Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

I’m an old, retired man who has been married forty-six years to a woman whom I adore and usually gives me a daily chuckle watching her live out life.  It wasn’t always that way.  For years, we daily were at each other’s throat struggling to get through the grind of life.  I was on the road or planes that flew me all over the world when I should have been home supporting Pam as we raised two strong willed young ladies.  Keeping peace was a chore.  Every day, something was going on that sapped my emotions as well as my wife and kids.  Paying bills often living beyond our means was very frustrating and emotionally draining.  Yet, we lived in hypocrisy giving a front to others that all is well.  Strife was frequent.  I can remember the days of being sick and tired of being sick and tired. 

You may be daily experiencing this yourself and wondering if there will ever be any relief.  How can I find peace in the daily churn of life?  Is there a solution?  It took me quite a while to get there but finally, I did.  How?  After much anguish, I began to understand how approachable, understanding, wise, patient, forgiving, and safe is the Christian God and the price paid by His Son to know me intimately on a moment-by-moment daily basis.  Outside of telling us to love others as He loved us, only once that I know of did Jesus talk about Himself and who He was at the core of His being.  His testimony is found in Matthew 11:28-30, “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.”  Jesus testified that He is “gentle and humble in heart.”  I don’t know about you guys, but as over-powering life had become, I realized I needed a big dose of gentleness and humility from a loving God.  So, I came to Jesus weary and burdened.”  I did find rest for my soul and discovered walking life out with Him became much easier and meaningful.  Don’t get me wrong.  As emotionally strung out as I was, I kept taking my life back to run alone.  Finally, lock, stock, and barrel I turned my life over to Him.  What a relief having Him direct my life.

You may be saying to yourself as you read this blog, “but I am so weak and have so much to deal with.  Life is overwhelming.”  This was exactly my response too.  Paul the Apostle however gave me a verse that rocked me to the core, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  Christ’s power perfected itself in my weakness and “rested on me.”  No matter what life threw at me, He became my strength. 

Sick and tired of being sick and tired? Jesus can take over and transform your life making it new and dynamic.  You will find rest and power for your soul.

Do We Limit God?

As I meditate on God’s word this morning, I notice the Vitex tree growing outside my office window. I never planted this tree, it came with the house, and has continued to give me wonderful shade in the summer as I work in my office. From the past rains, this tree has just taken off, growing unlike it has all summer. I am caught up in the thought of what this tree is good for other than to give me shade. I think that it is like a lot of us believers, who have a purpose on this earth, and even though what we think our purpose is, God may have different ideas. For instance, I think this tree gives me shade, but it also provides nectar for the hummingbirds when it blossoms. The pollination process is going on all spring as the bees are totally busy within it. How many times, I am cheered on in the morning by a Wren or a Redbird, or a sparrow, watching me work at my desk from its branches. It’s like they have come to encourage me. How often have my chickens sought comfort under the spreading of its branches, from the weather, and from the hawks.  Come to think of it, God uses this tree for many more things than I can even imagine. Just its beauty alone, is worth reflecting on. So I’m reading this morning from Colossians: “For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom  of the Son He loves. We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him.” Colossians 1:9-14  We often ask the Lord to show us His will, and wonder how He can possibly use us, since in our minds, we don’t possess any skills that could be of benefit to Him. And like our tree we think we have one purpose in life, yet God reveals in His glorious knowledge to those who honestly seek His will, the walk He wants us to walk, and in doing so, will He not use that walk for many more things than even we believe we are doing?  He wants us to bear fruit in EVERY good work as we grow in knowledge of Him. Yet how many times do we think we know the work that He has for us, and don’t deviate outside of that box. We often limit God’s perspective with us, because we don’t bother to see things like He sees them. But why can’t we? Why can’t we seek His understanding instead or ours? Why can’t we seek His will without trying to limit His perspective in us, by our own denial that we are even capable of doing anything else.  Think of my tree, your tree, and all the uses you can find for it, then remember that you are much more than a tree, useful to the Lord for HIS will not yours. It’s only when we surrender our will to Him that He can then grow us into fruit producers that He desires. Pastor Andy

Have You Lost Your First Love?

I remember as a thirteen year old boy responding to the call of Christ.  I say “called” to Christ because the verse that stimulated me to become a Christian was “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).  A sweetness, freshness, and peacefulness permeated my relationship with Jesus during those first days of my Christian life.  I remember revival meetings at our church, youth group meetings full of singing and praise and personal testimonies.  I read my Bible daily and climbed out of my bed each night when I thought my brother had fallen asleep to pray on my knees.  My love for Jesus changed my life and who I was as a person.  Yet, I allowed some stupid things to impact my life resulting in deep complicating fears.  Subsequently, I lost my first love.

The same thing happened to the Ephesian Christians in the first century.  In Revelations 2, the Apostle John wrote this about them, You have left your first love. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.  

