Monday, May 4, 2015

Drunks, Children, Leggings and Jesus



Somehow I do believe there is some truth in this picture.
If you've ever sat at a bar and listened to the person who sits alone and has had a few, they are bound to tell you their life story, whether you know them or not. They will share even the most embarrassing things with you, usually in order to gain your sympathy. Secrets also get revealed when a bunch of friends have partied a little bit too much and someone decides to be cute and tell on someone, thinking that it is going to be funny. Most of the time it only hurts someone and usually backfires on the person who told it.

Children, on the other hand, do not need any substances to blurt out their feelings, especially the very young. Many of them are just learning social manners and they may not have a grasp on what to say and when to say it. They are exposed to all sorts of things that they hear their parents and others who are around them talking about, and in order to try to fit into a conversation and feel "grown up" like the others, they will speak their minds on what they observe or have heard. We've all cringed when a child jumps in the middle of a conversation and blurts out something that the parent didn't want repeated. Kids just want to fit in and a lot of what they say comes from what they hear.

Leggings. Well, there isn't much that I can say that everyone hasn't seen at some point in time. All you have to do is view a few of those "People of Walmart" slideshows to realize that while people may be trying to look cute, sexy, hip, or whatever, they generally fall far, far short of their goal.

But there is one who will always tell the truth because they are the truth.

John 14:1-11
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 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? 3 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. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.”

Too many times we are searching for "the truth" when it is right there staring us in the face. We don't know who to trust, unless you go by the new adage, "If it's on the internet, it must be true." Believe me, don't fall for that or it will be your downfall, no matter what the subject is.
Last week we met this wonderful couple at the movie theater while standing in line to get into a screening, and we hit it off. The husband and I are like two peas in a pod and I can tell, we're going to get into some trouble with our wives at some point, as we like to joke and cut up a lot. So they invited us to a bible study that they have at their house. Turns out they are studying the bible prophecies, traditions of the Jewish people and how they apply to our lives, along with the fulfillment of the prophecies. It is a time of sharing and a lot of deep thinking as we work our way through the bible. The Torah, or the first 5 books of the bible is where the emphasis is, along with how it is repeated all through the bible, including the New Testament, and learning our Jewish heritage allows us to understand the words of God and what Jesus was trying to tell us while he walked this earth.
In case you're wondering, no, I'm not Jewish by birth. But I am a child of God, and since Jesus was a Jew, that would have to make me a Jew also. (Besides, all are in the lineage of Adam and Eve, so we're all kin somewhere down the line).
For anyone who knew the Torah in the New Testament days, whether they lived it or not, Jesus' true identity was not a secret or mystery to them. His words and actions fulfilled all that was told that would come about eventually. One great example being the woman at the well. Though her lifestyle did not show it, she still knew the Torah and the prophecies of the Messiah. So when she was in his presence, her teaching from her heritage allowed her to realize that Jesus was the Messiah. The words of the bible and Jesus still give us a lot to lessons and examples to live by. We don't have to go searching the internet for what is right. We have the truth before us, and it isn't told by man's words, but by God's words as recorded by man.
So when you're searching for the truth, learn the truth from the one who created everything, even "truth." That way you won't need to hear it from the drunk at the bar, see it in the revealing clothes that someone wears, or hear it from the mouths of babes who mumble through the duck tape. You can get it from the original source, and know that it can be trusted!

Monday, April 27, 2015

I Will Choose Free Will






RUSH: Free Will (from the album Permanent Waves)
Lyrics
(chorus)
You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that's clear
I will choose free will

The writer of this song clearly states that his choice is free will. IN OTHER WORDS, "I will dang well do as I please!" He acts as though he can do that with no consequence to fear, and no one can make him do anything else.In some ways, there is truth to that. When God created us, he gave us free will. He laid out a place for man to live and enjoy, with only one rule. Don't eat of the fruit from a certain tree! I don't believe it was apples though. I love them too much and I've never felt bad after eating them (unless it was a lot of pie and ice cream, and then, I deserved what I got) so I am not sure of what that fruit was. I think it was a fruit/tree that is not available to us anymore as it is shut tight in the garden that is now hidden from mankind. But there was going to be trouble with that tree and God knew it. When He created mankind, he knew everything that would happen until the end of time (does time really end???) and yet he still decided to let man have a choice. Free will, in other words.
He could have built a fire around the tree that would have kept us from reaching it. Or He could have left that tree out of the garden altogether and we would have never had to make a choice. His rationing could have been that, "Well, I'm about to make a human and I know that if I make him the way I want to make him, he is gonna screw this thing up royally. So I'll just skip that part and set everything in motion so that there is no choice, there is no consequence, there is no pain, no suffering."
Well why in the h-e-double LL didn't He choose to do that?!?!?! Man that would have been easier and simpler!
Because He loved us. While man was laying on the ground, motionless, perfect in every way, He loved us. And He wanted us to love him. Well, duh, what would have been hard about that for us?
Think about it for a second. If all you've ever known, or will know, is just someone who is Love, and you have no imperfections or flaws, how will that ever keep you close. When everyone around you is on the same level as you, the same playing field so to speak, and you've never known anything else was possible, how can you truly say that you are loved and appreciated.
Humans learn that in their lives. A baby is born, and all it knows is how it is treated. For most of our parents with a newborn, the child is held, cradled, fed, diapered; it's every whim and care is taken care of. It never wants of anything nor knows the feeling of true pain and unworthiness.
That baby grows up into a teenager and suddenly, there is nothing that you can do right, you don't know squat, you're stupid and out of touch and unusable. They might have a flash of a moment where they appreciate you, especially if you are the kind of person that gives them everything they ever need without letting them earn at least some of it on their own.
Then they grow up, and they have a "life crisis." Who do they call? Mom and Dad. They realize that you actually do love them, care about them, and just maybe you do know a little bit about the world that they live in. And their appreciation for your knowledge grows when they have a child of their own to care for.
Life truly is a circle.
And God knew this. He wanted us to understand just how freakin great His love is, even though we know we don't deserve the things that He gives us. So God HAD to give us a choice, even though He knew it would turn into a disaster. There is an old saying that I grew up with; "You never knew what you had until it was gone." Think about what Adam and Eve must have felt when they got kicked out of the Garden. OMG! Your every whim and need is right before you with no way to supply anything for it anymore. In the garden you never wanted for anything. Now, you don't have squat. "HOLY CRAP!" is the thought that had to be going through their minds as they stared out at the barren empty land.
Like I've said in the previous blogs, I have a past. And a lot of it I am not proud of. I pushed my boundaries one too many times and got what I deserved. One time it included being kicked out of my mom and grandparents house. I was stubborn and it only caused me even more trouble. But with no place to go, I looked at my future and made some choices that were even worse than what had gotten me into the initial trouble in the first place.
But, I did come back home. Tired, defeated, deflated, and like the prodigal son, I was still welcomed back in. I did work to change my life, though I was still screwing it up quite a bit, but I knew that I was loved, and I was able to appreciate everything that had been restored upon me.
The "free will" that God had allowed upon me caused me to make some grave errors in judgement, but I also was able to make a "free will" choice that brought me "back into the fold", as my pastor used to say when I was growing up in church.
A lot of people get mad at God, or choose not to believe in God because of events that they see happening to themselves and others around the world. They say that if there was a God that He would not have allowed something like this to happen. Like I explained in the beginning, had He not allowed things to happen, we could never count our good fortunes for the things that we do have. Sin was brought into the human life by Eve, then Adam. And we're stuck with it. As with any disease (yes, sin is a disease that will cost us something as we go through life), our bodies do pay the price. People act upon evil choices, diseases are communicated openly and at will by our world. It isn't that God doesn't want it to happen, He wants us to choose NOT to let it happen. We can't go back to a sinless body. But we can have a restored body again in Heaven one day if we make the right choices. Will our lives be perfect? NOPE! Will our lives be HUNKY DORY? NOPE! Will we suffer in pain? YEP! Will we be able to appreciate when times are good? I CERTAINLY HOPE SO!
So in closing, what choice will you make? You have free will. You can say this is a bunch of "bunk". Or you can say to God that you do believe and you want to have what He desires you to have. Doesn't mean that He is going to give you everything you want!! But you will have what you need, and when you do come upon those things that hurt you, whether physically or emotionally, you'll have a parent that you can go to that will never leave you, nor forsake you for another more favorite child.
I choose free will. I choose God!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Silence is Golden ... Unless ...


