Yesterday’s Manna

Manna

There’s a story reported thousands of years ago, of a tribe of enslaved people numbering over a million and a half, that were set free and found themselves wandering in themanna1 desert. They ended up wandering for 40 years. In the course of that time they supposedly were fed each day by their deity with a flaky, coriander sized, substance they called “Manna.”

Manna, who knows what it looked like and what it was. The report says that it showed up each day on the ground and they just gathered what they needed for that day. In the beginning some people gathered more than they needed for that day and it went bad. It soured. Actually it became worm infested and rotted: it stank! The whole process was a test. It was a test to see whether or not they could or would follow the rules, the Law. Sure enough, they failed. There is always that one group, that one person, or family that has to push the limits and do the very thing they were told not to do. It was no different then, still the same today; we still all fail.

In our human nature it is always a temptation to hoard up more than we need. Call it hoarding or call it greed, like in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected journey,” Bilbo the Hobbit shows up in the halls of Erebor and finds a great hoard of dragon and dwarf gold. Both dragons and Dwarves are hoarders: greedy to a mortal fault.Smaugs-Gold-e1462824043518

This whole story from the Bible is about how God provided for the Israelites as they spent 40 years in the wilderness, as they came up out of Egyptian enslavement. This food was there for them day in and day out. Was it the food of angels, the food of heaven? Maybe, but in any case it was God’s daily provision for them.

Many times in our lives we point to God doing wonderful or great things in the past. Sooner or later, like an aged out, fading high school quarterback, we point to “That one time,” or “That one play.” We look back to God saving us and yet, we don’t have anything else since then to testify about. We remember a healing from the Lord, a restoration of a wayward child, a saved marriage, freedom from drugs or alcohol. The point being that we are always looking way back.

Even when God blesses me, like with the manna, I don’t want to waste my time trying to live in yesterday’s blessings. Think of it like the test of whether or not we will follow God and trust him to continue to provide for us. God wants to provide for you every day. It is appropriate to remember what all God has done for us, but it is not ok for us to continue to wave that one blessing like it is all God has done for us. God wants to touch your life in so many new and more significant ways. God wants you to look for him everyday. God is taking you on an adventure. An adventure of bringing the Kingdom of God to bear upon your life, your influences, and your circles of friends.

Amazing highs

This past weekend at our church was pretty amazing. The worship was so very “transcendent.” (Can I use that word if I haven’t used any other big words like that yet? Lol) We prayed that God would open our eyes and our hearts to his presence. We repented of our own sins. We thanked God for what he had done in our lives. We invited God to touch us again. We didn’t want yesterday’s manna, we had already thanked him for that and enjoyed that. We wanted to spend new time with him. 23 people got baptized that day: it was overwhelming. 10 year olds through 40 some year olds stepped up, let go of their pasts, and received new manna from God. But even now, that was yesterday, I want today’s time with God.

God wants to walk with you

When you think about what it means to “Be” a Christian, do you still point to yesterday’s manna, or do you have a vibrant, passionate relationship to God that continues to put you in his presence? God wants to walk with you; he doesn’t want to have walked with you. Make sense?

I want to encourage you to look for God’s blessing and presence everyday. I’m not suggesting that he isn’t enough; I’m suggesting that he wants to be a bigger part of your existence now; in the moment, not in the memory.

Acts 14:17
Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

 

 

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Today is EIGHT

I woke up to a reminder from a friend today: today marks 8 years. Nine years ago I was struggling in a continuing conversation with God. Eight years ago today we launched the first Sunday morning service of the Vineyard Community Church Richmond.

I had moved to Kentucky from western Oklahoma and was here to help a friend and do a job. My calling is to be a light and to bring the light. My initial understanding was that we would spend 3 years bi-eight-isgreatvocationally building a church up; I was sent to assist and assist is what I did. I stayed on for six years and then began to understand that something had changed; I needed to get out of the way. The problem is I had fallen in love with central Kentucky, but I knew I was called to do more than be bi-vocational, but I didn’t know what God had in mind. I began to dream, think, and envision what a move out of state would look like. I questioned going back to Oklahoma, Ohio where I met Jesus, or some place new. God what do you want?

