Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.
Psalm 143, verse 10; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
This morning is one of those morning’s I don’t like! No, the coffee pot didn’t fail me, thank God! Yesterday afternoon was busy for me. I packed my bags for a trip I don’t want to make. My wife Debbie’s cousin, Michelle, is in a hospice center in Auburndale, Florida. She is dying from a rare and rapidly advancing form of cancer. We are leaving this afternoon for that 12 hour trip to be with the family. A little background here. Michelle’s Dad, Wiley, has been and is more of a Dad to Debbie than her own Dad. So Wiley’s daughters are more like sisters to her. So they are like sisters-in-law to me. We just need to be there.
We are in a very hard moment of life. And though I am “just” an in-law, some may say “outlaw”, they are my family, too. And their friends are our friends. I’m trying to process all this pain, and yes some anger, and it’s. . . well it’s just plain hard! So I’m reminding myself that sometimes life IS hard. It’s the nature of this fallen world we all live in. And even after 66+ years of living here, I still don’t like it.
And is it OK with you if I’m honest with you? Well, I’m going to be honest with you, like it or not! I am struggling right now. More than struggling, I’m in a quagmire. Now I’ve got a choice: I can wallow in this quagmire like a pig wallows in mud. Or–I can do something different. Being covered in this muck isn’t desirable for me. I’m not the brightest person in the world, but I sure ain’t the stupidest either. So, the only option is to do something different. And what would that be? I’m so glad you asked me this question.
I can do what the most prolific song writer ever did when he found himself in the mud hole of life. “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.“ I know this thing called cancer isn’t His Will. Sorry fundamentalists and Calvinists. Not everything that happens in life is God’s will. It’s OK to disagree with me on this point. But you’re still wrong. And I am going to be blunt with you: I haven’t a clue as to what God is teaching me in this hard and difficult season!
But there is something I do know. I know that God is Good! I know that He loves me. I know that He is faithful to me. He proved it to me on that Cross and a gazillion times since then. And I know that whatever it is He is teaching me, it’s good, good for me, and will bring Him honor and glory. What am I doing right now? Checking the list of things we need to pack, making sure they will get into the car, and I am saying the very same prayer David did when he was in the muck and mire of life as it happens: May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.God, I sure need some firm footing right now! And if you can spare the time, please pray for our family and that I will be a good student of Jesus–paying attention to Him and applying what He is teaching me!
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans chapter 15, verse 2; from the New Living Translation
You know, I thought I was through writing about the mess in the United Methodist Church. This was because I am no longer a United Methodist pastor. Yet, 48 years of service to the United Methodist Church compels me to pray for the United Methodist Church. But write about it? No way, Jose`! One would think that since the “divorce” is final for many former congregations and pastors, the words about us wanting to leave would be over. Apparently, some think differently than me. Even a friend and brother in Christ. Ron seems to think more needs to be said.
So, I am speaking only to United Methodists who are in the discernment phase and to those who think that as traditionalists they can stay in the United Methodist Church. And from the comments made on Ron’s post and similar posts, there is a prevalent mean and ugly spirit within those remaining United Methodists. He is Ron’s post. I am concealing his last name for obvious reasons.
Let me speak into this statement first: “How many Pastors drove this hatred of the UMC into their congregations?!” OK, Ron, tell us. What was that number of pastors who drove their hated of the United Methodist Church? Was it 1? 5? 25? 50? Of the 198 congregations that disaffiliated December 10, was it 100 pastors? I’m waiting, Ron. And before you give me a number, cite your research and sources.
Let’s look at the next statement: “I’m not convinced that all those members had the desire to leave the UMC.“ OK, Ron. There was a 3 month clearly defined process and procedure. It included first and foremost, prayer. In fact, the entire process was to be covered in prayer. Are you saying those 198 congregations didn’t pray? Refused to pray? This process also required to hear from those who were staying in the United Methodist Church. And the last step was a Church Conference where all full members were allowed to be present and allowed to vote. The percentage required to approve disaffiliation was set at 67% in favor. Did the District Superintendent mislead the congregation on how they needed to vote? Was there collusion in counting the votes? Was there a conspiracy within the Conference Board of Trustees to just get rid of those 198 congregations? If their desire was to stay United Methodists, then why did the outcome of those 198 congregations say otherwise? Again, Ron. I’m waiting for your answer.
Now, let’s take on this next statement: “I blame their Pastors. I feel as if they indoctrinated their people.” So, Ron, it’s their pastor’s fault? Really? Are you saying that laypersons are incapable of forming their own opinions and making their own decisions? Hummmm. Interesting, Ron. I wonder how those laypersons feel about your statement? I wonder if they would agree with your personal assessment that they were incapable of making a factual decision. Or, perhaps, you have documentation to prove your allegation? Pastors have a difficult enough time to implement a simple change with just a simple majority. But a 67% majority? My experiences would find that hard to believe. I know your statement said “I feel as if”, but tell me, Ron, when did your feelings become facts? I’m still waiting for your answer.
Then you said, “It’s painful to let 198 congregations go in one day, not to mention all those Pastors who just quit and gave up their orders. It pains me to see so many of my colleagues just leave our Church.” To your credit, half of your statement is true. It is “painful to let 198 congregations go in one day”. And I wholeheartedly agree with you. But did you ever consider that it was painful for many of them, too? I have witnessed the pain of laypersons who made this decision. They are convinced it is where God is leading them–but it’s painful for them, too. Or is it that their pain doesn’t matter? Or is it your pain is larger and more important than their pain? Still waiting for your reply.
But the other half of your statement simply isn’t true: “not to mention all those Pastors who just quit and gave up their orders“! Just as congregations went through a discernment process, so have we pastors. I, and my fellow sisters and brothers have determined that God is leading us in another direction. And in an act of integrity, we must surrender our credentials. It’s what the current Book of Discipline mandates. We are not quitting, we are following! Following the requirements of the Book of Discipline. But more important–we are following Jesus to where He is leading us. If Jesus is leading you to stay in the United Methodist Church, then be faithful to Jesus, Ron. No one is accusing you of not following Jesus. I cannot tell you what Jesus wants you to do anymore than YOU can tell us what Jesus wants us to do when it comes to the United Methodist Church. I hate to think this, but you give the impression of arrogance. We haven’t given up. Just because you say we’ve given up doesn’t mean we have. In case you haven’t figured it out–sometimes it costs us dearly when following Jesus. At 66 years old, I could have simply retired, and kept my United Methodists orders. But God is leading me in a different direction. I’m not asking nor expecting you to like it–however it is reasonable to expect from you my friend and brother in Christ, to respect my decision.
And one last statement you made and I do not know if you thought about how it sounds: I say to those 198 congregations, “Go ahead and Leave, do whatever it is you need to do. We will continue to stand in the light of God and do our part to spread God’s Kingdom! This will not stop and Jesus will be our guide and Lord!” Ron, I hope and pray you will continue to stand in the light of God. Know what, Ron? We who left are going to continue to stand in the light of God and do our part to spread God’s Kingdom, too. Is that so hard for you to comprehend? Surely you are not so–what’s the word–presumptuous as to think we are incapable of making the same decision! Are you? That’s not the Ron I met and thought was my brother in Christ and friend.
