JUST THROW IT AWAY AND FORGET ABOUT IT!

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

from http://www.thesaurus.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop Ken Carter

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

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

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

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

WHY IS IT SO HARD TO THINK THAT WE NEED TO CHANGE HOW WE THINK?

“Wait,” he said, “I know your objecttion, I don’t feel like doing those things! Of course you don’t,” the president (Abraham Lincoln) continued. And that is exactly why we are talking about self-discipline! Think about what the king just said a few moments ago. He said ‘What do you want?’ Well I wanted to be happy.” Lincoln continued. “Then the king said, ‘Can you make yourself do something you don’t particularly want to do in order to get a result that you want?’ You know, when I am depressed, I can promise you that I do not want to see other people or read amusing books or listen to happy music. I just want to be happy. But I have learned that I can discipline myself to do some thing I don’t particularly want to do–smile, walk, visit a cheerful friend–to get a result I do want.”

The Traveler’s Summit by Andy Andrews

The above quote is from that book I am reading again. It’s classified as fiction but it is full of Biblical Principles and Godly Wisdom. Andy wrote this book sometime after he wrote The Travler’s Gift. I encourage you to read it first! The setting of this book is that the key character, David Ponder, has been summoned to a “summit” to answer a single question. Failure to answer that question correctly will result in the end of human civilization. But he’s not the only one at the Summit. All the other “Travelers” are also present. And the question that the archangel Gabriel posed was this: “What does humanity need to do, individually and collectly, to restore itself to the pathway toward successful civilization?” They only have 5 opportunities to answer the question–and the answer must be only 2 words.

Why all this rambling about a book and a question? Because last night this book forced yours truly to think about what I think. In these days it seems so many people are a prisoner to their own thinking–thinking that how they think is set for life and can never change. And the truth is how I am thinking at a particular moment is affecting and infecting my actions; what I do–and especially what I don’t do.

Indeed, God created us to be thinking beings because–well because HE thinks and we are made in His Image. Our actions and our reactions are the direct result of how we think. You may “think” I’m wrong–that’s OK if you want to disagree with me, and be wrong! Though thinking was one of God’s mighty and marvelous gifts to us human beings–it became polluted and corrupted with–you should have guessed it–by SIN! Listen again to President Lincoln’s thoughts in the book: ‘Can you make yourself do something you don’t particularly want to do in order to get a result that you want?’

If your current way of thinking is making you miserable, unhappy, and unfullfilled–insisting that others think the way you think will not take that away. No, what we need is to change how WE think and then act according to those different thoughts. It’s not easy–sin is a bully after all–but it is possible. We can’t do it alone, but we can do it with the right help. And the right help is none other than Jesus. Think about what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 28 verse 20: “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Some think that the only application for this Promise is in the realm of evangelism. That’s a narrow way of thinking. Always means–well–ALWAYS!!! Not just those times when we are sharing the Good News of The Kingdom. ALWAYS means that in every moment without regard to what one is doing. Look above, not within, for the help we all need in taming that wild stallion known as “thinking”. Whatever it is you think about yourself, your situation, others, and even the culture–measure your thinking by God’s Word–and the only place God’s Word is found is in The Bible. And for heaven’s sake–don’t think about what you read based solely on what you think. Ask the Holy Spirit for His help. He loves to help us because–well, that’s how He thinks and thus it is how He acts!

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

LET’S ALL GET CONFORMED!

There’s definitely this movement (more like bowel movement) to get the masses to conform to the prevailing winds of philosophies, ideologies, and beliefs. And the thing is this (bowel) movement promises love, joy, and peace–IF we would only conform to their way of seeing and thinking. It’s all about conformity. Has anyone out there ever read George Orwell’s fictional book (it’s looking more like a prophetic book) 1984? Those who resist conformity are considered to be mean, narrow-minded, and phobic. Will conformity really solve the complex problems in our society?

Not hardly! When I was in high school we didn’t have classes on computers, but we did have Typing! In our school, it was a fight to get to the electric typewriters rather than the manual ones; and we only had a few. My point? Oh, yeah! On typewriters, and computer keyboards, you have this thing called “home keys”. It’s where the 4 fingers of each hand are to be before you start typing–it’s the same 4 keys, always! Now, this morning I am going to do an experiment and ignore where the “home keys” are and type the next sentence. Now, here’s the results:

Yjr wiovl gpc ki,[rf pbrt yjr ;sxu npe ;sxu ntpem fph.

