And Today The Blame Falls On____–Monday Musings 3 March 2020

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!

Learning To Be Led–Monday Musing 17 February 2020

Several years ago Debbie and I had been taking care of 3 of our grandchildren:  Rileigh Breeze was our 10 year old granddaughter who loves to talk, Hampton was our three year old grandson who MUST talk, and then there was Cooper, a year and a half old who talks with his hands.  I am so grateful for all of our grandchildren because they teach us so much about life and even more about God.  And I discovered something through little Cooper.

Cooper was learning how to talk.  But at that time his talk was limited to a few words and a lot of gibberish.  But one thing I noticed during that recent visit was the way he communicated when he wanted me to do something.  Rather than calling me by name (which then was Paw) he extended his hands, palms upward, and then he proceeded to move his fingers, much like squishing an overripe tomato.  If that didn’t get me moving, then he would come over to me and take hold of my finger and tug on me.  Of course he wasn’t physically strong enough to move me, but my love for our grandchildren moved me.  Then, still holding my finger, he led me to where he wanted me, and then pointed to what he was after.  If I reached for the wrong thing, he shook his head NO and pointed again at what he wanted.  This cycle of events continued until I got the right thing.  When I succeed at his appointed task for me, Cooper then told me “Tanks!”  He acknowledged the completion of the task with gratitude.

This scenario was repeated many times that weekend.  And as I sit here at my desk, I had (not another random thought) an epiphany, an “AH HA!” moment struck me.  So I took a moment to say to God, “Tanks for revealing your heart and mind to me, again, through the eyes of a little child.”  I do not know why I was so amazed; after all, Jesus said the Kingdom belongs to little children.  And here is today’s lesson I want to share with you, a lesson I “re-discovered” through Cooper.

As I read the Word, there are times when a single word leaps from the pages and captures my attention.  Listen to Romans chapter 8 verse 14, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”  The word that leaped from the passage is LED!  To be led means that Someone has to do the leading.  It also means that someone must follow that lead.  It means that I cannot do both (be led and do the leading), so I must make a choice.  Will I lead or will I be led?

As the people of God we get to be a part of the many wonderful things that God is doing.  Being a part of God’s activity is both humbling and exciting.  Isn’t it great to be used by God!  But if we are not careful with that excitement we may jump ahead of God and move from being led to taking the lead.  The nature of our relationship with God requires a hierarchy of leadership.  There have been many moments in my life where God has used me to reach another person with His love.  But then I get feeling pretty good about myself and I rush forward because I want to do so much more for Him who died for me.  But in that rushing to do more, I have found myself at times switching places with the Holy Spirit.  I have found myself taking the lead, grabbing the Holy Spirit by the finger and saying, “Come on, let’s get going!  There’s so much more to do!”

And when I do that, the dynamic of our relationship has changed.  When I jump out front, I not only leave the Holy Spirit behind me, but I also put His power behind me.  Even though my intentions are good and honorable, I have abandoned the place of real power and strength.  In those moments, I was trusting in my abilities, rather than relying on His grace.  When I realize I have done this (usually after I fall flat on my face in failure), I have to stop and repent, and seek God’s forgiveness.  And you know what?  I have always found God’s grace truly is greater than all my sin.  The Spirit picks me up, dusts me off, bandages my wounds, and says, “Next time, let Me lead.”

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

Double Down–Monday Musings 10 January 2020

Something designed to produce only one thing, cannot produce something different.

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When playing blackjack, there’s a certain set of conditions when you want to “double down”; or so I’m told. The reason is to have an opportunity to double your winnings, or so I’m told. Today’s Monday Musing is about doubling down but not at the blackjack table–but in one’s spiritual life. Now here’s the passage I’m looking at this evening–James 3:10–12

10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.

