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.
That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”
1 Kings, chapter 3, verse 5; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
What do you want? Powerful question, isn’t it? When someone asks that question we may think of something we want, but usually that person can’t give it to us. Like the winning lottery numbers. Now that would be something great to receive. But what if there was someone who had the power and authority to grant you that one wish? Now think deeply about it. What would you want? What you want says everything there is to say about your heart and mind; your priorities; and the ultimate destiny of your soul.
What if I told you there is Someone who had that power and authority to give you whatever it is that you want? Let me tell you a true story. Once there was this very young man, barely out of his teens, who was made King of the strongest nation at that time. His Dad, though he had some issues, was a very good King; was even called a man after God’s own heart. Now he has the reigns of that same nation. Quite a daunting task, wouldn’t you say? At least, he thought so. His name was Solomon.
One day he goes to Gibeon, one of the sacred sites in the nation, and sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings to God. Why? Apparently he felt inadequate for the task at hand. (Read the whole story in 1 Kings chapter 3) So he did what seemed appropriate–he sought out God for help. That night, in a dream, God did something that some might think ridiculous! He told Solomon, “I will grant you one wish. Name it and it’s yours!” All I can say is WOW! Talk about taking risks! But God was willing–all because He knew Solomon’s heart. And what exactly did Solomon want?
Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of Yours?
1 Kings, chapter 3, verse 9; NLT; (emphasis mine)
And because God keeps His Word, He gave him that wisdom; and a whole lot more. Why would God give Solomon a blank check and ask him to fill in the amount? Because He knew what was in Solomon’s heart. Remember the last line in the first paragraph? In case you don’t, here it is again: What you want says everything there is to say about your heart and mind; your priorities; and the ultimate destiny of your soul. The goal of Sanctification is to want everything that God wants, and thus, to become everything that God wants of your life.
How you answer that question–says everything about you. Some of my former Tribal members simply want out of the United Methodist Church. That’s all. And wanting just that is robbing them of all the other things God has to offer us. If Solomon had asked for wealth–he would have received it. If he had asked for peace with the other nations–he would have received it. If he had asked for military might–he would have received it. If he sought political power–then that’s exactly what he would have received. But that’s all he would have received!
But. . .BUT because he sought (and I will use his own words) an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong, he received a whole lot more. So, tell me this: What do you want? And be careful how you answer this question because it’s not yours truly asking the question; God is asking the question. It’s not just a once in a lifetime question He asks. It’s that every moment of every day question. So, I’ll say it just one more time for your benefit: What you want says everything there is to say about your heart and mind; your priorities; and the ultimate destiny of your soul.
For my fellow United Methodists, I don’t have to tell you we are nothing but The Denominational version of the Titanic. If you are a United Methodist and don’t know what I’m talking about, “SHAME ON YOU! GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE SAND!” Why? Because this problem isn’t going away. And we cannot remain true to our Wesleyan heritage as long as This Problem exists. They (meaning Progressives, or as I prefer to call them, ‘ProAgressives’) want–nay DESIRE–nay again–they are DETERMINED to throw out the Bible and our Orthodox faith like yesterday’s trash. They “know” more than what The Bible clearly says–and for more than the Saints who sought and fought to preserve the Orthodox Faith. In case you may not be familiar with the word Orthodox (because it is a big word like mahogany), perhaps these synonyms will help you understand it better.
Three of them in particular fit the bill to understand what I mean by the Orthodox Faith: authoritative, buttoned down, and by the numbers! But. . . there are those in this Tribe I have been a part of for over 66 years who are convinced (or should I say deceived) that the tried and proven truth about sexual ethic of the Bible is. . .well. . .just plain wrong. Jesus was all about the love, they claim. And they claim that only 2 genders, male and female, are way too restrictive for people to really be who they are. So, they’ve added 72 additional gender designations. Forget the science, forget the biology, and forget Genesis chapter 2. And forget how our stance on sexuality has been unchanged since 1972. It states that all people stand equally in need of God’s grace. However, the practice of homosexuality is incompatable with Christian teachings–i.e.–the orthodox faith. Homosexuality is not any worse than any other sin–but it is outside God’s design and thus it is a sin–along with that long litany of stuff that puts all of us outside of God’s Desgin.
And now to this past week–and it shows how far my beloved Tribe has wandered. According to our approved procedures and rules, no self avowed practicing homosexual can be licensed, commissioned, nor ordained. To assure fidelity to the Bible and our procedures, we have this group called The Board Of Ordained Ministry. Some call it the BOOM or BOM for short. In the most recent session of the Florida Annual Conference, their BOOM recommended 16 candidates to be commissioned on the path to full ordination. Of the 16, two admitted that they were self-avowed practicing homosexuals–clearly in violation of The Bible and our rules. However, the Florida BOOM approved them. But they still needed 3/4 of the ordained clergy to give final approval. And the stuff hit the fire.
What Bishop Ken Carter and the Florida BOOM did was to put all 16 candidates in a single vote. As a group, vote up or down. Now, in fairness, I do not know that the other 14 candidates met the requirements. However, we do know that 2 did not! And the resulting firestorm has been aimed at the 27.3% who voted against the 16 because Bishop Carter would not allow them to vote on the candidates one by one. 27.3% voted according to their ordination vows and the Bible, and now they are the villians. So, the 27.3% who acted in the same spirit as Joshua and Caleb (see the story of the 10 spies) are treated with great disdain and anger.
