My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians chapter 2, verse 20; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
Just exactly who are you? What determines the essence of you? What is the bottom line? Fact Time: Everyone has a, call it, bottom-line identity. It is what you are known by to others. Are you identified by your roles? Dad? Mom? Lawyer? Plumber? Preacher? Son? Daughter? Sister? Brother? Accountant? OR is your bottom-line identity in what you do? Kind? Helpful? Patient? Caring? Friendly? Empathetic? Energetic? And when it comes to your spiritual life (and everyone has one of these), what is the singularity that marks your life?
Do you consider yourself a Christian? Maybe I should ask a tougher question: What makes you a Christian? Is it an identity based on things like confessing and repenting of your sins and saying the sinner’s prayer? Being baptized? That you are a member of a particular church? That you read your Bible and say your prayers? That you avoid certain vices? Or is it because you show love to others? That you volunteer at the local homeless shelter? That you support the local food bank? That you demand justice for animals? That you cry out for equality for all people? So tell me, which is it? What you say or what you do?
That it’s both? Being a Christian is more than a title or a label. It’s more than a statement about what you did. And it’s more than actions we think makes us a Christian! It begins with the recognition that it’s something we are totally powerless to become. It requires that admission that we ARE sinners. And more than admitting we ARE sinners, it’s being honest enough with self to say we are tired of being sinners! It demands a total surrender of heart, mind, and will to Jesus. Then, we trust that what Jesus did on the Cross was done purposefully by Him for us sinners. And that a whole new life is now in front of us!
And as difficult as they may seem for some, it’s only the beginning. Being a Christian isn’t a matter of personal holiness or social holiness. It’s both!!!! (Notice the extra exclamation marks!!!!) This is exactly what Paul was trying to tell the Galatian church. Following Jesus begins with faith. It continues with faith in actions. And to the Church in the United States, Jesus didn’t live, die, and rise up from the death to create a Christian nation. He did all this to call us to storm the strongholds of Satan and reclaim the territory he stole for the Kingdom of God. No, actions don’t save us. But our actions do determine if we are or are not saved.
23 Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. 24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
Matthew chapter 8, verses 23 thru 25; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
My Monday Morning Question is a good one, and a valid one; considering the times we are living in. And it’s not just in the United Methodist Institution, storms have permeated into the fabric of just about every area of life on this third rock from the sun. Storms are everywhere–not the meteorological kind. And these storms are an EF 5 tornado, Cat 5 hurricane, biblical proportion flood, a 50 foot tsunami, and a 7.5 magnitude earthquake all rolled into one! And that’s putting in mildly.
If you’ve lost your job, a child, a spouse, or inflation has you trying to decide do you buy your medicines or do you eat–these storms can and often are overwhelming to say the least. You feel like you are one of those disciples in that boat. The waves are rough and the wind ever rougher. You know that panic is about to invade your life–if it hasn’t already invaded your space. The fear of drowning hunts you down like a Kodiak bear.
And to my fellow United Methodists, I don’t have to tell you that we are in a storm. And the storm just seems to grow in intensity. For example, recently I’ve learned that Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson and the North Georgia Conference Appointive Cabinet removed another conservative pastor from a growing church and demoted him–all without consultation of the pastor Dave Hinson nor the congregation known as Winder First UMC. And hearing these horror stories that even Stephen King couldn’t imagine, it only intensifies our emotions.
With all this in mind, let’s look at the opening Passage. Jesus had another busy day of teaching, healing, and contending with pretenders who said they wanted to follow Him. So, He gets into a boat with the disciples and tells them to go to the other side. So these disciples set sail. And what does Jesus do? He lays down and takes a nap. See! Taking naps are Biblical! But then that storm comes up! The disciples are fighting desperately to keep their boat afloat! And they have entered Panic Mode! And what is Jesus doing? He’s still asleep! Now, picture this: All of them are in a storm–and the storm is in all of them–except Jesus. He’s in the same storm they are in–and they, the disciples, have allowed that storm to be IN them. But that doesn’t mean that the storm HAD to be in them. It’s just that they allowed the storm to be in them.
Now, which would you rather be like? The disciples who allowed the storm to be in them? Or Jesus, who was in the same storm, but did not allow the storm in Him? Storms cannot be avoided. But you still have the choice to allow the storms to come inside you–or not! I leave you with this song I Will Fear No More. And listen carefully to this line: Even thought I am in the storm, the storm is not in me! So don’t give in or give up. Jesus stayed calm in the storm because the storm wasn’t in Him. And He will help you keep the storm from coming in to you!
43 “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. 45 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”
Matthew chapter 12, verses 43 thru 45; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
Don’t you dare leave the United Methodist Church! You heard me right! Don’t you dare leave the United Methodist Church! Did I just upset some of you? Are you thinking: “This Preacherman has either gone bonkers or he’s been drinking the Kool-Aid of the Bishops!”Neither of these are true. My ESPN just kicked in and at least one of you are thinking: “But Preacherman! Aren’t YOU leaving? Then why tell me not to leave??? I’m confused!” Put your hackles down and hear me out. OK? Thank you!
With the slovenliness that is permeating our leadership, it is easy to want to get the heck out of Dodge. And who can blame us Traditionalist/Orthodox Folks for hurrying to abandon this thing that looks more like the Titanic than John Wesley’s vision for the Body of Christ. But then…there’s this parable of Jesus. It’s about a man who got rid of one demon, cleaned up his house, got it in order–but that’s all he did. That demon knew this, so he went back to check things out. Sure enough! It was all clean and in order–but that’s all. So he goes and gets 7 of his friends (who are also demons; I mean, who would be a friend to a demon but another demon, right?) and moves right back in. And that’s when things got a lot worse for that man. Comprende, my friends?
Sure we could just leave the United Methodist Institution and believe—wrongly believe, I might add—that we are finally free from this detritus and onerous thing. We might think we will be better off. But take into your considerations this thought: Where Will You Go? Oh, one more consideration: What are you going to do once you get there? If your only desire is to get away from the United Methodist Institution, you can achieve that desire. But what’s next? If you just leave without knowing the what’snextyou are leaving the door open for even worse of the same-ol’-same-ol’. Remember this guy in Jesus’ story. He got out of one mess only to end up in an even bigger mess.
My fellow Wesleyans, this season of discernment is another one of God’s blessings to us. We have the opportunity to do more than just leave, we are being gifted by God’s Grace to become a part of renewal and revival across our land. To use an old term: Another Great Awakening! Whether you choose to become part of the Free Methodist, Wesleyan Methodist, Global Methodist, or become independent–do so with the faith, hope, and conviction that it’s because God’s Kingdom is on the move and YOU get to be a part of this mighty movement! And please understand that it may require you to let go of a lot of ideas, opinions, and other stuff–so that you can step into what God is doing right now.
Friends, not every generation and age has had this rare and beautiful moment of stepping out of the old and into this fresh movement of the Holy Spirit. But we do! Step away from what was–AND step into what God is doing right now! Don’t dream about leaving! Please don’t! Instead, dream about what God is doing and where He is leading us. I am applying to transfer my credentials to the Global Methodist Church–not because I’m sick and tired of the United Methodist Institution; even though I AM sick and tired of it. No, my friends. I stepping into a fresh and new movement of the Holy Spirit! I have been doing more than just discerning about leaving the United Methodist Institution! I’ve been discerning what God is wanting from and for me and where that is going to happen! I’m getting in on the ground level and am excited to be a small part of seeing this movement form and grow! You can just leave, or you can step into another Great Awakening!Your choice!
