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The Parable of Sonny Corleone

You remember Sonny Corleone, right? He was the oldest son of don Vito Corleone in Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel and it’s 1972 film adaptation, The Godfather. Sonny, played by popular actor of the day, James Caan, was determined to be involved in the illicit ‘business’ that his notorious father was in even though the elder Corleone didn’t much want it to be. (back in my rodeo days it was a regular occurrence to see James Caan at the California rodeos competing in the team roping).

Sonny was a hothead, passionate about nearly everything in life but given to extreme outbursts of anger and fits of violence (totally unlike his father or his younger, quieter brother Michael, (Al Pacino) who eventually became Boss of Bosses in the New York City underworld). It was nothing for Sonny to beat another person senseless and he didn’t mind killin’ if the need arose,…..as it often did. It was that very demeanor and behavior that would eventually lead to his own premature, and brutal demise.

Here’s how it went down. Sonny’s sister, Connie, was married to a chronic abuser. On more than a few occasions he had beaten her and Sonny finally got a belly full. Rival Mafia families, knowing Sonny’s combustable tendencies, staged a situation for Connie’s husband to, again, beat her. Sonny, as was his norm, flew off the handle, jumped in his car, without his bodyguards, and headed out to give his brother in law what he justly deserved. But the stage was set against him; when he got to the toll booth on the Long Beach Causeway a dozen gunmen were waiting. His car was blocked, he couldn’t escape and you can guess the rest of the story! It was ugly. You can see it here if you want.

There’s a spiritual lesson to be learned here. It’s a trap that I could’ve fallen for many times, myself. In my younger days I had quite a temper. It’ll still show up every now and then and it ain’t pretty! The incidents have gotten a lot fewer and farther between, praise the Lord. It would be a testimony killer for me at this stage of the game, no doubt. But, just like the rival crime families knew Sonny’s weakness and tendencies….your enemy, the devil does likewise. And he knows exactly when….and how to attack. So, heads up! Your weakness might not be your temper like mine and Sonny’s. It could be something altogether different. But make no mistake, without being aware of your weakness and neglecting to lean on the Lord in those areas…..you’re at risk.

James (in the Bible) said it like this: “Be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath.”

That’s good advice for guys like me and Sonny!

It’s taken awhile….but I’m gradually learnin’ to do it!

 

You like parables?? Check these out:

The Parable of Pedro Flores

The Parable of Pedro Flores Part 2

 

 

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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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It’s Nice to be Able to Hear!

I had a little incident a few days ago. I was relaxing, watching the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Just kicked back in a soft comfortable chair, got up during halftime and walked into the kitchen and noticed that I couldn’t hear anything out of my right ear. At first I didn’t think too much about it but I did think it was a little strange. My hearing wasn’t totally gone. I could hear the TV but I couldn’t, for the life of me, tell what they were saying. I was sure that within a few minutes everything would return to normal. I finished watching the game but the problem persisted. I’m getting a little worried about it by now so I grabbed my computer and Googled, “sudden loss of hearing”. Turns out there’s such a thing. I read a few of the Google posts and was sure I had it! Testimony after testimony of men and women who just lost their hearing in an ear for no reason at all. For a few their hearing eventually came back, for others it never did.

I was sure when I went to bed that I’d wake up and all would be well. NOT! No better in the morning so I’m pretty dang concerned about it by now! Got an appointment with my trusty physician/close friend Dr. Craig Phelps and set up an appointment. Long story short, nothing serious. A little fluid behind my eardrum, a couple of meds and it should be good in a few days.

But it did get me thinking about not being able to hear!

We’ve been ‘given’ an incredible opportunity to be able to communicate with the Father. We can talk to Him…and He talks to us. One of the great adventures in life is learning to ‘hear’, and to discern, what He’s saying to us. He’s not limited to speaking in an audible way; He has all sorts of ways that He might choose to speak to us. But make no mistake about it, He’s speaking! Fathers always want to speak to their kids!

The Bible talks about a time where there was a famine in the land. Not a famine of food but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. If you read that account it appears that the problem wasn’t that God wasn’t speaking…..the problem was that the people weren’t ‘hearing’! ……..and maybe they weren’t hearing because they weren’t listening!

 I don’t know about you but I’m grateful we’re not living in that time, or that kind, of famine. I’m glad that we can hear what He’s saying to us.

We oughta make it a priority!

Check out the audio version:

Some more about ‘hearing’ the Lord:

An Often Neglected Part of Prayer

What’s the Lord Telling You? Part 1

What’s the Lord Telling You? Part 2

You’re Better at Hearing the Lord Than You Think!