You ended your post with these words: “May our tempers be calm, God’s grace prevail, and by the mercy of the Holy Spirit help us all to move forward.” By us all, do you mean US ALL–or just United Methodists? Ron, if you are just frustrated, I can relate to that. But the accusations you made against 198 congregations and us pastors–well it doesn’t sound like moving forward, it doesn’t sound calm, and it certainly isn’t grace-filled words. Contrary to your statements, I am capable of listening to God and following Him where He wants me to go. Your words, my friend, didn’t form my decision. However, they did confirm I made the right decision.
So, to current United Methodists who are traditionalists/conservatives that think there’s room for you in the United Methodist Church–I can’t tell you what to do. But know that the voice of my friend isn’t the only voice offering ugly words and a lack of grace. You are held in contempt until you agree with progressives. If you can live like that, then by all means, stay United Methodist. I am not abandoning the United Methodist Church. I’m not quitting the United Methodist Church. I am following Jesus, Ron. I’m follow Jesus–even if you think I’m not!
“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him. Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
Colossians chapter 2, verses 6 & 7; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
What is your favorite place to “get away from it all”? No, I’m not talking about that place where you have to save and save or max out a credit card to get there. I’m talking about that place that is just a short walk or drive away. My “fortress of solitude” (remember Superman?) is the woods. It doesn’t have to be an enormous National Forest; just a place where there are enough trees to keep the view of the real world at bay for a moment. It is there I take a deep breath to regain my composure, or seek insights into what I should preach (or write), or simply but powerfully reconnect with my Savior. Perhaps I am drawn to the woods and trees because The Savior–my Savior, your Savior, and the world’s Savior–BECAME that Savior by dying on a rugged wood cross.
Not long ago I went for a walk in a new stretch of woods. I was not seeking to resolve any issues or find something to write about. It was one of those mornings when I just wanted to take a walk with The Savior. At the moment, I needed nothing from His hand; just to hold His hand was all I wanted. I was walking up a slight hill and I came to a level place, so I stopped for a moment just to take it all in (which is another way of saying I needed a rest). It was then I noticed it.
There was this tree I had stopped beside. Oh, I know there were lots of others trees around, but this one caught my attention. At eye level, it looked as if it were dead. Its trunk that should have been straight was bent and twisted. Obviously this tree, at some point, had encountered a severe storm and that storm had changed its shape. I also noticed that about half of its trunk was missing from near its base upwards to about 4 feet. Insects and perhaps disease had moved in after the storm that changed its shape. From my viewpoint, looking straight ahead at eye level, this tree had died and would soon fall and eventually rot away. And I also knew that process was a part of the cycle of life. This dead, decaying tree would provide nutrients for new life.
It was at that precise moment that I looked upward. I do not know what made me look up; perhaps it was The Savior who knew I was looking at the wrong part of that tree took his hands and made me look up. And I am glad He did because it changed my perspective about this twisted, bent tree. Right over my head, exactly over my head, there it was: a limb growing upward with green leaves. I am not a horticulturist by trade and I have never taken a botany class, but I knew enough to know that dead trees cannot produce green leaves. That limb was growing upward toward the sun and this happened because the tree was still alive even though at eye level it looked dead.
I took this experience as something the Savior was trying to teach me. The very first thought that entered my mind was, “The roots of this tree are still alive, so this tree isn’t dead! It’s alive!” (I know, I know, it doesn’t take much to amuse me!) At eye level there was not a single sign of life but below the surface life abounded, the roots were still working and there was still a connection in that bent and diseased tree to those roots, sending that life giving substance upward to that limb that was reaching up to the sun and producing leaves, that sign which said, “I am still alive! I am bent and damaged, but I AM alive because I am still connected to my roots!”
And this casual “for no particular reason” stroll though the woods became a classroom where I discovered an important lesson straight from The Savior. I reflected on the many storms that had happened in my own life; things which threatened to destroy me which were not my fault. I also reflected on the things I had done which allowed the insects and diseases to come into my life and start to destroy me. By the way, these “insects and diseases” are better known as “SIN”! I looked back and I knew there had been times in my life when at “eye level” I must have looked dead, to myself and certainly to others. But The Savior had another view, and that was at the roots of my life. HE is where my roots grow that holds me tight and gives me nourishment. He does this faithfully, even when I may not even be aware of His gracious work. In that bent and damaged tree, I saw my life, and in that limb reaching up toward the sun, I remembered my roots.
Paul, in writing to the believers at Colosse, gives us words to live by and certainly words to give any and all of us hope. The life of a tree is not in how straight its trunk is, but in how deep and how strong its roots are. Paul told the Colossians, and us, to let our roots grow deep in The Savior. We do this by being faithful to our private devotion times, by being faithful to worship and service as the Body of Christ, we do this by a daily persistent prayer life, and so many other ways. Our roots grow deep in The Savior when we focus on Him, His love and grace for us. And nothing makes our roots grow deeper than when we spend time at the foot of The Cross, The Cross made from a large straight growing tree. The more time we spend kneeling at The Savior’s Cross allows our roots to be stronger and deeper.
Perhaps there have been times in your life when storms, by no fault of you, have come along and bent and twisted your life. The dreams you held have now vanished like the early morning fog. The urge to throw in the towel on those dreams may be strong. If this is you right now, then I want to say to you the same thing The Savior said to me in that early morning stroll, “Remember the roots.” The storms do not change God’s purposes for your life. If anything, the storms you weather adds purpose to your life. Just as that tree taught me a lesson, so your life can teach others life changing lessons about the power of relationship–the relationship with The Savior because your own roots are growing down in Him.
Perhaps the disease and insects of sin have invaded your tree. You look eye level at yourself and may sincerely think that you are finished. You may feel that you have lost your usefulness in the Kingdom. If this is you this morning, then I want to say to you the same thing The Savior said to me in that early morning stroll, “Remember the roots.” Allow your roots to grow down into The One who still speaks those same words to every broken sinner, “I will not condemn you. I will release you to go and have a new start.” Grace and mercy are always available when we admit our inability to save our self and we intentionally choose to grow the roots of our life in Him.
And I discovered another lesson that revealed something about me that I thought I had managed to conquer, and it just hit me. (See, learning is not over just because you leave the classroom.) You may be familiar with this expression: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Well, God taught me a new expression: “Don’t judge a tree by its trunk at eye level.” I hate to admit it, but I must, that from time to time (and even once is not acceptable to The Savior) I judge people at eye level. I allow a bad experience, a moment of mistreatment, that eye level experience, to continue to shape my opinion of that person. I cannot see their roots, so I have to look up toward the Son and remember that there is still hope when there is still a connection to the roots. And by the way, if you have not figured it out yet, there is no way I or you or anyone can see the roots. Father, forgive me for my judgments and thank you for reminding me (again) that you are the judge, not I.
Let us pray: Father, above everything else, I want my roots to grow deep in you. I need the life giving substance of Your Spirit. Help me engage my life in those practices and disciplines that will keep me alive in You. Thanks for keeping this bent and diseased tree alive with new growth. And Lord, help me to stop making eye level judgments, not about trees, but about people. Amen and Amen!
