The title is not a typographical error nor is it an example of using a wrong word that sounds like another word. The word is: Sow! Early this morning, while it is still dark, I was wondering what to write about today. And there wasn’t any idea floating around in my gray matter. Then it hit me! Not an idea! But a pain–a pain caused by yesterday’s activity.
Rain was coming, and I needed to get a green field planted for the upcoming deer season. I do not have a tractor–but I do have a tiller and hand tools. I loaded up the tiller, fertilizer, and seeds and off I went. I tilled up the soil, fertilized it, tilled it again, then planted the seeds. Not just one kind–but a variety of seeds. Oats. Winter Wheat. Rye grass. A variety of clover. And turnip greens.
Though the air temperature wasn’t all that bad yesterday, we did have typical Alabama humidity of somewhere around 110-125%. There were more than a few moments when I just wanted to stop and wait until another day to finish this project. But I set myself a goal–and I completed it. And now my bones, joints, and muscles ache–oh, brother do they ache! But it did get me to thinking–about Sowing Seeds as well as the end results.
Why plant such a variety of seeds? I want the deer to see a smorgasbord of great and wonderful things to eat–things that are proven they like to eat. I want to attract them in–so why plant anything they won’t eat? And what does all this have to do with Kingdom Living? This is what.
Every moment of every day every person is sowing seeds of some type. And those seeds will produce something that will either attract or repel. You can’t plant saw briars and hope to produce roses.
Even The Bible teaches this horticultural principle. Look at Galatians 6:6-7 (NLT)—“Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.” Many people are sowing seeds of:
Just look around! Watch the news! Listen to people talk! Such seeds as the aforementioned are growing everywhere. They repel people. They are repulsive and destructive. The fields look like kudzu patches–choking the life out of anyone and everyone. It’s not surprising to see what grows from such sowing. It’s that horticultural principle–sow seeds, add nutrients and water–and they grow into their nature. You can’t plant spinach seeds and expect to see watermelons.
But here’s the thing. There are a lot more varieties of seeds that can be planted, other than the aforementioned list. And these seeds live by the very same horticultural principles. Humor me with a few examples:
And so many more wonderful seeds!
These types of seeds are far more attractive than repulsive. These types of seeds come from Jesus Christ. And Jesus promised that if He was lifted up, people would come to Him. I want to close out with a word to those who think they are or self-identify as “Christians”. Make sure the seeds you are sowing are the seeds that produce the character of Jesus. When Jesus was walking in the midst of His creation as one He created, sinful, messy, broken people were attracted to Him. Religious folks, not so much–with a few exceptions. There’s another verse in Galatians 6 related to sowing. Verse 9: “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
After 4 hours of working on my greenfield, I was giving serious contemplation to giving up. But I let the thought of what it will produce override my pitiful desire to quit. So, what are you sowing today?
A text message this morning got me to thinking. My thinking went way back in time–October 1974 to be exact. This was when I was appointed to serve 2 small congregations while I pursued licensing as a pastor at the ripe old age of 18 years old. I mention this because we all know that beginning at 18, we tend to be full of vim and vigor; or was the vim and vinegar? Come to think of it, the latter is more true for me than I want to admit. My thinking moved forward through all the years I served as a pastor all the way to right now.
And now? I have less vim, but at times, a whole lot more vinegar. If you have followed me here on this blog, you know it’s true. And you may wonder who is about the become the object of my vinegary thoughts. It is my profession–“the” pastor. I was trained in the classical model of “The Professional Pastor”. I had someone whom I thought was a colleague, tell me once after I made the decision to remain in serving small and medium churches as what we call a “Local Pastor”, “You really need to become one of us.” His poke was that until one was an ordained elder in the UMC, they weren’t really pastors. By the way, I was eventually ordained, but not to be “one of them”.
