411

God’s Word will give us the tools, skills, and wisdom to process all that IMFORMATION in the way that builds us up, and keeps us from falling apart.

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Does one have to be “my” age to know about 411? Hopefully not. For readers not familiar with it, it is the number one would call to contact the phone company if you needed information about someone’s phone number. I think it’s still around. If it’s a business, I just use Google. What does this have to do with today’s musings? I am so glad you asked.

We all need to be INFORMED. The issue is, who or what is INFORMING you? I came across this recently:

People want to be INFORMED–but alas, they make one of these mistakes; or both. They get their INFORMATION from the wrong places. Or, they process that INFORMATION the wrong way. There are three ways for processing INFORMATION from any and every source.

One way is to rely on how we feel about the information. Gee whiz! What the what? Blech! Arghhhh! Hmph! Oy, oy, oy! Tsk-tsk! It makes my head ache when people use feelings to process INFORMATION. Feelings fluctuate like a politician’s views. It’s like trying to erect a vertical wall without using a plumb. Oh, my, the chaos in the United Methodist Church should be enough to show the imbecility of this approach. In spite of the fact that their feelings continue to undermine the church, they persist with the ferocity not seen in even the animal kingdom. Feelings change more in a day than weather does in a typical Alabama day.

Another way is to accept what THEY say. OMG! Jeeezus Christ! This is doltishness and stupefaction to the Nth degree! Or as Buzz Lightyear would say:

Who, in the name of all that’s sane, is THEY? You’ve heard it, may even said it: They say blah, blah, blah. . . .” It may be the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the Libertarian party or some institute of alleged (but not proven to be) institute of higher learning. Or it may be some Instagram Idiot, or Twitter Twit, or Facebook Fatuity, or maybe some YouTube Boob. Often times they are anonymously unknown. Absorbing the views of they is like drinking a glass of water dipped right out of Love Canal. No thank you!!!!!

If the first two ways are exasperating and rankle your sensibilities, then maybe this will help–more than MAYBE–it WILL help. Turn to the Truth of The Bible. Not someone else’s explanations about The Bible–just The Bible itself. What some people say about The Bible–well–it sometimes verges on, and other times go beyond the obtuse. Oh, it may take some time–it may even take a lot of time–but God’s Word is both relevant and reliable.

When it comes to processing INFORMATION, you can rely on The Bible. Our world is filled with all kinds of alleged truth. God’s Word will give us the tools, skills, and wisdom to process all that IMFORMATION in the way that builds us up, and keeps us from falling apart.

Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.

(2 Timothy 3:16; The Message)

It’s Right There In The Bible! NOT! Part 7

If one cannot trust The Bible to identify sin, then they cannot trust The Bible at all

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This will be the last in the series of blogs. And in my humble opinion, here is the greatest heresy of all that some believe is in The Bible, but it’s NOT!

All God Expects Of Us Is To Love Like Jesus!

This is the creed and mantra from those who self-identify as progressives. I have a difficult time calling it a theology, because Truth has been completely ignored–even erased. Those who have been deceived by this lie freely quote all the passages that talk about love–and ignore the rest. They love to even quote a “bit” of Jesus: “Neither do I condemn you.”

They insist–scratch that! The DEMAND we see this their way–or else we are mean, ugly, dumb, hateful, homophobic, despiteful, heinous, odious, vicious, and vile creatures. To focus on LOVE and ignore TRUTH is a train wreck about to happen. Yes, sometimes Truth hurts–but living Lie? This hurts beyond our wildest imaginations.

They want us to think the the death of Jesus opens the way for us to think for ourselves about what is right and what is wrong. If we love like Jesus, then what once was immoral–instantly becomes moral. I just came across this in my research for today blog. It’s another blog called Jesus Without The Baggage by Peter Enns. In one blog he writes: “The essence of what we call ‘sin’ is not breaking God’s rules (that is Law–legalism); it is the way we treat each other causing pain, alienation, and all the other words mentioned at the beginning of this article.” For Mr. Enns, there is no such thing as “Original Sin”.

