so glad you asked me that question. To read Dr. Luke’s stories with the title “Acts of the Apostles” taints your thought processes, and it’s easy to conclude that what happened then, was “limited to a handful of select special people and not really for me or my time.” Calling it the Acts Of The Apostles limits what this Book can do in you and I.

First, it relegates it just another History Book. Now, I love History more than most. I blame it on my High School History teacher Ronald Pettus. He is a collector of artifacts, many of which he brought into the classroom. He filled my little mind with more than memorizing dates–but left me hungering to know more about the people and the times. This is a priceless tool in understand THE BOOK! If we see Acts are only a history book of a select few people, we’ve missed the point of Dr. Luke’s work.

Second, we slam the door shut to the potential of the Holy Spirit using folks like us. There’s more going on here than dates and geography. If we agree that the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are all about Jesus (and they are), then Acts MUST be all about The Holy Spirit, and it is. Each Amen on that? The Book of Acts opens up with Jesus telling those first disciples about, guess who? The Holy Spirit! And in Chapter 2, all Heaven breaks loose on earth. And it all happens because of and through the power of The Holy Spirit!

Now, I want to add a little side bar comment about the current state of the church culture. For the last century, more emphasis is put on human understanding and abilities rather than The Holy Spirit. I see it in my Tribe as Progressives try to tell me they know more about what God wants and expects than the Bible. Add to this that so many in churches want to hear what someone else says about the Bible rather than read it for themselves.

The result has been that a powerful Stallion has been reduced to a gelding. People are following today, an impotent message about an impotent life. And once again, Jesus weeps. So staring tomorrow, I will share from my personal journal some of the insights and wonder I am discovering as The Teacher, teaches me.

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

Everybody Has A Past!

(This is the first of a sermon series I am currently doing.  Next week I’ll share the second.  I pray this will speak something hopeful into your heart and life!)

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A new series begins today that I’m calling Everybody.  The Theme Verse of this series is Galatians 3:28—“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”    A couple of weeks ago I was already thinking about what to preach about after Communion Sunday.  Almost immediately this word invaded my mind and my heart.  And I can see why.

We live in a culture that divides people into groups.  Us and them.  We and they.  Those people!  These have become the iconic words of our culture.  Black Lives Matter.  White Lives Matter.  Blue Lives Matter.  All Lives Matter.  Red States.  Blue States.  Republicans.  Democrats.  Socialists.  Such are the words that describe this Fractious And Fractured culture called the United States.

This spirit of division is fueling fear and hate—and it’s leading us deeper and deeper into chaos.  The recent hearings for a new supreme court justice isn’t the problem.  It’s just a sign of this Fractious And Fractured Culture.  But it’s not always been so.  In the beginning, it was an “Everybody”.

In Genesis 1:26-28 we read: 26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.  They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” 27 So God created human beings in his own image.  In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply.  Fill the earth and govern it.”

This is God’s design.  He designed for life to be lived, experienced and celebrated TOGETHER!  Together with Him.  Together with the world.  Together with each other.  That’s how the Image, His Image looked in the beginning.  Look at the words our culture has forgotten—even the church many times has forgotten:  Let US make. . . in OUR image. . . to be like US. . .

Who is US?  Who is OUR?  God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit living TOGETHER in that depth of closeness that is the perfect mystery.  God exists as 3 but is 1—because they are TOGETHER.  And for a season, it was Everybody.  They were together with God, together with the world, and together with each other.

But then something happened.  Anyone know what happened?  Together was shattered.  Adam and Eve were no longer together with each other.  They were no longer together with the world.  And they were no longer together with God.  Eve admitted her sin, and blamed the snake. Adam blamed—who?  God!  Yes, he did.  He said, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit”.

Sin was now in the middle of God’s creation.  Together with God, with the world, and with each other was now just a memory.  And generation after generation continued that brokenness.  But God, God longs to bring us back together—back to being EVERYBODY.  Throughout time, God has been seeking to bring us back together.

The Kingdom of God is all about bringing the “Everybody” back into His Design.  And Paul, who at one point in his life thought he was with the only ones who would get into heaven—said in Galatians 3:28—“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  And thus. . .this word Everybody.  Though we are Fractious And Fractured, there is still Everybody.