Okay, if you are a parent, raise your right hand. Right now. Take your fingers off the keyboard. Raise your hand. Okay, good job. Now you all have just agreed that this picture speaks a thousand words. Having raised 2 stepdaughters and a son, there was usually quite a ruckus coming from some room in the house, unless it was bedtime, and even then all wasn't always quiet. There were the usual "no, that's mine, you can't have it, give it back, I'm gonna tell" coming from amongst the gathered throngs.
But let it get quiet, and you start to wonder what could be happening. For a moment you contemplate whether or not a coup is in progress as your eyes silently scan the room for any oncoming warriors. And then when your curiosity gets the better of you, your body follows your feet which were told by your mind to go investigate.
In a stealthy manner you creep up to the room where you last knew of their location, listening for any clues as to the manner of action that may be called for. Nothing is audible so far as you approach the door where the activity is happening. Then WHAM! All of them jump up, usually in some form of makeshift costume, and run to attack you as you retreat to escape the marauding revelers. Finger gun fights erupts as the bedlam comes to full force and then hugs and giggles finish up the escapade that just took place.
Come to find out they wanted to have this happen, it was planned, knowing that if they were quiet enough, it would draw you into their lair and the fun would start. Kids can have great imaginations and many times they can get the desired result that they want just by acting upon knowledge of how they have seen you react in situations before.
For adults, life is like that, especially where God is concerned. Activity around us goes on in the usual way, with the normal activities and sounds that we are accustomed to. We go about our business, following God's lead and continuing to have His desires for us in our heart. And then, one day, all is quiet. Nothing. The music stops, the jester has ended his monologue and the crowd just stands there in anticipation of what is to come next. For most of us, until that happens, we keep our everyday "noise" as a background issue, failing to pay attention to the details of our surroundings. God knows how humans react and He knows what it takes to get our attention. Sometimes, instead of trying to yell over the buzz of our everyday lives, He resorts to something else that is sure to get noticed.
Silence.

Psalm 62:5

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.

and 

Psalm 62:1 ESV

To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David. For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. 

Sometimes God has to be quiet to be heard. Our daily lives are so busy with family, school, housework, children, and jobs that we become "tuned out" to anything around us that is being said. You've seen people who you have to shout their name several times to get them to realize that you were talking to them. Or maybe you were on the receiving end of one of those shouts. The same thing happens with God. Our lives get full and there is so much "white noise" in our lives that nothing important gets through. Sure, we go to church, but even then many of us do not actually listen. Our thoughts are caught up in the upcoming weeks anticipated activities, and it is almost like coming out of a fog when you realize that the closing hymn/music has already started.
For many people who earnestly seek God's wisdom and guidance, there can be a deafening silence that springs forth for quite a while.We pray, ask for guidance about a situation, then we wait on a sign or an answer in a form that could only be from God. But nothing. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENS. Deafening silence. Frustration. Stomping of Feet. Arms slinging in the air. Eyes/Head pointed skyward as if the answer could be seen up above.
Sometimes the answer will come within days. For many others, sometimes the answer will come in months, even years if at all. For those who never seem to get their answer, I wonder if maybe the answer was given, but missed. Or maybe the question that was asked was not the right one to be seeking the answer to.
Either way, the hardest thing to do is to wait. I have a hard time with patience. Years ago I heard a pastor's wife tell someone to never pray for patience, God may teach it to you. I think they may have been on to something. Patience is the hardest period of time to remain stalwart towards God.
But one more part of this that may be even harder is knowing what to do while waiting. When I was growing up I always heard that "idle hands are the devil's workshop." So staying focused and remaining vigilant can be really hard for many people, myself included. I have begged, pleaded, and listened for answers, only to be distracted or mislead down a wrong road following a false lead.
For myself, the problem comes with constant dead ends. Many times things keep seeming to be very promising, but then it is as if God SLAMS the door shut with no explanation. My exercise in patience is becoming rather lengthy it seems. I feel like I've hit the brick wall, and now there is nothing to do but lie in wait. Just like the children in the story at the beginning of this blog, I will get quiet, and wait, listening for the footsteps, maybe a creaky stair, that will signal the coming of the Lord. At that time, when I see His glory and know that my time has finally come, I will jump up and begin my journey, knowing that in the end, I will rest in His arms for all of eternity. This seems the most prudent of options for me, and the one that hopefully will bring about the desired results.
There was a short song that we used to sing in church.
"They that wait, upon the Lord. Shall renew their strength. They shall mount up, with wingsssss like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Teach me Lord, Teach me Lord, to wait." (based on a verse in Isaiah).
My strength is getting better and I find myself wanting to mount up with wings so that I can go where God can use me and I can be an active servant in His house. I want my steps to be quicker, lighter until I break out into a 4 minute mile.
Until then, I will wait Lord, I will wait.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Finish This Sentence ...



What Day Is It??????????

I bet you know the answer to this question. Just a pic of a camel will bring the complete ad to mind for most people. Advertising in the United States works really well for several reasons. First of all the commercials are played repeatedly on television until they are seared into our brains. Secondly, there are always catch phrases that are at the center of the advertising. This is how items and brands become popular many times. It doesn't matter whether or not the product is actually as great as it is being advertised, it's just that when we think of that type of product, this particular brand comes to mind first. C'mon, admit it. How many times have you asked for someone to pass you a Kleenex, even though it may have been a Puffs Plus box that they pulled it from. What you really wanted was a facial tissue. But we don't call them that. That is what the retailers are hoping for. They want you to think of their brand first and not even consider any of the other choices.
So, in case you haven't seen this commercial (as we have a lot of readers in Europe, both Western and Eastern, especially Russia), it is a commercial for an insurance company here in the US. The camel is seen in different scenarios walking around going, " (persons name), do you know what day it is?," or "guess what day it is?" The joke being that Wednesday is called "Hump Day" and with the camel bearing 2 of them, he thinks it is all about him. I've attached a YouTube video to watch in case you are not familiar with it.

Geico Camel Commercial

But for me, this picture also takes me to another time and place. It wasn't a commercial. There may have been camels around the area, and most likely there were. Jesus had just left Galilee and went to Judea, trying to escape the large crowds. They followed anyway, and once everyone was settled, there were Pharisees who wanted to test Jesus and his theories. They asked questions about divorce (This was dealt with back in a much earlier blog) and then Jesus spent time with the children of the families who followed Jesus. Jesus started on the move again and a man came up to him and asked Jesus how to gain eternal life. Jesus quoted some of the scriptures from the Ten Commandments, but this still did not satisfy the man. He asked Jesus what else he could do, as he felt there was so much more that was still required of him. Here is Jesus' answer:

(Matthew 19: 21-24 NIV)
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

This man had the same problem as many of the others that came into contact with Jesus and heard his words. For many people who live today, they still cannot accept this part in their lives. People want security in their lives. A safe home, a family to surround them, and financial security so that they don't have to worry about how to pay the bills. They don't want to have to worry each day how they will survive until the next day comes around. Yet, this is exactly what Jesus asked the disciples to do. And they did. They stopped doing their profession, many of them fishermen who dropped their nets and left their boats, and they followed Jesus for 3 1/2 years around the land. At times we see a glimpse of worry in the disciples, though not usually for themselves. The feeding of the 5000 (yep, you heard it right, that's a lot of people to cook for!) is one case in point. But Jesus never showed concern. He simply gave instructions to the disciples, they followed them, and there was food left over. From the human perspective it would have been impossible to do what he did. But for Jesus, he knew what God was capable of and therefore he never flinched.

