Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Names of Christ
The Bible ascribes many different names to Jesus, all of which provide great insight into His character and person. Here are some from John’s gospel that I find particularly revealing:
The Good Shepherd (10:11) protects his sheep at all cost from predators. They know His voice and follow Him.
The Door (vv. 7-9) is the only way to enter heaven. Whoever enters through the “gate” of Christ will be saved.
The Vine (15:1-10) is the source of our spiritual life. When we stay intimately connected to Jesus, we bear fruit. If we do not remain in Him, we wither.
The Bread of Life (6:25-35) the only one who can truly satisfy our hearts. Jesus feeds our souls with sustenance that never leaves us wanting for more.
The Light of the World (9:5) shines His light through our countenance as a ministry and testimony to a dark world.
The Way (14:6) to happiness, peace, joy, and eternal life is Jesus Christ.
The Truth (14:6) of His revelation, as recorded in the New Testament, is the reason we can know as much as we do about God.
The Life (14:6) Jesus imparts to believers is powerful, effective, and fruitful, not only in eternity but here on earth as well.

In biblical times, Israelites would choose a baby’s name based on the child’s characteristics or a hope or prayer of the parent. The names given to Jesus tell a great deal about His ministry on earth 2,000 years ago. The scriptural names describing Him reveal who He was and is and will be for eternity.

ツ✔ Cheers, #JustBeingMichael ツ

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

#DailyProverbs 2015_0505: Choosing Love Over Privilege

The church cannot afford to wait any longer for many of the phobias and "-isms" of our history to fade. The bottom line is that people are tired of being mistreated. People are exhausted from the abuse. And, sadly, the church has grown cold and selfish in hoarding grace and has, essentially, done away with extending mercy to those in need of Christ. I have never once read an example of scripture where the early church body stayed in buildings and waited for people in need to come to them. I have never once read an example of where Jesus didn't meet those in need where THEY were and not where they SHOULD be, or where they were judge to have been lacking. Even the disciples tried to shoo away those that would become the greatest examples of faith and restoration.

Most well-known conservative Christians, or "christianist pundits" would rather wait for the 24 news cycle to fade than dispense mercy to someone in need. If you slay someone's character for a mistake on the news, or your show, and you don't act as a minister of reconciliation, how am I to assume you understand love from God, and the grace that extends to us all. And so many Christians these days are talking about having their rights trampled and how they are the subject of attack and denigration; but I am here to say that if you truly follow Jesus... what did you expect? Jesus doesn't "fit" in this world. Following the true teachings of Christ will never be "in fashion" in a conservative, capitalistic country will focus on the bottom line. Jesus isn't about a bottom line; He is about a life line. Your rejection by others and your abuse at the hands of those that decry your faith is part prophesy fulfillment and part test. You will be despised and ridiculed for the sake of the name of Jesus. Period. Nowhere in scripture does it say that you'll take up arms, bring politics into the body, rebut this abuse, and subsequently form a super PAC that legislates morality or a majority vote for your continued economic monopoly. Scripture paints a vastly different picture.
Matthew 5:38-48: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek, too. And if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles. When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something, lend it to him.""You have heard that it was said, 'Love your friends, hate your enemies.' But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the children of your Father in Heaven. For He makes the sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! You must be perfect - just as your father in Heaven is perfect."
We openly talk so much of our "freedom" and our "rights" these days when what we mean is privilege. We want our way. We want no opposition. We want to be the majority. We want to be comfortable in our position of leadership. We want everyone to understand us. We don't want to be questioned. We want to be agreed with, but, that's not realistic. And it's not scriptural. And it's not going to happen... so why rail and fight against something that, in the end, makes YOU the sinner when you behave badly and trample the cross. 

We talk so much of our "rights," yet the attention given to human entitlements has not brought about collective or individual freedom. Instead, it's splintered and divided humanity into selfish and jealous groups. Intersectionality is a word thrown around to get groups of disenfranchised people to work together, collectively... but what has happened is a competition for whose rights can be won first, a race for whose equality can come sooner. If you make two steps forward... then why didn't you include my special group, too? You can't be a white feminist and still understand the struggle of a woman of color. You can't be black and not make fun of white fragility and privilege. This halts the conversation and this endangers the peace of mind and personal growth of many on ALL sides of the issues at hand. This is not the way. This isn't how it should be. 

It's a sad fact that the exhaustion that comes with social activism makes most people "periodic" activists. I have friends that do it for cycles or periods of time and then they need a rest. They need a sabbatical and to come to terms with "self-care." The heightened emotions, learning, and being told example after example of abuse, and just... the evil that people can do is draining. It's emotionally crippling. You want people to act right. And each group and person and story has a POINT and has a valid voice and reason to exist... but the truth is that most people end up being prisoners of jealousy. They are jealous of one groups "greater" rights. 