God said “COME FOLLOW ME”

What do you want Lord? I don’t hear too many Christians asking that question any more. “What do you want me to do Father?” “Where do you want me to live God?” “Whom do you want me to minister to Jesus?” I hear people dreaming about a call to ministry but itquestion dice usually begins with gathering together a financial guarantee, they aren’t willing to sell out, move out, and totally trust God because he said, “Go.” They want safety nets and promised salaries bigger than most staff members have in their present churches.

I began to pray. I was very aware that I had not heard from God at all, so I leaned into Elizabeth Elliot’s teaching, “when God isn’t telling you something new, then do whole heartedly that last thing he told you to do.” (something like that) Whole heartedly has always been the way I get involved, I don’t think God created me to watch life go by, I want to live it and I want to live it fully, whole heartedly, enthusiastically, and squeeze every drop of blessing and experience and relationship that I can out of it. I want to live it as more than a conqueror: hupernikeao, Roamns 8:28, I want to live life and live it to it’s fullest; a vehemently abundant life; perissos John 10:10

Art, falconry, Scuba diving, motorcycling, traveling, guitar, poetry, coffee, friends, preaching, leadership, loving, ministering, I find myself whole heartedly diving right in. The Vineyard Community Church of Richmond Kentucky has been no different. From the 20130806_113643.jpgmoment that the Pastor of the Lexington Vineyard contacted me we have been ALLIN. We knew that we were planting a church; it was exciting to meet with people willing to roll the dice and follow the vision.

With 16 years of ministry experience, 5 children, two sons in law, and one grand child, we leveraged everything we could: savings, 401k, what ever we had, to see this thing born.

With one vision

It was exciting, it was fresh, it was loud, it was in the community and God had given us a vision that we would not be deterred from. Admittedly I certainly did not do everything right, I’m just not that smart. It is also clear from conversations that there were a significant number of people that had a lot of differing ideas, or agenda as to what was going to happen; what they personally wanted to happen; I don’t think that is unusual.

Sometimes I haven’t done it right

There have been bumps, valleys, struggles and pain from the get go. There has been joy, salvations, baptisms, healings, and celebrations carrying us along in the Spirit. We have seen God move in wonderful ways and we have cried together because it’s not all Rose_Thorns_2759sunshine and roses. We have seen persons come and we have seen persons go, we pray God continue to be near to them.

I haven’t always done it right no doubt, I have had to ask forgiveness and apologize at times, but then, that’s why Jesus died, so I could get back up and press on. I will always strive to say what needs to be said, corporately or personally, because I’m not smart enough to be scared, nor am I savvy enough to be quiet. I will refuse to compromise anything that might harm these sheep. I will refuse to be a hired shepherd: I have been called as a brother and joint heir with the great shepherd. I will not be perfect but I know that I will be held accountable to caring for the sheep of this fold. It is a very serious matter in my soul. So I live ferocious to attacks.

Stick to the plan

As a church we will continue to press into the vision. When God calls me home or away, the vision can change, until then we stick to the plan:

Chase God with a reckless abandonment,
Love everyone that walks through the door
and try to stay out of God’s way.

DSC_0115Today we are eight years old. WE are eight years old. A lot of people have placed their signature and DNA into this ekklesia to make it what it is today. Whether it was my boss that gave me a job knowing that someone more focused could do it better, the pastor I left that blessed us, or the people that came and went, this church, this gathering of sheep, is marked forever by them all. We are who we are because people cared, loved, served, gave, believed, followed, sacrificed and grew in their own relationships to God. God bless you all.

All the faces, all the people, all the circumstances

So today I reminisce on all the faces, all the people, all the circumstances (good and bad) and thank God that all of these have brought us to where we are today. Still loving, still serving, still caring, still outreaching, stillPulse 2 reaching out, still growing, still chasing Jesus and still seeing lives changed as hurting people seek an audience and an opportunity with a living God.

Happy Birthday to you VCCR, you are growing up into such a beautiful mature Church, God bless and be with you. Until the trumpet sounds and we all are caught up together, or until we all meet together in Heaven to remember, I pray that we will always be found seeking the heart of God, loving this community and more besides, and that our impact will always be bigger than our number.