Everybody has a common condition; really 3 conditions.  Everybody Has A Past.  Everybody Has A Present.  And Everybody Has A Future.  We are going to look at an example of each of these each week.  And here’s the 1 thing you need to remember:  Everybody Has A Past! 

I want you to know I’ve really challenged myself with this series—well, actually God is challenging me.  I started thinking about an example of this from Scripture—and almost immediately it hit me, “Hey, God!  This book is full of people who had a past.”  I suspect that God had this sheepish grin on His face.  It’s harder to find someone who didn’t have a past.  Then it finally hit me.  Turn to Romans 7:14-25 (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.

Here’s what God is continuing to teach me about this passage.

1]  Everybody Is A Sinner By Nature

Do you believe the Bible is accurate and reliable?  Then there’s Romans 3:23—For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  That’s what he’s expanding on there in Chapter 7.  I want to do right, but I don’t do it.  I don’t want to do wrong, but Golly Gee Willikers Batman, I do it anyway.

You say, “I’ve been going to church all my life.  I’ve been baptized.  I’ve memorized Psalm 23, the Lord’s Prayer and Apostles’ Creed.”  That’s good.  “I’ve never stolen or cheated or killed anyone.”  Good for you.  But, we are still sinners by nature.  As followers of Jesus, we’ve been born again and transformed by Grace.  But. . ..

We are just as much sinners as those waking up this morning, hung over, in someone’s bed they don’t know, or in a jail cell somewhere.  We are all equally sinners by nature.  Even after we invite Jesus into our hearts and are born again—we are capable of sinning again.

Not only are we capable of sin—we actually sin.  The most commonly used Greek word for sin is ‘hamartia’.  It’s an archery term—missing the target.  Everybody at the foot of the Cross is Equal.  You and I are no different from Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Charles Manson, or your ex-spouse.   When we understand and accept that we are equally sinners—it’s the first step in healing the divide between Everybody.

2]  Everybody Has A Story That Needs To Be Told And Heard.

One of the results of this Fractious And Fractured culture is that we have become good talking at and talking about people.  The result is that we have become poor listeners.  Coming together never happens if we never listen.  Some hear as much as they need to point the finger to tell them how wrong they are.  That’s not how Jesus listened.  Think about that episode with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well found in John 4.

Plenty of people talked about her.  And they probably talked at her.  But did they ever talk with her?  Jesus did.  He never talked at her.  Even when she tried to hide her story, Jesus revealed her story.  Broken heart, broken marriages, broken life.  She knew Jesus heard the story of her life.  He never said to her, “Divorce is wrong.”  He didn’t say, “You need to quit shacking up with that man.”  Instead He created a safe space for her story to be heard.

People around us all have stories that need to be told and heard.  A couple of weeks ago at McDonald’s I notice that the young woman waiting on me had tattoos, and I really liked how they looked.  I notice ink because, well, I’ve been thinking about it for a while.  Just haven’t done it yet.  I mentioned about how good they looked.  She began to tell me the story behind the ink.  I listened because she had a story that needed to be told and someone to listen to her story.  I’m not bragging on myself—but I’ve been hoping for the opportunity to hear more of her story through her ink.  But I haven’t seen her again.  Looking back, I can’t help but think that God engineered this circumstance just for her—and for me.

YOU have a story that needs to be told and heard.  Oh, it may not be a story made for Lifetime Channel.  You may not be invited to appear on Fox and Friends on Monday morning, but understand that everyone, including you, has a story.  All of us are people with stories—stories that someone needs to hear.  You story will come out of 2 places:  a place of brokenness and the other place is where God’s Grace has touched your life.  Everyone has a story that needs to be heard.  The second step in coming back together as it was in the beginning requires genuine listening.

3]  Everyone Needs Kindness!

Kindness is the opposite of the words we hear in our culture today.  If our culture is ever going to stop this madness, it must start with us—the Body of Christ, the Citizens of The Kingdom of God.  Paul puts it like thin in Ephesians 4:31-32—“31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

I’ll give you an example from Jesus on how to be kind.  It’s the story of Zacchaeus found in Luke 19.  I’m remembering a song from childhood at Vacation Bible School:  “Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he.”

