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Scratch That Itch!

I remember one Sunday morning a few years back. My family and I were stuck at home because of car trouble and so we were having home church which was being led by my daughter. She had prepared a short message that she shared on what it means to have a relationship with Jesus.  I thought it was pretty good for an eight year old and after she finished we talked a little more and thats when this analogy occurred to me.

I asked her,

“What if someone cleaned your room when it was so messy that there was no way that you could ever do it yourself! Picked up all your toys, made your bed, vacuumed the rug, we’re talking immaculately clean! And then, after they were finished they leaned against the door frame and just watched you because they love you and enjoy seeing you play in your restored to order room. Would it change how you played? Would you try your best to keep it that way and never let it get dirty like it was before? If you answered yes then know something about what it means to have a relationship with Jesus!”

Since that day I’ve continued to search for answers to my own questions about what it means to live your life in Gods Presence.  The subject of how we are to live as Christians is one that plays out daily in the many details and choices we all face. I know that there will come a time when my simple analogy to my daughter will no longer suffice and so I want to be ready when perhaps she’ll come to me saying,

“I want to honor God in this way but I’m afraid some people might not understand”

I want her to know then as she did before that the reason God always has His eye’s on her isn’t because He’s watching to see if she does wrong, it’s because He loves her so much that He can’t take His eye’s off her!

I also hope she know’s that in her relationship with Jesus there’s an intimacy between her heart and His and that He understands her motives. His judgments are based in a love that not only “thinketh” no evil but one that,

1 Corinthians 13:7

 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

 I don’t want her to live her life as if she’s automatically guilty by association if she should become involved with things that might be thought of as being inappropriate for Christians.

I’ve dug myself quite a hole there, here’s what I mean…

There are some who might see a person being involved with the Martial Arts as such based on it’s links to Eastern philosophies and Buddhism. I just hope they don’t try to sell that to Chuck Norris who’s Kick Start program has helped thousands of kids find their way out of drug’s and gang’s and put their lives on the right track! I can’t imagine a Christian having any objection to other Christians participation in the Olympic’s even though originally they were intended as a competition to honor the Greek god Zeus! And Christmas? Oh come on! Ironically, in the two predominant holidays Christians observe there’s more Pagan symbolism than there is Christian, does that mean we should stop celebrating them? I know at least a few that have for just those reasons…

If, in an effort to maintain the temple of the Holy Spirit which our bodies are to be we decide to employ the stretching exercises used in Hatha Yoga I hope we aren’t shunned or looked down upon by other church members. Also, if your faith is such that you find exercise threatening to it perhaps yoga’s not your real problem. I’m saddened that I can’t tell people the whole story of how God has revealed His plan of redemption in the stars starting with Virgo the Virgin and ending with Leo the Lion of Judah’s return without people thinking I’m a heretic of some kind because of the acceptance of our enemies perversion in our minds of yet another of Gods precious gifts to us!

Romans 12:21

 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Several years ago I attended a revival given by a local church, during the service the kids were entertained down stairs by a Christian magician.  Should I have turned around and left because of not wanting my child to be exposed to the occult? Some Christian’s would say YES! Even though no where in the Bible does it say anything about theatrical magic being forbidden!

2 Timothy 4:3

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

I thought Id just go ahead and get this verse of scripture into the mix as well, according to the Strong’s Concordance Itching ears are those which are “desirous of hearing something pleasant” as opposed to sound doctrine which is defined as,

a) of Christians whose opinions are free from any mixture of error

b) of one who keeps the graces and is strong

I’ll leave it to you to decide what I am…or am not, but whatever conclusions you reach regarding me I’ve said all these things to make a point which is this.

I have an itch to see Gods church rise up in these last days and be all He intended it to be and for it to complete the purpose for which it was established! A burning and uncomfortable itch to see the church cast aside it’s fears and it’s dogma and allow The Holy Spirit to move among them in whichever way He choses! To stop allowing counterfeit spiritual perversions of practically everything God’s given us to keep us from using those real gifts that we must employ if we’re going to be the generation that He’ll use to bring in the great harvest!

1 Corinthians 8:9

But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak.

If more Christian’s would get a similar uncomfortable burning itch, and would scratch it, who knows…

We might just have a wildfire on our hands instead of no-fire.

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A Mighty Wind!

The wind is commonly used in literature as a metaphor to represent a powerful force of some kind or as a harbinger that’s acting as a catalyst or agent of change.  From a meteorological perspective wind is simply a physical manifestation of the effects of gravity and barometric pressure on static air that’s enacted between geographic regions.

