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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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A Word or Two to the Grace Preachers Out There

I’m a grace man. I’ve been a grace man since November the 17th, 1984. That’s when I sat on the edge of my bed, with everything wrong in my life that could be wrong, and prayed this prayer….word for word; “God, if you’re out there, you gotta help me”. That night marked a turnaround in my life, a transformation if you will, that has continued every day since then. Hopefully that transformation will stay in progress from now on. I’m still a long ways from where I need to be….but after 32 years I’m still moving in the right direction.

Because of how I came to the Lord (read about it here), it shaped me into being a grace person. And, even though I cried out to the Lord in all sincerity He really had no good reason to rescue me. But He did it anyway! That, in essence, is what grace is! I experienced His amazing grace firsthand long before I heard anybody teaching on it. I think people who are around me would say that I handle and treat people with grace. *(if not….you have my permission to tell me!)

There has been an upsurge in the last few years on the topic of grace. The ‘finished work of Jesus’ is something a lot of people are talking, and writing, about these days. Clark Whitten’s book, “Pure Grace”, is a good one. And Joe Langley’s, “Unfiltered Grace” would also be a great starting place if you’re interested. Both are personal friends and their books are well written and easy to read.

Grace has become a very controversial issue. A friend put it this way, “If you want to make people mad, preach the Law; if you want to make them furious……preach grace!” I’m finding out there’s some truth to that. It really turns out to be an argument over how good God really is. It’s an important topic and one I think you should give some attention to.

Grace is a subject that God is breathing on. Truth be known, He has always been doing that. Anytime that happens there’s a rash of preachers and teachers jumping on the bandwagon, so to speak. That can be a good thing but it can also bring a lot of problems with it as well. Here’s how; Anytime we teach something but are not walking in it (or at the very least, trying to) the message is tainted. Listeners have a hard time reconciling the truth that they hear (about grace in this instance) with the level of personal integrity with a teacher who doesn’t handle people with grace. Who can blame them?

There are several teachers out there with a huge following. I find myself agreeing with most of what they’re saying. But their prideful and critical (my opinion) attitude toward other preachers/teachers who are not yet where they are in their understanding of grace causes me to ‘not’ be a fan. I don’t think I’m alone.

Here’s how I’d encourage the grace preachers out there:

  • Your understanding of grace is a ‘gift’ to be treasured and stewarded with wisdom and maturity. It’s not something you’ve earned…or even deserved, really. It’s a GIFT!
  • Grace is something that is best understood through experience. I, personally, don’t care how much Bible a guy knows if he doesn’t have some experiential knowledge of the subject.
  • If you’re going to preach it, then at the very least, attempt to walk it out in your attitude, words and dealings with people. Jesus was the best example: He didn’t just ‘have’ a grace message……He ‘was’ the grace message! He embodied the truth He communicated. We should do the same.
  • “Let not many of you be teachers, knowing that you will incur a stricter judgment” It’s a lot more serious if you’re a teacher. *Something to remember: “You teach what you know, but you impart ‘who’ you are!” If it’s coming from a critical heart you’re producing that same critical heart with others. That’s serious!
  • When you mock and make fun of leaders who’ve not been exposed to the message, you alienate them. So, you should take some of the responsibility for the controversy over grace.
  • When you criticize others and use strong words like ‘extortion’ toward those who are still finding their way…..you just lost me! I think you’re losing others as well. And what’s more important…you’re giving others a wrong or skewed perception of grace.
  • When grace is adequately communicated……very few people reject it!
  • Oh, and don’t forget what they say about knowledge! It ‘puffs up’!
  • Grace is a beautiful message; don’t contaminate it with the wrong heart.

Share this message!

You oughta read these, too:

The Elusive Definition of Grace

A Long Ways From the Lord

If He Can Fix My Life…..I Know He Can Fix Yours!

It Ain’t Grace’s Fault!

I Fought the Law….and the Law Won!

There’s Grace For That!

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Life’s Like Football, It’s a Game of Inches

I was watching a high-school football playoff game a week or two back. It was a very close game involving two really good teams. It caused me to remember what I hear sportscasters, even sports fans, say about football often; “It’s a game of inches”. There was no less than half a dozen times during that game that the ‘game of inches’ concept came into play. A couple of critical fourth down measurements when in one instance the team gained the first down by maybe three inches; another time late in the game deep in the other team’s territory the measurement on a fourth and one….was short by less than six inches and kept the team from a possible touchdown. Another time a wide receiver caught a pass in the back of the end zone with one foot down in play….but only by, maybe two inches. Those close calls were critical in the overall outcome of the game. Football really is a ‘game of inches’.

