It has been nearly a month. I have had time to process it, so now I will write.
Well, I have just been to Dante’s 45th Level of Hell. Excuse me, I meant to say my 45th consecutive North Alabama UMC Annual Conference. For those unfamiliar with my Spiritual Tribe, it’s that annual gathering of pastors and laity to “do” the “business” of UMC congregations within the boundaries of the North Alabama Conference. The italics and bold font indicates it’s alleged purpose. Honestly, sometimes I wonder how much we really do and how much of what we do really is the business of the Body of Christ and the Tribe known as United Methodists or the business of our personal opinions and beliefs.
To the young clergy and and young Christians, I want you to know I heard you cries of despair; of your feelings of being neglected because you felt your voice wasn’t important. It is important, but not in the way you may think. I also heard your anger because…well…because you did not obtain the results you wanted.
It appeared that you felt like BECAUSE you are young, your voice and your beliefs are the most important one. You were disappointed that none of you were elected to attend our General and Jurisdictional Conferences…and thus you assumed we weren’t listening. Au contraire, my sisters and brothers. You were heard, and there were many times when your voices did not sound like our Head, Jesus Christ.
With youth comes many advantages, but also disadvantages. The advantages of youth are qualities and virtues we all need to reclaim. We need to reclaim the excitement of the sense of unlimited possibilities. We need to reclaim the excitement of new discoveries. We need the stepping stones of fresh perspectives. These are just a few of the things you youth can teach us old fogies.
But there are also some disadvantages to youth, disadvantages us old fogies also had. The lack of depth of wisdom comes to mind. Wisdom doesn’t come from the surface of information, but from the depths of God’s heart and mind. This takes time…a lot of time. You lack the scars of battle with the Enemy. Don’t misunderstand me on this point. I know you have faced and done battle with the Enemy…otherwise you would’t be here.
Allow me to give you the image of my son, now retired from the military. He has been in many literal battles. And when the battle was intense, he did not look to that fresh out of West Point or ROTC second lieutenant for guidance and courage, he looked to the seasoned officers who had more experience in battle. What I want to say is that experience trumps youthful enthusiasm every time. Experience helps steady the ship when the storms are intense.
Young clergy and laity, you bring much to our Table. We need what you offer. But you also need what we old fogies bring to the Table. We bring years of failure and success. We bring hearts and minds deeply rooted in the Truth of Scriptures (well most of us anyway). We also bring a knowledge of our processes.
Do not think you are unimportant because you did not get your way at the North Alabama Annual Conference 2019. The anger many of you manifested at Annual Conference did not serve your purposes at all. Take a moment to breathe, and reflect in the presence of the Holy Spirit. And for a moment, set aside all that your seminary professors told you–and simply seek the Holy Spirit–then listen.
I do not blame you for feeling disappointed. I do blame those who told you that you have the only answer for the problems ad issues of the church in the 21st century. The Body of Christ has many parts, and you are one of those parts. Bring your energy and insights to the body of Christ.
But also listen…listen to the scars of us old fogies…listen to the wisdom from above that we have because we have been on the front lines for a while. The, when it’s time for decisions to be made, contact those delegates elected, and with the spirit of grace and kindness, share your views and opinions. Those will be a part of the mix that helps us ALL, regardless of age, to move forward with the Kingdom of God.
And most of all remember Paul’s words to young Timothy. Study…learn…seek wisdom from Above. Rejoice in your successes but also learn from your failures. The scars we bear are the most fertile ground for spiritual maturity…
It made me think about the Great Debate going on in my Tribe, the United Methodist Church. While some have chosen to make it a debate about human sexuality, I see that it is something much more that this single issue. The real issue is Grace. There are some within our Orthodox Camp who show little grace to those who are struggling with their identity, but I’ll leave their narrow view of grace to another post.
I’m talking about the artificial grace from those with a progressive persuasion. They claim that because of grace, sin needs to be redefined. At the core is that the suffering of Jesus was designed to free a person from that nasty thing called sin. Grace gives us the authority to redefine everything. Not so fast, Buckeroo.
The grace that condones and encourages anyone to live outside God’s Intended Design, is not Real Grace, rather a prosthetic grace. I have nothing but deep respect admiration for our Wounded Warriors and others who have lost a limb and then proceed to live their life to the fullest through the use of that prosthetic limb. If you are one of these, know that you inspire me to do better, BE better.
But to insist that there is a form of grace that allows us to live by our desires, our feelings, our understandings–well, it’s not really grace. What I see is a progressive grace that denies people the opportunity to experience God’s Power of Transformation. And thus, their theology ceases to be progressive…it becomes regressive. Perhaps this explains the aggressive behavior of many within the progressive camp.
Listening to the stories of those who have those prosthetic limbs, I hear the difficulties and pain involved in learning to use these marvelous devices. Ask anyone who is required to use a prosthetic limb, “Which would you rather have, the real limb or prosthetic limb?”, and I believe that would answer, “The real one, of course.”
This false grace being promoted is filled with both difficulties and pain. False grace leaves no room for the true purpose of Grace–which is to engage us in a lifelong process of transformation. It is telling people you are a prisoner to your desires and feelings. And to the LBGTQI+ community I say, “God loves you, period. But His GRACE is made to liberate you from your feelings and desires about who you want to have sex with. You are not identified by your sexual desires. You are identified by the person God wants to make you. Because God is good, He will transform you into someone beautiful and wonderful.”
Grace without a lifetime of transformation??? It’s not real. It’s not grace. It’s a prosthetic to replace the real.