I do not know if this is true for all of those who are sent as missionaries to foreign lands, but many here in the US will sell all of their possessions and they will use those funds and other monies raised from churches and Christians who want to support them, and they will go to foreign countries to preach the gospel. I do my best to keep my faith and to show others how to gain and maintain theirs, but this is one point that if asked of me, I do have to admit it would be hard. First of all, by the time we sold our belongings and paid our debtors, there would be little left to go on, which really makes the idea scary. I wouldn't say no if I truly felt that it was from God, but I'm human, and I would definitely be freaking out while I was preparing for it. I have lived overseas and Europe, though much of it is English speaking and a beautiful paradise to behold, it is still a different culture. The thing I love best about it is how much snow and cold they get. My wife and I are truly avid winter fans, especially in areas where the summers are a lot milder than here. We also love adventure and it would definitely be an adventure. But to see people being brought to salvation through Christ Jesus (yep, Him and Him alone, I can't do anything for you except preach the word) would thrill my heart! Many of the modern day disciples are asked to go to places not so far away. Sometimes it is only a state or two a way, and sometimes it is to the other end of the country. While I am not a big fan of anywhere that has temps above 80 in the summer, I will still accept His calling to go anywhere that He leads.
So now I'll get to the part as to how this ties in to a camel. Jesus continued his speech to the disciples after the man had walked off.

 Matthew 19: 23-24 NIV
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Now, I love to cross stitch. I haven't had the chance to do much over the last few years, but it is a favorite past-time for me. There are different size needles that you use, depending on the cloth. But I have NEVER used one that would let a camel fit through the eye of the needle (that's the part where I ran the thread through). As a matter of a fact, whether it is a knitting, crocheting or a sewing needle, I've never heard of one that has an eye that big. So, basically, Jesus is saying that it is impossible. The people could understand this part because they didn't have fancy retail stores where everything was made for them which caused many of them to make their own garments, and camels were a very popular method of transportation in that day and age. So this impracticality was visible in their minds. I can only imagine the amount of head shrugging that occurred when Jesus spoke that. But it did get the disciples to thinking, as shown in this next part of scripture that follows.

Matthew 19: 25-29 NIV
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

In other words, quit worrying about what you can obtain here in life. In eternity, it will only get you a life in Hell, burning in a lake of fire, with never a chance to have even a drop of water to cool your tongue. But if you follow Jesus and do His will, you will be rewarded where it really matters. In Heaven!! For Eternity!!! Sure sounds better than being a smoldering heap for the rest of forever!

My heart once again burns for Jesus and to spread His word. That is why I have started this blog once again, hoping that I can change someone's life for the better. I want to show them how to have the best outcome from their lives, and not the worst, even if the "here and now" seems like the best that they can get.
My wife and I have prayed for quite a while to be used by God, and we have as yet to receive an answer on what to do next. Will I be scared if asked to sell all and go wherever? Poop Yeah! Who wouldn't?!?!? But in the end, if that is asked of me, I will. I would much rather be used by God there, even if it meant a harder life than staying put where we are now, and gain so much more from God, plus the knowledge that I helped a lot more people to do the same, once I reached heaven! 
So we eagerly await the instructions of God as to where the next journey in my life will take us. We have tried our best to prepare our hearts and minds and to be ready when He calls. No, we're not saints or perfect. Nope! Far from it. We screw up daily. But we ask His forgiveness and we both know that there is a calling on our lives, and God has a purpose and a plan to use us.

Please pray along with us for several things:
1   The strength and courage to follow His will, no matter what is asked.
2.  The wisdom to discern what is from God and what is from Satan, who would love to trick us and lead us down the wrong path.
3.  The ability to lead others to Christ and show that it is Him, not us, who get the glory and all of the credit for what has been done.
Thank you,
Keith & Sheri

Monday, April 6, 2015

Have You Ever Meant What You Said, But Didn't Say What You Meant?



For most of us in our dealings with others, our speech can be interpreted closely to what the speaker was intending to say. Some people slur some things, like consonants, especially in geographic regions where the dialect can be a little tricky. But generally you can figure out what they are trying to convey to you.
Look at the picture above. Can you tell what the actual message is?
Annual Egg Hunt, April 12 @ 10AM, Free Family Event.
Now, whoever posted this at the Lakewood Springs Homeowners Assoc knew the message that they were trying to get across. Most of you reading this should have recognized the meaning the minute you saw it. A few probably laughed, a few probably went ewwwwww and a few Proctologists are possibly making copies to hang in their office right about now. :-)
I can be a little OCD at times, and when I'm reading someone's words online I find myself wanting to correct them. Online versions of news stories are the worst (where are they hiring these guys from?), with people's spellings on Facebook coming in at a close second.
But sometimes even I have to sit back and cackle at the things that are posted. The evolution of the internet age has brought about a lot changes in how we communicate, and "spell check" doesn't always catch every typo. But the problems with poor communication have always been around. Sometimes it is the sender that screws up the message, and sometimes it is the receiver.
God's word is like the latter portion of that statement. The sender never messed it up one time. God had it right from the beginning. The spelling was right, the diction was right, everything was right. Then man got ahold of the message and things went awry from there.
From early on in the Old Testament, prophecy was given that told of a Messiah coming, and the Jews of Israel looked excitedly for him each year, yet each year always ended in disappointment. They thought they had someone who would come and sit on a throne and rule the world and make the rest of the world pay for how they had been treated for 1000's of years. Yet the prophecy clearly stated that there would be a different set of events, such as is laid out on this site http://www.reasons.org/articles/articles/fulfilled-prophecy-evidence-for-the-reliability-of-the-bible  and many others that can be found online. Everyone read the same words, yet only some of the people got the correct meaning. That is why many recognized Jesus as being the Messiah, even the woman at the well who was the morally loose woman of the neighborhood. His disciples knew in an instant that Jesus was The One.
Yet, many more would not accept that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecy. Because of that, Jesus was "tried" in a court, sentenced to death, and hung on a cross. Then 3 days later he arose and proved them wrong. He WAS who He said he was. We just finished celebrating this event which we call Easter. (FYI: "Easter" is derived from Eastre, or Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of spring and dawn. So the term actually has no scriptural background, just a name for a pagan celebration.)
There are many people who try to twist the words of God to fit into their own lives. They do not want to accept what the disciples and followers already knew to be true and would be willing to die to uphold those values. Instead, many people want to change the words and preach to people their "interpretations" of the word of God that makes the idea of being a Christian more "palatable." (To answer your question, I'm not a KJV only believer. I just don't like hearing pastors turn the gospel into something that it isn't.) Watered-down, "It's a Wonderful Life" sermons are given in churches all across the globe. Why? It's easier to pack the pews when people don't have to feel guilty of how they live their lives and their non-service to God.
Christianity will never be easy. It was never meant to be. God wants servants who will put effort into what they are doing. Anyone can claim to serve yet never spend any time serving. This never gets results, no matter who/what you are serving.
For this week I want you to take some time and decide if what you're reading and hearing is actually what was intended, both in your bible study and in your daily livings. Are you really understanding what is being said? Or do you take everything at face (or maybe posterior in this case) value? Are you connecting with people through speech and writing, making sure that they understand what you're saying? Finally, are you listening to God and grasping what His words mean for you?
I pray that you will slow down and consider your communications, not only this week but for many weeks/months/years to come. And if anyone ever invents SpellCheck for signs, let me know.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Second Chances: Trinity's Story




Second Chances, aka Trinity's (and our) Story

What do you always get when you go on vacation? Gifts for friends/family back home? Memento's for you to remember your trip by? Items you found that you wanted while shopping the sales in far away stores? A dog?

