Rumble Strips, Lane Sensing, and the Cross

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. John 15:5-6 (NIV)

              Blurred Lines!  That’s when the white lines on the side of the road, the yellow dashes down the middle, kind of stop being the real focus for you.  And, when they more resemble blurred lines then the safety notices they are intended to be, you’re in trouble.  On long trips across Kansas Highway 96 lines have blurred on me.  Periods of nothing but straightness, just forward motion between the blurred lines.  I guess that’s monotony setting in.  Some of those trips started at 5 AM and finished after midnight, fatigue and tiredness blurred them for sure.  And, don’t tell my mother or Sheriff Keaton, but there may have been “one” time where I exceeded the recommended speed and the lines blurred, a little. 

During one of our recent, weekly snowstorms I found myself driving on snow packed roads at 11 PM.  Praise the Lord for the civil engineer who came up with the idea of a mid-road RUMBLE STRIP.   Every time my tires rumbled, I knew I wasn’t in the ditch.  I was rolling down the middle, safe from the dangerous edge of not just a blurred line, but a missing line.  Now I’m told in vehicles of newer vintage than mine, there is also LANE SENSING technology that will alert you when you get too close to the boundary of your lane.  The idea sounds great, although one person did tell me that the sensing was confused during rain.  Something about that situation inaccurately alerted the driver to move over, even though the driver thought they were appropriately centered.  And it’s certainly worthless in snow packed conditions.  These situations describe the road to Heaven.  The road to, through and then away from the CROSS

Ash Wednesday began a forty-day journey to the CROSS of Good Friday, and the empty tomb of Easter morning.  Let’s admit it, there are periods in our faith journey where life is either a whirl-wind, we’re bored, and/or just plain tired.  Other times we need RUMBLE STRIPPING because the way forward is snow packed and it’s safer in the middle.  And let’s not deny that there are plenty of times when our LANE SENSING techniques are a little faulty and the road is even more unsure then we perceive.  That’s life!!

The Apostle John had been witness to such conditions, and he remembered Jesus’ words regarding the safety measures He had implemented for His followers, to keep them safely on the road to Heaven.  REMAIN IN ME (John 15:4).  These are RUMBLE STRIP words from Jesus.  The closer we are to the center, the more Christ-like we will live, and there’s nothing closer than being attached to our source of faith.  John 15:5 describes, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  The Holy Spirit directing us, through a personal relationship with our Living Savior Jesus Christ, to live in accordance with God’s commands.  The SIMPLY/DIFFICULT edict to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind while navigating the Highway 96’s of our life. 

That brings us to the CROSS and the Lenten Season.  Most of us can look back and clearly see, maybe painfully remember, those times we’ve “off-roaded”, choosing to drive our own lives in the manner we chose.  That’s called SIN!  Living apart from God.  Some of us can look at our current direction, we’re all over the place.  If we’re angry, get back to God.  If we’re envious of others, go to God.  Maybe battling addictions (pornography, alcohol, drugs, sports, work…..), there’s only one way back onto God’s road, through RUMBLE STRIPS and LANE SENSING that center us.  That’s the vine!!  Re-attach to the source of life.

If you think that last paragraph was for “someone else”, not you….. then it’s absolutely essential that YOU get back on the road.  If you think you have life under control, BEWARE!!  Don’t be the Pharisee that Pastor Travis described, the one that elevated himself above others as he prayed out loud for all the hear.  People who think they have it made, who want to be at the controls of their life, have only one outcome.  John 15:6 tells us, If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  Jesus repeatedly explains the way forward, provides RUMBLE STRIPS and LANE SENSING, from John 15:10, If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love……

The road after Easter looks the same.  In humility ask God to expose the sin in our lives, to redirect our errant choices (sin) and to guide us back into His presence and love.  The love and joy everybody wants, came at a great expense, Christ’s life.  And that price was paid as a result of our sin and selfishness, that me-centeredness that pulled us away from God’s protection.  Get back on the road, REPENT and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is my command: Love each other. John 15:17

May the God of Love guide you in Grace and Peace!   Shad

My Favorite Day

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 (KJV)

     When is the last time you allowed yourself to go back into the Hundred Acre Wood?  (Hopefully you smiled when you read that question.)  For a fleeting moment you remembered!!  That unforgettable memory when life wasn’t so serious, deadlines didn’t control you, raindrops were enjoyed, puddles were destroyed, and time was endless.  (Do I sense another smile and a sigh?)  In the movie Christopher Robin, life around Christopher has changed him.  He’s an adult, doing the adult things; marriage, family and trying to earn a living in an economy that is challenging his abilities.  Life is not being enjoyed.  Not by Christopher, his wife or his daughter!  As you watch the movie you can’t help but feel for Christopher.  We remember the days of old when he was carefree and enjoyed whimsical activities with his closest friends.  You just long to tell Christopher to stop, re-evaluate your situation for the real wealth of life, and chose to live in the moment, love your wife and cherish time with your daughter.

