WHAT’S GOT YOU ALL WRAPPED UP?

Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him loose.”

John chapter 11, verse 44; from The Message (Msg)

Well, here I am again, thinking about Lazarus–again. Yesterday I was thinking about him; and today–well here I am again. But The Spirit has me thinking about something different this morning. It’s about how Lazarus looked AFTER Jesus called him out from the grave. I know, today when people are buried their loved ones want either their favorite clothes or something brand new. But that’s not the way they did it back then. It seems the Hebrews brought with them more than Egyptian gold. They brought back some of the Egyptian burial practices–you know–the one of wrapping the body.

I still remember watching as a child “The Mummy” staring Boris Karloff–not the pitiful and pathetic remakes of modern cinema. If it came on today, I might just watch it again. That was quite the scene when The Mummy came back to life. Even in black and white, it was something to see. And this is what got me to thinking–about our culture and the church today. Just as there are brain-dead Zombies walking among us–they are a lot of Mummies walking around in grave clothes, too.

In politics, the Democrats are all wrapped up with Trump. The Republicans are all wrapped up with Biden, Harris, and Pelosi. Some are all wrapped with with the past. And others are all wrapped up with entitlement. And the church? Well, I can only speak for the United Methodist Institution (UMI). The Progressives are all wrapped up with disdain for conservatives. And the Conservatives are all wrapped up with disdain and disgust for Progressives and disobedient Bishops. Wrapped up in how much some Conferences are demanding to release the property.

And the more we rant and rail against another–the more tightly those grave clothes become. And without even realizing it, we become “The Mummy”! All of this vociferation only adds more and more wraps of cloth around us–and it keeps us from being the person Jesus died on the cross for to make possible. Though I wish the Progressives of the UMI would listen to me and stop blaming us for the problems–I doubt they will. So, let me speak to my fellow Conservatives.

Please, please, pretty please! Stop ranting about those disobedient Bishops and Conferences! You’re only beating a dead horse and not accomplishing anything. I challenge you to remember that Jesus is calling us out of the grave. But Jesus doesn’t want us wearing those grave clothes. We need to be unwrapped so that we can be turned loose as followers and servants of Jesus. Remember, not only did Jesus call Lazarus FROM the grave. He also commanded the Lazarus be unwrapped and set loose! Unwrap yourself from all this mishmash and step into this Next Great Awakening! Besides, you just don’t look right wrapped tight as a mummy!

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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!

WHERE’S THE FIRE?

And all I get for my God-warnings
    are insults and contempt.
But if I say, “Forget it!
    No more God-Messages from me!”
The words are fire in my belly,
    a burning in my bones.
I’m worn out trying to hold it in.
    I can’t do it any longer!

Jeremiah chapter 20, verses 9 & 10; from The Message

Here in our part of Alabama, it’s a bit dry; so dry that trees are begging dogs to “mark” their territory on them. We’ve been under a “fire alert” and “no burn order” for weeks. The state forestry service and local volunteer fire departments are uneasy when they see smoke. Just a small fire can turn into a major event. And all this talk about “fire” has me thinking this morning: Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire!

I’m having another thought: Where IS the fire? And now another thought: IS there a fire, in you? In ME? Look again at how Jeremiah feels: The words are fire in my belly, a burning in my bones. What words are fire in my belly, a burning in my bones for you? Seems like there’s a lot of fire in people’s words about politics and football. And there is definitely a fire in the words directed between Traditionalists and Progressives. But that’s not the fire we need. As a former firefighter, I can attest that the worst kind of fire is the one that’s out of control. And those fiery words that are being carelessly thrown around are out of control. And folks on both sides of this United Methodist Institution internal warfare need to stop it. It’s getting us nowhere and like a forest wildfire, it’s consuming and destroying us from the inside. And Satan is smiling right now!

We need fire–but not just any fire! We need the Fire that isn’t under our control–but under God’s Control! For way too long we have tried to be in charge of, call it the “narrative” of what God really wants. It’s found in all 3 camps–traditionalists, centrists, and progressives. And our culture is paying a heavy price for our attempts to control this narrative. Folks, Jeremiah got it right! He didn’t want to be God’s Messenger, to speak God Words to his culture. So he tried to hold it in–all of it–like a 50 something man trying to suck up his gut when a pretty woman walks by. But he just couldn’t hold it in; Jeremiah, that is! So, no matter what others said about him, he was going to share God Messages with the people. It was indeed a fire in him.

We need the fire to fall down from heaven. This is the only way renewal and revival will happen. And the only way it will happen is when we stop trying to get others to “get right with God” and have inside of us what Jeremiah calls a: fire in my belly, a burning in my bones. It’s not a coincidence at that particular Feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came to set up residence in the hearts of those Disciples and Followers of Jesus, He came in the form of Fire! I want that Fire in my belly, and that burning in my bones! What about you? Are you on Fire for Jesus–or for your particular “brand” of Jesus? Make sure you want MORE of Jesus–a whole lot more! I leave you with a song:

ARE YOU DRIVING WITH YOUR EYES OPEN, OR CLOSED?

Do you drive with your eyes open or closed? I’ve seen people drive like their eyes were closed–but I’m talking about driving all the time with eyes that are closed. The newest vehicles will now help you drive–they will sound warnings if you get out of your lane. They will even apply the brakes for you if you don’t. You can just “point and go” when you get in vehicles so equipped. Me? I’m not ready to trust my life to an onboard computer. Over the years I’ve had too many personal computers crash to trust them to be my chauffeur.

