The spirit Of Gossiping

 

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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!

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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!

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!

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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Magic Mirror On The Wall, Who Am I?

Doubt abounds in our culture when it comes to the issue of what is true.  We laugh at the joke that asks:  “How can you tell if a politician is lying?  His/her lips are moving.”  But we wish it were not so.  Even news cannot be trusted with all the fake news out there.  And even the church can be guilty of, how shall I say it, be less than truthful.  With so much deception out there (and we know the source of all deception, it’s Satan), we wonder if genuine and lasting truth can be found.

But there is actually a place where truth abounds.  In fact, this place is incapable of lying or deceitfulness.  It is in every home and in every automobile.  It’s the mirror.  The mirror never lies.  When the evil queen wanted to be the fairest of all, the Magic Mirror could not lie.  While we may be great in disguising our real self from others, the mirror never lies.

One of the things that makes any day and every day a Monday is to realize that we are not the fairest of them all.  Eventually the truth comes out and when it does, it crushes the heart and it destroys our ability to hope.  And living with labels, well that just zaps the joy of living right out of us.  Labels such as failure, loser, ugly, fat, worthless–when said enough times to us, we believe them to be so.  And when it is true, the realization is devastating.

But there is another image inside you, an image that is the perfect reflection of our Perfect Creator.  It may be covered over with years of the debris of bad choices.  It may be crusted over with a thousand labels others have put on us.  But it is there, and it is waiting, even longing to be released.  Ever since Adam and Eve fell for The Great Deception, the Enemy continues to try to hide that image and has even convinced some, maybe you, that The Image just doesn’t exist in you.

But Jesus left heaven, became one of us to restore that image by dying for all of us.  There are a lot of TV shows about restoring old cars and old furniture, making them look brand new.  Well, long before those shows, there was our Heavenly Father doing the same thing–not with stuff, but with His favorite part of creation.  It’s the part, the only part, that bears His image.  And as good as His creation had been for the first 5 days, it wasn’t until the sixth day that He calls His Creation very good!  Why?  Because His Image Bearer was now in place.

Simply put, sin destroys The Image.  But The Cross and The Empty Tomb restores that image.  Believe it!  Believe that God is at work in every heart that allows Him in to redeem  the heart and then restore The Image.  Listen to Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (The Message)

16-18 Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

Your life is designed to be the mirror through which the world sees God.  Make sure that your mirror is polished and free from the flaws.  As a kid I remember going to the Fair and going through the “Funny House”.  One of the things there was a hall of mirrors that twisted and distorted your image.  That’s what sin does.

God offers to come along side with you and in you because He sees His image in you, even when others don’t and you can’t.  Simply walk with Him and let Him do His best work in you.  Our world, YOUR world, urgently needs to see the real God and not the petty handmade gods that have invaded God’s creation.  YOU bear the image, so let God work with you, in you and through you.  He knows how to bring it out.  After all, it is HIS image in you.

When we allow God to take away the debris and junk that’s been hiding His image in us, then we can say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Enter more of my life.  Enter all of my life, especially those places I’ve been hiding from you.  I know the only way Your Image can be seen through me is when I am totally submitted to You and letting You shine through me.  I want to be The Mirror of YOU!  I can’t do it, but I know you can.  Amen and Amen!