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!

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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!

Have You Listened To Yourself Lately?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Absolutely Nothing, And Absolutely Everything”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Your Heart Right!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does It Reflect The Message Of The Gospel of Jesus?

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

Does It Meet The Purpose Of The Kingdom Of God?

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

Is It Consistent With The Scriptures?

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

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

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

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

THE ECLIPSE OF THE SON!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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