Recently I’ve felt as though I’m living in a windy metaphor of my own that’s pulling and pushing me both literally and figuratively.  Allow me to explain, it’s been so windy here the past couple of days and extremely dry for the past couple of months that we’re now under a county wide burn ban. As an aside I’m wondering, is it more than a coincidence that we’ve just recently come through a hotly contested political season? I don’t know, and for me to jump to any conclusions about it at this point might seem unsportsmanlike so I won’t. When I first saw from a distance the large and yet very low cloud-like plumes of smoke I initially ruled out a fire, let alone one purposely started. After asking around about it I was told that the Conservation Dept. was conducting an out of control controlled burn of about 1000 acres just north of me… Now I’m being told that it was intentionally set by some other individual!

Can you see God? You haven’t seen him? I’ve never seen the wind. I see the effects of the wind, but I’ve never seen the wind. There’s a mystery to it.
– Billy Graham

I’ve also been feeling a bit of mystery or confusion concerning other winds blowing and fires burning in my life right now that are moving me in a direction I thought I’d never go again. I’m not at all certain but there’s a better than even chance that I might soon be going back to driving a truck over the road. On the one hand it’s a matter of practical survival, a temporary measure, that will along with other things get me and mine to a better place in time where hopefully better opportunities will meet us. And on the other it could also be a way for me to usher in some needed changes that might be good for me personally as well. At any rate I feel compelled to accept the position if offered to me, perhaps being back in the wind is exactly what I need. A change of scenery, a chance to see a few places again and reconnect with memories from my not too distant past. To observe what’s changed and what still remains since I’ve been “out there” running up and down the road.

To conclude this windy post there’s one final movement that I’ve sensed growing stronger of late having to do with Eschatology or the study of or interest in biblical prophesy. I realize that it’s been hot stuff  since before Christ walked on the earth but naturally, as I see it this new interest is being generated by a number of currently ominous “ill winds” that are  swirling around these days.

We’ve seen severe flooding as well as  historic drought worldwide resulting in record low harvest yields.  As a result we’re staring a worldwide food crisis in the face right now!

 

Our debt problem in this country combined with the anemic GDP stats spell out a recipe for a coming global economic meltdown starting with hyperinflation in the US that will take out all other economies whose currencies are tied to the dollar.  Read more:

There’s a new world-wide church coming to the forefront of late. One of many modern progressive organizations whose message is based on the premise that man is essentially good. Their contention is that despite man’s long history indicating otherwise he’s going to somehow cast that aside and finally save himself. The belief is that the “New Earth” or “world Order” will be made possible by eliminating what causes division among people and uniting everyone under a banner of world peace.

Are we also currently experiencing an increase in the frequency and strength of  earthquakes, volcanic activity and natural disasters? Did Christ specifically say that we should regard these things as significant prior to the tribulation? Read the Olivet Discourse and make up your own mind! The Institute for Christian Research has a lot of interesting articles concerning this topic for you to check out.

Are you feeling the pressure building in your world? I know I am…

The wind and the Holy Spirit also move. The wind from areas of high pressure to low pressure while the Spirit moves or leads us to Christ! In this atmosphere of high pressure and high stress, I can feel them both bearing on my life, drawing me into the peaceful presence of my Lord where the storms of life, tremendous pressures,  and struggles of living cease. I don’t know about you but I want to be on the first load out of here! Just as the church’s arrival was described in the book of Act’s, with the sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, so I believe it must be with it’s leaving at whats called “the catching away” or harpazo. So blow wind, blow your beautiful trumpet!

Revelation 4:1

After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.

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The True Vine

It’s quite amazing to me how much insight the seemingly insignificant objects and circumstances of our lives have to offer us if we’ll just stop for a moment to look and listen. Like word pictures on a life size screen they patiently wait for us to focus on them to impart to us their message.

Last week I gathered together the remnants of the partitions that I had moved from the ministry center and used them to construct a playhouse for my daughter. It worked out nicely because I also had several bundles of shingles that had been left sitting in the yard by my brother in-law to use for the roof and this was the proper motivator for me to deal with them.

As I was sitting outside admiring my handiwork one evening in the relative coolness that so blessedly replaces the intense midday heat of August,  my attention was drawn to the artificial vines that I had draped across the structure. I was impressed by their realistic appearance as they moved with the occasional light summer breeze.  So beautiful! Unlike the real vegetation in my yard that was starting to wither from the heat, they were unchanged…

I saw these real grapevines growing and so I snapped this shot to use for comparison.

