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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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 prohibited. All 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.
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.
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
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.
life gets unsettled, well more than unsettled—It’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.
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
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?”
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.
doesn’t always work things out in our time schedule, but He does work things
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
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.
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!
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.
The Door to the life you have been created for.
This life ismore than you can see, think or
imagine. It’s the life
where God gets all, I mean ALL the glory.
The Life Where He Shines In Us And Through Us.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
In one person’s hands it brings hope and in another person’s hands it
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:
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.
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
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 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 MomentsAre The
Moments That Will Shape And Determine Your Character, Your Attitude, Your
Altitude And Your Future.
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?”
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?
we step into this moment of Holy Communion—it can be for you a Chronos
Moment—where you step in and do something.
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
Are You More Interested In Counting Your Days, Or Making Your Days Count?
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.
Well, God just wouldn’t leave me alone about this, so here I go. Before I start, please know this isn’t about me. It is about something I did, but it’s not about me. Now that this is clear as muddy water, on to what happened to me.
Yesterday I delivered a gift from Mt. Vernon to a young single parent who is living like many single parents–under great pressure. I went to the home, introduced myself, and presented her with a gift from the Body of Christ at Mt. Vernon. As with baptisms and weddings, this is the part of my job I absolutely love. I simply told her, “God loves you and so do we.” I left and went to Wal Mart to exchange something and pick up a few more things.
I’m waiting in the refund line when my phone rang. OK, here’s where the story takes a twist. When I’m in a line I NEVER answer my phone. I consider it rude and a tarnishing of the image of me as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. The number that came up was not in my contacts. My natural response to a number not in my contacts is, “Oh, dear Lord, another telemarketer!” Usually at that point, I send it to voicemail.
But this time, I didn’t. Something, well, actually SOMEONE said, “Answer it Randy!” So, I did. On the other end of that call was that single Mom crying profusely, telling me how much that gift meant to her. She needed to express her gratitude. And God selected me to hear that gratitude. And I was overwhelmed with gratitude that I had a small part in reminding this single Mom, she was loved by God and that He remembers her every need.
But…WHAT IF….I sent that message to Voicemail? Maybe in a couple of days I would have listened to it, since it was from someone NOT in my contacts….and I would have missed the joy of her heart….and being humbled to be a part of God’s Kingdom work in even a small way.
And then I remembered….on one of those typical days when Jesus walked this earth. There was a crowd, pressing against Him. When…well just read Luke 8:45–““Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” It was that woman who had run out of hope that she could ever be whole. But she believed if she could just touch the hem of that garment, it would be OK. And Jesus knew the moment she touched that hem.
And I wonder, how many people today are looking to touch the hem of hope and reach out to us for that hope, but we are unaware of it? We live in a “Way Too Busy Culture” to notice the people pressing in against us. And that is sad….too sad. So be aware of those pressing in against you. They just may be looking for Hope! You are the HEM of HIM! If you’re too busy to help someone find Hope, you’re just too busy. Jesus knew when she touched that hem, and you can know it, too–when you are tuned in to the Holy Spirit!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
Well, it seems the “change bug” has hit me. I started this blog because I was passionate about the Kingdom of God. So I focused on those “Kingdom” issues in life and faith. However, in reviewing some of my posts, I noticed they were about the current Crisis in the United Methodist Church more than the Kingdom of God. I had left the heart and the vision that started this blogging journey.
So, this morning I launched a new blog, A Wesleyan View In A Post Christian Culture. My direction changed isn’t in a new direction, but getting back to what God started in my heart and mind. To my followers and friends here, I invite you to also follow this new blog but don’t feel obligated. This gift of writing The Spirit is giving me is helping me to be a more faithful follower and disciple of Jesus. But I need to get back to the Vision of this blog because God gave me the Vision, so I need to be faithful. I will probably write more here than at the other blog–but who knows? Well, God knows, and I’m very comfortable with that truth.
