Radical: Spirituality! Part 2

Welcome back to Episode 2 of True Spirituality.  Remember that True Spirituality Is Not Determined By How You Act In Church, But By How You Treat Other People.  There are 3 key components to this and let’s get to the first one:

 1.  True Spirituality Is Evidenced By Love.

If you want to become spiritual, there are a number of things you must master in your personal life.

  1. We Need To Be Committed To The Goal Of Spirituality. We need to be able to say, “I’m not going to let the world, or sin, or traditions, or money, or enemies, or friends, or family stand in the way of my becoming close to God.”
  2. We Also Need To Be Disciplined. We need to be able to govern ourselves and force ourselves at times to do what we don’t necessarily feel like doing, and, at times, not do what we really feel most like doing.
  3. We Also Need To Be Consistent. We need to make a regular habit of prayer, Bible study, worship, and service to God.  These things can’t be done in a half-hearted when I feel like it fashion.

As important as these habits are, Paul tells us they are not really the key to spirituality.  It’s Not Enough To Accumulate Knowledge, Or Be Disciplined, Or Be Committed.  There is something much more important than any of these.  You Must Develop A Heart Full Of Love.  Look at the latter half of verse 1:  “while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.”  And he follows this up later with the most famous passage of all in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13—The Love Chapter.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is the primary component of the Christian life.  This is the key to growing God’s Kingdom “People Don’t Care How Much You Know, They Want To Know How Much You Care.”  Have you ever wondered why your friends who are not Christians (hopefully you have some of these, if not, “Shame on you!”) never ask you about your faith?  Well, it may be that they sense in you that all you will talk about is WHAT you know.  Quite frankly, they do not need to know what you know.  They need the WHO, not the WHAT!  If all you talk about is The What, then it is clear that you are unclear about The WHO!

God has a primary concern about you once you decide to follow Jesus.  His primary concern for your spiritual growth is not how much you know, But How Much You Love Those Created In His Image.  When you stand before the throne on judgment day, He won’t say, “Wow! You really knew the Greek.” Or…”Wow! You could argue the authorship of Isaiah with the best of them.” Or…”Wow! You sat in the same pew every Sunday for 57 years.”  Those aren’t the things God is looking for.  He wants you to develop a heart full of love towards others and towards Him. True spirituality isn’t measured merely by how good you are, but by how good you are to others.  And this is measured by how well we love.  If you have been reading me for any time, you know what’s coming next…

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

Tomorrow we will look at the next component of True Spirituality.

Radical: Spirituality! Part 1

Have you ever known people who acted so deeply spiritual that you really admired them and wished you had their kind of spirituality, only to discover another side of them?  I’m talking about the kind of person who acts spiritual and pious at church, in a class or any other religious setting.  But get them out of that setting, and they become irritable, moody, and unkind to those around them.  Put them in a religious environment and they shine like the sun.  Put them in the real world with real people and their whole appearance changes.

I don’t want to sound like I’m judging these kinds of people.  Jesus did say we could be arborists; in fact, He insisted we be arborists, you know, being able to identify a fruit tree by the kind of fruit it produces.  The fact is I get confused.  They talk so much about true spirituality and the deep things of God, yet something is obviously missing.  Maybe I view the world too simplistic, but I always thought being close to God would bring out the best in people.  Take, for example, the life of Jesus.  Sure, there were times he was stern—when the situation called for it—but the words describing his life and ministry are words such as compassionate, forgiving, and merciful.

Peter summed up Jesus’ life by saying:  God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (Acts 10:38)   As I study the life of Jesus and the writings of Paul, I discover that True Spirituality Is Not Determined By How You Act In Church, But By How You Treat Other People.  In 1st Corinthians, Paul addresses the subject of true spirituality.  In those days there was a big debate about whether or not it was all right for a Christian to eat certain types of meat.

1 Corinthians 8:1-13 (NLT)

Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols.  Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue.  But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.  Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much.  But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.

So, what about eating meat that has been offered to idols?  Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God.  There may be so-called gods both in heaven and on earth, and some people actually worship many gods and many lords.  But for us, There is one God, the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live.  And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live.

However, not all believers know this.  Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated.  It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat.  We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do.

But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble.  For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol?  So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed.

And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ.  So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.

Churchians, Tenured Pew Sitters and Protectors Of Religion have misused this passage.  They have moved away from being arborists to being Judge Judy’s.  They see this passage as justification for them to point out where others are missing the mark.  Which just goes to show that Churchians, Tenured Pew Sitters and Protectors Of Religion really do not understand the Bible they falsely claim to follow.  They prove what my homiletics professor, the late Dr. Thompson, always told us:  “A text without a context is just a pretext, and usually a false one at that.”  Let’s go deeper than the surface pretexts and see the context.

The Corinthians lived in a pagan society filled with pagan temples.  People would take meat to the temple and sacrifice it to the pagan gods; afterwards, the meat could be purchased in the temple food court for a good price.  Some Christians said, “It’s a sin to eat meat that has been sacrificed to a pagan god.”  Other Christians said, “That’s superstitious.  We have freedom in Christ and we can eat sacrificed meat if we want to.”  This was Paul’s opinion on the matter.  He said, in effect, It is not a sin to eat meat sacrificed to idols, but before you do, you have to consider how your actions and attitudes affect other believers.

In our society, eating meat sacrificed to idols is no longer an issue.  But the principles Paul teaches in this passage are as relevant as ever.  1 Corinthians 8 is not about eating food sacrificed to idols as much as it is about discovering the characteristics of true spirituality.  Paul had a radical approach to spirituality.  He insisted that true spirituality is not determined by whether or not you eat certain types of meat; it’s determined by your attitude in the process.

Simply put, Paul Teaches That True Spirituality Is Defined Not By How Good You Are In Church, But How Good You Are To Others.  Now we are going to look at three evidences of true spirituality.  Hope you come back tomorrow.