New Year’s offers for many the opportunity for more than a different life, but stirs in us the longing for a better life. The human heart is made for something that is better—and that something better is Contentment. So we make resolutions that we hope will make life better by improving the quality of our experiences. I thought it would be interesting to see what the top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for 2020 are. I surfed the web and here is what I found:
Learn a new skill or hobby
Live life to the fullest
Save more money / spend less money
Spend more time with family and friends
Here’s what else I found: It was pretty much the same for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and you get the point. Now we can download apps that promise ways to help you keep your resolutions. And we would all agree that it’s easier to make resolutions than to keep them. Wouldn’t it be great if we could slip on a pair of shoes, take a supplement, join a gym and at the end of the year discover that we kept all our resolutions? I believe that New Year Resolutions are The Cry Of The Heart For Deep, Abiding Contentment. When it comes to the issue of contentment, there are 3 things about people and our culture that are true:
Most People are not content with their lives. In spite of all the promises of hope from the latest trends, advertisements and self-help gurus, most people realize that something is still missing in their life.
Most people feel powerless when it comes to developing lasting and significant change in their lives. According to a couple of surveys, only 40-45% of Americans even take the effort to make one or more New Year’s Resolutions. This is down from last century’s high mark of 80%.
Every human heart longs for contentment. Even among that 55-60% who make no Resolutions, and among those who say they have given up hope, The Longing Of The Heart For Contentment Never Goes Away.
But what if there was a way to bring that Deep, Abiding Contentment to your life? And what if there was a way that you could model contentment in a way that would inspire those closest to you to experience that same Sense Of Contentment in their life? Does that sound good to you? But wait! There’s more.
What if I could show you that to achieve this life that is more than different, more than better, but fills anyone with Contentment, can be achieved with One Resolution, would you be interested? Not 10, not 5, no, not 3 resolutions, there is only One Resolution that all of us need to make. Want to know what it is? Let’s look at Paul’s letter to the Philippians in Philippians 1:27-30
27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.
According to Paul, the 1 Resolution is this: Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel! “Oh, is that all it is preacher? Why didn’t you tell me to paint the Golden Gate Bridge; or—Find the cure for cancer; or—Get every nation to sign a peace accord and end all wars; or—Put an end to world hunger; or—Get Democrats and Republicans to put the American citizen first and forget party politics? I could do that long before my life is worthy of the Gospel! Thanks for nothing!”
And if the Gospel was about what we could do and accomplish, then that’s the way we all ought to feel. We try to do our very best, but then we lose our temper, we lust, we envy, feel jealousy, say a dirty word, become greedy, act harshly, become resentful and are unforgiving. And we realize that is just not worthy of the Gospel. But The Gospel Is Not About What We Can Do.
The Gospel is all about what God has done, is doing and will continue to do for us because of His heart for us. It’s Not The “Gospel Of Our Best Efforts” But The Gospel Of God’s Best Effort For Us. It’s all about God’s Grace; it’s not left up to our best efforts to honor Christ. We Are To Honor Christ By Allowing Him To Live In And Through Us With The Power Of Resurrection! We often lock in on that word found in the KJV Conduct. But remember Paul didn’t write in English. He wrote in Greek and in Greek, the NLT gives us the best understanding of that word: Live As Citizens of Heaven.
This means we live according to God’s ways, plans and purposes that are rooted in His Grace. And at the heart of Grace is that we allow Him into our hearts and We Rely On His Strength Rather Than Our Own Strength. And Paul’s letter to the Philippians doesn’t end with that verse. For the rest of this letter, Paul shows us how to live a life worthy of the gospel by allowing Christ to live in us and through us! Contentment Is Found By Surrendering Moment By Moment To The Process Of Grace, And Not Giving Up On That Process, Especially When We Mess Up.
And this process is found in ONE: One Spirit, One Mind, One Purpose, One Goal, One Hope And One Secret. And this process is what we will begin looking at in this New Year. So, how can we live this Life Worthy Of The Gospel By Allowing Christ To Live In And Thru Us?
It comes by making 6 Conscious Choices every day. The Process Begins By Living In One Spirit. And here’s The1 Thing you need to remember from today’s message: Contentment Begins When We Think, Speak, Act, React And Make Decisions Based On One Spirit.
Paul is not talking about the Holy Spirit here, but our spirit. What Is Your Spirit? The first response is to say, “That’s the part of me that lives on after death.” And it is, but I want you to go deeper. Think Of Your Spirit As That Part Of You That Makes You Think, Speak, Act, React And Helps In Your Decision Making Process. And this is the real problem. Without a deep and committed relationship to Christ, we live with A Divided Spirit. Living life with One Spirit does not happen automatically nor is it easily attained. Allow me to define for you what I mean by One Spirit: One Spirit means living each day with an Undivided Heart! So think of One Spirit as that heart that gives its loyalty to God.
And to help us live with One Spirit, God offers us transformation—A New Spirit—A New Way To Think, Speak, Act, React And Make Decisions. He offers to help us live with One Spirit that is worthy of the Gospel Of Grace through The Desire To Have That Undivided Spirit. Here is how to develop this One Spirit.
1. Have That Unbridled Desire For God’s Grace
Remember that this Process of One, this resolution to Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel does not depend on your abilities; just God’s grace! And is there anything better or more reliable that God’s Grace? Jesus uses 2 powerful human experiences to describe what it means to desire God’s grace: hungering and thirsting. Jesus said in Matthew 5:6—Blessed Are Those Who Hunger And Thirst For Righteousness, For They Will Be Filled.
It’s About An Unquenchable Appetite For God. It’s not about a Sam’s Club sample taste, or a small Hors d’oeuvre tray. It is about all that God offers. And trust that God will provide His grace. When you get up in the morning have that unquenchable appetite for God. When you go to bed at night have that unquenchable appetite for God. And every moment between getting up and going to sleep, have that unquenchable appetite for God.
2. Give Him Your Unrestrained Devotion
Use the word “Devotion” and many think about The Upper Room, Guideposts, Daily Bread or some other devotional material. Reading these devotional materials are great acts that we need to engage in daily. But that’s not Devotion. The Dictionary Defines Devotion As: Profound Dedication. It is moving your life in the direction of God. This movement in the direction of God is best described in Philippians 3:13-14—I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Whatever it is that you talk the most about, that is your greatest passion, and that is what you are giving your devotion to. Your Greatest Passion Reveals Your Devotion. If your greatest passion is football, then your devotion is to football. If your greatest passion is to be recognized and praised by others, then your devotion is to self. Devotion to God is choosing to focus on God’s presence. It means we look for and find God’s presence every day and everywhere. Make God your greatest passion.
3. Live With Total Determination
It’s easy to give up on dreams when life gets tight. It’s easy to turn around when life gets tough. Our world, your culture, is filled with those who would rather quit than fight on—surrender rather than overcome. To Live In One Spirit Requires Resolve And Determination Because It Is On The Other Side Of The Struggle And Conflict That We Understand What The Life In Grace Is All About.
It is by going through the tight, tough and difficult places that we really discover just how much God does for us. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10—We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
Without Grace, without the Christ of the Cross, our own spirit becomes divided and it’s all because of the problem of sin. But Jesus has defeated the sin-problem for us by carrying our sins to the Cross. Contentment begins when we take our relationship with God seriously—By Making This Relationship The MOST Important Priority In Our Life. Jesus lived with One Spirit—to honor God by allowing God’s heart, the Father’s Presence to live in Him and through Him.
Remember: You Can’t Follow Jesus And Stay Where You Are. So here’s your Next Steps:
Do something to show your hunger for God’s Grace
Join a Bible study group, maybe 2 groups
Begin to read the Bible, just the Bible. Begin with Philippians
Get directly involved helping people know that God loves them
Recalculating…it’s a word that pops up on the GPS screen
when we miss a turn in trying to reach a destination. We count on those recalculations to get us to
our destination. As a unique individual,
you are trying to reach a different destination. But…you’ve missed a turn somewhere and deep
down you know you’re not getting there and you need a recalculation of where
your life is going. Garmin, Waze, Google
Maps—none of those will help you find the destination for which you heart
The church, the Body of Christ, is trying to reach a
destination. Along the way to that
destination, we are supposed to be bring others along with us in that
journey. But declining membership and
attendance reveals we have missed a turn somewhere. We need a recalculation. Some try to recalculate by looking backwards,
trying to repeat some era in our history went we were growing. But the recalculation we need isn’t by
looking backwards—it’s by looking forward.
