WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE QUITTING!

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

1 Kings chapter 19, verses 3 and 4; from the New Living Translation

Ever had the Elijah Broom Tree Experience? Maybe someone reading this is under that Broom Tree right now!!! The Broom Tree Experience is that point and moment when you are ready to give up. Maybe not to the point of suicide; but then again, maybe you are. In the past I was there under that Broom Tree contemplating the permanent solution to a temporary problem. If the story of Elijah can teach us anything it’s that any of us can make that lonely journey to the Broom Tree Experience.

Perhaps it’s your job that has placed you in the Broom Tree Experience. Maybe it’s your health. Maybe it’s your dream of owning a business. Maybe it’s your family. Maybe it’s a situation in your church. Maybe it’s that you are caught in a web of addiction. The causes are as many as there are people in the world. It’s not a sin to be under that Broom Tree. But it becomes a serious problem when we choose to notify the U.S. Postal Service that this is our new address.

If this is what you are thinking, that the Broom Tree Experience is where you will spend the rest of your life, then think again. And think about Elijah. Elijah made up his mind to quit–to give up completely. That was Elijah’s decision and choice. Whatever it is that is creating that desire to just QUIT, even give up your hopes–then remember the rest of the story. Elijah thinks–I said THINKS–he is all alone; that he has successfully pulled away from any and every hope of a meaningful life. But it’s just another example of people thinking they are all alone–when they aren’t. Read some more:

Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again. Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”

(Same book, same chapter, same translation)

Elijah had quit on Elijah. But God didn’t quit on Elijah. God had another experience, another task, another mission. And God doesn’t quit on you. No failure of yours will cause God to leave you under the Broom Tree. No problem is too great for God to quit on you when you are having your Broom Tree Experience. As God provided the necessary provisions for Elijah’s journey away from the Broom Tree, He will provide you with the necessary provisions to make that journey to that place where God has a new Word, a new mission, and a new hope. This is always true, even if you are a United Methodist! I leave you with a song:

Are You Ready To Be Amazed?

Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. 

Acts chapter 10, verse 44 and 45, from the New Living Translation; emaphasis mine

Tell me, are you going through some difficult “hard to see any kind of favorable future” times? Are you ready to “throw in the towel”, “raise the white flag of surrender”, “knucle under”, “concede defeat”, or “give up the struggle”? At the risk of sounding like a late-night infomercial hawker, I say now unto thee: “ARE YOU READY TO BE AMAZED?”

Last night I was doing my Tuesday Night Facebook Live Bible Study. We were in Acts chapter 10 and the story of what is appropriately called The Gentile Pentecost! God gave a vision to this Gentile named Cornelius to call for Peter to come to his home. Then God gave Peter a peculiar dream about sheets and a variety of critters. Cornelius responded immediate to God’s vision. Peter, on the other hand, was trying to figure out the meaning of his dream. And God interupted Peter’s “trying to figure it all out” moment when Cornelius’s entourage knocked at the door with an invitation to come to his home–and mind you–it was the home of a “Gentile”! That was a place where no self-respecting Jew would ever go! But Peter went, and he brought along his own entourage.

After they arrived at this “Gentile-Unholy-God Awful” home, Peter shared the Good News of Jesus and The Kingdom Of God. And before Peter could even finish his sermon, the Holy Spirit came upon and within those “Gentiles”! And that infilling resulted in the very same thing that had happened earlier in Jerusalem during the Feast Of Passover. And the Jewish believers were “amazed”, “astonished” that it was happening to these “unclean” Gentiles. And get this: They weren’t even converted Jews–they were still Gentiles!

I looked up the Greek word translated amazed or astonished. Among it’s many meanings is this: “to throw out of position, displace”. In other words, they were not expecting such a display of God’s power in the place they were at. Maybe you’ve sung the song Amazing Grace. But tell me–be honest with yourself–“When was the last time you were amazed, astonished, thrown out of place by the display of God’s Grace and Power?” The synonym that should be used (but seems to be rarely used) is AWESTRUCK!

So, when you are stuck between the proverbial “rock and a hard place”, don’t you dare hand over to our Enemy your hopes and dreams! Even when the obstacles seem to be unsurmountable. Grace is truly amazing when we allow God to be in control of ‘dispensing’ it, even in unlikely places! And to my Tribal Members who are facing a difficult time trying to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Institution (see, I can’t even bring myself to call it a church anymore!) don’t you dare “Say Uncle” and give up on God’s Vision to bring into our messes, another Great Awakening! Allow yourself to be displaced from what seems to be an unfavorable outcome and get ready to be Amazed!

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!

When You Feel Alone!

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in.

John chapter 20, verse 11 from the New Living Translation

The Resurrection Story! Tell me, is the only time you think about it at Easter? For many, this falls into the category of You Only Read It At The Appropriate Liturgical Season. You know, like the Incarnation–you’re only supposed to read it around Christmas time, right? But, if any epic story from the Bible is appropriate 24/7/365, it’s The Resurrection. This morning it was Verse 11 from John’s account that hit me. Remember it with me.

Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb. An appropriate response to grief. But the stone had been rolled away and the body wasn’t there. She ran back to tell the others, and some ran there to see for themselves, including Mary. With me so far? Good! Then they all went back, except Mary. Now she is all alone with her pain. Do you ever feel alone in your pain? A crisis? A fear? A problem? Uncertainty? At home? Even in church?

Perhaps you feel alone with your cancer. Or maybe you feel alone as you read that eviction notice or foreclosure statement. It could be as you are reading your termination letter. The feeling of alone pounces on you as you read your divorce decree. You watch your loved one just lie there in the midst of dementia and you feel alone. You watch your youngest child leave for college. Your child is The Prodigal Son and they just won’t reach out to you. And it could be you’re in your “Mary” moment. You are grieving at the grave. The dirt may be still fresh, or maybe the grass has grown back over it and it’s been years ago. Situations are different–but the loneliness is still the same.

And if John had ended his account of the Resurrection, then we would be justified in our “feeling alone”. But isn’t that just like God, to not let the story end at that point. Jesus is right there! She just doesn’t know it–YET! She stays and stays, then finally decides to leave the grave. Remember! She is still carrying her pain though she is leaving the grave. So, what happens next? Just in case you forgot or didn’t know:

1She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” 16 “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

John chapter 20, verses 14 through 16 from the New Living Translation

There were two Resurrections that morning. The first was Jesus and the second was Mary. When YOU feel all alone, you’re not. The Owner And Master of The Resurrection is also present, even if you don’t recognize Him. Resurrection isn’t bound and tied to a liturgical calendar. It happens every day and all the time. And it’s not just in the lonely places where we need a Resurrection. Problems may be mounting and chaos may seem to be the ruler over your life. Even sin may be telling you that you can never be free. But guess what? The CEO of The Resurrection is right there, ready to share with you The Resurrection you need. Oh, and don’t be surprised if He looks like a Groundskeeper!

WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL THE STARS? PART 2

What Happened To All The Stars Last Night? Part 2

Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.

2 Peter chapter 1 verse 19 from the New Living Translation

Yesterday morning I wrote about “What Happened To The Stars Last Night?” Well, guess what? This morning, the last morning here for our Tribe’s Annual Conference, I went out again and I looked up and there were still no stars! That is. . . until I turned my head slightly, and there it was: The Morning Star! Not even the lights of the city could hide that star! Litlle wonder, then, that in Peter’s second letter that he chose the image of The Morning Star to describe Jesus.

Perhaps there is some turmoil and chaos in your life. There is definitely turmoil and chaos in my current Tribe. And in that moment it may seem hopeless to you. The chaos is hiding from you any hope. Despair isn’t whispering in your ear. He’s shouting; and shouting loudly! In your darkness there doesn’t seem to be any light. But turn that head, ever so slowly. And there it is! The Bright And Morning Star! When all seems lost, Jesus shows up to remind us of His Faithful Presence. When darkness seems to be stronger than anything else–just go outside early in the morning and you will see it: The Bright And Morning Star! There is hope for Orthodox Methodists. There is hope for me. And there is hope for you!