The text message from this morning, well, it brought me under conviction of the Holy Spirit. Stay with me a moment, especially if you are a pastor. And really hang in with me if you are studying to become a pastor. In reflecting over these past 46 plus years, one picture stands clear to me. The church in the U.S. has been in a steady decline; almost to the stage of an avalanche. There have been all kinds of explanations, even justifications (even though we can never justify decline) for this event. But the biggest thing is the placing of blame on this state of disgrace.
I realize that some of this decline is caused by Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters who vainly think the local church exists for them–and who fight tooth and nail to keep their control. But from my perspective–we pastors share the major share of the blame. We were trained to be professionals rather than authentic people who are to be servant leaders. I remember an incident at my previous appointment. After a funeral in my first year, the family was gathered for a meal in the church fellowship hall. I noticed the tea glasses, water glasses, and coffee cups were nearly empty. Well, I proceeded to go to each table refilling their beverage of choice. One of the church members mentioned, “This is our new pastor.” and the response was obviously one of shock when she said, “Oh, really?” To my fellow pastors–if you expect church folks to do things you are unwilling to do or think it is beneath your training, then you’re in the wrong place.
I am convinced that Professionally Trained Pastors are the Achilles Heel of the U.S. Church. It did not happen overnight–it took centuries for this to develop and in 2021, we are reaping the harvest of this with declining congregations. When I began this journey, I thought my job was to herd them up and get them moving in the right direction under MY leadership. What I discovered was that this model was more like herding cats. So I started looking for a different model to emulate. Here’s what I noticed over the past 4 decades plus of noticing.
The Underachiever Model. This is the pastor who really doesn’t care about the flock, just the paycheck, and the next church.
The Don’t Rock The Boat Model. This pastor is focused on survival–their own and that of their family. These fear confrontation–and as such, cannot guide the church to where it needs to be.
Then on the opposite end is The Dynamite Model. I do not mean as in dynamic–but dynamite, C-4 explosives, and the like. They are convinced that their job is to correct the problems that they see as the real problems. Their definition of “real” problems are typically about 7 bubbles off plumb. They do catastrophic damage to a congregation and leaves the damage behind for the next pastor to deal with. And you can always count on The Dynamite Model to leave a few unexploded devices behind which will explode at the worst possible moment.
The One Issue Model. This pastor has defined the one issue that a church needs to address even before they arrive. They are convinced that their own wisdom knows which issue the church MUST address.
The Goodyear Blimp Model. I’m not talking about their physical size. It’s the size of their ego. It is large and very inflated. They want the church to know that they have the latest Rock Star Pastor. I once listened to a mega-church’s podcast of a worship service. Truthfully, I only listened for about 3 minutes. The person who was going to bring God’s word opened up that “their” pastor and wife would be back next week. And she said, “Let’s give a hand to Pastor ________ and his wife _______ and let them know how much we missed them. I changed to another podcast–it was about herding cats.
And last but by no means least, The Control Freak Model. Churches are not churches without them. Instead of checking the pulse of the congregation, they are putting the thumb down on folks. Nothing can be done without their permission. If something is done without their permission? Forget that adage that says it is easier to ask for forgiveness after the fact rather than seek permission first. Obviously, whoever came up with that adage never had to deal with The Control Freak Pastor. They make Kim Jong-un look like the second coming of George Washington.
Why do I say that The Professional Pastor the primary cause of church decline? I look at the first Models of the church. There was leadership, trained leadership–but that leadership did not get in the way of the church reaching thousands and thousands of people. Oh, for sure, when a local church lost its sense of its true mission, someone was there to set the record straight. And then turned them loose to be The Body Of Christ. No one had to ask permission to lift up the name of Jesus. No one had to ask approval to feed the hungry, take care of the widows and orphans, and bear witness to Jesus and the power of the Cross to save. No one waited for some Professional Pastor to do the work.
