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Category Archives: Doctrine

The Bible Belt – “The Land of Never Enough”

After 30 years or so in the ministry there are things you start to notice, things that stand out. There are patterns of thought and behavior that seem to be deeply woven into the fabric of Bible Belt mentality. One such pattern that runs very deep among born again believers is that one can never do enough to get,….or stay, in good standing with God. If you wonder why I say that, here’s why; I hear it all the time; “I don’t go to church enough”, “I don’t pray enough”, “I don’t read the Bible enough”, “I don’t have enough faith”, “I’m not a very good Christian”, I hope I”m going to heaven”. I just heard this from a man yesterday, “I think God has given up on me”. I refuted that lie as quick as I could!

It’s a prevalent attitude with many people always thinking they can never do enough, or be good enough to satisfy the Lord. It gives the feeling they’re trying to serve a God that’s unreasonably demanding and impossible to please. It’s like being on a treadmill of performance in an effort to earn their righteousness; A state, in fact, that many never seem to arrive at. This is a problem of the highest order, in my opinion, because it gives an incorrect image of ‘Who’ God actually is. It’s one of the greatest misportrayals the world has ever seen. There are many out there who’ll live their entire lives believing they were never quite acceptable or good enough to please God. And, what’s worse is that it leads one to believe that the Father’s love based entirely on our behavior.

Sad,…. Sad,…. Sad!

The danger of ‘never enough’ exists anytime a mixture of law and grace are preached. And, sadly enough…..that’s what happens most of the time in the Bible Belt. Paul spent the last half of his life contrasting law and grace. He knew them both well….in fact better than anyone on the planet in his generation. He was a staunch defender of grace even after it caused him to be beaten more than once and left for dead. It was controversial then….it’s controversial now…..but only to those who believe their behavior is what makes them righteous.

So, tell me, what’s on your list of things to do that make you righteous? And, while you’re at it explain to me where the line is of, enough….or not enough. Truth is, if you never read your Bible, if you never went to church your righteousness isn’t diminished one bit. I’m not advocating that….just pointing it out! You’re not righteous because of what you do…..you’re righteous because of what He did! The Father doesn’t love you because you’re good…..He loves you because He’s good!

THAT, in itself, makes me want to do good!

Good fathers would never keep their children in limbo over such important things! So, pack your bags, enjoy your relationship with the Father….. and get out of the land of never enough!

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Theorists and Practitioners

Theorist: Someone who considers given facts and comes up with a possible explanation is called a theorist.                                                                                                                            Practitioner: A practitioner is someone who is actively involved in real life situations, and qualified to practice a particular occupation, profession, or religion.

I had a conversation 10 years ago with a few close friends. I don’t actually remember the exact details of the entire conversation but I definitely remember the conclusion I came to soon after it was over. I was with four other ministry people, all of which had quite a few years experience. A couple of these guys are great communicators, orators, Bible teachers. But they weren’t actively involved in the day to day dealing with people and their problems. It’s not that they couldn’t do it; they have. It’s just that they weren’t heavily involved at that time. I’ll call them the ‘theorists’. They’re important people!

It was a really good, brisk discussion on how things ought to work in the church from a, strictly, Biblical standpoint. Of those things there wasn’t much disagreement, whatsoever. But the ‘rub’ came when we began talking about how it really is in the ‘trenches’. You know, out there where the rubber hits the road….in real life; Where you get knocked down, get your nose bloodied, betrayed, lied to, tripped up and derailed. That all can happen (and really a lot more!) in the process of ‘practicing’ the theory.

I am deeply involved in the day to day challenge of dealing with people…and their issues. Been doing it for nearly 30 years. It’s what I do. I’m far from perfect at it….but I have learned a few things. For that reason I’d say I’m more a ‘practitioner’ than a theorist. When you add, what I’d call the ‘human factor’, to any theory, even a Biblical one, it complicates that theory to a large degree. Doesn’t mean the theory is wrong or even faulty, for that matter. But it’s different when it’s being lived out in real life. It’s never quite as neat; in fact it’s usually pretty messy; it’s never as cut and dried as we’d like for it to be. When you add people to the equation it gets a lot more difficult. It’s nearly always worth it….but difficult, nonetheless.

It led me to this conclusion; There needs to be a ‘coming together’ of the ‘theorists’ and the ‘practitioners’. They need to sit down at the table and talk, discuss, compare, hash it out, even argue a little if it’s friendly and helpful. It’s vital, I think. And, if it’s done in a productive manner….everyone leaves the table wiser and better equipped…..and both have a much better understanding.

In all truth, and I think this is how the Lord designed it for obvious reasons, …..unless the theory is tested in the laboratory of life….all you have is a theory. But when the theory is a Biblical one, and the parties involved will lean toward the Lord, it usually works out……..a whole lot more often than not!

The theorists and the practitioners need to get together!

Readin’ a book about learning how to fly an airplane is fine…..but when you’re taxiing down the runway……things get REAL!