They look as if they’ve been through a hot summer. Most of the leaves have wilted and fallen off allowing a better view of the delicious fruit they’ve given their all to produce.

All of this vine viewing caused me to take a serious look at my own spiritual life.

Is my Christian life just about appearances?

Do I really have a connection to the true vine?

Given the choice,would I rather not “get real” if it meant that I couldn’t remain unchanged and indifferent to my environment?

Am I really so superficial that I’d prefer to be something with practically no value primarily because it required nothing of me other than to go through the motions?

Am I “okay” with never bearing any real fruit because deep down I know what a drag it is being a fake…

John 15:1/5

1I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

My recent evangelistic/ministerial efforts fell pretty far short of what my hopes were for them but I feel as though I learned many valuable lessons in the process. I’m still very interested in seeing my vision of a ministry center happen, I think it’s a great idea that could produce a lot of fruit!

Basically the idea is for the church to connect with people by providing assistance with many of the common issues that are causing both the churched and unchurched so many problems today. It’s more than just mentoring, it’s free help with things like exercise classes and health maintainence information, diet and food issues, money stewardship, family skills and counseling, substance abuse and addiction support meetings. All centered around the practical application of biblical principles as the solution to every need!

Why not put it all under one roof and make it convenient and organized so that people could be more easily helped? There would be paid teaching/training positions as well as a lot of volunteer work done by members of  local congregations which would provide their members with great opportunities to  stir up the gifts within them as they serve God and their communities!

According to the statistics I’ve read put out by The Barna Group we’re losing the battle for souls in this nation. If I were to speculate as to why that is I’d have to say that it seems as though the church has gotten a reputation for being about all of the wrong things. We’re hypocrites, child molesters, thieves and con men in peoples eye’s who it seems really only care about one thing and that’s money!

And according to author Anne Rice who recently “quit” Christianity,

we’re primarily known for what we’re against, not what we’re for…

What better way can you think of to let people know what we’re actually “for” ?

This can be accomplished by promoting what it means to live victoriously in a tangible way they can easily relate to.  As the true vine we’re called to love above all things, which can perhaps be defined as being willing to ask,

“How can I help?”

We as the church must attempt to reach everyone that’s “wrestling” with all of the weapons that have been formed against them by the powers and principalities of our enemy. The only way that we can lose is If we continue to do nothing but sit back and wait for the lost to come to us instead of going to them.  Instead we should be open compelled to do whatever it takes to share the good news of salvation and deliverance with everyone who’s life is plagued by the effects of sin!

The Father gave us the resources to build multi-million dollar churches, He left us with His Holy Spirit to help us, and He sent us Jesus who defeated the Devil for us so that none of these weapons can prosper against us unless we allow them!

What will we as the church do with all of that?

I guess that depends on who and what we really are…

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

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FREE!

Galatians 5:13

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

If you’re anything like me you love that word, but it’s meaning can be rather confusing. The first rule of economics tells us that there is no free lunch, that it’s either already been paid for or the bill is yet to come. Knowing this, we’re more likely to be skeptical of things that are free, and even less trusting of the phrase “At no cost to you” I guess it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I said ring, perhaps I meant hook…

The difference between the two is subtle, “free” denotes  something we aren’t beholding to anyone for, that we might indulge ourselves in without impropriety, without feeling encumbered by any sort of obligation. That being thankful for is merely good manners on our part, not a requirement.

Whereas, “at no cost to you” suggests something else that most people aren’t as comfortable with. Just knowing that there was a cost to someone at some point registers with most people as something that’s “owed”. Even if it’s merely some due consideration such as being thankful, it’s seen as being a liability or as undesirable.

As I was thinking about what these words mean I wondered if there was a worthwhile comparison involving these two definitions and some of the ways in which the gospel is presented to people.  Peoples misconceptions concerning Gods free gift of salvation can be a stumbling block,  as an ambassador of Christ I feel it’s useful to understand them. I’ve always believed that if the gospel was presented to people from the perspective of grace they’d have no reason not to accept Christ!  Unfortunately, most of what I’ve heard seems to come across kind of like this,

“You’re a hopeless sinner on your way to hell! Accept Christ’s free gift of salvation, and then spend the rest of your life trying to be good enough to keep it”.

Yes! You are a hopeless sinner and Yes! salvation is a free gift, but once you accept it you’re NOT on the “Holiness” hook,

holiness isn’t the way to Jesus, instead it’s Jesus who is our way to holiness!

