I Think It's Time–Monday Musings 20 January 2020

Pernicious. Virulent. Mephitic. Pestilential. Nefarious. Miasmatic. Pestiferous. Deleterious. Iniquitous. Maleficent. Rancorous. These words are in my Monday Musings. These are big synonyms for a simple word that is at the core of these Musings. The simple word is Toxic. It is my culture, perhaps I should say, my perspective of my culture that is leading this rumination this morning.

But it’s not just my culture–it’s a word, verses from one of the wisest persons to ever live. This sage wrote one of the rawest in terms of human emotions books ever written. Maybe you’ve heard of it: Ecclesiastes. And here’s the part I’m musing on:

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)

Solomon then sets out a series of contrasts about appropriate “It’s Time” moments. I’m drawn into this series of contrasts:

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.

Ecclesiastes 3:5-6 (NLT)

Now, add that word Toxic. No one would intentionally build their dream home knowingly on top of a Toxic Waste Dump. Yet, many persist and hold onto Toxic Relationships. By the very meaning of that word Toxic, people hold on to relationships that are deleterious to their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. Toxic Relationships happen at all levels. Familial. Friends. Spouses. Significant Others. Work. And yes, even in Church.

Allow me to cut to the core of it all. A Toxic Relationship is any relationship that consistently and constantly rips us apart or lives to create chaos. Lots of things can rip us apart. Even more things creates a tornado-earthquake-hurricane-tsunami kind of chaos. Even in the church this happens. I’m watching it in my own Tribe, the United Methodist Chaos, I mean Church.

So, how long should one stay in the chaos? As a traditional, orthodox kind of guy, I will probably be asked to leave. Some of my fellow kindred hearts say we should stay together to change things. Others of my kindred hearts say it’s not fair to ask us to leave–after all, we are the majority, and we embrace the authority of God’s Word.

But then there’s these words of Solomon: A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. Oh, and that next verse: A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.

There comes a moment in relationships where the only option is the other option. A time to scatter stones. A time to turn away. A time to quit searching. A time to throw away. And this is where I see this Tribe. I say this not with deep resignation and despair. No! I say this with great hope and greater expectations. The chaos in the United Methodist Church is pestilential.

And you may find yourself in a pestiferous relationship. You can try to ride it out, hope it will change; but it may crush you instead. Or you can accept that some relationships will never be mended. So when is the time to give up? When it poisons your attitude, your mind, your heart, and when you allow it to shape your perspective–Solomon would tell you, it’s time.

But always remember that God has another time, another season for you. And HIS new season for your life will be different–probably difficult–but it will NOT be Toxic. And it will be good.

EVEN THERE IN THAT PLACE–Tuesday Thoughts 14 January 2020

My Tuesday Thoughts on what to write this morning were running wild–wild as a trio of adolescents on a 3 day binge on candy kind of sugar rush. When my thinking gets like this, I have to really force myself to stop thinking–so that I can listen. Now I have it–it’s Psalm 139 and three words from that Psalm–YOU ARE THERE!

Who’s there? God, of course. Most of us like to consider ourselves Masters Of Camouflage. Like an Army sniper in the field, we think we can hide and no one see us–or see what’s going on inside us. But regardless of how or even where we hide, Even There God finds us. When God asked Adam and Eve, “Hey, guys! Where are y’all?”, He knew where they were.

It wasn’t a question of confusion; it was a question of trust. God was asking Adam and Eve, “Do you still trust me, trust my love and that I am still good even though you did what you did?” Smack dab in the middle of their self-imposed mess, they did trust God. And in this Psalm David seems to be reflecting on his life. He’s known up and downs. He’s been faithful to God and been a rebel against God. He’s hidden in caves from King Saul, and he’s tried hiding from the King of Kings.

And what he could do with Saul, successfully hide, he never could do with God. He found out what Adam and Eve discovered–in the middle of our messes–Even There God Is Present. And in His Presence, He is still trustworthy, He is still loving us, and most of all, He is still GOOD! For the life of me, I cannot figure out why some people think God is out looking for people just to punish them. And if this day you are trying to hide from God because you “think” He’s mad at you, or that He doesn’t want you–Think Again! In your fear, confusion or despair–Even there in that place He is present and He is still Good And Loving On You.

And it’s just not in the places where we try to run and hide from God, but it’s true also in the places where circumstances and consequences have placed us. Problems at work. A “we no longer need your services” moment. Chemo or radiation therapy. A disintegrating family. A nursing home. A funeral home. Even in church.