     The uncomfortable then happens….. am I Christopher Robin?  Have I forgotten the joy of life?  Have I forgotten the activities that make me smile?  When was the last time I skipped or sung my way throughout Walmart?  If others were viewing my life on the big screen would they be wondering when I was going to figure it out, when would I re-evaluate my situation for the real wealth of life, and chose to live in the moment, to love my wife and cherish time with my children?  Oh dear, oh d-d-dear, dear!!  (Caught ya smiling again, didn’t I?)

     The source of JOY is God.  It’s a Spirit Fruit (Galatians 5:22) that is granted to those who give all Glory and Honor to God.  It is impossible to miss out on joy if your focus is on God, first and foremost, and then on loving others in the same manner which God loves you.  IMPOSSIBLE!!  Author Bob Goff offers the bucket challenge in his book Everybody Always.  Carry around a bucket, one that is noticeable, slightly awkward, and as life happens ask God to fill it with whichever Fruit is required in that moment.  For Bob, his bucket is patience.  For me, please God fill my bucket with peace and generosity.  For Christopher Robin, definitely JOY!  What do you need in your bucket that will bring you back into a love relationship with God and others?  Bob Goff makes this statement, “People will figure out what we really believe by seeing what we actually do.”  Read that again, please.

    Think about that.  The statements of who you are, are created by what you do.  You can’t say you’re a fireman but go to work as an accountant.  What you do says you’re an accountant.  You can’t say you’re a follower of Christ, called to love God and Others, but live life ……… you get the idea.  What does your “actually do” say about who you “really are?”  Now that’s a Winnie the Pooh kind of question.  Read it again.  That’s where the buckets come in.  Bob Goff’s question is this, “How is my life working for the people around me?”  Ask God to fill your bucket with the Holy Spirit, that covers all the Fruit.  Lord, empty me of me, and fill me with you!  I am a bucket for the Lord, a person to be used for His purpose, LOVE. 

     Let’s get back to Christopher Robin.  He needs a bucket, in the form of Winnie the Pooh.  Christopher is lugging around a bucket of sorts, a briefcase full of very important things.  It was full of papers, documents and potential solutions to complicated situations in life.  Pooh wanted to know why Christopher’s wife and daughter weren’t in his briefcase of very important things.  Oh dear, oh d-d-dear, dear!!  And with that realization, Pooh brings back the JOY of life for Christopher.  Reminds him that living is to be a celebration of life, a time to rejoice and be glad in it! 

     Psalm 118 is a celebration of Thanks to God!  I challenge you to read Psalm 118 every morning, study the words.  Ask God to help you believe the text, to open your heart to an attitude of thanks and praise.  Then, look throughout the day for opportunities to praise, worship and honor God.  Do random acts of love to the people in your life, make your life work for them!  Make your actually do and your really are line up with your life in Christ.  When you encounter a difficult time, situation or person, ask God to empty you of you, and fill your bucket with LOVE, for everybody,

     As Pooh and Christopher look over a valley in the Hundred Acre Wood, Pooh asks, “Christopher Robin, what day is it?”  Christopher replies, “It’s TODAY.”  Then Pooh, “OH…. MY FAVORITE DAY!” Then, in the renewed spirit of Psalm 118:24, Christopher replies, “Mine too, Pooh….. Mine, too.” 

May the God of Love fill your bucket with GracePeace and Joy, TODAY!

Shad

Go Godward, and , Scribes and Prophets

      “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” These words of a father in Mark 9:24 sum up my life.  It seems to be a teeter-totter response, “I do, but I don’t!”  Classic Shad!  I do believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of my soul, and the One who guides me in life, however, in my human weakness and frailty, I sometimes wonder where you are in the occurrences of life…. It shouldn’t be that way, should it?  Do I believe, or don’t I?  A.W. Tozer makes the matter even more serious as he suggests that BELIEF (do I or not) and FAITH are the same.  WHAT?  No way, I definitely have FAITH…… or do I?    Well, luckily Tozer suggests three steps to engaging your FAITH, beyond doubt!

     Steps ONE and TWO:  True repentance and a full committal of the life to God!  These prerequisites are the foundation to which FAITH is anchored.  NO ONE can live by FAITH, BELIEVING in Jesus Christ, IF they have not surrendered their lives following a re-birth by the Spirit.  If you haven’t experienced 2 Cor 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come….. then this probably sounds a little crazy.  Acknowledgement of our sinful nature, followed by a 180 degree turn in the direction of a Christ-centered life, must occur before step three makes sense, and thereby overturning unbelief.

    STEP THREE:  GO GODWARD!  That is a direction.  Like UPward, SIDEward, BACKward, FORward, and any other kind of “…..ward”, it’s a direction of your mind and activities.  Maybe it’s better understood using INward and OUTward, as the direction of our earthly focus.  Evaluating social media posts… a lot of people are INWARD focused.  Life seems to be about THEM.  Others are OUTWARD directed, posting about someone else and commenting on their story.  That’s why the 2 Cor 5:17 decision is so important.  It acknowledges the desire to turn away from PRIDE, ENVY and COVETOUSNESS (INWARD and OUTWARD centered), changing ones focus to, in CHRIST!  That is, GODWARD!!

