It’s The Hardest Part

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

The Waiting’ – Tom Petty

Learning to wait is one of the hardest things for both the natural, and the spiritual man.

We lost a great American treasure a few years ago, in my opinion, when Tom Petty unexpectedly passed away. One of the great rockers of all time, who grew up in Gainesville, FL, and was the victim of some pretty violent abuse at the hands of his dad. Music, as it turned out, was a welcome escape from that environment for him. His mom bought him a cheap Sears guitar when he was 14 and the rest, as they say, is history. His band, The Heartbreakers, accomplished what few other bands have ever achieved…and that is the fact that they stayed together, for the most part, for over 40 years! Some would argue that Petty lacked vocal perfection, but if you were fortunate enough to make one of his concerts (we did twice in the last 3 years of his life!) you would hear the bigger part of twenty thousand people, young and old, singing along with every song…..word for word, for two and a half hours! So, Tom Petty fan or not, you’d have to admit that he’ll go down in history as one of the all-time greats.

“….I hear in just about every song something that catches my attention, something that I can apply spiritually….”

Now, I don’t think every song out there has a spiritual message, unless, of course, you want it to. But most songs of any genre will have a line or two that, if you think about it…and try just a little, could definitely be applied in a spiritual way. I’m a ‘music guy’, not a musician by any stretch (I could only wish!), just someone who loves music. So, I hear in just about every song something that catches my attention, something that I can apply spiritually and maybe pass along to someone else who can catch the truth contained. Many of Tom Petty’s songs have those things I’m talking about; “You Don’t Have To Live Like a Refugee” *(click to listen) would definitely be one. Gonna write something up on that ‘un one of these days. And, how about, “I Won’t Back Down”? Now there’s a, nearly perfect, spiritual warfare song; one that you could actually sing on Sunday mornings if you’d loosen up just a little.

“….as we mature in the Lord, learning to wait is an invaluable trait….”

But one that recently caught my attention is a song called, “The Waiting”. Written around 40 years ago, and not designed to be a spiritual song, whatsoever, it does have a line or two that holds some pretty profound spiritual truths. “The waiting is the hardest part”! Boy, ain’t that the truth!? Learning to wait is one of the hardest things for both the natural, and the spiritual man. We live in a culture that has trained us to want everything immediately; I mean, ….right now! But, as we mature in the Lord, learning to wait is an invaluable trait…and one that’s not often found even among believers, sad to say.

I wish I could say I had it perfected. But, waiting on the Lord hasn’t come easy for me. I guess you could call me a ‘slow learner’ in that respect. But I’m a lot better than I used to be…and I think I’m getting better. It comes with an understanding that God has His ways and He’s precise in His timing. In another way, it’s one of His ways of teaching us to live by faith. At any rate, waiting on the Lord is a virtue that we should all try to attain.

“Waiting, as hard as it is, …..might just be the most productive thing you can do.”

So, whether it’s a promise from Him you’re waiting on, a prophetic word that has yet to materialize, or maybe even a prayer you’re wondering if He heard or not, ….waiting, as hard as it is, …..might just be the most productive thing you can do. Make no mistake about it, Tom Petty had it right; the waiting is the hardest part!

Photo by Keegan Houser

...oh, and by the way, the Bible holds some amazing promises for us as we learn to wait. Isaiah 40:31 *(go read it!)

The Bible Belt – “The Land of Never Enough”

Prefer audio version? Click play (2:31)

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 like being on a treadmill of performance in an effort to earn their righteousness”

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

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.

The Father doesn’t love you because you’re good…..He loves you because He’s good!

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!

Photo by Tetyana Kovyrina

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!

Running On Empty

Click play for audio devotional (2:21)

As songwriters go, I’d consider Jackson Browne one of the best in the business. In fact, way back in the 70’s, Glenn Frey and Don Henley (the Eagles) moved in above Browne in a $60 a month apartment in L.A.

They admitted they learned, and perfected their craft of writing songs by listening to some  of those ‘mind boggling melodies’, as Rolling Stone magazine described Jackson Browne’s songs. They agreed that he was just a notch above anyone else who was writing in those days….and there were a bunch of ’em. One of those songs, “Running on Empty”, was the title track of his ‘Live’ album in 1977 and is, to this day, the most played of all his songs on Classic Rock stations. On an interesting note the song was written while Browne was struggling to make it and, in his own words, “I was always driving around with no gas in the car”.