These people... these souls... become prisoners of greed. In their minds, they deserve more, and "more" becomes "never enough." Christians have moved from the message of salvation to one of legislation. Abortion, gay marriage, racism, 1%, tax breaks... these are not the arenas in which Christ dwells. And you can't campaign, and fight, and legislate a clear "winner" in these issues. If you always set a finish line in your head that when THIS law changes or when I GET this exact same right, then you are done... but that's not how it goes. Then there is another finish line, and it moves again, and again.

For example, every "christian" will tell you that you can't be a champion of women's reproductive rights AND a "real" Christian, right? You can't counsel someone that you feel abortion is wrong, if you still think the choice should be legal, safe, and sane, correct? In truth and full disclosure, I am anti-abortion, but I am pro-choice. How can this be, Michael? Well, because I think it's insane for anyone that isn't a woman to think they'll ever be put in the position to need an abortion, or to have to make choices that are unconscionable, or to need to have safe alternatives. We, as men, are not hardwired to think anything other than we can do what we want. We'll never be in the position to be told, legally, that we need permission to do something with our own body.

Gay marriage is a another great example. The word mostly used is equality, but what's really being wanted is "fairness." Fair doesn't come to everyone. But everyone is equal and should be protected legally. Unfairly, in the fight for equality, is that it's mostly white lesbians and dual-income GWM that will benefit from the tax privileges and the ability to say the word "marriage." This causes a lot of division in other groups that think marriage equality being the "cause du jour" and "face of equality" is ridiculous. What does a pair of well-to-do white folks have to do with the struggles and day to day life of a young, black, trans woman that just needs to not be kicked out of housing, or be fired from a job? She just wants the right to exist and live. She's not worried about tax breaks when her 1040EZ doesn't even get to make deductions. Is life "fair" for her? Likely not. Poverty is an unfair cycle of suck for most people of ANY color. Does it mean that the happy well off white couples doesn't care about her? No, not likely. I mean, it's not like they are taking an active role in her struggle, but they likely "care" and even make donations to causes, etc. Does it mean that she doesn't care about them? No, she likely does. But some people are always going to have tunnel vision for their own cause, because that is what is affecting them immediately. Does that mean you don't care?? No. You, too, have your own cause. Does a Christian have the ability to love and support gay people, even if you don't understand it or believe in the cause or morality of a thing? You better believe it. You can love and support someone and not believe something they do is right. You can believe in their cause OR not believe in it. That doesn't mean you don't love, care, support, and pray for them. Human compassion, love, and hoping that people don't get mistreated are what Christ would do. Finding some common well to talk at, searching out the humanity in someone and not reducing them to a body, or a sexual compulsion, or a sin and showing Jesus... that's where the difference is. Most gay people are stereotyped as hedonists that cannot control their impulses. Well, if that's true, then how do you expect someone to not be promiscuous if you only ever tell them that the sum of their being is based on a sexual choice? Their worth becomes an extension of sexual choice, sexual desirability, and their existence begins to cycle around ways to couple that into a justified way of life. How do you expect a gay man to find Christ if you tell him Christ will never love him, as is. The woman at the well was promiscuous, adulterous, and then some - and yet... she's an example of thirsting for God and finding peace. Did you forget that Christ died for all, as they were? You don't change to come to Christ. Your experience, the repentance, the water baptism... those bring about a new creature that is changed in love and shows the love of Christ.

Why do you think that black men are so angry? If you can even categorize a group and make a nearly-racist-blanket-statement like that. Consider that maybe being black and seeing so many young black men disparately sentenced into corporate for-profit prisons for crimes less than those of other races that get no jail time. Or that's if they are lucky. Most are killed or abused. It would even be nice if white frailty would stop saying the phrases when a black man is gunned down that "blacks kill them, too." Or vilify the victim, bringing to light every past mistake, to justify passing a death sentence without due process or even a jury of peers. Yes, weed means he should have been shot. Yes, running away in fear means he should have died. Sigh. That's a soul that will never repent or change now. We white folks claiming to be all about Jesus get really upset and boycott places that say "Happy Holidays" instead of exactly what we want for Christmas. Yes, really. We get all up in arms over a word, or something petty... but we want to stay out of it when it comes to saving lives. I mean... it's pretty one-sided as far as the offense goes. Or, consider that the fact they are legislatively forced out of black homes may be a justifiable reason for anger. Maybe the fact that if you, as a black man, reside in the home of your wife or girlfriend, she can't get public assistance for the babies she was forced to have, some of which likely came from sexual assault if statistics are true. People are legislating the family and core values of a nuclear core of family away. (Some white person just rolled their eyes and said "get a job.") That'd be easier if you had a white-sounding name, and no previous record because you chose to resist being beaten down in a traffic stop because your music choices were considered wrong, or your car was too new for your color.