Yes, God wants us to be Holy, but it doesn’t count for anything if we’re just doing it to save ourselves! I think He wants us to be holy out of our love for Him, not to be coerced or guilted into it or be told that our salvation depends on it. That doesn’t sound like grace, which is the UN-merited favor of God, that sounds more like a doctrine of works or the “at no cost to you” type of free.

2 Timothy 1:9

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

The point I’m going for is that man has great difficulty accepting that salvation is a free gift, or in understanding what love really is. Perhaps because all he’s  known or experienced is the “strings attached” type,  it could be that the obligated version of “free” may be all he understands.  I feel like that’s pretty common in this world, but this is the greatest example of real love!  Even though man may be much more familiar with the worlds lesser examples of love or more comfortable with seeing himself as being “worthy” of salvation, that’s not the real gospel message. Many Christian’s also prefer variations of that perspective because they feel it somehow puts them above other people in Gods eye’s which is of course “dead wrong”, many non-Christian people want nothing to do with “it” or them for much the same reason!

My favorite saying related to this topic is,

We’re not saved BY works, But instead FOR works!

Love is always a choice! Serving the Lord is my greatest joy! Living a God honoring life is something I attempt to do out of my own freewill because of my love for God and other people, in response to a love that was first shown to me! It’s not out of any sense of obligation, my salvation is a done deal! Therefore there’s nothing to “earn” or no ongoing dues that I must pay, I believe that I was blood bought, not blood “pawned”! The only thing I owe is to tell others what Christ has done for me and that is absolutely no problem!  Some of what is preached by “Christians” is intended to stir up guilt and condemnation in people which tends to have the  effect of turning them into unhappy, self righteous, “religious” people!

I’m so not into that…and I can understand why the world isn’t either!

Why? Because it’s a game you’ll never win, forever comparing yourself to others caught in some sort of tail chasing spiral that either falsely puffs you up or brings you down…fun huh?

I’ve heard this preached many times,

“We could double the attendance here in a month, all we’ve got to do is tell people they can do whatever they want and still go to heaven”

Why not say that? It’s a bit of a challenge as I see it!

Go ahead and put that on the sign in front of your church and when the people show up we’ll tell them about the love of Jesus and how He chose to die for all of our sin’s. We’ll show them a little piece of that love in the Christian fellowship we’ll extend to them. We’ll be patient and supportive while the Holy Spirit works in their heart and their walls of resistance are broken down by the great love of Jesus!  And when that time comes and their ready to accept what Christ did on the cross as being for them and recognize it as being the only way to wipe away their sins we’ll pray with them that Jesus would come into their heart and be Lord of their lives! Then, If they’ve truly had a born again experience I think you’d be safe to tell them,

” Go ahead and do whatever you want! Do whatever your new best friend the Holy Spirit will abide!”

Why? Because they’ve been set FREE!

From my perspective either you believe that greater is He that is in me, or that greater is he who’s in the world…That there’s power in the blood of Christ to save us and keep us, and to forgive us, no matter what we’ve done or what we will do, or you don’t! I believe that coming to know Christ is a life changing experience, and even though there are times that we’re all going to fall short of the mark I’d put my faith the power of the Holy Spirit over that of the world anytime!

1 Corinthians 7:22

For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.

I know that some of what I’ve written here could be easily misinterpreted. So just for the record let me state that in no way am I advocating using grace as a license for immorality or sin, neither am I saying that I don’t thoughtfully consider or that I take for granted the great price that Christ paid on the cross for my salvation.  Doctrines of works and of grace can both be taken to flawed extremes.  Personally, I feel as though I want to do my best in this life, to always choose love. But I know that I fail at it and that if it weren’t for the Gods grace I wouldn’t have any hope at all! I believe that because God is all knowing and loves us so much He made it very simple and totally free for us to be saved!

Thank You Father God!

