One Lost Lamb

good shepherdHave been thinking about the parable of the shepherd who left the 99 to search for the ONE lost lamb. I think there are beautiful truths still left uncovered in this passage. What did the lamb do to be saved? Did he repent? If so, what led him to repentance?

Here’s what I am seeing….First he did NOTHING except run away, put himself in danger, risk starvation and loneliness. In this story, the only action I see in on the part of the Savior (Shepherd). The Shepherd left the 99 and searched for the one. The Shepherd picked him up. The Shepherd lay him across His shoulders. The Shepherd rejoiced at finding him. Sooo, again…what exactly did the lamb do??? The lamb did nothing except surrender to being carried. Nothing but submit to the strong but gentle grip of the Shepherd. Nothing but let go of the restlessness that had driven him to wander in the first place. The lamb did nothing except perhaps nuzzle in close enough to smell the familiar sweet scent of his Savior and hear His heartbeat racing with the flutter of excitement at finding His precious lamb!

And I ask you, is it not THAT very love so freely given, without merit or good works, that leads all of us to repentance?? Is it not in the sweet moment of relishing in the safety and warmth of the gentle grip of our Savior that leads us to regret our actions? Is it not in that moment when His love for us is realized that we want to make changes and start anew??
Roman 2:4

Who is my neighbor?

 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

———–

The point that Jesus is trying to emphasize is a widening concept of the term neighbor. In an overly religious setting the walls of ‘neighbor’ were defined very strictly. Jesus steps in to say that anyone in need, no matter what differences you have, is a neighbor in need of God’s grace and your concern.

And this thought has called, encouraged and sent Christian missionaries around the world for hundreds of years. We have concluded (rightly) that anyone in need is our neighbor. We have taken Jesus’ message to heart.

But in our zeal to fulfill this call we have forgotten something that is hugely important to Jesus: our actual neighbors.

Picture your house, apartment or living quarters. Make a grid like a tic-tac-toe board and put yourself in the center.

If each section of the grid were a neighbors house, could you list the eight closest people that live next to you? What else do you know about them? Can you list everyone in the house? Are they more than casual acquaintances; would you actually consider them friends?

The times I’ve done this have shown that less than 50% of people can name a majority of people around them and very few can name all eight. The speaker this last weekend shared similar results.

In our Christian passion to share our faith with the whole world we have forgotten those that live immediately around us. We have become blinded by going to all the world that we have forgotten the immediacy of those around that need to hear about Jesus.

This is one reason I push missional theology. It forces us to wrestle with the way we think of “Christian missions.” The job isn’t always ‘to go’ to exotic places and eat different food. Sometimes Christ’s call is to stay and be with those he has put around us. It’s to know about Bill and Brenda. Have them into your home and be more than fence sharers, be real neighbors. Love them into the Kingdom.

Our flag was still there…..

“God grant me the courage not to give up what I
think is right, even though I think it is hopeless.”

~ Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz (Native Texan)

Attack on Pearl Harbor ~ December 7, 1941

 

…And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave……

Treating People Like Jesus

McDonalds really seems to be at the crossroads of American life. Rich and poor gather under the golden arches for cheap food that is quick and tasty. Their slogan could just as easily be, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to eat cheap.” I’ve seen business suits and birthday suits at McDonalds, it attracts everyone.

English: The official logo.
English: The official logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was at a discipling group today at one of our local McDonalds. While I was waiting for the group members to show up, I had someone join me at my table and he proceeded to hand me a couple of napkins and some hand sanitizing wipes. I (without looking up from my book) said thanks and kept reading. He handed out more napkins and wipes to the surrounding tables before returning to sit down next to me. When he noticed that I didn’t use the napkin as a coaster, he felt the need to pick up my cup and do it for me.

That got my attention and I knew this guy was serious about wanting to have some company, so I put my book down and waited for what was next. In our next few minutes together (about 15) here are the topics we covered:

  • Getting an ID from the government
  • Police
  • Colorado
  • Colorado’s nice residents
  • Kansas
  • Looooosiana
  • New York and New Jersey (he was born in both places)
  • California
  • Missouri
  • Colorado’s nice residents
  • Texas
  • The DMV
  • And how nice everyone in Colorado.

The two most repeated phrases of our conversation were, “You know?” (I didn’t, which got me in trouble on a number of occasions) and, “It’s just such a pain in the ass.” (I pretended to know).

You can probably tell by now that something wasn’t well with my new acquaintance, and the longer he sat across from me the more potent the smell of alcohol became. He was out of it enough that after my discipling group (an hour and a half long) I saw him again having a conversation with a bird statue a few blocks down (yes conversation, not monologue).

He even drew me a picture.

Towards the end of our time together he began to berate and yell at another customer as he was leaving McDonald’s because the guy at my table was convinced that he was the governor of Colorado and couldn’t figure out why he didn’t want to have a conversation with him.

Since the moment we first began to talk I had a nudge to engage his guy and talk to him. I kept hearing in my mind, “Treat this guy like Jesus.” Which of course meant that I would need to act like Jesus.

