THAT TRAMPLING BOOT!


1-3 Thank God! He deserves your thanks.
    His love never quits.
Thank the God of all gods,
    His love never quits.
Thank the Lord of all lords.
    His love never quits.
23-26 God remembered us when we were down,
    His love never quits.
Rescued us from the trampling boot,
    His love never quits.
Takes care of everyone in time of need.
    His love never quits.
Thank God, who did it all!
    His love never quits!

Psalm 136, verses 1 thru 3 and 23 thru 26; from The Message (MSG)

“You never know which way his mind is headed!” I suppose that’s what those who know me best would say about yours truly. And this morning would verify that declaration. In this morning’s discipline, I admit that I was a bit discombobulated. So, I took off my headphones and started talking with The Spirit. I’ve found that always helps–the talking with not just talking to. He told me to check out this morning’s Verse of the Day, compliments of Bible Gateway. I thought (there I go thinking again) that I had checked the New Living Translation as my chosen translation. But somehow (I wonder how? Wink, wink!) it came up in The Message.

I find looking at different translations helps me understand a passage better and gives me fresh insights. Now, if you are a one translation person, that’s OK. But just try it sometime when you are relaxed. Any who, I also love The Message and the ways that Eugene Peterson and his crew would turn a phrase that really shined some light in me. Though I love the richness of the King James Version when it comes to the Book of Psalms, occasionally The Message opens my eyes. This morning was one of those mornings.

There are actually 2 phrases from this Psalm that prompts these musings from me. The first one is in Verse 24: “Rescued us from the trampling boot“. Trampling boot! Now that’s exactly what Satan does! He wants to trample us down and squish the life out of us like we are nothing but a bug. Sin is The Trampling Boot! I know that lots of folks don’t like the idea of “sin”–but it’s real; very real. And though there are many definitions of sin out there, here’s mine: Sin is living outside of God’s design, purpose, and will for us. It’s being someone other than who we were designed to be by God.

And where do we find God’s design, purpose, and will? Simple–it’s in The Bible. It will never be found in socially acceptable norms. It’s not discovered in the latest cultural fads. It’s not found in the views and opinions of others. And it’s certainly not ever found in our feelings. It’s found in our relationship with Jesus and The Bible. Living outside The Book is where Satan wants us to be. It’s the only way his boot can trample us! Why is there so much anger in our culture today, especially when it comes to the traditional and orthodox faith? Because they are being trampled by Satan’s boot–and since they can’t stop Satan they turn against us who are doing exactly what Paul reminded the church at Corinth to do:

We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; He’s already a friend with you.

2 Corinthians chapter 5, verse 10; from MSG

Oh, that other phrase. Here it is: His love never quits! If you are feeling that trampling boot, remember His love never quits! His love isn’t a sign of approval on your lifestyle. His love is for you. His love is an active force working to get you out from under Satan’s trampling boot. His love is working to bring you back–back to your original design; back to your original purpose, back to where your will is to do HIS Will! And to those who vainly believe they will be happy if the church would just approve and bless their lifestyle, it won’t change a thing. Only by being transformed by God love and learning how to be who God made us to be, can we experience peace, joy, and hope. So, surrender to Jesus lock, stock, and barrel. And He will rescue you from that trampling boot!

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THERE IS NO TENT LEFT!

“Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”

Matthew chapter 15, verses 16 thru 20; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Do you still believe that the United Methodist Church is a “Big Tent” where various beliefs can can coexist together in harmony and in one place? If this cycle of improvisational Jurisdictional Conferences has proven anything, then here is the bottom line: THE TENT FOR EVERYONE IS GONE! And count on the Western Jurisdiction to drive the nail home. Any traditionalist Wesleyan-Hearted follower of Jesus who thinks they can remain within the UMC and still be true to Jesus, you really need to think again. Stop burying your head in the sand–even Ostriches don’t do that. It’s a myth. And here’s the story that verifies that The Tent has left the building: https://www.umnews.org/en/news/western-elects-cedrick-bridgeforth-as-bishop

This isn’t the first time for the Western Jurisdiction to elect an openly gay person as Bishop. If this was the first time, then one might could say, “Oh, this was just a hiccup, a bump in the road.” But it’s not the first time. They did it back in 2016 with the election of Karen Oliveto. To do something wrong one time might be (I said might be) an anomaly. But twice? This is what psychiatrists and prosecuting attorneys call a pattern of behavior! And I will be fair; it’s not just in the Western Jurisdiction. It’s happening in more and more places.

And this asininity of the antipodal idea that antithetical beliefs can coexist together is as harebrained as thinking that mixing poison with drinking water is safe and will not hurt you. Our current botheration is NOT a recent development. It’s been astir for decades. Granted, it’s erupted into a devastating lava flow since the Great Deception of 2019, but this has been going on for so long that the cataclysmic consequences has made the UMC irreparable, unless there is a true repentance of heart and surrender of will. To remain in the UMC is Accept The Great Deception That You Know More Than God. Offended by my statement? Here’s all I’ve got to say: The truth will stand even when the world’s on fire! Well, if you are offended, I have one more thing to say: Suck it up, buttercup!

HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR ADDRESS?

So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good?

Romans chapter 6, verses 1 and 2; from The Message (Msg)

Being a pastor, I know something about this “change of address” thing. Today, it’s not a big thing. Go online, notify whomever, fill out a form, and PRESTO! The address has been change! But at the risk of sounding old I will say, “Back in the day, we had to fill out a form with the post office, and then write letters to those others who sent us mail notifying them of our change of address.” Moving isn’t easy. I still remember to this day what the late Bishop Sanders would always say before the reading of the appointments: “When you move, take everything! Take the piano and the dog!” Oh, one other thing he would say: “And don’t go back!”

Why all these random thoughts about moving and change of address? Before one is about to leave their old home or apartment, they make one last round to make sure that they haven’t left anything behind. But when it comes to following Jesus–it takes a complete break from what use-to-be and step into what-it’s-going-to-be. We cannot carry our old baggage with us if we are truly following Jesus. As a matter of fact, we can’t take anything with us from that old address! Nothing! Nada! Zilch! Alas! We have too many preachers and teachers who do not believe that God wants us to make a complete break with our old life. And these apostate teachers and preachers are leading folks into the life of Deception! Yes, I called them Apostate! Like Horton the Elephant, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant!”

Teaching and saying that you can still do the things you use to do and still be a Disciple of Jesus is akin to an addict who says: “I’m not an addict anymore. Although from time to time I still allow my addiction to control me. But I’m a follower of Jesus, so that doesn’t matter anymore.” Grace forgives us of our sins–but Grace Never Sanctifies Our Sins! Yet there are so many who have been taught that this is how it works; especially within the LBGTIQ community.

To be a follower, I mean a REAL follower of Jesus is disruptive! It’s the call and life of leaving everything else behind. It’s not always easy to leave the old address. And the temptation to “move back” to that old house is very real–and often very powerful. But the same Grace that invited us to move away from that old address and into this New Address, is the same Grace that is available to help us from that temptation to go back to that old home. God’s definition of “sin” hasn’t changed; nor will it ever! But thankfully He is always here to help us to keep moving forward–and to help us from wanting to move back to that old address. You just can’t carry that old baggage from our old life and follow Jesus. You just can’t! And that, my friends is the best news ever!

HYDROGEN CYANIDE

Here’s something to think about today. Did you know that 180 parts per million of hydrogen cyanide is considered lethal? And that exposure to 135 parts per million of hydrogen cyanide can be lethal after 30 minutes? That’s parts per million! Imagine a pile of 1 million grains of sand–and then you take out 180 grains of that sand and put it in another pile. Then compare to two piles. Not much there, is it. Now imagine a room with 999,820 molecules of good ol’ healthy air. Then someone adds just 180 molecules of hydrogen cyanide. What happens next? Your next of kin is planning your funeral.

Now, why all this talk about chemistry? Well, I’ve been thinking again. Who would have thought? And I was thinking about sin. No! Not me sinning! I can do that without even thinking! I was thinking about the effects that sin has on all of us, myself included. You see, when I talk about sin, I’m talking about my problems, too. It’s all around us. And it’s even within us. And to pretend something we do or want isn’t a sin? Well, remember that even 135 parts per million of hydrogen cyanide is lethal after 30 minutes of exposure. And though Jesus used the symbol of leavening in talking about the Kingdom of God, Paul also used the symbol of leavening when it comes to allowing sin to become acceptable in The Body of Christ.

Your boasting about this is terrible. Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old bread of wickedness and evil, but with the new bread of sincerity and truth.

1 Corinthians Chapter 5, Verses 6 thru 8; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Some of you readers may think that I am about to take aim and unload the clip at the Progressives. And I easily could do just that. But then–there’s that 135 ppm thing. It doesn’t matter if one takes the Orthodox view of the Bible or the Progressive view of the Bible. Sin is sin is sin. And it doesn’t matter which camp you are in–sin is always lethal. It keeps us from being who God made us to be–In His Image. And to my more conservative friends, using the Sacred Scriptures to justify your beliefs and opinions on things like women and racism and politics? Who use the Sacred Scriptures to judge and condemn those who don’t agree with you? Remember just 135 parts per million is lethal after 30 minutes.

And to my Progressive friends–remember sin doesn’t care which camp you reside in. Promoting that certain things in the Sacred Scriptures are no longer a sin–remember 135 parts per million is still lethal. Whether it’s promoting that all forms of sexuality are blessed by God, or saying everyone gets into heaven, or that the Resurrection is only an idea not a reality–sin is sin is sin is sin. Sin doesn’t need us to define it! Sin is defined by the appropriate application of The Entire Bible. Notice, I said application not interpretation! Sin exists because of Satan. We can rationalize and justify anything we want. And promoting it within the beliefs and practices of the United Methodist Institution–or any other denomination or tribe–is the same thing as adding 180 molecules to 999,820 molecules of good ol’ healthy air. It’s deadly!

WHAT ARE THEY TEACHING???

So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.

Romans chapter 8, verses 6-7; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Recently I had a conversation with a fellow United Methodist clergy on Facebook. It was focused on a post this individual had made. It was surprisingly civil (up to this point)–still, I couldn’t help but think: What are they teaching now in United Methodist Seminaries? Here’s the screenshot of that comment:

This person compared understanding Scriptures to a 3-legged stool. The top is the Scriptures and the 3 legs are tradition, reason, and experience. Thus, without tradition, or reason, or experience, one cannot adequately understand Scripture. The primary (and often times “sole determining factor”) way to understand Scripture is through tradition, reason, and experience. Now, before you call me that dreaded “fundamentalist”, hear me out. We do not study the Scriptures in a vacuum. There are traditions. We all have experiences. And God created us to be able to reason, or think if you prefer.

But it seems that many of our clergy are using reason as the final determining factor. In other words, if it doesn’t make sense to us, or if the culture tells us something contrary, then we are free to change or ignore what the Bible clearly teaches. This is what many seminaries are teaching. Not all of them, mind you; but enough of them are and the result has been the dilution and devolution of the power of Scripture to guide us and form in us the life of Holiness demanded by God for His Image Bearers. Go back to the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool.