My beloved Tribe, the United Methodist Church, is in utter chaos; or so it seems to many of us. But even there, God is Present. God Is Faithful. God Is Loving Us. God Has A Plan. And God is still GOOD! What I’m saying is this: Wherever you are–whether it’s the result of you poor choices or whether it’s the result of forces beyond your control–Even There God Is Present. Even there He is still Faithful to you. Even there He still Loves you. Even there He is still GOOD. Even there, He will lead you out and back to where you belong!

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

Saturday Stories–Ernie And Today Is Not That Day!

Welcome to another Saturday Story. Today’s story is from several years ago; it was such a powerful moment that I still remember it as if it occurred yesterday. Listen to it, and maybe Dad has something to say to you…

TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY

Ernie was a retired sheet metal worker. He and his wife Bettye had retired to Scottsboro. They never had children, so they “adopted” kids of all ages, including me. Both spent many hours serving Jesus at Randall’s Chapel (no, that church wasn’t named after me!). Ernie served Jesus in so many ways. Teaching, leading committees, the men’s group, serving in whatever way he was asked. Needless to say, this pastor fell in love with them.

Ernie was the epitome of an “active member”; but I and several others noticed Ernie didn’t have his usual level of stamina. Ernie noticed it too, so he went to his doctor to find out why. After several tests, Ernie was given the diagnosis of ALS (I refuse to call this evil disease by the name of one of baseball’s greatest players).

Word reached me of this diagnosis. As “pastor”, my job was to give him and Bettye words of encouragement and wisdom. This wasn’t my first encounter with someone dehumanized by ALS. I knew what Ernie’s future would look like. The day after his diagnosis I was going to “visit” with them and share those “words of encouragement and wisdom”. And as I sat in my office that morning, I struggled to find any such words. But it was my “job” to do it, and honestly, I felt like a failure because I simply couldn’t find the right “words”.

Just then (remember that “just then” or “it just so happened” are usually God prepared and ordained moments) I heard Ernie come in. He stuck his head in my office and asked, “Bro. Randy, do you have a few minutes, I need to talk about something.” Of course I had time, I always have time for a good friend; but this time my mind is in panic mode. I still didn’t have those words of “encouragement and wisdom”. In my heart I said, “OK, Holy Spirit, you’re going to have to do the talking because I don’t know what to say!”

And my, oh, my did my Friend, the Holy Spirit, do some talking. But it wasn’t me doing the talking–it was Ernie. “Randy, I know you heard about my diagnosis. And I need you to understand that one day I won’t be able to teach the Sunday School class. One day I won’t be able to be involved in the men’s group. One day I won’t be able to serve this church. One day I won’t be able to do all the things I love doing around here.” And what Ernie said next is still with me.

With a love and fire in his eyes he said, “But today is not that day! I’m going to continue to do all the things I’ve been doing. Whatever you or this church needs me for, I’m here! I know that day will come, it’s just that Today Is Not That Day!” The words of encouragement and wisdom wasn’t meant to be shared by me; that Holy Moment was given to Ernie.

And Ernie kept that Sacred Vow. He kept on working and moving forward with Jesus. And a little over a year later, that day finally came. Bettye asked me to do the funeral service. And the message I shared? It was the very same one Ernie shared with me that morning in my office. Ernie prepared his own eulogy and funeral message: Today is not THAT day to give up. God is with you every step of the way. And on that sad day, God’s Grace abounded.

Application Time

We all face difficult, even terrifying moments in life. The temptation, even the urge to give up can seem overwhelming. I know, I’ve faced many such moments. And in those moments, I see Ernie, sitting across my desk. He’s smiling and saying to me, “Now Randy, you know Today Is Not THAT Day!

Whatever it is that you may face in life; whatever you ARE facing right now that is overwhelming you with the feeling of helplessness or hopelessness and you want to give up; remember my good friend Ernie’s words: Today Is Not THAT Day! Ernie lived with the confidence that whatever the future held, HE was held by God and was secure in that knowledge.

Throw It Out There Thursday: SAYS WHO?

Boys and girls it’s that time again: THROW IT OUT THERE THURSDAY where nothing is sacrosanct and any idea, belief or opinion is subject to sarcasm, cynicism or evisceration. So, if you are the type that is easily offended or refuses to hear a view other than your own, you are about to the thrown into chaos; just a warning. This week I’m looking at a Common Duo, RIGHT AND FAIR!