The context of these words of James is about our words. And I would never take Brother James out of context. But. . .there is a principle that is also present. Principles work in every situation. The Principle that Brother James applies to the “tongue” is verse 12. It’s a basic principle from nature: Something designed to produce only one thing, cannot produce something different.

Yet, there are many today who have forgotten this most basic Principle. So they have doubled down and actually think it works. We are seeing a culture of people who are trying to navigate life by doubling down. Unlike in blackjack where there are certain card combinations you would NEVER double down on, there are those who double down with the wrong “cards”. They live and operate with a double heart and a double mind.

They do this by mixing Biblical Truths with Cultural Values, with Cultural Values being the “Wild Card” that overrides Biblical Truths. They embrace their Cultural Value and then find a Bible verse to support it. And the verses that don’t support that Cultural Value–they either find an excuse why the Bible is wrong, or they simply ignore it altogether.

Truth is you cannot follow Jesus by trying to align the Bible with Cultural Values. Remember Brother James’ Principle: Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. You simply cannot align Biblical Truth with some Cultural Values. But you can do this: You can transform Cultural Values by faithfully living by Biblical Truths. You can try to Double Down with Cultural Values AND Biblical Truth–but The House will win every time, and you will lose.

Timely Text–Monday Musing 27 January 2020

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!

Thinking! Monday Musings 13 January 2020

It’s too big a task for me to change how people think. That task is way above my pay grade–and it’s task that was never given to me. . .or any human being for that matter.

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Today, my musings are: “How in the world can people believe and act like they do now?” I found the answer: It’s In How They Think! And I thought that I needed to help them change their thinking; and I have been trying to do this with questions, suggesting other views, and even with sarcasm and snarkiness.

As much as I’ve seen and heard, I am still shaking my head at the way many people are thinking. You would think by now that in the realm of asinine thinking nothing would surprise me now; but it still does. So, I begin to muse, “How can I change the way people think?” I’ve tried to correct their thinking, but they just seem to hate me and hate me more.

Then I remembered hearing a Rabbinical story that goes something like this. There was a man who decided the world needed to be changed, to be a better place. But he thought, “The world is too big. I need to start smaller. My country, yes, I will start with my country. But that is still too big. I will start with my town. But that’s too big. I will start with my neighborhood. That’s still to big. I will start with my street, wait, I will start with my home. Oh, I will start with me!”

And this morning, my best Friend, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the wisdom of that old Rabbi. It’s too big a task for me to change how people think. That task is way above my pay grade–and it’s task that was never given to me. . .or any human being for that matter. I know it’s shocking for some to hear that they aren’t called to change how others think. Get over it. . .get over yourself. I know. . .I needed to get over myself.

The only thinking that I can shape and control is my own thinking! So, how can I do that? This is why the Bible is ageless and powerful. When you think about yourself and how you can grow and mature–The Bible always has the answer. When you think about how to change the way others think, it’s highly possible you will get the wrong answer from even the Bible.

So, how do I make my thinking better? Paul said it best in Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

And now my task is to think in this way in such a manner that others will begin thinking about their thinking. Maybe they will ask me why I think the way I do. Better yet, maybe they will ask Dad to help them think in a different way.

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

Monday Musings–It IS The Cross

As I am sitting here at my desk, wondering what to write this morning, I admit I was at a loss for words. Yes, mark this day on your calendar that this Wordsmith had no words–doesn’t happen very often. But then I turned in my chair towards my right. I don’t know why; it must have been my Best Companion, The Holy Spirit. And there it was on that wall.

My wall of crosses. Each one is different. Some I purchased. Others were gifts to me. Yet, each one tells the same Wonderful Saga–of the God who went searching for me–breaking through the barriers that kept me away from Him. And for a brief moment, I forgot…forgot that when I feel like I have nothing to say–I have much to say about The Cross.