The writer is correct in stating that for a three-legged stool to be secure enough to sit on, it needs all three legs. And, by implication, those 3 legs need to be the same length. Otherwise it is unstable. But do not overlook the other implication–that Scripture (the seat of that three-legged stool) cannot safely support us until all three of those legs are the same length. In other words, Scripture is to be formed by OUR traditions, experiences, and reasoning.

Can I be frank with you? I know, my name is Randy. But I need to be FRANK with you this morning. Using the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool, when those who are supposed to be our Spiritual Leaders are taught that human reasoning overrides the Scriptures and that we need to change our beliefs about anything in the Bible, then the result is the chaos and soon to follow destruction of the United Methodist, and any other church that follows the same primrose path. And to my fundamentalist friends, if you allow your traditions to determine your beliefs about the Bible, then your three-legged stool is just as unsteady.

Hear me out! Yes, reason, tradition, and experience are helpful tools when it comes to understanding Scripture! But they do not determine what is THE TRUTH! The Truth is set by the Bible for all matters of faith, life, and conduct. But none of them gives us the permission to change The Standard clearly set in The Bible! From my perspective, many seminary professors took a bite of that apple Satan offered Eve and Adam, and unlike Eve and Adam who recognized the shame and mistake, they “reason” that the apple is good, and that Satan was right. Is there any doubts now as to why the United Methodist Tribe is imploding? It looks like that three-legged stool analogy doesn’t work after all.

WHEN THE BIBLE GET’S IT WRONG!

Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives.

Jude, verses 3 and 4; from the New Living Translation

If you desire to be deemed mean, ugly, and phobic, then deeply study the Bible, and share what The Spirit reveals in the Bible. At least, that’s how it works in my United Methodist Tribe. I always believed that God watched over the entire process from writing and rewriting those sacred books, all the way to the Canonization that led to our Bible. Turns out I was wrong. Or so my progressive counterparts insist. According to them, God has just be waiting and waiting for folks like them to straighten everyone out on where the Bible just got it wrong. Now, I haven’t heard any of them use the exact words I have used.

But it is clearly seen in how they have conveniently correct the errors found in the Bible. And it’s all because Jesus told His followers to love others. Love erases the sinfulness of sin, and sanctifies it. Thanks to them, we now know that God Himself, created homosexuality. Oh, and the New Testament never used the word “homosexual”, so that makes it OK. Well, the New Testament never uses the word “pornography”, so by their logic, that makes pornography OK.

When anyone approaches the Bible with the attitude that they are right, then the results are clear–that God’s Grace justifies just about anything they want. Because of their contention, I am amazed and perplexed how this Bible has lasted so long–seeing that its writers didn’t really understand 21st century people. So, whenever the Bible gets it wrong–it’s up to sin-stained but enlightened people to set the record straight. Boy, I can just hear Jude going off on them!

Now, that’s the logic of progressive theology. They can disagree with my observation and conclusion. I’m OK with that. If they want to be wrong, that’s their right. The Bible doesn’t exist to justify our opinions. The Bible exists to tell us the greatest saga ever. It starts with perfection–but takes a turn when Adam and Eve believe Satan’s lie that they can know as much as God. (Sound familiar?) And it continues with the Saga of God trying to restore them and their descendants back to their rightful place by showing them how much they need Him to break free of the slavery of sin.

Finally, God showed humanity how ugly the sin was in them when Jesus was nailed to that Cross. That death didn’t put God’s Seal Of Approval on our preferred choice of sin. It shows us just how ugly sin really is. And with the Resurrection, God showed everyone how that He can and will deliver us from sin’s dominion and power over us. Unfortunately, too many don’t want to be delivered from sin’s power over them. They just want to think that if they love others, then the rest doesn’t matter. And what the Bible says about Holiness of Heart and Holiness of Life–well, that’s just wrong. But the Bible isn’t wrong

HARDENING OF THE ARTERIES!

Come, let us worship and bow down.
    Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
for he is our God.
We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today!
The Lord says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah,
    as they did at Massah in the wilderness.
For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience,
    even though they saw everything I did.”

Psalm 95, verses 6 through 9; from the New Living Translation

I was nearly 7, I think, when my Papa Burbank died. I remember they called it “hardening of the arteries”. Today we know it as plaque buildup in the arteries. Now they can do things to help open up the flow of blood and avert death. Back then there wasn’t anything they could do for it. My reading for this morning, Psalm 95, and it’s verse about hardening of the heart, got me to thinking about him and his cause of death.

And though the miracles of modern medicine helps us today avoid the same outcome as Papa Burbank with our biological heart, it’s the spiritual heart that is in danger today. Spiritually speaking, we are at our Meribah. In case you’re not familiar with Meribah, I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version. God had miraculously delivered them from Egypt and a life of slavery. He provided food in the form of manna every day. And when they complained about Heaven’s Food, God provided them with quails. Now there water supply is all but gone. I compare this to having nothing to drink before a procedure or surgery. You’re not really thirsty until you can’t have anything. So they turn against Moses and whine and complain, complain and whine, because they are so thirsty. Remember that God delivered them and has provided everything they needed up to this point. Now, why in Heaven’s Name would they start doubting God? Simple, it was what was in their hearts and it was hardening those hearts.

It’s said that you are what you eat. And that’s so very true. And here is something even more true: You are what you allow into your spiritual heart. And this is where our culture, and our United Methodist Tribe are at. Too many have allowed the bladerdash and flummery of progressive theology into their hearts. Our culture has jumped in Doc Brown’s Time Traveling Delorean and arrived before The Fall (that’s when Adam and Eve messed up) and bought lock, stock, and barrel into Satan’s lie that we are capable of being our own god. That given the right information (that’s what many call the “forbidden fruit”), we are free to choose our own path by determining our very own version of what is right and what is wrong.

The result is that the life-giving flow of “blood” has been blocked and denied access to our spiritual heart. And that heart has become hardened. And without treatement, that heart will cease to function and we will die. Remember my Papa Burbank! And there is no medicine or medical procedure that can restore that flow of life-giving blood. And there is no hope that neither progressive nor liberation theology can change this outcome. There is only one way, one source to prevent our hearts from this inevitable outcome.

If only you would listen to His voice today!

Psalm 95 verse 7

His Voice will never, I mean NEVER, contradict His Word that we know as The Bible. Our hearts are like Jeremiah (chapter 17, verse 9) described: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” That’s the Bad News, folks. But now for the Good News. Ezekiel said (chapter 36, verse 26):  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Like those poor, pitiful Hebrews, so many have forgotten how that through the ages God has been faithful to lead us to the life that sin has stolen from us. Physical heart transplants are amazing. But what’s more amazing is Spiritual Heart Transplants. So, if your heart has become hard, then there’s only one place to go–and that’s at the foot of The Cross!

ARE YOU A NOT OR A KNOT?

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians chapter 6, verses 19 and 20; from the New International Verse

Well? Which are you? A Not? Or a Knot? Me? Well, I guess I need to be truthful. Sometimes I’m a Not and on occasions I am a Knot. A Knot is someone who is tightly held by their own stuff. A Not is someone who is liberated from that and all other stuff. Speaking only of here in the good old U.S. of A., so many–too many–are held tightly to their stuff. And many of these knots also want Jesus–but still be connected to all their stuff.

Progressive theology wants people to believe that they can have Jesus AND their Knot! But clearly Paul had other ideas when he wrote this letter to the Corinthian church. You see, they were tied to a lot of their stuff–and that stuff was contradictory to both God’s design and what it means to be holy. The Greek word translated NOT means ABSOLUTELY NOT! We are NOT our own. We are NOT in charge and certainly NOT in control of our lives. And, my friends, that is NOT a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s a great thing to be a NOT!

Listen again to verse 20: You were bought at a price.  And that price was paid on that cruel Roman Cross on the outskirts of Jerusalem. If we are, call it “a Christian” or as I prefer, “a follower and disciple of Jesus”, then we are NOT any longer under the control and influence of anyone or anything–other than God! We can’t do what we want, be what we want, and still follow Jesus! NOT at all. NOT at all! So be a NOT and not a KNOT! Are you clear on this?

WHERE YOU START MATTERS!

18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. 19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. 21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

Romans chapter 1, verses 18 through 21, from The New Living Translation

There is a Finish Line for just about everything in life. It’s where we want to be–call it–a goal! It’s where we want to end up at. Be it a sports competition or a career–and everything else in between. The goal is to reach that predetermined finish line! And most folks know where their finish line is located. So, off we go to reach that finish line! But where is the Starting Line?

If one wants to be a doctor, they don’t start by hanging up a shingle and opening an office. If you want to be a business owner, you don’t start by renting a building and putting up a “Grand Opening” sign. All races have a Starting Line! And participants do not get to choose their own Staring Line–the rules determine it for them. All football games start at Zero-To-Zero! This is, call it, The Rule In Life! You can’t have a finish line unless you also have a Starting Line! And if it’s true in this physical life (and it is!) then it is also true in our Spiritual Life!

Where You Start Matters! In life and in your spiritual life! We cannot get around this. Think about field and track events–oh, say–the 100 yard dash. The winner is the first one to cross the Finish Line, right? But suppose a runner decides to start at a different place, say 50 yards closer to the Finish Line. They will cross the Finish Line first, but they won’t win the race. Why? Because they cheated, goofy!

So, where does everyone Start in their spiritual journey for a relationship with God? And here’s the point of contention in my United Methodist Tribe, and many others. Many in life (and in my Tribe) want the Starting Line to be, what I would call, An Assumptive Ascertion–that

  • we arrive in life completely in God’s Design
  • we are free to correct misunderstandings about the Bible
  • and we are capable of figuring out what is and what isn’t “sin”

However, there’s these pesky verses from Paul to the church in Rome. While the finish line is for us to have eternal life and joy with The Father, the Starting Line is that we are sinners. Paul’s letter to the Romans is his systematic theology. Here he describes what life in Christ is all about–from Start to Finish! We enter this world perfectly innocent. But inside all of us is that seed of sin. And at some point, that seed begins to grow and eventually it corrupts us through and through. Sin is like Kudzu; it starts small but eventually takes over everything.

The finish line in the spiritual journal is to be exactly like Jesus. You know, the one in whose image we are created. But we will never get there until we have the right Starting Line! The Bible clearly teaches us what is and is not a sin. And while it may sound mean and cruel to some, admitting that sin is in control of us, it’s really the place of hope. We can’t know the Savior until we know we are first sinners! Only sinners can recognize how much God loves us. We sinners see clearly that love on the Cross! The only way God’s Grace can restore us back to our Original Design is to admit we are sinners, that Jesus died to atone for our sins, that we need His help both NOW, and for the rest of the journey to the Finish Line. So, if your Spiritual Journey is making you unhappy and miserable, then clearly you haven’t started at the right place. It matters where you start!

HOW DOES GOD DEAL WITH OUR SIN?

