Oh Lord, It’s Monday: Deepest Griefs

“He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.”  Isaiah 53:3

Grief is another of the tools of the trade used by our Enemy to make us dread another week, another day, even another minute.  Our source of grief can be the death of a family member or friend.  Just yesterday we found out our family doctor’s wife died after a lengthy battle with cancer.  Dr. Wampler is more than our doctor.  I consider him a friend.

And if it isn’t death that causes us to grieve, then it is the ordinary “stuff” of every day life.  The loss of a job, a home, a marriage, a friendship.  And if that isn’t enough to make us grieve, then there is the news—the heartaches and tragedies we see in the news.  Without some comfort and relief, grief drains us of peace, hope, and even our purpose in life.

And so, we have these words from Isaiah.  Did you catch the last two words?  Deepest Grief!  Not to minimize our griefs, He has experienced deepest griefs.  His is deepest griefs not by comparison to our griefs, but because He takes into the deepest part of His heart, our griefs.  All our griefs, all of everyone’s griefs.  And He does this for only one reason:  He Loves Us Completely And Unconditionally.

God hears our cries this morning.  We can cry to Him because He has felt, feels now, and will always feel the pain of grief.  We need to turn our grief over and release it to His grace and compassionate love.  For it is His heart—His love that always reaches out to us, to heal us and make us whole.  We need deliverance from the easy thing of pointing out the symptoms of what we think causes our griefs.

 All we need to do is tell Him.  Tell Him honestly everything you feel.  Even if—especially when you are angry and blame Him.  Then simply lean on Him and listen—listen as He pulls you against His chest, so close you can heart His heartbeat—the heartbeat that is for you.  Then He will begin to heal your broken heart and bring back the peace, hope and purpose that you thought was long gone.  He went the distance for your heart—all the way to the Cross.  Then He went the distance to reclaim your heart—to that tomb and then He walked out of that tomb in victory!

When you know He feels the deepest grief—your grief—and remember that He does it for you out of deepest love—and will restore your heart, then you can say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together this week?”  Let’s pray:

Lord here is why I am grieving……..(put your list of griefs here)……  It hurts and honestly, I wonder where is the hope?  Where is that peace?  How can I go on?  I share my questions with you because You know deepest grief.  I trust You now to lead me out of my grief.  You walked to the Cross and walked away from the Tomb.  I know you will do the same for me.  Even if I don’t see how….I know you see the way.  Amen and Amen…

 

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When You Are Grieving, Also Remember

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 He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.    Isaiah 53:3 (NLT)

This week is THE week to remember the most incredible, even unbelievable story of all times.  Jesus, in our human form, becomes His deliberate and calculated journey to the Cross.  Yesterday, Palm Sunday, was all about the Joy!  But Jesus did not come for that purpose.  He came, as our passage this morning from Isaiah says, to be despised, rejected, to be a man of sorrows, and to intimately know the deepest grief–that being our sin.

And our hearts today are often filled with deepest grief.  We grieve for the human violence, the inhumanity performed by humans against other humans.  We grieve personal losses.  Me?  I’m in the first process of 2 griefs.  First, I’m losing my Mother to dementia.  Later on I will grieve her death.  Right now it seems to me that this first grief is the worst.  When grief is deep, our words tend to be words of fear and despair, rather than the Hope of the Good News of The Kingdom of God.

Holy Week is that time to remember that we are not alone in our grief.  In fact, long before our moments of grief, Jesus had His.  And the truth is, WE caused that Grief.  But rather than pointing out that we caused His pain, He does something better.  He bears our pain.  He bore it then on the Cross, and it will bear your grief today.

When we remember HIS grief was caused by us–and that He carried that grief then and will carry our grief now, then we can say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Thank you Jesus that you loved me so much, that you opened Your heart then to carry the pain I caused You.  Though I know I am unfit for such a sacrifice, I accept Your Grace.  And when I am grieving, for any reason, help me to remember YOUR grief then, and that even now, You are here to carry my grief.  Help me let go of it, and give it to you so that Your Joy will be restored to me.  Amen and Amen!

