The fabric of our culture is being ripped apart at the seems. And please don’t call the Grammar Police that I have used the wrong word. It’s the correct word. I wrote what I meant and I meant what I wrote. SEEMS! Here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. the fabric of our society is being ripped to shreads at the seems. I came upon this thought through remembering a certain passage from The Bible. In fact, it’s been roaming around in my gray matter for several days. Here is is:
There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.
Proverbs chapter 14 verse 12 from the New Living Translation
Some might think it’s amazing that a book as old as Proverbs can be so relevant to these times. But it’s not really amazing to me. These books of The Bible continue to be both timeless and timely. But let’s get back to those seems. Consider this:
It seems right to the LBGTQI culture that if society just accepted them, they would be happy.
It seems right to the gay community that if they could just get married like any heterosexual couple they would be happy.
It seems right to the project manager since their assistant is so capable to let them do all the work and they take all the credit.
It seems right that since that other person is so good looking, that a night in the sack is OK.
It seems right that if they child shows up for the games they should get a participation trophy.
It seems right that since they have a college degree they should start at the top.
It seems right that since that drug helps take away their stress they should reach for it.
It seems right that since a child would impede their lifestyle and goals, an abortion is the right choice.
It seems right that the government should be responsible for us from craddle to grave.
It seems right that if someone doesn’t agree with you that they must then hate you.
It seems right ad nauseam…
Now before you Tenured Pew Sitters finish saying, “Amen! You tell them Preacherman!” Let’s look at our church culture.
It seems right that Jesus should just come back and take us good ones on to our reward, since this world will never change.
It seems right that if the church could just go back to the good old days, we could stop the hemorrhaging members and doors closing.
It seems right that if their church started catering to them, then all the problems would go away in their church.
It seems right the church’s sole job is to point out the sins of others.
It seems right that everyone in their church should dress a certain way, think a certain way, and believe a certain way.
It seems right that the church should only help those who deserve it.
It seems right that they should only sing the songs they like.
It seems right ad nauseam…
It seems that many, too many people, are living by the seems–and life is ripping apart at the seems. And then Proverbs Chapter 14 Verse 12 proves itself to be absolutely true. What seems to be true is proven false by life itself. And things begin to rip apart, at the seems. This is life without God–life without Jesus as BOTH Savior AND Lord. Contrary to the opinion of alleged experts, we are simply not qualified, and certainly not capable, of determining what is right and what is wrong.
But there is an alternative and it’s the only one who will keep our lives from falling apart at the seems. It’s really simple and easy–that is–if we can get over ourselves. We find it in another book of The Bible. It’s in Matthew chapter 11, verses 28 and 29:
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
from the New Living Translation
The word yoke doesn’t refer to the kind worn by oxen and mules. It’s about the Teaching Of The Rabbi. Back then what Rabbis taught was called The Yoke. And if you think the teaching of Jesus is too hard and difficult (because He did say: Be holy as I Am holy), read these words again. But this time from a different Translation:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
from The Message
Be and become whom God made you to be and become, and NOT what seems right to you. You and our society will be and become something so much better. Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
Have you ever been handcuffed? Well, maybe not by law enforcement officers–but if you’re honest, you have been by life. Handcuffs are meant to subdue a subject to make it safer for the one who put on those cuffs. This is the image and thought that the Holy Spirit sent to invade my thoughts this morning.
There are forces other than law enforcement that want to handcuff us–and for the same reason. Those forces want to subdue us. Call them Deputies Of Fear, The Guilt Police, or a thousand other names (remember that demon name Legion from the Bible?), their intent is all the same. Handcuffed, we fail to experience the life God designed for us, and that Jesus paid for us on the Cross. And like those literal handcuffs, the more we struggle against them, the tighter they grip and hold us.
There are other sources that want to handcuff us. The news media–my, oh, my–they want to handcuff us to their views. The beast called cultural norms, which is about as abnormal as it comes, want to handcuff us to its values. And dear Lord help us, there are the handcuffs called political parties–they want to take us hostage and make us experience the Stockholm Syndrome. This list goes on ad nauseam. My point is whoever or whatever put those cuffs on us had made us their prisoner.
What are we to do, what CAN we do when we find outselves handcuffed? Unless we’re the reincarnation of Harry Houdini, we’re locked into those cuffs. What we need is someone with the key that will unlock them. Would you believe there’s a true story about this? In the Bible??? In Acts chapter 16, two guys, Paul and Silas, were more than handcuffed–they were bound by chains. Neither of them was a Houdini, so it seemed hopeless to the outsider. But they weren’t hopeless on the inside.
