The Best Kept Secrets in the Kingdom, a book I finished a couple years ago. 20 Keys To Revolutionize Your Life and Your Church. I’ll tell you why I wrote this book, and how I came to the title;
….there are clearly communicated principles in the Bible that the modern church has either forgotten about, ignored or at the very least minimized in importance.
Simple – Easy to Understand
I think they’re very important as it relates to personal growth and as it relates to the growth of the church in general. If you’ve listened to me teach before you know I teach in a real simple easy to understand way.
Vitalize Your Spiritual Life
This book is great for just an individual to read and make notes through. I promise you if you just use two or three of these principles, these keys that I’ve communicated here, your spiritual life is going to immediately be vitalized. And I think that’s really needed in the church today.
A Spiritual Reference
It’s good for personal use. It would be a great small group study.
For leaders, if you found your church might have plateaued and you want to go back into some of these really really important scriptural issues that will bring life, this is the book that you need.
You can go through this, and teach this whole book and I promise your church is going to have a whole new level of spiritual life.
Available on Amazon
So, get this book, The Best Kept Secrets in the Kingdom. Available on Amazon.
“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 invaluabletrait….”
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!
...oh, and by the way, the Bible holds some amazing promises for us as we learn to wait.Isaiah 40:31 *(go read it!)
“He’d done plenty of crazy things and even the locals weren’t sure what he might do next!”
The last year we lived on the ranch in the Texas Panhandle I had the responsibility of taking care of 2500 head of cattle. About 1800 of those were close to 40 miles away north of Canadian, Texas on the expansive Urschel Ranch. I’d go up about three times a week and spend the day horseback checking the cattle; getting a decent count on them, making sure they had water, making sure none of them were out of the pastures they were supposed to be in. It’d make for a long day but it was enjoyable to me.
I was about three years into my walk with the Lord. Didn’t know much but I was learning a lot. I had given my testimony a couple of times and was already feeling the call for ministry…even though I had no idea what all that might mean. A friend and I had a cowboy church service (years before anyone ever heard that term!) at the Hemphill County Expo Center in Canadian and I preached the message. That was a first! I have no idea what I preached about but I do remember that one of my friends since childhood (a few years older than me) got saved that day. Let’s just call him, Jeff.
“He struggled with deep depression, was separated from his wife, had trouble sleeping and agonized over the things he was ordered to do in Vietnam.“
Jeff was a cowboy and had been in some of the very worst combat fights in Vietnam.In three different battles there were over a hundred US troops under fire….and all three times less than fifteen came out alive. Jeff was one of the ones each time. But, it had left an indelible mark on him. He struggled with deep depression, was separated from his wife, had trouble sleeping and agonized over the things he was ordered to do in Vietnam.
Jeff was a scary looking guy; Well actually if you weren’t friends with him….he just didn’t look scary….he really was scary. He’d done plenty of crazy things and even the locals weren’t sure what he might do next! He hair was cut short on the top but long in the back…..way down past his collar. He had about 6 top front teeth totally gone! He wore denim shirts with the sleeves cut out of them and he had lots of tattoos; something not that common in those days. He spent a lot of his spare time at the gym pumping iron and was quite a specimen of a man.
“His intimidating look had the attention of just about every person in there.“
Part of my regular routine the times when I’d go up to check cattle was to make it back to the Dairy Queen on my way home and catch Jeff after he got off work. I made it a point. I was doing my best to encourage him and give him good, sound advice. I’d pray with him every time before I headed home. One particular time we were in the DQ when a Greyhound bus made its stop there.The place was completely full of people. Jeff got there before I did and saved me a spot. His intimidating look had the attention of just about every person in there.
“Yep…….I’m doing so good, I got rid of all my plastic explosives yesterday!!”
Bear in mind that when he talked, Jeff talked really, really loud; maybe louder than anyone you’ve ever known!I asked him that day, as I always did, “Jeff, how are you doing?” He replied in his loud voice, “Andy, I’m doing really good!”. I knew that I needed to press in a little more. “But, Jeff, …..how are you really doing?” And in a voice a lot louder than you need to be talking in Dairy Queen he said, “Yep, Andy, …….I’m doing so good I got rid of all my plastic explosives yesterday!!” You could’ve heard a pin drop! Every eye in the house was on us!It was funny, ….in a crazy kind of way; all those people started gathering up their food without saying a word and getting out the door as fast, but as inconspicuous as they could. It was like they didn’t totally believe him. I bet some of them are still telling that story today!
