The Look!

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!

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(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!

The Koinonia Life

Well, yesterday we looked the the foundation provide by Jesus that the very first believers embraced. But what good is a foundation unless something is built upon it. Right now I remembering from a previous appointment in a certain community, there was something I saw almost every day. It was a foundation for a house. What I noticed was that it was overgrown with weeds even saplings were growing up. Someone had started to build a house but got only as far as the foundation.

I don’t know the story or the reason why–but this morning I see a spiritual truth in that image. A foundation becomes worthless unless something–something worthwhile–is built upon it. In looking at the book of Acts–Acts Of The Holy Spirit In Surrendered People–those surrendered people took that foundation and began building. What they built is a far cry from most “churches” today.

Renewal and Revival are the exclusive works of God through the Holy Spirit. And it comes when we build upon that Foundation that is provided for us. You know I love to throw that phrase Kingdom of God around a lot. And there’s a life that goes along with the Kingdom. I call it The Kingdom Life. But what I’ve discovered in this journey is that it is more accurately The Koinonia Life. Koinonia is that Greek word which means “a shared, or join participation”. Look at Acts 2:43-47

43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.


Acts 2:43-47 (NLT)

Here is what that first life together looked like; and take a moment to compare it with the life you see at your church:

1] There was an awe and reverence for God.  There was something about what was happening that it was clear to nearly all that this was a work of God—the implication is that even those who rejected Peter’s invitation could not deny that God was present.

2] There were signs and wonders.  The wonders is what caught their attention.  That’s what the Greek word means—to catch the attention of others.  The signs, well here’s the Greek definition of that word:  that by which a person or a thing is distinguished from others and known.  They were known by the power that was being revealed in them.  This is what produced the miracles.

3] They met together. Human connection is important. They actually enjoyed seeing each other. The Benediction wasn’t the sign that church was over. It signaled that it was time to get together.

4] They shared everything. It was their shared concern for each other that they gladly helped each other.

5] They were mission focused. They were willing to give up whatever they owned when someone was in need.  Others were more important than self.

6] Worship was central. Notice they did it daily.  Worship was important for them.  It wasn’t an act they had to do—it was the life they lived.

7] They Met in homes for Communion. They didn’t have church buildings, so homes became the key meeting place.  Today in congregations that are growing, one of the key reasons is small groups.  This is going back to the very beginning of Koinonia.  We have only a limited supply of time, so they invested in key relationships of people who shared their passion for Jesus. Just a side note here. How did they serve Communion with a seminary-trained,-church-ordained clergy to administer it? Have we made Holy Communion so “special” that it’s not sacred unless a pastor administers it? If so, we have robbed this Moment of it’s sacredness and power.

8] They shared meals and everything with great joy. The key word is JOY. To many church pew sitters look like they are chewing on a green lemon rind in one corner of their mouth and a green persimmon in the other. Hold a mirror up to your face and ask yourself, “Would someone really want to follow Jesus based on that image?”

9] They had generous hearts. What could show the heart of God more than Generosity? No one had to earn their way into their hearts. Their hearts were open to love and embrace others.

10] Their lifestyle was characterized by praise. They weren’t complaining about their community—they were doing what the apostles did when the Holy Spirit Indwelled them—telling others of the wonderful things of God!  Here’s an application—those outside the church, outside the Koinonia, see us more for what we are against that what we are for.

And the result of building this kind of life?

1] They were respected.  Is the church respected today in the U.S.?  Not so much.  Respect is earned, and maybe we need to get back to the Koinonia Life.

2] Others became followers of Jesus, daily this happened.  And make sure you pay attention to the cause of the new followers.  Who added?  The Lord!  We work the fields, HE takes care of the harvest.

If life within a local congregation does not mirror this kind of life, then it has lost its heart, its passion, and its purpose. Remember to Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

Devotions Or Devoted?

As a pastor, I admit I tend to first read a passage through the lens of a pastor. I look for what I need to teach, share and preach in order to fulfill what I like to term the Ephesians 4:11-12 model–to build up and equip the body of Christ. But this journey through Acts, I’ve sought to read this first and foremost as a disciple of Jesus. And as I look at this journal I’m keeping, there’s this haunting question I wrote: “How devoted am I to Jesus?”