What? A dog?

Yep. We went on vacation and brought home a dog. A BIG dog.

We have a dear friend, Melissa Gentry, who runs a dog rescue in Mountain City, TN called Rescue DOG & End of Life Sanctuary. She had posted a pic of a Pit Bull that was in their care and my wife saw the dog's pic on Facebook just days before we left for vacation. She was determined that she was going to see that dog and bring her home.

So we enjoyed our vacation time, getting to actually spend time with our friends both at their work and at the rescue.

Finally, the day before we leave, Sheri works it out where she can come see Trinity, the Pit Bull. 6 pm that evening we arrive at the rescue, and Melissa, her mom and another worker are in the yard, and there is Trinity bouncing around on a tie-out. It was almost like watching a slow-mo movie of an overblown reunion the way the two of them locked eyes and ran to each other. A match made in heaven. Well, we took her back to our cabin, Country Cordwood Cabin in Butler TN (shameless plug for such great people) for the night before we left the next morning to come back home. She was great. She gave a lot of kisses and loved to snuggle on the couch. Slept in the bed with us and never once tried to get up until that morning when she needed to go out and potty. We brought her home and she has done great, even adjusting to yet another new house, and more new people, and 4 other dogs that were there before her.

Okay, you did something a little different on your vacation, but what does that have to do with second chances?

Let me fill you in on the backstory of Trinity, or Trin as we now call her. (my wife is not a fan of 3 syllable dog names... don't ask … dunno.) Trin had a home and a family. She had the human family, and she had her own family, with newborn pups that she was doing great at caring for. There was a 5 year old girl in the family also, and one day she approached Trin while she was nursing/caring for her pups. Natural reaction for an animal mom who is caring for their young is to protect them from any perceived threat, and so she snipped at the girl. Did not draw blood, but most likely, she did scare the girl a bit. Trin, who the vet says may be as old as 3 years, had evidently been in the family for most of her life, was suddenly taken to the vet by the father and told to “put her down.” (We do not know what happened to the pups, only that in the fathers words “They were taken care of.” I shudder to think of the meaning that phrase denotes). Seeing that the dog was clearly no threat to anyone, the vet called Melissa at the rescue and asked her if she could take the dog. She agreed and brought her to the rescue. She was tested fully and passed every test in health and obedience (in Melissa's words .. “With Flying Colors and Better Than Most Dogs”) that is given to any dog, especially breeds that are considered “dangerous breeds.” She was updated completely on her shots and kept at the rescue in a kennel until she could be adopted. That is where we came in.

Now, I want to address how this illustrates the way God's love (and hopefully all of mankind's, especially Christians!) works.

The father handled this badly in our thoughts. Yes, he most likely overreacted when Trin snipped at the girl. She was doing what is natural to any breed, to protect their puppies. What he should have done was to use this as a lesson to the 5 year old as to how to handle any animal that she may encounter who has children in her care. But he didn't. Suddenly Trin found herself being punished for something that she didn't see as being wrong with a sentence of Death. There she was, one moment enjoying a life of ease, and the next, ostracized from everything and everyone that she was familiar with. And now she was sent to die at the hands of someone she didn't know.

Have you ever done this to someone? Have you ever overreacted in the moment, causing them to be ostracized from you and possibly family and friends over something that they didn't see as wrong, and you misconstrued in the wrong way? I have unfortunately been a victim of this very thing. But more on that in another blog, another time. And I suspect a lot of people who are reading this right now have had to suffer this very same act by someone close to them. It is devastating to all involved eventually.

But I also want to know if you've ever been given a second chance by someone else who saw you for what you are, and loved you anyway. The bible is full of such acts of love, in both the Old and the New Testament.

God's love is shown especially to Abraham, the man considered to be “Father” to the nation of Israel. Both he and his wife Sarah wanted a child. But in their 80's, time was running out and Abraham had lost hope and faith in God to deliver. So he slept with a handmaiden and wound up with a child. Now, God could have said, “You know what, you just couldn't wait until my plan unfolded and you had a son, you had to go and do it yourself. So, you're stuck with that. Forget about you and Sara getting a son by me. You're done, you'll have to deal with what you got.” Nope, he didn't do that. In the end, Sara had a son named Issac. You can read more about this starting in Genesis chapter 17.

God also allows Jonah (you can read his story in the book of the bible by the same name, or read my version of the story here), a second chance when he refuses to go to Nineveh to preach the gospel. Jonah is swallowed by a large fish (a whale maybe?), and eventually coughed back up and winds up on dry land. He goes to Nineveh, and many people are saved, and his life is spared.

In John Chapter 8 we read a story of a woman who is caught in bed with another man and dragged into the streets to be stoned by a crowd of people. The religious leaders of the day asked Jesus what should be done and in the end, the woman's life is spared because of what Jesus tells her and the angry mob at the scene. (You have to read this one! Don't have a bible, Google it, there are many sites where you can read the bible for free.)

These are just a few of the situations in the bible that come to mind as I write this where people received 2nd chances and their lives were even made better by it.

God also gives us second chances. You see, Adam and Eve really screwed things up when they decided to listen to Satan, who appeared as a serpent to them in the Garden of Eden. Because of their actions, man was condemned to death for his sins for the rest of all generations. For those who didn't believe in God and would not follow His words, their fate would be eternity in Hell. And who could blame Him. God had given Adam and Eve everything that they could possibly need and want in one place, with no work needed on their part, and all he asked was just don't mess with this one tree. Simple. Yet they chose not to listen to God and they ate the forbidden fruit anyway.

Yet, God chose to give us a second chance at living a life for Him, first when he made a way to use sacrifices in the Old Testament, and then in the New Testament when He sent his Son named Jesus to live on this earth, die on a cross for our sins, and then rise again to one day come back and take us all to Heaven. He didn't have to do it. He could have said, “Oh well, you had your chance, you ticked me off, now deal with it. I hope you die and rot in Hell” Nope, instead He watched his Son die a HORRENDOUS death for no reason that was justified, just so that we could have a chance at life with Him one day.

Now if that isn't a Second Chance, I don't know what is. And He still gives us second chances today. It is called “forgiveness” which is offered any time that we ask such for our sins, no matter how great or small we perceived them to be.

Trinity received that second chance when she was taken to the rescue instead of being euthanized at the veterinarian's office. That vet saw something in her that was worth saving, something that was worth giving her a second chance, and now she is enjoying that life with us for the rest of her days.

Now for the part that is hard for anyone. Who have you “sentenced to death” in your life previously? A friend, a coworker, a relative, a fellow Christian or church member (those two are not always the same!).

I was once given that sentence of death, then spared and I'm currently working on being restored to my original place again. Are you someone who is currently awaiting for your sentence to be carried out, or has it already been? Did you know that God will give you another chance, no matter what the world sees and says about you? I believe that this process is already happening now as I write this, and my restoration will be complete soon. I pray that yours will be too. Just get right with God, ask Him to restore you and believe that He will. I don't speak “Dog-ese”, but I'm sure that Trin asked for that very same thing also, and she received it. Did it affect her mentally and emotionally? I have no doubt. Our experiences leave scars that we all have to carry around. Some are obvious, some are hidden.