11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
Luke chapter 15, verses 11 and 12; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
The other day, The Spirit planted this thought in my mind and heart: But Which One Was It? Out of nowhere (actually it came directly from the Throne of Grace and HE who sits on it) I started thinking about what is commonly referred to as The Story Of The Prodigal Son. And I got to thinking, “Did Luke, who wrote this letter, really put a heading on this section that read The Story Of The Prodigal Son? Well, don’t most preachers give their message a title? It just goes to show how our thinking is influenced by HOW we think. When a writer sits down to write, they always put in chapter numbers and often titles. But Luke, and the rest of the writers didn’t write that way back then. In fact, (this may be a shocker to my fundamentalist friends), not only did they NOT put in chapter numbers as they wrote, they didn’t put in the verse numbers. These were devices added later on by editors and translators to assist the readers find a particular passage. Which only makes it a wonderful miracle that day Jesus opened the scroll of Isaiah and found the exact passage He wanted to use that day.
OK, OK, I’m turning into a professor of biblical studies. Let me get back on track. At some point, an editor added this heading for today’s passage: The Story Of The Prodigal Son. Notice, no “s”! Therefore, people assume only 1 of those sons was the Prodigal. Notice carefully what the Father did in this story: So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. Now notice that there’s an “s”. This means the youngest and the oldest received their portion of the estate. Are you clear on this point? Good! So, answer my question: Which one was the Prodigal? Write down your answer. Got it? Good! If you said it was the youngest son:
Did you assume that because the youngest left home that he is automatically the prodigal? Well, doesn’t the word “prodigal” mean “spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.”? As a matter of fact, it does. But listen very carefully–Jesus never used the word “prodigal”. This is a story about a Father who had 2 sons–neither of which He identified as “prodigal”. WE and others have given that designation–but not Jesus. So, what’s my point?
It’s rather simple: This “Father” had two sons, neither of which understood their Father at the beginning of the story. Both sons were lost; but only one ended up knowing he was lost. We know this because of the ending of the story:
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
Luke chapter 15, verses 28 thru 30; NLT
The eldest son did not share the heart of his Father. Instead of being thankful for all the money that had been given to him at the beginning of the story, he chose to be ungrateful because his Father didn’t kill and bar-b-que a goat for him and his friends. Can you see it now? We can be lost in the “foriegn” land, wasting our resources on things that doesn’t fill us with life. Or we can be lost right here at home, lamenting that we never had a party with bar-b-que goat. So, which son–the youngest or the eldest–was the Prodigal?
Sure, the youngest “wasted” his inheritance of money. But the oldest wasted his inheritance of the values that his Father had tried to impress on them both. And in case you’re not connecting the dots–we can be just as lost at home, sitting in a church building every Sunday morning, as the person who goes out on Saturday night and parties like there is no tomorrow. If we waste what God has given us on the things that don’t really matter when it comes to The Kingdom Of God–then WE are just as much a “prodigal” as the youngest son in the story. I’ll end today’s musings right here. But be warned, I may take this thought about “wasting what God has given us on the things that don’t really matter when it comes to The Kingdom of God” at a later date. But for now, let me say: “Be very careful who you label as the prodigal!”
Question for you this morning: Do we speak for the Bible or does the Bible speak for us? No, it’s not the same thing! Folks, believe this or not, it doesn’t matter one single iota! The church today has a serious problem–when it comes to the answer of this question. In my own Tribe, the United Methodist Tribe, the given answer by leadership is literally ripping us apart. But before you Baptists gloat over our split, look at the beam sticking out of your own eye. And this isn’t just a 21st Century problem. It’s plagued the history of The Body Of Christ. The disease is speaking for the Bible rather than the Bible speaking for us–and thus–to us!
It was even a problem back when Jesus walked this earth as one of us. The Pharisees and Sadducces saw their job was to speak for The Word Of God. They thought it was their job description–but it wasn’t. And today, it isn’t in anyone’s job description to speak for the Bible. In my own Tribe we have those who are doing just that. Speaking FOR the Bible means it’s up to us to determine what it means and how it applies to daily life!Mishegas! Oy vey, nosh, klutz! It’s pure schlock! Pure bupkis! I love Yiddish words and phrases. Here’s some examples of speaking for the Bible.
Torturing and killing anyone NOT a “christian”–by their definition
Judging others based solely on their race
Justification of slavery
Making women as second class citizens by saying they can’t do certain things
Jesus only died for certain people (predestination)
The blood of Jesus wipes away every sin and gives us all a new beginning–except when it comes to divorce
Jesus came to show us how to love, so this eliminates the long-standing sexual ethic, so it’s OK to be how you feel, sexually speaking
On that last example–Oy, Oy Vey, Oy Gevalt! It’s Dreck! Our Tribal leaders feel it is their job description (remember how Jesus felt about the Pharisees and Sadducces?) to tell the world that the tried and proven sexual ethic from the Bible is outdated. It takes an enlightened person, like them, to straighten out what the Bible got wrong. And if we don’t agree with them, then we’re mean, ugly, phobic, and hateful. What a bunch of schmucks!
Who would deny that the current state of the church, politics and society as a whole is in a state of unabridged and unequivocal chaos. Even the most self-deluded would have to admit this is our current reality. And when it comes to placing the blame…its not any better. On any given day and all day long, the long finger of blame is pointing somewhere. It’s like the Wheel of Fortune or Price is Right–there are lots of options on where to place the blame.
Conservatives are to blame. Progressives are to blame. The Democrats are to blame. The Republicans are to blame. Guns are to blame. Wussy-minded folks are to blame. Millenials are to blame. Baby Boomers are to blame. Professors are to blame. Parents to blame. Spin the wheel and find who to blame. Oy, oy, oy! It’s giving me a headache and makes me want to puke. It’s all Mishigas and Shmegegge. (I love Yiddish!)
But what would happen if we would do what David tells us to do? What would happen if we stopped spinning the Wheel Of Blame and took a long, hard and serious look at our own life?
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)
Are you willing to allow God to Search, Know, Test, Point Out what’s wrong in your own life? The Wheel Of Blame isn’t helping; so why not give this a full-on try. If we want things to change, then remember President Harry Truman’s personal mantra–THE BUCK STOPS HERE! Start and end each day with this Psalm. Allow God to Search, Know, Test, Point Out what’s going on with you. Don’t just do it to fill your heart and mind with guilt–but do it so that the last line in this Psalm becomes true in you: And Lead Me Along The Paths Of Everlasting Life. Just in case you’re so dense you haven’t figured out the Monday Musing Theme, allow me to put it succinctly–Focus on what God wants for your life, then allow HIM to lead you along The Path!
Last Tuesday I was on my way to the hospital in Tupelo, Mississippi to see a parishioner and a very good friend who has Stage 4 cancer. I’ve been praying for his healing and it seemed like God wasn’t listening, or at least doing what I thought He should do. It’s about an hour and a half drive from home, so I had some time to do something other than thinking, about my friend and my soon to be 94 year old Dad. He had been having a difficult week. I needed a distraction–not from my driving–but from my thoughts.
I decided to listen to some podcasts from one of my mentors (who doesn’t know me)–Andy Andrews. I find him insightful and humorous. God knows I needed a laugh, and I hoped Andy wouldn’t disappoint me. He didn’t. But about 15 minutes into my hour and a half drive, the podcast was interrupted by a text. So I did the safe thing and found a place to pull over and check out the text. And here is what I saw:
I started to reply with one word: Thanks. But that would have been deceptive by me. So I told my friend, Matthew Winters, exactly what I was struggling with. By the way, Matthew has started blogging again with a new direction. You can check him out HERE! Commercial over, back to Monday’s Musing.