I had nothing to say at first this morning–but I have so very much to boast about. It’s nothing about me–but all about HIM! And here’s the verse the my friend, The Holy Spirit, gave me to share with you this morning:

Galatians 6:14-18
14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. 15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God. 17 From now on, don’t let anyone trouble me with these things. For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus. 18 Dear brothers and sisters, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

When you are at a loss for words, remember these words of Paul–Boast About The Cross! It was supposed to be me, supposed to be you on that Cross, but Jesus took it FROM us, FOR US! So love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM, by boasting about the Cross of Jesus!

We Have A Problem–And It’s Human Violence!

Well, it’s time for another edition of my Monday Musings. But truthfully, I don’t have a heart this Monday for “musings” about our culture, leaders, churches, groups of people, or an individual. My heart is broken for the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement near Fort Worth. Just in case you haven’t heard, here is the link to the story. And let’s not forget the stabbing (which by the FBI definition is also considered an active shooter situation) at a Hanukkah celebration in New York. My heart breaks for this tragedy as well. (Here is the article on this tragedy.)

We are living in a culture that devalues human life. Now there’s an understatement for all times. And while my heart was breaking, I read a thread on the Fort Worth tragedy that made me…well…made me scratch my head. Here, see it for yourself–the name has been redacted to protect both an innocent and the stupid:

That last comment…”If you church has to have police and security, then you’re going to the wrong church.” Really? If this person sent their DNA to ancestry.com, I’m sure they would tell him he is kin to Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. Those were Job’s 3 alleged friends who asserted that bad things only happen to bad people. And I guess this IS my musing on this Monday.

No one is immune from evil. Just ask Jesus. And while there are those who want to blame a piece of milled metal for these latest two tragedies, the truth is those things did not cause this pain and suffering. It comes out of human hearts that have little to no regard for any human life. And all the blame cannot be placed on the assailants, though there bear their share. I see the contributing factors in two truths.

One Truth is that in a society when the most vulnerable can by considered, by a choice, as an inconvenience–unwanted–or unneeded–well, the rest of the human race is also considered expendable. To devalue even one life is to devalue all human life. After all, we are all made from and of the same stuff.

Another Truth is the loss of the Absolute Truth of God’s Word. People have moved from the time tested and proven Orthodoxy for a system where it all hinges on one’s feelings. Feelings cover the complete gambit of the human experience. While feelings can lead to something good–feelings can also lead to tragedy and pain; such as we witnessed this weekend. When people think they know more about God than His Preserved Word, nothing good will ever come out of it.

Anyway, that’s how my musing is working today. Just remember, in spite of all the evil and human violence out there, Followers of Jesus–you have your mandate: Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM! This will accomplish more than blaming inanimate objects or talking ugly about other people. Oh, one more musing, “There’s a lot more ways to hurt people other than with guns or knives. Your words, attitudes, actions and lack of actions wound others just as deeply, if not more so.”

Take The Combo!

It’s not a matter of need. It’s not a matter of choice. It’s not a matter of want. It’s a package deal–a combo meal if you would. But this Combo Meal does not come in regular or large or super-sized proportions. So, you don’t have a choice there. It only comes in the Eternal Size. True, it’s far more than you can handle in one sitting–but that’s how it comes.

And you can’t make substitutions or additions to it. Nope, it just comes in one Way. This Combo Meal is God–the Father-DADDY; the Son–Jesus-your brother; and the Holy Spirit-your Friend. They are ONE but not the same. Each is unique AND they are equal.

Yesterday morning in my “4 Minutes” time (which is how I now describe my morning devotion time; and it’s usually MORE than 4 minutes), I was talking with all 3 of Them and I just blurted out, “Wow! You 3 are some kind of combo meal!” All 4 of us laughed at my outburst. And it got me to thinking about this Monday Musing.

The Church Of The Anemic, which describes much of Western Christendom, has found itself this way from many reasons. One of the primary reasons is that the Average Pew Sitter neither appreciates, nor understands the unique Combo of The Trinity. Some want a father-figure; some want a get-out-of-hell-free-card; and some want a kind of feel-good-feeling.