Around midnight Paul and Silas began a prayer and praise service. And do you know what happened next? Not only did their cuffs fall off, but their prison door flew open. How did that happen? Easy! They continued to operate and live as if those cuffs didn’t affect who they were and what they were doing. They didn’t pray and praise in order to get rid of their cuffs. They prayed and praised because that’s who they were! And you, too, can do the same. Maybe your cuffs won’t fall off and the prison door swing open–but you will find Jesus right there with you. And His Presence opens the doors to more opportunities than you can imagine. I leave you this morning with this song:
Dysphoria–it’s a word frequently used in our culture–especially in the realm of gender identity. And it is being especially applied to children and adolescences. There was a time when Genesis 1 verse 27 was sufficient: “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” This was the rule–with the exception of chromosomal abnormalities. Simple, look below the waist–and there’s your gender, period!
But with the inflation and over evaluating of the most unreliable of human sensations–that of ‘feelings’–we now have multiple choices. Gee, whiz! How could God get this so wrong! The term “gender dysphoria” which Child Mind Institute defines is this:
Gender dysphoria was created as a distinct disorder to clarify that being transgender, or identifying as a gender different from the one of your birth, is not in itself a psychiatric disorder. The new disorder was meant to remove the stigma from being transgender, and to shift the concern of mental health professionals to assisting those for whom the experience of being transgender has resulted in significant distress and impaired functioning.
Recently in Tuscaloosa, Alabama a father was interviewed about this very issue. He was affirming that his son, now his daughter, has every right to make such a life-changing decision and encouraged other parents who have dysphoric children to enable their children to follow his example. But what IF–the parents said to that child, “Look, we feel like you are more of a daughter than a son. And we want to help you, make the necessary decisions for you to become our daughter. After all, that is how we feel about you.”
Does this really make sense to you? To anyone? Some would reply, “It’s not up to you and how you feel. You have neither the intellect or wherewithal to make such a decision!” But what if their feelings are very real? Shouldn’t they have this right based on their feelings? When one insists that it is legitimate to travel on the road of feelings, this is where that road will eventually AND inevitably lead us.
The real dysphoria of out is not about gender identity–the dysphoria is about the Truth–to be exact–the source of Truth. Do you know what the word dysphoria means? It’s not psychobabble invented by psychiatrists. It means: melancholy, restlessness, despondency. As long as one lives outside The Truth of God’s Design for life–dysphoria is where we will live, and where we will die.
“Feelings, nothing more than feelings, trying to forget my feelings of love.” If you listened to music in 1974, you know this song. Is it stuck in your head now? Then tell yourself, “Self, I am not going to be singing that song to myself for rest of the day!” Good luck with that! This Wednesday I am wondering about feelings–no not the song; rather the feelings that come from within us.
Can we live a full, productive, even successful life based on our feelings? We hear a lot in our culture about “feelings”. In our culture, feelings seem to be the landmark of defining one’s identity. We also hear a lot about emotions. In my own way I want to address this and specifically how that feelings and emotions are not one in the same. I want you to be able to distinguish the difference between a feeling and an emotion.
The are NOT the same. I realize that some of you may disagree with me, and say I’m wrong. It’s OK for you to disagree with me and tell me I need to change this thought of mine. I could agree with you that I’m wrong on this–but then we’d both be wrong. Anyway. . .here’s the difference between a feeling and an emotion.
A feeling is something we believe to be true. . .about ourselves. . .or another person/group. . .or a situation we have faced, are facing, or may face. Feelings are just that–something that we believe to be true about ourselves, another person, or a particular situation. I’m not talking about what IS ACTUALLY TRUE, but what WE BELIEVE is true.
Now, let’s get to that other word: Emotions! Emotions are our response to those feelings; whether they are our feelings about ourselves, another person, or that particular situation. Emotions are the way we express the response to our feelings. If you have no feelings, you have no emotions. If you have no emotions, you have no feelings.
Now, feelings and emotions were created by God for us as human beings. Feelings and emotions are both gifts from God that reflect a part of HIS Image that HE placed in each person. We cannot deny them. We cannot ignore them. And we cannot downplay the role they have in us successfully becoming a whole person. We need both feelings and emotions if we are going to become the best possible self that God created for us to be.
However. . .well, let me use a “preacher” term here: BUT! Yeah, yeah, the preacher’s but. Just when you think you’ve got something good going on, that blessed preacher inserts his or her BUT! Don’t you just love a preacher’s but! I want to center in on “feelings” But feelings do not give us our true identity as a person created in the image of God. Feelings are simply what we believe to be true about ourselves. Because we believe our feelings are true about ourselves, we allow those feelings to give us our Identity–to define who we believe we really are.
Now God gave us the capacity to have feelings. He gave us the ability to have emotions. These are just a part of God’s identity–but they do not give God HIS Identity. They are a wonderful part of that unique blend of so many parts. Just like you can’t have a cake with just eggs, or just flour, or just sugar or just milk. You got to have all those other ingredients–and don’t forget all those extra “flavorings” you can add that changes everything about a cake.
Feelings are not the whole of a simple organism; feelings are a part of a very complex organism–just a part, but an essential part. We are living in a time when people are being told they MUST live and IDENTIFY who they are as a person based only upon one part of this complex organism. Feelings are allowed to become the dictator, and our emotions follow the lead of that dictator.