At the moment I needed help, God sent me help. But it took someone else to bring me that help. In this case, it was Matthew. And this morning I’m thinking about a particular passage, Philippians 2:4 (NLT)
Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
That afternoon God spoke and Matthew was listening–and God’s grace once again renewed my heart and mind. Matthew took an interest in me; his heart was directed to me; and Matthew was obedient to God. And here’s the point I want to make, and it’s in the form of a question:
God is wanting to help someone who is in a struggle–and He’s chosen you to send His help. ARE YOU LISTENING?
Only by having a deep walk with Jesus and The Holy Spirit can you be in a place where you can hear God speaking. Like a 911 Operator, God is saying, “Help is on the way!” Make sure you’re “on call” to receive His Dispatch.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
At the risk of sounding like an extremely proud Grandpa (because I am!), this Saturday’s Story is about one of our granddaughters, Caroline. Caroline is the daughter of my daughter, Leslie. Her mother put a curse on Leslie. You know the one: “I hope you have a child just like you.” Bless Leslie’s heart, she does! There are a lot of “Caroline Stories” I can tell, but today, it’s about the lesson she taught me when she was only three.
You Can’t Be Talking And Pay Attention To Me!
Several years ago, my daughter Leslie and her kids, Ethan and Caroline, came for a visit. They lived 2 hours away; so any visit was special. I called my parents who lived less than a mile away so they could see their great-grandchildren. After a time, we were in the kitchen just us adults talking.
In our kitchen was a small single step stool. Debbie, being somewhat vertically challenged, needed it sometimes to reach stuff in the top of a cabinet. Caroline had noticed this stool and managed a new skill–jumping off and landing securely on her feet. It was only about 6 inches, but for another vertically challenged 3 year old, it was quite a feat.
So Caroline began to display her new skill. She called out to us and said, “Watch this!” Being doting grandparents and great-grandparents we applauded her and congratulated her on this newfound skill. After several successful jumps and our accompanying praise, we went back to our conversations as adults. Needless to say, this did not please the Princess Caroline. Yes, Princess Caroline; it’s a title well earned and most appropriate for her.
We were in a circle talking with each other when Princess Caroline squeezed her way into the middle of this circle. She pressed her index finger to her thumb, and pointed at us with that little hand. I’m sure she learned this visual expression from her teacher at preschool. With a determined expression and dead seriousness, Princess Caroline got our attention with these words: “You Cannot Be Talking And Pay Attention To Me!”
While we “adults” were through watching her most recent skill, SHE wasn’t through showing us her skill. And she wasn’t going to be ignored any longer. She pulled our attention from talking to watching. To make sure we understood her “point” she repeated it again: “You Cannot Be Talking And Pay Attention To Me!” Ever since that day, we have, often jokingly, said to each other: “You Cannot Be Talking And Pay Attention To Me!”
The Moral Of This Saturday Story
This 3 year old Princess taught an invaluable for all of us. How many times does The Father try to get our attention–but we’re too busy talking? Talking to each other. Talking about others. Politics. Sports. The news. The latest fake news from the internet. Talking with others about how much we know about God. Telling others what THEY need to know about God. Telling God what we need. Telling God what HE needs to do.
Talking, talking, talking and more talking to the nth degree. Caroline taught me a lesson that day that I have had to be reminded of. . .frequently. . .too frequently. Caroline didn’t have out attention because we were, in her opinion, talking too much to each other. We adults needed to re-focus our attention to what really mattered.
Do you suppose God ever takes His index finger, pressing it against His thumb and saying to us: “You Cannot Be Talking And Pay Attention To Me!”Caroline would not let us have a choice–we HAD to give her our undivided attention. But God? Well, He never violates one of His gifts to us–a gift that leads to heights of joy–or depths of regret and despair. Free Will!
But the truth is, we cannot be talking and Pay Attention To God. Our troubles and chaos of this era is because we haven’t been paying attention to God. So. . .Stop Talking And Pay Attention To God! You need to, and our culture needs you to Pay Attention To God! You can’t pay attention to God if you are too busy talking.
How do you let go? Of the past? Of your growing up children, your grown children? The persistent pain? The chaos? That bitterness? The fear? The inundations of the current political climate? The uncertainty of the future? How do you let go of WHAT IS RIGHT NOW? Allow that last question to sink in a bit.
Well, some would say (and perhaps cheerfully say) “Well, you just gotta LET GO AND LET GOD!” And I reply, “Exactly what does that mean?” And some, maybe you would reply, “Silly, it means let go of it and let God take care of it!” And my response will be, “Yeah, but. . .what does it mean when I’m right smack dab in the middle of the storm?”
Some may chastise me (even flog me) for my next thoughts: “That sounds real cute and easy–but right now I don’t need or even want cute and easy. I need HELP!” When one is in the middle of a tsunami, Cat 5 hurricane, 8.5 earthquake and an EF5 tornado all rolled into one, cute and easy doesn’t cut it; at least for me. Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way. . .but I suspect I’m not the only one.
In my spiritual journey, I started out as a “Methodist”. Then in 1968 I became a “United Methodist”. This has been my Tribe since 1956 when I was born and God said, “You better watch out for this one!” I had always thought I would die as a “United Methodist”. And now, at 63, it’s not going to happen. I am literally watching the Tribe that nurtured me, helped me see Jesus, find grace, explore and affirm God’s call on my life, implode and disintegrate before my very eyes.
For some, it’s not about their Tribe, but for some other horrible reason, they are in that tsunami, Cat 5 hurricane, and an EF5 tornado all rolled into one moment. Whatever was, and currently is–that “feeling” comes upon us with a weighty realization–It’s time to let go! It may be living in a harmful relationship, the rebellious child hell bent on destroying the lives of people around them, overwhelming grief, that crushed dream; even that bitterness of soul that comes from the wound no one sees but you. . .and God. It’s this question: How do you let go?
This is the question that is haunting me, and perhaps you, or maybe someone you know. As one struggling with this, and speaking on the behalf of fellow strugglers, don’t give me, or us, cute sayings or post on our FB page some “inspirational quote”! This only tends to exacerbate our inner turmoil by either making us feel like we are failures in faith; or that you haven’t really listened to us. How do you let go? I’m really asking, millions are really asking, “Can you do something to help me let go?”
The answer is No!And Yes! Wow! You’re thinking (I know you are because I have the gift of espn!), “Preacherman, you’re a world of contradictions! It’s gotta be Yes or No; not Yes AND No.” I guess I need to explain myself, and hopefully lower your blood pressure, and keep you from chastising me for my lack of faith.
No, you cannot help me let go because this is my choice, and the choice of all who are in the WWE Smackdown Steel Cage Match of our lives. We who are wrestling with this question are not unlike those battling some type of addiction. We can be clean and free for a season because you give us cute phrases or simply nag at us; but if it’s not our choice, then we relapse into that vicious cycle. We who are in the alligator grip of seeking to trying to decide how to Let Go must decide to Let Go for ourselves, not for any other person–just to release whatever it is that has filled our minds, and our hearts with all this smog. Not that this gator from hell is going to let go of us, he won’t; but now he knows he’s losing, even lost, the battle.
And Yes, you can help us Let Go; and here is how:
Listen to us. Fight your personal urge to “fix” us. Many times we just need to talk and know someone has heard us, who doesn’t have on their agenda to “fix” us. We’re not asking you to agree with us. Remember Proverbs 18:13–“Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” And in case you didn’t get my message, hear how The Message puts it: “Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.” Got it?
