Tell me. Tell me the honest truth. More importantly, tell yourself the honest truth. What exactly am I asking you to be honest about? What are you looking for? You see, we are all looking for something–every day–every hour–every minute–every second. Granted, we may forget what we are looking for at a particular moment (I do this more frequently than I like!), nonetheless, we humans are always looking for something.
It may be the keys to our car; an ink pen; the scissors; a tool; and the worst one of all–OUR CELL PHONE! We not only look for things that someone else moved from where we put it–by our nature–we are inquisitive beings. From our birth–our eyes are probing the environment around us. Not only our eyes–but our minds are inquisitorial. And it’s a good thing our eyes are inquisitive–otherwise, we can’t find what someone else moved from where we put it down. But the mind–that’s where we can get into a whole heap of trouble, as we say down here in the South.
And it’s that inquisitorial mind that I am speaking into today. Have you ever heard the expression, “Your mind can play tricks on you!”? It’s true. But sometimes…sometimes we see exactly what we are looking for! If you are looking for something to complain about–you will find it! If you are looking for something to be angry about–you’ll find it! If you are looking for something to be sad about–you’ll find it! If you are looking for something that will offend you–guess what? YOU WILL FIND IT! It’s become a contagion in our culture and an infestation to the mind–looking for things that disrupt–disrupts our peace, our relationships, our attitudes, and our spirit.
When are looking for the wrong things it takes away the joy of this inquisitive nature that God placed within us. It’s a deplorable misuse of a very good gift. The inquisitive mind has done great things–eliminated some diseases–created treatments for others–solved engineering problems–and so much more. But the misuse of our inquisitive nature has also made us suspicious–doubtful–resentful–and bitter. It causes us to say hurtful things. And even worse–it makes us see things that just aren’t there. You do know the classical definition of insanity, don’t you? It’s doing the same things over and over and over and over while expecting different results!
May I suggest looking for something different? Let’s go back–back to the beginning when we were first created in the image of God. Let’s once again become inquisitive about the wonders and beauty of creation–and the mysteries of God. Let’s start looking for God in places, situations, and people–even the most unlikely of people and places you might expect to see Him. After all–He was found in a feed trough just outside of Bethlehem. And a few years later, He was found just outside Jerusalem–dying on a cruel Roman Cross. And He freely did this just so we would begin looking for Him! So I ask you again: What Are You Looking For?
Not a misprint–I said SIGHS of the time. I hear of lot of sighs around me. And for some time now–I’ve been SIGHING a lot.
I sigh when I hear people say we don’t need to talk about racism–though nearly every day I hear a racist statement or two or three or four…
I sigh when I hear people say that anyone younger than them “ain’t got a clue” about life–though they never try to teach…
I sigh when I hear people whine and complain that they are not getting their fair share of life–though they are unwilling to apply themselves to the challenges of life…
I sigh…when I hear employers complain they can’t find decent employees–though they regularly reject applications of people they think won’t fit in…
I sigh when I hear church folks wonder why people don’t come to their church, after all, they are a friendly church–though they take neither the time nor the effort to get to know others…
I sigh when I hear people complaining about the government–though they keep putting career politicians back in office…
I sigh when I hear people say that Democrats are the answer to our problems–though they have helped create those problems…
I sigh when I hear people say that Republicans are the answer to our problems–though they have helped create those problems…
I sigh when I hear people complain about the culture–and that’s all they do: COMPLAIN…
I sigh when I hear people speak hate about other people today because of what other people did 175 years ago–as it they were the cause of poor decisions…
I sigh when I hear when folks point out the sins of others–why they ignore their own sin…
I sigh when I hear the researchers throwing out their fake science that is ruining so many lives–and vainly believe they are helping…
I sigh when I hear self-identified Christians say they want Jesus to come back right how–not thinking about all those who will not be ready for His Appearing…
I sigh when I hear me confess my sin–knowing I had the power of The Holy Spirit to successfully resist…
I sigh when I hear hate and anger catapulted at those who wear the badge–and don’t seem to care they are human beings who want nothing but to help others and keep us all safe…
I sigh when I hear nothing but silence–when it comes to the Truth of God and His Word…
What makes YOU sigh today? I could go on and on and on; and on some more about what makes me SIGH. But I am hit–and hit hard–by the Holy Spirit this morning. He asked me: “Randy, can you kindly tell me what all your SIGHING has accomplished? I mean other than made you feel sad, even an unhealthy bit of despair? After all, any amount of despair ain’t heathy for you.” So, I let that thought sink in a little bit. I refrained from that knee jerk reaction of: “I’m justified in this because that’s the way it is!” As His question marinated in my heart and mind, I finally answered Him: “It would be better for me, and my world, if I prayed instead of SIGHING!” And I could swear that I heard The Spirit say, “Mm-hmm.” Instead of SIGHING today, I’ll pray today, tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and the next, and the next… Will you join me in giving up SIGHING and replace it with PRAYING?
