Blessed Today

Today I have been blessed to sit with a band of brothers and be encouraged and loved on.  These men are my confidants and understand the pain I’m going through in a unique way.

I am blessed with a wife of passion and compassion.  She is the nearly 31 year love of my life and best friend.  She understands my heart better than any other human on the planet.  We are sealed with love and the Holy Spirit.  I am so thankful for her.  I pray that I can be a catalyst to help her heal the hurts in her life.

I am blessed by a friend who called me on the carpet and loves me enough to tell me the truth.  Even if I don’t totally agree with him, I love him for his honesty.  I need these kind of friends.  I hope that I can only be the kind of friend who loves him back in the same way.

I am blessed today to have a friend who is a drug addict and has come to that realization and has admitted it in public.  He is on his way to healing. I appreciate our friendship and hope that he completes his road to recovery and is able to use his awesome talents to further the kingdom.  I pray that God will continue to use me in his life.

I am blessed.

Advertisement

Troubled Spirit

I find myself today just so troubled in my spirit that I can’t even write what I want to preach Sunday.  I sit and stare at the computer and the desk and the walls and the backs of my hands.  I just really want to get up and walk away.  That’s probably what will happen in the end.

There have been things happen that I cannot reveal and won’t because I promised.  I have been so disappointed in some people I thought I could trust.  I have been hurt deeply by people who I thought were my friends or at the very least acquaintances.  Oh well–such is human nature.  We put on so much facade.  We play so many games with each other that we can’t get to the real truth and to real forgiveness and real ability to move past it.  So sad!

I must say that I’m not totally innocent in the things said to me.  I have been guilty of allowing my temper cause me to write things in a public forum that have hurt others.  For that I’m deeply regretful and have asked the offended parties to forgive me.  Though words of forgiveness have been exchanged, I fear that the pain is greater than our forget-ability.  So we continue on, struggling to walk past each other without thinking about the things that were said.  It’s so hard.  I’m trying and failing and trying and succeeding and trying and failing again.

I wonder sometimes if it’s human nature as I said or our refusal to accept our position as children of God.  Maybe it’s some of both.  We have a sin nature–I know that from my own failures and inadequacies.  We have a “bent” toward doing selfish things.  We like to make ourselves look good and feel good so much that we will lie to each other and mask the depth of real feelings to the point that when they do come out, the come out as pain and usually lash out to hurt others.  That’s just not the Christian way–or is it??

American Christianity in my opinion has become so watered down that we stress out at even the Bible when it convicts us.  Shouldn’t we stretch toward it and reach out for the One who made us and follow His will for our lives?  We Americans feel as though the world revolves around us and this spills over into our “Christianity.”

Have we lost the ability to speak spiritual things into one another’s lives? Listen to Paul’s words in Colossians 2: 20-23 NCV, Since you died with Christ and were made free from the ruling spirits of the world, why do you act as if you still belong to this world by following rules like these: “Don’t handle this,” “Don’t taste that,” “Don’t even touch that thing”? These rules refer to earthly things that are gone as soon as they are used. They are only human commands and teachings. They seem to be wise, but they are only part of a human religion. They make people pretend not to be proud and make them punish their bodies, but they do not really control the evil desires of the sinful self.”  

When is the last time you heard anyone in every-day life talk like this?  When was the last time someone stopped you in the hallway at church or anywhere for that matter and said, “Let’s stop pretending to be humble by letting people think we are religious and start really loving one another!”  I mean this text lets me know that when I “go to church” and I “do my Christian duty” I must ask myself the question, “Am I doing this because it’s a part of who I am or is it a part of the religion to which I belong?”  Obeying religious rules only makes you religious–not a Jesus follower!

When is the last time someone stopped you and said, “I’m so glad that Christ died and took us away from the clutches of the ruler of this world.  We are free from sin!!  We are not guilty and we did nothing to earn it! Hallelujah!!!?”  People have stopped talking that way.  

