Author Archives: Tim

About Tim

Son. Husband. Father. Ambassador.

Neat & Tidy

Many people who know me would have no hesitation to call me OCD.   I don’t think I’m that bad, everyone else is just unorganized.  I’m definitely not as bad as I was when I was younger.

Walking down the sidewalk as a child, was a bit of a challenge for me.  If I stepped on a crack of any kind, I could feel it in my foot.  I realize that I  couldn’t physically feel it, but I felt it nonetheless.  When that would happen, I would have to do so with my other foot.  If the left foot stepped on a crack, I would step on a crack with my right foot.  If I bumped my right hand, I would stop and bump my left hand in the same place, on the same spot.  Shoelaces had to be evenly tied.  If a store had different colored tiles on the floor, same method applied as if I stepped on a crack.  I no longer have to make things even, but every once in a while, I can still feel it when I step on a crack.

Even now though, I like things a certain way.  I like things to be orderly.  Organization is very important to me.  Symmetry is my friend.  Things should be color coded.  Everything should has a place, and everything should be in it’s place.  Ok, so maybe I embrace my OCDs.

Truth be told, the LORD is a God of order.  How can he not be?  Look how perfectly our bodies are supposed to work in harmony with each part.  Any further away from the sun and we’d freeze, any closer and we’d roast to death.  The earth is perfectly tilted and rotates at just the right speed so we’re not thrown off.  Everything produces after its own kind.  God is OCD if you ask me.

I heard a preacher talk about an experience he had where he went to heaven.  One thing he mentioned that he noticed was that there was no dust.  Seriously?  I find that quite amusing.  Of all the things that could be in Heaven, he noticed something there wasn’t.  I always knew dust was evil.

I guess if you think about it, that makes sense.  Why would there be dust?  Dust causes problems and if we believe Heaven is perfect in every way, then there won’t be anything that causes problems.  Thinking about that, do you know what else I believe isn’t in Heaven?  Wrinkles.  Not the kind that our skin develops…I’m talking about wrinkles in clothes!  I cannot stand it when I don’t take my shirts out of the dryer fast enough and they all end up wrinkly.  I will put them back in the washer for a rinse cycle and re-dry them.  In fact, I don’t think we’ll even need to wash clothes in Heaven!  By the way, any piece of clothing that says “wrinkle free” is a lie of the devil.

Seriously though, things are probably very neat and tidy in Heaven.  No dust, dirt, pollen…no scattered piles of stuff lying around on tables.  Everything has a place and everything in its place.  I’m sure Heaven runs like a well oiled machine.

Let me ask you a question, how neat and tidy is your church?  I’m not talking about dust and dirt.  Does everyone appear to “have it all together”?  When you meet and greet each other, do you ever get anything more than just standard answers?  I’m not saying that we should all spill our guts and spend 10 minutes vomiting the negative things in our lives all over the first person that asks how we are, but overall, does it seem like no one has any problems or things they are struggling with?

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.  Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:  And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.  Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. – James 5:13-16

These are all very outward expressions of what’s happening inward.  James didn’t say to put your best face on and pretend everything is just hunky dory.  Going through hardships?  Pray.  Are you enjoying life?  Sing about it.  Feeling ill?  Call the elders.  Sinning?  Tell someone.  That’s not typical church life anymore.

I’m not talking about exalting your problems and wallowing in self pity, but a big reason people think they can’t go to church is because they don’t have it all together.  Guess what: neither does anyone else.  I was in a service once where the guest speaker actually made a comment about the church being so “neat”.  They didn’t mean it as a complement.  They saw through all the fancy clothes and smiling faces.  I would bet the Holy Spirit began to show them what each person was going through and how they were hiding it.  Again, I’m not saying we need to go blasting every personal issue we’re dealing with, but people need to know they can be authentic.

Some of the most effective messages I’ve preached was when I was the most transparent.  I think that most congregations think that their lead minister is some super saint.  Trust me, they’re not.  Do they have a special gift to preach the Word of God?  Yes.  Do they have a special gift to live the Word of God?  No.  If you continue reading past the 16th verse in James 5, here’s what he points out:

Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.  And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

James is telling us that Elijah was no different than we are.  Elijah struggled with the same feelings as we do.  Have you ever read the story of him on Mt. Carmel?  God performs this miraculous sign in the eyes of 450 prophets of Baal and Elijah slaughters them all.  Then, shortly thereafter, Jezebel threatens to kill him.  What does he do?  Rain down fire from heaven to smite her?  No, he runs like a yellow bellied coward and hides out.  Then he whines to God about being the only prophet left.  Really?  Did you forget that quick what God did for you?  What a cry baby!  Yet that’s exactly why James says what he did.  Elijah was subject to fear (and the whole hose of other emotions) just like we are.  Despite that, God answered his prayers time and time again.