“….I took the time off to just get away from it all.”

A few years ago I had just returned to the office after five weeks off. Haven’t done anything like that in the 33 years since we started Trinity Fellowship. I didn’t take the time off to fast and pray. That would definitely be time well spent but I took the time off to just get away from it all. No studying, no preaching or teaching, no late night emergency phone calls, no funerals……no nothing! Pretty much everybody’s job has its own level of stress. Ministry’s no different; and people ain’t lined up to tell you good news!

It’s easy to get in crisis mode, and if you’re not careful…..never get out.

It took at least a week to get out from under the load of ministry that I’ve been used to. And, maybe another week to get in full, no stress mode. But, with the support I have from the people around me (they’re the best in the business!) I finally started to actually relax. I think I was like a lot of folks who are out there today, running on empty……and maybe not even knowing it! It’s easy to get in crisis mode and if you’re not careful…..never get out. It’s unhealthy, and a bunch of ministry people don’t make it!

“When we’re running on empty we won’t even come close to doing our best work.”

The Father, Himself, rested on the seventh day…and He designated and set aside a day for us to rest, too. Most of us don’t do it; don’t know how, never even tried it. We’re too busy doing all the things we know we should be doing. But, the Sabbath was made for man! We should learn how to do it! When we’re running on empty we won’t even come close to doing our best work.

Maybe we could learn to work ‘smarter’, not harder.

Hardly anybody can get as much serious time off as I had, I understand that. But, we could learn to take a day a week to get out from under the load. Maybe we could learn to work ‘smarter’, not harder. It’ll take some time, no question.  But if we’ll make it a priority…..we won’t have to be running on empty!

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Click here to listen/watch my favorite Jackson Browne tune (you’ll like it!)

……as long as you’re speculating!!

The human mind is an incredible thing! We have the God-given capacity to think, reason, deliberate, decide and imagine.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

It’s been said that we only use a small portion of our mind…and having dealt with people in at least part of seven decades I can totally concur! Easy, ….just kidding!

A lot of my life is spent working through messy life situations with people. It requires me to be a good listener, be willing to hear both sides of a situation if that’s the case, be willing to give hard advice when it’s needed…., you know, the tough love kind. It requires that I do my best to get the Lord’s counsel on any given situation and to communicate it in a way that people can understand.

In fact, I often pray this at the end of a counseling session, “Lord, the things that I said that You would’ve said….burn those things into their spirit”, “but anything I said to them that You wouldn’t say…..let them forget it before they get out the door.” I’m sure He’s faithful to do that. Even though I’ve been doing this for years now, I don’t want to get to the place that I’m so confident in my own ability to give advice that I run completely past the wisdom of the Lord. So far, so good!

“It’s crazy sometimes how a person’s mind can immediately go to all the things that could go wrong.”

Photo by Nathan Cowley from Pexels

It’s crazy sometimes how a person’s mind can immediately go to all the things that could go wrong. Our imagination is a wonderful thing but it can be a beast when it’s working against us. It can totally eat our lunch when we get on the wrong side of it. The reality is that some of those things can and do go wrong. I mean, the possibility is there.

But, I say, if you’re going to speculate about how bad it might get and all the things that could go wrong….then it seems only sensible that you should at least try to speculate what might ‘go right’!! 

Speculation can gnaw away at your faith.

We‘re so geared to think in a negative way that we might not ever do that unless someone, (like me!), reminds us! *(actually, I need reminding sometimes myself!)

Speculation can gnaw away at your faith. But, as long as you’re speculating….why don’t you speculate about what might go right?!

…..or we could just take the Bible’s word for it:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Cor. 2:9

“I Am the Danger”

That’s one of the most memorable, ‘iconic’ phrases in the popular TV series, Breaking Bad.

The show ran for five seasons on AMC. (*you really should watch it if you haven’t!)

The story is built around Walter White, an underachieving high-school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque with a brother-in-law, Hank Schrader, who’s a federal DEA agent. Walter goes out on a routine drug bust with Hank where he accidentally encounters Jesse Pinkman, one of his former, and way below average, students escaping the drug bust from an upstairs window. The two make eye contact and that’s how the story begins.

Walt is mesmerized by Hank’s talk of the amount of money these meth dealers are making. The story gets more complicated when Walt discovers he has inoperable lung cancer. His worry about that and how his family will make it without him consumes him until he comes up with an idea.