However, here is what Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-19 (NLT)–“17 Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

And let’s not forget good old Peter. He wrote affirming the standard of God’s holiness is to be our standard in 1 Peter 1:15 (NLT)–But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. If one cannot trust The Bible to identify sin, then they cannot trust The Bible at all! Love doesn’t mean we “gotta” obey God–it means we “get to” obey God. Yes, sin does still exist–and we are not qualified nor capable of defining sin.

It’s Right There In The Bible! NOT! Part 6

God doesn’t “punish” us–through disasters. The punishment is that we reap what we sow–we call it CONSEQUENCES.

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I struggled this morning–not for a lack of ideas in this series–I have more than enough ideas. No, I struggled for what I should write–more of What’s Not In The Bible or Hurricane Ida. I firmly believe that The Bible has something valuable to say about every thing that happens on this third rock from the sun. At first, I thought I was going to interrupt this series, but this I remembered something I’ve often heard people say was in The Bible:

It’s God Punishing Our Nation!

Be it floods, tornadoes, wildfires, or hurricanes–it seems to me that many believe that God is punishing the U.S. of A.

Now, if God was even interested in establishing a “Christian nation”–then it might be possible. But Jesus didn’t come to proclaim the Good News Of A Nation–rather it is The Good News Of The Kingdom! I know my friends who believe this will respond by saying, “The why did God punish the nation of Israel in the Old Testament?” Glad you asked. God established Israel for the express purpose of revealing God to ALL nations–and for one of Abraham’s descendent (that’s Jesus) to open the way for all people to have a relationship with Him! Remember, that when Jesus came in our human form, the Religious Folks were looking for The Messiah to establish a “nation” that no one would mess with. Thus, they failed to recognize the True Messiah.

And there’s a Biblical Reason why Hurricane Ida (and its ilk) is NOT the punishment of God for us not being that illusionary “Christian Nation” that God wants. The reality is there are several Biblical Reasons why disasters aren’t God’s punishments. For the sake of time, I will quickly share two. Here’s the first, and it’s a biggie:

4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down.  And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.  He was beaten so we could be whole.  He was whipped so we could be healed. 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.  We have left God’s paths to follow our own.  Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6 (NLT)

Either Jesus carried our punishment, all of it, or He didn’t. If these disasters are God’s punishment, then apparently, someone forgot to put all of our sins on Jesus! Nope, don’t think that happened! And here’s another reason of many why it just ain’t so:

“O God, declare them guilty. Let them be caught in their own traps. Drive them away because of their many sins, for they have rebelled against You.” (Psalm 5:10, New Living Translation)

Notice the underlined part: Let them be caught in their own traps. That’s what sin does–it traps us in our own traps. Paul Young, author of The Shack, wrote: “Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside.” And if you need a New Testament verse to verify it (as if the two Testaments somehow contradict each other), try this on for size:

7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.
(Galatians 6:7-8 NLT)

We bring the punishment of sin upon ourselves–through our choices and our designs. God doesn’t “punish” us–through disasters. The punishment is that we reap what we sow–we call it CONSEQUENCES. Every day–with each choice and decision–determines our eternal outcome.

Do the survivors of disasters really need to be told, “Look, it’s God’s punishment on our nation!” But what about those who are faithfully living this life of grace? Does God inflict collateral damage, cause victims of fratricidal? What about those who were on the verge of surrendering their life to Jesus? Would they want to serve a god who creates hurricanes?

If you want to do something in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, do something constructive. Help them! The best way to help them is with “Green”–not environmental green–money! But give wisely. Find an organization where your donations go to the survivors, not those sitting behind a desk. My favorite organization is UMCOR. I know how they use their funds; I have overseen several grants in our area. To donate online–click here!

And PLEASE, PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE–DON’T SEND USED CLOTHES! (this also includes your yard sale leftovers!) I served at a distribution center in Waveland, Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We built our own levy with used clothes around our center. In the aftermath of disasters, there is neither the time nor people to sort through used clothing.

For now, pray for the survivors. And if you want to do some hands-on work, wait until the local authorities say it’s both safe and OK for you to go in. Ida wasn’t God’s punished on America. America is punishing itself right now. No, it’s the result of living in the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s choice, and our own choices.

