Do You Know How to 2 Step?

I grew up in Georgia when “soul” music was the really hot thing.  I remember the talent and “soul” when the Temptations, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, etc. sang.  And, I loved to dance to that music.  Yep, I had rhythm and learned how to boog-a-loo and shing-a-ling with the best of them.  Of course, later in life while attending my daughters’ school dances, I thoroughly embarrassed them shaking my body to what I called dancing. They let me know, “Dad, shaking your caboose (aka “rear end”) rhythmically is not dancing!”  They thought that they were dumping water on a fire but just the opposite happened much to their chagrin!  Then in 1982, we moved to Texas where the 2-Step is dancing.  If you can’t 2-Step in TX, don’t waste the dance floor.  The interesting thing about two partners who are really good at the 2-Step is that the dance is elegant.  Experienced 2-Steppers glide gracefully across the dance floor on a single plain.  I have laughed respectfully a number of times observing cowboys who probably had broken a horse or kept cattle in order that day get on the dance floor.  These men became seemingly a different person as they leaned their head back, chin lifted and shoulders up gliding their lady gracefully cross the dance floor.  There are turns in the dance that are often dictated by the positioning of other dancer partners on the floor and the dimensions of the room.  This means that the Cowboy may be leading out dancing backwards.  As the circling is in transition, the coordinated 2 Step must continue.  The good two-stepper knows that timing is crucial. You don’t want to get behind, and you don’t want to get ahead. You want to step in the right time.  To me, the real dancer is the lady who is able to follow the lead of their man synchronously step by step.  I have no idea how my wife, Pam, follows me while being my dance partner, but she does…following my slight nudge or pull one-step-at-a-time.   She makes me look good…maybe “decent” is a better word 😊.

Believe it or not, Galatians 5:25 pictures a beautiful dance, the Holy Spirit leads out step-by-step, and we synchronously follow. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  Following the Holy Spirit, timing is crucial. You don’t want to get behind Him, you don’t want to get ahead of Him. You want to be just in his time.  However, we often get way out in front.  When we do, the dance is no longer full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control but becomes disjointed and frustrating to both partners. 

I challenge you to live life focused on today.  Matthew 6:35 exhorts us “to not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  If you break your walk down to focus on today and step-by-step follow Jesus in obedience and submission, your life dance becomes elegant and graceful in the eyes of God.  And, you look like and serve like Jesus to others who are around you. 

Learn to 2 Step with the Holy Spirit focused on one step-at-a-time.

Dead Inside

I decided it was time to cut down this tree in my pasture.  It was kind of gnarly and didn’t produce many leaves in the spring.  The outside of the tree looked fine but something must have been wrong with it.  Some friends came over and we had a tree cutting party. When it was finally cut down, most of the tree had a hollow center filled with soft, dark paper-like substance. It was obviously infected by something, and was being eaten alive from the inside out. Over time, you could tell, even though the outside looked pretty good, the tree itself did not look good.  I was thinking about that tree this morning, and realized it is like many people today, who call themselves Christians.  We look pretty good on the outside, but what is going on inside, and what is going on inside will sooner or later, appear in some way on the outside.  Jesus would describe the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and scribes this way: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:27-28  Remember, Jesus was talking to “righteous” people, those who lived lives that they felt were godly and good, but they were mistaken. There is a lesson for all of us from my tree. What are we full of? Has the sins of the world crept in to start seeding itself in our hearts and minds, while we take up the stance of righteousness on the outside. Sooner or later, we will start to show the effects of what is going on inside, just like my tree.  So we start now, to clean out the inside! To confess to our Lord those things that have stayed hidden for so long. We confess to Him our inadequacy or failures to do the things He asks of us, even while He asks, and we pretend not to hear.  We become transparent, to show on the outside what is on the inside. That way, we can have others pray with us, pray for us, and earnestly seek the Lord to heal that which is growing inside.  I honestly believe it is NOT the totally pure who will finally seek favor from the Lord, but the broken and contrite. It is the one who honestly goes before the Lord showing on the outside what is unseen on the inside, for He knows already.  Is this perhaps you? We all, as believers, must look at ourselves instead of casting eyes on others, to look at their sin, while we have a plank in our own eyes. First we must take the plank out (confess the sin that disables us). Then when the inside is clean, we will be able to support and help our fellow man/woman with their planks. My fellow believers, now is the time to live a life of honesty and truth. Now is the time to open up our hearts, and cry out like the Psalmist: “God, create a clean heart for me and  renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You.” Psalm 51:10-12 Let’s pray for each other. from Pastor Andy

Forgiveness

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” Matthew 18:21-22

Forgiveness is hard. I mean, we can forgive some things. “Sure, Lord, I can forgive him or her. There are a lot of things that have happened that I know he didn’t mean to happen. I know he’s sorry.

