WMTM?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Absolutely Nothing, And Absolutely Everything”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monitor Your Heart!

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I have some wonderful DNA in me, both the physical kind and that of the spiritual nature.  But due to the nature of this fallen creation, I do have some “not-so-wonderful” DNA.  On both sides of my DNA is a history of cardiovascular issues.  My Dad has been on hypertension medications since he was in his late 30’s.  About two and a half years ago, at 1189the age of 58 I began taking hypertension medications.  At the age of 88 he had triple bypass surgery and since 2008 I have had 2 arteriograms due to severe chest pains.  The first time I found out it was my gall bladder and the last time, my heart doc call it unspecified angina due to stress.  A pastor experiencing stress, who ever heard of such a thing!  Inconceivable!

Recently I have been experiencing something different.  I truly hate to sound like a hypochondriac, but due to the aforementioned DNA, my wife insists I go see our cardiologist.  It felt like my heart was racing away and I have a few episodes where it felt like my heart was bouncing against my sternum.  I checked my heart rate and it was 180 beats per minute.  Don’t think that was in the normal range.  The pain wasn’t sharp, but a real sense of pressure; and after the heart rate returned to normal, exhaustion.  So I went to see my Heart Doc.  He knows about my DNA (he’s also my Dad’s Heart Doc) so he put a 24 hour heart monitor on me to record every heart beat and my heart rate for that 24 hours.

When I went back for the results, he wasn’t pleased with the report.  He asked me if I wanted to go to Huntsville, Nashville or Birmingham.  Our area does not have the specialist I needed.  It seems he thinks I have this thing called Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia.  I have had heart rates as high at 184 beats per minute.  My local heart doc does not do what needs to be done.  He said he is a cardiac plumber but I need to see a cardiac electrician, someone who is known as a cardiac electrophysiologist.

Well, last week I had my first appointment with the cardiac electrician, Dr. Paul Tabereaux.  He confirmed that my heart has some electrical issues and sat down with me to explain my options (I like options!).  I could take some medication to control it but it would leave me feeling like I felt after an episode, but it would be all the time.  I don’t like that option.  The other option would be to have a procedure called an ablation which should solve the problem.  Oh well, so much for options because I do not want to take more medicine.

This, call it “life-event”, has brought to mind Psalm 139:23 (NLT)

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Dr. Tabereaux described this procedure to me and Debbie in detail.  Entering through a femoral vein, he would insert a catheter, actually several.  Once inside my heart he would create a 3-D map of the inside of my heart.  Then he will send electrical impulses into my heart in order to identify the problem.  Oh, the problem!  Well it seems that these things called nodes have created an electrical loop causing my heart to beat very fast, too fast.  Once the loop is located he will proceed to “burn” part of that loop, thus interrupting that loop by scaring a part of my heart muscle.

Now some, may wonder how creating this “scar” will help my heart.  He assured us that it would do the trick and set my heart back into normal rhythm and thus ending these palpitations.  Not only do I have Dr. Tabereaux’s assurance, but I know some people who have had the same procedure by the same doctor and they are doing well and living their lives.  So that gives us a calmness because the idea of poking around inside, I said INSIDE my heart, well that is a bit disconcerting.  And then burning part of my heart?  He says it will work and I have the personal testimony of others who said it works.

And it hit me, this describes what the Psalmist is talking about in today’s passage.  He said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart”, similar to what this cardiac electrician knows about my physical heart.  Then he writes, test me and know my anxious thoughts.”  Similar to what this cardiac electrician will do to my physical heart.

Sometimes, the things we put into our hearts, or that we have allowed to stay in our hearts, creates a loop where we never move forward, never move beyond.  And at our invitation, God will come and help identify those “anxious loops” that keep us from going further, growing deeper, and trusting God even more.  The Monday morning attitude is fueled by those “loops”.  Maybe your loop is fear, control, guilt, anger, lust, or shame, just to name a very few.