And remember to love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
In his sobering book The Last Christian Generation, Josh McDowell grabbed our attention when he wrote, “Over the last generation the number of students who say that the church will play a part in their lives when they leave home has dropped from 66% to 55% down to 33%!” He further points out that “between 69% to 94% of young people are leaving the traditional church after High School and few are returning!!!”
The Good News
On the positive side, McDowell notes that “65% of this generation wants a close relationship with God; and 49% want to make a difference in the world!” In fact, most will say that “God is still important to them,” but “they just believe some different things from you and I [sic].”
The Not Exactly Good News
When McDowell mentioned that this generation proclaims that God is still important to them…
Well, here’s my newest venture, Essie and Prog. I invite you to follow along with their story. As with any story, there has to be a “Once Upon A Time”, a beginning point. So this is where I begin…at the beginning…
My friend and brother in Christ, Matthew, hits on that “inconvenient truth” of 21st century churches–our loss of desperation FOR God. People are desperate for sure–but for the wrong things. Make sure you listen to the song he shares…
For the last several Sundays, I have been leading worship in a traditionally blended extension of a church in our area. The service I’m involved in is at 9:30, while the main campus (which is right across the parking lot) has services both at 9:30 and 11:00. After we were done, I slipped across the parking lot for the 11:00 service. The worship team opened with a song I had never heard until Wednesday night’s rehearsal. The song is “Fill This Place” by Red Rocks Worship. The lyrics reminded me of the desperation and the longing we should possess for God’s presence and power in our lives.
My mind goes quickly to two Old Testament accounts. The first is Joseph. He was wrestling with what some consider to be the pre-incarnate Christ. Joseph made a powerful statement – “I will not let go until you bless me.” The second account…
why give light to those in misery, and life to those who are bitter? 21 They long for death, and
it won’t come. They search for death
more eagerly than for hidden treasure.
filled with joy when they finally die, and rejoice when they find the grave. 23 Why is life given to those
with no future, those God has surrounded with difficulties?
cannot eat for sighing; my groans pour out like water. 25 What I always feared has
happened to me. What I dreaded has come
true. 26 I have no
peace, no quietness. I have no rest;
only trouble comes.”
Let me set up today’s message with an image from the
novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Scarlet Letter” set in Boston in the Puritan
era. It’s the story of a woman who
conceived after committing adultery.
Because of her act she was forced to wear the Scarlet letter “A” stitched on her clothes. It was the religious community’s attempt to
fill her with shame.
There’s another Scarlet letter that many of us have worn—The Scarlet Letter D! When we launched this series called Surviving Your D-Day Invasions, we said that each of the attacks we would discuss come as a sneak invasion from a hostile enemy. When you look at today’s topic of Divorce, we know that to be true. In this series, we are looking at the Old Testament story of a man named Job. Job did not experience divorce, but these words he wrote fit those of us who have. I also said that we would be walking through my own personal story. Here is the one thing I ask you to remember:
Divorce Is A Sin, But It Never Disqualifies You From Serving God.
Today we’ll be talking about the darkest time in my
life. This is the most difficult message
I have ever had to prepare or deliver. I
realize this message will not apply to all of you. But maybe you know someone with someone who
has faced or is facing The
The first time I did this series was 2003. When God first started working on me about
this series and today’s topic, you have no idea how I resisted. At the time Vicky and I had been separated, a
fact known by only a very few people.
Before that, we have been sleeping in separate rooms, living separate
lives. God has an amazing sense of
timing. The first time I did this
message was 1 week after I announced to the congregation I served, that we
filed for Divorce.
And even now, I still have difficulty sharing these
thoughts with you. Today is deeply
personal, a reflection of what I learned as I dealt with the fact of Divorce in my life. I never said, “Let’s try this thing called
marriage, and 29 years later, if it doesn’t work out, we’ll get a Divorce.” But sometimes, in spite of our best
intentions, the path of our lives takes an unexpected turn.
Of all the “D’s”
of the D-Day Invasions, Divorce can be overwhelmingly painful. It sneaks up on two people who began a union
deeply in love. They had dreams and
aspirations of what their marriage could be and should be. For the most part, they thought their
marriage would last forever. That is
until one day, when the D-Day Invasion
of Divorce lands right in
the middle of their home.
Maybe some of you here have personally experienced the
D-Day Invasion of Divorce. Some of you may have seen the results of that
invasion in your parent’s Divorce. All of us have probably had friends, close
friends, whose marriage became 1 of the unfortunate statistics of our
Many people are dealing with the pain, turmoil and
rejection that come with Divorce. Believers, non-believers, seekers—the D-Day Invasion Of Divorce cuts across
all lines. And because of deep
misunderstanding, the church only adds to the pain.
Once we are faced with the Invasion of Divorce, how can we survive? How can we discard this Scarlet D? Many people feel hopeless, confused and
rejected. I looked at my failed marriage
and I felt like a total failure. God’s plan for marriage is for a
Somewhere down the line, you’re going to have to
attach some responsibility. In all Divorce cases, one or both people
were responsible. Someone screwed up;
someone made a mistake. It may not be
you but it was someone. This once
perfect thing now has division. You
cannot speak of Divorce in generalities;
each case must be examined in its own situation.
That’s what we need to do here. Some of the most happily married people I
know are people who have learned from their past mistakes. However, we know the statistics, don’t
of people who Divorce once will Divorce again. Most
second marriages fail also. 73% of third marriages end in Divorce.
