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Category Archives: Maturity

“When Push Comes to Pull”

Yeah, I know, the little saying doesn’t go quite like that. It usually goes, “when push comes to shove” but in a world where, at times it feels like everyone’s pushing for something, or about something, it’s kinda nice to not get pushed. In fact it’s nice to not ever get pushed if you ask me.

Example; I don’t like it when car salesmen push. We were only a few hundred dollars apart on a used car deal some years back. We wanted them to install a DVD player and the salesman, who had been pushing on us for a couple of hours, finally pushed me as far as I was going! He really ticked me off. I went to the car and was ready to leave. When he saw that he was going to lose the sale he started back-peddling. I’d had enough and told him I was done! He kept on. He finally told me he’d install the DVD player for the money we’d offered him for the car. I said, “I don’t care if you put 5 DVD players in it, I ain’t buying it!” We left. He called me four or five times the next week but I didn’t budge. Why? ‘Cause I was tired of gettin’ pushed!

People, by nature don’t like to be pushed. I think the Lord made us that way. You see, He’s not a ‘pusher’. Some of His people are but that shouldn’t be a reflection on Him, but sadly it is. We didn’t go to church when I was a kid and I had a few ‘churchy’ friends who were always pushing on me. I didn’t like it then….and I like it less now. It doesn’t feel good. Pushing people toward God doesn’t work. But there are a bunch of believers out there who can’t seem to figure that out, as well-meaning as they might be.

The Book says, “No man comes to the Father except that the Father ‘draws’ him”. God doesn’t push; in fact it’s against His nature to do that. But He draws us, pulls us in, with His mercy, His grace…..and His love. It has an altogether different feel to it. It feels right, …..because it ‘is’ right! God’s people are often referred to as sheep in the Bible. I don’t know much about sheep but they tell me that you really can’t ‘drive’ sheep. They’re much easier ‘led’. If you think about it….we’re a lot like sheep in that respect; we respond much better when we’re led than we’re driven. 

Everything the Father does with us is pulling us toward Him. It’s not a harsh or invasive thing at all. It’s gentle, and easy on us……and easy to respond to.

So, maybe religion needs to stop and re-assess the methods, some of which obviously don’t work, ….and let push come to pull!

You might like these too:

Are You “Right” With God?

I’ve Never ‘Led’ Anyone to the Lord……and I Ain’t Planning on Doing it Anytime Soon!

 

 

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The Parable of Sonny Corleone

You remember Sonny Corleone, right? He was the oldest son of don Vito Corleone in Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel and it’s 1972 film adaptation, The Godfather. Sonny, played by popular actor of the day, James Caan, was determined to be involved in the illicit ‘business’ that his notorious father was in even though the elder Corleone didn’t much want it to be. (back in my rodeo days it was a regular occurrence to see James Caan at the California rodeos competing in the team roping).

Sonny was a hothead, passionate about nearly everything in life but given to extreme outbursts of anger and fits of violence (totally unlike his father or his younger, quieter brother Michael, (Al Pacino) who eventually became Boss of Bosses in the New York City underworld). It was nothing for Sonny to beat another person senseless and he didn’t mind killin’ if the need arose,…..as it often did. It was that very demeanor and behavior that would eventually lead to his own premature, and brutal demise.

Here’s how it went down. Sonny’s sister, Connie, was married to a chronic abuser. On more than a few occasions he had beaten her and Sonny finally got a belly full. Rival Mafia families, knowing Sonny’s combustable tendencies, staged a situation for Connie’s husband to, again, beat her. Sonny, as was his norm, flew off the handle, jumped in his car, without his bodyguards, and headed out to give his brother in law what he justly deserved. But the stage was set against him; when he got to the toll booth on the Long Beach Causeway a dozen gunmen were waiting. His car was blocked, he couldn’t escape and you can guess the rest of the story! It was ugly. You can see it here if you want.

There’s a spiritual lesson to be learned here. It’s a trap that I could’ve fallen for many times, myself. In my younger days I had quite a temper. It’ll still show up every now and then and it ain’t pretty! The incidents have gotten a lot fewer and farther between, praise the Lord. It would be a testimony killer for me at this stage of the game, no doubt. But, just like the rival crime families knew Sonny’s weakness and tendencies….your enemy, the devil does likewise. And he knows exactly when….and how to attack. So, heads up! Your weakness might not be your temper like mine and Sonny’s. It could be something altogether different. But make no mistake, without being aware of your weakness and neglecting to lean on the Lord in those areas…..you’re at risk.

James (in the Bible) said it like this: “Be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath.”

That’s good advice for guys like me and Sonny!

It’s taken awhile….but I’m gradually learnin’ to do it!

 

You like parables?? Check these out:

The Parable of Pedro Flores

The Parable of Pedro Flores Part 2

 

 

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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”, indicated 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. 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 worry! 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 most harsh 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

 

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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!

Check out the Audio Version:

 

 

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Organ Donors

I donated a piano to a church once; does that count? I really did but that’s not why I decided to write this. I was sitting with three other very close friends a day or two ago and the topic came up. I said, “I’m an organ donor, are y’all?”. It was unanimous in the room of the four of us. We had all, somewhere down the line, decided that when something serious happened to us they (whoever ‘they’ are) could use any of our body parts that they’d choose for someone else needing such things. My first thought was, “that’s a pretty noble thing to do; downright honorable if you ask me”.