It was Saturday, somewhere around 3:30 p.m.; during the Alabama-Florida football game. Bama (Roll Tide!) started out real good. At the end of the first quarter THE Crimson Tide was ahead 21 to 3. Then Florida started a comeback, and it looked like Alabama was stumbling hard. And I began thinking, “What did I miss in my pregame rituals? Did I wear a Bama shirt on Friday? Yes! Did I put on a Bama shirt Saturday morning? Yes! Did I have on my gameday underwear? Yes! Did I follow my pregame menu? Yes! Did I have on my Gameday Shirt? Yes! Did I have the correct snacks and beverage? Yes! Did I let down my ponytail? Yes, Yes, and Yes! So what did I forget??? It must be my fault that Bama is slipping!” This may sound crazy to some, but do you remember this Budweiser commercial?
Somehow, I was convinced that Bama wasn’t performing at its best because of me–and something I didn’t do right! Crazy to think that the outcome of an epic contest between two teams somehow depended on me and what I did, or didn’t do! And it’s crazier to be convinced–much less think–that we human beings are capable of fixing all that’s wrong in our culture. Yet this fatuous, frivolous, and futile half-baked conviction is driving so many today. And it’s driving us off that proverbial cliff.
Like a herd of lemmings, we continue to run even harder, only to fall of that cliff. You see, us hard-headed, pea-brained vacuous human beings–the only control we have in this vertiginous world is our will and our choices. Oh, these is one other thing we can control and fix: Our Reactions to what happens. No one but YOU has control over these three maxims. But the problems in our world? It matters not how many titles are after your name; it matters not what you think about yourself or another; and it certainly matters not how many initials you have after your name. It’s all BS when it comes to resolving our current crises.
So, am I suggesting that we throw up our hands in surrender to despair? Heaven’s to Betsy, NO! To relinquish and renounce hope is definitely NOT the ticket to a better world. Back to my Crimson Tide. They did win the game–but not because of my Gameday Rituals. Coaches coached to the best of their abilities. Players played hard and proved themselves at those critical junctures. I had nothing to do with the win–but I did enjoy it!
So what do we do? What CAN we DO? The remedy to this enervation? It’s not to be found in more sedation. It’s not found in the red or blue pill. While the Bible student may desire to blame Adam and Eve for this discombobulation, the castigation lies closer to home. We messed it up–and though we can fix some of our messes–this one lies outside our abilities and way beyond our capabilities. But it is not, I say NOT beyond God.
It’s NOT above His abilities. It’s NOT beyond His capabilities. And it’s NOT on the far side of His willingness. Oops, my ESPN kicked in again. One of you were just thinking: “Well, if God is able, capable, and willing–why hasn’t He done something?” And it’s a valid question that is worthy of a truthful answer, not some vapidity. He’s waiting! “Waiting for what???????” You and I.