How do you extend grace, fellowship and company to someone that drunk, disoriented and out of it all together? I had Matthew 25 running through my head:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”

I knew that this is a guy loved and created in the image of God. I needed to treat him as such, but thinking about it and doing it are two different things. Given his current state it was going to be even harder. Here are some things I thought about that I think are helpful. I, in no way, think I was perfect and don’t think I’ve covered everything well. I’ve got room to grow and hope that God continues to shape me so I do better next time. Here are three things I think we need to practice better.

  1. Talk to them. There were several people that either blew off his presence or mocked him. A couple of tables snickered and pointed fingers as he talked. Engaging him and talking to him validates his humanity. Even in an inebriated state he needs to be treated humanely.
  2. Offer help. When he was talking about going to the DMV, he showed me the address he needed to go. I offered to help him find it. Though I was met with an angry outburst (because he knew the way), the point is that we should offer to go the extra step. Spend voluntary time with him.
  3. Offer to pray. This is an opportunity I’m ashamed to say that I missed. Part of it was because I barely got a word it, but most of it was because I wasn’t assertive enough. I could have offered to pray with him and his struggle to get to the DMV.

———-

Please comment below and add to the list. What other suggestions do you have?

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I’m Broken, And That’s Ok!

The required façade of belonging to the “I’ve Got It All Together Club” was all consuming and exhausting. It became too much to keep up with. The need to hide every emotion, hurt, or fear so deep within, was draining me, killing me, the real me, ever so slowly. I couldn’t let up, I had to continue on. It is what was expected of me after all. I could never let those I am ministering to ever know that I too struggle with the very same things they do. I too have fear, anxiety, and moments of doubt. I was too afraid to share my heart, too afraid to show my insecurities. My thinking was “who wants to follow someone who can’t get their act together?”
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Should Christians Get Tattoos? What Does The Bible Say?

From the “Cruciformity Stations on Skin” at Xnihilo Gallery in Houston, Texas

There is a lot of conversation now days in regards to tattoos. A lot of people are asking questions as to whether or not they should get a tattoo.

You can find arguments on both sides of the issue, and both can be very convincing.

The problem I have with the whole argument against is how they are basing their reasoning.

How can you base your arguments on ONE scripture in Leviticus 19, but completely ignore this one, or this one?

When it clearly says in Leviticus 19:37, “Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them. I am the Lord.”

The last time I checked, we are no longer offering physical sacrifices because Jesus Christ Himself became THE sacrifice for us.

So….What does it all mean?

It comes down to this…the Bible is unclear about whether or not one should get tattoos, and any one touting the whole ‘the Bible is very clear about tattoos’ argument, are merely spouting their opinion.

I would encourage any Christian who is considering getting tattooed to do the research for yourself, earnestly pray about it, then determine whether or not it is for you.

NEVER take someones word for it, whether it leans toward your beliefs or not. Research it for yourself. Know what you believe and why.

Here are a couple of links to read on the subject.

What Does The Bible Say About Tattoos? RelevantChristian.org

To Tattoo or Not to Tattoo / RELEVANT Magazine

**UPDATE**
Another Great article on Tattoos!

Feel free to let us know what you think.

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There is a Peace!

For all of my life as a Christian I have heard others talk about the peace beyond all understanding. I have searched for it, longed for it, waited for it, prayed for it, but felt that I never quite found it. Oh I caught fleeting glimpses of it, but never experienced the kind of peace that they must have been speaking of.

How often do we hear or read something and only scratch the surface…never really seeing or thinking of the deeper meaning? For me…quite often, but as I was reading Philippians Chapter 4 the other day, it was as though the scripture just jumped off the page at me as if to say, ‘here I am, experience me’!

Here it was finally…I understood….I saw it….the answer!

    Philippians 4:4-6
    “4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

When life comes at you like a tornado, take a moment to realize that you are not alone. There is no need for panic or fear. Jesus is right there with you. Let him know what you need. Let him know you are afraid or unsure.

    Philippians 4:7
    “7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Ah….there it is. Could it really be that simple? Yes!

When we live in the realization that He loves us so passionately and wants nothing but the best for us, we will then begin to see that He is waiting to take our hand and lead us safely through our turmoil. We will then see his ‘Peace beyond all understanding’ encompass our lives.

    Philippians 4:8-9
    “8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

If we can discipline our minds to think on the good things, the Godly things, we can live in constant peace. No matter what is happening around us. No matter what situations may be arising, or what turmoils my be brewing, we can dwell in His perfect peace.

Can I tell you that after this realization, I am there. I am experiencing the peace of Christ as I have never experienced before.

Now don’t misunderstand me….I still have troubles…bills that need paying….too much month at the end of the money…but I am at peace knowing that my God will supply all of my needs according to the riches of His Glory in Christ Jesus.

It’s Simple

I have been accused of being an over simplifier!