I read in the book of Acts mighty, wonderful things happened to the Ephesians.

  • Acts 19 19 A number (of Ephesians) who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”  Amazing, exhilarating testimonies occurred within the Ephesian Christians!
  • Paul the Apostle himself spent three years with them.  Notice the intimacy that the Ephesians experienced with Paul recorded in Acts, 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. 32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified…36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him.”  What intimacy was experienced within the relationship of Paul the Apostle and Ephesians for three years!
  • Paul saluted the Ephesians in the last two verses in his letter to them, Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.   

So, what happened?  Ephesians were much like us.  They got caught up in the things of the world and the deceptions of the devil losing the sweetness and freshness of fellowship with Jesus.  They went back to their old fleshly ways no longer placing Jesus first in their lives. 

Never forget that Revelations 3:20 is a call to Christians who have “lost their first love”, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”  Go back to what you did when you first became a believer.  Open the door of your heart inviting Jesus to come back in as your Lord and Savior starting a fresh new journey with Him.  Place Him first, live in obedience, enjoy fellowship with Him, and your life will change. 

Are You Adopted?

Last week, my son-in-law lost his granddad, “Papaw”, who has had a huge impact on his life.  If you ask Ryan who’s been the biggest influence on his life, he will quickly tell you that it is two men, Papaw and his dad.  Did Papaw go around quoting verses out of the Bible?  No, but he along with Ryan’s dad demonstrated what hard, honest work looks like.  Ryan tells a funny story about Papaw paying him in “cold hard cash” when he did work for him.  Papaw would put the cash owed in the freezer paying Ryan in “cold hard cash.” Papaw spoke straightforwardly never “beating around the bush.”  Most importantly, Papaw loved and cherished his wife and family.  Ryan has been blessed and challenged by Papaw’s life.

I hesitate to talk about the impact of men in our lives.  Many (male and female), have not had a similar experience as Ryan in our lives.  In fact, it has moved from “many” to “most” who have not had a positive role model from neither a dad nor a grandfather.  When asked about the male influence in their lives, often people speak in a harsh, cold, hurtful way.  Gigantic holes are left in our lives in the resulting rubble.  Enormous self-image issues, lack of direction, unforgiveness, and bitterness are left behind.  A vacuum remains in lives that is frequently being filled in ungodly, hurtful, unhealthy ways. 

There is wonderful, good news that can transform deep wounds into wholeness.  Our Heavenly Father has made it possible through His Son to adopt us and minister to us personally into the deepest wounds of our mind and hearts making us whole. Read what Paul the Apostle says about this in Romans 8, “14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”  “Abba, Father” is accurately translated as “Daddy.”  God wants to be “Dad” to us and love us as His own children. 

In the 1st century Roman world, a natural child could be discarded by their parents. An adopted child however became a lifelong commitment from their parents.  They willfully adopted the child and were bound to be parents and caregivers to the child.  The adopted child had a secure place in the family.  Likewise, you have an eternal standing once adopted by God.  You are his kid.

Cry out to God today.  He can help, heal, fill, and make you whole in intimate, deep ways.  Many of us know God but have not allowed him to be “Dad”.  We have stiff-armed Him and not enjoyed His healing fellowship.  Do you need to be made whole?  I have some great news.  He is standing at the door of your heart right now waiting to be invited in.  Being a loving Father, He will not force His way into your heart.  Revelation 3:20 says it this way, Here I am! I stand at the door (of your heart) and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

What god Keeps You from God?

Whether it be a politician, a celebrity, an athlete or whoever has status, I enjoy “wiki-ing” them reading about their upbringing, where they are from, how old they are, what’s their marital status, how many kids and a list of all their accomplishments.  I especially like knowing their origins, where they were born, if they were born with a “silver spoon in their mouth”, or did they have to work for everything they accomplished.  Were they from small town or big city?  I enjoy reading about people.

One man who encountered Jesus would have intrigued me.  I would have “wiki-ed” him.  This guy had a zest for life, full of accomplishments, good deeds, would have had high stature in his community, hardworking, and most likely well known.  He was a very wealthy man.  Mark 10:17-22 records his experience with the Lord, 17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” 20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth.”  Jesus recognized that in the eyes of the world, this guy was very accomplished and worked hard to keep a good reputation being a man of character.  But our incisive Lord knew he had a problem.  “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”  Christ looked right in this prosperous man’s eyes with love and said, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”  Ouch, that seemed to be so unfair.  But was it?  Jesus wanted this man to inherit eternal life.  What on earth would have more value than life without end in the presence of God!  This man of means had a “god”, his wealth, what he owned, and worshipped his things more than God.  Notice what Jesus asked of this man emanated from a heart of “love.”  Christ “loved him.”  What seemed like a harsh request was not harsh at all.  He had to let go of his god (small “g”) to get to know God (big “G”).