Love on us without trying to fix us! It’s called “unconditional” love. The Biblical word is Grace! Remember the mark of a follower of Jesus. John 13:34-35–“Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Yes, Jesus wants to change us–but never before we know we are loved by HIM. Do the same!
Pray for us! Pray that God puts a person or 2, maybe 3 or 4, in our path today who will share with us God’s wisdom. Pray that our eyes will see a surprise from God, who is always at work to heal us. Don’t pray for God to give YOU the answer we need; pray that WE see God’s answer, however it comes to us.
Be an example for us! Don’t “tell” us what to do; SHOW US what it looks like to Let Go! And you can’t do that for us if you haven’t been there! After my divorce I got a lot of “counsel”; and honestly–not much if any at all helped. But when I found (I think someone was praying that I find it) my Divorce Support Group, I found how to Let Go from a small group of those who were in various stages of Letting Go! Show me your scars and I will first watch you, then I will listen to you. Otherwise, either pray for us or bug off!
While I may grieve what may appear to be the end of my Tribe, and while I may wonder what to do next, I know the ONE who can either CHANGE THE TRAJECTORY of this current mess–OR–who is prepared for what happens next, always prepared for what happens next. Only HE can help us Let GoWHEN we are ready to let go.
So, when you think of me, and when you see someone in different circumstances but still is wresting with the question, How Do I Let Go, remember to Love God with all your heart. Love others (even us who are wrestling that gator) the way Jesus loves you. And please make sure that all the glory goes to HIM!
The Eternal Name—The Name for all generations to remember—The Name that God has chosen to reveal to us all is YAHWEH—I Am! His Name says that He exists as Himself. He isn’t shaped or twisted by our own ideas and conceptions. Whatever it is that we may think about HIM, doesn’t change who He really is. Whatever you say about God doesn’t change Him. Whatever you may believe about God, does not change the identity and nature of our God.
He is who HE says He is; not
necessarily who we think He is and not necessarily who others say He is. He exists as He truly is—
In Indescribable Glory,
Pure, Uncontaminated Beauty
And All This In Awesome And Breathtaking Majesty.
He has never been weaker nor stronger than He is right now in eternity, nor will He ever be. Think about the changes that have happened in the history of humanity. We have gone from walking everywhere to riding a horse to an automobile, to flying across the skies, even made the journey to the moon and back.
about all the changes that have happened just in your lifetime. Yet, God has never ever changed—not even a
fraction. He Is Constant And
Consistent To The Point We Really Cannot Describe All That He Is. This Is The Eternal Name For All Generations
As we have been looking through John’s Gospel, Jesus has been publicly using His Eternal Name. And it has caused a lot of discomfort and anger with the Pharisees because we are not supposed to say that name—even though God wants His Eternal Name remembered by all generations.
They felt like, “We can’t have this guy going around calling himself God. We’ve got to put a stop to it. We’ve tried to be reasonable. We’ve tried to show that He’s a phony, but many don’t believe us. We must put an end to Jesus!” So they begin to formulate their plans, but what they don’t understand is that God already has a plan. They want to wait until AFTER Passover, but God has ordained that this Passover is THE time for THE perfect sacrifice that will end all sacrifices. And now, it is time for THE Passover. Jesus has gathered His inner circle in that upper room. Everything is in place and they think it’s just another Passover. They know the ritual; after all, they grew up with it. But Jesus now changes everything. In public He had been using the Eternal Name, and now in a very private moment, He uses it once more. Let’s turn to John 14:1-7 (NLT)
let your hearts be troubled. Trust in
God, and trust also in me. There
is more than enough room in my Father’s home.
If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a
place for you? When
everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with
me where I am. And you know
the way to where I am going.”
“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am The Way, The Truth, And The Life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”
that Jesus said He is–The Great I Am—The Living Bread, The Light Of
The World, The Door, The Good Shepherd—is so true—truer than you may
even realize. But here, in a private and
intimate moment, Jesus reveals the Deepest Part Of The Heart Of God. He Doesn’t Say This In Public,
But Rather To Those Hearts That Are Longing For God’s Heart.
This leads me to The one thing you need to remember: You Do Not Follow Jesus In Order To Love Him. You Love Him In Order To Follow Him.
comes first—before the following. But—If
you follow Jesus in order to love Him, it becomes a list of rules and things to
do. This way becomes legalistic. And
after a while, you either love the rules more than you love Him; or you will
But…if you love Jesus first—it gives you the desire to follow Him. Here is how it works: You see His beauty and that Beauty pulls you in deeper. Then You Begin Seeking His Beauty, And His Heart So That You May Be Transformed BY His Beauty INTO His Beauty. In Other Words, You Follow Him!
In this very sacred moment, Jesus says something to every heart. For inside every heart is that deep, deep longing to be near to and close to God’s very heart. The heart knows what the heart needs but the problem is we don’t always listen to it. Many try to ignore it, but the longing is still there. Others try to fill it with everything else, but the heart is still empty. Jesus Knows What Their Hearts Long For, Thirst For, Hunger For—So He Reveals What Every Heart Around That Table Longs To Know. And it is true in your heart. Listen with your heart what Jesus is saying to it.
1. He Is The Way!
When Jesus said He is The Way He means He is the ONLY way to find release from the guilt and shame of our sin. And we have to get rid of all that sin because it’s standing in the way of us entering God’s heart and God entering our heart. He Is That Entrance Into Freedom From All That Holds Us Back, All That Puts Us In Bondage, And All That Chains Us To Fear And Condemnation. Jesus is the only entrance to God’s heart. Contrary to the view of many, there are not many ways to discover God.
There is only ONE way and that way is Jesus. And The Way is a Journey, and The Journey is first to fall in love with God. Not what He does. And not by falling in love with His ways. Falling in love with God—with HIM! Being captivated by His Glory—which is His love for you. Until you see HIS Glory—you cannot love Him the way He deserves to be love Once we are in love with HIM, then He is The Way that leads us into that Holy Journey with God. The Way means that God invites us into this Journey with Him.
It Is A Journey Filled With Adventure And Excitement Where God Uses Us To Reveal Jesus To Our World.
A Journey That Can Be Difficult At Times, Especially When Things Don’t Work Out
Like We Hoped, And Even When We Can’t See Where This Journey Will Lead Us.
It’s The Journey That Requires We Surrender Control To Him. It’s The Journey Where We Will Be Stretched
That Journey Where At Times The Only Thing We Can Hold On To Is God Himself. It May Even Be Frightening To Some.
But It’s Not A Journey We Make Alone. Jesus Is Right Here With Us Every Step Of The Way.
didn’t say “I am the pew.” But many
treat Jesus that way; confident and comfortable in the pew. But Jesus didn’t say that, He said, “I Am The
Way!” He invites us to travel this road
called Grace, and it’s a road that is meant to be a life time journey. Along the journey we will see, do and
experience so many things. The journey
at the end will be different than at the beginning. But one thing will remain throughout this
lifetime journey: Jesus walks every step
with us. It’s the journey with Jesus
where He leads us to wherever and whatever He wants for us.
2. He Is The Truth
Since it is The Journey that Jesus invites us into, we need some guideposts, road signs that help us keep us on the right path for The Journey. And here is what it looks like to call Jesus The Truth.
