WHAT HAVE YOU DISCERNED?

“So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?

1 Kings chapter 3, verse 9; from the New International Version (NIV)

Every day I am more astonished at what thoughts and passages The Holy Spirit prompts in this mind of mine. I never know where He is going to take me. Like this morning. It was when God told Solomon, “I’m not a genie that grants your wishes. But because of your heart, I will grant you one wish. Let me know in the morning what it is.” Who but God would take such a, call it risk? And if you could have just one thing, what would it be? I’m old enough to remember the Sears and Roebuck Christmas catalogue that would arrive every year. And for those unfortunate souls who have no clue about this, it was called The Wish Book! And oh, what I would wish for! And one thing I’m remembering about The Wish Book is that every year my wishes changed. I mean, after all, a 10 year old doesn’t want the same things as a 9 year old. I was growing up!

But just imagine with me this morning that God has given you a Wish Book full of all kinds of things–full of everything anyone could imagine. And God told you this same thing He told Solomon: “Pick anything out of here and I will give it to you! Anything!!!” What would you choose? Would you choose to be debt-free? Now that would be great! To have lots of money? A condo on the beach? A cabin in the mountains? The winning lottery numbers? A big house with lots of acres? To be liked by everyone? What would you say in the morning? “God, I want ___________________!

Now, allow me to speak to my “for now” fellow United Methodists! We are in this period called discernment. Some of you have finished it. Some of us are about to finish it. Some of you are just beginning. And those who are NOT in a period of discernment, you are missing a rare and golden opportunity. As I have tried to guide both Mt. Vernon and Oak Hill, I have kept on emphasizing that it’s not about discerning whether you stay or leave. It is about discerning what and where God wants you! It’s not about the new (but ancient) view on human sexuality. It’s not about disobedient leaders. And it’s DEFINITELY NOT about how do you keep your property or pay the amount your conference is asking of you.

Discernment IS all about following the lead of The Holy Spirit and accepting His leading in our life and in our local church. Friends, our task isn’t about denominational tribes or figuring out who’s to blame. And it certainly isn’t about church property. It’s about the Kingdom Of God, and nothing else! My prayer for each of you is that you will have Solomon’s heart: Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. Call me looney; you won’t be the first. But if we ask for that discerning heart, then God will take care of the rest.

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BEEN GRABBED BY THE SPIRIT LATELY?

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of God suddenly took Philip off, and that was the last the eunuch saw of him. But he didn’t mind. He had what he’d come for and went on down the road as happy as he could be. Philip showed up in Azotus and continued north, preaching the Message in all the villages along that route until he arrived at Caesarea.

Acts chapter 8, verses 39 and 40; from The Message (MSG)

So, has the Spirit ever grabbed a hold of you and taken you somewhere else? Maybe you remember this story. It’s known as the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Imagine, if you will–that you are that Eunuch. You’ve just been baptized and you’re so excited. Imagine, it just so happened that you met Philip who just so happened to understand what he had been reading. You’re so thankful for that “accidental” meeting with Philip. And just when you’re about to ask Philip some more questions–POOF! He’s gone! But that didn’t dampen the Ethiopian’s joy!

And to think, all this happened because of a single event. Jump back to verse 26: Later God’s angel spoke to Philip: “At noon today I want you to walk over to that desolate road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza.” You wouldn’t have found that road in any travel guide of the time. Well, after all–it’s desolate! Yet, it’s to that exact place that God sent Philip. What Philip did not see, nor could he see, was what God alone could see. Someone needed The Good News. And Philip agrees even though he doesn’t have a single clue why. Remember, God didn’t tell him WHY he needed to go there. Just that he needed to BE there.

This is one way that The Spirit grabs hold of us. To simply and gently point us in another direction. It may not have been the direction of your choice. And it may not be where you think you should be. Nonetheless, Philip knew he had been grabbed by The Spirit. So off he goes along that desolate road. And when Philip discovers WHY he’s there–and does what The Spirit tells him to do–then The Spirit grabs hold of him again–and he literally is taken from one place to another in an instant! You know, like from the Starship Enterprise’s Transporter Room. That’s another way The Spirit grabs hold of us.

Whether He needs you simply to walk along a desolate road until you “accidentally” find another person–or if He needs you to uproot from where you are to where He wants you to be–He has a purpose. It’s up to you and I whether we accept that assignment, or not. When we are grabbed by The Spirit, it’s not the time to analyze–rather it’s the time to allow Him to take you to where He wants you. It seems to me that a lot of folks want do to the grabbing–holding on to what they want. But that never works. Why did The Spirit grab hold of Philip? Simple! He knew Philip was willing. Are you willing?

DON’T YOU DARE LEAVE!

43 “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. 45 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”

Matthew chapter 12, verses 43 thru 45; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Don’t you dare leave the United Methodist Church! You heard me right! Don’t you dare leave the United Methodist Church! Did I just upset some of you? Are you thinking: “This Preacherman has either gone bonkers or he’s been drinking the Kool-Aid of the Bishops!” Neither of these are true. My ESPN just kicked in and at least one of you are thinking: “But Preacherman! Aren’t YOU leaving? Then why tell me not to leave??? I’m confused!” Put your hackles down and hear me out. OK? Thank you!

With the slovenliness that is permeating our leadership, it is easy to want to get the heck out of Dodge. And who can blame us Traditionalist/Orthodox Folks for hurrying to abandon this thing that looks more like the Titanic than John Wesley’s vision for the Body of Christ. But then…there’s this parable of Jesus. It’s about a man who got rid of one demon, cleaned up his house, got it in order–but that’s all he did. That demon knew this, so he went back to check things out. Sure enough! It was all clean and in order–but that’s all. So he goes and gets 7 of his friends (who are also demons; I mean, who would be a friend to a demon but another demon, right?) and moves right back in. And that’s when things got a lot worse for that man. Comprende, my friends?

Sure we could just leave the United Methodist Institution and believewrongly believe, I might addthat we are finally free from this detritus and onerous thing. We might think we will be better off. But take into your considerations this thought: Where Will You Go? Oh, one more consideration: What are you going to do once you get there? If your only desire is to get away from the United Methodist Institution, you can achieve that desire. But what’s next? If you just leave without knowing the what’s next you are leaving the door open for even worse of the same-ol’-same-ol’. Remember this guy in Jesus’ story. He got out of one mess only to end up in an even bigger mess.

My fellow Wesleyans, this season of discernment is another one of God’s blessings to us. We have the opportunity to do more than just leave, we are being gifted by God’s Grace to become a part of renewal and revival across our land. To use an old term: Another Great Awakening! Whether you choose to become part of the Free Methodist, Wesleyan Methodist, Global Methodist, or become independent–do so with the faith, hope, and conviction that it’s because God’s Kingdom is on the move and YOU get to be a part of this mighty movement! And please understand that it may require you to let go of a lot of ideas, opinions, and other stuff–so that you can step into what God is doing right now.

Friends, not every generation and age has had this rare and beautiful moment of stepping out of the old and into this fresh movement of the Holy Spirit. But we do! Step away from what was–AND step into what God is doing right now! Don’t dream about leaving! Please don’t! Instead, dream about what God is doing and where He is leading us. I am applying to transfer my credentials to the Global Methodist Church–not because I’m sick and tired of the United Methodist Institution; even though I AM sick and tired of it. No, my friends. I stepping into a fresh and new movement of the Holy Spirit! I have been doing more than just discerning about leaving the United Methodist Institution! I’ve been discerning what God is wanting from and for me and where that is going to happen! I’m getting in on the ground level and am excited to be a small part of seeing this movement form and grow! You can just leave, or you can step into another Great Awakening! Your choice!

WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE QUITTING!

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

1 Kings chapter 19, verses 3 and 4; from the New Living Translation

Ever had the Elijah Broom Tree Experience? Maybe someone reading this is under that Broom Tree right now!!! The Broom Tree Experience is that point and moment when you are ready to give up. Maybe not to the point of suicide; but then again, maybe you are. In the past I was there under that Broom Tree contemplating the permanent solution to a temporary problem. If the story of Elijah can teach us anything it’s that any of us can make that lonely journey to the Broom Tree Experience.

Perhaps it’s your job that has placed you in the Broom Tree Experience. Maybe it’s your health. Maybe it’s your dream of owning a business. Maybe it’s your family. Maybe it’s a situation in your church. Maybe it’s that you are caught in a web of addiction. The causes are as many as there are people in the world. It’s not a sin to be under that Broom Tree. But it becomes a serious problem when we choose to notify the U.S. Postal Service that this is our new address.

If this is what you are thinking, that the Broom Tree Experience is where you will spend the rest of your life, then think again. And think about Elijah. Elijah made up his mind to quit–to give up completely. That was Elijah’s decision and choice. Whatever it is that is creating that desire to just QUIT, even give up your hopes–then remember the rest of the story. Elijah thinks–I said THINKS–he is all alone; that he has successfully pulled away from any and every hope of a meaningful life. But it’s just another example of people thinking they are all alone–when they aren’t. Read some more:

Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again. Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”

(Same book, same chapter, same translation)

Elijah had quit on Elijah. But God didn’t quit on Elijah. God had another experience, another task, another mission. And God doesn’t quit on you. No failure of yours will cause God to leave you under the Broom Tree. No problem is too great for God to quit on you when you are having your Broom Tree Experience. As God provided the necessary provisions for Elijah’s journey away from the Broom Tree, He will provide you with the necessary provisions to make that journey to that place where God has a new Word, a new mission, and a new hope. This is always true, even if you are a United Methodist! I leave you with a song:

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?

35 The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them. They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day.

John chapter 1 verses 35 through 39 from the New Living Translation

After a week of painfully describing the contention which exists within my beloved Tribe, the United Methodist Church, it behooves–nay, it COMPELS me to explore the options before us. Thus, the song, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”! The “word” being thrown around is DISAFFILIATION. I thought it was a suitable word until I looked up the synonyms for it:

Even though many in leadership positions, (as well as many in the pew because leadership means influence), have broken away from the core beliefs, vision, and dream of John Wesley, we who are being called by God to return to those roots are being accused of creating schism and are the splinter group. The rift occurred and rupture happened a long time ago; it was fueled by the silence of the majority who sat in silence, or simply chose to complain about it, as the foundation began to crumble.

So, we who are being called to return to our first love must live with that inaccurate term: Disaffiliation. We are leaving our beloved Tribe–but I must ask the question: Leaving to what??????? If your choice is to simply leave one Tribe for another Tribe, to jump ship as it were, then maybe–just maybe–you are jumping off the Titanic onto the Britannic. Ever heard of the Britannic? It was the Titanic’s sister ship. Know what? It sank, too; and in less time than the Titanic.

Now hold on there, partner. I am NOT saying that the Global Methodist Church, Free Methodist Church, Independent Methodist Church, Nazarene Church, Wesleyan Church, or any other Wesleyan group that has left the “Methodist” church is the Britannic. What I AM saying is that simply leaving the United Methodist Church for another group ISN’T the solution. Friends, we are in a rare and unique moment in time; much like October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Our choice, your choice and mine, must not be built around DISAFFILIATION–rather is must be built around AFFILIATION! The burning question for every United Methodist and United Methodist Congregation must be this: What is it that God is wanting me/us to do? It must be about rekindling the fire that John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and so many others experienced that propelled them out into their world with The Good News Of The Kingdom Of God. Friends, this moment is all about the Dream and Vision of God. It’s about how can we show our world the Risen Lord in ways that they can see and want to experience for themselves. This is our moment to decide what is our true purpose and what should our mission be in this messed up world.

The issue isn’t like that classic Rock-N-Roll song “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”! Nay, my friends. This is our moment to step out of the story about a church and step into the epic saga of The Good News Of The Kingdom Of God! It’s not about how much money will it cost us to leave. The cost of this moment isn’t defined in dollars. It’s defined by human lives going into eternity without Jesus. If we believe our buildings are too important to be given to an Annual Conference, then we’ve missed the boat.

Go back to the first paragraph, the passage when Jesus notices two men trailing behind Him. Jesus asked them (and He is asking us right now!), What do you want? But don’t overlook their answer to Jesus. Rabbi, where are you staying? Their question wasn’t about a specific residence. In their culture the question meant: Where are you teaching? And what was Jesus’ answer? Come and see! And what they saw wasn’t a synagogue, school building, or seminary, or even a church building. Jesus’ classroom was out there where people were.

So, tell me friends: What do you want? Do you want to get out of the United Methodist Church? Then the word disaffiliation is your word. But. . .if you want to step into the epic saga of The Kingdom of God, then your word is AFFILIATION! This decision is too important, too critical to make in an instant. Tomorrow evening one of the congregations I serve will begin the process of discerning. Thursday evening the other congregation I serve will begin their process of discerning. Our answers need to be more than staying or going to another Tribe. It must be about our Mission And Our Purpose! Failure to understand this will result in you jumping from the Titanic and onto the Britannic. Disaffiliation isn’t the quick fix. But Affiliation is what will lead us into God’s desirable future. For you or your congregation it may be through the Global Methodist, Free Methodist, Congregational Methodists, or being “independent”. That decision will come after you have decided to Affiliate With The Kingdom Of God!

DEBITS AND CREDITS!

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

Romans chapter 13 verse 8 from the New International Version

I think it was my sophomore year in high school when I signed up for “Bookkeeping”! Oh, I had no intention nor desire to become an accountant. But I needed one more class to fill my schedule–so there I was. Remember, this was back in the day of this thing called paper! I did learn, unwillingly I might add, about these books called ledgers. What I mainly remember about ledgers is two specific columns–debits and credits. Debits was the money coming in and credits was the money going out. And this morning I found myself thinking about those ledgers–and, of course–debits and credits. Oh? You need a connection between my thoughts and the Kingdom Life? OK, here goes!

We live in a time and culture where so very many people want to be entertained. They feel that life owes them something–in accounting terms that’s a debit. And they are teaching their kids the very same errant principle. I mean, look at how many kids are “playing”–if you can even call it that–with a phone or tablet. The desire to be entertained doesn’t add value to our life. On the contrary, it takes away from our life–in accounting terms that’s a credit! The desire to be entertained is everywhere–in homes, communities, at work, and yes, even at church! If we are not entertained we look somewhere else to be entertained.

But this is not the way to live–at least according to our Creator. God inspired Paul to write the aforementioned passage. Why? Because as His Creation, we are not the consumers of life–we are to be the producers of life. The attitude and demonic spirit of consumerism devalues life and takes away its worth. It treats people and blessings as our personal slaves that is owed to us because–well–because we are alive. The desire to be entertained is pure and unadulterated laziness! And it never leaves us satisfied and content. Why? Because this is simply NOT our purpose.

Our purpose is to add value to life and to people. And the way we add life is by loving people. Yes, Virginia, even those who are the most unlovable! But remember–love isn’t a feeling. Love is an action verb! Love reveals itself through the attitude of action! We cannot see feelings or emotions. I can’t see a feeling–but show me action and I understand! While “feeling” love makes the one “feeling” it feel a little bit better–it does nothing for others. And it really does nothing to add value to our life. And in steps The Kingdom Of God–not with a better way to add value to life–but the ONLY way to add value to life–both ours and all the people around us. Here’s our true purpose in life:

18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.

