Dr. Paul Perkins

Following In The Way of Jesus

When The Sky Weeps

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It turned cold this morning; I had to put on a jacket. The forecast is for more of the same, with cloudy skies and rain. It makes the earth feel sad. Then again, I suppose it is appropriate. Today and tomorrow our church mourns the passing of one of its members. I didn’t know him well, but he had been a member for a long time, a custodian, who was particular about how he kept the church. He is a Husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, but most of a child of God. 

I am sure that he isn’t the only person who has passed away this week. Others mourn their losses as deeply as this family. And the sky weeps for them all.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way—death. It is sin’s final triumph. I think that is why it is felt so deeply; a ripping, a tearing of all that is good. It reminds me of another death.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matt. 27:45.

The earth wept, but rain is a blessing, especially if you live in an arid climate. It is a blessing because it cleanses the air and nourishes the ground. The darkness is necessary for the blessing. Jesus said unless a kernel falls to the ground it can not bring forth life. So, with confidence he said, “I am the resurrection and the life, if you believe in me, even if you die, you will live.”  Blessing in the darkness.

This is true of every darkness, every painful situation, every hardship. The blessing is so much sweeter because of them. We mourn this weekend, but not as those without hope. I’m just saying...

 

Copy of Kung Fu Fighting

Here is a clip of some kids we know kung fuing it for a film my son created in HighSchool. Kungfu Panda was my edition. Take a look, these guys are good. 

Of course, I have taken Karate. My one two hour class didn’t give me the skills to compete with these guys, but I learned enough to run away. Whenever you watch a tv show or movie where someone knows a martial art’s skill, it seems everyone else in the show does too. It’s like musicals, can everybody really dance? The ref in the video was a friend of mine, and I asked him what really happens when two guys who know karate meet in a alley. He said it turns into a good ole street brawl, because it isn’t about form, but getting a physical advantage. Kind of like watching mixed martial arts. I have a friend who did that, and he was nuts.

There is a beauty to the raw form, the smooth, quick, motion, and the subtle power. But like everything else when it comes down to it, it’s a messy street brawl.

There is a beauty in form, a smooth motion, and subtle power in the church too. But sometimes, when it comes down to it, it’s a messy street brawl. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice“ Eph. 4:31. It’s starts with little things that are allowed to fester, then bitterness takes root, gossip, anger, and then hate. No faithful believer ever starts out to be this way toward their brother/sister in Christ. In order to circumvent a melt down and division in a church, is for people to remember, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you“ Eph. 4:32.

How did those two boys in the video get to be so good? Practice and discipline. For godliness to reign in our lives we need to practice the same kind of discipline in our spiritual lives. Now that’s power! I’m just saying…

Kung Fu Fighting

Here is a clip of some kids we know kung fuing it for a film my son created in HighSchool. Kungfu Panda was my edition. Take a look, these guys are good. 

Of course, I have taken Karate. My one two hour class didn’t give me the skills to compete with these guys, but I learned enough to run away. Whenever you watch a tv show or movie where someone knows a martial art’s skill, it seems everyone else in the show does too. It’s like musicals, can everybody really dance? The ref in the video was a friend of mine, and I asked him what really happens when two guys who know karate meet in a alley. He said it turns into a good ole street brawl, because it isn’t about form, but getting a physical advantage. Kind of like watching mixed martial arts. I have a friend who did that, and he was nuts.

There is a beauty to the raw form, the smooth, quick, motion, and the subtle power. But like everything else when it comes down to it, it’s a messy street brawl.

There is a beauty in form, a smooth motion, and subtle power in the church too. But sometimes, when it comes down to it, it’s a messy street brawl. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice“ Eph. 4:31. It’s starts with little things that are allowed to fester, then bitterness takes root, gossip, anger, and then hate. No faithful believer ever starts out to be this way toward their brother/sister in Christ. In order to circumvent a melt down and division in a church, is for people to remember, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you“ Eph. 4:32.

How did those two boys in the video get to be so good? Practice and discipline. For godliness to reign in our lives we need to practice the same kind of discipline in our spiritual lives. Now that’s power! I’m just saying…

Cereal and a Pound of Sugar

I love cereal, and so does my son. He likes it so much he came home one day with a t-shirt that read “Cereal Killer.” I had took a double take. Cereal is healthy. Just read the side of the box. They are fortified (that’s a good word) with vitamins and minerals (who wouldn’t want minerals in their cereal). They have fiber, and if you eat Cheerios there is no fat, and you can’t beat that. Of course the best part of a healthy breakfast of cereal is a pound of sugar, and that’s why I eat cereal in the first place. Forget the small spoon, sprinkling a soft layer of granualars over a tiny bowl of shredded wheat. You pour it on like in the old diners. It’s a double jackpot if the shredded wheat is also frosted! I think I will get a t-shirt that says, “killer cereal.”