That’s right. He’s waiting for our unconditional and absolute surrender. One day a young man who could easily be called a “religious man” came to Jesus seeking unending life. Jesus reminded this young man of how God said we are to live. And this religious young man saw those “rules” as a formula, not a lifestyle. He admitted to Jesus something was still missing, and dared to ask what was missing in his life. And Jesus told him: “Get rid of all your possessions, give the money to the poor, it will produce eternal wealth, and then follow me.”
Jesus wasn’t speaking against this religious young man’s wealth–Jesus was speaking into his surrender. We see in Matthew chapter 19 verse 22 the response of this religious young man: “But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” I love how The Message rendered the text: “That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.”
He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go. Do you get the point Jesus is making? If we want to see real change in the culture, it begins with absolute and unconditional surrender to Jesus. Then, as Jesus told the disciples: “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Quit looking for the formula to cure these many ills. And start surrendering to Jesus and God will do the impossible–Beginning With Us! I leave you with a song:
“I’m just trying to make sense of it all.” When we see, hear, think or read about something that defies human logic–the brain wants to kick in and wants to do something, do anything, that will make sense of it to us–so that it becomes more copacetic and saporific for us. After all, that’s the way life should be, right? And that’s how the fight started!
For example, take the above quote from Leslie Weatherhead’s book The Will of God. I don’t know what was going on in his gray matter when he wrote this; and I don’t want to know if there’s more swill like this in there. My hunch is that Weatherhead was trying to make sense of why Jesus was killed. I mean, who in their right mind would leave the perfect eternity and step into time with the intention of dying on a cross? It just didn’t make sense to Weatherhead.
So, to make sense of it all, Weatherhead concludes that Jesus’s intention wasn’t to die, but to get all of us knuckleheads to follow Him. Somehow, that made sense to Weatherhead. Bless his heart! And I say this with all the Southern that lives within me. Those from the South know exactly what I mean. It didn’t make sense to him that The Creator would intentionally (using Weatherhead’s terminology) choose to die for who He created. I’ll say it again with emphasis: Bless his pea-pickin’ heart!
I’m not picking on Weatherhead and his pea-sized brain alone–but the sophism and absurdity that somehow we human beings are qualified and capable of making sense of. . . well . . . anything and everything. Here’s another example: The government’s responsibility is to take care of our needs and wants from cradle to grave.Making sense of this is like trying to nail a poached egg to a tree. Or how about all those other ludicrous, ill-advised, and doltish things people believe, say, or do? How do you make sense of things that just don’t make sense?
Try this on for size:
“5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)
Here Solomon doesn’t say God will help us make sense of everything. But he does say that God will guide us to the right path. I don’t know about you, but this here wisdom of Solomon–It just makes sense to trust God! Especially when nothing else makes sense!
What happened? Can anyone tell me? Please, I need to know! Can somebody, anybody tell me what happened? Isn’t there anyone out here in the Wacky World Web who can explicate and expound to me what happened? Well…I’m waiting! What? No answers?
Oh, maybe I need to delineate what I’m wondering about this morning. What happened to people thinking for themselves and using common sense? The provocation that started this thought happened last week (not that I haven’t been thinking about why people stopped thinking). But I had a moment when this thought simply erupted in a volcanic type moment.
I went by the local Tractor Supply Store to browse for some supplements for the upcoming hunting season. Before someone accuses me of illegal use of baits, in Alabama we can use baits for deer hunting with the appropriate permit; which I have. I always look forward to this time of year to see what new items are out. Well…I saw this item called Buck Bourbon 110 Proof Deer Attractant. It piqued my curiosity so I read the list of ingredients. Look at the bottom of the list of ingredients. I’ve underlined it for you.
Not for human consumption! Does not contain alcohol! Why this warning label? I mean, it is clearly labeled as a Deer Attractant! Who would be so stupid as to look at this bag and think: “Gee, golly! I bet this stuff is tasty. And I can get drunk off of it too! What a deal!” I could blame the lawyers for this; knowing how quick they are to pursue a buck (pun intended). But in deep retrospect, as much as I may want to blame the 95% of lawyers who give the rest of them a bad name–somehow people, not businesses and manufacturers, must be held responsible for their thinking!