1 John chapter 3 verses 18 and 19 from the New Living Translation

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

OH, LORD! IT’S MONDAY! AND I’M LIVING IN THE WRONG MOMENT!

Gotta make it to Friday! So are the words of so many–too many–folks! They begin their week. And to help them get there, they have Hump Day! Oh, just to make it to Friday! It’s this Monday Morning Attitude that makes life both drab and dull. It also makes it painful–painful to endure. They make it to Friday and rejoice! Then. . .then Monday comes again and the nefarious cycle starts over. And over. And over. And over. And over. Get my point?

Setting ourselves goals are important and a very good–even excellent–thing to do. Goals fuel the dream for a real life that is worthwhile. But if the goal is just to survive until Friday? It’s a very small and insignificant goal. And it fails–always fails–to satisfy that deep inner craving for a life of purpose and meaning. No Friday can ever fill that hunger–and every Monday only intensifies that thirst. So what’s a person to do? What can YOU do? Glad you asked.

We can live like Psalm 118, Verse 24. The Psalmist wrote: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (English Standard Version) While being happy is connected with our circumstances, rejoicing (or if you prefer joy) is connected with our relationship with God; a relationship based on Jesus’ suffering for us and our trust–unconditional trust–in His love. Every day God is revealing Himself to us. And every day God is offering us a deeper and stronger relationship with Him. Living for Friday causes us to miss the moments God has for us. They are moments of comfort; of peace; of hope; of strength; of guidance; and a whole lot more.

I’m not saying there will not be problems or botherations. That would be a lie from the pits of hell. And there will be challenges. But when we live with the Psalm 118 Verse 24 attitude, we know God is with us in those troubles. And with His Presence there is always His Grace that is more than enough for whatever Monday throws at us–or any day for that matter. Today is God’s gift for you and to you. This very moment that you are reading this, is one designed by God for your good and His Glory.

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes. Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.

Martin Luther

When we live in this moment connected to God, then we can say, “Good! Lord it’s Monday! What shall we do together?” And to encourage you, here’s one of my many favorite songs.

OH, LORD! IT’S MONDAY! WHY, OH, WHY?

Another one of those dreadful things about the Monday Morning Spirit happens as we either don’t know our WHY, or we’re living with the WRONG why. And without the right WHY, we end up sounding like our kids when we tell them they can’t do something. Is your WHY for this Monday the bills that need to be paid? Duties and responsibilities? Obligations? More bingeing? Maybe you don’t know??? Life is meant to be lived for a purpose, with a purpose, and ON purpose! Get the wrong WHY, and it’s dread and emptiness. Would you believe there’s a writer from the Bible who understood this? Yep! Solomon! He wrote in Ecclesiaster chapter 1, verse 14: “I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.”

But what can we do to break this monotonous cycle; the cycle that is sucking the life out of us like a Hoover vacuum cleaner? May I offer you a suggestion? Well, I’m going to anyways! Let Jesus turn over your tables! I say this because it’s Monday of Holy Week. And on that last Monday before his execution, Jesus turned over some tables (see Matthew’s Gospel chapter 21)–tables that had no place in God’s Temple. And this wasn’t the first time He did such a thing. Seems like someone didn’t learn the lesson from the first time! Those tables in The Temple were put there by those who thought they knew the real purpose of The Temple–to make them more money–while pretending to help those who came to encounter God. Currency changers! Sheep market peddlers! Dove sellers! All those tables–but all of them were the wrong table.

Are you living at the wrong Table? Herod’s Temple (the one where the story I aforementioned occured) is nothing but an archeological site. But God’s Temple still exists. Wanna know where? Well, I’m gonna tell you! It’s found in First Corinthians, chapter 6, verses 19 and 20: “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” If this Monday is a dread and a pain–you’re sitting at the wrong table. Jesus loves turning over the wrong tables. He’s quite good at it. Allow Him to turn over your tables–then step up and have a seat at the correct table. It’s the one that gives your life a purpose that you can live with–and spend your day ON purpose. It’s like Paul reminds us from First Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 31: “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

When your life has the right purpose, then you can say: Good! Lord, it’s Monday! What shall we do together?

YOU CAN’T ALWAYS WAIT!

You just can’t always wait! Today I am starting to plant the seeds for our garden. Now, the old folks always said that you can’t plant your garden until Good Friday. And today is NOT Good Friday, and I just can’t wait. “Why?”, you ask. Because The Weather Channel app shows that it’s going to be raining some next week. I know, I know, meterologists aren’t always right. But sometimes they are; so I need to start today. Otherwise, the garden spot will be too wet to work. So it has to be today! And what does all this have to do with Living The Kingdom Life?

Life is meant to be lived on purpose with a purpose! As citizens of God’s Kingdom our only purpose is to share The Good News Of The Kingdom in ways that reach deep into the hearts and lives of others. We Citizens have the responsibility of sowing The Seeds. And it’s easy to say, even easier to think, that we have plenty of time to do this. NEWS FLASH! We don’t–and those around us don’t either! One thing those earliest disciples had that many don’t have today is that Sense Of Holy Urgency! If I don’t believe The Weather Channel app and wait until next Friday, I’ll have to wait an additional 2 weeks because we are going on another sabbatical after Easter. If I wait too late to plant, I will not get the harvest that I should have. Paul had something to say about not waiting!

In Ephesians chapter 5 and verse 16 he wrote: “These are evil times, so make every minute count.” (from the Contemporary English Version). The ever familiar King James Version puts it this way: “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. I looked up that word, “redeeming” in the Greek and found out it means: “to make a wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good.” And when does that opportunity come up? Every moment of every day. Folks, we can’t afford to wait to share God’s love until the time is just right. And neither can the people around us. So, get busy! Plant those seeds!

And if you have been putting off surrendering your life to Jesus, the time is never better than right now! Because I didn’t wait until Good Friday, some of those old folks will say that my garden won’t do well. But I can’t wait hoping The Weather Channel got it wrong. So, I will plant some of those seeds today. And trust The Master Gardner for the outcome.

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

Which Do YOU Prefer? Onions Or The Promise?

3 “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”

Numbers 13:3-4 (NLT)

(This is from a few years ago.  Hope you find something to help you in your Journey!)

I have to admit and give credit to where credit is due.  Today’s Kingdom Musings are inspired by something I read this morning from another fellow blogger Matthew Winters.  Though we have never met, we are connected because we shared a dark journey through an identical situation-a pastor who experiences divorce first hand.  I encourage you to read his blog Does Anyone Take Risks Anymore?  Thanks Matthew for unclogging my mind to write in this blog again.

As with all Scripture, one needs to know the context of a passage in order to understand it and apply it to our lives.  God has been leading the Hebrews to the Promised Land through His chosen leader Moses.  Besides always providing for their physical needs, God has been visibly present with them.  In the daytime it was in the pillar of cloud and at nighttime it was in the pillar of fire.  Both evidences of His presence was clear and undeniable.

Even after a lot of grumbling and complaining, they are at the very edge of the land that God promised first to Abraham and now to them.  Can you imagine the people redeemed by God’s grace, mercy and love actually grumbling and complaining?  Aren’t you glad that people today redeemed by God’s grace, mercy and love never grumble or complain?  Yes, I’m being sarcastic, one of my many gifts.  To understand this passage we need to know what led up to it.  In Numbers 13:1-2 (NLT) we read:

The Lord now said to Moses,  “Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites.  Send one leader from each of the twelve ancestral tribes.” (emphasis mine)

They were to called out by God catch a glimpse of what HE was about to do.  The inhabitants were formidable, but for God who spoke light into the darkness, it would be a walk in the park.  Remember, HE is giving HIS personal guarantee that they would occupy the land and HE would give it to them.  But when these explorers came back they acted in a very human manner-there was a Majority Report and a Minority Report.  The Majority Report saw the risks and responded to the risks:  “It just can’t be done!  Before we even try, we are already whipped!”  Remember that this report is given in the light of God’s Personal Guarantee:  the land I am giving to the Israelites.  It’s a report given by those who have been witnessing God’s faithfulness.

The Minority Report saw THE SAME RISKS and said, “Look, people, if God said HE will give us this land, let’s consider this a done deal.  We don’t know exactly how He is going to pull this off, but that’s not my job.  The fact is we were never called out to determine success or failure.  We were called out to catch a wonderful glimpse of what God guaranteed HE would provide for us.”  So, the people went with the minority report, right?  WRONG!

People who had been faithfully provided food and water along the way, witnessed God delivering them in battle, AND who had witnessed the Faithful Presence of Cloud by Day and Fire by Night, want to go back to Egypt and back to slavery.  Where did this come from?  Well, it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision.  They had already given a clue to where they heart and mind was at before they arrived at the edge of risk.  It is seen in Numbers 11:4-6 (NLT)

Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!”

Rather than enjoying the faithfulness of God, they wanted onions.  The price of the onions was to go back to slavery.  The modern parallel is clear, at least to me.  Today’s people of God, the church, are facing the same moment:  Do we take the risk of going into God’s Promise or do we go maintain the status quo?  The challenge for the Body of Christ here in the United States is do we keep on doing church work as normal or dare we take the risk of becoming involved in the work of the Kingdom of God?  Congregations that have plateaued or declining are doing so for one of two reasons:  Either their community is dying out, or they are more concerned with preserving the institution of their choice rather than doing the work of the Kingdom of God.  There is an alternative to the slavery of decline.

There are congregations that are thriving and making new disciples.  These are the congregations that have made Kingdom Work more important than church work.  The promise of God is not to have a land of beautiful church buildings and wonderful church programs, but to put in the middle of the territory of the Enemy the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.  This is our Promised Land-for the Kingdom of God to reach, touch and transform lives, homes, communities and nations.  For this to happen we must be willing to take risks.  And herein lies the problem.

When taking risks, there is the potential to fall flat on our faces.  I see a lot of good people who mistakenly believe that failure is fatal.  So to avoid becoming a fatality, they seek the comfort of the familiar because in the familiar, they live in the false illusion that they do have some type of control over their lives.  And this false illusion makes them feel more comfortable than taking the risk of trusting the Guarantee of God!  Comfort rules over risks for the Kingdom.

Recently I was at an event that was led by some of the Team Pastors of Grace Church located in the Cape Coral and Fort Myers area of Florida.  One of their pastor’s, Wes Olds said, “Don’t be afraid to fail.  In fact, do what we do.  Fail early, fail often, and fail forward.”  What he meant was that we need to be willing to learn from our mistakes and then move forward.  Some of our best learning, especially in the realm of the Kingdom of God, happens through our failures.  The problems arise hard and fast when we do not learn from our failures.  Remember this:  your failures, whether in the form of sin or in the form of trying to be faithful to our Kingdom God, never disqualifies you from God picking you up, dusting off your knees and telling you, “OK, get back out there!  I still believe in you!”

So here’s what I would like to ask you to do.  Answer this question:

Which do you prefer?  Onions or The Promised Land?

Your answer is clearly revealed in how you feel about the risks of stepping into a future where success lies entirely in the Hands of The Faithful God, the hands that were nailed to a Cross, and a future that is never controlled by our hands.  I personally know what it is like to walk into a future unknown by me.  But I go ahead and walk into this future because I have chosen to hold the Hand, the ONLY Hand, that knows exactly how this future will turn out.  My unknown future is only an illusion when I realize that God is in control of my life and my future; a future filled with His Promise.  I love a good onion, especially with beans and cornbread, but I am choosing to let go of the onions of predictability and comfort and enter into an adventure with the One who redeemed me and calls me to catch a glimpse of what HE is about to do!  Save the onions for hamburgers-go against the odds and remember that the Guarantee is given by the Faithful God!

Remember, love God with all your heart; love others the way Jesus loves you; and make sure all the glory goes to Him!

The Monday Spirit Of Inconsistency

Many feelings can and will invade us on Monday mornings. Not only do they invade us, but they also Invite us to live with them. They pretend it’s only for a day–but they lock the door and won’t let us leave. If there was a single word to describe the plethora of those feelings that word would be Dread!

Dread is a blood-sucking leech that drains both the joy and purpose of life. But the thing about Dread is it has to be invited in–BY US! It is incapable of knocking down our doors; so it needs an in–like a door-to-door salesperson. One such tactic is our own inconsistency. Inconsistency is defined as the quality or condition of being inconsistent. Well, that’s not a lot of help! Let’s look at inconsistent. It’s defined as:

from dictionary.com

That’s better! Notice that it’s called an adjective. Remember that from your school days? An adjective is a modifier or describes nouns. Adjectives give a better description; a description with more details. Look at the first definition: “lacking in harmony between the different parts or elements; self-contradictory”. When we are Inconsistent in our attitudes, beliefs, convictions, or actions we lack the harmony that holds us in peace and joy as life happens–both the good and the bad. Without the harmony between our attitudes, beliefs, convictions, and actions, the resulting inconsistencies opens the door of our heart and mind to that demon called Dread. And Dread talks to us early Monday mornings, sometimes even Sunday evenings, telling us about all the miseries awaiting us on Monday.

Then the sly demon tells us it will be better on Tuesday. But it’s not. So Wednesday becomes Hump Day and Dread stays with us until Friday where he shouts Thank God It’s Friday! And for a couple of days, well, at least until Sunday evening, we feel better. But the vicious cycle starts all over again. So, how do we kick Dread in the seat of his pants out of our mind and heart, to reclaim the peace and joy of another week?

Remember! It’s just that simple–though not always so easy. Remember that God is with you! (Remember we are in the season where the word Immanuel became a living, breathing human like us!) Remember that God loves you. Remember that God takes ordinary tasks, duties, and jobs and transforms them into a deeper purpose–to teach us and others about The Good News Of The Kingdom Of God! Living within God’s designs for our lives on a CONSISTENT basis helps us to live every day without Dread!

When we know that God Is With Us, then we can say: “Good! Lord, it’s Monday! What shall we do together?”

How Much?

How Much? If you have followed me for any amount of time, you know me: I got questions! Lots of them! Not only am I afflicted with random thoughts–but I am blessed with an inquisitive, call it DNA. I know that some of my questions are a bit on the side of trifling, if not smack dab in the middle of the absurd. But not all of them! Case in point; today’s question: How much?

Customarily this question is asked in the marketplace, yard sales, and flea markets. “How much for that set of tires?” “How much for that necklace?” “How much for that table?” “How much do you want for the truck?” A shallow look at such questions doesn’t mean that the questioner wants to know How Much. What she or he really means is How Little Will It Take For THAT To Be Mine? Forget the manufacturer’s suggested retail price--HOW LITTLE will it cost me to make that mine! But let’s take that question out of the marketplace, yard sales, and flea market. Let’s put it into more important places!