     There’s a concept in the Priestly Blessing of Numbers 6:26,The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace (KJV). A person’s countenance is defined as, look or expression…. with synonyms like castface, acceptapprove of, care for, or favor.  The NIV says, the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.  GODWARD occurs when life is lived face to face with GOD, a life in Christ.  In that posture we will find acceptance, approval, care and favor from GOD.  If our focus is directed elsewhere, we are looking in the wrong direction, it’s time to go back to steps one and two. 

     Here’s the beauty and simplicity of BELIEF and FAITH.  It requires nothing but the child-like willingness to say, “YES, I believe!”  You can say “YES” any time, any place!  Nothing is required, no secret potion or handshake, just a desire to be in communion with GOD as we live life.  That’s GODWARD, that’s the key.  Maybe it’s still hard to explain or define, but it’s very easy to LIVE a life of BELIEF.  Proverbs 3:4-5 is known by most and easily depicts a life of FAITH.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. 

SCRIBES and PROPHETS

     In all your ways submit to him!  When we go GODWARD, we place our entire life at God’s direction and disposal.  We DIE TO SELF!! Luke 9:23, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  A GODWARD directed life

     Scribes stand up and literate!  They read the word (bible study), they speak the word (instruct others), and they commune with attendance), but, that’s where their belief stops.  They are not committed to living a life in Christ.  They are INWARD and OUTWARD focused in their actions, nothing but words!  In a real sense, their “social media”, the message they are putting out before others, is all about them!  NO denying self outside of the prescribed duties of their shallow faith!  In contrast, there’s the Prophet.

     A prophet, having been inspired by divine revelation (2 Cor 5:17, again) seeks to share.  The stories of Biblical prophets recount the trials and different, for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18).  These prophets, with their hearts and faces GODWARD, persevere in God’s strength as they proclaim the Good News to those who do not yet know God. 

     This year become a child in your faith and trust in the Lord.  Ask God to increase your desire for Him, that He would direct your paths.  In ALL your ways acknowledge Him!  GO GODWARD!  Become a prophet, GOD’s mouth, hands and feet, as a new creation, living solely for the purpose of GOD’s glory, in His good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).  In doing so you will receive God’s BLESSING and PEACE in 2019: 

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26, NIV). AMEN

Grace and Peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:2)

Shad

Laser-like Focus

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”  John 4:10 (NIV)

     I’ve fallen into the well of CHARITY:WATER……. Seemingly every sermon I’ve heard recently has been from the John 4 text, the Samaritan woman and Christ’s offer of living water.  Interestingly, I’ve recently been explained how a laser has its effect through the layering of light rays, one on top of the other, all focused in the same direction.  That’s how I feel with this living water message.  Laser-Like Focus!  As if God is pointing, without question, toward a message He wants me to understand…… To help me along the path of understanding God placed in front of me, Scott Harrison, the CEO and founder of the non-profit organization CHARITY:WATER. 

     Mr. Harrison’s personal story is chronicled in his New York Times bestseller, THIRST.  The story tells of his “meeting at the well” and how he went from the prodigal son to the man planning on ending the world’s clean water shortage. The scripture that came to mind as I read his book was Galatians 6:7-8 (NIV), Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 

Scott was heading for destruction, fast!  His mother and father, however, continued to pray Scott would meet Jesus and have his path altered.  The Holy Spirit was moving Scott in that direction as well, and then it happened, living water

     While dedicating a year of his life, to tithe for the 10 years he had squandered away, he became a humanitarian with a desire to provide EVERY person with clean, drinkable water!!  To date 29,725 water projects have given 8,497,062 people access to clean, healthy water.  However, there are still over 663,000,000 people without clean water.  At one point in his message, Scott states that regardless of any bias; gender, race, religion……. we ALL can agree clean water is an essential element that ALL people deserve.  The CHARITY:WATER wells bring life transforming stories to areas where over 50% of their children’s deaths are attributed to water-borne diseases.  Now, death due to poor water is eliminated and those that receive can LIVE

     In 12 years CHARITY:WATER has raised over 330 million dollars towards water projects around the emerging world.  People are giving up their birthday and Christmas gifts, asking instead for you to contribute the money towards water projects.  In 2012 Rachel Beckwith was $80 dollars short of her goal to raise $300 on her 9th birthday.  Tragically, Rachel went to Jesus weeks later in a car crash in Seattle.  In response to her heart’s desire, donors contributed $1,250,000 in her memory and provided 37,770 people clean water in Ethiopia.  Watch Rachel’s story at, https://vimeo.com/46300983.  WE ALL AGREE: PEOPLE DESERVE CLEAN WATER!! 

     Now, back to the story of the Samaritan women.  By the way, in this story, I am the Samaritan women.  This story has laser-like focus in my life.  My particulars are different, maybe more about the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).  The point is I have been separated from the love of Christ by my desires and wants.  No ifs, and, or buts, I stand in the way of the promised eternal life.  When I think of the last several weeks, I remember Black Friday, Cyber Monday and my list of Christmas STUFF.  It’s all about ME!  And then, the laser-like focus began to occur.  If Love Came Down at Christmas, and the emphasis of that LOVE (Jesus) is to know him greater, so that I might love others deeper, I’ve got to turn-around.  I need to go in the direction the laser is pointing, away from me, towards God, and towards others.  The stories of Rachel Beckwith and the Samaritan woman are just SCREAMING…… EVERYONE DESERVES LIVING WATER!! 