He was a crook, cheating people.  He was a collaborator with their hated enemies, the Romans.  He ate high on the lamb while the people he took from struggled to get by.  This man deserved no kindness.  He made his bed now let him lie in it.  But Jesus showed kindness to Zacchaeus.  Jesus was criticized for it—but Jesus didn’t care they criticized Him.  What He knew was that Zacchaeus was a man who needed kindness, and He wasn’t about to allow public opinion to change His mind.

Kindness is not what is earned and given to people who deserve it.  Kindness Is Given In Abundance To Those Who Need It The Most—The Wounded, Broken, Angry, And Those Who Have Given Up On Life.

The division in our nation is getting worse.  It’s race, it’s economics, it’s politics, it’s a whole lot of stuff.  None of it is The Kingdom of God.  Everybody has a past—and they won’t get over it as long as people hold it over them.

Here are your Next Steps:

  1. Know Your Own Story. Your story comes out of your broken places and where God’s Grace restored you.
  2. Be Ready To Listen To Someone Else’s Story. God is going to provide you the opportunity to hear another’s story.  This will not happen every day.  So you need to pray every day for the Holy Spirit to help you recognize that Holy Moment God is preparing them to share their story.

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

The Power Of A Name

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Well, it happened again.  Last night Debbie (most definitely my better half) and I went out to eat supper.  We had chosen Cracker Barrel.  I thought that was a great ending to a great day.  I had spent the day at New Room Conference listening, learning about sowing the seeds of God’s Word for another Great Awakening.  The theme word this year is RISE.  I was overwhelmed by Damien Boyd’s sermon about the importance of connecting with people, especially the poor.  Damien pointed out that the poor isn’t limited to those without material substance–but especially those who are spiritually poor and those who have been broken by life.

Our server was Miles.  He was polite and attentive to us.  But this isn’t about Miles.  It’s about Marissa.  Many years ago The Spirit taught me the importance of acknowledging people at the Huddle House in Guntersville.  We had been out to eat, and I noticed her name tag, and thanked her and used her name.  She sat her coffee pot down, and thanked me for using her name.  She said that no one called her by her name.  It was always “Hey, you!”  Fighting back the tears, she was overwhelmed that someone noticed she had a name.  Ever since that evening I have made it a point to call servers, associates and cashiers by their name when I can see it.

Back to Marissa.  We had just left our customary 20% tip on the table and was getting up to leave when another server, Marissa, was walking by.  I said to her, “I hope you have a great evening, Marissa.”  She smiled and thanked me.  Then she turned back around, for a conversation.  She said, “I was wondering how did we know each other, but then I realized my name is on my apron.”  And I replied, “Well, you are a human being and you have a name, so I used that name.”

A bright smile came over her face and she said, “Oh, how sweet.  Give me a hug!”  We hugged and said our goodbyes.  I noticed as she walked away, there was a renewed joy in her steps.  Oh, it wasn’t me.  It was the Holy Spirit.  I just happened to be in the right place at the right time for Him to do what HE does best:  Remind people of God’s Presence, that He values them, and best of all, He loves them.

And early this morning I reflected on that simple but Holy Moment of God being with us.  I’m not bragging on myself–I have way too many faults to engage in such silliness.  But the Spirit impressed on me this truth.  All day I had been listening too and learning about the Kingdom of God.  And that night I put it into practice–doing what I have been doing since that night in Huddle House in Guntersville–what I heard and learned.  I thought I almost heard the 6 words I am striving to hear one day:  Well Done Good And Faithful Servant.

You see, learning about the Kingdom of God but doing nothing is like a sandwich without meat, mayo, lettuce, and tomato–you’re toast.  Jesus showed people that God values and loves them by connecting with them where they are.  A person’s name–using a person’s name is a profoundly simple way of acknowledging their value and worth–as a person and as someone who bears the Image of the Creator.

When you see people, acknowledge their worth and value, then if you pray the Lord’s Prayer, it has become real and true in you–Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.  See people the way God sees them.  They have a name.  God knows their name.  Do you?

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

Great Anticipation!