God is a Great Teacher; the best ever. I say this because He uses so many “styles” and “ways” of teaching the lessons we need in order to be equipped to live life the way it’s designed, by Him, to be lived. In my journey, He has used our children, grandchildren, TV commercials, billboards, signs, and even my own life experiences. Not just my good experiences, but especially the not-so-good experiences.
I have found, and continue to find that the world around me is God’s Classroom where timeless treasures and wisdom await my discovery. This week is no exception. We are on our annual summer spiritual retreat–at Ft. Morgan Beach. Nothing like having the toes in white sand while listening to the waves to help us recharge our spiritual batteries–unless it’s at a cabin in the Smoky Mountains in the Fall. God uses nature to teach me something about Grace and Life in His Kingdom through the pelicans.
I noticed them yesterday, and remembered other times when they would be in search of something to eat. As they would be gliding over the water, they suddenly folded their wings and dived into the water–like an old World War 2 dive bomber. No reluctance. No hesitation. Head long as fast as they could go into the water. They saw their next meal and went after it with abandon and no hesitation. I’ve never seen a pelican pull up out of that dive. Not to say it’s never happened; I’ve just never seen it. Watching them yesterday and thinking about seeing it happen so many times, it got me to thinking about what it should mean to us as followers of Jesus.
Here’s the Lesson He is teaching me: We, as followers of Jesus, should pursue our purpose of bringing the Kingdom of God into hearts and lives with the same abandon as those pelicans pursued their meal. When a pelican spotted a fish, it folded its wings, and without hesitation, pursued that fish. What if we, when we see someone in need of life and God’s love, in desperate need of the Good News of the Kingdom, surrendered without hesitation, to reach out to them with the love that has reached out to us? It seems that we are so good at excuses of why our effort will not make a difference. And in those moments when we do let go, we find a reason to pull up at the last moment in fear that it won’t make a difference.
Here’s another thing I noticed about those pelicans. Sometimes they were successful in catching their prey, and sometimes they weren’t. And when they weren’t successful, they took to the air and tried again. What if those pelicans decided, “Well, I missed that fish, I might as well give up.”? They would starve; so they get back up and try again–with the same abandon and commitment as before. And this is our lesson as followers of Jesus.
Any sense of reluctance or hesitancy on our part, needs to be surrendered to Him, and without focusing on will we be successful or not, we follow the example of Jesus. Who dived headlong into our broken messes as one of us–from heaven to earth–in order to fulfill His purpose of redeeming us from our sins and transforming us into the life we are created to live. Knowing that some of us would accept this new life and some of us would reject this life, He came anyway.
We need to abandon–give up–our reluctance to pursue this life of total surrender to Jesus and the purpose of the Kingdom of God. Pelicans teach us how–fold back those wings and dive headlong to the water–with the love and compassion that Jesus shows us. And if we fail? Do what pelicans do. Get back up and go at it again. Not every attempt ends in failures. Just ask those pelicans!
“28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect[a] in their relationship to Christ.29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.” (Colossians 1:28-29 NLT)
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him. Now, please excuse me, it’s time to go back to the Beach Classroom.
Well, good morning y’all. Hey, I’m from the south. Arnold was truthful when he said:
Our new home is set up, well, sorta set up. Nearly a month into this new journey, and I’m finally able to sit down and do what I enjoy and is my personal therapy: writing! Truth is, I’ve been putting it off for a few days because, well, because I wasn’t quite sure what I would write about. I guess I could say I had writer’s block–but Papa would probably say I’m just being a Blockhead!
Life is full of lessons–lessons worth sharing. Change is a part of life–and there are lessons to be learned. In reflecting on the lessons that I am learning, there is one big lesson that The Spirit is trying (notice, I said ‘trying’) to teach me and I want to share with you.
New people and places are different but the Good News of the Kingdom is the same.
Because people and places are different, it requires different ways to connect those places with the Good News of The Kingdom–and most of all–different ways to connect those places and people in a relationship with the King of that Kingdom. This doesn’t happen overnight–nor is it easy. I’m discovering that it requires the same approach that He uses on me: Building A Relationship That Will Lead To THE Relationship.