     Once we come to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9), we are called into action to love others in the same manner.  We are called to new life; Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5).  It is time to provide for the orphans and widows; Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27).

     On the cover, our stories don’t read like Scott Harrison’s, or the Samaritan woman’s.  But, when we get to the issue of the heart, they are identical.  It is time to choose the living water, a life in Christ, so that through our actions of charity, other’s needs will be met. Through compassion and generosity God’s gift of LOVE will be spread in the hope and prayer that all would receive Him, the LIVING WATER!  The story in Matthew 25 explains it this way; Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (verse 37-40, NIV).

     That’s the laser, layer after layer, focused with intensity, pointing in the direction of service and aide to others.  A life lived in the service of Christ is a call to respond to these needs.  A kind word, a selfless act of charity, being SECRETLY AWESOME at doing good (NO posts, tweets, insta-grams or snap-chats about it…..), being a saved person called to a life like Christ’s.  Accept the LOVE that came down at Christmas, and “re-gift” it to others!!  MERRY CHRISTmas.

Grace and Peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:2)

Shad Mehl

Applied Christianity

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. Luke 8:15 (NIV)

Choosing a path for one’s life is a little overwhelming.  Having received my bachelor’s, I chose to pursue a master’s degree.  I knew it was about exercise science, but did I want to go the way of research, delving into the depths to determine the who, what and why of exercise?  Or, was I interested more in taking the current knowledge of exercise and applying it to help those who needed exercise and fitness?  I chose applied exercise physiology, cardiac rehab and adult wellness, more specifically.  I wanted to be hands-on, working with people who could benefit from the knowledge I had gained.

Several years later a similar decision was made.  I had been growing in my knowledge about Christianity; belief in the God of Creation, faith in a Risen Savior, and trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  And then, I wanted my knowledge to be a benefit to others.  At the core of this decision was the testimony of my life, changed by my faith, as I experienced the Peace of God.  I wanted everyone to experience this PEACE!!  What started as a mustard seed continues to grow and amaze me daily.  See the story of the mustard seed in Mark 4:30. The mustard tree grows so large that birds (OTHERS) find shelter (PEACE) in its branches.  I want to know God greater, and make God known GREATER!  I present: Four steps to receiving God’s PEACE.

STEP ONE: ….if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chron 7:14).  The message of the Prophets,  John the Baptist, Jesus and the Disciples: REPENT, REPENT, REPENT.  HEAR THE WORD!  Ask God to expose your sin, those things that keep you away from knowing and loving Him greater.  But, be prepared!  He will show you, and it will go to the core of who you are.  Your pride, your lust, your self-indulgence, your greed…… your lack of love, generosity and kindness.  Understand the cost of your sin.  Christ died on a cross, while forgiving the very people whose sins had condemned him to death.  MY SINS included!!   

STEP TWO:  If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).  BELIEVE the Gospel message.  RETAIN IT!!  1 Cor 1:18 explains that non-believers will consider it foolishness.  Those could be your family and friends.  They’ll mock you, and God, for considering the Bible as true and authoritative.  But, the power of the cross will strengthen your faith as you PROFESS and BELIEVE! 

STEP THREE:  Live according to GOD’s WILL.  It is God’s will that you should be sanctified… (1 Thess 4:3).  Copy the life of JESUS!  Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27).  Get intimate with God.  Read the Bible, know what His word says.  Prioritize the relationship above all other commitments.  Interact with like-minded believers; go to Sunday school, church, and small group meetings.  Live more like Christ, ask the question, WWJD?   

  Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thess 5:16-18).  Rejoicing is the outward expression of an inward relationship with Christ.  Prayer is the communication line between a believer and God.  No bad signals, 100% coverage, 24/7/365!  And, giving thanks, well that’s the posture of humility, knowing we “bring nothing to the table” and ALL of LIFE is a gift to celebrate.  It’s PERSEVERING through the tough times.  Rejoicing, praying and giving thanks will simply be who you are!  A forgiven sinner, given a second chance to live for God while loving others. 

STEP FOUR:  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).  Finally, in response to God’s love for us…… now go LOVE others (Luke 10:27).  PRODUCE A CROP!  Treat people with dignity and care!  Love those who hate you and forgive those that hold grudges toward you.  And above all, die daily (Luke 9:23-25) to the temptations of this world while advancing God’s message of love and forgiveness.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to empower you with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (Gal 5:22) as you tell others your story of redemption and salvation.  The steps START and END with HUMILITY!  The greatest sermon is a life lived-out in the power of the Holy Spirit.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Phil 4:13).

If you lack any knowledge required in these four steps, ask God and He will shower you with the wisdom (James 1:5) to be a seed planted in Good Soil, producing a fruitful crop.  One who provides protection for others, in the shade of your faith, for His honor and glory.  THEN, you will find PEACE!! 

Go now and leave your life of sin (John 8:11) REPENT and BELIEVE the GOSPEL!

