The Three Are’s..

We’ve all heard about the three R’s of education, reading,righting,and rithmitic. As a boy I used to hear that expression  used occasionally by folks as a retort to some confusing modern curriculum, it was based in a belief that kids were learning all kinds of new stuff in school but perhaps weren’t covering the basics. What I’d like to do is draw a few comparisons between the three R’s of education and what I see as being the three “are’s” of living a Christian life.

Reading, it’s number one for a reason. The ability to read and more importantly the level at which you can comprehend what you read is everything. You obviously can’t write without being able to read and doing math in the traditional way would be quite difficult as well. When we read, we take the word’s into our mind where they can be received into our intellect,our memory, and can serve to entertain us, inform us, and yes even change us! My first “are” is…

salvation

#1. Are YOU washed in the blood of Jesus?’

It’s first because like reading it’s the most important thing ! Without the blood of Christ we’ve really got nothing, all of our righteousness is as filthy rags, none of us could do for ourselves what Christ did for us! Like reading, which opens up our minds to receive the written word, our salvation, which is personally receiving what Christ did for us, opens our hearts up to His word and His great love for us.

It changes us, our understanding of His sacrifice for us and of what it saved us from is the “Pearl of great value” that is His gift to us,our possession, but not to keep because it’s just too good not to share with others! That brings me to “are” number two,

evangelism

# 2. Are YOU, eager to share the “good news” about our Lord and Savior? Eager because of the forgiveness you’ve received and your compassion for people who don’t know Jesus as their savior who are just like you were at one time. Does your heart break for people who suffer under the lies and deceptions of the enemy that tear their lives apart?

Just like writing, which is an expression of whats on our minds, telling others about our victory over sin through Christ is an “expression” we share with others out of the gladness of our heart! Knowing how to write doesn’t do anybody any good if it’s not used to meet a need, similarly, If our faith in God is without works then our faith is dead!

I’m so thankful to have this blog to share my faith with others, because if I didn’t have it I think I’d bust! I feel as though the Holy Spirit is constantly pouring into me and what I’m hearing is just such great stuff that I have to write it down here! Like I mentioned before, if you can’t read, writing is out of the question…likewise, if you’re not washed in the blood there’s not going to be any God honoring motivation for you to share Christ with others.

You might be the pastor of the biggest church in town, but if your ministry is got more to do with you and lifting you up than it does with really desiring to serve God you’ll start to notice the odor of a “dead church”.

I’ve already began the third “are”, and like mathematics, it’s the one that gives folks a lot of trouble!

mathmatics

#3. Are YOU living a God honoring life?

There will always be different opinions theological interpretations as to what that specifically means, and also of our ability while in this cloak of flesh to fulfill them. Some people believe in a very uncompromising definition while others not so much, but Rather than get into all of that I’d just like to share with you a few of my answers which are of course in the form of questions and illustrations.

Gods perfect plan of salvation is perfect because mans only role in it is to either accept it or reject it. Why would God have made our salvation contingent upon our own abilities to be obedient when He knows that even though we have the Holy Spirit as a guide and counselor as long as we’re in this flesh we’re going to fall short?

Last Sunday my family and I had church at home because of our car not running. My 8yr old daughter brought the message which had to do with how to have a relationship with Christ. She actually did a pretty good job, we also did a bible study during which I was compelled to expand on her understanding of what it means to know Christ.

Because my daughter has SO much stuff and her room is SO small, cleaning and organizing it is practically impossible for her to do. I asked her, “If Jesus cleaned your room, completely,perfectly, and put everything in it’s place for you, and you knew for sure that it was Him who did it would it affect how you play? If you believed that He was standing in your doorway watching you, would you make more of an effort to keep it clean? If not, then I have to wonder what type of relationship you see yourself as having with Him or weather you really know Him at all”.

I know, that’s heavy stuff for an 8yr old but she understood it and I don’t think that a more complicated explanation is necessary…

What about you? If you were accused of being a Christian and then put on trial for it would there be sufficient evidence to convict you?

Or would you be like the pharisee’s and look good from the outside but be dead on the inside?

One thing that I’m really thankful for is that Living a life that honors God isn’t as hard as mathematics, here’s a little formula I found that I can understand…

One savior + three nails= forgiven!

In All Things…(give thanks)

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To me, one of the great things about reaching the stage of life I’m at now is my ability to  look back at my life with a much kinder perspective than I had before.  Which also allows me to see my present circumstances in a more positive way. I’ve heard the term “experience” described as “the ability to recognize your mistakes when you repeat them”… Of course that’s not the ideal, but it is true enough to be humorous so I thought I’d throw it in,well… it seemed funny when I read it on a sugar packet.