The real tragedy is that we are losing the ability to see Jesus!  We are losing out commitment to the mission He left us with–to make disciples.  O, we’re proud of little Johnny because he can talk at an early age.  We’re proud of Suzy because she made the team.  We’re so excited when our favorite team wins and deeply disturbed when they lose!  We are anxious if we don’t get the clothes we want or toy we want or girl/boy we want!  We are disobedient to our parents, haters of the good things in life and lovers of everything that is evil!  We’ve become self centered and act like two year olds who don’t get their food quickly enough.  We have become so biblically illiterate that we couldn’t tell you if Hezekiah is a king, a book of the Bible, or the name on a pack of Hebrew cigarettes.

When are we going to be more proud of our children when they serve a homeless person food?  Why not encourage the kids looking forward to bucking the system and deciding to serve the world rather than pursuing the American dream?  Why not teach our children the word of God AT LEAST as equally as we teach them to hit a ball or catch a fish or pursuer a career?  

My cry is GOD HELP ME!  GOD HELP US!!  We need to cry out like David of old,

Create in me a pure heart, God,

and make my spirit right again.

Do not send me away from you

or take your Holy Spirit away from me.

Give me back the joy of your salvation.
Keep me strong by giving me a willing spirit.” Psalm 51:10-12

 


Fed Up With Cliques

Cliques 1Do you ever get just fed up with something and want it to stop?  “Fed up” is a phrase that I grew up hearing a lot.  Mom would say, “I’m just fed up with your attitude.”  Bless her heart for loving me anyway, but back then, I was something else to deal with (still am somtimes).  Full of disrespect!  Sad, but true.

You see, I saw my parents as hindrances to what I wanted for my life.  I wanted to tour the world with a rock band and all the “stuff” that comes with that.  Well, I guess it wasn’t to be, but, God sure has blessed me the life that I have had.  But I digress….

What I’m fed up with  and have come to see as a cancer in the church (or any family unit of any kind) is the idea of cliques.  They know no age barriers, they are not gender specific, they are a destructive force that Satan clouds in a blizzard of excuses and they need to stop!!!

Google defines a clique as “a small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them.”

Cliques usually starts off innocent enough.  Two people become best friends then gather two more till they have in their group all they want.  They are comfortable with one another.  They really do have a deep friendship where they can share all and tell all.  That’s not a bad thing at all–it’s innocent at first.

The problems happen when, within their group, they start “sizing up” others who come into the church to see if they are “worthy” to be a part of their friendships.  Many times they pick out people who are incapable of recognizing that they are a clique.  They may even pick out a person who is weak in some areas of their life and try to improve them.  Whereas they may have good intentions to gel that person, the issues come when they do that to the detriment of other relationships.

You see when I size you up, and you of or do not meet my standards, that means I just made a judgement about YOUR self worth.  You are “worth-y.”  I value you to the extent that I invite you in.  That process is, at best, a mistake in how to bless others, and at worst, a tool of Satan toward division.

Satan is always about dividing us.  When he does, he knows that he can destroy us.

Here are some tips to help us avoid cliques.

1.  CERTAIN PEOPLE:  Recognize when you are paying too much close attention to certain people.  There’s nothing wrong with being best friends, but be careful about shunning others.  When this happens BEST friends become BEAST friends.

2.  NEW PEOPLE:  When gathering with groups, be sure to give attention to new people. Remember that new people are nervous around you because they don’t know you.  Make sure not to miss them.

3.  ALL PEOPLE:  Be friendly with everyone.   There is never a reason to be exclusive–especially in god’s kingdom!

4.  GOSSIP:  Avoid talking about others in ANY situation.  A good rule of thumb is to either speak kindly and positively about others or don’t speak about them at all.  Cliques tend to use their friendship as an excuse to gossip in the name of “being concerned.”  Remember not to whisper and be sarcastic about this either.