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A diet like that would reek havoc on your body, so we stay away from them, or at least our wives hide the sugar. Sugar is as a bad as cocain. It is very addictive, and once you start down that path it can lead to all kinds of physical problems.

 “You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:12b-14.

 Churches are full of “Cereal Killers.” They can be millennials or boomers, they belong to every generation. Though the young generation hasn’t matured out of this stage, so we can give them more slack than earlier generations. Yet, no one is without excuse. If you have grown up in the church and tasted of the good grace of God, you could be a teenager and are ready to move on to meat. 

Cereal killers are people who complain, never satisfied, rarely get involved, expect others to do the work, and then complain. Cereal killers tend to be church hopers, because nothing satisfies them, their sugar rush dissipates. Cereal killers say they want genuineness, honesty, and openness, unless you ask them to share. They want a lot of programs but don’t ask them to be involved. I used to be a cereal killer. 

Feeding on milk is when you are making your faith your own. You’re wrestling with the issues of life and come to genuine faith. Meat eaters are grown up, their faith is no longer their own. They see their lives as an extension of God’s mission and look for ways to share the gospel. I used to be a cereal killer, but I have been transformed. Now I look for ways to train others to be meat eaters, so that together we can impact the world.

Which are you? I’m just saying... 

Big Guys, Little Punch

I’ve never been one to stand by and watch bullies get a pass. My greatest weapon has always been my mouth, and more recently my pen. There have been times, however that brute force seemed the most appropriate course of action. In the 7th grade, while living on the island of Crete, some friends and I were playing touch football outside of the community rec. facility. For some reason a very large boy appeared and took the football. No one moved, he was the resident bully. New to the island I wasn’t going to let him disrupt our game. I approached him and said, “give me the ball.” He just stood there and smiled. Knowing that talking would not resolve the situation, I drew my fist back, and with all my might, I struck him in the stomach. Nothing happed. He just stood there, for what seemed to be an enternity. Then he raised his fist and cold cocked me along side of the head. It knocked me out, and he left with the ball. 

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Fighting rarely solves anything, unless the Lord is fighting for you. This past Sunday I spoke about Joshua’s admonition to the people of Israel not to mix with the people of the land. He knew full well that marrying the Canaanites would lead the people to worship other gods. They would chose carved rock instead of the God who created the rock. They would eventually forget that God had fought for them and won, all for a pretty face.

God has fought for you. The battle is never easy. In fact some times it is down right painful. Yet, in it all God is fighting for us. Jesus has already overcome the world, and so can we. But we first have to keep our eyes focused on Jesus. That sounds like a cliche, but it’s not. When our thoughts and imaginations focus on the world, we are in a world of hurt. The world’s answer to life’s hardest questions is dictated by selfish desires and will always lead us down the wide path toward destruction.

What does it mean for God to fight for us? This is what Jesus told Peter, “ “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers,” Luke 22:31,32. Our battle is not physical, but spiritual, and for the most part that is the realm in which God battles on our behalf. Yet, the spiritual battle pours out into the physical. Depression, sickness, relational conflict, all are tied to our spiritual lives in some way. In it all, what Satan is after is our faith. If only he could get us to curse God and die. That is why Jesus told Peter that he would pray that he would not lose faith.

Once we overcome, through the power of the Spirit, we have an obligation to strengthen our brothers and sisters, who are facing the same struggles. We stand as we focus on Jesus and lean on the community of believers. Are you standing against the bully in your own strength? He’ll knock you out every time. Let the Lord fight for you, stand firm, encourage the brothers. I’m just saying. 

Why? Why Me Lord?!

Tears rolled down his face, hand shaking he took the cleanex I offered. “I can’t believe it,” he said. “One minute she loved me, and then another she didn’t. ‘I never really loved you,’ she said. We have two kids! How can she say that?” I just listened as he cried through his grief.

The cry, “Why Me Lord,” is a common cry of those who go through difficult times. ”Why me” when my children rebell. “Why me” when I lose my job. “Why me” when cancer strikes. “Why me?”

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There are times I have felt this way. Sometimes the problems seem small, other times they have been overwhelming, but the pain has always been mine, and the question deep and real. Where is God when things don’t go the way we want them to? When everything is going well, God was as close as my Bible and a prayer. In grief and depression the dark cloud hides his face, prayer was empty, and the morning wasn’t worth waking up to.

Jesus said that we would have trouble in this world, and his promise was that he overcame the world. But how is that a comfort in the middle of my grief? How does his overcoming the world help me to overcome my depression?