 

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Running On Empty

As songwriters go, I’d consider Jackson Browne one of the best. In fact, way back in the 70’s, Glenn Frey and Don Henley (the Eagles) moved in above Jackson in a $60 a month apartment in L.A. They admitted that they learned, and perfected their craft of writing songs by listening to some  of those ‘mind boggling melodies’, as Rolling Stone magazine described Jackson Browne’s songs. They agreed that he was just a notch above anyone else who was writing in those days….and there were a bunch of ’em. One of those songs, “Running on Empty”, was the title track of his ‘Live’ album in 1977 and is, to this day, the most played of all his songs on Classic Rock stations. On an interesting note the song was written while Browne was struggling to make it and, in his own words, “I was always driving around with no gas in the car”.

I just returned to the office after five weeks off. Haven’t done anything like that in the 28 years since we started Trinity Fellowship. I didn’t take the time off to fast and pray. That would definitely be time well spent but I took the time off to just get away from it all. No studying, no preaching or teaching, no late night emergency phone calls, no funerals……no nothing! Pretty much everybody’s job has its own level of stress. Ministry’s no different; people ain’t lined up to tell you good news! It took at least a week to get out from under the load of ministry that I’ve been used to. And, maybe another week to get in full, no stress mode. But, with the support I have from the people around me (they’re the best in the business!) I finally started to actually relax. I think I was like a lot of folks who are out there today, running on empty……and maybe not even knowing it! It’s easy to get in crisis mode and if you’re not careful…..never get out. It’s unhealthy!

The Father, Himself, rested on the seventh day…and He designated and set aside a day for us to rest, too. Most of us don’t do it; don’t know how, never tried it. We’re too busy doing all the things we know we should be doing. But, the Sabbath was made for man! We should learn how to do it! When we’re running on empty we won’t even come close to doing our best work.

Hardly anybody can get as much serious time off as I had, I understand that. But, we could learn to take a day a week to get out from under the load. Maybe we could learn to work ‘smarter’, not harder. It’ll take some time, no question.  But if we’ll make it a priority…..we won’t have to be running on empty!

Audio Version:

If you’re wanting a little more:

There’s Something To Be Said For Not Knowing Anything!

‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Click here to listen/watch my favorite Jackson Browne tune (you’ll like it!)

 

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“Uuuh,….. We Don’t Have a Program”

When we started Trinity Fellowship nearly 28 years ago the Lord was faithful to show us what He wanted us to help Him build….and how He wanted us to build “it”. We had no preconceived idea(s) as to what it should be or how it should look. So, we were dependent on what we believed He was saying to us. That only makes sense when you understand that our lives are to be lived by faith. One of the things, early on, that seemed to be clear is that we would be an organism (not organization) that the Father would use to set people free. That freedom would include everything from freedom from sin, addiction and faulty thinking to freedom from lifeless religious bondage as well.

Looking back through the years it seems clear that the Lord has definitely kept His part of the promise, as He always does. One of the things that’s been extremely rewarding has been the steady stream of people who have come to Sayre to find that ‘freedom’. We’ve built some amazing friendships with folks from all over that we would have otherwise never had the privilege of knowing.

One particular case in point happened not too long ago when a person we didn’t know called about a friend who had experienced a moral failure in his ministry . We didn’t know the person who called but we had been referred to him by someone we both knew.

When he called he was understandably full of questions such as, “What do y’all do?”, and “What’s the Cost?”, and “How do you do what you do?”. I tried my best to answer all those questions and finally he asked, “Well, what kind of program do you have, anyway?” My reply must have taken him completely off guard; “Uuuh, …..we don’t have a program.” It’s really true there’s not a program per se here…but what we do produces long term results.   We’re not batting a thousand but we’re doing pretty good. Here’s some reasons why;

  • We first bring them into our ‘circle’. It’s not an inner circle because inner circles are, by nature, exclusive. We’re inclusive!
  • We let them be a part of whatever it is that we’re doing at the time. If we’re on a ministry project they come along and they might even help if they’re willing. We never apply pressure on them to do that but the door’s always open for them to participate. If we’re going to lunch, they go. If we’re going to a basketball game, they go too. We let them know that they’re an important part of our family.
  • We let them see the ‘real’ side of us. We refuse to put up the facade of perfection. Truth is, we’re far from it. Besides, it’s just not our style!
  • We’re learners…..and we help to develop that trait in them, by seeing us do it, while they’re here.
  • We spend quality time with them. We swap stories. We listen to their story. They listen to ours’. It’s a great way to build long-term relationships. And, that’s what we’re all about.
  • We help them to understand the Father’s love for them. We encourage them to connect relationally with the Father and we explain how easy that is.
  • We treat ’em like VIP’s…….’cause they are!
  • But more important than all the other stuff….we just love ’em. It never fails, you know! It’s undefeated! And, it always works!
  • The Lord always does His part…..which is just about everything!