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. 35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans chapter 8 verses 31-39 from the New Living Translation

ANOTHER ATTACK–BY EVIL!

Thursday, June 16, 2022, at approximately 6:22 p.m. another 911 call was made from a church because of an active shooter. This time it was at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama near Birmingham. A lone individual walked in during a potluck supper and opened fire–3 were shot. One died at the scene and another died at a local hospital. The third victim is recovering. This happened only 54 miles from us, measuring by the way the crow flies. The responsible individual is in police custody. At this writing, no motive has been released by law enforcement officials.

But what about the “motive”? Motive and cause are not the same. In fact, the cause creates the motive. And while we do not yet know the motive behind this horrendous act, the cause is plain to see. Evil! And while attempts are made through legislation to eliminate evil, the root of evil is being ignored. And he loves it this way. Without calling him out by his name, he has free reign of the house. Chaos, ruin, and brokenness lies in the wake of his work. The disciple Peter nailed it in his letter First Peter chapter 5, verse 8:

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

from the New Living Translation

And he has been having a feast in our culture. It’s been an all-you-can-eat buffet for him. But there is something that drives him out of the cafeteria of life and sends him running as fast as he can! I said “something”, but what I mean is some ONE! His name is Jesus. But it takes more than just saying His name “Jesus”! It demands our surrender to Him. One of Jesus’ “half-brothers”, who by the way at first doubted his brother’s claim to be The Messiah, wrote in his letter James chapter 7 verses 7-10:

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

New Living Translation

We cannot agree with what the world tells us and take the hand of God in relationship and friendship. In a world of “selfies” and “pride” Satan continues to feast! But when we humble ourselves before God and place Him as our “above all other things” relationship, Satan goes into the famine stage! Casting Crowns has song called God Of All My Days. And it ends with these lyrics:

In my blindness
God, You are my vision
And in my bondage
God, You are my freedom
All my days

God of All My Days lyrics © My Refuge Music, So Essential Tunes, Be Essential Songs

Would you like to see Satan denied a plate at this all-you-can-eat buffet? You would? For this to happen it begins with you humbling yourself before God and resisting Satan. Don’t be the Gideon hiding in a winepress threshing wheat–be the Gideon who is greeted by the angel with these words: Mighty Warrior! Gideon became that Mighty Warrior when he walked humbly with his hand in God’s hand.

YOU BE HE CAN!

Yesterday I was full of vim and vinegar. But I figure at 66 years old I’ve earned both the privilege and right to be such. Yesterday’s words needed to be said, and more need to be saying them! But I have learned enough wisdom in these 66 years to know one cannot truly live this way 24/7. So, today I am turning to the hopeful me for something to write. And today’s thoughts are this: YOU BET HE CAN!

Disappointments and frustrations abound on this third rock from the sun. Think about those first disciples of Jesus. That Friday was a deep, deep disappointment for them. They were a mess! One of them, Judas, was such a mess that he committed suicide. The very last thing they probably had in their minds and hearts was HOPE! But Sunday turned it into their joy and hope, and it gave them their Message. And I’m thinking right now about Jeremiah. Jerusalem was surrounded by the Babylonians and he was in jail because he was telling them what God wanted said.

In that jail cell, God told Jeremiah that a cousin was coming to visit him with an offer to sell his land to him. When a company is about to go bankrupt is NOT the time to buy stock in that company. They are about to be carried away into exile. So why buy land when it’s about to be seized and taken away? Because God reminded Jeremiah that there’s more to the story. So Jeremiah does exactly what God told him. And when the transaction was completed, here’s what Jeremiah said:

“O Sovereign Lord! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you!”

Jeremiah chapter 32 verse 17 NLT

Can God turn your disappointments into joy and hope, and a message? You Bet He Can! And here’s a song to remind you of this!

OH, LORD! IT’S MONDAY! aND i’M STUCK!

This week’s episode of “Oh, Lord! It’s Monday!” is all about being STUCK! As an adjective it means “unable to move, or set in a particular positionplace, or way of thinking“. So, let’s use it as an adjective on this rainy Monday morning. So, have you ever been STUCK? Maybe it was in an elevator; or in a room; or in traffic; or maybe mud? I know about that last one. I was about 20 when I bought a new Datsun truck. It was my first brand new vehicle. About the same time I was introduced to riding dirt bikes.

Just about a mile from the house was LaGrange Mountain. It was filled with great riding trails. One day, I had this dumb idea. “I’ll take my truck instead of the dirt bike!” Bear in mind it was a 2, not 4, wheel drive. I knew there were some hills it wouldn’t conquer, but there were some other trails. So off I went with my dumb idea. About 4 miles in I came upon a mud hole. I stopped, looked at it, and decided which side of the mud hole I should traverse. I was wrong. And I was STUCK! To make matters worse, it was in the middle of the week, there wasn’t anyone else out here. As I was commiserating about my dumb decision and dreading walking out, I heard a dirt bike! God sent me someone!!! Hallelujah! God foresaw my poor, make that DUMB decision and prompted another person to decide to ride his dirt bike that day! He stopped, we talked, and then he went back to get his truck and I was UNSTUCK! Needless to say, I didn’t try that again!

More than vehicles, elevators, and doors–we can get STUCK! Maybe it’s that job you’re STUCK in. Maybe it’s that home you’re STUCK in. Maybe it’s that marriage you’re STUCK in. Maybe it’s that mindset you’re STUCK in. Maybe it’s that you’re STUCK spiritually. You can’t move and it seems that no amount of effort you put into being UNSTUCK, you’re STUCK there like my Datsun truck. And if on this particular Monday you are feeling STUCK, then God has sent you this edition, just like he sent me that man on a dirt bike. Are you ready to get UNSTUCK? Well, here’s your own personal dirt biker coming your way!

You CAN’T get UNSTUCK! How is that going to help you? I’ll be glad to tell you. Even though you DON’T what it takes to get UNSTUCK, God does! All you have to do–NEED to do–is quit trying and begin trusting. For STUCK people, God has a very specific promise and process. It’s found in Isaiah chapter 42, verses 18 and 19:

“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present.

I’m about to do something brand-new.”

From The Message

In the case of my dumb decision, I needed to forget about it. I couldn’t go back in time and change that decision. All I could do–all I could hope for–was to be alert to the sound of someone else heading my way. What you need to do–what you MUST do–is stop trying and begin trusting what God tells you. Don’t limit the way that God will get you UNSTUCK! It may not be instantaneous–and if it’s not–it will be a process. And in His Process, you will find that His Grace is all you need. Are you still STUCK? Wait! I hear someone coming! And He’s coming for you!

When we trust God to be there to help us get UNSTUCK, then we can say: Good! Lord It’s Monday! What shall we do together?

THE FAMILIAR

Normally The Familiar isn’t a good thing because it keeps us from experiencing the Adventures God has for us. It denies us the wide open spaces where we uncover and discover the greatness and faithfulness of our Heavenly Father. It hides and denies us the truth that we can do anything through Christ who strengthens us. The wide open spaces teaches us how to hold on to God in every situation and throughout all seasons.

But. . .but sometimes we need to go back to The Familiar–the good Familiar. I’m talking about those times and places where are reassured of God’s faithfulness to us–even when–especially when–we have been unfaithful. Or maybe it’s a season of doubt where we struggle to embrace our future. Even David, the mighty King and Warrior, needed to go back from time to time to The Familiar. Psalm 23 places were essential for David. Before he became a mighty warrior and long before he became the Mighty King, David was a shepherd. And when life as a Warrior or as a King became difficult, I can easily imagine David singing this Psalm to himself–maybe even out loud.

As a shepherd in the wide open spaces, David experienced the faithfulness and provisions of His Heavenly Father. Imagines of green pastures and still streams helped him remember the Faithfulness of God. I have my places where I am reminded of God’s faithfulness to me. Sometimes all I can do is go there in my mind. And sometimes I can literally visit those places. Each time I find myself renewed and refreshed, and enabled to go forward into “my” unknown future, but a future that is known to God–and a future where I know He is right there with me. What are The Familiar places for you? Places where God’s amazing love and grace overwhelmed you? The Familiar isn’t a place made to live in–but it is the place to visit where we find the reassurance we need when the Journey becomes difficult.