How Much to be a citizen of the good old U.S. of A.? It costs you determination to overcome obstacles. It costs you the time and energy to be productive and add value to our nation and communities. It requires you to do your very best at work without slacking off or whining. It costs you to freely show kindness and courtesy to others. It costs you appreciation for those who protect and ensure your freedoms. It costs you to put the needs of the whole ahead of your own needs. Sometimes it even costs you your comfort by making personal sacrifices. What? Freedom isn’t free? Nope, buttercup, it’s not! Let’s go further with this question:

How Much to live in my neighborhood or community? To start, it costs you getting to know your neighbors. It costs you being helpful to your neighbors. It costs you giving up any prejudices you may be holding. And remember that prejudice isn’t about the color of a person’s skin–it’s about making judgments without knowing all of the facts. It costs you time and effort to make your neighborhood or community a better place. It costs you the willingness to care what’s happening–in the neighborhood or in another person’s life. This list can go on and on; but I will stop with one more query:

How Much does it cost to have inner peace and a higher purpose for your life? That’s not 2 questions; it’s just one. You can’t have inner peace without a higher purpose and you cannot live out that higher purpose without peace. Back to my opening statement. People are far more wanting to give just a little rather than what it really costs. They think the price is too high–but it’s not! Ever heard the expression “You get out of something what you put into it!”? That may be true–but not really! When time, effort, and personal sacrifice are put into a life that really matters and satisfies–it gives us back far more. Inner peace and that higher purpose doesn’t just land in our laps–it happens only when we seek and pursue The Right Kind Of Life!

Our peace and our true purpose comes at a great price. The Good News is the largest part of that price–the part we could never afford nor have the means to pay–has already been paid for, and it’s offered to us in this amazing thing called Grace! Being Grace, means we don’t have to pay for it–nor earn it. Think about these words and then apply them to every part of your life:

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of Himself that He had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, He stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Philippians 2:5-8 (The Message)

But remember my earlier comment that freedom isn’t free? Peace and our true purpose–and God’s offer of this gift–does cost us something. Just as Jesus made this Sacrifice for us–we also need to make a sacrifice to Him! And this sacrifice isn’t about earning that gift or deserving that gift. It’s about the only way to respond to God’s offer. So, How Much does it cost us? How Much does inner peace and living out our true purpose cost? Surrender! Give up our way of thinking and think the way Jesus thinks. I know it’s counter-intuitive, but it works. Stop following the path of How Little and start pursuing life as God intended all along. And don’t focus or worry about How Much such a pursuit costs–simply enjoy the contentment that comes from walking with Jesus!

What Will It Take?

The question of the morning is: What will it take? In reality, this is the question for our times. I know it sounds like what car salespersons say–but I’m not selling cars this morning. What am I selling? Not a thing! I’m asking this most important question to those who are deeply committed to God’s Kingdom. And it’s not: “What will it take to change the direction and course of this culture?” Nope! That’s not it! However, the right answer to this question I am asking this morning will undoubtedly change the direction of our culture and in a profoundly wonderful way, transform this culture.

Wanna’ know what this question is all about? OK, you asked for it: What Will It Take For Us To Be John 17:21 People?

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. (NLT)

The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us. (The Message)

John 17:21

I do not ask this question to the Tenured Pew Sitters, Churchians, and Concrete People (concrete people are those whose mind is thoroughly mixed up and set in their ways). These people will never be a part of the transformation of any culture. Heck, they are part of the problem! You can’t transform others until you allow yourself to be transformed by God’s Grace!

We can’t be ONE in choosing our favorite college football team. We can’t be ONE in politics. We can’t be ONE in what kind of weather we prefer. We can’t be ONE in our favorite make and model of vehicles. We can’t be ONE in our choice of favorite color. We can’t be ONE in what style of clothes to wear. And we can’t be ONE in interpretations of Scripture. But there is a way for us who are deeply committed to The Kingdom Of God!

Being One happens are we follow the Model of Jesus–“Just as You and I are ONE!” And how was Jesus and The Father ONE? It was their mission and purpose of bringing Fallen Image Bearers back into the relationship they were created for–to be ONE with God! It’s not about us pointing out where others are wrong–it’s about sharing how God makes us right!

Hear me, Kingdom Citizens! Let’s stay Mission Focused and Purpose Driven! We have too many other differences that keep us from being ONE! But the Mission and Purpose is the same for all of us Kingdom Citizens! So? What do you say?

Using The Wrong Specifications

Image from Dreamstime.com

Are specifications important? Ask an engineer! Commercial jets are manufactured to exacting specifications. In the manufacturing and in the maintenance of an airliner each and every part must match the specifications in the design. If any part falls outside the tolerance levels, then we get to watch how it affects that plane on the show Air Disasters!

Why this musing about specifications and tolerance levels? Because I’ve been thinking–seriously thinking–deeply thinking–about the malaise of the church in the U.S. and throughout Western Civilization. Civilization! Now there’s an oxymoron–ain’t much civilized in the Western Culture. Let’s go ahead and address the pink elephant in the room–Western churches are in a state of decline. Truth is–this isn’t a recent phenomenon; it’s been happening for decades. And it breaks my heart.

My conclusion? The church has been built to the wrong Specifications–and it is way outside the tolerance levels. And like that jet headed towards that Air Disaster, so are we. In fact, many local churches have already crashed and burned–debris and dead bodies lying everywhere. They have built the church according to their specifications rather than God’s! The color of the church carpet? Our Specifications! The kind of music to sing? Our Specifications! Use of church building facilities? Our Specifications! The type of preaching? Our Specifications! The kind of people they want in? Our Specifications! Who’s in leadership? Our Specifications! The mission? Our Specifications! The expectations of members? Our Specifications! Got the point yet? Good!

When we build a church on Our Specifications it falls way outside the tolerance ranges established by the One who designed it, and the One who owns it. Instead of building by Our Specifications, what if we started asking those OUTSIDE the building what THEY would like to see in a local church? WHAT IF we designed a church that those who don’t like church would like it instead of designing a church that WE LIKE? I’m not talking about changing The Message! That would fall way outside the Specifications! Besides, look at many United Methodist Churches in The West who have changed The Message, and see the disaster that’s happening. In North Georgia, the largest United Methodist Church is being accused of not kowtowing to the progressive agenda and the Conference is attempting to take it over. They are accused of having closed hearts and closed doors–even though they are the largest congregation in that Conference. Madness, I say, Madness!

What if we designed our church according to God’s Specifications rather than our own? The church is designed to be a refuge for the messes (that’s not a typo–messes not masses). After all, that’s the kind of people that were attracted to Jesus when He walked His Creation in the form He helped create. Jesus attracted crowds of people who were messed up, broken up, and confused. They were drawn towards Him! And those Pharisees and Sadduccees, operating accord to their Own Specifications? How many were drawn towards their Specifications? Figure it out for yourself–and see if you are using the Wrong Specifications.

Making For A Better View

Well, our last full day at this cabin. As I was sitting on the back porch, my eyes were not drawn to the beautiful mountain peaks, but to something unexpected. It wasn’t beautiful at all. In fact, it was in great contrast to those Smoky Mountain peaks we have enjoyed this past week. Would you like to see what I noticed? It’s nothing like the pictures I have posted, so a disclaimer is in order: Not for immature audiences due to it’s starkness:

Blue Mountain View Cabin

One might wonder why in the world would someone, anyone cut down those beautiful trees? I’m not a ultra-extreme tree hugger, so it did not take me long to figure it out. They were cut down so we, and others who stay here, could see those majestic peaks. See?

Blue Mountain View Cabin

There are other benefits to the removal of those trees. One is that the undergrowth is given a better opportunity to grow, thus reducing the amount of erosion. The tree trunks and limbs begin decaying, adding back to the soil, making it richer and better. Then there’s that view. None of these would happen without the chainsaw cutting down those trees. There’s a spiritual lesson for us right here. Tree huggers may not see it, but it’s here.

Remember the benefits of controlled cutting: undergrowth can thrive reducing erosion, decaying limbs and tree trunks add nutrients to the soil for plants to grow better, insects collect around the cuttings for birds to have food, and one can see the view for which we came. Sometimes things in our life can grow so tall that we cannot see our God’s desired destination for us–which is to become more and more like Jesus.

Sometimes there are things in our heart and especially our mind that must be cut down. We call this “God’s pruning”. He cuts off the dead parts of our life because they are a threat to the living parts. Now get this, He even cuts off productive parts of our lives as well. Why would he do that? Glad you asked. The answer is found in John 15, verses 1 and 2:

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of Mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.

New Living Translation (emphasis mine)

Speaking from personal experience, pruning is neither easy nor pleasant. Truth be told, pruning is downright painful. But I am understanding the purpose, and the love behind God’s pruning. What is cut away in my life is like those limbs and tree trunks–it’s enriching the soil of my life. My “mess” becomes His “Message”; not a bad trade if you ask me. Furthermore, the pruning of my productive part will decrease my production for a short time, but the long-term result is an even greater production for my Father. Again, however you look at it, this is a really great deal. It’s like trading in an old clunker car for a brand new car–without paying for the difference between the two.

So, if it feels like God has had His chainsaw out–it’s for our good. And when the pruning shears come out–get excited! There is a greater harvest coming for Our Father!

The Americanization Of The Gospel

 This is from an older post. When I started blogging I made a promise to myself to never re-post a blog because I wanted my material to always be fresh. Well, early this morning, The Spirit asked me, “Would you like salt and pepper for eating crow?” Needless to say, this morning’s post was from a few years ago, August 3, 2016. I’ve updated some personal references and edited some of my typical errors, a.k.a. typographical errors. It just seems that this is the Word God wants me to share this morning. It seems that Solomon was right, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

   Before I begin sharing my heart I must, in all honesty, begin with a warning and a disclaimer.  The warning is that due to the mature subject matter, some may find this offensive, even to the point of labeling me something I am not.  The disclaimer is that I am NOT being unpatriotic.  I fly our country’s flag at our home.  I stand at attention with my hand over my heart when the national anthem is being played.  I am very patriotic for many reasons–I appreciate the many freedoms we enjoy and I have a son and son-in-law who are combat veterans. Since this was first published my son, Matthew has retired from the military (and now serving in law enforcement). My son in law, Michael, continues to serve in defense of our wonderful nation.  I am very proud of Matthew and Michael and every day I pray they will never have to go back into harm’s way.  With this being said, I want to share something with you that has been troubling my heart and mind.

     I am acutely troubled by the emotional climate that exists in our nation in this current election cycle.  I am seeing and hearing a lot of conversations that are soaked with frustrations, anger and fear, especially around this current Presidential election.  My deepest concerns are the words I see and hear from the “Christian” community.  Many of my friends are saying that this is THE sign that Jesus is about to return because the wrong person was elected.  Others are saying that America is doomed.

     I am left wondering, “Why so much concern about who sits in the chair behind that desk in the Oval Office?  Why does that thought create such anger or even fear?”  Regardless of who sits there, God is still God.  He is still sovereign.  He is still in control.  The waves and the winds still know and obey the voice of Jesus.  In a message series it was something I said that inspired this blog.  It came from a series based on Ecclesiastes, that book where Solomon shares all the things he tried to find a life with meaningful purpose that would give us that deep and abiding peace with joy.  Of the many things Solomon tried one was the political process.  He described putting our hope on the political process was like “chasing the wind.”  During that message, here is what I said:  “The hope for the United States is not about who sits in the chair behind the desk of the oval office, but rules on the throne of your own heart.”

     I listen with all respect to the passion of the many voices who spend their time and energy on their desire for the United States to become once again a Christian nation.  There seems to be a lot of passion and energy as well as fear being expended in this idea that God, and thus the Gospel, wants us to create a Christian nation.  Now comes the offensive part so brace yourselves for you have been warned.  Jesus never asked us to follow Him in order to set upon this earth a Christian nation.  God hasn’t called us or anyone to create a Christian nation.

     If you, the reader, are among the many here in the United States that sincerely believe that God wants us to create and maintain this Christian nation and are now offended (and maybe even labeled me a heretical liberal), I have one word for you:  Good!  About six and a half ago years God turned my theology and understanding about the collective gathering we call the church on its ear.  Well, actually He helped me move from upside down to right side up, by reminding me the work of the collective body called the church is not about what we call church work, but Kingdom Work.

     Out of this has God has brought me back to a familiar verse from which directs my thoughts and words in this blog, and why I do not think God wants us to be so adamant about this being a Christian nation.  It is from 1 Peter 2:9-10 and I want to share it from both the New Living Translation and from the Message:

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people.  You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.  As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.  “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people.  Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”

New Living Translation

 But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.

The Message

   The call of God is about more than a piece of real estate.  Notice Peter’s carefully selected word:  YOU!  We, who have been called out by God only because of His grace and mercy, are to be royal priests that are to be collectively formed, under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, to be this holy nation.  It is just like the church.  We never, ever go to church if we are doing it right.  WE are the church, not a piece of real estate.  The real church never has a single address, nor does it exist within multiple campuses.

     The church exists wherever you happen to be at that moment, that is, if you are have some clarity about the nature of the church.  And within our collective body our work is to be Kingdom Work.  Kingdom Work is about restoring people to what Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert describe in the book When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . . and Yourself as the 4 key relationships God intended in creation for us.  They describe these 4 key relationships as relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation.  Poverty exists when 1 or more of these relationships are broken.

     One way that I see that we have Americanized the Gospel is in how we define and treat poverty.  In their book, Corbett and Fikkert point out because of our American bias, we define poverty as the lack of material substance.  So we treat poverty with material substance.  And be honest, how has this worked out?  IF poverty is the lack of material substance (which it’s NOT), then we should have solved the problem a long time ago.  Instead of solving the problem, people continue to live in broken relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation.  Even we who call ourselves Christians experience poverty in one or more of these relationships.

     The Work of God’s Kingdom ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve has been to restore His most loved part of creation to those 4 key relationships.  It is in these 4 relationships that we reflect His nature, His heart, and His glory.  And it is within these key relationships that we begin to live out our created design and purpose.  And here is where I believe that we “American” Christians have forgotten something that should never be forgotten.  I am convinced that much of our dysfunction as a nation (notice I did not say “Christian Nation”) is that we have chosen to ignore this absolute truth.

     God calls us to proclaim the Kingdom right smack dab in the middle of the Enemy’s Kingdom.  Albeit the kingdom of Satan is temporary, still at this time he rules it.  Do you remember what Jesus said to Pilate when questioned about being a King?

Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom.  If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36 NLT)

     If Jesus wasn’t interested in establishing an earthly kingdom, meaning “a nation”, then why are so many of us obsessed with having one in the United States?  Here is my thought:  We have forgotten that God has placed us in the middle of enemy territory for the purpose of spiritual warfare (and remember this warfare isn’t against people, corporations or governments, but the Evil one) to reclaim those whom God created in HIS image, but have been disfigured with the image of the Enemy.  I’m sitting here wondering if Christians in places like Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia, and a host of other nations ruled by petty despots, are wondering, “Why are those Americans so up in arms about that election?  Every day we live under the threat of imprisonment and death and it hasn’t slowed the Kingdom down one little bit.  Truth is, God’s Kingdom is growing here but declining there.”

