There Is No Quick Fix

This is the last in my reflections of my recent medical emergency. If you haven’t read the first one, then click here.

When we are hurting–whether physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or relationally–we want the pain to go away and go away quickly. And here is another lesson I have learned in my most recent episode:

The quick-fix rarely, if ever, works.

In my situation of my ruptured appendix, Dilaudid made the pain quickly go away. And for a little bit the quick-fix solved my problem with pain. But guess what? The effects of Dilaudid wore off and the pain returned. Other than making me feel comfortable, the Quick-Fix did nothing to solve the real problem. Can you make the connection here?

In case you did not, allow me to explain. There are things that will help us numb the pain but cannot treat the real condition causing our pain. It’s not just in the realm of physical pain–but all other forms of pain. For example, holding a grudge against someone who wounded you deeply can hide the pain momentarily–but the pain returns. Trust me on this one; I personally know about holding grudges–it won’t heal the pain.

There are a lot of ways–chemical, emotional, and mental–to numb the pain. Yet they fail to heal the cause of our pain. This is why we turn to God in times of pain. God doesn’t offer us a quick-fix–but He does offer us wholeness. And sometimes, wholeness requires both time and a process. In the case of my ruptured appendix, they did not immediately remove that vile and evil beast. To have done so would have exposed my entire body with poisonous toxins that would have put me in further danger. By treating the poisons in me first, it decreases the probability of further complications when they will remove my appendix.

Next Wednesday I revisit my doctor. Hopefully he will tell me when they will schedule surgery to remove my appendix. Doctors have helped me understand why I need to wait–and I trust their knowledge and skills. And you can trust the knowledge and skills of the Great Physician to restore your whole health–spiritually, emotionally, mentally and relationally. You can trust Him because He created you–and offered you redemption through His Marvelous Grace. God doesn’t offer us a day-trip with a quick-fix. He offers us a journey–filled with His more than sufficient Grace–and His Presence to help us when we can’t help ourselves.

IT’S BROKE! FIX IT!

Community is broken. May that community never be seen again.

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Since everyone else is either saying something or writing something I thought I might as well put my two-cents worth into the fray. Due to the inability of the vast majority of Americans to stay home when they have symptoms of even the flu or even the common sense to wash their hands, the government has been forced to step in with this thing called quarantine and social distancing. Some states and municipalities have gone further than the Federal Guidelines and moved into total lock down.

Florida has even closed it’s borders to outsiders unless they have a Federal Certificate of being a necessary person. Of course native Floridians say it’s too little, too late because of the damn Yankees. In case you are wondering what that term means, I will explain. A Yankee is someone who goes down South but then goes back north. A damn Yankee is someone who goes down South and stays. A good friend of mine once said that we should round up all the damn Yankees, put them in cattle-cars and ship them back north. But in all fairness, there are a few damn Yankees who are good; few but nonetheless good. They have adapted to our Southern Culture. They have repented of and renounced their Yankee ways. If there was only a way for them to get rid of their accent you wouldn’t even know they were once a Yankee. I am digressing so I will get to the point.

Due to social distancing and quarantine, community has been broken, well except at Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club Costco and the local grocer. But the fact remains that what once was known as community is now broken. Not only in the sense of towns, cities and counties, but it has become illegal to assemble as the Community of Believers. And the very nature of The Kingdom of God requires being and living in Community. And many Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters are bemoaning this current reality. And now the first penny of my two-cents worth.

The Community known as church, at least in the U.S., was already broken. Long before it was known as “church” the word used to describe this gathering was “kononia”. Kononia means a shared life, fellowship, and a sense of each contributing to the welfare of others. The U.S. church has been turned inward–and though it considered itself a “community”, it wasn’t the kononia community. It had already quarantined itself from a fresh movement of the Holy Spirit and had socially distanced itself from the very ones we are designed, called and commissioned to reach. This social isolation and quarantine only revealed what already existed–Real Kononia Community was broken. My first penny. Now, for the second penny of my two-cents worth.

Community, as it HAS BEEN defined SHOULD NOT BE fixed. If the COMMUNITY that HAD BEEN was the right kind of COMMUNITY, we would not be seeing the fear, panic, hoarding and complete disregard for their fellow human beings. There! I said it! Community BEFORE COVID-19 was defective, mean, ugly and it sucked at being Community. And not just outside the church. Many congregations who cherished their buildings and traditions in those buildings more than people in their community now have neither! And the social distancing now in place has been in practice by many congregations BEFORE COVID-19–and I pray it does not continue after the all-clear is given.

Truth Time! Can you handle it? We do not need community as it has been. My deepest prayer is that out of this calamity, there will be a Resurrection of Koinonia Community–This is Community as God designed it to be in the beginning. A Community unmarred by selfish desires and behavior. A Community that longs to be defined by the Creator rather than the created. A Community that reaches out to make sure no soul is left behind. A Community that celebrates together and that mourns together. A Community that isn’t defined by buildings and habits–but IS DEFINED by the heart that is completely surrendered to God.

