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I stole the title from Oswald Chambers.  I admit that on the front end.  Joe used the word the other day when he referred to being “…shocked and bewildered…” in respect to my resignation and retirement from full time ministry.  There are times in your life that when you follow the Lord’s leading that it would seem like absolute disaster.  I learned the other day that you don’t deify common sense when it comes to following Christ’s leading in your life.  You “follow”.  Figuring things out becomes futile for you are in a trusting relationship that is defined and directed by things internal and sometimes they don’t make sense.  But what was “failure” from man’s standpoint was a triumph from God’s standpoint….because God’s purpose is never the same as man’s purpose…period.

Jesus was going “up” to Jerusalem.  From where Jesus stood physically at the time everyone would go up because Jerusalem is on the hill above them.  Telling his disciples that it is in the will of God to go up, be delivered to the Gentiles, be mocked, spitefully entreated and spitted upon, scourge him and put him to death… what a story line except the “hope” of it all was that He would rise again on the third day.  Sometimes “following God’s call” is very bewildering.  However, to those of us who are Children of God and know him intimately then you can detect what He is thinking and you can hear it on the inside stronger than the common sense stuff on the outside that is screaming at you.  And you follow.  And it doesn’t make sense except to those who have the wonderful assurance that this voice you have been following all your life is “right” and you follow.  A voice on the inside that you hear.  His call is to be his friend and hearing his voice.  It doesn’t take long before you just know it’s His voice and the love thing on the inside says an immediate “Yes!”  It becomes our joy to watch the Holy Spirit work it out.  He is taking us into what He is up to.

The person you talk to is the one you are intimate with.  The one you are intimate with becomes the One you have a deep affection for.  The one you are that close to can begin to just “know” the others voice and wishes.  And when you are spending time with Him… you listen… when you listen you hear… trust is not hard when you love him.

We won’t be asked to go to Jerusalem.  We will, however, be asked to do what is not “common sense at all”.  and we will follow what we sense with the inner man and trust Him for that is what lovers do.

 

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A voice from the past spoke up yesterday.  43 years of ministry gifts you with a number of good friends who have hugged your neck in days past and wished you a great life somewhere else as you watch the Lord redirect your life toward seminary, and then on to other places of service.  The late Rev. Stafford Hebert and the church he pastored Midland Park Baptist Church, licensed me and then subsequently ordained me into the Gospel Ministry a long time ago.  When you are that young you know everything.  It’s funny how the “green behind your ears” as they say is “behind your ears” where you can’t even see it in the mirror.  The Midland Park Church and “Preacher” saw something in me as a preacher of the Gospel.

I could feel the wobble or what I know now was the time I began to find interest in being a preacher before I was saved.  I laughed as I read this note…have no idea who wrote it

The other day, someone at a store in our town read that a methamphetamine lab had been found in an old farmhouse in the adjoining county and he asked me a rhetorical question, “Why didn’t we have a drug problem when you and I were growing up?”

I replied: I had a drug problem when I was young: I was drug to church on Sunday morning. I was drug to church for weddings and funerals. I was drug to family reunions and community socials no matter the weather.

I was drug by my ears when I was disrespectful to adults. I was also drug to the woodshed when I disobeyed my parents, told a lie, brought home a bad report card, did not speak with respect, spoke ill of the teacher or the preacher, or if I didn’t put forth my best effort in everything that was asked of me.

I was drug to the kitchen sink to have my mouth washed out with soap if I uttered a profane four-letter word. I was drug out to pull weeds in mom’s garden and flower beds and cockleburs out of dad’s fields. I was drug to the homes of family, friends, and neighbors to help out some poor soul who had no one to mow the yard, repair the clothesline, or chop some firewood; and, if my mother had ever known that I took a single dime as a tip for this kindness, she would have drug me back to the woodshed.

Those drugs are still in my veins; and they affect my behavior in everything I do, say, and think. They are stronger than cocaine, crack, or heroin; and, if today’s children had this kind of drug problem, America would be a better place.

God bless the parents who drugged us.

God decided some sixty years ago to let me come to the earth and until the last month I don’t know of many Sunday mornings that I was not in church somewhere.  I was “drug” to church to start with.  Since God called me to preach I have continued to go.  Some of them we because I had to do that because I was paid to be present.  It’s just what good people who grew up in the South do.  It’s ingrained in us.

Then I met Jesus and later on I began to understand grace and the idea of being loved by God became something that I just never got over.  Once you’ve been loved, your perspective changes about Jesus.  No one forces you or has to drag you… The love of Christ compels you.