     I want to challenge you stop insisting that our job as Disciples of Jesus Christ is to make sure this great nation with so many wonderful freedoms turn back to becoming a Christian nation.  You may think I am dishonoring our Founding Fathers and their desire and intent.  Are you aware that some of our Founding Fathers were Deists?  Deists believe in a divine creator but not in the Trinitarian God.  Though they rejected the idea of Jesus, they understood the importance of freedom of thought, speech, and yes, religion.

     Let’s stop trying to “make” this a Christian nation and instead BECOME the nation God has called us to be.  A nation that exists, not on real estate, but a PEOPLE who faithfully live out as His priests, Royal Priests!  Forget Republican or Democrat priests–let’s be Royal Priests who serve not a political ideology or party or even flag, but The King of all Kings!  Would you love to see a culture shift in the United States?  A culture shift that moves away from political ideologies, from greed and selfishness, from that sense of entitlement, and from the idea that as Disciples of Jesus we are supposed to establish a “Christian” nation?  Then remember where your citizenship lies and under whose command you serve.

     Stop freaking out about Donald and Joe and instead focus on your own brokenness in the 4 Key Relationships–God, self, others and the rest of creation.  And then step into the Territory of the Enemy and share your brokenness with others who are broken and say to them, “Let’s walk together out of our brokenness towards the only One who can restore us to who we truly are.”  Don’t worry about the nation–BE the Nation of people called out by God to walk through the Enemy’s territory with the light of His love, grace and mercy.  I was reading the other day but unfortunately I did not write down the source of it, but here are my closing words:  95% of Christians pass the test of adversity but 95% of Christians fail the test of prosperity.

One Resolution: One Purpose!

 1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if His love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor:  Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.  Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.  Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.  Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.  Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. 5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself.  He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of Himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.  Not at all.  When the time came, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human.  It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges.  Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Philippians 2:1-8 (The Message)

We are in the 3rd week of looking at One Resolution that will give our hearts the one thing it longs for most of all:  Contentment.  This One Resolution is to Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel!  Not the “Gospel of Our Best Efforts” but the Gospel of Jesus—God’s Best Effort For Us.  Because it’s all about God’s Grace, it’s not left up to our best efforts to honor Christ, But To Honor Christ By Allowing Him To Live In And Through Us With The Power Of Resurrection! 

It comes by making 6 Conscious Choices every day.  Here’s the first 2:

  1. Live With An Undivided Heart—That’s the One Spirit.  Your loyalty and allegiance is to Jesus and His Work in our world.
  2. We Need To Be The Community That Has A Pinpoint Laser Focus On The Kingdom Of God—That’s the One Mind.  We focus on each other and those who are not here yet.

Now we come to that Third Key Decision in finding the life of real Contentment.  It is so obvious, yet so difficult for so many people.  And Here Is The One Thing You Need To Remember From Today’s Message:  To Live In Contentment, Find Your Unique Life Purpose.  Few things make contentment more elusive than not knowing our Unique Life Purpose.  And most folks have no idea how to discover their Unique Life Purpose

And I’m about to say could make it even more frustrating.  Your Life Purpose Isn’t About The What You Do, But The Why!  The What causes us to think about The How:  How will we do it?  And The Why is completely ignored. 

Purpose, Your Unique Life Purpose comes out of The WhyWhy Did Jesus Die On The Cross For You?  Why Did He Save You?  And the Pivotal Question is this:  Why Are You Here?

There is a “flip-flop” quality to understanding today’s scripture.  It goes counter to our usual way of thinking.  America is the home of Davey Crocket who conquered the wild frontier and Wyatt Earp who tamed the Wild West.  We honor and value independence, self-sufficiency, strength and the glory of a “self-made” man or woman.  

Surrender is what we did NOT do.  With brains and brawn we became a super power in the world.  “American Ingenuity” is the brilliance that made us great.  Then Jesus comes along to say that strength and intelligence does not make the cut when it comes to Contentment.  He dares to tell us that the way to Contentment is through Him.  And then Jesus has the audacity to tell us that to live with and for Him, and for Him to live in and through us we are to live like a servant.

Then this fellow named Paul comes along and tells us to have the same attitude that Jesus had.  Jesus had no business empire; no college degree; never owned a fancy house; never wore designer clothes; never rubbed elbows with those considered the cultural elite.  How counter-cultural can you get?  We cannot fight, or think or power ourselves into the Life Of Contentment

Former Guideposts editor Arthur Gordon told the story of a kindergarten class he visited where the teacher frequently reminded misbehaving children to stop being a WAM.  The kids straightened up as soon as their teacher pointed out they were being a WAM.  He had to know: What was a WAM?  The teacher explained that WAM stands for “What About Me?”  She was training the children to be less self-centered.  She wanted them to think of others’ needs; not just their own.  

She taught them that no one liked a WAM, a self-centered person who only asks, “What About Me?”  Instead, she was teaching the children to be a WAY, or as she explained it, people who ask, “What About You?”  She was teaching those 5 year old kids about Contentment.

You and I are people of the WAY.  We ask “What About You?”  We get lost and lose our Spiritual Foothold when we become a WAM.  But the life of Contentment is for people of the WAY.  So, are you a WAM or a WAY?

Let me show you what happens when we become a WAM instead of a WAY.  In the 1800’s the train ruled the day.  Owners of railway companies prospered and were called barons.  But the automobile came along and the railroad barons forgot they were in the transportation business.  They thought they were in the train business and most of them went broke. 

The Swiss had dominated time keeping.  At one point they controlled over 50% of all revenues made in watches and clocks.  They made the most precise gears and springs in the world.  Their watches and clocks were perfect.  Then something new happened called the Quartz movement. 

Guess who invented it?  A Swiss man.  But because it had no gears or knobs or springs it was overlooked.  They failed to recognize that they were in the business of helping people tell time not making precision gears.  They lost their dominance in the industry now controlling somewhere about 15% of all revenue.  

If Sports Illustrated magazine understood it was in the sports information business, not the publishing business, we would have the Sports Illustrated Channel, not ESPN.   And folks, if we forget that our Why is to bring people to Jesus, we will also become obsolete.  If we lose our Why by getting distracted with tradition, habit, custom, ritual, or routine, we will go the way of the trains, the Swiss watch makers, and Sports Illustrated.  We must remember our Why.  We must at all costs, fulfill our Unique True Purpose—that comes out of knowing Our Why!

Every person has a Unique True Purpose that God has given to them.  Not for just the few and special; but all of us have a purpose from God that is uniquely our own.  Yours will be what God has designed you to be.  But before we can know the purpose that is uniquely ours, we must be clear about our Why in life.  Without understanding and accepting this Why in life, we will never discover our unique purpose.  And Paul lets us know that there is a Why for every one of us. 

He lets us in on God’s Why for our lives.  He states it in verse 5:  Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself.  He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of Himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.  

They do not teach this in high school; it’s not offered as a degree in universities; and it’s not taught in graduate school.  Yet this is exactly what God tells us is the key to finding our Unique True Purpose—that comes out of knowing Our Why!  It’s not about money, prestige or power.  It is all about relationship—with God at the very center of our lives.  Our Purpose will be found by discovering The Why.  It’s a 3 step process that Jesus followed as our example.

1.  He Emptied Himself

Jesus, who had it all in Heaven—gave it all up to become one of us!  Unlimited in space, unfettered by time, adored and worshiped by angels and saints—He chose to be one of us.  In becoming one of us He is now limited in space, and bound by time—He allowed people to talk ugly about Him—He allowed Himself to be falsely arrested—and when they couldn’t find a reason to have Him executed, He gave them one. 

Jesus allowed Himself to be publicly humiliated and finally nailed to a Cross as a common criminal to bring back His Image Bearers.  This was His Why and this is to be our Why.  And He could not have done this unless He first emptied Himself into the relationship with Abba!  Papa!  Dad!

And what are you holding on to?  What is it that you have not relinquished into God’s hands?  Is it time?  A habit?  Pride?  Fear?  Is there this one room in your heart that you’ve kept locked up in order to keep God out either because you don’t want to give it up or you’re afraid God won’t love you?  Before we can find that Unique True Purpose for which we are created, we have to let go of everything and to be completely emptied. 

And in that process of emptying ourselves, we also have to let go any and all sense of being self-sufficient.  We have to be absolutely vulnerable before God and in that moment of total vulnerability we have to trust 2 things:  God is always good; and God is pure, complete and unconditional love.

2.  He Accepted His Place

You won’t hear Jesus saying, “Oh, Dad, do I have to become one of them?”  Instead: He took on the status of a slave, became human!  Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process.  Jesus reached out and took on being human because the Father chose it for Him.  It was the Father’s plan to show us that He is not a referee, dictator or stern judge.  God wants us to know that His character is not in the rules and regulations that we think about when it comes to His Kingdom.  God wants us to know that His absolute, all the time, for all eternity character, is Love. 

We do not tell God what is our Unique True Purpose; God tells us!  We don’t inform Him of our Why:  we allow Him to tell us Our Why.  His Purpose for your life will be about what HE can do.  God wants to move us beyond ritual and rules, beyond history and traditions and step into His very character.  This Is Your Why!  Accept that place God has for you where you must rely on His strength and not your own. 

3.  He Surrendered To God’s Plan

Jesus did not just die—He died on the Cross.  The Greek word for Obedient means To Give An Ear To—in other words, Jesus was listening to the Father.  God had the plan and Jesus listened to that plan and surrendered to that plan. 

And that plan was to become the one and only sacrifice that would atone for everyone’s sins so that anyone who wanted could have a deep and intimate relationship with God.  Jesus surrendered so that we can have the relationship that God yearns for us to have with Him, the Father, Abba, Papa, Dad!  The Cross is about bringing people into a relationship with God!

The Why for your life is all about letting this world—your world know that God loves them and yearns to bring them into relationship with Him.  And Here Is Where You Find Unique True Purpose!  The only way our world can know God’s love is when they see us sharing our love for God with others.    Jesus Died So The World Could Know God’s Love—we should live the same way—To Live So That The World Will Know God’s Love For Them!

Your exact Life Purpose is as unique as you are—but each of our Unique Purposes is designed for one thing:  To Help Bring Others Into A Relationship With God, Who Is Always Good And Always Full Of Love.  As much as we are to yearn for God, understand this:  That God Yearns Infinitely More For You And Everyone! 

OK, you know what’s next.  Because you can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are, here’s your Next Step:

Find a way to do something for another person to know that God loves them.  Get personally involved with another life in a way that reveals your Why—To let them know that God wants a relationship with them.  Or is your Why for some other reason?  Give up your Why For The Why That Always Gives You Contentment!

Going Out Of Business

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!

Really, What Is All This About?

Something got me to thinking this morning. Remember my last post, that where I’m from there are only 2 seasons: Hunting and Football. Well, it’s the Football Season that has filled my mind with so many random thoughts. But one thought screamed out louder than all the other. At this time lift up your trays, put away all electronic devices, and place your bags in the overhead compartment or in front of your feet. We are about to take-off.

Saturday the Alabama Crimson Tide and the LSU Tigers face-off on the gridiron battlefield in pursuit of that illusive National Championship at the capital of National Champions, Bryant-Denny Stadium. Neither team has experienced the agony of defeat thus far this season. But comes Saturday evening, one of them will. Players, coaches and staffs have worked hard for this moment. Both teams had a bye-week coming into this epic confrontation. Coaches and staff have been teaching. Players have been learning.

This is great stuff! Talent against talent. Desire against desire. This is THE opportunity for one of these teams to get closer to their goal of an SEC Championship and potentially another National Championship. The attention should be on those who, through sweat, tears and blood, have the opportunity to seek the rewards.

Ticket prices were already way above face-value because of the nature of this epic battle. And now, those prices are orbiting Mars. Why the spike in prices? Because President Trump will be in attendance at the game. THIS IS NOT A RANT AGAINST OUR PRESIDENT! Simply an observation from a football fan, and a Crimson Tide Fan. For many, it seems that the focus is off of the Teams and players and onto a single person. Granted, the last time President Trump watched the Crimson Tide play they brought home a Championship Trophy. But even the sports news outlets are focusing on “The Visit”. And that, my friends, is what screamed at me this morning.

In the Body of Christ, I see much, way too much emphasis put on things other than our Reason. Styles of worship, religious doctrine, personal feelings, superstar preachers (of which I’m NOT), appearance of facilities (exempli gratia–color of the carpet; I’ve seen a church nearly split on this issue), dress code in the ‘sanctuary’, is it ‘A-men’ or ‘Ah-men’ (again, I’ve heard this issue), who should be allowed in, who should NOT be allowed in, the use of robes (again, been there-done that-got the T shirt [wanna see my scars?] to prove it), denominational labels, pipe organs, drum sets, temperature in the sanctuary, pews versus chairs; and the list goes on ad nauseam.

Is this really what “church” is all about? A lot of folks think so–and it has become such a pungently odoriferous aroma that my spirit crawls with angst when I even hear the word “church”. The focus has become all those “other” things to the point that 6 things have happened (you can probably think of more, so add them to the comment section below):

  1. Those who long to serve Jesus have become disgusted and walked away; many after long years of service. They have been labeled “the dones”.
  2. Those who are hurting, broken, or disgusted with their life refuse to turn to the church because they see it as a place with more dysfunction than their own life. They have been labeled “the nones”.
  3. Those who sit in the pews believe that they should be the consumers of what the church provides, rather than the producers of the Mission. I call them “the selfish”.
  4. The Church that once influenced the culture for the better, is now influenced BY the culture. I call this “heart-breaking”.
  5. There is a lack of Biblical Wisdom and Knowledge that has led to people defining the Bible to fit their life rather than allowing the Word of God define their life. I call this “sad”.
  6. And people are being ignored and going into eternity without a relationship with Jesus. I call this “exponential tragedy”.

What is all this about? This life that Jesus came to provide through His suffering, death and Resurrection? It’s certainly none of the things I’ve described that blinds people to the real Reason for following Jesus. Our Reason for following Jesus must be the same Reason He came into His creation as one of His creations:

1When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
    that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19     and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

Luke 4:16-21 (NLT)

If you consider, or ‘call’ yourself a Christian, how much of you day looks like what Jesus said here in Luke? This is the Reason to be a Real Follower Of Jesus:

  • To live by the guidance and in the power of the Holy Spirit
  • To bring Good News, the BEST News of all to all who are spiritually poor, even bankrupt
  • To set captives free
  • To help the spiritually blind see The Father who loves them so very much
  • To bring freedom to those who are being oppressed by The Enemy (that’s Satan, just in case you forgot or didn’t know)
  • And that we can all be delivered from the Old Life and given the New Life–that everything in a person’s past is covered by the blood of Jesus and removed from them forever!

I just have to ask: If you go to church somewhere, is this the Reason your church is there? If not, don’t you think it’s time for this to become THE REASON? I do, and I’m seeing signs of this happening now. Make sure you know that you have the right Reason for your life.

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

How Is Your Aim?

(Disclaimer: Some may find my analogy offensive, especially those who think hunting is barbaric. If I offend you, then get over it and move on.)

Where I live, there are only 2 seasons: Football and Deer Hunting. Any event has to be planned around these 2 seasons. When Debbie and I were setting our wedding date, I chose November 13 because The Crimson Tide had a bye week and the Deer Season for hunting with guns had not yet begun.