But our God is a loving God who sees all of you, your good, your bad, your scars, your wounds, and He loves you anyway. I'll close with a verse that most of you all know, but it still bares repeating, especially in times like these.

John 3:16 NIV  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

And just know to all who read this, I love you too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

For The Love of God ....

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD

How many of us have used that statement when we were exasperated with someone? I have used it in times where I had used all my patience and it would only be the love of God that I didn't take them and whoop their butts.
I remember singing a song when I was a young child in church: “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the bible tells me so.” I can't think of many people today who haven't heard John 3:16 (NIV). “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Verse 17 (NIV) continues to dig even deeper into why Jesus came to this earth: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

As Easter approaches Christians will be thinking about the cross and what it means to us when we consider the importance of Jesus dying on a cross, hung like a guilty man between two thieves. In churches we've been taught that Jesus died for our sins, rose again on the 3rd day, and he will come back for us one day, when God the Father gives the signal. 

Have you ever wondered this? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son...” But didn't Jesus rise again after 3 days and return to his Father after spending the next 40 with his followers on earth? Sounds more like he loaned him out for a while and then got him back 33 years later. What is the big deal about that? Life on earth didn't really change for those living then, and it sure isn't getting any better for our generations now that inhabit the earth. Where is the love? Where is the gift?

Let me tackle that last question first. The gift is that once and for all a sacrifice was given. After Adam and Eve really messed things up and were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, God required that a sacrifice should be made to him, and that requirement of the Jews continued even through the time that Jesus walked the earth. As a matter of a fact, the first sacrifice that we read about in Genesis started the proof that man could not even get something as simple as this right. Genesis 4: 1-15 tells the story of how something that wasn't so difficult destroyed lives. There were times when people in the bible were obedient to God, such as Abraham and his son Isaac. A human sacrifice was required, yet in the end, a ram was exchanged and given to sacrifice. There are other incidences of sacrifice that stand out, but we will move on and cover this subject another time.

As mentioned earlier, Jesus was finally sent down as a final sacrifice for man's sins. Things had grown so chaotic that there was simply no way man could atone for his sins with the blood of an animal, or anything else for that matter. But for many people, it is still hard to grasp. Why did someone who supposedly lived a perfect life while on this earth die in such a cruel manner? I don't understand how God was able to complete it, but somehow he placed every sin that would occur from that day forward, including every one that we hadn't done yet as we weren't born, and all those who are still yet to be born this day on his son Jesus. Jesus said that through these events, we would no longer have to make a sacrifice for our sins. The game had changed now. We just had to go to God in prayer and ask forgiveness. A lot easier for many to do and a lot less animals to be slaughtered.

“Okay, I am with you so far,” you say, but you still don't get how this proves any of God's love for us. Here is where I want to get to the meat of this subject. (pardon the pun) For many the thought of the Trinity is hard to understand. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The word trinity means that they are connected, in ways that we can't understand, but they are. I talked about in a much earlier blog how we are something like a trinity ourselves. There is us, our body, our spirit. There is the parent part of us, and there is the child portion of us. You have a spirit, you are someone's son/daughter, and for most of us, you are someone's father or mother. Yet you are still in one piece as you walk this earth. God still has 3 pieces to him, but like us, he has the spirit, the son portion, and the father portion. Stay with me here, I'm still working on the back-story to get to the point I want to make.

For all of you parents out there, think on this. When a child is hurting, doesn't it make you hurt inside also? Whether someone physically or emotionally hurt them, or they fell while doing something, or their carelessness led to an injury, you still feel a pain inside when you see them experiencing a pain. And for the child it was quite a pain for them too, especially if the hurt could have been avoided.

And for you adults, how about that time you tried to help someone and instead they used your actions against you? You tried to do good, and somehow they turned it to bad? Or when you are constantly doing something for someone who you want to like/love you, yet they never acknowledge you or what you've done, not even taking the time to say thank you.
That sucks, doesn't it. You want to cry, you're all bottled up inside because you don't want them to know that they've hurt you. Yet the hurt is still there. Painful and almost crippling emotionally in everything that happens between you and this person, though chances are, you still strive to somehow receive that recognition that you desire.

Now imagine if someone you love so dearly is hurt by everyone that you know. Although they did no wrong, somehow the whole world has turned their back on them and you're watching and listening as they cry out to you, knowing that through this there will be a growth and a learning experience for all those involved. Now imagine that multiplied by quadrillion billions of trillions. Now you have a small piece of what God had to have felt. 

The disciples had run and tucked their tails, with even Peter, who was the one who swore that he loved Jesus the most, denying that he was a disciple of Jesus for 3 times before the next morning. Jesus was abandoned. Very few stuck by Jesus and accepted without denying who he was. His mother was one of the few, which isn't surprising to me. Watch any show or news broadcast. Who is the one person that they are interviewing who says that their son/daughter was a good person and would never hurt anyone? It's their mother. That's just the way they are. Fiercely loyal, loving, and most of all forgiving.

So God is sitting in Heaven, knowing all of this was going to play out, and having to watch it actually happen to his kid. Yet he couldn't do anything about it or the whole plan would be ruined, and Jesus would have been crucified for nothing. Me, I would have been so P.O.'d that I would have destroyed the world right then and there, so there would be no more worries about anyone else needing to sacrifice anything. You can mess with me all you want, and plenty of people have. But DO NOT TOUCH MY FAMILY OR I WILL WIPE YOU OFF THE FACE OF THIS EARTH! Okay, I had my rant.
But God isn't like that. 

There have been plenty of people in my life who have went out of their way to hurt me for many reasons. Recently I have dealt with the pain that 2 certain people caused me that was destroying me and leaving a dark cloud over my life and my spirit. I am done with them, now they have to deal with God on it. It can never drag me down again. And I have vowed to never deal with them again, thus opening the door again to that kind of pain.
God isn't like that though. Could you blame him if he said, “Okay you little turds, I took care of your biggest problem and in return, all I ask is that you come to me for forgiveness. That way when you die, you can have a clear conscience.” Who could blame him? Not me! Lord knows I do not deserve even that much from him.

But get this. Not only does he send his Son to die on the cross, but God is going to do something else one day. He is going to send him back. What??????? Mankind killed him off the first time he was here! Is God stupid? You know we'll do it again. Mankind always repeats his mistakes!
And the answer is ….. (drum roll) …... NOPE, he isn't stupid. This time we won't get the chance as humans to make that choice again. Those of us who have called on the name of Jesus, asked forgiveness of our sins, confessed with our mouths that he is the Son of God who was crucified and rose again for our sins will be given the final reward for those actions. Whether you are alive or already dead, Jesus is going to cause us all to rise in the air and return with him to Heaven. All of those who have refused to accept Jesus, who would still crucify him if given the chance again will perish in one of the worst possible times in history. Horrible atrocities will happen across all of the earth, culminating with everyone that was left when the rapture (as it is called) happened and spent a part or all of the remaining years on earth through the tribulation to be called to stand before God and then cast into a lake of fire that will never quit burning, relief from the fire will never be given, and their stupidity for not accepting Jesus when they had a chance will cost them dearly.

But the Christians will get to live in Heaven forever, worshiping God and living in a city that, though it is described in the bible with fairly good detail, is still unfathomable to most. And it is this detail that shows me that God truly does love me.

I was once a sinner, a screw-up, someone who was hated by many, loved by few, and who had spiraled to a point where no one wanted anything to do with me. But God still loved me, knew I would need him, and went through everything that I have described above.
Here is the proof that he loves me: God will send his Son back for me! Even though, because of me and all the others who have or will ever roam this earth, he had to watch his Son suffer humiliation and pain that we can only begin to try to understand the depth of. Yes, when I wouldn't go back with my human flesh and mind and want to have anything to do with those that have hurt me greatly, God is willing to do that and then live with me forever. That just blows my mind! Now that is LOVE! No other term could possibly describe it. L-O-V-E. LOVE. Wowser. When I was singing that song as a child, I never really understood what I was saying. It was just a cute song that made me feel good. Now I want to sing it lovingly to everyone, and as a tribute to God for all that he has done.