In John 6 a great group of men and women who had been following Jesus were challenged as to their love for following this one they knew as Jesus of Nazareth.  The booked when the times got tough.   Now he looks at those who are his dearest friends and asks, as the rest of them are walking off… “Let’s talk about this a bit, you don’t want to leave, too, do you?”  No.

 

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12-before-let-goIt’s one of those mornings.  You can’t make this junk up.  I get up and read “I am crucified with Christ.”  A truth that cannot be messed with, yet a pain in the neck to deal with.  As I say all the time, “It makes great preachin’ but sorry livin'”…that is until you are captured by the One  with whom you are crucified.  Someone once said that a good marriage is  where both people feel like they are getting the better end of the deal.  And it is that the two have become One.  US.  Where you literally choose to “die” to everyone else save the one to whom you are married.  You wake up every morning blown away that the other person loves you.  That the other person is cheering for you.  And out of that love you relinquish control of your life willingly into the arms and heart of another.  You never see that being loved has “cost” you anything.  You never go to bed regretting a thing.  You are consumed by the love of the other.  Adjusting is amazingly wonderful.  That is once you are “captured” by the One that loves you just like you are.

There are days when I think God is crazy.  He made the lot of us.  We are so gripped by being human.  As goofy and messed up and unrighteous as we are.  Prone to selfishness and arrogance, we move around other people trying to get the advantage and control. There is always one person in your family that is so unbelievably hard to deal with.  I woke up this morning and ugly Uncle Pride was here again. I meet him regularly.  And I have a terminal case of it.  I try not to be ugly but on a good day I do enjoy taking care of me.  Then I met the Master.  I fell in love with the Savior…the One with whom I am crucified.  The one I love and when I felt his love, experienced his forgiveness, was consumed by Him adopting me into the Family, and when I caught his heart of Grace and Mercy, I could not get over it.  Lan Leavell repeated what he had read “I don’t think he ever got over his salvation. He never stopped being surprised by it.” -D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ daughter Westminster Chapel.  When you have been loved like Christ loved us, then dying to ourselves becomes something you treasure because you have been moved by love.

Our hearts move toward Easter Season.  A season of the year where we see Christ give his life as a ransom for our sin.  A time of the year when the heart of God is so richly revealed to us.  Where we see just how far he would go to “treasure” or “value” his children.  Being still and being consumed again by that love causes us to draw near to Him.  It is in dying that we live.  It is in the act of releasing that we are captured by the love we have for another.

I guess I am trying to connect “crucifixion” in light of the great love that just causes other things to fall off.  If it is a burden to “let go” then wallow in the love a bit more.  The more you let go the more you have.  I willingly relinquish it all.

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That little phrase “...IN all these things…” encompasses a great deal.  We are more than conquerors, we are super-victors (as Oswald Chambers reminded me..) through Him who loved us.  The “all these things” are provided “through HIM who loved us.  Not provided as a result of earning a single thing.

Context… “all these things”?  Let’s see tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword… then he quotes a verse “for YOUR sake we are killed all day long; We are counted as sheep for the slaughter.  As these things happen to us we look around in the midst of this day and all the “human” that will be ours to enjoy, we will look up and see HIM with us… this one who loves us more than we can imagine.  And nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.

Nothing can separate us from Love’s touch.  It steadies the ship that is trying to get it’s bearings.  When you have been loved, you feel its presence around you.  There are things that you go through that divert your attention from its steady presence, however, when the fog clears and the troubles try and catch you away, the richness of that love is still present and powerful.  Oh that people could see how loved they are and experience that love in very tangible ways.  It changes your life.  It is amazing how going through the storms “…IN all these things…” we really are “super victors” because of LOVE’s (love’s) touch.

I will walk among fellow humans today.  Some are in the midst of hardship.  Whether some know it or not they are actually coming out of a hardship, they just haven’t seen it yet, or perhaps they are waiting to enter hardships.  On any given day there are moments where I wish I could bring the Family of God and help rescue them from the hardships.  I think today I want to ask God to help me be sensitive to folk today.  Maybe I can sit and just be with someone while they are going through the darkness…keeping my mouth shut and resist the temptation to thwart what God is doing by adding my pitiful two cents in the ash heap while they are scraping their boils as Job did.  Maybe I could take care of getting them something to drink or eat while they face the hardship or maybe even wash clothes or dishes.  I will pray for them.  I will help them breathe. Sometimes hardships knock the breath out of you.  Maybe this “in all these things” is some kind of instruction for us to join the Father in being with folk and allowing His love to drive us to be present assuring our fellow sufferers to see in practical ways what is so theologically true about God’s love to us.  Maybe we can be the Jesus they need to see.  It changed my life when someone loved me.

Praise!

