WMTM?

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We live in a culture saturated with alphabet acronyms.  Blame it on cell phones and social media if that makes you feel better.  OMG; BTW; IDK; BFF; (some others that, well, just aren’t suitable for a Follower of Jesus blog); these are just a few.  Now add one more WMTM.  What does this one mean?  Glad you asked.  It means What Matters The Most?

Last Monday it seemed that in news feeds and social media there was a lot of ranting against NFL Players disrespecting the American Flag.  (I had a few comments about that.  You can check it out at my other blog Kingdom Pastor if you haven’t already.)  But this morning’s news feed and social media is about something far more serious and even more important.  I refer to the shooting deaths and injuries in Las Vegas last evening.  News about overpaid athletes isn’t worth reading about this morning.  Hopefully the perspective of many more will change, not just today, but for the rest of their lives.

I am appalled at the decision this person reached when he chose to open fire from the thirty-second floor of the Mandalay Hotel, but I am not shocked by his decision.  According to MacMillan Dictionary, to be shocked means: “very surprised and upset by something bad that happens unexpectedly“.  The key word is “unexpectedly”.  This and other acts of violence should not be unexpected.  Last Sunday there was a tragic shooting at a church in Antioch, Tennessee.  Stories like these happen way too often.  And I know somewhere that someone is going to blame this on “gun violence”.  To their credit, they are half-right.  The part they are correct in is that word “violence”.  But the cause is much deeper.

Our country is filled with so much hate and to fuel the hate, instigators rely on fake-news, misinformation, and even history to spread those flames.  Many will attempt to “fix” the problem by “fixing” the symptoms but never addressing the real issue and real disease.  The real issue is the hearts and minds of people and not some manufactured product or the dark history when human beings were inhumane to fellow human beings.  The real disease is evil, and until we address the pandemic of evil, more news like this morning’s news will continue; it should be expected.

Changing the Constitution, tearing down monuments, disrespecting all law enforcement officers because of a very few bad apples–none of that changes the real problem.  And Tenured Pew Sitters:  complaining about those haters doesn’t change anything.  It only spreads the disease of evil–being expressed through your hate.  OK, I just heard someone ask:  “OK, Rev. All-Wise-And-Know-It-All, what do YOU suggest?”  Oh, I am so glad you asked that question (even though I’m not “all-wise”, but thanks to the Holy Spirit I do have some wisdom; and though I do not know-it-all, I am intimately acquainted with the ONE who does know-it-all and then some).

Our Scripture this morning gives us the cure and solution for what ails this land.  Look again at that last verse:  “Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.”  What if we, who allegedly profess to follow Jesus, actually did this every day, all day long?  Now, now; I just heard someone thinking, “Just how in the world is that going to instantly change this country and put an end to all this violence?”  I didn’t say, nor did Paul infer, that doing good would instantly change the world.  But it is the only way to bring both radical and enduring transformation to a culture like ours.

Our culture will change one person at a time.  After all, didn’t all this violence begin with one brother hating another brother?  Remember Cain and Abel?  Complaining and finger-pointing adds fuel to the fire.  Taking your enemy out to lunch?  Offering your arch-rival a glass of sweet tea?  It sounds farcical and daft, I know, but it works–one life at a time.  Saul the Pharisee hated Christians and did violence against them, thinking it would preserve his religion.  But Jerusalem fell and the Temple, so sacred a place to Pharisees, was destroyed.  But Paul, an ambassador for Jesus, saw lives, families and communities transformed by God’s grace.  He saw chains fall off, demons sent back to where they came from, and people finding joy, peace, love and purpose through his decision to give His heart to Jesus, which prompted him to do good to his enemies.  Oh, and that “evil and violent empire” that put Paul (and so many others) to death?  They eventually fell into the dust and became just a footnote in history.  And the Kingdom of God continues even today.

WMTM is YOUR choice, YOUR decision to stop the hate and violence by doing good and lavishing grace upon our culture one person at a time.  I know it doesn’t make sense, but I do know it works because I’ve seen it work.  I remember several years ago an ad by an insurance company that really shows out this works.  It was known as “being responsible, and you can see one of those commercials here.  I am very proud that the congregation I serve, Sheffield First UMC, is addressing one area where hate abounds and doing so much harm to a group; this group is not afraid to address the issue of human sexuality in terms of both grace and truth.  This small group is realizing how our views and words only add hurt and hide the Truth.

When we stop blaming, stop the talking and start doing good to anyone and everyone, it will be as contagious as the measles in a kindergarten class.  Followers of Jesus, this is the greatest time perhaps since the days of Paul, to be an ambassador for Jesus.  Your portion of this world needs to see you do more than complain and blame–they need, in fact, they secretly long to see you put the love of God expressed through Jesus, to see this kind of love in your actions, attitudes and words.  What Matter The Most is YOU putting your love for God into action by fighting evil with good.