One of the worst things that can create this “loop” that keeps us from the normal rhythm of Kingdom Life is living outside God’s design for you.  A word that best describes this “loop” that many do not like to use or hear is sin.  We can blame others, or accept the lie that says, “Well, I was just born this way.  It’s who I am and it’s not my fault.”  We need to trust God’s grace to repair these loops.  And the only way He can repair these loops is to let Him into our hearts.  Give Him access to every room, every “chamber” of our heart.  Trust that He knows what He is doing, and listen to the testimony of others who have allowed The Eternal Cardiologist to work on their heart.   Their testimony will be about what He “fixed” in them, not what He needs to “fix” in you. The truth is that God doesn’t “work” on our heart; He does something much better.  He gives us a new heart!

And now I am waiting for Dr. Tabereaux’s office to call me as to when all this will happen.  But in the meanwhile, I am allowing God to “burn off” some things that are keeping my spiritual heart in a loop, rather than following Him to become all He sees in me, all that He made me to be here in His creation.

When we allow God to look inside our hearts and give Him permission to go to work by removing anything that is contrary to His Intended Design for us, then we can say:  “Good!  Lord, it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

I don’t know any better way to ask it, but the way the Psalmist puts it:  Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  I give you permission to look at everything and repair those “loops” that are keeping me away from the healthy rhythms of Kingdom Life.  Oh, and help me remember I need to have follow-ups with you to make sure another “loop” doesn’t develop.  Amen and Amen!

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrong Cause, Wrong Battle, Wrong War!

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It has been a while in coming to recognize, for me that is, that I had taken the wrong turn somewhere in this particular blog.  It’s something that God has been trying to get me to see and to be truthful, I had not been listening to Him.  But finally He was able to get through this thick head of mine (I’m sure none of you are thick-headed when it comes to the things God wants you to do) and so I’ve been trying to figure out why this particular blog was, well, headed in the wrong direction.

To get back on track, I back-tracked all the way to the beginning before I started blogging.  It was a weekly devotion about the different expressions of that “Monday Spirit” that gets in the way of faithfully following God.  So here I am at the beginning, wondering to myself, “What is one of those Monday Attitudes that gets in the way of being a real and faithful follower of Jesus?”  I remembered that God would usually reveal this through something that happened that week or a memory of something that happened once upon a time.  And this morning it happened again.

This Monday’s Musings come out of Ephesians 6:12 in the New Living Translation (NLT)

 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Have you ever heard the expression “You can’t get there from here”?  Typically it is said when people are looking for a remote, off-the-beaten-path place that the voice inside the GPS replies, “Huh????”  It means you have to start somewhere else and if you start somewhere else, then you can find it.  What does this have to do with the Monday Spirit that can get us off-track?  So glad you asked.

As serious followers of Jesus we recognize that we are indeed in a war.  Those who fail to recognize that we are in a war have chosen the path of Easy rather than the Way of Jesus.  Jesus never promised an easy or convenient Way.  Truth is, Jesus promised the exact opposite.  And to this left-handed, right-brain pastor it seems that when the crowds around Jesus became large He would intentionally say things that would thin-the-herd because He knew His purpose wasn’t to build up a following of nice and neat people, but to muster an army for the most serious war ever.

Alas, many have chosen to fight the wrong cause, thus entering the wrong battles, and ultimately fighting the wrong war.  Their attention has been on corporations, politics and people.  Remember all those emails about Pepsi putting the pledge of allegiance on their cans but leaving out the words “under God”?  Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters fought Pepsi by calling for a boycott of all their products.  Before the days of email, I remember church members periodically bringing a petition for everyone to sign because the logo of Proctor & Gamble had the number 666 cleverly disguised in the arrangement of those stars because they were supporters of the Satanic Church and calling for a boycott of their products.

And still today, Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters lash out at individuals for a variety of reasons.  Tattoos, drinking beer, long hair, political affiliations, body piercings, and anyone who disagrees with their views are just some of the personal attacks I have witnessed.  And the most ridiculous war I have ever witnessed in churches is the “Worship War”.  The Worship War is all about the styles of worship.  And in the place where there should be room for all, harsh and ugly words are spoken against people who simply long to worship God in a way that comes from deep within their heart.  Unbelievable!

