Tuesday, December 09, 2014

For my city...

People have all sorts of reasons for wanting a town to fail...
I can't say I know why, exactly, that is, but Jonah didn't like Nineveh or that city's citizens. When God has compassion on Nineveh, and relented of His plan to destroy that city and its people, "...it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry." (Jonah 4:1 ESV) Jonah was so displeased with God's graciousness and mercy towards Nineveh that he wanted to die when God relented (see verses 2-3). Jonah was mad. Real mad.
God asked Jonah a probing question: "Do you well to be angry?" (see verse 4) Or, another way of asking, "Jonah, is it right for you to be mad about my pity on Nineveh?"
You see, Jonah is wrong. He's not the only one or the first one or, I doubt, the last one to ever be wrong.
If a city is still breathing, God is having mercy upon it.
To Jonah, God said, "And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?" (Jonah 4:11 ESV)
Do we well to be angry about Roxboro? It's breathing. God's pity is real and alive; today.
Do we well to be angry about Ferguson? 
Do we well to be angry about New York? 
Do we well to be angry about Chicago? 
Do we well to be angry about San Francisco? 
Do we well to be angry about Dallas? 
Do we well to be angry about Miami?
May God have pity on our cities and may we each obey our call and preach the Gospel. May we each be joyful when people repent. May we put down roots and build the Kingdom in our cities. May we seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God in our cities. May we love our neighbors AND our enemies in our cities. May we show Christ, share Christ and shower Christ upon our cities. May we plow and plant in hearts and sow and seed God's word in our cities. May we defend the weak, speak for the mute, work for the weak, give to the needy, encourage the downtrodden, feed the hungry, visit the lonely, gather with the grieving, serve the sickly and dig wells for the thirsty in our cities. May we judge less of what we see in others and judge more of what we see in ourselves in our cities. May we be family to the orphan and befriend the stranger in our cities.
Many people scoff and scorn, belittle and berate. Many people tear up things and tear down people, like locusts sweeping in swarms, ruining much in a gobbling rush to fill self.
But, I will show you a better way!
Let us love the city we are in! Its buildings still stand and its people still breath; God's pity is active.

Let us not run from our calling. Let us, instead, run to it!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Get wisdom, get understanding...

Get wisdom, get understanding...
Of getting wisdom and understanding, John Gill said, "Not only moral and political wisdom and understanding, but that which is spiritual and evangelical; Christ, and the knowledge of him; he being the only happy man that has an interest in him, and is possessed of him by faith, which is the meaning of getting him." (from Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible)
Gill was commenting on Proverbs 4:5, which commands, "Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth." (Proverbs 4:5 ESV)
And, when you get it or some or any, "do not forget" and "do not turn away."
We like to hunt and shop and search and inquire. We love, as the Apostle Paul said to the philosophers in Athens, to spend our "...time in nothing except telling or hearing something new" (see Acts 17:21).
We love the search, but for what? Are all new things full of wisdom and understanding? You bet not.
Are stores and websites and books and magazines and movies and songs all full of wisdom and understanding? You bet not.
Wisdom comes from the Lord. Understanding is a thing of God. 
Go to Him...
Get wisdom! 
Get understanding!
Listen, beloved, wisdom and understanding are worth getting! The previous chapter finds the proverb writer saying: "Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed." (Proverbs 3:13-18 ESV)
If nothing else, getting wisdom and understanding is worth it to me because I love that "all her paths are peace" (vs. 13:17).

Go look...seek...search...inquire with the Lord! Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget it! Do not turn away!

A Just Petition to a Just Action Taker

Are you a just action taker? Are you a just action petitioner?

A just action taker doesn't need to be begged or protested into submission. Such a person sees what is right and does it. A just person doesn't have to be compelled out of personal comfort to take action. A just person gives up personal comfort to do what is right.

What is an unjust action taker? A biblical definition would lead us to understand an unjust action taker is one who neither fears God nor respects man (see Luke 18:2). The unjust action taker (1) does not care what God says is right nor does he (2) care what people need. An unjust action taker will take action, but they have to be compelled.

Consider the following parable from Jesus: "And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, 'In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, "Give me justice against my adversary." For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ''Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.''' And the Lord said, 'Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?'" (Luke 18:1-8 ESV)

Part of our nation is trained to seek justice in the way they do because it's filled with unjust judges / unjust action takers. If we had godly people making decisions -- note: godly, not religious -- such people would not have to be compelled from their comfort by belligerent beggars. They would do what is right (1) because God says it's right and (2) because God would be leading them to really care about people.

