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Tag Archives: Discipleship

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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……as long as you’re speculating!!

The human mind is an incredible thing! We have the God-given capacity to think, reason, deliberate, decide and imagine. It’s been said that we only use a small portion of our mind…and having dealt with people for six decades I can totally concur! Easy….just kidding!

A lot of my life is spent walking through messy life situations with people. It requires that I 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’d say….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. 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!

One, nearly universal, thing I’ve noticed in all the years I’ve been doing ministry is a person’s tendency,….and capacity, to speculate. 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’!! 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:

1 Cor. 2:9 – 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.

Try some of these:

March Madness *(not what you think it is!)

“You’re Gonna Like the Way You Look, I Guarantee It!”

Objects in the Mirror are Closer Than They Appear!

There’s a Charge For Extra Baggage

 

 

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When God Hides the Truth

The Bible is a magnificent document! Sixty-six books, written by 44 authors over a period of about fifteen hundred years. The thirty-nine books of the Old Testament were composed between 1400 and 400 B.C., the twenty-seven books of the New Testament between A.D. 50 and A.D. 100. (Read more facts about the Bible) It is an amazing history book and it contains some vital information of how God, the Creator of the entire Universe, deals with His people. The Bible is written and compiled in such a way as to draw the reader into an actual personal encounter with God, Himself. If we miss that…..we could be missing why we have It in the first place.

I became a student of the Bible over thirty  years ago. I had never read it much in my whole life but when I started I couldn’t get enough of it. It’s interesting how the Lord grew me and taught me as I read. I had a profound experience with the Lord; I knew my life was changing. Looking back it’s pretty obvious to me that it was the hand of the Lord. Living out in the middle of nowhere a steady stream of my friends began to just ‘happen’ to stop by. You have to understand….our place wasn’t on the way to anywhere! These friends would come see me and somewhere in our conversation they’d begin to talk to me about their problems. They would nearly always ask me questions about their issues but I hardly every had the answers. All I knew was that if God could fix my life….I knew He could fix theirs’. 

Their questions ranged from everything from marriage problems to, “How does a person get to heaven”. Well, I didn’t know. But I did have a Bible. (Actually it was Julie’s. She had bought a New King James Version and I just kinda confiscated it and started consuming it!) Since I couldn’t answer my friends questions I’d go home at night and look and look until I found an answer. I thought, “If I ever get asked that question again I’ll have the answer.” Funny thing is…I don’t think I ever got asked the second time. Looking back it was the Lord’s way of training me in His Word. It worked!

One fascinating thing I have learned about the Bible is that there are, what I’d call, ‘hidden truths’ just under the surface of what we routinely read. For someone who really wants to become a student of the Bible it pays to look for those truths. It’s important to understand that the Father doesn’t hide those truths ‘from’ us…..but ‘for’ us!

I was observing my two newest little grandkids today, Knox and Timber; sharp, beautiful, curious little kids,…both just a little over a year old. In a few weeks they will be experiencing their first opportunity to hunt for Easter eggs. When the adults hide those eggs it’d be really easy to hide them from the little ones where they’d never ever find them. But that’s not how we do it! Nope, we hide them where they can’t help but find them. We’re not hiding the eggs ‘from’ them….we’re hiding the eggs ‘FOR’ them!

Why don’t you make yourself a student of the Word of God? There are some profound truths hidden just under the surface. He really wants you to find them!

The Father hasn’t hidden them from you….He’s hidden them FOR you!  

Check out the audio version:

**Hey….a little poll. Need some feedback. Have you tried the ‘audio’ version?? If so, do you prefer them or not?? Please let me know. Thanks!

Try these:

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

Making the Best of a Bad Situation

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A Heart of Gold

Do you know anyone that you would describe as having a ‘heart of gold’? You know, that person that possesses all the qualities you’d want to embrace yourself. I’d say a person with a heart of gold would be someone with integrity, someone who is always truthful, someone who is dependable, someone who is sincere, someone who cares, someone who has your back, someone who does the right thing, someone who is brave, someone who sees the best in everyone. Well, you could take that list a whole lot further if you wanted to…but you get the point.