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

AND GUESS WHAT HAPPENED THIS MORNING?

Before my thoughts spill out all over the Wacky World Web, take a moment and slowly read this passage. Just one time. Wait! Scratch that. Read it slowly 3 times.

22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

Lamentations chapter 3, verses 22 and 23 from the New King James Version

Did you read this slowly 3 times? I think not! Go back and read it slowly 3 times. Now we can proceed. Back to my opening question: AND GUESS WHAT HAPPENED THIS MORNING? Now, write down your guess and we will see if you win today’s grand prize! Got you answer? Good. And the correct answer is There’s A Brand New Sunrise! It’s not like yesterday’s or last week’s or last year’s! It’s brand new! Now, let’s cut to the chase: Does this excite you about the potential for today? Or does it fill your mind and heart with fear, anxiety, and dread?

Now go back to the words from Jeremiah’s heart! Do you know when and why he wrote those words? Knowing what’s happening as the writers share their heart helps us see the power of their words! Jerusalem and Judea had just be invaded by their neighboring enemies, the Babylonians. The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and looted and devastated The Temple. And the people who lived through the onslought are carried away into capativity as prisoners of war and slaves.

Yet, I said YET! Jeremiah sees the sunrise! “They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” What is the They? God’s mercies! If on this Saturday morning you feel like a prisoner of war, or something’s slave, listen to the hope from Jeremiah. With this newest sunrise, God has brand new mercies and They are new this morning. This is good news because what we think is the outcome of our messes, His Mercies provide a different outcome. As bad as it may seem sometimes, the problems will not consume you! All you have to do is give up! Give up everything inside of you and ask God for His Mercies! Then believe there is an abundance of Mercy all because of what Jesus did on the Cross for all of us.

It’s a new day, and it’s filled with Fresh Mercies! His mercy always delivers us! Always! Now go out there and love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him! Now, if you will excuse me, there are some new mercies on this Saturday for me. . .and for you!

TODAY’S GOING TO BE GREAT!

Today’s going to be great! I don’t know what all is going to happen. Still, today is going to be great. Of this I am confident! Without knowing any single detail, it’s going to be an amazing day! It’s not because it’s my birthday–but because of The One who gave, is giving, and will always give me life. And the source of this confidence is found in Psalm 118, verse 24: “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” I haven’t always been able to have such resoluteness. There have times and seasons where I dreaded getting up. But not today; or any day for that matter.

Today God is going to keep revealing His heart for me! And for you! He is going to stand by me, helping me to cope with the hard stuff. He is going to show me the wonder of His creation. He is going to reveal how much He loves me. He is going to throw in some surprises of His Grace. He is going to be faithful to me, even if I slip and become unfaithful to Him. His arms and heart are wide open for me. He’s going to show me some moments that seem at first to be ordinary–but He is going to make them extraordinary. And if I find a moment I need to cry? Well, He has an unlimited supply of Kleenexs and will gently wipe away my tears. He’s going to protect me–and do more than I can even imagine!

What about you? Do you have this confidence? Perhaps you’re facing another round of chemo. Perhaps this is your last day at your job. Perhaps this is the day divorce papers are finalized. Perhaps your day includes visiting a family member who doesn’t remember who you are. Perhaps it’s another day of waiting for your prodigal to come home. Perhaps there is a funeral you will attend today. So, this kind of confidence is missing in action for you. But remember that God is never missing in action. When our heart is open to Him and our trust in Him is unconditional–God is always with you. And even when it feels like He’s no where to be seen, He is still there because that’s WHO He is!

Rejoice that God has made this day, for in this day He is at work in your life. And His work is always good–and more than good FOR us–it’s the BEST work because you are made in His image. God is doing something right now–so REJOICE! Today is full of unlimited and unimagined opportunites to experience His love and grace for you.

So, Love God With All Your Heart. Love Others The Way Jesus Loves You. And Make Sure All The Glory Goes To Him!

LONGING TO BELONG!

Where do you belong? There’s an old story about a preachers’ conference where they got into an argument over free will and predestination. It became so heated that they divided into sides to determine how to counteract the others belief. One group went to one side, and the other group to the other side. All went, except one. He couldn’t decide which group to belong to. Finally he went over to the predestinationists side. When he got there someone asked, “Why are you here?” He replied, “Well, I chose to be over here.” They all shouted angrily, “You belong on the other side!” So he went. When he arrived with the other group someone there asked him, “Why are you here?” And he replied, “Well, because they sent me here.” The leader of the group said, “Get out of here! You can’t be here unless it’s your choice! You belong with that other group!” And he wondered where he did belong!

Longing to belong is one of the basic human needs. And one of the powerful motivators to action in all of us is the longing to belong–somewhere; even anywhere. Like the above mentioned preacher, we long to belong. And often this desire leads us to the wrong places, the wrong people. And to be rejected by a group, well. . .it’s downright painful. You may be thinking about teenagers longing to belong to a certain clique. But it’s not just teenagers–we adults, of all ages, do the same thing–at work, in the community, in politics. To belong means we have to fit in. And many times we just don’t fit in. And they remind us of that. Rejection is a powerful enemy to our heart, mind, and life.

Sometimes we do manage fit in, but we find out it’s not where we belong. We lost something inside us–so we try to find another group. And the cycles of trying fitting in and rejection viciously attacks us and we become washed out, wiped out, and worn out. And sometimes, some people feel like they don’t belong anywhere. It’s a pain that works so deeply within us it makes us feel helpless and unfit. Honestly, do you feel like you belong? Belong anywhere?

What if I told you there is a place you belong? Would you doubt me? Would you wonder how much it would cost your heart and mind to belong there? Would you wonder if you fit-in, I mean, really belong there? The place I’m talking about is for the worn-out, the weary, those carrying what feels like the weight of the world, tired–and who are willing to admit it. And the Group Leader–none other than Jesus, The Christ, The Son Of The Living God, is waiting with open arms to welcome you. Are you thinking, “There’s no way I would fit into religion!”? Well, I’m not talking about religion–it’s about The Relationship Of Belonging. Personally, I hate religion!

Jesus extends the invitation to everyone; everyone fits in because everyone is made in God’s image! That why Jesus said in Matthew chapter 11, verse 28: Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” All we need is to get rid of the junk that is hiding that image. When you don’t fit in, when you think there is no place you belong–Remember that Jesus longs for you to belong with Him!

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

HAVE YOU HEARD YOUR NAME CALLED?

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”). (John chapter 20 verses 15 and 16 NLT)

This is the epic saga of Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Jesus on that first Easter morning. I know it’s not Easter and I’m not jumping the gun. But who says we can’t talk about The Resurrection unless it’s Easter? This was one of the core parts of The Message by those first dedicated disciples.

Limiting The Resurrection to just a specific season is one of the many reasons for the Spiritual Confusion of our time. People are confused about gender identity; confused about their true purpose; confused about ethics; confused about right and wrong; and confused–well–just confused. And it comes down to just one single fact: They haven’t been Resurrected! They’ve wanted to be reformed, but not transformed. So, they ask God to bless their mess and sancitfy their stuff. But that’s not how it works.

Mary was broken–not just broken-hearted–she was broken to her core. She was a dead person walking. And the only way anything would change for her and in her was this: She needed A Resurrection! Fortunate for her, she came to the right place–A Cemetery! But she needed more–WE need more. We need to hear Jesus call us by our name–and then be willing to walk away from our old and very dead life. Resurrection isn’t about self-improvement. It’s about leaving the old things so that we can follow The New!

Do you need A Resurrection? Where do you need A Resurrection? Do you WANT A Resurrection? Mary’s answer to these 3 questions was the same–a resounding YES! What say YOU to my 3 questions? LISTEN! He’s calling you by your name! And He’s offering you what is His alone to give–Resurrection!