Matthew 16:25-26 states it this way, “25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”

Do you have a god that is keeping you from knowing God?  You can either walk “away sad” like the man above or give it over to God experiencing His abundant life eternally. Your choice.

Not Looking Back

The One interesting thing about a journey is that you meet new adventures, challenges, and trials every part of the journey. You don’t get to go back to the things you have already encountered. You may encounter similar issues and challenges, but they are still new and not the same. Sometimes however, we want to go back, and have things the way they were. But God, in His great wisdom knows what awaits us, and has His hand in the planning of the journey. We are reminded in Philippians 3:13-14: “Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” Jesus reminds us also that, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62 So does that mean that we should forget about the past? Of course not, for many lessons and memories have been made there. The past however, is to teach us, just like we have been given the Old Testament to teach us about the history of Israel, and all God’s people, both good and bad. It’s important to remember the past so that we don’t repeat it on the journey forward, or that we do repeat that which we have learned and has made us stronger. It’s all about growth, and it is about focusing forward; it’s about keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. Pastor Andy

Power in Gentleness

The attitudes and words that are prevalent in today’s world as well as in New Testament biblical days reflect harshness, forcefulness, unforgiveness and strength with little to no flexibility.  Truthfulness is marginalized if a point needs to be made.  Civility, kindness, humility, and gentleness seemingly show weaknesses.  The Biblical narrative is very different than that of the world.  For example, there is great “power in gentleness”.  The world would laugh at this statement.

Below, the Bible speaks for itself building the case for “power in gentleness”:

Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Gentleness has the power to turn back wrath.

Galatians 6:1, Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.  Gentleness has the power to restore sinful, hurting people.

Proverbs 25:15, Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.Harshness, inflexibility, forcefulness, and unruliness are broken by gentleness.

Ephesians 4:2, Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Gentleness is foundational to bearing with others especially the ones closest to you.  Why?  Gentleness is not reactionary but is responsive.

Philippians 4:5, Let your gentleness be evident to allIf we want to change our world, we should not be afraid to make our gentleness evident to all.  It is not a weakness but is accepting and forgiving, the very attitudes that can impact people around you.

Matthew 11:29, 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.  Only this once does Jesus talk about Himself.  He speaks to who He is at the core…for I am gentle and humble in heart.  Because of that, folks can come to Him and “find rest for their souls.”

1 Timothy 3:2,3, Now the overseer is…not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome.  The leaders of our churches must not be violent or quarrelsome but gentle.  Gentleness quells the harshest storms and quarrels and facilitates peace.

1 Timothy 6:11, But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue…gentleness.  Flee from the ways of the world and what a man is supposed to look like and pursue gentleness

1 Peter 3:15, But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  When someone ask you a question about your faith in Christ, how do you answer?  Often, our answers are proudful with undertones of judgment, condescension, and even condemnation especially in our own households.  The Bible states to always answer gently which is accepting and caring.

Gentleness is power and strength harnessed and controlled by God.  Once a man becomes obedient to God these forceful traits are channeled and expressed in gentleness.  Gentleness releases the restoring power of God.  It is not selfish but edifying, accepting, and healing.  The deepest of issues and relationships can be restored by gentleness.  There is great power in gentleness.

Following Jesus – Being a Christian

This week we had a discussion with a missionary about the challenge of peoples’ understandings of “Christianity” in cultures and societies dominated by other faiths.  The context was this worker’s experiences and a discussion of a Hindu background believer, Narayan V. Tilak.   

Tilak was a Hindu and came to receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior.  As a devout follower of Jesus he wrote many beautiful poems and hymns about the wonder of life in Jesus and how it transforms a person.  He became an evangelist and a teacher and revered in his culture.

Unfortunately, in his day those who became Christians were immediately identified with the British, and it was assumed were no longer nationalists.  And converts were encouraged to separate themselves from their Hindu brethren.  Tilak did not believe either of these was right.

He worked tirelessly to show that you can follow Jesus, and still be part of society and be supportive of your country.  Through his writings and his life and ministry to the poor he became revered in India, and to this day is written about in some school textbooks – as a recognized Christian.  A true testimony to Jesus in India.

Tilak’s deep desire to separate following Jesus from the trappings of wrong assumptions lead him to examine what baptism communicated in his day.  This outward act was interpreted as a clear indicator that you renounced India as your country and your connection to Indian culture.   It was divisive and became a huge barrier to his fellow Hindus coming to Jesus.   This led him to start “The Brotherhood of Baptized and Unbaptized Disciples of Jesus”.   A work he never was able to complete, but showed his innovative mind and passion to overcome wrong societal thinking.

In many ways “Christianity” is a label and can be a barrier to Jesus.  Let’s separate being a follower of the person of Jesus Christ from the trappings of politics, being a “Christian”, and going to church every week.   