I was browsing through some profiles on Facebook the other day and I got off into my High School graduating class. I found so many people that I used to know, people that I haven’t seen in over 30 years! One thing that I noticed was that a large part of them are still friends (at least on facebook) with a lot of the same people. This sort of hit me hard,wondering why I’m the “Lone Ranger is not a new issue with me but I tried to see it with “fresh eyes” and I was surprised by what I saw. It’s true that I  have some pretty substantial intimacy issues with specific people who are close to me and I understand why. Ironically, I’m also a very open,vulnerable, person who’s greatest love in life is talking to people who are struggling with the same issues I’ve dealt with and that I still grapple with today, although to a much lesser extent than I did at one time, which is where the “giving thanks” part begins…

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (King James Version)

3Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

4Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

I’m really thankful, for all of the years I spent wondering what was wrong with me, and wondering why I didn’t seem to have whatever it was that other people around me did.  I understand what it means to be alone and why people make some of the most irrational choices that they do to “fix this”  because I made a bunch of them myself…I don’t have to ask or wonder,

“What were you thinking?” I know…

I’m at least a country mile ahead of people who don’t know when it comes to helping  people to feel as though it’s not pointless telling me about their feelings. I once heard a therapist in a group session tell someone that it wasn’t necessary for him to throw battery acid in his eye’s to know it hurt’s…the person he was talking to got up and walked out of the room!

I just don’t think the therapist knew how much it hurt, or he would’ve never said that.

(can I still bill him for the whole hour?)

I’m not entirely sure why I wrote this, I woke up the other morning with the title and first sentence stuck in my head. When that happens, I start writing… I was hoping that I’d be able to uncover some semi-profound meaning in all of this, tie a bow on it and hand it to you to ponder over for a few introspective minutes.

Here’s my best attempt at that…

In life, we’re told over and over that “poop happens” and boy does it! That you just have to feel like poop about it for a while, and then if you’re capable of it you bury it in the backyard of your subconscious so that you can enjoy some erstwhile happiness and prepare yourself for the next event. Which has the effect of making you anxious about the future while you long for the past before the poop started happening…meanwhile, today is a bust!

That doesn’t sound too good, it reminds me of the song “Born in the USA” by “the Boss” Bruce Springsteen, who’s lament is that you,

“End up like a dog that’s been beat too much till you spend half your life just a coverin’ up now”

I remember hearing that song when it first came out, When he sang this line I used to look around to see if anyone was looking at me! It’s okay, you can laugh…I am, now.

As the years grinded by a singular thought perpetually presented itself to my consciousness.

“When does the poop STOP happening!?”

I mean, I’m just exhausted with all of this covering up! There are also a myriad of complications involved with it such as having it to come uncovered at a later and inconvenient time. Or even reaching the point that I no longer even cared if I covered it up and how embarrassing that can be….(and the odor, who can bear that?)

I needed an answer, a solution, a one size fits all excuse perhaps? Sure, that’s what “poop happens” was supposed to be, but it was merely a quip, a touch of brevity to make me laugh, and to sometimes keep me from crying out loud.

I dabbled in psychology, I thought surely the real answer would be easily found there and it was, at least part of it was anyway. I learned that our feelings are a product of our thoughts, (which we choose by the way) and that our thoughts are a direct result of our perceptions of the events and circumstances of our lives!

EUREKA! Change your perceptions and you’ll change how you feel.

Sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found you!

Only just a few glitches here…

Firstly: It’s a long process to retrain your mind to think differently, it’s hard work at times especially without help. I’ve been working at it for 15yrs so far!

Secondly: The key to long term motivation is love. Why would I do all of this work? for me? wouldn’t it just be easier to just go back to “poop happens”? You’ve got to have a real unconditional love for yourself to see this through! It’s the essence of true self esteem.

Thirdly: Here’s a doozy for you, you need the unconditional love, but in the  mindset of this world you can’t really love yourself unconditionally until you’ve become what you’ll become after you get the love! Talk about a “Circle Jerk”!

Modern psychology says, “Fake it till you make it” but you never do “make it”…you just get better at faking it!

Gods word says “Believe it till you see it” the difference is in who/what you believe in, and in the truth about who/what “they/it” are/is.

I know it may seem complicated and confusing, you may even think I’m an idiot…

That’s okay, because as a reward for reading all of this I’m going to tell you what I believe is the simple answer to this conundrum!