HATE is a symptom, not the problem

I see a lot of pictures, videos and blogs about all the hate that is going this week. Lots of conspiracy theories, blame casting, shaming, ranting and some very, very, emotional “juxtapositioning.” It’s the blacks, it’s the whites, it’s the democrats, it’s the republicans, f_la_uva_march_170816it’s the past President, it’s President Trump, it’s everyone in California. Wow. Tear down the monuments! Leave the monuments! The monuments are the problems. Jim Crow, white privilege, BLM, Nazis, Anarchists, Antifa, the world is killing itself with labels, acronyms and rallied up emotionalisms; death by a thousand labels. Death by hate.

I’ve been processing this since the UVA atrocity last weekend. All the hate, everyone is pointing to some kind of hate. This is the kind of thing that has no one single answer or problem. It isn’t one people group, it isn’t one issue, it isn’t one statue, it isn’t one flag, it is many, many desires, hurts and issues crashing together. It is the kind of thing that when it happens and people start chanting and burning and killing, well, it screams inside of you.

It isn’t just a racial issue. If the race issue was solved it would be gender. If that were solved it would be nationality, if that were solved it would be economy, if it wasn’t economy it would be handicaps and age, for some reason humanity has an incredible capacity for creating labels that give us a focus for hate. Hate is learned, it is tolerated and it is perpetuated.

Racism, politics, and nationalism are not the problem; it appears to me they are symptoms of a problem. A person cuts their arm and it starts bleeding profusely, they walk into the emergency room and the doctor says, “What’s the problem?” and the answer always seems to be, “I’m bleeding.” Bleeding is not a problem, bleeding is the symptom of a problem. The problem is “I’m cut.” Wipe the blood away and more will come, sew up the cut and the bleeding will likely stop.

Hate is a symptom of a problem; a heart problem.

Why all the HATE? Where the heck is it coming from? I keep asking myself this. I keep Changed heartlooking at my own life, my home, my job, and my community. It seems to start in the heart. I look back to when I was a child and I said, “I hate my mom,” or, “I hate my dad.” What was I saying? I was saying that I didn’t get what I wanted when I wanted it.

The problem isn’t the world out there! What you see on television, in social media and in the papers, (do we still have papers?) is the symptom of our own hearts. The problem starts in our own homes and in our own hearts. Are we teaching our children to hate? Before you say no, think it through.

Divorce is rampant and parents, in their hurts, teach their children to hate the other parent. There always seems to be a fun parent and a real parent.

People grew up with a hurt so they are going to make sure their children aren’t hurt, they pit their children against the teachers, against the authorities, against the police, and against bosses, instead of teaching them respect, honor and duty.

As a result of our selfishness, our narcissistic tendencies, and greed, we perpetuate the hate of others. I’m convinced that every sin listed in the Bible finally comes down to the letter “I.”

I want what I want, when I want it, and how I want it.

Wars are started, peoples conquered, destroyed, and erased from the planet. People are robbed, beaten and abused, people get rejected, pushed aside and left out all because of “I.” It is in our hearts because we allow it to rule.

Just because we have been taught to hate doesn’t mean we have to hate.Max-Lucado-life-changing-meme
You do not have to accept the lies you were taught growing up.
You don’t have to continue being so negative.
Your problems are not all someone else’s fault.

You want to see the world change, go out there and care about someone not like you.
You want to see hate go away, choose to love; be the change.

To simple?

All the power, money and legislation in the world won’t make the hate go away, God will  have to do that one person at a time with a heart change. Go ahead, march and rally, it won’t change someone’s heart. Change the legislation, make new laws, demand that society be inclusive, create more quota’s, nothing changes until you look at your own heart, then sit down with someone you don’t know well and listen to them. Have lunch with someone that is not like you. Ask someone to share their story with you, ask questions and get to know them.

Change-the-World-3-940x400

The question isn’t, “What are you doing about all this?”
The question is, “What are you doing about you?”
Ask God for a new heart

YOU CAN’T HANDLE DEEPER!!

You don’t want deeper:
YOU CAN’T HANDLE DEEPER!

cropped-deep-water-1Can you hear Jack Nicholson in, “A Few Good Men,” screaming at Tom Cruise in the courtroom as you read that? No? Read it again, I’ll wait.

I bet you did that time.

“The church is a mile wide and half an inch deep.”

Does that sound familiar to you?

How many times have I heard someone say that the church in America needs to go deeper? Seriously, this is not new, I have heard this since 1977; the year I surrendered my life to Jesus.