There is another Model, a Model that the U.S. church in particular needs today. I would call us The Pastor Model. This pastor guides the congregation into a deeper relationship with Jesus, first and foremost. Then The Pastor Model challenges and equips the Congregation to BE the Body of Christ. And when the Congregation wants to be that Body–he or she gives them PERMISSION to be the Body Of Christ. The congregation doesn’t have to ask The Pastor Model for permission to do anything that lifts up the name of Jesus–and lifts up the least, the last, and the lost. In recent years, when someone comes to me and asks, “Is it OK with you if I do this, that, or the other?”, my response now is: “If it exalts Jesus, if the honors God and the Holy Spirit, if it touches the least, the last, or the lost, then know you have God’s permission and that’s good enough. Now, can I help you or do I just need to stay out of the way?”
In my tribe, only Ordained Pastors can administer the sacraments–as if we are somehow more holy than anyone else. Local pastors can administer the sacraments ONLY in the church they serve. The irony of my tribe is that it also professes the power and importance of the priesthood of all believers. I guess all doesn’t mean all. Before this pandemic hit, there was a significant rise in the number of House Churches. These are homes where people are hungry for a deeper relationship with Jesus, a connection with other Followers, and believe that the Kingdom Of God is needed in their neighborhoods, towns, cities, communities, states, and nation.
To my fellow Pastors, encourage your congregations. Inspire your people given to your care (not your dictatorship)! Don’t be afraid to give them permission to be who God calls them to be, The Body Of Christ. Support them in what they do. Help them but only when asked. Praise them when they look like Jesus. And if they get off-mission–gently take them aside and remind them who WE BOTH serve. You can’t build someone up (remember Ephesians 4:11-12) if you constantly tear them down, or worse, never give them the opportunity to do the real work of Jesus Christ.
If some pastor (or Churchian or Tenured Pewsitter) is upset with me, understand I will soon be 65, closer to the moment I stand before my Judge. The last thing I want to be held accountable for is my failure to speak the truth in love. So if you are offended–it is what it is. I still love you and my prayer for you is that your heart, mind, and eyes will be opened to the Mission God has called us to do.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him.
This morning my inspiration came from Terry Teykl (check him out here). It was yesterday’s email that I finally got around to reading this morning. He said, well, just let me Control C and Control V (that’s “copy and paste”): “Jesus was crucified between two thieves, one on each side of him. Today, we also live with the possibility of two thieves taking their place on each side of us. One thief is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow. Both of these thieves steal from us and stop us from living in the present. But gratitude is an antidote to their thievery.”
When we allow the chaotic culture that is inundating us to hold our attention, then Terry’s 2 thieves get on each side of us; and the results are annihilating any sense or hope of being Kingdom People. You’ve seen it: people who are pining day after day for what use to be. Then there are those whining that the future is hopeless. Two thieves who taunt us into submission. And we, who should be That Different Voice, have pined and whined our way into The Enemy’s Camp. Trust me on this one, The Enemy takes great joy when those who should be following Jesus allow the thieves to steal our purpose.
I propose to you today that there is a third option. Instead of pining and whining why not start Shining? Supposedly the British author Charles Dickens once said that in America we have it all mixed up. He said, “Use that one day just for complaining and griping. Use the other 364 days to thank God for the many blessings he has showered upon you.” Sound advice, even if he is from across the pond.
What better way to counter the culture than choosing to be grateful! Read and listen carefully to what Paul wrote:
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)
Paul didn’t say to be thankful for, but be thankful in! Think you don’t have anything to be thankful for? Check out Joe’s story! He was pampered and spoiled by his daddy. He was daddy’s favorite and he loved to brag about it. But one day his brothers threw him in a hole, took his prized coat, covered it with blood to pretend he had been dragged off by a wild animal, and then sold Arrogant Joe into slavery. If that wasn’t bad enough he was sold again in a country where he didn’t know their language. He managed to rise up only to be lied about and thrown into prison. If that wasn’t bad enough, he helped a fellow prisoner who said he wouldn’t forget Joe–but he did; for 2 years he forgot all about Joe.
Joe could have pined for the days when he was his daddy’s favorite son with all the perks it brought. Joe could have whined about his situation in that Egyptian prison–which was not much more than the hole his brothers pushed him into. Two thieves on each side of Joe; but Joe did not choose to pine or whine. He made the conscious choice to Shine! All those bad times really did to Joe was sand off his arrogance and taught him the importance of Godly Character.