Once we understand who is responsible, we can begin to
work toward forgiveness. We understand
that true healing requires forgiveness for wrongs done. Forgiveness must be accepted and must be
given. Some people say, “That’s
crazy! There is no way I’ll forgive that
person—it’s too difficult.” You are
It’s very, very hard.
You may be the only one that wants to work on forgiveness. When we have been hurt and wronged we will
never be healed until we forgive.
You don’t have to walk up to that ex-spouse and announce your
forgiveness. But you have to do it in
your heart. Forgiveness is saying, “I Refuse To Hold On To The Pain. I Refuse To Live In The Past. I Release Them From Holding Me Captive To Any
Grudge Or Pain.”
You must also learn to forgive yourself. As you work through the responsibility part
of Divorce, you may find
that some of the blame lies with you. I
know there were times when I was uncaring.
There were especially times when I was too busy.
Kids of Divorce
go through confusion and pain when their parents got divorced. They wondered if it was their fault. There is no sense of closure to it. It’s true for even adult kids. Kids of all ages need to stay connected with
both parents. It’s the best thing for the
Your Kids See You Living Out Forgiveness. Teach them, by your
example, about owning up to your mistakes and about receiving and giving the
grace of God. Let them see you working to live at peace
with your ex-spouse. Here is a powerful opportunity to bring something
good out of something horrible.
If you, or a family member, or close friend experiences
the D-Day of Divorce, and
there are children involved, even grown children, it’s important for them to
see the spirit of grace, the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation at
Take Sides, Be A Model Of God’s Grace. Finally, in order to move beyond the pain,
and experience healing and wholeness:
4. Align Your Different Life
With God’s Principles
In my nearly 44 years of working in ministry, I’ve
never met a person who didn’t want their second marriage to work. There is only one way to do it, friends.
Do you ever feel like you have The Scarlet D pinned to your shirt? That you could never be normal again in God’s
eyes because of this thing called Divorce? Maybe there’s another Scarlet Letter pinned
to your shirt. Maybe yours is the Scarlet A—Addict,
Adultery Abuser, Abused. Maybe you know
someone with the Scarlet
L—Loser. Maybe yours is the Scarlet S—Sinner! I want to leave you with this last verse and
encourage you to align your new life with God’s principles.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17 says: In Christ We Are New Creations; The Old
Is Gone, And New Has Come!
Grace is all about a fresh
start. Do you need a fresh start? God has one for every person who is wearing any
Scarlet Letter. He will
take that letter off of you and you will never have to wear again.
.If You Are Living With Shame Put On You By Family, Church, Or Even Yourself Because Of Divorce, Bring That Shame To Jesus Right Now. The shame of anyone who wears The Scarlet D was carried by Jesus so that you do not have to carry it anymore. No sin that anyone commits ever disqualifies them from both a relationship with God and the opportunity to be called by Him to serve Him.
If You Have Been Through Divorce Or Not, Read The Scriptures About Divorce WITHOUT Whatever You Have Been Taught About It.Take 2 steps in your reading. First, ask the Holy Spirit to be your guide and teacher. Second, read those passages within the big picture of what God is seeking to do with ALL who have sinned. Our God is focusing on both Redemption, and Restoration, making people useful for His Kingdom. God chose Saul the murderer to become Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles. If God can use a murderer, why can’t He use someone divorced in any role He wants?
I have been called a “wordsmith” because of the ways I talk, preach, and pray. But I’ve never been called an “artist”. Heck, I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. Therefore, I am looking for someone who can draw. And here’s why:
This morning I was reflecting on the book, “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis. And I started thinking. I know, that scares the heck out of a lot of people, and perhaps it should scare them. I’m thinking about starting either a new blog, Facebook Page, Twitter account (or all of the above). Here is my vision about this new project:
It will be called “Essie and Prog”, 2 Senior Demons in Lucifer’s army.
They will have conversations (as opposed to letters between Wormwood and Screwtape).
Their conversations will be about the state of affairs and condition of the 21st century church.
Unlike the TV Series “Law and Order” that claims NOT to be based on actual events, it will be based on actual events and debates happening in the church (although the names will be changed to protect the innocent–remember the old series “Dragnet”?)
Essie is a woman, while Prog is a man.
Both have the physical appearance of being ordinary 21st century human beings.
And this is why I seeking help in the bloggersphere. I do not want to “Google” a caricature, and thus possibly violate copyrighted material. I need some drawings for both Essie (remember, female) and Prog (remember, male). These drawings do not have to be syndicated cartoon worthy drawings. Simply, creative drawings. And if you wish, I will gladly give credit where credit is due. Or not. It’s your call!
So, all of you creative people out there–GET TO BEING CREATIVE–I need your gifts of creativity! Comment below if you would be interested or find me on Facebook and private message me.
Many of you may remember the theme of ABC’s Wide World
of Sports: The Thrill Of Victory, And The Agony Of Defeat. Isn’t it true? You play any sports, take a standardized
test, work in sales, or just live in our culture and you will understand one
thing about our culture. We love
winners. We love champions.
I, like most of you, have lived long enough to
experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. When you experience victory, the crowd cheers
and you hear the roar of your name.
But, if you experience defeat, crowds “boo and hiss”, people avoid
you and they reject you. I’ve had my
agony of defeat and maybe you’ve had yours.
Here’s what I’ve noticed and experienced: People
Are Drawn Towards Those Who Have Won By Defying Adversity. They’ve Beat This Thing Called Defeat.