But what about the big things? The things she did that really cut deep and still hurt? The things she said about me to others right in front of me? The times I was made to feel small and worthless? You obviously weren’t there to hear them, otherwise You would understand that I can’t forgive.

And then there are all those hurtful things, repeated over and over again by the same person. Are says he’s trying to do better, but it doesn’t feel like it. I don’t see any change. Do I still need to forgive him, even then?”

I know it’s hard sometimes, especially in a marriage. Some of you may have experienced that as well.

Peter thought he was being overly generous when he proposed seven acts of forgiveness per person to Jesus; after all, the rabbis taught that forgiving threee time fulfilled the requirements of the law. But Christ said no, not seven—seventy times seven. Instead of being patted on the back, Peter learned that a follower of Chris needs to be willing to forgive without keeping track of the number of times it’s done. That describes God’s forgiving mercy to us–limitless and free, and beyond anything we deserve.

Whom do you need t forgive today? If you’re anything like me, you probably have a list of people. What do you need to do to forgive them? How will you go about doing it? What if the people who wronged you don’t say they’re sorry?

Maybe the real question you need to ask yourself is who is really set are when you forgive someone else? Maybe the answer is the truth that Christ wants to get across in the first place.

Definition and Value

In 2 Corinthians 10 Paul is addressing criticism and accusations from others about his motives and character.  And the comparison game of others comparing themselves to him.

Defending himself, and in defense of his ministry Paul says in verse 5:

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”

In this season marketers often portray ideal family images of celebrations, getting exactly what you want, having perfect bodies, the awesome new car.  The tactic is to get us to compare ourselves to the images set before us.  To compare, judge, and find ourselves wanting.

God says: “You are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14), “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4), “before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jer 1:5), “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

These scriptures are the weapons we fight with.  Not the weapons of the world which are finite, but rather weapons that: “have divine power to demolish strongholds”.  Weapons that: “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God”.

The word “demolish” is used twice here.  It is to use force, to throw down, refute, destroy.  This is the force of the weapons God gives us to use by which false arguments and pretensions that set up against the knowledge of God are to be eliminated.

Of course in this life we are not perfect, and we are always on a journey to be “more like Christ” (Rom 12:2, Eph 4:22-24).  However, our intrinsic value is set and firm.

Paul didn’t let others define him and neither should we. Our lives may not imitate the images we see in advertisements.  But it is Christ who defines us and gives us the ability to “take every thought captive” (my emphasis) and make our thoughts “obedient to Christ”.

Your value and worth is not defined by comparisons with others.  It is in the God who made you, defines you, and died for you.

 

Driving Southbound on Northbound I-35 and Feeling Totally Confident

Last Thursday was a crazy Thanksgiving Holiday for my wife and me.  Our Thanksgiving Dinner was being served approximately 45 miles from our home via the Interstate and Tollway system in DFW.  Planning our road trip, we decided to traffic the milelong inter-connector/exit off I-35 to get from George Bush Toll Road (GB) to Sam Rayburn Toll Road (SR).  It was the quickest route to our destination…we thought!  Once we exited off GB, we realized that we were in real trouble.  The traffic was in a total standstill.  WAZE tried to notify us but a bit too late.  For approximately 90 minutes, we moved not one inch.  In some ways, it was a funny time.  Folks were getting out of their cars and socializing with total strangers.  One of the guys decided to walk to the accident to give us a best guess of how long we would be there.  He came back with a bad report.  So, I started questioning the folks in cars around us to see what food was available preparing to serve Thanksgiving Dinner on I-35! How many of you have done that?!  Then, we noticed some cars were backing up behind us driving south in the northbound lanes.  I decided to follow them in a zig zag fashion around cars.  Other folks thought we were crazy and were not moving.  Proceeding backwards I saw a TX Highway Patrolman who told us that what we were doing was exactly what they wanted.   With the affirmation from this policeman who wore a badge of authority, I was able to turn around and accelerated confidently headed southbound on north bound lanes even if others chose not to move!  One lane on I-35 had been blocked off allowing us to navigate out of the traffic jam. 

