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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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“Hug-A-Thug”

Over a year ago I got involved with the Beckham County Drug Court. I guess you could say I’m an unofficial member of the DC team. Drug Court is a pretty amazing thing if you ask me. (Click here FMI) I have developed some great friendships with a lot of the participants that are in the program. It’s one of the highlights of everything I do these days to see these folks overcome their addictions and become productive members of society. I can’t speak for all the Drug Court programs in Oklahoma but I can definitely vouch for ours’! The success rate for these men and women to ‘get well’ is pretty darn good. I believe that can be attributed to the entire Drug Court Team, which includes the Sheriff, DA, County Judge…as well as others. But what seems to be the shining star of the whole program is the support that the DC participants give to one another. It’s pretty amazing. Very often all it takes is just someone who’ll love you and believe in you. More often than not….that makes the difference.

The Drug Court program is not without it’s criticizers, though. There are plenty of people who don’t much care about it’s success. Seems a little bit crazy to me. There are those out there who’d rather see these people go straight to prison and I guess I can kinda see where they’re coming from. But, I’d always like to see someone get another chance. And if they blow it in Drug Court….prison it is!

Some of the detractors like to mockingly refer to Drug Court as the Hug-a-thug program. I cringe a little bit if I hear that but you know what they say, “haters gonna hate”! I was thinking about their little moniker (hug-a-thug) a few days ago and I came to a conclusion or two. What if a hug for these people really did make a difference?! What if, maybe for the first time in their life, they could actually believe that someone cared?

I don’t have to sit long in DC to realize how good I’ve had it. I’ve never had to wonder if my Mom & Dad loved me. I didn’t have to grow up with them being the ones who introduced me to, and gave me drugs. I never was kicked around from family to family because no one really wanted me. So, yeah….I’ve had it good. Doesn’t take too long for me to start having a heart to see these folks do good. I’m a fan! …..and if I can help… I will!

Back to that hugging thing; I come from a long line of huggers. It’s something we’ve always done in our household. Probably came from my Mom’s side of the family. You see them….they’re gonna give you a hug…like it or not. I guess it’s contagious. But there really is something about a hug, something profound, something real and something, I think, that could really be important! There’s even scientific evidence that hugs are healthy for us….both physically and emotionally!

Here’s some scientific evidence of what a hug can do: *(thank you David Clark!)

A. Activates antitoxin hormone that can fill us with joy
B. Allows for more patience
C. Remedy against stress and anxiety
D. Strengthens self-esteem especially in children.
E. Releases the dopamine hormone responsible for good motivation
F. Helps alleviate pain or a bad moment
G. Communicates emotions without saying a single word
H. Helps preserve immune system
I. Helps balance central nervous system
J. Is an example of love, affection and unity

So there’s the evidence!

What’re we waitin’ for…….”Let’s hug some people!!”

You’ll want to read these too:

It Feels Good To Be “Believed In”!!

Drug Court

Prison Prayer Project

Party at the Prison!

VIP #7 – Rick Hudson

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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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I Fought the Law….and the Law Won!

You’ve surely heard that old song; I remember it from when I was a teenager. I had no idea who did the song until I looked it up. It was written by Sonny Curtis of “The Crickets” (Buddy Holly’s Band). They recorded it in 1959 not long after Buddy Holly had died but the song went absolutely nowhere. It’s still a good song if you ask me.Turns out it was later done, and brought to popularity by Bobby Fuller in 1966 (click any of the highlighted links to watch video). There’ve been others who recorded it more recently if you’re interested: The Clash or Green Day and at least a dozen others. 

Well so much for a little trivia but this blog’s not about the song but about the song title. If you’re a regular reader of my blogs (and if you’re not….WHY ain’t ‘ya?! lol) you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’m a music lover. I see a song title from time to time and think, “Now that’d be good blog title”. That’s the case with “I Fought The Law and the Law Won”.

There’s a growing controversy in religious circles today over ‘grace’ versus ‘law’. It’s no small controversy by anyone’s standards. In fact my opinion is that it’s one of the main, and most important, issues facing the church in this critical hour. It’s no new argument; It’s been going on since Jesus showed up. In fact, He’s the one that ignited the whole controversy to begin with….and it has only escalated since. Jesus ushered in this thing we call ‘grace’. It wasn’t just a teaching He did. No, it was much more than that. Grace displayed His very nature…and the very nature of the Father. And today, just like it did then, it ticked off the religious legalists to no end!

The Jews in Jesus’ day could not digest this grace thing. They were sticklers for the Law. They knew it well and even though they couldn’t keep the Law (no man could keep the law; no one has ever been made righteous by the Law; if you violated even one facet of the law you were guilty of violating the ‘whole’ law), it didn’t stop them from trying to enforce it on everyone else. But Jesus was doing something entirely different. It was centered on love...not just an ordinary, superficial kind of love but a love that is unconditionalindestructible and life-giving!

The Law says that you have to keep the long list of good things to do to be accepted by God. But grace says that you’re already accepted and valued by God, Himself. You’re His Sons and Daughters, by His own choice. It’s not a result of your own doing but because of what Jesus did! He has already ‘fulfilled the Law’! (because you and I couldn’t!)

You can attempt to keep the Law but you won’t get it done! If you ‘fight the Law’….the Law always wins…you always lose!

The only way you can win….is to accept, and live in, what’s already been done for you! That’s what we call GRACE!

*You might want to check out one of my previous blogs: “It Ain’t Grace’s Fault”

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