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

You Are Gifted, But You Are Not THE Gift, Part 2 of 2

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Let’s pick up where I left off yesterday.  Every church of every tradition and size has only one mission from God:  To Make More Followers For Jesus.  This is why every church exists.  It’s not to serve us, but to give us a place to serve God through serving others.  The vision must be to serve the mission of making Followers for Jesus at all costs.  Folks, we have made church more complicated that it really is.  There is a simplified way to make followers for Jesus!

But it is not all that easy but it is really simple.  If we believe that Jesus is God’s Son, that He died on the Cross for our sins, that He arose on the third day, that He ascended back into heaven and sent down the Holy Spirit to live in the hearts of believers, and that this is true IN us, then we have to believe what Jesus told His first Followers is what He tells us:  Go make followers!  Listen, Jesus didn’t say, “Uh, folks, I would like for you to try to make more followers.  As long as you try, that’s good enough.”  No!  He said:  “Go make Followers!”  If we aren’t making followers then we are not the Church.  Some of you may be thinking, “Preacher, that’s hard to do!”  My response is this:  It’s NOT hard to do.  It’s not hard to do, if we remember 3 things:

 1.  Presence. (Verse 3—So I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.)

We live with the confidence that He actually is present with us.  Only His presence gives us the passion, the desire to do what we are redeemed to do.  The Holy Spirit is who sets our hearts on fire.  If Jesus has never done anything for you, then there is no fire in our hearts.  But we can have a fire when we realize what God has done for us.  We can have a fire when we realize what God is doing for us.  We can have a fire when we realize what God will do for us.

And what has God done for you?  He has nailed your sins to the cross and you bear them no more!  What is God doing for you?  He is at work transforming you and your moments for your good and His glory.  What will God do for you?  Stay by your side until you as you live forever in His Kingdom!  To make another Follower of Jesus doesn’t take a committee nor a team, but the passionate conviction that God has been, is now, and will continue to be present and at work in your life.  The Passion To Make Followers Comes From Knowing The Presence Of Jesus.

2.  Power (Verse 4—There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.)

The source of our power is the Holy Spirit.  Have you ever been surprised or amazed by something you did or said?  Then afterwards you wondered, “Well where did that come from?”  Those are moments when HE has complete control of us.  It is so important that we stop relying on our abilities by living in His power.  Do you know why some meetings are irrelevant, dull and boring?  It’s because we have forgotten the real power of the Church.  Whatever it is that God calls you to do, He will give you the strength and power to do it.

When you feel the nudging and prompting of the Spirit to do something, do it because with His Prompting comes His Power.  God designed the Church to withstand the power of hell itself!  And this is the power that lives in us.  Did you hear me?  The power that conquered death, the power that hell cannot overcome, is the power that lives inside each and every one of you when you desire God above all else.  Remember the third thing:

3.  Provision (Verse 7—A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.)

To engage our heart in what God is doing, we have to know the Provision of spiritual gifts that are designed by God for the common good.  The gift God gives you is designed so that you are able to help others both inside and outside of the church.  The Work Of The Body Of Christ Is A Spiritual Work And Requires Spiritual Tools.  These provisions are not rewards for us being good, but they are the result of our God being awesome!  God Gives Us The Tools We Need Not To DO Church Work, But To BE The Church That Is The Body Of Christ In Your World.  You have to know your spiritual gifts.  God does reveal your spiritual gifts.  If you do not know your Gifts it’s your fault.

It’s not easy, but it’s not hard.  I know, I know, I’m sounding like a politician.  You’re thinking if it’s not hard, then it is easy, but if it’s not easy then it must be hard.  If you think it’s too hard to do the ONE thing God wants this place to do, then remember Genesis 18:14—Is anything too hard for the Lord?  God had just told Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son within a year.  He was an old man and she was an old woman.  Looking at them, you would be right to believe that they were too old to have a child.  It was impossible for them.  But do you know what?  By the next year, they had a son.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is too hard for the Lord.  All you have to do is Trust Him with all your heart.

When you give Him all of your heart, over and over again, when you worship Him with all of your heart, when you listen to Him with all of your heart discovering the truth about God, the world and yourself, here is what you will discover:   God Is Making Available To Us His Presence, Power And Provisions  To Fulfill Our Primary Task in His Kingdom And That Is To Make More Followers For Jesus!

Failure To Do This Is Failure To Love God, Worship God and really, Failure To Know God.  Pursuing the heart of God means that after surrender, after worship, after studying The Word, we must be doing the things that will make disciples of others, which will bring them into this process of surrender, worship, study and doing!  This is the cycle of Kingdom Life.

You and I NEED His Presence.  You and I NEED His Power in order to be faithful to our Primary Task.  And You and I NEED what He alone can provide to be more than disciples of Jesus in name only, to be real Followers of Jesus by doing what HE wants done.

And the question for you in such a time as this, is Do You Have It?  To have it you must WANT it.  You and I must say:  I WANT Your Presence.  I NEED Your Power so that I can be found Faithful.  I MUST HAVE what You Provide for the Task You have given me.  Without it, you miss not only The Gift, but most importantly, the Giver…

 

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

 

You Are Gifted, But You Are NOT The Gift! Part 1 of 2

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As many have read and heard me say so many times, somehow the Body of Christ has got off track in a big way.  We have change the Message of Jesus from The Kingdom of God to the Kingdom of the Church.  Don’t get me wrong, the Church has had an interesting narrative that has resulted in a lot of folks encountering Jesus and finding the life they were created for, BUT…

Nowadays that message has been diluted into a very human-centered message rather than the Kingdom of God’s Epic Saga!  The result is that Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters have entered into the Enemy’s delusion that we are now the experts on all things related to the church.  They see themselves as THE GIFT rather than being Gifted By The Giver.  And while they may be experts on all things related to the church, they are missing out on something much bigger, and a whole lot better.  Let’s look at the passage found in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 from The Message:

1-3 What I want to talk about now is the various ways God’s Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often misunderstood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. Remember how you were when you didn’t know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It’s different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can. For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say “Jesus be damned!” Nor would anyone be inclined to say “Jesus is Master!” without the insight of the Holy Spirit.