The Truth Is He Has Saved Us And Forgiven Us Completely And Not A Single Sin Brought Under His Blood Exists In His Heart Or Memory.
The Truth Is He Lives In Us To Empower Us.
The Truth Is He Gives Us A Holy Calling And Task That He Wants And Expects Us To Do.
The Truth Is He Holds Us Accountable To Share The Grace He Has So Extravagantly Given To Each Of Us.
Truth Is We Live Each Moment Of Each Day By And IN The Truth.
The Truth Is That People Are More Important Than Things—Jesus Did Things For People Even If It Violated The Way Things Had Always Been Because People Are More Important Than Things.
The Truth That We Must Grow In This Grace—Grow More Confident—Grow Wiser About The Truth—Applying The Truth In Real Life Situations.“What Would Jesus Do?” is more than a cute saying for shirts, bracelets and bumper stickers, it’s the way we live and respond to every situation life throws at us.
The Truth Is Persistent And Consistent For All Times, Places And People. It Doesn’t Change Or Fluctuate With The Times, Nor The Culture.
The Truth Is That Service And Sacrifice Are Part Of The Way. Service And Sacrifice Are What Truly Marks Us As Disciples Of Jesus And Members Of The Body Of Christ.
This Truth—Lived By Jesus Every Day He Walked This Earth As One Of Us—Is The Anchor For Every Age, Every Generation, And Every Moment Of Every Day We Walk This Earth.
Jesus As The Truth Is More Than A Creed Or Belief. It is the convictions that hold us, hold us closely when we need assurance of God’s love—and that challenges us to follow Jesus in The Way! The Truth Is That Jesus Is The Alpha And Omega, The First And The Last, The Beginning And The End. And whatever it is we do as believers in Christ, makes each day all about him and not anything about us!
Truth isn’t a weapon we use
against others. It’s the discipline that
reminds us that we are in love with God—and that God is in love with us.
3. He Is The Life!
The Life gives the journey meaning. It is The Life that should be the force
that makes our feet hit the floor every morning. Jesus is The Life that brings us to life with
a passion and excitement to be a part of what God is doing in our world.
people are waiting to die. They have
given up on the excitement and adventure of life. If Jesus is really in your heart, you don’t
have to wait to die to experience life, but you can start living, really living
with that sense of joy, purpose and anticipation of all that God wants to show
you every day. Jesus didn’t suffer and die
on that Cross for you to be sad and miserable; cranky and whiney; to grumble
His Life Is About Life That
Has An Eternal Meaning In The Here And Now. Jesus wants you to live and breathe, not
exist. And The Life is offered to you through
The Gift—the Gift of Perfect Love when Jesus went to the Cross to die for
you. But He didn’t just die for you—He
conquered death for you, too.
And the Resurrection Life isn’t just for that day when
the body dies. The Resurrection Life Is For Here
And Now. It begins with the Journey.
And the Journey begins with falling love with God. God is in love with YOU. Not with what you can do or ought to do. He is in love with YOU right now! Jesus is The Way into that love. Truth reminds us of this—that God is in love
with us. Truth isn’t a set of creeds—it
is more—Truth is a Person—Jesus Christ—And this makes Truth a Love
Relationship. This Is The Life!
is knowing we are loved by God—being in love with God—in the way that causes us
to be His Agents, Agents of Redemption for the world.
Are you simply waiting to die? Do you feel
that life has become too hard to do anything significant? Do you think it was easy for Jesus to forgive
the crowd while hanging on that cross?
Stop waiting to die—decide today to begin living.
What are you doing that is life-giving to others? Have you heard
of that TV series The Walking Dead? It’s
about the Zombie Apocalypse. Some call
it science fiction. It’s truer than you
may realize. The Walking Dead are all
around us. The thing is they don’t look
like those zombies on TV—they look like us.
But they are dead on the inside.
Well, this morning I’m waiting to leave to take my lovely wife, Debbie, to the surgery center for some minor surgery. You do know the difference between minor and major surgery, don’t you? Minor surgery is what someone else has–major surgery is what I have! No seriously, I do not take what is about to happen to her lightly. I’ve read those “disclaimers” about all that can go wrong. Really, no surgery is minor. But let me quickly get to the point.
Debbie has been having chronic sinusitis. And it’s not only affected her sinuses, but also fluid has built up behind her right ear drum, making it difficult to hear. Besides, everyone knows how annoying it is to have all that stuff behind an ear drum, am I right? Scans revealed a small cyst on the right side of her sinuses that is causing that sinus fluid back up, all the way to her ear. Dr. David told us that by removing that small cyst, it should allow all that fluid to drain out. Her body will function as it is designed, and hopefully this works. Otherwise, it may require the insertion of tubes to keep that nasty and annoying fluid from impairing her ability to hear.
Well, what does all that have to do with the Kingdom Life? I’m so glad you asked. The fluid behind her ear, that feeling of her ears being “stopped up”, started somewhere else. Her sister and I offered to put a vacuum cleaner up to her ear and see if we could suction that fluid out. She didn’t go for it.
You see, the problem isn’t in her ear. The source of the problem is somewhere else. Can you see a spiritual truth developing here? Until the cause is fixed, the problem persists. It’s easy to get fixated on what others are doing wrong. The chaos of my Tribe right now is being caused by this very thing. By pointing the finger at what others are doing wrong, it’s easy, so very easy to ignore what’s wrong with us. We think that the ills of our culture can be fixed if we can just get all those others “fixed”
Well, guess what. Treating symptoms will not cure the illness. Ask Debbie about this. Multiple shots and rounds of decongestants, antibiotics and multiple shots haven’t done a thing for all that fluid behind her ear drum. The problem is somewhere else–something growing where it shouldn’t be growing. So Dr. David is going to remove that “shouldn’t be there foreign object” so that her sinuses and ears can function like they are designed. Until that cyst is removed, nothing will be as it should.
Have you had your “AHA!” of where all this is going? If you haven’t, then let me draw you a picture; and explain it with a passage, actually a song written by one of the most prolific song writers ever: Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Without Dr. David having ordered the CT scan, without the radiologist knowing how to interpret the results, Debbie’s only hope would be more of the same–meds and shots. But those will not solve her problem. That foreign-it-doesn’t-belong-there object needs to be removed. I wish I could take her place and let the doctor work on me–but that won’t solve her problem.
Truth Time: I’m good at hiding the truth about me from myself. I’m better at hiding the truth about me from others. And so are you–unless we follow the advice of this song: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you.”
But don’t stop there. That next line is the all important one: “and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” The truth is that for God to lead us along that path of everlasting life, sometimes there are things that get in the way of us following. There’s a technical term for those things that get in the way of following Jesus. It’s called SIN. Sin is that foreign object that gets in the way of us living the way God designed us to live.
So, today, focus on this Psalm. Ask God to point out those nasty, annoying “cysts” that’s getting in the way and causing problems, lots of problems. Then yield and submit to that Divine Surgical Procedure we called “Redemption”. Allow Him to remove that sin in your life. Oh, and be sure you go back for regular “scans”, the struggle against sin isn’t over, yet. But it will be some day–it will be!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
review: We have only 1 word for “time”
but the Greek has these 2 words. Here is
the difference between the 2:
Chronos Time is Time measured by the
ticking of the clock. Kairos cannot be measured by the ticking of a
clock, But By The Beating Of The Heart. Kairos
Is When God Steps Into Our Time And Space And Does Something Incredible.
