ARE YOU FIT FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD?

But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Luke chapter 9, verse 62; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

As you may have surmised from this week’s posts, I had planned to re-post some of my previous musings so that I would have more time to enjoy this brief vacation. When I announced (to myself) this would be my plan, The Father looked at the Son, then The Spirit–and all three of them laughed and laughed and laughed! When will I ever learn? So, what has changed? Glad you asked!

At least in my locale, I’m hearing sad stories about some folks who are beginning to waffle on disaffiliation as the time grows close to make the “official” decision. And I do not know their reason(s) for waffling. I am willing to allow that the Holy Spirit has told them to change their minds. After all, I wasn’t privy to their original nor subsequent conversations with The Spirit. But I can’t help but wonder like Paul did about the church in Galatia: “You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for He is the one who called you to freedom.” (Galatians chapter 5, verses 7 and 8; NLT)

My deepest concern right now for those folks is the same one I’ve had since this Disaffiliation Movement started: That church property, ‘their‘ property, is more important than the Kingdom of God. It’s as if God can’t do something with them unless they have their property. Surely God is capable of handling their future even IF they lose their property. And I will admit it–it’s scary starting from scratch. And what about those founders of their church? Don’t you think they may be been scared of starting a new church? But starting something new with God is also exhilerating because we must trust Him, who never abandons HIS Kingdom, completely and without reservations or hesitations. Following Jesus and The Kingdom is never free of risks–but the rewards far outweigh the risks. Reality Check: It’s always been risky following Jesus. And that’s OK!

If you are one of those “second-guessing” the decision to disaffiliate, remember the words of Jesus I opened with today: But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” Back to my original question: Are you fit for the Kingdom of God? I didn’t ask if you were worthy! None of us are worthy. But are you fit for the Kingdom of God? If you waffle and look back, Jesus says you aren’t. But if you keep looking forward, disregarding the price of following Jesus, it makes you fit for the Kingdom! And least you think I’m only trying to shame the ones looking back, I end with these other words from Paul to encourage all of us not to look back after we’ve put our hands to the plow:

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. 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.

Galatians chapter 6, verses 8 and 9; from the NLT

So, keep plowing straight by looking forward, and don’t give up. Just don’t give up!

What’s Your Synergy?

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Philippians chapter 3 verse 14 from the New Living Translation

Think about this: Energy produces synergy; and synergy produces energy! Perhaps I should take a step back and share the definition of synergy: the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. Maybe I’m the only one this morning thinking about that word synergy. But YOU, think about it. Synergy is producing the energy that keeps your house with light, a/c, and such going. Think about hydroelectic energy. Water flows throw a turbine, the turbine spins against that thingy, and electricity happens. Or think about your vehicle. The gas (or diesel as the case may be) in the fuel tank is drawn up to the engine–then that computer kicks in pulling all the components together–and off you go to wherever. Remove just one part of these processes and the energy ceases to exist. What does this have to do with The Kingdom Life? Good question! Great question!!!

There is a synergy in every person; it comes from seeking and wanting life as they want it to be. That’s the point: Wanting life as they want it to be. They know they can’t get there by themselves so they seek other sources to cooperate with them to that goal. That energy forms synergy and that synergy forms more energy. When it comes to the human life and human heart, where we seek cooperation or help matters. For that source ultimately determines success or failure.

Some are seeking cooperation with the world’s value system; allowing the world to tell them what they need. It might be money, power, fame, or even sex. We see this synergy happening within my beloved Tribe, the United Methodist Church. Many believe that the Bible needs to be changed–or at least how we see the Bible–so that some might achieve what they believe will give them life. Cooperating with the latest pop psychology, the latest cultural trends is what many in our leadership believes will produce that synergy and energy that will reduce decades of decline.

The synergy that will produce the energy for the life we are created for is as Paul declared in today’s passage: through Christ! The synergy is found as we cooperate with Him through The Bible and with The Holy Spirit. For this synergy to work we must cooperate with God. You see, God doesn’t cooperate with us. He works ON us; IN us; and THROUGH us–never, never does He COOPERATE WITH us. WE cooperate with HIM! HE shows us what we need to achieve real and abundant life. And it’s all found in The Bible. But we also need the Presence and the Power of The Holy Spirit! Without The Spirit we end up with the form, but it’s void of the substance.