The Holy Combo Package is an all or nothing offer. I’ve heard, and in my more younger and foolish days, call the Holy Spirit “it”. The Holy Spirit is not an “it”, but a Person. I use the word “Person” because this wordsmith hasn’t found another way to describe from a Time-Focused perspective the Infinite And Eternal Truth.

I am concerned that many have the view of The Holy Combo that I held in my younger, immature and more foolish days; that they exist in a hierarchy–Father is the Big Guy, Jesus is Middle Management, and The Spirit is the Floor Supervisor. Eventually, I came to understand the fallacy of such thinking. And when I read The Shack, by Paul Young, the Floodlight came on. I realize some have an “issue” with this book. Chill out! It’s only a book–but it shines with insight and wisdom. Now if your issue with the book is The Father being a big, black woman–remember He once spoke through Balaam’s jackass–and I’ve personally heard Him speak through other jackasses even today.

I could go on, but let me bring to an end this Monday Musing. As you do your “4 Minutes” with God each morning, think about ALL 3 OF THEM. Talk to each one at a time, and to all 3 of them at once. If you don’t like Paul Young’s images, come up with your own images; but remember God isn’t white middle class, or whatever your personal culture looks like. If you want God, you gotta get The Combo. And if you want a combo without some things or a couple of extra things, go to the McDonald’s Drive Thru. You can’t get that with God–It’s all or nothing.

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

Monday Musings: The Joy And Laughter They Must Have Had–And Still Have

“So many people do not see the joy of God; they only see a god of anger and judgment.”

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This morning as I was sitting on the patio, enjoying the last 2 days of this holy respite at Millsite Lake, I had another Musing. This time with family has always been a time to rest and recharge the old batteries. As I was looking across the calm lake, seeing the reflections of the stars on the surface, I looked up at those stars; as I did I told Heavenly Daddy, “Wow! What joy y’all must have had as you created this universe!”

And I meant it! I started imagining the joy the 3 of Them had as they unfolded their heart and mind in creation! Yes, I believe in Intelligent Design! I don’t have enough faith to think this wondrous universe just sorta happened by accident. It would take a lot of faith to believe in the big bang because it doesn’t make any sense to think everything I see is the result of “it just so happened that” kind of thinking.

And as I imagined that scene, the 3 of Them in Perfect Collaboration, creating this Wonder, I saw them smiling, laughing with joy; patting each other on the back and saying to each other, “You did real good with that one” And in that moment, I joined in with their smiling and joyful laughter. And then I realized something that brought me back down to earth. Here’s that thought: “So many people do not see the joy of God; they only see a god of anger and judgment.”

And I’m looking up at all those stars, knowing there were unfathomable more stars out there that I couldn’t see because of the lights from nearby cities wondering, “How in the world can people not see how great a joy that Daddy, Jesus and Spirit have for them? How do they NOT hear the joyful laughter of God?” And in an instant I had the answer to those 2 questions: “They have not seen or experience this because the typical image produced by the typical church hasn’t given them this view.”

Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters paint not an imperfect picture of God (because none of us are capable of painting that perfect picture–if you can then your god is way too small)–they paint a distorted picture of God. They paint a Salvador Dali or abstract art type of picture of God. Recently in one of my messages I said, “If we go into a church service looking like we’re mad at the world and leave looking like we are relieved the service is over, no wonder people want nothing to do with our God.”

Not long ago, I had the holy moment to talk with a “Done”. If you are unfamiliar with the term “Done” (what rock have you been hiding under?), “Dones” are those who haven’t turned their back on Jesus, but they are “DONE” with the church; finished with it; fed up with it; exhausted from it. This person explained to me they dropped out of church because of the judgmental attitudes of that particular church (not the ones I currently serve, thank you, Jesus). This explains why at times I loathe the terms “church” and “christian” to describe the movement that I have given my heart, mind and life to.