Today I am eviscerating this idea that somehow life is supposed to be RIGHT AND FAIR. I may be called mean, calloused and uncaring for what I am about to say. To which I reply

If you have or have raised kids, especially teenagers, you’ve heard this, at least half of it: THAT’S NOT FAIR! Even then, the other half is clearly implied. We are in a culture obsessed with RIGHT AND FAIR! Oh, someone was just thinking, “What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with RIGHT AND FAIR?” Guess what? Life isn’t RIGHT AND FAIR! It hasn’t been RIGHT AND FAIR since Eve took that bite and Adam colluded with her by his silence.

I could be the Energizer Bunny and go on and on, but I will get to the point and make this short and sweet. RIGHT AND FAIR, as it is viewed in this fallen world, is based on our highly regarded and valued opinions and perspective. RIGHT AND FAIR is determined by what we think and feel; especially what we feel. Like it or not; disagree and deny–truth is our feelings and perspectives are tainted by selfishness.

Sure, there are some things that are clearly RIGHT and some things are clearly FAIR! But life on this warped planet? That’s where we get into a lot of problems. Case in point: the bitter battle in my Tribe, the United Methodist Church. A group is now proposing that we Orthodox/Traditional folks should be able to leave the United Methodist Church with all assets, along with a cool $25 million, and pursue their own future by creating a new Tribe. Bear in mind, in case you haven’t followed this circus, that the Orthodox and Traditional views of the Bible and in particular, sexual ethics, is the view of the majority. It has been since 1972. But there are some, especially in the U.S. and Europe, who feel more enlightened and wiser; so they want to change it so that it reflects our enlightened understanding. Who said the Age of Enlightenment ended around 1818? It’s being revived.

And many of my acquaintances and friends have been ask me, “If we are the majority, why should we have to leave? If they don’t agree with us, THEY should leave! (you know what’s next!) IT’S NOT RIGHT OR FAIR THAT THE MAJORITY BE FORCED TO LEAVE!” I confess I felt that way AT FIRST. Well, I tried to teach my kids that for the most part, life is neither RIGHT NOR FAIR and we shouldn’t expect it to be that way.

The RIGHT AND FAIR card is being played when a group of people don’t get their way. And here is the crux of the matter. We assume the role of God when we think we should be able to determine what is RIGHT and what is FAIR. And when life is not RIGHT AND FAIR, we can choose to be bitter; which is what it seems like the majority is doing. OR, we can choose to move forward without bitterness or resentment.

Right now I’m thinking about the story of Joseph, the one found in Genesis. His brothers sold him into slavery (well, that snot-nosed kid probably deserved it) and once in slavery, he ended up in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. That’s certainly not RIGHT OR FAIR! But circumstances changed and he finds himself as second in command of a nation. One day his brothers (you know, the ones who sold him into slavery) come begging for food, only they don’t recognize that it’s their brother they are begging to for help. Joseph has the perfect moment now to set the record straight for them not being RIGHT AND FAIR to him. Revenge has set the table for Joseph.

Instead, Joseph does something different; and what he did I’ve had to repeat to myself on many occasions when life wasn’t RIGHT AND FAIR. “Brothers, what you did was wrong and evil (meaning: NOT RIGHT AND FAIR). But God used it for good!”

So, when life is neither RIGHT NOR FAIR, get over it. God can and will make it into something good. But you have to relinquish your desires to define what is RIGHT AND FAIR!

One Resolution: One Spirit!

New Year’s offers for many the opportunity for more than a different life, but stirs in us the longing for a better life.  The human heart is made for something that is better—and that something better is Contentment.  So we make resolutions that we hope will make life better by improving the quality of our experiences.  I thought it would be interesting to see what the top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for 2020 are.  I surfed the web and here is what I found:

  1. Exercise more
  2. Lose weight
  3. Get organized
  4. Learn a new skill or hobby
  5. Live life to the fullest
  6. Save more money / spend less money
  7. Quit smoking
  8. Spend more time with family and friends
  9. Travel more
  10. Read More

Here’s what else I found:  It was pretty much the same for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and you get the point.  Now we can download apps that promise ways to help you keep your resolutions.  And we would all agree that it’s easier to make resolutions than to keep them.    Wouldn’t it be great if we could slip on a pair of shoes, take a supplement, join a gym and at the end of the year discover that we kept all our resolutions?  I believe that New Year Resolutions are The Cry Of The Heart For Deep, Abiding Contentment.  When it comes to the issue of contentment, there are 3 things about people and our culture that are true:

  1. Most People are not content with their lives.  In spite of all the promises of hope from the latest trends, advertisements and self-help gurus, most people realize that something is still missing in their life.
  2. Most people feel powerless when it comes to developing lasting and significant change in their lives.  According to a couple of surveys, only 40-45% of Americans even take the effort to make one or more New Year’s Resolutions.  This is down from last century’s high mark of 80%. 
  3. Every human heart longs for contentment.  Even among that 55-60% who make no Resolutions, and among those who say they have given up hope, The Longing Of The Heart For Contentment Never Goes Away.