5.  BE GENUINE:  Learn how to genuinely care for others.  Some of us just ned a dose of teaching on how to treat other people with REAL love and acceptance.  Jesus was all about love and acceptance.  I would not want to meet Him one day having shunned others.  That’s not the way he operated.  In fact, He used his life to give special attention to those in His culture who were shunned.  I suggest that we do the same.


Removing My Planks!

ImageScripture says, “Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? How can you say to your friend, ‘Friend, let me take that little piece of dust out of your eye’ when you cannot see that big piece of wood in your own eye! You hypocrite! First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your friend’s eye.” –Luke 6:41-42 NCV

It’s high time I take this verse seriously.  I have no control over what anyone else does whether good or bad.  Even if I could control them, I’d have no right to make judgments until I get all the sin out of my own life.

I have carried grudges for so long against some people.  Doing that, someone once told me, is like me drinking poison and expecting someone else to die!  That’s is a deadly way to live especially for my spiritual life!

God, help me to do all that I can to find the people I have held grudges against and lift the burden of my heart by telling them, “I’m sorry.”  Help me to do this with a sincere heart and completely put all grudges behind me so that I can see clearly to work on my own sins.  Lord, help me to realize that the burden of judgement lies with You and You alone!  May I find forgiving hearts in others, but if I don’t, let me see that I need to forgive anyway to release my heart for Your ministry and work!  I pray it in Jesus’ Name AMEN!!


The Right “X’s”

Do you ever have those “things to get done” things and just feel like there are so many distractions in life that you just couldn’t find a way to get anything done well??  If that question makes sense to you, then you must understand.  

I tire of continually thinking I’m just one project away from happiness.  I mean really!!??  I think, “If I could just finish X, I would be complete.”  What I’m learning is that in this life “X” never gets done.  There’s always another “X” to put in the last one’s place.

God help me to focus on the right “X’s”!  In Jesus Name!  AMEN!!


Memory

As I convert all my home movies to DVD, I am reminded again and again how valuable memory is.  I’ve walked back through my life from roughly 1988 to 2004.  I still have many miles of tape to go through, but today’s recordings really struck a soft cord in my heart. 

As I went through 2003-2004, I watched the baptism of our twins Britney and Brandon at Creekside church.  I saw my son Brandon play a great game in the 2004 Dixie Youth World Series as we hosted the Florida state champs.  We lost a heart breaker 1-0.  I then watched Tabitha and Danielle march in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome at the Bands of America to my favorite show music they ever played–Tapestry of Nations/Chaos.  We won our third consecutive BOA Class A championship that year.

Through memory I relive the times spent close to one another.  We shivered in the tough cold of Atlanta loading and unloading equipment as band parents.  We spent countless hours preparing for the World Series (Britney also played in one of those) with practices.  To have your children learn about Jesus and come to the waters of baptism is the greatest feeling in the world.  I remember Britney saying, “We were born together as twins–we will now be born again together.”  Wow!!

It’s strange how memory works.  So often I can hear a song, experience a smell, or see a video and have the same exact feelings that I had the moment it was actually taking place.  While watching that baseball game–knowing the outcome before it started–I found myself routing on our team as though we were playing it today.  (We still lost 1-0).

In God’s word, James tells us that life is a mist that appears for a short time and then vanishes away.  I know it sounds trite, but it really does feel like yesterday that these things happened.  The mist of time is swiftly passing by.  I don’t want it to go so fast, but it seems I can do nothing about it.

This August, Lord willing, I will turn 50 years old.  It’s difficult to even write that.  I shudder to think about how fast the next 50 will pass by.  By the way, all of you who are older than me, please stop reminding me that the second half goes faster. I really don’t need or want to hear that right now. Ha!

God help me to spend the second half of my life better than the first.  Help me to be the husband, father, and grandfather You want me to be.  Help me to strive after the things that will mean something.  As I leave my youth, help me to mature as Your man.  Overrule all the mistakes I’ve made thus far, Lord, and help those around me to only sense more deeply that I have been with You.  In Jesus Name, AMEN!!