I think this cultural bias is why people are drawn to
the story of Job. We are using this
story from the Bible to go through this series:
Surviving Your D-Days. As we described last week, Job is the classic
story of this struggle between good and evil, of someone who is a great guy who
doesn’t deserve to have bad things happen to him; but who has to deal with evil
things. He has to overcome life’s most
As we’ll see today in Chapter 2, he had to survive the
worst kind of invasion—the invasion that becomes personal. It’s different when the invasion hits our friends,
work, our nation, or even our family members.
It’s not that we don’t care about what is happening to our family and
friends. But when it becomes personal,
it’s a different movie all together. For
Job, this is personal; it became a personal defeat, a personal D-Day invasion
Job 2:1-7 (NLT)
One day the members of the heavenly court came again to present themselves
before the Lord, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them. 2 “Where
have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan.
Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth,
watching everything that’s going on.”
the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is
blameless—a man of complete integrity.
He fears God and stays away from evil.
And he has maintained his integrity, even though you urged me to harm
him without cause.”
replied to the Lord, “Skin for skin!
A man will give up everything he has to save his life. 5 But
reach out and take away his health, and he will surely curse you to your face!”
right, do with him as you please,” the Lord said to Satan. “But spare his life.” 7 So
Satan left the Lord’s presence, and he struck Job with terrible boils from
head to foot.
Job is afflicted with a painful skin disorder from
head to toe. It’s probably not that long
since he was grieving in Chapter One.
Now he is grieving in a culturally relevant way. He is sitting in a pile of ashes and he’s
shaved his head but this time he’s covered in sores from head to toe from this
He is in pain, and this pain takes on a whole new
meaning. He has broken pieces of pottery
and he begins to cut at his sores to relieve the pressure and pain. Listen, defeat cuts us to the core because it’s
personal. Satan, our adversary, knows
that. However, Job shows us that the
main way to survive the D-Day Invasion
Of Defeat And Failure is to not let it become personal.
It takes Job a while before he understands this. It can’t be personal in the sense of who we
are! We may suffer defeat or may fail at
things but it does not mean we are failures, and that we are forced to live
defeated lives. So, Here’s the one thing
you need to remember: Getting Knocked
Down 7 Times Does Not Make You A Failure, If You Get Up 8 Times.
The movie “The Rookie” tells the true story of Jimmy
Morris. Jimmy grew up in a poor town in
Texas. It was an oil town that knew
defeat when its booming oil industry dried up and the town dried up too. He had an unsupportive father. Because of injuries he was never able to go
beyond 1A Baseball after high school.
Jimmy stayed in the same dead town and was a high
school science teacher, but it’s not what he dreamed of being. He’s coaching a losing team in a failing
baseball program. They had only won one
game per year from 1996-98. In 1999,
spring baseball had begun. The school
doesn’t want this team; no one comes to see these boys play. They play their first game and they
But more than just lose the game, Jimmy sees the
bigger picture. They aren’t just losing
on the baseball field. They are growing
up to be losers. They are growing up to
be failures. They aren’t just failing;
they believe it about themselves. After
this game, he gives a speech that will forever change their life and his. He tells them, “You’ve given up even before
you started. And the sad thing is you
don’t even know it.”
Let me ask you some questions:
What Kind Of Failures From
Your Past Or Even Your Present Haunts You?
What Areas Are You Feeling An
Invasion Of Defeat In Right Now?
Have You Given Up On Dreams
Because Of Some Failure?
Have you ever said, “That’s who I am; I’m just a
failure. That’s all I will ever be. I will always be dumb, or poor, or divorced
or had or did or whatever.”? What is it
For many of us, we have lived with or we are living
now with the sense that we are a failure and that we will always be just that: A Failure. So we live a defeated life. We allow the invasion of defeat take control
and wipe us out. Allow me to share 4
quick lessons with you today from the life of Job, and from my own experiences:
1. Failure Is Inevitable
Failures can be of a spiritual nature or a
non-spiritual nature—both kinds are normal and unavoidable. God understands that we are human and we make
mistakes. If you are a Christian, you
have to know this to be true. And we
should be glad that God understands that we are just created from dirt.
He knows that we are not god and not perfect. You should know that God, who desires a
relationship with you, knows you aren’t perfect. He doesn’t expect you to be—just yet. God understands that we are going to fail
sometimes and fail miserably and that it’s unavoidable.
We need to understand that too, so that we can deal
with it in a constructive, not destructive way.
Listen, Our View Of These Life
Failures Determines If We Will Truly Survive Them.
Haunted by the jeering of his father, Jimmy Morris
took one failed attempt at the Big Leagues and made that who he was. He made one try towards his dream and put it
together with what his father said and decided that’s who he was.
He thought, “If I really was a great baseball player
then it would come easily for me and failure would have been avoidable. I am just a failure.” He didn’t understand what the Bible
says. Failure is unavoidable and normal.
2. Failure Is Something We Experience But It’s
Not Who We Have To Be
When we make a bad decision or we make a dumb choice
as a teenager, or our life as adults takes a different path than we intended,
understand that It Doesn’t Define Us;
It Defines Only A Moment, An Experience!
Who Are You? How do you
answer that question? How you answer
that question speaks volumes about how you perceive yourself, your self-image
and your self-esteem. Do you answer it
with the role you play in your life? Do
you answer that question with “I’m a father, mother, grandparent, farmer,
(Repeat that to yourself! Say this out loud: If I Am Afraid Of Failing, I Will Achieve Small Things, But I Will Never Achieve Anything That’s Really Important)
You will achieve some things that are easy but you’ll
never achieve the passions in your heart that you really could have achieved if
you had taken the risk. The bottom line
is this: Fear Of Failure Creates Inaction. It has a name: Atychiphobia. It’s living under the persistent fear of
It paralyzes people and keeps them from reaching their
God-given aspirations and goals. It
keeps them from moving on after the invasion
of defeat has paralyzed them.