God never designed us to live by our feelings. And He never intended that we allow our feelings to define us and give us our true identity. Living only by feelings creates a false self–never your true self. Yes, He gave us feelings, but they are only a part of the process if you would, to help us become who HE created us to become–Our WHOLE, TRUE SELF. The Best Self Possible.
Remember that “feelings” are something we believe to be true; not necessarily true–but we believe they are true. Just because we believe it is true, doesn’t make it true. I am so sorry Calvinists. I am so sorry progressive thinkers and theologians. I am so sorry fellow evangelical sisters and brothers! We are NOT who we are based solely on our feelings. We human beings can’t define what is really TRUE! That ability is way beyond our pay grade.
When we try to live out of our feelings it creates instability. Feelings can and will vary in a day–just like weather varies every day in Alabama. In the early mornings I get my jacket. By mid morning I hang it back up. By mid-day I’m putting on a short sleeve shirt. And my afternoon, I’m looking for my shorts and sandals. Feelings change.
God never designed feelings to be our sole or primary identification in life. And we need to be careful with our feelings. I’m sure you’ve had feelings in retrospect you knew were wrong. You didn’t know it as the time–but hindsight is always 20-20. And if you are honest, you know that those feelings (feelings you believed were true at the moment) caused damage and inflicted hurt–either on another person, on yourself, or both. And I bet right now you are remembering the damage your feelings that you believed were right at that moment caused. And that damage may still be present–the wounds haven’t yet healed. And you are aware of the damage that resulted when your feelings were wrong.
When feelings becomes the determining factor–the damage caused by feelings and the subsequent emotions runs deep; and it keeps us from our True Self, the one created in the Image of God.
I’m a little late with my Throw It Out There Thursday. Remember that Thursday is the day when anything, any idea, any belief is open for debate, satire or criticism (or all 3). Better late than never; unless it’s your week to lead the small group or open the store. And this Thursday it’s about finding out and knowing who you are. I see these ads on socially irrelevant media sights like Facebook and Twitter. And I saw them first on the Brainless Screen (a.k.a. T.V.).
Right now I’m thinking about all those TV ads of people who are basing their identity as a person based on their DNA results. One person said she once identified herself as Hispanic, but now marks “Other”; all because of what that company told her about herself. Another person said she found out she was part Native American (no, it wasn’t that presidential candidate who shall remain nameless, but you know which one). Now she’s all excited about exploring and learning more now that she is Native American.
It appears that so many who were either confused, or felt like they had no identity, or didn’t like their identity are turning to this magical DNA to define who they are. A few are turning to their DNA to find out why they are the way they are. And suddenly, an unknown heritage becomes THEIR heritage–and their identity. Sounds innocuous and unobjectionable enough, doesn’t it? So why does it appear this morning in my crosshairs?
Well, it’s because people are looking for their true identity in the wrong places. Yes, genealogy is both interesting and important, It’s also fun–especially when you find an ancient family member that is famous. Not so much fun when that relative is infamous. I must confess to you that there are some people I see and hear and I think to myself, “You need to refresh and upgrade your DNA pool.”
But a person’s Identity, their True Self is never fully revealed in chromosomes or an ancestry tree. We are living in a culture where people are longing for their True Identity because they somehow know there is more to life than what they experience day in and day out. Know what? They’re right! There is more to life–but you have to know where to look; and HOW to look. The information you are looking for won’t be found in your DNA, and it won’t be found in the archives of some Temple in Salt Lake City. 23 and Me haven’t figured it out yet and the Latter-Day Saints records don’t go back that far.
I’ll give you a Hint and a Clue where to look for your True Identity. The Hint comes from a book filled with a variety of heresy and truth. Listen to Ecclesiastes 3:11—“He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” There is in every human heart that seed that cries out to grow. It realizes there is more to life than what we see–even more than what we want. Nothing in this realm will ever give us our True Identity. And by the confession of Solomon’s wisdom, as human beings tainted and impacted by The Fall, we just can see it–without the right perspective.
The Clue is revealed by someone who has been characterized through the ages as one being reluctant. Read carefully what this very reluctant person revealed in Jeremiah 1:5—“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” The Clue is this: We are created by God for purposes bigger than this world—purposes that carry eternal significance. You may not be called to be a prophet like Jeremiah—but you ARE called to a task that HE has called you to—and equipped you to do with your life.
Relatives and deoxyribonucleic acid can never tell the whole story. They tell us about history, but not the future. And remember what Solomon said about the future—“He has planted eternity in the human heart.” When God formed us in the Garden of Eden, He made us in His Image. Adam came from the dirt and Eve from his rib—but God’s Image was in both.
And why? Not because God has an ego problem; but because God knew what would happen with Adam and Eve. He knew they would believe the lie and want to become their own god. And God was determined to reclaim and take back what Satan stole away. And He chose His Warriors to reclaim His Kingdom. First, it was His Son, Jesus. Second, it was the Hosts of Heaven’s Armies. Third, He would reclaim His rightful Kingdom through His Image Bearers.