Learning to Let Go

How many times have you heard the expression, “Let go and let God”?  I think I understand what that phrase means, but more times than not I don’t adhere to what I think it means.

First, what I think it means.  I know that there are many situations and circumstances that are just simply out of our control as parents, spouses, ministers, teachers, co-workers–just being human puts in life situations where we are totally out of control and just don’t know what to do.  Quite frankly, even when we think we know what to do, we really buck against it.  It’s just our nature.  

I think “letting go and letting God” means that we have already decided that in whatever place we find ourselves, He is in control and we are not.  If we enter into all relationships that way, it takes so much pressure off.

Now for my situation.  I’ve been holding on to a grudge for many years. Today it hit me square in the eyes just how much it has controlled my life.  I have been guilty of pride, selfishness, anger, maybe even hatred for some, jealousy, and all the nasty thoughts and emotions that come to those who harbor such feelings.

In an attempt to protect my pride I have been defensive and sarcastic in conversations with people about said grudge!  I find myself walking away from conversations asking, “Why did you just say that?” or “Why do I feel such a need to defend myself?”  

Today that same conversation started again with someone and I found myself becoming defensive just like many times before.  I noticed that when the conversation started, my lovely wife of 30+ years just dismissed herself to the restroom.  When she came back, she just looked at me with love and compassion and said, “You need to let this go.”  Then five minutes later, the very person I was talking to said the same thing.  I just simply broke down and asked right there if they would pray with me.

You see, this week I’ve attended the Tulsa Workshop and learned so much about the nature of who God is and who He wants us to be.  The one glaring phrase that has come from today was from our brother Patrick Mead.  He said that we need to approach people “with arms wide open and hands empty of stones.”  I have no right to be judge, jury, and executioner.  And I certainly have no right to cast stones with all the sin in my own life.  This message has set me free.

I have some plans when I get back to the office on Monday.  I am having a burning ceremony.  I have in my office a particular article that I took great offense to many years ago.  Why I kept it is really a mystery!  I used to say that I kept it as a testimony to the pride and arrogance of people.  Low and behold–the very thing I thought was a reminder of others’ arrogance and selfishness was simply serving to keep me captive.  I have been captive to my own arrogance and jealousy.  No more!!  Letting go is long overdue!  I’m done with that chapter of my life.

Dear God, help me to let this go and give it all to You.  I proclaim love for these people in Jesus name.  I pray for their continued success and that many souls be brought to Jesus.  I thank You for Your grace and mercy!  Praise Your Holy Name!!! Through Jesus!  AMEN!!!


The Definition of Insanity

Most of us have heard Einstein’s definition of insanity, “doing the same things over and over, but expecting different results.”  There’s no way to argue with this point of fact.  It is a truth like 2 + 2 = 4.  There’s no changing it.

However, it seems that no matter how much I agree, I find myself trying to change this fact by the way I live.  In the south we call it “beating your head against a wall.”  In a sense, I myself am the definition of insanity.

The best way for me to describe this in my life is to talk about my process of dieting.  I’ll eat right for a few days, lose a few pounds, feel good about myself, give myself “permission” to splurge, and then “take a couple of days off” assuming that it won’t hurt me.  That leads to a weekend where I proclaim, “Monday is a great day to start back again.”  A week later when I step on the scales, there it is–the truth!!  Insanity strikes again!

We do the same thing spiritually.  We vacillate between good and bad, doing the right things and allowing the wrong into our lives.

Here’s the way Paul described it,

“We know that the law is spiritual, but I am not spiritual since sin rules me as if I were its slave.  I do not understand the things I do. I do not do what I want to do, and I do the things I hate.” –Romans 7:14-15 NCV  

This is THE spiritual struggle.  We all find ourselves in it.  The question is, “How do we escape this pattern?”