It’s Right There In The Bible! NOT! Part 5

Here is one of the most challenging things that simply are not in the Bible. You may want to don your Personal Protection Equipment for this one:

God wants me to forgive others, but He doesn’t expect me to forget it.

See, I told you this was the most difficult one–and it’s one that I struggle with perhaps the most. It definitely falls into the category of “Things I wish was not in The Bible!” One of our justifications for believing this is that God gave us the ability to remember, so surely He doesn’t expect us to forget when someone wounds us. But then, there’s this Text that fits my definition of “Things I wish was not in The Bible!”

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)

And how does God forgive us? Just look at Jeremiah 31:34 to see: “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” Tough and hard, isn’t it? So we come to another justification to alleviate our duty and responsibility: “He’s God and I’m not! God can forget, but I just can’t!” Granted, we cannot just forget–a truth I was painfully reminded of last week when an old wound opened up.

But there is a way to forgive and forget. It’s in how we treat the memory of the wound. Let me tell your a true story–a short one. I was only 6 years old when my Papa Burbank died. I was sad when it happened. But when I remember “Papa Banks” (that’s what I called him), the memory is me with him in his blacksmith shop. I remember him turning the bellows handle–the coals getting hotter–and the smell of that coal and coke. I not only smell it, I can taste it. Remembering him doesn’t make me sad, it makes me smile.

My point is, it’s not in the forgetting but in how we respond to the memory. When we remember how someone wounded us, we choose how we respond to that memory. We can either open that wound back up and feel the heat–and like I watched in Papa Bank’s smithy shop–the let all that resentment and bitterness grow and glow hotter. OR–we can respond by remembering how God has forgiven us.

We choose how we respond to our memories. It’s about maturing to the point when we remember the wound–but without the pain. It’s about releasing our pains to the One who was pained by us as He hung upon that Cross. It’s not easy to get to this point–trust me; I still struggle. Not easy–but it is possible. It will happen as we allow God to work ON us and IN us. We’re not the finished product–yet. But as we learn to think more like Jesus and less like us–we arrive at the point where we have forgiven them just like God has forgiven us–when we choose to release that pain. And God does expect us to release that pain. OUCH!

It’s Right There In The Bible! NOT! Part 3

Well, here I go with yet another one of those incongruous and cacophonous things some people believe are in the Bible. Today’s episode is:

The Lord Helps Those Who Help Themselves!

Now, I do agree that way too many people live out their paltry and pathetic lives as if there are no consequences for their decisions, choices and actions. Way too many are waiting for a free lunch that isn’t going to be delivered. Heck, there’s no one even in the kitchen cooking that free lunch. And The Bible is clear that whatever kind of seeds we plant, THAT is going to be the crop we produce. But this? The Lord helps those who help themselves? That’s a train of thought that derailed at the station! This kind of thinking isn’t a train without a caboose (this analogy goes back to the days when trains had a caboose)–it’s a train without an engine! It doesn’t get us anywhere!

It’s preposterous and maniacal to think that God is waiting for us to do something to help ourselves before He is willing to lift a finger to help us. It only makes sense to those who live in the futility of believing that we, broken and messed-up human beings are au fait when it comes to fixing the messes we create. Do you want the truth about the human (in)ability to help ourselves?

SPOILER ALERT! We cannot help ourselves. Our best efforts are always tainted by our sinful and fallen nature. Here’s the Truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! It takes the Grace of God to help us, period! God doesn’t give His Grace to those who are trying–and certainly not to those who think they deserve His Grace. If we deserve Grace, then it’s no longer Grace. It’s payment for our efforts. Do you want a Bible Verse to prove it, and thus make me “Biblical” in this assertion? OK, buckaroo, you got it!

The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.

Romans 8:3 (NLT)

So, quit tell others that if they want their lives to change, they have to help themselves first before God will help them. And if you still believe this anathema and abomination–all I can say is: God help you! Please God, help them!

It’s Right There In The Bible! NOT! Part 2

If you don’t like them, you can’t love them.