When I sit with people asking the question, I tell them right off that I can’t take away their pain. That’s what they want, to feel the sunshine again. Pain is inevitable in a sinful world, and we have to bear them, but not alone. We have been given the Spirit to encourage and strengthen us in our pain, and he has given us the church to lift us, stand with us, and to help bear the burden.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8,9.

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!“ 2 Peter 3:10-12.

I’m just saying

STOP IT!

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Watched a video clip last night with Bob Newhart. He was a counselor who could fix all your problems with two words, Stop It! A lot of our behavioral problems are the result of early childhood trauma, not enough love, and the lack of appropriate touch. But despite our history we are responsible for our atitudes, language, and actions. Boomers grew up in an age where we learned that nothing was our fault, we just had faulty parents. Well guess what? STOP IT!

Our history shapes us but it doesn’t dictate our lives. Sure my mom made me feel bad, but I don’t have to eat to compensate for it. My dad told me I was lazy, but I don’t have to prove him right by doing nothing, or try to prove my self by overachieving. I can chose balance, it may not be easy to break the bounds of childhood, but I have a choice.

So, the next time you feel like yelling at your spouse or children, STOP IT! The next time you start to complaining because you ____________________,  STOP IT! You can’t change things by complaining. Maybe you slammed doors because you didn’t get your way, or stole from mom’s purse because you felt intitled, STOP IT!

  •  “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do“ (Gal. 5:16,17).

I like this approach to life, because most people will blame everyone  but themselves. So, if your in a situation where you are tempted to sin, and you know that it is sin, STOP IT! I am just saying...

Headaches and a Toilet Bowl

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Yes, it is exactly the picture that just shot through your mind. 5:30 am I woke up with a terrible headache. Stumbling through the house, I made it too the couch. I don’t know why I thought the couch would be better than being in bed. Maybe it let me groan without waking Rebecca. Porthos (my dog) placed his chin on the couch in sympathy. Thinking it was just a headache, I grabbed some ibuprofen and downed it with orange juice. Nope not just a headache, I hugged the toilet bowl, and for the next thirty minutes we became very intimate. Then I thought, “maybe it was because I didn’t get enough water the day before and was dehydrated.” I got some Gatorade from the pantry and drank a full glass. Nada, for the next hour, between the pain in my head and my stomach, I disposed of all of last nights dinner and more. I was cold, hot, sweaty and dry, all before 8:45 am, when the headache retreated to a safe distance, and my stomach felt like a knot but not nauseous; I could make it through church.

I made it (I suffered for Jesus), and it was well worth it. Listening to the testimony of Wally and Wanda, and three high school students who were baptized was such a blessing. There is nothing more vitalizing than to hear how God has been working in and through people’s lives. One of the girls read Romans 3:10,11 and explained how God used it to help her understand that she doesn’t have to measure up on her own, that Jesus paid the price so that she doesn’t. The other girl told how her community of students helped her get back on track, and all said their families were there to support them.  

I have taken a very long nap this afternoon, still feeing weak and nauseous, but more than that I feel very blessed. It was worth going to church while feeling sick. It was a reminder of God’s faithfulness through the generations. I may, however, skip out of my meeting tonight. I’m just saying...

Identity Theft

I’m on hold with my bank. I was going over my bank statement and noticed a withdrawal that I hadn’t made, or at least I couldn’t remember making. I got on line with the vendor and worked through the transaction. They were quick to refund the money. According to identityforce.com “By the Numbers. Consider these identity theft statistics: In 2017, 6.64 percent of consumers became victims of identity fraud, or about 1 in 15 people. That equals 16.7 million victims last year, an increase of 1 million from 2016.”

This isn’t the first time I have had fraudulent charges on an account. It is disappointing whenever it happens because it reinforces the fact that there are evil people who are willing to cheat people, and potentially destroy their lives, all for the sake of accumulating wealth. 

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Identity theaft isn’t new, it is the oldest sin in the world (and you thought it was prostitution). In Genesis we are taught that man is created in the image of God, but that image (our identity) was stolen by the serpent when he deceived Eve in the garden. The cost to mankind has been incalculable. Greed, jealousy, anger, murder, idolatry, pride, slander, parental dissobedience, rape, spousal abuse... and on it goes. The world was plunged into a debt it could never recover from. 

God, however, has loved us so much, that he dealt with the fraud and made a repayment plan that placed the cost on himself. Our identity is now in Christ, and as we trust in Him we are being conformed to his image daily. Take that, identity theif! I’m just saying.

Wow! Accident? I Think Not!

I am sitting, listening to my son speak with a University Administrator about education in the Middle East. As they speak they laugh as they find commonality between their organizations and people they know in the Middles East. It amazes me how small the Christian world is. It is like that for my son, and it is like that for my wife and me.