It seems I’ve been so focused on building up others, that perhaps I’ve forgotten how to build myself up. But any pastor who never or rarely asked themselves the tough questions they pose to the flock, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t stay with that flock very long. The verse that leaped off the page and sliced open my heart is in chapter 2, verse 42

All the believers devoted themselves…

Acts 2:42 (NLT)

It seems I’ve been quick to do my “devotions”, but I’ve come face to face with the issue of being “devoted”. These words sound similar, but they are light years away from being the same thing. I can’t complete shake the lens of being “Preacherman”, so I know that I am not alone in this issue. I have seen many others who have substituted “doing their devotions” for “being Devoted“.

I am coming to understand what being devoted as a follower of Jesus should mean. It is found in how Dr. Luke paints a powerful word picture of being devoted. As the Holy Spirit was wiping up all that blood that had gushed from my heart when He sliced it open, He looked up at me and said, “It’s about the foundation, Randy. The foundation holds up everything on top of it. If the foundation is solid and strong, it holds up the rest of it. But if it’s not……well, you know what Jesus said about that.”

After regaining my composure, I looked for that foundation built by those first believers. It’s found in what they were devoted to. I read that list, and saw ever so clearly why the Body of Christ in Africa, Russia, Asia and other places were growing and thriving, and why the Body of Christ in the Western World is declining and in such chaos. It all comes down to that word “devoted“, and what they were devoted to.

1] The Apostles Teaching: There was an insatiable appetite. It seems that they could not get enough of it. They were hungry for what God had to say. This formed their core beliefs.  These would be the things that everything else would be built around.  We would call them the non-negotiables.  And what they were teaching was what they were learning—from Jesus and through the Holy Spirit.  This happened because Jesus promised it would happen with the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

2] Fellowship with each other:  The Greek word Luke used is “koinonia”.  It means “joint participation”.  It’s a word used to describe close and caring relationships.  In fact, as the Gospel continued to spread, they weren’t known in their culture as “churches” but as Koinonia.  It was something everyone had a share in—a belonging.  It wasn’t a building or denomination that marked these early believers—but their desire to be deeply connect TOGETHER in Christ and with each other

3] Sharing in meals:  The Greek used by Luke is literally “the breaking of bread.” Now, when we think about the breaking of bread, what do we usually think about?  Holy Communion. But in the Middle East, and most of the Mediterranean breaking of bread meant a meal.  Meal time was considered special.  In fact, if someone invited you to a meal and you refused, it was considered offensive.  I know that one time my son Matthew told me when he was in Iraq, sometimes he had no idea what he was eating—but he never turned down any invitation to a meal.  Whether it was a meal or The Lord’s Supper, breaking bread was considered a sacred and holy moment.  See, there is something Biblical about Methodists loving to Meet And Eat.

4] They prayed: Early on they knew the importance of prayer.  Remember we are talking about the foundation.  Prayer wasn’t a last resort—but the first step. They really believed in the power of prayer because their faith was filled with that hopeful expectation that God was present and at work. And honestly, I don’t think their prayers were anything at all like those “stained glass prayers” spoken in church. For them, prayer was dialogue with God–both talking to and listening. They may have been considered by today’s standards, rather simple minded, but oh what results came from those prayers.

5] And remember, they did all this TOGETHER! What those disciples did just before the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, being together, was so important and it continues to be important today.  Some of the later writing by Paul focused on the importance of TOGETHER, and said a lot of harsh words when TOGETHER was being broken.

This is the Kingdom Foundation.  What happens next comes out of that Foundation. Well, the Holy Spirit has stitched up my heart where He sliced in open, and it’s better now than before. So, to you the reader, remember the difference between devotions and devoted. Devotion are what we do. Devoted is the pursuing the Kingdom of God with all that is in us. It’s following the pull of the Holy Spirit into the direction of what God is doing in our world. Being devoted isn’t a casual thing, or a part time job as a follower of Jesus. It’s throwing yourself completely into the Kingdom of God and what HE is doing in our world.

