The spirit Of Gossiping

 

rumorRelayedToThirdPerson

5-6 The fifth time—same messenger, same message—Sanballat sent an unsealed letter with this message:  6-7 “The word is out among the nations—and Geshem says it’s true—that you and the Jews are planning to rebel. That’s why you are rebuilding the wall. The word is that you want to be king and that you have appointed prophets to announce in Jerusalem, ‘There’s a king in Judah!’ The king is going to be told all this—don’t you think we should sit down and have a talk?”

I sent him back this: “There’s nothing to what you’re saying. You’ve made it all up.”  They were trying to intimidate us into quitting. They thought, “They’ll give up; they’ll never finish it.”  I prayed, “Give me strength.”  (Nehemiah 6:5-9)

Let’s talk about another spirit that fuels that Monday Morning Attitude and prevents us from experiencing the life God intends for us:  that ugly spirit of Gossiping!  This week’s passage from Nehemiah is about how Sanballat’s Gang was trying to keep Nehemiah from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  Why did they want Nehemiah to stop?  Two reasons: they did not like God, and they did not like God’s representative.  Simply put, they wanted what they wanted and did not want what God wanted.

They wanted a meeting with Nehemiah because they knew a meeting would stop the work from being done.  Sounds like the work of committees to me.  Four times they sent a request for a committee meeting; four times Nehemiah declined.  The fifth time they sent more than an invitation–they sent Gossip.  Nehemiah could have panicked, but he didn’t.  His R.S.V.P. was, “It’s all lies and gossip, so if you will excuse me, God has something for me to do.”  Then he prayed for strength.

Gossip has only one purpose and it’s not about revealing truth.  It is always about tearing down another person just to make themselves look better.  And there are two things I want to say about Gossip and how it fuels that “Oh, Lord it’s Monday” gloom.

  1. First, when you gossip, it never makes you look better, only worse.  It reveals that the dark-side force of the Pharisee is strong in you.  Gossip tears people down, and you are never acting like Jesus when your words and stories wound another person.  And it wounds YOU, too, dear Gossiper.
  2. Second, when the gossip is aimed at you, it does hurt and wound.  Often we allow that “gossip” to define us, but it doesn’t–who you are is determined by God, and never by those whose hearts are far, very far away from God.

I have discovered that I (nor anyone else) can change the heart and mind of the Gossiper.  Only God can do that, because it takes a miracle to change the heart and mind of the gossiper and God is great at miracles.  So let me address those wounded by the gossiper.  How do we overcome those attacks?  And they are attacks, but not just against you; they are also attacks against God.  Remember Sanballat!  Nehemiah shows us how to move forward in the face of gossipers:

  1. First, just ignore them.  Four times Nehemiah simply put their “invitation” into “File 13”.  Why ignore them at first?  They are wanting to get a response from you, the wrong response.  They want to see you hurt and angry because, like an idiot, they think if they make you look bad it makes them look better.  And we all know, “That ain’t happening!”
  2. Second, stay focused on all that God is doing in your life.  Nehemiah had a purpose–to bring honor and glory to God.  And so do you.  As a Follower of Jesus, God is calling you to bring Him both honor and glory by revealing what happens to a life when it is lived purely in His Grace.  Nehemiah had a purpose for God, and so do you!
  3. Third, ask God for strength!  If you try to argue and fight with an idiot (and that’s what gossipers are), you will become an idiot and they will beat you down with experience.  Nehemiah’s prayer was for him to be strong.  And God will give you strength.  Some of the ways I find God giving me HIS strength is through a song, a Scripture, a memory, a book, or the timely visit of a true friend.  God’s strength helps us move beyond the bitterness of gossipers.

And when we simply ignore the gossipers, stay focused on our God-Given tasks, and ask HIM for strength, we can say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Lord, when the gossiper turns their focus on me, remind me that I am who YOU say I am, not who they think I am.  Help me to stay focused on the tasks you have given me–to be more like YOU and help others see YOU.  Give me strength to just ignore “them” so that others can find Your Life.  Amen and Amen!

gossipers_3

Advertisements

Have You Listened To Yourself Lately?

2

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!

THE ECLIPSE OF THE SON!