When we are convinced and overwhelmed in the power of Love and Grace being lavished on others, one person at a time, then we can say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray…

Dad, more than being sick about all this hate and violence, I am tired of the fact that I am NOT overcoming all this evil with the good You have so freely done for me.  Please take away this blindness that is making me the person who complains but does nothing, the person who, when all has been said and done, has been only talking and doing nothing.  I know there is evil out there and it is destroying so many lives, and though it may not make any sense right now, I know Your word says it is defeated by ME doing good for others, even my enemies.  So open my eyes to the many opportunities to overcome this evil with YOUR good.  And Lord, comfort those who are hurting and grieving this morning in Las Vegas.  Amen and Amen!

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THE LOVE OF MEDIOCRITY

“I can guarantee this truth:  Those who believe in me will do the things that I am doing.  They will do even greater things because I am going to the Father.”  John 14:12 (God’s Word Translation)

There has been this, oh call it a nagging thought, that has been haunting me for some time now.  It centers around this statement from Jesus in that Upper Room hours before the events that would lead to His death will roll into motion.  Never forget that Jesus knows exactly when and how He will die.  It was a death He freely chose for Himself.  And He was determined to make it happen.  And this morning I will share with you my nagging thought:  “Where are the greater things today?”

Jesus said, “Hey guys, all this stuff you’ve been watching me do, I guarantee that you are going to do them, too and guess what?  You are going to do even great things!”  And what are the things that Jesus did?  Well, giving sight to the blind, healing incurable diseases, causing those who couldn’t walk to dance, giving those who couldn’t talk the ability to sing, causing those who were told they were unlovable to know they were loved by God, raising the dead, feeding thousands with a kid’s meal, put the fear of God into demons, and the list goes on.  So, where are these things nowadays?

Last week I was blessed to be at the New Room Conference 2017 in Franklin, Tennessee.  It’s a gathering of people from a broad spectrum of ages, places and Tribes (otherwise called by many human minds, “denominations”) for praying, worship, fellowship and learning in order that collectively we would see another “Great Awakening” for our churches and communities.  I guess you could call us “Revival Seekers” and personally, I’m OK with that moniker.  It’s one of only a handful of “Christian Conferences” that I actually look forward to attending.

On Thursday, we were given the opportunity to choose from 5 break-out sessions to attend.  Originally I had signed up for a session about learning about John Wesley’s concept of “Bands”–not musical bands but small groups of followers of Jesus designed to be a way to hold each other accountable to the cause of The Kingdom.  But something, well, actually it was Someone kept pulling on me all morning long to attend another session that was about the work and power of the Holy Spirit.  I was looking for something to help me serve this congregation, but The Holy Spirit was saying, “Look, Randy, YOU need this for YOU!”  Can you guess which break-out session I attended?  And now?  The Holy Spirit has only intensified that question:  “Where are the greater things today?”

Here’s the truthful answer to that nagging question:  “For the most part, the greater things are missing.”  Around the world in other places the Greater Things are happening.  But here in the good old U.S. of A., we’re suffering from Spiritual Anemia.  And on this Monday Morning, I believe the Holy Spirit has helped me understand why.  The Spirit knows me, all too well, so He gave me a one word answer for the why:  MEDIOCRITY!  Mediocrity means “the state of being mediocre; so-so; nothing remarkable”.    The best way to understand the meaning of mediocrity is to look at words which are the exact opposite (we call them “antonyms”):  “excellence; superior in quality and value”.

Mediocrity has become the new standard of “excellence” in the church.  Now I just heard someone thinking, “Oh, that passage was just for those guys.  It wasn’t meant for today’s times.”  Oh, really??????  What twisted logic did you use to arrive at such an incongruous and wacky conclusion?  Did you walk under a coconut tree and a coconut fall on your head?  That kind of thinking reveals some serious brain damage from somewhere.  And do you really think that being safe and smug in a church building, avoiding the controversies of life, and feeling that you’re good enough to get into heaven qualifies as “the greater things”?  Wow!  4 or 5 coconuts must have hit you in the head.

Jesus said, Those who believe in me and not “Just you guys”.  I know, I know, it’s an overwhelming thought to think, “I can do greater things than Jesus?”  Well, for most because there are some who think they are smarter and greater than Jesus.  Doing greater things than Jesus, well that really can’t be done, IF we do not recognize The HOW we can do greater things.  Jesus gives us The HOW:  They will do even greater things because I am going to the Father.