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102_1573.jpgMr. Graham told the story the other day while continuing to move on toward his graduation day of an old black gentleman standing I believe he said in Cades. As he lay in a hospital bed at the Hospice House, he pulled the covers up near his chin.  Holding the covers with both hands he slowly began to tell this story he recounted from younger years living in the country.

A car pulled up and the occupants motioned to him as if they needed his assistance. You could tell the folk “weren’t from ’round heeeer”. They wanted to know where the “Church of God” was… The old black man scratched his head and said, “You go left at that stop sign, go two blocks and take a left and there is this church” (long silence because he is thinking) “Come to think of it though, that’s Mr. Hick’s church” There was a long silence and the gentleman said, “Or you can go back over to the left a couple of blocks and there is this other church. Yes, you can go over there. But come to think about it that is Mr. Sander’s church” then with some desperation he said, “Or you can go back the direction you came and there is this other church.” “If I am not mistaken that is Mr. Brown’s church.”

The old gentleman stopped and put his hand on his chin and said, “You know the truth? The truth is I really don’t know where that church is. Because IF God has a church around here I don’t know where it is…”

I am amazed at Mr. G’s ability to tell stories from his younger years. I am praying for you and for Mr. Graham on this Lord’s Day!

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GOP Presidential Candidates Debate In Detroit

I realized after last night that we really are messy and broken and scared people. The FoxNews Debate!  Yeah!  I actually have seen some folk much more messed up than I could have expected.   I listened again because the early morning news caught me by surprise before I could get the channel changer in my hand and crammed it down my throat again as they played a few clips of the Three HealthywealthyStooges on stage with a fourth quiet man whose last name they tell me starts with a “K”.  At least that’s how I felt before I quickly changed the channels.  Larry, Curly and Moe screaming at each other in the most presidential way convincing each other as  toddlers trying to yank the toys out of the other’s hands as they pretended they were the great hope of America next four years.  . Pleeeaasssseeee!  Military Leader?  Presidential Models? Respected by the world?  Are you serious?  We wallow in the furry as I see it of the last seven years and now look at the possibility of being led by a group of liars and children on all sides of the political spectrum from and independent billionaire with few answers to the state of the supposed “Union” to a human being who has spent the last pile of years doing nothing but promoting herself.  You wonder what any of them have done to demonstrate the validity of their “existence” except to provide for themselves.  It’s tough being human to start with.  I struggle with the consistent way we all drive our own ship without any concern for our neighbor.  What could a Jewish Socialist, a lying arrogant lawyer, three monkeys from the zoo on stage last night, and this quiet fellow whose last name begins with a “K” do for this country?  Maybe we should elect their “handlers”.  I am terribly bewildered this morning as to how a free American could vote for any of these offerings to the “highest office in the world”.  Can we remove them from the running and then shake the container again and see if anyone else can “fall out” with the strength and stamina to lead this amazing blessed nation?

I have always been around people who have faith.  Maybe my struggle at times is I would love for the world to meet our Savior instead of our candidate.  This Jesus I met at 11 years old has changed more in this world than any debate ever did.  He doesn’t talk about what he was going to do.  He just did it.  He actually “gave himself” as a sacrifice to the world.  He healed.  He fed.  He gathered a group in community around him.  He died for their sins as the Bible describes.  (…and yes, I actually believe the narrative of Scripture) and I have seen him change my life.  It seems to be the one consistent witness of “change” to which I can testify.  He doesn’t have to tell you what he plans to do, even though the Bible clearly is on point of everything past and present, and I can be confident that if he hit it on those two that something about the future brings hope to me.  If the Scriptures are true, and I believe they are, then one of these glorious days Christ will rule and we will be done with the smoke screen of political stink that arise out of the cesspool of political debate.

Then I am forced to examine the goofiness that clutters my own steps and remember that I do a lot of talking as well.  I am a believer.  I am in love with Jesus.  I know the Sunday School answer to a lot of things.  I have it down pat.  I can posture with the best of them.  Somewhere in the middle of it all still rises the thought “…take up your cross and follow me…” Some days I wish they’d cut that little phrase out of The Book.  I get uncomfortable when the One who loves me most causes me to confront my own mess. In my heart I am glad I can talk about Larry, Curly, and Moe.  It makes me feel so much better about myself.

I just remembered that great question asked by God recorded in the Bible.  Have you considered my servant, Job?  That was God in a conversation with the Enemy himself, Satan.

Have you considered my servant, Jim?  What if God had that conversation with the Enemy about me?  Maybe my stage this morning is a bit different than the one last night.  And you don’t need a crowd with the Lord of the Universe is doing the questioning.  I am certainly glad that “grace and love bat last”.  Maybe the Liberty Mutual Commercial was right: Maybe we should research that a bit more.

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