Community is broken. May that community never be seen again. And may the Community of the Kingdom of God rise in its place. And it will happen if each of us heeds the words of this song:

JUST 3 PLANTS

As long as I can remember, Dad had a garden. I mean a BIG garden. I think it came from his growing up years when times were hard. In spite of those hard times, he absolutely loved planting a garden! I remember him coming home from an 8 hour day at the local Reynolds plant and working until dark. His Saturdays found him working in the garden. And when they decided to build a new home in a subdivision he purchased 2 lots–one for the home and the other for the garden.

Even after my sister and I grew up and moved away, Dad continued his garden. After he retired, I remember my Mother fussing because he was working so hard in that garden. At first I suggested he slow down; but then I realized if he died working the garden, he would have died happy. Lord knows I’ve seen enough people die in misery. But as the years passed, he made his garden smaller. The only way he could do that was to plant some fruit trees so there wouldn’t be room to plant something else.

Finally, time did catch up with Dad and he just couldn’t garden the way he wanted. So he would plant in buckets and the inside of a washing machine tomato plants, squash and sometimes a cayenne pepper. But this spring, I was worried about him. Recently I asked him about his tomato and squash plants he told me, “I don’t think I’ll be doing them this year.” Understanding my Dad, I knew this wasn’t a good sign.

A bit of context. Dad just turned 94 years old. My Mother, his wife of 72 years, died 2 years ago come May. He still lives in that house he had built in 1962. It is filled with many wonderful memories, for him and us. He sounded tired, and I know he is; at times his grief is almost overwhelming. And for him not to plant at least 1 tomato plant and 2 squash plants meant he didn’t see a future for himself here on earth. I know he longs to go home to be with The Father.

But this week, 3 plants changed everything: 1 tomato plant and 2 squash plants. When I called him he proudly told me that he had put out his “garden”. That, my friends, is what is known as hope. Hope doesn’t blossom and become fruitful in the best of times–but in the most difficult of times. My Dad’s hope has grown. I realize that at 94 years old he may not eat a single tomato sandwich or fry up a skillet of fried squash–but he is planning on it. That is when hope becomes visual.

And the lesson, my dear readers, is clear in these days. COVID-19 is scary and there are many, maybe some of you, who have ONLY hunkered down and you do not see a future filled with hope. Let me ask you this question: What are you doing right now to plan for the future? I’m not talking about hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer. What are your plans WHEN this pandemic is over? And are those plans simply a reflection of what you are doing now? Where’s the hope in that?

So start “planting” now how to enjoy life more than ever. “Plant” those plans of spending more time with family and friends. “Plant” those plans of reconnecting with the Body of Christ. “Plant” those plans of being kinder in public. “Plant” that plan of a special trip with your family. Don’t wait until the pandemic is over to “plant” your hope. Do it now! Otherwise, your current mindset will continue to control your life. Three plants changed Dad’s perspective. It doesn’t take a whole lot to change your perspective. After all, only you can determine your perspective.

A Ninja And A Missionary–Saturday Stories 22 February 2020

Children can teach us a lot and we need to learn from them. Today’s Saturday Story is about the power of imagination and it comes from another one of our grandchildren, Caroline. Enjoy!

When I Grow Up I’m Going To Be. . .

Caroline has quite the imagination, even if I say so myself. I think it’s because she inherited it through her Grandpa! She was always telling anyone who would listen what she was going to be when she grew up. Once she announced she was going to be a “Petanarian”–that’s a doctor who takes care of people’s pets. That is, until one day she asked me if Petanarian’s had to go to school. When I told her “Yes”, she kinda lost interest in that.

But before she was going to grow up to be a Petanarian, she told her parents that she was going to be a Ninja Missionary. Though her body was small, I think she was about 3 or 4, her imagination was enormous. She explained it like this: “I’ll go out and do ninja stuff and when I’m not out doing ninja stuff I’ll be a missionary doing missionary stuff.” And the wonderful thing is–She Believed That She Could Do Just That! One day be a ninja doing ninja stuff and the next day be a missionary doing missionary stuff. Who could ever come up with a combination like this–but a child like Caroline!

Moral Of The Story

Children like Caroline see the future with unlimited potential. They even see the most unlikely things as a real possibility. They see things that we adults see either as impossible or incompatible. And because we have lost the imagination to have unlimited dreams, we lose that God-Given Gift of Seeing Potential. Adults today are living with self-imposed blinders that limits both our potential and what God has designed for us to do and to be. This has produced a dull and painful existence; when we forget how to dream without limits.

Our response to Caroline’s dream of becoming a Ninja Missionary should not be “Oh, that’s just childish imagination.” No! Our response should be like Elisha’s prayer in 2 Kings 6:17–Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire. What if you stopped being disappointed, sad, disillusioned, angry and similar ways of thinking? What if, like Caroline, you could dream of being the second Ninja Missionary? You can’t the be first, Caroline was the first Ninja Missionary. Stop thinking about what can’t be done and begin seeing what could be, in your life, your family, your neighborhood and in the world. Use God’s gift of IMAGINATION!