Well, around here Deer Season (hunting with guns) begins November 23 and I am getting ready for it. Food plot planted. Mineral spots established. Game camera in place. Supplies gathered. Hunting clothes and gear are out and ready to be worn and used. But I’m still not ready for November.

What’s left in my preparations? Glad you asked. I haven’t taken my rifles out to see if I need to make any adjustments to the scope. The only way I can do that is to put up a target, load the rifle, take aim and shoot. The mark on the target will tell me if I need to make adjustments.

Without knowing this important information, I may miss that deer; or even worse, I may only wound it and it runs off only to die somewhere else. What’s the spiritual lesson in this? Well. . . you asked for it.

Look carefully at Paul’s words to the Thessalonians:

11 Make it your aim to live a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to earn your own living, just as we told you before. 12 In this way you will win the respect of those who are not believers, and you will not have to depend on anyone for what you need.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (GNT)

So, how is your aim? Do you possess a calm inner spirit revealed in an even calmer outward demeanor? Do you aim to make your life more like Jesus rather than quickly and harshly telling others what they are doing wrong? Do you apply yourself to becoming the best you possible by being productive and adding value to yourself and the people around you?

To answer these (and many other questions) you need to look at the mark your life is leaving on others. And remember: Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

What’s That?

(image from http://www.publish0x.com)

I was thinking this morning about one of our grandson’s Ethan. He was nearly 3 years old. We were in the garage. Like most garages it had a lot of. . . stuff in it. Well, Ethan started at one corner and asked, “What’s that, Grandpa?” I told him and then he proceeded to journey around that garage with the same question: “What’s that Grandpa?” When we arrived at the starting point I expected the journey to end. Nope! He started it all over again: “What’s that Grandpa? What’s that Grandpa?”

This continued until I had to leave. But Ethan wasn’t through; he took Debbie by the hand and asked, “What’s that Grandma? What’s that Grandma?” I think they made a couple more trips around that garage with that question. So what does this little story have to do with Kingdom Life? Glad you asked. . .

  • What do you see as you go through this day?
  • What’s that in front of you?
  • What do you see?
  • What’s waiting just around the corner?
  • What’s that down the road?
  • What is that which is about to become the moment of a new journey for you?
  • What caused that obstacle?
  • What is going on in your coworker?
  • What is that person dealing with in front of you at the check-out line?
  • What did that person mean when they said something to you or another person?
  • What will you do with the news you just received?

And, perhaps the most important “what” for you today:

What will you do?

Is today just another day? Or is today another adventure? Lots of questions, but I’m not going to give you any answers. Only you can answer these and similar questions. How you respond to the “what” questions of life depends on your perspective.

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

Stop Feeling Your Age!

This morning, while it was still dark, as I was walking about our yard, after my first cup of blessing (some call it coffee), something hit me. Actually it was the Holy Spirit because my walking about the yard is all about a spiritual discipline I have been doing–and that is connecting with the Holy Spirit. And here is what hit me: Stop Feeling Your Age. Here’s the backdrop.

Yesterday when we arrived back at home after a weekend wedding of our first granddaughter, the first one who called me Grampa (I spell it like she said it the first time and every time since) of which I was blessed and honored to preside over, I went to my hunting spot and planted a green field. Though it has been drier than a sermon on predestination, I operated out of faith. Needless to say I was exhausted and this morning, and I was reminded that 63 is different than 23.

And as I was walking about and tuning in to the Spirit, this thought hit me about not feeling my age. For a moment I thought that the Holy Spirit got it wrong–it should be Start Acting My Age; that I should not do things too hard for someone of my age. But you see, I don’t like being put in a box–and I was putting myself in a box. I hate boxes.

The Spirit reminded me, again, of the value and power of choices. Feeling my age isn’t something that just goes away. I must discipline my life through my choices in order to see a different me. And, as I have so often wrote and preached, life is much more than feelings. If I am not going to “feel” like a 63 year old man, I need to make the choices that go along with this quest.

God created us in a most incredible way. He didn’t create us like the animals and plants. We are created a most complex way. We have a body, which for people of my age thinks defines us. We are more than a body.

God created us with a mind that is only limited by us. We are able to experience and process life as it happens around us. Then, through the Gift of Free Will, decide what we will do and how we will respond. We human beings are created to be Thinking Beings. Unfortunately a lot of people in our culture are infected and infatuated with Stinking Thinking. My gift of snarky is saying right now, “Obviously there are a lot of people who have put their minds in neutral and have left their minds in some dusty corner of the utility room.” Nonetheless, in spite of so many who have chosen NOT to think for themselves, we remain a Thinking Being.

God also created us with the desire for community. I’m not talking about counties, parishes, or city limits. And I’m not talking about gated communities. God created us to experience life Together. We are Social Beings. Our true nature longs to experience life with other people. Some of those connections with other people are short, brief even. Others are a little longer. And yet others are lifetime connections. Since it was quite a distance between us and where our granddaughter lives, we chose to reserve a hotel room for 2 nights. While there, we met another person and her family, who were also there for a wedding (not the same one). We had many good conversations with her and her family.

God also created us with Emotions. Emotions are an essential part of who we are. Emotions become the expression of our choices in how we process life and life’s experiences. Some people, too many people, allow emotions to rule their life. What a sad and pathetic lot they are; but just because they misuse their emotions does not diminish the importance that we are created to be Emotional Beings.

God also created us with a physical part. We are Physical Beings. This is the part I’m having trouble with. Now, I’m not going all fundamentalist again smoking and drinking. What I am saying is that we have a choice of keeping our bodies in the best shape possible. Alas, here is where I have been lax. Since our Physical Being is a part of who we are, need to do the things that help us be in the best physical shape.

God also created us with a spiritual part; this is the most important part. We are Spiritual Beings. This is the part that we call the Heart. This is the part of us that longs for more than we can think, feel or see. Unfortunately, a lot of folks think the Spiritual Being is the result of how we feel, think and act–or sadly–that it doesn’t exist at all.

I’ve said all this to say this: How we feel is the direct result of how we think, the relationships we become a part of, how we act, and the condition of our heart. Back to my choice; here is how I framed my choice: Today I my choice is to Stop Feeling My Age By Making Decisions And The Follow-Up Actions To End This Feeling. To accomplish this I need to do some things, a lot of things, that I understand will change my Feeling about 63 years old.

I have to become more physically active. I have to bring friends in close who will hold be accountable. I have to read and study to keep the mind sharp. I must keep my focus on Jesus and live how HE says to live. I have to align my emotions with my goal. Through an active and aggressive series of choices, I am confident I will stop feeling 63 years old. Perhaps I fell victim to the thought that crushes the ways we are created: That I MUST act my age. To heck with that saying; I’m going to act the way I’ve been created. So, excuse me while I go to apply some “pain” ointment to my joints–and then choose to do it again today.

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

Recalculating: Changing Direction

Recalculating…it’s a word that pops up on the GPS screen when we miss a turn in trying to reach a destination.  We count on those recalculations to get us to our destination.  As a unique individual, you are trying to reach a different destination.  But…you’ve missed a turn somewhere and deep down you know you’re not getting there and you need a recalculation of where your life is going.  Garmin, Waze, Google Maps—none of those will help you find the destination for which you heart longs.

The church, the Body of Christ, is trying to reach a destination.  Along the way to that destination, we are supposed to be bring others along with us in that journey.  But declining membership and attendance reveals we have missed a turn somewhere.  We need a recalculation.  Some try to recalculate by looking backwards, trying to repeat some era in our history went we were growing.  But the recalculation we need isn’t by looking backwards—it’s by looking forward.

God’s Vision for your individual life and the life of the church is what is needed most.  God has a recalculation…and His recalculation involves His Vision.  Join us for the next 4 Sundays…just in case you need a recalculation…

What was once primarily a military device is now a common device.  We have them in our cars, in our hands, and on our phones.  It’s called GPS.  We know them as Tom-Tom, Garmin, Waze, or Google Maps.  GPS helps us get to places we may have forgotten where they are; or we are uncertain of where they are; or to places we’ve never been before.  If we aren’t paying attention to it, or we simply miss a turn, they do this thing called Recalculating.  Recalculating helps us get back on track—and Recalculating Requires A Change Of Direction.

It’s not only when we travel that we may need a change of direction, but also in our life’s journey.  It’s easy to not pay attention to the tried and true directions God gives.  It’s easy to miss a turn.  And we get lost—and lose our bearings.  This is true for us as individuals and for us as the Body of Christ.

I am asking you to pray and find the answers to 3 questions: 

  1. What is God asking you to do? 
  2. What is God asking this church to do? 
  3. Are you willing to do it? 

These questions were not randomly chosen, nor are they the result of my creative mind—even I’m not that smart.  It comes from the heart of God to the heart of this congregation—to you. 

It’s About Vision—Not Seeing What Is, But Catching A Glimpse Of God’s What Will Be.  God has a What Will Be—for each person and every church.  God’s What Will Be comes out of God’s Power And AbilitiesNot Our Own.  It is easy, so very easy to be caught up and confined to what is.  What Is creates a prison where people, dreams and churches die.

These 3 questions are about the direction you are heading towards—as an individual and as a church.  And they are the questions about arriving at where God wants us to be, as individuals and as a church. They are the questions that challenge us—about our faith, commitment and fears.  There are moments in our journey where we need a recalculating moment to get our lives back on track with God’s Plans And Purposes.

And this leads us to our text.  Usually, I like to read from the more modern translations because even I can understand them—but this morning, I want to read first from the KJV.  Turn to Proverbs 29:18… 

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

We’ve probably heard the first part of that passage, but did you listen to that last part?  Now, let me read this same passage from The Message…. 

If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what He reveals, they are most blessed.

If You Can Remember Only One Thing, This Is It: If you don’t know the Vision of what God wants of you and this place, then our goose is cooked, we’re a dead duck, our jig is up, our ship is sinking, the light is on but nobody’s home.

This morning I have Good News, Bad News, and Hard News:

  1. Good NewsThe Best Argument For God To The World Is The Church.  Every day, God becomes accessible to a hurting world through the People of God.  In our simple acts of compassion and servanthood, in our worship and ministry of the Word, through our breaking of bread, we make the invisible God visible.  John wrote in I John 4:12—No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us. The church stands as a powerful testimony of a God who will not let us go until He blesses us.  There is not one period in history you can point to and say, “The church offered the world nothing.  It had no light at all!”    We’ve always given something to the world, even at our worst moments.
  2. Bad NewsThe Worst Argument For God To The World Is The Church.  Every day, God becomes more remote to a cynical world because of the church.  In our foolish acts of self-righteousness and self-indulgent attitudes, in our judgment and smugness, through our breaking of trust and lack of actions, we obscure God.  John goes on to say in Vs. 20-21—If anyone says, ‘I love God’, yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, who he has not seen.  And He has given us this command:  Whoever loves God must also love his brother.  Even when we’re at our best, the church is still marred by hypocrisy, apathy, and false piety.  There is not a single period in history you can point to and say, “Yes! There it is! The church in all its fullness, exactly as God intended it.”  We’ve always fallen short.
  3. The Hard News: The Only Real Argument For God To The World Is The Church.  Put aside all philosophical defenses and church doctrine.  Philosophies and doctrines can convince the mind, but only the church, walking in the light, can win the heart.  God does not have a Plan B.  He does not have a backup strategy for making himself known among the nations.  It’s the church or bust.  We’ve always been all there is.

The church lives between the splendor of God’s intent and the debacle of our own shortcomings.  Paul speaks of God’s intent for the church in Ephesians 3:10–11…

God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.

God’s intent is for all His rich and varied wisdom to be clearly seen. The church’s life is meant to be a heart-stopping drama staged on a cosmic scale—a grand expression, that astonishes our world.  God wants us to wow the whole creation.  Too often, though, the reality is we’re the laughingstock.  The church is not always a powerful saga; it’s often mixture of tragedy and comedy. 

But don’t you want to live out God’s intentions for you?  Isn’t there a part of you that wants to have all God wants to give—no matter what it costs or where it leads?  Don’t you want to be able to say, “I’m what He had in mind when he made me and called me.  I’m exactly what God wants to reveal His Glory!”

I believe that this church today doesn’t lack for vision—but like many congregations, we are lacking God’s Vision.  I read of someone who compiled over 40 Killer Phrases—Phrases that will kill the Vision God has for a local church.  Let me share with you to Top 10 Killer Phrases

10] It’s Right In Theory, But It Won’t Work Here

9]   It Will Be More Trouble Than It’s Worth;

8]   It’s Not In The Budget;  

7]   You’ve Got To Be Kidding; 

6]   It’s Too Far Ahead Of Our Time; 

5]   We’ve Tried That Before; 

4]   It May Offend Some Of Our Members; 

3]   We Don’t Have Enough People To Do It;

2]   Let’s Appoint A Committee To Look Into It And Report Back;

1]   But We’ve Never Done It That Way Before!

Now, a vision from God will have 3 key elements, always.  Now with these 3 elements, the vision for here will be powerful and life changing.  I know it works because all 3 elements have been tried and tested—and happening now in our culture.

1.  In God’s Vision, There Will Be Purpose!

There is a reason why this place exists today, a purpose for us being here.  That purpose will define our mission and ministry.  The problem is that we have allowed our mission and ministry to define our purpose; and that’s backward—it’s putting the cart in front of the horse.  

The purposes of God will be much bigger than our individual selves and even bigger than all of us combined.  If you can do it with your own effort and strength, then it’s not likely that it’s God’s purposes you are following. 

God’s Purpose Transcends Beyond Our Selves In Order That We May Be Transformed By God’s Power.  Church does not exist for Sunday morning service, and to meet just your needs.  And that purpose will go beyond the physical confines of this community.  This answers your 1st Question.

2.  In God’s Vision, There Will Be Preparation!

God doesn’t just throw the vision out there and then say, “Just do it.”  He prepares us.  He’s Been Preparing You Your Entire Life For His Vision.  What Are You Doing To Allow God To Prepare You For His Vision?  Do you spend a lot of time in prayer?  Do you read, meditate and study His Word?  Each day, are you reading Christian writers, listening to Christian music?  Are you giving yourself to Sunday School, Bible Study, and creating small groups? 

You must believe that you are here because God has been preparing your whole life for such a time as this.  If you are not prepared for God’s Vision, then it’s not because God has tried to prepare you, it’s because you haven’t made yourself available to God.  This answers your 2nd Question.

3.  And In God’s Vision, There Will Be A Plan!

There was a time when the “Field of Dreams” worked—You remember the Kevin Costner movie—the voice telling him “If you build it they will come”—and they did come.  But that style will not work any longer.  It didn’t work that way for the 1st Century Church.  There’s an old saying, but it is so true—God Will Not Lead Us Where His Grace Will Not Sustain Us!  And like the purpose, the plan is much bigger than we are. 

Those plans are not only for this community, but they will reach out beyond the confines of this place and out into the world.  I’ve heard some church people say, “I don’t think we need to get involved with world missions because we have enough to do right here.  But God’s plan is bigger than this community.  It’s not local projects or outside missions—it’s BOTH local projects and outside missions.  That plan includes the involvement of each and every one of you.  And this And this is where you answer your 3rd Question.