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

1 John, chapter 1, verses 8 through 10; from the New Living Translation

So, how exactly does God deal with our sin? Do you ever allow this question to enter your mind and spend some time in there? The answer? Well, it just depends. It doesn’t depend, though, on God’s mood at the time. It depends on us–our thoughts about it and our attitude towards it. Let’s look at what John had to say about it. Progressives have a view about this issue–but let’s see what John had to say.

The first word that should have jumped out at us is the word confess. This word may not mean what you think it means. The Greek word used is homologeō and it means to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with. And who are we to agree with? Well, God of course! Now here is where Progressives have jumped the track and gone out on their own. If God calls something a sin (i.e. missing the mark of what HE intends for us to be) then guess what? It IS a sin. And we have to agree with God about that. If we disagree with something God calls a sin, then we haven’t confessed. And without confession (agreeing with God that we’ve missed His Mark), sin remains in us and continues to control us. Got this part? Great! Let’s move to the next word.

The second word that should have jumped out at us is that word sin! It comes from the Greek word hamartia which is an archery term. It means to miss the bullseye–to miss the mark. What’s the mark, the one we miss? Without understanding where the bullseye is, we can’t grasp where the mark is at. OK? The “Mark” or if you prefer, The “Bullseye”, is found in The Bible. Here in The Bible we find God’s Intended Design and Purpose for our life. Anything that is outside The Bible when it comes to morality and behavior, is sin. With me so far? Great!

The third word that should have jumped out at us is the word forgive. Again, I point you to the Greek word John uses. Why Greek? Well, that’s the language that this letter is written in, that’s why! That Greek word is aphiēmi and it means to send away! The pain of guilt is completely removed from us. No ifs, ands, or buts. Even Progressives can agree with us on this part. Still with me? Wonderful! Now to the next word.

The fourth word that should have jumped out at us is the word cleanse. Here’s where Progressives jump the tracks, again. The Greek word John used is katharizō. Progressives would have us to believe that God changes His mind and cleanses the sin–meaning it’s no longer a sin, but that now it’s OK with God so it’s OK for us. To be cleansed means that the power of sin has been taken away from us–that it no longer has dominion over us. Forgiveness comes with the promise that we do not have to be dominated or ruled over by sin! To be cleansed is to move forward in life with the desire, power, and the God-given skill to Hit The Mark–to become who God intends for us to be!

One more thing about that word cleanse. It is in the subjunctive mood. “What’s that?”, you ask. Well, I’ll tell you!  It is the mood of possibility and potentiality. The action described may or may not occur, depending upon the circumstances. What what are the exact circumstances? Go back to that first word that should have jumped out at you: Confess! God forgives us and delivers us from sin WHEN we agree with Him followed by the liberty He gives us. I haven’t used this word yet, but I will now: Repent! It’s a simple word to understand. It means that we no longer want to disagree with God and desire our life to go in the direction of Him and His Intended Design for us–which is all in The Bible. Confession without repentence doesn’t exist. It’s just another lie from the pits of hell!

JUST THROW IT AWAY AND FORGET ABOUT IT!

For my fellow United Methodists, I don’t have to tell you we are nothing but The Denominational version of the Titanic. If you are a United Methodist and don’t know what I’m talking about, “SHAME ON YOU! GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE SAND!” Why? Because this problem isn’t going away. And we cannot remain true to our Wesleyan heritage as long as This Problem exists. They (meaning Progressives, or as I prefer to call them, ‘ProAgressives’) want–nay DESIRE–nay again–they are DETERMINED to throw out the Bible and our Orthodox faith like yesterday’s trash. They “know” more than what The Bible clearly says–and for more than the Saints who sought and fought to preserve the Orthodox Faith. In case you may not be familiar with the word Orthodox (because it is a big word like mahogany), perhaps these synonyms will help you understand it better.

from http://www.thesaurus.com

Three of them in particular fit the bill to understand what I mean by the Orthodox Faith: authoritative, buttoned down, and by the numbers! But. . . there are those in this Tribe I have been a part of for over 66 years who are convinced (or should I say deceived) that the tried and proven truth about sexual ethic of the Bible is. . .well. . .just plain wrong. Jesus was all about the love, they claim. And they claim that only 2 genders, male and female, are way too restrictive for people to really be who they are. So, they’ve added 72 additional gender designations. Forget the science, forget the biology, and forget Genesis chapter 2. And forget how our stance on sexuality has been unchanged since 1972. It states that all people stand equally in need of God’s grace. However, the practice of homosexuality is incompatable with Christian teachings–i.e.–the orthodox faith. Homosexuality is not any worse than any other sin–but it is outside God’s design and thus it is a sin–along with that long litany of stuff that puts all of us outside of God’s Desgin.

And now to this past week–and it shows how far my beloved Tribe has wandered. According to our approved procedures and rules, no self avowed practicing homosexual can be licensed, commissioned, nor ordained. To assure fidelity to the Bible and our procedures, we have this group called The Board Of Ordained Ministry. Some call it the BOOM or BOM for short. In the most recent session of the Florida Annual Conference, their BOOM recommended 16 candidates to be commissioned on the path to full ordination. Of the 16, two admitted that they were self-avowed practicing homosexuals–clearly in violation of The Bible and our rules. However, the Florida BOOM approved them. But they still needed 3/4 of the ordained clergy to give final approval. And the stuff hit the fire.

What Bishop Ken Carter and the Florida BOOM did was to put all 16 candidates in a single vote. As a group, vote up or down. Now, in fairness, I do not know that the other 14 candidates met the requirements. However, we do know that 2 did not! And the resulting firestorm has been aimed at the 27.3% who voted against the 16 because Bishop Carter would not allow them to vote on the candidates one by one. 27.3% voted according to their ordination vows and the Bible, and now they are the villians. So, the 27.3% who acted in the same spirit as Joshua and Caleb (see the story of the 10 spies) are treated with great disdain and anger.

And a fellow blogger joins in the disdain and anger, Rev. Jim Harnish. You can read his blog here. Jim asserts that the orthodox faith is invalid because, well because we are such more enlightened. And during the eventual commissioning and ordaining service, Bishop Ken Carter apologized to that group with these words:

“I grieve the harm you have experienced.
I am committed to the support of your callings …

I would have gladly commissioned each of you, and gladly appointed each of you …

Bishop Ken Carter

So, Bishop Carter would have gladly thrown away both the Bible and our Discipline. Whether that’s what he meant or not, this is exactly what he was saying and doing. And to my fellow Brother Jim I say that simply because you have changed your views about The Bible and our Discipline, a Discipline you promised you would faithfully follow when you were ordained, doesn’t mean you are right. I am grieved that you would allow culture to define your faith rather than allow God’s Word to Transform the culture. And thus, we see the 21st Century version of the Titanic raising her bow in preparation for sinking. I am not angry–I am sad–and I am disappointed that there are those who will abandon John Wesley’s passion to be people of “homo unius libri.” (a people of One Book!)

To candid, reasonable men, I am not afraid to lay open what have been the inmost thoughts of my heart. I have thought, I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be “homo unius libri.”

John Wesley (June 17, 1706-March 2, 1791)

Footnote: Though I am saddened, maligned by others, accused of quitting and giving up–I am still praying and hopeful that this blight and disorder–this cancerous lie–can be put in it’s rightful place. Back to hell where it came from and where it belongs! Furthermore, I am confident that the Wesleyan desire for renewal and revival is not dead on this earth. The signs are everywhere. And if our leadership in the UMC doesn’t have a change of heart–it will happen with another people–NOT in the UMC!

bless my mess and sanctify my stuff and i will be ok! not!!!!!

Calling this a crazy world out there doesn’t do justice to describing our current culture. Crazy doesn’t come close to describing the malady of our times. When you look at the development of civilization the most imediate thing that is clearly in focus is that even the most primitive civilizations recognize that there exists some “higher being”–A.K.A. a “god”. This is a powerful acknowledgement–to realize there is “someone” out there with more power and wisdom than us punny human beings. And thanks to The Bible–yes, that outdated and irrelevant book for our times–we know that the ONLY “higher being” is God–or using His name that He revealed to Moses–Yahweh!

The Bible reveals to us seven indesputable, ironclad, unassailable, and undeniable facts about Him and ourselves. And here they are:

  1. We ain’t that God! Many an empire has fallen into dust because their king wrongly believed they were a “god”. Check out history as it actually happened, not the revisionists version.
  2. God doesn’t need us to improve upon Himself, or help Him out! God doesn’t need our approval nor even our validation to exist. And He certainly doesn’t need our help when it comes to what is right and what is wrong.
  3. We human beings are messed up and we can’t fix ourselves! I mean, if we could fix ourselves then why even need God? Yet throughout the history of civilization we see human beings doing this very thing–and without success. Look, if human beings could fix themselves, then why is civilization (if you want to call it that) today so messed up? The philosophy of liberalism that emerged in the 1950’s believed we had what it takes to straighten up this world. And even changing their name to “Progressives” hasn’t fixed one problem. If you doubt me on this, just read Facebook!
  4. Though we are all screwed up, only God has the remedy for us! We call this Grace! We don’t deserve to be redeemed. We can’t earn His redemption. It’s free for us–but on God’s terms, not ours.
  5. We must admit we are fallen, messed-up, screwed-up sinners! We call this “confession”. Confession doesn’t mean writing down every sin we’ve ever committed. Confession is the Admission that I Am A Sinner! Maybe that’s exactly why so many are tearing out so many pages from their “Bibles”. We don’t want to admit that we’re broken, and if we do admit it, then we want to fix outselves. One way that’s being promoted today is to embrace our brokenness and simply ask God to bless our mess and sanctify our stuff. Rather than BEING JUSTIFIED, so many want to JUSTIFY their mess and stuff. They call it their “feelings”. So, since God is love, all one needs to do is love God and love others–then God will approve of their mess and stuff. Then Voilà! They are no longer a sinner! And those who believe to the contrary are simply mean and ugly!
  6. We need to turn away and go in the exact opposite direction! We call this repentance! And it comes from and through the acknowledgement of the truth that we’re a mess. When we truly allow God’s love into our hearts, then the desire to stop sinning rises up within us. Without the desire to give up sin–there is no repentance. And though our redemption is free–it never becomes the power we need for becoming that New Creation until we desire to give up our old life.
  7. And God will forgive and redeem us when we come to Him on HIS terms, not ours! God isn’t a negotiator. And He certainly isn’t a car salesman where we can give and take in order to come to a deal. But in His Mercy and Grace, He will transform us from a mess into a message. Read what John wrote in 1 John chapter 1, verses 8 through 10: “If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—simply come clean about them—He won’t let us down; He’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of Him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.” (from The Message)

God will never let us down when we come to Him on His terms, and not our terms. And His terms are simple and straightforward: Unconditional Surrender! Unconditional surrender doesn’t mean we become slaves to Him. It means we become His Sons and Daughters, Princes and Princesses! After all, that’s why we were created–to become just like Him!

TAKING WHAT’S NOT MEANT FOR YOU!

IT’S NOT MEANT FOR YOU!