It’s really all about how we THINK.  As Paul continues to write he says,

“If people’s thinking is controlled by the sinful self, there is death. But if their thinking is controlled by the Spirit, there is life and peace.” –Romans 8:6 NCV

But how do we get to this kind of thinking?  Is it really about choice?  Is it really about lifestyle?  What is it that compels some to be successful in their thinking and others to fail?  Why can I not always choose the right thing?

I think it’s less about my will to “think” and more who is in control of my spiritual mind.  Our very power to be and to do what God has called us to is wrapped up in the power of the one who rules us.  Listen to Paul’s answer again.

But you are not ruled by your sinful selves. You are ruled by the Spirit, if that Spirit of God really lives in you. But the person who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ. 10 Your body will always be dead because of sin. But if Christ is in you, then the Spirit gives you life, because Christ made you right with God.”  –Romans 8:9-10 NCV

Thanks be to God for Him giving us Jesus–the very power who helps us get out of this insanity.


Pride Leads To Destruction

“Pride leads to destruction; a proud attitude brings ruin.” Proverbs 16:18

“Proud people will be ruined, but the humble will be honored.” Proverb 18:12

Don’t you you just love people who are proud of themselves!  They prance around like a prize winning stallion!  They talk about their accomplishments as thought they were the only person ever to have achieved success!  I especially love it when they run over people they are close to as a show of power and control!  They love to keep their thumb on those who are weaker than themselves.

I hope you’re getting the sarcasm of all of these statements.  In fact, the exact opposite is true.  No one wants to be in the presence of cocky, prideful, people.

The irony of pride is that it always catches up with us.  I know that to be true in my own life.  Like all sin, it will find us out!  It’s amazing how I can look back in my life and see the places where I was on top of the world in some situation, get a little (or a lot) cocky about it, only to have God remind me how small I am without Him!

Just think about the places in your life where you have the most control.  It may be at home, work, school, in a marriage, in a dating relationship, with friends, etc.  In those situations where you have control, how do you wield your power?  Do you take care to not act like you are better that those around you–even if the truth is that you are?  Do you exercise caution when handling the feelings of others around you?  Do you go out of your way to serve instead of be served?

Jesus has to be the greatest person to have ever been born.  According to scriptures, he is perfectly sinless (Hebrews 4:15).  Yet, the only place that I can think of where Jesus describes His own character, He says, “I am gentle and lowly in heart…” (Mathew 11:29 NKJV).

Did you get that?  Jesus says, “I am gentle.”  He is creator!  He is almighty! He is awesome, but never forget His example of being gentle.

Lesson?  Let us be gentle to all those around us–especially those to whom we are the nearest.


Misunderstood and Offended

In my “profession” where I teach, preach, and write, there are ample opportunities for me to say things that hurt other people.  Of course hurting others is only one facet to a huge diamond.  I can also be very easily misunderstood.  I can be taken out of context.  I can be generalized, which means, people can sometimes feel that what I say applies to “all” of a particular group, when I didn’t mean that at all.  If I thought long enough about it, I could come up with a few more items on that list.

I can recall my mother saying things like, “I know you better than you know yourself.”  She did this partially because it was somewhat true.  She also was wrong many times about that–not that I was allowed to say that she was.  When parents say those kinds of things, they too generalize and make all kinds of assumptions.  Sometimes they get it right, but more often than not, the simply have misunderstood.  The point here is to not make any assumptions about what another person might say.

How do you deal with misunderstandings?  Are you easily offended by others?  If so, why so?  If not, why not?

I think we would do ourselves a big favor if we could practice discipline in the choices we make as to what we will and will not allow to offend us. After all, when we allow others to control our thinking to the point that we get easily hurt by things they say, we are basically giving control of our thinking and actions to everyone who is around us.

What are some thoughts you might add to this conversation?

Scriptures to think about:  1 Corinthians 13:5, Proverbs 11:12, Matthew 18:15-17, Colossians 3:13