And when Joe could have exacted revenge on those brothers–he didn’t listen to Pining and he ignored Whining. Here’s what he said:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Genesis 50:20 (ESV)
I love how The Message renders it: “Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people.” Joseph was not thankful for the pit or the prison or the injustice. Joseph was thankful that God was busy at work redeeming all the bad in order to bring out The Shine!
Don’t let those treacherous thieves called Pining and Whining steal your life. Do what Paul said, Be thankful! So today, go out there and be thankful. When you’re thankful you can’t help but be joyful, kind and helpful. It will make you Shine like the sun; better yet–Shine Like The Son! God is working for good in your life and mine–even if we are unjustly thrown in prison like Joseph. And if that’s not enough to cause you to desire Gratitude in this day–do it anyway because it will annoy the stew out of the piners and whiners. I’d call that a great day!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him–and it will when you choose GRATITUDE!
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.
Today it’s the story of Esther. It’s around 470 BC in Persia. King Xerxes is throwing a wild party for the
leading men of his nation. On a drunken
whim, the king orders his wife, Queen Vashti, to come and parade herself before
all his guests. She refuses, creating
panic among the men: What if their wives
heard about it and followed her example? Terrified at the prospect of such a thing,
they convince the king to get rid of Queen Vashti. But the king gets lonely. Seeing his misery, the king’s advisors devise
a plan. They will host a beauty pageant, gathering the most dazzling women from
the kingdom, so the king can have “the pick of the litter”. Enter Esther!
Esther’s cousin Mordecai encourages her to enter the
Beauty Pageant. But he wants her to hide
something important—that she is a Jew—numbered among the people of God. If the promoters of this beauty pageant find
out she’s a Jew, they won’t ever consider her.
And he was right in that analysis.
If she wants to win the king’s favor, it will come at the price of
hiding who she really is. She’ll have to
act just like everyone else. And we know
Something happens, though, to throw all of this into
jeopardy. It happens because of Mordecai’s resolve to be God’s Person. There is a man in the kingdom named Haman, who
is second in command to King Xerxes. That’s
a lot of power, but it’s never enough for men like Haman.
He not only wants power; he wants others to flatter
him, and inflate his already oversized ego. That’s Haman—powerful, insecure, and a threat.
Whenever he passes by, everyone must bow
down to him in an elaborate tribute. But
there’s Mordecai—so insistent that Esther conceals her true identity—decides
this business with Haman has gone on long enough. It was time to stand up and be counted. Mordecai refuses to bow down.
Haman is furious with his actions and he hatches a
plot. He goes to King Xerxes and informs
him of a people—God’s people—who are causing problems. He convinces the king that it’s in the king’s
best interests to completely annihilate them by genocide. He even offers to finance the project! Without blinking an eye, the king gives a nod
of approval. Posters are soon plastered
all over the kingdom, saying: Kill all
the Jews—young and old, women and children—on March 7 next year. When Mordecai hears the news, he does what
any good Jew would do—he repents.
He puts on sackcloth and covers himself with ashes—the
clothing and gestures of repentance, and goes through the city, weeping and crying.
Why offer repentance? Hasn’t the wrong
been done by Haman? Mordecai repents
because he knows he has wronged God by trying to hide. To borrow the words of James 4:4,
Mordecai realizes that “If you want to be a friend of the world, you
make yourself an enemy of God.”
When Esther hears about her cousin’s behavior, she is concerned.
She doesn’t care what’s going on; she just wants him to stop it. She sends him a message to stop it. But Mordecai refuses to turn away from his
repentance. So she sends another
message. Let’s pick up the story in Esther 4:13-17
13 Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. 14If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who Knows If Perhaps You Were Made Queen For Just Such A Time As This?” 15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.”17 So Mordecai went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.