They don’t move on because they don’t want to do it anyone.
The question for those of us who are Christians should
be, “What Is God Asking Me To Do?” Even those who haven’t crossed the line of
faith know something is bubbling up inside of them.
We know what the Creator has put inside of us, what
really moves us and makes us different.
We should want that and we should know that failure will come as an
opportunity to learn and to grow.
Anything that helps us grow is NOT an enemy.
4. Failure Is Not Final Unless You Give Up
God doesn’t care how many marriages you’ve been
though, how many times you’ve done this or that. That simply does not matter. You are not a failure. You may have failed, yes, but You Are Not A Failure Until You Give Up. You can move on. You can keep your eyes on your dream.
You understand that God loves you unconditionally so
that you can take responsibility for your actions and then continue to press
on. And Jimmy Morris? He made a promise to that high school team if
they made it to the District Playoffs, he would try out for a major league
team. That group of players, known as
losers, not only made it to the playoffs, they won!
In 1999 at the age of 35, Jimmy made his Major League
début for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays striking out Royce Clayton. OK, so his major league career did not last
long, but how many 35 year old rookies have played in MLB? He said, “It’s amazing what you can achieve
when you don’t quit.”
Do you doubt these 4 truths? Maybe you’re thinking, “Preacher, you don’t
know how bad I’ve failed.” Listen, on
the Cross, people looked at Jesus and thought he had been defeated and that it
was over. Even those closest to Him had
But Jesus’ death on that Cross had a purpose. And that Cross was not final. Jesus knew if He laid down His life for us
that there would be a Resurrection.
If Someone Wrote A Book On Your Life, The Most Important Chapter Would Be The Last Chapter. Would it reveal the spirit of determination? Or would it reveal the spirit of failure, of quitting?
believe that failure is fatal, it’s toxic to your soul, heart and mind. Jesus
knows how to deal with what appears to be a failure. Remember the Cross did not have the last
word. And Jesus knows how to deal with
It’s a proven
fact, that the fear of failure can become stronger than our motivation. It’s because the event of failing is mistakenly
believed to be the final defining moment of our life. Remember Henry Ford’s words: Whether
You Believe You Can Or You Can’t, You’re Right!
Thursday, we marked the 75th Anniversary of
the D-Day Invasion, the day that marked the beginning of the end of WW 2. Nonetheless, it was a horrible day. German casualties on D-Day have been
estimated between 4,000 to 9,000 men. Allied casualties were at least 10,000, with
4,414 confirmed dead on just that first day.
Stories of those from that day were stories about survival—just to get
through those initial first hours—and the days that followed.
Today we’re beginning a new series called “Surviving Your Personal D-Day Invasion.” This series addresses some of the tough
issues that many of us have to face from time to time. These
Invasions Are Designed To Enslave You. There
Are No Vaccinations Against These D-Day Invasions, And No One Has Natural
Immunity From Them.
We’ll journey together through God’s word as we talk
about these D-Day Invasions.
I want you to know something about this series.
I’m not teaching theory here—I’m teaching from the scars of my
experiences. I’ve learned that
everything Jesus promises is absolutely true.
The invasion may be happening right now, but it is not
a battle that you have to lose. In this
series, we’re going to learn that surviving our Personal D-Day Invasion will take complete trust—and it
will take complete hope—in God alone. I
want you to discover that through Christ we have overwhelming victory—no matter
what we face. This morning our passage
is found in one of the most misunderstood books in the Bible. Job 1:13-21 (NLT)
13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting at the oldest
brother’s house, 14 a messenger arrived at Job’s home with
“Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding
beside them, 15 when the Sabeans raided us. They stole all the animals and killed all the
farmhands. I am the only one who escaped
to tell you.”
16 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “The fire of God has fallen from heaven and
burned up your sheep and all the shepherds. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
17 While he was still speaking, a third messenger arrived with this news: “Three bands of Chaldean raiders have stolen
your camels and killed your servants. I
am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
18 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “Your sons and daughters were feasting in
their oldest brother’s home. 19 Suddenly, a powerful wind swept
in from the wilderness and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed, and all your children are
dead. I am the only one who escaped to
stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then
he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. 21 He
“I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be
naked when I leave. The Lord gave
me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!”
Today’s topic is Disillusionment. I’m
not talking about disappointment
or discouragement. These emotions are painful, but
disillusionment is much, much deeper—and so much darker.
Disillusionment comes when what we thought was going to happen seems
to be impossible. It is losing the
ability to dream and vision about your future.
Disillusionment is what causes us to feel despair—the feeling that we
will not survive.
Disillusionment is what makes
us cynical—and cynicism always makes us bitter.
We say, “Oh, I’ll never become disillusioned!” So we turn to motivational speakers and
posters. But they don’t really
help. In fact there is a website called http://www.despair.com
operated by a company called Demotivators.
Here’s their mission statement on their website:
No industry has inflicted more suffering than the
Motivational Industry. Motivational
books, speakers and posters have made billions of dollars selling shortcuts to
success and tools for unleashing our unlimited potential. At Despair, we know such products only raise
hopes to dash them. That’s why our
products go straight to the dashing.
The fact is that there will come a day when you will
experience the D-Day Invasion Of Disillusionment. When things start crumbling around you, you
will need something to hold onto, something that’s steady and constant. And what you may have thought you could count
on—evaporates before your very eyes.