4-11 God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:

wise counsel

clear understanding

simple trust

healing the sick

miraculous acts

proclamation

distinguishing between spirits

tongues

interpretation of tongues.

All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.

Think about the things that make up our day to day ordinary life.  What is the story that you are telling your world and culture?  In the beginning of the Body of Christ, the vast majority of disciples understood they lacked the moxie to do what God was calling them to do.  The result was they opened their heart, mind and life to God so that HE could equip them with what was needed for this enormous task of being the presence of Jesus in a fallen world.

And God provided what they needed through His Spiritual Gifts.  And I Believe That Today God Is Still Making Available To Us His Presence, Power And Provisions  To Fulfill Our Primary Task in His Kingdom And That Is To Make More Followers For Jesus!  These gifts are not merit badges or rewards for us being so good.  Spiritual Gifts are the only way to fulfill our primary task as Followers of Jesus in the Body of Christ, which is to make more disciples for Jesus.

Let me tell you a story.  After Satan could not convince Jesus to avoid the Cross, he began to worry.  After Jesus conquered death, Satan began to wonder how he could stop the Gospel.  Eager to please their master, demons did a variety of things.  One began to persecute the believers, even having them killed.  But this only led to the Gospel being spread out further.  Another tried to get the early church to dilute the Gospel by mixing it with other beliefs and religions, and while it did capture a few souls, it wasn’t the huge success he was wanting.  The Gospel continued moving forward.  The demons tried and persisted with their evil designs.  At times they seemed to be successful by getting the church to replace relationship with rituals and rules.

But then there would be someone like Martin Luther, John Knox, John Wesley, C.H. Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, or Billy Sunday (to name just a few) came along who would get the church back on track.  One demon though, patiently watched and studied all the efforts being tried before he came up with his idea.  At one particular business meeting as the demons were all bemoaning their failures, fearing the wrath of their master, this one demon spoke up.  He said, “I have an idea.”  Just about everyone, including Satan, rolled their eyes as if to say, “What failure do you have in mind for us?”  And the demon said, “It’s obvious that we can’t stop the Gospel, but I have a way to slowing down its impact on people.  I call it ‘Committees’.”  Someone asked, “What’s a committee?”

The demon explained—“It’s a group of people who sit around talking about what they should be doing.  The key concept is ‘talking’.  Committees will then insist that everything in their area has to done their way; this will stifle creativity.  Some churches will make it that only a committee can do something in their areas, this will create a spectator mentality.  If some people don’t get on a committee, or a particular committee, they will get angry and stir up trouble, this fuels selfishness.  Committee meetings will become irrelevant, long, boring, or heated, and eventually, all of the above and this creates division.”  The Board room of hell was silent, until they saw their master with his infamous sly grin.  And though they couldn’t stop the power of the Gospel, they had found a way to slow down a church by making it ineffective.

From my story you may think that I don’t like committees.  I want to set the record straight.  I don’t like committees.  I don’t like committees that talk more than they do, stifles creativity, creates spectator mentalities, fuels selfishness and creates division.  But I am not against having committees.  But because of the well-earned reputation of committees, I prefer to form teams.

I am against the thought that the vision and mission of the church is to serve committees or teams.  This happens when more emphasis is put on committees and teams rather than the mission.  If you’re on a committee/team and I’ve made you mad, just listen to one more thing—The purpose of our Committees and Teams is to serve the vision and mission of the church.  That’s all.  Now that I’ve adequately offended some of you readers, I have something more to say.

Every church of every tradition and size has only one mission from God:  To Make More Followers For Jesus.  This is why every church exists.  It’s not to serve us, but to give us a place to serve God through serving others.  The vision must be to serve the mission of making Followers for Jesus at all costs.  Folks, we have made church more complicated that it really is.  To understand how to simplify this, read the next edition!

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

You Are A 5-Star Prospect!

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Today is Groundhog Day.  But yesterday was an even more important day.  Why? Today is Groundhog Day.  But yesterday was an even more important day.  Why?  Today is Groundhog Day.  But yesterday was an even more important day.  Why?  OK, enough reference to Bill Murray and the movie Groundhog Day.  But that movie does have something to say to this left-handed, right-brained Kingdom pastor.

Yesterday was a most important day for us in the South.  If you are scratching your head wondering what was so important about yesterday, I would suggest you move out of the South and go back to where you came from.  Just kidding!  It was National Signing Day!  For those of you reading this but are unfamiliar with this significant day I will explain it.  It is the day when 17 and 18-year-old boys who have been offered the opportunity to go to college for free, cleverly disguised as a Football Scholarship, can publicly announce where they will attend college–to play football of course.

These young athletes have been carefully analyzed by so-called experts and assigned a rating called “stars”.  They range from being 1 star players to 5 star players.  The goal of every football coach is to get as many 5 star prospects as possible.  The belief is that the more 5-Stars that you have, the more likely you are to have a successful football program.  Now what does all this have to do with the Kingdom Life?  Glad you asked.

Sometimes we, the Church, get caught up in evaluating (that’s a nice way of saying “judging”) people in how much someone has to contribute to success in life.  All of these high school players are evaluated based on past performances with the assumption that these past performances will be expressed in the future, which is at a different level.  And what I have observed is that some 5-Star athletes turn into 0-Star athletes because their past performances were not enough at the next level.