Timidity Isn’t Humility

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

Sometimes even things that appear to be virtuous can keep you from the life God longs for you to experience.  For example:  Humility can become a disguise and hiding place for timidity.  It is easy to see how timidity can hide within humility.  But timidity robs humility of its power.

When time began, it was God’s Spirit that moved over the waters.  God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”  It was The Holy Spirit that revealed the marvels of God’s power.  And the Holy Spirit continues to move over His creation.  And because of the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus—we are offered the opportunities for that same Spirit to move over and through us.  We need to believe, receive and to live by the same power God used in Creation—and in the Resurrection.

His Spirit is not found in our fears and apprehensions.  We need the Father to take that away from us so that this world may see His glory and to become and live as His daughters and sons.  Ask God to show you the power that you can live in; the power of life in even the deadest places of life.  It is only by HIS power can we live in Holiness; because Holiness is what He demand from us; and will accept nothing less.

Don’t call timidity by the name “Humility”.  Humility has great power, timidity robs us of power.  Timidity, when it comes to the things of God, prevents us from being His instruments of transformation.  It hides who God has declared us to be–His Daughters and Son.  I’m thinking now of Bryant Denny Stadium at the University of Alabama.  When there is a game, the noise is incredible.  The excitement and pride cannot be hidden.  What if–mind you I’m only asking “What If”–we expressed the same enthusiasm in our walk with Jesus?  Timidity keeps us from the joy that comes from living in Christ and Christ living in us through the Holy Spirit.

When we know that the very same Spirit that was present in Creation, the same Spirit that led Jesus from the night of death into the morning of life lives us in, then we can say:  Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”

Let’s pray:

Deliver us from timidity when it comes to Your work in this fallen Creation.  Help us to surrender more each day to your Presence, Holy Spirit, so that we might love each other, and all others, the way that you love us.  And help us relinquish our Self-Will and Selfish Desires so that You may teach us how to be self-disciplined in ways that transforms our minds, renews our heats.  Help us to become the polished mirror that reflects the Majesty, The Power, The Glory, of the ONE who said Let there be light and there was light. Amen and Amen

 

What’s Going Before You?

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You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

Psalm 139:13-16 (New Living Translation)

“Well, what are your plans for the New Year?”  It’s a question often passed around every late December and early January.  It makes for good conversation around the break room at work, or in the foyer at church before or after worship, or while we’re waiting around between Sunday School and “church”.  We all like to make plans.  Whether it’s about that vacation we will take this year, or that perfect vacation we would like to have; plans for that “perfect” house we would like to build someday; plans about our careers or seeking a new career; plans for retirement.  It is good to make plans, to dream for something better.  But what about God’s plans?  Did you notice some very important phrases from our Scripture this morning?  “You made….You watched……You saw…..(clearly implied) YOU recorded….”  Sounds to me that our God is a very busy God.

 

          Now, don’t misinterpret that last statement to mean that God is too busy for you.  The spiritual reality is that God’s “busyness” has to do with us and our daily lives.  God desires to be involved with our lives; every day and every moment of that day.  So, this week’s word is PREVENIENT GRACE.  Now, there’s a word that sounds really big and important—prevenient.  Let me tell you a story about this word.

 

It was in late March of 2004 when I received a call from another pastor, Lyle Holland.  Now, Lyle and I did not travel in the same circles; in fact, our only connection was that many years ago we were both in the former Florence District.  Other that time, I can’t remember that we served in the same district.  Now, we would see each other at Conference events and speak to each other, but that was the extent of our friendship, until March of 2004.  Lyle was the Spiritual Director for Alabama Walk 269 that would be held May 13-16.  He had been praying and seeking for one more Assistant Spiritual Director and he thought about me.  Allow me to give you a backdrop to that phone call.

          I had just been informed that I would be moving to another appointment in June against my wishes and most of the congregation I was serving.  To say the least, it was a time of great anxiety.  The second fact that stands out in my memory was that it was less than a year since I had been on my walk.  As we conversed on the phone, I told Kyle that the date really didn’t look good to me since I would be in the middle of packing up for the move that would happen less than a month after the Walk.  I was concerned about my inexperience and the fact I was in the middle of a tough season in my life.  And just about the time I was going to tell Kyle no, in the middle of my sentence, I lost all common sense and told him I would be glad and honored to serve. (What in the world have I just done????)  Then Kyle told me all the clergy talks had been assigned but one, Prevenient Grace; and that would be my talk.

