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As a Christian do you give your life?
Or do you live your life?
March 26, 2023
“But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles Lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.””
Mark 10:42-45 NKJV
The “boss” mentality has always haunted man. From the dawn of time, the struggle to reign supreme in any given situation has been the premise of social order. Satan in the garden used autonomy and dominant behavior to lure Adam and Eve from their paradise and put them in competition with the one who literally gave them everything they possessed. The struggle with submission is the story of social order. Modern civilization has been a continual flip flopping of control and conquering. Social order that is out of step with God’s plan is the recipe for disaster on every front of our journey through this life.
As we continue to live this year of going to the high places, we are getting an understanding of the freedom of living out from under the pecking order of religion. We are seeing the miracle of God calling each of us to a deeper place in worship. We are feeling the intense hunger for God’s Word and we are experiencing the joy of the Lord that comes from just sitting in His presence. A giving life is a living life. Those who continually struggle with “purpose” are missing the obvious. The obsession with purpose is simply a cry for help from the ones who can’t seem to get past the “me” factor. When you cease to concern yourself with living and shift your focus to giving, something miraculous happens. It’s called the Christian life. Jesus Christ was and is the ultimate giver. He gave all so that we would have all. We call ourselves Christians...the followers of Christ. We were not called to simply live our life...but to give our live.
There is no other way to define “pick up your cross”
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.””
Matthew 16:24-28 NKJV
As a veteran of mass media, I know that sensationalism has stripped that profession from its original mission. Behavioral scientists that I studied, Herzberg, Maslow, John B. Watson, all of whom focused upon life factors that motivate man to be focused upon the meeting of needs. Now, modern media is simply a game of manipulation to steer the masses in the way they want them to think instead of encouraging critical thinking among the masses. You are told what to think and you don’t even realize it.
Jesus told us to pick up our cross and follow him because it gives us a model of submission to God for us to follow. “Not my will, but thine be done” has been replaced with “I’m good with God as long as it doesn’t get in the way of my happiness”.
Jesus told us to pick up our cross and he never says put it down. Your cross is your relationship with Jesus. It is our point of commonality with Him and recognition of who he is in our life. Without the cross, Christianity is nothing. Jesus is the Christ because of his relationship to the father, not because of some kind of bogus honor that we give him. We worship Him because He is worthy. If we follow Christ, we are recognizing that he is the giver of life and to follow him is to also be givers and not simply livers.
Christianity is pro-active: The world is passive .
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
James 1:22-25 NKJV
When I was in my early 20s, a friend invited me to join the local chapter of the Lion’s Club. I had a rich history in that organization. My cousin was the Lions’s state governor for Louisiana and my father was one of the charter members of the chapter to which I joined. Now anyone who knows about that organization knows that their chief purpose is social programs to serve getting kids off the streets and into intramural sports and raising money for eyeglasses for the indigent. I was a young man with a desire to make my life count for something so I connected with them and was in the club for the better part of my 20s.
It wasn’t until a couple of years in that one of the leaders asked me if I was related to the charter member with the same name as mine. I told them that was my father. He was shocked that I didn’t say something before. I told him, I was not there because I was following my father’s footsteps...but because I was following my father’s heart. The desire to serve does not come from ambition but from love. You can never muster up a selfish motivation to serve. It will always be connected to humility and submission. It is never about fulfilling your purpose, but fulfilling a call to achieve the purposes of God. We have 66 books of purpose. Don’t insult God’s intelligence by saying you need to find your purpose.