We live in a nightmarish season where people have stopped thinking for themselves. This has been going on for so long that calling it a “season” isn’t the right word. It’s more like an era! This culture around us wants someone else to think for them. They want someone to tell them how to think politically, economically, socially, and yes, even religiously. Their minds have been at rest–and thus their minds have rusted. An expression often used to describe these “I don’t think for myself” people is: “They’re not the sharpest tool in the shed.” Listen! They don’t have any tools! And they don’t even have a shed!
Babies need to be–must be–spoon fed because they lack the motor skills to do it themselves. Eventually, though we must allow them to attempt to hold that spoon and feed themselves. Otherwise they will never learn how. Granted, it gets messy when they first try–but in time they develop the skill. But spoon fed adults–when it comes to using the old noggin–disgusting and appalling! So wake up! You have a brain–and you need to use it! Rant over!
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.
At 8:00 a.m. Central Daylight Savings Time, I have an appointment for an adjustment. NO! It is not an attitude adjustment! I know what some of you were just thinking! I don’t need an appointment for that. I have a wife. . .and God for that, thank you very much. Both quickly do that for me with me scheduling an appointment–and they do it graciously. It’s time for me to visit my chiropractor, Dr. Fetter. And don’t tell me that chiropractic care is snake oil medicine. My shoulder blades, right shoulder, lower back and right hip will, in harmony, quickly tell you that you are bonkers and to leave me alone!
But this upcoming chiropractic adjustment appointment did get me to thinking about what you just thought I needed: An Attitude Adjustment! I am totally convinced that this culture is run amuck with prodigality and profligacy abandon. In case you do not know what prodigality and profligacy means:
It seems that everywhere I turn, people’s attitudes are. . .what’s the word I’m looking for? Dense and slow on uptake. Nothing is ever right. Nothing is ever enough. I lived under those attitudes for 29 years–but never again! Attitudes like always angry. Always critical. Always resentful. Always distrustful. Always better than you. Always snarky. Well, maybe not ALL the time–just Ivory Soap time–99.9%. They dwell on things like misery, crankiness, doubt and suspicion. They are always right and you are always wrong. This list is ad infinitum.
So, how can people get an attitude adjustment–I mean, without using a baseball bat and sledge hammer? Can you believe that the Bible has the answer–and it’s all without violence? Well, not physical violence, but tearing down old attitudes can be violent, for some. It’s what Paul told the church in Rome in his letter to them.
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)
Changing our attitudes begins with more than changing our minds–but having our minds Transformed into the mind of Christ. But Transforming the mind takes more than decision or resolution. It takes surrender–placing it before God as an offering. Offering is something given over–and given up to another. We need–URGENTLY need to think in a totally different way–the way Jesus thinks. Then–AND ONLY THEN–will we have the right attitude!
16 There are six things the Lord hates— no, seven things he detests: 18 . . . feet that race to do wrong,
Proverbs 6:16, 18 NLT
And the race is on–to do what is wrong. This Disgusting Thing is about making Quick Choices–and with any and all choices, there is always a consequence. The word I’m looking for is Impetuous.Impetuous Choices are those decisions we make abruptly, even eagerly, because–well–just because. They lack the rhyme and reason that comes only from Godly Wisdom.
When questioned, What were you thinking?”, many folks try to excuse their Poor Choices by saying, “Well, I wasn’t thinking.” This simply isn’t true. They chose their thinking by not thinking. Not thinking is a prevalent form of thinking these days–well, this has been around since Adam and Eve. Their choice to eat from the forbidden fruit was to think by not thinking. If they had chosen to think through their decision, the outcome would have been much different.