FYI, Bart Mallard originally gave the rights to this song to Amy Grant because he couldn’t imagine himself recording it. But she had enough imagination for both of them. And as the saying goes, the rest is history–a double platinum album for MercyMe.

One Resolution: One Hope!

Live With Confidence That There Is A Resurrection For You!

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Hope is the sustainer of life.  It’s the motivator for action.  It’s the promise of tomorrow.  Life without hope is like a car without an engine, a jet without wings, a train without tracks.  You just aren’t going to be able to get anywhere.

We are in the 5th week of looking at One Resolution that will give our hearts the one thing it longs for most of all:  Contentment.  The One Resolution that provide deep and abiding Contentment is to Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel!  Not the “Gospel of Our Best Efforts” but the Gospel Of God’s Best Effort For Us.  It’s not left up to our best efforts to honor Christ, But To Honor Christ By Allowing Him To Live In And Through Us With The Power Of Resurrection!

This Life Of Contentment grows out of 6 Conscious Choices that we make over and over.  Review time for the first four:

  1. Live With An Undivided Heart—Your loyalty and allegiance is to Jesus and His Work in our world.
  2. Be The Community That Has A Pinpoint Laser Focus On The Kingdom Of God—We focus on each other and those who are not here yet. 
  3. Find Your Unique Life Purpose.  Your Life Purpose Isn’t About The What You Do, But The Why!  To reveal God’s love in ways that meets the deepest needs of others.
  4. Be Fully Alive In Jesus And Allow Jesus To Be Fully Alive In You—and the only way this happens is to live with Great Resolve, remembering that our Goal in life is to be just like Jesus in our thoughts, attitudes, words and actions.

In order to reach this Life Of Contentment we need more than a best guess estimate.  Sometimes when we have a problem with our car or an appliance we want to know how much it is going to cost us.  Without a thorough diagnostic, the best they can do is to give us a best guess estimate.  But in this life in grace, we need more than a best guess estimate.  Let’s pick up where we left off last week at Philippians 3:15-16 (The Message)

So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

Many people are drowning today—drowning in grief, drowning in fear, drowning in despair—all because they don’t have the One Hope.  Oh, they had hope, but not the One Hope.  They had hope in the stock market, hope in a political party, hope in that relationship they thought would never end, or hope in their own ability.  And now they have cast their lot with some of the most miserable people in the world—those who have lost hope, and keep looking in the wrong places, or worse—have given up ever finding hope. 

When human hope fails, there is another kind of hope—the One Hope—that does more than sustain us in the wilderness times of our life.  This One Hope enables us to dream again and live again and it’s the one thing you need to remember—Live With Confidence That There Is A Resurrection For You! 

How confident are you of God’s grace?  Do you trust God enough to live in confidence that the grace Jesus showed people like Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman, that thief on the other cross, Peter, and an overly ambitious Pharisee named Saul is the same identical grace He extends to you?  Or do you believe that it’s another, less powerful grace that He offers you?

Do you believe that the mercy Jesus lavished on lepers, the blind, the possessed, the woman caught in the act of adultery, is the same mercy He lavishes on you?  Or do you think that He shows some other lesser form of mercy on you?  Hope, the One Hope is built on the truth that in Christ God has only One Love that is full of grace and mercy for everyone.  This grace and mercy that God freely lavishes on everyone has a reason and a purpose:  that we become what we were created to be:  an exact reflection of our Creator!  And because we are not yet that complete image of our Creator, that Grace And Mercy Has A Resurrection With Your Name On It!

In 1993 a song written by Jenny Yates & Garth Brooks made its début, and in 1994 made it to #3 on the Country Western charts.  The song was “Standing Outside The Fire”.  The chorus of this song says so much more than I ever could.  It goes like this:  Standing outside the fire, Life is not tried, it is merely survived if you’re standing outside the fire.  This is what life is like without the One Hope—just merely survived.  Like the lyrics from this song, There’s this love that is burning deep in my soul constantly yearning to get out of control wanting to fly higher and higher I can’t abide standing outside the fire.” 

The life God offers us is not found standing outside the fire, outside of the risks.  Sure, there will be times when we get burned by the risks, the fire of stepping outside our comfort zones.  But it’s in the fire of God’s Holy Spirit that we discover what it really means to be fully alive in Jesus and Jesus fully alive in us!  Jesus took the risk, not just in becoming human, but in going to the Cross. 

Yes, he got burned by His creation, but it didn’t stop Him.  Yes, he got burned by the pain of the Cross.  But even that Cross didn’t stop Him.  He went through the fire because He knew, He knew that the Resurrection was in that fire and the only way to reach it was through the trials and sufferings.  And why would He do that?  Because Of His Unconditional Love For Us.  He knew that if He didn’t experience Resurrection we never would.  We have the One Hope that will never let us down because There Is A Resurrection With Our Name On It!  Because of His Resurrection, we can have a Resurrection In This Life and The Next Life.