Giving is living and
Living is giving
““As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
John 15:9-13 NKJV
So Jesus said that he did not come here to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. The word ransom is an interesting word. In criminal circles, it is the money paid for the release of a kidnap victim or the return of something valuable. In the spiritual realm, it has an even more intense definition. Jesus came to serve. He came to lay down his life for a specific purpose. That purpose was to use his very existence as a payment drop to undo the crime of the ages. Through trickery...through the act of fraud, Satan absconded with an entire genus of God’s creation. He kidnapped man and put him in cue for an appointment with utter darkness and separation from God. He burglarized and raided paradise and held hostage the most valuable thing to God. So God sent the second part of His triune nature...his only begotten son...to serve as payment for the release of His precious people. For God so loved the world that He GAVE. Satan has once again hornswoggled man into believing that this is somehow about “living your best life” or being loaded down with toys and worldly benefit. The entire mission of this life is finding our joy in the Lord. Luke 6:38 teaches us God’s law of reciprocity. Give and it shall be given unto you...good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over...will men give unto your bosom. That means that in God’s economy of Giving, we can never outgive him. We can never absorb all of the good he will bestow on us. When we live the life of the giver, we experience life in a fullness we could never know through the arm of the flesh. God gives life and that more abundantly. Satan’s job description is to steal, kill, and destroy. He steals our joy. He kills our ability to see the real purpose in life...and he destroys our relationship with God wherein is found peace. When you have the revelation of giving...you have truly defeated the God of this world.
Keeping up appearances
February 12, 2023
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
II Timothy 3:1-7 NKJV
“But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.”
Jude 1:5-19 NKJV
Going to the high places is not a weekend trip, it is a pilgrimage. It is headed to a new homeland, not visiting a theme park. Too many people in the church are taken for a weekly adventure and not encouraged to allow God to have the access into your life to make permanent and lasting change that will not simply convert you, but condition you for the road that lies ahead. The high places are locations of the miraculous. They are where you see things you have never seen before...do things you have never done before, and learn things you have never known before. The high places opens up scripture to you and causes it to become reality right before your eyes.
The trap you do not want to fall into is allowing your walk with the Lord to become a game of keeping up appearances. A car can be beautiful on the outside. Its paint can be shiny and its wheels can flash with polished chrome...but under the hood it can be an absolute disaster. It’s the oldest trick in the used car dealer’s book. They put something on the lot that is so physically attractive, you lose sight of the fact that it is mechanically a complete nightmare.
God wants our ugly lives. He wants us to surrender our appearances that he might beautify us from the inside out. Today we are going to talk about keeping up appearances. If I showed up at the base of a mountain and told the guide I was ready for the climb knowing that I had high blood pressure, heart problems, bad knees and foot sores...I would be setting myself up for a tragedy. If I addressed these things with my doctor and worked toward restoring my health and then went for the mountain climb, I would not only enjoy it...it would be advantageous to my health. We are at the base of the mountain. The Holy Spirit is the Guide...Jesus is the healer...God is who we are going to see on the climb. His presence is going to essentially change everything for us. All we need to do is be real.
“Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”
And His disciples heard it. Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.” So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”
Mark 11:12-14, 20-24 NKJV
One thing that Jesus never tolerated was a fake. He called out the woman at the well. He cursed the barren fig tree. He wept at the tomb of Lazarus over their lack of faith. He called peter from the boat only to have to save him from drowning. When you have fruit in your life, you don’t have to worry about appearances...the reality produces the image. There once was a Las Vegas Illusionist named David Copperfield who did amazing exploits. One of his most famous illusions was to make the Statue of Liberty disappear. Using distraction and moving props, he simply repositions the staging used for the trick to give the illusion that the massive statue was gone. An old saying goes, “appearances can be deceptive.” Years later, the trick was figured out and now everyone knows how it was done. The statue never budged one inch from where it’s been since it was put in place on its pedestal in October 1886. What people saw was a barren fig tree. They saw something that only appeared to be. Their minds had become so deluded with the prospect of witnessing the disappearance of the massive statue that they actually played into the illusion of seeing it disappear. It was actually just behind a sheet pulled up by a moving tower.
When Jesus saw the fig tree, displaying leaves...showing signs of fruitfulness but having no fruit, it caused him to realize that it was out of the order created by the Father. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had EVERYTHING they needed. They have been provided for handsomely. They suffered no lack at all, yet Satan “appeared” to them as a serpent. He appeared as a creature who knew the lay of the land. He “appeared” as wisdom. He “appeared” as authority. He led them down a blind path into disobedience. They went to the one tree that appeared to have fruit, but actually contained death. Don’t be tricked by fruitless trees. Don’t fall into the deception of illusion. Don’t let mere appearance convince you of anything.