When we live out our week fighting the wrong battles it only adds to the frustrations and the emptiness that can be the vacuum pump that drains the joy and purpose that Jesus suffered, even died to provide for us.  The real War Jesus calls us to fight is for the hearts, minds, lives and souls of those captured by the real Enemy, Satan.  But instead of fighting Satan, we turn and fight each other.  Unbelievable!

This Monday’s passage reminds us that our true Enemy rules from the spiritual realm and that to fight him, we must focus beyond what our physical eyes can see.  I love watching those shows about the development of fighter jets and pilots.  I guess it is because my Bucket List includes being in one of those jets while being launched off an aircraft carrier.  (If anyone reading this can help me, let me know!).  Dogfights, as they are called, have changed over the decades.  At one time you had to literally see your enemy in order to engage him.

But now they have radar that alerts the pilot of a “bogey” long before they can be seen.  But what if a pilot, who received that radar warning of  bogey ahead said, “I don’t see any threat.  Something must be wrong with the weapon system.  Think I’ll just ignore it.”  What do you suppose would happen to that pilot if the only the things he or she could see would be considered a threat?  My guess is that they would either be pulling that ejection lever (which is NOT on my Bucket List, although I do want to skydive at least once) or worse.

Let’s stop attacking people and focus on the real Enemy.  Take Paul’s words to heart and fight Satan, first in our own life by capturing back our mind so that Jesus can transform this degenerate and degenerating mind into His mind.  Let’s show grace, kindness and mercy to the people we meet each day, especially if they are different from us.  Let’s fight evil with good.  Instead of pointing out what we think Jesus was against, let’s live out every day what Jesus is for, such as treating people the way we want to be treated.  When we identify the wrong cause, engage in the wrong battle and fight the wrong war, Satan laughs because he knows we are doing more harm to the Kingdom of God than he ever could.

When we know that the battlefield begins in our own mind, and we fight the war for the hearts, minds and lives of those held captive by Satan by directing our assault on Satan, not people, then we can say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Lord, forgive me for seeing people as my enemy.  I want You to take away all the stuff that is between You and me so that I can get closer to You.  Help me see beyond what my eyes can see, to see with my heart and mind the real battlefield.  Today and for the rest of my days remind me that the first battle is for my mind.  Transform my own mind before I ask you to change anyone else’s mind.  Holy Spirit, be my radar system to warn me where and when Satan is attacking.  And help me fight him, and not the people around me.  I offer You my service in the fight for the hearts, minds and lives of the people around me who are being held captive by Satan.  Help me fight with the weapons of goodness, love, kindness, grace and mercy.  Amen and Amen!

What Would You Do If You Saw. . .

One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God.  There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush.  Moses stared in amazement.  Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up.

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This morning, like all mornings, except for those when I had medical procedures to be done, I was sipping from the fountain of life, otherwise known as a cup of coffee.  And I began wondering about the humble beginnings of that cup of joe.  No, not when the hot water began dripping through those grounds.  And no, not when those workers at Folgers™ processed those beans.  Even further back than when the workers harvested the beans and prepared them for shipping.  I’m thinking back before the time of Starbucks™, Keurigs™, Mr Coffee™ or percolators.

I’m thinking of that moment when some native walked past this bush that had these unique beans hanging all over it.  And that native began to wonder, “I wonder what would happen if I took these beans, let them dry out, then roasted them, crushed them into grounds and then poured hot water over those grounds, what would it produce?”  Surely other natives must have passed by that bush.  I’m certain this bush didn’t just appear for that one native, like Moses’ burning bush.  And I’m fairly certain that native who asked the question must have passed by that bush numerous times.  Maybe the native just ignored it, passed by without a thought.  But that single morning he had a thought, and the world was changed, for the better I might add.  What does all this have to do with the Monday attitude?  I’m so glad you asked.

What about those moments we encounter in our ordinary days?  Think about this Monday Morning passage.  Moses is taking care of the flocks of his father-in-law.  Man, talk about being stuck in a no-where job!  But in all fairness, where could he go?  He was Egypt’s Public Enemy #1.  When an employer would look at his résumé and get down to that item “Killed an Egyptian Slave Drive”, interview was over.  There just were not a lot of jobs for an on the one, fallen from power, former Egyptian prince who reverted back to being a Hebrew.  So, that’s all there was for him.