God’s Vision for your individual life and the life of the church is what is needed most. God has a recalculation…and His recalculation involves His Vision. Join us for the next 4 Sundays…just in case you need a recalculation…
What was once primarily a military device is now a
common device. We have them in our cars,
in our hands, and on our phones. It’s
called GPS. We know them as Tom-Tom,
Garmin, Waze, or Google Maps. GPS helps
us get to places we may have forgotten where they are; or we are uncertain of
where they are; or to places we’ve never been before. If we aren’t paying attention to it, or we
simply miss a turn, they do this thing called Recalculating.
Recalculating helps us get back on track—and Recalculating Requires A Change Of Direction.
It’s not only when we travel that we may need a change
of direction, but also in our life’s journey.
It’s easy to not pay attention to the tried and true directions God
gives. It’s easy to miss a turn. And we get lost—and lose our bearings. This is true for us as individuals and for us
as the Body of Christ.
am asking you to pray and find the answers to 3 questions:
What is God
asking you to do?
What is God
asking this church to do?
willing to do it?
These questions were not randomly chosen, nor are they
the result of my creative mind—even I’m not that smart. It comes from the heart of God to the heart
of this congregation—to you.
It’s About Vision—Not Seeing
What Is, But Catching A Glimpse Of God’s What Will Be. God has a What
Will Be—for each person and every church. God’s What Will Be comes out of
God’s Power And Abilities—Not Our Own. It is easy, so very easy to be caught up and
confined to what is. What Is
creates a prison where people, dreams and churches die.
These 3 questions are about the direction you are
heading towards—as an individual and as a church. And they are the questions about arriving at
where God wants us to be, as individuals and as a church. They are the
questions that challenge us—about our faith, commitment and fears. There are moments in our journey where we
need a recalculating moment
to get our lives back on track with God’s
Plans And Purposes.
And this leads us to our text. Usually, I like to read from the more modern
translations because even I can understand them—but this morning, I want to
read first from the KJV. Turn to Proverbs 29:18…
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he
that keepeth the law, happy is he.
We’ve probably heard the first part of that passage,
but did you listen to that last part?
Now, let me read this same passage from The Message….
If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble
all over themselves; but when they attend to what He reveals, they are most
This morning I have Good News, Bad News, and Hard News:
Good News: The Best Argument For God To The World Is The Church. Every day,
God becomes accessible to a hurting world through the People of God. In our simple acts of compassion and
servanthood, in our worship and ministry of the Word, through our breaking of
bread, we make the invisible God visible.
John wrote in I John 4:12—No one has ever seen God, but if we love one
another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us. The church stands as a powerful testimony of a
God who will not let us go until He blesses us.
There is not one period in history you can point to and say, “The church
offered the world nothing. It had no
light at all!” We’ve
always given something to the world, even at our worst moments.
Bad News: The Worst
Argument For God To The World Is The Church. Every day, God becomes more
remote to a cynical world because of the church. In our foolish acts of self-righteousness and
self-indulgent attitudes, in our judgment and smugness, through our breaking of
trust and lack of actions, we obscure God.
John goes on to say in Vs. 20-21—If anyone says, ‘I love God’, yet hates his
brother, he is a liar. For anyone who
does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, who he has not
seen. And He has given us this
command: Whoever loves God must also
love his brother. Even when we’re at our best, the church is
still marred by hypocrisy, apathy, and false piety. There is not a single period in history you
can point to and say, “Yes! There it is! The church in all its fullness,
exactly as God intended it.” We’ve
always fallen short.
News: The Only Real Argument For God To The World Is The Church. Put aside all philosophical defenses and
church doctrine. Philosophies and
doctrines can convince the mind, but only the church, walking in the light, can
win the heart. God does not have a Plan B.
He does not have a backup strategy for making himself known among the
nations. It’s the church or bust. We’ve always been all there is.
The church lives between the splendor of God’s intent
and the debacle of our own shortcomings. Paul speaks of God’s intent for the church in Ephesians 3:10–11…
God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom
in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly
places. This was his eternal plan, which
he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.
But don’t you want to live out God’s intentions for
you? Isn’t there a part of you that
wants to have all God wants to give—no matter what it costs or where it
leads? Don’t you want to be able to say,
“I’m what He had in mind when he made me and called me. I’m exactly what God wants to reveal His
I believe that this church today doesn’t lack for
vision—but like many congregations, we are lacking God’s Vision. I read of someone who compiled over 40 Killer Phrases—Phrases that will
kill the Vision God has for a local church.
Let me share with you to Top 10
10] It’s Right In
Theory, But It Won’t Work Here
9] It Will Be
More Trouble Than It’s Worth;
8] It’s Not In
7] You’ve Got
To Be Kidding;
6] It’s Too Far
Ahead Of Our Time;
5] We’ve Tried
4] It May
Offend Some Of Our Members;
3] We Don’t
Have Enough People To Do It;
2] Let’s Appoint A Committee
To Look Into It And Report Back;
1] But We’ve
Never Done It That Way Before!
Now, a vision from God will have 3 key elements,
always. Now with these 3 elements, the
vision for here will be powerful and life changing. I know it works because all 3 elements have
been tried and tested—and happening now in our culture.
1. In God’s Vision, There
Will Be Purpose!
There is a reason why this place exists today, a purpose for us being here. That purpose will define our mission and ministry. The problem is that we have allowed our mission and ministry to define our purpose; and that’s backward—it’s putting the cart in front of the horse.
The purposes of God will be much bigger than our
individual selves and even bigger than all of us combined. If you can do it with your own effort and
strength, then it’s not likely that it’s God’s purposes you are following.
God’s Purpose Transcends Beyond Our Selves In Order That We May Be
Transformed By God’s Power. Church does not exist for Sunday morning
service, and to meet just your needs.
And that purpose will go beyond the physical confines of this community. This answers your 1st Question.
You must believe that you are here because God has been preparing your whole life for such a
time as this. If you are not prepared
for God’s Vision, then it’s not because God has tried to prepare you, it’s
because you haven’t made yourself available to God. This answers your 2nd Question.
3. And In God’s
Vision, There Will Be A Plan!
There was a time when the “Field of Dreams” worked—You
remember the Kevin Costner movie—the voice telling him “If you build it they will come”—and
they did come. But that style will not work
any longer. It didn’t work that way for
the 1st Century Church. There’s
an old saying, but it is so true—God Will Not Lead Us
Where His Grace Will Not Sustain Us!
And like the purpose, the plan is much bigger than we are.
Those plans are not only for this community, but they will reach out beyond the confines of this placeand out into the world. I’ve heard some church people say, “I don’t think we need to get involved with world missions because we have enough to do right here. But God’s plan is bigger than this community. It’s not local projects or outside missions—it’s BOTH local projects and outside missions. That plan includes the involvement of each and every one of you. And this And this is where you answer your 3rd Question.
Think about Jesus and This Process We Are
God Had A Purpose! In creation, God,
out of His love, made us in His image for the purpose of sharing a relationship
of love with Him and to join with Him in the care of His marvelous
creation. But sin alienates us from His
relationship of love.
God Was Prepared For Our Sin. Before
He created one thing, redemption was in God’s heart—so He was prepared to send
His Son to atone for sin and redeem us back to Himself. 1
Peter 1:18-20— For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the
empty life you inherited from your ancestors.