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

(P.S.–the next edition is about the kind of life that comes from our devoted foundation….)

Never Too Far!

Seems I remember somewhere about a certain road paved with good intentions; but it leads you to a not so nice place. Well, I’m guilty. I have good excuses, really good excuses; but I don’t have a good reason for failing to share what I’ve discovered as I read with fresh eyes the Book of Acts. So, forgiveness please….and my next “insight” says much, so very much, about grace. It’s Acts 2:39 NLT)–

This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.”

The struggle in the arena of self-esteem has two extremes. At one end of the spectrum are those whose ego is over-inflated. They see themselves as “God’s Gift” to the world. That somehow, everything would collapse were it not for them. Know anyone like that? I sure do! I’ve even had the occasion (more accurately “burden to bear”) of being their pastor. But today, I’m putting them back up on the shelf. Maybe I’ll write something about them at a later time.

Today I want to focus on those on the other extreme, and those words of Peter in that famous Pentecost Message: “This promise is … to those far away.” I’m talking to those who feel totally, completely, absolutely worthless. I know how you feel. I’ve been there, done that, and got the scars to prove it. When it comes to the personal sense of well-being and worth, it’s a vacuum.

I compare this feeling to road kill. You know, that critter that wasn’t just hit once by a vehicle. It has been run over multiple times…and now is just a flat disk on the pavement. One would have to really focus to make out what it once was. It’s original image is gone.

There is nothing there at all. Well, there is that gnawing feeling of worthlessness. And being created in the image of God, and you are created in His image, this is a burden we were never equipped to carry. God knows this, and so even before The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit said, “LET THERE BE LIGHT!”, the 3 of them sat down and talked. They talked about you….and me.

And what was the subject of their conversation? Our redemption! My redemption! YOUR REDEMPTION! As they were planning this wonderful, beautiful, awe-inspiring creation, they were determined to put God’s image upon it. That image wasn’t placed in trees or any other created matter–it was on the last day they added it–when they created human begins. As they discuss this, the Father looks at the Son and says, “You know Jesus, part of our image is free-will. Unfortunately, they are going to use this precious gift for their own design, and we will be cut off from them, forever. Forever, unless you agree to become one of them, live like them, and also die FOR them a horrible, painful death. But it’s the only way to bring them back to us in this perfect relationship. So, Jesus, what do you say?” And Jesus said, “They are so wonderful and awesome I will do anything to restore them, restore them back to us! Let’s get busy creating!”

Does that conversation sound a bit far-fetched for you who feel so far away from God. Well, try this on for size…it fits you perfectly:

18 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. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake. (1 Peter 1:18-20 NLT)

Remember that these words were written by a man who said he would never, never, never deny Jesus. But he did; 3 times to be exact. If anyone ever felt far from God, it would be Peter. Yet on Pentecost, this same man stands up, without a prepared script, to proclaim the truth–this truth–YOUR TRUTH–that God has come looking for you. And you are never too far away for Him to find you.

Right now I’m thinking about another man who must have felt far away from God after Jesus was arrested. That would be Judas. He felt so far away from God that he could not see what was right in front of him. Earlier that night, Jesus took the Cup, gave thanks, and passed it to them, including Judas, and said, “All of you drink from this cup. This cup is my blood poured out for you and for many–for the forgiveness of sin.”

Judas felt remorse for his actions. Peter felt remorse for his actions. The self-esteem of these 2? Flattened Road-Kill. Peter, though, stayed around long enough for the Resurrection and experienced a resurrection of his own. And Judas? He just couldn’t see it. Can you image the impact of the testimony of Judas if he could have just held on to that Sunday? But the world will never hear of that kind of testimony because he gave up, too soon…

For those who feel so far away…..you are NOT too far away. God knows where you are,exactly where you are. He has a testimony for you to share with others living in that land of far, far, away. Remember that whatever led you to this “far away” place–also remember that God has the Promise–of forgiveness, a new beginning, and the indwelling of The Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit will help keep you from going back to that “far away place.”