What’s my point this morning? My point is this–if you won’t drive with your eyes closed, then why try to navigate life with eyes that are closed–closed to God? The Spirit and I were just sitting and talking on the front porch bench. I started to pray about the churches He has given to me to pastor in the light of what I wrote yesterday (click here to read that post). Then the Spirit nudged me in the ribs, and asked, “Why are your eyes closed while you’re praying? You gotta’ see it and you can’t if you’re eyes are closed!”

Now, I’m not preaching against praying with your eyes closed. What the Spirit was trying to teach me (and you) is that we must be open to what God is desiring to do. Elisha saw the same danger that his servant saw–but Elisha saw more. This morning I needed my eyes open in order to see all that I was praying for. Know what? It worked! Don’t drive with your eyes closed–PLEASE DON’T! And don’t drive your vehicle AS IF your eyes were closed. Pay attention to your surroundings! You can’t if your eyes are closed. Open them! Open your eyes as you pray. Open them as you intercede for people and our culture! And you can begin to see what God is doing!

Great Anticipation!

Anticipation, anticipation
Is makin’ me late
Is keepin’ me waitin’

(Anticipation lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group)

Who remembers that song by Carly Simon?  Guess I’m revealing my age; actually I don’t have to reveal my age–it shows naturally.  But early this morning, I’m awake and filled with great anticipation, like a child on the way to Disney World.  What is the cause of my great anticipation?  I am leaving for Brentwood, Tennessee for another New Room Conference.  This will be my third consecutive time.  I don’t know how long this event has been happening.  If I did, I’d probably kick myself in the butt for missing the earlier ones.

What is it?  I’m so glad you asked me that question.  It’s a time of inspired worship, spirit-filled preaching and teaching, and a time for Spiritual Renewal.  Not all “conferences” I have attended over these past 44 years have filled me with anticipation.  OK, OK, it’s closer to 99% of those conferences never filled me with anticipation.  But this is different.  I looked up synonyms for “anticipation” and there was a single word that leaped out at me from that list.  It’s a word you seldom hear used unless you’re singing that great old hymn, Blessed Assurance, FORETASTE!

We don’t use that old word much anymore, but maybe we should.  It means “a slight and partial experience, knowledge, or taste of something to come in the future”.  You get that small taste, and you know, “Wow!  This is just a sample, I can’t wait to get the full course!”  This foretaste has been given a name at New Room–AWAKENING!  I confess that my hope for the church in the U.S. before New Room was at an all time low; I mean the bottom of the cellar, ocean bottom low.  But here….I was Elisha’s servant who had his eyes opened to the presence of Heaven’s Army!

We worship together, learn together and we have these things called “breakout sessions”.  From a list of subjects we choose where we want to go.  Last year was an especially powerful Epiphany for me.  I can’t even remember which breakout session I had signed up for, but something (actually someONE) drew me into a different one on Travailing Prayer.  I was like a puppy being drawn towards that treat.

I was taking notes right and left.  At the end, now there was another Epiphany.  The speaker asked that anyone who needed prayer to come and offer themselves to God.  This preacher never hesitated.  I went forward and stretched myself out on the floor.  As I was praying I became aware of another presence.  Someone was standing over me, and he was praying for me.  He was praying in tongues FOR me (a new experience for me), but I wasn’t freaked out by it.  In fact, I felt a calmness come over me.  From time to time, he touched my shoulder as he prayed in tongues and I felt the most amazing coolness where he touched me and a profound calmness in my heart.  Somehow, I sensed it was a prayer for preparation for what was ahead for me.

In the time that followed, I tried to figure out what God was trying to prepare me for.  There were some moments that I thought I figured it out–but I was wrong.  And now?  I am still assured it was and IS a prayer for preparation–not just where I thought it would me.  Through a tumultuous April, a time when I allowed hurt to consume me, I have finally learned that this prayer of preparation was for where I am right now.

I still don’t know all the details of what God is preparing me for here–but I know He’s Got This, and I am OK with that.  Actually, better than OK.  I am filled with anticipation!  Unlike the anticipation of Carly Simon that was keeping her waiting–this anticipation is keeping me moving forward.   I don’t know where it’s leading me, but I DO know that HE is both with me, and waiting for me as He reveals more and more of what He has for someone like me.  Now here’s a testimony of grace and mercy.

Truthfully, I never anticipated that at 62 years old that God would have so much more for me–but HE anticipated it.  And that moment of being prayed for in a language I could not understand has given me more confidence in God than I ever had before.  Well, excuse me but my “foretaste” is beckoning me.  Need to pack up and head out to God knows where–and I’m perfectly good with that.

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him.  OH, and don’t miss the “foretaste” He has for you….

Do You Know ABOUT God Or Do You KNOW God?

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It’s not enough to know ABOUT God.  I know about the atom, but that doesn’t make me a nuclear physicist.  Sitting in a pew doesn’t turn you into a real Follower of Jesus anymore than sitting in the garage will turn you into a car.  Come on folks, this isn’t rocket surgery!  Get to know GOD, revealed in Scripture, and seen in perfect clarity through Jesus!  And only Jesus!

Do You Serve Before God’s Altar?

OK, since God calls us to be a Kingdom of Priests (1 Peter 2:9) I ask you:  Whose altar is it?  Priests in the Old Testament served before the Altar of God, meaning God owned that altar.  If the altar is yours then the Fire of Revival will never fall on it.  The fire from Heaven didn’t fall on the altar of Jezebel’s priests because it wasn’t God’s altar.  As long as we try to control the altar, God’s fire won’t fall on it!

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