But what if there was a way to bring that Deep, Abiding Contentment to your life?  And what if there was a way that you could model contentment in a way that would inspire those closest to you to experience that same Sense Of Contentment in their life?  Does that sound good to you?   But wait!  There’s more. 

What if I could show you that to achieve this life that is more than different, more than better, but fills anyone with Contentment, can be achieved with One Resolution, would you be interested?    Not 10, not 5, no, not 3 resolutions, there is only One Resolution that all of us need to make.  Want to know what it is?  Let’s look at Paul’s letter to the Philippians in Philippians 1:27-30

27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies.  This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together.  You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.

According to Paul, the 1 Resolution is this:  Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel!  “Oh, is that all it is preacher?  Why didn’t you tell me to paint the Golden Gate Bridge; or—Find the cure for cancer; or—Get every nation to sign a peace accord and end all wars; or—Put an end to world hunger; or—Get Democrats and Republicans to put the American citizen first and forget party politics?  I could do that long before my life is worthy of the Gospel!  Thanks for nothing!” 

And if the Gospel was about what we could do and accomplish, then that’s the way we all ought to feel.  We try to do our very best, but then we lose our temper, we lust, we envy, feel jealousy, say a dirty word, become greedy, act harshly, become resentful and are unforgiving.  And we realize that is just not worthy of the Gospel.  But The Gospel Is Not About What We Can Do

The Gospel is all about what God has done, is doing and will continue to do for us because of His heart for us.  It’s Not The “Gospel Of Our Best Efforts” But The Gospel Of God’s Best Effort For Us.  It’s all about God’s Grace; it’s not left up to our best efforts to honor Christ.  We Are To Honor Christ By Allowing Him To Live In And Through Us With The Power Of Resurrection!  We often lock in on that word found in the KJV Conduct.  But remember Paul didn’t write in English.  He wrote in Greek and in Greek, the NLT gives us the best understanding of that word:  Live As Citizens of Heaven. 

This means we live according to God’s ways, plans and purposes that are rooted in His Grace.  And at the heart of Grace is that we allow Him into our hearts and We Rely On His Strength Rather Than Our Own Strength.  And Paul’s letter to the Philippians doesn’t end with that verse.  For the rest of this letter, Paul shows us how to live a life worthy of the gospel by allowing Christ to live in us and through us!  Contentment Is Found By Surrendering Moment By Moment To The Process Of Grace, And Not Giving Up On That Process, Especially When We Mess Up.

And this process is found in ONEOne Spirit, One Mind, One Purpose, One Goal, One Hope And One Secret.  And this process is what we will begin looking at in this New Year.  So, how can we live this Life Worthy Of The Gospel By Allowing Christ To Live In And Thru Us?

It comes by making 6 Conscious Choices every day.  The Process Begins By Living In One Spirit.  And here’s The 1 Thing you need to remember from today’s message:  Contentment Begins When We Think, Speak, Act, React And Make Decisions Based On One Spirit. 

Paul is not talking about the Holy Spirit here, but our spirit.  What Is Your Spirit?  The first response is to say, “That’s the part of me that lives on after death.”  And it is, but I want you to go deeper.  Think Of Your Spirit As That Part Of You That Makes You Think, Speak, Act, React And Helps In Your Decision Making Process.  And this is the real problem.  Without a deep and committed relationship to Christ, we live with A Divided Spirit.  Living life with One Spirit does not happen automatically nor is it easily attained.  Allow me to define for you what I mean by One Spirit:  One Spirit means living each day with an Undivided Heart!  So think of One Spirit as that heart that gives its loyalty to God.

And to help us live with One Spirit, God offers us transformation—A New Spirit—A New Way To Think, Speak, Act, React And Make Decisions.  He offers to help us live with One Spirit that is worthy of the Gospel Of Grace through The Desire To Have That Undivided Spirit.  Here is how to develop this One Spirit. 