So here’s the one thing you need to remember: The Only
Way You’ll Be Able To Survive Is If You Have Learned To Put Your Trust And Hope
In God Alone. True survival
for now and for eternity comes when you know God personally in a deeply
intimate and personal way.
There is classic story in the Old Testament—nearly
everyone is familiar with Job. It’s the
story of a man who suffered much during his Personal
Invasion, yet he was able to survive. We’ll look at his story and others during the
course of this series and learn how they did it and how you can do it,
You need to understand that it wasn’t easy for Job nor
did his victory come instantly. Job was
a man who loved God deeply and had life going his way. Then comes Satan, who accuses that Job only
loves God because of his blessings. The
eternal conflict between good and evil is revealed once again.
Are you experiencing disillusionment in your life
today? The disillusionment of being in a
dead-end life? Of struggling
financially? Of a crumbling health? Of rebellious children? Of broken dreams? What’s disillusioning you? Job faced his Personal D-Day Invasion.
Let’s take a look at three survival tactics Job used to survive—these
same tactics worked for me and they will work for you. Here are 3 things that Job did that you need
to do in the face of Disillusionment.
1. Be Open And Honest About Your
Job didn’t try to hide the pain in his life—he grieved openly and admitted his
suffering. In order to get beyond pain and experience healing in our
lives, we have to grieve.
Too often, we try to mask our pain through denial,
through superficial spirituality, through a drink or pill, or some other thrill. Job doesn’t do this. And he doesn’t resort to clichés, “Hallelujah;
I’m just going to let go and let God. I’m
just going to claim my victory.” Instead, Job Grieved. He tore his clothes, he put on sackcloth,
covered himself with ashes, and he began to mourn.
This is how grief was expressed in his time and
culture. And in doing this he was
telling everyone there that he was grieving—he was being open
and honest about his suffering. It’s normal to grieve.
In fact, it’s abnormal not to grieve. Through grief we can express our feelings about the situation.
This is what Job did—He expressed all his feelings about the situation. Through grief, we are able to gripe and express
our desire for the circumstances not to be true.
Job was brutally honest with God, and when we go
through struggles, we can be brutally honest with God about what is going on in
our lives. Grieving helps us to express the effects that
we’ve experienced from the impact of The
Invasion. We can begin to
tell God and even other people how we really feel.
Grieving has a purpose.
It Forces Us To Become
Honest With Ourselves So That We Can Begin Making The Necessary Changes In Our
Lives. Grieving gives a
chance to ask the hard questions that we need to ask—“Why did this happen? Is it God’s will? Did God do this? Is it my fault?” As we ask the questions, we can then begin to
discover the source of our disillusionment.
Like Job, sometimes it’s the result of evil, like
planes flying into buildings. Sometimes,
it’s the result of wrong choices on our part.
Through either situation, there are lessons to be learned, and we can’t
learn them until we Grieve,
until we ask the tough questions. That’s
the first tactic to handling disillusionment.
The second is:
2. Choose To Put Your Complete
Trust In God.
We don’t know how long Job grieved, but we do know
there was a day when he stopped. He grieves,
but he doesn’t stay in grief.
Did you notice verse 21?—“Then Job fell to the ground and worshipped
God!” Real trust comes only
through a personal relationship with God.
I want to make sure you understand this.
We can do a lot of different things to feel good once
in a while—but true faith, true trust comes only through a personal
relationship with God. When we trust or
value anything more than God, guess what happens? We’re setting ourselves up for Disillusionment.
You can’t trust in your money; money can be lost. You can’t trust in your skills; there are
some things your skills can’t get you through.
You can’t trust in your relationships; relationships can unravel. Where do you put your trust and hope? If you put it anywhere else than God for here
now and for eternity later, you will become a disillusioned
I Have Learned That I Can
Trust In God Because He Loves
Me Unconditionally. It doesn’t matter what I’ve done, what I’m
doing, or what I will do. God loves me
unconditionally and I cling to this truth.
And so can you! I discovered that I can cling to this truth and I
can trust God because He’s always in control.
In your D-Day Invasion, you need to know who’s in control. God is—and you can trust in God.
Yes, sometimes bad things happen, but God is still in
control. I can trust God because He loves me unconditionally. He is in total control. He knows what’s going to happen. Most importantly—He promises to never leave
me and to always be there. Here’s a
third tactic to help you through the invasion of disillusionment:
3. Restate Your Eternal Hope In
We all need to believe in dreams—to believe that we
have a purpose and can achieve great things.
We should desire to be effective and successful. We should want to be the best that we can be
and drive hard towards it. However, when
these positive thinking traits are not balanced with the real world and real
life and the sovereignty of God, we can become Disillusioned.
When we develop unrealistic expectations, we’re
setting ourselves up for Disillusionment.
There’s a hard truth we have to face—The World Doesn’t Revolve Around You And It Doesn’t
Revolve Around Me. Sometimes
we have a hard time believing that, but it’s true.
Believing that the world revolves around you is a
sword that cuts you down. We have these
expectations that we should shoot for but when we don’t balance it with reality
we become Disillusioned. It’s great to dream,
and we need to work toward those dreams.
Jesus said that life would be hard sometimes. But he also promised to help us
overcome. We can walk around angry and disillusioned and wish things could
be different, or We Could Stop
And Take Responsibility For Our Own Stuff.
We Can Stop And Re-Evaluate Our Priorities—And Focus On What’s Really Important.