It started me thinking along the lines of how life can be much like football, in that respect, …..a game of inches. For instance, when we ‘give’ our life to the Lord something truly miraculous, and supernatural, happens. There has been a literal transformation in the deepest, eternal part of us….our spirit. But that transformation takes the rest of our lives to fully manifest. We begin to think differently about nearly everything. And those thoughts, hopefully tempered by the Holy Spirit, lead us to begin reasoning, acting and behaving differently, as well. Most of the time it’s not a huge behavior swing (could be, though!), but more so just a step at a time. You know,……. incremental change. A game of inches! But over the long haul it’s truly an amazing transformation.

It can work in the negative as well. For instance a marriage doesn’t get bad in a moment. More than likely there has been a lot of little things over a long period of time that have steadily eroded the relationship. It’s a game of inches. But, in the same respect, when a couple can agree to start to really work on their marriage it can start to turn around. It’s not a perfect science but a good rule of thumb, I think, to expect the marriage to get good again in about the same distance of time that it took to get bad. That might be years. But the amazing thing is, and I see this all the time, as soon as the relationship starts to move in the right direction both parties immediately begin to feel better about it. It’s a game of inches! I could give a dozen more examples but you get the picture.

Take yourself for instance; we’re often silently disappointed in ourselves because we aren’t growing in the Lord at the pace we think we should. I’d like to encourage you to ‘not’ get frustrated about that.

Relax a little, enjoy the journey and remember….it’s a game of inches!

Try these:

The Silver Bullet Lounge

You Got to Me Too Late!

The Thing About Unconditional Love

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Love People, Trust God!

Life is an endless sequence of learning experiences. As long as we’re learning we’re growing. I don’t think that ever has to stop, even as we get older. It does stop, however, for a lot of folks who, for one reason or another, just put it to rest and decide they don’t need to learn anymore. I guess that’s someting we’ll all have to face sooner or later.

I didn’t even start to learn about spiritual things until I was about 30 years old. Didn’t grow up going to church. I had heard a few of the Bible stories like David and Goliath. I believed in Jesus but I knew very little about Him. But, when my life made the turn, I pretty much hit the fast track. I had done so much in my life that didn’t work, and all of a sudden I got ahold of the one thing that does work and I pretty much gave my life to ‘it’!

I think it was the sovereignty of God that caused me to end up in the little Baptist Church in Allison, Texas. Looking back, there was a very profound move of God happening there. There were no less than 8 couples/families that are now serving the Lord in full-time ministry. Our pastor, Ronnie Chadwick, was a great mentor for all of us. His guidance and influence helped set the direction for our lives, and even continues to do so today.

After we’d been there a few years we took a trip down to Dallas to a James Robison conference. We were part of a good sized group that went that year. It was a life-changer for most of us. I was green as a gourd, didn’t know much but my heart was in a good place. After one of the morning sessions as we were exiting the Dallas Convention Center a homeless guy had walked in off the street. He was dirty, smelled of alcohol and was probably there to He had everything he owned in a little plastic Wal-Mart bag. What I saw broke my heart; The biggest part of the 8-10,000 people that were at the conference, supposedly to learn how to be a better Christian, made a big, wide swath around the homeless guy. I don’t want to judge but it appeared that they didn’t want to be bothered by him, and definitely didn’t want to come in contact with him.

I just couldn’t pass by without trying to help the man. I found out he’d been in some bad situations in Vietnam and had been on the streets for years. I really felt for this guy. I spent twenty minutes or so telling him about the goodness of Jesus. I felt like it was my responsibility to ‘lead’ him to the Lord. (that was back when I didn’t know better!) But after those 15 minutes he didn’t want anything to do with that but just whatever handout he could get. I gave him some cash and he was gone.

I met back up with our group and I was totally devastated. I was sobbing for the condition of the man I’d just met. I felt like I had let the Lord down (which wasn’t true, but I didn’t know!) because he had rejected anything to do with Jesus. My pastor, Ronnie Chadwick, gathered me up and gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received. “Andy, you just have do what you can and trust the Lord to do what, only He, can do.” 