And a fellow blogger joins in the disdain and anger, Rev. Jim Harnish. You can read his blog here. Jim asserts that the orthodox faith is invalid because, well because we are such more enlightened. And during the eventual commissioning and ordaining service, Bishop Ken Carter apologized to that group with these words:
“I grieve the harm you have experienced. I am committed to the support of your callings … I would have gladly commissioned each of you, and gladly appointed each of you …“
Bishop Ken Carter
So, Bishop Carter would have gladly thrown away both the Bible and our Discipline. Whether that’s what he meant or not, this is exactly what he was saying and doing. And to my fellow Brother Jim I say that simply because you have changed your views about The Bible and our Discipline, a Discipline you promised you would faithfully follow when you were ordained, doesn’t mean you are right. I am grieved that you would allow culture to define your faith rather than allow God’s Word to Transform the culture. And thus, we see the 21st Century version of the Titanic raising her bow in preparation for sinking. I am not angry–I am sad–and I am disappointed that there are those who will abandon John Wesley’s passion to be people of “homo unius libri.” (a people of One Book!)
To candid, reasonable men, I am not afraid to lay open what have been the inmost thoughts of my heart. I have thought, I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be “homo unius libri.”
John Wesley (June 17, 1706-March 2, 1791)
Footnote: Though I am saddened, maligned by others, accused of quitting and giving up–I am still praying and hopeful that this blight and disorder–this cancerous lie–can be put in it’s rightful place. Back to hell where it came from and where it belongs! Furthermore, I am confident that the Wesleyan desire for renewal and revival is not dead on this earth. The signs are everywhere. And if our leadership in the UMC doesn’t have a change of heart–it will happen with another people–NOT in the UMC!
If you really think about it, this is true. There IS a difference! Oh, you’re wanting to know between what. There is a difference between I need to, I got to, and I want to! But there is also something they hold in common. I know, it sounds like I’m talking in circles. But hang in there just a moment. As an example, think about healthy eating. Are you thinking about healthy eating right now? I know, it’s hard to think about eating healthy when you’re also thinking about ice cream with peanut butter and chocolate syrup. But try anyways!
Deep down, and maybe your doctor told you, you know you need to eat healthy. But you’re still eating greasy fries. So finally you decide, I got to eat healthy! But be honest, just because you know you got to doesn’t stop you from eating fast food. Then you step on the scales and don’t like that number, so you declare, “I want to eat healthy!” And maybe for a week you avoid going by Sonic to get that Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshake (large, no less). But then, you go back to the old ways of eating. See, there is a difference, if only for a week.
And here is the similarity between all three decisions. There hasn’t been any real change. And it’s not just eating habits where this applies. You can need to improve your spiritual life. You can feel that you’ve got to improve your spiritual life. And you can conclude that you need to improve your spiritual life. And maybe for a season, be it ever so short, you work on improving your spiritual life. But like that conclusion you need to be eating healthy, your life goes back to the old ways.
More that need to, more than got to, and more than need to–we need to have the will! See, contrary to Calvinists, we have a will–a will that determines outcomes of our choices and our life. And without that will, nothing is really changed in our lives. But before you despair, there is a solution. Jesus gave us that solution in that powerful teaching about life in God’s Kingdom as we pray: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew chapter 6, verse 10)
Question: At this moment, are you one earth? Well of course you are! So in this simple prayer, Jesus teaches us to change our will from what we think, want, and do to what God thinks, wants, and does. And this is God’s offer to all of us–that when we need to change our will to HIS will–He is present, willing, and working to change our will into HIS will. Ever heard of having will power? There’s something far better, and it’s God’s power at work in our hearts when we give up our will!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
“This morning is hell!” Doesn’t sound nice, does it? Yet this is exactly what many are feeling; not just a morning feeling–but an all day kind of feeling for many. It’s because of the Great War And Horrible War. And yes, even this Preacherman understands this feeling–because sometimes. . .it’s the truth about me. If you think this isn’t you–Remember The Eighth Command–Don’t you dare lie–to others, about others, or even to yourself! I know it says “your neighbor”, but who lives closer to you than YOU?
Satan knows which buttons to push. His strategy in this Great And Horrible War is rather simple–but effective. Successful military strategists understand this and put it into practice–if they want to win a battle. Satan’s strategy is this: Hit At The Weakest Points! He does this daily. . .constantly. And the casualties he causes–though they won’t make the news this evening–are mounting up into catastrophic proportions.
And one of the weakest points in many lives, even mine, is our Will! But something my mentor, Andy Andrews, is teaching me is that our Will is stronger than our feelings. But the Opposing General doesn’t want us to believe this truth. There’s much I could say at this point. . .but I defer to someone with more battle scars than myself–a guy known as Paul. Read carefully what he wrote in Romans 7:14-25. This is my personal autobiography. Here’s what it looks like from The Message:
14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.
17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
Be honest with God. He is GOOD, you know. He will change you from having your feelings into knowing His Will in your life. And more–HE will give you HIS strength to live in that Will rather than your feelings. WE cannot stop this Great And Horrible War, but we can’t stop becoming another casualty by asking HIM to change our “want to”, which is nothing more than our feelings, into Will; and Satan can’t stop that Will. He tried in the Garden of Gethsemane–and failed. He tried on that cruel Cross–and failed. And he tried in that Tomb–AND HE FAILED! Daddy’s Grace is the field hospital where our wounds are tended and our hearts are mended. . .and our feelings are transformed into HIS WILL!
Continue then, to love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!