So, if you are finding your life missing some things–maybe even void of life–then do what Paul did–develop the synergy by cooperating WITH HIM that creates the energy which in turn produces the life, the ONLY life that fills us with peace, joy, and hope. And so much more. So VERY much more.

OH,LORD! IT’S MONDAY! AND IT’S JUST UNEFFORTABLE!

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans chapter 5 verses 3 through 5 New Living Translation

Today’s Morning Morning Spirit that robs us of life–the life God and God alone makes possible–is UNEFFORTABLE! Look in every dictionary–Google it–Bing it–Yahoo it–DuckDuckGo it–but you will not find this word. It’s a word I just made up! It means it’s not worth the effort! Just because it’s not in a dictionary nor in the World Wacky Web doesn’t mean it’s not real. Though it may not be real in the real world of words doesn’t mean it isn’t real in the real world!

Every moment of every day people run head-on into problems and difficulties. The UNEFFORTABLE spirit says, “Look for the easiest. Detour you life around this moment. It’s just not worth the effort to work through it!” People look for the easy and avoid the problems. There are issues with this Monday Morning Attitude that stands in the way of the life God is making possible for us. Beside, it’s an act of futility to think we can simply avoid all problems. So what can we do? We can do what Paul told the folks at Rome.

  • Rejoice that we are facing problems! Now, that’s counter-intuitive. Doesn’t this make a person a masochist? Well, if that’s all we want it does. We rejoice because we know that God is with us to help us push through.
  • Allow the problems to make us stronger in Jesus! If you want to lose weight and get in better physical shape, you can join a fitness center. But if you never GO to the fitness center, nothing will change. Right? Problems are the opportunities we need in order to become stronger in Jesus, through the Holy Spirit!
  • Allow the strength to build your character. A godly, Christ-like character doesn’t happen from reading about it. It happens in the furnaces of life.
  • Allow the Christ-Like character remind you of your hope! Our hope isn’t an easy life. Nope! It’s the life that is full of, saturated with, and overflowing with the Power Of The Resurrection!
  • And remember that God will never disappoint us! WE may be disappointed that God didn’t do this, that, or the other. But God will never, ever, ever, abandon us. If He promises that our problems will make us strong, strong enough to see Him at work–then we know that going through problems and troubles is worth the EFFORT!

When we know that God is with us and working for us in the problems of life–and that His work will give us both joy and hope, then we can say, “Good! Lord it’s Monday! What shall we do together?”

what did you see this morning?

(This is from last night’s Christmas Eve Service)

The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.  It was just as the angel had told them.  Luke 2:20 (NLT)

What thing had they heard?  What exactly did the shepherds see?  What Will You And I See In Just A Short Time As We Join Them Around The Manger?  Well, I’ll tell you what they saw.  They Saw What Was In Their Hearts To See.  That’s exactly what you and I are going to see this Christmas. We’re Going To See What We Are Looking For.

1.  The Angels Saw Christmas Joyfully.

The angels looked at Christmas joyfully, triumphantly, celebrating—singing  “Glory to God in the Highest.”  Why so joyfully? The angels understood–understood that this was the final stage for God’s great plan of redemption to be revealed. They had been watching, participating in the life of the patriarchs and the prophets.  All through the centuries they were waiting—now they know that the fullness of time has come.  Before—God had sent, God had spoken—But Now The Angels Know God Himself Has Come In Human Form and They See It From A Heavenly Perspective.  No wonder they shout and they sing joyfully!

2. Mary and Joseph Saw Christmas With Wonder

How could Mary and Joseph describe what were they seeing?  What they were feeling?   We talk a lot about the faith of Abraham who went out not knowing where he was going; well that faith was only a drop in a bucket compared to the faith of Mary and Joseph.  Think Of Mary’s Faith In God, to believe what she was seeing in that manger is going to be The Redeemer of all people.  Think Of The Faith Of Joseph, who believed that this was God in the face of that baby in the manger. They saw a lot of things they didn’t understand. Rather than thinking “How is this possible?”, they saw it with wonder, amazement, and adoration!