In more disturbing ways, many people fail to understand exactly who we should be seeking for justice and change. We -- ME included; ME first -- NEED GOD!

We need more prayer meetings to the One True and Just Judge than we do protests meetings to unjust judges. I think it's interesting, especially with so many so-called Christians lighting up social media with hate, political junk talk, race baiting and arguing, that the Luke 18 passage ends with Jesus asking a question: "...when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?" In other words, will those seeking the Just Judge be found? Or, will the earth be consumed with men and women biting and gnawing on each other.

I know who the Just Action Taker really is. I may want to lead protests, but I'll start with prayer meetings. I may want to rail against man, but I shall begin by petitioning God. I want it to be said of me that the Lord Jesus can "...find faith..." in me. I know who the real Just Action Taker is and I want to be a just action petitioner.

May God find faith in Person County. May God find faith in His Church. Whatever needs doing, changing, starting or stopping, let we who know the Just Judge lead the way in petitions, action and sacrifice. If we know right, let's do it. If we care about people, let's serve them.

Protest against man is weak if it is not filled with petition to God. Petition to God is weak if it is not filled with the righteousness of Jesus and the power of the Spirit.

Much love. I'm praying for the nations, and our nation. Join me.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The Lovely Little Woodshed I Was Taken to Today

Some Scriptures make me wrestle more than others...
This honesty make shock you, but I'm going to risk the shock to open my heart to you...
Sometimes, I'm disappointed. Sometimes, I feel like I've given and given and given and haven't received. Though I rarely use such stark or blatant words, it's a safe bet that my heart has felt and my mind has thought what my lips have not allowed my tongue to say: I deserve more from God than what I'm getting out of life.
Whew. Truth be told, I've felt that way lately.
Then, because I truly do want to "Let the word of Christ dwell in [me] richly..." (ref. Colossians 3:16), I stay in the Word. I do believe there's always something for me there, and I look for God and wait on Him. Well, He showed up and kicked my booty today, and I'm thankful for it. A good Dad disciplines a loved son.
Check this out; Jesus was teaching, and He said, "Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and recline at table'? Will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink'? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'" (Luke 17:7-10 ESV)
God owes me nothing. I am indeed an unworthy servant!
What have I been expecting?
Did I expect God to make sweet tea and bake crullers and send me a Day Spring "Thank You" note? i am the unworthy servant. HE IS THE MASTER!
God has given me MORE than I deserve...plus, plus, times plus multiplied by more plus something else. In Christ Jesus, I am infinitely rich. I've been put in my place, and I'm thankful. My stinkin' thinkin' was in the way of my rich joy.
That old, rotten, stinking, lying, thieving, destroying enemy creeps into my thinking from time to time and gets me to thinking like he did Adam and Eve. He makes me believe God owes me something or is holding out on something.
Well, hogwash. ‪#‎hogwash Pound sign, hogwash. Number sign, hogwash. Just hogwash. God does not owe me a thing! The Father has given me the Son. Dwell on that with me...God has given me the Son for salvation and the Son sent the Spirit for sanctification. I'm a blessed man!

Wow, Luke 17 today...wow. Thank You, Lord, for loving me and chastising me for my own good. Thank You, Father, for your great grace and mercy. Thank you for continually giving me more than I deserve and thank You also for not giving me what I actually deserve.

A reflection concerning accountability for the Body of Christ

This is for my Christian brothers and sisters...I'm talking exclusively to those who claim saving faith through the name of Jesus...

Do you know how we say, "You can't judge me!"? Yes. I hear it all the time from young people (actually, they say, "Only God can judge me" but they are really meaning "YOU can't judge me!").

I agree. God is Judge. Amen. Praise Him who is love and whose justice is perfect! Praise Him, THE Judge who is full of mercy, but also perfect in judgement. Thank You, Father!

So, we agree, right? God is judge. Amen.

Check out what Jesus says: "Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him." (Luke 17:3-4 ESV)

We are called to live in community with one another, and we are called to take care of each other. Part of taking care of each other is NOT looking over sin, pretending it's not an issue, glossing it over or ignoring it all together. We are called to care for each other by rebuking.

What? Rebuking? Yes.

Now...LISTEN CAREFULLY [READ CAREFULLY]: "If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back." (Matthew 18:15 NLT)

See that? The New Living Translation says "...go privately..." The English Standard Version says "...between you and him alone..." The New American Standard Bible says, "...show him his fault in private..." The New International Version says, "...just between the two of you..." The Holman Christian Standard Bible says, "...rebuke Him in private.."