Now, that’s really intelligible! That makes as much sense as this (bowel) movement towards conformity. Even in theological circles, the push to conform is rampant. Here’s the thing, though. Even God doesn’t want conformity. Jesus never offered nor promoted a process where we could all be conformed. To acquiesce to the prevailing winds of ideologies and beliefs goes contrary to God’s design and His desires. So, what is the alternative to being conformed? Here’s a thought:

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

2 Corinthians chapter 3 verses 17 and 18 (New Living Translation)

The Greek word used for changed is metamorphoō and it means “to change into another form, to transform”! It’s where we get our word metamophosis. It’s both radical and unique! God doesn’t want us to be conformed so that we think alike, talk alike, and act alike. He wants us to be transformed–into the image of our Creator. And there’s no way for one single human person to show the glory of God! Now, the (bowel) movement towards conformity thinks so. But they are sooooo wrong! So, my friends, RESIST CONFORMITY! And let God be God! I am confident He knows what He is doing!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him! AND DON’T YOU DARE CONFORM!

OH, LORD, IT’S MONDAY! S.O.S.O.

“But what good is that with this huge crowd?” (John chapter 6, verse 9) This was Andrew’s question to Jesus when He had told them to find food to feed the crowd that day. All Andrew thought he had found was a young boy with a small sack lunch. Andrew’s thought process is still seen in these days. I call it S.O.S.O. thinking. Though S.O.S. is recognized as the international sign of distress–S.O.S.O. is not so easily recognized, though the signal is being broadcast every day and all day long. And it creates that harrowing and hideous Monday Morning Attitude. Perhaps I should provide the explanation of S.O.S.O.

S.O.S.O. stands for Same Ol’ Same Ol’! Mondays come around every week–and it seems like at times that every day is a Monday. Monday’s feel like whatever happens, whatever comes along, it’s simply the S.O.S.O. Have you ever felt like this? I’ll be honest and say, “You darn tootin’!” S.O.S.O. comes from expectation. Think about my personal hero, Andrew. The same kind of thinking that he had been living with his whole life concluded that this sack lunch wasn’t enough. And when we approach every Monday (and every other day for that matter) with the attitude that nothing is going to change–we draw the same conclusion as Andrew did: “But what good is that with this huge crowd?”

We need a different kind of thinking to overcome the Monday Monster! Think about Abraham and Sarah, promised a child but none had arrived. Or David facing Goliath. Or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego facing the furnace. Or Daniel in the lion’s den. S.O.S.O. thinking concludes that it’s hopeless for anything to change. But these, and countless others, reached a different conclusion. Back to my hero, Andrew!

Though S.O.S.O. thinking said it wasn’t enough, still–I said STILL–he brought what he had to Jesus. And if you are fed up with the Same Ol’ Same Ol’ follow the hero’s example–bring it to Jesus anyway! Andrew did see a different outcome and you may not see a different outcome for your Mondays–but Andrew brought what he had to the only one who could see a different outcome! And what a different outcome it was! Not only did Jesus feed all those folks until their bellies were full–there were leftovers!

When you doubt anything will be different–but you still bring it all to Jesus who always sees a different outcome–then you can say: Good! Lord it’s Monday! What shall we do together?

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THINKING?

Whatever happened to thinking? Listening to people talk, watching the news, seeing how some people drive, and observing what they do, I am compelled to ask: Whatever happened to thinking? I wanted to conclude, “Well, they just aren’t thinking! If they were then they wouldn’t say and do all those stupid and insipid things!” But I’m wrong! Yes, mark this date on your calendars, Preacherman admitted he was wrong! It doesn’t happen very often, but it did this morning! Contrary to my errant conclusion, people do think–even when it seems like they aren’t. I mean, have you ever said to someone, “What were you thinking?” The implication is they weren’t–but they were. Thinking is controlled by our mind.

You see, if we are walking, talking, and breathing, then we are also thinking! It’s how we are wired, how we were created. The problem isn’t NOT thinking–the problem is HOW we think. The HOW of thinking is controlled by one thing and one thing only: PERSPECTIVE! And PERSPECTIVE is influenced by the things and people we allow to shape our values, beliefs, and attitudes; and these things form our words and actions. If we allow the gibberish thinking of others influence us, then the outcome is, well, what we see so much of today.

There’s a line of thinking around the concept of mind control. Research has been done in the hollow halls of academia, the maladriot back rooms of Washington D.C.–even the military has explored it has a weapon of war. But the truth is there is no such thing as someone else controlling how a mind operates. Thinking is controlled by our own mind. We allow and we turn away, we permit and reject, what goes into and out of our minds. So the question of the hour–heck! The question of the ages is: Who Or What Controls Our Mind?

Many seem to be at a loss for the answer to this question. Fortunately for you, I’m not at a loss for the answer. It’s the heart! Think for a moment about what Paul wrote in Philippians Chapter 4, Verse 5: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Think of your heart as the throne room of your life. Someone or some thing rules from your heart. Whoever or whatever is sitting on that throne at the time is your Ruler. Remember, that rulers can be ruthless, rancorous, and remorseless. Make sure your Ruler isn’t that–and the only one who isn’t ruthless, rancorous, and remorseless is Jesus! His heart is kind, merciful, and gracious. There is never a moment when He isn’t!