Chronos Is Measured by Quantity. Kairos
Is Measured By Quality.
We live in a Chronos World—but God offers us more than the ticking of the clock kind of life. He offers us the Kairos Life, and it’s found when we recognize Kairos Moments. So today we look at another way we can be in a place where the Kairos Time invades and overwhelms our Chronos Time. Turn in your Bibles, tablets or phones to Hebrews 1:1-3 and I want to share it with you in The Passion Translation. It spoke to my heart and I hope it speaks to your heart.
Here’s one of my personal observations: Most People Tend To Be Listening Impaired Rather
Than Hearing Impaired. There
is a difference between Hearing and Listening. Hearing is simply the act of
perceiving sound by the ear. Unless you
are hearing impaired, Hearing just
happens. However, Listening is
something you Intentionally choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your mind can
process those sounds.
How we live each day is rooted in what we choose to
listen to. Hearing is simple enough: the ears register the sounds produced and
the brain interprets them. But in
the act of Listening, we must be paying attention. Sometimes we may be distracted by something
we see, or we may be lost in our own thoughts and we are Hearing but not Listening.
Think about this worship service. Do you Hear worship in Chronos Time or do you Listen to it in Kairos Time? Here is an easy way to tell if you are Hearing or Listening. If you are waiting for the service to end—then you are Hearing in Chronos Time and your worship happens As Chronos Time.
But—if you wish the service
wasn’t over because you have been captivated and caught up in this moment of
Worship—then you are Listening In Kairos Time and your worship becomes a Kairos Moment.
If you can remember only 1 thing from today’s message,
this is it: Listening To God Leads To Learning And That Learning Leads To Holiness. Hearing God doesn’t accomplish that. Hearing only captures the sound. Listening Captures The Listener. We need
to Listen to God for Kairos Time to invade this Chronos Time
culture that surrounds us.
To remember this, we need to intentionally cultivate some Holy Habits that will move us from HearingGod to Listening To God. What I am about to share with you is not natural, nor is it easy. But when we do them Intentionally it opens our hearts and minds to the invasion of Kairos Time. To help you remember how to Intentionally develop this, the Spirit has reduced it to only 3 words: Each word comes with its own example from the Bible.
1. Be Alert
Become Aware Of Your Surroundings With A Sensitized Heart, Not A
Desensitized Mind. Do you understand the difference between
being sensitized and being desensitized?
Sensitized means to quickly detect and respond to even the slightest
changes in the moment. It’s being tuned
into your surroundings. Desensitized means we are emotionally insensitive or detached. It numbs us so much that we fail to act for
the sake of The Kingdom. Be aware of
what is ordinarily going on around you.
ordinary surroundings change, then it is likely to be a Kairos Moment. Moses is a great example of this. One day he was taking care of his
father-in-law’s sheep. He would have
been in that area many times, taking care of those sheep.
walked by that mountain so often that his mind could have become desensitized
to any changes. But on that day—Moses
knew something was different. A bush was
burning, but not burning up. He was
alert and he went to investigate. And
because Moses was alert and went to investigate, here’s what God said in Exodus 3:5—“Do not come any closer,”
the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy
When we are alert to God’s presence, Ordinary Chronos Time becomes ExtraordinaryKairos Time. An Ordinary Place becomes Holy Ground. Alert means to be on the lookout for what’s happening—and if in your ordinary day-to-day life, you do not expect to find Holy Moments and Holy Ground, guess what—you won’t find it. But, if like Moses, you are alert to your surroundings, any moment will become the place that Kairos invades the Chronos.
2. Be Sensitive.
Love God So Deeply That Whatever Moves Him To Act, Causes Your
Heart To Act. One of the things Jesus manifested in His
daily life was His sensitivity to the people around. He was so sensitive that one day He knew when
a woman touched the hem of His robe. Jesus was sensitive to Zacchaeus, sensitive to
the lepers, sensitive to the hungry crowds.
He’s sensitive because He knows the right time to move. Samuel is a great example. After King Saul had turned against God, God
sent Samuel on a quest—to find the next king of Israel. God led Samuel to the family of Jesse.
And we read in 1
Samuel 16:3—“Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you
which of his sons to anoint for me.” But God doesn’t tell Samuel which son. Samuel is ready to pick the tallest,
strongest, oldest and most handsome son to be the next king.
that wasn’t the one and God said in Verse
7—“The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but
the Lord looks at the heart.”
God thinks, plans and operates on a different level than us. He wants us to know and to see what HE knows and sees, so we need to be sensitive to God because He is aware of what lies within people—both their needs and their potential. We need to be sensitive to God because He is on the move and working in the hearts and lives of the broken and fallen All The Time.
3. Be Ready
When God Steps Into Our Time And Space He Is Ready To Act—And So
Should We. God steps into
our space and time Intentionally. Readiness on our part needs to be Intentional,
too! Being ready means that we seek
and anticipate the movement of God—in the culture and in the lives
Isaiah is a great illustration on the importance of being ready. In chapter 6 we find Isaiah grieving the death of King Uzziah. Naturally he goes to the Temple to grieve. And in that moment of grief, Isaiah sees God—but he thinks his goose is cooked—that he is about to die. Isaiah admits his condition—that he’s a sinner surrounded by sinners. But God redeems and purifies Isaiah, and then He asks this question in Isa. 6:8—“Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.”
Isaiah was ready to go! And here’s the thing you need to really pay close attention to in Isaiah’s response:
He didn’t know where he would be sent,
didn’t know what he would have to do,
and he didn’t know what that message would be.
But he was still ready to go!
If he was only Hearing God I don’t believe he would have been excited nor even wanted to go. But because he was Listening to God, Intentionally processing that Kairos Moment, he was ready to go implement that plan of God. God is looking for people to implement His plan without their corrections or additions. God doesn’t need us to improve his plans. We need to respond like Isaiah:
We must be ready to go not knowing where it might be
Ready to do not knowing exactly what we will be doing
Ready to speak not knowing exactly what He wants us to say.
Just be ready.
is always looking for ordinary lives through which HE can do extraordinary
things. I mean, if it takes being extraordinary
to do what God wants—then how would the world know that it’s God doing it? They would think it’s the result of extraordinary
Sometimes things you may not even want to do can open the door for the Lord to use you to impact the life of another! Let me tell you the story of John Egglen. John had never preached a sermon in his life—until that morning. In January 1850, snow buried his town of Colchester, England. He thought about staying home. Who would go to church that day? But he reconsidered. He was, after all, one of the leaders and if leaders didn’t go, who would?
put on his boots, hat, and coat and walked the six miles to the Methodist
Church. Only thirteen people were
present: 12 members and 1 guest. Even
the pastor was snowed in. Someone
suggested they go home. John would hear
none of that. They’d come this far; they
would have a service. Besides, they had
a guest; a thirteen-year-old boy. But
who would preach? John was the only leader
there, so it fell to him. His sermon lasted
only ten minutes.
didn’t make a lot of sense, he struggled to make any point at all. But at the end, a Kairos Moment stirred him,
and He looked straight at the boy who was that guest and said: “Young man, look to Jesus. Look! Look!
the challenge make a difference? This
boy grew into a man and when he told this story he said, “I did look, and then and there the cloud on my heart lifted, the
darkness rolled away, and at that moment I saw the sun.” The boy’s name? Charles Haddon Spurgeon—England’s
prince of preachers.
of thousands of people came into a relationship with Jesus, and even more
deepened their commitment to Jesus through the life and preaching of C.H.