We love watching birds; and we don’t have to leave our home to watch them. We have bird feeders and we even scatter some seeds on the ground for them. We also have a suet feeder. Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, and few others love it, especially since we found this apple flavored one. And when it’s empty, Woody (one of the woodpeckers) let’s us know when it’s empty. Lately we’ve been going out in the morning to watch Woody, but the feeder has been empty. I know Woodpeckers are not nocturnal, but other critters are–such as Raccoons. And this morning Ricky Raccoon and I came face to face! So, today I will purchase a live trap, just for Ricky, hopefully catch him and relocate him far, far, away.

And what do birdfeeders, suet feeders, and Raccoons have to do with the Kingdom Life? Well, here goes! Often times, as human beings, we see things that are not meant for us–but still we go after them, just like Ricky. We see nothing wrong. We see no danger. Besides, it “tastes” good! So, that makes it OK! Right? Not hardly. That extramarital affair; using others to promote yourself; keeping that extra change the cashier gave you; wanting that new car because your neighbor just got a new car; leaving your server a measely 5% tip, especially on Sundays; putting your hope in political parties. These are just a very small sampling of things that are not meant for us. And hold on to your hat for the next line: Whether you are a Follower of Jesus or not, these kind of things are not meant for you–that is–if you really want to enjoy the gift of everyday life!

Wanting what’s not meant for us is where the trouble all started–in the Garden of Eden. Remember, it was Satan (who is also known as the father of all lies) who successfully convinced Adam and Eve that they could become their own gods. And the downward spiral began–and the joy of life disappeared! Our Creator, God, designed a way for us to enjoy life to the max! But sin–and sin is very, very real–takes it away from us. Just yesterday afternoon while working in our garden, I was reminded of the curse placed on Adam–that thorns and weeds would infest our gardens. Paul reminded the Thessalonians (and thus a warning to us) in First Thessalonians chapter 5, verses 19 through 22

Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.

(from The Message)

And what determines what has been tainted with evil? The Bible, of course! As much as we may desire certain things; as much as we believe certain things are right though it contradicts the Bible–they were not meant for us. And when we get “caught” in that trap? Unlike Ricky who will have no choice but to relocate–we do have a choice.

On the other hand, if we admit our sins—simply come clean about them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. 

1 John chapter 1 verse 9 from The Message

So quit going after what’s never been meant for you! And. . .Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

LIVING WITH NO TAIL LIGHTS!

Several weeks ago I had another one of those sleep cycles–better described as waking up before 4:00 a.m. I went to the fountain of life, otherwise known as a coffee pot, filled my cup, put on my headphones and begin my morning worship. I noticed a delivery truck going down the highway because it had no tail lights. The driver did have his flasher going, but only one tail light was working. I thought to myself, “Poor guy. At least he had enough sense to turn on that flasher even if only one light was working. Well, he will probably get it fixed later that morning.

Since that morning, I have had several more opportunities to be up that early, and would you believe he still hasn’t fixed that tail light? And then this morning I observed a car that was void of tail lights and didn’t have on their flashers! Not to be harsh on that driver, but perhaps no one told them they did not have tail lights. And someone needs to let them know before they cause a terrible wreck. Why all this mumbling about tail lights?

It’s a great analogy about how sin and forgiveness has been skewed in our culture. Take the delivery truck. Obviously he knew his tail lights weren’t working. But why, weeks later, hasn’t it been fixed? Perhaps he thinks all he needs to do is just keep that one tail light flashing and it will be enough. And today, people want to believe that if they can justify their sin of choice, then it’s all OK. But it’s not! Sin, like non-working tail lights needs to be dealt with in a decisive way. This means, “STOP IT!”

And the car without any tail lights? Someone needs to tell them. So many today are walking around impregnanted with sin–but no one warns them. And when we do, we are accused of being mean, hateful, ugly, and phobic. And as they go merrily down the highway of life in the dark, one day they will wreck and then it will be too late to change anything. So, what should we do? Keep on, in patient and loving ways, warn them–even if they hate us for it. They hated Jesus because He pointed out their sin of choice.

Sin in any life is a real and serious problem. But it’s a problem that has a simple solution. John wrote in 1 John chapter 1, verse 9: “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” That word confess doesn’t mean, “Oh, OK, since you call it a sin, I will admit to it.” That word means to agree with! And when we agree that we have sin living in us, notice what God will do:he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” Ignoring sin or pretending sin isn’t a problem leads to disaster. But when we agree with our Heavenly Father that it is what HE says it is–well freedom and liberty happens!

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

BUT WHAT ABOUT SIN?

When anyone fails to recognize sin, they set themselves up for failure! More than just failure, but a life of misery. I know, I know! The topic of sin is considered taboo today. It’s also considered mean, hateful, and phobic to even mention sin. Yet, here I am using that word: SIN! SIN! SIN! If you’re still reading this, then I conclude that you either are contemplating my opening line is TRUE, or you know it to be true!

And when anyone in leadership fails to recognize sin, they set their entire organization up for failure! This is where my long-beloved Tribe, the United Methodist Church, is at. And because I am a United Methodist Clergy (and I might add, still faithful to my ordination vows, unlike many in my Tribe) I am qualified to speak into our current crisis; a crisis created by the failure to recognize sin. Our recent outgoing leader of the Council of Bishops, Cynthia Harvey (who took the same ordination vows I took, but has chosen to violate them) gave an interview with the Washington Times about the inevitable and impending separation in the United Methodist Church. (Click here to read the entire article) But want to speak into only one portion of her interview. Here it is, and I quote:

“We are the United Methodist Church right now and forever, a church confident in what God has done in Christ Jesus for all humankind, committed to personal and social salvation and transformation, a church that is courageous in dismantling the powers of racism, tribalism and colonialism.”

Bishop Cynthia Harvey

It’s that last line that is a burr in my saddle: a church that is courageous in dismantling the powers of racism, tribalism and colonialism.” But what about sin? Why shouldn’t our leadership be courageous in dismantling the power of sin? Alas, she only mentions 3 sins: racism, tribalism, and colonialism. Yes, racism is a sin. To draw conclusions about anyone based solely on their race–is SIN!

And she mentioned tribalism. I looked up the definition of that word and this is what I found: “the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group.” I’m guessing, mind you, she’s talking about us Orthodox folks. But within the LBGTQI community, is where we see the strongest movement of tribalism. They not only want us to approve of their chosen sin, they want us to repent of even calling it a sin! Geez, Louise!

And then she mentions colonialism. Here’s the definition of colonialism: “the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.” I haven’t a clue what she means by this. I suspect, though, she’s talking about the new movement of Methodism reaching out to other countries to join in. Now, the only colonialism I see happening today is Russia and Islamic extremists.

Stopping these 3 sins will definitely improve the world stage, no doubt about it. But if we want to see The Kingdom Of God on earth, then we have to address and dismantle every form of sin! Anything less plays right into the strategy of Satan. And that’s the way it is, May 5, 2022!

OH, LORD! IT’S MONDAY! PUNISHMENT

Mondays are the punishment for what we did over the weekend! This is what Monday feels like for many of us on the third rock from the Sun. The feeling of being punished is both painful and it makes Monday seem like it’s an impassable situation. And it prevents us from seeing and experiencing the joy of life–the Joy that God wants us to have. This past weekend a conversation with a friend brought this to light for me.

My friend said, “I guess it’s God punishing me.” And to prove the Holy Spirit is still at work today, I replied, “No, it’s just the consequences of our stupid choices.” Yes, Jesus was punished for our screw-ups, a.k.a. SIN! But His Payment doesn’t negate this consequences of our choice to ignore The Truth. Every word spoken, every chosen attitude, and every action has consequences. Newton’s Third Law of Motion applies not only to physics–but to our spiritual life. In case you forgot it, Newton’s Third Law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Sin has it’s own consequences, always! Though God’s Grace releases us from the punishment of sin, the consequences is a whole other matter. But rather than bemoan and wail about those consequences, why not do something different? And just what would that be? Glad you asked. We call it “learning”! For example, say there’s a hot iron skillet on the stove. You grab it by the handle and discover just how hot it is. So, what do you do? Try the same thing again? Or, would you take a pot holder and remove that hot cast iron skillet? Makes more sense to use a pot holder. Am I right? Why would you do that? Because you learned, the hard way, that not using that pot holder brings you pain.

So, what if we see the Monday Morning Attitude not as a punishment, but as a learning time? One benefit would be to make better choices in life. If we know some choice is going to end up making us feel miserable, then we learn “Don’t do that again!” Unfortunately, we often don’t have what it takes to avoid those poor decisions. This is where The Gospel comes into play. God offers to help us–SUCCESSFULLY HELP US–make the right choices. Even the apostle Paul struggled. In Romans chapter 7 he wrote about wanting to do good, but didn’t. He didn’t want to do wrong, but he did anyway. At the end of his soliloquy he discovers The Good News (verses 24 and 25)–“Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Throught the Holy Spirit we are given the knowledge, wisdom, and power to make the right choices and thus avoid sin with all its consequences.

When we accept the fact we are sinners and embrace the Presence and Power of The Holy Spirit in all our decisions, then we can say: Good! Lord, it’s Monday! What shall we do together?

GRUESOME, GHASTLY, AND GRISLY FRIDAY!

We need to have the tax collector moment before we can call it Good Friday! (see Luke chapter 18) Maybe we need more than just one moment. Do you think it would help us if we really could see what Jesus went through that gruesome, ghastly, and grisly Friday?

All night long, He had been questioned, insulted, and abused. Deprived of sleep He was carried to the Roman’s governor’s palace. There He was questioned more. Then taken to the courtyard of the Roman Garrison where He was bound to a post. Two Roman soldiers began to flog Him. The Roman flagrum was a whip with at least 3 stips of leather. Attached to each end was a piece of metal or a sharp bone fragment. Each lash left its mark; sometimes ripping a piece of flesh from Him. Then a crude crown made from a thorny bush was forcefully pushed down on His head. He was mocked and slapped and hit.

Then He was presented to the crowd with an option. Instead of calling for His release, they shouted, “Crucify HIM, yes crucity HIM!” The patibulum (the crossbeam of the Roman cross) was placed on His already bleeding shoulders. It weighed about 70 pounds, or more. The splinters went into those open wounds, adding to His torment. He walked approximately half a mile with the patibulum, at one point falling to the ground. When He finally arrived at the place of execution, He was forced on the ground where one of the soldiers drove long nails in His wrists. Another soldier climbed a ladder, threw a rope that was attached to each end of the patibulum, and was lifted up to the notch made for the patibulum.

As He was being lifted up to that notch, He was unable to breathe at all. The weight of His body was held by those two nails. Once the patibulum was in securely in place, His feet were positioned one on top of the other. His knees were pushed up sightly and another nail driven into both feet. This enabled the condemned to push up so they could breathe. You see, the cause of death from a Roman crucifixion was suffocation. From there the insults and mockery continued. He pushed against those nails to get another breath. Then His Father treated Him like the sinner. Now alone, He continued to suffer. He struggled to push up again just to breathe. Until. . .until He had no strength left. Without breathe in His lungs, He suffocated. And the one who breathed the breath of life into Adam, was dead. THIS was that Friday we call Good. But if you had been there as an outside observer, seeing it for the first time, it wasn’t good. It was gruesome, ghastly, and grisly.

