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Archive for December, 2009

What a story line!

13Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”

Even a cursory read of Revelation causes me to be amazed at the power and plan of God.  It stops me in my tracks.  No one but God could drive this kind of story line.  No one but the Divine One could trace this kind of path.  He is the Great God of Heaven and Earth.

In the midst of it all we discover the faithful.  They die.  And the Spirit of God says: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”  Rest.  Labor.  Impact of their lives forever.  Wow!

Some how in the midst of this morning I am thankful for biblical information that allows my own heart to be in sync with future events…and at the same time rejoice for I was, in God’s own wisdom and timing, not brought into this period of time and space.  The story line could have included me.  That is not where I stand…and honestly, I am thankful.  I do however want to be found faithful.  I still believe that our works follow us and there is some legacy that will develop from the life I live – only time can flesh that out on this earth…obviously heaven will be a time of review.  I, too, am looking forward to that “rest” that awaits all of us who “die in the Lord”.  I am glad that I am one of those who can be considered “in the Lord.”  I am also reminded again that labor is part of this life.  I am looking forward to this day of sharing life with the Father in Heaven who has promised to guide me.  In the context of where I go and who I meet I am looking forward to the joy of making the gospel known to those in my path today…the sharing of my own story.

I think back over what I just read in Revelation – What a story they have to share!  I bet today will be filled with stories as well.

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“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!” 14The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Thank you Max Lucado!   What a definition of worship -The thank you that cannot be silenced.  I was listening on Youtube.com to Newsong sing a song, “You are Holy” when I heard the one leading in worship at the time describe worship.  He quoted Max Lucado.  I checked it out and it is truly his definition.

Whether you are in heaven looking for someone worthy to open the books and you find the Lamb who was slain…or whether you are looking for the divine Someone to visit you in the hospital because  your wife just had emergency surgery…there are times when we all are caught off guard when the Divine One from Heaven The Lord Jesus Christ- enters the picture.  His presence takes our breath away…and we worship…we offer a thank you to God and no one is able to silence it.

I worship Him today!  After all the time I spent in worrying over my son’s education and years 18-22, I am reminded again to say thank you to God – to worship God – for He has protected my son.  Today Jeremy begins a new job here in Florence.  On December 19th he graduated from Francis Marion University and is able to go to work utilizing his strengths from his major focus in college in graphic design.  There have been so many who have prayed for that whole situation and I now know that they were not praying for Jeremy, they were praying for me simply to trust God.  And to think that the grandeur of God surprises me is almost embarrassing but it does this morning.  I have been in church all my life, saved since 11 years old, and served the Lord since I was 17 and been in this current assignment in Florence for 21 years.  You would think I have learned by now.  The One who has surprised me again this morning – is the same God who has had it in complete control.

That is only one thing!  But it causes me to want to shout.  I am also reminded today of a friend who is in the hospital watching his wife recover in the SICU unit who testified just yesterday of the mighty power of God in response to people’s prayers to God.  God has worked and will continue to work.  I am reminded again of the power of God to protect one of our members who has had to fly out of the country to comfort and support his family in the death of his sister.  I am constantly blown away at how our God is there to care for and comfort those in need.  I am reminded again of how God has comforted a friend of mine in the death of his mother and another family in the death of their young child.  I am reminded again of how God helps those who face short term struggles and how in the midst of long term kinds of things how God is to be praised for his constant care.

He is our Father!

I ran into this and was blown away by it!  Worship with me!

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The Basics…

5And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

Is it always that easy to forget the basic stuff?  I was watching football the other evening and it seemed that every time the quarterback threw the football to his receiver, his receiver was more interested in going down field than he was catching the ball.  I mean the quarterback would hit him right in the “breadbasket” and he forgot the very basic thing of catching the football first, then run up the field with it.  I would suspect that when the team practiced the next time that there were a great deal of drills that focused the players attention on catching the ball before you run with the ball.

