•  — Edited

    Hard-Hearted

    I grew up listening to classic rock. WKQQ out of Lexington basically supplied the soundtrack to my youth. One of my favorites was Stevie Ray Vaughn. Nobody plays guitar like Stevie. 


    In the 80’s Stevie Ray Vaughn was at the top of his game. But his personal life was spiraling out of control because of issues with drugs and alcohol. 


    At some point, Stevie stumbled out of a bar and ran into Eric Clapton(another favorite). Clapton had himself also battled with addiction. It almost took his life. He later became passionate in helping others and established a rehab center and foundation. 


    Eric tells the story that when he saw Stevie in the state he was in, he looked him in the eyes and knew he was not in a place to receive advice. Clapton said that he knew nothing he would have said would have had any effect on Stevie at that time and place. 


    Stevie also acknowledged that he was not ready then. In fact, it would be years later, when he almost died, that he would finally get clean. 


    It’s hard to see someone that desperately needs help and to know that even if you offered it they wouldn’t take it. It's sad that so often people have to get to the point of dying before they will get the help.


     It’s also hard when we see people around us dying spiritually, and it seems there is little that we can do. It’s hard to be in that place where you know that nothing you say will move them, or may in some cases make things worse? 


    Hebrews 3:12-15 Christian brothers, be careful that not one of you has a heart so hard that it will not believe and will turn away from the living God. 13 Help each other. Speak day after day to each other while it is still today so your heart will not become hard by being fooled by sin. 14 For we belong to Christ if we keep on trusting Him to the end just as we trusted Him at first. 15 The Holy Writings say, “If you hear His voice today, do not let your hearts become hard as your early fathers did when they turned against Me.”


    We must have the Spirit awareness to know when to push and when to be quiet. The beauty for us is that the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts, who pushes and prods, who softens hard hearts, and who ultimately will bring the soul toward a decision. Our job is to pray that their hearts will become tender and to speak encouragement and truth. 


    Not everybody will be ready to hear about Jesus, this does not in any way mean we don’t still sow the seeds of the gospel. In the parable of the sower, the seeds are thrown everywhere, despite the fact that they might fall on soil with barriers to growth. 


    We keep sowing into every part of the garden, we pull weeds, prune thorns, chuck out rocks, and keep watering every little sprout to help it grow. 


    Don’t get bogged down in frustration when that person seems to want little to do with Jesus. Just love ‘em, stay consistent in your life and theirs, and pray that the Spirit will soften their heart and open their ears. 


    Never give up.

    1.  — Edited

      THE SKY IS FALLING

      The Sky is falling. 


      Once upon a time there was a little chicken, and everybody called him-- Chicken Little. And one day while he was out walking, up in the sky a bird flew over and it dropped an acorn, and the acorn fell down and-- bip-- bopped him on his head. Chicken Little said “AWK! ” and looked up, and didn’t see anything, and he looked down and didn’t see anything. So he said “Help, help the sky is falling! Help, help the sky is falling! I have to tell the King!” And he went running down the road, looking for the King. As he was running he met Henny Penny. And Henny Penny said, “Buk Buk Buk BUK! Hello Chicken LIttle. What’s wrong with you?” And Chicken Little said, “Oh Henny Penny! Haven’t you heard-- the sky is falling! I’m looking for the King.” And Henny Penny said, “Oh my, how exciting. Buk buk buk BUK! Can I go too?” And they went down the road together, shouting “Help, help the sky is falling! Help, help the sky is falling! We have to tell the King!” After a while they met Goosey Loosey. “Honk! Honk! Hello Chicken Little, Hello Henny Penny. What’s wrong with you?” “Oh, Goosey Loosey, haven’t you heard? The sky is falling! We have to tell the King!” “Honk Honk! That’s terrible! Honk honk. Can I go too?” And they all went down the road together shouting “Help, help the sky is falling! Help, help the sky is falling! We have to tell the King!”


      The sky is indeed falling. Amidst political agitation and social disintegration, what are believers called to do? Do we just roll with the tide we all see flooding in? Do we buy up a bunch of guns and groceries and hunker down on our little piles of dirt? Or do we run to tell the king? 


      What do we do? 


      The truth is we only have the word of God as our guide and rule of faith. Scripture tells us that in the early church the Holy Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus were everything. When turmoil came, when they faced incipient persecution, they most definitely ran to tell the KING.