Delirious the band had a song out a while back that began, “I want to go deeper, but I don’t know how to swim.”
What a great lyric, right?

What did Jesus tell us?

I hear people describe deep as theological and somewhat complicated, and yet it was my Jesus that said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matt 29-30 NKJV

My yoke is easy and My burden is light? What is it that I am being told here? Jesus went out of his way, all the way from the throne room of God almighty as a matter of fact, to make things simple and uncomplicated.

My YOKE = my interpretation of Scripture

My BURDEN = my expectation of living it out.

It would be very much like Jesus saying today, “Hey, come learn from me where we will keep it simple stupid.” KISS.

Did Jesus say, “We need to go deeper?”

There are stories upon stories, interactions upon interactions, recorded even as primary sources in the Bible. These people were there, yet I cannot find one instance of Jesus “Going Deeper.” I cannot find one time that Jesus waxed theologically eloquent to be perceived as deep, intellectual, educated or even holier than thou. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus came 2,000 years ago and stood against the “Spiritually Elite” of the day, and we dive into the shallow end of the spiritual pool trying to make it “look deep” so we can become the very elite Jesus lined out? Trust me, I have met people that believe they are spiritually elite. Before you say “Not me,” take a good look at your attitude. What about your actions? I’m not ranting, I am challenging you just like I challenge me. We are so easy on ourselves and so hard on others aren’t we?

Jesus kept it simple and avoided “Deep;” Love God, love people as yourselves he said. It isn’t complicated but it can be hard.

Wrestle with it

So I’m wrestling with what it is that people are saying when they say we need to go deeper. I think it has to do with becoming more “Biblically literate.” I would be a big advocate of that. (But Sunday mornings are not for your Pastor to put you through Bible College because you don’t want to quit your job, sell everything and go yourself.) As people dive into their bibles, however, instead of taking Jesus’ yoke, people make up a new yoke all on their own because it fits the narrative they want to follow. They make their own Jesus and accessorize him like a Barbi Doll: God wants me happy, God wants me wealthy, God says my sin is ok. God is a Calvinist, God is an Armenianist. We have to be Jews to be Christians. It goes on and on.

Really, Prosperity?

It is very sad when people tell me “affluence is a sign, the proof, of the favor of God.” What a lie. Surely all good gifts come down from the father of lights. Truly I believe that. What of the Christians around the world that die every day at the hands of heathens andindex_barometer001pagans though? They die in poor, third world countries, martyred, are they hated of God? Prosperity is wonderful, but as an indicator of God’s favor it is a poor theological barometer. Some of the wealthiest people in the world are not Christians, are they more loved by God than me? Does not the enemy appear as an Angel of light? Doesn’t he exist to distract us and lead us astray? Wouldn’t he be most successful if he were to do that with sparkly, shiny baubles and prosperity?

Name Names

Honestly, I do not believe that most of the people crying out for a “Deeper Church” really know what they are asking for. Let’s wade in just a bit. Jesus commanded us in Matthew 28 to go into all the world and make disciples. Now let’s go deeper. Name the disciples that you have made since you personally have come to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

Name the people that you have poured into and drawn close to Christ with and then baptized or attended their baptism. See what I mean, if you cannot name names, then I am telling you that you can’t handle going deeper. Surely Jesus is still doing what he was doing when he commanded his actual disciples to make disciples. Right? Why would he take up residence in you just to stop doing the very thing he came to earth to do? No, no he wouldn’t.

Jesus commanded us to give a cup of cold water to those that need it. When was the last time you did that? Feed the hungry rather than explain to your children that they just givingneed to get jobs? Sound familiar? Give your cloak to someone who needs it? Sell everything you have and give to the poor then hit the road and tell people about Jesus? No?

Go and Do the Doing

You aren’t even serious about going deeper are you? (I have met some that are) But let’s just be serious here, you can’t handle deeper if you won’t even do the simple and obvious. To people that cry out against the church I say, it is time to get over your self, get off your pew, or chair, and show us you are serious. You want the church to go deeper? Jesus made going deeper doing the doing. Go do it. He didn’t make it about knowledge, but love, and love is a verb. Plant a church with the people you have led to the Lord.