And this morning I can’t help but to think and wonder how much it cost for us to call it good. And I’m wondering if truly know how it really was that day, for Jesus. That’s why I said We need to have the tax collector moment before we can call it Good Friday! In that parable the tax collector realized how messed up, broken up his life was. He felt the pain of his sin. And all he could utter in that moment was “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” If we do not know we are sinners, how on earth can we know we need a Savior?

So rather than call this GOOD Friday, I challenge you to do something different! See the beaten, bruised, and bloody Jesus on the Cross. Watch Him painfully struggle for a brief gasp of air. See His agony. And know. . .know He did it all for you. Maybe, just maybe, we will stop thinking some of those horrible thoughts we have. Maybe, just maybe, we will stop justifying ourselves. Maybe, just maybe, we will see that we can’t liberate ourselves from the power of sin. Maybe, just maybe, we will finally see that it’s time to stop pretending–and become broken. Then. . .and only then can we be liberated from sin’s destructiveness. . .and begin a new life. . .the life that Jesus paid for with His Life.

they happen on Tuesdays, too!

My “Oh Lord, It’s Monday” post talked about how Interruptions get in the way of life the way God intends. Well, guess what? A Monday can happen on a Tuesday…and it did to me. Sunday night Debbie, my wife, got that blessed “stomach bug”. I prayed for her to get over it quickly–but I didn’t pray for it to stay away from me. Another “Guess What?” for you this Thursday morning: Tuesday afternoon that “stomach bug”–I prefer the term “Spawn Of Satan”–hit me, too. I hope this isn’t too graphic for you–but my mouth revisited everything I had eaten the past 2 years, or so it seemed. About 2 hours later, Satan’s Spawn decided I needed to visit the Porcelain Altar again until it was sure absolutely nothing remained in my stomach.

And that got me to thinking–OK, so I’m one of the few who can get a lesson from a “stomach bug that’s really Satan’s Spawn”. The lesson is this: What The World Offers Us Comes Back On Us, And It’s Never Pleasant. The food I had enjoyed so much, that tasted so good the first time it was on my palate, tasted horrible the second time it was on my palate. (Again, I hope this wasn’t too graphic for the “delicate” folks out there.) That’s the nature of Sin! It always does!

Yet we go back to it again and again. The outcome is always the same. Progressives who teach that some sins are no longer sins bear proof of this axiom. People who live by their “insights” that parts of the Bible are wrong continue to be miserable. And so they blame us Orthodox folks for their misery–that if we would just accept their views, the misery would disappear.

Sin always tastes worse when it comes back up when we least need it to. That’s why God tells us to avoid it! Not to make us miserable–but to keep us from being miserable! How long will you and I keep going back to the Porcelain Altar regurgitating the effects of sin and keep believing one day it will taste as good the second time as it did the first time? Be confident of this–that Sin will always come back up on you. I’m not asking you to be honest with me–be honest to yourself! Think it through, people! Do you still need more convincing?

The man described as the wisest man ever, Solomon, tried to live his life outside of God’s design–in other words–in SIN! He wrote a book about it; we call it Ecclesiastes. And in the very first chapter, he lets us know what it’s like living without God’s guidance. He wrote in Verses 16 and 17–I said to myself, “I know more and I’m wiser than anyone before me in Jerusalem. I’ve stockpiled wisdom and knowledge.” What I’ve finally concluded is that so-called wisdom and knowledge are mindless and witless—nothing but spitting into the wind. I would say, “It’s like kneeling at the Porcelain Altar rehashing what I thought was good–but it ain’t!” For 2022, why not give up thinking that sin will ever taste good the second time around? And Solomon would agree with me–It’s never as good the second time as it was the first time!

Saturday Fairy Tales: The Other Side Of The Road

Welcome to another edition of Saturday Fairy Tales! Today’s Fairy Tale is about Pete the Possum. Pete was just a young possum. He had 16 brothers and sisters. But rather than playing with them, Pete loved to go to The Stump and listen to the stories told by the old possums. And the story he loved most of all was the one about The Other Side Of The Road!

The Elder Possums told fanciful tales about a place of grand abundance. There were all sorts of varieties of berries to feast upon all day long; on the other side of the road. Oh, the size of the insects, so fat that just 2 of them would fill your belly, on the other side of the road. Even the humans would lay out food just for them, on the other side of the road. These tales were spun every day.

One morning Pete noticed Frank, one of the Possum Elders, wasn’t there. The day before Frank talked about going to the other side of the road. Pete wondered if Frank had gone there. Every so often, one of the Elder Possums would be missing. Pete said to himself, “I bet he went to the other side of the road! It must be a wonderful place on the other side of the road since none of them returned.

This excited Pete. He began to daydream about the other side of the road. Pete began telling his friends at school about the other side of the road, how marvelous and wonderful it must be. Perry spoke up, “My Granny Mae told me it was too dangerous the other side of the road. They made fun of Pete for believing such a thing. But Pete wouldn’t hear anything about the danger–just all the wonderful things on the other side of the road.

One day Peter was at The Stump to hear more tales about the other side of the road, but no one was there. He wondered where they were? Had all of them gone to the other side of the road? Pete said out loud, “Is it too dangerous to go to the other side of the road?” He heard someone say “Oh, no! The reason you don’t see them is because they are so happy over there!” Looking around and seeing no one, Pete shouted out, “Who’s there?” “Up here!”, the voice said.

Pete looked up and it was Bufford the Buzzard. Pete replied, “But I’ve heard it’s a dangerous place.” “No it’s not”, said Bufford. “How would they know? They’ve never been there! But you should go there, to the other side of the road. Pete thought for a moment–his thoughts fixated on all the wonderful food over there. “And all the Elder Possums are there, too. Don’t you miss their stories? They will gladly show your where to find the best feasts! And I heard them talking the other day about you, Pete! Oh, how they wished you were there!” Pete thought a few more moments. Surely Bufford wasn’t lying! Why would he lie?

Pete made up his mind to go to the other side of the road. He came to the edge of the road. Looking to his left and then to his right, Pete saw nothing dangerous about it. And he saw all kinds of berries waiting for him. He chuckled to himself, “Perry is going to miss out on all the wonderful feasts awaiting me! Dumb Perry, listening to Granny Mae.” Looking again to his left and then right, seeing no danger–Pete set out to the other side of the road. He started slowly, just in case some unknown danger approached. He safely crossed over to the other side of the road. He ate his fill of berries and went back across the road.

Feeling proud of his accomplishment, Pete started to go back home. He looked over his shoulder at all those berries. “Why should I go back home? This place has all I’ll ever need!”, he reasoned. There was no danger at all! It was so much better on the other side of the road. So, he turned around and as he crossed the centerline of the road and was about to obtain all he could ever want or need when he heard a strange noise–and the last thing Pete saw was the tires of that big truck. And Bufford the Buzzard smiled at his next meal. The end.

The Moral of the story is: the other side of the road isn’t what we think it is! Temptations come and offer us something better than what we have right now. More fun! More happiness! More of everything! But temptations turn into sin–and the outcomes from sin are never good!

Ripples

This morning as I sit here in my childhood home, I remembered another thing: throwing rocks in a pond. There was a pasture right behind our home. Sometimes my best friends and I would crawl through that fence because 200 yards away was a pond. No, we didn’t go skinny dipping. Cows frequented that pond. Sometimes we would throw sticks in the pond pretending they were warships and we would throw rocks at them trying to “sink” them. But sometimes we would sit there and throw rocks in it to watch the ripples.

Have you ever wondered about ripples? This morning I am–and it’s not about sinking battleships or watching the ripples reach the bank of that pond. I’m thinking about the effect that sin has had on my life–and the effect it has still when I mess up. The rock lands in the middle of the pond and sinks. But the ripples spread out until they reach the end. Sin is just like that. Think about the word SERP! It’s a serious disease that isn’t talked about in our culture–it’s more than a pandemic, it’s an epidemic. Don’t go to dictionary.com to look up that word and don’t go to WEBMD because you won’t find anything about it. Nonetheless, it’s real–very real–all too real!

I made it up! It’s an acronym for Spiritually Emotionally Relationally Physically. SERP is the effects that sin has on our lives when we allow it in our lives. Sin first affects us Spiritually. Sin denies us that connection with God. Sin gets in the way of the relationship God designed and wants with us. Then sin affects us Emotionally. Our emotional health declines because emotions take over and run wildly through our minds and hearts. Then sin affects us Relationally. Because we are not living within our design and purpose, it affects our relationships in a horrible way. Finally sin affects us Physically. It drains us of our energy, our strength, and at some point, it makes us physically sick.

SERP doesn’t go away and no medication–legal or otherwise–will stop the ripples as sin infects and affects our life. It sounds complicated–but the solution is simple. Bring our sin before God! Realize the negative impact it is having on every aspect of your life. Accept that it is what it is–SIN! Regret that you are living the SERP life. Then bring yourself and your sin before God. Admit you are a sinner and that Jesus is the only way to get rid of it. Then tell God that you regret it and that you want a different life–HIS Life–from that point forward. In church terms this is what confession and repentence are all about.

And this is what God will do when we admit our sin, accept we are powerless over sin, and desire a completely different life. “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9 NLT) Rewriting the definitions of sin won’t work. Believing in the latest faux science won’t help. Even trying to fix it yourself won’t even come close to ending those ripples. It requires Grace–God’s Grace–and our unconditional surrender to Him and what He says. It may be fun making ripples in a pond as a child–but when it comes to being healthy Spiritually Emotionally Relationally Spiritually–you gotta do what God says! And The Great Physician will heal us–every time!

It Matters!

It Matters! There’s so much talk–scratch that–there’s so much SHOUTING about WHO matters. Black Lives. Blue Lives. Asian Lives. White Lives. All Lives. But this morning I don’t want to talk about WHO matters. The burden that has been in my heart for some time now has been IT MATTERS! The reason being is that there are so many–way too many–who believe IT DOESN’T MATTER–though it does. What is the IT I’m talking about?

The IT is What We Believe About God And His Word–otherwise known as The Bible! Theological progressives are promoting this crazy idea that when it comes to God and His Word, it doesn’t matter what we believe, as long as we believe, especially that part about Love. Progressives say, “Just let us believe what we want. And you can believe what you want. And let’s just live together side by side. As long as we love each other, then the rest doesn’t matter.” But IT does MATTER!

People are heading down what they believe is the yellow brick road to enlightenment full speed ahead. But left in the wake of their ignis fatuus are broken, disillusioned, and deeply wounded people. They live a disconsolate and wistful existence. And the Progressives blame that lugubrious state of mind on those who of us who understand that IT DOES MATTER what we believe. While their mantra has been “You believe what you want and we believe what we want and we can still get along” is an incongruity because it elevates US human beings as the highest and final authority of what it means to put our faith in Christ–and to be His disciple and follower.