“But, the Lord spoke clearly to my spirit at that point and said, “It’s Ok, Andy, …..you’re not the one that’s taking care of him anyway.”
I learned a lot in my experiences with Jeff. I made it a mission of mine to help him. I wanted him to be OK; I wanted him to be well. Julie and I had planned a little vacation and were planning on being gone for about a week. I got real worried that if I wasn’t there to check on Jeff that he wouldn’t be alright. I even told Julie as much. I was actually afraid to go on vacation fearing he would implode.But, the Lord spoke clearly to my spirit at that point and said, “It’s Ok, Andy, …..you’re not the one that’s taking care of him anyway.” That put it in perspective for me. God always knows the right thing to say, and always at just the right time.
I wish this story had a happy ending….but it doesn’t. Several years later Jeff was living downstate in Texas and took his own life. I can’t help but believe that the Lord has lots and lots of grace for people like Jeff.
I’ll never forget the things I learned…and I look forward to seeing him in Heaven.
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!
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!
You’ve heard of Black Friday, of course. But I doubt you’ve heard of “Black Saturday”….since I just made it up.But I think it’s a great fit for what I want to write about. You hear a lot about Good Friday, as you should. Good Friday is the day we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. You can only totally understand why it’s called “Good” when you look at it in the context of 1) What it provides for you, and 2) What transpired two days later.
Jesus’ death on the cross was the one and only thing that could provide us the awesome opportunity to be forgiven of our sins….and delivered from our sinful nature and engage in a relationship with the Father…. in exactly the way Jesus did!The pain and suffering Jesus endured on the way to the cross would’ve ‘done in’ any other human. But Jesus was determined to carry out to the ‘T’ His Father’s plan. So, YES, Good is an appropriate word to use for this Friday!
A wise person would stop to reflect on all that happened on that day and, somehow, give thanks to the Lord. Seems like the least we could do.
Two days later on that ‘third’ day when the women went to His tomb, they were astonished to find that Jesus was gone. The stone had been rolled away (an undeniable supernatural happening!) and two angels were sitting in the tomb. Jesus had risen from the dead! The resurrection; it’s the bedrock foundation on which the entire Christian faith is built. What a day!
But, have you ever thought about the day in between??
I’ve thought a lot about it. I’m sure there are those who have written pieces about that day, but I’ve yet to see them. I think about what might have been going through the minds of the thousands of Jews gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover. Most of them believed that justice had been donein that ‘this imposter’ who made Himself equal with God had been rightly put to death.
I think about the religious leaders who were obviously gloating over the fact that they, once and for all, did away with Jesus Whose faithfulness was a constant reminder of their full-blown self-righteousness. They wouldn’t have to deal with Him anymore. They must’ve felt good about themselves.
For them…..it was a good day.
But, I think about the eleven who were with Him nearly every day for the past three years. They’d seen Him multiply the food, walk on the water, calm the storms, heal the sick, cast out demons, and even raise the dead. I think about James and John who had left their fishing business to follow this Man. And, Matthew the tax collector who, maybe for the first time in his life, felt valued and loved. I think about Peter who, in not much more than 24 hours’ time, had denied Jesus. They never once saw Him waver in His devotion to them or in obedience to His Father. But, now they’d failed Him at a time when He needed them most. What would they do now? Would they spend the rest of their lives in regret for how they performed? Would they go back to their fishing business or collect taxes? For these men it was a dark, dark discouraging day; the worst you could imagine!
I call it Black Saturday!
Have you ever thought about what might have been going on in the spirit realm?I’m sure the angelic host were totally taken aback when Jesus died on the cross. What did God have in mind? How could He let such a thing happen? They did NOT see this coming! And, to make matters far worse the demonic hordes of hell were celebrating with a deafening noise…..so loud it almost spilled over into the natural realm. Yep, for the angels, it was a dark, dark day!A Black Day!
I call it Black Saturday!
But at just about daybreak on the third day, a tiny little jingling was heard above the hellish and noisy celebration. It almost sounded like keys jingling together. The atmosphere began to change. Light began to break forth. Something BIG was happening….and both sides in the spirit realm knew it.
…..and there He appeared!!
And in His hand were the keys to death, hell, and the grave! No longer would the Father’s children be intimidated by the fear of darkness or death.
On that day EVERYTHING changed!
That’s why you don’t hear much about Black Saturday!