When did we, as Christians, begin to think that we could tell others how to live, behave and then find ways to politicize that? I get that not all Christians do this... but it is seeming like more and more of the sane, normal "Christians" I knew are moving further away from scripture and focusing on the love of God, to a religion of political capital and conservatism as a tenant of faith. The message of Jesus was clear: radical love and escorting both religious and social change through BEING changed. When you have an experience with Jesus, your walk changes. Your talk changes. Your ability to forgive and move on changes. Your ability to love beyond yourself changes.

Christians, watch out for bitterness. Be so careful... you can read the above, you can watch the news, and see your news feeds. You will feel entitled to judge. You will feel like you are above others. You will want to find a reason to feel violated. But be so careful. You will start to hang on every word, looking for offense. We are IN this world, but we are not OF it. Stop acting like you don't speak the language, stop acting like you are so offended and roll up your sleeves and HELP others know the same freedom and life in Christ. I know many white people that will, ignorantly, never learn the difference between racism and bigotry. They will use misnomers like "reverse racism" and show their overt privilege in doing so. And they will say that indiscriminately and call other white people racist, or self-hating, for not believing in it. They will leave the race conversation, heatedly and early, because it becomes uncomfortable and they will alienate and harm souls in the process. To what end? Who do you bring to Christ by making skin and culture an issue? It will have an effect, but not the one you are thinking: It will cause black people to be so sensitive to every word then, and the stress and emotional duress that comes with evaluating everything's meaning is life-draining. It also creates so much further division and a splintered group on how to say AA, black, of color, or light, bright, almost-white... Throw in LatinoHispanicAsian... and the Anglo-euro distinctions and suddenly everyone feels that they must be distinctly called out, represented, and "respected." Majority, minority, powerful, powerless, special interest, or even those that have a tenuous grasp on the power they have left in their final generation of rule... they all feel violated and hurt and somehow "marginalized." To quote Dreamgirls... "Effie, we ALL got pain." And we do, so tell someone what power in the name of Jesus can do vs. helping to define yet another point of separation. If we are in Christ, there is NO difference. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. There is neither Jew, nor Greek, nor Gentile. There is no Moor, Highlander, or Saxon. There is no Republican, or Democrat, or conservative, or Liberal. There is no black, no white, no male, no female... We are all one in God. So, why are we, as Christians so determined to show off the differences and not proclaim the wonder of what the power of  living God can do to a soul that was in distress? 
1 Thessalonians 5:12-18: "We beg you, our friends, to pay proper respect to those who work among you, who guide and instruct you in the Christian life. Treat them with the greatest respect and love because of the work they do. Be at peace among yourselves. We urge you, our friends, to warn the idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back wrong for wrong, but at all times make it your aim to do good to one another and to all people. Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus."
Instead of focusing on the privileges we feel that are "due" to us, we should take the biblical perspective of loving enemies and forgiving persecutors (Matt. 5:44). Believers must lay down what they consider their rights and privileges so they can take up the cause of a holy kingdom. That doesn't mean that we let people trample on us. Rather, we offer a proper response according to biblical principles. In short, true followers of Jesus Christ, according to scripture, should be more concerned about showing God’s LOVE to those who do wrong than about demanding their rights and enforcing a legislative cap on other groups that don't follow or believe the same. You will never legislate the love of God into someone's heart; but you can humble yourself and show the true power of the servant-hood of Jesus.
Some of you are thinking, "Who is this guy? He has NO idea about black people, or the struggle of women, or how it feels to be in a marginalized group of trans people. Hdoesn't know how I've been mistreated. He doesn't know MY story." Indeed, I do NOT. But what I do know is how Jesus Christ, our example, reacted to terrible atrocities and abuse. I do know that no matter what you've gone through, Jesus loves you. I know that no matter whether or not yo and I agree on the morality, or spirituality of a situation, that I don't hate you and I love you. I do know that Jesus lived his life as our very road map that we were to follow. I know that if I am to be able to honestly claim that I'm a Christian, I have to be willing to go through the same things as the Christ. He was betrayed by His friends, persecuted by His people, condemned by His peers, and crucified for our sins. Yet He said, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34).
Can we do that? Can I do that? Can you do that? Before assuming that Jesus’ capacity for forgiveness and love is out of reach for you and me, as mere human beings, remember: the Holy Ghost dwells in believers. We can choose to believe that, and LIVE that. Or we can throw away one of the greatest spiritual gifts ever given: LOVE.
Luke 6:29 says to turn the other cheek and give up more than is asked because expressing love, expecting fairness, and being an example all outweigh exerting our "rights" or even our "privilege." 

If you never read this whole thing, if you never learn from my mistakes in my past, if you never really grasp any of this... get THIS: You simply cannot lose when you show others the boundless, and endless love of the Lord. You gain His blessing. He supports and defends you in this, and essentially, and most importantly, someone will hopefully be saved because of your example.