Esther 4:13-17 (NLT) (emphasis mine)
At the risk of racing through this amazing story, let me sum it up quickly. She gets her opportunity and invites both Haman and the king to 2 special banquets. Haman is delighted—proud and puffed up to know he is the only person chosen to attend the gathering alongside the king. His spirits are quickly cooled because he saw Mordecai again and again he refused to bow down before Haman. When he came home, he was complaining to his wife and family, “I’m the only one invited to the banquet the Queen has prepared for the King, and this, this heathen Mordecai dishonors me.” So, his wife suggests he erect a tall pointed pole and impale Mordecai on it. Well, Haman is happy again. Haman thinks life is good again.
But the King couldn’t sleep the night before the
banquet, so he had some servants read to him from the archives of his life as
King. I don’t know if he was wanting his
ego stroked or if he thought the reading would be so boring he would fall
asleep. But then he hears about how a
Jew named Mordecai had saved his life by revealing an assassination plot.
Then he found out he had never properly recognized Mordecai for this, so he decides to honor him. What happens next is pure irony—God is the Master of Irony! The King sees Haman who is about to ask permission to kill Mordecai, and asks Haman how should someone really special be honored. Haman, thinking it’s himself the King wants to honor says, “Give him one of your royal robes, give him one of your horses to ride and have a parade to tell everyone how wonderful this man is (wink-wink).” The king says, “Great idea! Go get Mordecai ready for the parade, and you lead the parade telling everyone what a great man Mordecai is.”
This humiliates Haman, but that evening it gets
worse. Esther then pleads for her
people’s lives and reveals Haman’s evil plot and this angers the king. Xerxes storms out, Haman falls on Esther’s couch
to ask for mercy just when the King comes back in. He gets the wrong idea, and has Haman impaled
on the same pole he had built for Mordecai.
Since the King cannot undo his decree to have the Jews killed, he gives another decree—they can defend themselves and their families. Mordecai is then promoted to Haman’s position. Let’s see if we can learn why The 21st Century Church needs a Change of Direction and Change of Heart, For Such A Time As This:
1. We Are Living In A Time Of Moral Confusion.
If I or any preacher were to say: “We are living in a time of immorality!”,
there would be a loud echo of “AMEN!”
And we could cite instance after instance of why this would be true. No doubt about it, immorality is in
overabundance. But I’m not
so convinced the real issue of our culture is the immorality—as much as it is
the Moral Confusion which exists. The Crisis of our culture is the way it
The word definition of morality is simple: “It Is
The Principles That Mark The Distinction Between Right And Wrong Or Good And Bad
Behavior.” Our culture
defines morality in contextual ways, rather than by Truth. Here’s what I am trying to say. Our culture defines right and wrong based
on context, on the setting. If it’s OK in one setting, then it’s not
And it’s frustrating for us who identify as followers of Jesus. Our culture needs to see a Morality, of what is good or bad, right or wrong, in us. I’m not talking about is it right or wrong to have a drink or divorce or the lottery or cut grass on Sunday—I’m talking about us living a full and joyful life by the standard God has given us.
You and I are born for such a time as this—To Show How Meaningful Life Is When We Live It By God’s Standard. This Chaos Is Alienating People—And We Can Be The Ones God Uses To End This Chaos.
Without a solid foundation to define morality—the end result is that instability of character within people’s lives. The Merriam-Webster Learner’ Dictionary defines Character this way:
“The Way Someone Thinks, Feels, And Behaves; A Set Of Qualities That Are Shared By Many People In A Group; A Set Of Qualities That Make A Place Or Thing Different From Other Places Or Things.
Merriam-Webster Learner’ Dictionary
Focus on that last
part: A Set Of Qualities That Make A Place Or Thing Different From Other
Places Or Things. The
instability of our culture is the direct result of the lack of being different
from other places and things. Most
people don’t follow Jesus say that it’s because they don’t like the church.
And when they ask what the church is, they identify us
by things we are against. Character of heart and life isn’t measured by
just what we are against—it is measured more by what we are for.