Let us learn to live in the ‘finished’ work of Jesus!
I like Fridays’! They’re nothing like Mondays’!I can live with Mondays’ but I don’t just crave ’em. More stress, too far to the weekend, usually a dilemma or two; Yep, Mondays, can be tough. They don’t call ’em Mondays’ for nothing! But Fridays’, now there’s a day I can enjoy! I can do Fridays’!
But seriously, there was a Friday, way back, that someone decided to call ‘Good Friday’. I’m not sure who coined the phrase but I think they did a heckuva job! When you look at that particular Friday a couple thousand years ago, and what took place on that fateful day, you might be really perplexed as to why anyone could have the audacity to call anything about it, ‘good’.
In fact, if I didn’t know the whole story…..it would’ve been the worst Friday that ever happened!
That Friday that I’m talking about was the Friday that Jesus, God’s Son, was put to death by crucifixion on The Cross.…the cruelest method of corporal punishment in the first century. It was the greatest miscarriage of justice that would ever take place in the context of time itself! Jesus,……sinless, perfect, lover of sinners and tax collectors, put to death with absolutely no wrong done. How in the world could that possibly be ‘good’?!
Because if Jesus hadn’t done what He did….we’d be doomed to be slaves to sin, forever. That, in turn, would make eternity to be dreaded to the deepest degree! No hope. But Jesus turned it all around! It didn’t come easy, though. He was beaten almost to the point of death, stripped of His clothes, and made to carry His cross through the swelling crowd in Jerusalem to the hill called Golgotha (the place of the skull) where he was nailed to the cross. …..and there He died. Bad Friday……really bad!
Saturday,…..not good! Terrible, in fact. But Sunday everything changed. I mean, Everything!! ….when Jesus came out of that tomb! And, He was carrying the keys to death, hell, and the grave! They would no longer have any kind of hold on mankind!
Jesus, motivated only by love, willingly laid down His life for you and me! Because of that, now, we have the awesome opportunity to have the same relationship with God that He has!
And that,………that right there’s why they call it Good Friday!!
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!
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.”
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 love college basketball!In fact, college sports are a lot more fun for me to watch than the pros. It’s about the only sport that I don’t really care who’s playing, I can get into the game. I think it’s the fact that there’s not six points difference in a team that doesn’t make the NCAA tournament and the one that wins it all. I love to watch the coaches as much as I like watching the players. Great sport, great watching!
Gearing up for March Madness, here’s a little analogy you probably haven’t thought of.The Lord showed me years ago, the Sunday church service is much like the timeout in basketball. In most games both teams usually uses all their timeouts. The timeouts are critical and are used very strategically, especially in a close game.I’d say the same about the Sunday church service. There are no points scored during the timeout….but what’s done there is always critical to the overall outcome of the game. If you think about it, it’s much the same with the church service. And, while many would argue that the Sunday service is the ‘big show’, wise people realize that the real game is outside the walls of the church.
“And, while many would argue that the Sunday service is the ‘big show’, wise people realize that the real game is outside the walls of the church.“
Take for instance a few years ago: I’m watching Roy Williams, the great North Carolina coach, during the timeout of the NCAA National Championship. He’s very animated, he’s passionate about getting his point across, he’s ‘coaching’ his boys about what they should do, and how they should do it, when the whistle starts the game again. He’s making sure everyone knows their job, knows their place. The entire season is on the line! Mark Few, Gonzaga’s phenomenal coach, is doing the same.It’s coaching intensity at it’s very best. Nothing like it in any other sport, in my opinion. You’ll notice that they use every single second of every single timeout. It’s what the Bible calls “redeeming the time”.
The Sunday service should be just like that. It should be, above everything, very strategic. In my case I want to do the best job I can do to tell my ‘players’ what I’m hearing from the Lord. I don’t want to just throw a ‘sermon’ out there; not my style anyway. I want to be strategic and relevant for what my ‘players’ are facing in the game (real life!).
No games are won or lost during the timeout ….but what’s done there directly, and strategically affects the outcome of the game!
And, lastly…..the timeout gives the players a chance to get their breath, rest a little and get everything back into proper perspective, and come into one accord. No games are won or lost during the timeout….but what’s done there directly, and strategically affects the outcome of the game!
There’s a lot at stake when we get back in the real world on Monday! We should be strategic when we gather up on Sunday!
**So, if you call me through the weekend and I don’t answer….be patient with me; I’m doin’ research!
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.
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!