He looks up Jesse, who has all the contacts in the drug world, and the two enter a bizarre partnership whereas Walt begins to manufacture the purest crystal meth anyone has ever seen, blue meth. And, the adventure begins.

Photo by Eduardo Romero from Pexels

Much of this took place without Walt’s wife, Skyler, having any notion about it. She found out about it at a point and after an intense conversation/argument with Walt about it she says, Walt if what you’re saying is true….you could be in a lot of danger”. To which Walt angrily, emotionally….and, actually, truthfully declared in a loud voice, “I am the danger!”. And, seriously …..he really was!

In our walk with the Lord, there are plenty of roadblocks and challenges of about every kind you could think of.

In our walk with the Lord, there are plenty of roadblocks and challenges of about every kind you could think of. Any of these things have the potential to take us out or at the very least stall us out in our journey with Him. We’re encouraged in the Bible that these things are all a normal part of the Christian life. The struggle is real, so they say.

I’ve been tempted that way in the dark hours so many times it ain’t funny

But, in the final analysis, it really comes down to you….and your willingness to exercise the faith that already resides within you.

You’ve heard the old saying about certain people, “You’re your own worst enemy.”

That can be true of any of us if we’re not careful.

You see, nothing……and I mean nothing, (*or nobody!) can keep you from fulfilling the destiny the Lord has purposed for you……except you! ‘You are the danger’!

You might be tempted to bail on that plan. I’ve been tempted that way in the dark hours so many times it ain’t funny. But to do that would be a sure guarantee of missing my own destiny.

There’s bound to be those points in time that we have to decide, YES….or NO to the plan of God.

You’ll either be the ‘Danger’ to yourself and risk forfeiting your own destiny……or you’ll be the ‘Danger’ to the enemy (your adversary, the devil) that he’s always dreaded you would be!

So, make no mistake.You are the Danger!

The choice is yours!

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So Easy A Caveman Can Do It

Remember the Geico commercials? The storyline involved a couple of cavemen who lived in modern society. The point was that using Geico’s website was “so easy a caveman could do it”, indicating that being a caveman didn’t require all that much intelligence.

Their response that they were being discriminated against, or at the very least had their feelings hurt, drew a lot of attention and got a lot of mileage for Geico.

I think a lot of times we make our Christian life a whole lot harder than it ought to be. I’m not saying life can’t be hard; it can!

But, just the fact that we’re believers should simplify it in a very profound way.

cave man carrying lit torch walks dark path
Photo by Jeremy Bishop from Pexels

Think about it this way; There should never be a time or situation in our life where we don’t know what to do. We have the Holy Spirit living in us to show us the way at every turn. The Bible even says about us, “we have the mind of Christ”! We have the awesome assurance that when we leave this life we’re immediately in heaven.

Our eternal security is sealed! 

That should relieve us of a lot of unfounded worries! And, instead of having the daunting task of, somehow, trying to plan out our own life…He’s even already done that for us. We must, however, be ‘connected’ to Him to find out all the details of that plan. But…He doesn’t make that hard.

He’s even promised to never leave us nor forsake us; that in itself should make even the harshest situations easier to endure.

But, undoubtedly, the most important thing of all is that God is a Father. It’s a relationship that anyone can understand. He desperately desires to interact with us on a personal basis. He’s done everything possible to make that a reality for us. All we have to do is to engage…..and immediately begin to enjoy the benefits.

You’ve heard the term, “It’s complicated”, right?

Well, this isn’t complicated. In fact, “it’s so easy even a caveman can do it”!!

Check this one:

It’s Complicated

“You Didn’t Put a Mojo on Me, Did Ya’?!”

Years ago after we’d moved to Oklahoma and started the church I had a lifelong friend call me late one night. My friend was a brawler, didn’t mind a good fight, and had been known to conspire one up if it didn’t happen naturally.

Photo by Patricia McCarty from Pexels

I doubt he’d ever been to church anywhere before. No criticism about that but, understandably, he just didn’t have much spiritual orientation at all. I could tell he was really bothered about something but he wouldn’t say, just what, over the phone. It was past 11 pm and he said he really needed to talk to me. So, no big deal pulled some clothes on and headed over to his house.

At the end of our conversation I asked him, “Well, do you want to be born again?”