1. Have That Unbridled Desire For God’s Grace

Remember that this Process of One, this resolution to Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel does not depend on your abilities; just God’s grace!  And is there anything better or more reliable that God’s Grace?  Jesus uses 2 powerful human experiences to describe what it means to desire God’s grace:  hungering and thirsting.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:6—Blessed Are Those Who Hunger And Thirst For Righteousness, For They Will Be Filled. 

It’s About An Unquenchable Appetite For God.  It’s not about a Sam’s Club sample taste, or a small Hors d’oeuvre tray.  It is about all that God offers.  And trust that God will provide His grace.  When you get up in the morning have that unquenchable appetite for God.  When you go to bed at night have that unquenchable appetite for God.  And every moment between getting up and going to sleep, have that unquenchable appetite for God.

2. Give Him Your Unrestrained Devotion

Use the word “Devotion” and many think about The Upper Room, Guideposts, Daily Bread or some other devotional material.  Reading these devotional materials are great acts that we need to engage in daily.  But that’s not Devotion.  The Dictionary Defines Devotion As:  Profound Dedication.  It is moving your life in the direction of God.  This movement in the direction of God is best described in Philippians 3:13-14—I focus on this one thing:  Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. 

Whatever it is that you talk the most about, that is your greatest passion, and that is what you are giving your devotion to.  Your Greatest Passion Reveals Your Devotion.  If your greatest passion is football, then your devotion is to football.  If your greatest passion is to be recognized and praised by others, then your devotion is to self.  Devotion to God is choosing to focus on God’s presence.  It means we look for and find God’s presence every day and everywhere.  Make God your greatest passion.

3. Live With Total Determination

It’s easy to give up on dreams when life gets tight.  It’s easy to turn around when life gets tough.  Our world, your culture, is filled with those who would rather quit than fight on—surrender rather than overcome.  To Live In One Spirit Requires Resolve And Determination Because It Is On The Other Side Of The Struggle And Conflict That We Understand What The Life In Grace Is All About. 

It is by going through the tight, tough and difficult places that we really discover just how much God does for us.  Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10—We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.  Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 

Without Grace, without the Christ of the Cross, our own spirit becomes divided and it’s all because of the problem of sin.  But Jesus has defeated the sin-problem for us by carrying our sins to the Cross.  Contentment begins when we take our relationship with God seriously—By Making This Relationship The MOST Important Priority In Our Life.  Jesus lived with One Spirit—to honor God by allowing God’s heart, the Father’s Presence to live in Him and through Him. 

Remember: You Can’t Follow Jesus And Stay Where You Are.  So here’s your Next Steps:

  1. Do something to show your hunger for God’s Grace
    • Join a Bible study group, maybe 2 groups
    • Begin to read the Bible, just the Bible.  Begin with Philippians
  2. Get directly involved helping people know that God loves them
    • Find a person who has a need, and meet that need
    • Find something happening locally
    • Talk with me about starting something new
  3. Dream of something that only God can do

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

You And I Need Mentors Who Will Give Us Wisdom!

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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!

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!

The Wonder Of The New Day

(Morning View from my hunting blind)

Some call it “Hump Day” because the weekend is closer and they can forget about all they’ve been dealing with and unwind. Others call it just another day filled with more stuff. How do you see Wednesday? How do you see ANY new day’s morning?

How you see this and every morning is YOUR choice. You may say, “Wait a minute! You don’t know what I’m facing, what I’m forced to deal with. I can’t change my circumstances!” No. . .you cannot change your circumstances. And if circumstances determine how you see this new morning–it is because you have chosen to allow those circumstances influence how you see this morning. . .and every morning.

There is a different way, a different CHOICE about how you see each and every new morning. Look back up at my picture. Sunrise! It happens every morning regardless of my circumstances. I can be in a place to see it’s beauty and wonder. . .or I can be in a place where I miss it all. And that, my friends, is my choice.

There is a different way to see this and every morning. This guy named Jeremiah, facing some tough and horrible and ugly circumstances wrote these words:

22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Jeremiah 3:22-23 (NLT)

In every circumstance, even the toughest, count on two unchangeable truths: 1. God loves you. 2. He has fresh mercy and grace for you every morning. Your choice this morning is to allow your circumstances influence your day. . .or you can choose to allow God’s Love, Mercy and Grace to guide you and sustain you.

Some mornings the clouds block that view of sunrise. But you know what? Even if I can’t see it happen–It happens! Sunrise happens NOT because I see it happens–but because I KNOW it happens. You may not feel the faithfulness of God for you–but it doesn’t change the fact that He is Faithful to you. The choice is yours. And from that immortal line spoken by the ancient knight in the movie “Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade”: CHOOSE WISELY!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way HE loves you. And make sure ALL the glory goes to HIM!