I think we’re born with a pure and innocent demeanor but it doesn’t take long for the world and all it throws at us to begin to tarnish those traits. The world is mean, it’s indiscriminate, it does its best to run over us and when it does …..it just doesn’t care. These things take a toll on even the strongest personalities. And, ….they can cause that pure and innocent demeanor, or heart, to be tainted. You know what they say, “The struggle is real!”

But there’s good news; When we’re born again it’s “Job #1” for the Holy Spirit to ‘conform us into the image of Jesus’. Quite a task, if you think about it,…..even for Him. After years of learning to walk with the Lord, I’m more like Him than I was. But, in reality, I’m still a long ways from being just like Him. The Father’s plan to conform us into the image of His Son has nothing whatsoever to do with our appearance as the bible verse might indicate. But it has everything to do with our heart being conformed to be like His!

Neil Young’s song, “Heart of Gold”, encourages the listener to “be a miner for a heart of gold”. That’s exactly what the Lord does when we come into relationship with Him. He ‘mines’ those valuable qualities and traits that lie deep within our soul and brings them to the surface. We are, after all, created in the image of God!

I’m thinkin’ we should do the same thing with the people we’re in relationship with…and the people we encounter. Maybe they’re arrogant, disrespectful and hard to deal with. What you see might not be ‘who’ they really are! Maybe they’re just the result of the meanness of the world. But what if, deep down, everyone out there really does have a heart of gold that just hasn’t yet been ‘mined’? 

Being that kind of miner starts with a determination to bring out the best in others….no matter what it takes.

Let’s you and me take the Father’s example……Let’s be ‘miners for a heart of gold’!!

*Audio Version:

I think you’ll like these, too:

Talk About a ‘Fixer Upper’!

Accepted or Valued? There’s a Vast Difference!

A Long Ways From the Lord

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The Way I See It, We’ve Got Two Choices

Life is full of tricks and turns. It’s universal in that we are all going to go through an entire array of experiences, both good and bad in the course of our life. Some of these experiences are expected while others seem to come out of nowhere…..and are totally unexpected. We might be on the mountain one day and way down in the valley the next. Those valley experiences can really take a toll on us if we don’t do something to offset the stress.

At this stage of my life I can’t imagine someone not turning to the Lord in the midst of their trials. But, just like anyone else…..before I knew better, I didn’t do it either. Now I do know better. I’ve learned through some very unpleasant seasons in life to lean on the Lord through those times. Once we start to trust the Lord with our life that scenario should become a no-brainer. As we mature we begin to understand that the hard times afford us with some profound growth opportunities.

But, what about the good times; the mountain top times when things are seemingly as good as they can get. I’m suggesting that we turn to the Lord during those times, as well. Most of us at one time or another have thought how dumb the Israelites were when they were being blessed by the Lord. It’s interesting, but during those good times they were prone to stray away from the Lord and His goodness. If we’re not careful we’ll make the same mistake, ourselves. We should resolve to be grateful, and turn to Him….even in the good times.

Many people have made their choice to try to make it through life without turning to the Lord. That’s tragic but I think it happens for a couple of obvious reasons. First, God has been mis-portrayed by many to be mean-spirited and judgmental. Second, He gets the blame for every negative and painful thing that happens by some people. But the truth of the matter is that He’s a Father…..and He’s good! Really good! You just have to taste and see for yourself!

There’s gonna be plenty of hard times….and hopefully plenty of good times in life. The way I see it we’ve got two choices; we can either run from the Lord or run to Him. I’ve never seen the former work, ……not one time. On the other hand, I’ve never seen the latter ‘not work’!

The choice is yours!

 

Check these out, too:

“If You Could See The Big Picture”

They Don’t Call it ‘Test’imony For Nothin’!