Anticipation, anticipation
Is makin’ me late
Is keepin’ me waitin’

(Anticipation lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group)

Who remembers that song by Carly Simon?  Guess I’m revealing my age; actually I don’t have to reveal my age–it shows naturally.  But early this morning, I’m awake and filled with great anticipation, like a child on the way to Disney World.  What is the cause of my great anticipation?  I am leaving for Brentwood, Tennessee for another New Room Conference.  This will be my third consecutive time.  I don’t know how long this event has been happening.  If I did, I’d probably kick myself in the butt for missing the earlier ones.

What is it?  I’m so glad you asked me that question.  It’s a time of inspired worship, spirit-filled preaching and teaching, and a time for Spiritual Renewal.  Not all “conferences” I have attended over these past 44 years have filled me with anticipation.  OK, OK, it’s closer to 99% of those conferences never filled me with anticipation.  But this is different.  I looked up synonyms for “anticipation” and there was a single word that leaped out at me from that list.  It’s a word you seldom hear used unless you’re singing that great old hymn, Blessed Assurance, FORETASTE!

We don’t use that old word much anymore, but maybe we should.  It means “a slight and partial experience, knowledge, or taste of something to come in the future”.  You get that small taste, and you know, “Wow!  This is just a sample, I can’t wait to get the full course!”  This foretaste has been given a name at New Room–AWAKENING!  I confess that my hope for the church in the U.S. before New Room was at an all time low; I mean the bottom of the cellar, ocean bottom low.  But here….I was Elisha’s servant who had his eyes opened to the presence of Heaven’s Army!

We worship together, learn together and we have these things called “breakout sessions”.  From a list of subjects we choose where we want to go.  Last year was an especially powerful Epiphany for me.  I can’t even remember which breakout session I had signed up for, but something (actually someONE) drew me into a different one on Travailing Prayer.  I was like a puppy being drawn towards that treat.

I was taking notes right and left.  At the end, now there was another Epiphany.  The speaker asked that anyone who needed prayer to come and offer themselves to God.  This preacher never hesitated.  I went forward and stretched myself out on the floor.  As I was praying I became aware of another presence.  Someone was standing over me, and he was praying for me.  He was praying in tongues FOR me (a new experience for me), but I wasn’t freaked out by it.  In fact, I felt a calmness come over me.  From time to time, he touched my shoulder as he prayed in tongues and I felt the most amazing coolness where he touched me and a profound calmness in my heart.  Somehow, I sensed it was a prayer for preparation for what was ahead for me.

In the time that followed, I tried to figure out what God was trying to prepare me for.  There were some moments that I thought I figured it out–but I was wrong.  And now?  I am still assured it was and IS a prayer for preparation–not just where I thought it would me.  Through a tumultuous April, a time when I allowed hurt to consume me, I have finally learned that this prayer of preparation was for where I am right now.

I still don’t know all the details of what God is preparing me for here–but I know He’s Got This, and I am OK with that.  Actually, better than OK.  I am filled with anticipation!  Unlike the anticipation of Carly Simon that was keeping her waiting–this anticipation is keeping me moving forward.   I don’t know where it’s leading me, but I DO know that HE is both with me, and waiting for me as He reveals more and more of what He has for someone like me.  Now here’s a testimony of grace and mercy.

Truthfully, I never anticipated that at 62 years old that God would have so much more for me–but HE anticipated it.  And that moment of being prayed for in a language I could not understand has given me more confidence in God than I ever had before.  Well, excuse me but my “foretaste” is beckoning me.  Need to pack up and head out to God knows where–and I’m perfectly good with that.

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him.  OH, and don’t miss the “foretaste” He has for you….

A Moving Journal-Day 4

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.

Well, Good night, John Boy!