3. Simeon Saw Christmas Prophetically

He was a man who longed to see God’s Redemption.  And when Simeon thought he was going to die, The Spirit had said no, not yet.  “You Are Going To Live Long Enough To See Him.”  He goes into the temple that day and in That Moment He Sees And He Knows.  He lifts up that little bundle in his arms and holds it up towards heaven, and he said, “God, you can now release your servant; release me in peace as you promised.  With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation; it’s now out in the open for everyone to see:  A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations, and of glory for your people Israel.” He saw more than just a baby. He saw A Great Light, A Light For The Gentiles, The Light Of The World!

4. Herod Saw Christmas Fearfully

The Bible says he saw it very fearfully.  He was troubled and he should have been.  Jesus Is A Threat To Anyone And Everyone Who Thinks Real Power Is Political Power.   He saw clearly what the real issue was.  He saw that this seemingly helpless baby would bring a new type of sword against everything sinful and evil in the world.  This Baby Came To Save People From Their Sins—He Came To Destroy The Works Of Satan and so men like Herod were fearful because Jesus is the ultimate threat against all forms of evil.  And how should we see it?

5. We Must See Christmas As A Person Experience

If You’re Looking For Just Enough Religion To Keep You Out Of Hell, You’ll Miss The Christ Of Christmas;

If You’re Looking For An Emotional Crutch That Will Help You Struggle Through The Tough Times, You’ll Miss The Christ Of Christmas;

If You’re Looking For An Experience That Will Give You A Warm Fuzzy Feeling Without Any Deep Commitment, You’ll Miss The Christ Of Christmas.

But, If You’re Looking For Life, Real Life—

Life That Is Full Of Purpose And Meaning;

A Life That Will Stretch You And Lead You Beyond What You Can Normally See Or Do;

A Life That Challenges Ourselves And Inspires Others—

Then You Can See And Experience What Christmas Is All About. 

There Is No Quick Fix

This is the last in my reflections of my recent medical emergency. If you haven’t read the first one, then click here.

When we are hurting–whether physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or relationally–we want the pain to go away and go away quickly. And here is another lesson I have learned in my most recent episode:

The quick-fix rarely, if ever, works.

In my situation of my ruptured appendix, Dilaudid made the pain quickly go away. And for a little bit the quick-fix solved my problem with pain. But guess what? The effects of Dilaudid wore off and the pain returned. Other than making me feel comfortable, the Quick-Fix did nothing to solve the real problem. Can you make the connection here?

In case you did not, allow me to explain. There are things that will help us numb the pain but cannot treat the real condition causing our pain. It’s not just in the realm of physical pain–but all other forms of pain. For example, holding a grudge against someone who wounded you deeply can hide the pain momentarily–but the pain returns. Trust me on this one; I personally know about holding grudges–it won’t heal the pain.

There are a lot of ways–chemical, emotional, and mental–to numb the pain. Yet they fail to heal the cause of our pain. This is why we turn to God in times of pain. God doesn’t offer us a quick-fix–but He does offer us wholeness. And sometimes, wholeness requires both time and a process. In the case of my ruptured appendix, they did not immediately remove that vile and evil beast. To have done so would have exposed my entire body with poisonous toxins that would have put me in further danger. By treating the poisons in me first, it decreases the probability of further complications when they will remove my appendix.

Next Wednesday I revisit my doctor. Hopefully he will tell me when they will schedule surgery to remove my appendix. Doctors have helped me understand why I need to wait–and I trust their knowledge and skills. And you can trust the knowledge and skills of the Great Physician to restore your whole health–spiritually, emotionally, mentally and relationally. You can trust Him because He created you–and offered you redemption through His Marvelous Grace. God doesn’t offer us a day-trip with a quick-fix. He offers us a journey–filled with His more than sufficient Grace–and His Presence to help us when we can’t help ourselves.

It Should Only Take A Couple Of Hours–But 6 Hours Later

Yesterday, while on our Holy Hiatus with family near Bartow, Florida I had an experience. . .and another Tuesday Thought. They wanted a digital TV antenna installed and asked me if I would install it so they could disconnect completely from cable TV. I thought it would be in my wheel house though I had never attempted such a feat. “After all,” I thought, “how hard can that be? Cable are already there; just put up that antenna and rearrange a few cables and viola! Project completed.” That was my first mistake–thinking!