Watch the news, look at Washington D.C., look at what’s happening in the streets. It’s not the fault of the Democrats, nor the Republicans. It’s the despair that’s fueling all of it. No one sees or senses any hope for anything better. So they argue and fight and point the finger of blame. They become fearful and angry at each other.
because of the absence of one thing:
Hope! Democrats can’t create hope. Republicans can’t create hope. Socialists can’t create hope. Government can’t create hope. And the hate, anger and frustrations of the
people can’t create hope. These only
intensify the despair. Hope is
It’s the failure of so many in churches who have either forgotten, or never understood, That WE Have Been Born, WE Have Been REBORN For Such A Time As This. Despair is ripping apart the fabric of our nation and world.
We Need A Recalculating Moment To See That We Are Born And Reborn For Such A Time As This. To Bring Moral Clarity, Lasting Character And Living Hope.
A Day Comes When We’ve Got To Stand, Be Counted, And
Fight To Proclaim What We’ve Been Entrusted With. Today Is That Day.
We should know we will never win a pagan culture by mimicking it and all it values. The strongest influence we can bring in these chaotic and desperate times is to simply be peculiar—to be, with neither pride nor apology, followers of Jesus.
Our call, God’s vision for this place, will reveal the
character of Jesus—a character saturated with love, mercy, grace and
compassion—a character that just doesn’t point out what’s wrong with others,
but sees their hurts and their needs—a character that does more than see their
needs, but does something to meet those needs.
Your Next Steps is to accept these 3
truths and live them out:
1. The People Of God Do Not Succeed In A Pagan World By Hiding Their True Identity.
2. You Can Win Admiration By Conforming To The Standards Of The Age, But It Will Take You Further Away From Having A Heart For God.
3. We Have An Enemy Who Is Out To Destroy Us, And No Amount Of Hiding Will Save Us.
Did you catch Mordecai’s last warning to Esther?
“Don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive. If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, Help And Deliverance Will Arrive For The Jews From Someplace Else; but you and your family will be wiped out.”
God is at work bringing help and deliverance to this vast spiritual wasteland. The issue for you and for all of us, will it be through some other people, or will we rise For Such A Time As This?
Good morning. I want to share something I learned from God’s classroom at the beach. Yesterday the Holy Spirit excitedly whispered in my ear, “Did you notice that?” And I replied, “Well, yes I did! It’s wonderful that personal smiled and said to me ‘Good morning!’ You don’t see much of that in the ordinary world.” I didn’t know that person. Didn’t know where they were from, what their politics were, what their social status was, and I didn’t even know what college football team they supported.
It was the norm to see people smiling, saying hello, good morning, good afternoon. and making conversation with strangers. One man pointed out to us that there was a small stingray near us and informed us that he also saw a couple of jellyfish. Normally you would not see this type of interaction between complete strangers. But in that moment, that location, there were no strangers. Simply people sharing that bond of being at the beach
We went to Lulu’s, a well known local eating establishment, last evening for seafood. You know you can’t go to the beach without eating seafood. We went early to avoid waiting in line. There were several people who had our same idea. There were lots of conversations going on. Smiles were everywhere and lots of laughing. It was then that I noticed 1 table, a family it appeared to be. There was not much talking….no smiles….looking almost miserable in a place full of smiling, friendly people. They definitely did not fit in with the rest of the crowd. I wondered if they had brought their own misery with them, instead of leaving it at home.
We were in an environment that was counter-cultural to much of normal living–the exception being that one family. Typically one doesn’t encounter this type of friendliness in the ordinary every-day world. People rarely look others in the eye, smile or engage in casual conversation. They tend to be more guarded, even suspicious of others. And here is the question that has rooted itself in my heart and mind: Why aren’t people as friendly in the ordinary world as they are at the beach?
Now mind you, that I’m not accusing these friendly beach-goers as being unfriendly the rest of the time. Hopefully they are, but if you examine the ordinary world you do not see kind of friendliness this happening. Many are like that family at Lulu’s that was a stark contrast to the rest of that environment. Cold, reserved, disconnected from the world that is around them.