“These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.”
Jude 1:12-13 NKJV
How many times have we seen the skies heavy and gray and they do nothing? Around these parts, it’s not out of the ordinary at all to see conditions become cloudy...sometimes for days and see not one drop of rain. It can become downright frustrating. This is how it is when people enter our lives with false teachings, false signs and wonders, erroneous messages promising the miraculous but delivering watered down results. God’s glory is a river. His presence is a raging current. It is not a refreshing trickle, it is a cleansing flow...a torrent of mercy and grace. People with big claims are a dime a dozen. There was a company called K-tel in the 70s and 80s that sold products related to music and music accessories. Their commercials were always these fast talking hubs of hype but in the end, their products were cheap and second class and disappointing. Now we have an entire website dedicated to disappointing buying experiences called Wish.com. It’s cheap, it looks cool...but in the end...you’ll wish you said, “no thanks”.
In reality, we need to begin saying “no thanks” to things in our life that promise us deep things but barely scratch the surface. I went through many dead end relationships before I found my Leslie. There were times when I was so heartbroken over love affairs that didn’t work out that I was sure I would never find “that one”. But when God found me...and I found him back...the real things opened the door for me. As important as this is in the physical world, it is even more crucial to have this in operation in your spiritual life. Avoid the waterless clouds. The rain is in the presence of God.
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.”
Ephesians 5:15-21 NKJV
Spirit filled is a term that is downright prostituted. When the term was in its heyday in the 70s and 80s, all a publisher had to do was put “spirit filled” on the cover and guarantee a huge traffic pull. People assume that if something says its spirit filled, it will be full of the spirit...but one must extrapolate upon that term and come to grips that just because someone uses it, it means absolutely nothing without the evidence to convict. When a district attorney is ready to deliver an indictment, the big proof that causes that legal action is the presence of concrete evidence. We should ever be ready to judge, not each other, but spiritual things with spiritual things. When something claims to be “spirit filled” we will not have to just take the claims of the label...we will know by what is contained within.
Are there fruits of the spirit present? (love, joy peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) Does it carry you or do you have to carry it? Remember the fig tree...it said it was one thing but didn’t have the fruit to back it up. Being Spirit filled is containing the word of God in you to the point where it comes busting out of your life. Consider the humble jelly donut. The jelly is all in there until it comes under the pressure of our bite...then, its jelly everywhere! Spirit filled is not the do nothing machine. It doesn’t just have the appearance of getting things done, it is ever making progress. The progress isn’t always drastic and it isn’t always noticed by others, but you know. Being spirit filled will never force you into living by illusion or keeping up an appearance...it will flow out of you as a result of what God is doing inside of you.
Revelations from the High Places
February 5, 2023
“Now the king of Syria was making war against Israel; and he consulted with his servants, saying, “My camp will be in such and such a place.” And the man of God sent to the king of Israel, saying, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are coming down there.” Then the king of Israel sent someone to the place of which the man of God had told him. Thus he warned him, and he was watchful there, not just once or twice. Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was greatly troubled by this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me which of us is for the king of Israel?” And one of his servants said, “None, my Lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” So he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and get him.” And it was told him, saying, “Surely he is in Dothan.” Therefore he sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city. And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. So when the Syrians came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, and said, “Strike this people, I pray, with blindness.” And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.”
II Kings 6:8-18 NKJV
There are times in our lives when we can only learn from being exposed to faith in its most basic of environments. When Leslie and I were first married, I stepped away from my normal work life and took a position as a territory manager for a publishing company. The dominant portion of this job was sales. My assignment was to generate new clients across the southern U.S. I was used to a job that took me from home to one particular place every day and now I was thrust into this new environment of being on the road every day of my life. My regional manager was an elderly gentleman from Atlanta, Georgia named Jim Kelley. Jim would fly in every two months to assist me in my job and help me sharpen my chops on special clients. He taught me something that I had never known. That lesson was that some things you will learn only by baptism of fire. You would have to be immersed in the middle of a boiling pot of circumstance in order to smell the sweet scent of what was cooking. Many of us have faced enough adversity in our lives to know this first hand. Faith is a dish best served cold. In the Gospels, Jesus took the disciples on training missions that were amazing but never comfortable. It got to the place where they downright had to make a choice between serving God and going back to the norm of what they knew. Faith takes boldness. Faith takes bravery. And most of all, faith takes risk, trust, and out and out blindness to what is going on around you.