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

PRAYER DOESN’T WORK!

I bet this got your attention, right? “What’s this Preacherman saying? Isn’t he supposed to be the one who should believe in prayer? Did the COVID damage his brain? Has all that wacky stuff he’s written fried what few brain cells he has left? What gives? Has the journey he’s been making these past couple of years finally done him in? What in the hell has Satan done to him?” Calm down, calm down! I haven’t lost my mind, my heart, nor my faith.

This audacious declaration isn’t how I feel, nor how I believe. This statement is an observation based on what I see and hear–among those who say they love Jesus. There is a cry–nay–a deprecatory bewailing pouring out across our culture. It’s louder that anything else. It’s the sound emitting from the melancholic heart–and I weep as I am hearing it. But when I hear this melancholy lament from God’s people–I get angry!

Why, in God’s name, are so many of God’s people giving up, at least here in the good old U.S. of A.? PRAYER DOES INDEED WORK! YOU CAN TAKE THAT TO THE BANK! (Yes, I’m yelling out loud!) But some are thinking–“If prayer works, why is our culture in such a mess?” If you are struggling with that question, I have the answer: Go look in a mirror! That person you see either believes that prayer doesn’t work or maybe, just maybe, you’ve been praying the wrong way praying about the wrong things.

Some folks are good, I mean really good, at praying against people. Praying for their demise. Praying for them to suffer. Praying for another to take their place. We need to be praying “FOR” people. And we need to be praying with GREAT CONFIDENCE! We need the mustard seed kind of faith–faith that, be it ever so small, never loses confidence in God to heal, restore, and renew! Sure, there are some things that you need to see it before you believe it. Admit it, we could all have familial roots somewhere in Missouri.

But when it comes to prayer–the kind of prayers that honor God, restore people, changes the course of human history–You Have To Believe It Before You Can See It! Now, go back to that mirror and say this: “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT) Once you’ve done this, do it again–but say it this way:

If I, who say I am a Christian, will stop being who I want to be and become who I ought to be, and confidently pray, seeking HIS desires and heart, and give up my own sinfulness to walk more closely with Jesus, then HE will forgive MY sins, and bring a revival to our times, the likes of which have never been see!

Pray with the attitude and heart that God is moving to heal and restore. Pray in confidence that transformation will happen. Think about that moment when those Disciples of Jesus failed to drive out that demon (see Mark 9). When they asked Jesus why they failed, remember His answer–and it’s the same answer to our prayer problem. “It can only happen through prayer and fasting!” And remember, fasting doesn’t mean just abstaining from food–it’s about giving up something we have or want and accepting what God offers. I heard a new song (to me, anyways) called “When We Pray” by Tauren Wells. The line that grabbed me and shook me hard (and thus led to this edition of my thoughts and heart) is this one: “But what if we could be a people on our knees, as one before the King, ’cause we believe. All the world starts changing, when the church starts praying. Stongholds start to break. Oh, when we pray!” Maybe you need to see and hear the whole song:

THE MORNING AFTER

Well, it seems that another National Championship wasn’t in the cards for The Crimson Tide. And the morning after? Here’s what I noticed. The Sun still rose. There was no Zombie apocalypse. The mountains didn’t collapse. There is no anarchy in the streets. My family and friends are still around. We have winter weather here in Alabama (which is still subject to change). Wall Street didn’t crash. The electrical grid didn’t fail. In short, life goes on. As I knew it would when I went to bed last night at 11:00 p.m. CST.

This is the nature of life on this orb called Earth. But serious things can happen to us and around us that may cause us to ask that question: “How can I go forward? How can I face The Morning After?” It may be the loss of income; the diagnosis of cancer; coming face to face with dementia in a loved one; your vehicle dies and leaves you without transportation; your spouse leaves; a family member dies; a close friend betrays you; you give in to temptation and the guilt is eating you alive. Or any of a countless number of things that leave us feeling crushed, guilty, disappointed, doubtful, hurting, or confused.

The Morning After can, I said CAN, result in the loss of peace, joy, purpose, and hope. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, there is another way to face The Morning After. Regardless of what caused it, or how we feel The Morning After, we have a choice in how we deal with it. If it is some sin you committed, choose 1 John 1:9–“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” If it’s feelings of abandonment by God, choose Psalm 23:4–“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.  Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” If it is doubt, then choose Philippians 5:6–“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Every “The Morning After”, God has a promise for you. In His Promises are the means and the strength to get through to that other side. The causes do not define the outcomes for us. The outcomes are chosen by us. Make sure that your choice is to run back to God, and cling to Him as if your life depends on Him. Because it does!

NEW YEAR’S EVE 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

Why? That’s the question asked by adolescents and teenagers when they are told they can’t have or can’t do what they want. If you are the parent or guardian of one of these blessed creatures, it can be very annoying at times. We often wish they would quit asking that question so that we could quit saying “Because I told you NO!” But it’s not just kids that ask that question. In case you haven’t noticed, adults ask this question also.

This question, though annoying, can become a gateway to something far richer, and take us deeper than we could imagine. I have a very good friend and brother who doesn’t like Christmas. What? One of you just asked: “WHY?” See? What did I tell you! Adults ask that question also! The reason my brother in Christ doesn’t like Christmas is because of how he sees and understands it. He always points out that pagan festivals and rituals are the sources of Christmas. There’s nothing in the New Testament that tells us we should celebrate Christmas. And that we should have no fellowship with the things of darkness. He makes a very logical argument, humanly speaking.

And if this is WHY we celebrate Christmas, then his logical conclusion makes sense. IF you make Christmas all about what you WANT for Christmas–lavishing gifts upon each other and maxing out those credit cards, he’s right. IF you make Christmas all about the parties, and gatherings, and dinners, and decorations, and family gatherings, then again, he’s right. And if we are celebrating Christmas JUST BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT WE DO, once again my friend is correct.

He even points out that December 25 wasn’t when Jesus was born–backed up by historical dating. Now, on this point, we clearly agree. Lots of folks believe, based on our current calendar system, that Jesus was born on December 25, 1 A.D. That’s a misnomer. It is more likely, based on our current calendar, that He was born around 3 or 4 B.C. What did you just say? “How can that be? B.C. means before Christ!” However, calendars are a human invention, and early on mistakes were made. Yes, Virginia, humans make mistakes! And now let’s circle back to my original question.

Why celebrate Christmas? I will answer this question by sharing why I celebrate Christmas. I celebrate Christmas because of the wildly, unimaginable truth that God, the God of Creation, the One and Only True God, the God of all Eternity, stepped in His Creation as one of those He created! He Became Flesh And Blood! In Eternity He had no limitations. As flesh and blood, He was bound by our limitations! For example–you schedule your Christmas Activities based on the reality that you can only be in one place at a time. You can’t be in 2 places at once.

In eternity, Jesus was in a gazillion places at once. But in our flesh and blood? Only one place at a time! Wow! Talk about experiencing limitations! Though that famous song declares “No crying He makes”–it ain’t true. One of the things all babies do is cry. Jesus, in our flesh and blood, as a baby experienced hunger. What babies don’t get hungry? In our flesh and blood, Jesus peed and pooped in his diaper. Joseph and Mary had to potty train Jesus. Jesus had to learn how to crawl. Jesus, the Eternal Word, had to learn how to talk. Jesus had to learn how to walk. Jesus, as that toddler, was told NO by Joseph and Mary when He reached out to touch that lighted lamp. As that child, Jesus experienced falls that resulted in scraped knees and bruises.

This is why I celebrate Christmas–because Jesus became flesh and blood, did all of that and more, for sinners like ME! Without the birth, there would have been no Death. Without the Death, there would have been no Resurrection. Without the Resurrection, there would be no hope for my redemption. The path for my redemption began when The Son of God left Eternity and became the fertilized egg in Mary’s womb. And when I think of this happening, I experience great joy and hope and love!