Jesus was the Master at this approach–finding ways to connect with people where they were BEFORE He connected them with where they COULD be in Him. The way you connect with people where they are is to BE where they are. So, I’m taking the time to learn people and about life as it happens in Fayette and Lamar Counties.
So many, too many churches are failing to reach new and different people because they want to make them like they are BEFORE they get to know them. It simply doesn’t work that way. So, I’m learning about different people and places because that’s the way to find a different way to help them grow into the person God’s designed them to be.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have to get to Jack’s in Vernon and then McDonald’s in Fayette. Those are 2 of the local watering holes–sometimes known as “The Liars Table”. It’s fun, interesting, but most of all, it’s real–real life! And remember….
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way God loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
This morning I was reading 1 John chapter 1. My reason was simple: I was practicing what I preach. Imagine that, a preacher actually doing what he or she preaches. I was reading for the sake of listening to God. No Bible study prep time or sermon prep or looking for my next blog. Just reading, and listening. Two things jumped out at me this morning: Light versus Darkness. In other words, sin versus Holiness. And it got me to thinking about a common experience among us humans: Feelings. No, not the song (bet that got some of you hearing that song in your head), but that complex and complicated arena of human feelings. In my thinking this morning, there 4 basic categories of feelings through which any particular feeling would fall into.
First there are what I term Emotional Feelings. Thanks to this thing called emojis we have a way to express our emotions with a picture–happy, sad, confused, angry, disgusted and so forth. I believe that God created us to have emotions. After all God has His emotions–joy and sadness, love and hate, compassion and firmness are just a few. Unfortunately we are not like Spock, not the infamous child psychologist, but the one on the Starship Enterprise, who could detach himself from silly emotions. Emotions are our initial response to what happens to us in life.
Second are what I classify as Psychological Feelings. These are those emotions that we have processed through our thinking and become a resident in our psyche. Distrust, hopeful, optimistic, pessimistic, prejudice, accepting, doubting, inquisitive–these are just a few of what I would term as psychological feelings. Often our intellectual reasoning is influenced here more than anywhere else. Our phobias fall into this classification of feelings. Phobias go deeper that just an initial response–they are deeply rooted in the human psyche. This human psyche is another part of how God created us. These are what influences how we see people and situations. On the darker side, you see it resulting in sociopaths, narcissists, or psychopaths.
Third are what I call Spiritual Feelings. These are rooted even deeper than our psyche–they are rooted in what some call the heart or the soul. This is our moral compass. It, more than anything else, shapes and forms our values, of what is right and what is wrong. Our spiritual feelings also creates our sense of guilt and shame, as well as our feelings of joy (which are deeper than feelings of happiness) and contentment.
And last, but by no means least, is what I term as our “Biological Feelings“. In our culture, and in my own Tribe, this is a subject of great controversy. It could easily be argued that biological feelings are at the root of psychosomatic illnesses. (You know what psychosomatics want on their tombstone: “I Told You I Was Sick!”) But these feelings go deeper. It is the root of the crisis of sexual identity. Gays and transgendered hold on to that biological sense that they were born with same-gender attractions or were born the wrong gender all together. Thus, they are free to act upon and direct the future of their lives based on what they call, this biological fact. I know my gay friends will disagree with my next point but I still love and care about you. It is still rooted in a feeling, be it biological, it is still a feeling.
And unfortunately, many people self-identify through their feelings. Thus these words from 1 John 1:5-10 (NLT) speak another word:
5 This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
Each type of “feelings” bleeds over into all the others. Unlike Spock who prides himself in being detached from all emotions/feelings, we are humans, not Vulcans. And this mishmash of emotions are causing people to live beneath and below their created design. This reliance on feelings has created such things as The New Pharisees, Tenured Pew Sitters, Churchians, people who feel they are worthless, permanent failures, unloved, abandoned, and so many other words that reveal our brokenness. Moral labels that people wear eventually will destroy them.