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Loopholes! Admit it, we all look for them. Whether it is in a legal contract, or tax laws, and even in The Bible. Loopholes relieve us of something we should do, but don’t want to. And the best part of loopholes is that we rest easy at night thinking we are justified. And here is one of the oft used loopholes by those who self identify as Christians:

I love them but The Bible doesn’t say I have to like them!

I wonder if God looks like this when people say this? Well guess what, buttercup? That’s not in The Bible. To those who hold tightly onto this loophole, it may hurt your brain–but think about it. Now, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, as a verb the word like means “to feel attraction toward or take pleasure in; enjoy”.

Now if you don’t like someone, it means that you dislike them. And what do you suppose the word dislike means? It means “to regard with displeasure, antipathy, or aversion”. Look at that word antipathy! It means “an instinctive contradiction or opposition in feeling”. Catch it? CONTRADICTION! When you say, “I love them but I don’t like them” you are contradicting yourself. And it certainly doesn’t look like the kind of Love that Jesus modeled, and expects us to do.

Here is what The Bible says about Love: “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.” (Romans 12:9) And please, please, please, notice that Paul said hate WHAT is wrong–not WHO IS WRONG! What is a THING and not a PERSON! If you don’t like someone, this means you have an aversion towards them. And God doesn’t have an aversion towards any person.

To say you love someone but just don’t like them and think it’s OK because The Bible doesn’t say you must like them–my response to you is: Negatory! Nope! Absolutely not! No way! Not at all! Nay! Never! And in the words of the immortal philosopher Barney Fife: Andy, you gotta nip it! Nip it in the bud!

And hear the conclusion about this loophole:

If you don’t like them, you can’t love them.

Some Parts Are Missing

And if you want Life–I mean Real Life–I mean Life To The Max–look to Jesus. He’s been there all along!

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Image from Omni Containment Systems

Three of the most dreaded words to read are: “Some Assembly Required”. Maybe that’s just the “man” in me–you know–“Who reads the instructions? Real men don’t need instructions!” But have you ever tried to put something together and near the end find out that some parts are missing (or lost)? Frustrating, isn’t it!

Several years ago my fabulous wife purchased me a Smoker. I couldn’t wait to put it together and try it out! Well, I removed all the parts, found that useless Instruction Manuel, but something was missing! The nuts and bolts required to assemble it. I called myself looking, still no nuts and bolts. I started to return it to the store, but that useless Instruction Manual caught my attention. It said, and I quote: “If any part(s) are missing contact customer service. Do not take it back to the retailer.” So I called and in just a couple of days the nuts and bolts arrived. And I assembled it; mind you, without the Instruction Manual because that’s what real men do!

It was a work of beautiful art when I finished it. I began cleaning up all that cardboard and packing materials and something hard hit the patio floor. Can you guess what it was? Yep! The nuts and bolts. In defiance of my most diligent search, right there they were; plain as day! But how could that be? I rummaged through all that packing material and I knew they weren’t there. Put me on a lie detector machine and I would have passed it with flying colors! So, how could they have been there all along? There must be somebody to blame! They snuck in when I wasn’t looking, carefully cut the packing tape, found those nuts and bolts, and sealed the box back. Yes, that’s what must have happened! I mean, it’s impossible for me to have missed something! Isn’t it?

No it’s not impossible! And it’s not impossible to miss the presence of God. It happens with regularity to the best of us. It happens as we get more busy with things than with life. It happens as we live life haphazardly–with no real focus. It happens when, as in my case, we think we are right–but we are wrong, oh, so wrong! It happens when we look only at the surface of Scriptures without taking that deep dive where the Treasure often lies.

Following Jesus isn’t always easy–but it is really simple. So simple, that many often miss out on Real Life. We let the wrappings and “packing materials” get in the way, and like I thought about those nuts and bolts, we believe the lie that God is holding out on us. The truth is, Life has been there all along–we just didn’t look deep enough. Learn from my mistake (no, not ignoring the Instruction Manual)–take a deep breath, and look through everything. And if you want Life–I mean Real Life–I mean Life To The Max–look to Jesus. He’s been there all along!

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.

2 Corinthians 1:20 (NLT)

The Americanization Of The Gospel

Let’s stop trying to “make” this a Christian nation and instead BECOME the nation God has called us to be.