And should you ignore Holy Spirit and go back again to the far away place, He will find you even there and lead you back home….I know….He did it for me! You are never too far away for God to find you, and lead you home.

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

Far, Far Away

Jesus went the distance for us who were far away. Let’s follow Jesus and go the distance, do whatever it takes, to let those far away know that they can be forgiven and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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Who did Jesus die for? Well, if you listen to the Calvinists, He died for the Frozen Chosen. If you listen to the Universalists He really didn’t have to die because if we all get in, why did He die? If you listen to the Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters He died for the good, honest folks. If you listen to the Unitarians, “Who’s Jesus?”

The death of Jesus was the first step in God’s wonderful design to take back what The Enemy has stolen from Him. There had to be another step, otherwise people would fall back into the trap of legalism. In my reading of The Book of Acts Of The Holy Spirit In Surrendered People, I came upon this in Chapter 2, Verses 38 and 39.

Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” (emphasis mine)

For many it’s easy for them to comprehend that Jesus died for them. After all, they aren’t all that bad; at least not as bad as most. But for many more it’s difficult because they are beaten back and beaten down to a pulp by guilt and shame. And if that’s not bad enough, they are beaten down by self-promoting, self-righteous ingrates who forgot they are sinners, too.

I love that inspired line of Peter’s message that in Jesus we are both forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit–to those near–and hear this–TO THOSE FAR AWAY! The Cross can step across any length of chasm to reach anyone and everyone. Here’s some of my personal observations about many churches today:

  • Some won’t cross the street and get to know their neighbors
  • Some are consumed with only reaching folks who are like them
  • Some are more interested in preserving their traditions and Tribe
  • Some are more concerned about keeping buildings open
  • Some are afraid of the future, that “their” church will close its doors

My friends, it’s time to remember both the “near” and those “far, far away”. If you are one of those who are “near”, meaning you’ve been in church most of your life, then start reaching out to those “far away” by getting to know them and become their friend. And if you are one of those who are “far away”, then please, please know, Jesus wants you,too! Hope is available for everyone, so we need to stop saying that anyone is ever “hopeless”. Remember….He came for both the near and the far away…..

Jesus went the distance for us who were far away. Let’s follow Jesus and go the distance, do whatever it takes, to let those far away know that they can be forgiven and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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

I Want A Deluxe But Hold The Onions

The truth that many today refuse to handle is that before Jesus can become your Messiah, your Savior, He must first be your Lord.

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Good morning and welcome to some more insights from the Book formerly known as The Acts Of The Apostles but now known as Acts Of The Holy Spirit I Surrendered People. I’m still in chapter 2 and what caught my attention is Verse 36.

“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”

I’ve read this so many times and have believed its truth with all my heart. But this time when I got to the end of verse 36, the Spirit said, “Stop!” So I did, carefully reading each word slowly so as to take in every breath. Then it hit me. Immediately I started thinking about my culture, my Tribe, and the issue facing this Tribe. It was those last 6 words: “to be both Lord and Messiah”.

I see a lot of people in our culture who love the idea of a Messiah–someone who will come to help us out of our messes we’ve made. After all, who doesn’t want to get out of the pain, despair and everything else that goes along with the messes we make of life. It’s a new way of saying what I heard a long time ago: “Some people just want Jesus to save them from hell, and nothing else.” The crowd of Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters definitely fit in here. Can you blame them? I mean, who wants to spend an eternity in fire and brimstone.

And I seen this among the Progressives (formerly known as liberals) in my church Tribe. They advocate a new definition of sexuality and insist (may I add without scientific evidence and solid exegesis) that God created some to be gay. They add that the birth parents even gave them the wrong physical gender. So, to get rid of the mess, they want The Messiah, The Savior, but not the Lord.

To want only the Messiah but not the Lord??? That’s like ordering a deluxe bacon cheeseburger but saying, “I want the Deluxe but hold the onions.” What makes it the Deluxe is all that other stuff they add to that burger and bun. You’re denying yourself the full experience of “The Deluxe”.