Case in point from the Bible–Samuel’s trip to look for a replacement king.  Samuel is at home of one Jesse because God told Samuel that’s where the replacement king would be found.  Consciously or unconsciously, Samuel brought with him a 1-5 Star rating system based on external appearances, similar to the “experts” judging of athletes past performances.  Samuel picked a 5-Star at first, but God corrected him.  And for Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters who engage in the same process, I love to quote this passage:

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Here’s the Kingdom Truth for anyone today who has ever been rated (that is “judged”) by a set of external criteria:  Talent can only get you so far in life–and it is not enough to get you to where you need to be.  This is for those “5-Stars” who think they have it all and are great for the company, family and even the Church.  Some of those 5-Star football athletes fail not for lack of talent, but for lack of heart, resolve and determination.  They never reach their full potential.

And if you are one of those who have been rated a “1-Star or less” there is a Kingdom Truth for you.  You are not bound to your past IF you are willing to give your heart to Jesus.  Yes, God sees your stained and painful past.  He saw it all as His Son was nailed to that cruel Cross.  And that was more than enough to cover over, pay the price and wipe away the debt for anyone, everyone, and even you.  We call it Grace.

And now back to my opening reference to the movie Groundhog Day.  In that movie Murray keeps looping back to the morning of February 2 until he realizes that there is more to life than what he had been doing.  He can only move forward to February 3 if he decides to make a difference in the lives of others.  And though the movie never says directly that it is about living life for The Kingdom of God, to me at least, the reference is clear.

Groundhog Day, both the date and the movie by this name, remind us that our future cannot be determined by mindless events, or human predictions.  There is another future out there for us–a future that is hopeful and truly makes a difference in the lives of other people.  And we can become a part of this when we shed the “Stars”, or lack of “Stars” put on us by others, and realize that when God looks at our heart, the very heart that bears HIS Image, and knows what we can become when we give Him control of our whole life.

His presence, through the Holy Spirit, makes all the difference in our future.  Oh, you may not make the headlines at ESPN, but you will make the headlines in the hearts and minds of others who finally see Jesus through you.  God has something special for you.  Do not think to highly of yourself, or too low.  He knows you are a 5-Star even when the world has written you off.

#MessyGrace

“I Feel The Need To Say Something!”

There are some conversations that I simply find no pleasure in participating.  In fact, I absolutely HATE being in those conversations.  There are some red flag phrases for me that causes my mind to scream, “Run, Forrest, Run!”  For example:

  • “I saw on Facebook…”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”
  • “From where I sit…”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”
  • “Some people were talking and they wanted me to tell you…”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”  (Perhaps only a fellow pastor or someone in church leadership understands this one!)
  • “Well, I would never…”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”
  • “Do you know what’s wrong with our world?”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”
  • “I was reading in the New York Times…”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”
  • “The Lord told me to tell you…”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”
  • “Well, here’s the way we used to do it…”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”
  • “I feel the need to say something!”  “Run, Forrest, Run!”

It’s that last one that makes me want to run like the wind.  Now do not misunderstand me; there are times others can bring the right words, the timely counsel that will make the difference between sinking and swimming.  Did you notice my phrases, “there are times” and “timely counsel” and this is not a rant against them.  I’m talking about those who feel like it is their God-given gift and responsibility to ALWAYS put in their two-cents worth of wisdom and 1 minute of being the Sage.

This morning I had this passage in my mind and it is the basis for this rant, excuse me, Blog!

1-2 Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.

3-6 The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

6-8 Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.

9-10 Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”

11 “No one, Master.”  “Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”

John 8:1-11 (The Message)

Some teachers, commentators and scholars hone in on that part where Jesus said, “Neither do I.”  But I’ve heard even more wonder, “What exactly did Jesus write on the ground?  Why didn’t John tell us?”  And truthfully, so have I wondered.  I remember one summer in Emory when I sat at the feet of one of my favorite professors, the late Dr. David Naglee.  He suggested that it may have been a quote from The Mishna which said if a person was in a position to prevent someone from committing a sin but did nothing to try to stop them, then they were guilty of committing that sin.  And in the case of adultery, they would have to be in a place where they could have prevented it from happening.  Sounds reasonable.

But we do not know if that is what Jesus wrote.  So I went to the Greek to see if it could enlighten me.  According to Strong’s Concordance the Greek word used is “grapho” and it has a variety of meanings.  I looked at that word “grapho” and almost immediately I thought of the word “graphics”, as in graphic art.  Maybe Jesus was just doodling on the ground, like some do in class or when the preacher is preaching.  But I digress; what caught my attention this morning was what Jesus did while the Religious Police were spewing their venomous sewage.  Have you ever paid attention to what Jesus did while that sewage of hate, of sinners and Jesus, was flowing at the rate of about 1000 gallons a minute?

“Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger in the dirt.  Excuse me Jesus!  Those guys are making fun of your teachings.  Those guys are spewing hate!  Those guys are being mean to that woman.  You are the one who always took the side of the oppressed.  This woman is being heavily oppressed.  Say something Jesus!  Don’t you feel the need to say something?  “Nope!” and He went back to doodling on the ground.

 And when they kept on pestering Him, He finally gets up and we see His lips start to move.  There you go Jesus!  Now open up and let them have it!  Tell them how wrong they are!  Call them low-down snakes again!  Put them in their place!  Better yet, just rip them apart!  And He says, “OK.”  What???  Is that the best you can do?  Don’t you have something else to say?  And then those lips move again, now we’re getting somewhere.  “Go ahead, but the first rock thrown has to be by the one who hasn’t sinned.  Then the rest of you can let the rocks fly.”  And then Jesus goes back to doodling on the ground.