I just heard someone say, “HUH?”  Quit scratching your head wondering about The HOW.  Keep on reading and you will discover that Jesus is talking about The Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit will not come upon and within us until 3 things happen:  1) Jesus Dies; 2) Jesus Rises from the dead; and 3) Jesus ascends back to Heaven.  Those 3 events have happened, and now the Holy Spirit comes to us, to live in us and through us with great power–power so great that it will cause Believers to do exactly what Jesus did, and MORE!

But mediocrity keeps us grounded.  Me?  I’m sick and tired of scratching the ground looking for grubs.  I want to soar with the eagles.  I’m tired of average, I hunger for excellence.  And here’s the take-away truth on this Monday:  The Holy Spirit that lived in Jesus as He walked this earth in human form and empowered Him to do great things, can live in your heart so that you can do the great things Jesus did, and even greater things.  But it is not automatic.  To break free of mediocrity here’s what you must do:

  1.   You must acknowledge the Person and Power of the Holy Spirit.  Too many Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters haven’t a clue about The Holy Spirit;
  2.   Invite HIM (not “it”) into your heart.  Yes, Jesus said He would live in our heart, but He does so through the Person of The Holy Spirit;
  3.   Hunger for HIS power.  Stop doing it with your understanding and through your best intentions.  You know which road is paved with good intentions and where it leads;
  4.   Listen to HIS guidance.  God still speaks today into our hearts and minds.  We must give up human logic and human reasoning when it comes to living;
  5.   Trust all, I mean ALL, that Jesus said about HIM.  Stop wanting to be spoon fed the Truth and give up the fallacy of “Microwave” maturity.  It takes time, time you spend reading the Scriptures about The Holy Spirit.  Forget what others teach about the Holy Spirit.  It’s all there in The Book!  After all, faith isn’t always about us understanding, but us TRUSTING what God said.

When we forsake the paths of mediocrity for the Walk WITH The Holy Spirit, then we can say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

I am sick and tired of average.  I confess that I’ve said I trust YOU, Jesus, but I haven’t trusted what YOU said about The Holy Spirit.  Deliver me from myself.  I invite YOU, Holy Spirit, into my heart.  I know I need to be hungry for YOU, Holy Spirit.  So I repent of me doing my best for YOU, and am now allowing YOU, Holy Spirit, to do YOUR Best in me.  Help me starve that mediocre spirit in me to death by hungering for YOU!  I don’t fully understand how it will work out, but I believe that YOU will cause me to do the things that Jesus did, and even greater things.  And if I don’t see them happen immediately, I’m not giving up until I do see!  Amen and Amen!

Have You Listened To Yourself Lately?

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10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth.  Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!

11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?

12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs?  No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.  (James 3:10-12)

Early this morning I was watching the news and it was a segment on last night’s Emmy Awards.  Instead of acknowledging the talent and skills of actors, it was a political tirade against the current administration right from the beginning.  And I must confess before you (as I already have to God) that I wanted to break out into my own tirade about and against those Hollywood Elitists.  Who do they think they are, living in those excessively opulent mansions anyway?  And just when I was getting started with my own tirade (and it was going to be good, I promise!), the Holy Spirit whispered something, but I couldn’t quite make it out.  It was a whisper after all.

So I stopped and said “Huh?  What did you say?”  Now I was focused and I’m sure God smiled at that point.  And I must admit to you (I already have to God) that I had to repent of those thoughts and words, and it was all because of what The Holy Spirit whispered into my mind and heart.  Oh, you want to know what The Spirit whispered into my mind and heart?  Are you sure?  Well, Okey Dokey, here it is:  “But Randy, what about the words that are being said every day by those folks who are supposed to represent Jesus?  What about your words?  Are those words right?  Fair?  True?  Compassionate?  Encouraging?  I’m not talking about those ‘Sunday morning’ words.  But the words spoken on the other days of the week.  Have you listened to them?  Are you listening to your own words?  Think about it and get back to me.”  Sigh…heavy sigh on my part.

So, rather than rant against those Hollywood Elitists, I want to probe into the minds and hearts of those who profess to follow Jesus.  I began thinking about all the words I have heard spoken by the Sunday Morning Saints.  Now, I believe there are followers and churches who are seriously committed and dedicated to the work of the Kingdom of God and they are doing wonderful things for Jesus.  But some things are, well, have you listened to yourself lately, Church?

You criticize every thing wrong in the culture, and trust me, I know there is a lot wrong.  Your words are bitter and filled with the (un)spiritual gift of tearing people down.  For example, I hear the word “abomination” being used at the LBGT community and they quickly quote Leviticus 20:13, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.”  But what about Deuteronomy 17:1, “And don’t sacrifice to God, your God, an ox or sheep that is defective or has anything at all wrong with it. That’s an abomination, an insult to God, your God.”  OK, so we don’t offer animal sacrifices anymore, BUT the meaning is very clear:  “If you don’t offer God the FIRST and VERY BEST of YOUR life, then YOU are an abomination!  The truth is, ALL acts of sin are an abomination, not just your neighbors sins.