Grace and Peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:2)

Shad

Called According to His Purpose

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NIV)

I recently watched the series pilot for the TV show Manifest.  The story goes that a plane full of people flies through some sort of “Bermuda triangle” type phenomena and find out upon landing that 5 ½ years has passed since they took off on their flight to New York City.  Now they must deal with the “gap” of time.  Some have lost loved ones, others find that their loved one has “moved on”, believing that after so many years the plane must have crashed into the ocean never to be found.  5 ½ years of living for those not on the plane has changed the course of history for those who finally returned to family and friends.  Early in the show, before the fateful flight departs, a mother, who passes away during the 5 ½ years, is encouraging her adult daughter, who was on the plane, to return to her faith.  Apparently from a young age the mother had witnessed to her daughter, particularly Romans 8:28.

Lost on the viewer until the final scenes of the pilot episode is the flight number of the plane…… flight 828.  Then, as the daughter responds to her own voice (in her head) she finds herself saving a small boy from being hit by a car, then, rescuing two young, abducted girls from their prison at a business with the street address….. 828.  Dazed and confused by what is happening to her, and to the others who shared that flight, she finds herself in a church, reading the Roman’s verse.  Greeted by the priest, she asks, “how do you know if you’re called?”  His response, “you know in your heart.”

Half right.  ROMANS 10:9 states, because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  I hope the show covers the lead-in requirement of the Romans 8:28 verse,  for the good of those who love him.  I’m only speculating that “Hollywood” will dictate the direction of this narrative.  Yes, she is sitting in a church pew, Bible in hand, asking, “how do you know if you’re called?”  Perfect foundation for development of a character who is a SEEKER.  But will we observe a confessing of faith in Christ, on prime-time television.  CONFESS and BELIEVE!  Stay tuned!!

Best guess, we’ll see a lot of GOOD WORKS, miraculous rescues, saving the under-privileged, a social-Gospel suggesting that it is our duty to care, care and care some more!  There is nothing wrong with caring, IF it is borne out of a personal, loving relationship with Jesus Christ…. PART ONE, those who love Him!  THEN we will be guided in all things, toward the good of ALL people as an outward profession of our love for God!  Good things are the fruit of that LOVE and can be seen as the confession of our faith, Loving God, and Loving Others. 

Two parables describe specifically about the absence, or prerequisites, of GOOD WORKS.  The parable of the sower (Matt 13:20) tells of a believer who performs good works initially but fails to develop spiritual roots, can’t support or sustain growth, and withers under the conditions of life.  Parable two is found in Mark 11:12-25 and describes a group of so-called believers, people who go through the motions of their faith, but have no outward expression, no good works, no FRUIT of the spirit in their lives.  Jesus sees the barren fig tree and cast it out of His kingdom. 

People who DO good works, but don’t have a faith as foundation, won’t join His kingdom.  People who claim to be followers, but don’t have GOOD WORKS, won’t join his kingdom.  That’s where the Romans 8:28 verse gets real specific.  Those who love Him will be called to do His work, according to His will, His purpose.  Chapter 12 of Romans further describes the relationship required to discern God’s good, pleasing and perfect WILL.  In that personal relationship our minds and lives are meshed with God’s will, so that GOOD WORKS (GOD’s WORK) flow outward for the benefit of others.  In response to the GOOD WORKS all believers would say, “to God be the Glory!” 

That’s where I’m at with Manifest.  Will God be given the glory for the GOOD WORK that’s done?  If not, then it’s unusable to God.  If man takes credit for the good work, then what value is God?  But scripture warns, these things fade and wither in time, if not supported by the foundation of God’s love.

NOW, let’s get personal.  I’ve been talking about Manifest…… but I’m really describing my life.  Am I in a relationship with God that moves me to GOOD WORKS for others?  Am I all about GOOD WORKS but lack the personal relationship with GOD?  Am I DOING church, claiming the faith, but producing a barren crop of God’s Work?  Have I made my life only about me, invested only in my world of wants and desires?  Tough questions.  I’ll pray for the Romans 12 life.  My life, conformed to His image, lived for the benefit of others, while introducing God to those who don’t KNOW Him!  That life, given to God in Love, makes me one of His called!  That prayer will lead me to know God’s will!  To GOD be the GLORY!!

Grace and Peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:2)

Shad

One More Night of FROGS

Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.”“Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said. Exodus 8:9-10 (NIV)

  I’ve noticed that many of the “sins” we deal with are of the self-inflicted nature.  Many of the hardships we face are the direct result of us DOING the very thing that we knew would bring about hardship.  My daddy taught me, “Right vs. Wrong.”  There is no shade of grey, there’s Right, and there’s Wrong.  However, even knowing the difference, I have chosen WRONG way too many times.  Paul, in Romans 7:19 captures the truth, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”  Knowingly, and purposefully, I choose Wrong over Right, and the consequences of that decision.

The Pharaoh of Egypt shows the tendency to choose wrong in dealing with the 2nd plague which had overcome his country.  FROGS!!  Everywhere FROGS!  In the bedroom, in the ovens….. literally everywhere.  In what seemed to be a turning point for Pharaoh he asked if Moses would pray to God and relieve his people and country from the FROGS.  Smart move!  You go Pharaoh, turn to the God who controls these things and your burden will be removed.  So…. Moses says, Pharaoh, you the man, so…… you decide when the FROGS will be removed and I’ll ask God to grant your wish.  And his response… ”TOMORROW!” 