      Acts 4:23-31 Peter and John left the meeting of Jewish leaders and went to their own group. They told the group everything that the leading priests and the older Jewish leaders had said to them. 24 When the believers heard this, they all prayed to God with one purpose. They said, “Master, you are the one who made the sky, the earth, the sea, and everything in the world. 25 Our ancestor David was your servant. With the help of the Holy Spirit he wrote these words:

      ‘Why are the nations shouting? Why are the people planning such useless things?‘The kings of the earth prepare themselves to fight, and the rulers all come together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’ 27 That’s what actually happened when Herod, Pontius Pilate, the other nations, and the people of Israel all came together against Jesus here in Jerusalem. He is your holy Servant, the one you made to be the Messiah. 28 These people who came together against Jesus made your plan happen. It was done because of your power and your will. 29 And now, Lord, listen to what they are saying. They are trying to make us afraid. We are your servants. Help us to say what you want us to say without fear. 30 Help us to be brave by showing us your power. Make sick people well. Cause miraculous signs and wonders to happen by the authority of Jesus, your holy servant.” 31 After the believers prayed, the place where they were meeting shook. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they continued to speak God’s message without fear.


      The background to this verse is in Chapter 3. Peter and John heal a lame man right out in broad daylight. It falls to Peter to give an explanation of what the heck just happened and he gives an exceptional history lesson. 


      Peter reminds God’s people of who God is. And then he shares the gospel in a nutshell,, “26 God has sent his special servant Jesus. He sent him to you first. He sent him to bless you by causing each of you to turn away from your evil ways.”


      This is Peter! The same one that denied Jesus now speaking boldly and eloquently about the Gospel all under threat. And people are being healed. People are coming to Christ!. Don’t you think he is aware of the fact that what is happening here is that the promise of Jesus concerning the Holy Spirit has come to fulfillment?


      Christianity ain’t philosophy. It’s not a pocket full of religious ideas. No, these people of the early church were propelled into the streets of Jerusalem not by fear, but in light of the fact that they knew that Jesus was alive. If Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead, why would Peter be out here preaching like this? It makes no sense. Peter gives the history lesson to remind God’s people of who he is and all He has done. Christianity is grounded in facts. It’s grounded in history. We can share the Gospel without fear because it is the TRUTH.


      Many people believed because of this. It messed with the status quo and the agenda of the elite. And so this group of leaders decided the best thing to do was to shut them up and send them to jail. But the whole thing backfires and the number of believers increases from 3000 to 5000. This is what the Gospel does. This is why we run to tell the King. 


      God is in control of all things including the events happening around us. 


      You see, fam, unless we understand that God is a sovereign God, then it is almost inevitable that we will be buffeted and bowled over by the events which are clear evidence of opposition and coming persecution in relationship to the Gospel. Don’t misunderstand all that is unfolding these days as being explained in terms of race or gender, left or right, or any other thing. 


      Man as man is set in opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and particularly when evidence of that gospel is undeniable.


      That was what was up back then and I suggest to you, that is exactly what is happening now: that the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers set themselves, against the Lord and against his chosen. The sovereignty of God —a God who is unfolding his purpose from all of eternity—that stands over His word to see it performed- is at the very heart of it all.


      That's why these early believers prayed the way they did. They prayed big. They prayed Biblically. They recognized this amazing tension between God, who is in control of all things, who has all the power, who created all things, and the responsibility that was there in the leaders of the day. 


      28 These people who came together against Jesus made your plan happen. It was done because of your power and your will. 29 And now, Lord…


      “And now Lord…”


      How will we finish that statement? “Get us out of here, Lord?” “Lord, please keep us from persecution?” “Lord, please remove the threats?” “Lord please help me keep all my stuff?” 


      No- The early church said “And now Lord…”They are trying to make us afraid. We are your servants. Help us to say what you want us to say without fear. Help us to be brave by showing us your power.


      So back to my question. The sky is falling, what do we do? We run to tell the King. We pray. We pray this prayer. We pray for Spirit-filled, Christ-centered boldness. “Help us to say what you want us to say without fear.” 


      Paul warns us in 2 Timothy: “Remember this: There are some terrible times coming in the last days. 