So I began this “2 Hour” project. Four hours later, no signal or channels. In addition they lost their internet; something they didn’t want! Got the internet problem fixed, but still no signal or channels! Oh, I forgot to mention I hit my head on a floor beam crawling under the house–twice! That beam didn’t move a fraction of a millimeter. And making several trips, crawling on my knees, (did I mention hitting my head twice on the same beam?) isn’t good on these 63 year old knees, legs, shoulder, and back!

It was time for a break. Yes, I had looked at the limited printed instructions, such as they were, and even tried YouTube. As I sat there looking one more time at the instructions (and you say men don’t read instructions), I noticed something in the schematic drawing and I had an Epiphany Moment! Crawled under the house for the umpteenth time. Redirected a few cables, moved a couple of components and 7 Hours Later, I became a certified digital antenna installer.

What’s the lesson in all this? Well you need to know my attitude and perspective through this swamp. There was a time, not all that long ago, when my attitude would have been nothing but frustration, agitation and aggravation. Not so yesterday. I’m not bragging. . .but I was cool, calm and pleasant to be around. What is making this profound difference in this flawed Kingdom Pastor?

I’ve been spending more time with 2 of my mentors, Max Lucado and Andy Andrews. These famous people don’t know me from Adam’s house cat (I didn’t even know Adam had a house cat). But they are my mentors. Here’s how they have been mentoring me in 2 different ways. First, Andy has been helping me with Perspective and I am living with a different Perspective because I am NOT allowing my circumstances be THE determining factor for how I see my life.

Second, Max gave me (actually it was to all those who read his daily devotions) a challenge: To pray the Lord’s Prayer for 4 minutes for 24 days. Here’s how Max breaks down this prayer challenge:

  • Father, Daddy, You are good. Spend a few moments praising Him for who He is, not what He does.
  • I need help! Heal me.
  • They need help! Heal them!
  • Thank you, Daddy.

Now, these 2 things may not help you. But here’s the Thought: You And I Need Mentors Who Will Give Us Wisdom! To have wisdom, you must SEEK wisdom (thank Andy Andrews for this priceless gem). But not just any Wisdom; the Wisdom of The Ages, Wisdom that only comes from God. You need mentors who Seek Wisdom For Themselves. They can be people you know well, barely know, or as in my case, people who don’t know you.

If you won’t read or listen to Andy or Max, find someone who speaks into your heart and minds. But remember, make sure they are people who Seek Wisdom For Themselves. You need to spend dedicated time with your mentors. Maybe not hours, maybe 15 minutes, maybe just 3 minutes. But do it every day. Wisdom gives you the perspective to handle what should be a two hour project but turns into a seven hour project and remain a person that others like to be around.

And should you doubt this Process, remember these words from Paul:

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

God’s work does it’s best in those who are willing to make the commitment to Seek Wisdom! I have been constantly seeking wisdom, so I never lost the Right Perspective when nothing was working right. And because of my persistence, the project was successfully completed.

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM…by SEEKING PERSPECTIVE AND WISDOM–THE RIGHT KIND!

It’s Like The Weather!

One day you go to the closet and get a jacket. The next day you leave the jacket in the closet. The following day you’re looking for your flip-flops. We call this “The Weather” in an Alabama typical fall week. This is one of the unique “pleasures” of living in Alabama–to experience all 4 seasons in one week. Sometimes we get to experience at least 3 seasons in one day!

The above screenshot is today’s forecast for us here in scenic Fayette County. Here, allow me to show you the rest of today’s temperatures:

Yep, 62 degrees right now. And this time tomorrow it will be 33 degrees. Some of us Alabamians keep a change of clothes in our vehicle for such a time as this. If you see a car with Alabama license plates and there are extra clothes in the backseat–we’re not homeless; we’re just prepared for today’s weather. And as I was thinking about our weather here, The Spirit put another thought in my head:

Even though our culture changes more than our weather, inside we are to be the same people–Followers Of Jesus!