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God seldom leads in a straight line, and the line he has led me along looks like a spighetti bowl.   I am the Pastor of a Mennonite Church, but that’s not where I started. According to my mother, when I was in kindergarten, we stopped at corner where stood a church. I have been told that I pointed at the structure and said, “I’m going to have one of those some day.” Little happened after that.

The other young memory was sitting next to my grandmother in the small Methodist church of Fenton, Illinois. She was over weight and had soft arms, and leaning against her the fragrance of her strong perfume was soothing. She would also give me “black jack” gum. It is a warm memory of church, though I don’t remember anything about the service.

In the sixth grade I was finishing catechism in the Methodist church (in Florida). At the end of the course we took a tour of the church and was taught why the sanctuary was set up the way it was. In the front was a curtain, and I always thought that Jesus was hung on the cross behind it. I froze and cringed as the Pastor began to pull the curtain back. My eyes went wide, I put my hands in front of my face, and ... it was the organ speakers. I don’t know if I was disappointed or relieved, but I was definitely dissolutioned. Other than a couple times a year I didn’t darknpen the doors of a church until I was in the 11th grade.

i started following Jesus as a senior in high school. Went to Columbia Bible College (S.C), started with youth For Christ (IA), took my first youth pastor position (IA), went to seminary (TX), took my second youth pastor position that lasted 17 years (WI), became small groups pastor (TX), solo pastor (IL), worked as a sales person (TX and WI), lived with my children (Bahrain and Wisconsin), and now the lead Pastor (OH). 55 years have gone by since my mom and I sat at that stop sign.

i haven’t always known the direction, but I have always trusted that God did. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). My squiggly line was full of ups and downs; times I thought I couldn’t make it. Each moment, the highs and the lows were from his hand, and each held its on trial and grace. God has a plan for good, so no matter how winding your road is, remember you don’t walk it alone. God has a plan. I’m just saying.

OOOh! My Dog Smells!

It started off as a faint whisp in the air. You can imagine it. Not quite sure what it was or where it came from. Every time the dog walked past it was stronger, but an initial inspection of Porthos didn’t reveal anything. Not finding anything it was easy to ignore, until it struck you again. Smell the floor, no. Smell the dogs bedding, no. Check under shoes, no. Where could it be? 

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All, of a sudden, there it was, a lump, right behind Porthos’ ear. It was dark and entangled. I pulled a small piece out, held it to my nostrils, and inhaled. Sure enough, the mutt had rolled his head into something. “Wash him!”  My wife said. Not, “good job, honey. Well done.” Nope, just “wash him.” 

The dog must not have liked the smell either, because he stepped into the shower stall by himself. Soap and Water, towel and “shake”, and the a hair blower; he was finished. Better than new, for a two year old dog.

Sometimes I get a whiff of something that is really rotten. A bad attitude, a crude joke, maybe it’s gossip or backbiting. The stench is at its worst when it is coming from me. Sin is that way. We wallow in it so much the smell is familiar, and we think it is normal. Only when someone points it out do we know there is a problem, if we’re willing to admit the truth of it.   

The stench of sin doesn’t come off easily, it takes a special product to remove it, and even then it tries to come back. The Bible says, “there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood.” It is through the blood of Jesus that our sin is washed away. He removes the stain, and we are made as white as wool. It is applied by faith. Do you have faith? Has the blood of Jesus cleansed you from your sin? If so wire “hallelujah” in the comment box.

Porthos has had a bath, been sprayed with a little doggy perfume, dried, and brushed. I will keep an eye one him for a while. I’m a realist. I’m sure that as soon as I stop watching he will find something. I’m just saying....

Too God To Be True

Jesus said, “I will be with you even until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

When I read Jesus’ statement my first thought was “then what?” What happens after the end of the age, but as interesting as it is that's another discussion? To delve into it would take us far astray from our question, “does Jesus make a difference.”

The second question that came to my mind was, “why was Jesus giving his disciples this promise?”

  • All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:18-29.

This is called the everyday commission. It was Jesus’ final instruction to his disciples. They were to go out, find faithful men, and reproduce themselves. I would assume that the disciples were apprehensive. The ordeal of the cross, having lost Jesus once was probably weighing on their minds. He was asking a lot of them and then he was going to go; even secretive about his destination.

Maybe that's why he made his exit so dramatic. Seeing him ascend into heaven would have reminded them of his power and glory. And it was that same power that he wanted to give them. What did Jesus tell the disciples?

  • But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8.

I would have been confused, and I think they were too. They went to the upper room in Jerusalem and waited and prayed. They ate and they prayed. They talked about Jesus and all that he said, and they prayed. Then it happened:

  • And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:2-4.