The Hebrew phrase Solomon chose means “evil, misery, distress, injury“. As we rush to wrong actions, wrong conclusions, and wrong thinking–it opens the door to evil–it creates misery, puts us in distress–and causes injuries, to us and those around us. God created us to be thinkingbeings–to analyze, discern, and discover. The key, though, is to think throughBEFORE a decision is made. We reach the wrong decisions about events, circumstances, and people when we rush by choosing to think by not thinking.
Correct decisions come as the result of seeking God’s Wisdom–AND using His Wisdom to make the right choice. We rush and race towards decisions because we are not desiring God’s wisdom–and it is always leads us to the wrong choice. Created in His Image–made to think things through like He does–but when we rush–it’s Disgusting to God.
A text message this morning got me to thinking. My thinking went way back in time–October 1974 to be exact. This was when I was appointed to serve 2 small congregations while I pursued licensing as a pastor at the ripe old age of 18 years old. I mention this because we all know that beginning at 18, we tend to be full of vim and vigor; or was the vim and vinegar? Come to think of it, the latter is more true for me than I want to admit. My thinking moved forward through all the years I served as a pastor all the way to right now.
And now? I have less vim, but at times, a whole lot more vinegar. If you have followed me here on this blog, you know it’s true. And you may wonder who is about the become the object of my vinegary thoughts. It is my profession–“the” pastor. I was trained in the classical model of “The Professional Pastor”. I had someone whom I thought was a colleague, tell me once after I made the decision to remain in serving small and medium churches as what we call a “Local Pastor”, “You really need to become one of us.” His poke was that until one was an ordained elder in the UMC, they weren’t really pastors. By the way, I was eventually ordained, but not to be “one of them”.
The text message from this morning, well, it brought me under conviction of the Holy Spirit. Stay with me a moment, especially if you are a pastor. And really hang in with me if you are studying to become a pastor. In reflecting over these past 46 plus years, one picture stands clear to me. The church in the U.S. has been in a steady decline; almost to the stage of an avalanche. There have been all kinds of explanations, even justifications (even though we can never justify decline) for this event. But the biggest thing is the placing of blame on this state of disgrace.
I realize that some of this decline is caused by Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters who vainly think the local church exists for them–and who fight tooth and nail to keep their control. But from my perspective–we pastors share the major share of the blame. We were trained to be professionals rather than authentic people who are to be servant leaders. I remember an incident at my previous appointment. After a funeral in my first year, the family was gathered for a meal in the church fellowship hall. I noticed the tea glasses, water glasses, and coffee cups were nearly empty. Well, I proceeded to go to each table refilling their beverage of choice. One of the church members mentioned, “This is our new pastor.” and the response was obviously one of shock when she said, “Oh, really?” To my fellow pastors–if you expect church folks to do things you are unwilling to do or think it is beneath your training, then you’re in the wrong place.
I am convinced that Professionally Trained Pastors are the Achilles Heel of the U.S. Church. It did not happen overnight–it took centuries for this to develop and in 2021, we are reaping the harvest of this with declining congregations. When I began this journey, I thought my job was to herd them up and get them moving in the right direction under MY leadership. What I discovered was that this model was more like herding cats. So I started looking for a different model to emulate. Here’s what I noticed over the past 4 decades plus of noticing.
The Underachiever Model. This is the pastor who really doesn’t care about the flock, just the paycheck, and the next church.
The Don’t Rock The Boat Model. This pastor is focused on survival–their own and that of their family. These fear confrontation–and as such, cannot guide the church to where it needs to be.
Then on the opposite end is The Dynamite Model. I do not mean as in dynamic–but dynamite, C-4 explosives, and the like. They are convinced that their job is to correct the problems that they see as the real problems. Their definition of “real” problems are typically about 7 bubbles off plumb. They do catastrophic damage to a congregation and leaves the damage behind for the next pastor to deal with. And you can always count on The Dynamite Model to leave a few unexploded devices behind which will explode at the worst possible moment.