Life is very much the same way.  Sometimes, we are flat out stuck in traffic and badly in need of direction.  At that moment, we need to ask for clear direction from our God and seek guidance from His Word.  Why?  Because God and His Word are the authority.  Once you receive a word from them, you can proceed confidently even if it feels a bit weird. 

  • Proverbs 3:5-6 encourages us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
  • 2 Timothy 1:7 declares “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
  • Joshua 1:7 challenges us to “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law…do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.
  • 1 John 5:14-15 exclaims, This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

When you have authority and clear direction from God, you can proceed confidently wherever you go and your paths will be straight!”

When You Are Overwhelmed

Being overwhelmed is overwhelming.  I know, I know…that was not that dynamic of an opening statement.  Overwhelmed is defined as being buried or drowned by a huge mass, submerged, overloaded, beset, overburdened, defeated completely, overcome, dumfounded, subdued, etc.  It can be a horrible, tough condition to be in!

Yesterday, the hostess of our Thanksgiving Dinner for an extended family of about fifty people was thoughtful and purposefully prepared in detail, the environment was grateful and thankful.  Each of the invitees was received in a way that made all feel comfortable. And, all of us had one of our favorite things to eat that was so appetizing.  Yet, in the midst of the meal, her elderly mother was physically stricken and an emergency ensued.  The environment changed dramatically.  It became overwhelming for her brother and her and their immediate family.  The rest of us felt sorrow.  EMT’s flooded the room and even though the team was gentlemanly as possible and professional, the environment had changed dramatically.  It became a serious, solemn time of prayer.  It was overwhelming.  The gorgeous dinner was now in the background.   All of us were praying for this dear lady and her family.

Psalm 61:2 declares, “From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”  In the midst of the overwhelming environment that we found ourselves yesterday, there was a sweet sense of hope in a number of us. I found myself in the midst of “a peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:6&7). God was in the midst of things.  He was not overwhelmed at all.

If you are overwhelmed in this holiday weekend, turn to God in prayer.  Read, meditate and carry the below verses with you all day:

  • Psalm 62:1&2, “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”
  • Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said, 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Often, Holidays throw us together with folks with whom we have major issues, spend money that we don’t have or reminded that we don’t have a meaningful family and are experiencing the holidays solo.  These things can become overwhelming.  Please remember, we have a God who cares… Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6&7).

He’s gotcha but will not force Himself on you.  Just humbly ask and He will be there.

Thanksgiving

On that first Pentecost, after Jesus was resurrected, we read that a “sound like a violent rushing wind,” came to the place where the disciples and others were staying. The town heard it, and went to investigate. That’s when they heard in their own language, ( many different people were in Jerusalem at the time, who spoke different languages) the gospel being spoken by Peter. That must have been a very interesting sight. Probably a lot of fear, and anxiety because of such a phenomenon.  Some thought they were all drunk, because they couldn’t understand them.  So why the difference? Why could most hear in their own language, and some, not be able to understand at all?  I suppose it all comes down to, What did they expect to hear? God made it possible, just like He does today, for people to hear the message. Today we hear it in a language that we understand, yet some still think it’s folly. Peter spoke to the crowd that day, and many would come to believe. But he ended his speech with this: “God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this. Therefore, since He has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He has poured out what you both see and hear.” Acts 2:32-33  So the question remains today: ‘Are you a witness of the resurrection of Jesus?   It’s still a valid question for today, and we can’t use the excuse that it happened long before our time. You see, you have heard, you have listened with a heart that wanted to know the truth. You believed, and when you believed, you were given the Holy Spirit to teach you all truth, and to guide you into all the things that Jesus not only did while He walked the earth, but is still doing today, seated at the right hand of the Father.  So your heart knows Jesus is alive! You know from history that He was crucified! You also know that there are still many in the crowd who will argue the case. They will do so because they do not believe. But you believe! And what you have experienced, you should be able to share with others who are still out there waiting to hear the truth.  Their time of listening was not present for a while, but God may be pulling at their heart right now preparing it for the message of the witness, the testimony that will come from your lips and your heart. Stay the course, the job is not finished. When you see people still hurting, that is a person who needs to hear once again how much Jesus loves them. You don’t have to have all the answers, just the willingness to share what Jesus has done in your life – your testimony.  Thanksgiving is a time when we will meet with family and friends over the dinner table. Some of those might not know Jesus, or might not believe, and just what if, this year, Jesus has brought them to the table for such a time as this, to hear the wonderful message of truth and salvation from one who has witnessed Jesus in their life. You don’t have to teach them, just show them, and have a very blessed day of Thanksgiving. Pastor Andy