Think about Jesus and This Process We Are Beginning Today.

  1. God Had A Purpose!  In creation, God, out of His love, made us in His image for the purpose of sharing a relationship of love with Him and to join with Him in the care of His marvelous creation.  But sin alienates us from His relationship of love.
  2. God Was Prepared For Our Sin.  Before He created one thing, redemption was in God’s heart—so He was prepared to send His Son to atone for sin and redeem us back to Himself.  1 Peter 1:18-20— For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors.  And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake.
  3. God Had A Plan!  His Son, would become one of us, live among us, but without sin.  He would then offer His life in the place of punishment, the place we rightly deserve.  Then He would call those who accept the Gift of Grace, to share the Message of grace.

Next Steps

  1. What is God asking you to do?  It will reflect Jesus and help the church.  It will be with the people you know—teachers, law enforcement, fire fighters, where you eat, at the library, at the bank, at the grocery store, where you work, where you hang out, your next door neighbors.  And it WILL BE with people you see but don’t know and people who haven’t met yet.
  2. What is God asking this church to do?  It will be something that shows we care about people and places.  Think about things that will improve the places that involves the people you know and see.  Schools, libraries, community events, police department, fire department, nursing homes, places for those with physical, emotional or mental health issues.  God seeks to redeem people, and He longs to redeem places where people live, work, play and struggle.
  3. Are you willing to do it?  Without exceptions or compromising the Vision.  It may require giving up some things.  It will definitely require expansion—expansion of possibilities—expansion of what you see as your capabilities—expansion of your relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Glorifying Temptation?

I am taking a detour from my reflections to address a cultural event in the realm of Reality TV. Reality TV? Now here’s an oxymoron, antimone, contrariety, asymmetrical absurdity ever known to humankind. The latest edition of this circus, that I’m aware of, is the USA Network’s “Temptation Island”, a far cry from the Fantasy Island back in the day.

It this alleged “reality” show, 4 dating couples agree to “live the single life” with those who’s purpose is to lead the individual “astray” from their relationship. In this incoherent journey, these 4 couples put themselves in the arena of temptation to see if they have what it takes to build a lasting relationship. At least to me, this seems like a variation on that old game of Russian Roulette.

Our culture has become fascinated, captivated, and enamored with the lowest common denominator of the human psyche–that of personal failure. There was a moment in time when people did everything they could to avoid temptation. And now? People run with abandon INTO temptation. We live in a society that…that…. . You fill in the blank, because this wordsmith cannot find a way to say what I feel without being painfully sarcastic, even rude and ugly.

Right now, I just heard some Tenured Pew Sitter way, “It all started when Hollywood allowed Clark Gable to say damn in ‘Gone With The Wind’. That’s when it started!” Au Contraire, Tenured Pew Sitter. You don’t know that Bible you worship and use to beat people over the head as well as you think. It goes back to Adam and Eve, when faced with the choice to trust God or trust themselves.

Shows, such as this, cause those who sit in churches, who should proclaim loudly in the power of God to transform human lives, choose to declare that things are hopeless, and that it’s all just more confirmation that Jesus is coming back at any moment. Truth is, they really want Jesus to come back. And why? They say it’s because the world is so corrupt that it’s beyond redemption. My thoughts? They long for Jesus to return in order to absolve themselves of their responsibilities as followers of Jesus.

It seems to me that this current batch of disciples think that being a follower of Jesus is meant to be lived in a safe and pleasant environment. There is much about following Jesus that is neither safe nor pleasant. If you want Jesus to come back right now so you can be liberated from this “vile and wicked” world–well, you do not have the heart and mind of Jesus.

Jesus insisted on going to people and places where temptation was glorified. And did you notice that Jesus never went in those places breathing fire and brimstone telling them they were an abomination to God? Don’t think so. The only places I ever saw Jesus get righteously rude was when He dealt with those religious folks who thought they knew God and what He wanted. I see the images of Jesus calling them low-down snakes, taking a whip and disrupting their comfortable religion.

And now in my own reflections, I can hear Jesus saying, “You know, I need to go to Temptation Island.” My response to Jesus? “WHAAAAAAAAAAAT? Jesus have you lost your mind? Why in the name of Jesus Christ would YOU want to go there?” Oops. I think I just said the wrong thing. He’s smiling at me and saying, “Because that’s where people who need me are at. Randy, don’t you remember that night in the Garden? I call it Temptation Garden. If you can remember, I won in Temptation Garden, and so did you. You ask me why would I go there? Well….I did come looking for you.”

And now I realize…we live in the right place and time to be a Follower of Jesus. Jesus seeks out the darkest places because that’s where people, made in His image, are living. He sought out the Cross and The Grave. He knew His Light would shatter the darkness…and it did. Come on, Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters who are feeling safe, smug and comfortable in your stain glass sanctuaries. There’s a boat taking people to Temptation Island. You need to be on that boat and that Island. You don’t need to be there to call them all wicked sinners. You need to be there as a faithful example of what real life looks like when you love God more than printed Bibles, more than buildings called churches, more than….yourself.

I want to say something way off the wall for some. Instead of you complaining about how evil and horrible our culture is becoming, realize that this is the perfect place and time to share God’s redeeming love. Instead of longing for Jesus to take YOU out of this miserable, sinful world, YOU take Jesus INTO the miserable, sinful world. After all, someone brought Jesus to you when you were identified with this miserable, sinful world.

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

Surviving Your D-Day Of Divorce

Job 3:20-26 (NLT)

20 “Oh, why give light to those in misery, and life to those who are bitter?  21 They long for death, and it won’t come.  They search for death more eagerly than for hidden treasure.

22 They’re filled with joy when they finally die, and rejoice when they find the grave.  23 Why is life given to those with no future, those God has surrounded with difficulties?

24 I cannot eat for sighing; my groans pour out like water.  25 What I always feared has happened to me.  What I dreaded has come true.  26 I have no peace, no quietness.  I have no rest; only trouble comes.”

Let me set up today’s message with an image from the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Scarlet Letter” set in Boston in the Puritan era.  It’s the story of a woman who conceived after committing adultery.  Because of her act she was forced to wear the Scarlet letter “A” stitched on her clothes.  It was the religious community’s attempt to fill her with shame. 

There’s another Scarlet letter that many of us have worn—The Scarlet Letter D!  When we launched this series called Surviving Your D-Day Invasions, we said that each of the attacks we would discuss come as a sneak invasion from a hostile enemy.  When you look at today’s topic of Divorce, we know that to be true.  In this series, we are looking at the Old Testament story of a man named Job.  Job did not experience divorce, but these words he wrote fit those of us who have.  I also said that we would be walking through my own personal story.  Here is the one thing I ask you to remember: 

Divorce Is A Sin, But It Never Disqualifies You From Serving God.

Today we’ll be talking about the darkest time in my life.  This is the most difficult message I have ever had to prepare or deliver.  I realize this message will not apply to all of you.  But maybe you know someone with someone who has faced or is facing The Scarlet D.

The first time I did this series was 2003.  When God first started working on me about this series and today’s topic, you have no idea how I resisted.  At the time Vicky and I had been separated, a fact known by only a very few people.  Before that, we have been sleeping in separate rooms, living separate lives.  God has an amazing sense of timing.  The first time I did this message was 1 week after I announced to the congregation I served, that we filed for Divorce. 

And even now, I still have difficulty sharing these thoughts with you.  Today is deeply personal, a reflection of what I learned as I dealt with the fact of Divorce in my life.  I never said, “Let’s try this thing called marriage, and 29 years later, if it doesn’t work out, we’ll get a Divorce.”  But sometimes, in spite of our best intentions, the path of our lives takes an unexpected turn.

Of all the “D’s” of the D-Day Invasions, Divorce can be overwhelmingly painful.  It sneaks up on two people who began a union deeply in love.  They had dreams and aspirations of what their marriage could be and should be.  For the most part, they thought their marriage would last forever.  That is until one day, when the D-Day Invasion of Divorce lands right in the middle of their home. 

Maybe some of you here have personally experienced the D-Day Invasion of Divorce.  Some of you may have seen the results of that invasion in your parent’s Divorce.  All of us have probably had friends, close friends, whose marriage became 1 of the unfortunate statistics of our culture. 

Many people are dealing with the pain, turmoil and rejection that come with Divorce.  Believers, non-believers, seekers—the D-Day Invasion Of Divorce cuts across all lines.  And because of deep misunderstanding, the church only adds to the pain.

Once we are faced with the Invasion of Divorce, how can we survive?  How can we discard this Scarlet D?  Many people feel hopeless, confused and rejected.  I looked at my failed marriage and I felt like a total failure.  God’s plan for marriage is for a lifetime.

But God also understands that we are human, we have feet of clay.  So, how do we move beyond the hurt, beyond the humiliation, beyond the pain, beyond the uncertainty of this D-Day InvasionAllow me to share 4 things with you that I believe work together.  Follow these steps all the way through.  Here they are:

1.  Accept Only Your Responsibility

Somewhere down the line, you’re going to have to attach some responsibility.  In all Divorce cases, one or both people were responsible.  Someone screwed up; someone made a mistake.  It may not be you but it was someone.  This once perfect thing now has division.  You cannot speak of Divorce in generalities; each case must be examined in its own situation. 

Who is responsible?  Why did it happen?  Owning responsibility is the key to surviving the D-Day Invasion of DivorceAccepting only your responsibility is the key to giving and accepting forgiveness where it’s needed.  Responsibility has to be attached, but through a lot of prayer, discernment, and sometimes even counseling.  Last week we talked about learning from failure.  The way we are to learn from failure is to know what’s wrong, attach responsibility for our part, learn from our mistakes and move on. 

That’s what we need to do here.  Some of the most happily married people I know are people who have learned from their past mistakes.  However, we know the statistics, don’t we?  67% of people who Divorce once will Divorce again.  Most second marriages fail also.  73% of third marriages end in Divorce

There has to be something there.  Be Careful Not To Take On Someone Else’s Responsibilities.  False Guilt Will Eventually Affect All Our RelationshipsBut I caution you, don’t stop here.  Don’t hold on to the Deadly G’s:  Guilt And Grudges.  If Divorce is the only recourse, then it’s time to move beyond guilt, and give up our grudges.  The second step is:

2.  Work Toward Forgiveness

Once we understand who is responsible, we can begin to work toward forgiveness.  We understand that true healing requires forgiveness for wrongs done.  Forgiveness must be accepted and must be given.  Some people say, “That’s crazy!  There is no way I’ll forgive that person—it’s too difficult.”  You are right. 

It’s very, very hard.  You may be the only one that wants to work on forgiveness.  When we have been hurt and wronged we will never be healed until we forgiveYou don’t have to walk up to that ex-spouse and announce your forgiveness.  But you have to do it in your heart.  Forgiveness is saying, “I Refuse To Hold On To The Pain.  I Refuse To Live In The Past.  I Release Them From Holding Me Captive To Any Grudge Or Pain.”

You must also learn to forgive yourself.  As you work through the responsibility part of Divorce, you may find that some of the blame lies with you.  I know there were times when I was uncaring.  There were especially times when I was too busy. 

But I ended up taking a lot of the responsibility that wasn’t mine to take.  The result was that I could not forgive myself.  But in order to offer forgiveness and receive forgiveness, I had to forgive myself.  I do not know about you, but this was the hardest thing for me.  I ended up carrying a lot of guilt I didn’t have to carry aroundIf you have guilt, you must forgive yourself.  This was the hardest for me.  I wouldn’t do it until I remembered: We Must Accept Forgiveness From GodFor those of us who are believers, we understand this.  No matter what we’ve done, He died on the cross two thousand years ago, and in him we are forgiven AND Cleansed. 

All we have to do is accept his grace and forgiveness and the slate is wiped clean.   You must accept forgiveness for yourself, and give forgiveness to the other person.

3.  Allow Kids To Stay Relationally Connected

We need to make sure that if kids are involved in this D-Day Invasion of Divorce, that we encourage them to stay relationally connected to both parents.  Kids of all ages are the biggest victims in Divorce

Kids of Divorce go through confusion and pain when their parents got divorced.  They wondered if it was their fault.  There is no sense of closure to it.  It’s true for even adult kids.  Kids of all ages need to stay connected with both parents.  It’s the best thing for the kids.

Let Your Kids See You Living Out Forgiveness.  Teach them, by your example, about owning up to your mistakes and about receiving and giving the grace of God.  Let them see you working to live at peace with your ex-spouse.  Here is a powerful opportunity to bring something good out of something horrible. 

If you, or a family member, or close friend experiences the D-Day of Divorce, and there are children involved, even grown children, it’s important for them to see the spirit of grace, the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation at work.  Don’t Take Sides, Be A Model Of God’s Grace.  Finally, in order to move beyond the pain, and experience healing and wholeness:

4.  Align Your Different Life With God’s Principles

In my nearly 44 years of working in ministry, I’ve never met a person who didn’t want their second marriage to work.  There is only one way to do it, friends. 

That is to align our different life with God’s principles.  Many of us just need to understand that we’ve tried it our way and failed, now maybe we should follow God’s plan.  If you follow God’s principles for sex, dating and marriage, you can have a very happy marriage. 

Do you ever feel like you have The Scarlet D pinned to your shirt?  That you could never be normal again in God’s eyes because of this thing called Divorce?  Maybe there’s another Scarlet Letter pinned to your shirt.  Maybe yours is the Scarlet A—Addict, Adultery Abuser, Abused.  Maybe you know someone with the Scarlet L—Loser.  Maybe yours is the Scarlet S—Sinner!  I want to leave you with this last verse and encourage you to align your new life with God’s principles.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 says:  In Christ We Are New Creations; The Old Is Gone, And New Has Come!

Grace is all about a fresh start.  Do you need a fresh start?  God has one for every person who is wearing any Scarlet Letter.  He will take that letter off of you and you will never have to wear again.

Next Steps

  1. .  If You Are Living With Shame Put On You By Family, Church, Or Even Yourself Because Of Divorce, Bring That Shame To Jesus Right Now. The shame of anyone who wears The Scarlet D was carried by Jesus so that you do not have to carry it anymore.  No sin that anyone commits ever disqualifies them from both a relationship with God and the opportunity to be called by Him to serve Him.
  2. If You Have Been Through Divorce Or Not, Read The Scriptures About Divorce WITHOUT Whatever You Have Been Taught About It.  Take 2 steps in your reading.  First, ask the Holy Spirit to be your guide and teacherSecond, read those passages within the big picture of what God is seeking to do with ALL who have sinned.  Our God is focusing on both Redemption, and Restoration, making people useful for His Kingdom.  God chose Saul the murderer to become Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles.  If God can use a murderer, why can’t He use someone divorced in any role He wants?

God Chooses You!