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 This is from an older post. When I started blogging I made a promise to myself to never re-post a blog because I wanted my material to always be fresh. Well, early this morning, The Spirit asked me, “Would you like salt and pepper for eating crow?” Needless to say, this morning’s post was from a few years ago, August 3, 2016. I’ve updated some personal references and edited some of my typical errors, a.k.a. typographical errors. It just seems that this is the Word God wants me to share this morning. It seems that Solomon was right, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

   Before I begin sharing my heart I must, in all honesty, begin with a warning and a disclaimer.  The warning is that due to the mature subject matter, some may find this offensive, even to the point of labeling me something I am not.  The disclaimer is that I am NOT being unpatriotic.  I fly our country’s flag at our home.  I stand at attention with my hand over my heart when the national anthem is being played.  I am very patriotic for many reasons–I appreciate the many freedoms we enjoy and I have a son and son-in-law who are combat veterans. Since this was first published my son, Matthew has retired from the military (and now serving in law enforcement). My son in law, Michael, continues to serve in defense of our wonderful nation.  I am very proud of Matthew and Michael and every day I pray they will never have to go back into harm’s way.  With this being said, I want to share something with you that has been troubling my heart and mind.

     I am acutely troubled by the emotional climate that exists in our nation in this current election cycle.  I am seeing and hearing a lot of conversations that are soaked with frustrations, anger and fear, especially around this current Presidential election.  My deepest concerns are the words I see and hear from the “Christian” community.  Many of my friends are saying that this is THE sign that Jesus is about to return because the wrong person was elected.  Others are saying that America is doomed.

     I am left wondering, “Why so much concern about who sits in the chair behind that desk in the Oval Office?  Why does that thought create such anger or even fear?”  Regardless of who sits there, God is still God.  He is still sovereign.  He is still in control.  The waves and the winds still know and obey the voice of Jesus.  In a message series it was something I said that inspired this blog.  It came from a series based on Ecclesiastes, that book where Solomon shares all the things he tried to find a life with meaningful purpose that would give us that deep and abiding peace with joy.  Of the many things Solomon tried one was the political process.  He described putting our hope on the political process was like “chasing the wind.”  During that message, here is what I said:  “The hope for the United States is not about who sits in the chair behind the desk of the oval office, but rules on the throne of your own heart.”

     I listen with all respect to the passion of the many voices who spend their time and energy on their desire for the United States to become once again a Christian nation.  There seems to be a lot of passion and energy as well as fear being expended in this idea that God, and thus the Gospel, wants us to create a Christian nation.  Now comes the offensive part so brace yourselves for you have been warned.  Jesus never asked us to follow Him in order to set upon this earth a Christian nation.  God hasn’t called us or anyone to create a Christian nation.

     If you, the reader, are among the many here in the United States that sincerely believe that God wants us to create and maintain this Christian nation and are now offended (and maybe even labeled me a heretical liberal), I have one word for you:  Good!  About six and a half ago years God turned my theology and understanding about the collective gathering we call the church on its ear.  Well, actually He helped me move from upside down to right side up, by reminding me the work of the collective body called the church is not about what we call church work, but Kingdom Work.

     Out of this has God has brought me back to a familiar verse from which directs my thoughts and words in this blog, and why I do not think God wants us to be so adamant about this being a Christian nation.  It is from 1 Peter 2:9-10 and I want to share it from both the New Living Translation and from the Message:

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people.  You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.  As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.  “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people.  Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”

New Living Translation

 But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.

The Message

   The call of God is about more than a piece of real estate.  Notice Peter’s carefully selected word:  YOU!  We, who have been called out by God only because of His grace and mercy, are to be royal priests that are to be collectively formed, under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, to be this holy nation.  It is just like the church.  We never, ever go to church if we are doing it right.  WE are the church, not a piece of real estate.  The real church never has a single address, nor does it exist within multiple campuses.

     The church exists wherever you happen to be at that moment, that is, if you are have some clarity about the nature of the church.  And within our collective body our work is to be Kingdom Work.  Kingdom Work is about restoring people to what Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert describe in the book When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . . and Yourself as the 4 key relationships God intended in creation for us.  They describe these 4 key relationships as relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation.  Poverty exists when 1 or more of these relationships are broken.