Why? Perhaps it is suspicion that causes us to keep others at arm’s length. It could be fear–fear that the other person will somehow take advantage of them. What ever the reason, we tend to be more protective “out there in the real world”. And here is where there are many moments for the Kingdom Witness–to share a smile and be friendly because we are followers of Jesus.
Why were people so quick to flock to Jesus? I think it must have been His smile and friendly personality. I do not believe that Jesus looked anything like He is portrayed in “official” church art. He looks at times too sad, too mad, and way too weak. Would you really want to be in the presence of Sad or Mad or Pathetically Weak? Don’t think so! I believe Jesus looked more like artist Stephen Sawyer paints Him. Check him out on his website: www.art4god.com
In this suspicious, unkind and manipulative culture, we need to be more like Jesus. And it all begins with being kind and friendly. Being distant and rude requires little talent and no effort. It’s everywhere. But…a warm smile….a good morning….a timely thank you…holding a door open for another person….letting someone go ahead of you in the check-out lane…leaving your quarter in your shopping cart at Aldi’s….and best of all, listening to people and taking the time to know them without judging them.
What happened to being friendly? Nothing. Being friendly is still out there. Unfortunately it seems to be reserved for special places, like the beach. What if we, who claim to be followers of Jesus, would do what Jesus did when He walked on His Creation as one He created? Smile and be friendly. The times Jesus was mad was when He had to deal with the really religious people, or with people who simply wanted Jesus to entertain them.
One of the things I am absolutely enjoying in our new appointment is the setting: rural, small town Alabama. Friendliness and kindness are seen more often. Who among us wouldn’t agree that our culture needs to change–radically change. Change happens like measles spreads in schools–one person to another person. Would you really like to be more like Jesus? Do something that Jesus did? What if you decided that your part of the world is as friendly as folks at the beach? Perhaps what would happen would be that unfriendliness would look as out of place as that family at Lulu’s. It’s easy to make it happen–smile, be friendly, engage in conversation, listen, and get to know others. I leave you with Proverbs 15:30 (NLT)
A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health.
Now, if you will kindly excuse me, I need to leave. The bell has rung for class to begin. And The Teacher doesn’t like for us to be late. Might miss something, ya’ know. Now get out there, Followers of Jesus and be friendly!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Hi
Give up 21 minutes of cruising Facebook posts and emojis, or whining and complaining to watch this episode of Mike Rowe’s Returning The Favor. This, my friends, is what the Kingdom of God looks like. When you invest the time to get to know someone, even “knuckleheads”, the impact cannot be measured. What if instead of judging someone as a “knucklehead who doesn’t deserve my time” you invest in them. Get to know them. Everyone has a story and their story may be the one who transforms a community, a culture, that ONE life that God has big plans for, but needs you to set it in motion! There’s a small probability that it “might” happen in a church building, but it’s more likely “out there” in real life! Here is from the website of GET FOCUSED.
Get Focused is a movement that promotes reading and exercise to children around the world using a unique program that encourages them to buy their favorite books using exercise. The mission of the company is to inspire millions of young people around the world to read and exercise for a lifetime.
The company was launched in 2009 by then fitness model and personal trainer Goldin Martinez as a way to empower young people from his old neighborhood.
Reading and exercise changed Goldin’s life and he decided that on his 21st birthday he would launch a movement called Get Focused dedicated to sharing the lifelong benefits of reading and exercise with other young people. Goldin’s vision was to create a movement that would go beyond just squats and push-ups and begin to introduce youth to the fundamentals of building a strong mind and body.
Today, Get Focused is led by a growing community of certified personal trainers and positive role models who all share a passion for youth empowerment and who all believe health and education should be a top priority in a child’s life.
Get Focused has grown into a national movement and has been featured on New York 1, NBC, Huffington Post, GoFundMe Heroes, Uproxx, & Returning the Favor. Through its amazing GF program the company is planting the seeds of health & literacy into the lives of thousands of youth.