By surrendering your Throne to Him, He’s right there doing what only HE can do–Giving Us A New Heart! That heart He transplants into us is His Heart. And what does His Heart look like? Well, read the Manual–it’s also known as The Bible. And when (not if) you have trouble understanding The Manual, The Holy Spirit is right there to help us understand God’s Heart! But be aware, The Holy Spirit often contradicts what we and others think. But remember He is Safe because He is Kind and will never do anything to harm us. And as far as the mind goes? Well, the New Heart is instantaneous. But the Renewed Mind takes time and effort on our part. After all, you control your thinking! And your thinking comes out of whatever, or whoever, is sitting on that Throne!

PERMISSION GRANTED!

I was thinking this morning–even though sometimes I shouldn’t. But I was. I was thinking about a lot of stuff–why was this happening, why wasn’t that happening, what’s wrong with the world? Then a sombering thought broke through: What’s wrong with me? Please, no comments from the peanut gallery–I was dead serious. What was to be my time with The Trio (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) was constantly being interupted by this plethera of thoughts. Finally The Spirit was able to get a word in edgewise in the midst of all this thoughts of mine; He said, “Give us permission, and we will help you get your focus back.”

Permission! I hit the breaks to all those other thoughts, stuffed them back into the closet where they belonged, and I gave my Permission to The Trio to take control. All it took to settle my gray matter down, was to give my Permission to The Holy Spirit to take control. And thus this morning’s musings about Permission. Whatever thoughts we have are there because we have given them Permission to be there. And whatever is in our heart? You guessed it! It’s there because we have given it Permission!

And just as quickly as we gave something else Permission to run wild in our heart and mind, we can give Permission to our Heavenly Father! Giving God Permission is quick–but not always easy. Giving God Permission to take over contradicts what we’ve been taught, what we believe, and how we see life. Those thoughts, ideas, and beliefs will cry out that you’ve been wounded by God. But you haven’t been wounded by God–only those thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that have set up shop in your mind and heart have been wounded. But you? You are being set free and liberated from the chaos and confusion that comes without God on the throne of your heart. I leave you this morning with these words about Permission–straight out of the Bible; the Old Testament even!

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    He’s the one who will keep you on track.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message)

THE WANDERING MIND!

This morning, my mind was a wandering! I’ve noticed here lately that it wanders off more frequently–and sometimes it forgets to come home. And in the darkness before today’s dawn, The Spirit gently and softly confronted me about this. And even as I tried to focus in on the Spirit, my mind started wandering again. I tried all kinds of words to get my mind back, focused on Him–but it was still trying to wander off to a thousand and one things I needed to get done today. I was about to think it was hopeless–all my attempts to reign it back in failed. It was then I said something different and it helped me. Maybe if you have a wandering mind like I do it will help you.

Here is what I said: “I will stop wandering and keep focusing on Jesus. This is my decision for today. And I will begin every morning with this decision. And with God’s help, I will live into this decision! And instantly my wandering mind came home. Why was this so powerful for me? I surrendered my will and my inabilities to control my mind. When I surrendered, The Spirit stepped in and said, “I can handle this–I’ve just been waiting for you to me permission.”

I had to face the truth that I wasn’t able to control what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking “bad” things–I was thinking about other things–things I needed to do–things I didn’t do yesterday–things I needed to get done today. And my mind went wandering, chasing those things like a beagle chasing rabbits. My decision to admit my powerlessness opened the gates of Heaven–and two things happened. I was focused on and aware of my Companion, The Holy Spirit. And I now have clarity. I may or may not get everything done today–but I have the ONLY One to help me sort through what needs to be done today. I leave you with this:

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.

Isaiah 26:3-4 (NLT)

IF A CLUTTERED DESK IS THE SIGN OF A CLUTTERED MIND, WHAT’S THE SIGN OF AN EMPTY DESK?

Never in a thousand centuries would I have imagined that I would remember anything from one of Dr. Well’s Old Testament class at Birmingham-Southern. Well, it’s not from his class–it was the sign on his office desk: If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what’s the sign of an empty desk? Well, his desk was the epitome of cluttered. But I am not judging him–you should see my workspace! On second thought–you shouldn’t! And this morning I found myself thinking about all the cluttered thinking seen in our culture.

For example, recently a young man choose to carjack someone–who happened to be armed. The young man was shot and killed, and a family member stated on the local news that the driver shouldn’t have shot him and should be arrested for murder. Cluttered Thinking. Parents are allowing, even encouraging adolesent children choose their gender rather than allowing biology to do what it does. Cluttered Thinking.

And in my own Tribe (the United Methodist Church), this year our governing Conference of United Methodists from around the world are to convene and the biggest issue is deciding that it’s time to depart ways–it’s called The Protocol For Separation. It’s been postponed since 2020 because of this COVID mess. But travel from foreign countries is being allowed if the traveler has been vaccinated. Well, in some regions, limited funds have prevented people from being vaccinated. In order to enable UMC delegates from other nations to attend this General Conference, an orthodox group of United Methodists began a plan to vaccinate those delegates–without regard to how they stand on the Protocol issue.

