The Best Kept Secret on the Planet

Sometimes I just marvel at the blindness, often I chuckle at the televangelists, and more often than not my heart becomes heavy with burden and sadness.  What causes this condition?  As I look around, I see people struggling; I see people looking for answers, thirsting for relief, searching for the magic bullet of what will bring them happiness.  As Christians, we shuffle around floating from doctrine to doctrine trying to figure out which of these doctrines will cure what ails us.  Or we get locked into a framework of doctrine that leaves us empty.  You have the holiness doctrine, the doctrine of grace, the prosperity gospel, the name it and claim it gospel, the end times gospel, and on and on it goes!  The real kicker here is that the answer is staring us right in the face, hidden in plain sight, and yet our eyes our blind.  The true message is speaking to us, but we do not have ears to hear.

Before I offer the Scriptural message to you, ponder this little fact:  we all have limits.  Think about it.  In human terms, most of us are just average Joe’s (no offense to all the Joes out there!).  We are limited by our abilities, limited by our resources, limited by our place of origin, and especially limited by our years living on this earth.  Even if we completely “sell-out” and work our butt off, we can only go so far!  So most of us just settle-in comfortably to “average”, cozy up to the notion that we are destined to just get by, and raise the white flag of “I did the best I could”.  Some people just have a burning inside of them that either condemns them or drives them or both.  That burning is the desire to be better, to be successful, to make their life count, to leave us average Joes in the dust cloud of sheer will power.  That is what makes successful people successful!  But even that super motivated, workaholic runs out of steam at some point.  So what’s the point here?  You might reply, “Are you trying to cheer us up?  If you are, then you’re doing a real horrid job of it!”  But wait, there’s more…

Now let’s look at it from a Christian perspective.  We have literally 100’s of verses in the Bible that tell us that “we can do all things”, that “the Lord blesses us”, that “eye has not seen nor ear heard or even entered into the heart what God has for us”, that Christ promises us “life more abundantly”, and there are many more.  The problem here is one of unbelief.  Oh, we recite these verses and we hear preachers trying to motivate us by chanting them to our deaf ears…but the fact remains…most of us don’t really believe what God says.  If we did, then the results would be obvious to us and obvious to everyone around us!  People lay in hospital beds and others sit next to the hospital beds claiming “by His stripes, we are healed”; and sadly, the number of folk who walk out of the hospital healed are very few.  I know, I know, I’m being harsh.  But bear with me as I prepare your heart for my message.

We really don’t believe the Bible.  We are condemned by Christ Himself when He says, “If you only believe…”  If the Lord says we only need faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains, then we are in deep doo-doo!  What is going on here?  Now many of you are already spinning your mind around this, you are already putting up your doctrinal defense, and you have your own answers you want to throw at the screen!  I know it’s true and so do you.  Do yourself a huge favor:  shhhh…calm your mind and heart; that’s right, shhhh…I want you to know I love you.  I really do love you.  I am going to try to help you crack the box that you have crafted for our Lord.  I can’t destroy your temple that you have built for God if you can’t quiet your spirit.  Now, let us open our hearts to God’s love, let us allow the Spirit to renew our minds, and let us really allow the Spirit to do some major renovations right here and right now.

Ask yourself a question:  What is the most important thing in my life?  Now, before you answer let’s get real here…be honest with yourself.  With your spirit and God as your witness, think about where your time is spent, think about where your resources are spent, and think about what is on your mind most of the time.  If I knew you and spent time with you and a reporter wanted to interview me and ask me the question, “What is the most important thing in so-and-so’s life; what drives him, and what makes him ‘tick’?”  What would my objective answer be?  Would it be “The most important thing in his life is his family”, or “The most important thing in his life is his successful business”, or “He is totally a man on fire for God”?  Try to remove you from you, and try to be on the outside looking in.  Which assessment of a person is more accurate:  their assessment of themselves or the aggregate assessment of all the people who know them?  I am brutal, aren’t I?  Please bear with me!  I promise there is light at the end of the tunnel.  I am not trying to make you feel guilty; I am setting up a bold and brave invitation…not an indictment.

Let’s pretend that you are a poor person, that you are desperate for financial relief.  If I told you that in a particular field, at the edge of the woods that there was a chest full of money and the answer to all your financial woes, would you believe me?  If I were a person that you trusted and knew me to be a straight-up guy, would you believe me?  Let’s say that at first you don’t believe, but after a while you come to me and ask me if I’m serious.  I tell you that I am sincere and wouldn’t do you like that.  Your next question should be, “Well, do I have permission to go dig it up?”  I reply, “Yes, it is for whoever is willing to go and dig it up.”  The next logical question would be, “Where is this chest of money?”  At this, I simply hand you a map with very specific directions, insuring that you wouldn’t get lost.  You are elated and begin to imagine life without all the worries of financial burdens, you would begin to plan your trip, and you would be excited beyond words.

A month passes, and I see you at the grocery store checking-out with your wife at the register.  I notice you have more coupons than cash!  You look up at me sheepishly and know already what I will ask.  If I asked you why you haven’t gone and retrieved the treasure, what would your response be?  Oh, you could make up all kinds of reasons, but the fact of the matter is…you don’t believe me!  You must have thought that it is too good to be true…right?  Because there could be no other explanation:  excuses like not enough time, couldn’t afford to take time off from work, my wife wouldn’t let me, or even the worst of all that “I don’t deserve it” just couldn’t explain away the fact that you just darn well don’t believe me.  How ridiculous is that!