My question now is … Would you? Could you? Have you ever loved someone that much? Better yet, do you think that it is possible that someone could love you that much? Maybe you are someone who has lived your life so unappreciative of anything that was ever done for you. You probably even told yourself that no one has ever done anything for you, therefore you can try to justify not having to do anything for anyone else. Well, I just shot that out of the water. Before you were born, before you could have done or not done anything for anyone, someone did something for you. BECAUSE HE LOVED YOU. Isn't that why as parents we do things for our kids? Isn't that why you keep trying to gain the favor of someone, no matter if they never acknowledge your actions? We were made by God, and we are taken care of in the end by God. It doesn't matter what our actions are our entire life, the person who created us is the person who deals with us at the end of our life. God never leaves, nor forsakes you. He was there in the beginning, he is there in the end. All it will cost you to enjoy what great things God wants for you to have is to simply ask for forgiveness, acknowledge what he has already done for you, and live your life in a way that will be pleasing to God so that he will continue to want to give you many blessings on this earth and beyond.
Is it really that difficult to acknowledge the only True Love that you will ever know? Earthly “true love” will be fallible, as we are all sinners and screw-ups, but Gods love will always be true.

So it is time for you to ask yourself, “For the love of God …... what are you going to do about it?”

Monday, March 9, 2015

Oooh, would you listen now if God Could Talk

I have always loved Classic Rock and many of the artists that were popular in the 70's. You have heard me mention it before, but one of my favorites was Meatloaf. Meatloaf, you say? Wasn't he that guy that made the albums named Bat Out of Hell, I, II, and III?

Yep!

Before I truly turned my life over to God, that is how I lived, like a bat out of hell. Now I guess it more closely resembles a crazed Goonie out of Heaven.

Anyway, on what appears to be his last and final album, there is a song titled, "If God Could Talk" in which he asks his lover if God could talk, what would God suggest, and what road would they take.
The last line of the song slows down tremendously as he sings it:
"Oooh, would you listen now if God could talk?"

I can't help but wonder if there are a lot of people in the world who wonder if God can talk. To many it would sound strange to consider it as they see God as this "thing" up "there" somewhere in the Universe. It is a presence that has no way of communicating with us, just a way to dangle things before our eyes that we may or may not ever get to experience. 

One problem that I find here in the "bible belt" is that the older generation takes it for granted that most everyone has attended church for a period of time and they are familiar with God and how He works. Sadly, especially in these days, fewer and fewer people attend church and those who do attend get a VERY watered down version of God, usually just the "Happy God" version. Pastors never preach about Hell and the consequences of not accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior. It's more like: Just believe in Christ and your life will change. Things will go smoother, you'll be blessed financially (especially is you keep sending your $$$ into the pockets of these TV shysters), your health will be great (don't forget to buy those prayer cloths to keep you well), and you'll never have a worry again.

I hope if you are reading this that you haven't bought into the Happy God Religion. It certainly isn't Christianity. Far from it. You Will have troubles, You Will have financial hardships, You Will experience sickness and death in your family. The difference is with Jesus Christ and God, His and our Heavenly Father, you will have a sense of peace and courage to face those trials. And in the end, when you look at how your life plays out each day, you will realize that this is the true Happy experience.

Another problem most people have trouble with is believing that what is in the bible applies to them, and could very well happen in their lives. In the book of the bible called Hebrews, Paul writes:
"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.…"  Hebrews 1:1-2 NIV

In Genesis, we see where God is talking to Adam and Eve in their walks through the Garden. He was as much a presence that could be seen and heard as you would be if you were standing beside me today. Did you know that "God spoke" occurs 9 times in the Old Testament and 3 times in the New Testament.Now, I'm no scientist, but it seems to me that the only way we could know that "God spoke" was if someone heard it.

Sin changed a lot of things that I would have loved to experience, one of them being able to meet face to face with God when we wanted to, especially after a hard day.

God now uses Jesus Christ, His Son, to speak to us through what is called "The Holy Spirit". No, you won't experience a ghost hovering in mid-air most likely in front of you, telling you what you need to hear. What you will experience is what some people call "their conscience". It is a little voice inside that is not "audible" as most people would use the word, but nevertheless, it is that nagging feeling, those words that keep popping up in your head for no reason, that urge to do or not to do something that is before you. That is the Holy Spirit talking to you. Problem for mankind is that we refuse to listen. I WANT IT MY WAY! AND I WILL BLAST THROUGH ANYONE WHO TRIES TO STOP ME! Well, all I can say is "Good Luck With That."

Think about it for a minute. We read instruction manuals written supposedly by someone who has done a certain task and knows how to complete it successfully. We read biographies of successful people to learn how to be more successful in our lives. We search the internet for information about something from someone who is credited as an expert.in that field.

So you have someone who has been around since before the Earth was formed, who can guide you in what you need to be successful and to survive this crazy life, and yet most people refuse to listen. What the ???? It seems pretty stupid to me. You would rather listen to some guy with maybe 20 or 30 years experience at the most instead of someone with 1000's of years of experience? Really? I mean Really? (to quote that annoying guy on the arby's commercials).

Quit wasting your money to make someone else rich (why do you think he/she is so successful, it isn't because of their great knowledge all the time, it's because you keep sending them your money!) and start listening to The One Who Never Charges A Dime! 

No, I have never "heard" a voice from Heaven, yet I have been given many words of instruction from God. Take this blog for example. God gives me the wisdom to write this. I have no degree in journalism and I'm not some big lecturer in some vast circuit. Yet, the words flow from me, whether it is on a page, in a blog, or in a sermon given somewhere in front of an audience. Pay attention the next time you see me preach. I have an outline, but I do not stand there and read from a script. I study the material that I want to preach on, and then I stand up before you and bring the word that God wants to tell you. Many times I have it all planned as to how I'm going to present it, then God gives me the words otherwise and by the time I'm done, I'm hoping it was recorded because even I can't remember what all He flowed through my mind and to my lips.

So in closing I'm going to ask you again ... "Oooh, would you listen now if God Could Talk?" And now that you know that God Can Talk, will you pay closer attention to what He says? And will you take the words that God has given you, and act upon them accordingly?

Only you can answer for yourself.

In Christ,
Keith

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Voice

~(music) This Is The Voice (cue more music)~~~~~~~~

My wife and I love a show on tv called "The Voice" that is broadcast on NBC networks. In case you've never seen it, it has 4 famous singers who are looking to coach unknown singers to stardom and hopefully to win the competition each season. All four "coaches" are in high backed chairs with their backs turned to the stage. One at a time, singers come out on the stage and give a 90 second performance. At any time during the performance the coach can hit a button in front of them and make their chair turn around towards the stage. This gives the singer an opportunity to pick a coach for the season (if there is more than one) or if only one, they will be automatically assigned to them. Unfortunately, some of the singers do not get a coach to turn around until they have completed their song, in which case all four coaches are turned around to the stage and they have a chance to give feedback to help the singer with their skills.

Growing up in the 60's and 70's, I loved what has come to be called "Classic Rock". Janis Joplin was one of my favorites, as something about her gravelly voice called out to me. This season there is another singer that has that kind of voice and a power house style of performance that I think will carry her far in the competition. Sarah Potenza is her name. Her wardrobe seems to try to mimic the styles of that era, and if many people judged her by looks, (at least by the way the current pop singers appear), she would not be very popular. But "The Voice" gives people a chance to initially prove themselves by their voice alone. As it progresses in the season, they will have to be able to show that they can perform for the audience as well.