This is the dilemma Elisha’s servant encountered. All he could see was the stark reality of what was around him. He saw troops and armament and in incredibly lost situation. But there was another reality going on around him that could only be seen through the eyes of faith. What reality has hell tried to convince you of? What deceptive circumstance has Satan presented to keep you from seeing the actual move of God in your life? Some revelations can only be gotten in the high places where the expectations are low, but the God factor is high. Elisha’s servant learned that what his eyes beheld was not what God had planned.
Doubt is tamed in the High Places
“knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
James 1:3-8 NKJV
Doubt is a drain on your energy. It is a vice grip that clamps your mind into one hopeless thinking pattern. Doubt can take even the most solid of faith and melt it like butter on a stove. Like faith, doubt once it is released is exponential. It piles upon itself and creates scenarios in your head that are just insane. Doubt can turn an allergy rash into cancer. It can turn indigestion into a heart attack. It can turn a plain brown envelope into bankruptcy. It can turn an idle statement into a conspiracy. Doubt is like a fracture in a water pipe. If left unchecked under pressure, it will eventually burst.
Faith released is exponential in that it causes your spirit to build hope. It latches on to God rather than the circumstances around you. It sees solutions rather than situations. Faith, like doubt is birthed in the heart and then spoken with the mouth. In the high places...where we learn about God’s abilities, doubt is broken and placed under our feet where Satan is. It is his tool so it should be thrown in his tool chest with him. Driven and tossed by the wind is a condition that we should all be familiar with in this neck of the woods. Don’t let a thunderstorm tell you it’s a hurricane.
Faith is exercised in the High Places
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Romans 5:1-5 NKJV
Two years ago when I was facing some deadly health challenges, my journey was not a race, but more like a crawl. There were so many issues and so many hurdles that some days I wondered whether I would come out the other end. Now, I’ve never been a big fan of tunnels because as a child, my dad would kid us when going through the old Tallulah Bankhead Tunnel in Mobile Alabama on the way to our Florida vacations. If you’ve never been through there back in the day...it was unlit, extremely tight...and old...even in the 1960s. My dad would immediately begin with the “Oh Oh! I see a leak! There’s water coming in. Oddly enough, I tortured my own kids with this same kind of sick dad humor when I took them through tunnels. Eventually, I realized the error of my ways and just began blowing the horn like all of the other twerp tourists going through a tunnel. The point is that faith can only be optimized when it is exercised. Scripture tells us that we have each been given a measure of faith. Just like our muscles...none of us were born with a set of pumped deltoids and biceps. We all have the same muscles, but after they are exercised, we see positive results in how they perform. This is exactly the same as our faith. We are each given that measure of faith but it’s up to us how we develop it and experiences in high places of faith in God is the only way we will see that happen.
Trust is learned in the High Places
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones. Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.”
Proverbs 3:5-10 NKJV
Most people look at their situation and think that is what determines their bottom line. Let me flesh that concept out for you. We work and strive week after week for a paycheck and we think that is our provision. We think that saving is the solution to prosperity, but that is the lie. It is actually in giving. How much do you actually have if you save and save and save and only lose a substantial portion to what is stolen by circumstance? If you make a thousand dollars killing yourself and lose six hundred of it in sickness, car repairs, or unexpected financial crisis...then what was the purpose? Some people look at tithing as an expense, but it is an investment. It is the very act of trusting God. Tithing is not a physical act it is a spiritual principal. Just like Elisha’s servant, all he could see was what was in front of him. It took an actual revelation of spirituality for him to see something that existed in a whole different spiritual realm. What we invest in is directly proportionate to the return we will receive. If you trust in the flesh, you will receive from that same realm. If you trust in God you will see his reward. The question is...who do you actually think is bigger? Leslie and I have never been rich, but we have always been wealthy. We have seen God move through our lives to do things that we never would have been able to do on our own. We have experienced things that we will take with us into glory.