The fact of the matter is this:  if you really believed me, then you would have done everything in your power to get to that chest as soon as possible; nothing could have stopped you!  We have seen what people will do for money and any person on the planet would have run, not walked, to the place on the map.  So you see, it is all about believing!

Now hear me and believe me when I tell you that what is being offered to you is far greater than a chest of money!  Riches beyond your wildest dreams, joy that cannot be contained, no guilt or shame involved, and a secure future to look forward to is all on the table…if…if you could only believe!  There is a map, there is a way, and there’s even a Guide!  I’m sure you are getting the picture here but I’ll ask this question for you, “What is the offer that I can’t refuse?”

The offer is a new life; the offer is what is called a spiritual life.  A new way of living, a new way of loving, a new way to see the world in full color…that is what is on the table.  Christ promises us that we can be born again, that we can walk through life as different creatures, that we can be the blessed friend of God!  Is that not good news?!  Oh, sorry…there is one catch…you have to believe that a spiritual life is possible.  All the baggage of religion, preconceived notions of what the meaning of life is, all the world telling you it is not possible, and your own flesh saying to you, “It isn’t possible and even if it is…I could never live a holy enough life to have audience with God anyway”.  I testify to you as someone who loves you that you don’t have to be good enough, you can “come as you are”, and that I tell you the truth!  Remember at the beginning when we discussed how limited our lives are?  What if I told you that your life could be limitless?  I am straight-up telling you that your life can be limitless…I don’t care how “average” you think you are!  So what’s the catch?

The only price of admission is reading the map in the Book of John, and placing your life on God’s altar as a sweet sacrifice.  When we give our lives totally and completely to God, He takes what once was weak and makes it strong, He takes lack and turns it into plenty, He takes sadness and turns it into joy, and above all else…GOD KEEPS HIS WORD.  This is not religion; this is Jesus.  This is not natural; this is supernatural.  You can’t do it alone; you will be given the greatest power on the planet we call the Earth:  The Holy Spirit.  When you offer up what you can’t keep anyway, He makes an exchange with you what can never be taken away!  That is the pure Gospel; that is the “good news”.  You offer up temporal things and He gives you eternal things in this life and in the life to come.  Don’t be fooled my friend, the life given to God is unimaginable; the life committed to a spiritual walk with God is far from boring.  Everything in life screams that it is not possible!  The enemy is hard at work keeping you unaware of a powerful calling in your heart…the enemy is no fool.  Wake up Christians!  Come walk in the spirit and find the life that has evaded you so very long…there is more…so much more…but do you believe?  God wants to make a transaction with you:  trade your belief for His faith!

DO…………….YOU……………BELIEVE?

…the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for JOY over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found ONE pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it…  Matthew 13:44-45

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.  So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “HOW CAN THESE THINGS BE?”  John 3:6-9

In the Name of God, I pray that you will take my word and view the map in His Word,

Gideon

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You Are Probably Righteous and Don’t Even Know It…

Oh, the multitude of voices chanting out the rhythm of doctrine…will it ever stop? You must do this, you should try that, just believe and “sow a seed”, my goodness, good intentions rarely hit the mark that they were intended. The truth sometimes creeps up on you like a stalking cheetah waiting for the right time to pounce; you know something is “wrong with the universe” when an idea haunts you. You can hear the melody and feel the beat, but the words just won’t come. And then it hits you; the cat pounces on its prey and the words descend upon you like a heavy rain. The truth becomes so obvious, and has been hiding in the corner the whole time; you chase around the hint of sunlight, looking for the source and then you swing the door open and are blinded.

I wanted to know how to live as a Christian in my deepest self. How does God want me to live? I mean, exactly what should my “core values” be at the deepest level…the foundations He built when He created “me”? We need to live righteously, and the righteous live by faith…that’s what Scripture says. So how do I live righteously? Does “righteous” mean living a good life, obeying the 10 Commandments, loving others, going to church and tithing, steering away from sin, praying often, and “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Because if that is all there is…we’re all in trouble!

I stumbled across a verse I had read many times and it became alive to me quite out of the blue. That verse had never jumped out at me before; it had always seemed pretty straight-forward in past readings. But now I see. And how beautiful it is!

Romans 4:13-19 is a powerful and complex piece of the divine. It basically explains that God’s promise to Abraham was not through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. Abraham received God’s promise by believing God: “He (Abraham) did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” Romans 4:20-22 So the profound relationship here is this: that righteousness is having faith that God keeps His promises and believing that He is able to make good on those promises. Ok, well that’s fine and dandy for Abraham. God said Abraham would be the father of many nations, what does that ancient history have to do with you and I, now and today? The story continues: the next verse states that it wasn’t just for Abraham, but also for us! “Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed* to him alone, but also for us. It shall be imputed* to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead…” Romans 4:23-24

*imputed: to hand down a responsibility, to be given charge over

So in order to be righteous (living “right”), it is our responsibility to believe God’s promises and believe that He is powerful enough to “perform”. And that is just too dang simple, isn’t it? The whole concept for us starts with believing in Jesus Christ (a fulfilled promise) and evolves into an incredible journey of discovering just what God’s promises are for us…today.

Jesus said that we should approach Him with the eyes of a child.