In Christ,
#JustBeingMichael ツ

Thursday, April 2, 2015

"Maundy" Thursday #DailyProverbs

People use the word faith a lot.

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” is a song that so many find moving. We are not faithful by nature… and we weep when we raise our hands and sing “He’s Been Faithful.” We know that in our moments of fear, through pain and tears… there’s a God, who’s been faithful to us.

But we don’t really know the depth of “faith.” We have “faith” in some one, or some thing. We interchange “faith” with “trust.” We do things in “good faith.” We use “faith” like a deposit into savings, hoping our “faith” will garner returns in goods and services from God. We send in seed “faith” money. We gotta have “faith” according to a popular singer. All of those things are really misnomers of scriptural faith.

So, then, what IS faith? People MISquote this scripture constantly… it is not the EVIDENCE of things hoped for. It’s the opposite. Seeing it in front of you isn’t faith. Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for; the EVIDENCE of things NOT seen.” Faith is believing against a crisis in hope. We keep on even when it seems all is over or lost. It is believing even when things are seemingly about to fail. Faith is KNOWING even when it’s illogical and you can’t prove it. That seems dangerous, and can be if you are following a wrong path or a person that has abused your trust and misled your faith. Or it can be one of the most powerful things on the planet, if you are correctly placing your faith in God and using your God-given brain and heart and instinct to follow right, instead of wrong.

People want GREAT faith. They think mustard seeds and mountains are the sum total effect that Jesus left with us. Not even. People tout from pulpits and matronly dinner tables that if WE only would believe ENOUGH, magic would happen and we’d walk around flinging rock cliffs into oceans. Well… maybe we would, but to what purpose? Just to prove faith, or to serve God better? Do you think faith is there to act as a spiritual ATM, giving you every wish and desire? Do you think faith is so you can get a better purse or nicer car? Do you think every person has the SAME faith? Well, Romans 12:3 says that EVERY person gets “THE measure” of faith. Some translations indicate it varies, but several translations indicate everyone gets the same measure to start with. And I think we as Christians DO get the SAME measure to start. What is that?


Belief is where we start. Belief in Jesus, in salvation, in repentance, in grace, and in the gospel. What happens after is up to us. The level of powerful, overcoming living is up to YOU. Faith is like a muscle… Everyone starts with musculature and a certain level of ability. We develop those. Some atrophy and wither. Some are damaged they become cripple. Some are weak and are never used enough to be more than what they are, always depending on others to do the job. And some just never get used at all. Faith is like that…. the more you use and develop that faith, the stronger and more it can be used. What one person can lift is different when two are there. Faith is like that. What one person can accomplish in faith is different than what TWO people praying in faith can accomplish. Faith can grow when you are obedient in “little” steps of faith into a great and strong faith. When you trust God to bring you through a small trial and you are obedient in the smaller details… you can face the bigger and harder trials and your faith with carry you more easily.

Today is “Maundy” Thursday. Traditionally, it’s a great day for communion because it’s the day Jesus held the Last Supper with his disciples. He knew what lay ahead. He had his own measure of faith and he was “ready.” He gave instruction to his group, his friends, his family… his disciples on this day that he’d be betrayed. He’d be killed. He’d be the sacrifice for the world. And, yet… being the rabbi he was, he still took the time to impart a lesson: he gave instruction to let them know he’d live again. He instructed, through his casual teaching that they should have “faith.” Now, if someone told me over dinner they were dying and that I needn’t worry, they’d see me next week… I can admit that I’d scoff. I’d laugh at them or commit them or even doubt them. And to listen and believe Jesus took big faith – GREAT faith. But why? They’d seen so many miracles that they should have no problem with it, right? They lived with Jesus, traveled, witnessed, proselytized, and converted so many WITH Jesus and they had seen it ALL. They saw the resurrection of Lazarus. Their faith then, individually and collectively, should have given them no pause for what they were facing, right? But, even still… Thomas doubted, Peter denied, John was heartbroken, Mary moved on to France, Judas was misguided in thinking it’d be a slap on the wrist and that an earthly kingdom would follow. Everyone had their own level of faith at that point… worked and grown, and tended into what they could fathom Jesus was to them. They each had to carry their own faith, and make their own way after this event. This supper. This Maundy.