Jesus said, we do. That is the Jesus definition of Deep

You want to go deeper? I really do think it is a good idea. Let’s try this, take time each day to read Jesus words in the Bible; you pick the version. Then, when you see that Jesus saysimg_8534to do something, make it a part of your prayer life and your serving life and your giving life to DO IT. Watch what happens when that begins to take place in the lives of the church.

 

Stop struggling, stop striving today!

Joseph's Pictures 219Psalm 29:10-11 (NIV)

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
11 The Lord gives strength to his people;
    the Lord blesses his people with peace.

 

Today I want to share a moment of serendipity with you, a moment that occurred as I was reading my Bible. I opened up to a passage and as I prepared my heart I saw a passage above that I had marked previously. As I gazed upon my marks and read the words, God poked my heart and said, “Good morning Joe.” So I pass this on that God may also poke your heart and let you know that he is here. Now matter what it is that you are about to face, big or small, he is here. No matter how loud the noise, how dark the night, how evil the valley, he is here. He knows your name. He loves you. He prepared a place for you near him. Like the swallow that builds her nest near the altar, God has a place for you as well. It is in his blessing.

“The Lord sits…”

Notice that with everything that is going on in your world and mine. With all the false media, the lies, the hate, the wars, the hurt, the rejection, and all the meaningless activity of the mass of humanity, God sits. He isn’t running around threatening, shaking his fist. God is not scared or worried. No, God sits. He is relaxed and watching his children. For some he is sad, for some he rejoices but for all he sits and is working for our good. The scripture says he sits enthroned OVER the flood. He is not worried about the turbulent waters that are crashing down and destroying the earth that time he “started over” with Noah. God is not spazzed or even remotely worried about that flood will do anything other than what he will allow. No, in all our worry, and as we try so hard to get God all wound up in our drama, he sits above the threats. Close your eyes and look at how peaceful he sits on the throne. God is at peace always.

“The lord is …”

I cannot make you believe that God is. I know he is. I cannot prove it to you any more than you can prove he isn’t. I entered this world as a self-absorbed narcissist and until I realized that I am the one that is responsible for my sin, I had no hope. When I saw the God sent his son to die for my sins so that I do not own them, so that I do not suffer the consequence of them nor will they keep me from the throne room any longer, when I surrendered to that truth, my life began to change. You see, In my life, “The Lord IS …” Not only is it true that God is, he is enthroned as the King of the universe. I do not have to be able to answer all the “Why’s” and all the “How’s” or anything else, to know that I am created. The cake doesn’t have to thoroughly know the baker to know there is a baker and the cake is not it. God is too grand, to beautiful, too wonder-full for me to comprehend. Any one that says otherwise is a liar and the truth is not in them. I cannot fathom the depths of God other than to try to understand what he has revealed and reveals to human kind. The lord is King over all that he has made, he is alone is judge, not me.

“The Lord gives …”

Of all the “deities” in this world that have been made up, the God of the Bible is hands down the most generously giving and the most loving. The Lord gives. God wants to give. It is his love language. He gives life, he gives a place with him in heaven, he gives forgiveness when we slander and crucify him. He gives when we need help, he gives when we need knowledge, he gives when we need love, he gives when we need a family, he gives, and gives, and gives. We on the other hand take, and take, and take, and take. It’s our humanity. It’s our sin. You cannot out give God, but you do not want to understand how stingy he can be. When God asks for us to give back to him, he is serious. To ignore obedience to the Word is to prove that we esteem God as nothing more than a spiritual vending machine. It only proves the depth of our self-centered depravity; shame on us. Sometimes what God gives is the strength to face giants, kill lions, strike down serpents, overcome disasters and face adversity with grace and hope. That’s more than any other clay figurine on a shelf is going to give you. My God says he will give you the gift of his presence; You will not be alone. The Lord gives.

“The Lord blesses …”

As we consider “The Lord gives,” what ever the Lord gives is a blessing to you and I. We may always know why he allows the pain and struggle, and it certainly was not his initial plan for humanity, but he come-follow-mecan work it out for our good. The blessing of God is gold in the hands of the righteous. The joy of knowing that the favor of the King of the universe rests upon you brings peace. It doesn’t mean there are no problems in your life. It isn’t a reflection of the absence of struggle and hurt, no, it is the knowledge that he is your father, and he is doing what is best for you at every turn of the sun. It I knowing that though you are outside in the playground called earth, he is intimately aware of what you are doing and going through. Not only is he watching you, but he is “standing” right here while you are preoccupied with all that is going on. His blessing is his gift to you. It is for eternity, but you need to take it. You need to receive it and open it. Know this peace that in the face of death, carries you through all the darkness you may face and all the joy you may encounter.