This kind of thinking is built upon a supposition that we humans are fully capable of understanding the heart and mind of God. That WE have the mental acuities to determine who God created us to become. That WE are free to determine what is right and what is wrong; what is acceptable and what is unacceptable; what is sin and what is not sin. In an online conversation with a progressive, she told me, “The Fall was a good thing because it freed us to determine our own life.” Excuse me, but isn’t that what Satan told Eve and Adam? I think it was.

Another alleged Gospel has been presented–it may sound good and reasonable to the human mind. It even sounds like it’s the way for all of us to get along. But sounding good and being good isn’t the same. Paul warned about this in Galatians Chapter 1, Verses 8 and 9–“Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you.  I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.”

Good News includes the truth that there is also Bad News! The bad news is that we are all infected, tainted, and under the influence of sin. This infection has corrupted our mind, and thus our ability to understand exactly what God wants of us. And the only reliable source to understand both the nature of sin and how it is affecting us is found in The Bible. Though the Bible was written by human hands, and though human minds brought together all these books as our Canon–our source for authority over us–I maintain that God was watching over these processes ensuring that today we have an accurate and reliable foundation, both about sin and God’s Grace. If God cannot protect The Truth from being transmitted through the millenniums, then God cannot be trusted at all.

We are not equipped mentally nor spiritually to determine what is or isn’t sin. Besides, we already have those definitions. It’s called The Bible. Here in The Bible is where we find Personal Holiness. Do we always get it right the first time? Hardly! But we are not left alone to our own devices to figure it out. We have many centuries of writers and witnesses who attest to the Truth of God’s Word. The Orthodox ways, though not perfected completely, reveal to us that Truth is Truth is Truth. And we are not free to redefine things like sin and personal holiness.

We have the Holy Spirit to help us. And the Holy Spirit will not, cannot contradict The Bible. We need to be careful, very careful, how we handle This Word. It matters what we believe–when it comes to sin, salvation, and a life of holiness. It matters, even if you think it doesn’t matter.

It’s Right There In The Bible! NOT! Part 4

Here’s another one of those things that many people think is there–but it’s ain’t!

Money Is The Root Of All Evil!

This is typically said by those who do not have a lot of it. But the thing is, they use this fake truth to justify their own sense of moral superiority over the rich. The lack of money doesn’t make anyone morally superior; nor does having a lot of money mean that God favors you more than He does others. Let’s look at exactly what the Bible says:

For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10 NLT; EMPHASIS mine)

See? It’s right there! My point here, as in this whole series, is that we often read –make that misreadThe Bible without listening to The Bible. There are two points that are often missed:

  1. It’s not money, but the LOVE of money; and
  2. That LOVE is the root of a variety of evils–not ALL evil.

So, if the LOVE of money isn’t the root of all evil, what is that root? Glad you asked! Have you ever read 1 John in The Bible? Look at Chapter 2, Verse 16 where John writes:  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” The root of each and every sin comes from these 3 arenas of life, and they have nothing to do with money.

Until next time, friends–be careful with wanting to please your flesh–be careful what you look at and want–and really be careful about feeling morally and spiritually superior to ANYONE! Here is the root of all evil!

7 Things God Finds Disgusting: A Heart That Plots Evil

16 There are six things the Lord hates—
    no, seven things he detests:
18 a heart that plots evil,

Proverbs 6:16, 18 NLT

Today’s disgusting thing to God is a heart that plots evil. And this is one that most folks say is easily identifiable–in others. Isn’t it amazing that it is so easy to identify evil in others–but fail to see it in ourselves? I remember what a friend, Ronnie Wicks once said in a small group: “My sin is not as bad as your sin.” Ronnie wasn’t being self-righteous–simply stating the attitude that so many Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters have.

Have you ever taken one of those surveys that asks you to rate your experience? People tend to follow that same format when looking (which is a polite way of saying judging) at others. We rate them on this scale: Very Good (which are those folks who go the extra mile to be good)–Good (which is simply another word for mediocre)–Bad (typically those who aren’t like you)–and Evil (this is the elite of the Bad who do unspeakable things). And most folks would never see themselves as Evil.

We don’t like that word Evil; it’s rarely used nowadays, and it’s used to describe something out there. But Solomon is very clear that Evil exists–and it exists in the human heart. There are 2 words Solomon uses: machăshâbâh and ‘āven. Machăshâbâh is a contrivance–which is a ruse or scheme. āven is used for the word Evil or Iniquity. But here’s something interesting about that word–the proper meaning is to pant, to exert oneself, usually in vain; to come to naught.

What’s my point? Here’s my point. Evil is everything we do to avoid living under God’s rule–the way we are created to live. It’s the plans, schemes, devices, the machinations (another strong word) we conspire with to avoid the life, the only life we need. There is no difference between bad and evil. Rebelling against God, choosing our own way–is simply Evil.

Now, let’s get back to that word machăshâbâh. Remember that its proper meaning is to pant, to exert oneself, usually in vain; to come to naught. Whatever we do that fails to produce the life of holiness, as God designed it–all the different spins we put on The Gospel to justify ourselves and our views–are only exertions of our imaginations that leave us exhausted and produces nothing!

There is not difference between Bad and Evil. Exerting our own ways over God’s way is Evil–and God finds this Disgusting!

7 Things God Finds Disgusting: A Lying Tongue

 There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests:

. . .a lying tongue

Proverbs 6:16-17

And the category is: Things That Disgust God! Today’s subject is a lying tongue. I have been in deep thought about this one. On one hand, it is easy to understand. It is when someone doesn’t tell the truth; trying to hide something; or attempting to cover up the truth. But I think differently from most folks, so I am not satisfied with just that explanation. It is easy to just excuse ourselves by saying, “It’s just a little white lie” and never consider that it is disgusting to God. It’s like that word “white” makes it digestible for God.

At the core of a lying tongue is something much deeper and darker. The word I use to describe it is a word not just much anymore. That word is Chicanery. I like this word because it is a strong word–something we don’t see much of anymore for fear of offending someone. I would define Chicanery as the art of deception. And isn’t that what lying is all about? To deceive? To promote a lie as being true?

Chicanery uses a process called Sophistry (another strong word). Sophistry is defined as: “a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning.” Over the years I’ve seen a lot of theological chicanery. At one time it was what I called “the name it and claim it” fallacious method of reasoning. It claimed that you could have whatever you wanted if you just had enough faith. If you didn’t get it, then you just needed more faith.

Today there is “the prosperity” fallacious method of reasoning. God wants all of His people to be wealthy. And the most prominent (at least in the United States) for is “the progressive” fallacious method of reasoning. It states that Jesus came to show us how to love–by eliminating the idea of any form of sin that contradicts how one feels. All one has to do is show unconditional love to everyone–well, except to those who cannot agree with them. Then it’s OK to be mean, hateful, and downright ugly.

Anyone can be wrong about something we believe as true. To exclude one’s self from being wrong is–well just wrong. This is why it is essential that we constantly evaluate and re-evaluate anything and everything we believe. If we are willing to listen, The Holy Spirit does what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do. (John 16:13) “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own but will tell you what He has heard. He will tell you about the future.” Notice the word Jesus carefully chose: “Guide”. It’s not instantaneous. The Greek word used means “to give guidance, instruction or assistance to another“. And it is in the future tense–which means we haven’t arrived at the point of perfection–in this life. Personally, I’ve learned more the past 15 years of my life than the previous 50 years.

When deception is used to promote an idea or belief, it is plain old-fashioned Sophistry. And Sophistry, no matter how cleverly disguised, is just odious, trickery, treachery to God. And He finds that disgusting!

What About Colossians 3:5?–Tuesday Thoughts 18 February 2020

(Graphic from istockphoto.com)

This morning I was thinking about something I was reading from a book and from the Bible. It started with Paul’s thoughts in Colossians chapter 3 verse 5–“So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” (emphasis mine) The other was what an author wrote in a book I’m reading:

I have inquired before many church and parachurch groups regarding their plan for putting to death or mortifying “whatever belongs to your earthly nature” or flesh. I have never once had a positive response to this question. Indeed, mortifying of putting things to death doesn’t seem to be the kind of thing today’s Christians would be caught doing. Yet there it stands, at the center of the New Testament teachings.

The Great Omission by Dallas Willard (emphasis mine)

Today people are promoting the idea that God is love; certainly better than the old “God is a strict judge waiting to catch you doing something wrong so He can punish you.” God IS love; no argument from me here. But there is a growing number of people in the Western Church who have twisted this truth. They are saying and teaching “God is love and all we have to do is love God and love others. The way you love others is to accept them the way they are and not ask or expect them to change.”

Great googley moogley, geez Louise, Mother Francis, Judas priest, heaven’s to Betsy, What The What? And many are quick to point out how the theological progressives are pushing this agenda; and they are pushing it. Suddenly nothing matters that ought to matter. Right now I’m hearing some of the more conservative crowd shouting, “Amen! Preach it brother, preach it! We need more sermons on sin!” But…

What about YOU? Yes, YOU the reader! What are YOU doing to put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you? That’s part of the nature of sin–it lurks. The definition of lurking is “remaining hidden so as to wait in ambush”. If we, as followers of Jesus want to mortify things like the new sexual ethics (this is only one example) then we need to first mortify the earthly things inside of us.

“What earthly things?” you ask. OK, remember you asked! Things like feeling you are morally superior to others. Quickness to think the worst about someone rather than getting to know their story. Thinking your sin isn’t as bad as their sin. Compromising your values and integrity because it’s easier. Pew sitting every Sunday. Helping only those who are worthy of your help. Thinking that following Jesus is meant to be easy and comfortable. Thinking your views about the Bible are always right. Using the Bible as a baseball bat. Remember what Jesus said: How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

So, please excuse me. I’ve got some mortifying to do of the earthly things still lurking in me. Maybe you could do the same?

THE GREAT AND HORRIBLE WAR!

“This morning is hell!” Doesn’t sound nice, does it? Yet this is exactly what many are feeling; not just a morning feeling–but an all day kind of feeling for many. It’s because of the Great War And Horrible War. And yes, even this Preacherman understands this feeling–because sometimes. . .it’s the truth about me. If you think this isn’t you–Remember The Eighth Command–Don’t you dare lie–to others, about others, or even to yourself! I know it says “your neighbor”, but who lives closer to you than YOU?

Satan knows which buttons to push. His strategy in this Great And Horrible War is rather simple–but effective. Successful military strategists understand this and put it into practice–if they want to win a battle. Satan’s strategy is this: Hit At The Weakest Points! He does this daily. . .constantly. And the casualties he causes–though they won’t make the news this evening–are mounting up into catastrophic proportions.