We all do the same thing today, don’t we? We believe as a last resort. We are preached to, prophesied over, and we read the scriptures and we “know” what’s facing us. Scripture foretells it, we see it in the devolution of society, we see it in historical cycles of hurt, and war, and human suffering. But we act like we are… numb… over… or shocked… by the things we know. But we still act like ANY solution will be better than faith or God. Don’t ask in prayer that God help you with a bill… no, go to a check cashing place that charges 150% interest and creates a domino effect on your finances. Don’t pray AND seek medical help. Ignore that and keep your illness and your pain to yourself… why would your Christian family uphold you? No. Pain shared is pain halved. We are TO BE THERE for one another, carrying burdens (real and emotional). We say that our faith is symbolic and that the time of living BY faith is over and that biblical things no longer apply. But, is it? We rationalize what we can’t prove, but that still happen. I’m a witness, in flesh, that miracles are still real. I have vacillated numerous times over my own healing. I have wondered if cleaner living and helped me heal. Or did God? Did I do something that created spontaneous cell growth and help? Or did I get healed by God? Did I dream it all? Did I really speak in a real tongue under anesthesia or is my Doctor crazy? Do I really believe that God put skin on and died for me? Or is this a collective trance meant to control the masses and create moral order? Is the evidentiary support of science a threat to my faith, or does it bolster my faith? When we talk about praying the cancer off of somebody, or a cold, or a back ache, or pain, or mental anguish, or emotional instability, or spiritual oppression… do we believe it? It’s easier to take a pill than to trust God for a need. That’s why rich people and privileged people and our society have SUCH a hard time with faith. Why do we need God? Why do we need angels or protection or even help? Do our lives have “room” for faith? Mind over matter makes the body heal… not prayer, right? Surely, no, not that. We preach that our collective socialization with one another IS the breaking of bread and that rote prayers ARE what God intended. It’s hard to fathom that we’d interrupt our scheduled lives if God said to pray for three days for a breakthrough. Would we skip work and do that? Would we file that under PTO or Sick time? We don’t want the inconvenience of obedience and trials that increase faith. We certainly don’t seem like we want GREATER faith or the responsibility that comes WITH great faith.

Today is “Maundy” Thursday.
Tomorrow is “Good” Friday.
Sunday is “Easter.”

Where is your faith? Do you believe? Are you having a last supper moment and wondering what will happen to you? Are you able to be in Communion with God? Do you believe that even though it’s dark, light is coming? Do you know that for the “lack of evidence” so many claim that there is someone that was the First Born to the resurrected? Our God isn’t a dead God that is worshipped in memoriam… our God is alive and still working. There’s no need for fear or sadness or even doubt. But are you at a place where you can accept that? Is your faith “tired?” Are you tired of trying and believing and seemingly failing? You can’t have great faith, until you are obedient and grow it. You have start somewhere and from that place it grows. But when you ignore those opportunities for faith, when you sideline and bench your faith, when you prove you don’t need faith… the result is atrophy. Your faith WILL wither. It WILL become small and hard and dried up. It will retreat into itself and become that much harder to access. Layers upon layers of justification, rationalization and even condemnation will cocoon and hide that seed of faith. Playing church, being a whited sepulcher, running from God, open rebellion, sin… it all covers and hides and assaults your measure of faith. It weakens and proves that YOU can MAKE it on your own. Watering down the truth of the gospel and preferring to have easy conversations and sermons that only focus on the prosperity of the gospel, and not the work it takes will harm your faith. It will make it that much harder to believe, to really be open to the fact that we are not all there is, that God really does LOVE everyone and anyone and that WHOSOEVER means YOU, too.

I want to repeat that: Have faith… let me encourage your faith… the faith that is hidden, scarred, abused, and scared… HAVE FAITH that there is a God that loves you and cares for you. That YOU are reachable, findable, and restorable. HAVE FAITH that regardless of what a human being told you in error, cruelty or because of being misled… GOD LOVES YOU. You are one of the “whoever” that God died for, resurrected for, and for whom is infinitely equal to any other human. God Loves YOU.

Happy Maundy Thursday. It may get darker tomorrow. But Sunday will come. It will happen. Light will come.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Appetite Control...

#DailyProverbs 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. That is why I run straight for the finishing line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest.”

Suppression. Control. Alleviate. Assistance. There’s a pill for everything now. Wouldn’t it be GREAT if we had that for our spiritual life??

What words would you use to describe our society?

--these are just a few. We're also a "have it now" culture. We want microwavable. We want instant. But our tastes call for gourmet and home-cooked. You will never beat homemade biscuits. You’ll never find anything better than your Mamaw’s yeast rolls for a Sunday dinner on the ground. But we don’t want to pay for it, in time. We don’t want the work that comes with rolling out the dumplings from scratch. That’s how our society operates now. Satan specializes in presenting us with opportunities for instant gratification while promising us that indulging our appetites will bring us the satisfaction we seek.

Our human appetites, in themselves, are not sinful. They are, in fact, God-given. However, because of the fact that we cannot control our own weaknesses, we need help. They need to be controlled. When our appetites rule us, we stay in trouble. Ask any alcoholic how it started out… one glass of wine was fine. Then unlimited glasses would never be enough. Control and moderation are the key. You can’t eat your cheat day every day and stay healthy. And you can’t sustain stringent discipline forever either. The body requires periods of bulking up, leaning out and even fasting to operate optimally. Paul likened the Christian life to that of athletes who are so focused on winning the race that they exercise self-control in every area of their lives. That's exactly how we're called to live, yet we lack the motivation, determination, and power to do so in our own strength. For this reason, we need to rely on the Holy Ghost within us. If we yield our lives to Him and step out in obedience to His promptings, we'll have the strength to say no when fleshly desires feel overpowering (Gal. 5:16).