Heaven–You Can’t Get There From Here! Part 7 The Final Answer

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Well, here we are at the end of this semester.  I pray and hope that you are able to see with clarity the fallacies of these 5 Plans.  I would be remiss and a failure to be a good professor if I did not give you the correct answer to the question:  How Do You Get Into Heaven?  Now, there are some other ways out there, but I think they will fall into one of these 5 plans.  So, what’s the answer to the question, How do we get into Heaven?  Remember my earlier disclaimer—this might be offensive to some.  If you’ve been reviewing your notes as I instructed you to do, you will now remember from the first lesson that this question is really the question of your heart:  How Do I Get Into A Relationship With God?  With no further ado, let’s look at the correct answer:

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We do it like Jesus said to Nicodemus—and here’s the plan:  To Get Into Heaven, We Live In A Relationship With God Now!  And here is how Jesus says this relationship happens, the only way the relationship happens:  Be Born Again

Anyone here ever heard of the expression Born Again Christian?  This phrase falls into the category of Repetitive Redundancy.  It’s the same thing as saying “Christian-Christian”.  If you’re a Christian, you’ve been Born Again.  If you’ve been Born Again you’re a Christian.  You don’t have to say it both ways.  Here’s a diamond of Truth:  You can’t be a Christian if you’ve never been born again.  Not now—not ever!  But if you have been born again–born from above–born through the Grace and Mercy of God–you are a Christian, or as I prefer to say–A Real Follower Of Jesus!

Slide26.JPGThis was the source of confusion for Nicodemus.  Do you know what Nicodemus’s name means?  Conqueror of the people—but Nicodemus is the one conquered by this single thought.  And this is the one thing you need to remember today:  You Cannot Have A Relationship With God Until You Are Born Again!  We need to be conquered by the same thought that conquered Nicodemus–the conqueror of people.  Until we have been conquered—our egotistical pride has been conquered—our feelings are conquered—our ways of thinking are conquered—heaven will always be out of reach—and so will God be out of reach.

None of these 5 very human Plans will cause anyone to be born again.  So, how are we born again?  It’s 3 simple steps that defies human logic and destroys human ego.

 1. We Die! Die to all that you have been.  If it’s your goodness, then die.  If it’s your sense of failures, die.  If it’s you sense of worthlessness, die.  If it’s your fears, die.  Being born again is all about starting all over in a new way of living in relationship with God.  Philippians 3:8-9—

8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him.  I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.  For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.

Until you die in this moment and die to all your past moments you can never live in this Relationship with God.  This is what it means to Confess our sins—that God is right about us being sinners.

2.  Be Born By The Water. Not the waters of baptism, but the water of the Word of God.  Paul was writing to Ephesus about how husbands are to love their wives.  But it’s also about how God loves us and what needs to happen in us.

Ephesians 5:25-26—For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.  He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.

This is what repentance means and looks like.  We turn away from that old life and into the new Life.  We let the Word of God go to work in our daily life—doing what the Word says do—avoiding what the Word says don’t do.  You allow the Bible to shape your life from this moment forward.  What God’s word says to do and not to do cleanses us and liberates us from our default setting–that of being hostile towards God.

3.  Be Born By The Spirit.  The Spirit is the one who creates the new heart that fills you with new desires, new passions, new strength, new gifts and a new purpose for your life.  It’s the only power for people who are Born Again.  People who are not Born Again only want the form but not the power.

2 Timothy 3:5 (TPT)— They may pretend to have a respect for God, but in reality they want nothing to do with God’s power.  Stay away from people like these!

This is what walking by faith means.  This is what it looks like to live a life IN the Grace of God.  You look towards and listen to the Holy Spirit.  This is the power of God that you need to be at work in you.  It is the Power that you need UNTIL the Head Master gives the Final Exam.  Read what Paul wrote in Galatians 3:3

How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

At that moment of The Final Exam, He will see you as you are–covered with the blood of Jesus and clothes in both His righteousness, and your life of honoring Him–if you have been born again.  The Final Exam has only 2 questions:

1.  Did you trust in Jesus so that your sins could be taken away?  Did your trust come through Confession (admitting you’re a sinner) and repentance (meaning you choose to turn away from your old sinful life in order to live life as He intends)?

2.  Did you join in with God’s work of redemption and restoration by living in His Power as you loved the least, the last and the lost?  It is the Holy Spirit that both empowers and equips you for this task–the very task you are created for.

Get ready for the Final Exam by practicing–practice living in the Presence of Jesus so that you become the Presence of Jesus in this fallen and sinful world.  At the risk of sounding like your piano teacher:  PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE!

And remember…love God with ALL your heart.  Love others the WAY He loves you.  And make sure ALL the glory goes to HIM, The Head Master and Keeper of your hearts!

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