Let me give you an example as best I can, about how to approach the essence of this truth… For most of us, we can go back in time to a wonderful Christmas memory and discover some child-like qualities. Remember the anticipation, the build-up, the mystery, the lights and the smells of Christmastime. Remember seeing the presents all gathered up under the tree for the first time on Christmas morning. We gazed in amazement and pure bliss! In reflection, we can sometimes say that the anticipation and progression to the big moment (hope) was better than the actual presents. In God’s world, the presents are even better than the hope of anticipation. God’s promises are our presents under the tree of Christ and all we have to do is open them. We should approach each present with anticipation and wonderment. What we sometimes fail to recognize is that opening these presents (or promises) is our life journey, and it takes more than just knowing that the promises are there. We will never get bored with these “toys”. You have to take the time to explore each promise, take the time to get to know each gift, and most of all love each present as one from the ultimate “gift-giver”. Most of the time, we just look at its beauty but are overwhelmed by its complexity. Gifts like peace, joy, love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, gifts of the spirit, and many others are by nature spiritual promises. We are born to recognize the divine, but are sometimes at a loss to approach it. What good are these gifts of promise if we never open them? How can we believe in promises we know nothing about? We know there are incredible gifts waiting to be opened, but think ourselves not worthy enough or mature enough or strong enough to open the present and discover its beauty. But through the eyes of a child: We can’t wait to tear into them, scattering the wrapping-paper all over the room and oooohing and aaaahing at each present. As children, we don’t overcomplicate things…we got presents, we are going to open them!

So this brings me to my final point and attempts to answer my question. At the core of “me” should be the foundation in faith, that God keeps His promises by being loving enough to give them to me and strong enough to make good on those promises. This makes a Christian righteous! I didn’t say it. And our mission in life or how we should live is almost too simple: Approach every gift from God as a present to be opened and we can’t know what those promises are until we get to the awesome task of discovering them. We may have opened a few already, but there are a bunch of them sitting under the tree waiting to be opened. That’s our job as Christians, how is that so tough? Are you righteous?

The only thing in life that isn’t too good to be true, is the Good News.

If you like this message, please visit  disciplegideon.wordpress.com

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The Evolution of Finger-Pointing: Part One, Forgiveness

Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit”.  –Peter Ustinov

An idea I bumped into one day quite out of the blue:  that we are defined and bookmarked in life by the direction of our finger-pointing.  I have learned to understand my position in life’s stream by taking account of where my own finger is pointing at any given time.  It is a great barometer of happiness and an effective thermometer of how healthy we are spiritually.  Because I am inclined to ponder and assess my life through reflection, I can look back at some things and see the truths that I conveniently waved at on my way past them.  Now those truths sometimes glare at me; sometimes slap me in the face; and sometimes just whisper in my ear.  Oftentimes I thank God for the insight and other times I am shocked that I still haven’t learned the lessons I thought I’d passed.  Life is humbling, isn’t it?

The beginning of finger-pointing starts early in life:  It seems to be part of our human fabric.  We embark on our journey with the innate ability to point our fingers at others.  When we were children, it was so much easier to blame life’s mishaps and our own mistakes on others.  Phrases like, “I didn’t start it!”, “He/she did it”, “It’s not my fault”, and “Don’t blame me” echo down the hallways and back seats of our earliest memories.  And even as young adults, we blame our parents, teachers, friends, God, circumstances, the “system”, the a-hole cop or judge, and whomever else steps across our path that we think has caused us to be the way we are or react the way we did.  As I reflect on my own experience, I am torn between laughing heartily and weeping uncontrollably.  Oh, how much time could have been saved and put to better use if I had only recognized the trap of an unforgiving spirit a little sooner!  The final result of pointing fingers at others is invariably resentment.  Resentment not good.  My first real look in the mirror came while reading the following passage:

Resentment is the ‘number one’ offender.  It destroys more alcoholics (insert any “thorn in your side” here) than anything else.  From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick.”  -Alcoholics Anonymous, parenthetic statement added.

Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one that gets burned.”  -Buddha

When we blame others, judge them, and not forgive them, we inadvertently give those same people power over us.  I remember a counselor of mine remarked one time that, “When you don’t forgive other people, it is like you being a remote-control toy and the controller is in the other person’s hand.”  There are so many reasons to forgive; it would take hundreds of pages to even scrape the surface.  However, I will brush-stroke a few.  First of all, the real business of maturing and growing requires us to focus on ourselves.  It is impossible to really do any “heavy lifting” in this department until we can concentrate on our own issues.  Secondly, as Christians, the Lord can’t do much of anything with us until we leap this hurdle.  We all know that in order to be forgiven, we must forgive.  Regardless of your denomination, I think everyone can agree that Mark 11:25-26 is as straightforward as it gets:  “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.  But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”  And thirdly, forgiveness is possibly one of the few intrinsic, genuine powers that we possess.  It can change your life, others’ lives, history, the world, you name it!  There is very little in life that one can honestly say they have control over, but we all possess the awesome power of forgiveness.  There is freedom in forgiveness, peace in forgiveness, love in forgiveness, and at the top of the list, perfect healing in forgiveness.

When we move past our pointing-fingers at others, we can now begin the daunting task of pointing our finger at ourselves.  Many people get trapped here, like being in purgatory, in-between heaven and hell.  It is a two-fold process that in one instant is about taking responsibility for our own actions and decisions and in the next instant, about forgiving ourselves and letting God teach us how to “let go” of what we ultimately see inside of our innermost being.  We first have to search out what is wrong with us and second, we have to search out that liberating forgiveness for ourselves.