We don't ignore sin.

But, we don't call people out in public; not on social media. C'mon, now. Let's get with Jesus on both sides of this deal!

Let's not ignore sin. But, let's handle it the right way! There is a time and a place to bring some individual's sin out in a group, but there's a couple steps to cover BEFORE calling them out in a group. AND, the GROUP you call them out in front -- AFTER the other stuff has been tried -- IS THEIR LOCAL CHURCH where they can receive loving discipline AND have hope of being restored. (Check out Matthew 18:15-20)

And, it's not just an issue of not ignoring sin, nor does it only involve who we rebuke in front of whom. There's more...

Who should rebuke someone? What is the goal of rebuking someone's sin?

Galatians 6:1 asnwers it most succinctly: "Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself." (NLT)

Who should rebuke? "...you who are godly..."
Well, who's godly? Back up into Galatians 5:16-26; that'll answer that.
What is the goal? ''...help that person back onto the right path..." Or, as the ESV says, the goal is to "...restore..."

We are called to live in community! "Pay attention to yourselves..."
This stuff matters!

Don't ignore sin.
Obey Jesus.
Obey Jesus.
Do it the right way.

Monday, November 10, 2014

do the dorito

Make sure to go to this link and vote:


Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Narcissistic much? Moi? Let me fix my hair before I answer.

Narcissism. Let's talk about it. But, first, let's define it.
from dictionary.com 
inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.
Synonyms: self-centeredness, smugness, egocentrism.
Psychoanalysis. erotic gratification derived from admiration of one's own physical or mental attributes, being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development.
You know, many today seem concerned about people's self-esteem. I'm becoming increasingly convinced we need to examine ourselves and see whether we are in the faith, but do less thinking about self. I'm becoming more convinced that it's fruitful to judge ourselves, that we might be fruitful in self-correction, but not to dwell on self too much, or to consider ourselves too deeply, and definitely not to think on self so often.
I'm positive putting God first and others second are direct biblical commands to the believer.
However, there's too much these days that lends toward self. We don't need more self-esteem; we need more esteem for God. No matter what good thoughts we could wrangle up about ourselves, God's thoughts towards us are better than ours are towards us.
Go back and read that last paragraph again. You need to do that; trust me.
In Book III of Ovid's "Metamorphoses", there is a telling reading of when Narcissus sees himself and falls in love: 

            As Narcissus had scorned her, so he had scorned the other nymphs of the rivers and mountains, so he had scorned the companies of young men. Then one of those who had been mocked, lifting hands to the skies, said ‘So may he himself love, and so may he fail to command what he loves!’ Rhamnusia, who is the goddess Nemesis, heard this just request.
            There was an unclouded fountain, with silver-bright water, which neither shepherds nor goats grazing the hills, nor other flocks, touched, that no animal or bird disturbed not even a branch falling from a tree. Grass was around it, fed by the moisture nearby, and a grove of trees that prevented the sun from warming the place. Here, the boy, tired by the heat and his enthusiasm for the chase, lies down, drawn to it by its look and by the fountain. While he desires to quench his thirst, a different thirst is created. While he drinks he is seized by the vision of his reflected form. He loves a bodiless dream. He thinks that a body, that is only a shadow. He is astonished by himself, and hangs there motionless, with a fixed expression, like a statue carved from Parian marble.
            Flat on the ground, he contemplates two stars, his eyes, and his hair, fit for Bacchus, fit for Apollo, his youthful cheeks and ivory neck, the beauty of his face, the rose-flush mingled in the whiteness of snow, admiring everything for which he is himself admired. Unknowingly he desires himself, and the one who praises is himself praised, and, while he courts, is courted, so that, equally, he inflames and burns. How often he gave his lips in vain to the deceptive pool, how often, trying to embrace the neck he could see, he plunged his arms into the water, but could not catch himself within them! What he has seen he does not understand, but what he sees he is on fire for, and the same error both seduces and deceives his eyes.
            Fool, why try to catch a fleeting image, in vain? What you search for is nowhere: turning away, what you love is lost! What you perceive is the shadow of reflected form: nothing of you is in it. It comes and stays with you, and leaves with you, if you can leave!

