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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!

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“Can You Hear Me Now?”

You remember the Verizon TV commercial featuring the guy moving from place to place, often in remote, out of the way places, to test the cell phone coverage. It was a great ad campaign that lasted several years proving the excellent coverage that Verizon offered.The campaign was successful in part because, “Can you hear me now?” was a phrase we were already using (and still do!). They picked up on that and the rest, as they say, is history.

Cell phone coverage can be a frustrating thing. Doesn’t really matter whether it’s Sprint, Verizon or AT &T there’s gonna be some dead spots. And when you hit one of those dead spots you’re apt to say it again, “Can you hear me now?” Everyone has had the unpleasant task of moving from one place to another to see if the coverage exists. It’s a wonderful thing when you find that ‘place’!

Hearing the Father about our life and all its details seems to me to be one of the most important things we could possibly consider. A lot of people make hearing the Lord a difficult thing. There are even those out there who think the Lord only actually speaks to those of us in the ministry. Ludicrous really, when you get the right perspective, but they’re out there nonetheless. I’ve learned a thing or two that’ll help anyone who’s interested in getting better at hearing the Lord. 

For starters, you have to try to look at it from the Father’s standpoint. It’s not that hard at all especially if you’re a parent. Parents, the Lord in this instance since HIs deepest desire is to be a Father to you, want to communicate with their children. So, you gotta know that God wants to speak to you. But remember…..He’s not limited to speaking to you in an audible voice. He does that;  I can’t say I’ve heard Him that way but I know plenty of people who’ve told me they have and I have no reason to disbelieve them. The Bible includes lots of other ways He speaks; through people, through dreams and visions, through prophecy, through His Word, through signs and wonders, through our circumstances….and one of my favorites, through His “still, small voice”. He even once spoke through a donkey! That’s encouraging  for a guy like me! lol

If you want to hear the Lord about the details of your life you should probably make it a priority. He has plenty of unique ways of getting your attention but those that hear Him best are those who make the effort. Sometimes it might require you to get in a ‘better’ place away from the distractions and the noisiness of life. He’s speaking….and He wants you to hear Him. Don’t make it hard! It’s not.

Oh, and if you were to say to Him, “Can you hear me now?”…..you can be assured that He always does. 

“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

Try these:

Resistance Training

Redirecting!

Virtual Reality

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If You Ain’t Walkin’ It, You Probably Oughta Quit Talkin’ It! *Repost*

For some unknown reason last night’s post didn’t publish correctly. I’m reposting! Enjoy!

That’s one of the big problems the world has with us Christians. We say one thing but do something different, altogether. We talk love but they don’t see it in action. In fact, many times they see the polar opposite. It just doesn’t look good. We talk faith….but they don’t see us actually walking by faith. They hear us talking about righteousness but observe us compromising in our daily lives. So, really, who can blame our criticizers? It’s a wonder we have any credibility at all.

This kind of thing has caused a lot of distrust of churches and church people. It’s going to be quite a challenge to get this ship turned around. But it’s worth the effort…and we oughta start ASAP!

A good starting place would be, for ministry people like myself, to just be open, honest and forthcoming about ‘where’ we are in our own lives. As we learn to walk out our Christian mindset, and lifestyle, we make plenty of mistakes in the process. I’ve always tried to be honest about that with the people the Lord has given us. And I’m a firm believer that whatever it is that I’m teaching or preaching about….I don’t know every thing about the subject; I’m a learner; a work in progress. I think it helps our family (church) to hear of the challenges even we have in walking this stuff out in real life. It gives them hope to hear their leaders admitting to their own struggles. I know every ministry person won’t agree with that….and that’s OK with me. Many ministry people won’t ‘go there’ fearing it’s a sign of weakness. I can totally understand that as church people can sometimes be some of the most vicious. But my conscience won’t let me tell people I have something perfected when in all actuality…..I’m far from it. You might be surprised at how much that’d help the whole big picture. A little honesty, a little openness, a little vulnerability could go a long way.

When that happens with leaders the entire ‘flock’ starts the ‘buy in’ process. They slowly change the way they think and in turn it begins to affect how they behave and interact with people on the outside. It’s a long, slow process so we should start now!

If we’ll just start walkin’ out what we’re talkin’ (or at the very least, …..try to!) we might actually start changing the world for the better.

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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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Let’s Put it in Perspective

What is the meaning of life?

Why am I here?

Will my life and existence on the planet make any difference at all?

These are all good questions. I expect that if we’re being honest some form of these questions roll around in the minds of all of us from time to time. It’s probably a good thing. I think we should all give them a visit fairly often, actually. If your question is “Why”,…. well….for starters I’d just say that I’d hate for anyone to miss the real reason they’re on the planet. That seems pretty serious to me! I’m afraid a lot of people will…but I’ve been on a mission for years to not let anyone within my influence do so.

Let’s face it, the worst possible thing that could possibly happen to us in this life is to miss  our appointment to salvation. You know, the Bible says, that God is not willing that any should perish. And the Father has His own unique ways that serve to draw us all to Him. But right on the heels of that….it seems obvious that the second worse thing that could happen to us is to miss our destiny, the reason and purpose we’re on the planet in the first place.

We must first consider, and then hopefully come to the obvious conclusion, that we are on the planet, first and foremost, for spiritual reasons. Whatever your spiritual, or religious, persuasion is it only makes sense to believe that God has a plan for your life (“I know the plans I have for you….; Jeremiah 29:11); because He does!

Doesn’t matter how far off the path you think you might be….getting back on can be instantaneous! All it takes is a little ‘want to’ on your part! If I were you I’d be asking the Lord, “What’s my life all about?”

He doesn’t keep those things secret from us! 

Get ready ’cause His plans for you are incredible!

Good luck, and blessings, on the journey to fulfilling your destiny!

 

It’s Not Too Late to Make a ‘Mark’ With Your Life!

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