Check these out:

I Plant a Little, I Water a little…..

A Long Ways From the Lord

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“I Don’t Like God”

Well, I bet that got your attention right off! Sure makes you wonder what’s coming next, huh?! Well, here it is. That’s a phrase that I hardly ever hear. I have, actually, heard it a time or two and it really opened the door to some very constructive conversation. But the real reason we hardly ever hear that complaint is that most people, no matter what their life experience has been, still have a fairly favorable opinion of God. Most people want to believe that He’s good.

God’s not the problem; not by a long shot. In fact, not only is He not the problem, ….He’s actually the solution! “The solution for what?” you might ask. Well, He’s the solution for every single thing we encounter in the course of our life. I think we can boil it down to this; Most people don’t dislike God….they do, however, have some serious issues with those of us who are trying to represent Him. In fact, the few that I’ve ran into down through the years that admit they really don’t like Him, when questioned, it becomes apparent that their opinion of Him came from someone that represented Him inaccurately. That’s a pretty serious offense if you ask me.

Most people that represent God are doing the best they can. More often than not it’s how they’ve been taught. But the fix for this is simple. If we’re going to be a spokesman for Him it oughta be mandatory that we spend a little time with Him, don’t you think?! It’s when we spend time with Him that we take on His characteristics. It’s when we interact with Him that we learn who He really is. Now, I don’t want to be a hard a$$ about it but if we’re not going to hang out with Him some….we really shouldn’t be representing Him to anybody else. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

He’s often portrayed to be mad, impatient, intolerable….and never fully satisfied with our behavior. I don’t get it! I’ve found Him to be the polar opposite of those! He’s been really good to me even when He hasn’t had a good reason to be. He’s been patient with me when I’m at my worst. And, in the midst of some of the dumbest seasons of my life….I’ve never found Him, even remotely, to not be extremely loving toward me. That’s just ‘Who’ I know….that’s Who He is!

So, if you don’t like God,….or you happen to run into someone who doesn’t, …..stop and think for a minute. The problem might just be that He’s been inaccurately represented!

Check these out:

Mad at God?? ….happens all the time!

If You See God “Wrongly”…….You’ll Never See Yourself “Rightly”!

God Loves You, And There’s Nothing You Can Do About It!

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Yoke Up!

The old timers will all tell you that one of the sure-fire ways to train up a young draft horse to pull a wagon, a coach or a plow is to hitch him up to an older, seasoned horse. The young horse will fight the harness, buck, pitch and kick for all he’s worth but it doesn’t take long until he gives it all up. Yep, the old plow horse doesn’t let any of it bother him. He’ll just plod along doing his job until the young horse decides to cooperate.

Seems like a pretty fair analogy to describe our walk with the Lord. In fact, Jesus used that exact same analogy in one of the classic statements He made in His earthly life, “Take My yoke upon you”. For the most part His message up to that point had been directed to the Jewish nation and people. And this statement, while we can easily apply it to our own life, was directed to those who were ‘yoked’ up in the Law of Moses. Jesus’ message of grace flew square in the face of the over-religious, self-righteous, doctrinal police and they hated Him for it.

This message of grace and love was ultimately why they so often sought to kill Him. I find it extremely peculiar that as good as Jesus was they sought to vilify Him because He wouldn’t submit to their lifeless religion. And that’s exactly what legalistic religion is…lifeless. No man has ever been made righteous by the Law, and no man will ever be! The Law, as Paul says, served as a schoolmaster until Christ came, and after that there is no need for the Law. It’s a polarizing subject even today. In fact, it’s the issue at stake in the whole Body of Christ, this argument over law and grace. There are those who are being vilified in the same manner as Jesus was and the bottom line is that the legalists don’t believe that God is as good as we’re saying He is! So, Jesus’ statement was designed to take the heavy weight of trying to keep the Law off those who were burdened down under it and get them to ‘yoke up’ with Him.

Hitch up with Jesus!

His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Maybe we oughta quit our buckin’ and pitchin’ and try it!

Life is hard; It’s harder if ‘ya ain’t yoked up!

Here’s a couple you should take a look at:

I Don’t Know How He Does It!

He Won’t ‘Put More On Ya’ Than You Can Stand

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I Plant a Little, I Water a little…..

I was having a conversation with a pastor friend a day or two ago. We were having a good laugh about a few of those times when we were preaching or teaching and it just wasn’t happening, ….if you know what I mean. It’s funny now, but at the time…not funny at all. One of those times for me was about 15 years ago. We were still in the old building and doing two services. It was the first service and there were 50+ people there. It was one of those mornings that nothing was working. I had notes and was doing my best to teach from them but it was just flat. To be honest I wasn’t making any valid points. What I was trying to teach wasn’t making any sense….even to me! I’m tellin’ ‘ya, ……..it just wasn’t happening! In fact I went in the sound room after the service was over and said to the guys, “If anybody. Got anything. …out of that……it had to be the Lord!” I was certain that nobody DID get anything out of it! I was relieved when the service was over so we could all be out of our misery! I  would’ve like to have just gone home…..but I had another service to do….and that’d be awkward! lol

A person came to the sound room and I could tell he wanted to talk to me. I ignored him as long as I possibly could. I totally expected him to say, “WTH was that??!!” But he didn’t. On the contrary he said, “Man, that was really, really good!” I had two thoughts rolling around in my mind; one….he’s gotta be joking; two, if he’s really serious (which I couldn’t imagine!)...I’m thinkin’, “Was I there?!”