I heard someone credit C.S Lewis with the following: "Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less." That's good. To be humble, we don't have to be mean to ourselves, or self-deprecating; we just have to spend more time thinking on others!
I digress.
Or, do I?
Are we talking about humility or narcissism?
Well, yes. One will always force the other out. 
The Apostle Paul would say, "Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don't think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us." (Romans 12:3 NLT)
The Lord Jesus said some fairly rattling words to the overly-self-esteemed and narcissistic types: "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 14:22 ESV)
On and on we go. "Mirror, mirror, on the wall..." Yeah. We get it. 
Do we?
It's healthy to think up towards God, and worship. It's healthy to think out towards others, and serve. It is healthy to be honest in our evaluation of ourselves, but it's not healthy to think about ourselves all the time.

It's not more of me I need; it's more of the Lord.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Outlasting the Dust

Working on works that work beyond my working days...

Over 2,000 years ago, Cicero said, "There is no work of human hands which time does not wear away and reduce to dust."

Cicero was sort of right, and his sentiment rings home in hearts and minds restrained to this mud glob of a world, and to the droning clock which clicks away the heartbeats of the worried and nervous.

But, my heart stretches upward, to the beyond; beyond the space I occupy and the time measuring my moments. My heart stretches up to what matters in matters of great matter. Tick, tock may mete out the moments which my rocker rocks, but it is to Him eternal, to Him beyond this globe and her celestial heavenlies who numbers my days.

Yes, surely, our works will be tested. Time will test some, and they will be dust by the time time has tried them fully. In the final sum of things, however, our works will be tested by fire. The apostle said, "...each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done." (1 Corinthians 3:13 ESV)

Even the dustiest of dusted dusts will be tried in this fire.

We measure and weigh in days and digits, in dollars and dreams had and done, but the prophet challenges us to consider more: "But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap." (Malachi 3:2 ESV).

Who can stand when He appears? Who? Indeed.

Let us inspect our works...
Let us reflect upon our position...
Let us examine ourselves...to see...if we are in the faith...
Let us weigh our working, and see who it is we really serve...

Time, trudging like a rocket, drones on with the future ever rushing up into our faces. It's coming, and upon us and gone. And, again.

What are you working on? For whom? Toward what end?

Are the thread of your day's labor sewn with eternal thread, or are you simply nailing ashes and dust together to the wind?

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV)

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Courier-Times article for Saturday, November 1, 2014: "Kings without Consultation"

Kings without Consultation

They made kings, but not through me. They set up princes, but I knew it not. With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction. (Hosea 8:4 ESV)

Do you know how it feels to want something in a particular person’s hands when it matters most? Sure, we all do. Perhaps the most vivid way to picture this is through sports analogies.

Who do you want with the ball in their hand at the end of a basketball game? You know the answer; you want Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan. Do your homework; those two have hit more game winning shots than anyone.

Who do you want leading your football team down the field with the game on the line? Good research would lead you to say Peyton Manning or Dan Marino. Those guys are clutch.

Who do you want up to bat when need a late game RBI? You might be surprised to learn who it is, but Keith Hernandez has the most game winning RBIs.

For a believer, it’s not who we want up to bat, or making the winning drive or shooting the hoop that really matters. It’s not who has the ball in their hands that really matters; what really matters is whose hands we are in!

Much of life has to do with stewardship. Whether it’s the money in the bank or the breath in our lungs, what we do with what God has placed in our care is serious business.

Consider these words of Jesus: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-5 ESV)

Those words should grip our hearts: “…apart from me you can do nothing.”

If we’re going to be clutch, we’d better make sure we’re abiding in Jesus!

If we hope to exercise any good judgment; if we hope to be wise in our use of anything whatsoever; if our desire is to produce anything pleasing to God, we must be abiding in Jesus.

Point blank; period.

Let’s take the upcoming elections, for example. As an American citizen, if you are of age, you’ve been given the stewardship of your vote. You can vote without abiding in the Lord, but your vote will not bear spiritual fruit if you are not abiding in Him. In other words, your vote will be meaningless to Him. Sure, it might get someone elected, but it will not bear fruit of the Spirit.

The vote is in your hands, but you make sure you’re in God’s hands!

Today’s verse from the Prophet Hosea is a prime example. The people of Israel set up leaders without consulting the Lord. Israel simply followed their flesh, acted in their own wisdom, and moved forward in establishing leaders not of God’s choosing.