God wants to restore you to the life HE created for you, before the Fall. A life that is pure, holy and filled with His Purposes. But you will never find this from you family genealogy and humanity doesn’t and will never have the technology to discover this higher purpose. Remember what Solomon said: “He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”
The only way we can find our True Identity is to surrender everything to Jesus. All our wants and wishes. All of our desires and feelings. And most of all, surrender all sense that our life has purpose outside of being unconditionally committed to what God has designed our life to become, and to be absolutely involved with what God has been involved in—the redemption and restoration of HIS Kingdom.
We began this series by
stating the obvious: That our culture is
in deep turmoil, unconstrained chaos, and relentless fear. It is fueling irritation, aggravation, and
frustration that is creating the toxic environment of Despair. And without a radical change of direction, a Divine Recalculating Moment, it will
only become worse.
When we use that
navigational tool called GPS and follow its directions, we see those long
awaited words: You Have Arrived At Your Destination. Global Positioning System works when the
receiver connects with 3, preferably 4 satellites. Those satellites then triangulate that signal
and then sends it back to the receiver.
GPS needs the reference points from those satellites. Without those 3-4 satellites, it just doesn’t
But sometimes, GPS is
wrong. In my experiences, there are
times when my GPS says You Have
Arrived At Your Destination, I’m looking at an open field. Or, I don’t see what I’m looking for. Sometimes, I see it but it’s across the
road. Those GPS systems are not always
correct and can make us feel even more lost than before we started the trip.
And when our
Spiritual Navigation system is off, it’s even more so. Every person, without exception, has a
certain set of Values, Ideas And
Beliefs. Each person is on a
journey to a destination defined by those values, ideas and beliefs. The values, ideas and beliefs are the
reference points that ultimately determines their destination, tells us when
and where to turn, and defines when we have arrived.
Without the right
Reference Point, we will always end up at the wrong place…and this is where our
culture is at. Life on earth has an
intended Destination. Yes, ultimately
Heaven, but there’s a Destination for us here on earth.
If You Can Remember Only One Thing, This Is It:
Our Destination Is To Become Peculiar.
There is only one people in the Church–God’s own people. The church does not have a ministry; it is ministry; it does not have a mission; it is mission.
Without a Recalculating Moment Of Heart And Purpose, we will journey farther and farther away from the heart of God—and the only life our hearts long for. This is the last in the series and there’s a word I’ve been using throughout. That word is Peculiar, and I could not end this series without taking a look at what it means to be peculiar.
The only way we can
arrive at our spiritual destination is to have the correct reference
points. Now, think back to those
satellites. Their position is used to determine your position. But, if their position is off, their orbit is
not in the right place, then the information it delivers you will be wrong.
In our Spiritual
journey, to live the life we are created for, it’s absolutely essential that
those Reference Points are in the right place. I’m not talking today about how to be peculiar. This is not another how to
sermon. The Christian walk is
more than just knowing how to —more than just a mechanical
response to God’s call.
When our response to God
is mechanical we lose our excitement and start looking for another fix-it-upresponse. So instead of talking
to be peculiar I want to talk about being peculiar. I think you will see that the difference is
more than subtle. Let’s Read 1 Peter
1 “So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy,
and all unkind speech. 2 Like newborn babies, you must
crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of
salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, 3 now that you have
had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.
4 You are coming to Christ, who is the living
cornerstone of God’s temple. He was
rejected by people, but He was chosen by God for great honor.
5 And you are living stones that God is building
into his spiritual temple. What’s more,
you are his holy priests. Through the
mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please
God. 6 As the Scriptures say,
am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who
trusts in Him will never be disgraced.”
7 Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God
has given Him. But for those who reject Him,
“The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.”
8 And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the
rock that makes them fall.” They stumble
because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned
9 But you are not like that, for you are a chosen
people. You are royal priests, a
holy nation, God’s very own possession.
As a result, you can show others the
goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful
10 “Once you had no identity as a people; now you
are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s
These Christians knew
what Peter was talking about. Once they
had been No People, just
ethnic and cultural groups that could be classified as heathen. Among them were also small pockets of Jews.
They understood Peter. Once they had
been no people. They had been proud and self-sufficient—and lost—
but now they had become the recipients of God’s mercy.
This is not some new insight
on Peter’s part. It comes right out of
Hosea 2:23; Peter takes this and runs with it—he begins to apply title upon
title on this “No People” who had become redeemed
by the grace of God.
No People are nowChosen
No People are nowRoyal
No People are nowA Holy
No People are now God’s Very Own Possession.
This is what it looks
like to be “peculiar”. I know that’s a
word we don’t like to use to describe ourselves. I mean, who really wants to be “peculiar”? Well…we should want to be “peculiar”. Think about what this word means: “characteristic of only one person, group,
or thing; different from the usual or normal”. If the confusion, chaos and hatred in our
culture is ever going to change—Then
We’ve Got To Unashamedly Embrace Being Different From The Usual And The Norm.