Perspective; It Makes All the Difference!

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Weapons of Mass Distraction

WMD’s, weapons of mass destruction; that’s a fairly new term we’ve started hearing over the past fifteen years or so. WMD’s are defined as: a nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological or other weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans or cause great damage to human-made structures (e.g. buildings), natural structures (e.g. mountains), or the biosphere. There are those out there so devious as to devise these ways to wreak havoc on the masses. It’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around anyone wanting to do that kind of harm to humanity….but it exists. And the potential for the use of WMD’s is probably growing rather than diminishing. Pretty scary to say the least!

You know, the Bible says that we have an adversary, the devil, who loves to kill, steal and destroy. he (caps left off on purpose!) doesn’t have a lot of tricks….but he’s very good at the ones he does have. he’ll do anything he can to keep us from coming to the Lord to begin with. It seems that there’s always someone in front of us that is over-religious and arrogant about it to boot. Those folks can come across in ways that make some people think we’re all like that. I know a couple of these people and it bothers me that in their perceived zeal for the Lord that they actually repel people from coming to the Father. Tragic, but it happens.

But, even after we’re born gain there are plenty of distractions thrown our way to keep us from the best that the Lord has for us….and to cause us to possibly miss our destiny. Many of these distractions are not the work of the ‘enemy’ (but plenty are!) at all but just the details of life, ….which we all agree, can be very distracting.

So, “what”, you might ask is such a big deal about distractions? Distractions have a profound way to keep us from our real purpose in life. God has a plan, an intricate one, for our entire existence on the planet. Our lives will never take on the value God has placed on them until we’re moving in unison with His Spirit. And, if we lose sight of that because of our distractions we end up questioning, or doubting, even our importance to the Father.

If we’re going to fulfill the plan of God for our lives it just makes sense to start now to learn some inventive ways to deal with distractions. If not you could be dealing with these little things from now on. It’s important to note that these things fight directly against your faith. That’s a pretty important thing to remember!

It might take a little work to identify what your distractions are and how you’re going to deal with them, but you can do it! …..

…..And you’ll have to if you’re going to keep these Weapons of Mass Distraction from stealing from your destiny!

What are your distractions??

Try these, too:

Weapons of Mass Construction

“You Are Here”

It’s Either a Blessing or a Curse!

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“Are We There Yet?”

If you’re a parent you’ve heard that question more than a few times. In fact it could happen on just about any trip. Doesn’t matter if it’s a short trip or a long one you’re apt to hear it. We had five kids so you can imagine how many times we heard, “Are we there yet?”, in their younger years. Little kids don’t really have much concept of time and distance. If they’re in the car and you drive a few miles they immediately start wondering why we’re not already there.

Our Christian walk of faith is kinda like that too. We go a ways, encounter a mess of trials tribulations, overcome one thing after another, win a few, lose a few, slowly but gradually get better…..and you’d think we oughta be there. Our life is an incredible ‘road trip’ if you can think about it that way. We may not express it to the Lord exactly like our kids do on a trip, but you gotta admit….we’re thinkin’ it! “Are we there yet?” I bet the Lord gets a kick out of our impatience at times. But in the long haul we’re like our kids; as we mature we begin to realize it’s not a quick trip. It takes a while to get ‘there’

Spiritual maturity is not an elusive thing at all. It’s attainable alright,……it just takes awhile. We’re on our way there now. But we might as well just settle in and realize it’s a lifelong endeavor. It takes a long, long time for people like us to get conformed into the image of Jesus. When I look at my own life I can tell I’m more like Him than I was….but in all reality I’ve got a long way to go.

It’s an incredible trip we’re on; not a short one by any means, more like a marathon. and when we wonder, “Are we there yet?”, we might need to remind ourselves; no, we’re not there yet……but we’re closer than we were!

Here’s a few you might like too:

 

Dysfunction Junction

“You Are Here”

Livin’ It Up

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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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