This isn’t the only time this has happened down through the years. I wish it was. But those times it did happen there were the same results nearly every time. Those times when I felt like I did my very worst would inevitably be the times that I would have the most people comment on how good the teaching was. I think the Lord likes it when that happens. What I’ve learned from those times is that it’s just a little reminder from the Lord that everything doesn’t necessarily depend on how ‘good’ a job we did teaching. Don’t get me wrong….I want to continue to get better at teaching the Word. But in the final analysis it’s the anointing (supernatural blessing) of the Lord that’s the deciding factor of whether it’s actually good or not. He definitely doesn’t want us to get prideful about how good we think our teaching is.

We can plant; we can water….but if anything significant is going to happen….it’ll have to be the Lord that gives the increase!

Here’s a couple for ‘ya:

10 Tips That’ll Help You Become a “Learner”

Relational Equity

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10 Tips That’ll Help You Become a “Learner”

I’m a learner; I like learning…and if you’re like me you can easily see that the possibilities for a learner are unlimited. We live in the information age where anything you want to know is simply a ‘click’ away. My Mom and Dad set me on the course of being a learner early on. One of the most profound things I’ve ever learned is a little something Dad told us when we were kids, and then reinforced it throughout mine and my brother’s  lives. Here’s what he said, “When you think you know it all, you’re as smart as you’re gonna get.”. That proves to be true if you’re a jet pilot or a lawyer; a plumber or a senator. But, the profound thing about it is that if you buy into it….it puts you on the path of being a lifetime learner. There’s a few practical things that I think’ll help if you want to choose to be a learner. *Keep in mind, it’s an inconclusive list…..since I’m still learning!

  1. Make a conscious choice to be a learner.
  2. If you’re going to be a learner, you must allow the truth(s) that you know to be challenged
  3. You must be able to consider ‘new’ information
  4. Learn to not reject opinions that differ from your own
  5. Listen!
  6. View every day as a day to learn
  7. View every event you encounter to be a learning experience
  8. Consider that every person in your life is there for you to learn from
  9. Some of the hardest things we endure in life hold the greatest lessons for us
  10. Be quick to ‘give away’ the things you learn

Caution: The tendency as we grow older is to taper off in our learning.

Learning is an Adventure! Embrace it!

As long as  you’re learning, you’re growing!

Try these too:

“It’s Not Your Job to Fix Them!”

Virtual Reality

Listen More …….. Learn More!

Listen Up!!

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Hell Fire, and Brimstone!

Hell fire and brimstone; that’s the term some use for preaching, or ministry, that threatens the listeners with the dangers of hell if they don’t turn from their wicked ways. It’s a style of ministry that, sadly, still finds its way in churches today. I’m not sure what the proponents of that kind of preaching think its merits might be. Personally, I don’t think much good comes from it. But you know, some people will make a decision based on their fear of hell, I guess, and I’m sure that decision is as valid as any other. It’s certainly not my style, and it’s not in any direction I’m headin’ towards.

I had a conversation a few years back with someone who commented about how much he liked that kind of preaching. He went on to say that people out there that are living in sin need to hear it in that ‘turn or burn’ terminology so they’ll, out of fear, run to God! I kinda got the feeling from this guy that he fancied himself to be pretty holy, and righteous, and that his own personal approach with his friends not walking with the Lord was the “hell fire and brimstone” method. I really wanted to ask, “Well, how’s that workin’ out for ‘ya?”, but I didn’t! But, I can make a pretty calculated guess…...It ain’t workin’! It also makes me wonder if the guy ever spends much time with the Lord at all.

The worst thing about that kind of ministry is that it conjures up a totally inaccurate image of Who God is, in the first place. That’s a pretty serious mistake, if you ask me. Here’s the thing; You and I will ‘portray’ to the world the “God we know. That’s just another good reason that each of us should connect relationally with Him as Father. If He’s been portrayed to you by one of these HF & B preachers you’ll believe He’s mean,‘unappeasable’ and out to get you. That would be a gross misrepresentation, to put it mildly!

The gospel needs to be presented in the ‘right’ way! It is, after all, “The Good News”! As we connect personally, and relationally, with the Father we’ll find the Truth that the Bible talks about.

It’s the goodness of God that leads people to repentance.

Check these out:

You Got to Me Too Late!

It Ain’t Just “Good News” …… It’s “Great News”!

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