And I believe that this has resulted in the sexual crisis in our culture, and in the hearts and minds of those who identify as LBGTQI. This sexual chaos and confusion, this creation of moral labels as well, is the direct result of this thing called “sin”. Geneticists tell us that we have our own unique DNA. But one day I foresee that they will eventually discover that every human being shares one gene equally–that it’s the same gene in all of us. I hope they call it for what it is: The Adam and Eve Gene! While the New Pharisees, Tenured Pew Sitters and Churchians vehemently deny its existence in themselves, it remains true that all of us have that gene–and somewhere we are all broken–in different places and ways–but nonetheless BROKEN!
How we feel, what we think or believe we are, is not final–even in the arena of sexual identity. Ever since the Adam and Eve Gene formed in their DNA and was passed along to every generation–God has been seeking to redeem and restore us who bear His Image. When we live by our, call it “feelings” or “beliefs” about ourselves, we live within a lie and deny ourselves the only hope and cure to live life richly and with great purpose.
God invites us on a journey to wholeness–becoming whole emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, biologically and sexually. He alone, through the Holy Spirit, can transform us into our original intended design. We do not have to become a prisoner to our feelings, especially sexually. If you are someone who thinks you have no choice about your sexual identity, I want you to listen to Sam Allberry (here’s a link to part of his story). All of us are more than what we “feel”–for every feeling, every emotion, every way we self-identify is tainted by sin.
Be more than how you feel–because you ARE more than that. Get off that “emotional” roller-coaster and sit down, sit down at the feet of Jesus. Take whatever time is necessary for you to discover the true you, the YOU that God designed and created. You are more than a label, a feeling, an emotion, or a desire. Jesus brings the Light of God’s truth. Follow that light and you will become whole–the person God created to bear His Image! In Sam Allberry’s words: Identity is something God gives us. We do not create it or discover it. It is GIVEN to us by God.
“He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” Isaiah 53:3
Grief is another of the tools of the trade used by our Enemy to make us dread another week, another day, even another minute. Our source of grief can be the death of a family member or friend. Just yesterday we found out our family doctor’s wife died after a lengthy battle with cancer. Dr. Wampler is more than our doctor. I consider him a friend.
And if it isn’t death that causes us to grieve, then it is the ordinary “stuff” of every day life. The loss of a job, a home, a marriage, a friendship. And if that isn’t enough to make us grieve, then there is the news—the heartaches and tragedies we see in the news. Without some comfort and relief, grief drains us of peace, hope, and even our purpose in life.
And so, we have these words from Isaiah. Did you catch the last two words? Deepest Grief! Not to minimize our griefs, He has experienced deepest griefs. His is deepest griefs not by comparison to our griefs, but because He takes into the deepest part of His heart, our griefs. All our griefs, all of everyone’s griefs. And He does this for only one reason: He Loves Us Completely And Unconditionally.
God hears our cries this morning. We can cry to Him because He has felt, feels now, and will always feel the pain of grief. We need to turn our grief over and release it to His grace and compassionate love. For it is His heart—His love that always reaches out to us, to heal us and make us whole. We need deliverance from the easy thing of pointing out the symptoms of what we think causes our griefs.
All we need to do is tell Him. Tell Him honestly everything you feel. Even if—especially when you are angry and blame Him. Then simply lean on Him and listen—listen as He pulls you against His chest, so close you can heart His heartbeat—the heartbeat that is for you. Then He will begin to heal your broken heart and bring back the peace, hope and purpose that you thought was long gone. He went the distance for your heart—all the way to the Cross. Then He went the distance to reclaim your heart—to that tomb and then He walked out of that tomb in victory!
When you know He feels the deepest grief—your grief—and remember that He does it for you out of deepest love—and will restore your heart, then you can say, “Good! Lord it’s Monday! What shall we do together this week?” Let’s pray:
Lord here is why I am grieving……..(put your list of griefs here)…… It hurts and honestly, I wonder where is the hope? Where is that peace? How can I go on? I share my questions with you because You know deepest grief. I trust You now to lead me out of my grief. You walked to the Cross and walked away from the Tomb. I know you will do the same for me. Even if I don’t see how….I know you see the way. Amen and Amen…
Does God insist on us being a “Christian” nation, and does this fulfill our mission? Before I am tarred and feathered for my reflections on this topic, know that I am a Dad and a Father-In-Law to active duty combat veterans. I support them and the fellow soldiers in all their duties for our nation and around the world. I admired theirs and so many like them, who pledge to defend and support the Constitution from enemies both foreign and domestic. Furthermore, I believe this U.S. to be the second most important document ever penned by human hands. The most important document ever penned by human hands is the Bible.