May this be your reason to celebrate Christmas–remembering that in an instant moment, Jesus left Heaven to look for us–by becoming one of us! And if you cannot see that as a reason to celebrate–then maybe you need to rethink what this Season is all about. It’s all about God setting out in search for sinners like me! So, I celebrate! Will you?

I Say, Hold On For Just A Cotton Pickin’ Minute!

Are you on hold? Maybe you’re calling that alleged “customer service”, only after you’ve been yelling at a computer or punching in 3,678 numbers, and you’re on hold. Maybe you just answered the call about your car warranty about to expire and you’re on hold. Maybe you just called about the latest electronic innovation but you’re having issues getting it up and running, so you hear “Your call is very important to us. Please wait for the next available ‘customer service’ agent.” You’re on hold.

Waiting is not a new human experience, though some treat it that way. We don’t like to be put “on hold” because we see it as the obstacle to the resolution we most desire. Being put “on hold” isn’t enjoyable! And the music you are forced to hear. . .geez where do they get that stuff? Musicians and composers who couldn’t sell a single record? “Alleged Experts” say that elevator music is calming down the person on hold. Really? Who did they interview? Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum? Being “on hold” is annoying and frustrating to the point that no amount of elevator music is going to calm us down–regardless of how they hope it will! So what’s a person to do?

May I make a suggestion–with no elevator music involved? When life feels like you are on hold, switch those 2 words on hold. Now it reads “hold on”. Now, YOU say those 2 words out loud: “Hold on!” Why are you reading my next words when you haven’t done what I asked you to do? . . . I’m waiting! . . . I’m still waiting!! . . . Now you’ve got me “on hold”! OK, you’ve said it. Now I want you to shout it loudly: HOLD ON! Is that as loud as you can scream? Come on, try it again, this time even louder!

Hold on are the two most important words to shout and scream when we need help! But don’t say it to yourself or any other person. Say it to God! Shout it out to God! Scream it to the top of your lungs to God! When everything seems to be falling apart–and when you’re loving it because the plan is coming together–and in every moment between these 2 extremes–we need to allow God to hold on to us. When we are at our best–and especially when we are at our worst–we need to ask God to hold on to us.

God wants to–longs to–hold on to us in the most loving way possible. But He will not–until we allow Him. This is what I learned in this morning’s worship time–and it came through this song. Listen to the words–and when you are not “someone you believe in”–well just listen to the song!

What’s Your Motto?

  • Just Do It
  • A Diamond is Forever
  • When you care enough to send the very best
  • I’d walk a mile for a Camel
  • Quality never goes out of style
  • Finger Lickin’ Good
  • With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good
  • Snap, Crackle and Pop!
  • So easy, a caveman can do it
  • The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection
  • The Ultimate Driving Machine
  • The Quicker Picker Upper
  • We Bring Good Things to Life
  • The King of Beers
  • Fly the friendly skies
  • Because You’re Worth It
  • Let’s Go Places
  • Have It Your Way
  • I’m Lovin’ It
  • Betcha can’t eat just one!
  • When it rains, it pours
  • Taste the Rainbow
  • What Happens Here, Stays Here
  • When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight

Mottos! Yep! That’s what’s stirring up my gray matter this morning. When it comes to advertising–a great motto helps consumers to remember their product. So, what is YOUR motto? To help you tell me yours, I’ll tell you one of mine: “If you don’t like my sarcasm, don’t ask me stupid questions!”

Even our good old U.S. of A. has a motto: In God We Trust! The thing about mottos is that you gotta back it up–otherwise people just ignore or forget it. Unfortunately, with my aforementioned motto–I back it up with a healthy, sometimes an over-abundance of sarcasm. But that motto on all our currency? That thing about Trust In God? Not a good motto in these times–because it’s not backed up with action.

Before you start ranting and raving about the nefarious cesspool otherwise known as Washington D.C., know I’m not talking about that ash heap. This morning I am talking only to those who self-identify as Christian. I still remember decades ago getting emails about how Madeline O’Hare was going to the Supreme Court in an attempt to get In God We Trust removed from our currency. Now, I would have bought a plane ticket to see that, seeing she had been dead for years!

Christians want it on our currency–but it would be far better for them, for our nation, and for our world if it was just removed from the currency! There, I said it! But before you stop reading this morning’s pensiveness, read what is next. It would be far better for us, for our nation, and for our world if you have a motto that you embody with your attitudes, words, thoughts, and actions.

Yes! we need to Trust In God That’s a no-brainer! But more than saying we need to Trust In God, we need a motto that shows how much we Trust In God! Forget putting it on currency and government seals. Let’s put a new motto on our ordinary, going here and there, doing this and that life. And maybe it’s time I, too, changed my personal motto to one that better suits what God is doing in my life. So, what should it be, America? Hey! I have an idea. What about this one?

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

If we adopt this as our motto it means we would have to stop looking at political parties, the hollow (and I do mean hollow, not hallowed! I said what I meant, and I meant what I said!) halls of academia, and even ourselves in order to see a real transformation in our times; and really live through the strength of Jesus! How strong is Jesus? He carried the weight of all our sins while hanging on the Cross. And somehow, as strange as it may sound to some, I believe Jesus will strengthen us to be a light that brings hope to the hopeless. Call me crazy! You won’t be the first, and I dare say, you won’t be the last!

It’s Gonna Be Alright!

How many times has this phrase been spoken–spoken BY those who think that it’s NOT gonna be alright–spoken TO those who believe it’s NOT gonna be alright? If you watch and listen to the talking heads that are called news reporters, then it’s NOT gonna be alright! Right? Think about it, if you can without getting a headache or wanting a giant bottle of wine or several shots of bourbon.

Vaccine Mandates. Rising cost of fuel. Inflationary prices at the grocery store. Shortages of needed items. The senseless acts of one human being killing another human being. The disrespect of law and order. This total disregard for the value of human life; otherwise known as abortion. The tornado of distrust between people. The decisions that call right wrong and wrong right. The cost of housing. Chaos ruling in the places that should be leading the people. The antagonism. The maleficence. The profligacy. See? If that’s what we think and believe–then AW’ HECK NO, EVERYTHING’S NOT GONNA BE ALRIGHT!

But it is–if you know The Truth. The old series “The X Files” character Fox Mulder was right–The Truth Is Out There! Yes, it’s stormy out there right now. Not just in the news, but maybe in your life you are facing a crisis–heck–you are in a full-blown category 5 hurricane crisis–but it is gonna be alright! If–I said IF you are anchored in the right place–and anchored to the right person!

You will not find that place, nor know that Person by watching the news or trusting political parties. The Place where everything is gonna be alright is in the arms of our Heavenly Father. That Person is none other than the Son of our Heavenly Father, Jesus! And it doesn’t matter the least little bit what you’ve done or where you’ve been. The Place and That Person is waiting, waiting for you to surrender your life completely to Him. Give God permission to take over–take over everything–including the things, especially the things–that are causing you to believe it ain’t gonna be alright!

This isn’t preacher-talk. It’s God’s promise to you–to anyone and everyone. This comes from Philippians 1:6–And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. I personally needed this reminder this morning. Maybe you do, too. I was reminded this morning through this song:

When It’s Dark

When this post appears, it’s dark outside for us. Truthfully, I can’t tell you exactly where we are–because I don’t know. Thanks to this marvelous thing called “Schedule your post”, I can share my thoughts even though I’m not sitting at my desk. Debbie and I left Sunday afternoon for our semi-annual sabbatical visit family at Lake Millsite near Bartow, Florida.

When this post appears, it’s still dark–but I’m not worried. You see, I have some things going for me. One thing is our headlights. I never have to worry about seeing the road. Another thing is I know where we are going. We’ve been there enough times, so we don’t need a roadmap (for you old folks) or even a GPS. The route is known to us. We know where the gas stations are; and where the Rest Areas are. Finally, I’m not alone–my gift from God, Debbie, is with me. She’s probably asleep right now–but that’s OK. She’s with me, and that’s good enough.