And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It
was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose
him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he
has been revealed for your sake.
God Had A Plan! His
Son, would become one of us, live among us, but without sin. He would then offer His life in the place of
punishment, the place we rightly deserve.
Then He would call those who accept the Gift of Grace, to share the Message
What is God asking
you to do? It will reflect Jesus and help the
church. It will be with the people you
know—teachers, law enforcement, fire fighters, where you eat, at the library,
at the bank, at the grocery store, where you work, where you hang out, your
next door neighbors. And it WILL BE with
people you see but don’t know and people who haven’t met yet.
What is God asking
this church to do? It will be something that shows we care
about people and places. Think about
things that will improve the places that involves the people you know and
see. Schools, libraries, community
events, police department, fire department, nursing homes, places for those
with physical, emotional or mental health issues. God seeks to redeem people, and He longs to
redeem places where people live, work, play and struggle.
Are you willing to
do it? Without exceptions or compromising the
Vision. It may require giving up some
things. It will definitely require
expansion—expansion of possibilities—expansion of what you see as your
capabilities—expansion of your relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Well, after a season of computer problems (it died, had the blue screen) and getting caught up, I’m back to my insights from the Book of Acts (Of The Holy Spirit In Surrendered People). If you missed the first one, then click here, because it is, call it our Magnetic North in this journey. As I was reading in the first chapter, there’s another insight that I’ve overlooked for all my life. It is one word, and that word is TOGETHER. It’s from Acts 1:14
They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.
That word, “together” is one that has been, call it haunting me. I use the word “haunting” because it is M.I.A. in many, many established congregations. Between congregations and within congregations, little exists that would even slightly hint that we are together. And here, in the good old U.S. of A., people sit around McDonald’s, in church committee meetings, around the water coolers lamenting that this culture is so far from God. They blame Hollywood, Trump, Democrats, Republicans, Educators, Video Games and various News Networks. As I read this part, I am left wondering, “Is it really ‘their’ fault? Or is it the fault of the Body of Christ forgetting our humble beginnings? Of being together–in life, in helping others and in Christ?
Between congregations there is much competition. To have the best preacher. The best musicians. The most campuses. Rather than moving in and claiming the territory of The Enemy, they encroach on each other trying to draw away members. Together? Hardly!
And don’t get me started on within congregations. They meet in the same building, but are not really together. Each part moves, speaks and acts out of an agenda, their agenda. Those who have been in power do not want to give up their power. They operate on a seniority system–whoever has been there the longest (including previous family generations) are the only ones who should have power. And should a congregation actually decide that the Kingdom of God is the Pearl of greatest value, it becomes a matter of navigating the rapids. The Art of Compromise becomes the guide, and those who recognize that Pearl, either find another congregation, or simply give up.
But it wasn’t that way then. They were Together. Men and women. Young and old. Educated and uneducated. Poor and the not so poor. They were in this TOGETHER. This means that they supported each other. Encouraged each other. Listened to each other. At this point, now get this: They were of one mind. They were in this for Jesus, not themselves. Jesus said stay together and they did. Jesus said wait, so they waited. Jesus said don’t begin until you receive the Holy Spirit, and so they waited–TOGETHER.
Think about this, they didn’t really know a lot about the Holy Spirit, other than what they saw of Him in Jesus. After the Resurrection, they were smart enough to know that they would be foolish to do this Kingdom Thing without The Holy Spirit. And to that goal, look at what else they did TOGETHER:
and were constantly united in prayer
Because they were TOGETHER, it wasn’t about selfish prayer. It was about being TOGETHER in what Jesus wanted. I strongly suspect, no, I strongly believe that they were so intimidated by the task in front of them that they knew they NEEDED each other. They needed each person to be committed to Jesus; to be completely surrendered, completely passionate about this Kingdom. Folks, they were UNITED in prayer. They were praying FOR each other, not against each other. Wow!
Recently I was reading through one of my personal study times. It’s from a group called SEEDBED (website is here). J.D. Walt is one of the writers and one of my teachers. He wrote that there are only 2 stories being told in our world: 1 is the story of the world, and the other is the story of The Kingdom of God. J.D. said that we will live out our lives on one or the other storyline. Then he said this (and I quote):
“Until Jesus becomes the center of our devotion, He’s just another distraction.”
And thus, that word, TOGETHER. I want to speak now only to my American readers. What would happen here in the good old U.S. of A. if WE, who profess to be followers of Jesus, gave up our agendas and made an all out commitment to being TOGETHER?
Feel free to answer this question in the comments section. I would love to hear what you believe would happen IF we were really TOGETHER. And remember to love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
The With Us God: The God Who Fights For Us! Exodus 17:8-16 NLT
This Advent season we are taking a journey deep into this name, Immanuel. We know what this name means thanks to Matthew—God is with us. In the Hebrew, this name is comes from two words: ‘Immanuw’ which means“with us, or toward us. The other word is ‘El’ which means “God.” To look at this word literally, we could say it means: The With Us God. He moves from the realm of eternity and infinity and steps across into the limitations of time and place. He is the With Us God because He became one of us.
Have you ever been talking about an issue or problem and shared with someone what you think ought to be done and their reply was “I’m with you.” It means they understand and more than understand, they are willing to put themselves on the line with you. This is what Immanuel means. God puts himself on the line with us. God has chosen, out of His infinite love and grace, to be with us in the most unique way. He surrenders His place in heaven and chooses to become wrapped in human flesh.
And why? Why would God enter our world as one of us? I mean, He has the ability to step out of eternity and into our world without ever shedding any of His eternal nature. Yet He emptied himself of that eternal form and exchanged it for a human form. Why did God do that? The most obvious answer is because He loves us enough to do just that. But my inner child wants to know more; more than just the “why” of incarnation, but I want to know the what!
What is God seeking to do in humanity, and what is God seeking to do in me? The“Why” Of Love Is Found In The “What” Love Does For Us. So this Advent season we are going to be looking at just what God wants to do in us, for us, and through us.
We are looking at this through some of the names that God revealed Himself through in the Old Testament. Each of these names reveal something about God and something about WHAT it means to have this “With Us God” as we go through life with all of its ups and downs.
Today we are going to look at another name: Yahweh-Nissi. It means: The Lord Is Our Banner. This name is found in Exodus 17:8-16 NLT:
“8 While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek attacked them. 9 Moses commanded Joshua,“Choose some men to go out and fight the army of Amalek for us. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill,holding the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill.
11 As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage.
12 Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. 13 As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.
14 After the victory,the Lord instructed Moses, “Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”
15 Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means “the Lord is my banner”).16 He said, “They have raised their fist against the Lord’s throne, so now the Lord will be at war with Amalek generation after generation.”
As you know, the Exodus from Egypt to The Land of Promise had more than its share of problems. But still they are moving every closer. Earlier they were running out of food, and God provided them with manna and quails. They were running out of water, and God gave them water out of a rock. And now they are facing a battle with the Amalekites but these are people who had been slaves, notwarriors. Moses instructs Joshua to assemble an army to go out to fight. That next day Moses stands on a hill overlooking the battle.
As he raises the Staff, that Staff that Moses held when he encountered God at the burning bush. That staff represented God’s calling and anointing. As Moses holds up that anointing and calling, Joshua and the army gets the upper hand. But when Moses’ arms get tired and he lowers them, the Amalekites get the upper hand. Aaron and Hur support Moses’ arms and finally they win the battle. Then Moses gives that place a name that reflects the truth that God had fought for them. He names the place YAHWEH-NISSI! The idea of “banner”isn’t a sign. It’s the banner of an Army—the Army of God. But spiritually it means that God fought the battle for them.