My mother is a Braves fan.  She was a Braves fan when it was embarrassing to be one.  She has been faithful to her team.  I remember over the years how that those who get paid a great sum of money to play ball, spend a great deal of time doing the basics of baseball better than all the rest of the people.  They become scientific in discovering what they do right and what needs adjustment.  They tweak their swing, how they hold their head, their stance, the way they grip a ball…how their delivery is made…over and over and over.  They always start a game “warming up” on the basics.  They don’t work on trick plays.  They warm their arms up, they get in the batter’s box and hit several balls.  They throw to each other.  I have been to my share of the games and they don’t work on trick plays.  They get the basics down pat.

OK, I will admit to you that I blame a lot of stuff on the fact that I am ADHD or maybe ADHDDDDDDDDDD.   I don’t know!  Normal, I’m not.  I have over the years come to remember that I am not a detail person.  I enjoy whatever comes at me that is more fun than what I am doing right now.  No matter how big a priority the activity at the moment may be, I enjoy having fun.  I am curious and get distracted easily.  Focusing is not on my list of high priority items.  Because of that I find “discipline” tough.  I can blame it on whatever I wish.  However, I have learned over the past years to bring a great deal of detail people around me.  It helps!  It helps, a lot!  I have learned to write things down.  I am still learning to do the most important things first.  It is a tough thing to be focused.

I don’t think one can focus enough on the basics of our Christian faith.  I heard God say that I should walk in love.  Great reminder and I thank the Father for that.  I am also reminded today that there is a need in  my own life to make sure I have the basics  down.  I am reminded again this morning that there is a need to stay in the Word of God on a daily basis.  There is a need to hear from God and a need to journey through life with people like Moses, David, Elijah, Isaiah, John, Luke, and Paul…so many great people to walk through life with.  This morning I enjoyed traveling around with David and John.  John was committed to the basics of life.  Prayer is also vital…and a time that is disciplined to where there is more listening than speaking… David reminded me again that meditation on the statues of God becomes key to my life.

I am 54 years old.  I became a believer by choice when I was 11 years old.  I have always been one of those little church boys.  I went to church nine months before I was born.  It is not because of a lack of opportunity.  You would think that I have this stuff down pat.  Being a preacher would give some folk the idea that we never struggle with the daily disciplines of life….WRONG!  I hang around way too many of them.

Walk in love.  Do the basics well.  Those are two things I heard my Father say to me this morning!

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7The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

First of all I am blown away that this passage is assigned to Christmas Eve each year.  What a way to connect the dots between the events of Christ’s earthly assignment:  Cradle – House – Wanderer with no place to lay his head – Borrowed beds – nailed to a cross – laying in a borrowed tomb – Resurrection – Visit at the lakeside – and all because God loves us!  OR! Clothed in Glory, Clothed in flesh, no clothes at birth, swaddling clothes following birth, carpenter’s garb while at home, simple outfits during his life, stripped to his waist while beaten, covered with mocking royal robe as he traveled to the cross experience,  naked while on the cross while they gambled for his clothes, prepared for his burial, left the clothes of this earth for the clothing of Glory…

An old lost Pilate has enough sense to determine Christ’s guilt but not enough guts to do something about it.  Religious people are mean and extremely controlling.  They play political games to get what they want.  They were playing Pilate like a puppet on a string.  Pilate said, “I can’t find a thing wrong with him!”  But the Jews said according to the Biblical record, “We have a law…!”  According to that “law”…anyone who claimed to be the Son of God would have to die.  That is so prophetically true…the Son of God would have to die because He is the only one that could resolve the problem of sin.

Even though they thought that they had a law…God’s law is always stronger and God never allows the whole picture to “free spin”.  He is in total control.  Always working it all out.

It could be that as I read this passage of scripture I react kind of like I do when someone on Law and Order or CSI introduces a villain who appears to be above the law and in control.  Emotions run hot as did mine when I read this passage.  Who the heck do these religious people think they are?  If I am not wrong the whole of the Bible smacks of a relationship that God has with this special group of people.  If I am not wrong they should have been the first to “get it”…to see the whole of the story of God and celebrate it.  Yet they are the instruments who eventually nail him to the cross.