Nothing else.  Jesus goes back to the silent mode just as when they first presented this “sinner” to Him.  Jesus finally does say more, but I am going to leave those words for another time and another blog.  I want you to see how Jesus responded to a situation that, in our opinions, DEMANDED something be said.  Jesus says nothing but doodles on the ground.  You cannot say that Jesus does not understand the serious nature of this confrontation.  He knows that the future of this woman is at stake.  When confronted with their hate, Jesus simply draws doodles in the dirt.

In our culture and nation, maybe this part of the story has something to say to us as citizens of the Kingdom of God.  When hate and anger is being thrown around like a Frisbee, maybe our best INITIAL response would be to follow the example of The Master.  Get out a sheet of paper, church bulletins work nicely, too, and draw some doodles.  Not every situation demands we say something.  Perhaps Jesus knew something we do not know–that there are moments when we can say a whole lot more by saying nothing.  This is one of my favorite memes:

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Maybe, just maybe, the best way to silence all these protests and unrest is to say nothing at all.  Maybe, just maybe mind you, that when we feel the need to say something we really need to say nothing.  Allow The Master to take those thoughts and work with them and you.  Give The Master the opportunity to bring the wisdom of all eternity to work with those words.  Allow The Master to clean those words up and flavor them with His Love, Grace and Mercy so that when you do speak it will be like His words–Timely and Timeless!  Maybe, just maybe this same process will work when dealing with all those “other sinners” out there.  You will never know if you never try it.

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Curb Shopping

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Another one of my moments of random thinking this morning, and it seems I’m being afflicted with this more often than usual.  The thought?  Curb Shopping!  Now if you are not familiar with Curb Shopping, I will warn you that it may become addictive.  Simply put, Curb Shopping is watching for what people put out on the curb to be picked up and taken to the landfill and quickly thinking if it is something you can clean up and re-purpose.  Then stopping and picking it up and take it home.  It is giving what is being thrown away a new life.

I admit and confess that I am a Curb Shopper.  I never knew the joy of it until a few years 0119170519_hdrago.  My wonderful wife Debbie and I had taken a trip down to Winter Haven Florida to spend time with some of her family and to have a sabbath rest.  Whenever we are down there, we count on seeing some of her cousins she grew up with; one of them is Janie.  That particular year Janie was telling wonderful and humorous stories of her adventures Curb Shopping.  And that got me started.  Every day going to the office, hospitals or visits, I watch the curbs for some hidden jewel, even scrap pieces of lumber.  I also watched businesses for discarded pallets to re-purpose.  The crosses and firewood rack are just a few things I’ve done.  (Notice the Folger coffee cans, that’s where I keep the tender for starting fires in our fireplace, that is, when it is cold enough for a fire.  I do live in Alabama where we defy Mother Nature by having all 4 seasons in the span of a week.)

Point is, I find Curb Shopping expands my thinking and moves me from the realm of “what is” into the wide open spaces of “what could be”.  And this morning’s random thought was more than about “junk” and thrown away pallets.  I realized that Janie had opened my eyes to yet another facet of God.  God is the original Curb Shopper and Dumpster Diver.  A perfect case study to prove my assertion that God is the original Curb Shopper and Dumpster Diver, is found in Luke 7:36-50 (The Message)

36-39 One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him.”

40 Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Oh? Tell me.”

41-42 “Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?”

43-47 Simon answered, “I suppose the one who was forgiven the most.”  “That’s right,” said Jesus. Then turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, he said, “Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.”

48 Then he spoke to her: “I forgive your sins.”

49 That set the dinner guests talking behind his back: “Who does he think he is, forgiving sins!”

50 He ignored them and said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Here was a woman who had been pushed to the curb as trash to be disposed.  Others had seen her and thought, “Well, the curb is exactly where she belongs!”  But Jesus was a great Curb Shopper and Dumpster Diver for He could see beyond “what is” to “what can be”.  Here’s my two thoughts on this random thought:

First, God does not see you as curb trash or dumpster material.  He sees more clearly than even yourself “what is” your current condition, and regardless your current condition He can see “what you can become”.  He can and will re-purpose your life and keep you from the landfill of despair.

Second, I have a question for you:  How do you see people who have been pushed to the curb?  Who are people pushed to the curb?  Of course we think about the homeless, but there are many others.  It is anyone who has been pushed aside because someone decided that they no longer had any value or purpose.  Do you join in their assessment or can you see that with a little work, they can be re-purposed to a better life, a higher life?

Re-purposing takes some imagination, often a lot of work, and even more patience.  And our God has plenty of both–in fact–more than enough for anyone, everyone, even you.  One more not so random thought and for some it may be my spiritual gift of annoyance that hits you:  What are you going to do with the next person you see that has been pushed to the curb?  Use your imagination and time to invest in someone who has been deemed too broken or no longer needed, and ask God to show you “what can be” for them.  Then stop at that curb, pick them up and watch what happens when we don’t give up on someone.

 Love God with all your heart; love others the way God loves you, and make sure all the glory goes to Him!

#5 Fear Of Change

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(This is the sixth in a 10 part series.  Reason Number 4 will be released tomorrow.  If you are just starting to read this series, you will need to start with Top 10 Things That Are Killing The Church! first, then #10: Choosing Religion Over Relationship;  #9 Ignoring That We Are In A War#8: Wrong priorities7: Cookie Cutter Attitude;  and finally read #6. Self Reliance before reading this one)

There are a lot of reasons why western congregations are declining in membership, attendance and impact.  This list is by no stretch of even my active imagination, not an indictment against all local churches.  I have not engaged in Barna-like  research polls; nor have I started a consultant business going about to different congregations across the nation analyzing what is ailing them.  No, this is what I said it would be at the very beginning:  simply observations that I have drawn by reading and listening very carefully.  And I do not expect everyone to agree with my conclusions and I am sure there are other reasons that could make it on a Top 10 List such as this.