This edition is directed towards the United States church and how the culture of nationalism bias has infiltrated, even polluted the Mission of the Church. By insisting that we, the good old U.S. of A. MUST be a Christian nation misses the mark of who God is calling us Followers of Jesus to be in this fallen creation. Does righteousness exalt a nation? Absolutely! Does abandoning the truths of God destroy a nation? You bet! But in an attempt to be righteous and avoid being evil, many Christian Americans have mistaken our calling as being that of creating a “Christian” United States of America.
Many of those who hold this view, point out that God formed the nation of Israel in the Old Testament to be a Godly Nation. This quote from Exodus 19:6 is often their rationale:
And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.”
But remember, that the Bible wasn’t written in English. The Old Testament language was Hebrew and that word Nation is gowy and it means “a massing of people, a foreign nation”. God set up Israel as a “foreign” nation, one that is counter-cultural to this fallen creation. But notice 1 phrase and 1 key word; one is about ownership and the other is about purpose. The phrase is “My Kingdom”. This speaks about ownership and in order to be a citizen of a “kingdom” one must submit to the Rule of The King. This is not a democracy, though often some vainly imagine this is what God wants.
The key word is “Priests”. This is the purpose of God’s people. It is to serve Him and the people He loves. And who are the people He loves? Everyone! And He wants His Kingdom of Priests planted right in the middle of the Kingdom of the Enemy who is ruining His Creation. I believe it is wrong to interpret this passage as a call for nationalism. But it has in so many corners of the U.S.
And one of the, perhaps unintended results is that well-meaning Christians are looking to the political process for our country’s redemption. Much of our chaos has been produced through this political process. God is not looking for a defined geographical space to be “His” nation. God is looking around this globe for “pockets of priests” who will serve Him first, then serve the people He is reaching out to reclaim and restore.
I want you to look at this passage from the New Testament and see it in perhaps a different way. It is 1 Peter 2:9.
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.
And though some may jump on that word “nation” as their proof, here is the Greek word for “nation”. It is ethnosand according to Thayer’s Greek lexicon is means “a multitude (whether of men or of beasts) associated or living together; a company, troop, swarm.” And, get this, in Strong’s lexicon it means ” a tribe; specially, a foreign one.” And do not overlook that key phrase from Peter: Royal Priests. Royal means we serve under a King, THE King.
Our Mission, as chosen, called and Royal Priests is to live together like a swarm invading the territory of the Enemy, the territory that Satan stole from God. It’s not geography or politics folks. It is The Kingdom of God whom we have been chosen and called to serve. Not a political identity. So Church, let’s be the swarm!
(Here is the rest of the conversation going on in my head about cultural bias and the church…Due to the nature of this mind, viewer discretion is advised. The Spiritually immature, not to be confused with “new believers”, may not be able to comprehend these thoughts. Please read the first part before reading this one: Cultural Bias And “The Church”)
Mr. Churchian: First you’re talking about Greek and now Latin? All of that is irrelevant.
Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter: Besides, we speak English, American English. I agree with Mr. Churchian, Greek/Latin–that doesn’t mean a thing!
Me: (Fighting hard to keep my gift of sarcasm in check) Yes, we speak American English (I’m wondering why Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter insists on the KJV) but yet there are different meanings to words now than when these wonderful letters and books were written. I know that we cannot all be Greek and Hebrew Scholars and this is why there are so many resources that can help us to understand in a deeper way the intent of the writers by looking at the original meanings of those words.
Mr. Churchian: Well, I know what I know!
Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter: And I know all I need to know!