If you’ve ever been to a goodwill store, you can learn a lot there. It is the story of a whole other life before you. It is clothes and furniture and books and records and tapes and household items that all had another life. It is filled with things that at some point were new that made other people happy...and now, they are left to suffer the fate of a discounted second life. And while that’s good for those who find bargains there it just proves what I am saying...that true joy is not in money and stuff. It’s in finding God in everything you do. It is in trusting him to do for you what you could never do for yourself.
The high places is where God opens your spiritual eyes to see beyond our own pathetic efforts. It is where we learn to fly rather than just taking periodic leaps and calling that flying. It is where we stop seeing the army against us and begin seeing the legions of angels that are for us. It is where we encounter the God we serve.
Lost and Found
January 28, 2023
“Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’ “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’ ””
Luke 15:11-32 NKJV
The Story of the prodigal son is probably the most thought provoking of all of Jesus’ parables. It takes us inside ourselves and causes us to weigh the actions of our lives and reflect heavily upon the consequences of our decisions. Much of what we do in this short span of time on earth has the definite stench of the prodigal spirit upon it. All of us have done things that we are not proud of. And for those of us who lean toward brutal honesty...those indiscretions absolutely shame us to our core. Jesus shared this story to drive home to us the unfathomable love of God the Father. There is no depth of darkness that he cannot reach. Nothing shocks him. He is not repulsed by us even in the cavernous world of our deepest sin. He always looks upon us as a child through the filter of Jesus.
So long as we have life and breath, there is hope for us.
He will never leave us or forsake us. The brother who stayed with the father took offense at the debauchery that his brother sank to and resented him with everything that he was. He was angered at the father for having such mercy on one who took his inheritance, squandered it, abandoned his family, showed no remorse, and did not have a repentant spirit until his wealth was gone and he had been brought to his lowest.
Isn’t this how much of the church responds to those who walk away from God? Do you see this kind of behavior displayed within the family of God? We see a gracious God...a merciful father...looking out upon the distance for the return of his son. This is how God sees even the least of us. He does not seek to judge us but to offer us infinite mercies. His desire is not to condemn us to death, but to offer us life. Even when we insult him to his face, he stands at the edge of heaven awaiting our return. He stands with open arms. He waits with robe and ring and his finest meal to welcome us home. Today’s message is called lost and found. It is a word for us who are in the family and those of us who have ventured from the family. It is a call to return and an encourage for those in the church to ever stand welcoming home the estranged. This is word for the church today and those returning tomorrow.
Lose your flesh…Find His Spirit
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
Galatians 5:16-17 NKJV
If the church has one problem, it would be defined as a flesh problem. The mercy of God extends to a thousand generations so we cannot say that grace has not been extended to us. Yet so much of the church is not seeking God but seeking “convenience”. It is seeking “the me factor”. It is ego centric and distilled from the power of God in favor of the artificial satisfactions of creature comfort. In short...it has become about entertaining the flesh and not enriching the spirt. A couple of years ago now, my health was all but gone. I could not walk twenty feet without stopping to catch my breath. I became afraid to move. I was apprehended by fear. My flesh was running the show. God began to speak to me and tell me that I had to do something to change that dynamic and I had to do it quickly. The confirmation that it was God came with Satan’s repeated attempts to take my life. The devil wanted me huddled in a corner cowering in fear. And I have to tell you, I was tempted to give in. But I had an allegiance of both earthly and angelic encouragement that kept me going. Today, I have a life that I have in the past only dreamed of. It was because I had the revelation that my flesh could not and would not rule my life.
God’s spirit can accomplish in you so much more that your flesh will ever be capable of doing. Satan’s best lie is that you are subject to your flesh, but in reality your flesh is subject to the spirit of God that dwells inside you. Put your flesh in its place and God will lift you into a higher place.