We are also quick to criticize our church leaders; what they are doing and not doing.  But what about you?  What are YOU doing to bring the Kingdom of God, that Kingdom of Grace, Mercy, Love and Truth, into the world?  Do you ever pray the Lord’s Prayer?  What about that line, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?  You’re on earth, so are YOU doing His will as it is done in Heaven?  Or are you just picking and choosing which parts you like and fit into your personal agenda?  Or are you picking up your cross every day and dying to the world, a living sacrifice to show the world God’s outlandish love and how that love transforms every life through your transformed life?

Have you listened to yourself lately?  Are your words Ephesians 4:29 words?  It goes like this from God’s Word Translation:  Don’t say anything that would hurt another person. Instead, speak only what is good so that you can give help wherever it is needed.  That way, what you say will help those who hear you.  Not much that was said at the Emmy Awards show could be classified as Ephesians 4:29 words.  But that’s not what matters.  If you say you are a follower of Jesus (i.e. a “Christian”), do your words build up and offer hope?  Do your words make your community better, or just plain bitter?  Do your words on Monday through Saturday match up with your words on Sunday morning?  Only you can answer that question, so go ahead, answer the question.  I have this, call it hunch, that The Holy Spirit may be whispering to someone else right now, “What about your words?  Are those words right?  Fair?  True?  Compassionate?  Encouraging?  I’m not talking about those ‘Sunday morning’ words.  But the words spoken on the other days of the week.  Have you listened to them?  Are you listening to your own words?  Think about it and get back to me.” 

When our Sunday words are reflected in our Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday words, then we can say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Lord, help me today, every day and all day long to listen to my words more than the words of others.  Forgive me when my Monday through Saturday words sound so very different from my Sunday words.  Help me speak Ephesians 4:29 words.  Amen and Amen!

“Absolutely Nothing, And Absolutely Everything”

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21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.  (Matthew 19:21-22 NLT)

This morning I opened up one of my “email devotions” from A.W. Tozer, and this is what I read.  And my mind went immediately to the story we know as “The Story Of The Rich Young Ruler.”  And my heart went immediately to the spiritual condition of the local church in the U.S.  There’s a great parallel here.  This morning I want you to replace the phrase “young man” with “the local church”.  And remember, YOU are a crucial part of the local church.

A local church in the U.S.  went to Jesus with a question:   “What is it going to take to bring revival to my church?”  Jesus replied, “Do what the Bible says to do, you know, love God by loving others.”  And you replied, “Well, Jesus we’ve been doing that.  We have a great church building, great programs, a pretty good staff, and we do the things our parents and grandparents did.  But something is missing.  What is it?”  And Jesus replied, “Give it all up and follow me.”  Now, you face a choice, THE choice.  Do you give up everything for something that costs nothing?  Will you embrace the only path that leads to revival, or will you walk away sad, really sad?

The price of life, of revival, has been paid for us all at The Cross and verified  with the Resurrection.  Will you give up everything you consider precious, even righteous, for the radical life of following Jesus?  Jesus invited this young man to a journey where HE would provide life that renews and revives.  All this young man had to do was give up HIS way to follow THE WAY!  So, what will be your decision?

When we give up ALL of our stuff for the Life of Jesus, then we can say, “Good!  Lord, it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Jesus, I want life, I want revival in my church and I know it begins with ME.  I give up everything I know and do and give YOU the right to take the lead.  I choose in this moment to follow YOU, period.  Amen and Amen!

Is Your Job A Gift From God Or Punishment From God?

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11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.  (Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 N.L.T.)

Since this is Labor Day (for my “across the pond” readers, here’s the history of Labor Day) it seems only appropriate I speak into this Day with my Monday Morning Musings.  Let me ask you this question:  Do you see your labor, your work, your job as a gift from God or punishment from God?  And for you who are retired, do you see your years of labor as God’s gift or God’s punishment?  A simple question with only 2 potential answers:  Yes or No!  I know some may want to expand  the options and give it more choices.  But let’s cut the bull and get to the chase:  Your job, Gift of God or Punishment from God?

The answer to my question is really simple and not complicated at all, when you understand the correct context for the answer.  The answer is rooted in how you see your relationship with God.  The words this morning come from Solomon who is known as one of the, if not THE wisest man of all times.  And to understand these words of Solomon’s you must know where he is writing from; not location but his perspective.  His perspective is found in the opening words in chapter 1 verse 13:  I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven.  Other translations say “under the sun”.  In others words, he is saying, “I decided to use all this wisdom to find purpose and meaning in life WITHOUT God.”  That’s kind of stupid for a man known for his wisdom.