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (King James Version)

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Romans 12:2 (King James Version)

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Romans 8:28 (King James Version)

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

2 Timothy 1:9 (King James Version)

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,

My belief in Gods word means a lot of wonderful things to me, not the least of which is that there is no more “poop” that happens! Okay, so that problem is solved…

So, When does poop stop happening? When the grace of God happens!

Thats a change of perception I can get right with!

When we can find the grace within ourselves to lay down our will and pray as Christ did in the garden of Gethsemane.

Matthew 26:42 (King James Version)

42He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

Lets deal with the love/self esteem issue while we’re at it,

John 3:16 (King James Version)

16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Of course “whosoever” includes you, and since there’s no asterisk next to it or any fine print attached where the conditions are explained it’s unconditional! And brother, If knowing that the omnipotent God who created the universe and the fullness thereof loves you isn’t something you can hang your hat on everyday then in my opinion you really don’t believe it!  If you did, you’d know just how precious you are to God…self esteem?  brother puuullleeezzzee! you’re rootin around here in the world trying to find some bogus reason to feel good about yourself when you’ve got the only real reason to staring you in the face?

That’s freewill for you, and what happens to it when it’s clouded by the deceptions which are brought to us to accept as truth by our enemy Satan.

This is one of the longest blogs I’ve ever written, so if you’re still reading then perhaps I must of done something right. It’s also gratifying to me that it’s the longest because it’s basically everything I know, that I’ve learned, or been taught, that in my estimation is of any value at all.

In His Hands

I didn’t grow up going to church, I have very few memories of the times I did go.  I was sent off on the bus by my aunt when I stayed with her so that she and her boyfriend could be alone on Sunday morning. I remember I had to wear those blue plaid pants with the puckered out pockets that I hated and how much I loved my bible study teacher and how he taught us the story of Joseph.  I remember the day I came forward and accepted Christ after the Holy Spirit had gotten ahold of me one morning, I was about nine. I always enjoyed singing, there was one song in particular that I remember…

“He’s got the whole world, in His hands,in His hands

He’s got you and me and brother,in His hands”

You know the one, everybody’s heard it. It’s fun to clap along with and it’s the children’s equivalent to a negro spiritual.  I think there’s a lesson in those words that we as adults would do well to mind. We carry some pretty heavy loads at times, wouldn’t it be great if we could just put them in His hands? Truly let them go, trust in Him enough to simply thank Him before we see it, and maybe even spend a little more time with Him?

What would you put in His hands?

Your finances? Your children? your marriage? Your health?

It seems ironic to me that Christian people can profess a faith in God and trust Him with their eternal soul’s, and yet not trust Him in this present moment with the simple (to Him) problems of our lives…all I know is that I want Him to be Lord over everything!

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In His hands,in His hands”

“He’s got the whole world in His hands”

It’s nothing more than a children ‘s song unless we do more than talk about it. Nothing more than a wonderful story until we walk down to the waters edge, stick our foot in, and watch the waters part! That’s a place few of us really want to find ourselves, being totally dependent on Him, but that’s the blessing I’ve experienced in a very real way over the past couple of years…But Alton, haven’t you just lost your home, your car, and just about everything else you own? Oh, and didn’t you spend ten days in jail last year?

YES!

But in the process I’ve been made keenly aware of my dependence on Him, I’ve seen the waters part! I was given a car, provided with food, a job, a place to live without charge, and in spite of everything I have PEACE! He’s given me a ministry that continues to bring meaning and fulfillment to my life, and an opportunity for me to boast about the unmerited favor of God and all of the great things the Lord has done for ME!

Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Romans 1:5

Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.

2 Timothy 4:5

5 But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

Life can turn on a dime, this morning at four AM I was awakened by my brother in law who informed me that there was an unknown person in our bath tub. A 19 year old young man who had a four wheeler accident down the road from our house walked in and sat down in our bathtub and proceeded to draw himself a bath…very strange indeed! We called an ambulance and they came and got him. I’m quite sure that when he took off on that ride he never anticipated ending up in some strange peoples’ bathtub!

The complexities of my situation, my choices,and a few bad breaks have led me to where I’m at now (my own variety of hot water) which is as I said a point in which I have no other good alternatives that I’m aware of  other than to do what I’m doing which is to take each day as it comes, thank God for His grace on me, and be so glad that I’m in His hands!

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Life does throw us curve balls…

In this crazy world it’s a great

feeling to know that I’m in

Gods hands!

Are YOU in Gods hands?