Now, let’s do an application of this little story. When darkness tries to overwhelm you, even make you afraid, or seem to be lost, remember that Jesus Is The Light. Remember Psalm 119: 105–“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” When it’s dark, go to the Word that became flesh!

Second, remember your destination. Your destination is more than heaven. Your destination is to become exactly like Jesus, the image you were created in. And for this remember Philippians 1:6–“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Every day so far, God has been at work in you. And even when it seems so dark outside, God is still at work!

Finally, remember you are not alone! Allow me to rephrase this: You Are Never Alone! He’s closer to you than Debbie is to me right now in the passenger seat. Jesus had something to say about Being with us in Matthew 28:20–“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Depending on the current time you are reading this–we may or may not have arrived at our destination. But we’re closer than we were at 4:00 p.m. Central Daylight Savings Time. I’m not frustrated we’re not there yet–I’m just confident, through God’s Grace, that we will get there!

P.S. Since this is a sabbatical, I may not be posting every day. But then again I might. We’re recharging our batteries. So if I don’t post tomorrow, remember:

If A Frog Had Wings

If a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his butt every time he hopped. This is one of the many facts in scientific law. Wish as the frog may, he has no wings–so each time he moves as he is designed to move, he bumps his butt. But (pun intended) still he hops, even though wings sure would help soften the landing. What does all this have to do with the Kingdom Life?

How many people today are living with their own IF? And because they are living with that IF, they feel that hard landing of the frog. They look around and see others who seem to be having much easier life than they are. They think to themselves, and often out loud, “You know, IF I had been born to different parents. IF I had their money. IF I had married that person, or NOT married the person I did. IF life had treated me fairly–then I would be as happy as a frog with wings.”

And they go through life sad, disillusioned, defeated, and miserable. IF you think about it, IF is a tragic way to live. Still, they are like that frog who wishes he had wings as he moves about his day doing what frogs do. While it’s true that a frog with wings would not bump his butt every time he hopped–it’s equally true that he wasn’t designed with wings.

And some people have that IF when it comes to God. That somehow God isn’t all He claims to be. That God isn’t fair with them. That God doesn’t care. That God has forgotten them.

  • IF God is real, why is there such a mess out there?
  • IF God cares, why did my spouse leave me?
  • IF God loves me, why did my child die?
  • IF God will provide for me, why did I lose my job?
  • IF God is all powerful, why am I having to take chemotherapy today?
  • IF God _________________(insert your own IF here)

But the problem with this thinking is it focuses on what we don’t have–rather than what we do have. The IF that you may long for will not, cannot give you the kind of life we are created to experience. It is true that while money cannot buy you happiness, it will buy you a place on the beach–and the beach is a better place to be unhappy. But it will not satisfy your heart.

There is a better way to live than like the frog who wishes he had wings. It is living within the relationship where God keeps every promise He ever made for you. God didn’t promise an easy life–but He provides an unshakable life. He provides the life that isn’t shaped by circumstances–but by His Truth and Faithfulness to us. How can I confidently say this? Because all of us are created in God’s Image. We just need to trust–to hang in there even IF everything inside of us screams to let go of God. I leave you this morning with these words of Paul–words that strengthen us for a life better than a frog with wings:

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.

2 Corinthians 1:20 (NLT)

Are You A Walker Or A Runner?

This morning I was thinking about THE Resurrection–the one Jesus had. I love all the different stories the Gospel writers shared about that unbelievable day. What? What do you mean it’s not Easter? Since when are The Resurrection Stories JUST for a day marked on the calendar? The Resurrection is a story for any day–every day–especially today. After all, who among us doesn’t need something Resurrected inside us? Any who–I was thinking about Cleopas and his unnamed companion. (You can find this Resurrection Story in Luke chapter 24.)

There are so many rich moments in their encounter with the Risen Lord. But what sparked my imagination is what they were doing BEFORE and AFTER they encountered Jesus. Has your imagination been sparked by this? If not, maybe you need an imagination defibrillator. Look at that story! Before they encountered the Risen Lord, they were Walking. After that transforming encounter they were Running! See the difference? OK, I’ll explain a little more.

They were Walking back to their little obscure village of Emmaus. More than Walking back TO Emmaus, they were Walking Away FROM their hopes and dreams. They had hoped that Jesus was The Messiah. But those events that just happened were interpreted by them to be the end of that hope. Have you ever Walked Away from some hope? Some dream? Some great and noble desire? That is exactly where Cleopas and his unnamed friend were going. Walking Away from hope is a gruesome feeling of anguish that knocks us down and takes the breath away.

But on that Resurrection Day, there’s more to their story. After–I said AFTER–their encounter with the Risen Lord, they were RUNNING! They weren’t Running in just any direction. They were Running BACK to the place where they thought their dreams had ended! That memory of the horrid crucifixion that had them Walking away from–was transformed by the opulent encounter with the One who owns The Resurrection! In that moment, Jesus shared His Resurrection with those who needed a Personal Resurrection!

Now can you see the difference? Hopefully so. I see a lot of Walkers today; but not very many Runners. Walkers are those who have given hope that things will ever change. All they see are the loathsome things that is driving out culture into the ground. And conclude that there is no hope, so they Walk away. But Runners are those who have encountered the Risen Lord and have experienced a Resurrection themselves. And that Resurrection has inspired them to RUN into the places of despair with the confidence that the power of the Resurrection will happen there as well. Remember, Jesus’ Resurrection happened in a cemetery.

Now–about you! Are you a Walker, one who has given up and Walking Away from life? Or are you a Runner, one who cannot wait–will not delay–in sharing the Power of The Resurrection with those who need that Resurrection? Your choice. May your choice be to be a Runner!

When You Can Feel Something’s Wrong

Yesterday, Monday, September 27 is prompting today’s thoughts. More than just thoughts, it’s been and continues to be a journey. To tell the story I need to go back to June of this year. My wife, Debbie, had her annual mammogram. The report came back all clear. That’s good news, right? But remember, I’m telling the story of a journey.

About 3 weeks ago Debbie felt something in her right breast that just wasn’t right. I could feel it, too. She calls our family practice, and the nurse practitioner agreed. Since it had not been that long since her mammogram, she ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound confirmed what the Nurse Practitioner, myself, and Debbie already knew that there was some type of cyst present in her right breast. The radiologist report was to come back in 6 months to see if it had grown any. That advice certainly didn’t feel right.

She scheduled an appointment with a local surgeon for another “opinion”. Dr. Evans agreed that 6 months was too long for a just “wait and see” conclusion. He attempted 2 needle biopsies but could not draw any fluid from it. So yesterday, Monday, September 27, we went to the hospital for surgery. Everything went good and Dr. Evans was able to remove it, along with some tissue around the lump. He sent it off for a pathologist to carefully examine it. Now we wait for the pathology report.

Now Dr. Evans doesn’t think it’s cancer–nonetheless–sent it off for to pathology to do their thing. The pathologist will determine the nature of what we could feel was wrong by carefully examining deep inside that lump. The radiologist could only “think” it isn’t cancer. Dr. Evans, based on experiences, can only give his personal opinion. But that pathologist? They will know for certain! And that is what Debbie and I need in this season.

And this morning I am realizing how this “journey” is comparable to the spiritual journey we are all on. There are times when something is wrong with our body and our spirit–and we just can’t feel it. But other times, we know something doesn’t feel right deep inside our heart, mind, and soul. So what is going to be our response to this “it just doesn’t feel right” moment?

Well, you could take that radiologist’s guidance to “wait 6 months and see what happens”? And truth be told–sometimes that’s the advice other people will give us. But when something deep down inside us doesn’t feel right–when there’s something that shows up even though life has been going well, we need to know exactly what it is. It may not be anything–but then again–it may be. Ignoring it will not make it go away. Delaying the finding out will only make it worse. The sooner that “foreign object” is removed and identified, the better the outcome.

