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March Madness

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!

Here’s a little analogy you probably haven’t thought of. 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 in every 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.

I’m watching Roy Williams, the great North Carolina coach, during the timeout of tonight’s 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. 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….I want it to be strategic and relevant for what my ‘players’ are facing in the game (real life!).

And, lastly…..the timeout gives the players a chance to get their breath, rest a little and get everything back into proper perspective. No games are won or lost during the timeout….but what’s done there directly 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!

**Gotta quit for now…it’s halftime and I’m doing research!!

 

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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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“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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Are You “Right” With God?

I hear people asking that question fairly often.It’s a pretty important one, I guess. But I don’t ever ask it myself. I don’t ask anyone that question for several reasons…the main reason being is that I think most people, when asked, would answer it wrong. Our religious culture causes us to place the emphasis squarely in the wrong place most of the time. Nearly always the thought process leads people to look at their own life and make some serious determinations. Most people would tell you that they don’t read the Bible enough.Most of them, if they were comfortable enough to be totally honest with us, would also tell us that they don’t pray nearly as much as they should. And, by that, it leads them to think that they’re not right with God or that God, somehow, is displeased with them. I think that’s tragic!

Of course we should read the Bible; it’s good for us……for a lot of reasons. And prayer, well prayer is extremely important…again for a lot of good reasons. And while they benefit us in countless ways doing them doesn’t push our righteousness up the thermometer even one little tick. 

But the question of , “Are you right with God?” must really be looked at from His perspective (as best we can with our little finite minds). You see, God is a Father….and that changes everything! Now, I’m not saying I have the total perspective of God. That’d be stretching it a bit! lol ….But I am a father,…been one for 39 years now. And I’m a father of 5 incredible kids (all grown now).….so I know a little bit about how a father thinks. My love for my kids is not based on how many good things they do. I hope they do a lot of good things….but whether they do or not doesn’t affect my love for them one little bit!

I’m not looking at the things that they do wrong and holding those things against them. I’m not withholding my love for them until they get everything right. That just sounds dumb! And if you were to ask me if my kids were ‘right’ with me…..I wouldn’t even have to think about it! It’d be a yes every single time. My love for them is not conditional….and neither is God’s love for you.

If you’re born again you’re right with God. It’s that simple. Truth is, you can’t get any more ‘good with God’ than you already are! You’re the apple of His eye! You were ‘given’ His perfect love, already.

You should live in that….and quit trying to ‘earn’ something you already have!

You might like these:

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

“Obviously, I’m God’s Favorite!”

 

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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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