The moment an individual can accept and forgive himself, even a little, is the moment in which he becomes to some degree lovable.”  -Eugene Kennedy

If we are honest, I think we would all agree that the deeper we go into the healing process of self-assessment, the more painful it becomes!  Looking into the mirror without prejudice, light reveals some very nasty business.  Many people turn away and never face the reality of the human heart seen from a spiritual perspective, but it is absolutely necessary in order to continue to grow.  We are great starters, but poor finishers.  Just when you think you have cleaned-up all the cobwebs and dusted the hard-to-reach places, the sunrise pours through the window exposing missed spots and dust floating around in the rays of sunshine.  I hate when that happens!  I remember going to the dentist as a child and the dental assistant telling me to go and brush my teeth, “Do a good job, and then we are going to see how well you did by giving you this purple pill to chew”.  Inevitably, regardless of how vigorously and thoroughly I brushed, I chew the purple pill with the utmost confidence just to have that confidence shot down with a mouth full of purple missed spots!  So is the inward journey of seeing who you really are:  One must be brave.  We are all a “work in progress”.  I am convinced that most of our mountains (problems) in life are simply reflections of our inward, spiritual mountains.  They must be traversed, scaled, climbed, detailed, examined, and honestly appraised.  We can’t engage things that we are frightened of alone…we must have help…or may live the rest of our lives in the shadows of the mountains we have refused to address.  We therefore must not give up on this part of our finger-pointing; we must not turn away from the challenge.  Know your enemy, and unfortunately in this part of the finger-pointing phase, we ourselves are the enemy.  Engaging the mountains within takes perseverance and much help from above.

To be continued…

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The Evolution of Finger-Pointing: Part Two, Pride

Hello readers!  If you haven’t read Part One on Forgiveness, please do this first.  Or Part Two on Pride won’t completely make sense…

Once we begin to realize that we should concentrate on the plank in our own eye before we try to help others remove the speck in their eye, we can’t help but to seek divine intervention in our difficult endeavor.  I remember the day very clearly when God opened up the book of “my life” and began to show me that no matter where I have been, good and bad, I am where I am right now because of all the decisions I have made.  The road to “now” may have been circuitous, but in the end, God only cares about where I am today.  On a spiritual level, the sum of my life brings me to today, and God has sanctified it.  We cannot question the how or the why because it is beyond our mortal thoughts as to how we really got to our station right this moment.  We have heard that God changes us from the “inside out”.  This statement is indeed true.  Our relationship with God starts and ends with focus on Christ and what He teaches us about ourselves.  But there is a problem here:  once one begins to heal, once a person begins to “get it”, once a person allows the Truth to saturate their being, we step into the light.  The light is a tough place to be sometimes because God sees you, but so does the enemy!  If we are to live out loud and profess our faith and let our light shine, there are powers that will stop at nothing to put that fire out.  And one of the best tools for damping our spirit is pride.  We can become “proud of ourselves” for finding the answers; we become so excited about finally being freed from the bondage that we can, quite by accident, begin to take some credit for that freedom.  We now have all the answers, and are convinced that it is our job to shoot the signal flare and start drawing folk to us.  The finger starts pointing at our own faults, and then can take on a nasty slant.  “Look at me!”, “Look at what God can do!”, “I have found the Answer”, and “Listen to what I have to say”, and many other road signs that cause others to look to you for answers as well.  The problem is there is a tendency to take some credit for the profound change in our life.  We may not say it out loud, but inwardly, we can feel it grow like a cancer:  cancers become part of our bodies, part of what makes us function, a destruction that comes from being interwoven into the fabric of “us”.  The enemy is clever indeed.

This whole notion reminds me of a humorous story once told to me:  A person looking for a parking place at a busy market prays, “God, please help me get a parking spot!”  Suddenly, a car begins to pull out and a space opens up, and the person says, “Never mind, God, I got this…thanks anyway!”  We too easily take answered prayer for granted and begin to wonder “what have You done for me lately?”  If we begin to take credit for our own restoration, we can go down another very slippery slope.  We must realize that all things of this earth will eventually fall short and disappoint.  If we prop ourselves up, we will disappoint, if we set someone else upon a pedestal, they will disappoint, if we base our truth on religion, it will disappoint.  On and on it goes.  Be aware:  don’t point to things that can disappoint!  You and I both know that all people will disappoint:  whether it is some fault or some sin or ultimately their passing away from the earth.  Everyone will leave you, no one can always be there for you, no one is perfect, and all will disappoint.  Even if a person leads a wonderfully enriched, spiritual, Christian life; that person will eventually leave us and pass away.  That is why we must not point at ourselves as the answer; we cannot stand up publicly and announce, “I have found the answers”.  And we cannot, under any circumstance, point to a human and honestly say, “That person had the answers!”  The way God works, the Holy Spirit can show us truth, but one can never take ownership of that truth…by seeking, God never disappoints us in the treasure (see post on disciplegideon.wordpress.com), but that treasure has to be given away to remain pure.  To possess something automatically takes the divine beauty from it.