1.  He Gives Us Resurrection Over Sin

How do you suppose Peter felt when confronted with the truth that not once, not twice, but 3 times he denied Jesus?  Jesus told him he would, but Peter was so confident.  But he did the unthinkable—more than deny Jesus, he abandoned the One who called him “The Rock!”  Then those crazy women came with a tale of Resurrection—and it wasn’t good news to Peter—because Peter would have come face to face with the One he denied. 

Others May Have Been Finished With Peter, Peter May Be Been Finished With Peter, But Jesus Wasn’t Finished With Him. That’s why the angel said in Mark 16:7—Tell His disciples and Peter that He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You’ll see Him there, exactly as He said.”  The Resurrection came for Peter and 50 days later, Peter helped lead thousands to Jesus.  What The Resurrection did for Peter, it does for us.  We may have given up on ourselves and others may have given up on us, but not Jesus—because He has a Resurrection right now with your name in it!

2.  He Gives Us Resurrection When We Doubt

The epitome of doubt isn’t in the story of Thomas—it’s in the story of a man named Cleopas and his unnamed friend in Luke 24.  Cleopas and his friend are going back home.  There was nothing left for them to do.  By their own admission, they “Had Hoped” Jesus was the Messiah—Had Hoped but now they doubted.  They knew Jesus had been crucified—and even heard the rumor of the Resurrection.  But all they knew for certain was that the tomb was empty—beyond that was only speculation.

They Had Hoped, but now it seems like wishful thinking.  But Jesus takes the time to come to those who were struggling with doubt.  He comes to those who “Had Hoped” but now wondered and doubted.  Why come to Cleopas and his friend?  Because Jesus had A Resurrection and they needed A Resurrection.

3.  He Will Give Us A Resurrection When We Die

He gives us a Resurrection when we sin and when we doubt because He wants us to experience Resurrection when we die!  We do not have to live in fear of death because the only One who conquered death gives us the assurance that we will overcome death.  John wrote in 1 John 5:13—My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. 

We do not have to face our death with feelings of uncertainty, wondering if we will make it.  You do not have to be afraid to die, you don’t have to be afraid to LIVE!  Because of The Resurrection and God’s unconditional love there is a Resurrection with your name and my name on it.  You can count on God! 

Why can you count on God?  Philippians 1:6—There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears. 

God started this great work of grace to make you and I what we were created to be:  to be the exact image of Him, to be just like Him in every detail.  But we are not there yet—we are an unfinished project.  But God has no unfinished projects.  One day we will be God’s finished work, and He will step back, look at us and say, “You look just like me!”

God promises a Resurrection then because He gives us Resurrection now!  And because He gives us a Resurrection now, we can count on the Resurrection then.  Your One Hope is this:  There Is A Resurrection For Us With Your Name On It!  When we sin, when we doubt, and when we die, Jesus shares His Resurrection because, well because He’s The Resurrection!

Because you can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are, Here’s Your Next Step:

Bring whatever you “had hoped” to Jesus for YOUR Resurrection today.

How Do You Let Go?

When one is in the middle of a tsunami, Cat 5 hurricane, 8.5 earthquake and an EF5 tornado all rolled into one, cute and easy doesn’t cut it; at least for me.

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How do you let go? Of the past? Of your growing up children, your grown children? The persistent pain? The chaos? That bitterness? The fear? The inundations of the current political climate? The uncertainty of the future? How do you let go of WHAT IS RIGHT NOW? Allow that last question to sink in a bit.

Well, some would say (and perhaps cheerfully say) “Well, you just gotta LET GO AND LET GOD!” And I reply, “Exactly what does that mean?” And some, maybe you would reply, “Silly, it means let go of it and let God take care of it!” And my response will be, “Yeah, but. . .what does it mean when I’m right smack dab in the middle of the storm?”

Some may chastise me (even flog me) for my next thoughts: “That sounds real cute and easy–but right now I don’t need or even want cute and easy. I need HELP!” When one is in the middle of a tsunami, Cat 5 hurricane, 8.5 earthquake and an EF5 tornado all rolled into one, cute and easy doesn’t cut it; at least for me. Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way. . .but I suspect I’m not the only one.

In my spiritual journey, I started out as a “Methodist”. Then in 1968 I became a “United Methodist”. This has been my Tribe since 1956 when I was born and God said, “You better watch out for this one!” I had always thought I would die as a “United Methodist”. And now, at 63, it’s not going to happen. I am literally watching the Tribe that nurtured me, helped me see Jesus, find grace, explore and affirm God’s call on my life, implode and disintegrate before my very eyes.