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Gods In It…(Pt.3)

In some ways this is the most difficult part for me to write because it tells the story of how I went from being a regular three time a week church attendee to striking out and”accidentally” establishing a ministry of my own. It’s difficult because what I’ve got to say is critical of certain aspects of not just my church at the time but mainstream churches as a whole. Over time what I began to see and hear became very frustrating to me, the message I kept hearing was that we need to be a church outside the four walls but as far as I could see there wasn’t any real practical or specific plan as to exactly what that means other than to just “be a good person” or “invite someone to church”. Being able to confidently share your faith with others is a weak spot with most Christians. But from my perspective, after all of the ways I had witnessed the Lord’s provision in my life through all of the circumstances I’d been through it was very natural for me to tell others how good He was to me! Over time what I was hearing just ceased to minister to me.  I wondered if I was being spiritually prideful or if I was just tired of sitting in a pew week after week hearing the call to GO being given but not feeling as though it was something most took seriously. I tried to make suggestions for various outreach activities but they were all ignored or dismissed. There’s an old joke about a church that was seeking a new minister, they were particularly impressed by one man and asked him to return and speak to  their congregation again, he does but he gives the exact same sermon! The elders met together and asked the young preacher “don’t you know any other sermons?” he relied “Sure, and as soon as this congregation start’s practicing THIS one I’ll preach another!”

One Monday morning in October of 2009 I couldn’t get my car started and wasn’t able to figure out exactly what was wrong with it and fix it for 26 days.  During that time I was unable to attend church and when I finally did get my car fixed I just didn’t want to go back. What happened was kind of sad but in another way it was a blessing because it forced me to make a change that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have otherwise made.  The next twist was what I thought was a God ordained partnership with a new friend I had found. Instead it was another necessary nudge that also helped serve the purpose of moving me from being a pew sitter to a well, whatever it is I’ve become…An evangelist, a counselor, or perhaps just a Christian who’s wiling to trust in a God that has brought him through so many things, and in His promises of a plan He has for my life to establish me and not to harm me!

In the beginning of this three part series I used a card game as an illustration to expound upon the ways in which I believe God has shown Himself in my life. Playing cards requires that you pay attention to what’s in your hand and that when you have something to “lay down” it’s best to go ahead and just do it. To me that’s what my blogging has always been about, trying to tell or “lay it down” to others that it’s not about what we may go through in this life, it’s who you go through it with that gives it meaning or value! Every story I’ve told here is about how God showed up in the midst of my circumstances and kept me from hitting bottom. I’d also like to say that what I’ve written here is a very abridged version of many, many ways God interceded on my behalf, far too many for me to even mention!  Nobody in my family has ever been hungry or gone without any thing they really needed. Even during the worst of it, when I lost my home, He made sure I had enough money to rent a truck, that I had help moving, and most important a place to move to! God knows me so well, and He knows what I can take and what I can’t take.

The following verse in Isaiah really sums it all up for me.

Isaiah 54:17

No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.

Our enemy comes only to kill,steal,and destroy! If the trials and troubles that you have in your life can steal your joy or make you doubt Gods great love for you than his weapons have prospered! It’s only through the blood of Christ and the sustaining power of Gods Holy Spirit that we can have victory over life’s most difficult challenges. For what was meant for evil against us, only God can turn into good!

One of the most common questions I’m asked by people regarding what I’m doing in my ministry is “How are you funded?” and the answer is that I’m privately funded by Jesus!

Say What?

That’s right! He’s sustained me through all things and now and has moved me into the position I’m in and even though I only make about 13,000 a year I’ve been able to financially support my ministry! I live a wonderful life It seems like I always have plenty of money for life’s little extra’s, going out to eat occasionally or just buying something I need, it’s absolutely true that you can’t “out give” God!  He’s made a 17yr old car that I got as a gift with over 255,000 miles on it last for two years and just last week I was given another car that’s the exact same model and color except it’s 10yr’s newer and in immaculate condition!

He’s made sure that my daughter always has nice clothes to wear because He knows that there’s no way I would be able to do what I’m doing if I thought she was being made to suffer because of it or if it prevented me from taking care of her. I’m sure that there will be some people who read this and say “Your circumstances were the result of your own bad choices!” Sure I’ve made some bad choices, who hasn’t? But if I had gotten the choices I wanted I would’ve gone back to work driving a truck, remember? or “I think that there are quite a number of other more practical ways to explain everything that you’ve attributed to God“, and in response to that I say, “You’re right! But this is my story and I’m going to tell it how it make’s sense to me, I was there, I lived it, and from my perspective it definitely doesn’t make sense to me any other way so I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree as to whether “Gods in it” or not!

Well, I’ve laid all of my cards out on on the table, and slid my entire pile of chips into the pot. And all I want out of the sum of my life’s experience is to be able to say that when it came to my faith, “I wasn’t just shuckin’! To be able to say that my belief in God not only sustained me but moved me into action, and that I chose to step out in faith and answer what I feel is the call on my life which ALL Christian people have. To live, despite the circumstances of my life in such a way that others just have to say…

Gods In It!

Matthew 5:16

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.