I thought that for just a few seconds before sheer reality set in. I looked at the other three guys in the room and considered myself as well. Then I got to thinkin’…..”exactly what body part would anyone possibly need that we had?” I mean, if you consider that the oldest of our little group is around seventy…and the youngest sixty-one there just ain’t much left that anyone would really need. Case in point: I’ve got two bad knees, one hip replacement, shoulders that have been overused and abused, one ankle that’ll roll without a warning, a toenail that’s trying to come off due to a bull stepping on it….twice, years ago. Julie says I’m gettin’ hard of hearin’, at least that’s what I think she said. But, I guess when you get right down to it my nose works great. (I can smell meat on the grill from a quarter mile away!) And my eyes are decent….but they’d need to throw my glasses in on the deal if they wanted to get much use out of them. I seem to be really, really healthy around the middle….but who needs that?!

And the other guys; well one’s got a shoulder that’s messed plumb up, another got his pelvis busted in several places, and the healthiest one’s got a nagging sound in his ear that just about drives him crazy. But, by gosh, we’re organ donors! Kinda makes me wonder if we’re really doing anybody any favors! All I can say is, if anyone needs anything we’ve got…..they’re in really, really bad shape!

But, what if our heart (no, not the one that’s still beating in our chest!), you know…our attitude toward God, and people and just life in general, is something that could be reproduced in the people around us? What if the way we handled criticism, adversity or grief was something that someone else could use? What if we took the hardships in life and because of our ‘heart’ we didn’t lose our sense of humor and, somehow, turned those things into victories? What if we hung onto the Lord when we didn’t think we had anything else to hang onto, and our lives actually made a difference? What if??

If you consider those things maybe we actually do have a chance in someone using something of us that’ll make their life better.

 

*Check out John Prine’s song here. He may have it all figured out!

 

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Running On Empty

As songwriters go, I’d consider Jackson Browne one of the best. In fact, way back in the 70’s, Glenn Frey and Don Henley (the Eagles) moved in above Jackson in a $60 a month apartment in L.A. They admitted that 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 just returned to the office after five weeks off. Haven’t done anything like that in the 28 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; people ain’t lined up to tell you good news! 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!

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 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.

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!

Audio Version:

If you’re wanting a little more:

There’s Something To Be Said For Not Knowing Anything!

‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

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

 

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“Uuuh,….. We Don’t Have a Program”

When we started Trinity Fellowship nearly 28 years ago the Lord was faithful to show us what He wanted us to help Him build….and how He wanted us to build “it”. We had no preconceived idea(s) as to what it should be or how it should look. So, we were dependent on what we believed He was saying to us. That only makes sense when you understand that our lives are to be lived by faith. One of the things, early on, that seemed to be clear is that we would be an organism (not organization) that the Father would use to set people free. That freedom would include everything from freedom from sin, addiction and faulty thinking to freedom from lifeless religious bondage as well.

Looking back through the years it seems clear that the Lord has definitely kept His part of the promise, as He always does. One of the things that’s been extremely rewarding has been the steady stream of people who have come to Sayre to find that ‘freedom’. We’ve built some amazing friendships with folks from all over that we would have otherwise never had the privilege of knowing.

One particular case in point happened not too long ago when a person we didn’t know called about a friend who had experienced a moral failure in his ministry . We didn’t know the person who called but we had been referred to him by someone we both knew.

When he called he was understandably full of questions such as, “What do y’all do?”, and “What’s the Cost?”, and “How do you do what you do?”. I tried my best to answer all those questions and finally he asked, “Well, what kind of program do you have, anyway?” My reply must have taken him completely off guard; “Uuuh, …..we don’t have a program.” It’s really true there’s not a program per se here…but what we do produces long term results.   We’re not batting a thousand but we’re doing pretty good. Here’s some reasons why;

  • We first bring them into our ‘circle’. It’s not an inner circle because inner circles are, by nature, exclusive. We’re inclusive!
  • We let them be a part of whatever it is that we’re doing at the time. If we’re on a ministry project they come along and they might even help if they’re willing. We never apply pressure on them to do that but the door’s always open for them to participate. If we’re going to lunch, they go. If we’re going to a basketball game, they go too. We let them know that they’re an important part of our family.
  • We let them see the ‘real’ side of us. We refuse to put up the facade of perfection. Truth is, we’re far from it. Besides, it’s just not our style!
  • We’re learners…..and we help to develop that trait in them, by seeing us do it, while they’re here.
  • We spend quality time with them. We swap stories. We listen to their story. They listen to ours’. It’s a great way to build long-term relationships. And, that’s what we’re all about.
  • We help them to understand the Father’s love for them. We encourage them to connect relationally with the Father and we explain how easy that is.
  • We treat ’em like VIP’s…….’cause they are!
  • But more important than all the other stuff….we just love ’em. It never fails, you know! It’s undefeated! And, it always works!
  • The Lord always does His part…..which is just about everything!

But, program, uuuuh …..we don’t have a program.

Audio Version:

Interested in a little ‘binge’ reading?? Try these:

Do You Have Enough Faith??

The People That Nobody Else Wants

Simplicity! It’s All I Have to Offer

It’s Not Your Job to Fix Them!

A Place Where People Get Well

 

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