Just look at the examples given us:  preachers that fall (or should I say crash and burn!) can take hundreds, if not thousands down with them; people who we have counted on for years are now in a downward spiral, our relationships can break, even nature groans in birth pangs.  I recently read how a very powerful preacher in Orlando who built a “ginormous” (my daughter’s word) church, was found dead in a hotel room with cocaine.  Many powerful pastors have lived a secret life of sin.  What happens to the members of their church?  One of two things happens:  the followers either realize that their faith should be in God alone, or they lose their faith altogether.  What a shame!  The whole world points and laughs, “See, you fools are just full of hot air and build your lives on unfounded, unreasonable faith…hypocrites!”  You see how powerful the enemy can be?  How do you destroy goodness?  By destroying it from the inside out:  “a house divided, cannot stand”.  So if we point a finger to this preacher or that teacher or ourselves, we set ourselves up for failure.  So this brings us to the final evolution of finger-pointing:  pointing to Christ and Him alone.  Now how do we do this effectively?

To be continued…

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The Evolution of Finger Pointing: Final Part: Don’t Believe a Word I Say!

In a very real way, it is important for us to understand that if we choose to point our finger upward, we cannot interpret that which we are pointing; we cannot define the path and ultimate goal for another.  We can merely direct people to the entryway.  I have noticed throughout my experience of searching out spiritual truth that in every person is something to be learned.  We cannot shut ourselves off from communication with another person because we disagree with them.  If we don’t challenge our own perspective, then how strong or sure can it really be?  Because to think you own the truth or think that you have the answers to God is to fly in the face of God and robs Him of who He really is.  If you come to a place in your life where you are wise enough to recognize God, then you must know that He is not static but rather dynamic.  Some would quote the verse, “God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow” and this is true.  He is the same in that He will always have the same qualities and essence and love for us, but not necessarily the same strategies and methods.  Do we really think that God has only one way of doing things, or a set of ways that fall into the “acceptable” category?  God is surely the most creative, most dynamic, and most unpredictable.  If you think about it, He can use anything he wants to pull us in His direction:  a talking donkey, a burning bush, a man lying in the dirt naked for six months to name a few!  Why do some think that they can point the way to God and then push you in the direction that they themselves took?  We must remember that Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life” and through the Holy Spirit, each person’s journey must be different just as we each are different.

It is of the utmost importance that we grasp the following principle:  all Christians must trust God to do His work in our brothers and sisters however He sees fit, not as we see fit.  We have to learn about God’s incredible creativity by listening to what others have to say and by opening our minds to the reality of their particular journey…without judgment!  We have to stop giving preachers such a hard time and realize that maybe God uses this guy or that guy to communicate to a certain type of person.  There are people who respond to a “hell, fire, and brimstone” message, and there are people who respond to “name it, and claim it” messages and others who respond to the “small, still voice” and even others that appreciate all of the messages.  Is one more correct than the other?  Are they all not just different pieces to a magnificent puzzle?  If we limit the way we communicate, then we limit our audience.  The law of love set forth by Christ makes us challenge our human nature in that, if we really love someone, then we should be willing to do whatever it takes to help that person (Jesus laid His own life down for goodness sakes).  It is a gospel of inclusion, not exclusion!  Why do we think that we can interpret what is acceptable and unacceptable?  If a man today decided to lie naked in the streets of your hometown and preach repentance, would you listen or would you be quick to judge him insane?  I’m glad that you and I are not the judges…so let’s stop acting like judges.  Remember Christ’s commandments:  love God with all that you have, and love others as yourself.  In the light of love, who can judge?  Or who would want to?  I don’t want to judge you, only love you…

Because each person’s journey is different, then we cannot point to a God that fits nicely into our own interpretation of that God.  Let the Master take control and do His work.  If a person draws closer to God, then God will draw closer to that person.  This is a personal journey above all else; that is what makes it so incredibly beautiful!  And if we were to understand and love God from only our own perspective, then we are truly missing out!  What a shame to think we can put God in a box, our box.  History has proved to us over and over again that when God is put in a box, He completely obliterates that box.

The Truth is so awesome, that it continually knocks us down, shakes the sense out of us, and rocks our pre-conceptions to the core.  Christ teaches us that we are a “body” comprised of many different parts but ultimately one perfect offering.  So if I’m a little toe, are you better or worse than me if you are an eyelash?  We cannot be complete without all the parts and every part of the body is beautifully different.  And when taken as a whole, it is perfect!  So the function of an eye is completely different from that of a foot, but together they make walking forward possible.  And we are not in the business of categorizing people into their respective parts of the body.  Who are we?  Is God, in His wisdom, not capable of recognizing where in the body a person should fit and function?  The only way to perceive and interpret and truly love our fellow believers is to accept the fact that we all are different.  The combined truth from each perspective is perfect, but from one point of view it is of little use.  Together we define Truth.  Each person has a part, a lovely and unique part.

The only requirement of a new believer is that they move forward.  We should promote getting to know God, personally.  That is why preachers and teachers and churches are important:  to lift Him up.  Scripture teaches us that if “Christ is lifted up, that He will draw men and women to Him”.  Notice it doesn’t say “we will draw them closer”!  We
lift up…He draws.  The most important thing for a new Christian is exploring the Word and seeking God through prayer.  Let them discover God as they understand Him, and now we can add another spoke in the wheel of our dynamic wonderment of who God is.  If we help people by living a testimony that points to God, then we are doing a great job.  But as soon as you turn someone away by presenting an exclusive God, then you have taken His name in your own vanity, to fit a mold of what you think He is! That is scary stuff.  Who wants to be responsible for leading one astray or pushing away one of God’s beloved?  As loving Christians, we should try to be forgiving and dynamic as is God’s nature by promoting Him and Him alone…not our own interpretations of doctrine!  Let us be a light in a dark place, shining in Christ’s love and pointing to that love not in word, but rather in deed.  To say to someone that you love them is nothing in comparison to showing that person you love them.  If God decides to use you for His purpose, then God will draw people to you, you don’t need to force the issue…