Then I remembered that there is a cure for religious people.  Death and Eternity.  I don’t know how religious one can be in hell…but only those who know Christ will escape that destiny.  I don’t know how “their law” will stand up in the vicious grip of an eternity separated from God and the people of God – His Children…  My heart has a two sided response to that…first – I rejoice that religion never wins…and secondly, my heart hurts that people have bought into a falsehood that religion (our attempt to reach God) instead of Christianity (God’s provision in Christ of His reaching to us) is enough.  Religious people just cannot give up control.  Dying to self is a monster concept to religious people.

Pilate had it right – JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE JEWS!  It ticked them off that he would not change the sign on the cross…wrote in three different languages so that the world would know that He is the King of the Jews.  And he is the King of the Jews and King of my life.

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Troubled

27Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.

Being all God and all man is a concept that is difficult to get your head around.  “My” heart!  Jesus is the “my” in that phrase.  Not your normal everyday “cornbread and cow pea” kind of “my”.  It is the Son of God.  All God and all man.  He knows all.  His facing trouble, fear, sorrow…he is feeling deeply.  There are times when ignorance is bliss.  When you don’t know what is coming and you just have to go through it may be easier than knowing ahead of time that such “trouble” is around the corner.

For some reason my heart fluttered when I read the words, “…now my heart is troubled…”  I instantly remembered that we are in chapter 12 and in chapter 14 the instructions are there that we are to let not out hearts be troubled.  And for some reason I was reminded of an old memory verse from Hebrews 12:  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

What troubles Jesus?  A disciple that was to betray him Jn. 13:21 does.  In John 11 Jesus is troubled when a woman who lost her brother and a crowd at the tomb tries to deal with their grief.

The days ahead were to be awesome.  Awesome in the fact that the trouble of His soul existed because my soul was troubled.  A perfect sinless God/man faces the darkness before him not because of his own sin but because he will carry mine to the cross.  His soul was vexed because of my need.  It was in the heart of God to trouble Him to ease mine.  His trouble eased mine!

Turn that over for a moment and remember that he is not on the cross saying these words.  He is still days away from that event.  And I hear him say in Chapter 14, “Let not your heart be troubled…”  In terms of eternity His time on earth was but brief.  His birth and life was but 33 short years.  His death experience was but a few days.  He is facing trouble, sorrow, fear, pain, darkness and even hell for me.  “Who for the joy that was set before him, endured…”

Maybe God is scratching around in my heart asking me to take stock of what troubles me?  Maybe he is wanting to help me deal with the fact that the temporary pain and discomfort of serving Him at times are part of his plan and a reminder of the joy that is set before me.  Every time I get a little taste of that glory it makes me want it so much more.  Maybe just maybe he wants me to stand by that nativity scene in my house and worship a God that cares that much for me.  Worship!  What a grand response to such an awesome God!

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28Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses!

It’s amazing to me how much people say and never realize what they are saying.  Here is a man born blind.  He meets Jesus.  Jesus heals him – man who seconds before cannot see now can see.  Miracle!  At least for those of us who believe in the Bible record this is pretty significant stuff.  Look at progression:  Can’t see – Jesus – now can see.  The only piece of the puzzle was this ONE called Jesus.  There were so many religious people hanging around.  Until Jesus shows up the testimony of the blind man went something like this:  Can’t see – religious people – still can’t see.  There are sooooooo many of them.  They are busy.  Their hearts do not feel.  Their eyes cannot see.  They refuse to help because they don’t want to get dirty.  They even work hard at finding excuses not to help by redirecting the illness as if it were the result of the sins of his parents – or since that might not be true they just heap more stuff on the back of the blind man and say it was his own sin that caused this.  Isn’t that the most incredibly stupid thing to say since he was BORN that way?  But religious people…..sooooooooo many of them they are oppressive.  They were followers of Moses!  Let’s get that crystal clear…followers of Moses.