For some, it’s not about their Tribe, but for some other horrible reason, they are in that tsunami, Cat 5 hurricane, and an EF5 tornado all rolled into one moment. Whatever was, and currently is–that “feeling” comes upon us with a weighty realization–It’s time to let go! It may be living in a harmful relationship, the rebellious child hell bent on destroying the lives of people around them, overwhelming grief, that crushed dream; even that bitterness of soul that comes from the wound no one sees but you. . .and God. It’s this question: How do you let go?

This is the question that is haunting me, and perhaps you, or maybe someone you know. As one struggling with this, and speaking on the behalf of fellow strugglers, don’t give me, or us, cute sayings or post on our FB page some “inspirational quote”! This only tends to exacerbate our inner turmoil by either making us feel like we are failures in faith; or that you haven’t really listened to us. How do you let go? I’m really asking, millions are really asking, “Can you do something to help me let go?”

The answer is No! And Yes! Wow! You’re thinking (I know you are because I have the gift of espn!), “Preacherman, you’re a world of contradictions! It’s gotta be Yes or No; not Yes AND No.” I guess I need to explain myself, and hopefully lower your blood pressure, and keep you from chastising me for my lack of faith.

No, you cannot help me let go because this is my choice, and the choice of all who are in the WWE Smackdown Steel Cage Match of our lives. We who are wrestling with this question are not unlike those battling some type of addiction. We can be clean and free for a season because you give us cute phrases or simply nag at us; but if it’s not our choice, then we relapse into that vicious cycle. We who are in the alligator grip of seeking to trying to decide how to Let Go must decide to Let Go for ourselves, not for any other person–just to release whatever it is that has filled our minds, and our hearts with all this smog. Not that this gator from hell is going to let go of us, he won’t; but now he knows he’s losing, even lost, the battle.

And Yes, you can help us Let Go; and here is how:

  1. Listen to us. Fight your personal urge to “fix” us. Many times we just need to talk and know someone has heard us, who doesn’t have on their agenda to “fix” us. We’re not asking you to agree with us. Remember Proverbs 18:13–“Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” And in case you didn’t get my message, hear how The Message puts it: “Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.” Got it?
  2. Love on us without trying to fix us! It’s called “unconditional” love. The Biblical word is Grace! Remember the mark of a follower of Jesus. John 13:34-35–“Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Yes, Jesus wants to change us–but never before we know we are loved by HIM. Do the same!
  3. Pray for us! Pray that God puts a person or 2, maybe 3 or 4, in our path today who will share with us God’s wisdom. Pray that our eyes will see a surprise from God, who is always at work to heal us. Don’t pray for God to give YOU the answer we need; pray that WE see God’s answer, however it comes to us.
  4. Be an example for us! Don’t “tell” us what to do; SHOW US what it looks like to Let Go! And you can’t do that for us if you haven’t been there! After my divorce I got a lot of “counsel”; and honestly–not much if any at all helped. But when I found (I think someone was praying that I find it) my Divorce Support Group, I found how to Let Go from a small group of those who were in various stages of Letting Go! Show me your scars and I will first watch you, then I will listen to you. Otherwise, either pray for us or bug off!

While I may grieve what may appear to be the end of my Tribe, and while I may wonder what to do next, I know the ONE who can either CHANGE THE TRAJECTORY of this current mess–OR–who is prepared for what happens next, always prepared for what happens next. Only HE can help us Let Go WHEN we are ready to let go.

So, when you think of me, and when you see someone in different circumstances but still is wresting with the question, How Do I Let Go, remember to Love God with all your heart. Love others (even us who are wrestling that gator) the way Jesus loves you. And please make sure that all the glory goes to HIM!

I Choose To Be Hopeful

Today I choose to be hopeful that in the darkness of our times, the glory of God’s Kingdom will break through…and it will.

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(Picture from doinggreatbaby.com)

Yesterday’s post got me to thinking this morning. Please, no comments from the peanut gallery about me thinking. I need to focus on my choices, so I will attempt to write something about my “Choice Of The Day”. I blame Andy Andrews for this. I’ve been going back through my Kindle and reading some of his books I read several years ago. And my mind is rumbling because….well….truthfully….OK, I haven’t given enough thought and reflection on this radical idea of “choices”.

Today my choice is to be HOPEFUL! I’ve chosen HOPEFUL today because if I listen to the skeptics (they are all around us and some of them operate news networks) I need to renew my passport and seek asylum in Australia or New Zealand. I’ve been “sick and tired and tired and sick” about the culture around me. Well, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. But that’s not the right choice. I need, and maybe YOU need, a different choice.

Today I choose to be hopeful–hopeful that the wisdom of eternity breaks in on the mindless chatter around me. Hopeful that world peace begins when I am at peace with people. Hopeful that a person’s moment, maybe even their life, will change because of something I do or say. Hopeful that I will act like Jesus in the circumstances that happen to me today, rather than reacting. Hopeful that amidst the toxic waste oozing throughout our culture, that oozing waste that smells something like a combination of raw sewage, paper mills, and chicken houses will begin to recede and go back to hell, where it came from.