This is more than
history. It’s about the one who is
always raising his fist in defiance against the God of Heaven. No, not the descendants of Amalek. It’s none other than Satan himself. Satan is waging war against God and His
And the battle is not a valley in the Sinai desert. The battle is going on inside every person, and inside each of us. If Satan is anything, he is persistent, and he does not give up easily. And you and I know that battle all too well. Just when we think we are getting the upper hand, we get beaten back again and again and again.
Maybe someone here this morning is fighting a battle deep inside you. Maybe it’s an attitude that you don’t like but it keeps coming up again and again. Maybe it’s a habit that you are trying to break, but it has broken you. Maybe it’s the feelings of guilt and condemnation that you just can’t shake off.
Maybe it’s over some thing that is controlling your life and making you miserable. You struggle and struggle and struggle, but the result is always the same: defeat! And maybe you have reached the point where you wonder, “Why keep on trying?” Maybe you have even raised the white flag of defeat and the banner that is flying over you is defeat and despair.
God knows that when it comes to warfare with Satan, we cannot win. We are like Joshua’s army when Moses’ arms dropped. Satan gets the upper hand. Regardless of how hard we try and fight, we always lose the battle with Satan when all we have is our own strength. God knows how weak we are in this battle.
So 2,000 years ago, God sent an angel to a carpenter named Joseph with an incredible message: “Your fiancé is pregnant and you, Joe, will be the father on earth to the Son of Heaven. This Son will be known as Immanuel—The With Us God!” This With Us God is the Yahweh-Nissi—The God who fights for us!
As when Moses raised his staff and the battle with the Amalekites changed, so The Battles We Face Change When We Know That With Us In The Battle Is Yahweh-Nissi. There are three things you can count on when you give your life to Yahweh-Nissi:
1. He Fights For You Even When You Are Unaware Of His Presence.
Do you doubt this? Do you feel, “Well, if God is so concerned about me where is He now? Why can’t I beat this habit? Why is all this happening to me?” Listen carefully to Paul in Romans 5:8—But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. The battle Jesus fought in the Garden of Gethsemane wasn’t just about Him.
It was about humanity and about us. At stake was whether or not we could be forgiven of our sins, released from our guilt and condemnation, have a real purpose for life, have a relationship with God now and a home in heaven later. THAT was the battle that Jesus fought in that olive grove. And if He fought that hard for you then, don’t you think He still fights for you now? Does a bear like honey? Does a cow eat grass? Do gasoline prices go up? Does Immanuel fight for you even when you are unaware of it? The answer is the same of all these questions: unequivocally YES. He stepped out of eternity and into time to be with you in the battle for your soul.
2. He Equips You With The Weapons To Win Those Battles.
Because this is a spiritual war, conventional weapons of strength and knowledge will not work. Spiritual battles require spiritual weapons. And Paul tells us what we can count on from The With Us God in Eph. 6:12-17…
“12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
The Message puts it like this: Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. The weapons we need come from the arsenal of God himself. Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Faith, Salvation,And The Word Are More Than Words. They are the weapons of God’s design that Satan can never defeat. He is with us to equip us so that Satan will lose the battle.
And we know we can trust and rely on these weapons to work because Jesus used these same weapons to conquer Satan. He is With Us so that we can win the battles that wage inside us by giving the only weapons that are proven successful again and again and again. The proving ground of these weapons was a cemetery outside Jerusalem that failed to hold on to the body of Jesus.
3. He Will Stay In The Battle With You Until The Final Victory.
Maybe you heard the joke about a time when the Lone Ranger and Tonto were surrounded by the Apaches. The Lone Ranger looked at Tonto and said, “It looks like they have surrounded us.” And Tonto replies, “What do you mean, us, pale face?” Have you ever had been abandoned by someone you thought you could count on? It hurts, doesn’t it. The sting is painful and the bruise goes deep. But God will never do that to you.
In Deut. 31:6, God reveals something of His heart to Joshua as he is about to lead the Hebrews into the Land of Promise—The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. This is the nature of God’s heart to you. Skip town on you? Never! Run and hide in the thick of battle? Forget that ever happening! Slip away during the night? Ain’t gonna happen! How do I know this? How can you know this? Listen again as Paul opens the door of heaven and gives us a glimpse of the With Us God: Phil. 1:6—And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. And you can be certain too, that God will continue His good work within you until the day when Jesus returns.
How? Because one night a long time ago, an angel visited carpenter with a message and a name—Immanuel! The With Us God. If you think your god is far off and distantly removed from you, then it’s time you meet the only God who dared to do the unthinkable: He became the With Us God. And one reason He came to be the With Us God is so that we might know Yahweh-Nissi: The God Who Fights For Us. You can run away from Him this morning—but He won’t ever give up His pursuit of love for you.
Step: Get To Know The Weapons
Truth, Righteousness, Peace,
Faith, Salvation, And The Word. Make a commitment now to study, then use them.
Who remembers that song by Carly Simon? Guess I’m revealing my age; actually I don’t have to reveal my age–it shows naturally. But early this morning, I’m awake and filled with great anticipation, like a child on the way to Disney World. What is the cause of my great anticipation? I am leaving for Brentwood, Tennessee for another New Room Conference. This will be my third consecutive time. I don’t know how long this event has been happening. If I did, I’d probably kick myself in the butt for missing the earlier ones.
What is it? I’m so glad you asked me that question. It’s a time of inspired worship, spirit-filled preaching and teaching, and a time for Spiritual Renewal. Not all “conferences” I have attended over these past 44 years have filled me with anticipation. OK, OK, it’s closer to 99% of those conferences never filled me with anticipation. But this is different. I looked up synonyms for “anticipation” and there was a single word that leaped out at me from that list. It’s a word you seldom hear used unless you’re singing that great old hymn, Blessed Assurance,FORETASTE!
We don’t use that old word much anymore, but maybe we should. It means “a slight and partial experience, knowledge, or taste of something to come in the future”. You get that small taste, and you know, “Wow! This is just a sample, I can’t wait to get the full course!” This foretaste has been given a name at New Room–AWAKENING! I confess that my hope for the church in the U.S. before New Room was at an all time low; I mean the bottom of the cellar, ocean bottom low. But here….I was Elisha’s servant who had his eyes opened to the presence of Heaven’s Army!
We worship together, learn together and we have these things called “breakout sessions”. From a list of subjects we choose where we want to go. Last year was an especially powerful Epiphany for me. I can’t even remember which breakout session I had signed up for, but something (actually someONE) drew me into a different one on Travailing Prayer. I was like a puppy being drawn towards that treat.
I was taking notes right and left. At the end, now there was another Epiphany. The speaker asked that anyone who needed prayer to come and offer themselves to God. This preacher never hesitated. I went forward and stretched myself out on the floor. As I was praying I became aware of another presence. Someone was standing over me, and he was praying for me. He was praying in tongues FOR me (a new experience for me), but I wasn’t freaked out by it. In fact, I felt a calmness come over me. From time to time, he touched my shoulder as he prayed in tongues and I felt the most amazing coolness where he touched me and a profound calmness in my heart. Somehow, I sensed it was a prayer for preparation for what was ahead for me.
In the time that followed, I tried to figure out what God was trying to prepare me for. There were some moments that I thought I figured it out–but I was wrong. And now? I am still assured it was and IS a prayer for preparation–not just where I thought it would me. Through a tumultuous April, a time when I allowed hurt to consume me, I have finally learned that this prayer of preparation was for where I am right now.
I still don’t know all the details of what God is preparing me for here–but I know He’s Got This, and I am OK with that. Actually, better than OK. I am filled with anticipation! Unlike the anticipation of Carly Simon that was keeping her waiting–this anticipation is keeping me moving forward. I don’t know where it’s leading me, but I DO know that HE is both with me, and waiting for me as He reveals more and more of what He has for someone like me. Now here’s a testimony of grace and mercy.