Another key to success is keeping our focus on the eternal, instead of the temporal. Many decisions that seem mundane are in fact spiritually significant. They happen in a moment and then you are trapped. Gossip? Easy to make the CHOICE in the moment to talk about someone. But that choice then makes you an assassin to character. You are harming another. You are a spiritual murderer. It creates a list of other things necessary like repentance, restitution, saying you are sorry, and even addressing the harmed party to let them know you did it, are sorry for it, and are ready for the consequences of broken trust. It’s not a simple breath of “I’m sorry” to God. What about the choice of lust? Or the choice to cheat on your partner or spouse? The choice of financial inconsistency? It’s a choice to lie. But what about our exaggerations? The choice we make when we use guile? What about the choice of skipping church because you are tired, even if you have responsibilities and need to be there to share the burden of work? What about the choice of saying you don’t “feel well,” when you really just “don’t want to?” What about the CHOICE of ignoring those that need help? What about the choice you make in judging a person holding a sign asking for food, assuming they are just drunks or not worth helping? What about the CHOICE of ignoring the poor? What about the choice of ignoring the widowed? What about the choice to judge and ignore single moms? What about the choice we make to alienate the divorced and those wives left and struggling with both heartbreak and children and loss and stigma? What about the choice you make to exclude them because it’s less comfortable to listen or sympathize? What about the choice you make to tell gay people that God doesn’t love them and they are reprobate? What about the choice you make to tell people of color, in word or deed, that they are less than white people? What about the choice you make to fight for minutia and political silliness when entire groups of women, children, and girls are slaughtered due to greed? The choice to look the other way is just that… a choice. What about the choice to still trade and purchase goods those countries provide, but to boycott a soap product because they aren’t Christian in their mission statement? What about the choice we make to actively ignore the scriptures that tell us to exactly the opposite than we think – to bless our enemies and to befriend and help those that have nothing?

Do you think God loves anyone that you don’t agree with any less than you? Do you think that are you more lovable from the perspective of the Cross?

Are you indulging an appetite of comfort that allows you to look the other way? Is your ability to not be bothered so great that it’s more important than reaching out to those that need it most? When the Enemy tempts us, he always tries to keep our attention on our desire and the pleasure of indulgence rather than on the eternal rewards and blessings we're forfeiting. Just remind yourself how quickly immediate gratification wanes and how long eternity lasts.

#JustBeingMichael ツ

Friday, March 13, 2015

Wholeness, Fullness: God in you

Ephesians 3:14-21
Do you ever just feel empty? Exhausted? Tired? Tired of being sick and tired? Do you feel like something is "missing?" Have you ever wondered if you are a "whole person?" We all have struggles in life that could make us feel incomplete, but Paul (or whoever wrote his writings after his death *snark*) says we can be "filled up to all the fullness of God" in verse 19.  
So, what does that look like?
A "whole" person is generally satisfied... with life, work, family, self, God, church, others. Satisfied, content... not complacent or lazy. That kind of peace and satisfaction seems impossible in this day. Especially in this age of malcontent and obvious longing for "more." The whole person also feels loved and is able to love others in return. Difficulties and hardships don't devastate them, because they are able to go through them with confidence, not of their own selves, but a calm assurance in God. The whole person isn't a complainer or someone who is quick to blame others. A positive attitude guards the whole person's mind since they know that the Lord will work everything out for good (Rom. 8:28).
We, as followers of Christ, have allowed "christians" to sully our good names. We've allowed conservatives to use the banner of Christianity to abuse sinners, the downtrodden, and to abuse the poor, widowed, bereft and those that NEED Christ the most. That creates a hardness to some of us. We lose the love aspect of Jesus. We think that any "good christian" acts like a white, Republican, conservative that looks, walks, talks, and VOTES a certain way. When the truth is, being a Christian in and of itself doesn't automatically make us that way. We don't automatically become that way. Jesus wasn't that way. God IS love. Jesus IS love. And becoming a Christian, a real, true Christian doesn't always immediately make you feel complete. Fullness, true and complete fullness, comes only from love. Specifically, it is when we experience God's love FOR US. For many years, I knew theologically, mentally, and scientifically that God loved me. God is love... For God So Loved the World... Oh How He Loves You And Me... I sang about it. I traveled with groups, chorales, my family and even on my own. We shouted it, taught it, held conferences over it and yes... me... EVEN me... I preached about it. 
But I didn't really feel it. 
Shocking, huh? That someone can be told something and hold onto it, and repeat it and tell it and share it... only to really not believe it or "feel" it. I allowed men to tell me that I wasn't worthy of God's love. I bought that lie in Bible school. I had to act a certain way, and be a certain level of "good" for God to continue to love me. I mean, we tell sinners that God loves them, even in their sin, enough to die for them. Die. But once we have converted someone, we tell them that any issues or sin, or even questions make them aberrant and in jeopardy of God's love. Cut your hair? Well... then you are in danger of hellfire. The truth is... standards are great and I have mine. You should have yours... but they should be driven from LOVE, not law. I allowed people, who similarly felt rejected, to tell me that WE didn't need God... he didn't want US, and the feeling was mutual. I bought that lie. It was ONLY after the complete fracturing and restructuring of my life that I realized, I was incomplete. I was functional, but not filled. I was alive, living, and even thriving (with God's providence) to a degree. But I wasn't whole and I wasn't full. Only after I took a deep look at my life and started dealing with events that had shattered my soul in childhood did I begin to experience His love in an truly personal, one-on-one and intimate way. Once I FELT the security of His love for me, regardless of me, my past, my sin, my direct disobedience, my running, my full blown disrespect in encouraging others to run... God still loves me. LOVES, not loved. After that full revelation of WHO Jesus is, and HOW MUCH God loves me, I discovered great joy in walking in obedience to His will. I even take great joy in my personal convictions and standards now. I understand the consecration "unto the Lord..." and not at the request or demand of humans. That  The reason was that I knew I could trust God with my heart, with my standards, my life, my sin, my everything came from love - specifically God's love. That love gave me a trust level that I could also trust God to meet all my needs in His time and way.