In very foreboding language, God tells Israel they have acted foolishly, and it will cost them: “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7a ESV)

Don’t be misled, dear friend; I am by no means telling you who to vote for or who not to vote for. Sure, do your homework. It doesn’t make sense to say you’re a Christian with biblical values if those values don’t translate into wise stewardship of your vote. Still, that’s an issue for you to wrestle with, not for me to command.

Consult with God. Be led of Him. Make sure it is He who leads you into the voting booth and make sure it is He who picks the candidates. Let us pick no kings – or princes, or county commissioners or legislators – without God’s consultation.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Call me "Coach Dad"

Our child gets a hit, and we cheer, as well we should. 

Our child makes the tackle, scores the goal or grabs the rebound, and we jump in joyful exaltation, as well we should. 

Our child gets a good grade, and we compliment them, as well we should. 

Our child nails the recital piece, and we applaud, as well we should.

We drag them to practice. We make them practice at home. We push them to do their homework We know the grind of success, so we applaud and cheer and compliment the moments of accomplishment. We photograph them and we laud their accomplishments abroad.

What about moral accomplishments? Do we cheer them? Do we compliment them?

Do we expect them?

When we want our children to succeed in anything, we sign them up, get them to tryouts, workouts, and practice. We make them do at home whatever they need to do at home to make opportunity become success. We buy uniforms and equipment. We talk to coaches and teachers. We push, because we want to see on the stage or field or court the accomplishment that represents the work.

Do you want your children to thrive as human beings? Do you want them to succeed as disciples? Do you want to see them accomplishing on the field and stage of life the victory God desires they achieve?

Disciple them.

As much as one would with any sport or academic endeavor or artistic enterprise, disciple them. Teach them. Talk to coaches (disciple making people); get counsel, develop game plan, require practice, demand excellence and pray with them for results. Beg God for results.

How is it that we understand EVERYTHING we want to see our children excel in takes instruction and constant practice, except spiritual disciplines?

Shape their worldview. Help them develop values that match God's. Teach them how to serve others. Foster compassion.

"Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it." (Proverbs 22:6 New Living Translation)  "And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up." (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 New Living Translation)

A New Creature in Christ - Courier-Times article for Saturday, October 25, 2014

A New Creature in Christ

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

When I began to look into God’s word as a very new believer, one of the most shocking things I read was this: “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28 ESV)

I remember being floored by that reality. I’d very rarely checked my actions and Jesus was revealing to me that inaction did not equate purity; my heart was the issue. I could hold back my hands, but even I knew my heart was wild, untamed and, well, sinful.

We often hear people say, “Follow your heart.” The problem with that is following an unregenerate heart only leads to wrong action. My unregenerate heart had led me to much unregenerate actions. The Prophet Jeremiah would never say to a single person, “Follow your heart.” Jeremiah would say, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

The hope of any individual is not modified or mollified actions; what each of us needs is a new heart! We need a deep, inner change in who we are if we expect there to serious change in what we do. Too often do we explain things away by saying “It’s only natural” when our problem is that we do what’s only natural!

Our sinful nature must be replaced with a spiritual nature! This can only happen by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, and that’s what we mean when we say “regeneration.”

Regeneration is more than getting one’s actions in order. Oftentimes, people stop doing bad thing and start doing this good thing while inside their hearts are the exact same. Without regeneration, many people wind up in churches that won’t wind up in heaven.

To become a new creature in Christ is a work only God can do, and it is a work that must be done. Jesus said, “you must be born from above” and that believers become sons of God “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 3:7 and 1:13). Jesus told Nicodemus “that which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6).

Without a doubt, regeneration – becoming a new creature – is a work of God!

That being said, it’s hard to understand or explain this divine change that must occur. Truth be told, however, we don’t have to fully understand it or be able to fully explain it to receive it.

I realize that we think we know a lot, but we don’t. I realize that we often so fear what we’ve seen people claim the Spirit is about that we are a little nervous about Him showing up, but He is mysterious. Jesus told Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 ESV)

As mysterious as His work is, we can receive the work of the Spirit. The Apostle John said, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” (John 1:12 ESV) In the original Greek, the word “right” is exousia and it means “power, authority, or weight”. As mysterious as the Spirit’s work in making new creations is, the power comes when we believe on the name of Jesus and receive Him.

The only way real change comes to our lives is through getting a new heart; we must be born from above; we must be regenerated by the power of God. And, real change does not mean fixing certain actions while hiding a still dead heart. God’s offer is only to change everything!