The Kingdom Of Heaven

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How ironic, coincidental, or even serendipitous….that I should come to this point in my life, and my writing, at the same time! “What point is that?” Well, since you asked…My home is going up for auction on the 8th of May and so consequently I will be “Seeking A New Kingdom” in which to live. Then there’s my writing, maybe you’ve noticed, the titles of my last three blogs…

It’s in there, somewhere in the middle, Of legalism and Liberalism, What is it?

The Kingdom Of Heaven!

I’m a little anxious today, but I have a slightly different attitude about whats happening than what some people might. It has to do with control…and how you understand it or how you define it, and even how you practice it! Most peoples definition of control goes something like this

Control: the ability to affect the outcome of a situation.

I wholeheartedly believe in this definition, and I attempt to practice it to the overall betterment of myself and everyone else whenever I can! Then there’s this definition, but there’s a twist to it!

Real: a: That which is unthreatenable. b:not false or counterfeit
Control: a: to exercise restraining or directing influence over. b: to have power over…

If you ask most people their definition of control you’d probably get an answer similar to the first one…but in their minds, they comprehend it more like the second one, and so, when unexpected stuff happens, or abrupt change like whats happening in my life right now occurs it messes them up because they believe that they have the second type of control instead of the first.

Not clear? an example…You have control of your vehicle driving down the road…it appears to be absolute. What happens to your control if a tire should blow out? It takes a hike that’s what! Then, after your car goes off in the ditch and you hopefully get out of it you’re “incredulous” that this event has occurred…in shock even, it’s a symptom of a shattered belief system. It’s a little bit like the serenity prayer.

Lord, grant me…
the courage to change the things I can,
the ability to accept what I cant change,
and the wisdom to know the difference

But there’s a difference when you start to think in terms of “The Kingdom Of Heaven” or to be spiritually minded in that we still need courage the ability to accept and wisdom, but it’s much more than just some words we say! Stepping out in faith takes courage which is expressed by our actions which show what we really believe on the inside!

The ability to accept sounds like we merely tolerate our circumstances, but we can find “real” peace and joy in knowing that it’s our Heavenly Father who’s “really” in control, and that, He’s promised to work out all things to those who love Him and who are called according to His purposes’ benefit. Finally comes wisdom, which really isn’t as difficult as it sounds…

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As children of the most high we should know how to act,
and when we should act, and when it’s WAY over our heads!
We have the greatest counselor possible in the Holy Spirit to keep us on the right path which leads us to Jesus!

I may be relocating my physical body and my possessions…

but the Kingdom goes with me… I have the keys!

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Matthew 16:19 (King James Version)

19And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Matthew 13:44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.

45Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:

46Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

To become dis-invested in this world, to not only choose to be heirs of a much greater inheritance but to begin to realize in this life the manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit which are…

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness

Acts 26:18
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

Romans 8:6
6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

The first blog I ever wrote was called “The Pearl”, and in the 115 or so since I’ve been compelled to do just one thing, which is to, despite my unworthiness, act on behalf of my Lord and Savior to fulfill that great commission He left us with through the revelation of His spirit to as many as will hear.

John 12:32
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

Psalm 34:8 (New International Version)
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

The Kingdom Of Heaven is what having a personal relationship with Christ is all about, I see it as being a member of the greatest, beyond our ability to understand, and so much better than we can imagine, family! There will be times here on earth that will push us to our limit, and the circumstances of this life can be difficult to understand. But with all my heart and soul I believe that the present hardships we must walk through are not to be compared to what our Lord and Savior has in store for those who love Him

Explaining Your life…

At times I see our approach to people as being one of trying to teach people about nutrition while they’re bleeding profusely, wondering why it doesn’t seem to help them. It’s all about bringing comfort to the afflicted, and affliction to the comforted.

This is a title that’s been bouncing around in my head for some time. I would anticipate most people’s reaction to it to be one of,  “To who? I don’t have to explain myself or my life to ANYONE!” and of course you don’t, but how about explaining it to ourselves? How well do we understand the various influences and circumstances that have each played a crucial role in shaping who and what we are today? How important is it after all? Are we still acting out the unresolved issues in our lives? Could we somehow be allowing ourselves to be victimized by our own flawed belief systems? One of the things that differentiates adulthood from childhood is the ability to “see around corners” and that is SO handy, but one day, usually when it would’ve  been the handiest for it to of been true, we find out differently.