The One Issue Model. This pastor has defined the one issue that a church needs to address even before they arrive. They are convinced that their own wisdom knows which issue the church MUST address.
The Goodyear Blimp Model. I’m not talking about their physical size. It’s the size of their ego. It is large and very inflated. They want the church to know that they have the latest Rock Star Pastor. I once listened to a mega-church’s podcast of a worship service. Truthfully, I only listened for about 3 minutes. The person who was going to bring God’s word opened up that “their” pastor and wife would be back next week. And she said, “Let’s give a hand to Pastor ________ and his wife _______ and let them know how much we missed them. I changed to another podcast–it was about herding cats.
And last but by no means least, The Control Freak Model. Churches are not churches without them. Instead of checking the pulse of the congregation, they are putting the thumb down on folks. Nothing can be done without their permission. If something is done without their permission? Forget that adage that says it is easier to ask for forgiveness after the fact rather than seek permission first. Obviously, whoever came up with that adage never had to deal with The Control Freak Pastor. They make Kim Jong-un look like the second coming of George Washington.
Why do I say that The Professional Pastor the primary cause of church decline? I look at the first Models of the church. There was leadership, trained leadership–but that leadership did not get in the way of the church reaching thousands and thousands of people. Oh, for sure, when a local church lost its sense of its true mission, someone was there to set the record straight. And then turned them loose to be The Body Of Christ. No one had to ask permission to lift up the name of Jesus. No one had to ask approval to feed the hungry, take care of the widows and orphans, and bear witness to Jesus and the power of the Cross to save. No one waited for some Professional Pastor to do the work.
There is another Model, a Model that the U.S. church in particular needs today. I would call us The Pastor Model. This pastor guides the congregation into a deeper relationship with Jesus, first and foremost. Then The Pastor Model challenges and equips the Congregation to BE the Body of Christ. And when the Congregation wants to be that Body–he or she gives them PERMISSION to be the Body Of Christ. The congregation doesn’t have to ask The Pastor Model for permission to do anything that lifts up the name of Jesus–and lifts up the least, the last, and the lost. In recent years, when someone comes to me and asks, “Is it OK with you if I do this, that, or the other?”, my response now is: “If it exalts Jesus, if the honors God and the Holy Spirit, if it touches the least, the last, or the lost, then know you have God’s permission and that’s good enough. Now, can I help you or do I just need to stay out of the way?”
In my tribe, only Ordained Pastors can administer the sacraments–as if we are somehow more holy than anyone else. Local pastors can administer the sacraments ONLY in the church they serve. The irony of my tribe is that it also professes the power and importance of the priesthood of all believers. I guess all doesn’t mean all. Before this pandemic hit, there was a significant rise in the number of House Churches. These are homes where people are hungry for a deeper relationship with Jesus, a connection with other Followers, and believe that the Kingdom Of God is needed in their neighborhoods, towns, cities, communities, states, and nation.
To my fellow Pastors, encourage your congregations. Inspire your people given to your care (not your dictatorship)! Don’t be afraid to give them permission to be who God calls them to be, The Body Of Christ. Support them in what they do. Help them but only when asked. Praise them when they look like Jesus. And if they get off-mission–gently take them aside and remind them who WE BOTH serve. You can’t build someone up (remember Ephesians 4:11-12) if you constantly tear them down, or worse, never give them the opportunity to do the real work of Jesus Christ.
If some pastor (or Churchian or Tenured Pewsitter) is upset with me, understand I will soon be 65, closer to the moment I stand before my Judge. The last thing I want to be held accountable for is my failure to speak the truth in love. So if you are offended–it is what it is. I still love you and my prayer for you is that your heart, mind, and eyes will be opened to the Mission God has called us to do.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him.
Well, in the immortal words of Jack Nicholson. . .
It’s been a while since I’ve put my thoughts, emotions, and questions in blog form. This respite has been intentional; I’ve been in a season of observation and reflection. At this stage of my spiritual journey I have come to understand how priceless observation and reflection are navigating this world as a citizen and warrior of the Kingdom of God.