But here, when the Body of Christ was born, Peter insists (under the inspiration of the Wind and Fire of the Holy Spirit, I might add) that it is not enough to declare Jesus to be the Messiah. Jesus must also be Lord! In this good old U.S. of A. that just doesn’t sit well. We are a democracy, not a nation of lemmings. Actually, we are not a democracy–we are a representative republic. I’ll let you do your own research on this statement.

Even as I’m writing, I see something else. It’s the order of those words, “Lord” and “Messiah”. Here’s the truth that Colonel Jessup (A Few Good Me) would say to so many today: “You can’t handle the truth!” The truth that many today refuse to handle is that before Jesus can become your Messiah, your Savior, He must first be your Lord.

It’s difficult to admit that there are some things–correct that–many things we cannot handle on our own. And unless we acknowledge and surrender to Jesus as our Lord, we will never find Jesus as our Messiah. We can find warm fuzzy feelings of love and plenty of ways to justify our lives, and if we are told that enough times, say it enough times, we will believe the lie–and miss out on the Savior.

But in order to enter into that realm of God’s Grace, we must first acquiesce to the fact we NEED The Lord. Let unto our own devices and logic, it is a train wreck about to happen. The only way He can be our Lord, is that we surrender to His Authority and Rule. Not just once. Not just every day. But every moment of every day choose again to make Jesus you Lord. And unlike absolute rulers today and throughout history, Jesus is a Good Lord. He’s trustworthy to make the best decisions for your life. After all, in order to show that we can trust Him to be our Lord, He allowed Himself to be crucified on That Cross–for me…..and for you…..

Don’t forget, my friends….Love Jesus with all your heart. Love others the way He loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him.

Elevator Truth

Before His Resurrection, Jesus pushed the down button, twice! First, when He left Heaven to enter Mary’s womb. And then as He died on the Cross and was placed in that tomb.

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It took going to the funeral of a friend which lead to a dear friend reminding me to write, and the phone call of a close friend telling us she was dying, to kick me in the butt to get back to writing. So here I am, more resolved to not set His gift aside; rather to use it even more.

Since it’s been a while since I’ve written, allow me to explain the purpose of these, call them insights. I’m reading the Book of Acts every morning. As I read, I’m looking and listening to The Spirit for those things I’ve overlooked over the years. Today I want to share something else I’ve missed all these years. It’s Acts 2:32-33

“God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.  Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today.”

I call this Elevator Truth. Think about an elevator. I find here a microcosm of life, and a spiritual truth. What do you see and hear? Of course, Elevator Music! Music that rarely if ever moves the heart and stirs the soul. My hypothesis is that they use that kind of music so that you will quickly get off so the elevator can go to its next assignment.

Face it, sometimes life is as boring as Elevator Music. But that’s not the truth I want to share. It’s those 2 buttons outside the elevator door: Up or Down. Unless, of course, you are on the bottom floor (or the top floor). Elevators will take you up–elevate you–or they will de-elevate you–take you down.

In life, you have the choice to elevate your life or de-elevate your life. The News of the Kingdom of God is countercultural and revolutionary. Our world thinks that to elevate your life you need to push the up button (thus, my elevator analogy). But here in Peter’s sermon, elevation comes through the example of Jesus.

Before His Resurrection, Jesus pushed the down button, twice! First, when He left Heaven to enter Mary’s womb. And then as He died on the Cross and was placed in that tomb. Because Jesus was willing to push that down button, and because He did it out of love for the Father and love for us, The Father then elevated Him. And what an elevation it is! The world changed then, and it continues to change now, all because God elevated Jesus.

And remember WHEN that elevation occurred–after Jesus died! If you want your life elevated–lifted above the muck and mire of this culture–then you need to do what Jesus did: DIE!

  • Die to guilt
  • Die to fear
  • Die to sin
  • Die to self promotions
  • Die to your agendas
  • Die to self-importance
  • Die to who others say you are
  • Die to ________________ (you fill in the blank)

In order to be elevated, then you need to surrender–anything and everything–in your life. The good, the bad, the ugly–ALL OF IT! In an age of self-promotion this is radical and revolutionary–but it works. It worked for Jesus. It will work for you.