What If?

Normally (I know that’s a word that doesn’t always fit how I think) I would tell people, “Don’t let “WHAT IF” to control your thinking. What If thinking can be quite the demon. But early this morning, I had an epiphany–that there is something to say FOR the WHAT IF thinking. So here goes:

What if there is a person today who us contemplating suicide, that permanent solution to a temporary problem?

What if there is a person today who is planning to break their marriage vows?

What if there is a person today who is addicted to ‘whatever’ that sincerely believes there is no way out for them?

What if there is a person today who is convinced that all those who told them they are nothing but a failure are right?

What if there is a person today who just received an eviction notice and has no where to turn for help?

What if there is a person today thinking about the loss of a spouse, and child; and this is the first Christmas Season they are facing without that loved one?

What if there is a person today there is a business person contemplating “fudging” on the specs, or worse, “fudging” on the law?

What if there is a person today there is a person who realizes they have the perfect moment to exact revenge on another person?

And what if God has engineered a set of circumstances that places them in your day? What if you have the moment that will change their day, even their life? What will you do?

Thanksgiving In All Circumstances

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (New Living Translation)

OK, this is a good verse for Thanksgiving Day—BE THANKFUL!  “That’s easy enough for today.  I can handle this verse today .”  I mean, why not?   Today we will get to eat all kinds of wonderful food, so sure, you will be thankful—unless you are the one who has to prepare and cook that food, or because of financial stresses there won’t be much food to prepare or there will be one less person at the table.

“I can be thankful today because there is PLENTY of football to watch!  Yeah, I’m thankful”  You can be thankful for all the football to watch—unless you’re the one who has to clean up after that Thanksgiving meal, and would love to start decorating the home for Christmas, but can’t get any help because they are watching football!

“Oh, I can be thankful today because of Black Friday—EVERYTHING goes on sale and I can shop for Christmas gifts (and maybe myself)!”  Yes, you can be thankful for all those Black Friday Sales—unless you are a sales associate or cashier who has to deal with all those unruly and obnoxious customers!

Am I getting through?  Is it clear what I am trying to say?  It is this:  to be thankful or unthankful all depends on what side of the issue you are looking through.  It is easy, at least for me but maybe not for you, to lose the focus that the new life in Christ brings to our daily living.  There are many things we can be thankful for (and we certainly should be thankful for them), but those same things can become cause of stress or concern for another—like the Thanksgiving dinner.  Who can deny that it is something certainly to be thankful for—but the preparations before and the clean up after the meal can rob us of the spirit of gratitude if our focus is in the wrong place.

 Paul reminds us here:  “Be thankful in all circumstances…”  (italics mine).  There are situations and circumstances for which it would practically impossible and unreasonable to be thankful for.  So, Paul reminds us to be thankful in all circumstances.  This is a bit easier because the emphasis is not on the thing or event, but on The Presence.  That first Easter morning, when Mary was left alone by the others in the cemetery, alone in her pain and grief, thinking—believing all was lost, her whole life was transformed by a single word—Mary!  (John 20:16)  When Jesus spoke her own name to her, the miracle of the Resurrection was transferred to her and she had her own personal Resurrection—all because Jesus called her by HER name.  And know that He is still calling each of us—by OUR own name—so that we may know His Presence is real.

 So, with all that goes on today, remember there is The Presence of Him who knows us and calls us by name.  Listen!  Listen carefully!  He IS calling to you; His vocal cords are reverberating with your name. Listen, you can hear it.  Now, that’s something we can truly give thanks for—the loving God who knows and calls us by name.  God is careful to make sure He is with us in every situation and circumstance, regardless if it is good or bad.  Remember the words from Psalm 139:1-10  (italics mine)

O Lord, You have looked through me and have known me.  You know when I sit down and when I get up. You understand my thoughts from far away.  You look over my path and my lying down.  You know all my ways very well.  Even before I speak a word, O Lord, You know it allYou have closed me in from behind and in front.  And You have laid Your hand upon me.   All You know is too great for me.  It is too much for me to understand.  Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I run away from where You are?  If I go up to heaven, You are there!  If I make my bed in the place of the dead, You are there!  If I take the wings of the morning or live in the farthest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me and Your right hand will hold me.  (New Living Translation)

So in the midst of the stuff of Thanksgiving Day, take a moment to listen for His voice, saying your name, and you will know that your are in The Presence!

And then Love God with all your heart. Love others the way He loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!