His summation of life without a relationship with God is described as “chasing the wind.”  You never catch it and you never get there.  So what does this have to do with my question?  Glad you asked!  Unless you live deeply connected to God, everything you do will eventually feel like futility, especially your labor and work.  Do you want a job that is fulfilling and rewarding?  Then listen to the words of Paul in Colossians 3:23-24.  “23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

Though these words were being addressed to slaves who were also serious followers of Jesus, they apply to every sphere of labor and work.  Substitute the word “boss, supervisor, foreman, manager” for the concept of slave owner/master.  In the world of Country and Western music a song was released in 1977 written by David Allan Coe and sung by Johnny Paycheck titled “Take This Job and Shove It”.  Like all great Country and Western music, it tells a story and in this case it’s the story of a man unhappy with his job.  At one time or another, most of us have secretly wanted to tell our boss those very same words.  Without the deep connection with God, most all jobs will cause us to feel this way.  As a preacher’s kid, I never wanted to be a preacher and said I would never be one.  Now at 61, that rash teenager is just a distant memory.  But you do not have to be a pastor or missionary to havea a sacred calling and Holy Vocation.

What if (I love this phrase) we started seeing our job, our labor, as Holy Vocations?  You may wonder how cleaning toilets, waiting tables, working for ungrateful bosses or trying to help grumpy customers can be a Holy Vocation.  Doing such tasks are not Holy in and of themselves.  Going through the motions at work does not make your tasks sacred.  BUT, if you do them to honor the One who created you and saved you with His blood given freely at The Cross, then it does become both sacred and Holy!

Instead of looking for that “perfect job”, which by the way, doesn’t exist, ask God for guidance, courage and strength to do it in the way that honors Him.  You, alone, make the decision:  “Am I doing this to pay the bills until a better job comes along?  Or am I doing it for the One who labors tirelessly on my behalf?”  Honor Jesus above everything and everyone else by seeing your moments of labor as a gift from God where you can honor Him with your heart and by doing your tasks with excellence.  You become a witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ when you do your job with the sense of Holy Vocation.  When you do, Jesus shows up and shows another person how their life will become different and better by living deeply connected to The Father.  And you will find both peace and joy in your work.  Doing your job for a paycheck or status?  Both peace and joy will elude you.

So, enjoy this Labor Day, because when you see your whole life as God’s gift of a Holy Vocation and you honor The Gift by honoring the Giver, then you can say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Father, I surrender my whole life to you and I am going to take this job and accept it as Your gift.  You can see how this job will bring you honor even if I don’t.  Help me see this job as moments where You can be see through me.  The only way this happens is if I hold on tightly to you.  I make my commitment to be connected to You in all areas of my life.  Amen and Amen!

Get Your Heart Right!

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23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” (John 14:23-26 N.L.T.)

Well, I can check that off my bucket list, and to be honest, I didn’t even know it was on my bucket list.  Excuse me, you can’t see what I’m thinking right now and I’m sure there are many of you who are thankful you can’t.  Last Wednesday morning I reported to Huntsville Hospital’s Cardiac Center for a heart ablation.  And I am most thankful to God (and for all of you who were praying for me and Debbie) to report that Dr. Paul Tabereaux and his team were most successful in their work.

But here’s the kicker:  I went in thinking it was paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT).  It turned out to be atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT).  Fortunately the process for correcting it is similar.  Dr. Tabereaux had described the procedure to me like this, and please forgive me for not using the proper cardio-terminology.  They would have to go inside my heart with some catheters, do this thing called mapping (making a picture of my heart from the inside) and then he would have to poke and prod (NOT medical terminology) and try to force the heart to reproduce my irregular heartbeat.  He first told me it would take about 90 minutes to 3 hours.  That morning he told me it might take from 2 to 6 hours.

But God answered everyone’s prayers.  He informed me that as soon as the probes entered my heart it went into tachycardia; and he went to work!  No mapping and no forcing my heart to go into tachycardia.  It was like my heart was saying, “Oh, are you looking for what’s wrong here?  Let me show you!”  The result of my heart speaking up was a much quicker procedure; a result I am sure that the next patient on deck was glad that he or she did not have to wait up to 6 hours.  And this got me to thinking this morning about our spiritual heart.

When we accept by faith alone that Jesus died for our sins on that Cross and believe it is enough to atone for our sinful nature, God forgives us instantly and transforms our heart.  The prophet Ezekiel shared God’s promise this way in Ezekiel 36:26–“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

But The Enemy doesn’t give up without a fight.  He still tries to speak into that new heart.  Everyday life as it happens presents us with choices in how we respond.  Many say, “Just listen to and follow your heart.”  But is that really the best way, knowing that The Enemy is still trying to speak to that heart?  The Monday Morning Spirit is multiplied and amplified when we listen to the wrong voice from our heart.