The Holy Spirit that Jesus promised, came on them in such a mighty and dramatic way that they were compelled into the streets. They spoke in the languages of the visitors to Passover. They spoke of Jesus, and whatever fear they had disappeared in that mighty rushing wind.

The filling of the Holy Spirit is a promise to all new believers, when you place your faith in Jesus as your savior from sin, as the Lord of your life. How does it feel to be filled? Do Christians run around in the streets? How does the Holy Spirit affect our lives?

The Apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is the seal of our salvation; our stamp of approval. But that isn't all the Holy Spirit does. He guides us, gives insight, convicts of sin, he abides in us, and he leads us into all truth. If Jesus had remained with the disciples physically he would only be in one place at a time. But the Holy Spirit is able to indwell each believer at the same time. Now that is mind blowing.

As meaningful as it is to be filled with the Spirit, the gift is useless if we are not walking with him. ”But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” Gal. 5:16. Walking in the Spirit is a continual action, motion in step with another person. Walking in the Spirit takes initiative, concentration, and persistence. But it is the only way we can live as Jesus taught us. You see, the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to put to death desires of the flesh.

Another way of understanding our relationship with the Holy Spirit is, “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” 1 John 4:13. When we abide we are dwelling in a place with another person. Abiding has the sense of rest from the cares of the world. Abiding is being in the same house and experiencing contentment with another person without the need to talk.

When we abide this way with the Holy Spirit there is an ease with which we learn to trust in his promises. Doubt drifts away and faith burns brighter. No longer does the world loom larger than life, because the life in the Holy Spirit is greater than the world. Abiding in the Holy Spirit allows the believer to see the world in a completely different way. Instead of fear, there is confidence. Instead of anger, there is love. Instead of bitterness, there is forgiveness. Instead of despair, there is hope.

  • To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27.

There is a mystery in following Jesus. Science, philosophy, and modernity would tell us that our faith is misplaced, that we are following a myth, that there is nothing beyond our senses. The mystery, that thing the non-believer seeks but can't find, is hope, and that hope is Christ in you. We live in freedom because we know that there is more than this life ahead. We are not shackled to sin, because Jesus set us free. We stand against the storm because we don't stand alone. That is our confidence, that we are not alone.

Tragedy is the great tester of the faith. When faced with troubling news or the loss of a loved one it is easy to feel alone, isolated, and helpless. But when we realize that the presence of Christ dwells inside of us, there is nothing that can strike us down.

When my nephew died I flew to Florida to give comfort to my brother. The constant question was, why? He was on drugs and ran into a busy street. The real question was, “why didn't God stop him?” They are not believers, so their questions would always end in despair. They have no hope, nothing to hold on to, but for the Christian, Jesus changes everything, and sorrow turns to dancing.

Jesus also said that we are to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us.  How is that possible? How can fallible people do the extraordinary? It is achievable because the ability does not lie in our own strength but in the strength of Christ in us.

When you come to realize that God has not left you alone, that he has given you the Spirit to fight for you, that the mystery hidden for thousand of years has been made known to you, when you realize all of this how can you not rejoice! Jesus changes everything!

Grandma, Get Out Of The Way!

You know that guy who zooms up behind you in the early morning dark, when it’s raining, and on unfamiliar roads? He doesn’t like it because you are going too slow.  You wonder if he is late for work or there is an emergency. I use to be that guy, and there was never anything pressing but my own impatience. The world was always going to slow, and you would drive by and give the person that look. You know the one, guys, because you’ve given it too. It’s that look that says, “yeah, you’re a moron and shouldn’t be on the road.” Especially if the person is really old or a woman on the phone. This morning I am that moron, or rather that older person who doesn’t trust my own eyesight in the glaring lights reflecting off the prisms falling from the sky.

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When it comes down to it, it is about respect for people. Maybe the woman on the phone is talking g to her babysitter or the older couple is trying to get home from seeing their great grandchildren. Or maybe not. It really doesn’t matter. As Followers of Jesus we are to love, and love is patient and kind. Patience is a virtue that I have never had an abundance of. I have always been a “need it now” kind of guy. Not a good characteristic for a Pastor. God has a remedy for impatience, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (patience).” James 1:2. You know the old saying, “practice patience?” Patience only can be practiced in the middle of a trial. 

There are always opportunities to practice, the line at the store, the clerk who can’t help you, the child who won’t listen, the spouse...who won’t listen, or the person in the car in front of you going slow.  But it’s not about being patient. If you think you can learn and maintain patience for patience sake, you will fail. Impatience is an emotion born of a feeling of injustice. The person or situation is creating a block to something you desire. Impatience is the gateway emotion for anger. The way we deal with impatience is to understand what is the desired block, is the object or person in the way able to resolve the issue, and will anger really solve the problem (or will it make it worse)? Anger never makes it better. 