But, program, uuuuh …..we don’t have a program.

Audio Version:

Interested in a little ‘binge’ reading?? Try these:

Do You Have Enough Faith??

The People That Nobody Else Wants

Simplicity! It’s All I Have to Offer

It’s Not Your Job to Fix Them!

A Place Where People Get Well

 

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Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

Baldemar Garza Huerta, better know as Freddy Fender was born in San Benito, Texas in 1938. He took the name, ‘Fender’, from the Fender guitar. And, he just thought Freddy sounded good and would, in his opinion, sell better with the ‘gringos’. Evidently he was right. He first recorded “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” in 1959 and it was a hit. But soon after, he was derailed when he and a band member were convicted of marijuana possession and ended up spending a stint in the Angola Prison in Louisiana. By the end of the 60’s, Fender was back in Texas working as a mechanic, and attending a local junior college, while playing music only on the weekends. In 1974 he recorded “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” and it reached #1 on the Billboard Country and Pop charts. His next three releases all reached #1 and the re-release of “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” became his first million selling single. He also won three Grammys in his career. Fender died of lung cancer in 2006. I can’t say I was a huge fan of Freddy Fender but he definitely made his mark. *(I came face to face with him at the Houston airport one time!)

As you know by now I’m a big music lover….and I’m always looking for a good blog title. That’s how I landed on “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights”. There’s a very important verse in Proverbs that goes like this, “Without a vision the people perish.” I’ve thought about that verse a lot over the years and I’ve come to a couple of conclusions. First, if you’re a regular reader of mine you know I often refer to our ‘destiny’. I believe the subject of destiny is one of the most important things we could talk about. I’m not talking about ‘destination’ so much since, if you’ve made the decision to receive Jesus, your destination is sealed. But destiny includes the events that we encounter on the way to our destination. And, what’s a lot more important than those events, are the people we encounter along the way. It also involves the ‘call’ of God on our lives….which we all have. He has a plan, a meticulous and detailed one, for each of us. And I think that Proverbs verse speaks directly to that point.

“Without a vision, the people perish”. I surely don’t think that it means that if we don’t have ‘vision’ for our lives we die. I mean, we are gonna die whether we have that vision for our lives or not. But, if you think about it, “to perish” could easily involve wasting our lives in pursuit of things that might not matter at all in the long run. I’m afraid there are many who might fall into that category. It seems like a pretty big thing to me…..to miss what we’re on the planet for in the first place!

I don’t want my life to be a string of wasted days and wasted nights! ……and I know you don’t want that either. Here’s the fix: Run to Him! And, I wouldn’t mess around too long thinking about it. Ask Him about the plan for your life. He’s very free with that kind of information. His plan for you is bigger and better than you can comprehend. It’s never too late to jump in!

Let’s let our lives count for something! 

No more wasted days and wasted nights!

Check these out:

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

Living Your Life With Abandon

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Lean on Me

When I hear the song, “Lean on Me”, it reminds me of when I was in college out at ‘ol Eastern New Mexico University in Portales right out of high school in ’71. The song, by Bill Withers, was a #1 hit on both the soul singles and the ‘Billboard Hot 100′. It ranks #208 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Hits of All Time”. The song has a great positive message.

“Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on”

“You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on”

It oughta be a priority in life to ‘be there’ for other people in their times of need. It takes a special person to put their own baggage, issues and problems on the back burner in an effort to help someone else out of life’s jams. And if we believe anything of what the Bible says about sowing and reaping…we’ll be sowing some good seeds that will bring a nice little harvest when we find our own selves in that place of need. It’s really how humanity ought to work.

Are you someone that a friend could lean on? It requires that we become listeners and encouragers. Oftentimes that friend doesn’t need advice near as much as they just need someone to listen to them. And, for that person, sometimes it just helps to hear themselves talk about their dilemma. Being there for someone and hearing their problems can give you some incredible insight in how to pray for them.

Anytime a person comes to you and tells you their problems,…..what they’re actually doing is asking you for help. And, the fact that they came to you just says that you have at least earned some level of trust with them. That’s a pretty important factor; I wouldn’t take it lightly! Trust is an extremely valuable thing.

One word of caution; being a person worthy of someone leaning on can bring it’s own set of problems. We must keep in perspective that while we want to help….we can never take  the place of the Lord in their lives. Our goal should always be to point them to Him!

Brace up!

Your People need someone dependable to lean on!

More good ones: *(Please  “Share” These!)

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

‘Thorns in the Flesh’

You Ever Get Tired of People Dumping All Their Problems On You?!?

That One “Nut Job”!

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