Today I choose to be hopeful that in the darkness of our times, the glory of God’s Kingdom will break through…and it will. Not because of me. No mam! But because that’s what the Kingdom of God does–it breaks in, breaks down, breaks through the darkness around us. I choose to be hopeful today.

Remember what Paul said:

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

Who knows, maybe this choice I make today will change the direction of our culture. I know it will change the direction of my life. And remember…Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the Glory goes to HIM! Oh…choose to be hopeful…

It’s Hard To Live In Exile And Harder To Do What God Says About Your Place Of Exile

God sends us into the places of exile because they need to be reclaimed and restored to the Kingdom of God.

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Do your circumstances feel like you are living in exile? You work at a job that under-appreciates your work, and under-pays you for overworking you. You have been terminated from work and the pile of bills is now a mountain of bills. Your spouse has left you for more excitement that you were able to provide. You wish your spouse WOULD leave because all they do is belittle you and tell you all that you do wrong. You look in the mirror with great disgust at the person looking back at you because you hate what you see. The doctor prescribes a series of chemo and radiation treatments because of your cancer. The church you attend is embroiled in political and in-house bickering and fighting. Your parents lament on a daily basis on how you could have done better. The air conditioner, refrigerator, and hot water heater all died the same day. The Sheriff’s Department just posted an eviction notice on your door.

Now, add to all of that the cultural and political wars going on in the good old U.S. of A. The news channels blaring away at all the upheaval, and the violence that is happening every day, all day long. I don’t know about you, but there have been many moments where I felt like I was in exile.

Feelings of exile have a long history. In many cases, it was more than a feeling, it was a national reality. Jeremiah lived in such a time–a literal time of exile. And Jeremiah has something to tell them–something God wanted them to know.

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

Jeremiah 29:2-7 (NLT)

They are living in a foreign land, under foreign rule, with foreign customs and a pagan culture. Pagan Culture–does that resonant with you? It resonates with me as a Kingdom Citizen. And I hear a lot of voices that seem to echo the same sentiments. Face it, as Followers of Jesus our culture neither likes nor embraces Kingdom Truth. This time has been appropriately called “The Post Christian Era”. Values of the Kingdom of God are considered outdated. And add to this, that many who professed to be Followers of Jesus looked nothing at all like Jesus. In fighting and self righteousness turned many away from becoming Followers of Jesus.

So, how do we live in a time and place that feels like exile? It seems to me, that the words of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies spoken to Jeremiah still apply today. Look carefully again at what God instructs those exiles to do:

Build homes, and plan to stay

Establish your allegiance and loyalty to Jesus and God’s Kingdom. Be that city on a hill, that candle on the candlestand.

Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. 

Be a producer of the positive wherever you are. Do not lower yourself to engage in the bitter fighting that is so entrenched in this culture. Bring good things into your part of this dysfunctional culture.

Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away!

Reproduce Kingdom Values within your family, your circle of close friends, at work–wherever you happen to be. Be the example and encourage others to be that example. You reproduce those Kingdom Values as you teach others–and they see them verified in your daily life.

So far so good, right? Challenging, yes–but doable. But there’s more–and it’s going to be a lot more difficult.

And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile.

Did you just see that? Work for the peace and prosperity of those people who make us feel like we are in exile. It’s simple, really simple. If you are on the left–help and pray that the right would be at peace and experience prosperity. For you on the right–help and pray that the left would be at peace and experience peace. If you are a centrist, then do the same for both the left and the right.

It doesn’t seem fair or just that God would tell us to do that. But…don’t miss that next line from the passage: “the city where I sent you into exile.” God sent Judah into exile because of their disobedience. And for us today? God sends us into the places of exile because they need to be reclaimed and restored to the Kingdom of God. Their reason for exile was disobedience–and our reason is Obedience–obedience to God’s call to wage spiritual warfare against Satan.

Oh, and that last line: “Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” OK, do you want to see our culture transformed? The pray for their Shalom. That is the Hebrew word used. It means, among many things, peace. Pray for the opposite side from you to do well, be strong and have inner peace. If you don’t, well, God said what the outcome will be: You will NOT be strong or be well or have peace.

Your welfare rests upon what you want for others, even those on the opposite side. Followers of Jesus, we are in exile–but we are in exile for a purpose and a reason–to bring The Kingdom Of God “on earth as it is in heaven.” If you want some practical advice on how to accomplish this, well…listen to Paul in Romans 12:21

As long as you are agitated and mad at your culture, nothing will change and you will be miserable. It’s not easy to do–it’s not meant to be easy. It’s meant to cause you to turn to God, seek His Holy Spirit and rely on The Spirit. It doesn’t make sense to do it this way. But…it does work!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him…and it does when you pray for the peace of your enemies.