Love is the only emotion strong enough to overcome the emotion of anger, but not our love. We know how to love because God has first loved us. He has every right to be impatient with us, to be angry for our sin. Yet, he doesnt act on his right, but displays his love toward us, so that, we can have an enduring relationship with him. It is his love for us that motivates us to love others. 

You know when your getting impatient. You want something but it’s not happening. The muscles in your shoulders begin to tense. You might pace, grip the steering wheel, grit your teeth. Stop! Who is the person in front of you? Are they loved by the Father?  Then we are called to love them. Is our desire so great that treating someone with disrespect is the only outcome? “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” James 2:13.

I’m sitting at Midas waiting for the news about my breaks. I can feel the muscles in my neck tighten. I think I have some practicing to do...I’m just saying. 

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

Fun mirrors, are really not that fun. They skew the image of whatever stands in front of it. Short, tall, skinny, fat, but they never make you look better than you really are. Of course, regular mirrors may not accomplish a positive outcome either. Mirrors serve only to reveal what is, not what we wish to be. 

  • “Mirror, Mirror in the wall, whose the fairest of them all?”

Never ask a question you don’t want the answer to. The reality is always different than the dream. Yet, God knows the reality, the future that hides behind the mirror.

  • “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” 1 Corinthians 13:12.

 One of these days we will truly know the fullness of God’s love and grace. Until then we are constantly being transformed into his image, through His indwelling Spirit. Paul said,

  •  “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,” Romans 8:29

One of the ways God’s image is reflected is through the institution of marriage. One man, one woman brought together and bound by ceremony and Spirit. It is a triunion of essence in the fashion (not substance) of The Trinity. That is why God is so invested in healthy marriages, and why he admonishes us in it’s maintenance. Men love their wives like Christ loves the church. A Bride whom He has sanctified with his blood. Wives obey their husbands like the church obeys Christ, with honor and dignity. 

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The Scriptures are tough on marriage. The standard seems impossible to reach, when Jesus said that divorce can only take place in the face of sexual immorality, the disciples were astonished. They questioned whether anyone should marry. But why is the standard so high?

God’s Holiness. If Marriage is a reflection of God’s unity, then to guard its sanctity should be our utmost concern. The church should fight for its identity, it’s stability, and it’s endurance. To change its nature or structure is to look in the fun mirror and admire a warped view. That’s why, we at St. John, provide opportunities to strengthen and save marriages. We do it for you. We do it for God’s glory....I’m just saying. 

When We Go To War

There are times that it is appropriate for Christians to go to war. Of course, I am referring to spiritual warfare. We wake up every day in the middle of a battlefield, where the enemy is relentless and shrewd. If we aren’t careful, aware, and diligent, we will fall prey to the enemies schemes. 

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As I said on Sunday there are three areas that not only take us to war, but war with our brothers and sisters. As Joshua and Phenehas did, we are to confront sin when it rears its ugly head. The three actions are: immorality, idolatry, and false teaching. It is important to qualify something here.

We go to war with brothers and sister, only when there is known sin, and the brother/sister is unrepentant. We don’t abandon love, grace, and forgiveness. Rather, they are some of our greatest weapons. God’s character of love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness are never diminished as he displays his judgement. Rather his judgment is a tool to correct and discipline his children, upon which they are offered grace and mercy through repentance and confession.  

Therefore, we, His children, are to emulate the same behavior, and walk in the power of our risen savior. Then we will see sin confronted and brother/sisters cared for. Christians are more a peace keeping force. We offer peace and a family, and when conflict arises, we confront it with the hope of reconciliation. Iam just saying,,, We 

Believe In God

Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” John 14:1-3.

Few of us live in secluded areas where there isn't any crime. Trouble surrounds us. School shootings, natural catastrophes, rape, murder, abortion, drug abuse; trouble is everywhere, if we want to take notice. It strikes fear at night, and it haunts our dreams; if we are involved.

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Jesus steps onto the scene, a troubled time for the Israelites, and tells his disciples not to let their hearts be troubled. “In the world you will have trouble, but I have over come the world” (John 16:33). Easier said than done when you are faced with real problems, people trying to hurt you, or your family is explosive, few people will even talk to you, or your friends have packed up and moved away. But the remedy to the trouble is not advice or counseling, but God himself. The catalyst for healing is our faith in Jesus, and a promise of hope.

The answer is a place in God’s presence, and the promise of a room in his house. Can you imagine being invited to the White House for dinner? All the fancy table wear, a full staff to serve you, and the special clothes. I would be dumb struck. The honor and privilege to be in the president’s home. But, what if at dinner he stood up and called you by name. “Andrew, I’m aware of your hard life, but I want you to know that I have prepared a room for you next to my son’s. You are part of the family.” It would be unbelievable.