Let’s see if I can document what I am about to say.  My friend Ken Smith has a friend that he meets with once a year called Steve Brown who leads a ministry called Key Life Ministries.  He has a ministry to pastors that is unbelievable.  He is not your “normal” cut and dry kind of guy.  Steve is a real person.  He is so real that it aggravates most religious people (and I might add that he takes great delight in watching them get frustrated with him).   He loves to love on people.  He loves being real.  In one of his presentations I remember him speaking of a man named Lee Clower who said something that just rings around in my head this morning after reading this passage of scripture.  Now – Steve quotes Lee as saying – “Religion is for those who don’t want to go to hell.  Christianity is for those who have already been there.”  I wanted to shout!  It is so true.  Religion is a way that man is able some how to do something to appease the deity that is angered or unpleased.  One would work like the dickens just to find something that he or she could do so that when the really ticked off deity somehow see what they are doing…and it is on the approved list…that this angered deity no longer is as ticked as it once was…somehow one can tell he is not ticked…and life is so much better because the deity “ain’t” as ticked.

Jesus shows up.  He ain’t ticked.  He is able to see the blind man!  He is able to discern that he wants to be able to see.  The blind man wants to see and needs help all the time.  Christ shows up and changes the life of the blind man.  The blind man had already been through hell.  He had already faced the darkness.  He lived in darkness.  He lived in despair.  He wanted to be free.  Christ was not angry.  He wasn’t waiting until this man could “do something” to appease Him.  Christ loves people.  Christ saw the blind man.  Christ healed the blind man.  Now the blind man can see.  And once he experienced the touch of Christ it put in clear perspective Who it was that could actually change life.

For a moment – the blind man who could see danced.  I can imagine he shouted, “I can see!”  I wonder if Christ joined him in that joyful dancing as they celebrated new life – new abilities – the removing of that which bound the man.  The man who was once blind is now able to see clearer than those who are blinded by religion.  He met Jesus.  It changed his life.  I wonder if it were like George in “It’s a Wonderful Life”  (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038650/quotes)

[George returns to the bridge where his nightmare began, hoping to bring back his old life]
George Bailey: [praying] Clarence! Clarence! Help me, Clarence! Get me back! Get me back, I don’t care what happens to me! Get me back to my wife and kids! Help me Clarence, please! Please! I wanna live again. I wanna live again. Please, God, let me live again.
[it begins to snow again]
Bert: [shouts] Hey, George! George! You all right? Hey, what’s the matter?
George Bailey: Now get outta here, Bert, or I’ll hit you again! Get outta here!
Bert: What the sam hill you yellin’ for, George?
George Bailey: You…
[suddenly stunned]
George Bailey: George… Bert? Do you know me?
Bert: Know you? Huh. You kiddin’? I’ve been looking all over town trying to find you. I saw your car plowed into that tree down there and I thought maybe you – hey, your mouth’s bleeding. Are you sure you’re all right?
George Bailey: What the…
[licks the corner of his lip and checks his mouth with his hand]
George Bailey: Ha, ha, ha, ha! My mouth’s bleeding, Bert! My mouth’s bleeding! Zuzu’s petals… Zuzu…
George Bailey: [checking his pocket] There they are! Bert, what do you know about that! Merry Christmas!

I can see!

This morning I am blown away that God is still in the business of helping people see.  I am convinced again that Jesus is the only thing that can bring sight to the blind.  I am convinced that religious people never get it and never will get it because they have never met Jesus.

It is interesting that the Nativity Scene that is so nicely carved and put together on my coffee table, that no religious people (scribes and pharisees) are present.  There is a mom and dad – a baby – some shepherds – animals –  and a few seekers from the East – and the angels!  No religious people.  And those gathered at the little stable are all paying attention to Jesus!

Let’s see!  The Law Kills!  The GRACE GIVER gives life!

The distance between Law and Grace is five miles.  Jerusalem is the center where those who “follow Moses” focus their attention.  Bethlehem is right down the road.  Five miles down the road from religion is where Christianity spotted the Grace Giver.   And HE can still make blind eyes see.

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