God would describe the change He desires to see in us as putting to death the works of the flesh. The Apostle Paul said, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:5-10 ESV)

Finally, trust God to work till the work is done: “…he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ…to be conformed to the image of his Son…” (Philippians 1:6b & Romans 8:29b ESV)

God will do a work, and He must do the work. It is mysterious. It would encompass ALL of who we are, and He will finish it.

Are you a new creation in Christ, or just a religious person with a corrupt heart? Is the Spirit leading your spirit, or are you a white-washed tomb; are you a different person, growing in the image of Christ, or do you just look good?

God is willing and able to make anyone a new creation in Christ if we are willing to believe and receive the Lord Jesus.  

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Courier-Times article for Saturday, October 11, 2014: Small Things

Small Things

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. (Luke 16:10 ESV)

“If you don’t vote, don’t complain,” was the memorable advice I received from a man in 1980. I remember the year because we were doing mock elections for the Jimmy Carter / Ronald Regan campaign.

That man was born in the 1890s and I loved talking to him. He’d seen a lot of changes in his days. He remembered seeing his first car and the first time he saw an airplane. He’d served in the cavalry and lived through the Great Depression.

I remember him telling me swallowing watermelon seeds would cause watermelons to grow in my stomach. Balance the lie about watermelons, and some other tall tales in the mix and it’s true to say I wasn’t so sure when I should listen to that man and when I shouldn’t. For example, watermelon seeds aside, this man told me “…‘puters are going to ruin the world!”

No watermelons have sprouted in my stomach.
I’m still living by the advice of “if you don’t vote, don’t complain.”

We’re still waiting on the verdict with the “’puters”, even as I type on this fine HP Pavilion dv7.
I also remember being charged with being Ronald Regan for the mock election in school that year, and I remember it being a tall order for me. I was in the fourth grade, and, like most fourth graders, my politics were my parents’ politics. That is, for me, until that school year. My parents were, are and will probably remain die-hard Democrats. I remember seeking counsel from my dad for the assignment. He said, “Go ask to be Jimmy Carter.”

“Pop, I can’t be Carter; I have to be Regan.”

“Well, you’re gonna flunk. The last Republican I voted for was Richard Nixon; look how that turned out,” was his terse reply.

There was no internet. All I had was the television and the library. Fortunately, the library had newspapers and magazines, and, even more fortunate, my grandma made sure I was able to access those resources.

I listened carefully to the news. I read magazines and newspaper articles. I worked hard to understand Regan’s plans and positions.

Now, let me say this, I was not a Democrat and did not become a Republican, and I wouldn’t give you a plug nickel for either party; then, or now.

What did happen to me because of this experience: I became informed.

We had to form a team at school. Our team had to work together to put together a campaign, complete with articles for other classmates to read, short speeches and we had to prepare for a debate between the candidates.

Amid a very Democrat community, our team pushed Ronald Regan to victory in that local school mock election.

I was raised on the state line. I went to Halifax County schools for K-4th and 10th grade, and Person County schools for 5th-9th and 11th-12th. I say that to say this; I remember that 1980 election well, and remember Person County going with Jimmy Carter and Halifax County going with Ronald Regan.

Now, you might be thinking, “I thought this was the ‘Faith and Worship’ section of Courier-Times, not ‘Commentary and Analysis.’” Don’t worry; you are in the right place.

I wanted to thoroughly illustrate how one man’s sound advice shaped my life. He said, “If you don’t vote, don’t complain.” If you have been given a trust, use it. Be a good steward. Be trustworthy. When you’re not those things, don’t fuss about the results.

As a citizen, I’ve been given the small privilege of voting, but with it comes the grand privilege of being part of a peaceful and orderly society. If a person is not part of the peaceful process, then don’t add or detract from discussion about it. Be subject to the decisions and hush, or help make the decision and speak up.  

Here’s the “Faith and Worship” portion, and all of those stories and all of those comments and stories above were meant to help you understand this truth: God has given each of us many, many small trusts, and even some very large ones. We are to be living in wise, good stewardship.

We are to be being – get that, be being – good stewards. We WILL answer to God for all that is in our care, including our own lives and the free will that comes with it.