Today, as you go through this day, remember,

“The Lord sits …”

“The Lord is …”

“The Lord gives …”

“The Lord blesses …”

and YOU are the object of all this love today.

 

 

 

IT COULD BE ME?

Lion roaring1 Peter 5:8
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

I want to go HOME

I sit here in my favorite coffee shop looking out at the world and I struggle to even want to be here. When I say “here” I mean, “on the planet,” not here in the coffee shop. The coffee shop feels safe, it feels friendly, it feels comfortable. It is small and for whatever reason I feel protected, like I do in my home. My home is safe, my wife makes it a refuge. When I am here or there the “ugly” is far away. There is no hate allowed here at the coffee shop. Everyone is welcome to come here. They will love you and serve you and make you a coffee that will rock your world.

But I cannot live here in this oasis and last week was terrible in our hemisphere. I don’t think it compares to things going on in other parts of the world: the starvation, wars, kidnapping, mutilations and the bombings and genocide. But that doesn’t make it less real.

I CAN FEEL IT

I feel the evil affecting my soul again and I have to reach deep to shake myself. Then today I woke up to a pastor falling to alcoholism and it just touched me hard. I don’t idolize him. I have been to his church conference and it was good. I don’t care for some of his theologies, (surely the kingdom of God is not about punching people in the throat or shooting them if they enter his home) but hey, I like his preaching and I like that he is sold out to the kingdom work in a large, get off your butt and do it big, sort of way. I love that he appears to spell faith, “RISK.” I appreciate that he gave and gave and gave. I really appreciate that he inspired me at one point in my own ministry. But, my heart hurts for him and I feel afraid, and yes, I know this fear is not from God.

There have been times

This pastor IS still a leader; as pastors we are all leaders. Leaders in a war we can barely see, but we see better than the average church go-er. The battle worn, the mutilated, the broken, the chewed upon, they walk into our offices every day. At times we can jump to it and bind up the weary and the broken hearted, comfort and bless, and at times we have no clue what to do or how to help. Sometimes we watch people switch sides in the battle and at times we watch people walk away wondering, “What could I have done better?” Beating ourselves up believing we failed, or thinking we “could have, should have,” and yet, we aren’t God. And If I can be honest without being needy, at times I have envied those that could throw up their hands and walk away. I would dare say there are times I have longed to be able to do that.

As I think about this man and his ministry to so many, I am aware of Peter warning us all that Satan, a very personal accuser, is a roaring lion, but he is not just running around or laying around making noise, no, he is seeking some to devour, to destroy.

Could that be me?

I cannot help but glance around and wonder when and how he will come after me. For I know my calling is to give him reason. Will he wreck my life today? Can I remain focused through the negativity thrown at our local leadership, the world attacking our local church and the hate being spewed across all the news venues, as well as standing against my own temptations? Will he sneak up when I least suspect it and destroy everything God has allowed me to be a part of? And if he were to succeed, then what of the church (the people), what of those that work here and have their income here? The weight, the fear, it can be incredibly unbearable at times.
This is the fear that haunts me daily as I hear King David saying,

                   “5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
                      sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
                       6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
                      you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
                      7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
                      wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
                                                      Psalm 51

He has given me a hope

What is our hope then? Who can be called his son or his daughter that is born of this world? There is none, no not one, that is righteous enough in and of themselves to enter heaven; to dwell with God. We all stand condemned whether it is in thought or deed; we all were born evil, sinful and lost. We all need a rescuer, a savior and I for one am grateful that God sent one.

I am in need as well

I have not yet preached a sermon, done a deed, planned an outreach, sacrificed, given or paid for something, nor led a person to Christ, or any other thing that would even catch God’s attention, let alone impress him to allow me to enter his presence. My good “things” will never outweigh the dirt on my soul, the selfish intent of my heart nor the greed in my spirit. I need a savior. I need Jesus more than anyone else on this planet.

lion in the grassSo today I look around and tentatively, with great fear, I stare into the tall grass of this world, looking for a telltale sign of a lion. Is that a shadow of something prowling? Is that the swish of grass, dragging down the side of my soul’s predator, as he moves closer for the pounce? Today will I be the focused attention of such a vile spirit? Is it greed, or lust, pride, or idolatry about to break forth from the grass and kill me?