Now, let's look at God and see if there is any comparison.
The Stage: Heaven
The Singer: God
The Song: Life
The Judges: Me and You

We start out in life facing away from the stage. We are born into sin and we have no connection with heaven. There is no "permalink" as the web likes to call connections made. We are looking out into the audience, many times gauging their reactions and motions as we go about listening to The Song. Just as I have seen the judges during the show be influenced by crowd reactions to the singer, we also are influenced by what goes on with the people who surround us.

Many times we want to be a part of the crowd, and we never really listen to what is happening on The Stage. We do this in life. We're too busy with everything going on around us to really listen to The Voice that is singing in our ear. Even at church we simply choose not to listen to the pastor and instead dwell on the things that we didn't get done this past week that we now have to add to our busy schedule. Or we are there simply for appearances and we have no sincere desire to make an actual attempt to be a part of The Voice.

Something in what they are singing, or the way that they are singing, just doesn't interest us. It may not be our style. In church, they may only sing one type of music, maybe just hymns, or praise & worship music, or maybe you don't like the instrumentation or speed of the music. Too fast, too slow, too guitary (hmmmm wonder if that is even a word. but you know what I mean). And yes, just because you go to church doesn't make you a Christian. (aw snap, that is a wake up call for many).

So we go through the performance with no contract, no guarantee and no commitment to be a part of what is happening on stage. WHY?

If these 4 coaches on this show never hit their button to turn around, nothing would ever get accomplished. But it wouldn't mean that they are not great singers and performers themselves. Each artist sells millions of albums, their names are a household name and millions of people flock to their concerts every year to watch and hear them perform. So, if they never turn around, it could never mean that they are not singers themselves. It just means that they didn't want to be a part of something else that may be bigger than themselves.

There are 2 ways to view this in our world.

(1)   You have people who simply refuse to be a part of what is happening on the stage behind them. They recognize the voice that they hear as telling them something that may or may not interest them a little bit, but not enough to be fully committed. These are the people who surround you that you call "good-hearted." A lot of times they don't attend church, you've never heard them give a witness about anything that God has done in their lives. Chances are they are not saved and have not given their life to Christ. It doesn't make them a bad person. Just like the coaches that never turn around for a singer are not bad singers themselves. These people who remain facing the audience just simply choose to not completely commit to someone else, in this case Jesus Christ. That connection is never made and there will be a price to pay for it. Just like the show where the coach can't win with that artist is they don't at least turn around and offer their commitment, these people will never have a chance to live with God in Heaven for the rest of eternity.

(2)   There are those who listen to the voice behind them and like what they hear and want to be a part of it. When a coach turns his/her chair on the show, they are offering their commitment to be a part of the singers life and hopefully make a better performer out of them. When we in life turn our chairs and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are offering ourselves to God to make our world a better place. Some do this for "fire insurance" (see a much earlier blog about this) so that they escape Hell, but they never really put their all into the mission. Some fully give themselves to help God further His mission, including becoming ministers, missionaries, or workers in a church and serving in capacities where needed. Just as a coach will reap more out of the effort that they put into an artist, we also reap more from what we truly give of ourselves to God.
 
Revelation 4:10-11  New International Version (NIV)
10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being.”

We will receive these crowns based on what we have done in Jesus' name, not ours. (more on that in a later blog I'm sure.)

So to wrap this up, I'm asking you, what Voice are you listening to? Each person has heard "the voice". Some turn their chairs, excited to be a part of something great, and others remain facing "the audience" or in life's case, the world and always keeping their back towards God.

Just as in the show when the coaches do not turn their chairs and the song ends, they have no way of going back and changing their mind to be a part of it. I've seen it happen many times where they try to hit the button after they are facing the stage, but it is all for naught. In life we too have a chance to listen to "the voice" and turn our chairs. Once the music and the singing stops, that choice will be over. We will only have the judgement and an eternity in Hell. You cannot get a "redo" and a chance to hit the button.

Revelation 20: 14-15
14   Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
15   And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
 
So  your choice today is: Do I turn my chair while God is still singing, or do I remain facing away from Him which will condemn me to an eternity where I can never be a part of Him?

Please, turn your chair.

Here We Go Again

Okay, 2 years have gone by since I posted regularly to this blog. To those of you who were faithful readers, I apologize for my absence. My family and I have been going through difficulties but now that everything is behind us, it is time to pick up and move on.
I have missed writing. I love public speaking and the opportunity to talk to people, but there is comfort to be found while sitting at my keyboard typing and expressing my thoughts.
I have had many thoughts that I have pondered, so there will once again be an abundance that I will put on this blog.
To any new readers that may be just finding this blog, go back to the early posts and read them to get a feel for where I come from and what has brought me to this point.
For all of my regular readers,
Hang on!
With Love in Christ,
Keith

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ode to Stokie Lee Brown


"You're just a little Stokie, you know that?"
I can't tell you how many times my mama told me that. You can find in my testimony about how my dad left when I was one year old, and my mom moved me and her into her mom and dad's house. So as a young boy, it was my grandfather who wound up doing things that a father would do. He taught me how to throw a ball. He showed me how to use the carpentry tools that he loved to fool with, and from that I grew up with a love of working with wood. He was always doing something to make me laugh. He had a tattoo of a woman on his arm that would wiggle in suggestive places when he flexed his muscle. He taught me my first off color joke.
But he taught me some other things also. He taught me to love people no matter what. He was raised in an environment where people were "sympathetic" to the Klan, though at that time, the Klan were more of a moral police than a hatred group that they are known for now.
He had to leave school at the age of 7 to help his family work in the fields. He never learned to read until he married my grandmother and they attended church. He would follow along in his bible as the pastor read from his.
He believed in hard work. He ran the "dope wagon" in the textile mill just was just a few blocks over from the house. (if you don't know what the dope wagon did, google it, I'm sure it will be an eye opener.)
He also had mom or nana (my g-mother) read the bible and a devotional each day while we sat at the breakfast table before we started the day.
But the thing I remember most about him is how important people would come around and sit with him and talk. I've seen the owner of Greenwood Mills, SC Senate/House members and many pastors of large churches come to our house and sit and talk with him. I didn't really realize just how much he was respected until he passed away and there was so much security around because of all of the dignitaries that attended his funeral, and talked with the family afterwards. Any one he had ever come into contact with held him in high regard, and he never had a blemish on his name.
Me, on the other hand, did everything I could to ruin my name. Maybe out of rebellion, maybe out of ignorance, but I was the one who was always in trouble, especially once I got out of HS. It wasn't until years later that I realized what a terrible path I was on and decided to get my life together.
I have finally accomplished that, but it was a long road.
I still love to work with wood. I still love a good joke and a prank. And now I love Jesus as much as my grandfather did. And though I don't have all these important people beating down my door, I do find that people come to me for guidance now and counseling.
So finally, I am wondering, am I still a "little Stokie"? Have I obtained anything that nearly resembles him? I miss my grandfather dearly and I wish there was a way he could be around to counsel me now.
So my wish today is two-fold: I want to draw closer to Jesus and become more Christ-like, and I want to be more like Stokie, in that I can be a man who possibly makes a difference in the world.
So to my grandfather, whom I called Papa (Pah-Pah), if you can read this from heaven, just know that I miss you, I love you, and I can't wait to see you again one day!

In Memory of Stokie Lee Brown

3/1/11 - 1/15/80

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Making Toilet Paper from Poop

Churches keep repeating the same ole' thing, thinking that their way of doing it will be more productive. But you can't make toilet paper from poop, no matter what method you try.

Ewwwww......   Yuck ............  Well ....... If the commode fits, sit on it!