636371956180466197-solar-eclipse

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!

church

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

be-the-church

 

Pick And Lose

masterpiece

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

 

Face it, we are a pick-and-choose culture and unfortunately this attitude has become embedded in the church.  Think about it.  Who doesn’t love a good buffet.  Forget the menu, just let me pick what I want.  I like that idea especially when it comes to seafood and we are at the beach (which we will be in a couple of weeks).  I have noticed that in some grocery stores that they offer specials where you can pick-and-choose from a list of items.

Pick-and-choose satisfies the craving of our old nature, the nature of Adam and Eve.  It fills that base desire to be in control.  Every person has this “control freak” living in them.  Some manage to control it for the most part.  Some do not even realize it is living down deep inside them.  And others, well they just give it free rein.  Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!  We see this “style” in the church.

When we pick-and-choose what we do and how we live as a Disciple of Jesus we pick-and-lose that wonderful person God has created.  When we accept Jesus as both our Savior and our Master, we become His Masterpiece!  It takes time to complete it, but it is all there because Jesus is in you through the Holy Spirit.  After all, da Vinci did not paint “The Last Supper” in a week.  It took him 3 years to paint that masterpiece.  And it takes a lifetime for God to finish the Masterpiece called you!

The Masterpiece God is developing in you is clear:  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  Good things, that’s what He calls us to do.  Is it a good thing to pick-and-choose what, where, when and how we look like Jesus?  Is it a good thing to manipulate people to get them to do what you want?  Is it a good thing to criticize your church leaders?  Is it a good thing to condemn others when they fall?  It is a good thing to whine when you do not get your way?  Is it a good thing to ignore the problems in our communities and expect others to fix it?  Is it a good thing to expect the church to meet your needs at the expense of the real mission?

Pick-and-choose what good things you want to do and you pick-and-lose the Masterpiece God wants to make of your life.  God has given us free will and does allow us many choices, good choices, in life.  But when it comes to Purpose, the purpose that God planned for us long ago, we cannot afford to pick-and-choose which parts of The Message we will embrace and which parts we will ignore.

So, what do these “good things” look like?  Oh, I am so glad you asked.  I could write about them from now until this time next year and not be finished.  But Paul managed to get it down to just 36 words:  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8)  And that word “think” means more than just a thought.  It means to realize how these “things” add value to your life when you do them and thus turns you into God’s Masterpiece.

There is one word that each of us must embrace and that word is “Surrender”!  When we surrender to His Design and Plan for our life, then we can say:  “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Forgive me for the times when I pick-and-choose which Kingdom Values I put into practice with my life.  Help me surrender those “things” in my life that are not good.  I am so sorry for my choices that have messed up Your Masterpiece.  This moment, I once again surrender to You and Your Plans for my life.  Amen and Amen!

How Do YOU See It?

CPhHknjUcAAHEDZ

They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!  The whole earth is filled with His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3 NLT)

How do you feel about last week?  What kind of week was it for you, your community, our nation, and God’s world?  How would you describe it?  And what about this week?  Set aside for a moment your view of the world at large, let’s talk about you and your personal world of family, work, friends, you know, the stuff you will be dealing with this week.  How do YOU see it?  Do you look at the week in front of you and sing at the top of your lungs  “The whole earth is filled with His glory!”?  Or do you sigh and say, “Even so come, Lord Jesus, come.”?

Your personal world would be better if you could sing the song of Isaiah 6:3.  What if we, who claim to be followers of Jesus would call out to each other “The whole earth is filled with His glory!”?  Someone reading this is thinking right now, “Well, if I had a reason to sing out like that I would.  But I just don’t see the earth full of His glory.  I see it full of humanity’s mess.  I could sing that song if it were actually true.”

But what if I told you it was true, just as it was true in Isaiah’s time?  What was that?  Who said, “Yeah, right.  Maybe then, but it’s worse now.”?  Context is everything when it comes to understanding the Bible.  Go back up to the first verse of this chapter:  “It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord.”  What’s significant about that statement?  Glad you asked.  Unlike so many of the previous leaders, Uzziah was a man who led with character and integrity, doing what was right in God’s eyes.  That is, until his pride got the best of him.  But in spite of his personal example of doing for the most part, what was right in God’s eyes, the people, well, they were deciding for themselves what was right.  Sound familiar?