But after a season of prayer, these are the ones that I see as significant “Destroyers Of The Church”.  The Enemy does not have to get a local church to embrace all 10 of these, or 9 or 8 or 7 or 6 or 5 or 4 or 3 or even 2 in order to effectively make a local congregation ineffective.  I realize I did not have to do the entire countdown for most of you.  But I have met people who need the whole shebang to understand; they are not creative thinkers; heck, they aren’t thinkers at all; but I digress, so forgive me.  Any local congregation that is guilty of even 1 of these has greatly reduced their impact for the Kingdom of God.  This is why self-evaluation should always be an ongoing and unfinished project; not just people, but for the entire congregation, especially its leadership.

Now we have finished the bottom tier of this list, it’s time to move on to our Top 5.  This part of The List was the most difficult because of so many other things could have fit here as well.  But coming in at Number 5 is Fear Of Change.  But it is the unique beginning of Change that qualifies it to be in solidly at Number 5.  To show how this has been a persistent problem, let’s look at a story about change from Numbers 14:1-4 (The Message)

1-3 The whole community was in an uproar, wailing all night long. All the People of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The entire community was in on it: “Why didn’t we die in Egypt? Or in this wilderness? Why has God brought us to this country to kill us? Our wives and children are about to become plunder. Why don’t we just head back to Egypt? And right now!”

Soon they were all saying it to one another: “Let’s pick a new leader; let’s head back to Egypt.”

Unless one is a pastor or member of the military, two callings that require adaptability to change because change is a constant, change creates a lot of anxiety in many people, especially long-term members of a local church.  This does not seem to be a problem with new Christians because they typically have not developed their hierarchy of importance.  The excitement of new birth and new life, well, all they want to do is serve Jesus.  Everything is new and everything is changing for the newborn Disciple of Jesus.  But for the church members with long-standing tenure, it is usually viewed with more than just suspicion, but downright hated and anger.

But it is that first great Change mentioned in the Bible that takes fear of change into that realm of being an oxymoron.  You see, prior to the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden, everything was moving forward.  The only constant that had never changed in the Garden and in their lives was that God was in charge.  Then comes Satan on the scene with an offer to, you guessed it, CHANGE!  He came at them proposing that things needed to change:  “Why should HE be in charge?  You could do just as good, probably better.  In fact, He knows you could do better, that’s why He doesn’t want you eating from this tree.”

So in the beginning, humans were not afraid of change.  And today, many tenured pew sitters are terrified of change and see any change as spawns of Satan, himself.  But there was a time when humans were not afraid of change.  Oops, I just heard a tenured pew sitter saying, “See!  That’s why we need to be afraid of change!  Look at what it got us back then!”  Well Mr. & Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter, had things not changed back then, we would not even be having this discussion now.  But because of the fallen nature that exists in each of us, even Mr. & Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter, change is needed.

Our world has been in a constant state of change.  Growing up, education was based upon books and pencils and paper.  Today it’s about I-Pads and Google Books.  Where I learned through the sense of hearing, kids today are more visual learners.  When I was growing up, single parents were a minority.  In some school systems, the majority of students come from a single parent family.  I could go on and on with the changes that happen in our culture.  Mr. & Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter, you know I’m right on this.

In the midst of all these changes, the church does have something that never changes–and it’s not our traditions.  It is the truth of God’s Word.  We call it the Bible.  And within this Bible, God reveals more than truth, He reveals Kingdom Truth about how life is without Him and how it can be with Him.  But how we present and share the Kingdom Truth, that does go through changes.  Think about the dinosaur.  What happened to the dinosaur?  It’s culture changed; it didn’t; it died.  Remember the 7 words of a dying church (or any organization) “We’ve never done it that way before.”  Hear this consistently and know that death is imminent.

Look back at the passage from Numbers.  For a long season everything was predictable for the most part.  Now they were about to be challenged to trust God even deeper as the conquest of the Promised Land was at hand.  Big changes are coming!  And what was their response to entering the Promised Land, a Land that God said He guaranteed they would occupy and would fight for them?  “Let’s get us a new leader/pastor (I just had to throw that in) who can lead us back to Egypt!”  Now, what was it they had in Egypt?  Slavery!  go back to chapter 11 and you see even then they were wanting to go back for free onions AND SLAVERY!  Why did they want to go back to slavery?  Why do Mr. & Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter fight so fiercely to maintain the status quo?  I know the answer!  I know the answer!

Once the Enemy got Adam and Eve to believe that his idea of change was good, he then gave humanity a new lie.  He gave them, and so many still today, the idea that predictability is the preferred status over some unknown future.  Predictability is believed to produce peace and stability.  It gives neither.  Predictability always, always, always produces complacency.  When complacency happens, one becomes both deaf and blind to the movement of the Holy Spirit and oblivious to what and where God is moving.  The Enemy knows that if he can keep Mr. & Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter as Guardians Of The “We’ve Always Done It This Way” dogma, he knows that local church will never ever be a threat to him.

I’m not suggesting that all change is good and I do not believe in change simply for the sake of change or to follow the latest fad.  I am doing more than suggesting, I’m outright telling you, that to defend the status quo simply because it is the status quo has deadly consequences.  Congregations who stubbornly resist any change need to be ready to plan their last Sunday Service, because it will not be long until they can no longer sustain their facility.

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#6. Self Reliance

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(This is the fifth in a 10 part series.  Number 5 will be released tomorrow.  If you are just starting to read this series, you will need to start with Top 10 Things That Are Killing The Church! first, then #10: Choosing Religion Over Relationship;  #9 Ignoring That We Are In A War;  #8: Wrong priorities; and finally read 7: Cookie Cutter Attitude before reading this one)

Self Reliance, now that doesn’t sound all that bad, does it?  Isn’t it a good thing to be Self-Reliant?  Look at the definition:  “reliance on one’s own powers and resources rather than those of others.”  You’re not a burden on anyone or a drain on any system.  Shouldn’t that be a good thing?  Yes, in one real sense, Self Reliance is a good thing.  In farming Self Reliance means that you figure out how to be profitable year in and year out.  For a corporation it can mean sustainability.  All of these can be good things in the right situation and environment.