So all that to say one very important thing:  when we point up to God for answers…let’s not
provide the answers as well.  If someone needs your help for wisdom and guidance, they will be led to ask for it!  Let God work in His way, but let’s be there in love for each other, offering up prayers for the new Christian, and offering up prayers that God would open our eyes a little more each day to see just how awesome He is.  If we are wise, we should stop trying so hard to change others, and allow them to change us as well.  God is not religion, but He can use religion as well as anything else He chooses to use.  Let us continue to preach and teach and serve, each in their appointed area of expertise, understanding in humility that individually we are only part of the body that ultimately will know its own voice.

So we should say to the unbeliever and the believer, “Don’t believe a word I say.  Prove it to yourself.  Look to God and His Word and believe what He says to you.  Then you will know the Voice for yourself!  Make your own assessment without prejudice.  Then come to the body and share with us…help make us whole.”

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The Alcoholic With No Worries

“Worry doesn’t help tomorrow’s troubles, but it does ruin today’s happiness.”-Anonymous

Something I have learned along the way, I am compelled to share with you for the edification of Christ’s Body.  I am an alcoholic.  I know, that sounds terrible doesn’t it?  True, there are a lot of negative connotations that come along with that title.
However, I, by the Grace that was bestowed upon me, do not drink any longer.  But, one of the precious truths I learned from AA was life is measured by the yardstick of 24 hours.

I remember going to a camping retreat with my church and other same-named churches from around the state and arriving late for the affair.  Because the campground was
packed, I ended up below the main campground with the other late arrivals.  The group that I camped with was comprised of all very young men (say 19-21 years old); I, however, was 40 years young at the time.  Not a big deal at all, I have two sons about their same age!  As you probably know, in a Christian walk, nothing is by chance.  The weekend was an incredible blessing that I cherish often in remembrance of the Truth that moved around like a big, black  lab looking for someone to play with. The Word that was poured out through the mouths of those that were anointed was life-changing to say the least.
Anyway, I remember one night in campfire devotion with my three young counter-parts, we were directed into a discussion concerning what nature of ministry God had for each of us.  One person said that they had been called into children’s ministry; one said he had been called into worship leadership; the other wasn’t quite sure yet.  When it came around to me, I’m sure they expected a 40 year old Christian man to be firmly entrenched in some type of ministry.  But alas, that was not the case.  You have to realize, I was about a
year or so sober at this point.  That is not a bad thing, but in alcoholic years that is still a young pup!  I was an avid member of AA at the time, and rarely missed my daily meetings.  If you are not familiar with the program, let me share a little information.

Meetings are not a group of drunks sitting around being sad.  It is very much like a little
church!  Except, you have to leave all pretenses at the door, and the price of admission is complete honesty.  Imagine if we had koinonia where we sat around and laid our lives out to each other with complete honesty, minus the fear of being judged!  What fellowship that is.  When we confess our sins to each other, it is more liberating than I can explain, and unless you have experienced such brutal honesty and outpouring of love, you are definitely missing out.  So anyway, this mentality of the AA process brought me to the response of what God had called me to do at that time:  live 24 hours at a time.  That was my response.  I was being honest.  What God had planned for me rests right here in this exact moment of time.  Well, this really caught the guys off-guard, and they asked me to explain what I meant.

In simple terms, the principle beckons us to focus on today and today only.  With alcoholics, every day takes on a life of its own:  that’s why you will hear them say that they have been sober for 43 days or 4 1/2 months, etc.  Each day is a celebration of a release from bondage!  And what we set our mind on is simple:  I am free today from alcoholism (addiction, pornography, just insert any sin here) and I rejoice that I have been given another day to do the right thing as a free
person.  We don’t know about tomorrow, and we sure can’t dwell on the past; but today, I am free!  When a person is in the grips of any type of sin, we know that the wages of sin is death.
For we know this is a spiritual death and could ultimately be our mortal death.  The problem of being a Christian and in the grips of sin is especially agonizing.  You can feel your spirit and your heart slipping away, day-by-day.  You don’t wake up one morning and decide that you are an alcoholic (you may wake up and admit it though).  If you are honest with yourself, you have watched yourself deteriorate daily; and eventually, you drink to forget what’s right in front of your mirror.  When the cycle of death has been taken from
you, and I do mean taken, you cannot help but be thankful.  As a Christian, the shame and guilt of being so lost in sin makes us feel unworthy to even approach God.  It is a nasty cycle.  Meeting every day or every other day, whatever the case may be, gives us a chance to celebrate together and help others who see our happiness.  You can’t keep what you don’t give away.  People who are suffering want to see what you have as hope for what they could have; if your light isn’t shining, you are still in some type of bondage.