WHAT????  Seriously, WHAT?  You’re probably yelling, “NO Pharaoh, the answer is NOW.  Get rid of them NOW!!”  Pastor James McDonald suggests that for just ONE MORE NIGHT, Pharaoh wanted to act like he was still in control.  Maybe he was thinking that over night he could overcome the FROGS, not allowing God the credit for a miraculous moment in time.  Maybe he thought, hey, I like frogs.  I know they’re making life difficult, but they seem harmless, and they’re cute.  What’s another night of frogs after the ordeals I’ve already been through.  Just one more night, then I’ll ask for the change, a new direction in life, free from FROGS.

Drum Roll Please………  WHAT’s YOUR FROG, or, FROGS?What are you holding on to that you know shouldn’t be in your life?  This is a Right vs. Wrong question.  List the Wrong items of your life!  Pride, jealousy, lying, gossip, stealing, adultery, pornography, covetousness, cursing, alcohol, drugs…….. any others?  If you have a moral compass in your life, your conscience, the Holy Spirit in you….. then you know the Wrong that you hold on to.  Just ONE MORE NIGHT, really?

It’s time to change.  Moses told the Pharaoh, set the time.  When do you want it removed?  God tells us, SET THE TIME!  When do you want it removed? 

Are you screaming the answer?  NOW!!!!!  Ask God to remove the burden of the wrong, NOW!  Mature in your faith, see the Wrong for what it is, SIN, separating you from God.  Be gentle, yet stand firm against the evil of the day.  Grow in perseverance, making complete your wisdom in Christ.  Apply your wisdom to the situation at hand.  It would not be wise to go through another night, doing the very thing that I know I shouldn’t be doing.  Pray that God would remove the FROGS in your life.  Seek God earnestly and know that God will provide you strength in the moments of human weakness.  Believe, and do not doubt, and God will see you through the trial(s) (James 1:2-6).  CHANGING COURSE:

JOHN McCAIN

Clint Eastwood.  Many of us know the Outlaw Josey Wales.  We know “the Stranger” from High Plains Drifter, Marshal Jed Cooper from Hank Em High, Frank Morris from Escape from Alcatraz, Dirty Harry from Magnum Force, or maybe even Luther Whitney from Absolute Power.  These were all characters played by Clint Eastwood, characters of toughness, Men of the Men kind of characters.  An actor portraying characters.  There’s one more story Clint needs to portray.  The real life of John McCain. 

Do you know John McCain’s life story?  Take the time to view the various tributes that have been posted, the videos that have been created that document the life of Senator John McCain.  A REAL Men of Men.  A real American hero who lived out the characters in the situations of his life.  He lived a better Clint Eastwood, then…… Clint Eastwood played.  America lost one of its last heroes, a P.O.W., nicknamed Maverick.  Senator McCain dedicated his life to serving the needs of others.  28 years in the military, 5 ½ of those as a Prisoner of War, and then 36 years in the political field, serving as a Representative and then a Senator for the people of Arizona.  He is credited with saying, “Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone.”  John McCain knew the difference between Right and Wrong.  Fighting for a cause larger than yourself, wow.  Paul says it this way in Romans 12:3, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment….”  That’s how John McCain lived, a role model for us all.

Grace and Peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:2)

Shad

The Day of the Lord

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night…But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.  1 Thess 5:1-2, 8-9 (NIV)

Very recently a colleague of mine passed away, very unexpectantly.  He was 47 years old, successful at what he did, a family man, husband and father to three teenagers.  I’m sure he didn’t awaken that last morning thinking, “My worldly existence is finished today, I’d better get things wrapped up this morning before I leave.  Say goodbye to my family, go over my life insurance with my wife…. and, oh yeah, make sure my helmet of salvation is on today.”  Scripture from the Apostle Paul to the members of the church in Thessalonica exposed the truth regarding the Day of the Lord.  No one knows the time or date when they’ll join the ancestors of the Christian faith.  For sure there will come a day, maybe even today.

Paul refers to people who believe in Christ as children of the light, You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness (1 Thess 5:5).  From the website ASTROQUIZZICAL, way above my paygrade for sure…. the author points to the primary cause of darkness, the physical blocking of light by an object…. That’s all night on Earth, after all – you’re in the shadow of the planet.”  The darkness portion of our day is because we are in the shadow of our own planet.  The sun is still out there, on the other side of the equation!!  WOW!  That’s my life!!!

As a non-believing, non-practicing Christian, I lived in the darkness of my life.  I purposely, yet unknowingly (oxymoron there), lived in the dark side of my desires and wants.  Funny thing, when you live in the darkness, your pupils dilate, you convince yourself that you can see well enough to get along, and you never really think that you need light to function.  THEN…. something happens.  Many people describe such moments as, “the light switch came on!”  Or, “suddenly I could just see better, as if SOMEONE had turned on the lights!”  For some people it takes an earthquake in their life to “see the light.”  December 7th, 1941, Pearl Harbor, and September 11th, 2001, the World Trade Centers, were such days.  The enemy came and exposed the darkness of mankind.  In my life, it’s every day.  The enemy continually shows himself, the darkness of my soul if you will, when I show enmity in my actions.  ENMITY:  actively opposed or hostile to someone. 