Prevenient Grace?  I remember something about that from my studies, it was a Wesleyan term, so I should know something about it, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to remember about prevenient grace.  So, I did what most people do when they find themselves in over their head—-I prayed!  I prayed about what to say and how to say it, and for God to help me remember where I heard that word before—prevenient.

I was so relieved to find I had a basic outline to go by.  So I sat down at my computer and began my research and started to write.  The first word I typed was, of course, Prevenient!  My word processor immediately flagged that word as being incorrectly spelled and offered many suggestions, none of which was the word “prevenient”.  I looked at my outline again—this is the way the Upper Room folks said it was spelled, so it must be right.  But the computer failed to recognize it as a correctly spelled word.  And then it hit me (actually the Holy Spirit hit me, real hard); many times we fail to recognize the activity of God’s grace we call prevenient grace.

I pulled out my notebook from my own walk (Alabama 253) and there it was—the perfect definition of prevenient grace:  Prevenient Grace is the grace that goes before us, calling us and leading us into a relationship of love with our Heavenly Father.  And more than that, it is the nature of God’s grace that is always going before—calling to us by name, leading us, guiding us and helping us through the tough times of life and faith.  I have come to understand that as God’s grace goes before me, He is leading me and preparing me for whatever may lie ahead.  Grace doesn’t stop being prevenient just because we have finally said our own “Yes!” to Christ.

He is still going before us.  But, I wonder, like my computer’s word processor would not recognize the word “prevenient”, how many times are we guilty of not recognizing God’s grace that is always before us?  I found a way to stop my computer from telling me that the word “prevenient” was a misspelled word—I added the word to the dictionary.  From that point forward, it always recognizes the word prevenient as a real word, not a misspelled word.

When we add the word “prevenient” to our vocabulary—when we make the intentional and conscious decision to recognize the many ways God’s grace is at work in us and around us—it changes everything in us and for us.  The Psalm for this week reminds us that God is busy—busy showing us that He cares about us, and best of all, He takes care of us.  After working Walk 269, to be completely honest, I still didn’t want to move, I still didn’t like my Superintendent, and there were still of couple of folks at church I didn’t like.  But I didn’t blame them any more and I was able to accept these changes because I KNEW that God’s grace was going before me and that with His grace, I could and would face any challenge.

When we live with sense that God’s grace is always going before us, then we will be able to say:  “Good! Lord, It’s Monday!  What shall we do together this week?”

Let us pray:  Lord, I have to confess, many times I’m like that computer—I simply cannot recognize that your grace is going before me.  But Lord, I know I need that grace.  I need that grace to help me to continue to live in this wonderful relationship based on love, not rules.  Remind me that you are very busy showing me your love and offering me your power.  Help me to add to my mental vocabulary and to my spiritual vocabulary this strange word, Prevenient!  Then, may I remember that you really are going before me, and like those disciples on the way back to the village of Emmaus, open my eyes to the ways your grace is working in my life!  Amen and Amen!

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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How Can You Wear The Crown Without Dying On The Cross?

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I’m back!  Here is your “Oh, Lord It’s Monday” fresh edition.  Sometimes you simply need to hear what others say.  Today is such a case.  When we want the Crown of Life without our own Cross, we seek the cheap and easy way.  Jesus calls us first to the Cross, OUR Cross, and it is a daily call.  If we bypass our own daily Cross, then the things that make us miserable and the Monday Morning spirit grows stronger in us.  Much of our misery comes from the seed of the Enemy that makes us desire the Crown but without the Cross.  Only by dying daily to self, and it does require suffering, can we ever hope to receive the Crown of Life.  Here’s the sign we all need:  “NO CROSS–NO CROWN!”

But when we allow ourselves to die daily and even at times moment by moment on that Cross, we can confidently say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Forgive me for wanting fruit without the work involved that produces the fruit.  Forgive me for seeking my comfort over the Cross.  I choose this moment to be crucified to all my desires for something easy.  I know you are with me, so I trust you, even when I it requires suffering for Your sake.  Amen and Amen!

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!

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!