Too many who bear the name of Christ, are looking for an environment that makes it easy to share their faith. Well, guess what Buttercup! Sometimes it IS easy to share our faith. But most times . . . it’s not so easy. Sure, who wouldn’t want to share their faith when it’s 78 degrees with a relative humidity of 10 percent. I find those kinds of weather days in Alabama extremely rare–even rarer are those kinds of days in real life with real people and real situations. So, what do you do?

You dress appropriately. Not just for the weather, but for life. Though the outside circumstances each day change like the weather in Alabama, we are to remain the same inside. It’s hard around here to decide how to dress for the weather many times. But it’s simple, not easy–but simple–to know how the dress for our culture and environment. Here is the ageless “fashion wear” of God:

12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

Colossians 3:12-17 (The Message)

If you are a serious follower of Jesus, then you know you have the Holy Spirit living inside you. The Spirit is God’s Fashion Consultant for you, and He will always provide you the perfect attire, whatever the “weather” is like outside. The Fashion Attire God provides for serious Followers of Jesus is always perfect–even if the weather changes like it does here in Sweet Home Alabama!

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

I Choose Persistence

(Picture from lionessesofafrica.com)

Tuesday I made my choice to be joyful. Wednesday I chose to be joyful and hopeful. Yesterday my choice was to be joyful, hopeful and focused. Was I 100% true to my choices? Honestly? Not 100%. . .but I was close to 90% true. Maybe it was that steroid shot I got at the doctor’s office for this hacking cough and sore throat that got me to 90%. But I was focused–so I’ve got that going for me. And you can have that going for you, too. Situations and circumstances can change your choices. . .IF you allow them to do that. Choices are within your realm. Even if you don’t make a choice, THAT is your choice. Geez, I’m sound more like Andy Andrews every day. . .but that’s not a bad thing.

So, on this Friday. . .what some call T.G.I.F. . . .My choice is Persistence. Today I will be joyful, hopeful, focused and persistent. You could say I will be persistently joyful. . . persistently hopeful . . . persistently focused . . . and persistently Persistent.

Persistence is a much needed quality in my Walk with Jesus. Life is filled with interruptions, obstacles, difficulties and then throw in the frequent visits of Murphy’s Law. Those who say Walking With Jesus is Easy Peasy all the time–well. . .they haven’t been walking with the Real Jesus. Without Persistence I will never see and never know what it means to live in and be a part of the Epic Saga known as The Kingdom Of God. Another reason I need to make this choice today (and every day after today) is because in our culture, Persistence is a rare commodity.

Now, I can choose to complain, whine and b…., almost let a bad word slip, about the lack of Persistence OR I can choose to be an example of Persistence. Choices made, every Choice we make has an outcome that is given birth with the Choice. Consider the outcome of each choice. . .and the outcomes are really obvious.

If I choose to complain that rather than persist, our culture quits, whines, plays the victim card, and says they are being disenfranchised. . .what has changed? The only thing changed is NOTHING. The result is I become angry, frustrated and agitated. And know what? These generations of quitters, whiners, and overly sensitive souls will continue to be quitters, whiners and overly sensitive souls. And I become either an angry man or a despondent man. In my book, neither suits me. . . and I know it doesn’t please Abba, Poppa.

But if my choice is to be Persistent, two things will happen. One thing is that I will achieve my goal. . .I will succeed at finishing a task. . .I will not be defeated by any obstacle. The other thing? Maybe, just maybe someone in this aimless culture of consistent quitters will notice my Persistence. Maybe it will make them curious about me. If they are curious about me and my Persistence, there’s a good probability they will, at the very least, THINK about quitting being a quitter.

Who knows, maybe it will even open up a conversation about that strange thing called Persistence! Then things will begin to be different, not the same. If 2 of us are Persistent then we can reach maybe 2 more quitters who engage us in open conversation and they decide to be Persistent. Now we have 4 of us who are Persistent. And maybe the 4 of us becomes 8. . .then 16. . .then 32. . .get the point now?

So today my choice is Persistence. Seems like a good choice to add to the others. . .don’t you think? Oh. . .one other thing: Persistently love God with all your heart. Persistently love others the way Jesus loves you. And Persistently make sure all the glory goes to Him. . .Persist!