On the surface we’d all say, I’m not generally opposed, or hostile, to people.  But this opposition, this hostility, is not towards people…. it’s towards God.  WHAT???  No way, I’m a Christian.  I’m not opposed and/or hostile towards God.  Well….. James 4:4 will SHED SOME LIGHT for us. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God (NIV).  Ouch, friendship with the world.  My selfish PRIDE.  My self-serving opinions about other people.  My masquerade as a Christian, going to church, bible study, serving on committees…. so that I feel good about myself, a proverbial notch in my belt! 

James 6:7-8 (NIV), Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction….  That’s ENMITY!  Watch out, GOD KNOWS!!  We can fool man, but not God!!!

Now if you’ve read this and have generated a list of names of people who you think should read this… we’ve just identified the person who this is intended for… YOU!  Or, maybe you read this and now understand that this is an EARTHQUAKE moment for you.  A moment when you realize you’ve been living in your own shadow of darkness.  What next?  Try David’s prayer in Psalm 139: 23-24 (NIV),Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  Or, maybe pray the list of daylight attributes that Paul mentioned in 1 Thess 5:8, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.  Matter of fact, study the entire Armor of God found in Ephesians 6:10-18.  Your spiritual protection, call it a NIGHT LIGHT that exposes the evil, that eliminates darkness from your life. 

The greatest gift ever given to mankind was the SON (sun)((light))……  It does require a response.  Accept the gift, open the gift, and utilize the power of the Gift in your life.  Our day and time for mortal death is unknown.  As country singer Tim McGraw sings, Live Like You (are) Dying!  Live today in a manner that brings praise, honor and glory to God.  Don’t be “OF the world.”  1 John 2:15-17 (NIV) Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.  The Will of God, found in the Word of God, turns on the Light!  This is the Day the Lord has made……….(Psalm 118:24). 

Grace and Peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:2)

Shad

Proved by Evidence

Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.  Matthew 21:43 (NIV)

      GravityIs a natural phenomenon by which all things with mass are brought toward one another (as stated on the World Wide Web.)  We can’t see gravity, but I know it’s a real thing based on the fact that everything that is IN gravity is held to the ground.  Proved by evidence!

Wind- A current of air, especially a natural one that moves along or parallel to the ground, moving from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure.  Again, can’t see it, but proved by evidence when objects IN wind roll by my tractor as I move through the field.  Wind is a real thing, proved by evidence!

Oxygen- Is the third most abundant element in the universe, and the most abundant element by mass in the Earth’s crust.  What?  They can actually measure something they can’t see?  WOW!  Again, when IN oxygen, mammals live…. when OUT, we die.  Proved by evidence, a real thing!

I don’t believe many “normal” people would argue against any one of these three natural elements.  The evidence of their existence cannot be ignored.  When an object is IN the effect of these elements, certain characteristics prove they are a real thing.  Objects stay on the ground, tumbleweeds roll by, and objects that utilize oxygen to survive… well, they survive.  Unseen elements, proved by evidence, called natural.

For me, faith in God meets the same criteria and, likewise, is proved by evidence.  Christianity, the belief in Christ as the Savior of the World, belief in the Triune Godhead can bring about a New Creation to the heart, mind, and soul of a person who is seeking God, is not a new phenomenon.  That is, if your someone who believes!  Do you believe that God can change lives?

The idea IN a belief, in “something or someone” that you can’t see, “trips up” many people, especially those that require physical evidence of a spiritual phenomenon.  Thomas doubted the spiritual, until he saw the physical.  Most of us relate to Doubting Thomas.  Man would it be easy to really buy into this faith thing if only I could see Jesus.  I would be 100% convicted, and therefore, able to live until I die.  Believing, trusting, living, and even dying for my conviction, just like the disciples.  That’s the faith I want…. if only Jesus could be proved by evidence.

Scripture tells us that believers are called to emulate Jesus, do what He did during His years of teaching.  So, we read the Bible and identify the characteristics that Jesus demonstrated. He exemplified Love, Joy, Peace and Patience.  He showed Kindness, Goodness and Gentleness.  He was Faithful.  And, He refused to be self-motivated, demonstrating great Self-Control during difficult moments and unfair situations.  John 14:11-12 recounts Jesus’ words, Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 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. 

Those who believe, who are IN Christ, will do as Christ did.  Their belief will be proved by evidence.  May I introduce you to evidence….. the Fruit of the Spirit…… Galatians 5:22.  Those who are IN Christ will demonstrate His characteristics, in an even greater capacity than we can comprehend.  The proof of our faith, and the evidence of God, will be seen as we Love the un-Loveable.  Christians will be known for Joy and Peace in the presence of the storms of life.  Believers remain Patient in a world that demands immediate answers and relief from distress.  Followers of Christ exhibit Kindness and Compassion, Goodness and honesty, and, Gentleness and empathy.  Conviction leads us to the role of a servant, serving in humility, in Self-Control, at our expense, for other’s benefit, to the Glory of God. 