     One way that I see that we have Americanized the Gospel is in how we define and treat poverty.  In their book, Corbett and Fikkert point out because of our American bias, we define poverty as the lack of material substance.  So we treat poverty with material substance.  And be honest, how has this worked out?  IF poverty is the lack of material substance (which it’s NOT), then we should have solved the problem a long time ago.  Instead of solving the problem, people continue to live in broken relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation.  Even we who call ourselves Christians experience poverty in one or more of these relationships.

     The Work of God’s Kingdom ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve has been to restore His most loved part of creation to those 4 key relationships.  It is in these 4 relationships that we reflect His nature, His heart, and His glory.  And it is within these key relationships that we begin to live out our created design and purpose.  And here is where I believe that we “American” Christians have forgotten something that should never be forgotten.  I am convinced that much of our dysfunction as a nation (notice I did not say “Christian Nation”) is that we have chosen to ignore this absolute truth.

     God calls us to proclaim the Kingdom right smack dab in the middle of the Enemy’s Kingdom.  Albeit the kingdom of Satan is temporary, still at this time he rules it.  Do you remember what Jesus said to Pilate when questioned about being a King?

Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom.  If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36 NLT)

     If Jesus wasn’t interested in establishing an earthly kingdom, meaning “a nation”, then why are so many of us obsessed with having one in the United States?  Here is my thought:  We have forgotten that God has placed us in the middle of enemy territory for the purpose of spiritual warfare (and remember this warfare isn’t against people, corporations or governments, but the Evil one) to reclaim those whom God created in HIS image, but have been disfigured with the image of the Enemy.  I’m sitting here wondering if Christians in places like Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia, and a host of other nations ruled by petty despots, are wondering, “Why are those Americans so up in arms about that election?  Every day we live under the threat of imprisonment and death and it hasn’t slowed the Kingdom down one little bit.  Truth is, God’s Kingdom is growing here but declining there.”

     I want to challenge you stop insisting that our job as Disciples of Jesus Christ is to make sure this great nation with so many wonderful freedoms turn back to becoming a Christian nation.  You may think I am dishonoring our Founding Fathers and their desire and intent.  Are you aware that some of our Founding Fathers were Deists?  Deists believe in a divine creator but not in the Trinitarian God.  Though they rejected the idea of Jesus, they understood the importance of freedom of thought, speech, and yes, religion.

     Let’s stop trying to “make” this a Christian nation and instead BECOME the nation God has called us to be.  A nation that exists, not on real estate, but a PEOPLE who faithfully live out as His priests, Royal Priests!  Forget Republican or Democrat priests–let’s be Royal Priests who serve not a political ideology or party or even flag, but The King of all Kings!  Would you love to see a culture shift in the United States?  A culture shift that moves away from political ideologies, from greed and selfishness, from that sense of entitlement, and from the idea that as Disciples of Jesus we are supposed to establish a “Christian” nation?  Then remember where your citizenship lies and under whose command you serve.

     Stop freaking out about Donald and Joe and instead focus on your own brokenness in the 4 Key Relationships–God, self, others and the rest of creation.  And then step into the Territory of the Enemy and share your brokenness with others who are broken and say to them, “Let’s walk together out of our brokenness towards the only One who can restore us to who we truly are.”  Don’t worry about the nation–BE the Nation of people called out by God to walk through the Enemy’s territory with the light of His love, grace and mercy.  I was reading the other day but unfortunately I did not write down the source of it, but here are my closing words:  95% of Christians pass the test of adversity but 95% of Christians fail the test of prosperity.

Sometimes They Got It Wrong, So Do We; And That’s A Problem!

Humans, even those in the Bible, sometimes gets it wrong–But God Never Does!

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There is a crisis in our culture. Duh! The cause of this crisis? Well, that’s where things get dicey and heated. I may loose a few “followers” (that’s OK, just keep following Jesus) with the next few thoughts; but I believe I have uncovered the roots of this present crisis. To overcome a crisis one cannot deal with the surface issues but get to the root cause. Failure to get to the roots is like breaking off a dandelion on the surface but never extracting its roots. The dandelion will come back and bring all its cousins.