Good thing, right? But our more progressive kinfolk are outraged by this act of kindness. Their thinking says, “No one should be vaccinated until everyone can be vaccinated!” See, cluttered thinking! Why all of this cluttered thinking in every arena of life? Because there is no single standard for The Truth! Everyone is encouraged to choose “their” truth! Without an absolute Truth, human thinking remains cluttered–and it will only get worse! It’s like roadside litter–if someone or some group doesn’t clean it up–it only gets worse.

What I can’t understand is why those with cluttered thinking cannot see the devastation and destruction they are creating and encouraging! It’s like they are saying, “OK, it’s a mess right now–but if we just keep on thinking our way, then eventually we will figure it out!” God’s Word alone–not our interpretations of it–but God’s Word alone must be The Absolute when it comes to how we think. If our thinking is contrary to God’s Word, meaning The Bible, we need to change OUR thinking–NOT what the Bible teaches! To declutter the mind–we need to do a personal inventory on our thinking–and anything that contradicts The Bible needs to be thrown away. I leave you with this thought:

If we allow The Bible to speak to us, rather than us speaking for The Bible, we will be liberated from the clutter of our times.

Looking For. . .

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?

Sighs Of The Times

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?

Dear Lord, What Did I NOT Do? Panic Mode!

Image from imbd.com

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:

Trying To Make Sense Of It Doesn’t Make Any Sense

from Leslie Weatherhead’s book The Will Of God

“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:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
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?

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!

411

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)

An Appointment For An Adjustment

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!

7 Things God Finds Disgusting: Feet That Race To Do Wrong!

Drivers, start your engines!

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 thinking beings–to analyze, discern, and discover. The key, though, is to think through BEFORE 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.

Time To Turn The Collars Around, Or So It Seems

This post may be offensive to pastors, but please read the entire post before making up your mind about me

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.

BUT NOT COMPLETELY!

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.

What If All You Know Is All You Know? Tuesday Thoughts 28 January 2020

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:

Don’t turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you.
    Love her, and she will guard you.
Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!
    And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.

Proverbs 4:6-7

Thinking! Monday Musings 13 January 2020

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!

IT’S TIME TO STAND UP AND. . .BE CALM!

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I am sick and tired. . .tired and sick. . .and sick and tired of all this unrelenting caterwauling that is happening. No. . . not in Washington D.C.; rather the incessant caterwauling ABOUT what’s happening in D.C. And I’m NOT referring to newscasters or political underlings. I’m talking about. . . NO! I’m talking TO those who profess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The social cannonade that covers Social Media by those who say that Jesus Reigns but . . . are quibbling with others about this cauldron of toxicity and sewage. By the way. . . am I the only one who has notice that “Social” Media is actually “Unsociable Media”? Here’s all I have to say to Jesus followers who engage is such characterless dribble:

Oh, and those pusillanimous recreants who are saying “Well, this just goes to show that Jesus is about to return. Come, Lord Jesus, come and take me away!” I refer to them as Calgon Christians–remember those commercials? “Take me away, Calgon.” As if that’s the answer! Bejeezus, folks; where’s your fortitude? Don’t you realize that if Jesus does come today that billions of people will NOT be ready for that moment? Where’s your compassion, your heart like Jesus? Geez. . .

Come on people, think about it. What has all this pestiferous arguing achieved? I mean, what does “How can you be a Christian and vote democrat?” or “How can you be a Christian and vote republican?” produced? Has anyone really said to you, “Oh, thank you for reminding of that. Yes, I’ll change my political party immediately. Bless you my child for you have delivered me!” Nope! Ain’t happening! Here’s what I say about all that mindset:

In crisis moments, sometimes we to need to STAND UP AND FIGHT! But this, my flummoxed sojourners, IS NOT THE TIME TO STAND UP AND FIGHT. May I suggest a different tactic? Would you just love to see the pundits speechless? Would you love to see them stop and question what’s happening. . .even to entertain the possibility that there needs to be a change in how they visage the current dubbing?

What if. . . I mean we are getting nowhere fast with these current proclivities. . . WHAT IF, we who are Citizens Of The Kingdom Of God stopped all this frenzied panic and refused to engage in this debate? Oh, I just heard someone think: “Well, just what in Heaven’s name should be do? If we don’t speak out who will?” (he-he-he–I’m giggling inside with that question!) Speaking out has’t worked. What if . . .

WHAT IF we make the Choice to Be Calm? What? Did someone just ask me to prove that’s what the Bible says? OK, buttercup, I’ll give you what the Bible says about how to respond to our culture. . . any culture: (remember, you asked for it)

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:2 (NLT)

Answer me this: Is the current behavior and customs of this culture Calm? Would you LIKE to see things calm down in D.C.? How about seeing our whole nation become CALM? Then, YOU BECOME CALM! Refuse to engage in ANY political drivel. Stop equating political parties with saving our nation. Stop the name calling and belittling of others. Return to the earliest and most powerful affirmation of faith in the church: JESUS IS LORD. If HE isn’t in panic mode (by the way, God never panics), then why iterate the emotional mush being passed off as forward thinking. After all. . . that’s the source of the chaos, anger and confusion.