Really, what’s more important to you—to have a big
house and a new car, or to play catch with a child? It’s your choice. It’s perspective, isn’t it? This sword
cuts us down when we’re not honest with ourselves about our passions, our
purpose in life, and about our time constraints. Re-Evaluate
Your Expectations. Prioritize Your
Life. Set Your Face, Values And
Priorities With God And Continue To Move Forward.
The economy can crash, relationships fall apart,
health declines, but God is always the same.
Our hope is in Jesus. It’s the
confident expectation that God is willing and able to fulfill the promises that
He has made. Christian hope is based on Who He Is And What He Can Do, not on
you and me. It’s not based on our
With Christ, we are able to rise above our
circumstance no matter what they are because of who God is. Do you need that kind of hope? That firm foundation of trust? Are you wondering where your hope can be
It can only be found in the one who knows your past
and loves you anyway. He Promises To Hold Your Hand In The Present
And Has Your Eternal Security In His Heart And It’s Secure In Him. Hope and trust in God alone is the backbone
of this whole series. It’s how we can
survive and even learn to thrive in our D-Day invasions.
If You Are Hiding Your True
Feelings, Be Honest With God. You need not be afraid of telling God how you
really feel. He already knows and He’s
so full of grace and love for you, He can handle whatever it is you are
When Your Life Is Invaded By
Disillusionment, Talk It Out! I am always available to you. But find someone who will listen as you grieve, and at the right moment,
offer you hope. Make it someone who
won’t say “Let go and let God” or some other cute phrase. Make it someone who will listen to you, AND
the Holy Spirit.
I remember playground games. Whether it was softball, kick-ball, football
or dodge ball, we would divide into teams.
Sometimes the teacher would select captains, sometimes 2 would just
volunteer. But one thing I remember most,
is that in the process of selecting teams, no one wanted to be the last person
picked. It meant people didn’t see much
in you, that you lacked the skill necessary to be a vital part of the
team. Being picked last was often
humiliating. As we celebrate Communion,
I want you to know that in God’s eyes you are never the last person picked for
God’s team! Let’s look at today’s
passage from Ephesians 1:3-14 found in The
3-6 How blessed is God! And what a blessing He is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ,
and takes us to the high places of blessing in Him. Long before He laid down earth’s foundations,
He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole
and holy by His love. Long, long ago He
decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure He
took in planning this!) He wanted us to
enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving by the hand of His beloved
7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, His
blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of
penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!
He thought of everything, provided for everything we could
possibly need, letting us in on the plans He took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a
long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in Him,
everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
11-12 It’s in Christ that
we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got
our hopes up, He had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part
of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.
13-14 It’s in Christ that you, once you heard
the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves
home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment
on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us,
a praising and glorious life.
is the most important day in your life.
Not yesterday, not tomorrow, not next week or next year. This leads me to the one thing you need to
remember from today’s message: God speaks of his relationship with you in
permanent, irrevocable terms of adoption, ransom and guarantee. God chooses you, and that will never change.
If you’ve ever felt unsure about your usefulness in God’s plans or
if you are acceptable to God, then I want you to pay close attention for the next
few minutes, because these few verses tell you three important things about You
in God’s eyes. Embrace these 3 truths into your life, you will
experience a greater sense of self-worth and more spiritual confidence than you
have ever known.
1. You’ve Been On
God’s Mind From The Beginning.
back to my image of standing on the playground.
At first, you were just part of a crowd, but now selections have been
made and now you are standing alone, and the captain who has the last pick,
says “Oh well, I guess I’ll have to take them.”
I think all of us can relate to this feeling; we all know what it is
like to be the last chosen—the least talented in at least some area—academically,
athletically, musically, and so on. But
there is an area where you never need feel that way: Your Relationship With God.
Probably all of us have wondered, at one time or another, “If they
had it to do all over again, would they choose me? Would they hire me? Would she marry me?” Maybe some of you have even thought, “If Jesus
had to do it over, would He die for me again?”
Some of you may believe that you have been such a disappointment to God
that you would have been better off not to have been born. The message from God is the exact
God knew that you would be
where you are today in all areas of your life.
He knew you would be here at this moment and for some, it may have been
a rough ride. There may have been
mistakes and disappointments along the way and you may have wanted to give up
many times. Even though your past may be
littered with failures, it doesn’t change the fact that God Loves You, He Chooses You,
And He Believes In You. You have
been, are now and will always be on His mind and in His heart. This is RANSOM!
2. You Belong To
God, And That Will Never Change.
This passage defines your
relationship with God in permanent terms.
It says, first of all, that we have been adopted. The citizens of Ephesus understood the
significance of adoption,
because it was common in their society. Adoption wasn’t just a case of parents
choosing to provide a home for a parentless child.
Paul said, “You’ve been Adopted
into the family of God. Get comfortable because
He’s not going to give up on you.”
3. Everything You
Need, You Can Have.
Jesus didn’t die on the cross
just to abandon you now. God is
generous. He doesn’t withhold His kindness,
His love, His mercy, His forgiveness, His compassion, or His blessings from you. He showers you with kindness. He will lavish His generosity on you, If
You Are Willing To Receive It.
not just about your physical needs; he is referring to your spiritual and
emotional needs as well. God will give
you All The Joy You Need—All The Love You
Need, All The Faith You Need, All The Mercy You Need, And
truth is, He Wants To Shower His Kindness
On You. Everything you need, He
wants to provide.
See your relationship with God
in a new way—in a non-adversarial way.