We, as Disciples And Followers of Jesus (I prefer this term to the word “christian”) need to reclaim the Joyful Laughter Of God. Isn’t this what Jesus meant in this story:

“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.”

Luke 15:4-7 The Message

There is coming a moment when God will bring everything we now see and know to an end–and bring about The Everlasting And Eternal Kingdom. We call this The Great Wedding Banquet. Do you think this scene will be like some formal dinning event like in The Hampton’s or with the Rockefeller Family, where people are sitting politely and subdued?

There is going to be “Great Rejoicing”, UNRESTRAINED JOY when it happens. And here’s the Great News–WE DON’T HAVE TO WAIT TO EXPERIENCE THAT KIND OF UNSHACKLED AND UNCONTROLLABLE JOYFUL LAUGHTER! It’s out there–the reason for it–it’s all around us–the JOYFUL LAUGHTER OF GOD. It is heard when you marvel at His Creation rather than looking with disgust at the culture. You can hear it every time another miracle happens. It’s the loudest every time a person surrenders and submits to His Grace and discovers that both the guilt and power of sin over them is taken away.

So, Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. Make sure all the glory goes to HIM…and join in the laughter of Daddy, Jesus, And The Spirit!

Going Out Of Business

Have we “sold out” to an earthly purpose for living in order to embrace a Divine Purpose for life?

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He left there and returned to his hometown. His disciples came along. On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place. He made a real hit, impressing everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?” But in the next breath they were cutting him down: “He’s just a carpenter—Mary’s boy. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?” They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further. (Mark 6:1-3, The Message)

Going Out Of Business Sale!  We see such signs so often that we don’t pay much attention to them (until it says “75-90% Off!”).  But in an obscure dot on the map town like Nazareth, it was probably very noticeable.  There on the corner of Jezreel Street and Cedars of Lebanon Lane was the Carpenter Shop.  They always thought it would be there.  His father ran it before him, as did his father. All assumed he would eventually get married (if Mary was any kind of a mother, he would) and his son would continue the family business.  Need a new platter for Passover this year?  Go to the Carpenter’s Shop.  Chair broken because Uncle Jethro has a tendency to eat way too much charoset?  Go to the Carpenter’s Shop.  Need a new dining room suite?  Well, you get the idea.

But then there is that sign:  Going Out Of Business Sale!  They wonder what could be more important than being a carpenter?  But He knows!  He knows his purpose is not to make oxen yokes, but to show humanity that His yoke is easy and his burden light.  He knows his purpose is not to repair plow handles, but to show the world you don’t need to look back, but look forward to be a part of God’s Kingdom.  He knew His purpose wasn’t to make dining room tables, but to build a table where all kinds of people are made to feel welcome, especially broken people; it is broken people who need the broken bread. 

His purpose was not to make another platter for the roasted lamb at Passover, but to become the Passover Lamb and in one single act for all time and eternity to pay the penalty for our sin and folly.  His purpose wasn’t found in the wood pile at the Carpenter’s Shop in Nazareth, but on two rough beams of wood on a hillside outside Jerusalem!  He knew His purpose!  And when he went to His home synagogue and those with whom He had lived with for nearly 30 years rejected His “new” vocation, He refused to give up.            

And what about us?  Have we “sold out” to an earthly purpose for living in order to embrace a Divine Purpose for life?  Any vocation becomes a holy vocation when we do it with only one objective in mind:  To make the love of Jesus known!  Whether we are a cashier or construction worker, sales associate or security guard, a C.E.O. or a PTA Mom—each of us has the wonderful opportunity to make our vocations holy.  It happens when we live our ordinary daily lives with the sense that God is with us and that He wants to use our ordinary life to express His love and grace in extraordinary ways.  Go about your Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday and…) not with a sense of dread (Oh Lord, it’s Monday) but with the sense of power that comes from purpose. 

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