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him! And the next time you stand outside an elevator and see those 2 buttons, remember which button Jesus pushed, TWICE!

Step Up To The Plate

Welcome back to my musings from the Book of Acts. In case this is the first one you’ve read, or if you have forgotten, this is a different kind of journey as I read the Book of Acts. This is NOT a chapter by chapter, verse by verse exegesis. I am reading this powerful book about The Holy Spirit looking for either those things I have forgotten, or for those truths that I’ve been missing these past 45 years since I first welcomed Jesus into my heart. Honestly, I not looking for the obvious, but for those nuances that I’ve been overlooking since I started this journey of faith.

And today, it is Acts 2:14–

Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles …

OK, it’s 2 words….make that 3 words…rather 4 words….wait a minute….it’s all 9 words. So let’s begin….oh, what do you say….we start at the first word: Then. This word tells us something had just happened. That Promise of Jesus, that The Holy Spirit was a comin’….was no longer a promise, but the reality of Peter’s life. Peter doesn’t do anything other than wait and pray until the Then. When that Then happened, Peter stopped praying and waiting. He moved with that Spirit now living in him and every believer.

Next it’s the 3 words: Peter Stepped Forward. Why? Because of the Then. Up until Then, Peter was known as the one who would speak up without thinking. Come to think of it, I know some people like that. Oh, OK, I do that sometimes, too. He was rash and impetuous. He had the tendency for his mouth to overload his abilities. But….Then happened. With the indwelling and abiding of the Holy Spirit Peter Stepped Forward.

And why not? He had both the Power and the Message that could change his culture and world. This isn’t Impetuous Peter. This is Deliberate Peter. He saw what they did to Jesus. And he saw what Jesus did with what they did. And he paid attention to Jesus–WAIT UNTIL. Wait until…Then. Peter now has the Passion and the Focus. And he steps forward.

But today….so many….too many who profess to be a Christian….who are supposed to have the Power and the Message to change OUR culture….are either too timid….or unwilling to Step Forward. It seems to me that many Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters would rather stay isolated and insulted from the world and then complain about the condition of the world. Yet….if they have had their own “Then Moment” they have both the Power and the Message to transform their culture.

It happens through the Holy Spirit. And today? People seem to get the heebie jeebies when it comes to the power and work of the Holy Spirit. They don’t want to look “weird” or like one of “those” kind of Christians. The result is out culture continues to spiral downward.

Oh, there are those who step forward–step forward with words of anger, judgment and condemnation; whose only concern seems to be that they have the appearance of being better than others. An unholy sanctimonious attired that is repulsive to the outsider. And then, they have the gall to wonder why their culture is going to hell in a hand basket. Peter wasn’t going to live with that kind of attitude. Peter Stepped Forward.

Which leads to that last part: with the eleven other apostles…. This wasn’t a solo act, a duet, or even a quartet. It was all of them. And here’s what speaks to me that I had not recognized: The Holy Spirit Provides The Means, The Message And The Power needed to transform our Time, Place and Culture. The time has come, urgently arrived, to stop trying to compromise or allow others to dictate The Message in order to make life more comfortable and convenient.

Appeasement is defined as “the action or process of appeasing”. And the word “appease” means: “pacify or placate (someone) by acceding to their demands. I looked up synonyms for placate and here are the words I found: “lull, tranquilize, calm, mollify.” Mollify? Had to look up that word and here’s what mollify means: “Make more temperate, acceptable, or suitable by adding something else; moderate.” Since 1974, I’ve been told by my leaders (well, except one, he IS a mighty warrior for God) that I need to make sure to appease the congregations I had been appointed to. I needed to pacify them so they wouldn’t complain. In other words, let them have it their way. Having it their way may have been a great advertising slogan for Burger King years ago, but it is a pitiful way to operate the Body of Christ.