Some of the observations and reflections resulted in my previous and current sermon series. Some of my observations and reflections have been planted in my “thinking about it” garden to see what grows out of it. And honestly, this was not going to be my “return to blogging” article. But then. . .real life happened.
It started on the afternoon of Sunday, July 12. After preaching 2 services I engaged in my Sabbath Discipline, A.K.A. a nap. When I woke up, I just didn’t feel good. Tried doing a couple of things and nausea set in. Nausea turned into more pain and then vomiting. All Sunday night the pain only intensified. But late Monday the pain eased up and I thought the worst was over. So much for my thinking. Finally, I told Debbie I needed to go to the emergency room. The rules at our small rural hospital meant she could drop me off, but not stay with me. But my high threshold for pain had been exceeded.
I signed in and then had to wait even though, on a scale of 1 to 10, my current pain was at 12.5. When they finally called me back the first order of business was a COVID-19 test, and then the reason why I was there. An injection of Dilaudid became a gift from God to me. Then things started happening pretty fast. A CT-Scan with contrast revealed a ruptured appendix. The nurse came in with the bad news and said “The helicopter will be here in just a few minutes.” It seems the hospitals closest to me that had the facilities to care for me didn’t have any beds.
When I arrived at University of Alabama Birmingham Medical Center, another COVID-19 test, conversation with some doctors, I was sent to the appropriate unit. Once there I was hooked up to IV antibiotics–and constant care. Wednesday was another day of pain and pain killers. Thursday morning was another whirlwind. I was taken for another scan; returned to my room, only to be turned around and taken back for 2 drainage tubes (one of those tubes was inserted into an orifice that shall remain unnamed).
In this same time my IV stick had to be moved 6 or 7 times because my vein had blown. My daily routine was pain, pain-killers, more IVs, and walking the halls for my physical therapy. Sunday morning I was feeling a little better, so I took a shower and even shaved. I was feeling a bit hopeful, that is, until the usual returned on Sunday night. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually I had been on the Roller Coaster From Hell.
Finally, on Monday, the numbers started moving in my favor. The pain was subsiding and I was feeling hopeful again. Tuesday morning one of my doctors came in and removed the most invasive drainage tube (remember the orifice I mentioned earlier?) and I wanted to sing the doxology. A little later he cleared me to go home with the other drainage tube. After a “how to flush the drainage tube” lesson and extensive discharge orders, 1 week later I arrived back to where this all started. Now I am home reflecting on these part 2 weeks. Allow me to share one of the lessons I have been learning.
We have no control over most of what happens to us in life
The need to be in control is only adding to the anger and chaos that is consuming and destroying our nation. I looked all through my calendar and to-do list and no where have I found “ruptured appendix” in my plans. The need to be in control over life, relationships, other people, families, even church–goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Satan offered that lie to Adam and Eve. Now I want to really upset some people:
We are not equipped to be in control!
Now that the bad news is out of the way–there is one thing over which we have absolute control. No thing or no one can control it for you. It is your reaction to what happens that you and you alone control. No whining and no excuses. Your reactions come from your perspective and no one can give you or choose for you that perspective. While lying in that hospital bed did I have a pity party? Of course I did! In fact, I had more than one. But I had a choice–do I choose to live in that pity party or do I choose to change my focus? I chose the later–and when I focused on God’s faithful presence, which at times I doubted; the pity party ended because I know that regardless of how I feel–God hasn’t abandoned me–and He is loving on me. Tomorrow I will share another lesson.
I know I’m a little late today. . .OK, a whole lot late. But it’s still Tuesday and I do have some thoughts. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about: What If All You Know Is All You Know? No, I’m not venturing into the dark side of intellectual pursuit, otherwise known as Philosophy. I’m serious about this. This may appear to some as an enigma wrapped up in a conundrum. Hang tight! How you think about what you think you know will either ground you for life–or set you on the greatest of all adventures.