We read the Bible through a set of lenses provided by opinions–both our own and those of others. The result is we do not see Truth. We accept that it is true, but we never Discover THE Truth. And the results of such a view is. . . chaos, discord, disarray, turmoil, pandemonium, and anarchy. People are muddling through life angry, disappointed, unruly, distressed, disillusioned, disgruntled and add your own synonym here. So how do we unsnarl this mess of yarn? See the Bible for what it truly is; not what we think it is!

The Bible is a book full of human stories. Each story is unique; each story is the same. In these very human stories we find people who sometimes get it right–the rest of the time they get it wrong. But we read it is as though they were perfect saints issuing to us perfect edicts. But sometimes they got it wrong.

Abraham and Sarah got it wrong when they came up with their plan.

Moses got it wrong when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it.

David got it wrong when–where do I begin with this guy.

Solomon got it wrong when he tried to find the purpose of life outside of God (See Ecclesiastes). Just a small sampling from the Old Testament.

Even in the New Testament, some got it wrong; I’m not talking about Judas or Peter’s denials. Yes, even Paul got it wrong sometimes. Now that I’ve raised the hair on your neck with such a statement, I’ll show you some examples (This is where I may lose some followers, but I’m OK with that because I’m a “Follower” of Jesus) where Paul got it wrong. Paul, who had been the champion of the Gentiles and insisting they did not have to be circumcised, had Timothy circumcised. Paul who claimed citizenship in the Kingdom of God, played his “Roman Citizenship Card” in Philippi and insisted on an apology from the city officials. In Athens, at the Acropolis he preached without ever mentioning the name of Jesus. Enough about Paul’s getting it wrong.

Now, I am not revealing these character flaws to diminish their accomplishments; truth is, I find hope in their flaws because if God used them in spite of those flaws, He can use me. No, my purpose is to make this point:

Humans, even those in the Bible, sometimes gets it wrong–But God Never Does!

The stories of those “saints” in the Bible are that, stories; stories that reveals their ups and their downs. But they also reveal the faithfulness of God who never gave up on them.

Progressives want to take the fact these “saints” were sometimes wrong, so there must be other places where the Bible is wrong. Thus, we are free to figure out, on our own (boy, is this a disaster waiting to happen!) where else the Bible is wrong; especially in the realms of the role of women in the church, drinking, marriage, divorce, the meaning of church, politics, nationalism, and sexual ethics, just to name a few.

We need to see The Bible for what it really is: Stories of flawed human beings in the process of being restored by the Flawless God. There are things in the Bible that humans said that are sometimes Truth; and sometimes flawed. BUT. . . whatever God says is NEVER flawed. Look at the example of the Bereans in Acts chapter 17. They looked, studied, talked and did all that again and again. And Luke called the “Noble People”. Man, do we need some Noble People today!

Think about the California Gold Rush; how many people walked by looking in those streams but never saw that there was gold just lying there waiting to be discovered. It was there all along but you needed to work to get it; sifting through all the other “stuff” to get those nuggets. Now, more than ever we need to become Bereans and Gold Prospectors who will take the time and energy to sift through the “stuff” to find the nuggets of Truth. And that Truth will not be found through the eyes of others nor even through our own eyes.

We need the Holy Spirit to help us “see” the difference between the human flaws and His Eternal And Unchanging Truth! There are standards God has clearly given; but we may never see them using the wrong lens. But we can find The Truth even in the middle of this muddle of 21st Century Culture. This is possible if we commit to the effort through our time and energy under the direction and authority of the Holy Spirit to “pan for the gold” that is always there.

If I have made someone mad with this post, oh well. But. . .if this post is prompting and prodding you to open that Bible in a new light, with different “eyes”. . .you’re welcome.

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

The Missing Word Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and were constantly united in prayer

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

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

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

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

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

The Gethsemane Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In what ways are you suffering for Jesus?