The people were ignoring God, yet these angels, these seraphim were singing about the earth being full of God’s glory.  If you looked at the people of that nation one would be hard pressed to see it.  But it was there.  And many feel looking at this country and current affairs of the world that God’s glory is in short supply.  But it’s not, if you know where to look.  So where do you look?  Where is it at?  There are lots of places where God’s glory is present and can be seen.

Begin at the mirror, your mirror.  God’s glory is in you.  The question for you this Monday is a simple one.  Are you allow His glory to be reflected through your life?  It should and it can.  What if those who consider themselves Disciples of Jesus followed the early example of Uzziah?  In spite of a whole nation doing what was right in their own eyes, Uzziah made the choice earlier in his life that he would do what was right in God’s eyes.  In other words, he allowed his heart, mind and actions reflect God’s heart and character.

We should do the same.  Instead of using words of fear, frustration, anger, even hate, we should use the words of Grace, Mercy, Love and Hope.  Instead of pointing the finger of blame at others for this mess, we should step up and do what is right in God’s eyes.  The earth is indeed full of His glory.  It is seen in the lives of real disciples who follow Jesus into the messy and broken places of people’s lives.  His glory is in the transformation of the world one life at a time.  And the life that needs changing, the life that you can help, well, you will see them this week.  God is masterful at sending people our way that need to see His glory reflected through you and me.

To watch the news, to observe human behavior, it might not seem like His glory has filled the earth.  But it has, we just can’t see it yet.  The key is to have the moment Isaiah had–to see The Lord as He really is; not how the world defines Him.  Part of God’s glory, I would describe this way:  It’s the glory of “what can be when…”  It’s the glory of seeing hearts and lives changed and transformed.  It’s see people delivered from personal bondage.  It’s seeing new life sparkle in eyes that were dead.  In short, it’s the work of the Kingdom.

In preparing for yesterday’s message, The Spirit gave me another Epiphany moment that I shared with the audience.  Here is it:  Our Purpose Is Not To Fill Sanctuaries With People, But To Fill Our Communities With More Disciples And Followers Of Jesus.”  This is what I like to call Kingdom Work.  If our communities were filled with real Disciples and Followers of Jesus, then the Glory He sees waiting to be revealed, would become the Glory that the world would be filled with.

When we live out our ordinary days with the expectation of seeing God’s glory in our world, then we can say:  “Good, Lord!  It’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Forgive me for whining and complaining about the mess that’s in the world, my community, my neighborhood.  All I’ve been looking at is what I see as what’s wrong.  You glory is waiting to be revealed in someone’s life, someone I may see this week.  Help me be ready to be an instrument You can use to reveal Your Glory!  Amen and Amen!

There’s A Time And A Place For Every Activity, And This Ain’t The Place

0511171442_HDR

Last week Debbie and I took a 5 Day Sabbatical to Fort Morgan Beach near Gulf Shores, Alabama.  We needed some time away in order to refocus and re-energize our spiritual batteries.  We needed some time to reconnect to ourselves, each other and of course, with The Father.  And this certainly qualifies this as a Sabbatical.  Some of you are thinking, “That sounds like a vacation, not a Sabbatical.  As a pastor you only work a couple of hours a week.  Why do you need a vacation?”  If you are one of those who think that being a pastor is easy and only requires a couple of hours a week, I want to say to you, “Bless your heart.  I can remember the time when I, too, was oblivious to the real world.”  I think it lasted from birth until I was about 5 years old.  Bless your pea-picking heart if you still are oblivious to the real world.  (If you’re not from the South, you may not know what “bless your heart” can mean–so check out this definition)

While on our short Sabbatical we spent most of the day on the sugary white beach feeling the breeze, the warm sun on our faces, the sound of the waves as they reached this beautiful beach.  We saw wonderful sunrises and sunsets and the night sky full of stars and even a full moon.  We also are card carrying members of the International Society of People Watchers.  So some of this Sabbatical was spent watching people.