To be different from the
usual and norm that floods Facebook and the news, then we need that Recalculating Moment that will
enable us to reach our destination here, and later in eternity.
There are 4 Reference
Points that assure us we will Arrive
At Our Destination. These Reference Points is what will make
us peculiar in this culture—and will transform us into God’s very own possession. I want to give you these 4 Reference Points in the form of
questions. Question #1:
1. Are You Hungry For The
Word Of God?
Not what others say or
write—but hungry for just God’s Word.
There are many in our culture, especially the church culture, who only
want to hear what others say about God’s Word.
They want an interpretation—a spin—an angle that meets their own
expectations and beliefs.
There are so many who want to speak FOR the Bible in ways that will support their Values, Ideas And Beliefs. We don’t need more people speaking for the Bible. We need the allow God’s Word to Speak TO us.
We don’t need more people speaking for the Bible. We need to allow God’s Word to Speak TO us.
There are so many who want to speak FOR the Bible in ways that will support their Values, Ideas And Beliefs. We don’t need more people speaking for the Bible. We need the allow God’s Word to Speak TO us. If we are going to arrive at right destination now and in eternity, we need a reference point— The first reference point is to align our life with God and His Purpose for our life through The Word Of God! Now, Question #2:
2. Are You Living With Deep
Have you noticed that Values, Ideas And Beliefs of our are
not producing deep joy? Or is it just
me? People of our culture are seeking
and pursuing happiness at the expense of deep joy. Life is meant to be filled with deep
joy. Our culture has anything but deep
joy. It’s chaotic, angry and
We will never give the world Deep Joy living life by the Values, Ideas And Beliefs of this Culture. Our Deep Joy comes from surrendering all of our life to Jesus—freely submitting to God’s Rule in our daily life. Those who resent giving God Rule of their heart do not, can not, find the Deep Joy that comes from living Care-Free in God’s hands. No heartache, no disappointment, no pain is ever greater than the freedom we find in the life surrendered to God.
Our Deep Joy comes from surrendering all of our life to Jesus—freely submitting to God’s Rule in our daily life.
Our culture needs to see
us living in joy regardless of the circumstances. Jesus describes it this way: “I have told you these things so that you
will be filled with my joy. Yes, your
joy will overflow!” (John 15:11)
What were the things Jesus told them?
Look at Verse 5—“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who
remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can
do nothing.” Joy Is A Reference
Point Because It’s Based On Our Relationship With Jesus, Not Our Circumstances. And now, Question
3. Are You Experiencing High
The social, cultural and
political turmoil in our culture is crushing countless hearts. The Values,
Ideas And Beliefs of this Culture isn’t concerned with hope—it’s
focused on hate. It’s focused on what’s
wrong, what’s missing, and who’s at fault.
None of this is conducive for hope—only despair.
One day Jesus was looking around at His culture. He saw hurt, lonely, confused people—like sheep without a shepherd. Do you know what Jesus said about the culture that is so much like ours? It’s in Matthew 9:38 (TM)—“What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!” Our Hope should be High Because We Live For And Serve The God Who Sees Opportunities For Greatness In Every Situation And In Every Life. Our world will never find Hope if we see our world as Hopeless.
Our world will never find Hope if we see our world as Hopeless.
Hope That God Is Greater Than Every Human Despair Must Be Our Reference Point. And the final Question #4:
4. Are You Expecting The
Holy Spirit To Bring Awakening And Renewal In Your Life And To Our Culture?
The Values, Ideas And Beliefs of this
Culture expect us who follow Jesus to change.
At the Wednesday Bible Study we were looking at the time Peter was in
prison. He was waiting for his trial and
then his execution. The church was
praying earnestly for Peter—but their faith was not overwhelming because they
didn’t believe Rhoda when she said Peter was at the door.
You and I need to live
in each moment expecting the Holy Spirit to bring Awakening and Renewal first
to us—and then to our culture through us.
If you don’t expect to see Awakening and Renewal now, then why are you
even here this morning?
It’s time for us to act in faith to a reality that no one can see—except those who have the heart of God! Expect The Holy Spirit To Bring Awakening And Renewal In Your Life And To Our Culture. And this is our Fourth Reference Point.
Expect The Holy Spirit To Bring Awakening And Renewal In Your Life And To Our Culture
Being peculiar means having
the right answers to these questions. These are the 4 Reference Points that will guarantee that we will Arrive At Our Destination. Our Destination for now is Verse 9—“To BeRoyal
Priests, A Holy Nation, God’s Very Own Possession.”
And our Final Destination will be “Well Done, My Good And Faithful
Servant. You Have Been Faithful In
Handling This Small Amount, So Now I Will Give You Many More Responsibilities. Let’s Celebrate Together!” (Matthew25:21 NLT) But you can never Arrive There until you Arrive Here.