God isn’t mad at you. He isn’t
sorry that He chose you. And if He had
to do it over, He Would Die For You Again. Why? Before
you were born, you were on His mind
and IN His heart. He chooses You
to be His very own. You belong with Him,
and that will never change. And He will
be with you every step of the way, blessing you with what you need each and
How do I know
this? Even more important, how can YOU
know this? You and I can know this
without a doubt because the
Holy Spirit is given as our guarantee.“Guarantee” Is A Term That Means The Assurance That
Another’s Obligation Will Be Fulfilled.
It comes from a Hebrew word that means “a pledge”—God has made
a pledge to fully restore you back to His Intended Design—To be the you He
created you to be. Until that work is
finished He gives us the Holy Spirit, as His Personal Pledge.
The presence of the Holy Spirit is the assurance that God’s
commitment to you will not stop until the final result—We become exactly like
Design—The Perfect In Every Detail Reflection Of God. We come to the table, the ONLY Table where it
all starts, where we are called to live, and one day where it will be completed—the
Table of Grace…
week it’s rather simple: Find where God
is at work and join with Him. After all,
He has chosen you to work with Him! Or, find a place where you
know God wants to work, and get started.
After all, He wants you to work with Him!
(How sad it is that the state of the UMC is such that any satire must be clearly labeled as such. This is satire. It is more tragic satire than comic. It is akin to the irony of, “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” However, I can imagine any number of U.S. bishops who could deliver this message as written and with a straight face. So, I reiterate: This is satire. Bishop Achrestos offered us assurance and calm following the 2019 General Conference. While the bishop is fictional, all events, quotes, and actions he describes are actual. One may take issue with their characterization or their significance but not the reality.}
Well, it’s still chapter 3 and there’s something else that has caught my attention…and my heart. It’s verses 4 and 5. I want to share it with you from 3 different translations:
Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. (New Living Translation)
Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Look here.” He looked up, expecting to get something from them. (The Message)
Peter and John, looking straight into the eyes of the crippled man, said, “Look at us!” Expecting a gift, he readily gave them his attention. (The Passion Translation)
Peter and John stared at him. “Look at us!” Peter said. So the man watched them closely. He expected to receive something from them. (God’s Word Translation)
The phrases that the Spirit highlights for me in all these translations is the response of that man who was unable to walk since his birth. In each translation there is that word (or a form of it) EXPECTATION! And what caused that sense of expectation in this man who never expected to walk? This man who had begged his whole life and who had no hope of anything else but a lifetime of begging had more than likely looked at some people and knew, “Well, they aren’t going to give me anything.” Why EXPECTATION and why now?
It must have been THE LOOK! Not his looking at them, but THE LOOK that was in the faces of Peter and John. He must have sensed that these men had something for him, something he desperately needed. THE LOOK on their face stirred up something in the man unable to walk, and that something was EXPECTATION! Granted, he didn’t have a clue about what he was going to receive–nonetheless, he knew something was coming. And it was coming.
He could have not looked at them. Or he could have looked at them and missed THE LOOK. But he didn’t because he could not afford NOT to look. Some people live a life of hidden and quiet desperation but not this man. Desperation was written all over him. There was that billboard behind him that everyone could see. And his desperation led to his EXPECTATION when he saw THE LOOK!
And this had led me to today’s musings–actually it’s more like a deep sadness in my heart. It comes from that question that the Holy Spirit has put in my heart. Here is that question:
WHAT HAPPENED TO ‘THE LOOK’?
The western church, meaning in Europe and the U.S.A., continues to be in a state of decline in mainline protestant churches. All around us are people living in desperation just like that man unable to walk. They are LOOKING for answers to calm their deep-seated desperation. They long for EXPECTATION beyond their DESPERATION. So they LOOK anywhere and everywhere…except to the church.
Church, we are living in the perfect time–lives sinking in DESPERATION looking for EXPECTATION of something better. Local churches should be overflowing; instead they are struggling to survive. In a couple of weeks I will be attending another “conference” for my Tribe and there will be reports for disposal of congregations who have closed their doors since last year. What went so DESPERATELY wrong, Church?
It’s THE LOOK that we’ve lost. THE LOOK that says there’s more to living than DESPERATION! THE LOOK that opens eyes to the Good News of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God! THAT, my friends, is what Peter and John had. Oh, we have A look, but it’s not’s what Peter and John had.
Church, we have a history of a different look. Our culture has seen a different look–
the look of contempt for our culture
the look of judgment and condemnation
the look of disapproval
the look of “I’m much better than you”
the look of “You don’t belong with us”
And so, the lives of DESPERATION look away from us. And who would blame them. I once served a church that had beautiful, I mean beautiful stained glass windows. To protect them they had installed Plexiglas protectors on the outside. But over the years they were no longer clear, only a dingy yellow. It prevented those on the outside from seeing the beauty of those windows. The only way to see them was from inside. And that was the message that church was sending. “If you want to see these windows, you need to be an insider, someone like us.” I don’t know if they ever replaced them. So I’m guessing outsiders still can’t appreciate the beauty that has been hidden from them.
Church, we need to give up our look for THE LOOK!THE LOOK that says, “I’ve been where you are, and truth is, I still struggle at times. But I have found The Way out and I’m working on my journey out of DESPERATION. Tell you what, let’s walk out together!” THE LOOK is one of–
and so much more
In fact, THE LOOK is looking just like Jesus! The sick and sinful were drawn in to Jesus because of THE LOOK and they will be drawn in today when we have THE LOOK rather than our own look. Is your church declining? Then I would highly encourage you to find a mirror, and LOOK at yourself. If you don’t see a face that is broken, a face that is crying for all those people living in desperation, you need a face transplant–you need The Face of Jesus!
Remember, love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!