One opinion did not suffice for Debbie nor myself. That opinion did not suffice for Dana, our Nurse Practitioner. And it did not suffice for our surgeon, Dr. Evans. We all need to hear the full report from the pathologist. And when it’s about our spiritual journey? Go to the one who told Samuel in his quest for a new king, “Stop looking at the outside because I’m looking at the inside!” And even if you feel it’s not “safe” to bring what doesn’t feel right to God, remember this:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Lamentations 3:22-23

God is able and willing to handle all those things that just doesn’t feel right. He alone is able to get to the core of everything–to remove from inside of us the things that don’t belong–to heal us–and to restore us. Debbie and I will not know the pathology report until Friday, but we know who holds Friday in His hands–and He holds us in His hands.

Oh, one more thing–October is almost here and October is

Sow What?

Image from Humintech

The title is not a typographical error nor is it an example of using a wrong word that sounds like another word. The word is: Sow! Early this morning, while it is still dark, I was wondering what to write about today. And there wasn’t any idea floating around in my gray matter. Then it hit me! Not an idea! But a pain–a pain caused by yesterday’s activity.

Rain was coming, and I needed to get a green field planted for the upcoming deer season. I do not have a tractor–but I do have a tiller and hand tools. I loaded up the tiller, fertilizer, and seeds and off I went. I tilled up the soil, fertilized it, tilled it again, then planted the seeds. Not just one kind–but a variety of seeds. Oats. Winter Wheat. Rye grass. A variety of clover. And turnip greens.

Though the air temperature wasn’t all that bad yesterday, we did have typical Alabama humidity of somewhere around 110-125%. There were more than a few moments when I just wanted to stop and wait until another day to finish this project. But I set myself a goal–and I completed it. And now my bones, joints, and muscles ache–oh, brother do they ache! But it did get me to thinking–about Sowing Seeds as well as the end results.

Why plant such a variety of seeds? I want the deer to see a smorgasbord of great and wonderful things to eat–things that are proven they like to eat. I want to attract them in–so why plant anything they won’t eat? And what does all this have to do with Kingdom Living? This is what.

Every moment of every day every person is sowing seeds of some type. And those seeds will produce something that will either attract or repel. You can’t plant saw briars and hope to produce roses.

Even The Bible teaches this horticultural principle. Look at Galatians 6:6-7 (NLT)“Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.” Many people are sowing seeds of:

  • Anger
  • Apathy
  • Resentment
  • Bitterness
  • Rage
  • Prejudice
  • Hate
  • Malice
  • Selfishness
  • Fear
  • Doubt
  • Mistrust
  • ad infinitum
  • ad nauseam

Just look around! Watch the news! Listen to people talk! Such seeds as the aforementioned are growing everywhere. They repel people. They are repulsive and destructive. The fields look like kudzu patches–choking the life out of anyone and everyone. It’s not surprising to see what grows from such sowing. It’s that horticultural principle–sow seeds, add nutrients and water–and they grow into their nature. You can’t plant spinach seeds and expect to see watermelons.

But here’s the thing. There are a lot more varieties of seeds that can be planted, other than the aforementioned list. And these seeds live by the very same horticultural principles. Humor me with a few examples:

  • Kindness
  • Graciousness
  • Helpfulness
  • Mercifulness
  • Love
  • Tenderness
  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Forgiveness
  • Patience
  • Peacefulness
  • Hopefulness
  • Faithfulness
  • Joyfulness
  • Sincerity
  • Genuineness
  • Truthfulness
  • Honesty
  • Selflessness
  • And so many more wonderful seeds!

These types of seeds are far more attractive than repulsive. These types of seeds come from Jesus Christ. And Jesus promised that if He was lifted up, people would come to Him. I want to close out with a word to those who think they are or self-identify as “Christians”. Make sure the seeds you are sowing are the seeds that produce the character of Jesus. When Jesus was walking in the midst of His creation as one He created, sinful, messy, broken people were attracted to Him. Religious folks, not so much–with a few exceptions. There’s another verse in Galatians 6 related to sowing. Verse 9: “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

After 4 hours of working on my greenfield, I was giving serious contemplation to giving up. But I let the thought of what it will produce override my pitiful desire to quit. So, what are you sowing today?

Emptiness, Frivolousness, Measliness, Paltriness, and Triviality

I chuckle a bit when looking at the above image. One would have to be an electrician or electrical engineer to get it–I’m neither, but I get it. It’s the symbol for resistance. So, it means Resistance Is Futile! And in case you were wondering about the title of today’s musings–they are synonyms for Futility! Today’s culture has many issues; even more problems. Among those is Futility; more accurately–the failure to recognize Futility.

Allow me to share what a certain author once wrote. This particular author had the means to do anything he wanted–without anyone telling him he couldn’t. Ever imagine winning the biggest lottery and what all you would do? This author lived his life doing anything and everything he wanted. And after the fact–he writes with brutal honesty about that experience. Here is what he had to say:

“Everything is meaningless, completely meaningless!  What do people get for all their hard work under the sun?  Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes.  The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again.  The wind blows south, and then turns north.  Around and around it goes, blowing in circles.  Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. Everything is wearisome beyond description.  No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.  History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before.  Nothing under the sun is truly new.  Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!”  But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new.  We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.” A few lines later, he adds this: “But I learned firsthand that pursuing all this is like chasing the wind.”

Do these words sound like a cynic? Do these words sound like what is in your own heart, but you are either too stubborn to admit it; or too afraid? Our culture is that proverbial hamster on a wheel. Running as fast and as hard as we can, spinning that wheel, but going and getting nowhere. People try and try to make their own way work. They live by the opinions of others. They live by their feelings. And they live by their own sincere beliefs–be they ever so ineffective. No wonder there is so much hate, frustration, anger, distrust, resentment, and yes–Futility.

It’s going to take more than getting the hamster off the proverbial wheel. When the hamster gets off that wheel, he’s still in a cage–imprisoned. So he gets right back on that wheel hoping it will free him from his prison. So he runs a little faster; tries a little longer; hopes a little more. And when he finally gets too tired to run anymore, he’s still in that cage. Rest a moment, then try again. Rest again. Try again. Listen again to the thoughts of the aforementioned author: The wind blows south, and then turns north.  Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. And the resulting sensation after all this? Try these words on for size: Everything is wearisome beyond description.

If you listen very carefully you will hear that Sigh Of Futility when we writes: Everything is wearisome beyond description.  No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.  History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before.  Nothing under the sun is truly new. Is that how the world looks to you? Is that how you feel about your life? Sounds like he wrote this just this morning.

Oh, would you like to know the name of this book and the author? Get your pen and paper; write it down so you can get on Amazon and order the correct book. Here it is: Ecclesiastes is the book and the author is King Solomon. And to think, some believe the Bible isn’t relevant for what we are face any and every day. Granted, this all sounds like doom and gloom–because it is. Without understand the Key to what he writes, it seems like we should all give up and live in loud desperation.

I am thankful to Chuck Swindoll for helping me see and understand exactly what Solomon is writing about. I give credit where the credit is due. The key phrase that makes sense of all this Everything is meaningless, completely meaningless” wretchedness is this repeated phrase: UNDER THE SUN! It comes from living a life completely detached from God–the God revealed in the Bible through The SON.

Life without surrendering to God always feels like, using Solomon’s image, we are chasing the wind. Chasing the wind only gets us winded–and gives us that tsunami of Futility. The Futility of life without The SON isn’t God punishing us for ignoring Him. It’s the reality of life without the Lordship of Jesus over us–how we think, what we say, and what we do. It one of those moments of true cause and effect. Until we quit living under the sun and start living under the SON we will be plagued by Emptiness, Frivolousness, Measliness, Paltriness, and Triviality–which means Futility!

And if you doubt this Wise Man’s opening remarks, then listen to this: “We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us.  And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind. Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry.” Futility ends when we kneel at the Cross and surrender everything under the sun and begin living life under the Kind Rule of The Son!

But I’m Knot!

Paul once wrote: “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” (Philippians 4:11 NLT) But I’m not! Paul once wrote: “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT) But I’m not. The Psalmist wrote: “When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” (Psalm 94:19 NLT) But I’m not. And because I’m NOT I’m in a KNOT! Here’s why.