We find out that when you think you know most of the answers…naturally they change the questions! We find out that there are things that will knock you down that you never saw coming…

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the unofficial statute of limitations on blaming your parents for your messed up life is around 25-30…So I must take the responsibility for myself and my life from here and move on…”

Sometimes, believing that there are no exceptions or extenuating circumstances pertaining to statements like this  is where people become confused. While the statement itself  is true, it becomes more true when you add this to it… “doing the best that I know how to do with what I’ve got” Our parents were supposed to prepare us to be successful in life, to of protected us from making bad choices that would hurt us… either then, or in our future, which is now.

Those who had to raise your hands just then may of had to face adulthood “harmed” or maladjusted. Subconsciously driven like spawning salmon to get your up to now unmet needs met, disregarding what might of seemed to be more rational behaviors for ones which often inspire people to wonder exactly what we were thinking.

Another popular “quip” used by a certain TV psychologist is that “If you choose the behavior, then you choose the consequences” that’s another phrase that is at times used to bludgeon people who couldn’t possibly of  had any idea what the consequences of their behavior would be when they chose them.  There are those of you who even now as you read this are feeling angry or are making that face you make whenever people say something you think is absurd… while thinking to yourself, “these people should just get over it, Lord knows I did” or “what a bunch of cry baby’s, just grow up and smell the responsibility”  You’re anger is a connected issue here, perhaps you’re not nearly as “over it” as you think you are.  What I’m trying to illustrate here is our lack of compassion, and our inability to fully appreciate the love that was shown to us in our lives.

We see people through a one size fits all, good for the goose is good for the gander mindset. Our unwillingness to choose to see others in any other context only leaves us one other option…”As you sow so shall you reap”  and brother,that’s OUR problem.  We’re people who were raised with some if not all of the so called advantages, but was it enough? Apparently not…We still find it necessary or preferable to build our house on the bones of others who  “fell short.” It seems to somehow add to our own self aggrandizement if we can point to all of the people who failed to make it to where we think we are. I’m reminded of the quote, “If it’s a rat race, then let the biggest and best rat win”2536213068_ce3de9a6f2_b

And so it goes…

What’s the real purpose or benefit of being able to explain your life? I think I can sum it up by saying that “It’s not the things people call us that matter…It’s what we answer to” and that it’s only the things that we believe about ourselves that can be used against us by people who are  inclined to do so. Knowledge is power, true ignorance may be bliss, but partial ignorance is like knowing just enough for us to be dangerous. Like we have just enough of an ego to be vulnerable to people who will try to maliciously  lay guilt, lies and shame on you and yet not enough wisdom to understand that people’s condemnation of you are in reality more of a statement about them than they are about you. Since it’s kind of rare to be truly ignorant, or actually irrelevant, there is some merit to our having an understanding of a few critical pieces of truth that pertain to all of us.

Nobody just gets up out of bed in the morning and says “How can I screw up my life today”

Some people will talk to you as if you had, not true.

My parents were raised by people who passed on their dysfunctions to them and who also passed them on to me.

Blame is so pointless! blame who? your parents’,parents’, parents’?

And yet you persist in holding me accountable for being flawed in some way.

Which I will freely admit that I am, I’m just not accountable to YOU! friend…

I don’t believe in blame, I believe in blessing!

All of the most screwed up things we’ve done in our lives are related to our misunderstanding of God and of love, and our search for both.

It’s hard for me to criticize someone who rather than sit on the sidelines  in the “No thanks, I’m “good” section of life chooses to jump right into the mud pit if they believe that the missing piece of their puzzle is somewhere in there…That’s what’s called “courage” which reminds me of the opposite which is “dis” courage, which is what some of the “good” folks I mentioned before will do to you while you’re down there in the mud searching around for whatever it is you’re needing that you won’t find there and that most likely you will only recognize when you hold it in your heart…

As I was driving my bus route this morning through an extremely dense fog the point I’ve been trying to make suddenly came into clear view. As I see it, knowing who just needs a hug and who needs a kick in the pants is very close to being at the essence of love.  At times I see our approach as being one of trying to teach people about nutrition while they’re bleeding profusely, wondering why it doesn’t seem to help them. It’s all about bringing comfort to the afflicted, and affliction to the comforted.

This blog is personal to me, maybe it’s personal to you too. I think that we all find ourselves on both sides of the equation at different times on our journey. I want to say that I am a true believer in people taking responsibility for their thought life which is the ultimate deciding factor in all that happens to us and that it’s in our thoughts that our best opportunity to effect change in our lives is found.

Therefore, be of good courage, fear not, search on, bless your mistakes if they were a part of the process that got you here.  There’s much work to be done, you’re help is greatly needed…