Anyway, my personal opinion here:

I believe the reason churches are not actually growing (hey, stealing other members from nearby churches doesn't count as growth) is because they are too focused on how to draw people in to the church.

Bad joo-joo.

We need to be able to figure out how to draw people out of the church.

WOAH! Are you nuts? Yep, (ca-shew) (bless you), and my psychiatrist agrees.

No one wants to do anything more than just sit in a pew/chair for an hour. Churches just want people to fill the pews/chairs for an hour. Anything over that costs more in overhead because of utilities.

Please ... give me a break .....

How about let's start to see what it would take to meet the needs of people outside of the church? What are the residents of your community needing? What can you do to make their lives more enjoyable? What can you do to meet needs in your area?

Remember, Jesus went into more houses where the rest of the world didn't want to be, than where all of his followers thought he ought to be!

Try taking care of those things, and then people will come in the doors. And guess what?

WHAT?
They'll stay. People remember who was there in the bad times. They'll stick around even in the good times. And chances are, they will be willing to work towards making someone elses lives a little bit better too.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Forgiving Grace

I'm sure some of you that have read my posts regularly have wondered where I went for 3 1/2 months.
Well .....
I had a wild ride and then took some time off. I'll start with the wild ride first.
It's no secret that I have been open to pastoring a church again, and in the February/March/April range there were several churches that had contacted me about taking on the senior position of either music minister or pastor. One seemed very promising and it came down to the time of the trial sermon to be given. Then BAM!
Out of nowhere I was blindsided.
I've never hid my feelings and beliefs on the Holy Spirit (and many other topics) in this blog and on my webpage, http://www.upsidedownchristianity.com. Yes, I have served in some conservative churches, and yes I have served in some that were more open to the Holy Spirits leading.
See this previous Post (I want order in this house)
Well, for those of you who have never been through the search committee process, I'll give you a bit of the process. Applications are accepted and reviewed. Interviews are given, sometimes over the phone if long distance. Research is done by interviewing/questioning people who have served with the pastor and with people who have been a regular part of the congregation of his former church. (It is a little different for recent graduates of seminaries.) The list is narrowed down and questionnaires are sent out to the few pastors remaining as possibilities. People that they don't like then are ruled out, leaving hopefully only one or two for the final process, the trial sermon and vote by the congregation.
Well, one church in a northern state (they are known for their cheese) contacted me. They had found my website, read quite a bit of it, read part of the blog site, and wanted me to consider coming and taking over for their pastor who was leaving.
I researched the area, asked questions that were pertinent to our moving so far away, and decided that the church would be a good fit. It would be a bit of a rebuild since there had been some strife with the previous pastor, but I love challenges and have some knowledge and experience to tackle the job.
Well all of the above happened and then it was time to bring me in for the trial sermon. (they had already heard a pre-recorded one earlier.) A week or so before I would have gone, I was notified that they weren't interested in me anymore.
Now, they had gotten the questionnaire, had a VERY lengthy talk over the phone, and they knew pretty much every belief that I hold, especially in worship.
Then they started wanting to add more and more from me and previous congregations. I put my foot down and said it's either do or die, but this is enough.
A day or so later I get the email that they are not considering me because they do not want anything to do with speaking in tongues in their service, and I had stated a few months back on the questionnaire that I would allow it under certain circumstances. (See previous post link again if you haven't read it yet.)
You know what I said.
BS. (yep, that is what I told them, BS.)
It had become a game of find the dirt on me because the committee vote was 4-3 to bring me and they wanted a 7-0 vote (never EVER heard of that one before) from the search committee. So the 3 nays/borderline yes's tried to find something to rule me out.
After having a similar experience with a church that wanted me to rebuild their music program not too long before that, this was the last straw.
I've never seen committees act like that before, but then again, I've never dealt with long distance churches until the past year. (always local ones that welcomed me.)
Well, I pulled my resume' from all of the pastoral search sites and told God that I simply couldn't take it anymore.
Hmmmmmm ...... Silence........ (though it wasn't golden I don't think.)
A month passed and my nerves had started to come back to normal. Then something happened that caught me off guard.
Craigslist.
Most people either love it or hate it. My son spends some time on there surfing the ads and so I had started checking it out. I found the "Musicians" page and one day when I pulled it up, there was an ad for a bass player for a new group that was forming. The plan for the group was to do Christian Contemporary music, mainly their own songs with a few covers thrown in from time to time.
I sent an email saying that I was interested and a reply came back that same day.
I met with the man who was forming the group and we clicked instantly. We talked a little about our pasts and neither one found judgement with the other. Finally, a true Christian exists. (was beginning to wonder for awhile.)
Soon the group met at an outing to get to know one another and then we went back to a building that had been secured for us to be able to practice in each week and not have to tear down the equipment after every practice.
Everyone hit it off with each other. This was in the latter part of May '12 and with one addition and one subtraction, we're moving along at a pretty good pace. We have already put together a half dozen songs with some more in the works and hope to have a demo CD available soon, with a full release to follow.
Finally, I feel like I can minister again. No one is trying to trick anyone (Monroe neighborhood, you know who you are!) or dig up their pasts. We all have a past, but thank God, with Him we have a wonderful future with Him for eternity if you have been saved.
Well, all this said, now you kinda know what has been going on in my life. The hurt is still there (though weakening from day to day) from everything that I experienced with the committees, and I've pretty much decided that if/when I do have a church, it will probably be one that I have started. No BS, no back stabbing (Monroe, you poor terrible people). A church that is run with God as the figurehead. A TRUE Christian church where no one is judged, everyone is welcomed into His house and worship can take place without many restrictions.

**** NOTE TO ANY SEARCH COMMITTEES****
I am not saying I won't consider your church, but it is like this.
Read my blog. Read my site www.upsidedownchristianity.com
If you have a questionnaire that you would like me to fill out, then send it and I'll gladly return it to you when I've completed it, usually within 24 hours, unless it's the weekend.
If you would like to meet with me to see if we're compatible, fine.
But you either want me or you don't. No games. No trying to make buddy-buddy and then stab me in the back with your lies that you told me and twisted facts that you've given.
I'll do a trial sermon and I'll be glad to send you a .wav file of me giving a sermon.
But don't play games and drag me and my family down to the mire.
I won't tolerate it!
****END NOTE****

So until that happens, I'll continue to worship, fellowship and minister to others through the talents my Lord and Savior has given me through music, using my voice, my bass guitar and any keyboards when called upon..
Oh yeah, one irony to all this is the name of the group: Forgiving Grace (site is still being developed, so it's still in it's raw stage at the moment, the facebook page is more current right now https://www.facebook.com/pages/Forgiving-Grace/184059025055793)
Forgiving Grace. Think about those words. Forgiving ... to hold nothing of ill towards another person, Grace ... only something that God can bring upon His people that can lead to any hope of an eternal life in Heaven through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His Son.
Forgiving Grace ... something I have yet to see out of a search committee. (Sometimes I think they would find something wrong with Jesus if He was a candidate for their leadership. (read a funny email on that years ago.)
I do look forward to what God will do in my life and in the life of my wife. We have some ministries that we are still praying about that we would like to be able to do one day if the funds become available.
Several people have told me in the last few months that I'll still be a pastor one day (one person I had just met) so I know that God is still reassuring me that there is a plan that I can't see but that He has control over.
But for now I have made some wonderful Christian friends with the band members and their families.
And I am keeping up the faith that my God shall supply all my needs, that He shall watch over me, and that one day this will all be over and I'll finally be with Him and all my friends and loved ones that have gone before me.
Thanks for being a faithful reader of this blog, and I plan to start to post more regularly from now on.
Love in Christ,
Rev. Keith