I remember playground games. Whether it was softball, kick-ball, football
or dodge ball, we would divide into teams.
Sometimes the teacher would select captains, sometimes 2 would just
volunteer. But one thing I remember most,
is that in the process of selecting teams, no one wanted to be the last person
picked. It meant people didn’t see much
in you, that you lacked the skill necessary to be a vital part of the
team. Being picked last was often
humiliating. As we celebrate Communion,
I want you to know that in God’s eyes you are never the last person picked for
God’s team! Let’s look at today’s
passage from Ephesians 1:3-14 found in The
3-6 How blessed is God! And what a blessing He is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ,
and takes us to the high places of blessing in Him. Long before He laid down earth’s foundations,
He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole
and holy by His love. Long, long ago He
decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure He
took in planning this!) He wanted us to
enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving by the hand of His beloved
7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, His
blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of
penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!
He thought of everything, provided for everything we could
possibly need, letting us in on the plans He took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a
long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in Him,
everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
11-12 It’s in Christ that
we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got
our hopes up, He had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part
of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.
13-14 It’s in Christ that you, once you heard
the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves
home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment
on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us,
a praising and glorious life.
is the most important day in your life.
Not yesterday, not tomorrow, not next week or next year. This leads me to the one thing you need to
remember from today’s message: God speaks of his relationship with you in
permanent, irrevocable terms of adoption, ransom and guarantee. God chooses you, and that will never change.
If you’ve ever felt unsure about your usefulness in God’s plans or
if you are acceptable to God, then I want you to pay close attention for the next
few minutes, because these few verses tell you three important things about You
in God’s eyes. Embrace these 3 truths into your life, you will
experience a greater sense of self-worth and more spiritual confidence than you
have ever known.
1. You’ve Been On
God’s Mind From The Beginning.
back to my image of standing on the playground.
At first, you were just part of a crowd, but now selections have been
made and now you are standing alone, and the captain who has the last pick,
says “Oh well, I guess I’ll have to take them.”
I think all of us can relate to this feeling; we all know what it is
like to be the last chosen—the least talented in at least some area—academically,
athletically, musically, and so on. But
there is an area where you never need feel that way: Your Relationship With God.
Probably all of us have wondered, at one time or another, “If they
had it to do all over again, would they choose me? Would they hire me? Would she marry me?” Maybe some of you have even thought, “If Jesus
had to do it over, would He die for me again?”
Some of you may believe that you have been such a disappointment to God
that you would have been better off not to have been born. The message from God is the exact
God knew that you would be
where you are today in all areas of your life.
He knew you would be here at this moment and for some, it may have been
a rough ride. There may have been
mistakes and disappointments along the way and you may have wanted to give up
many times. Even though your past may be
littered with failures, it doesn’t change the fact that God Loves You, He Chooses You,
And He Believes In You. You have
been, are now and will always be on His mind and in His heart. This is RANSOM!
2. You Belong To
God, And That Will Never Change.
This passage defines your
relationship with God in permanent terms.
It says, first of all, that we have been adopted. The citizens of Ephesus understood the
significance of adoption,
because it was common in their society. Adoption wasn’t just a case of parents
choosing to provide a home for a parentless child.
Paul said, “You’ve been Adopted
into the family of God. Get comfortable because
He’s not going to give up on you.”
3. Everything You
Need, You Can Have.
Jesus didn’t die on the cross
just to abandon you now. God is
generous. He doesn’t withhold His kindness,
His love, His mercy, His forgiveness, His compassion, or His blessings from you. He showers you with kindness. He will lavish His generosity on you, If
You Are Willing To Receive It.
not just about your physical needs; he is referring to your spiritual and
emotional needs as well. God will give
you All The Joy You Need—All The Love You
Need, All The Faith You Need, All The Mercy You Need, And
truth is, He Wants To Shower His Kindness
On You. Everything you need, He
wants to provide.
See your relationship with God
in a new way—in a non-adversarial way.
God isn’t mad at you. He isn’t
sorry that He chose you. And if He had
to do it over, He Would Die For You Again. Why? Before
you were born, you were on His mind
and IN His heart. He chooses You
to be His very own. You belong with Him,
and that will never change. And He will
be with you every step of the way, blessing you with what you need each and
How do I know
this? Even more important, how can YOU
know this? You and I can know this
without a doubt because the
Holy Spirit is given as our guarantee.“Guarantee” Is A Term That Means The Assurance That
Another’s Obligation Will Be Fulfilled.
It comes from a Hebrew word that means “a pledge”—God has made
a pledge to fully restore you back to His Intended Design—To be the you He
created you to be. Until that work is
finished He gives us the Holy Spirit, as His Personal Pledge.
The presence of the Holy Spirit is the assurance that God’s
commitment to you will not stop until the final result—We become exactly like
Design—The Perfect In Every Detail Reflection Of God. We come to the table, the ONLY Table where it
all starts, where we are called to live, and one day where it will be completed—the
Table of Grace…
week it’s rather simple: Find where God
is at work and join with Him. After all,
He has chosen you to work with Him! Or, find a place where you
know God wants to work, and get started.