But like all good things, they can be abused.  I am not suggesting that anyone needs to become dependent on the government as the only means to have the basics of food, shelter and clothing.  But I’m not writing about economic self-reliance.  The context is looking at the Top 10 things that are killing the church.  Self-Reliance has definitely deserved its spot at #6.  Hang with me just a little bit longer.  Let’s look at Proverbs 3:5-12 and from The Message it goes like this:

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.  Don’t assume that you know it all.      Run to God! Run from evil!

Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life!
Honor God with everything you own; give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over.

But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline; don’t sulk under his loving correction.  

It’s the child he loves that God corrects; a father’s delight is behind all this.

The NIV puts it this way:  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  After nearly 2,000 years of history, suddenly there are those in the church who think they have this thing called “church” and “Christianity” all figured out and no longer need those ancient and outdated things of the past.  Here is how I see Self Reliance being played out to the harm and even death of the local church.  I will start at the top with the most damning and damaging and work my way down the list.

First, there is a lack of Biblical Authority.   The tried and proven true values of the Bible are being traded in for a new set of values that, well, just makes more sense for today’s times than those of the Bible.  There’s this group that promotes this within the church.  They call themselves “Progressives”.  They insist that their views are more in line with God’s standards.  In fact, they proclaim, that thanks to Jesus, things once considered wrong and sinful, well those definitions of sin are just outdated biases and prejudices of a long gone generation.  People are free to pick and choose which parts of the Bible best fits them and the parts that don’t fit–just ignore them as cultural bias and a lack of understanding of the real world.  Without true Biblical Authority in us and over us, we end up choosing our own way and they simply leads to chaos.  Wasn’t that the real temptation in the Garden of Eden put before Adam and Eve?  I realize that some people misread the Bible because they bring their personal biases into it.  But that does not negate that the Bible still has authority over us in matters of personal holiness, individual integrity and how we are to live as God’s people in this fallen world.

Second, there is a lack of understanding the nature and work of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit comes to bring us the power we need become more like Jesus and to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our current world.  I still believe we need spiritual power.  I still believe we need spiritual gifts.  And I still believe we need that fruit which only the Holy Spirit can produce.  But so many today, too many today want to lean on their abilities, human knowledge and human training.  Fewer and fewer people live with that sense that God is actually living in them THROUGH the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Without the Holy Spirit, we are like those disciples who tried to cast out that demon but failed.  To their credit they did ask Jesus why they failed.  And Jesus replied to them that they needed more prayer and fast.  In other words, put themselves in those positions where we become more keenly aware of the Holy Spirit and rely on Him with His power and abilities over our powers and abilities.

And third, there is the desire by some in the church to be in control of what happens in or through the church.  They have either been self-appointed authorities or they inherited that position because their family has always been in control.  Self Reliance says that WE determine the who, what, where, when and the how of the Mission of the Church.  The Mission of the church is defined by those places where God is already at work.  But too many want to be in control of the Mission, not messy people, places and organizations.  Self Reliance says we are smart enough to figure out on our own what should or should not be done.  Focus in inward and we have already seen what happens when churches turn inward.  The focus is on survival of the church rather than the transformation of the world through the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus.  Self Reliance means that WE get to be in charge and that is exactly why many churches continue to experience decline.

Look again at that definition of Self Reliance:  “reliance on one’s own powers and resources rather than those of others.”  Throw the Bible out.  We are wise.  Keep the Holy Spirit outside because we are smart enough and strong enough to take care of ourselves.  And we are quite capable doing this “church” thing, we so God, just take care of others things  We’ve got this!

No, we don’t; it’s got us.  Got us in a mess.  Got us confused.  Got us bewildered.  Got us lying–lying that we are much happier and stronger through Self Reliance.  Until we learn to let go and trust God to guide us through this thing called life, until we quite thinking we are strong enough to handle it–we will never seen the transformation of the world, and the Kingdom of God will not be seen, at least in the areas around the western local churches.

self-reliance Faith in ourselves just leads to more disappointment and more emptiness for us.  Until we align our lives to the authority of Scriptures, until we are filled with the power and gifts of the Spirit, and until we stop trying to be in charge and control–we will never make a lasting impact on the world.

God is calling us to become involved in something much bigger than any of us, even all of us, could ever imagine.  But as long as we leaning on self, we will continue to miss it every day and all day long.  Growth happens when God is given complete and total control of our hearts, minds and lives.  Jesus never promoted self-reliance.  To the control, He INSISTED on Surrender and Self-Denial.  We can’t grow the church; heck we can’t even sustain it.  But God can and God will.  Give up that you can make everything better.  Let Him make everything better by first making you new.

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

And We Are Keeping This Because?

Holding On To Spiritual Clutter

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Something amazing happened yesterday that absolutely surprised me and filled me with indescribable joy.  Some of the Worship Team came to remove the Chrismons from the tree in the sanctuary and to take down and put up all the decorations from the Advent Season.  Down the hallway from the sanctuary is a series of storage closets with those louvered bi-fold doors.  I had looked in them before and they were filled with a lot of stuff, I mean a LOT of STUFF.  Now here is what surprised me and created a sense of euphoric joy.

The Worship Team leader asked me if they could clean up those closets, remove what we did not need and then organize it.  Do you know what I did?  I made the sign of the Cross over them, ordained them to the task (if I had a bottle of anointing oil I would have anointed them with oil) and blessed them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost!  And they went to work sorting and determining what we actually use.  Among the many items was an old metal box that we determined that at one time was the heart of the church phone system.  There were a few coffee pots, some “made in China” bud vases covered in about 15 years of holy dust (it is a church you know), assorted sizes of nearly used-up candles, and a variety of items too numerous to list.