And one of the weakest points in many lives, even mine, is our Will! But something my mentor, Andy Andrews, is teaching me is that our Will is stronger than our feelings. But the Opposing General doesn’t want us to believe this truth. There’s much I could say at this point. . .but I defer to someone with more battle scars than myself–a guy known as Paul. Read carefully what he wrote in Romans 7:14-25. This is my personal autobiography. Here’s what it looks like from The Message:

14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Be honest with God. He is GOOD, you know. He will change you from having your feelings into knowing His Will in your life. And more–HE will give you HIS strength to live in that Will rather than your feelings. WE cannot stop this Great And Horrible War, but we can’t stop becoming another casualty by asking HIM to change our “want to”, which is nothing more than our feelings, into Will; and Satan can’t stop that Will. He tried in the Garden of Gethsemane–and failed. He tried on that cruel Cross–and failed. And he tried in that Tomb–AND HE FAILED! Daddy’s Grace is the field hospital where our wounds are tended and our hearts are mended. . .and our feelings are transformed into HIS WILL!

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

The Light Of The World!

(This is the third in my Lent Series: YAHWEH! THE GREAT I AM)

We are continuing to look at The Boldest Statements Jesus Ever Made when He Claimed To Be The Great I Am.  Our focus verse is Exodus 3:15 “Say this to the people of Israel:  Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.  This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations.”  It is God’s eternal name, His name for all generations to remember.  Though it was illegal to use that word in public, yet Jesus used that Name and He backs up that claim in another moment when He uses His Eternal Name.  It’s found in John 8:12-20 (NLT)

12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world.  If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

13 The Pharisees replied, “You are making those claims about yourself!  Such testimony is not valid.”

14 Jesus told them, “These claims are valid even though I make them about myself.  For I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know this about me. 15 You judge me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. 16 And if I did, my judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. 

17 Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. 18 I am one witness, and my Father who sent me is the other.”

19 “Where is your father?” they asked.  Jesus answered, “Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who my Father is.  If you knew me, you would also know my Father.” 20 Jesus made these statements while he was teaching in the section of the Temple known as the Treasury.  But he was not arrested, because his time had not yet come.

Jesus is now making His move toward the ONE reason He came:  The Cross.  Jesus is making the calculated steps toward His Purpose.  And in today’s passage, Jesus lets us in on yet another dimension of His Eternal Name:  Light.  Have you ever given serious time thinking about “light”?  Light tends to be one of those things we typically do not think about, until—until we find ourselves in the dark. 

Let’s review where Jesus used that Name.  Jesus has dramatically called people to come to Him.  To the Samaritan woman thirsty for God’s presence, He explicitly called Himself YAHWEH—the eternal name for all generations who provides us Living Water. 

Last week by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus clearly called Himself YAHWEH—The Bread Of Life.  They asked for a sign like the manna in the wilderness.  Jesus contrasts the Life He offers to the life they were wanting.  Unlike Manna that never lasts and never inspires us to the Great Adventures with God, He calls us to a relationship that satisfies the deepest longings of our hearts.  And now He refers to himself in a most startling way, saying, I Am The Light Of The World.  If you can remember only one thing, this is it:  We Will Stumble In The Dark Unless Jesus Is Our Savior And Lord!  This claim to be the Light Of The World, like the claim to be the Living Bread, has a setting.  This is it!

It’s the Feast of Tabernacles, where they remember how God led their ancestors by the pillar of cloud in the day and the pillar of fire at night to the Promised Land.  In this feast there was a lamp-lighting ceremony that took place in the temple every evening of the Feast.  Large lamps were set up in the Court of Women and lit.

Then, lamps filled every courtyard in the city. In the light of these lamps there was great singing and dancing all evening in celebration of God’s salvation, especially His deliverance at the Exodus as He led his people with his presence in a pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.  They were never in the dark when it came to God’s presence and when it came to following God.

In the sight of these great lamps in the Temple and throughout Jerusalem, Jesus proclaims himself to be The Light Of The World.  Light, pure light, is composed of all the colors of the spectrum.  Filter one of those colors out and the light changes in appearance—the hue becomes different. 

When Jesus said, I Am The Light Of The World, He was saying that He alone is all of God, and to follow that Light means we accept Jesus as He is.  When we reshape Jesus to someone easier for us to follow by resisting and refusing to do what He wants, we change the light that we follow. 

We take out a little here, and a little there, and soon we have shaped a formed a Jesus that is easier to follow; but he’s not the real Jesus.  If you take away all the colors of the spectrum and do you know what you have?  Absolute Total Darkness.  For the Pharisees, that Pillar of Fire, God’s Holy Presence, had been replaced by the Law.  Everything For Them Was About A List Of Things To Do And An Even Longer List Of Things NOT To Do.  They pursued and followed what they thought was the light with every fiber of their being.  They Were Religious For Sure

That’s why they didn’t have the time to even care about people who did not fit their description of being religious.  They wrongly believed that following the Law would be the light that would lead them into the very presence of God.  But it didn’t!  All it did was make them feel more important and better than most folks.  And rather than leading them into the Promise of God, it brought the darkness into their life. 

And there they were in the middle of the Holy Days, days that were to remind them that just as their ancestors followed the Light of God in the wilderness, so were they to follow the Light of God in their day to day life.  It must have been a spectacular sight at night…but:

Surrounded By All Those Lamps, Illuminating The Temple Courts, Lights Shining Out Into The Streets Of The City, They Didn’t Have A Clue Of What It Meant To Follow God.

A lot of people today are clueless just like those Pharisees and Teachers of the Law.  They think they’ve got it all figured out—following everything from power and money, to rules and traditions.  And they think in their hearts, “Eureka!  I’ve found the light, I’ve found the light!”  But all around them is darkness—without a clue they follow and follow and follow and then they wonder, “Why is my life so empty?  Where’s the purpose?  What’s the meaning?”

And then Jesus makes the bold statement:  “If You Want Light—If You Want To Know What It Means To Follow God—If You Want To Know That Your Life Is Meaningful And Has A Holy Purpose—Then Follow Me!  I AM—YAHWEH—The Light.”  And let me share with you why Jesus is The Light!

1.  First, His Light Is Revealing

He Is The Light That Reveals The Secrets We Hide In Our Hearts.  We can all be masters of deception when it comes to what goes on inside our hearts.  Any of a number of us could have an Academy Award sitting on a shelf in our living rooms—if others just knew what we were hiding. 

When I think about Jesus as The Light, I must be honest; there are times when thinking about The Light that I shudder.  I tremble because Jesus sees those times that I am living a lie, those things that make me feel ashamed.  Every corner, every dark cave where we try to push down those things we don’t want anyone to see, Jesus sees because He shines The Light in there.  When He shines The Light and reveals the true me, I feel the shame and regret.  But He isn’t disgusted with what the Light shows. His light makes us deal with some dark stuff that resides in our heart.  And here’s why:

His Light Reveals The Solution, The Cure For What Is Ailing Our Hearts And Spirits.  He isn’t content to leave us in the dark because He loves us too much to leave us there.  He wants to lead us out of the dark places of our heart with the Light of His Love, His Grace, His Mercy.  It’s the Light that shines and shows us what we need the most. 

And what we need the most is to kneel, kneel at the foot of the Cross that is soaked with His blood.  If you feel like everything has gone dark in your life, Look!  Look at Jesus because His Light shows us our shame, and His Light shows us the way out of the darkness.

2.  Second, His Light Is Restoring

Jesus Came Because God Wanted To Restore His Image Bearers Who Are Held Captive By Sin.  He came to set back right everything that was wrong.  He came to put things back right—to put us back right with our Creator!  What Sin Takes Away, What Sin Destroys Is Our Birthright To Be The Daughters And Sons Of God.  Jesus Is All About Restoring Everyone Who Is Broken In Their Heart—Alienated From The Father

Don’t overlook what happened just before this revelation from Jesus.  Earlier that day, the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law had dragged a woman into the presence of Jesus.  They publicly shamed her.  They publicly declared this woman was worthless.  She was wasting space and oxygen.  They did that when they said, “Rabbi, this woman is guilty of adultery.  The Law says she should be stoned to death.  What do you say?”  But Jesus ignored the question and quietly started writing something in the dirt.  They push Jesus for an answer and it never ends well when anyone tries to push Jesus

So He does, “Let the first stone be thrown by the one who is without sin.  Then the rest of you can join in.”  Then he goes back to writing.  Do you ever wonder what Jesus was writing?

I do.  Maybe it was from Numbers 14:18—“The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion.”  Maybe it was Psalm 107:1—“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.”  Whatever it was, it must have been powerful because one by one the rocks hit the ground and they drifted away until it was only Jesus and her.  And what does Jesus do? 

He restored her by forgiving her and releasing her from her shame and guilt—restored her back into fellowship with God.  He came in the flesh, died on the Cross, Rose from the grave to Restore us to the relationship we were created for—with God our Father.

3.  Third, His Light Is Renewing

There Are No Chains, No Fears, No Prison That Can Stand Against The Light.  When the way gets hard and difficult; when the pressures and stresses of life puts the squeeze on us; when it feels like the last drop of energy is about to leave us—The Light comes to put everything back in us, and more. 

In Those Times When The Life In Grace Feels More Like A Routine Than A Relationship—

  • The Light breaks the shackles that have imprisoned us.
  • The Light cleans and heals those wound caused by the shackles.
  • The Light rekindles the Fire of the Holy Spirit in us. 
  • The Light places the song back into our heart. 
  • The Light puts the step back into our dance. 

His Light Lifts Up Our Hearts With Joy, Hope And Purpose. The Light IS the Life.  It’s all about the relationship. 

It’s not just a dim light, but the Light that literally shatters the darkness.  He is the Light of the World!  The word John used from the Greek was “kosmos”.  It means more than just the globe we call earth.  It means literally everything around us—what we see and what we can’t see—what we understand and what we don’t understand!  It’s the realms of both time and eternity.

And He Wants To be The Light in us, but He wants something more from us.  He wants to be The Light that shines through us.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:13-16—“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.  Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” 

Motel 6 had a very popular slogan:  We’ll Leave The Light On For You.  God has left the light on for you first.  Will you allow Jesus to be the Light that will guide you to the very throne of your Heavenly Father?

Next Steps

It’s the same as last week.  Our world needs the Light of Jesus.  It’s our responsibility to get it out there.

  1. Come Up With An Idea Of A Way We, As A Church, Can Get To Know People Around Us.
  2. Come Up With An Idea Of How We Can Connect With Other Churches Around Us In Order To Do More For The Kingdom Of God!

Waiting For Surgery

Well, this morning I’m waiting to leave to take my lovely wife, Debbie, to the surgery center for some minor surgery. You do know the difference between minor and major surgery, don’t you? Minor surgery is what someone else has–major surgery is what I have! No seriously, I do not take what is about to happen to her lightly. I’ve read those “disclaimers” about all that can go wrong. Really, no surgery is minor. But let me quickly get to the point.

Debbie has been having chronic sinusitis. And it’s not only affected her sinuses, but also fluid has built up behind her right ear drum, making it difficult to hear. Besides, everyone knows how annoying it is to have all that stuff behind an ear drum, am I right? Scans revealed a small cyst on the right side of her sinuses that is causing that sinus fluid back up, all the way to her ear. Dr. David told us that by removing that small cyst, it should allow all that fluid to drain out. Her body will function as it is designed, and hopefully this works. Otherwise, it may require the insertion of tubes to keep that nasty and annoying fluid from impairing her ability to hear.