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

A Potato Theology–We Need It Today

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It hit me late yesterday afternoon.  We had been to our family doctor for check-ups, blood work, renewing prescriptions, flu shots, oh, a taking a slice of a mole on my shoulder for a biopsy.  That last part wasn’t part of the plan.  But perhaps it was that last one that led me to these thoughts:  The Church Today Needs A Potato Theology.  Are you scratching your head now, wondering where this left-handed maniac is headed?  I know I’m thinking that, so stay with me a moment.

The nurse practitioner isn’t expecting anything bad from the biopsy of that mole.  But…but to be sure she needed to get beneath the surface to know for certain.  Then I started thinking about potatoes.  Growing up with a Dad who loved to garden, I clearly remember that sometimes he planted potatoes.  Most of the other fruits and vegetables he grew could be seen.  But potatoes–all one could see is the plant.  And they didn’t look like the french fries I so dearly loved.  Oh, and the mashed potatoes.  Before I could savor those flavors, I had to wait…wait until what was beneath the surface could be brought up.  And it is now what I realize the Holy Spirit is trying to teach me.

The Bible is a lot like the simple potato.  What we need and long for isn’t found at the surface, you have to dig down into it.  It’s what I’m calling a “Potato Theology”–a theology that goes beyond the surface, and to the heart.  Now, I know some, actually a lot of folks who openly say, “I’m not a theologian, I’m a Christian!”  And they wonder why the church is suffering such great losses.  Look at that word:  Theology.  It comes from 2 Greek words:  Theos which means “God” and Logia which means “to reason or to study.”  Theology is to study and think about God.  To say you are not into theology or being a theologian means you are not into studying about God.

A Christian who claims they are not a theologian is saying “I’m not a thinking Christian.”  Such an attitude fails to fully love God.  Isn’t the greatest commandment to love God with all your heart, MIND, soul and strength (Mark 12:30)?  The place, the best place, the foundation place to study about God is the Bible.  But many, way too many, read only the surface words.  And the result is that though they deny they have a theology, they do have one, and a poor one at that.

For example, many people believe that divorce disqualifies one from being a pastor and quote Titus 1:6 as their proof.  That phrase “husband of one wife” in the Greek is ane mia gyne.  It literally means “be faithful to the woman”.  The Greek word for divorce is apolyo.  Not present in Titus 1:6.  Then there’s all those who quote from the Old Testament without understanding what is being said.  Some use Leviticus to back up their point without discerning the different kinds of laws God gave the Hebrews.  Some were moral laws while others were health laws.  Unless one studies deeply they can mistake health laws needed to protect the population from sickness and disease, and consider them moral laws.  For example, pork and shell-fish back then could contain all kinds of deadly bacteria.  They didn’t know anything about bacteria, so God tells them not to eat those items.  But today, we have health codes to protect us from those deadly bacteria.

It’s not always easy to discern what the Bible says.  But because it’s not easy, doesn’t mean it is impossible.  Use good resources to explore deeper.  And thanks to this varmint called the internet, you don’t have to pay for tons of books or spend time in your local library.  All I’m saying is that just as the best part of the potato lies beneath the surface, the best parts of the Bible are beneath the surface words.

Words cannot contain the wisdom of eternity, so we need more.  We need the Holy Spirit to guide us through this awesome and powerful book.  Take the time to go beyond the surface, beyond what others have said a passage means.  Discover it for yourself.  It’s not what’s on the surface we need most of all, but the Truth that lives deeply within these words.  Without that deep dive into scriptures, we will reduce the Good News of The Kingdom to a list of rules, a list of “do this” and “don’t do that”, which results in a lot more “don’t do that”.  Thus, a disciple of Jesus is reduced to what they don’t do, rather than the Holy Spirit that lives in them.

In short, we need to quit judging people based on what’s on their surface.  Body piercings, tattoos, designer suits, how they fix their hair, wearing jewelry–all on the surface.  Even Jesus made the point in Matthew 15 that it’s not the external that matters, but the internal.  And when God went searching for a king to replace Saul, He looked deeper than surface appearances, He searched for a king who would share His own heart.

So, you see, we do need that POTATO THEOLOGY, one that looks beyond what’s one the surface.  Let’s all dig deeper, it’s where the really good stuff is…..

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him….and get that shovel out and start digging, thar’s gold in them thar’ hills! 

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