Some items were moved to a new storage location we call the dumpster.  Other items were moved to the stage in the fellowship hall, neatly arranged.  An announcement will be made for the next two Sundays inviting the folks to browse through those items to take home with them if they have any value to them, after which those items will be re-purposed at the local thrift store.  Then they organized and stored the items we actually need and use.  It was a beautiful sight to behold.  As a pastor, it was one of those moments when God affirms to you that your work in the Lord is not in vain.  But this morning it caused me to think.

How much spiritual clutter do we carry around with us that is either unnecessary or is no longer needed in our spiritual journey?  Right now I am thinking about my Old Testament professor at Birmingham Southern College, Dr. Wells, God rest his soul.  On top of his office desk were piles and piles of paper and in front of those piles was a sign I have never forgotten.  It said:  “If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what’s the sign of an empty desk?”  I admit that most of the time my desk top is, well I won’t say cluttered, but I will say it’s “organized chaos”.  I do know where to look when I need something, well, some of the time.  And I am also realizing more frequently, that my “organized clutter desk top” is a sign that I am keeping spiritual clutter that needs to be gone.

Paul understood the tendency to hold on to things that were once thought to be important but no longer serve a useful purpose.  Look carefully at Philippians 3:2:-14  from The Message

2-6 Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they’re interested in is appearances—knife-happy circumcisers, I call them. The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ’s praise as we do it. We couldn’t carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it—even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book.

7-9 The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’srighteousness.

10-11 I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

Our life in Christ is a forward moving life.  I love the way The Message renders verse 14: I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”  But sometimes the Enemy tries to get us to hold on to some things that keep us from the onward movement with Jesus.  For some it is old guilt; for others it is old fears; and for many it is old failures.  The Enemy entraps them with all that “used to be” and lies to them by saying “that’s all there will be and it will always be that way.”

All of the trash and junk of sin was nailed to the Cross and onto Jesus.  He bore all of that guilt, fear and failures.  And because He carried it all the way to His grave God offers to set us free from all of it, I mean ALL of it.  He makes this offer as a pure gift, absolute grace: You no longer have to carry it around!  I am setting you free!”  God liberates us and then declares us righteous, right with Him by giving to us all of the righteousness that is Jesus.  It’s like trading in an old clunker of a car for a brand new car, a new car that has no payments to make because the price was paid in full for us.  Just accept God’s gift, plain a simple.

But then there’s that “other” clutter we carry around sometimes.  It’s like all that stuff stored in those closets.  At one time they were useful and beneficial, but they have served their purpose.  Something new and better has arrived on the scene.  But sometimes we long for the comfort of the old and familiar rather than the fresh and new of the Holy Spirit.  So like that old PBX system, we hold on to it just in case that new PBX system fails us.  What I’m trying to say is that sometimes the Enemy wants us to be more religious than righteous.  And to be religious means we hold onto the old ways simply because they are the old ways.  It can become like Paul warned young Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:5,

They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

Please do not misunderstand me and say things about me that simply are not true.  I am not against the rich traditions of the Church.  They are priceless reminders of the faithfulness of God and God’s promises to guide us into a new future with Him.  But these rich traditions become spiritual clutter when they are no longer used as reminders of God’s faithful presence and His promises of a new future.  When Jesus was talking about the New Covenant and true Kingdom of God He compares it with new wine.  He summed up the New Covenant this way in Luke 5:38-39 and The Voice© puts it like this:

New demands new—new wine for new wineskins.  Anyway, those who’ve never tasted the new wine won’t know what they’re missing; they’ll always say, “The old wine is good enough for me!”

“The old is good enough for me and it should be good enough for you!”  Such are the words of those who have traded in their relationship with God for a religious attitude.  It is easy to hold on to the past as if it will be enough.  So we store it away and it collects dust.  Dust collectors serve no useful purpose.  I’m sure if there had been a committee there to decide what items were kept and what items were disposed by the Worship Team, some, if not most of those items would have been kept simply because “some day we might need them” or “we use to use them so keep them”.  I read somewhere that if you haven’t worn an item of clothing in 2 years you need to get rid of it because if it’s been 2 years since you wore it why do you think anything will change?

Have you ever watched one of those shows about “hoarders”?  It is both sickening and heartbreaking to see people surrounded by stuff that is stifling the life right out of them.  It is even sadder when people who have been touched and transformed by the grace of God hold on to the old stuff rather than embrace the new movement of the Holy Spirit.  I believe with all my heart that traditional means of worship is a powerful way to experience the presence and promises of God.  But if we do it just because we’ve always done it that way, well it is simply stored clutter.

clutter2

Not long after I had met our local Superintendent of Education he was sharing with me his dreams and vision for our local schools.  It was bold and daring, and much-needed.  He briefly lamented the fact that some were not seeing the vision.  It was at that point the Spirit prompted me to share with him this enduring truth.  I said, “Keith, do you know the 7 words of a dying church?  These 7 words will also fit into any organization, even schools.”  He asked me, “What are they?”  I replied:

“We’ve never done it that way before!”

The clutter simply is a way to hide from the movement of God through the Holy Spirit.  Is there spiritual clutter in your heart?  In your mind?  Things that are not helping you connect to the Presence and Promises of God?  If we cannot connect to the Presence and the Promises, then we will never connect to the Power.  Without the power we are just another religion, and Jesus did not die for another religion.

Love God with all your heart; love others the way God loves you; and make sure all the glory goes to Him!  Let’s pray:

Lord, I pray with all my heart Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”  If I am a spiritual hoarder, help me see the clutter and especially help me allow YOU to take out whatever offends you.  Amen and Amen!

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