Of the tribe of Judah

My hope is in the Lion next to me: The Lion of the tribe of Judah in whose shadow I run. In whose name I have life. Praise God his love was sacrificial and daily transforming. Praise God almighty that his name is

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

Praise God he knows my name, and though the enemy may wound me, he cannot take my life, for I have given it freely to my Lord, it belongs to him. But I still fear the wound the enemy may cause; so I watch.

Cry with me, pray with me

Today my souls cries in pain for this pastor that I love, that does not know me. Today I know, there but for the grace of God go I. Today I do not get haughty or take any joy, for that could just as quickly be me.
Today I am aware that I need your prayers just like this pastor does.

 

 

 

Peace be with you

feet of JesusThe “Butt-inski”

As two of Jesus’ disciples walked along on that very first easter day, they were met by a traveler. A guy. A man headed in the same direction they were going. He walked along with them for  a while as they were headed to a town named Emmaus. This man walked up into a conversation they were having about Jesus himself. They were disturbed by some things that the ladies had said to them, and honestly, based upon this description of the conversation, I would say they appeared to have serious doubts.

He hears their doubts and challenges them

As the stranger interacts with them, they end up kind of incredulous that he appeared to be uninformed about the weekend events. In true hospitable fashion they take it upon themselves to inform him. So they tell him all about Jesus, what he did, the miracles, how he was arrested and killed, then buried. I’m sure they told him what Jesus meant to them personally. This guy, this stranger that walked with them, listened, interacted, asked questions and heard them. The stranger hears their doubts. He then challenges their doubts and unfolds the scriptures for them. When it is all said and done, He ends up at their supper, breaking bread with them, and it is only then that they realize Jesus has been walking with them all along. Immediately Jesus disappears.

Out of their element …

They were walking and lamenting the loss of their leader, their lord, their friend, and there was no way that they were going to believe he was right there. I have often asked myself why Mary at the tomb, and these guys here on the road, didn’t recognize Jesus? Then I remember all the times that I have been somewhere and someone comes up to me, or I go up to someone, and realize who they are.  Out of their normal element or relationship, I do not recognize them. Then it hits me, this is “Bill!”

I think that is exactly what is going on here. They saw Jesus buried, he cannot be here, so that doesn’t even enter their minds. I don’t know what a post burial, resurrected, but pre-ascension body looks like, but they certainly saw him when he broke the bread, when he was “In his element.” Handing out communion he was Jesus again, and Jesus alive!!

What about you?

I wonder how many times we miss God in our lives, miss Jesus doing a work, miss the Holy spirit because he belongs in Church on Sunday morning. Here we are going through our week, maybe we have a spouse and we are doing our daily thing, chasing kids, a quick kiss before we leave for work, maybe a fight and we are immediately in a tension. A flat tire and the day feels wrecked, or work is just piling up and we don’t feel appreciated, no one cares so we melt into the old pit of wallowing; no one likes me, no one notices, I’ll never get ahead. God where are you?

“… and I know that there are angels all around …”

It is at times like these that we miss seeing God in our lives. We end up so focused on our want, our need or our loss, or our problems, that we don’t lift our eyes up and look at who is walking around us. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

Look!

The Kingdom of God is here. Jesus said it is near, it is coming and it is in you. Jesus is in the Kingdom, so Jesus IS here. The Holy Spirit is in the Kingdom, so the Holy Spirit IS here. Angels are in the kingdom, so angels ARE here. I want to encourage you to lift your chin and look around. God is here in your midst. In the middle of your daily struggle, in the middle of your need to make a decision, in the middle of your fight with your spouse. He is here at work. He is here in your doubt and despair.  He will never leave you alone, but we may be choosing not to believe he could be here.
Cry for nigeriaAs you travel on this road to your Emmaus, that stranger, that song, that group pf people, that church, that co-worker, God is using them to speak to you, to support you, to love you, but you have to open your eyes and believe. Stop what you are doing right now and ask God to open your eyes.