As Jesus prepares His disciples for His impending death, He encourages them with the promise that The Spirit, The Holy Spirit, that is WITH them, will soon be IN them.  Because of the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, The Holy Spirit will be living IN them through that New Heart.  So, how can we know which voice we are to follow every moment of each day?  Here is a way to determine if it really is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart:

Does It Reflect The Message Of The Gospel of Jesus?

There is only one way to have a relationship with God, our Creator and Father.  It is through trust in Him and relying on His strength.  It’s not about self reformation, self effort or self-improvement.  The Gospel is the Good News of God’s redeeming and transforming love.  Most folks like that part of “redeeming” love, but reject that His love also transforms us, meaning, He changes us from the inside out.  Does that voice you hear offer redemption AND transformation through God’s perfect love?

Does It Meet The Purpose Of The Kingdom Of God?

The purpose of the Kingdom of God is to give life, life as God intends.  The Message renders John 10:10 like this:  I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.  The purpose of life in The Kingdom is about building people up, not tearing them down.  As I put it in yesterday’s message, The Kingdom Community doesn’t pick people apart, we pick people up.

Is It Consistent With The Scriptures?

By this I mean the WHOLE Scriptures, not just bits a pieces used to support our personal opinions and views.  The Whole of Scriptures is about the activity of God to restore fallen humanity back into HIS image.  It must honor God.  In order to honor God it must reflect His Heart.  And His heart is to restore His image in every person.

Oh, and that new heart?  It knows when something is wrong.  Just like my physical heart revealed to Dr. Tabereaux the problem in my heart, The Holy Spirit will reveal the problems in our Spiritual heart.

When our heart is right with God and we listen to the Holy Spirit we can quickly say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Father, help me know which voice to listen to today.  I trust you to guide me to make the right responses and the choices than honor you.  And Holy Spirit, would you please show me if there is anything wrong with my heart.  I open it to you now and wait for Your awesome work.  Amen and Amen!

THE ECLIPSE OF THE SON!

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Today, in the good old U.S. of A. there is much ado about this thing called a solar eclipse.  That got me to thinking, and thus the title of this morning’s musings.  My title is NOT a misprint or misspelling; it is intentional.  I try to assume nothing, but there is a high degree of probability that some of you reading this identify yourself as “Christian”.  And I earnestly hope that some of my readers are not what is identified as “Christian”, are reading this blog because someone recommended it to you, or you simply came upon it by “accident” or as a result of a search here on WordPress.  (As a Wesleyan, I call that “prevenient grace”.)

Today there is an eclipse of the sun, a rare occasion, but the Eclipse of the Son is unfortunately a daily occurrence.  And I want to speak to those who identify themselves as Christian.  Are you aware that the Greek word for Christian (Christianos) is used only 3 times in the New Testament manuscripts.  The word Greek word for “disciple” (mathētēs) occurs 269 times.  My heart and mind is being pulled into this passage from Psalm 139:23-24 (N.L.T.)

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

What prompted David to ask such a thing of God?  Be honest now, who among us loves having our flaws and faults clearly pointed out?  Read the whole Psalm and you see David having another AHA! moment.  His AHA moment is that God knows everything, I mean ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING about him.  And it is important for David to know the truth about himself, so he goes straight to the One who knows the truth.  Not his neighbor, not one of his wives, and not to someone who goes to church with him.  He turns to God for this all important evaluation.  And so should we!

As a disciple of Jesus, we are to show the Light of The Son, through our good actions.  Jesus said that to be a DISCIPLE means that the world sees the Light of what is Good.  Jesus said it this way in Matthew 5:14-16

14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Many are creating a Spiritual Eclipse that is hiding the Son from others.  What causes us to Eclipse the Son in our lives?  The reasons are many and unfortunately there are many times when we cannot see them ourselves.  So we must identify it and meet it head on.  But we cannot identify the causes without HIS help.  That word for deeds in the Greek means occupation.  And that occupation is to do good things.  It’s never good when we criticize and condemn others.  It’s never good when we think we are better than anyone.  It is never good when we promote division and anger.  What is it that is NOT good in your daily life?  An attitude?  An act?  A hidden desire?  Self-righteousness?

But the Light of the Son cannot be totally hidden.  Even with the eclipse of the Sun, light gets out.  It’s so bright that if you look directly at it, it will cause retinal damage.  To see the eclipse of the Sun you need special glasses.  FYI, welder’s glasses work very well.  And when we look at the Eclipse of the Son in our lives, we need special lenses.  It’s called God’s Grace, and his companion, mercy.  As it grows dark because of the Eclipse of the Sun today, think about the darkness over this nation because of the Eclipse of The Son.  Choose to do good–to have an occupation that let’s the Light be seen without special glasses.