A faith without such evidence…… is not faith.  Fruit of the Spirit is the natural proof, the evidence of our faith.  Are you lacking love, joy, or peace?  Struggling with illness, death, or hardship?  Are you bitter, cranky, or apathetic?  Self-serving, envious, or greedy?  THEN: Ask, Seek and Knock!!  Pray that God would expose your stubbornness, areas you think you roped off from God’s attention.  Repent of your shortfalls, asking God to create in you a new heart, a Spirit-filled life.  Ask God to remove your doubt, to prune the vine and remove the dead and decaying branches from your life.  Immerse yourself in scripture, searching for Wisdom, Truth, and Life.  The door to a New Life WILL be opened if you genuinely ask, seek, and knock. 

A PROMISE (my paraphrase): We can do ALL THINGS, when we allow Christ to work IN us, and then follow His example as the Spirit works THROUGH us (Phil 4:13).  Suddenly, the Spiritual phenomenon becomes proved by evidence, our FAITH becomes a real thing!

Grace and Peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:2)

Shad

Proved by Evidence

Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.                       Matthew 21:43 (NIV)

     GravityIs a natural  phenomenon by which all things with mass are brought toward one another (as stated on the World Wide Web.)  We can’t see gravity, but I know it’s a real thing based on the fact that everything that is IN gravity is held to the ground.  Proved by evidence!

     Wind- A current of air, especially a natural one that moves along or parallel to the ground, moving from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure.  Again, can’t see it, but proved by evidence when objects IN wind roll by my tractor as I move through the field.  Wind is a real thing, proved by evidence!

     Oxygen- Is the third most abundant element in the universe, and the most abundant element by mass in the Earth’s crust.  What?  They can actually measure something they can’t see?  WOW!  Again, when IN oxygen, mammals live…. when OUT, we die.  Proved by evidence, a real thing!

I don’t believe many “normal” people would argue against any one of these three natural elements.  The evidence of their existence cannot be ignored.  When an object is IN the effect of these elements, certain characteristics prove they are a real thing.  Objects stay on the ground, tumbleweeds roll by, and objects that utilize oxygen to survive… well, they survive.  Unseen elements, proved by evidence, called natural.

     For me, faith in God meets the same criteria and, likewise, is proved by evidence.  Christianity, the belief in Christ as the Savior of the World, belief in the Triune Godhead can bring about a New Creation to the heart, mind, and soul of a person who is seeking God, is not a new phenomenon.  That is, if your someone who believes!  Do you believe that God can change lives?

     The idea IN a belief, in “something or someone” that you can’t see, “trips up” many people, especially those that require physical evidence of a spiritual phenomenon.  Thomas doubted the spiritual, until he saw the physical.  Most of us relate to Doubting Thomas.  Man would it be easy to really buy into this faith thing if only I could see Jesus.  I would be 100% convicted, and therefore, able to live until I die.  Believing, trusting, living, and even dying for my conviction, just like the disciples.  That’s the faith I want…. if only Jesus could be proved by evidence.

     Scripture tells us that believers are called to emulate Jesus, do what He did during His years of teaching.  So, we read the Bible and identify the characteristics that Jesus demonstrated. He exemplified Love, Joy, Peace and Patience.  He showed Kindness, Goodness and Gentleness.  He was Faithful.  And, He refused to be self-motivated, demonstrating great Self-Control during difficult moments and unfair situations.  John 14:11-12 recounts Jesus’ words, Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 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. 

     Those who believe, who are IN Christ, will do as Christ did.  Their belief will be proved by evidence.  May I introduce you to evidence….. the Fruit of the Spirit…… Galatians 5:22.  Those who are IN Christ will demonstrate His characteristics, in an even greater capacity than we can comprehend.  The proof of our faith, and the evidence of God, will be seen as we Love the un-Loveable.  Christians will be known for Joy and Peace in the presence of the storms of life.  Believers remain Patient in a world that demands immediate answers and relief from distress.  Followers of Christ exhibit Kindness and Compassion, Goodness and honesty, and, Gentleness and empathy.  Conviction leads us to the role of a servant, serving in humility, in Self-Control, at our expense, for other’s benefit, to the Glory of God. 

     A faith without such evidence…… is not faith.  Fruit of the Spirit is the natural proof, the evidence of our faith.  Are you lacking love, joy, or peace?  Struggling with illness, death, or hardship?  Are you bitter, cranky, or apathetic?  Self-serving, envious, or greedy?  THEN: Ask, Seek and Knock!!  Pray that God would expose your stubbornness, areas you think you roped off from God’s attention.  Repent of your shortfalls, asking God to create in you a new heart, a Spirit-filled life.  Ask God to remove your doubt, to prune the vine and remove the dead and decaying branches from your life.  Immerse yourself in scripture, searching for Wisdom, Truth, and Life.  The door to a New Life WILL be opened if you genuinely ask, seek, and knock. 

     A PROMISE (my paraphrase): We can do ALL THINGS, when we allow Christ to work IN us, and then follow His example as the Spirit works THROUGH us (Phil 4:13).  Suddenly, the Spiritual phenomenon becomes proved by evidence, our FAITH becomes a real thing!

Grace and Peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:2)

Shad