SURVIVING YOUR D-DAY INVASION OF DEATH

Death Isn’t The Reminder To Get Ready For Heaven. It’s The Challenge To Live Today.

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Job 19:23-27 (NLT)

23 “Oh, that my words could be recorded.  Oh, that they could be inscribed on a monument, 24 carved with an iron chisel and filled with lead, engraved forever in the rock.

25 “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand upon the earth at last.  26 And after my body has decayed,
    yet in my body I will see God!  27 I will see him for myself.
    Yes, I will see him with my own eyes.  I am overwhelmed at the thought!

As we conclude our D-Day Series, I hope that there have been some hearts that have been tugged.  Maybe a few cheeks are a little wet.  Many of you have expressed appreciate for tackling this series because…well…because you have been invaded by 1 or more these D-Days. 

I promised you that what I would share, would come out of my own experiences.  And this has been true, up until today.  This is a D-Day Invasion I Haven’t Had—But I Know That One Day I Will.

Today we aren’t talking so much about the difficulty of death but of the hope we can have here in this life, as we know Christ—the hope that invades our lives.  Even when loved ones die after a long life, or those who have had their lives cut way to short, there is this thing called Peace that only comes through our Heavenly Father. 

Even though there may be sadness of a recent death of someone in your life, my hope is that you will leave with a song of praise in your heart because you know where real hope and peace come from.  Listen to these names, and let me ask you a question.  All of the names have something in common.  Try to figure it out:

Apostle Paul: Greatest missionary to have ever lived!  Adolph Hitler: Ruthless dictator and slaughterer of millions.  Mother Teresa: Sweet nun and caretaker of the world’s poor.  General George Patton: Great WW2 Leader.  Mary, The Mother Of Jesus: Enough said.  Moses: Great leader of Israel; Elvis Presley: King of Rock and Roll.  Dale Earnhardt: The Intimidator of racing.  Princess Diana: Royalty and compassion filled her life and her calling.  Ted Williams: One the greatest baseball players ever.  Todd Beamer: Average guy on Flight 93.

Do you have it in your mind?  What do all of these famous & infamous people have in common?  They have all experienced the D-Day invasion of Death!  They have experienced it and some have mourned their death.  They died because of natural causes, accidents, war, disease, tragedy—but all died.  Death—it’s the great equalizer

It’s not a respecter of persons.  It doesn’t matter how wealthy or poor you are, educated or uneducated, death is something that all of us will have to face one day.

No matter how common death is, when you lose a loved one, especially a child, I am not sure that there is any way to ever fully prepare for that.  I am not going to attempt to do that today.  I think when death comes to those who had a lot of life in front of them; it’s just a hard and difficult thing.  Death of a loved one can’t be shrugged off.  But Death is not the enemy of the survivor’s soul. 

Here’s the one thing you need to remember from today’s message:  Death Isn’t The Reminder To Get Ready For Heaven.  It’s The Challenge To Live Today.  We Can Be Prepared In Such A Way That We Can Face Our Moment Of Extreme Mortality And Survive The Loss Of Someone In Our Life. 

We can get through this D-Day invasion of death.  More importantly today, as we talk about the death of someone close and our own destiny with death, we can be prepared.  It doesn’t matter what age a person is, one day you will experience the D-Day invasion of death and you can prepare and understand how to survive in this thing called death.

I want to talk about how we can survive but also, more importantly for each individual that you would understand that one day you are going to die.  Are you prepared for death?  It may be that some of you here today, you’re sitting right here and you have no assurance of a future hope after this life is over. 

If some were to be honest with themselves, they would say, “I do not understand eternity.  I do not understand where I will spend eternity when I die.” 

I think all of us in our hearts understand that there is an eternity.  For many of us here, if your life was really dealt a death blow of a loved one, it would really cripple us.  We wouldn’t know where our hope would come from.

How can you and I survive the agony of losing a loved one?  How can we know we will survive our own death?  It Almost Sounds Like An Oxymoron—Surviving Death.  But after death, there is eternity to be lived. 

What We Think About God And His Son, And The Ways We Commit To God And Jesus, Will Determine Where We Spend Eternity.  Here on this earth, when we experience the death of a loved one, it is the same truth that gets us up the next day. 

I want you to turn to John 14, read it, listen to it.  I’m going to build on what Job had to say about death.

1.  Believe In God’s Way!  

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled…”

John 14:1a (NLT)

That word, Troubled—it means “to agitate”.  It means to take away our calm and peace.  Think about an agitator in a washing machine.  It stirs everything up—sometimes twisting and tying clothes in a knot.  That’s what the thought of death does to us when we are confronted with our mortality—without that relationship with God.

The best way to deal with death of a loved or to understand our own mortality is to trust in God—to believe in God’s way.  Somewhere in your life you will have to recognize that God is the Almighty Creator and He is ultimately in control of our lives and the whole world.  None of you are here on this day for this message by accident.