It was just another day on the job for Moses.  Did you understand this point?  It was just another ordinary day on this job working for his father-in-law tending sheep job for Moses.  There was nothing to indicate that Moses’ horoscope promised him a big surprise today.  Nothing mentioned about a fortune cookie that said a new job was in his future.  Nope!  Just an ordinary day in an ordinary job for which he was overqualified.

Then it happened!  He looked up the side of that mountain and as plain as the nose on your face, there it was!  This bush was covered in flames.  Nothing unusual about that is it?  I mean, dry bushes burn rather easily.  But this bush was not only covered in flames, but it wasn’t being consumed by those flames.  Now that is definitely something you do not see every day.  To his credit, he did see it.  But. . .

But what if Moses looked at that event, but then went back to his ordinary job of tending sheep that belonged to his father-in-law?  Nothing would have changed for Moses; he would have continued tending the sheep of his father-in-law.  I have this propensity to wonder about “what-if” and in this story, I have a “what-if” but it is not about Moses but about you and me.

I wonder how many “burning bushes” do we not even see during our lifetime?  Are there Divinely Crafted Appointments that God designed just for us, but we simply walk on by and miss them?  Are we like those many natives who walked past that strange-looking bush with hard beans on them and never imagined what they could become when roasted, crushed and hot water poured through them?

I’m sure if you saw a bush surrounded by flames not being consumed, that it would definitely have your attention.  But does it take something that drastic for God to get your attention?  Today and this week, I want to challenge you to be on the lookout for those Divinely Crafted Appointments.  Moments when God has something to say to you.  Moments when God has a task for you.  Moments when God has a challenge for you.  Moments when God will ask you to do something simple like speak to a stranger or something a lot more challenging, like being a leader in your local church.

Our God is constantly communicating; not always in a burning bush, but communicating with us nonetheless.  Will you just walk by that place, that moment when God is longing to have a word with you?  Or will you recognize, in even the most unlikely of places like that miserable job you have, that God has a word and a task that He knows you are ready for?

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I am so thankful for that native who recognized there was more on the coffee bush than hard beans.  And God is thankful when you see those Divinely Crafted Appointments and you stop to investigate.  When we see those Divinely Crafted Appointments and look deeper into them, following God’s direction, then we can say:  “Good!  Lord, it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let’s pray:

Forgive me for missing those Divinely Crafted Appointments in the past.  I ask you to open my eyes to the extraordinary ways You want to talk to me in the ordinary places, even the dull places.  Amen and Amen!

More Resolutions? How About A Revolution?

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OK, test time readers!  There are only two questions:

  1. Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions?
  2. How many of those Resolutions have you already broken?

I did a Google Search about the top 10 Resolutions people made dating back to 2007.  The search results confirms my suspicions.  The list of Top 10 Resolutions each year were almost identical.  The only thing that seemed to change was where they were on that list.  Maybe last year’s #10 became this year’s #4.  They all shared one single characteristic that was consistent each year:  They were, for the most part, about self-improvement.  They focused on our ability (actually because they are repeated each year, our “inability”) to help ourselves become better.

I went to Amazon and entered another search for “Self-Help” in books only.  The categories were “Personal Transformation Self-Help, Happiness Self-Help,  Motivational Self-Help, Success Self-Help,  Self-Help,  Religion & Spirituality,  Psychology & Counseling,  Self-Esteem,  Spiritual Self-Help,  New Age & Spirituality”.  The result was an amazing 1,069,262 books listed.  I couldn’t help but notice one of the titles on the first page of those search results.  It was The Motivation Switch: 77 Ways to Get Motivated, Avoid Procrastination, and Achieve Success and the price was $0.00.  That’s right, free!  If that book actually provided the tools it promises it should be worth at least $19.99 plus processing and handling.  Maybe “if you order in the next 15 minutes, because you know we can’t do this forever, get a free second copy for someone who desperately needs it.  Pay only separate processing and handling.”

fwa63I am left wondering why so many people make resolutions on New Year’s and why they are broken so quickly and easily.  One recent study reports that only 45% of Americans made New Year’s resolutions in 2015, which seems to be less than 40 years ago.  And here’s an interesting statistic:  only 8% achieve all of their resolutions.