      In Ephesians 6:12 he says “Our fight is not against people on earth. We are fighting against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness. We are fighting against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places.” 


      In 2 Corinthians 10:4 The weapons we use are not human ones. Our weapons have power from God and can destroy the enemy’s strong places. 


      With that in mind, this is what I think: this is not just a time to fill our pantries and gun cabinets but a time to remind ourselves of what it is we’re doing as a church, small c and big C. To remind ourselves who the enemy is.


      Who the enemy is. 


      Paul makes these statements to encourage the people he is writing to. And then he calls for his readers to pray “at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”


      In other words, to pray big—and to pray, he says, “for me also.” Why? “So that I won’t be persecuted?" “So that I will not have to be beaten, or spend time in jail?" No: Ephesians 6:19 “ Also pray for me—that when I speak, God will give me words so that I can tell the secret truth about the Good News without fear.”  It’s the same prayer we see in Acts 4. 


      The Fox


      The story of Chicken Little really ends terribly. Chicken Little and his friends get led off their course by a sneaky old fox. They never make it to the King. 


       Do you realize what a great temptation it is to the church at this point in our country to deviate from course, chasing down all kinds of notions and ideas? Am I the only one who gets sucked into the anger and frustration surrounding the conversations about masks, and covid, riots, the presence of financial insecurities, the threat of a cashless society and so on? That’s why we need to pray. Because we’re living in a culture of an incoherent mix of opinions and tensions.


      There are foxes everywhere trying to get us off track.


      The whole gospel has been given to the whole church to reach the whole world. So whether you’re an engineer, a farmer, a lawyer, or a momma at home with her babies it doesn’t matter; the charge of God is to speak his word, the gospel, without fear. Our job is to go out and say, “ I am proud of the Good News, because it is the power God uses to save everyone who believes—”

       

      I’ll finish up with  Acts 4:31-35 After the believers prayed, the place where they were meeting shook. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they continued to speak God’s message without fear.

       

      What do we do? We pray. We pray and ask for boldness to share the gospel. We pray to be prepared to say, “This is Jesus. He died for our sins but is now alive. He is who you need.” We pray that the Lord would keep us from inaction, from a wrongful sense of anxiety over the future. Pray that we would have a childlike trust, taking God at His word and believing that what He has promised He will do. 

       

      The sky is falling. We must run and tell the king. 





      1. Progressive Revelation

        When we started this year off it was just too good not to think that this year’s word was gonna be “Vision.” But then it seemed the word would actually be something more along the lines of “chaos” or  “Division


        Here we are seven months in, and I feel like I should watch things play out with my hands over my eyes and peeking through my fingers. The world is a train wreck right now! But in this week’s email, Pastor asked a question that I think brings us full circle. “What do you see?” He says,


         “It is amazing how our perspective and attitude determine what we see in life.”


        There's a theological term -progressive revelation. It means that while God never changes, our understanding of him unfolds over time. Not necessarily chronologically, but as we experience different things in our life, we come to see God in different ways.  


        Paul says it like this  “Open the eyes of their hearts, and let the light of Your truth flood in. Shine Your light on the hope You are calling them to embrace. Reveal to them the glorious riches You are preparing as their inheritance” Ephesians 1:18 (VOICE)


        For all appearances our nation is goin’ to hell in a hand basket. It looks like all hope is lost. Or is it? What if I look at things from a different perspective? What if I pull my nose out of Facebook and Twitter, quit reading fake news, and start looking to God’s Word instead?  What if I look at this world with spiritual eyes flooded with the HIS truth?  What if God has a purpose for everything that is happening and I’m just not seeing things clearly yet . 


        You know what’s so awesome about the Bible? It’s full of God’s promises. When God makes a promise He always keeps it. The Bible says that when His word is preached and proclaimed and talked about and spoken out loud- that it never returns void.


        Do you know what that means? That means that when you share God’s Word with your friends, when you text scripture, when you talk about the Bible, when you talk about what God has done in your life and you use Scripture, it does something. 


        God’s Word always does something, it never does nothing. God's Word never returns void.


        You should get out a pen and write that down in the front of your Bible or scribble it in sharpie and hang it on your fridge where you can see it every morning when you reach in to get the cream for your coffee. 


        For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment. Luke 1:37 AMP


        Regardless of what we see with our eyes, we have the hope of our salvation!