We watched 3 twenty-somethings walking along the water’s edge with their heads locked into their Smartphones as they walked.  We heard another man talking business on his Smartphone while sitting in his beach chair.  We saw a group talking about their problems and issues while their feet were in that sugary white sand.  Personally I prefer the term “cell” phone because many people are a prisoner to that phone.  One nap was interrupted by a child screaming and crying while their mother tried to reason with that child, threatening a time out.  When the child only screamed louder she offer to let the child back into the water if he would quit screaming and apologized to her and his grandmother.  I was thinking that SHE needed to be sent back to her room until she decided she wanted to be a parent.

In this act of watching people, I had one of Jeremiah’s moments.  Allow me to explain.  It seems to me that Jeremiah was struggling one day to come up with a message God wanted to share.  Perhaps after several hours of failure to find the right words, Jeremiah heard a suggestion from God.  “Hey Jere, go down to the potter’s store and just watch him for a while.  You will find what I want to say down there.”  He did and from that watching, it came to Jeremiah what God wanted to him to share with the people that God loved so dearly.  It’s from Jeremiah 18 but I only want to lift up for your consideration the first 5 verses.

1 The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah.  He said, 2 “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” 3 So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. 4 But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.

5 Then the Lord gave me this message: 6 “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.”

Jeremiah learned something about God while watching the potter at work in his shop.  And here is what God taught me in this Sabbatical to the beach.  Do you ever wonder why it is that when a child does something for the first time, or makes something they will say, “Hey!  Watch me!  Look at this!  Come see what I’ve done!”?  There is an excitement on their face and in their voice.  Where does that come from?  I believe it comes from The Creator, our Heavenly Father.  They are reflecting what I have seen from God.  On that beach, as in so many other places, God is saying, “Hey, look at this!  Look at what I’ve done!  Watch me!”   I see God with that same sense of excitement as that little child showing off their latest drawing.  He wants us, longs for us to see His handiwork.  And when a child is ignored, you can see the hurt in their eyes.  And when God is ignored when He is showing off His handiwork, He, too, has hurt in His eyes and His heart.

And what Monday Morning Attitude am I addressing today?  It’s the attitude and mindset where we are completely oblivious to what God wants to say to us.  Right smack dab in the middle of this portion of God’s beautiful creation, so many–too many–were missing out on what God was offering them on that sugary white sandy beach.  He’s offering us rest from the “stuff” that happens which robs us of the joy that God wants us to experience in this life.

When this life is lived as God intends, it becomes dress rehearsals and glimpses of a much better life latter.  Unfortunately, many are so locked into the present life or some long way off future life, they miss the wonder and grandeur of what God is offering us here a now.  So the next time a child runs up to you and says, “Hey, come see what I’ve done”, remember they are a perfect mirror of our Heavenly Father.  He has so many things to show you.  Get your head out of your little world and take the time to look around and see with marvel and amazement, how creative and loving our Father truly is.  Our toes buried in the sand, our ears filled with the sounds of the waves, the blue waters and bright sky have renewed us and refreshed us.  Thanks, Papa, for showing off some of your best work.

When we take the time to enjoy God’s presence and his handiwork AND for a short season forget about the stuff that happens, then we can say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Father, please forgive me for the times I haven’t really seen what that little child had done.  I am so sorry for the times I told that little child, “After a little bit.  Let me finish this first.  I don’t have time.”  That little child was perfectly reflecting you, and I missed it.  Help me hear and see the future moments when just like that child you say, “Hey!  Come here and see what I did!”  Help me remember that you are even more excited than that child to show what you do.  Amen and Amen!

This Week’s Challenge:  See if you can find your own “go to the Potter’s house” experience, a place or situation where God has a message for you!

Fretting!

What is the definition of the word “fret”?  Well, it depends; is it a noun or a verb?  As a noun it is defined this way: Frets are strips made from metal (generally an alloy of nickel and brass) which are embedded along a guitar’s fretboard. By depressing a string against the guitar fretboard behind a fret, the vibrating length of that string changes, and a specific note results.  As a verb the word is defined another way:  to feel or express worry, annoyance, discontent,or the like.