(Sermon for June 2, 2019)

I remember playground games.  Whether it was softball, kick-ball, football or dodge ball, we would divide into teams.  Sometimes the teacher would select captains, sometimes 2 would just volunteer.  But one thing I remember most, is that in the process of selecting teams, no one wanted to be the last person picked.  It meant people didn’t see much in you, that you lacked the skill necessary to be a vital part of the team.  Being picked last was often humiliating.  As we celebrate Communion, I want you to know that in God’s eyes you are never the last person picked for God’s team!  Let’s look at today’s passage from Ephesians 1:3-14 found in The Message

3-6 How blessed is God!  And what a blessing He is!  He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in Him.  Long before He laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love.  Long, long ago He decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure He took in planning this!)  He wanted us to enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving by the hand of His beloved Son.

7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, His blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds.  And not just barely free, either.  Abundantly free!  

He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans He took such delight in making.  He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in Him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

 11-12 It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.  Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, He had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.

13-14 It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit.  This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.

Today is the most important day in your life.  Not yesterday, not tomorrow, not next week or next year.  This leads me to the one thing you need to remember from today’s message:  God speaks of his relationship with you in permanent, irrevocable terms of adoption, ransom and guarantee.  God chooses you, and that will never change.

If you’ve ever felt unsure about your usefulness in God’s plans or if you are acceptable to God, then I want you to pay close attention for the next few minutes, because these few verses tell you three important things about You in God’s eyes.  Embrace these 3 truths into your life, you will experience a greater sense of self-worth and more spiritual confidence than you have ever known. 

1.  You’ve Been On God’s Mind From The Beginning.

Go back to my image of standing on the playground.  At first, you were just part of a crowd, but now selections have been made and now you are standing alone, and the captain who has the last pick, says “Oh well, I guess I’ll have to take them.”  I think all of us can relate to this feeling; we all know what it is like to be the last chosen—the least talented in at least some area—academically, athletically, musically, and so on.  But there is an area where you never need feel that way: Your Relationship With God

Probably all of us have wondered, at one time or another, “If they had it to do all over again, would they choose me?  Would they hire me?  Would she marry me?”  Maybe some of you have even thought, “If Jesus had to do it over, would He die for me again?”  Some of you may believe that you have been such a disappointment to God that you would have been better off not to have been born.  The message from God is the exact opposite. 

The message from the heart of God is that you are accepted not because He had to, but because He wanted to.  You are part of His plan.  From The Beginning, He Has Wanted You To Be A Member Of His Family.  Whether or not you think it’s possible, the Bible makes it clear that God Believes It Is Possible.  Whether or not you believe in your potential, God Believes In Your Potential.  You are part of His plan.  

God knew that you would be where you are today in all areas of your life.  He knew you would be here at this moment and for some, it may have been a rough ride.  There may have been mistakes and disappointments along the way and you may have wanted to give up many times.  Even though your past may be littered with failures, it doesn’t change the fact that God Loves You, He Chooses You, And He Believes In You.  You have been, are now and will always be on His mind and in His heart.  This is RANSOM!

2.  You Belong To God, And That Will Never Change.

This passage defines your relationship with God in permanent terms.  It says, first of all, that we have been adopted.  The citizens of Ephesus understood the significance of adoption, because it was common in their society. Adoption wasn’t just a case of parents choosing to provide a home for a parentless child. 

Adoptions also frequently occurred for business or political reasons—for one grown man to adopt another grown man to ensure that his wealth and power were passed on in the way that he intended it to be.  The Most Important Thing To Remember Is That Adoptions Were Irrevocable.  A man could disown his birth son, but could not disown his adopted son.  It was a permanent relationship. 

Paul said, “You’ve been Adopted into the family of God.  Get comfortable because He’s not going to give up on you.”

3.  Everything You Need, You Can Have.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross just to abandon you now.  God is generous.  He doesn’t withhold His kindness, His love, His mercy, His forgiveness, His compassion, or His blessings from you.  He showers you with kindness.  He will lavish His generosity on you, If You Are Willing To Receive It

It’s not just about your physical needs; he is referring to your spiritual and emotional needs as well.  God will give you All The Joy You Need—All The Love You Need, All The Faith You Need, All The Mercy You Need, And Much More

You may have spent most of your life thinking that you had to manufacture these things on your own, and that most of the time God is ticked off that you don’t do a better job at it.  You may have spent most of your life thinking that God doles out blessings only with great resistance, and only to the most deserving. 

The truth is, He Wants To Shower His Kindness On You.  Everything you need, He wants to provide.

See your relationship with God in a new way—in a non-adversarial way.  God isn’t mad at you.  He isn’t sorry that He chose you.  And if He had to do it over, He Would Die For You Again.  Why?  Before you were born, you were on His mind and IN His heart.  He chooses You to be His very own.  You belong with Him, and that will never change.  And He will be with you every step of the way, blessing you with what you need each and every moment.

How do I know this?  Even more important, how can YOU know this?  You and I can know this without a doubt because the Holy Spirit is given as our guarantee.  “Guarantee” Is A Term That Means The Assurance That Another’s Obligation Will Be Fulfilled

It comes from a Hebrew word that means “a pledge”—God has made a pledge to fully restore you back to His Intended Design—To be the you He created you to be.  Until that work is finished He gives us the Holy Spirit, as His Personal Pledge

The presence of the Holy Spirit is the assurance that God’s commitment to you will not stop until the final result—We become exactly like our Intended Design—The Perfect In Every Detail Reflection Of God.  We come to the table, the ONLY Table where it all starts, where we are called to live, and one day where it will be completed—the Table of Grace…

Next Step

This week it’s rather simple:  Find where God is at work and join with Him.  After all, He has chosen you to work with Him!  Or, find a place where you know God wants to work, and get started.  After all, He wants you to work with Him!

The Look!

(Another reflection from the Book of Acts)

Well, it’s still chapter 3 and there’s something else that has caught my attention…and my heart. It’s verses 4 and 5. I want to share it with you from 3 different translations:

  • Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!”  The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. (New Living Translation)
  • Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Look here.” He looked up, expecting to get something from them. (The Message)
  • Peter and John, looking straight into the eyes of the crippled man, said, “Look at us!”  Expecting a gift, he readily gave them his attention. (The Passion Translation)
  • Peter and John stared at him. “Look at us!” Peter said.  So the man watched them closely. He expected to receive something from them. (God’s Word Translation)

The phrases that the Spirit highlights for me in all these translations is the response of that man who was unable to walk since his birth. In each translation there is that word (or a form of it) EXPECTATION! And what caused that sense of expectation in this man who never expected to walk? This man who had begged his whole life and who had no hope of anything else but a lifetime of begging had more than likely looked at some people and knew, “Well, they aren’t going to give me anything.” Why EXPECTATION and why now?

It must have been THE LOOK! Not his looking at them, but THE LOOK that was in the faces of Peter and John. He must have sensed that these men had something for him, something he desperately needed. THE LOOK on their face stirred up something in the man unable to walk, and that something was EXPECTATION! Granted, he didn’t have a clue about what he was going to receive–nonetheless, he knew something was coming. And it was coming.

He could have not looked at them. Or he could have looked at them and missed THE LOOK. But he didn’t because he could not afford NOT to look. Some people live a life of hidden and quiet desperation but not this man. Desperation was written all over him. There was that billboard behind him that everyone could see. And his desperation led to his EXPECTATION when he saw THE LOOK!

And this had led me to today’s musings–actually it’s more like a deep sadness in my heart. It comes from that question that the Holy Spirit has put in my heart. Here is that question:

WHAT HAPPENED TO ‘THE LOOK’?

The western church, meaning in Europe and the U.S.A., continues to be in a state of decline in mainline protestant churches. All around us are people living in desperation just like that man unable to walk. They are LOOKING for answers to calm their deep-seated desperation. They long for EXPECTATION beyond their DESPERATION. So they LOOK anywhere and everywhere…except to the church.

Church, we are living in the perfect time–lives sinking in DESPERATION looking for EXPECTATION of something better. Local churches should be overflowing; instead they are struggling to survive. In a couple of weeks I will be attending another “conference” for my Tribe and there will be reports for disposal of congregations who have closed their doors since last year. What went so DESPERATELY wrong, Church?

It’s THE LOOK that we’ve lost. THE LOOK that says there’s more to living than DESPERATION! THE LOOK that opens eyes to the Good News of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God! THAT, my friends, is what Peter and John had. Oh, we have A look, but it’s not’s what Peter and John had.

Church, we have a history of a different look. Our culture has seen a different look–

  • the look of contempt for our culture
  • the look of judgment and condemnation
  • the look of disapproval
  • the look of “I’m much better than you”
  • the look of “You don’t belong with us”

And so, the lives of DESPERATION look away from us. And who would blame them. I once served a church that had beautiful, I mean beautiful stained glass windows. To protect them they had installed Plexiglas protectors on the outside. But over the years they were no longer clear, only a dingy yellow. It prevented those on the outside from seeing the beauty of those windows. The only way to see them was from inside. And that was the message that church was sending. “If you want to see these windows, you need to be an insider, someone like us.” I don’t know if they ever replaced them. So I’m guessing outsiders still can’t appreciate the beauty that has been hidden from them.

Church, we need to give up our look for THE LOOK! THE LOOK that says, “I’ve been where you are, and truth is, I still struggle at times. But I have found The Way out and I’m working on my journey out of DESPERATION. Tell you what, let’s walk out together!” THE LOOK is one of–

  • compassion
  • hope
  • joy
  • peace
  • confidence
  • humility
  • and so much more

In fact, THE LOOK is looking just like Jesus! The sick and sinful were drawn in to Jesus because of THE LOOK and they will be drawn in today when we have THE LOOK rather than our own look. Is your church declining? Then I would highly encourage you to find a mirror, and LOOK at yourself. If you don’t see a face that is broken, a face that is crying for all those people living in desperation, you need a face transplant–you need The Face of Jesus!

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

The Great Contrast

(Another insight from my journey through the Book of Acts)

Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service.  As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple.

Acts 3:1-2 (LT)

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this part of chapter 3, or the number of messages I have preached based on this passage. Probably not enough. But as I was reading this, out of nowhere, it hit me. Well, actually it came from somewhere–actually some ONE. What hit me? Glad you asked. It’s the Contrast! A gate that was named “Beautiful” and a beggar who has never been able to walk.

If ever there was a “great contrast”, then this is it. First, there were those going to worship God. They were careful to observe all the rules so that they would not be disqualified. In short, these were good moral people. Then, there is that man born unable to walk. In their culture they would have considered him cursed by God. After all, good people would never be born unable to walk. Bad things never happen to good people. Good, moral people going to church. A man outside who was viewed as cursed and unfit to be inside. Truth Time: He was NOT allowed inside. His birth defect disqualified him from admission. Contrast.

Here’s another contrast. People we going in expecting to receive a blessing from God. They were looking for the God of Abundance. After all, they are good, moral people. And that man? Begging to barely survive. Outside the Temple–so close to the abundance of God–but he wasn’t allowed in. So close…but so far away.

Person after person walks by. Maybe a few toss a mite or 2 in his beggar’s basket. Each person not looking at him–or looking at him as cursed by God. That is…until Peter and John come upon this “Great Contrast”. They looked at him…they could have tossed a few coins his way. But what would that do for him on the next day? And the next? And the next? He would still need to beg.

What that man born unable to walk needed…was TO WALK! Peter and John didn’t preach to him about being saved. They didn’t give him a discourse on the Roman’s Road-map To Heaven. They spoke hope into despair. Power into weakness. They spoke into his greatest human need–to WALK!

And you know what? HE WALKED! OK, they had to jerk him up and show him he would walk–but he walked. Then he started leaping–that’s dancing for those uninformed. Those on the inside couldn’t see that as a possibility for him–but Peter and John did…because Jesus saw it. So what’s the take-home lesson from this “Great Contrast”?

The church needs to stand with and by the outcasts–those deemed unfit, unworthy, cursed of God. We find those first disciples of Jesus going towards the disenfranchised, not away from them. What should mark us as disciples of Jesus is not what we do on Sunday…going with our best outfits, looking like good, moral people.

Our measurement of being a disciple of Jesus is how we speak to thee broken and hurting people all around the rest of the week. We need to speak hope and power into those hearts and lives, and let them know how God meets their deepest needs.

Oh, and that part about Sunday…inside the sanctuary should be a reflection of the community around it. Pristine chapels do not speak of God’s power, but our arrogance and self righteousness. The church is called to stand along that “Great Contrast”–not like those worshipers going into that Temple–but exactly like Peter and John. Reach out to anyone and everyone who feels the despair and hopeless of that man born unable to walk. Do those people feel welcome in your church building, or do they feel excluded, like that make born unable to walk?

The ugliest in the world, in YOUR community, should find the beauty and power of God’s grace and mercy–inside your sanctuaries and by you on the streets and roads, any day…every day…

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

God’s Doorway!

(Part 4 of my current series “The I Am Sayings Of Jesus”

Here we are in week 4 of looking at the Boldest Statements Jesus ever made—those places and moments where He categorically identified Himself as Yahweh—The Great I Am.

When I am working on a message, I usually look at several different translations, and usually find one that fits the bill for what God is leading me to share.  Our text is John 10:1-10.  My favorite is to read from the NLT.  As I was looking at the different translations, I found that the NLT and more recent translations uses the word “gate” and the KJV and the New King James Version uses the word “door”.  There’s something about the image of a door that pushes me deeper into today’s passage.  Let’s look at it together and I will be reading it from the NKJV:

1 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the Doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear His voice; and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when He brings out his Own sheep, He goes before them; and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”6 Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.  7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am The Door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.9I Am The Door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

There are all kinds of doors.  There are hollow core doors, solid core doors, wood doors, metal doors, folding doors, pocket doors, sliding doors garage doors, cellar doors, screen doors, storm doors, front doors and back doors. Doors can be inviting entrances to relationship and fellowship.  Doors that are inviting lead us into joys and experiences we otherwise will not have.  These doors can open up a whole new world for us.  These are the kind of doors we want to see.  But there’s another side to the image of doors.

Doors can also be intimidating.  They can deliver the message to keep out and stay away.  They become barriers that keep us out and away from potential hope, and even a future.  Some doors may even seem scary because we are unsure about what lies behind them.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that doors can be entrances to a much deeper and better life, or they can keep us locked out—locked out from the life that God truly wants every person to live and experience.  Such is the case in today’s passage.  Just before this Jesus had healed a blind man on the Sabbath.

How dare Jesus do something actually good on the Sabbath Day.  Who in the world would ever do something good on a day like the Sabbath?  It’s supposed to be a solemn day, a quiet day.  There’s a time and a place for everything, and a way to get things done because that’s the way they’ve always been done.  Then this Jesus comes along and does something that has never been done that way before. 

Well, all this makes for is chaos and confusion.  We can’t have someone claiming to be the Messiah making mud packs for the blind and then telling them to wash it off so they can see.  Things like this are not supposed to happen that way.  He could have healed him on one of the other six days.  If that man couldn’t get healed then, well, he just didn’t need healing to begin with. And the Pharisees go on the attack against Jesus, again.  They question—His Ways, His Methods, His Teachings, And His Authority.  Jesus isn’t playing nice with the Pharisees and they don’t like it one little bit.  Sabbath days were designed by God to remind us of that all-important connection with God.