It starts with the heart and mind.  I need to allow God to search my heart and take out what is harmful to me, and so do we all.  I am keenly aware of this for many reasons, and one in particular.  On Wednesday of this week (and if you think about me, throw up a prayer), my heart, the physical one, is going to be examined carefully, from the inside by a cardiac electrophysiologist.  It seems my heart needs some work.  He will find the place or places that is creating the problem and then burn those places (places creating a loop that causes my heart to beat abnormally) and my heart rhythm should return to normal all the time.  I trust this doctor because I know people who have been to him for the same thing I am facing.  They are doing great, and I know I will, too.  It helps knowing people who have experienced the skill of Dr. Tabereaux.  And you can trust The Great Physician with your heart because there are many who have experienced the skill and kindness of Him who knows your heart.  David knew Him and knew he could trust Him.  How long has it been since you asked God to know and test your heart?  Could it be there is an Eclipse of The Son that is preventing others from seeing The Light?  Could it be that your self-righteousness is actually blinding others to The True Light of The True Son?

When we allow God to show us the truth about our own heart and give Him permission to correct all that is wrong in our heart, then we can say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

I can’t think of a better way at this moment to say it.  So I will use the same words of David.  I don’t think he will mind.  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”  Amen and Amen!

Don’t Miss Church!

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Here’s a great Monday morning question for anyone.  It’s a great question because it is a simple question with only 2 choices and those choices are based simply on a statement of fact.  Depending on which day you are reading this (because I assume not everyone reads this on Monday.  When someone “assumes” it makes something out of you and me, but I’ll save that for my other blog at a later date), answer me this:  Did you go to church this past Sunday?  Be honest because I will not “shame” you if your answer is No.  Have your answer?  Don’t read any further until you answer this question.  OK, allow me to share this passage with you from Ephesians 1:19-23  (italics emphasis mine)

19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. (NLT)

OK, the remainder of my thoughts are directed to you who answered the question with a “Yes”.  When the worship service was over, did you leave the church?  Maybe to go eat somewhere or go directly home?  Did I hear you say, “Well, yeah, I don’t live at the church.”  If you say “I go to church”, my response is, “How sad.”  What?  It’s sad to go to church?  Yep!  That’s exactly what I said.  Now before you think I’ve gone off the deep end and turned into some “all roads lead to heaven” liberal, stay with my thoughts.

That word “church” does not have the same definition as most think in today’s culture, especially in the U.S. of A.  The Greek word Paul uses is “ekklesia” and it means this:  “a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly; an assembly of the people convened at the public place of the council for the purpose of deliberating”.  It is a combination of 2 words:  ek, which means “to call out” and kaleo which means “to name”.

OK, where does the above mentioned definitions refer to a building location?  And thus the reason so many live perplexed and frustrated lives.  The church has been demoted in the hearts and minds of so many people, too many people, to a location with a physical building, doing certain things.  And THE enemy, Satan, grins with great delight.  One of the great tragedies in this horrendously wrong definition of church is that it has created multiple generations who want to be consumers of what they perceive as what the church produces rather than  contributors to the real work of the church.

Church is people who have been called out, by name, into the public places to represent the ONE who has called them.  Hanging the 10 Commandments in public displays, allowing prayer and the Bible in public schools, allowing Nativity scenes on city property and the such, will not bring any deep and lasting change to our culture.  And going to church will certainly not bring about that much-needed cultural shift.  I think I just sensed I offended someone’s sensibilities.  Oh well…do not think me callous, but if these thoughts have offended you, I will not lose any sleep over it.

To change how you see your week and your life, allow me this moment of being a radical (you know, like that rascally radical guy named Jesus).  Stop going to church.  You heard me correctly.  DO NOT GO TO CHURCH NEXT SUNDAY!  (I can just see the comments section here lighting up from the Bible Thumpers and some pastors.)  Instead of going to church next Sunday, why not BE THE CHURCH right now and in every moment of every day of every week.

Going to church makes you nothing more than a member of a private club and makes Satan laugh a deep belly laugh.  But when we choose be the church that same Satan trembles with fear and gets a queasy feeling in his stomach.  Remember these words from Paul, who knew something about what the church really means:  And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. ”  Hear God call you out, by name, to the life that cannot be contained within a physical address or limited by our personal preferences of programs.  Hear Him call you out to be the actual presence of Jesus in your neighborhood and community.  

Oh, and on Sundays?  Come together as the church to first and foremost worship God. He is worthy to be worshiped every day and worthy to be worshiped by the church, the assembled people. Then learn more about Jesus; after all, we are called out to represent Him.  How can we Him if we don’t really know Him?  Don’t just know about Him; know His heart, mind and character.  And then develop deep relationships and connections with those other folks that God has called out by name.  Then leave that place and BE THE CHURCH.  The church is to be located wherever you happen to be at any given moment ALL the time.