        Romans 8:24-30 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) 26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.


        We have hope because God, Himself, stands over and watches over His own Word, making sure it is fulfilled.


        In Jeremiah 1:11, The word of God comes asking the prophet “What do you see?” He answers that he sees something pretty ordinary: an almond tree.  Words are the tools of a prophet. God uses this ordinary sight to give him an extraordinary message. 


         Jeremiah 1:12 AMP says, “Then said the Lord to me, You have seen well, for I am alert and active, watching over My word to perform it.” 

        • The KJV says, “For I will hasten my word to perform it.”
        • The NKJV says, “For I am ready to perform My word.” 
        • The NIV says, “For I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” 
        • The ERV says, “I am watching to make sure that my message to you comes true.”


        We can be confident that all of God’s promises for His people will come to pass because He will bring it to pass. God does what He says. Keep that word fresh. Believe it. Proclaim it. Intercede over it. And wait for it – it will surely come!


        We have Hope because God’s Word endures forever.


        24 The Scriptures say, “Our lives are like the grass of spring, and any glory we enjoy is like the beauty of a wildflower. The grass dries up and dies, and the flower falls to the ground. 25 But the word of the Lord lasts forever.” And that word is the Good News that was told to you. 1 Peter 24-25


        God’s plan is at work in our everyday lives. There is no space, no matter how big or small, where the Word of God is not already at work. Our job is to watch the Word and obey it. “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” Romans 10:8. 


        The connections between the plans and purposes of God running through our lives and all creation are countless and amazing. We just have to learn to “see” them. We may see sin, evil, and suffering in this world, but we don’t have to lose hope.  Jesus is our hope. The Lord will  fulfill his promises. He is watching over his word to perform it. And because God is faithful, not one word will fail. 


        God’s Word always does something, it never does nothing. God's Word never returns void.

        1. Photo Credit: Alice In Wonderland by Walt Disney Pictures

          Identity Crisis

          I love a good personality inventory. Myers Briggs, Enneagram, even those stupid things on Facebook – I’ve spent a chunk of time over the years selecting answers from multiple-choice questions and gauging my responses on a scale of 1 to 10. For the most part my results have always felt spot on and, at times, even eerily accurate.


          Identity is a tricky thing. In our culture identity has become all tangled up and messy. Over and over, dozens of times a day, we are invited to question our identity. Now, the Supreme court gets to weigh in.  I think it is all part of the enemy’s plan. His main point of attack seems to be upon man as image bearers of God. 


          WE DON’T HAVE TO LOOK ANY FURTHER THAN THE VERY FIRST CHAPTER OF THE VERY FIRST BOOK OF OUR BIBLES TO FIND THE INS AND OUTS OF OUR TRUE IDENTITY


          “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them…Genesis 1:27-28


          “Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good.” Genesis 1:31


          So here’s the thing.  You will never know who you are outside of a revelation of who God is. When you are in the presence of God, He reveals who He is, and as He reveals who He is, you get a revelation of who you are. And once You have a revelation of who You are, You get to find out what You are called to do. We have many names the world calls us but God calls us by our true name. 


          Watch this- Matthew 16:13-19 13 Jesus went to the area of Caesarea Philippi. He said to his followers, “Who do people say I am?” 14 They answered, “Some people say you are John the Baptizer. Others say you are Elijah. And some say you are Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 Then Jesus said to his followers, “And who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered, You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah. No one taught you that. My Father in heaven showed you who I am. 18 So I tell you, you are Peter. And I will build my church on this rock. The power of death will not be able to defeat my church. 19 I will give you the keys to God’s kingdom. When you speak judgment here on earth, that judgment will be God’s judgment. When you promise forgiveness here on earth, that forgiveness will be God’s forgiveness.” 


          When we begin to declare who God is over our life then he declares to us who we really are. And here's the great thing- It’s not dependent on what the people of this world do or say, it’s dependent on the promises of God. 


          We have the option to shake off the labels the world places on us. We can ditch the lies.  Our primary identity as forgiven, restored, complete, equipped, righteous sons and daughters of the Creator, ambassadors of the heavenly kingdom, stands firm. This eternal identity is not dictated by how many “likes” we got on our last post, or the number on or our Enneagram wing. Cultural identity may shift like sand but identity in Christ is rock solid.