Walk away from it and become the model of Calm. Who knows, maybe that will change someone’s heart, mind and life. At the very least, it will drive them nuts. In my book, that’s a win-win. So . . . love Jesus with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM! Oh, one more thought:

Cleansers!

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Well, time for my daily class assignment:  What did you learn yesterday?  As the day began I was looking forward to it.  But now?  I admit that it is a bit more difficult than I imagined.  Has that ever happened to you?  Something you thought you could do, easily do, but out of nowhere it became difficult.  Truthfully….I don’t like difficult.  Thinking about what to write was as blank as this graphic.  So what does one do when preparing for test time?  You review your notes.

Set up the beach canopy–check!  Cooler with drinks–check!  Beach towels–check!  Beach chairs set up–check!  Bag with snacks–check!  Reading materials–check!  Sunscreen and applied–check and check!  Feet buried in the sand–check.  What next?  Sitting in the shade of the canopy, looking at the scene graciously provided for us by The Creator.  Listening to the sounds of waves and birds.  When we were a bit warm, going into the Gulf to cool off, floating on the gentle waves.  Then a southerly breeze came in helping to keep us cool.  A couple of naps between finishing that book.

Where’s the lesson?  WHAT’S the lesson?  What am I forgetting?  And it finally hit me.  There was that moment I realized my mind was totally blank. (Please, no comments from the monkey gallery!)  And there were other moments when my mind was blank….cleansed from everything.  No thoughts about writing, the churches, my Dad, my own grief from Mother’s recent death.  My mind has been cleansed.  Think of it as a computer reset.  Cleansers–that’s the lesson.

There are cleansers for the face, microwaves, ovens, bathtubs, commodes, even this thing called a colon cleanse (now try to get that image out of your mind!).  My Father knew what I needed on that day–for my mind to be completely cleansed–to set aside all my thoughts–just to be me in the presence of my King and Creator!

The blood of Jesus cleanses our hearts, but what can cleanse our minds?  The mind is more complicated and delicate matter.  A few sentences back I mentioned “colon cleanse”–how many of you still have that image in your mind?  If we try to get some thought out of our mind, say a certain song or a colon cleanse, it only seems to linger and grow roots.  And should we cleanse our minds of all thoughts, what will we replace them with?

I’m thinking about a story Jesus once told found in Matthew 12.  A man seemed to have rid his mind and heart of a demon.  The demon went looking for another home.  Failing to find one, he returned to that man.  Found the home of his heart and mind cleaned but unoccupied.  So he goes and gets 7 buddies and moves right back in.  And the point is???  Once your mind is cleansed, make very sure that it is immediately occupied with God’s presence.

When I had my mind cleanse, I did it intentionally in His Presence.  The result was that He rearranged some thoughts and replaced others.  Along with that process, He provided me with balance, perspective and wisdom.  And I urgently needed that to happen.  So when your thoughts overwhelm you, when you mind resembles that junk closet, take the time to be in His presence.  No agenda, no asking, no searching for answers–just alone with Him.  As you as prepare for this cleansing, and before you begin, make the decision to ask Him to sort it all out.  Add this “cleansing” process to your regular spiritual disciplines.  Allow it to be a part of your spiritual disciplines.  Balance, perspective and wisdom–all are gifts found only in His presence.

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

Excuse me now, I hear the bell for the next class to begin.  And I am ready for it, more than when this week began because I now have His balance, perspective and wisdom.

Learning From The Tide

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So far this has been a great Spiritual Summer Retreat.  Some may call it a vacation, but for me, it’s been a time of refocusing on God in my life.  Some of the things that have happened to me this year have been, well, challenging.  Truthfully, I let some of those things get the best of me.  My life has been off-kilter.  So God is using this time for me to get my “kilter” back.

This morning got me to thinking about The Tide.  No, not the greatest College Football Dynasty ever, but the “other” Tide.  No!  Not the laundry detergent either!  The ocean tide is a lesson I’ve been rediscovering in this time of retreat.  I am not certain John Wesley would agree with me, but the beach is a means of grace for me.

The Tide happens every day because the water is being influenced by outside forces.  Technically, it’s being influenced by a single source, gravity.  And the gravity that affects the Tide comes from 2 sources.  Do you know that they are?  Did you guess the moon?  Very good class.  Now, what’s the other source of gravity?  Did you say the sun?  Correctamundo!

The Tide in a particular area is determined by its position in relation to both the moon and the sun.  This gravitational pull determines whether the Tide is high or low.  And these gravitational forces come from outside our planet.  It is a force that is unseen, yet it produces a noticeable effect.  And here’s the lesson that this Tide is teaching me.