After all, He wants you to work with Him!
Yesterday afternoon I was at the Opening Session for our Tribe’s thing called “Annual Conference”. It was my 43rd consecutive Conference. For “outsiders”, Annual Conference is this thing that when all is said and done, more is said than done. Bishop Sharma Lewis preached for our opening Worship, and normally I would have considered it a great and powerful message. She chose the passage from Colossians 3, verse 12 and it was about putting on the new clothes of love and she presented us with a great question: What are you wearing?
Normally, I know there’s nothing normal about me in many folks eyes, but that’s their problem, I would have really been inspired by the message. I mean, what’s better than wearing the new clothes of love. Or, as The Message puts it:
Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it.
But this crisis that the United Methodist Tribe is facing, has caused me to have this deep-seated thought that Bishop Lewis was only telling half of the story–literally a half-truth. And a half-truth is at its root and core, a lie! As I was talking to God about this “disappointment” in my heart, it hit me. She, like so many in our culture today, didn’t talk about the first part of Paul’s letter. Yes, be clothed in God’s love–after all, it’s His personal label. But….
But these new clothes don’t fit or look well as long as you keep wearing the “old” clothes underneath them. He starts off in Verses 1-2
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.
It’s one of the few things I remember from my cemetery, excuse me, seminary days–that a text without its context is only a pretext. Bishop Lewis never mentioned verses 1 and 2. And there’s more to the context, and it’s summed up in verse 5
And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God.
Our Tribe is being asked to change our church polity and order to accommodate what is now called “Progressive” theology. We are being asked to give up the traditional view of human sexuality in order to not only accommodate our culture–but here’s the BIG LIE–but because of God’s love, it’s OK to be “gay”. Progressive theology on human sexuality says that God created some people “gay”, ergo, it’s no longer a sin. Just wear love!
Yet how can anyone put on God’s love, wear these perfectly fitting clothes, IF we continue to wearing the old clothes? The truth is, the painful truth is, you can’t! In the south we would say it like this, and for you poor unfortunate souls who aren’t in the south, I will help translate this for you: Put a silk dress on a sow (NOUN: a female pig) and she’s still a sow, and she’ll get that silk dress muddy. And we cannot wear God’s New Designer Label of Love until we get rid of the old clothes of sin.
I say this not from the “high ground” of being morally superior to others, but from the “low ground” of realizing that I still have sin in me. I admit that I’m broken and am always turning back to God to help put shed off the old clothes so that I can be fitted with the right clothes. Those who insist that sexuality outside of the husband (man) and wife (woman), in other words, being “gay”, is their identity. There is no offer of personal transformation into the identity that has nothing to do with sex–but everything to do with The Creator.
Progressives offer no hope for a new identity–just put on the new clothes of love without ever taking off the old clothes of, as The Message puts it, “doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God.” I am wondering now, could it be that the suicide rate is above average in the LBGTQI community, especially among teens who feel or believe they are gay, because they are not offered Hope–hope for not just a new identity–but their TRUE identity. A person’s true identity is found in their relationship with God–NOT with whom they are having sex.
And my heart breaks for the LBGTQI community because they have been told to believe that there is no way to shed their old clothes for the new designer clothes. As long as we try to wear the Divine Designer Clothes of Love OVER the old clothes doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy you will never be able to wear them as they are designed.
I’m not saying homosexuality is the worst sin. And it certainly isn’t the only thing that can be called an abomination. Proverbs 6:16-19 (NLT) describes those things this way:
17 There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, 18 a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, 19 a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family.
One time I was asked, “Bro. Randy, what do you think is the worst sin? Rejecting Jesus?” I think my response shocked her. I said, “No, even that’s not the worst sin. I believe that the worst sin is the one that makes God want to vomit–and that is being lukewarm (Revelation 3:16). No other condition, no other sin that I can find in the Bible makes God want to puke. I just noticed something–3:16. One 3:16 tells us we can have eternal life (John 3:16). This other 3:16 says we make God want to puke, and thus, be eternally separated from Him.
I am smart enough, wise enough, and humble enough to know that I still have times when I try to wear God’s Designer Jeans over my filthy yard clothes. They don’t fit, they don’t look good because that’s not the way these “Designer Jeans” are “DESIGNED” to be worn. We have to put off the old in order to wear the new. So I pray, pray hard first for me to be sure I’m not trying to wear the new over the old. Second, I pray hard for the LBGTQI community to stop believing the Great Lie. And third, I pray for those who are deceiving the LBGTQI community WITH the Great Lie.
Before new life happens–before we can experience the Resurrection Life–there are things that need to, MUST die in all of us. Otherwise, we’re just an old sow wearing a silk dress. That’s not how this works!