Maybe you have been trying to understand your own mortality and you have been wondering.  “Can I have a personal relationship with God?  How would I handle it if someone close to me were to die?”    God is not the initiator of evil.  He does allow it.  We need to understand this: God Is In Ultimate Control And Is Able To Redeem Any And Every Moment To Bring Out Something Good.  There is comfort in that.

He Also Has An Ultimate Purpose For Our Lives.  Do you know what that purpose is?  Boil it all down—you are the loving creation of our great God.  To believe in God’s way is to understand that He loves you unconditionally and He wants to have a relationship with you.  This one little simple truth brings hope because it means we have a loving God who desires a relationship even with us!  When things are going so well, we see this world and think, “This is it!  Nothing could get better.” 

But God says, “Believe In My Way.  This Is Only A Glimpse Of Paradise.  Are You Enjoying This Life?  I Have Set Aside, For Those Who Believe In Me As Their God, A Place Called Paradise!”  Paradise is the place promised the thief on the cross, and it means “garden”—it’s the same word to describe the place where Adam & Eve were before the fall—that beautiful place of relationship with Father, Son and Spirit. 

God’s way for you and for me is to know true peace and hope through a personal relationship with God.  To be in a loving relationship with him made possible by the death of his son, Jesus Christ!  That day, the Creator died for His creation.  Second,

2.  Trust Your Life To Jesus! 

“Trust in God, and trust also in Me. 2 There is more than enough room in My Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?”

John 14 Vs. 1b-2 (NLT)

This Is The Classic Hope Found In A Relationship With Christ, To Trust Our Life To God’s Son Jesus. He was saying, “Listen, trust in God—believe in God as the Almighty Creator—but also, trust in me.”  Why Jesus?  Because He Is The Incarnation Of God Here On Earth. 

God loves us so much that He came to earth as Emmanuel, God with us.  God came and walked among us so that He could die for us.  Isn’t that amazing?  Our creator God came to die for us. Listen to this—In John 14:6 when Jesus says about himself:

“I Am The Way, The Truth, And The Life. No One Can Come To The Father Except Through Me.”

To be able to reach the Father, we have to acknowledge our sin, acknowledge our inability to get rid of it and stop being controlled by sin.  The ONLY way this happens is by giving our life to Jesus—trusting our life to Jesus.  We can give up on God—but God never gives up on us. 

When We Say YES To Jesus, God Gives Us Eternal Life, Not Because We’re Good, But Because GOD IS GOOD!  We can work through our grief when we lose someone close, because if they said YES to Jesus, we will see them again!  And if they haven’t?  We have Jesus living inside us through the Spirit to help us through our grief.

3.  Rest In God’s Presence In You, The Holy Spirit! 

“But when the Father sends the Advocate as My representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”

John 14:26 (NLT)

All through the New Testament, the Bible uses different words for the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes He is called The Counselor Who Guides Us With The Wisdom Of Eternity.  He’s the person who helps us understand.  He is also the Great Comforter that Gives Peace And Hope.  He holds us close to His heart to protect us from the pain and despair from this broken world we live in. 

Nothing Causes God To Fret Or Worry.  This Is The Presence That Lives In Every Follower Of Jesus.  The best part of being in a personal relationship with God is to understand that God is always there.  There is a hope and sincerity—I can’t even explain it to teach it.  It is just something about being in personal relationship with God.

Let me ask you another question.  It has to be a question that you take to heart.  When Death Comes To Invade Your Life, Will You Know Peace Or Will You Know Mayhem?  Where does your hope come from?  Does it come from your bank account, your job, your family, your country?  Those things will all be gone when you’re gone.  What about eternal hope?  What about eternal peace?  Where does it come from?

Throughout this series, I have shared with you how to survive some D-Day invasions — disillusionment, defeat, divorce and depression.  All of what we said this whole series hinges on Your Personal Relationship With God. 

Let me be very clear, for anyone who has never given their life to God, why not right now, simply Put Your Hand In His Hands. 

That’s all, but it makes a world of difference in your life now, and an eternity of difference in your life after death.

Are you struggling with fresh grief?  Are you at war with old grief, grief that just won’t go away?  Jesus understands this and has something for you.  It is what Jesus said and did for the Disciples after The Resurrection.  In John 20:21-22 Jesus says:  “Again he said, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’  Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.” 

Next Steps

  1. To Conquer Death, Make Sure You Are In A Relationship with God—not with what you know about God.
  2. Don’t Wait Until You Die To Start Living.

And we know how Life Conquers Death, and we know how To Start Living Now at the sacramental table we call Holy Communion.  Here we see and taste that His Death defeats Death in Us Now—and when that moment comes—His Resurrection defeats our death.

Surviving Your D-Days Of Defeat

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

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

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

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

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

Job 2:1-7 (NLT)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me ask you some questions: 

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

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

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

1.  Failure Is Inevitable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.  Failure Is Not An Enemy

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.  Failure Is Not Final Unless You Give Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Step

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

Far, 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.

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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!