Well, what does all that have to do with the Kingdom Life? I’m so glad you asked. The fluid behind her ear, that feeling of her ears being “stopped up”, started somewhere else. Her sister and I offered to put a vacuum cleaner up to her ear and see if we could suction that fluid out. She didn’t go for it.

You see, the problem isn’t in her ear. The source of the problem is somewhere else. Can you see a spiritual truth developing here? Until the cause is fixed, the problem persists. It’s easy to get fixated on what others are doing wrong. The chaos of my Tribe right now is being caused by this very thing. By pointing the finger at what others are doing wrong, it’s easy, so very easy to ignore what’s wrong with us. We think that the ills of our culture can be fixed if we can just get all those others “fixed”

Well, guess what. Treating symptoms will not cure the illness. Ask Debbie about this. Multiple shots and rounds of decongestants, antibiotics and multiple shots haven’t done a thing for all that fluid behind her ear drum. The problem is somewhere else–something growing where it shouldn’t be growing. So Dr. David is going to remove that “shouldn’t be there foreign object” so that her sinuses and ears can function like they are designed. Until that cyst is removed, nothing will be as it should.

Have you had your “AHA!” of where all this is going? If you haven’t, then let me draw you a picture; and explain it with a passage, actually a song written by one of the most prolific song writers ever: Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Without Dr. David having ordered the CT scan, without the radiologist knowing how to interpret the results, Debbie’s only hope would be more of the same–meds and shots. But those will not solve her problem. That foreign-it-doesn’t-belong-there object needs to be removed. I wish I could take her place and let the doctor work on me–but that won’t solve her problem.

Truth Time: I’m good at hiding the truth about me from myself. I’m better at hiding the truth about me from others. And so are you–unless we follow the advice of this song: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you.”

But don’t stop there. That next line is the all important one: “and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” The truth is that for God to lead us along that path of everlasting life, sometimes there are things that get in the way of us following. There’s a technical term for those things that get in the way of following Jesus. It’s called SIN. Sin is that foreign object that gets in the way of us living the way God designed us to live.

So, today, focus on this Psalm. Ask God to point out those nasty, annoying “cysts” that’s getting in the way and causing problems, lots of problems. Then yield and submit to that Divine Surgical Procedure we called “Redemption”. Allow Him to remove that sin in your life. Oh, and be sure you go back for regular “scans”, the struggle against sin isn’t over, yet. But it will be some day–it will be!

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

Everybody Has A Present!

(This is Part of my current 3 Part Sermon Series I’m calling Everybody!  Next week I’ll share the third, and final installment.  Click Everybody Has A Past to read the first.)

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Everybody Has A Present!  Joshua 24:14-15 (N.L.T.)

We’re in Week 2 of 3 of the series that I’m calling Everybody.  The Theme Verse of this series is Galatians 3:28—“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  The Holy Spirit is inspiring this series because we live in a culture that divides people into groups.  Us and them.  We and they.  Those people!  These have become the iconic words of our culture.  Black Lives Matter.  White Lives Matter.  Blue Lives Matter.  Red States.  Blue States.  Republicans.  Democrats.  Socialists.

Such are the words that describe this Fractious And Fractured culture called the United States.  This spirit of division is fueling fear and hate—and it’s leading us deeper and deeper into chaos.  Remember that it’s not always been like this.  In the beginning, it was an “Everybody”.   In the beginning, God designed life to be lived, experienced and celebrated TOGETHER!  Together with Him.  Together with the world.  Together with each other.  That’s how the Image, His Image looked in the beginning.  But this “Everybody That Was Together” was shattered when Adam and Eve made their tragic decision to be their own god.

But God longs to bring us back together—back to being EVERYBODY.  Throughout time, God has been seeking to bring us back together.  The Kingdom of God is all about bringing the “Everybody” back into His Design.

Though we are Fractious And Fractured, there is still EverybodyEverybody has 3 conditions in common.  Everybody Has A Past.  Everybody Has A Present.  And Everybody Has A Future.  And here’s the 1 thing you need to remember:

Your Present Will Either Echo Your Fears Or Express Your Hope.

The Scripture this morning is all about echoing fears or expressing hope.  It comes from Joshua 24:14-15 (NLT)

14 “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly.  Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt.  Serve the Lord alone. 15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve.  Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates?  Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

This particular passage has been applied to the thought that God wants us to have Christian families.  All kinds of pictures and wall plaques have been manufactured and sold.  Now, don’t misunderstand me.  God does want Christian Families.  Christian families are the most important battle formation in God’s fight to reclaim what Satan took away from Him in the Garden.

But, if you would indulge me, I would like to give you a lesson in good, solid biblical exegesis.  Oh, that big word like Mahogany—exegesis.  Exegesis means to study in ways that helps understand a passage so that we can find ways to apply it to our lives.

Now, you certainly can apply these words of Joshua to you home, family, kids, grandkids and so on.  BUT. . .before you can do that, you need to understand the original setting.  Joshua has been leading them in the conquest of The Promised Land.  They’ve occupied most of the territory, but there’s still work to be done.  And Joshua is getting old.  This is his retirement announcement.

He’s not going to be around much longer—so they need to decide what they are going to do now.  Keeping walking with God in the present moment, or go back to some point in their past.  It’s about choice.  This is a defining moment for them.

In this moment, this defining moment, what are they going to do?  Joshua has made his own decision.  Joshua understands the importance of the Present.  He’s made his decision.  Now they have to decide—make their own decision.

I realize not everyone has had equal opportunities.  Not everyone has had a wonderful family background—not everyone has had a good past.  Bad choices were made.  Unfair situations happened to them.  But. . .we can allow the past to make us its captive—or—we can use it as a classroom where we learn to mold a new future.  And that New Future begins with The Present!

As with Joshua, our Present is all about The Covenant With God and What He Is Doing.  Just as at the foot of the Cross, we are all equal, so it is with The Present.  Everyone of us has The Present—it contains 60 seconds in a minute—60 minutes in an hour—and 24 hours in a day.  It’s the same for everyone.  How you choose to spend this time—what you choose for The Present—is your own decision.

Everybody needs The Present.  The Present is for everybody because some need a fresh start, all of us need to adjust our course and we all need to live out our true purpose.  Let’s look at each of these reasons.

  1. The Present Is For Those Who Need A Fresh Start

Sometimes we have made such a mess of our lives a remodel won’t do the trick.  Sometimes we have made such a mess of our lives an upgrade won’t do the trick.  A fresh coat of paint won’t work.

There are times in our life when no amount of tweaking will be enough.  It may be bad choices, lots of bad choices.  It may be that we’ve been hurt so deeply that the grudges have caused bitterness to take root and grow like kudzu.  There are lots of reasons why some of us need a Fresh Start.  And the Grace for that Fresh Start is available now—in the Present.  Now, I’m not saying that there may not be grace for you in the future—because grace is always there for us.  But. . .but there’s no guarantee that you will have that future.  Grace works in the Present—it’s made for the here and now.

And when you look at others—remember!  Remember that their past is not so horrendous that God doesn’t have a fresh start for them.  God’s grace is all about a fresh start for anyone and everyone.  Grace isn’t reserved for the brightest and best.  It’s for the least, the last and the lost.  Here in the present, we remember that it is never too late for God’s grace for anyone.  We need to stop judging people by their politics, their addictions, or anything with their outward appearances.  God can use anyone and everyone.

He used a dishonest tax collector to write a Gospel.  He used an unstable fisherman to be a leader in the very first churches.  He used a murderer and hater of Gentiles to be the one HE sent to the Gentiles.  Look at the genealogy of Jesus.  He used a prostitute to be the great-great grandmother of Jesus.  He used Jonah to show grace to the Ninevites, even though Jonah didn’t want to go, and even hated that God showed mercy and grace to the Ninevites.  That person you look down own, has a Present—This moment for God to give them a fresh start.  Stop judging others on their past.  Know that God has a Fresh Start—with their name on it.  And who knows, there may come a day when in your life, YOU need a fresh start.  The Present is for those who need a Fresh Start.

  1. The Present Is For Those Who Need To Adjust Their Course

I remember reading this years ago from Chuck Swindol—I don’t remember which book—but I remember what he wrote:  “Believing we are right, we can be wrong.  Thinking that we are hitting the mark, we can miss it by a mile.”  While else would David write in Psalm 139:23-24—23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Can I be honest with you?  This is about me.  I have learned more about God, about this relationship with Him, and about His design for my life in the last 15 years than I learned in the first 47 years of my life combined.  I now know it all started in that moment when I was broken.  And I know I still need some more course adjustments.

David points out 3 things in Psalm 139:23-24—

  1. We don’t know everything about our hearts. If so why did David invite God to dive deep into his heart?  Test me.  Know what makes me anxious.  Like when we’re taking a trip and there’s a blocked road or detour—the GPS does this thing called “recalculating”.  We need that for our hearts as well.
  2. We all have blind spots. David asked God to point out anything that was offensive to God.  Why?  Blind spots.  Sin has this sneaky characteristic of slowly changing our thoughts—changing them to beliefs and attitudes that are not those of God.  We need that course correction when we become blind to our own sinful ways.  They are called Blind Spots for a reason:  We can’t see them, but HE can.
  3. We don’t know it all. David asked God to lead him along the path of everlasting life.  David knew he couldn’t get there by himself.  He needed a Guide.  The Holy Spirit is with us to help us get to where God wants us to be.

Remember what Paul said in Romans 8:14— For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  The leader is out front, making those adjustments in the course so that we can reach the goal of holiness in this life in Grace.  And the last thing:

  1. We All Need The Present To Live Out Our True Purpose.

What I am about to say, may upset someone–but just hang with me and listen to the whole thought:

Jesus didn’t die on the Cross just to get you into Heaven.  He saved us to get Heaven into us and into this world right now. 

Right now, in The Present, is where we live out our true purpose.  And true purpose is  live and love in ways that makes God real to each other—and to the world.

You can’t put off the work of the Kingdom of God.  It’s for here and now.  God has a plan, a purpose and the Power for your life.  You can’t put off doing what God wants done now.  Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10—For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  It means we begin now, in the present moment.

We all have the Present.  Your present will either echo your fears or express your hope.  Everyone Can Make A Difference Beginning Now, In The Present—YOUR Present!

Here are your Next Steps:

  1. Everybody Has A Choice With What To Do Right Now. You can follow Jesus, get closer to Jesus, or not. . .
  2. Everyone Can Make A Difference Beginning Now. If you know anything about Jesus, if you’ve given Him your heart and life, you already have enough to make a difference now.  And by doing it now, you can make a bigger difference down the road.

DEFINING OUR FUTURE, which we are going to talk about next week, begins with The Present.  The Future isn’t what you wait for—it’s what you develop and work towards in The Present.  You Have The Present To Change Your Future!  The Present Is For Those Who Want To Have A Future Of Hope.