Spurgeon. It would not have happened,
except that John Egglen recognized his own Kairos Moment. And If You Don’t Have This Hope And Belief
That You Can Make A Difference, Then Chronos Time Has Devoured You.
Egglen was Listening to God. Could it be, that somewhere around here, is
the next C. H. Spurgeon, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, E. Stanley Jones, C. S.
Lewis, Charles Swindoll, Charles Stanley?
knows what impact 1 person will make down the line, when we are Listening to God!
Here Are Your Next Steps:
hearing God or Listening to God? Make an
intentional decision to Listen. This is a decision you need to make each day
and several times during the day.
someone with whom you can deepen each other’s spiritual life. Have
2, 3, 4 no more than 5 who will love you enough to tell you the truth about
yourself, and who will allow you to do the same.
here to see what needs to be done, and volunteer. There’s always
something to do, something that needs to be done. These are Kairos Moments waiting for you.
complaint to become your job description.
Look around this community to
see what needs to be done and do something to help out. Whatever is wrong, work to make it right!
Well, here I go again on another Journey. It seems I’ve become a bit slack in my spiritual discipline of reading the Word. I was looking at my Bible on the desk and it was like I heard, “You know, it’s been a while since we talked. Don’t you think it’s time to catch up?” So I reached over and took it; then I found me a journal to write in, and an ink pen. That’s all: the Bible, a clean sheet of paper and a pen. No commentaries and not even Google to help me look up words and thoughts. Just me, The Book, and of course, the Holy Spirit.
Speaking of which (the Holy Spirit, that is), I’m wondering right now why did I have to have all those commentaries (because I started this journey with Jesus before the internet was so readily accessible)? And why do so many today have this book, that website, that author along side THAT Book? Over the past several years, I discovered to my amazement, that the Holy Spirit actually helps me understand what I’m reading! Who could have ever imagined such a thing? Well, God could.
Back to The Book. Where would I ever begin such a journey? There are so many books to choose from. One would think I would have to spend a lot of time deciding which book to begin with. This time, I had no trouble. He, the Holy Spirit, whispered, “The Book of Acts.” So that’s what I’m doing. I’m not reading a chapter a day–nothing against people who read the Book that way–just reading until I sense Him saying, “Let that sink in for a while.”
And this morning my Companion and Comforter said, “You know, you’ve been talking, I mean talking a lot, about starting back to regular blogging. Why not share what you’re discovering? After all, I did give you that gift of writing.” So who am I to argue with the Wisdom of The Ages.
Today’s entry is simply about the title applied to The Book Of Acts. It’s been titled “The Book Of The Acts Of The Apostles.” For many, many years I’ve insisted that those earliest editors misnamed this Book. I wish right now I could borrow Doc Brown’s time-traveling DeLorean and go back to that first group of editors when they came up with this title and ask: “What are you thinking? It’s NOT the acts of the Apostles. It’s the Acts of the Holy Spirit in surrendered people!” Gee whiz, guys. You’re better than that! Think, man, then listen to that title. A bit short-sighted, don’t you think?”
Why do I think that it’s an inaccurate title? I’m so glad you asked me that question. To read Dr. Luke’s stories with the title “Acts of the Apostles” taints your thought processes, and it’s easy to conclude that what happened then, was “limited to a handful of select special people and not really for me or my time.” Calling it the Acts Of The Apostles limits what this Book can do in you and I.
First, it relegates it just another History Book. Now, I love History more than most. I blame it on my High School History teacher Ronald Pettus. He is a collector of artifacts, many of which he brought into the classroom. He filled my little mind with more than memorizing dates–but left me hungering to know more about the people and the times. This is a priceless tool in understand THE BOOK! If we see Acts are only a history book of a select few people, we’ve missed the point of Dr. Luke’s work.
Second, we slam the door shut to the potential of the Holy Spirit using folks like us. There’s more going on here than dates and geography. If we agree that the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are all about Jesus (and they are), then Acts MUST be all about The Holy Spirit, and it is. Each Amen on that? The Book of Acts opens up with Jesus telling those first disciples about, guess who? The Holy Spirit! And in Chapter 2, all Heaven breaks loose on earth. And it all happens because of and through the power of The Holy Spirit!
Now, I want to add a little side bar comment about the current state of the church culture. For the last century, more emphasis is put on human understanding and abilities rather than The Holy Spirit. I see it in my Tribe as Progressives try to tell me they know more about what God wants and expects than the Bible. Add to this that so many in churches want to hear what someone else says about the Bible rather than read it for themselves.
The result has been that a powerful Stallion has been reduced to a gelding. People are following today, an impotent message about an impotent life. And once again, Jesus weeps. So staring tomorrow, I will share from my personal journal some of the insights and wonder I am discovering as The Teacher, teaches me.
And remember, Love God with all your heart. Love others and way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!
Well, God just wouldn’t leave me alone about this, so here I go. Before I start, please know this isn’t about me. It is about something I did, but it’s not about me. Now that this is clear as muddy water, on to what happened to me.
Yesterday I delivered a gift from Mt. Vernon to a young single parent who is living like many single parents–under great pressure. I went to the home, introduced myself, and presented her with a gift from the Body of Christ at Mt. Vernon. As with baptisms and weddings, this is the part of my job I absolutely love. I simply told her, “God loves you and so do we.” I left and went to Wal Mart to exchange something and pick up a few more things.
I’m waiting in the refund line when my phone rang. OK, here’s where the story takes a twist. When I’m in a line I NEVER answer my phone. I consider it rude and a tarnishing of the image of me as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. The number that came up was not in my contacts. My natural response to a number not in my contacts is, “Oh, dear Lord, another telemarketer!” Usually at that point, I send it to voicemail.
But this time, I didn’t. Something, well, actually SOMEONE said, “Answer it Randy!” So, I did. On the other end of that call was that single Mom crying profusely, telling me how much that gift meant to her. She needed to express her gratitude. And God selected me to hear that gratitude. And I was overwhelmed with gratitude that I had a small part in reminding this single Mom, she was loved by God and that He remembers her every need.
But…WHAT IF….I sent that message to Voicemail? Maybe in a couple of days I would have listened to it, since it was from someone NOT in my contacts….and I would have missed the joy of her heart….and being humbled to be a part of God’s Kingdom work in even a small way.
And then I remembered….on one of those typical days when Jesus walked this earth. There was a crowd, pressing against Him. When…well just read Luke 8:45–““Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” It was that woman who had run out of hope that she could ever be whole. But she believed if she could just touch the hem of that garment, it would be OK. And Jesus knew the moment she touched that hem.
And I wonder, how many people today are looking to touch the hem of hope and reach out to us for that hope, but we are unaware of it? We live in a “Way Too Busy Culture” to notice the people pressing in against us. And that is sad….too sad. So be aware of those pressing in against you. They just may be looking for Hope! You are the HEM of HIM! If you’re too busy to help someone find Hope, you’re just too busy. Jesus knew when she touched that hem, and you can know it, too–when you are tuned in to the Holy Spirit!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!