So, do resolutions made any difference in our life?  Forget these statistics for a moment, in fact, just forget them period!  I believe one of the great dishonors that people give to characters in the Bible is to make them out to be some sort of super hero; to elevate them on a pedestal that says, “Oh, I could never be like them.”  Take Paul for example; some see him as this super disciple that never struggled with very much.  Well, look at what he writes in Romans 7:8-24 from The Message:

8-12 Don’t you remember how it was? I do, perfectly well. The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of “forbidden fruit” out of it. The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. Without all the paraphernalia of the law code, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, and I went along without paying much attention to it. But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled, and fell for it. The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead. But the law code itself is God’s good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel.

13 I can already hear your next question: “Does that mean I can’t even trust what is good [that is, the law]? Is good just as dangerous as evil?” No again! Sin simply did what sin is so famous for doing: using the good as a cover to tempt me to do what would finally destroy me. By hiding within God’s good commandment, sin did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own.

14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

Does this describe you?  I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.”  We make resolutions because we know life needs to change for us.  But then we break them.  As The Message frames Paul’s words, “I need something more!”  We want to do and be better and as Paul put it, “Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.”  I mean, with words like this, how can people say the Bible is outdated and irrelevant?  Yet the question still haunts us:  “How can we stop this endless cycle of failure in trying to be better people?”

Allow me to make this suggestion:  We do not need Resolutions but a Revolution!  We need to have the old self beaten down and defeated.  Oh, I just heard someone think, “Well, duh!  Tell me something I don’t know.”  The only way to break the cycle of defeat is to stop doing it ourselves and allow God to bring a Revolution into our minds and hearts.  You see, God isn’t interesting in making us better people.  That’s right, God isn’t looking for a better people.  He is looking to make a “New People”!

This is why He offers us (some call it “transformation” and that’s a good word), what I am calling “Revolution”.  The definition of a Revolution is “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.”  We can’t overthrow the rule and government of Satan, but Jesus did on the Cross, in the Grave and He will in your mind and heart when you turn all of your life over to Him.  This is a battle only HE can win, but He will not overthrown the government of the Enemy in your mind and heart until you surrender to Him.  Trust His power to make the difference in your life.

It’s not insane to alberteinstein133991keep doing the same things over and over and over.  They are called “habits”, “learned behavior”.  Another way to describe this process of doing the same things over and over is “being in a rut”.  And isn’t that what New Year’s Resolutions are, being the same ones year after year after year?  Insanity occurs when those same failed attempts are repeated over and over with the expectation they are going to produce different results.  Without a Revolution in our mind and heart, we are doomed to the same failures every time. Listen again to Paul in verse 24

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

Have you been noticing this pairing of words “mind and heart”?  I chose this pairing because a lot of people give Jesus their heart but not their mind.  The inevitable result of not giving Jesus your mind is Einstein’s definition of insanity.  How do you break this cycle of broken resolutions?  What is the answer to Paul’s question, “Is there no one who can do anything for me?”  Thankfully Paul answers his own question in verse 25

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Every Revolution needs a Commander In Chief, someone who makes all the decisions and leads the fight.  For us, it needs to be Jesus!  For this to become a reality in us we must immediately surrender everything in us to Him and allow Him to take charge of this battle that we always lose.

When we allow Jesus to bring Revolution in our mind and heart, and give Him authority in and over us, then we can say, “Good!  Lord it’s Monday!  What shall we do together?”  Let us pray:

Lord, I need the insanity to stop inside me.  I raise my white flag in surrender to you.  Take control not only of my heart, but my mind as well.  I surrender with the confidence that because You defeated the Enemy on the Cross and in the grave, you will defeat the Enemy in me.  I deliberately choose to follow You and live life the way You are showing me.  Amen and Amen!

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