Truthfully, I never anticipated that at 62 years old that God would have so much more for me–but HE anticipated it. And that moment of being prayed for in a language I could not understand has given me more confidence in God than I ever had before. Well, excuse me but my “foretaste” is beckoning me. Need to pack up and head out to God knows where–and I’m perfectly good with that.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him. OH, and don’t miss the “foretaste” He has for you….
Well, it’s time to pack up and leave. I wouldn’t call it graduation day from this special classroom, but then again, maybe it is. Graduation means that one has learned the required curriculum and is now ready to apply the lessons.
Well, everything that we brought is packed up, leaving nothing behind that we didn’t bring. Well, minus the foods we consumed. We packed nothing that was here. Well, except some sand. It seems that no matter how much you shake, some of that pesky sand will stay with you. And here is the final exam, which I passed.
The lessons I discovered here at the beach, are still true in Fayette, Alabama. What I soaked into my mind and heart about the Truth of God on the beach, is still the Truth in Fayette. And the faithful God who revealed His Heart to me on the beach, still longs to reveal that Heart to me wherever I am. I do not have to be in some special place to hear God’s heart. Every moment of every day contains something to see about God–His Heart and His Desires for each of us.
So, I carry this with me–some sand and the truth that to see and hear God, I only need to be ready–to open my eyes, my heart, and my mind. This doesn’t mean I can give up our vacations, excuse me, our spiritual retreats. For like Jesus modeled, we need times apart from the ordinary routines in order to find that time of cleansing and refreshing. I prepare to go home–but like those Wise Men who found the Christ-Child, I go home a different way–because I am a different person. I am a different person because I made the decision to seek and listen to The Master Teacher.
Classes aren’t really over. It’s just the location of the classroom has changed. And thought the classroom changes, the Teacher remains. If I ever doubt this, I’m sure I will find a grain of beach sand somewhere in the car, in my home–and I will remember that God still has much to teach me.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way God loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
Well, time for my daily class assignment: What did you learn yesterday? As the day began I was looking forward to it. But now? I admit that it is a bit more difficult than I imagined. Has that ever happened to you? Something you thought you could do, easily do, but out of nowhere it became difficult. Truthfully….I don’t like difficult. Thinking about what to write was as blank as this graphic. So what does one do when preparing for test time? You review your notes.
Set up the beach canopy–check! Cooler with drinks–check! Beach towels–check! Beach chairs set up–check! Bag with snacks–check! Reading materials–check! Sunscreen and applied–check and check! Feet buried in the sand–check. What next? Sitting in the shade of the canopy, looking at the scene graciously provided for us by The Creator. Listening to the sounds of waves and birds. When we were a bit warm, going into the Gulf to cool off, floating on the gentle waves. Then a southerly breeze came in helping to keep us cool. A couple of naps between finishing that book.
Where’s the lesson? WHAT’S the lesson? What am I forgetting? And it finally hit me. There was that moment I realized my mind was totally blank. (Please, no comments from the monkey gallery!) And there were other moments when my mind was blank….cleansed from everything. No thoughts about writing, the churches, my Dad, my own grief from Mother’s recent death. My mind has been cleansed. Think of it as a computer reset. Cleansers–that’s the lesson.
There are cleansers for the face, microwaves, ovens, bathtubs, commodes, even this thing called a colon cleanse (now try to get that image out of your mind!). My Father knew what I needed on that day–for my mind to be completely cleansed–to set aside all my thoughts–just to be me in the presence of my King and Creator!
The blood of Jesus cleanses our hearts, but what can cleanse our minds? The mind is more complicated and delicate matter. A few sentences back I mentioned “colon cleanse”–how many of you still have that image in your mind? If we try to get some thought out of our mind, say a certain song or a colon cleanse, it only seems to linger and grow roots. And should we cleanse our minds of all thoughts, what will we replace them with?
I’m thinking about a story Jesus once told found in Matthew 12. A man seemed to have rid his mind and heart of a demon. The demon went looking for another home. Failing to find one, he returned to that man. Found the home of his heart and mind cleaned but unoccupied. So he goes and gets 7 buddies and moves right back in. And the point is??? Once your mind is cleansed, make very sure that it is immediately occupied with God’s presence.
When I had my mind cleanse, I did it intentionally in His Presence. The result was that He rearranged some thoughts and replaced others. Along with that process, He provided me with balance, perspective and wisdom. And I urgently needed that to happen. So when your thoughts overwhelm you, when you mind resembles that junk closet, take the time to be in His presence. No agenda, no asking, no searching for answers–just alone with Him. As you as prepare for this cleansing, and before you begin, make the decision to ask Him to sort it all out. Add this “cleansing” process to your regular spiritual disciplines. Allow it to be a part of your spiritual disciplines. Balance, perspective and wisdom–all are gifts found only in His presence.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
Excuse me now, I hear the bell for the next class to begin. And I am ready for it, more than when this week began because I now have His balance, perspective and wisdom.
So far this has been a great Spiritual Summer Retreat. Some may call it a vacation, but for me, it’s been a time of refocusing on God in my life. Some of the things that have happened to me this year have been, well, challenging. Truthfully, I let some of those things get the best of me. My life has been off-kilter. So God is using this time for me to get my “kilter” back.
This morning got me to thinking about The Tide. No, not the greatest College Football Dynasty ever, but the “other” Tide. No! Not the laundry detergent either! The ocean tide is a lesson I’ve been rediscovering in this time of retreat. I am not certain John Wesley would agree with me, but the beach is a means of grace for me.
The Tide happens every day because the water is being influenced by outside forces. Technically, it’s being influenced by a single source, gravity. And the gravity that affects the Tide comes from 2 sources. Do you know that they are? Did you guess the moon? Very good class. Now, what’s the other source of gravity? Did you say the sun? Correctamundo!
The Tide in a particular area is determined by its position in relation to both the moon and the sun. This gravitational pull determines whether the Tide is high or low. And these gravitational forces come from outside our planet. It is a force that is unseen, yet it produces a noticeable effect. And here’s the lesson that this Tide is teaching me.
We are under the gravitational pull of another influence; whether we realize or not. This force impacts how we think, what we say, what we do, and even why we do it. They change the shape and direction of our life. Either for good–and unfortunately–for bad. Think back to the effect of the ocean Tide. The ocean tides have a positive impact on marine life. It also determines the best time for fishermen to catch fish. And who doesn’t love a good seafood dinner?
But unlike the oceans that have no choice but to be affected by gravity, we do have a choice. Remember that the ocean Tide is influenced at one time by the sun, and at a different time by the moon–it all depends on their location. We choose which gravitational pull influences us–in any and all situations of life. We all face situations which we did not cause–but our response to that situation–it is influenced by which outside source of power we live under.
Allow your life to be under the “gravitational pull” of the Holy Spirit. Remember what Paul wrote in Romans 8:5 (NLT)
Those who are dominated (think about the tide) by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled (think about the gravitational forces on the oceans) by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.
More than thinking about the things that please the Spirit, it is about the impact of those thoughts and how they change the ways we think, speak, act, and why we do what we do. That’s called MOTIVE. Like the oceans are being influenced by the power of gravity from either the sun or the moon (and never both at the same moment), you are being influenced by some power that determines your journey. Unlike the oceans that have no choice, you do have a choice. And remember that line from the climatic scene in the movie “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade”–“Choose wisely!”
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way He loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
Now excuse me, but the classroom beckons me. I wonder what the Tide is doing?
Well, good morning y’all. Hey, I’m from the south. Arnold was truthful when he said:
Our new home is set up, well, sorta set up. Nearly a month into this new journey, and I’m finally able to sit down and do what I enjoy and is my personal therapy: writing! Truth is, I’ve been putting it off for a few days because, well, because I wasn’t quite sure what I would write about. I guess I could say I had writer’s block–but Papa would probably say I’m just being a Blockhead!