Then I found this other definition of Fret as a verb:  to move in agitation or commotion.  That’s it!  That’s the Monday Morning Spirit that I want to address today.  Usually the context for this definition runs (pun intended) in the arena of the principles of hydraulics, particularly water.  But it’s not just water that moves in agitation or commotion.  People do!  I am confronted daily with people who move in agitation or commotion.  I suspect that there is a high degree of probability that you do, too.

This got me to thinking:  “What causes people to fret?”  If I started listed all the causes, I would still be listing them this time next week, and this blog would never be finished.  But I have come to understand that there is an overarching condition that leads to fret.  It is control, rather, the lack of being in control.  I’m not talking about the ordinary things that can make one fret for a short time.  I’m talking about those who live the lifestyle of fretting.  The lifestyle of fretting  robs a person of their joy and causes them to be “joy-robbers” of others.

I have noticed this about those who consistently fret:  they have the need to feel like they are in control and are overwhelmed with the urge to control others.  OK, OK, I’ll call it like it is:  they are control freaks.  Control freaks cause commotion and agitation that erodes the joy, peace and confidence of others.  I’m not going to address how to stop control freaks, because that is way above my pay grade but not above God’s.  How do we deal with those who move in agitation and create commotion, without breaking some law or committing some sin?

Well, let’s look at the word “fret” as a noun.  Have you ever watched a skilled guitar player?  Watch the movement of their hand and fingers as it moves up and down the neck of the guitar, also known as the “fretboard”.  Put the correct fingers on the correct fret and a beautiful and melodious sound comes forth.  But put those fingers on the wrong fret and it sounds, well, not so beautiful and certainly not so melodious.

When you are confronted by that control freak and you start to fret, you are giving more control to that control freak, and making your day, even your life, miserable.  Lord knows control freaks already have too much control in their life.  So don’t you give them more by allowing them to control you.  You may be thinking that is easier said than done, but it’s not.  It is really quite easy.  Look at Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight. (NIV)

The key word here is “lean”.  It means to give way to, to look to it for support.  So often, too often, we look to our own understandings and knowledge; what just makes sense to us.  As Solomon puts it, “your own understanding”.  But Solomon adds that other word, the negative word, “not”.  Rather than leaning on yourself, trust God to guide you through the agitation and commotion caused by the control freak.  Even though the control freak is trying to tell you what you need to do and how you need to do it, ignore them and focus on God.

I love the insight that comes from The Message version of this passage:

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

I might have said “from the top to the bottom of your heart”, but Peterson and his crew of translators did not consult with me.  But I understand that to get to the bottom of something, you have to get through everything else.  When you want to make fret an action verb in your life, slow down your breathing and make it a noun.  Remember that guitar player who produces that harmonious sound when they put their fingers in the right place.  The right place for your fingers isn’t around the neck of that control freak, though you may want to do that.  When other’s agitation and commotion is treating you like a child that doesn’t know how to do something, reach out and put your fingers in God’s hand.  Allow Him to guide you and help you navigate through their expressions of annoyance and their personal discontentment with life.  Sometimes I have to pray like this:  “Lord, give me patience because if you give me strength I might use that strength in the wrong way.”

When we make the choice to not give those who consistently fret control of our heart, minds and reactions by trusting in God from the top to the bottom of our heart, and heeding His directions, then we can say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Lord, I am so sorry that I’ve allowed control freaks to control me.  You know what is best and You faithfully give me guidance in everything.  When others are agitated and creating commotions, I choose to remember that I can see you in guitar chords.  Help me place my fingers in the right place because YOU always make beautiful music.  Amen and Amen!

Be An Aaron And A Hur

8-9 Amalek came and fought Israel at Rephidim. Moses ordered Joshua: “Select some men for us and go out and fight Amalek. Tomorrow I will take my stand on top of the hill holding God’s staff.”

10-13 Joshua did what Moses ordered in order to fight Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of the hill. It turned out that whenever Moses raised his hands, Israel was winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, Amalek was winning. But Moses’ hands got tired. So they got a stone and set it under him. He sat on it and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on each side. So his hands remained steady until the sun went down. Joshua defeated Amalek and its army in battle.