Do you feel God's love, or is it just a biblical fact to you? A felt board fantasy? Some far off God sitting in far away judgement? The fool has said in their heart, there is no God... Maybe the two of you haven't spoken in some time. Here's the truth... the real deal: If you long for wholeness, the key is to experience an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Not your mom, your dad, your heritage. Not your memory, or your past. God, today, can heal you and make you whole. You can till up the hard, cold ground in your heart. You can change. This is possible only when you're willing to open up and let the Lord search your heart. God is fully capable to show you what to repent of... what to live like... how to talk, walk, and treat others... 
He'll reveal what's holding you back from accepting His love, from believing it, and from moving forward to a fruitful and successful life in Christ. You can be whole. You can be full. You can be content.

#JustBeingMichael ツ

Friday, March 6, 2015

Are You Ready For A Miracle? Then Learn To See The Miraculous...

#DailyProverbs 1 Thessalonians 5:19-24: "Do not restrain the Holy Spirit; do not despise inspired messages. Put all things to the test: keep what is good and avoid every kind of evil. May the God who gives us peace make you holy in every way and keep your whole being – spirit, soul, and body – free from every fault at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you will do it, because he is faithful."

Everyone wants the supernatural. "Don't quench the Holy Ghost!" every Pentecostal grandmother has prayed over their grandchildren. Everyone wants a miracle – proof, if you will – that something is out there, listening, paying attention and is in some way enamored of us. Some "need" a miracle more than others, but we all "want" it. We all want that "touch" of divine in our lives and that we have an inside track, or a hedged bet. We want the world, prosperity, the blessings of God's favor in our lives, yet we also want God to give us inspired messages. We want him to walk in the garden in the cool of the day with us. We want the "cattle on a thousand hills," and we want a clear mapped-out route to avoid all evil and any pitfalls. We want gold. We want power. We want fame. We want a free pass to worldliness. And on top of all of those things that we want to easily come to us, we want God to PROVE that He loves us and that He exists. Those that decry the existence of a God will tell you that WE are our own Gods, we need only look to the divine within us. If you just trust yourself, and be good in your eyes, then your perception becomes your reality and you will love yourself to a better place and plane of being... But that’s utter crap. 

~WE are not divine. God is divine. We have righteousness through the sacrifice of Jesus. That is our ONLY path to righteousness.
~WE are hostile, busybody, hateful things that wreak havoc and destruction. We can only be truly better when we denounce that, repent, and truly represent the teachings of Christ through giving, love, and helping. Think that's too simple and hippie? Talk to Jesus about it. It's His message. I'm just telling it.
~WE need help. We are pitiful. "Filthy rags" is the term we throw around in testimony service. "We serve a big God." "God's able." Well, honey... GET UP and start acting like God is God, you are human and that you are connected to the ultimate source of power and goodness. ACT like you know who Jesus is.