This morning I was reading 1 John chapter 1. My reason was simple: I was practicing what I preach. Imagine that, a preacher actually doing what he or she preaches. I was reading for the sake of listening to God. No Bible study prep time or sermon prep or looking for my next blog. Just reading, and listening. Two things jumped out at me this morning: Light versus Darkness. In other words, sin versus Holiness. And it got me to thinking about a common experience among us humans: Feelings. No, not the song (bet that got some of you hearing that song in your head), but that complex and complicated arena of human feelings. In my thinking this morning, there 4 basic categories of feelings through which any particular feeling would fall into.
First there are what I term Emotional Feelings. Thanks to this thing called emojis we have a way to express our emotions with a picture–happy, sad, confused, angry, disgusted and so forth. I believe that God created us to have emotions. After all God has His emotions–joy and sadness, love and hate, compassion and firmness are just a few. Unfortunately we are not like Spock, not the infamous child psychologist, but the one on the Starship Enterprise, who could detach himself from silly emotions. Emotions are our initial response to what happens to us in life.
Second are what I classify as Psychological Feelings. These are those emotions that we have processed through our thinking and become a resident in our psyche. Distrust, hopeful, optimistic, pessimistic, prejudice, accepting, doubting, inquisitive–these are just a few of what I would term as psychological feelings. Often our intellectual reasoning is influenced here more than anywhere else. Our phobias fall into this classification of feelings. Phobias go deeper that just an initial response–they are deeply rooted in the human psyche. This human psyche is another part of how God created us. These are what influences how we see people and situations. On the darker side, you see it resulting in sociopaths, narcissists, or psychopaths.
Third are what I call Spiritual Feelings. These are rooted even deeper than our psyche–they are rooted in what some call the heart or the soul. This is our moral compass. It, more than anything else, shapes and forms our values, of what is right and what is wrong. Our spiritual feelings also creates our sense of guilt and shame, as well as our feelings of joy (which are deeper than feelings of happiness) and contentment.
And last, but by no means least, is what I term as our “Biological Feelings“. In our culture, and in my own Tribe, this is a subject of great controversy. It could easily be argued that biological feelings are at the root of psychosomatic illnesses. (You know what psychosomatics want on their tombstone: “I Told You I Was Sick!”) But these feelings go deeper. It is the root of the crisis of sexual identity. Gays and transgendered hold on to that biological sense that they were born with same-gender attractions or were born the wrong gender all together. Thus, they are free to act upon and direct the future of their lives based on what they call, this biological fact. I know my gay friends will disagree with my next point but I still love and care about you. It is still rooted in a feeling, be it biological, it is still a feeling.
And unfortunately, many people self-identify through their feelings. Thus these words from 1 John 1:5-10 (NLT) speak another word:
5 This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.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.10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
Each type of “feelings” bleeds over into all the others. Unlike Spock who prides himself in being detached from all emotions/feelings, we are humans, not Vulcans. And this mishmash of emotions are causing people to live beneath and below their created design. This reliance on feelings has created such things as The New Pharisees, Tenured Pew Sitters, Churchians, people who feel they are worthless, permanent failures, unloved, abandoned, and so many other words that reveal our brokenness. Moral labels that people wear eventually will destroy them.
And I believe that this has resulted in the sexual crisis in our culture, and in the hearts and minds of those who identify as LBGTQI. This sexual chaos and confusion, this creation of moral labels as well, is the direct result of this thing called “sin”. Geneticists tell us that we have our own unique DNA. But one day I foresee that they will eventually discover that every human being shares one gene equally–that it’s the same gene in all of us. I hope they call it for what it is: The Adam and Eve Gene! While the New Pharisees, Tenured Pew Sitters and Churchians vehemently deny its existence in themselves, it remains true that all of us have that gene–and somewhere we are all broken–in different places and ways–but nonetheless BROKEN!
How we feel, what we think or believe we are, is not final–even in the arena of sexual identity. Ever since the Adam and Eve Gene formed in their DNA and was passed along to every generation–God has been seeking to redeem and restore us who bear His Image. When we live by our, call it “feelings” or “beliefs” about ourselves, we live within a lie and deny ourselves the only hope and cure to live life richly and with great purpose.
God invites us on a journey to wholeness–becoming whole emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, biologically and sexually. He alone, through the Holy Spirit, can transform us into our original intended design. We do not have to become a prisoner to our feelings, especially sexually. If you are someone who thinks you have no choice about your sexual identity, I want you to listen to Sam Allberry (here’s a link to part of his story). All of us are more than what we “feel”–for every feeling, every emotion, every way we self-identify is tainted by sin.
Be more than how you feel–because you ARE more than that. Get off that “emotional” roller-coaster and sit down, sit down at the feet of Jesus. Take whatever time is necessary for you to discover the true you, the YOU that God designed and created. You are more than a label, a feeling, an emotion, or a desire. Jesus brings the Light of God’s truth. Follow that light and you will become whole–the person God created to bear His Image! In Sam Allberry’s words: Identity is something God gives us. We do not create it or discover it. It is GIVEN to us by God.