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!