He had all kinds of questions for me about the Lord. Some I could answer, some I couldn’t. He was very sincere. After a couple of hours we were winding up our visit and the subject of salvation came up. I’m not a pressure guy by anyone’s standards. Jesus didn’t do it….so I ain’t gonna do it either! But, I was quick to thoroughly explain the Biblical plan of salvation to my friend when he asked.

He was really struggling for an answer and it took him thirty seconds or more to say, “Well, I know I should but I just don’t think right now’s the time”. “You know I just bought this bar and all, and I just don’t think the timing’s right”. I said, “OK, no problemo. Let me know if you ever want to talk about it.” He agreed and I asked him if I could pray for him. After I prayed we said our goodbyes and I went home.

About two weeks later my friend called again, this time past midnight.

He started out, “You know, I bought this bar. I’m making more money than I’ve ever made in my life…..but something just ain’t right.” “I don’t know what it is but I just keep thinking about the Lord, …..and that ain’t like me at all.” I said, “Well, you know He does love you, and He’s just probably trying to prove it to you.” Then……..he finally got down to the real reason he called me. He said, “You know the other night when you prayed for me?” I said, “Yeah”. He said,

“You didn’t put some kinda mojo on me did ya’??!”

He was serious as a heart attack! I just busted up laughing. I said, “Son, the Lord’s got a mojo on you!” I explained to him that it’s just how the Lord works. My friend eventually gave his life to the Lord, sold the bar, and is walking with the Lord today. 

Photo by Tara Winstead from Pexels

When I tell that story today I still laugh! But the truth of the matter is that whoever you are…and wherever you are spiritually, the Lord does have a mojo on you! Not the kind you’d normally think about though. Certainly not a demonic spell or anything in the neighborhood of that. But, He’s out to get ‘ya, alright. ……and just like I told my friend, “He just wants to prove to you how much He loves you!”

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You Can Only Do What You Can Only Do!

“Unrestricted Access”

Photo by Angela Roma from Pexels

You see the passes at most every public event, especially the big ones; “All Access”. The placard, usually worn around a person’s neck is an indicator for every official on the grounds of the event that anyone wearing this placard can go anywhere they want to go, and….at any time. Those “All Access” passes also carry the often unsaid understanding that the wearers are obviously of some importance. You know, like a real VIP!

The person wearing that “All Access” pass must’ve evidently been given a level of trust not offered to everyone. With that particular pass comes some extra responsibility, too, I’d say. Take a rock concert, for example. Let’s say Bob Seger (one of my faves, especially since I can’t go see Tom Petty anymore) is performing at Red Rocks. Now, that’d be a great combo; great entertainment at a great venue. If you have one of those “All Access” passes you might get to be up close and personal with Bob Seger, himself. I’ll bet you could even get your picture taken with him and the band if you were really lucky. But, without that “All Access” pass, …..it ain’t gonna happen! But, most of us are resigned to just go to the concert and enjoy the entertainment from a distance. Nothing wrong with that, whatsoever. But, it’s just not the same as having the VIP treatment.

You’re a VIP!

The One Who created the Universe has given you an “All Access” pass to be in His presence anytime it strikes your fancy! There’s never a bouncer at the door, no one checking ID’s, nobody deciding if you have the correct credentials, not anyone there to turn you away because you don’t have the right clearance, nobody to stamp your hand in case you go out and want to come back in. You don’t even have to show your “All Access” pass! They ‘all’ know who you are! Nope, nothing, whatsoever, to keep you from engaging in conversation, face to face worship, fellowship, and communion with God, Himself! Think about that for a minute!

It’s true! You’ve been given (because we couldn’t earn it!) unrestricted access to God! That’s a BIG DEAL!

Question is, what are you gonna do about it??!”

Check it out:

Are You ‘Led’, or Are You ‘Driven’?

The Mountains are Talkin’!

….and you’ve heard ’em too, whether you realize it or not! There’s also a great possibility you’ve been listening way too much to what they’re saying! I bet you’re wondering just what I’m talking about. Well, Jesus knew we’d be facing mountains in the natural course of our life so He addressed it upfront for us. “Whosoever shall say to the mountain, be removed and cast into the sea, and doesn’t doubt in his heart that those things he says, he shall have whatsoever he shall say.” 