And for Peter, he couldn’t make the Message more acceptable by adding something else to it. Why? Because of that single word: “Then”–the Holy Spirit had a hold of him and he had a hold on the Spirit. And the reason for Peter’s powerful message was two-fold:

  • The Power of the Holy Spirit
  • And the willingness of the other 11 to stand with him

It’s time for us to run with those who want to run with the Holy Spirit–His Power and The Message. It’s time to leave the paths of placation that does nothing but tranquilize people and lull them into a false sense of peace and security. Appeasement is the desire of Satan. Transformation is the Great Desire of God–and it happens only with HIS Power through The Message of The Kingdom of God–and not the petty preferences of those who have neither the Power nor the Message.

It’s time for us to Step Forward because if we don’t…..well Yogi Berra puts it like this:

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

The Missing Word Today

What would happen here in the good old U.S. of A. if WE, who profess to be followers of Jesus, gave up agendas and made an all out commitment to being TOGETHER?

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Well, after a season of computer problems (it died, had the blue screen) and getting caught up, I’m back to my insights from the Book of Acts (Of The Holy Spirit In Surrendered People). If you missed the first one, then click here, because it is, call it our Magnetic North in this journey. As I was reading in the first chapter, there’s another insight that I’ve overlooked for all my life. It is one word, and that word is TOGETHER.  It’s from Acts 1:14

They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.

That word, “together” is one that has been, call it haunting me. I use the word “haunting” because it is M.I.A. in many, many established congregations. Between congregations and within congregations, little exists that would even slightly hint that we are together. And here, in the good old U.S. of A., people sit around McDonald’s, in church committee meetings, around the water coolers lamenting that this culture is so far from God. They blame Hollywood, Trump, Democrats, Republicans, Educators, Video Games and various News Networks. As I read this part, I am left wondering, “Is it really ‘their’ fault? Or is it the fault of the Body of Christ forgetting our humble beginnings? Of being together–in life, in helping others and in Christ?

Between congregations there is much competition. To have the best preacher. The best musicians. The most campuses. Rather than moving in and claiming the territory of The Enemy, they encroach on each other trying to draw away members. Together? Hardly!

And don’t get me started on within congregations. They meet in the same building, but are not really together. Each part moves, speaks and acts out of an agenda, their agenda. Those who have been in power do not want to give up their power. They operate on a seniority system–whoever has been there the longest (including previous family generations) are the only ones who should have power. And should a congregation actually decide that the Kingdom of God is the Pearl of greatest value, it becomes a matter of navigating the rapids. The Art of Compromise becomes the guide, and those who recognize that Pearl, either find another congregation, or simply give up. 

But it wasn’t that way then. They were Together. Men and women. Young and old. Educated and uneducated. Poor and the not so poor. They were in this TOGETHER. This means that they supported each other. Encouraged each other. Listened to each other. At this point, now get this: They were of one mind. They were in this for Jesus, not themselves. Jesus said stay together and they did. Jesus said wait, so they waited. Jesus said don’t begin until you receive the Holy Spirit, and so they waited–TOGETHER.

Think about this, they didn’t really know a lot about the Holy Spirit, other than what they saw of Him in Jesus. After the Resurrection, they were smart enough to know that they would be foolish to do this Kingdom Thing without The Holy Spirit. And to that goal, look at what else they did TOGETHER:

and were constantly united in prayer

Because they were TOGETHER, it wasn’t about selfish prayer. It was about being TOGETHER in what Jesus wanted. I strongly suspect, no, I strongly believe that they were so intimidated by the task in front of them that they knew they NEEDED each other. They needed each person to be committed to Jesus; to be completely surrendered, completely passionate about this Kingdom. Folks, they were UNITED in prayer. They were praying FOR each other, not against each other. Wow!

Recently I was reading through one of my personal study times. It’s from a group called SEEDBED (website is here). J.D. Walt is one of the writers and one of my teachers. He wrote that there are only 2 stories being told in our world: 1 is the story of the world, and the other is the story of The Kingdom of God. J.D. said that we will live out our lives on one or the other storyline. Then he said this (and I quote):

“Until Jesus becomes the center of our devotion, He’s just another distraction.”