Exodus 17:8-13 (The Message)

This week’s Monday Attitude that will rob one of the joy and purpose in life is Criticism.  Not just any criticism, we will save that for another blog.  I’m talking about the criticism of leaders.  I know, I know, the fact I’m a pastor may cause some of you readers to discredit what I will write.  I may be accused of having selfish interests in this issue.  Well, who would you rather hear something about leadership from; an actual leader or someone who has never been in any type of leadership?

I am not just talking about pastoral leadership, but any leadership.  At work, in the family, in your small group, your Sunday School class, your mission/ministry group, community leaders and yes, even governmental leaders.  And remember that actual leaders do not always carry the title of “leader”.  Some of the most influential leaders I know do not have that title, but they are people of incredible influence.

We all need leaders in our life.  Even leaders need leaders to give counsel, guidance and support.  Look at our text this morning.  The Hebrews are on the way to the land God has promised.  God had selected Moses to be their leader but now there is opposition in the form of Amalek.  Moses instructs Joshua to prepare for battle.  Moses makes his commitment to be there with that all important staff.  The next day as the battle rages, Moses holds up the staff and Joshua’s army is winning.  But Moses becomes tired and let’s down the staff and the battle turns against Joshua.

Something needs to be done!  Knowing human nature as I do, I’m sure some were complaining about Moses.  “What’s wrong with that man?  He’s letting them down when his lets down that staff.  He should know better than that.  He got us into this battle, now just look at him!”  But poor, old Moses, is getting tired.  He can only do so much.  But not everyone was like that; there’s Aaron and Hur.

They recognize what’s happening and rather than criticize Moses, they take action.  They pull up a rock for Moses to sit on, then they get on each side of him and help hold up his tired arms.  In a very real sense, their “supporting role” was instrumental and necessary for the right outcome–a victory.

Point is, it is easy to criticize leaders for their failures to do what we think they should be doing.  And yes, sometimes leaders fail because they make wrong decisions, but not always.  Criticizing leaders has become a popular sport these days.  Those who look for reasons to criticize leaders rarely offer other solutions.  They just want someone to blame.  When questioned about being an NFL quarterback, Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen said, “Any given week, you can be in the penthouse or the outhouse with the fans.  It’s a lot more fun in the penthouse.”

This week, what if instead of criticizing the leaders in your life you decided to follow the examples of Aaron and Hur?  It may be they are getting tired like Moses.  They do not need your critiques and snide remarks.  What they need is someone to come along side of them to hold them up.  Leaders who are alone do not last long.  According to research by the Barna Group, The Fuller Institute and Pastoral Care, Inc., 50% of those who become pastors this year will have quit in 5 years.

There is something fulfilling and empowering when we stop criticizing others and begin looking for ways to support and encourage them.  I close with a true story.  In one community where I had served the local Baptist church had a change in pastors.  The previous pastor was there for over 25 years if memory serves me correctly.  I went to meet him in his office one day and was amazed to find on his book shelf the complete works of John Wesley.  Nothing against Baptists, but it is unusual to see the complete works of Wesley prominently displayed in the book case.

Me?  Well I just had to ask why and he smiled and told me why.  At his previous church he had this lady who would come into the office every Monday to point out everything that went wrong on the day before and the week since her last visit.  Nothing seemed to fill her with joy.  One particular Monday he saw her coming in and just knew what she was about to do.  But instead of complaining she asked what could she do to help around the church or office.  He said he just had to ask her this question, “If you don’t mind me asking, why the change?  Every week you come in here complaining and criticizing and now you are asking how can you help.  Mind if I ask what’s changed?”  She replied, “Oh, I’ve been on the Walk to Emmaus.”  And he told me, “After seeing the change in her, I had to see what you Methodists were about.”

Constructive criticism builds up because it is objective and seasoned with grace and love.  But criticism for the sake of pointing out what’s wrong, well, that just wounds and hurts.  What if Aaron and Hur joined the criticism against Moses?  What do you think would have been the outcome of that battle?

When we look for ways to support and encourage leaders, and everyone else, then we can say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Lord, help me hear my own words the way others hear me.  Take away any spirit of criticism I have against others, especially the leaders YOU have put in my life.  And help me be just like Aaron and Hur, holding up others instead of beating them down.  Amen and Amen!