I have always believed that there are ONLY 2 choices in every situation…the right one, and the wrong one…it is your choice which one you choose.

Simple solution, make the right choice.

I believe that when something goes wrong with my computer, I look back at the last thing I downloaded or upgraded and think that it had to have had an affect or caused the problem.

Simple solution, delete last program or upgrade added and go from there.

I believe that if there is a problem with my cars that needs to be fixed…I should take them to a mechanic because cars make me feel stupid. Ask my wife and she will tell you the same.

Simple solution, take it to a mechanic.

I believe that salvation is simple.

John 3:5-7 “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.”
John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
John 3:31-36 “31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God[k] gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
Romans 10:9-11 “11If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

I believe that faith is simple.

John 14:12-14 ”Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
Luke 18:15 “15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Luke 18:40 “40Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41“What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.
42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God.
Simple!

I believe that following Christ is simple.

John 14:15 “15If you love me, keep my commands.”
John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
Luke 9:23-25 “23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”
Matthew 22:37-39 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Proverbs 22:1-8 “1 My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
3 indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
7 He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
8 for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.”
Luke 18:9-14 “9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

I believe that the Gospel is simple.

1 Corinthians 1 “10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas[a]“; still another, “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into[b] the name of Paul? 14 I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[c]
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

It takes SIMPLE faith…God said it in His word…I believe it!

Is it really that easy?

Ah….herein lies the paradox….NO!

I never said it was easy. I said it was simple.

Living a life worthy of being called “Christian” is not easy. It is filled with turmoil, turbulence, options, choices, voices and too many other numerous things to mention.

It is a life filled with, ‘not my will but yours God’.

It is a life filled with hours on our knees asking for God’s direction, wisdom, help, peace, and strength.
It can be a life filled, a life full…and should be.

It’s a Simple life….not an easy one!

Who Are We Reaching?

    “Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14″12-14

Who are we reaching?

Who are our churches reaching?

What are we doing about it?

The Godless Church

God has NOT given us the spirit of fear but I’ll admit I’ve been a little fearful of what others might think about what God has called me to do with my life. That was until last Sunday, when I was told I wasn’t allowed to pray with my friends at the alter before church, as we had done for the past year and a half. Maybe, they wanted more order as people where coming in or they just didn’t want the so called distraction but whatever the reason I felt betrayed, ANGRY, then dirty. I walked away asking God to forgive us and have mercy on us as a whole because we have FAILED Him! We have become more concerned with what people think than what God wants.

It was at this moment that the Holy Spirit empowered me to be a voice and to deliver a message of Hope, a hope that says we can change things and bring Him back into our churches but to do this we will have to give Him control.

Are YOU ready to give Him control? You have to ask yourself some tough questions. Do we allow God to do what He wants in our services or do we stick to ‘the program’? I got news for you, God is sick of our machine we call CHURCH and our so called PROGRAMS! Angry, would probably be the best word. We show up, smile, sing 4 songs, pat each other on the back, and go our merry way. When did we stop asking ourselves where “The Lost, The Hurting, The Poor, The Needy, and The Sick are? The answer hurts, they are where we aren’t. They either can’t afford to come to church due to us setting ‘church’ up as only available to middle-class / upper-class America or they come and see a bunch of smiling happy people that have NO problems what-so-ever and leave feeling like they don’t belong.

I feel ashamed, I feel sick for allowing myself to be a part of these atrocities.

I can NO longer stand by and watch a church of 500+ people show up to a social gathering, stay for an hour, shake hands with 3 or 4 people, and leave the same way they came in…it’s disgusting!

I have watched as the spirit of God moves in our worship only to get cut off directly after the 4th song EVERY sunday because it’s 11:25 and we MUST take up the offering and do announcements.

Every sunday we give God the same 15-20 minutes and every sunday I look around when they ask on cue, “is anyone here who needs salvation?” the answer is almost always a resounding NO!

The steps of the alter at my church are clean, spotless, and show less wear than if we had put the carpet there last week. How did it come to this?

When did we feel it was just more profitable for us to close the alters; I mean, all we did at our church is gain 500+ members basically from other churches. They got bored where they were at and so, we where able to obtain massive growth in a very short period of time.

Problem is, now we cater to the numbers instead of God. Our pastors would rather please them than God. So, every week we get more programed, more to the minute on both services, and promise to have you home before the football game starts!

God, please forgive us and allow us to pick up and start over!

In other words, THANK GOD FOR GRACE!

As of this moment, I will NO LONGER stand by and watch us be proud of the kingdom we have built for ourselves, I cannot and will NOT keep quenching the Holy Spirit and where it is trying to lead us as a people!

God help us, because Hell is coming and in the end we will ALL have to answer to why we stood by and did nothing to save those in which Christ came for.

So again, ARE YOU READY…to take BACK our heritage as Christians and allow GOD back into our CHURCHES!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s time for a REVOLUTION…is anyone with me…let your voice be heard if you feel God tugging on your heart as He is doing mine.

God Bless,

S