The young men listened as I laid it out as best I could.  I felt awkward and thought,
surely, these guys will think I’m some kind of loser.  I was wrong, as usual.  They were inspired to respond by saying that that was a powerful perspective.  But the conversation progressed to each person’s current bondage in sin.  Oops, where are we going now?  The young men each expressed sin in their life that was putting them in fear for their relationship with God.  Not surprisingly, the major theme was internet pornography.  You know, I heard that a lot that weekend; it was even lifted up in prayer after one of the sermons.  I’m sure the Lord got an earful enough that weekend about internet pornography, to ban Satan from these particular children for good!  I believe in the power of group prayer so much that I can say in boldness that those boys are delivered from their bondage and moving forward with the task at hand.  Anyway, they asked for my input on the matter, and my reply was simple:  go one day without looking at pornography.  You can be free today.  We don’t worry about tomorrow; tomorrow may never come, but you control your decisions today.  When you wake up on day two, go one more day without pornography.  Every day, start the same way in prayer and ask God to free you from bondage.  Skip prayer, and you skip your power to defend yourself.  Just that simple.  So I went from being self conscious, to an alcoholic sage!  God is awesome.

What does all this teach us about worry?  You’re going to love this; ready to be humbled?  If not, please save yourself the agony…

In the Lord’s Prayer, we see the perfect example of how simple Truth can grow into a whole system of life.  Many have used the Lord’s Prayer and expounded upon it:  all that I have read have been glorious teachings and I love reading other Christians’ perspective on this scripture.  I am going to focus on one part of the prayer that normally gets read or spoken so quickly, that it leaves only a trace of impression like a shooting star out of the corner of your eye.  “Give us this day, our daily bread”. What does that really mean and what are the implications?  It doesn’t say, “Give us this week, our weekly bread” or “Give us this month, our monthly bread”.  The Bible is an amazingly powerful source from God:  in that, a lot of times, we have to at least consider what it doesn’t say as opposed to always trying to understand the direct meaning.  For example, once I struggled with
what pride really was, but I couldn’t hear the Lord’s definition until he showed me what pride wasn’t.  There are many explanations of how to be humble, but you are hard-pressed to find any definitions of what pride is!  It’s almost like we all know what pride is
just by being human and God contrasts this with what it is like to be holy and humble.  The same applies here.  Jesus said to pray this way.  What way? The word-for-word version or…could He have meant praying in spirit, based on these guidelines?  I think the later; because, if it were from memory or repetition, we would be in danger of reciting religious rote.  Taken in the light of a spiritual life, the implications are astounding.

The Lord’s work is daily, in the present, in your heart, as a way of life.  There are too many
examples I could give you, but I won’t bore you with what you already know.  Our King warned us not to worry; He didn’t suggest that we not worry.  “Do not…” is pretty
self-explanatory.  Remember, we see this phrase in English and have no choice but to recognize the flippant nature of something that reverberates like, “Oh, don’t worry about it”.  Jesus is not meaning it lightly; He means it simply as do not do it!  Why?  Isn’t it human to be concerned about
responsibilities, cares, bills to pay and mouths to feed?  Why, if we don’t concern ourselves about
these things, the children could starve!  We could lose our home!  We could be taken off to jail!  Now what good is that?  There is a huge difference between being a good steward and taking care of your loved ones and responsibilities, as compared and contrasted to worrying about those same things.  Worry is anxiety; anxiety is born out of
fear.  Fear not good.   The phrase “fear not” is salted through Christ’s ministry as He bestows peace to those who believe.

Imagine if you will, Peter’s life.  Before Christ parted from him at the ascension, He told Peter how he would die. Nice. Thanks buddy.  Why did Christ put this seed in Peter’s heart; was that really necessary?  I praise God that He did; and here is why:  Can you imagine living every day of your life knowing beyond any shadow of a doubt that you would be beaten, cursed, mocked, jailed, and eventually crucified upside down?  How could you possibly focus on anything else?  It would keep you up at night, greet you every morning, eat with you at every meal, and be on your heart at all times, distract you when you are trying to pray, unless…

Unless you obey your King’s request that you live in the spirit through His Spirit.  You see, the reality of following the Messiah, is unreal.  We can’t know this great mystery with our
souls, with our minds and bodies.  We have to willingly come to the source and live not by bread and water alone, but by “every Word that proceeds from His mouth” and by drinking “living water”.  How on earth is this type of existence possible?  You pray, “Give me this day, my daily dose of Your Word and Your living waters”.  You can conquer and be victorious daily.  It is impossible to live spiritually any other way if you follow what Jesus tells us to do.  So if you are a listener to the Word, but not a doer, then you know the consequences.  We are called to daily supplication for our own good!  You cannot have victory without your daily dose of Truth.  Is that so hard to do?  Ask any recovering alcoholic how hard it is.  Damn hard!  But, alas, it gets progressively easier if you follow the suggestion of your all-knowing, all-powerful King.  One thing that really gets me going (and I mean I’m just as bad as anyone) is we, as Christians, live sometimes like “we got this”.  We sometimes see the Bible as a book of suggestions on how to live a productive, peaceful life.  Bull crap! The only productivity, real productivity, is the work that is done to
further God’s kingdom through the power of love.  Again, He told us what His ultimate goal was.  And what about this peaceful business we constantly hear about from the world?  Walk into any establishment and start sharing the gospel, and see how peaceful it
becomes!  Have we lost the immediacy of our calling?  Are we so selfish and self-centered that we are ashamed of His name? Let’s not do that; we don’t want Him to be ashamed of us when we stand before Him in His glory.  Jesus Christ’s clear message is this: that we daily ask for our daily sustenance as spiritual forces of light; without it, we have no chance.  Otherwise, He would have said weekly, monthly, or some other measure of time.
Your God is spirit, His image in you is spirit, and He wants to be praised, blessed, and prayed to, all in the spirit!  That is impossible unless you bring yourself daily into His sweet submission and be yoked with Him.  So you can be protected, be productive, be
joyous, be peaceful, be holy, and to most of all be of use to Him.