When we stop going to church and start being the church, then we can say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Forgive me for thinking and believing that I GO to church.  I repent of this attitude, and there’s a good probability that I may start that kind of twisting thinking again.  So help me hear you call me out by name.  Open my eyes to the many opportunities that will present themselves TO me for me to BE the church, the presence of Jesus in a hurting and broken world.  Convict me when I allow Satan to influence me when I say, “I’m going to church this Sunday.”  Holy Spirit, help me to say instead, “I am the church today and I will show others the real Jesus.  Amen and Amen

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The Pity Party Posture

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”  (1 Kings 19:3-5 N.L.T.)

Be honest, how many of you absolutely love someone calling you, complaining,  (well I better leave that second word out, you know it), and moaning?  When someone sends you an invitation to a Pity Party do you quickly get ready, rush out to buy a present (what gift do you bring to a Pity Party?  Maybe some cheese to go with the whine?) and get their early because you don’t want to miss a moment?  Unless you want to gloat over another person’s misery (and there are personalities like that, I’ve met more than a few), no one want a Pity Party Invitation.

That’s where we are in this morning’s passage.  Elijah is throwing a Pity Party.  And fortunately for his servant, he leaves him behind.  I’m sure that servant counts that moment of being excluded from The Pity Party as a great blessing from God.  Most Pity Parties are the result of someone feeling mistreated, disappointed and the overall unfairness of life.  But in all fairness to Elijah, that is not what prompted this particular Pity Party.  His Pity Party was born out of personal and spiritual failure.

Before reserving the Broom Tree for his Pity Party, Elijah had led a quite successful life as God’s prophet.  He witnessed the fire from Heaven and saw the people do away with the false prophets of Jezebel and the drought ending.  Life was good for him at that moment.  Have you ever been there, those rare moments when you experience that exuberance of great joy?  But then Jezebel’s press agent sends out a release:  “Kill Elijah!”

So Elijah runs in fear.  And somewhere in that running, it hits him hard.  “Wait!  Why am I running?  I’m just a failure.  Plain, simple and useless failure!”  In his moment of realizing personal failure Elijah has a choice:  either turn to God with that confession and ask for grace and mercy or, you guessed it, have a Pity Party.  Elijah chooses the latter.  And this is where he is; alone and wishing to die.  He felt like God could not use someone like him.  Elijah’s choice was The Pity Party.  But what is God’s response?  What choice does God make with Elijah?  Read on to verses 5 and 6:

Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.

God provides exactly what Elijah is needing in the moment:  food, water and His Presence.  Elijah takes in the first two, but seems to ignore the third, The Presence.  He lays back down and goes to sleep.  Well, what does God do now?  Does God say, “Hey, I tried but he just ignored me.  Let him die!”  Read some more in verses 7 and 8:

Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”  So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God.

And it was at Mt. Sinai God let Elijah know that his personal failure wasn’t the last word.  At first Elijah tries to keep the Pity Party going by moaning about his personal failure.  And like a good parent that ignores the whining of a child about the unfairness of life, God ignores Elijah’s attitude and points him to another mission.

In fairness to Elijah, I understand how it feels when we are disappointed with ourselves.  I have spent time, too much time, under that same Broom Tree.  And here is what I have discovered:  God faithfully sends a messenger to me with just what I need.  And then He sends me on the way with yet another mission.  Do not let your personal failures cause you to rush online and overnight those Pity Party Invitations.  Bring yourself and your honest feelings to the one who is preparing a party for you.  Not a Pity Party, but that great Heavenly Wedding Feast.

If personal failure disqualifies me or you from further service and earned us the right for a Pity Party, what about Abraham and Sarah doubting God’s promise of a son with their scheme that produced Ishmael?  Or what about King David after his personal failure (2 of his many) of adultery and murder?  What about Peter who starting sinking AFTER walking on top of the water?  Or Saul from Tarsus?  What about C.S. Lewis, an avowed atheist?  There are so many more such stories.  So tell me, what makes you think that God is through with you?  Do not reserve the Broom Tree Pity Party Room.  Do the Hebrews 10:19 thing–“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.”  The blood of Jesus excludes no one, not even you, not even me.  And isn’t the Throne Room of God a much better place than a Broom Tree?

When we bring our personal, moral and spiritual failures to God and trust His Grace and Mercy, and allow Him to take care of the menu, then we can say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Lord, when I fail, when I let you down, help me remember Elijah.  And if I make it all the way to the broom tree, I know that you will be there, too.  Amen and Amen!