We are under the gravitational pull of another influence; whether we realize or not.  This force impacts how we think, what we say, what we do, and even why we do it.  They change the shape and direction of our life.  Either for good–and unfortunately–for bad.  Think back to the effect of the ocean Tide.  The ocean tides have a positive impact on marine life.  It also determines the best time for fishermen to catch fish.  And who doesn’t love a good seafood dinner?

But unlike the oceans that have no choice but to be affected by gravity, we do have a choice.  Remember that the ocean Tide is influenced at one time by the sun, and at a different time by the moon–it all depends on their location.  We choose which gravitational pull influences us–in any and all situations of life.  We all face situations which we did not cause–but our response to that situation–it is influenced by which outside source of power we live under.

Allow your life to be under the “gravitational pull” of the Holy Spirit.  Remember what Paul wrote in Romans 8:5 (NLT)

Those who are dominated (think about the tide) by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled (think about the gravitational forces on the oceans) by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.

More than thinking about the things that please the Spirit, it is about the impact of those thoughts and how they change the ways we think, speak, act, and why we do what we do.  That’s called MOTIVE.  Like the oceans are being influenced by the power of gravity from either the sun or the moon (and never both at the same moment), you are being influenced by some power that determines your journey.  Unlike the oceans that have no choice, you do have a choice.  And remember that line from the climatic scene in the movie “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade”–“Choose wisely!”

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

Now excuse me, but the classroom beckons me.  I wonder what the Tide is doing?

Heaven—You Can’t Get There From Here! Part 1

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This, and the following posts, are not about Heaven, what it’s like or what you will see.  There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what Heaven is like and what you will see.  I don’t have enough time right now to straighten out bad theology.  But I do have a question for you.  The most important question you will ever be asked is this:  How Do You Get To Heaven?  Your answer has consequences beyond what you could ever imagine.

Talk about a lot of misinformation and confusion, just listen to how people will answer that question.  I will give this warning—I may make you mad with the answer that the Bible gives us.  OK, with the disclaimer out of the way, look at this picture.

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Do you see anything wrong with this picture or is it OK?  Raise your hand if you think something isn’t quite right with these signs.  It’s obvious.  If you want to get to I-4 or Florida Highway 482 East or West, you must turn left.  HOWEVER, that other sign, “Right Turn Only” says that you can’t get there from here.

When looking for direction signs on how to get to heaven, it can be as confusing as these road signs.  So today my only goal is to help you lift the fog of confusion and see the only answer to that question.  Look at  John 3:1-12 (NLT)

1 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us.  Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”  3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”  4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus.  “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.  6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. 7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’  8 The wind blows wherever it wants.  Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”  9 “How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.

10 Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? 11 I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. 12 But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

Have you ever been taught by the Holy Spirit?  You really should try it sometimes if you haven’t.  The Holy Spirit has been teaching me so much these past 4 years, especially when it comes to the art of preaching and teaching.  Normally when I’m preaching, at this point I would say, “And if you can remember only 1 thing from the message, this is it.”  But the Holy Spirit wants me to save that 1 thing until the end of these thoughts; so, I will.

Another way of asking the question of how to get to heaven, is to ask:  How Do We Find God?  Now here’s where it gets confusing.  Some say there are many ways to find God.  They insist that it’s like taking a trip to New York City.  We could take different routes, different modes of transportation; but we all still end up in New York City.  But what works with maps doesn’t work with the human heart and spirituality.

There’s a wide diversity of thoughts and feelings on this subject.  It’s this thing of pluralism—that there can be a multitude of ways to God.  And this isn’t about Christianity versus Islam versus Hindu versus Buddhism versus New Age versus Judaism.  It’s not about Christianity versus Baptists versus Methodists versus Church of Christ versus Presbyterians versus Church of God versus Whatever Name is out there.  The longing of the heart for heaven is really the longing of the human heart for a connection with God.

So, let’s look at some ways people think they can be saved and get into heaven, and why they can’t get there from here.  I’ve even managed to come up with some names for some of these different ways people are trying to get to heaven.  Check in tomorrow for some of the ways people think you get to heaven, and why you can’t get there from here.

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

We Are More Than Our Feelings

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This morning I was reading 1 John chapter 1.  My reason was simple:  I was practicing what I preach.  Imagine that, a preacher actually doing what he or she preaches.  I was reading for the sake of listening to God.  No Bible study prep time or sermon prep or looking for my next blog.  Just reading, and listening.  Two things jumped out at me this morning:  Light versus Darkness.  In other words, sin versus Holiness.  And it got me to thinking about a common experience among us humans:  Feelings.  No, not the song (bet that got some of you hearing that song in your head), but that complex and complicated arena of human feelings.  In my thinking this morning, there 4 basic categories of feelings through which any particular feeling would fall into.