This is exactly what God has promised us. He has prepared a room next to His Son’s. We have nothing to worry about, ever again. The book of Revelation says, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). Are you blessed? Do you belong to the family of God? If you do, you have no more troubles, because your future is secure. If you don't, all you need to do is trust in Jesus’ act of love and power.

The promise, however, is future. Until he returns, or calls us home, we are responsible for living out our faith in such away that people see our good works and give glory to God. Our purpose is to see new believers become fully devoted followers of Jesus, who in turn Disciple others. Why? Because we know the future, and the outcome of a troubled world. Therefore, we watch for his return, but keep focused on the work he has called us to do, even though it seems so long. It has been over 2000 years already. But be encouraged, the Apostle Peter wrote,

  • But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:8,9.

I love this verse because it puts things into proper perspective. We look at life from our own vantage point, while God looks at it from an eternal perspective. Time is of no consequence to Him, whether one day or a thousand.  But, there is a reason for his tardiness. It is for the sake of the perishing. There are still people who will come to faith, so we need to be patient. Peter continues,

  • But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter3:10-13.

In order for our future home to be realized, Jesus has to return and bring judgment on those who have not believed. In order to make room for our new home he will destroy this creation. It will be judged and cleansed with fire. The result will be a new heaven and earth, one where sin and death no longer exist. But there is a caveat. We need to reach out to people now and live lives of holiness and godliness.

Living faithful lives for God now is the price we pay for a beautiful heavenly home in the future. So, what does living a holy life in a troubled world look like? It's about good character, trust, and faith. It's about loving your neighbors, doing good to those who persecute you, and forgiving just as God, in Christ forgave us.

We are also called to live in community, which in our culture, especially the church, isn't as easy as we think. Most churches call themselves a community, but after their Sunday morning activities they scamper home and huddle around their own activities. Living in community is much bigger than we can ever imagine. The rewards are great if we are able to live and persevere through the hard times.

Troubles come and go, but God is eternal. We may face trouble or we may live a life free of the world’s care. Either way we have this great promise of living with the Father. Through the strength of the Holy Spirit we can remain faithful every day.

There are days that I begin to lose heart. The weight of ministry, the difficulties of keeping a body of believers together, feels heavy on my shoulders. It would be easy to give up, to walk away and live like the world. But God has called me to something greater. I am part of His plan to disciple people. He has given me everything spiritual blessing that I need for today. And He has given a promise to live in his house in the future. All because of what Jesus did. Now if that doesn't change everything, I don’t know what does.

Here Comes The Bride

  • The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come…He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:17,20).

I enjoy my life. There are problems for sure, but nothing that would have me on my knees begging Jesus to come today. I know there are places in the world where that isn't so. There are some who believe that the United States is on the cusp of the same type of persecution. It seems to always be that way.

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As I grow older it becomes more apparent that the reality of Jesus’ return is preferable than this life, growing old is God’s way of weaning us of this life; it's so true. It is with this perspective that our older generation can give us encouragement. Youth are bold and daring, until they settle down with a family. Family life is all consuming, until you reach middle age and the kids leave home. Our senior years are reflective about legacies and grandchildren. And finally, our eyes will close and we will stand in the presence of our savior. That's life in a nutshell.

Whatever Lifestage you are in, my advice, enjoy it. Take life by the horns and seize the day! Love the Lord! Love others! Love your family! And smile, Jesus is coming soon. This changes everything!

Junk or Treasure

I spent some time clearing out some junk in the loft. I should have done it before I started putting up drywall, but that would have easier and I don’t do easy. There was recessed lighting (the old stuff), conduit, wood, and an assortment of left over construction items. I looked at every piece, because you never know what you can make from it. It might not be junk, it could be treasure. 

When we lived in Houston, the morning that our neighborhood put out garbage, there were one or two trucks that would come through and scavenge items they could fix and sell. The symbiotic relationship was amazing. What I thought was junk they could turn into a treasure. I thought maybe I could do it and save some money. Then I remember why I threw it out in the first place.

  • When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, Psalm 8:3-6
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The Psalmist asks a penetrating question, what is man that God would even think about him? In terms of comparison we are ants, no, less than that before God. Yet, he regards us because we have been created in his image. Sin has us believing a lie. We are not junk. Man is crowned with glory and honor. The problem is that we live as if we are junk. Yes, we might be a little tainted, rusted, and dirty from years of living in a fallen world. But underneath the mess is a jewel designed to live in relationship with God. It is the blood of Christ that washes away our sin. It is the ultimate googone. 