In your journey with Jesus, how has he showed you who HE is.  What has HE showed you – personally – about what it means to obey him?  And how do you communicate that to those around you?  How do you meet people where they are at?  Walk in their shoes?   And communicate the person of Jesus, his love, patience, compassion, and power to save?

Jesus is radical. Let’s make him known and not put him in a box.

If, Because of, or In Spite of

I remember as a college kid hearing a talk given in a Campus Crusade for Christ rally entitled, “If, Because of, or In Spite of Love”.  The question proposed in this speech was, should we love each other “if”, “because of”, or “in spite of.” 

“I love you if” is built on conditions and suppositions.  In the college atmosphere, the example used to describe the “if love” had sexual overtones.  A young man inserts conditions into his relationship with a girl.  “I love you ‘if’ you give me what I need…’if’ you love me you would do it.” The “if” love is based on my need.  A question that should be asked is, “Am I basing my relationship with my spouse, my kids, my relatives, my friends, and others on ‘if’s’?”  In marriage mentoring sessions, often my wife and I would hear one of the spouses say, “I made this condition clear from the beginning of our relationship.”  Relationships built on conditions or suppositions are “sinking sand.”  The foundation will not last.  1 John 2:16 calls this “the lust of the flesh.” 

“I love you because of” is built on achievement, status, performance, and stipulations.  It is love based on expectations.  Performance based relationships seemingly work for a while until something happens that gets you off track from the status that you expected.  It could be a loss of a job, not able to live in the house or drive the cars you expected, a lack of advancement in employment, a kid not achieving at levels that you expected, an illness or injury that handicaps performance, etc.  Be careful here, you may be subtly requiring certain metrics and setting stipulations that are based on performance not love.  The “because of love” is called “the lust of the eye…the pride of life” in 1 John 2:16. True forgiveness, acceptance and peace are rarely experienced in this environment.

“In spite of” love is Christ’s agape love.  It is an unconditional love.  It is not based on the recipient but on the character of the lover.  I love you and will continue to love you, period. 

  • Ephesians 4:32 describes this love, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” 
  • Romans 15:7 expresses it this way, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” 
  • Philippians 2:3&4 exclaims “in spite of” love as “Doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
  • How does “in spite of” love speak to each other?  Ephesians 4:29 tells us, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
  • There is no fear within the sphere of “in spite of” love.  1 John 4:18 is clear about this, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  Without fear, “In spite of” love places you in an environment that facilitates growth and life.  

It is time for us start loving as Jesus loves.  It is the “in spite of love” which is not based on the one loved but the character of the one who loves.

Don’t Get Stuck in Neutral

God doesn’t want His people to get stuck in neutral meaning someone who is unwilling or afraid to take a side, a person who simply blends in, an individual who is unwilling to get engaged, or somebody who is neither positive nor negative with no desire to be called on or called out.  A neutral person’s desire is to be a peacekeeper always agreeable and never a peacemaker who often confronts. They want safe without friction and like a “neutral” color designed not to be seen.  If you think about it, a neutral person is not in control but controlled by others.  I remember as a young kid in the mid-1950’s, my dad had an old chevy pickup which he would shift into neutral when going down large hills so that the motor was not engaged saving gas.  Once in neutral, this old truck did not dictate its speed but allowed the steepness of the hill to determine how fast it goes.  It’s the same in life.  While in neutral, we do not have to engage in the torque and drama of living keeping it simple. “Hey, I’m letting others take care of that stuff.”

Jesus does not want His followers to be stuck in neutral.  He has no desire for our lives to be about what’s comfortable, convenient, simple, or easy with no drama “thank you.”  Christ makes His intentions known very clearly in Revelation 3:15-16, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”  Graphically and emphatically, Jesus has no desire for us to be stuck in neutral.

It reminds me of the old story about how to cook a frog.  When you put a frog in a pot of water, you want the temperature to be comfortable or it will jump out.  The key is to keep the frog comfortable by increasing the heat very slowly.  The frog is having a nice experience enjoying this sauna with a casual yawn or two along the way, eyes slowly shutting feeling drowsy and the need for sleep.  Before he knows it, the water is boiling, and frog is getting cooked. 

We need to have a wake-up moment here.  Like the frog, are we so comfortable with our lives and lifestyles with “little to no needs” and all along we are sitting in a pot of water that is slowly getting hotter and hotter?

One of Apostle Paul’s spiritual sons was Timothy who did not like confrontation often shying away from it with a desire to sit on the sidelines.  2 Timothy 1:6-8 declares, For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.”  Timothy liked things to stay on an even keel.  However, Paul disrupted Timothy and told him to jump out of the pot of comfort and convenience and get engaged.

It’s time to shift gears and get out of neutral.