If we are worried or anxious, aren’t we admitting fear?  How many times does the Lord tell us to “fear not”?  Why can we not see the solution to fear?  We can’t see it with our eyes; we have to see it through the eyes of our hearts in spirit and in truth.  If you wake up in the morning and not take the time to “charge your spiritual batteries”, there is no doubt that the liar and the thief will be waiting for you, and he is very clever!  It’s raining outside; bring your rain gear, unless you want to get wet.  A true disciple of Christ has to wear his/her full armor every day, not sometimes and not every now and again.

It is the ultimate in selfishness to worry.  Why? Because you are focused on yourself.  Focus on self is not a good thing; it never has been and it never will be.  Everything that Christ teaches pushes us away from ourselves and puts the focus on Him.  Him!  How awesome is our King that He promises that if you will do this one thing (put Him first in your life) that He’s got your back?  So simple and yet so profound, don’t you think?  It’s like a type of Heavenly magic; a supernatural state of knowing that God keeps His word.  Want more faith?  Follow the directions.  Want to be happy?  Follow the directions.  Want to live without fear?  Again, follow the directions.  We cannot complain about what is or what is to possibly be or how unfair life is because we are too focused on His peace.  Jesus is a full-time job.  I pray we are all up to the challenge of living 24 hours per day with the King at our side.  Muslims pray 7 times a day, like clockwork.  Other religions have rigorous regimens of duty.  Are we so free that we forget to pray every morning to at least remind us that He is in control?  If you want to be in control, be my guest; you can have it.  I don’t; I’ve lived long enough in bondage!  What power He has appropriated for us, and we look at that power as an option or a suggestion?!  And then we want to complain about how hard it is?  Seriously, how pitiful are we; we are called to be soldiers for the most honorable and perfect cause, and wander into battle daily with nothing more than the promise to eventually go to heaven.  That’s sad.  Let’s not walk with the Almighty God if we
can’t follow His orders.  The solution to worry is easy; hope we don’t take it for granted.  The Devil hopes we do!  Told you it was humbling…

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Who Just Saved My Life?

I owe it to my readers to give a brief explanation as to why I am so obsessed with spiritual subjects.  In essence, what I write is the journal of my personal quest to discover who saved my life and why.  I did not ask to be saved, so I have branded on my soul an ownership that I just have to pursue…

I will spare you most of the gruesome details and adult subject matter, but in short, God and I were at odds with each other.  My life had brought me to a point that most people
would shudder to imagine.  In my lowest state, in my darkest hours, at my loneliest, I had essentially died spiritually. I felt nothing.  At around the same time, I also was spared in an automobile accident that should have ended what I perceived to be my miserable life.  The
path that led me to this point is secondary to the primary point of not caring whether I lived or died.  Even the blessings in my life were as curses to me because I felt myself not worthy of those blessings.  I felt that just my very existence affected others negatively.  I felt worthless, cursed, guilt-ridden, selfish, and suicidal…and I was a Christian!

A series of failures in all shapes and sizes were testimony to my uselessness.  The real
kicker was that growing up, everyone had high hopes for this promising young child.  I was not only underachieving, but also wallowing in my own self-pity (which gets old quick).  I was really “ticked off” at God for allowing me to be such a disappointment.  I thought I had done quite a bit to move my life plan along, holding on to faith like a receipt from the dry cleaners.

After my plans had been thwarted time and time again, I decided that all of it was pointless.  I had no horizon to look upon to keep the sea-sickness at bay, and there were no stars above to chart a course.  I was a ship tossed in a storm doomed to sink.  After my mother passed away (I was unable to “pray her back to health”), I had had quite enough.  Let’s get it over with…

www.disciplegideon.wordpress.com will shed some light to those inclined.

But suddenly (and I do mean “suddenly” in the literal sense), in my darkest hour, something magical happened.  I know I tend to wax philosophical at times and am a die-hard romantic, but I mean this in a plain and simple way:  something supernatural, beyond myself, touched me.  It was unfamiliar to me.  My heart at the time was so hardened, nothing on this earth could faze me…not even death.  But it was not of this earth and that was the unsettling part.  As a Christian, I had tasted the goodness of God at times through my life, but the experiences and memories of His presence faded into a grey and forgetful place.  I was now a skeptic and tarnished; I not only had lost faith but also detested it.  But, it happened anyway one day when I least expected it, that someone
saved my life.  But I was unable to comprehend, at the time, why…I was just humbled, amazed, and dumbstruck.

A fire was put inside of me to find out who had intervened and why I was spared when I didn’t want to be spared.  Now, as I write this confession of sorts, the fire is consuming me and compels me to write my love affair.  If I don’t write, then I am sure the fire would overpower me.  The name above all names is in love with me, and I also am in love.  My sincere desire is that others allow themselves to taste what I  have tasted and know that unconditional love from above is real and good and noble and certain and by no means weak.  The pursuit of the one who saved me has proved to me that it never really was a pursuit on my part.  He sought me first and went out of his way to catch me on the way down.  I still have a hard time accepting the grace bestowed upon my unworthy self, but I’ll accept it because that is what makes my lover happy.  I cannot make apologies
for something that survives without any effort on my part.  It takes no effort to be in love.  If you wondered why I am so focused on this subject, now you know…

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