Today we have a choice. Either to live as if life is meaningless and we are but cosmic dust collectors, or to live how God has created us, in His image and children of the King. I know how I am going to live. I’m just saying.

Water water everywhere

No, this is not about the hurricane off the east coast. But it is about distribution issues. All over the world relief agencies send food to countries with starving people, but it never reaches its intended target audience. Corrupt governments and inefficiency contribute to an already distressing issue. Then there is Puerto Rico, in our own back yard. After hurricane Maria deviststed the island 20,000 bottles of water sat on the docks waiting to be distributed. Doesn’t sound like much in the grand scheme of things, but 20,000 bottles of water could be the difference between life and death.

Can you imagine, desperately needing water and not being able to get to it?  Jesus said that he is the living water, and anyone who drinks from him will never thirst again. Thirsty people all over the world and in our own backyard, desperately need what Jesus has to offer, but there is a distribution problem. There are too many Christian enjoying the refreshing waters of life but are not willing to share it with their neighbors, their friends. It’s an outrage when FEMA fails to deliver bottles of water, how much more an outrage if the Church fails to distribute the living water. I’m just saying...

On The Way

Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:12,13).

Three times in the book of Revelation the phrase Alpha and Omega is used. The third time, quoted above, is a statement by Jesus. It is proceeded by a promise to return and a promise to judge people for their actions. The first time is quoted below and is attributed to God. It too is proceeded by a promise of Jesus’ return and an explanation that the whole world will see him and wail, presumably out of remorse, for crucifying him.

  • Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. Revelation 1:7,8

The second time it is used, it is spoken by the one sitting on the throne who promises to make all things new, give water to the thirsty and to judge the unrepentant.

  • And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also, he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. Revelation 21:5-8.

The phrase indicates the nature and ability of the one described. The beginning and end, the first and last are references to the eternality of God. In the context, it is a statement of Jesus’ divinity.  He is the almighty God who has both the authority and ability to bring blessing and judgment. To those who have by faith given their lives to following Jesus, he gives life. To those who have rejected the gift of salvation he brings retribution and condemnation.

At times, when things are going well, it is easy to forget that our blessings come from the Father. But when times are tough, when we wonder if life is worth living, we cling to the promises of God’s coming. We long for the new earth where every tear will be wiped away and all injustice will be redeemed. In those moments, it is natural for us to think of heavenly things.

Yet, the kingdom of God is at hand. Through the indwelling Spirit we live out the reality of the Kingdom everyday. We enjoy life because we know its true meaning. We live for God's glory in everything that we do, and reap the reward of seeing his love manifest through us to other people in hopes that they too will follow Jesus. There is great joy when we experience the reality of the kingdom on earth.

We shouldn't, however, forget our purpose and mission. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega and brings judgment on the unrighteous. If not for His patience fewer people will enter the kingdom of God. If we forget our purpose we will waste our time, lose sight of the opportunities around us, and the condemnation of the unsaved will be the result of our complacency. When the time comes for the alpha and omega to be revealed in his glory, will we be found faithful?

The writer of Hebrews said, “it is appointed unto men once to die and then the judgement” (Hebrews 9:27). We will all stand before the judgement seat of Christ and be held accountable for our lives. Those who have been redeemed will be ushered into their reward, but those who have not been redeemed will be cast out into the second death. Where the torment of the soul is eternal.

Objections are often raised concerning the cruelty of God and the barbaric nature of an eternal death. Of course, there isn't a complaint about eternal life. The idea of eternal death can be repulsive. Yet, for many, the repulsive nature of stern damnation doesn't motivate them to share the gospel. They would rather picket God's actions than warn others about the consequences and offer them an alternative.

I am little better. Am I willing to step out of my comfort zone to see others come to know Jesus? How often to do I pass up opportunities to share the gospel because I don't feel like it, it’s inconvenient, or because I am turned off by the individual? The Apostle Paul said, “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness” (Romans 11:22). We don't question his kindness, so we shouldn't question his severity. It should, however, motivate us to preach the good news, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others” (2 Corinthians 5:11).

There is comfort and concern in knowing the Alpha and the Omega. Comfort to those who have received salvation through their faith in the gospel of Christ. Concern for those who have rejected that faith and fall under God's wrath and condemnation. Their destiny is the fires of hell.

Where is your destiny? Does it lie in the promise of God’s compassion and grace, or in God's promise of judgment and wrath? Everyone faces moments in their life where they must make a choice between the way of life or the way of darkness. If you are reading this and have never accepted God's gift of salvation this is your moment of decision. All you have to do is confess that you are a sinner, that you have rebelled against God's will, and that you believe that Jesus died for your sins and rose again to the glory of God. Then the adventure begins! I'm telling you, Jesus changes everything.

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