Even that little privilege to vote is a gift worth stewarding. Everything is worth stewarding if God has put in our care. 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Beautiful Gardens

Beautiful gardens among rocks, ruins, weeds and hardened paths...
Imagine the people of the world as patches of ground. Imagine each person as a potential garden spot.
The one is a thicket, overgrown; weeds and thorns and thistles, out of control. It's hard to imagine tender flower seeds being able to grow there.
The one is a hardened path. It's difficult to imagine that a few seeds and a bit of water could yield sweet smells or beautiful blooms.
The one has soil, ready enough, but it obviously shallow. You can see a lemon tree springing up in this soil, but shriveling quickly when there is so little subsoil for roots to grab to and grow.
The one is ready. It's ready for seed. The soil is fertile, deep and freshly plowed.
I just described the conditions of the soils in the Parable of the Sower (see Matthew 13).
Soils are not the hero or the focus of the story. The Sower is important. He sows. He liberally slings seed. And, in some plots of soil, beautiful gardens of God's goodness springs up.
What's interesting is that in every case, no matter the soil type, what springs up is foreign to the soil. IF it had been there, it would be there. It's not there. The Sower comes, slings seeds.
But, wait! Don't give up on those other plots! The interesting thing about the Sower is that He is also the Creator; He sustains all things by the word of His power, and all things that subsist, subsist according to His power. He can break up those rough places, clear away weeds, dig out rocks that create shallow soil and make for Himself a fertile field for a beautiful garden.
In every case, the Sower lays down what is not natural to that plot!
IF you see a God-garden walking around, you'll know it. What will make it beautiful will be that God's stuff is in it. God's stuff is in it AND it's very different from those other plots that are filled with other-than-God-stuff.
Someone may put up a sign and say, "God garden here" or have a bumper sticker that says, "God's my gardener" or where a t-shirt, claiming "God's flower" but don't be misled...signs be hanged; bumper stickers be stucked, t-shirts be shirted...you'll know HIS gardens.
The likeness of Jesus will spring up amid a world of fools, and we shall call that fruitful and beautiful.
O Spirit, plow! IN ME! 
O Spirit, plant! IN ME! 
O Spirit, beautify! EVEN ME!

"Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail." (Isaiah 58:8-11 ESV)

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Get ready! Preach the Gospel through your marriage!

Marriage is important...

Age is not a determining factor for marriage. Being ready to be married is the determining factor for marriage! Some people get married in their 30s and still aren't ready!

Many aren't ready for marriage at all these days, so they don't. Some want weddings but aren't ready for marriages.

It's interesting to note that God invented marriage and defined it before there was EVER one single government on the face of this planet. But, marriage had within it a profound mystery that was only ever fully uncovered when Jesus came, lived, died and rose again. That's what the Spirit delivers to us through the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:22-33.

That profound mystery is now clear and easy to recognize and understand: "This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church." Wow! People were getting married for centuries upon centuries, and the whole picture had yet to be unveiled. But, now we know it is.

Now, we know not only are we called to marriage, and now we know why our heart yearns towards it...because it allows us to paint a living picture, to preach a walking sermon and to live out the picture of Christ and His church as man and wife. Wow.

God allowed me to deliver a teaching on this recently with our local family of faith, and I just can't get it off my mind.

Lord, lead me, empower me, help me to love my wife like Christ loves the church. Help me, Father, to preach with my marriage!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Flipping the Script on my Pride...

One of the toughest things to desire is also one of the best things to have: HUMILITY. God, help me to want it, for I surely know You desire to grant it.

“He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.” (Psalm 25:9 ESV)
“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” (Isaiah 57:15 ESV)
“All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2 ESV)
 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” (1 Peter 5:6 ESV)
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:3-11 ESV)
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (James 4:6 ESV)
“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12 ESV)
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV)
“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Corinthians 11:30 ESV)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)
“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’’” (Luke 18:9-14 ESV)
“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5 ESV)
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:10 ESV)
“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” (Ephesians 4:2 ESV)
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18 ESV)
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2 ESV)

“When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah: ‘They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance, and my wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak.’” (2 Chronicles 12:7 ESV)

Being where I am...