Now, realistically I can’t imagine why I’d ever want to move an actual mountain from one place to another. As far as I’m concerned they’re all exactly where they’re supposed to be. On second thought I wouldn’t mind having a couple of small ones out here in Western Oklahoma just to look at now and then, …..but it is what it is. One would then have to surmise that maybe Jesus wasn’t talking about a literal mountain at all but about the problems, obstacles, and potential dangers we all face in life.

Photo by Roussety Gregory from Pexels

I’d be surprised if anyone reading this little piece didn’t have at least some obstacle facing them right now. It just seems to work out that way. Mountains talk a lot! And when you have one, the mountain will be in your face talkin’ smack from the time you wake up ’til you go to sleep at night. ……sometimes even in your sleep! “You ain’t gonna make it!”. “You’ve got cancer!”. “He doesn’t love you anymore!”. “Your friends are talking about you!”. “You’re a failure!”. “You don’t do enough good stuff for the Lord to love you!”. And, the list goes on and on. Mountains are relentless! They don’t let up! The more you listen, the more they talk!

“Whosoever shall say to the mountain, be removed and cast into the sea, and doesn’t doubt in his heart that those things he says, he shall have whatsoever he shall say.” 

Jesus

I know you learned when you were a little kid to not ‘talk back’. Talkin’ back would get you in big trouble in those days. That was good advice then. But now, well now things have changed. You gotta start talkin’ back! I’ve found, for me, the most effective way to talk back to the mountains is to find a scriptural promise that directly affects the lies the mountain is saying to me. Every time that mountain tells me I ain’t gonna make it, ……I’ll declare the Word of the Lord out loud to my mountain. You can bet your boots I’m gonna talkback! And, I’m gonna do it like I mean it even if it feels like I’m spittin’ in the wind.

That’s exactly what Jesus did when He was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Three times he appealed to logic in trying to deceive Jesus; each time Jesus answered with, “It is written…”. Worked then for Him, ……..and it’ll work now for you if you’ll just do it!

The payoff

You’ll find that your level of faith rises every time you declare the Word to your mountain. Your mountain will begin to diminish in size. It’s all about perspective. Your faith is being tested and your faith will grow as a result.

So, yeah the mountains are talking. The question is, “What are you saying to your mountain!?”

Why Losing Your Mind Might Be a Good Thing

man holding box covering his head with BRAIN written on box
Photo by SHVETS production from Pexels

Doesn’t sound like much of a good idea. But, I bet most of us at one time or another at least thought we might be losing our mind. The human mind is an incredible thing. It processes thousands of bits of information in a matter of seconds and does it all day long in most cases. In those things that we need access to our mind, on a good day, can find information much quicker than the fastest computer.

But just as our mind can be our strongest ally in reasoning and decisions that we need to make, it can just as easily get in our way at critical times. The Bible encourages us to ‘renew’ our mind; that is to ‘make it new’! If we don’t renew our minds we will remain static in our progress and especially in our spiritual growth. Renewing our mind can be accomplished in a variety of methods. Reading and studying the written Word is one of the classic ways to do it. Listening to that ‘still small voice’ of God is another key way to have our minds renewed. And, on a strictly natural level sleep is another of the things that can renew our mind. There’s no doubt about it our mind needs a little rest from the rigors of daily life and all of the challenges it can have.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”

The Bible says we have the mind of Christ! I think that’s something we need to stop and think about more and pursue just exactly what that might mean. I think what we’ll discover is that because the Holy Spirit lives in us all the information we need about any circumstance is available upon our request. We’re on a ‘need to know’ basis with the Lord! Whatever we need to know in precise timing is ours if we’ll just tap into it!

Paul said, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”. The key word here is ‘let’. We have all kinds of logical information in our mind that’s available to us in milliseconds but sometimes our own human logic stands in the way of kingdom logic. If we’re to ‘let’ the same mind be in us that was in Jesus we have to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as He gives us the mind of Christ in our affairs. We need to learn to ‘let’ that kingdom logic take the place of human logic.

It’s gonna take some work but it’s do-able. The Spirit of God will help. One of the great paradoxes of the Bible states, “He who loses his life will find it.” I don’t think it’s a far stretch to assume the same would be true with our own minds as it is our life. “He who loses his mind will find it.” That’s getting our own mind out of the way and letting the mind of Christ in!

So, seriously, …..losing your mind might just be a good thing!

Check this one out: We’re on a “Need to Know” Basis With the Lord!