Lose your Mind…Find the mind of Christ
“For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
I Corinthians 2:11-16 NKJV
The laptop that I used to prepare this message is now about 15 years old now. It still works pretty well so I keep it going. It does have one very annoying habit in that it will just at will highlight and erase a big chunk of what I have written. Thankfully, I have learned how to keep my eye on the undo button so I can recover the threatened data. I have also learned that like Jesus...Larry saves. I say all that to say this. A computer is just an artificial intelligence. It has a mind of its own. It will do things not according to our will, but according to its programming. Unless I understand the how and why of my computer’s programming...I am at the mercy of the programmer.
This is a great picture of our earthly brain. It has been programmed by earthly reason, mathematics, memory, history, social trends, customs...you name it...our brain has its own viewpoint of everything. When we trade that programming for the mind of Christ, we short circuit our earthly thinking and open ourselves up to God’s ways and His will for us. His will is always better...no matter what our onboard computer tries to tell us.
Lose your ways….Find His Ways
“Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:6-9 NKJV
If you remember the old Grimm’s Fairy Tale, Hansel and Gretel...you will recall that it was about two children so driven by their addiction to sugar that it almost cost them their lives. They find themselves in the company of a witch who lives in the middle of a house made of the very thing that was used to entrap them. She uses her sugar kingdom to begin the task of fattening up Hansel so she can eat him but Gretel ends up pushing the witch into her own oven destroying her...the end.
Our ways can get us into a heap of trouble. God reminds us here in Isaiah 55 that our ways can only lead to destruction and His ways are higher.
I love flying. Unfortunately, I never pursued becoming a pilot so all I can do is ride in airplanes but that is ok...it’s still fun. There is a characteristic about flying that I notice every time I fly and it never ceases to amaze me. When a commercial airliner leaves the ground it is traveling at about 130-154 knots or around 149-177 mph. Things look like they are moving pretty fast but once in the air you reach an altitude where everything begins to look like it’s in slow motion. This of course, is not happening...it is entirely perception. But this is an amazing picture of what happens when we begin to look at our world through God’s higher ways. Things seem crazy and sped up here on the ground, but through the eyes of God, we see things more clearly and sanely. When we reject our ways and embrace his ways, we see an end to the madness that is worldly existence.
Lose your Excuse….find His Justification
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Romans 3:21-26 NKJV
Excuses are the band aids on the injuries of daily life. This life is a series of busted knees and skinned elbows. I have often said that my guardian angel wears a helmet. I think we could all say the same thing.
Satan is a master at hanging guilt. He was in the desert with Jesus...he was at Potter’s field with Judas Iscariot...and he is there with you at your worst. His best work is to keep you hunting for excuses rather than seeking for God’s face. Guilt is unresolved forgiveness. In a court of law, you are innocent until proven guilty. In the devil’s court...you are guilty and that is all. Guilt is the birthplace of excuses. We self-medicate ourselves with excuses. We would like to believe that excuses are a powerful antibiotic that cures the infection but it is just a pain killer that gives temporary relief of symptoms. Excuses will never do what justification can do. Only God can justify us. His justification does not come in the form of an explanation of why we are innocent. It comes from the innocence of the Lamb of God who was slain before the foundations of the world. We do not possess our own justification. We have been given the justification won for us at the cross by Jesus. Excuses can never do what justification does by its mere existence. Today is a great day to stop making excuses and live in the freedom of justification.
In 1995, two hometown people started a hometown church to meet the needs of a rapidly growing and changing community. Their dedication was to preach the Gospel and build something completely different than what cookie cutter church looks like. Every time someone new walks into the warm friendly all wood sanctuary, they all say the same thing...they feel sweet the presence of The Holy Spirit. But we promise you...He's not in the walls and He's not in the carpet. God's Spirit can be found wherever He is welcome! And He is welcome in this place! From the opening bars of our anointed worship to the awesome fellowship in our coffeehouse before and after service...you will fall in love with the sweet presence of Jesus at House of Joy Church!