Life is full of lessons–lessons worth sharing. Change is a part of life–and there are lessons to be learned. In reflecting on the lessons that I am learning, there is one big lesson that The Spirit is trying (notice, I said ‘trying’) to teach me and I want to share with you.
New people and places are different but the Good News of the Kingdom is the same.
Because people and places are different, it requires different ways to connect those places with the Good News of The Kingdom–and most of all–different ways to connect those places and people in a relationship with the King of that Kingdom. This doesn’t happen overnight–nor is it easy. I’m discovering that it requires the same approach that He uses on me: Building A Relationship That Will Lead To THE Relationship.
Jesus was the Master at this approach–finding ways to connect with people where they were BEFORE He connected them with where they COULD be in Him. The way you connect with people where they are is to BE where they are. So, I’m taking the time to learn people and about life as it happens in Fayette and Lamar Counties.
So many, too many churches are failing to reach new and different people because they want to make them like they are BEFORE they get to know them. It simply doesn’t work that way. So, I’m learning about different people and places because that’s the way to find a different way to help them grow into the person God’s designed them to be.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have to get to Jack’s in Vernon and then McDonald’s in Fayette. Those are 2 of the local watering holes–sometimes known as “The Liars Table”. It’s fun, interesting, but most of all, it’s real–real life! And remember….
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way God loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
Got up this morning, went out to the garage. walked into the utility room, and to my horror (deep horror–Stephen King kind of horror) there was still some things to pack. And then there was those boxes we are opened after taping up that had to be re-taped. Oh, my tool chest wasn’t properly prepared for moving. I was moving from detail to detail, and about to become overwhelmed. OK, I WAS overwhelmed. But then this extreme ADHD man focused on one box, one thing, and I calmed down.
The movers arrived and it was going through showing what moved and what stayed. The food pantry hadn’t been touched. So it’s finding the small boxes left over and packing away. The movers brought some wardrobe boxes, so Debbie boxes up my suits, jackets and more clothes. This to pack. This to move out of the way. Then waiting to see what room was left on the truck and quickly adding to their load. The pictures I shared was just a portion of what they loaded. My wife and her sister could open a Crocheting & Scrapbooking Store with what they put on that truck. Good thing I went to the liquor store yesterday. I was about to think I need to make another trip to the liquor–FOR BOXES–empty boxes.
Now it is early evening. My muscles ache, my shoulders are sore. Honestly? I’m thinking the only lesson here is that I should have never become a Pastor. At the age of 17, that was my plan–until…. So what other lessons did I learn today?
There is still much to be done. The work of God’s Kingdom is an ongoing work. It is an ongoing work inside of me. And it is an ongoing work in the world, for which God has called me to partner with Him
We can do more than we think. Just as there was more room on the truck, there is a way that the Holy Spirit uses use to do more than we think we can, or even imagine we can.
Stay focused on the main thing. Just as I was overwhelmed at 5 a.m. at what still needed to be done, I managed the tasks, one at a time. As people of the Kingdom of God, we need to stay focused on the main task–which is connecting people where they are with God and His plan and purposes.
Now, if you will excuse me, it’s time to see if there is anything to eat around here.
Tomorrow the moving truck and crew arrive. Well, no more trips to the curb. This morning was pick-up day, and managed to get it all out there with 15 minutes to spare. Timing is everything as they say. Packed some more. The Moving Supervisor, that’s my wife, informed me that I needed to take some clothes to the cleaners, and go to the liquor store–to get more boxes–come on now, quit thinking the worst. While at the liquor store she calls and says I need to go buy some bigger boxes. I still have some more to pack up. While running those errands, I tuned in one of the local Country and Western stations. Last few days I’ve gone back to my roots in my choice of music.
While listening to the radio, I heard a song I haven’t heard in years: “God is great, beer is good and people are crazy”. What caught my attention with the song was what one of our grandson’s did when he was about 4, I think. He was in Pre-K at the church he and his family attend. In addition to education skills, they taught Faith Lessons. Well, the teacher asked the Preacher’s Grandkid to ask the blessing at lunch. With the room quiet, heads bowed, Ethan said, “God is great, beer is good and people are crazy. Amen.”
Back home I needed to do some touch up painting in one of the rooms. Then it was time to go to the dentist because I needed a cleaning and I had lost a filling and a cracked tooth. Ain’t that a hoot! Coming back home from the dentist, the Moving Supervisor sent me on a mission to Wal-Mart. Oh, how I hate going to Wal-Mart. Back home, ate lunch, then moving boxes as they were filled. Oh, I put my 2 hunting rifles in their cases to protect them. They will be going with me, not the movers.
Tomorrow morning the movers will arrive and these stacks of boxes will be no more. So what lessons did I learn today?
I learned that there are always places in my heart and life that need “touching-up”. By touching up, I mean that I have places in my heart that need some work. And the work must be done by the Holy Spirit, after all, He gave me this new heart. We had paint left-over when the rooms were painted, so it was easy to match it up. I need the work of the Holy Spirit to continue to work on my blemishes.
I learned that self-care is necessary. The trip to the dentist was long overdue. I am good at taking care of others, but not so good at taking care of myself. I must do a better job at that–after the move is completed, of course.
You can’t prevent the inevitable. Ready or not, the movers will be here in the morning. Once decisions are made, there will be an inevitable outcome. Best we could do today is to be ready now for that tomorrow. Every decision, every choice, every act has consequences. Sometimes things are done to us by others and consequences are forced upon us. However, we can see them as learning moments or we can fight against them. Fighting is a losing battle.
Vision needs to be handled care. The scopes on my hunting rifles are set for me. If they get bumped about or mishandled, they may get out of alignment, and I would hate to know that the first time I go hunting. So I take care of them. And the vision that comes from God needs to also be handled with care. If we get bumped around or “mishandled”, our vision could be out of focus.
Memories are a part of life. This was the big one for me today. When I thought about Ethan’s blessing at a Christian Pre-K, it hit me. In life, memories are created–both good and bad ones. Now each day we should focus on making good memories with the people we encounter. But there are situations and people who create bad memories. And we have a choice–focus on the bad memories or the good ones. I choose to focus on the good one. The bad memories will just eat you alive. And I admit that when I heard “God is great, beer is good and people are crazy”, I laughed out loud and smiled.
Well, it’s time to wind down the day. Tune in tomorrow for the next Episode of The Moving Journal-Day 7. Say, “Good night, John Boy”. Good night John Boy.
Welcome to Jeopardy, Randy. “Thanks, Alex, I’ll take Chaos and Stress for $1,000.” And the answer is: “This picture is what it feels like.”
Yes, Randy: “What is the feeling you have when the moving truck will be here in 2 days?” Correct!
Well, today started like usual. Packing some more, taking some more to the curb, headed to the office, and the Funeral. Debbie and I had visited Wynette in the hospital the day before she conquered death. Watching her struggle to breathe reminded that about a month ago I watched my own Mother struggle to breathe. God was faithful, not that I doubted Him, especially in a time such as this, and He gave me words to share with her Family and Friends that both honored her memory, her life and The Good News. A trifecta, if you would. The graveside portion was about an hour and a half away.
Then I returned to the church for one last team meeting before we leave. It was the Finance Team. Within my first year here, I was confronted with the fact that the accounting system was, well, what’s a word that I could use in a Christian blog? Chaotic to the Nth degree. Nothing illegal mind you, just poor accounting practices. Nothing balanced and I promised the Finance Team that before I left, everything would be in order and balanced. Thanks to my Office Manager, Samantha, she brought in a friend who loves accounting, loves numbers, loves problem solving (though I think this episode may have broken her from wanting to solve problems). Jennifer committed and donated her time and skills for the past 6 months. She managed to balance 2017, and set up a new system so they could say goodbye and good riddance to a system called Shelby and a new and easier to understand system (ACS) is up and running CORRECTLY. I kept my promise. I didn’t promise I would solve the problem, but would get the problem corrected! Thank you Samantha and Jennifer. After the meeting, I said goodbye to Samantha, who is more than a staff member, and she informed me I was like a big brother to her. These words coming from an only child–priceless. Samantha, you are like the younger sister I never had! I wish I could get rid of my older sister and have Dad adopt you.