There are two ways of thinking; others may disagree with me but it’s OK for them to be wrong. There is Circular Thinking and there is what I would call Seeking Wisdom Thinking. Educators, psychologists, and most of all philosophers, would tell us there’s more than 2 ways of thinking. They probably could come up with some other ways of thinking but ultimately they are but expressions of one of these patterns.
People who think in Circular Patterns are driven by a set of facts and values that have already been established for them. They take what they see as factual and reliable to think, form opinions and plan their life by what they know. I call it a Circular Pattern because everything they know is inside that circle. If an idea, belief or opinion comes at them outside that circle, it’s immediately rejected. For Circular Pattern Thinkers are going in circles with their lives and wonder why they are’t getting anywhere.
They limit themselves to a limited source of knowledge. All they know is all they know; and they never look beyond themselves. Thus, their life and dreams are limited. The problem with Circular Patterns is that there is not enough information–nor will there ever be enough information to make anyone more than just ORDINARY.
The other pattern is the Seeking Wisdom Pattern. People here are not confined to set sources of knowledge. These are the No-Limit kind of thinkers. No, they are not those who “think outside the box”. We have tons of people outside the box who are outside the box, but still ordinary. Wisdom Seekers will never be content with average. No, they want to soar and excel in life. They know that Wisdom comes from beyond what someone knows. Wisdom that lasts and causes us to soar in life has one source–and that is God.
Here’s the thing about Wisdom. It is not limited to what we think. Truth is, it often contradicts what we think. Sometimes it does not make logical sense and contradicts the world view. And it’s this world view that has caused much of the mess we are in. Knowledge is found in books and people’s stories and comes from a very limited perspective. Wisdom only comes out of Eternity, out of the heart and mind of God.
Remember what James wrote in James 1:5–“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” Average comes out of knowledge. But greatness–that, my friends, only comes out of Wisdom.
And here’s my conclusion–If All You Know Is What You Know, You Don’t Know Enough–And You’re Operating Without Wisdom.
One more word about Wisdom–this one from this guy named Solomon:
6 Don’t turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you. Love her, and she will guard you. 7 Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.
Today, my musings are: “How in the world can people believe and act like they do now?” I found the answer: It’s In How They Think! And I thought that I needed to help them change their thinking; and I have been trying to do this with questions, suggesting other views, and even with sarcasm and snarkiness.
As much as I’ve seen and heard, I am still shaking my head at the way many people are thinking. You would think by now that in the realm of asinine thinking nothing would surprise me now; but it still does. So, I begin to muse, “How can I change the way people think?” I’ve tried to correct their thinking, but they just seem to hate me and hate me more.
Then I remembered hearing a Rabbinical story that goes something like this. There was a man who decided the world needed to be changed, to be a better place. But he thought, “The world is too big. I need to start smaller. My country, yes, I will start with my country. But that is still too big. I will start with my town. But that’s too big. I will start with my neighborhood. That’s still to big. I will start with my street, wait, I will start with my home. Oh, I will start with me!”
And this morning, my best Friend, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the wisdom of that old Rabbi. It’s too big a task for me to change how people think. That task is way above my pay grade–and it’s task that was never given to me. . .or any human being for that matter. I know it’s shocking for some to hear that they aren’t called to change how others think. Get over it. . .get over yourself. I know. . .I needed to get over myself.
The only thinking that I can shape and control is my own thinking! So, how can I do that? This is why the Bible is ageless and powerful. When you think about yourself and how you can grow and mature–The Bible always has the answer. When you think about how to change the way others think, it’s highly possible you will get the wrong answer from even the Bible.
So, how do I make my thinking better? Paul said it best in Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
And now my task is to think in this way in such a manner that others will begin thinking about their thinking. Maybe they will ask me why I think the way I do. Better yet, maybe they will ask Dad to help them think in a different way.
So. . .love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!