Me: (Now I’m smiling again!) And that, my dear brother and sister in Christ, is the problem. What you know is what you have been taught by well-meaning people who have been enveloped in that fog of misinformation called “Church Cultural Bias”. We have accepted, BLINDLY accepted what we have been told about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. And at the root of this, I’m calling it what it is, this DECEPTION are these 2 diametrical words: the original word Ekklēsiaand that substitute word Circulous.
Circulousis a “circle”. A circle is a closed system. What ever is outside that circle must be allowed in to be a part of the circle. The circle then supports itself. Whatever is allowed to be a part of the circle must have 2 key attributes:
First, it must conform. If they do not conform, then the circle is no longer symmetrical. And God knows we can’t have circles unless they are symmetrical. And Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter I know how important symmetry is to you. (She’s smiling now, but wait for it!)
Second, it must contribute something to the existing structure. They must be able to reflect the current image. God knows we cannot have people in jeans with tattoos and piercings a part of the circle that is full of suits, ties and women wearing conservative fashionable dresses. They must be able to add to the existing and prevailing views, otherwise we would not be uniform. And Mr. Churchian, I know how important contributing to uniformity is to you. (Now he’s smiling, but wait for it!)
And all of this must happen within the confines of a specific geographic location, otherwise known as The Church Building. Am I correct in this, Mr. Churchian and Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter?
Mr. Churchian and Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter: (In unison) ABSOLUTELY! Thanks for finally coming over to our side!
Me: ‘Hold `em thar’ horses!’ What I just described is the Body of Christ as Circulous, a “circle”. The circle exists to serve those already in the circle. Anything that doesn’t support the circle is deemed both unnecessary and unimportant. The focus is entirely on human activities; what WE do. It creates that sense of entitlement, and I know how both of you feel about “the entitlement generation”. The circle produces consumers. As long as the pastor, staff and leadership puts out “consumables” for you, everything is great. When they no longer put out consumables, it’s time to replace them. This, my Sister and Brother, is the Body of Christ as a circle. I see you nodding your heads in agreement. But remember that Circulous is a substitute word for the original word.
The Body of Christ as the Ekklēsiafocuses on the One who does the calling. By focusing on the One who does the calling, the focus is on the life that God offers us and the foundation of that life that God offers us is about dying daily to self in order to live in unselfish ways in order to care about and for others. Putting it another way, here are 3 things the Ekklēsiais not:
It does not look like a geometrical circle. It looks more like coloring outside the lines. I know how much both of you detest coloring outside the lines. But when Jesus was in our human form He was the Master Artist of coloring outside the lines. Jesus continues coloring outside the lines by storming the strongholds of human values and culture.
It is not being uniform. Our Creator loves unique diversity. Look at the animal kingdom. You have an armadillo and you have the giraffe. Look even at horses, varieties of sizes, shapes, colors, and purposes. God loves diversity so He created us uniquely and loves it when we use our uniqueness to honor Him. Think about the beauty of a rainbow. The colors are not the same. When the light hits those raindrops at the right angle, then the beauty shines.
It does not focus inwardly. The One who calls us is always looking outwardly. Thus, to respond to that call, the Body of Christ also looks outwardly. The Ekklēsiacannot be confined to a postal or 911 address. All that happens inside the geographical location is designed to drive us out of that location to where real people are enslaved by sin, bringing light to the dirtiest and darkest places on earth.
Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter: Well, that’s not what I was taught!
Mr. Churchian: Well, I earned my way to be here and everyone else should earn their way, JUST LIKE I DID!
Me: Well, it wasn’t what I was taught either. And I admit, I haven’t earned my way into the circle. But I have been called out by God’s grace. Called back to my Creator, my Father. I have been called out to follow Jesus wherever He wants me to go in order to do whatever He wants me to do. Now, if you two will excuse me, Jesus has left the building, so I must also leave the building….
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
The work of God’s Grace is always about transforming us into the instruments He wants in order to reclaim His Creation’s Image Bearers. Being “in the world but not of the world” is not only possible through His Grace, it is ESSENTIAL to be a real follower of Jesus!