It was a profound experience for me and a lesson learned that has enabled me to help hundreds of others since then. The Bible says, “Some plant, some water….but it’s the Lord that gives the increase.” As I have matured through the years I often think of that incident. In this journey of learning to serve the Lord we must come to the understanding that, “Yes”, we have a certain amount of responsibility…..but if anything significant is going to happen…..it’s gotta be God!

It was right there that I learned what my responsibility actually is,

“Love people, trust God”. 

 

VIP #3 – Ronnie Chadwick

“God, If You’re Out There, You Gotta Help Me!”

A Long Ways From the Lord

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Identity Theft

You hear about it all the time these days. Someone, somewhere, somehow gets the personal information on an individual. And, then that information is deliberately used to assume that person’s identity. It’s nearly always done to make purchases on everything imaginable including prescription drugs and clothes…..and just about every other thing you can think of. It’s very hard for authorities to find and catch the perpetrators because it’s usually hard to determine how they obtained the information in the first place.

I got an email a couple of months ago from a credit card company which I had a card from. There were three charges in the previous week that they somehow identified as ‘suspicious’. After looking at the charges it was obvious that I had become the victim of identity theft. It was a good ‘heads up’ move by the credit card company. If they hadn’t noticed it I would’ve probably just paid my bill and went on without ever knowing it. The transactions amounted to a little over $300 dollars. $250, and some, at a Publix Supermarket in the Orlando area. The other two totaling about $60 were used at gas stations in that area, as well. It was nice to find out that the credit card company covered those bogus charges.

There’s an even more serious case of identity theft happening today, and it’s happening in the church. There’s an outright ‘identity crisis’ and it’s affecting the the overall effectiveness of the whole church in a negative way. Here’s the issue at stake; For the longest time we’ve heard that we’re to be ‘servants’ of the Lord. That’s somewhat true….but only from a ‘functional’ position…..but not at all from an ‘identity’ perspective.

The Bible is crystal clear; the Father has called us His own sons….not servants. Sons have greater responsibility than just a hired-hand. And, they should….because sons…….have an inheritance! And, the difference in mentality and motivation between servants and sons is vast. 

So, maybe it’s not so much a case of ‘identity theft’ as it is ‘identity forfeiture’. But, at any rate, we need to step into our true identity as sons and daughters and change the world!

Check these out from a year ago:

Are You God’s Servant??

The “Only Thing” That Really Works

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Mad at God?? ….happens all the time!

I hear it pretty often from people. Because of how their life is going, or because of something that they’re convinced that God mishandled on their behalf….people do find themselves mad at Him….sometimes very mad. And I’ve seen a few, what I’d call, extreme cases where the anger lasted a lifetime. It seems sad to me but at the same time I can kind of understand how someone could end up there.

I’ve never been mad at Him. Doesn’t make me any more mature, or any more spiritual, than anyone else….I just haven’t been mad at Him. Somehow, some way I’ve known, as long as I can remember, that God is good. Remember now, that’s coming from someone who didn’t grow up in church and didn’t have a whole lot of orientation about God at all. I’ve thought about it quite a bit and I guess it boils down to a couple of things for me. 1) It was imparted to me from my Mom & Dad. I’m certain that this is true, although I can’t tell you when, where or how….it just happened….and I’m eternally grateful to them for it. 2) It’s just, simply, a revelation from the Father Himself. Personally….I think it’s a good combination of both.

I’ve had a great life, but with just as many ups and downs as the next guy. And I guess if I’m being honest, here, I’d have to say that a lot of the downs were, either directly or indirectly, self-inflicted. But not everyone’s hardships are self-inflicted such as the loss of a child or a parent. And these things can leave us wondering if God has let us down.

Well, He didn’t let you down….no matter how convinced you are of that. It’s totally against His nature as a Father to do that. I remember vividly nearly 22 years ago when our family lost a little boy. It was devastating to put it mildly. But right in the middle of our grief He spoke clearly to my spirit, “Andy, if you could see the big picture, you’d know everything is OK.” It immediately brought peace. He always knows just the right thing to say at just the right time.

I had a friend tell me recently that upon the loss of his dad that he immediately blamed God and turned his back on Him for 4 or 5 years…only to find out after that time that God didn’t give up on him…He just loved him more. 

Maybe you’re reading and you have something that you’ve been mad at Him about. (it could be consciously or subconsciously) I can tell you that God can take you being mad at Him a lot longer than you can take it. He’d love to give you His perspective on your indictment against Him….but you’ll have to be open for it.

If you’ll run to Him,….He’ll help!

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