Being where I am...
I don't hang out much in my heart and mind with who I used to be. I was called out of that, and delivered from it. Sure, it has some history lessons for me, but I'm a new creation, born again from the womb of heaven. Yes, I have regrets, but even if I lived on the coastline of the Sea of Regret, I would never swim or sail; I wouldn't even twinkle my toes in Regrets pulsing tides. I'm up on The Rock now; I've found solid ground, and here I stand.
I don't rest too much in who I am these days. I'm pressing on. Sure, the trail is rocky, dusty, winding, and, above all, narrow, but it IS the upward way. It's the Transformation Trail, and with Jesus, I walk. I do celebrate that I am where I am, especially when I juxtapose what the Spirit has done in my life against what my flesh was doing in my life, but I don't hang out here. More than my celebration of me, the Trail keeps leading me up to Him who is at work in me! The Transformation Trail winds along in conjunction with the Worship Walk. I stay hungry for Bread, thirsty for Living Water and I yearn for good, solid food as I journey.
I am excited about who I'll be. Yes! The believer that does not long for completion hasn't taken a long look at the brokenness of the world -- THEIR brokenness -- and hasn't taken a look at what will come. And, no, I don't mean only heaven the place, but heaven the experience; the height of which is being in the very presence of God. WOW! I'm excited about that! But, I don't hang out on Heaven's Hallway a lot these days. Why? "Why?" is a good question. Simple; if I'm here, if my body has it's by God's good pleasure, and I want to be in this moment with Him. I want to be present with Him now, and useful now. I want to be a Knight in the Order of Onesimus, both noble and useful.
So, Lord, teach my heart to hang out in Presence Place, even as I long for Heaven's Hallway. Teach my heart to both live in Presence Place and trek up Transformation Trail and Worship Walk. Teach me to be in the now with You...teach me to abide, that I may experience You, and be fruitful for Your glory. Keep me from the ebb and flow of Regret's crashing waves; put me on the marble floor of Presence Place, and teach me to dance.
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:4-7 ESV)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Familial Reflections

Let me say this, I LOVE all my family...and both my families...

There is a family for which experience, law and genetics determines a common past. There is also a family for which the blood of Jesus and unifying work of the Holy Spirit determines a common future. It's a huge blessing to know and walk with people who are in both.

I identify with my genetic family; and, I love them. More so, I identify with my spiritual family. Jesus said, "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:50 ESV)

When it comes to my spiritual family, we're on mission together. It's not about where genealogy connects us, but where the Spirit is sending us. Like I said, I love it when those two families are one and the same. I have NOTHING but love for both families. Get that, and don't miss it: I have nothing but love for BOTH families.

In Matthew 12, Jesus lays down a confrontational view of family. Read vss. 46-50; Jesus's mom and brothers are wanting to talk to him, but Jesus makes the radical statement above: "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (v. 50)

He basically says there is family, but there is also FAMILY. In other words, there is the family that comes through genetics, and there is spiritual family. Jesus asserts that His spiritual family has his attention first.

Wow...that's putting it right in our face!

Is Jesus telling us to put our physical family in the backseat? Well... wrestle with that. Read Matthew 15:3-9; God would have us love our family and honor our mothers and fathers. What He IS saying is that believers must count their family tie to Him as more important than family ties to anyone else. Luke 14:26 reveals the entirety of the tension we believers are to live in. Honor our mom and dad, yes. Love our family, yes. Take care of our families, yes. But, Jesus first. Jesus first. JESUS FIRST!

That creates tension! Do you hear me? Tension! Tension pulls both ways!
I love both my families, but I must hold Jesus as the highest thing in my heart. I must DEEPLY value the people of God.

As I studied the Scriptures tonight, one thing I need to be reminded of tonight is to remember that God picks my spiritual family, not me. HE is adding to the family, not me. He brings them in, not me. He saves them, not me. He loves them more than me. Then, God expects ME to love who He saves! God expects those whom He saves to do as He commands. AND, THAT is how I'll know who my spiritual family is!

Blood tests work both ways, right? We get a blood sample, and take it to a doctor; it gets analyzed and we find out if genetics truly do connect us. The Church gets a blood sample, too. Whoever is under the blood does the Father's will!

There are some words of challenge, instruction or exhortation for someone here...
#1 Someone needed to be reminded to treasure Christ above everyone and everything.
#2 Someone needed to be reminded to treasure those Jesus also cherishes, the Church (and the church). Those who do the will of God are your future and forever family! Think on that!
#3 Someone needed to be reminded to honor their mom and dad and walk in love with their family.
#4 Someone needed to be reminded to make the mission of the King the prime goal of their lives.
#5 Someone, like me, needed to be reminded to love those God adds to the family, not just the ones we'd add if it were up to us.
#6 Someone needed to be reminded what Jesus says about being in His spiritual family. Yes, His shed blood is the only way to come into His family, and the only proper response is to let Him do with our life as He pleases.

Honestly, I needed to be reminded of all of it. Like all things in the Scriptures, it rattles me, but like He always does, Jesus delights me. Which, again, reminds me to put Him first.