First there are what I term Emotional Feelings.  Thanks to this thing called emojis we have a way to express our emotions with a picture–happy, sad, confused, angry, disgusted and so forth.  I believe that God created us to have emotions.  After all God has His emotions–joy and sadness, love and hate, compassion and firmness are just a few.  Unfortunately we are not like Spock, not the infamous child psychologist, but the one on the Starship Enterprise, who could detach himself from silly emotions.  Emotions are our initial response to what happens to us in life.

Second are what I classify as Psychological Feelings.  These are those emotions that we have processed through our thinking and become a resident in our psyche.  Distrust, hopeful, optimistic, pessimistic, prejudice, accepting, doubting, inquisitive–these are just a few of what I would term as psychological feelings.  Often our intellectual reasoning is influenced here more than anywhere else.  Our phobias fall into this classification of feelings.  Phobias go deeper that just an initial response–they are deeply rooted in the human psyche.  This human psyche is another part of how God created us.  These are what influences how we see people and situations.  On the darker side, you see it resulting in sociopaths,  narcissists, or psychopaths.

Third are what I call Spiritual Feelings.  These are rooted even deeper than our psyche–they are rooted in what some call the heart or the soul.  This is our moral compass.  It, more than anything else, shapes and forms our values, of what is right and what is wrong.  Our spiritual feelings also creates our sense of guilt and shame, as well as our feelings of joy (which are deeper than feelings of happiness) and contentment.

And last, but by no means least, is what I term as our “Biological Feelings“.  In our culture, and in my own Tribe, this is a subject of great controversy.  It could easily be argued that biological feelings are at the root of psychosomatic illnesses.  (You know what psychosomatics want on their tombstone:  “I Told You I Was Sick!”)  But these feelings go deeper.  It is the root of the crisis of sexual identity.  Gays and transgendered hold on to that biological sense that they were born with same-gender attractions or were born the wrong gender all together.  Thus, they are free to act upon and direct the future of their lives based on what they call, this biological fact.  I know my gay friends will disagree with my next point but I still love and care about you.  It is still rooted in a feeling, be it biological, it is still a feeling.

And unfortunately, many people self-identify through their feelings.  Thus these words from 1 John 1:5-10 (NLT) speak another word:

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.  If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

Each type of “feelings” bleeds over into all the others.  Unlike Spock who prides himself in being detached from all emotions/feelings, we are humans, not Vulcans.  And this mishmash of emotions are causing people to live beneath and below their created design.  This reliance on feelings has created such things as The New Pharisees, Tenured Pew Sitters, Churchians, people who feel they are worthless, permanent failures, unloved, abandoned, and so many other words that reveal our brokenness.  Moral labels that people wear eventually will destroy them.

And I believe that this has resulted in the sexual crisis in our culture, and in the hearts and minds of those who identify as LBGTQI.  This sexual chaos and confusion, this creation of moral labels as well, is the direct result of this thing called “sin”.  Geneticists tell us that we have our own unique DNA.  But one day I foresee that they will eventually discover that every human being shares one gene equally–that it’s the same gene in all of us.  I hope they call it for what it is:  The Adam and Eve Gene!  While the New Pharisees, Tenured Pew Sitters and Churchians vehemently deny its existence in themselves, it remains true that all of us have that gene–and somewhere we are all broken–in different places and ways–but nonetheless BROKEN!

How we feel, what we think or believe we are, is not final–even in the arena of sexual identity.  Ever since the Adam and Eve Gene formed in their DNA and was passed along to every generation–God has been seeking to redeem and restore us who bear His Image.  When we live by our, call it “feelings” or “beliefs” about ourselves, we live within a lie and deny ourselves the only hope and cure to live life richly and with great purpose.

God invites us on a journey to wholeness–becoming whole emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, biologically and sexually.  He alone, through the Holy Spirit, can transform us into our original intended design.  We do not have to become a prisoner to our feelings, especially sexually.  If you are someone who thinks you have no choice about your sexual identity, I want you to listen to Sam Allberry (here’s a link to part of his story).  All of us are more than what we “feel”–for every feeling, every emotion, every way we self-identify is tainted by sin.

Be more than how you feel–because you ARE more than that.  Get off that “emotional” roller-coaster and sit down, sit down at the feet of Jesus.  Take whatever time is necessary for you to discover the true you, the YOU that God designed and created.  You are more than a label, a feeling, an emotion, or a desire.  Jesus brings the Light of God’s truth.  Follow that light and you will become whole–the person God created to bear His Image!  In Sam Allberry’s words:  Identity is something God gives us.  We do not create it or discover it.  It is GIVEN to us by God.

Eliminating Cultural Bias As Followers Of Jesus

 

Well, I know, it’s a deep subject for such a shallow mind as mine.  But the Holy Spirit finally led me to the concluding post about this scourge and plague infecting the Body of Christ known as Cultural Bias.  I could go on and on listing views and even honest beliefs people hold as the truth from the Throne of God Himself that are influenced more by the culture of humanity rather than the richness of heaven itself.  But all good things must come to an end, or so we are told.  And even bad things come to an end.  When life gets tough there are some words often repeated in the Bible I turn to:  “and it came to pass”!