Among the Jews there was one day every week that was Sabbath—a way to remind them of their need for God.  Then they had Seven Feasts that were also called Sabbath days—to remember God’s faithful presence and His everlasting promises.  God designed the Sabbath to be a time for the people to remember their connection to Him.  Sabbath was to be the open door into the presence of God.

But what was designed as a door to enter God’s presence became a barrier.  The Pharisees had devised 39 different categories of activities that were prohibited on any Sabbath.  Any activity which changed the appearance or nature of anything or anyone was prohibited.  If it required 2 or more items to make—prohibited!

And just look at what Jesus had done.  He had made a mud pack—prohibited!  Told the man to wash it off—prohibited!  Then Jesus changed the nature of that man by giving him his sight—that really was prohibitedAll these rules and regulations were standing between God and the people He loved.  So Jesus didn’t care about their rules and regulations.  This Man Needed To Know That God Knew Him, Cared About Him, And Loved Him Enough To Change His Nature—even on a Sabbath.

So Jesus boldly proclaims:  Yahweh!  I Am The Door!  Their laws were a door that became the barrier to God’s presence.  Jesus wanted to open that Door into God’s presence.  And He did, and He still does today—He’s not the barrier to God, but the entrance into God’s presence.  Let’s look at a few ways that Jesus is the Door To God:

1.  He’s The Door To Forgiveness

People get some crazy ideas about forgiveness.  Some think that before they dare ask God for forgiveness, they need to clean their act up more.  It’s like they feel that their life is such a mess right now, that there is no way God could forgive them.  So they work on trying to be better and do better.  I mean, no one wants to go out to eat at a fancy restaurant wearing dirty work clothes.  You want to look your best.  We think that God is like that 5 star restaurant where He won’t let us in unless we have on a coat and tie. 

Some people think that they are simply too sick for God to accept them.  So they need to find another way to get feeling better.  Let me ask you a question.  When do you go see a doctor?  When you’re sick or do you wait until you feel better?  If you wait until you’re feeling better you won’t go.

And that’s what happens when we try to fix ourselves.  If we actually do manage to look better on the outside by being nicer to others and developing some good habits, then we start feeling like, “Well, I’m not so bad now.  I don’t need for God to forgive me anymore.”  That kind of thinking is wrong on so many levels. 

God’s Doesn’t Turn Anyone Away Because They Are Dirty Or Sick.  If anything, He welcomes them because He’s been waiting for them.  Jesus didn’t die on the Cross for nice people.  He died for sick and broken people like me!  You bring it all, all the junk and the sin and the dirt and the filth, and lay it all out before Him.  And do you know what?  God will not turn away from that disgusting sight.  Do you want to know why He won’t turn away from your pile of sins?  Because He has already seen it—seen it when they were put on Jesus as He hung on that Cross.  God won’t turn away from YOU, because He turned away from Jesus as He paid that awful price for us.

2.  He’s The Door To Peace

When life gets unsettled, well more than unsettledIt’s Hard To Relax When We Can’t See Our Way Through.  When the pressures and demands of everyday life tries to stress us out; when we see our plans unraveling at the seams; or when we can’t even get our plans together and we are more than ready to panic—but we are in full panic mode, we need that deep abiding peace

We need more than for someone to say to us, “Oh, it will eventually be OK.  You can’t control everything, so just relax.”  It’s hard to feel like everything is hunky dory when things just aren’t working out like we planned. 

There have been times when my life has felt like I’ve been in the spin cycle of a washing machine that’s been turbo-charged and running on jet fuel.  Doing the ordinary things, then extra stuff needed my attention.  I remember February 2012. I had been pulled into the Disaster Recovery efforts after the 2011 tornadoes had ravaged our district. I wanted to honor God with this work. I had received a call from a group in Arkansas that wanted to frame and “get in the dry” 2 homes for 2 families of my choice. All I had to do was to get the foundations ready–they would do the rest. Oh, and they were to arrive in the middle of March. It seemed that after I got started on that project, everything was going wrong. Things were not falling into place on either home. Then my Mother was admitted to the hospital. I was stressed out, and I got mad at God and told Him, “Look, I’m trying to do this to honor You. Why is everything going wrong?” 

Me and God had a serious talk, actually, several of them.  But I finally heard God say to me, “I am still in control.  And Randy, I am going to honor the desire of your heart for me.”  Not everything is fixed instantly.  And when I want to panic, I remember, I remember God’s promise to me.  God keeps His promises. 

He doesn’t always work things out in our time schedule, but He does work things out.  Jesus Is The Doorway To Peace Because He Stays With Us Through Thick And Thin.  In good times and bad times—He will never abandon us.  I confess I haven’t always remembered this, but when I do remember it, the peace always comes back to me.  Do I ever get a bit stressed even now?  Oh yes, but I’m not worried any more.  God is going to take care of me and because of His love expressed in Jesus, and He is going to take care of you.  That’s our peace.  Peace is not the absence of any conflict or problems—but it is the unending presence of Jesus.

3.  He’s The Door To Liberty

Jesus gives us two kinds of liberty.  First, He Gives Us Liberty From The Power Of Temptation And Sin.  Jesus took on the worst that Satan could throw at Him every time and every time Jesus was the Victor. 

This same Jesus wants to live in us with every bit as much power as He did when He walked this earth in our flesh.  If we fight temptation on our own, then we lose.  But the Jesus who faced Satan in the wilderness, the Jesus who faced Satan through His enemies, and even at times through His closest friends lives in us. 

The Jesus who faced Satan in Gethsemane, the Jesus who faced Satan on the Cross, the Jesus who faced Satan in the tomb—and who won every one of those battles, resides in the heart of every believer who trusts Jesus and only Jesus.

Then His Liberty Also Gives Us The Strength, Courage And Wisdom To Live A Life That Brings Him Honor And Us Immeasurable Joy.  He sets us free to live out our relationship in ways that makes changes in the world, makes changes in people’s lives.  He gives us the liberty to become who we are created to be. We don’t have to be bound by people’s labels or our own fear of failure.  We can dare to do great things for God because Jesus—who gave sight to that blind man—will take up residency in our hearts with every bit as much power as it took to open that man’s eyes!

4.  And That Makes Him The Doorway To Real Life

Life Is What God Wants Us To Experience.  All the laws, rules and traditions of the Pharisees took the life right out of the people.  Jesus is The Door—the ONLY Door that takes us from the deadness and emptiness that comes from living with the wrong purpose. 

He is The Door to the life you have been created for.  This life is more than you can see, think or imagine.  It’s the life where God gets all, I mean ALL the glory.  It’s The Life Where He Shines In Us And Through Us.

Are you loaded down with guilt?  Is chaos and fear running a marathon in your mind and heart?  Do you feel imprisoned by demands and unrealistic expectations?  Does your heart ache for a real life? 

And Here’s the one thing you need to remember:  Life Is Lived In And Through Jesus, Or It’s Not Lived At All! Because of God’s great love for you, The Door has been opened.  Come to Jesus.

Next Steps

  1. Is There Some Guilt You Have Been Carrying, That’s Been Weighing You Down?Your next Step is to step towards  Jesus.  We are not made to carry guilt.  The Door is always open for those who need forgiveness.
  2.   Are You Overwhelmed?  Your next step is to give all your fears, worries and anxieties over to Him.  He is The Door to inner peace.
  3. Does Your Ordinary Days Feel Like A Prison Sentence? Your next step is to reclaim the Joy of Living.  He’s The Door to Liberty—that fills your life with Great Joy.  God wants you to live with an uninhibited, open Joy in your life.
  4.  Does Your Life Feel At Best Ordinary Or At Worst A Drag? Your next step is to begin living our His purpose for your life.  One of two of the things that keeps people from their purpose is fear—fear of the unknown—or fear of failure.  God walks with you in your God-Given Purpose and opens The Door that gives you the freedom to truly live—to live life the way He designed it.

Kairos Living In A Chronos World

This is the first of my latest Message Series, “Kairos Living In A Chronos World)

I have a riddle for you. 

  • It’s free, but it’s priceless. 
  • You can’t own it, but you can use it. 
  • You can’t keep it but you can waste it. 
  • Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back. 
  • In one person’s hands it brings hope and in another person’s hands it brings pain. 
  • It can crawl or it can fly, but it has no hands, legs or wings.

Think you know the answer?  It’s Time!  Let’s take a look at today’s passage found in Ephesians 5:16-17 (NLT):

Today we begin a new series called Kairos Living In A Chronos World.  The 1 thing you need to remember from today’s message is a question:  What Are You More Interested In–Counting Your Days, Or Making Your Days Count?  Let this question roam freely in your mind this week.  In fact, I will beg you NOT to answer this question until you have spent a lot of time thinking about it.

Have you ever slowed down enough to do serious reflection on time?  When it comes to “time”—what thoughts do you have?  What effect does that word “time” have on your emotions?  Are you overwhelmed?  Frustrated?  Fulfilled?  Stressed?  Fearful?  Anxious?  Happy?  Joyful?  Depressed?  Discouraged?  How do your emotions respond to “time”?

Think about how often we use that word “time”:  What time is it?  What time is the next doctor’s appointment?  I can make it on time.  There’s not enough time in a day to get everything done.  What time is practice?  What time does the movie start?  It’s time to move on.  It’s time to give up.  And, my favorite, TIME OUT! 

Our word “time” covers a variety of settings, each with its own unique “ambiance”.  Verse 16 says, “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”  Some of you may be more familiar with the KJV:  “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”  While our language has only 1 word for “time”, the classical Greek has 2 words—words that have different meanings: 

Chronos and Kairos.  Both words are accurately translated as “time”—but they are diametrically opposite in meaning.  So, let’s spend the first Sunday in this series looking and exploring at those 2 words.  Bonus information, the word in this text is Kairos:

1.  Chronos

Here is definition for Chronos:  Chronos is a duration that can be measured.  It has a certain set of values.  Seconds, minutes, days, weeks, month, years, decades, centuries, millenniums, is how we measure Chronos.  Chronos Is Quantitative Time.  A second here has the same quantity as a second at the Beach or in the Mountains.  It just seems longer here.  The duration of a second in the U.S.A. is the same duration in every other country.

Chronos Time is the ticking of the clock.  Chronos is where we get our word chronological.  To keep up with Chronos we wear these things on our wrists called a watch.  Do you know why it’s called a watch?  It’s so we can watch Chronos go by. 

Chronos Time Is Found In Our Agendas, Calendars And Bulletin Announcements.  Chronos gives identifying labels to those measured durations.  The labels are not just the units of measurement, but about the power that Chronos Time has to drain and debilitate those held captive by Chronos Time.  Chronos is driven by very human-centered sets of values.

Each day contains 86,400 seconds of time—which represent 1,440 minutes—which equal twenty-four hours each day.  It never fluctuates or varies.  And truth is we live in a Chronos World.  You have appointments, places to go, bills to pay, TV shows to watch, church to attend, practices, games and recitals to attend.  And all of this happens in that measured duration of Chronos.  Now let’s look at that other word:

Kairos

Kairos cannot be measured by the ticking of a clock, but by the beating of the heart. Here is the definition for Kairos:  Kairos is when God steps into time and space and does something incredible.  Kairos are the moments that are Right, Ripe and Rich with meaning.  Think about each of these:

Kairos are the moments that are RIGHT.  They fit into the rhythms of life as The Creator intends.  Debbie and Sandy love to work jigsaw puzzles.  And there’s the truth about jigsaw puzzles:  Each piece will only fit where it is made for.  Kairos never contradicts God’s Design and Purposes—It fits perfectly.

Kairos are the moments that are RIPE.  They are moments designed and prepared by God for His Image Bearers.  Have you ever read something or had someone call you and it was words that you were needing in that moment?  This is what Ripe means.

Ripe means it is the perfect moment.  The Time was Ripe when He called Abraham.  Ripe when He called Moses.  Ripe when He anointed David to be King.  Ripe when Jesus was born in that Manger.  Ripe when He died on that Cross.  And Ripe when He conquered death!

Kairos are the moments that are RICH with meaning.  These are the Epiphany Moments, when the Light Bulb comes on and clarity happens for us.  Epiphany Moments—Discovery Moments that define and redefine us—that shape and reshape us—that form and transform us—only happen in Kairos Time.

Kairos are the moments provided by God to know Him more deeply.  Kairos is about seizing the opportunity God provides in that moment.  Chronos drains life and hope out of us but Kairos enriches our lives with hope, love and grace. 

Understanding these differences, what you need to decide is this: Will You Live ON Chronos Time Or IN Kairos Time?  Where Chronos Is Quantitative Time, Kairos Is Qualitative Time.  Chronos Time measures seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks and years.    Kairos Time reveals and expresses quality moments that first changes us, and then changes our surroundings.  It is easy to think that our time is the most important time.  It is easy to be controlled and consumed by Chronos Time.  But What Are You More Interested In–Counting Your Days, Or Making Your Days Count? 

Every one of you will face multiple defining moments in your lifetime.  Defining Moments Are The Moments That Will Shape And Determine Your Character, Your Attitude, Your Altitude And Your Future

It changes your future course by changing how you see your life.  Defining Moments happen in both Chronos Time and Kairos Time.  But Defining Moments that will transform your life into that life marked by holiness are never found in the Chronos Time of schedules and calendars, but only in Kairos Time of following Jesus.  The reason why your life will remain empty and dead in Chronos Time is that Kairos can’t be planned, and it certainly can’t be forced. 

Kairos Time does not wait for you to fit it into your schedule.  It simply happens, and if you miss one—it’s gone and won’t come back. This doesn’t mean that there will be no more Kairos Moments. More Kairos moments will indeed come, but they are new and different ones.  Kairos Moments happen one at a time.  Unlike network TV there will not be any reruns of what you missed.  This is what makes them priceless.

The “Kairos” Opportunities we face in 2019 speak into what is God calling this church to be!  And with this in mind, it’s important to ask—are we a community of people who simply gather each Sunday with good memories to celebrate—or

Are We A Community Of People Who Are Willing To Listen To The Stirring Of The Spirit, Who Are Ready To Explore New Ideas And Who Are Prepared To Embrace Where Change Needs To Happen And To Be The Church In New, Creative And Even Uncomfortable Ways?

The decision you make today about time—is a decision only you can make.  Your Next Steps will be your answer to this question.

“Where Do I Need To Change So That I Will Experience More Kairos Time And Less Chronos Time And Am I Willing To Do It?”

The answer is as unique as you are.  Perhaps it’s spending more time in the Bible.  Maybe it’s having that dedicated time to pray.  Maybe even change HOW you pray.  Maybe it’s getting to know your neighbor better.  Maybe it’s in stopping your voice of fear about our future.  Will you live BY Chronos Time, or will you live IN Kairos Time?

As we step into this moment of Holy Communion—it can be for you a Chronos Moment—where you step in and do something. 

Or—it can be for you a Kairos Moment where God steps in and He does something.  It all depends on that 1 Thing You Need To Remember:

Are You More Interested In Counting Your Days, Or Making Your Days Count?

When Jesus walked this earth as one of us, He was more interested in making His days count.  And we see it here on This Table.