So, what have I learned today? I’m so glad you asked:
Keeping your word is important. Whether it is to a congregation, at work, with family, your neighbors, or even a stranger, keeping your word matters. In this era, words of promise are casually thrown around, such as, “Oh yes, I’ll pray for you.”, only to never mention it in your prayers to God. Well, maybe once. When I make a promise, that is the same thing as making a commitment. It’s true for you, too.
There’s always “stuff” that needs to be thrown away in our hearts. Tonight I made more trips to the curb because tomorrow is pick-up. I did not want to leave anything on the curb for my replacement. And I didn’t want to just leave it here for someone else to deal with. Cleaning out, or in a more biblical image, purifying the heart isn’t a one time thing. And it’s more than a thing to do every 4 or 5 years. Guard you heart from collecting stuff–stuff that doesn’t matter to the Kingdom of God–and matters even less to Jesus.
People matter and need to be appreciated–TOLD they are appreciated. What else can I say about this? Nothing! If you can’t understand this….you are seriously messed up.
Even in dark times–there is still Good News! Less than a month after Mother’s funeral, I would have had a good excuse to say no, or just put in a minimal effort into today. But Jesus did not give his minimal effort for me, and it was infinitely more difficult for Him to do what He did, that what I was called upon to do. The result was exactly what God promises–that good comes out of evil–for a time I forgot my own grief and God used my tears to bring hope to others. Our circumstances do not dictate whether or not it is a time for the Good News. Any time, especially dark times, is the perfect time for the truth that there is Good News. Seems like that there’s a story in the Bible about the best news ever coming from a cemetery.
Well, it’s time to take my medicines, and hopefully sleep all night. Now that would be great! But if I don’t….God has this, and He has me! Good night, John Boy.
Well, good evening to all. I’m sure this journal has you sitting on the edge of your chair. Yeah, Right. Even I’m not that delusional. Well, today can you guess what we did? If you guessed that we sat in easy chairs watching TV, you will not make it to Final Jeopardy. More packing and today I moved my boxes of books and office stuff from the office into the garage here at home. Did some more packing here, and still throwing away. And now I’ve been told by the Boss Lady that I need to get more boxes.
Gee Whiz! How much stuff is there around here? Truthfully, I don’t want to know the answer. Oh, and I just ordered Direct TV to be installed a week from today. Man, I hope we have enough boxes unpacked in the rooms for the installation guy. And then there’s that other thing: a funeral message tomorrow morning. More tearful goodbyes. It was hard to say goodbye to the Tuesday Morning Prayer Warriors group, though they call themselves the Women’s Prayer Group, I know that are Prayer Warriors. I know they will continue praying for me and Debbie, because it’s in their DNA to pray. I’m thankful they keep us in their journals. Still, they had to give me their verbal assurance that they will keep praying for us.
I think this is about it. So what have I learned today? Honestly, this morning I was thinking to myself, “What other lessons could I learn than what I’ve already learned?” Well, that’s the danger of thinking TO yourself. I almost skipped class, but this evening, here is what I have learned:
Don’t talk to yourself. Talk to Dad, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. My shortcomings happen when I narrow the scope of who I talk to. Talking to myself, well that just doesn’t work.
Lose sight of yourself in order to lose sight of the stresses of life. Saturday afternoon we had visited with Wynette, the one whose funeral I am doing tomorrow. As I watched her struggle for breath, I had vivid images of 3 weeks ago when I watched my Mother struggle for her breath. I honestly thought the worst was behind me. Boy, was I wrong. But in preparing for tomorrow, sharing with family and friends today, I soon found my heartache being comforted by the Comforter. For a while, I forgot about my heartache as I focused my attention on their heartache–and I am being strengthened.
Goodbye Is NEVER easy because it’s not meant to be easy. Especially when it comes to those who care about you, and for whom you are about, too. I’ve been moving stuff to the curb I don’t want to move to Fayette, Alabama. But my friends? I’ve carried them in my heart and I will continue to carry them in my heart. That is one thing the movers can’t charge us for. I can take stuff to the thrift store and stuff to the curb. But I cannot let go of those relationships that we have built over the past 4 years. Honestly, I don’t want to let go of them and I won’t.
There is still a little bit of bitterness in my heart. I was talking with a very good friend and someone in my Band of Brothers, who wasn’t happy with me moving. I felt it again–my bitterness. It wasn’t a lot, but it is still bitterness that will grow if something doesn’t happen. Only the presence and power of God–and His Grace–through the Holy Spirit’s work, will ever get rid of it all. I’m counting on Him and I must not forget that not even the smallest root can remain in my heart.
OK, Day 3 is in the books. In 4 more days the moving company will arrive to pick up our belongings. Then, on Monday afternoon we will meet them again at our new home. I guess you could say this is entering “crunch time”. At least it feels this way. Here was my day.
At about 5:30 a.m. I boxed up some more of my stuff in the garage. Now it’s trying to figure out which box will work without any wasted space. Back to the office to finish all the filing and paperwork. Filing and sorting was something I was going to get to, eventually. But it is evident I never got around to it. So now it’s sorting through documents; filing them chronologically–something that wasn’t done before I arrived, but it will be done before I leaven. I began preparing notes for my successor of things, people and situations he should be aware of in the beginning–again, something I wasn’t given much of upon my arrival. I’m finding duplicate documents so I am properly disposing of them.
I arrive at home and after supper, it back to “seek and ye shall find” the right size box. I’m finding some more “stuff” that I was going to do something with eventually. Now it’s at the curb for curb shoppers and the street department to pick up on Thursday. I need to get everything out to the curb by Wednesday night so that my successor will arrive without “stuff” stacked by the curb. And now, I am writing. So, what lessons have I learned today? To the casual observer, it might not seem like much, or worth mentioning. But I have come to realize that the greatest bits of wisdom most often come from lessons learned; even the smallest lesson.
First, I learned that organizing is essential for the long run. I mean, by putting things that will go together in the same space at the new home will make the unpacking go much quicker; not that it’s all that quick. But if I put things from 3 different spaces in just one box, I will be spending more time going between spaces that putting those things up. Forward thinking is either an art that is being lost in people and churches; or it is a skill that is about to become lost upon the general population; or it is a gift that no one wants anymore.
Second, I learned that I need to quite practicing the art of procrastination. There you have it, the one thing that keeps me from being perfect. I know I just heard someone I know who is reading this fall to the floor laughing. One of my constant struggles is putting off until next week what I should have done yesterday. I gotta work on this problem with better results.
Third, there are still things to be done here before I leave. One thing I started doing today that I haven’t mentioned is I’ve been praying, listening and thinking of what to say at our friend’s funeral on Wednesday morning. Another thing I did not mention is that I’ve been working with our financial manager and volunteer accountant on an accurate financial statement. This church has been using a system that had 2 not so slight issues–it never balanced with the bank statements and it never balanced at the end of the year. I made a commitment that the financial picture would be clear as a bell before I left. And after today, I believe it is.
Fourth, I need to be thinking about our next place of Kingdom work. About midway through the day I realized I have not been praying nor thinking about our new appointment. I had not been taking time to listen to the Holy Spirit who I believe is guiding us to these 2 wonderful communities of Jesus followers. Even in crunch time I need to also be thinking about the most immediate future of next week.