What the Holy Spirit reminded me of was back in the ninth grade in Mrs. McPeters’ typing class.  Yes, I am that old.  At the risk of sounding like an old geezer, back in my day it was all about typewriters when it came to “publishing”.  But I do remember, probably much to the surprise of Mrs. McPeters, that the first lesson in operating a typewriter was in knowing the home keys, the position to put your fingers BEFORE you started typing.  Oh yes, there were computers back then, but the one you hold in your hand has far more capabilities that those back then that took up very large rooms.

And the very first thing we typed was this:  “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”  This sentence utilized every letter in the alphabet.  Our first appointed task was to type this sentence, over and over and over and over and over.  Talk about boring.  But then she added stress–she started timing us on how quick we could do it.  I now understand what she was doing–making sure us students started in the right place, otherwise we would never master the typewriter.  And this is where the Spirit offered me a jewel known as wisdom.

The home keys for the left hand are asdf and the home keys for the right hand are jkl;, unless you type with 2 fingers using the biblical method of “seek and ye shall find”.  If we began there we would indeed type The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.  But…if I change the home key for the left hand by moving it only one place to the right, it looks something like this: Yhr wuivy ntoen goc jumpd obrt yhr lsxy foh.  Well, that certainly make a lot of sense.  The spell correction feature of WordPress is scratching its head wondering, “What in the world is he trying to spell?”

Starting in the wrong “home keys” is not only disastrous for keyboarding, but also in living.  The influence of cultural biases affect our thinking and will create theological nonsense just like that sentence when my fingers were NOT on the right home keys.  So my mind began racing away by thinking of 7 simple steps to overcome cultural bias as Followers of Jesus.  It was then I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Holf on nih noy.”  Oops, my fingers were on the wrong home keys.  What He really said to me was, “Hold on big boy.”  So I thought, are there more than 7 simple steps?  Is it like a 12 Step Recovery Program?  I now can see the Holy Spirit doing a face palm.

Then it hit me, the word I needed to focus on is “simple”.  By use of this word I do not mean “simplistic”, rather basic.  The Bible is a narrative, THE Narrative of God.  “In the beginning” God creates perfection.  It remains perfect until Adam and Eve mess it all up and fall out of this perfect relationship.  Then the Bible becomes the narrative of 2 stories.  One narrative is how humanity keeps messing up God’s Intended Design.  The other narrative is how God faithfully and persistently seeks to restore His Image Bearers.

Everything in the Bible is about this narrative, this story of falling and restoring.  Unlike what most of us were taught, the Bible is not a library of different books.  It is the unfolding narrative about us falling and how God is seeking and working to restore us.  So to overcome the influences of cultural biases here’s what we all need to do–what I am doing.  I read.  I allow those words, just those words, soak and simmer into my mind.

Then I explore and study the what, where and when those words were spoken.  In other words, I seek to know the context, but always filtering those thoughts through the narrative of me falling and God seeking and working to restore this fallen Image Bearer.  And that is why I did not use the words “easy steps” and used the words “simple steps” because it is not easy, but it is doable because of this simplified process of allowing the Bible to speak TO us instead of us speaking FOR the Bible.

One of the good things, perhaps very few good things, about this internet thing is the easy access to uncovering the contexts of this Biblical Narrative.  I do not have to be a Hebrew and Greek scholar.  All I have to do is visit www.blueletterbible.org and see what people like James Strong and Joseph Henry Thayer have discovered about the ancient Greek or what Strong and Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius can share about the ancient Hebrew.

I can also visit www.biblegateway.com and look at that passage from a variety of translations and paraphrases and find certain nuances from each translation.  I can Google and find out the history of those times and places.  All the while listening to the Holy Spirit.  Many times I wrestle and struggle with the Narrative, but I do not wrestle or struggle alone.  I have my Companion, the one Jesus promises to freely give me if I only trust in Him.

So, first open the Bible then open your heart before you open your mind.  Our mind is where the junk and garbage of these cultural biases live.  Do not allow your minds to influence your heart as a Follower of Jesus.  The restoring work of God begins in the heart because this is where His Image resides and longs to be released and unleashed upon the mind, and then the world.  Jesus gives us a new heart that is designed to transform this mind that is polluted with the biases of our culture.  I cannot stress enough that you begin listening with your heart first.  Oh, you want me to give you a passage from the Bible on this?  Ok……you asked for it; Romans 12:1-2 (NLT):

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  (emphasis mine)

Better yet, listen to how The Message puts it:

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.  (emphasis mine)

Oh, one more thing.  This does not mean, by any stretch of even MY most active imagination, that I have mastered the Bible.  It does mean that The Bible, This Word of God, is mastering my life.  I am now being processed by God’s Word, and I am learning so much more than I ever have before.