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