My sister recently died. I’m deeply concerned for my Dad’s health and emotional state. Two people close to us won’t talk to us. My deep concerns for the two wonderful churches we serve. The state of our culture. COVID-19. Add to this all the other “stuff” too numerous to mention. And now, there’s another thing. This week my wife Debbie, God’s gift to me, found a lump in her breast. Yesterday she had an ultrasound. And we are impatiently waiting for the results. It’s impossible not to ponder about all the possible results.

I know, I know! But in this very moment, I’m not all those good and wonderful things I know. So, what do I do? Give in? Give up? Wallow around (if you’re from the south, the word is woller) in this NOT, or should I say KNOT? I could do that–and honestly–it’s very tempting to do this. So, what am I going to do?

One thing is that I will wrestle to get free of this NOT! And this is where YOU, the Body Of Christ comes in. Pray! Friends, we are in a war and the battleground is real life–as it happens. Though at this moment I’m a Not/Knot, I choose to fight. But I need some reinforcements. I know the rest of the Philippians passage–“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.” (Philippians 4:13-14) I know it, I just need to KNOW it is true on this battlefield. Thanks in advance for your prayers–and thanks for NOT telling me I should know better. Yes, I’m wollering around–and with the Grace of God, and your support, I’m getting out of this mudhole!

Apparently There Is!

Listen to the talk at the hair stylist or barber shop. Apparently there is. Listen to the conversations in the break room. Apparently there is. Sit down at the local liars table at the diner or fast food joint. Apparently there is. Listen to the words just about anywhere there are 2 or more people (yes, this includes the local church). Apparently there is. Someone reading this is thinking right now, “What is he talking about? A boatload of hopelessness? A superabundance of stupidity?” While this may seem to be true, it’s not what’s bouncing around in my mind–and my heart. It’s the answer to this question found in The Bible–a couple of times.

Is anything too hard for the Lord?

Genesis 18:14 (NLT)

Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change, much less use, the POTUS. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change our culture. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change Washington D.C. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change the hearts and minds of millennials. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change the hearts of the mega-rich. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change pastors. Apparently it’s too hard for The Lord to change how businesses do business. I would expect to hear such things from those who are not Followers And Disciples Of Jesus. They just don’t know what The Lord can do.

But to hear this kind of balderdash and blather from those who call themselves “Christians”? Well, just call me Popeye!

If your “god” can’t use someone like President Biden. If your “god” can’t use someone like Nancy Pelosi. If your “god” can’t use someone like that discombobulation called The House of Representatives and The Senate. If your “god” can’t use someone like millennials. If your “god” can’t use someone like _________________ (fill in the blank of the stupidest person or group you know), then your “god” is way to small–and you need to change to a different “God”!

So, what if–I’m only talking to those who self-identify as Christian–instead of complaining, whining, griping, and yammering about all those “other people”, you begin praying FOR THEM rather than YALPING AGAINST THEM? What if you prayed for the peace of our nation? What if you prayed for those people to have wisdom? What if you used all that time spent bellyaching and sniveling to ask God to help them? Oh! One more thing! Make that TWO more things! What if you became the change you want to see in others? What if you became the model of HOPE rather than hopelessness?

If an old woman and an old man could have a child way beyond those child bearing years–and they did–can you imagine what WILL happen when we believe, act like, talk like, LIVE LIKE nothing is too hard for The Lord? This isn’t easy; I know! Even Jesus understood our tendency to believe more in the impossible rather than in GOD’S POSSIBLE!

Jesus answered, “What is humanly impossible is possible for God.”

(Luke 18:27 GNT)

You simply cannot be a follower of Jesus, if anything–I said ANYTHING (remember Popeye’s motto) is too hard for The Lord! If it is too hard, then, in the enduring words of the classic book by J.B. Phillips, Your God Is Too Small! And that makes YOU the real problem, not those people!

Today’s Forecast For You

Used car salespeople. Politicians. Late night infomercial hucksters. Major news outlets. Weather forecasters. What do the aforementioned persons have in common? They are capricious and dubious at best–especially the last one. I remember in 2014, I was living in metro Birmingham. There was snow in the forecast–but all the local forecasters said it would all be south of us and for us not to worry. That should have set off alarms! Our vacuous and insipid state highway department sent all their equipment to where the weather forecasters said it would snow. Not long after midday, metro Birmingham was turned into the world’s largest parking lot.

And yesterday. Here in lovely Mount Vernon, we are in a dry spell–very dry spell. Yesterday’s forecast, by these alleged experts, were only predicting a less that 20% chance of rain. So our expectations were another dry and very hot day. However, despite the forecast, we GOT RAIN! Six-tenths of an inch, Praise God! So where am I going with this rant against forecasters?

I can’t help but wonder how many people are getting their–call it Life Forecast–from unreliable sources? “They” say “There’s not a snowball’s chance in you know where you could ever do that!” They give up and capitulate that their life will ever change. They life in subjugation to a Life Forecast that crushes their hope and thus–live in defeasance to a Life Forecast that is inaccurate–like yesterday’s weather forecast.

When you are leaning towards and into that dark abrogation of the life you were created for–remember Abram and Sarai. This was their names before God changed their future. Before Isaac was born–God changed their name to reflect a new future. From now on, they would be known as Abraham and Sarah. The change happened before the reality of The Promise.

A short time later, Abraham received some visitors (sent from Heaven by God) with an important announcement: You are Sarah will have a son! Both are past their prime and the Life Forecast for them was they were too old to have children. When Sarah overheard the conversation she laughed–she believed the wrong Life Forecast! And my last word to you today is what God’s Messenger asked:

“Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

Genesis 18:14 (NLT)

It may seem too hard to your Life Forecasters to see a different future for you. But it’s not too hard for God!

The Eyes Have It

Good morning! It was William Shakespeare who wrote “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” Maybe so if one is looking from the outside in. But eyes are designed to look outward. . .provided they are functioning as they should–which leads me to this morning’s reflections.

Since the seventh grade, I wear glasses–if you haven’t done the math, that’s 53 years. Other than that, and cataract surgery a few years ago, they have served me well. . .until recently. For the past several years I’ve noticed these things called “floaters”. At first I thought I was swatting at a gnat. My previous optometrist informed me that it was just little bits of something in the vitreous fluid in my eyes, and were common with people of a certain age. Oh, God, how I hate that term!

Here’s the thing about those floaters, I don’t notice them until I do notice them–and then they keep hanging around–until I forget about them. They are still there, I just don’t notice them. Well, a couple of weeks ago I went to a new optometrist since my old one was a couple of hours away. After he dilated them, he spent a lot of time–I mean a LOT of time–looking into what Shakespeare called the windows to the soul. It was more time than I thought he needed.

He then showed me something abnormal about my eyes–in particular–in the back of my eyes–left and right. There was a bulging at the back. It wasn’t a detached retina–Praise God!–but, it was something that concerned him, and told me I needed to see a specialist to see if my eyes needed surgery to fix and prevent future problems. I could say I didn’t have a clue about this condition–but I remember a few months ago having this sharp pain behind my eyes–but passed it off as a sinus headache–something I have from time to time.

So, this morning at 8:15 CDT I will see the doctor for a further diagnosis. I want to say I’m not concerned–but we are talking about MY eyes and MY future vision. But then I remember the prolific hymn writer Fanny Crosby who wrote tons of hymns about the glory of God–though she was blind. So, I’m thinking to myself, “Self, what’s your issue? If Fanny could see God’s glory though she was “blind”, you need to keep your eyes on Jesus.”

And here’s my point for today. Whatever comes your way in life, keep your eyes, your spiritual eyes, on Jesus. The Bible has something to say about this. It comes in Hebrews chapter 12–right after that long list of people who experienced many difficulties but maintained their faith. Verses 1 and 2:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)

When life throws you a curve ball or a change-up, just keep your eyes on Jesus–like Fanny Crosby did. And everything will ultimately be good–God promises us this. I will SEE all of you tomorrow!