We that are adamant about the existence of a God are so sure that we are correct…we kill and divide because we are SO sure that “they” are wrong and “we” are right. We bastardize the very name of God and the truth we love so much to BE right. You want to baptize like WHAT? I mean, I put emphasis on the name of Jesus, but I don't want to kill those that don't believe like me. When did Christians start that? Wars, the Crusades, the poor, the "less than..." We have shifted to be a religion that follows radical teachings of love and help to one that turns on victims, women, and the poor. We teach that all life is sacred, but We kill and murder in the name of conservatism, blatantly disregarding the teachings of Christ on love, pacificity, and non-Earthly kingdoms. Yes, I love getting a paycheck and I like not worrying about my future. But I don't think we are supposed to do it at the expense of our souls and walking over the rights, lives, and bodies of other people. The saddest part is the death. The needless death we cause not only in direct conflicts, but as collateral damage laid on the altar of conservativism and how we ignore the needs of those around us. Maybe you don't. Maybe everyone doesn't. But we sure do like to legislate and decry helping those that need it.

So, let’s have a moment of real talk: You want a miracle? Then act miraculously. You want God to save you, then stop arming up and killing and allow God to save you. You want to show the world "God shed his Grace on Thee..." THEN MAN UP AND LET GOD SHINE THROUGH instead of your own interests. I’ve already experienced a few miracles. To be blunt, I’d be MORE surprised now if there wasn’t a God and that God wasn’t watching over me than if you told me my friend was in the next room. I expect God to wake me up and show me things, to talk with me, and to guide my life just as clearly and and just as much as if my friend calls me on the phone. It’s become that real. It kind of has to become that real when you, your family, your health, your life, your job, and your purpose are turned upside down and around. My life isn't what it was, and isn't even where it will be. 

I love those pieces of proof. I treasure what God’s done for me and it anchors me to God… but it’s NOT the best thing God ever did for me. I won't ever "get over" or "feel less" about my grandmother's testimony, her time in Heaven, the writings she left me... the MANTLE she passed to me... that's a miracle. That's one I can't escape, though I didn't ask for the burden and responsibility. My healing? Yes, healing me ON the operating table and curing my Barrett’s esophageal cancer was a miracle, a true in-the-books, medicine-wrote-about-it AMAZING. Watching my sister stop in MID-HEART ATTACK because I called out upon the name of God was awe-inspiring, and even something I can't believe when I remember that night and those moments. Though no less miraculous, but less life-threatening, God’s provided finances, energy, strength, clarity, and even guided me away from harm. But EVEN THEN, that’s not the greatest miracle or help I've received from God.

Want to know the real miracle? Salvation. Possibility. Hope. The hope of a better tomorrow. The hope that I won’t be doomed. It's amazing, but true, that God's grand plan for your life is far greater than you can imagine. In fact, this earth-bound existence has us so preoccupied with the demands of life that most of us give little thought to what it will mean to be completely sanctified - the hope that I can be a better person and grow from a place of love and acceptance and repentance. That I’ll use my gifts and what God blessed me with to help those without. That my eyes are opened to the equality of another, though in sin and pitiful. That my own sin and evil nature are no better than anyone’s and our equality in certain damnation is what gives us equality IN salvation.

No one was worthy, therefore all are undeserving and on equal ground at the cross.

Presently, every single day, we all struggle with sin. Every one of us, from the person that just shot up in an alleyway - doing who knows what to score the drugs. All the way to the Bishop of our own churches, trying to maintain fiscal responsibility and clarity in dealing with families and disruptions and attitudes. All of us deal with sin in some way, but when we die, our spirits and souls will ascend to heaven and be completely sinless. Knowing this, how will you live today? The miracle of salvation isn’t meant just to give hope, or a free pass, or to give you unlimited chances… but to spur us on to holy living.

Quit rationalizing your sin. Come to God. Quit justifying your church-y behavior and follow Christ, not your social construct of judgement and shame. Quit living in your past, stuck on sins and feeling sorry for yourself. Get up, wash your face, and do something for God. Live for God for the next 5 minutes, the next day, the next month. Put one foot in front of the other and stop sitting there, waiting for someone to bring it to you.


#JustBeingMichael ツ

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

#DailyProverbs February 24, 2015

#DailyProverbs 24:16: "No matter how often honest people fall, they always get up again; but disaster destroys the wicked."

Stop wallowing.

If you do your best, and live for God, and stay honest, and try hard... you might fall. You might fall a lot. You may even feel deserted, neglected, and become hurt. You may have moments where you wonder if God has forsaken you. You aren't alone, and you are in good company. Even Jesus Himself had moments of fear and felt deserted by God.

Many (most) successful people had multiple failures and many times of trial and error before you ever knew of them. Many of the successful inventors and many of our creature comforts were thought of, built and designed by people that died in obscurity and abject poverty. And??

Get up. Srsly. Get up, dry your eyes, wash your face and move on. You are not finished until your last breath is breathed. Are you dead? No? Then you still have a purpose and a chance to fulfill your purpose. YOU don't have to stay in the shape that you are in. YOU don't have to live in your current circumstance and feel left. YOU don't have to accept or buy into the lies that you will never do more or be more than what you are, right now.

You get up, keep going, and try again. You will be fine, and you will one day see the history of success you leave. Never giving up is a form of success within itself.

#JustBeingMichael ツ