And thus, that word, TOGETHER. I want to speak now only to my American readers. What would happen here in the good old U.S. of A. if WE, who profess to be followers of Jesus, gave up our agendas and made an all out commitment to being TOGETHER?

Feel free to answer this question in the comments section. I would love to hear what you believe would happen IF we were really TOGETHER. And remember to love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

The Gethsemane Life

The is NO Glory without THE SUFFERING. This was true for Jesus, and it is true for US!

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Welcome to my next edition on the Book of Acts. If you haven’t read my first one on Acts, then you need to read it here. I’m looking for those nuances and truths that I may have missed. And here’s my second observation. It is in Acts 1, verses 11 and 12

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a distance of half a mile. 

Did you see it? I confess I’ve seen it before, but I never really paid attention to it. I suddenly realized the importance of verse 12 and I’m putting myself in time-out for not understanding the importance of THE PLACE! I would like to think that I am like so many that simply focus on the BIG event–The Ascension–and think the rest of the story isn’t important. I was wrong, and so are you if you think that way.

Why is the place, the Mount of Olives so important? I’m so glad you asked that question. Go back 55 days from the Ascension. It’s nighttime. Jesus has just celebrated Passover with the Disciples. But this time there were new words and new meaning. They left the supper table and went, where? The Mount of Olives. Good class, I’m glad you remembered. And where did Jesus go when they arrived at the Mount of Olives? It said He went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Great, class! You really know your stuff.

Now, before I ask you what did Jesus do in the Garden of Gethsemane, do you know the meaning of that word “Gethsemane”? It means “oil press”. If you got the correct answer, consider it a bonus point on the test. Most folks I’ve found do not know this. Every, I mean EVERY olive grove had a gethsemane. It’s where the olives would be squeezed and pressed for its true purpose–to produce olive oil.

Now, the next question, and this counts on the test. What did Jesus begin doing? Did you answer “Pray”? If that’s your answer, you missed the question. It was at the Oil Press that Jesus began His suffering. In the magical world of theological terminology, the word is “The Passion” begins. His suffering didn’t begin on the Cross, in the court of Pilate, or in that Roman Garrison courtyard, or at the place of the Mock Trial of the Sanhedrin. It started BEFORE He was arrested.

Only 3 people were privy to those moments: James, John and Peter. Read the account from the historian Luke in Luke chapter 22 verses 39-46. His suffering there was for each and every one of us. Without His suffering we would be without any hope. And here’s my Epiphany Moment: At the place His Suffering began for our redemption and transformation, the Mount of Olives, is where those disciples saw the Glory of Jesus.

Now, here’s the lesson: The is NO Glory without THE SUFFERING. This was true for Jesus, and it is true for US! But, alas, (insert very heavy sigh, here) we want the Glory but sans the suffering. If Jesus teaches us ANYTHING, it’s that without the Suffering there is no Glory.

We don’t suffer the way Jesus suffered. Jesus’ suffering was unique–to pay the penalty of our sins. But suffering is inevitably a part of following Jesus. In the desire to miss our suffering, we opt-in for Comfort and Convenience. When you opt-in for Comfort and Convenience, you opt-out of the Glory. Suffering means the same thing it meant for Jesus–Giving up Comfort And Convenience for something much bigger.

Have you given up your comfort? Your conveniences? The easy way? If not, you will miss out on the glory. Jesus gave up the Comfort of Heaven for the womb of Mary. Jesus gave up the conveniences of His Eternal Nature being adored and worshipped, for a dirty diaper. The One who spoke creation into existence had to learn how to talk. The One who walks across the expanse of Heaven, had to learn how to walk. Need I say more? OK, just one more:

He who lives in eternity stepped into time in order to die!

We would rather be on the Mount of Transfiguration and on the Mount of The Ascension. It is, after all, a much better and easier place to live. But to get to those moments, we have to go by way of The Gethsemane. It’s the Gethsemane Life, and only the Gethsemane Life, that gets to the Glory. Jesus was squeezed and pressed for His True Purpose. And so must we be squeezed and pressed for our true purpose. Here’s your homework:

In what ways are you suffering for Jesus?

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