Why are we so worried about what others in our congregation think about us?  Why are we so quick to want to hide our past mistakes or current struggles?  Are we afraid that people will think less of us?  Who cares if they do!  Your victory over your past may just be what someone needs to hear.  Your current sin may be someone else’s past victory.  How easily we have neglected the fact that we are ONE body of Christ and when one part of the body is not working right, it affects other parts.  If we never take care of the parts that are hurting, healing can never take place.

If you break an arm, but just let it swing around all over, it will never heal.  Instinct tells you to hold the broken arm with your good arm to support it until it heals.  However, if you don’t know its broke, there’s nothing you can do about it, and it will get worse and take much longer to heal.  That may not be the case with our physical bodies, since we know when something is in pain, but if the other member of the Body of Christ don’t open up and do as James instructed, then they end up feeling isolated and ashamed.

I heard a preacher once say that if you’ll admit to someone what you’re going through, then the enemy has nothing to blackmail you with.  I absolutely love that.  Condemnation can only rule over you if you let it.  James knew that.  Paul knew that.  There is no healing that will ever take place if you never talk about the pain.  Besides, it just plain selfish to keep those things to yourself.  Not only are you crippling the Body, you are robbing someone of the joy they can experience by having the opportunity to help you.

Think about this for a minute: Did you know we have an advantage over Elijah?  We actually have an advantage over every Old Testament “faith figure”.  Why?  They only had the Spirit UPON them.  We have the Holy Spirit IN us.  We don’t need these outside manifestations to know God and to hear His voice.  He dwells within us.  Our bodies are now the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

I like what John said in 1 John 3 that we can have confidence that God will give us what we ask for.  One of the easiest things to pray is simply, “God, help me!”.  Jesus told us that the Father knows of our need before we ask.  We still need to ask, but He is ready to answer when we do.

There’s a story that fits this topic perfectly.  It’s told with some variation, but it’s something like this:  Floodwaters are rising in a town and a man is on his front porch watching the scene.  A car pulls up and offers him a ride out of town.  The man refuses and says, “God will help me.”  The water rise and he has to escape to the second floor.  He’s looking out a window when a boat comes by to get him out.  He refuses again stating the same reason.  The water rise some more, and now he’s on his roof.  A helicopter drops a rope but he refuses once again, stating God will help him.  Soon the waters rise enough that he is treading water, but he eventually wears out and drowns.  When he gets to Heaven, he accuses God of letting him die.  God responds by telling him, “I sent you a car, a boat, and a helicopter.  What more did you want me to do?”

Even though this is true regarding so many of the tragedies that are occurring everyday, it rings so much louder when we are walking through the foyer on Sunday mornings shaking the hand of our car, boat, or helicopter that God has sent to get us out of the flood waters that are rising in our lives.

In the end, we do need to use some common sense and wisdom in sharing with others.  There are some things that shouldn’t be shared publicly and some things that shouldn’t be shared with certain people.  There is a time and place to be transparent.  Not to say that it isn’t Sunday mornings during the generic “meet & greet”.  However, that obviously that isn’t the time to blurt out that you’ve had an affair or something like that.

Let me close with this: Paul told the Galatians in chapter 6, verse 1-2, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.  Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Not only do we have on obligation to allow others to help us, we also have an obligation to reach out if we know someone is struggling.  I know that can be awkward, but if we really love our brothers and sisters in Christ – like Jesus instructed us to – we won’t be afraid to get our hands dirty.

The body of Christ would be much more effective and powerful if we’d only be willing to admit what everyone else already knows: you don’t have it all together…we don’t have it all together…I don’t have it all together.

And that’s ok.




Sinner or Saint

What a bunch of hypocrites.  That’s a sentence I started out with once when preaching to the teens at my church.  I got some odd looks for sure.  I admit, it was for some shock value, but it also helped to gain their attention.  At the very least, it was unexpected.

Many people throw that word around without any idea of what it really means.  They think they know what it means, but in reality, they don’t have a genuine grasp of it.  The origin of the word refers to “a stage actor”.  One who pretends to be someone they are not.  So basically, all our famed Hollywood actors are hypocrites.  They pretend to be people they are not on a daily basis and get paid millions of dollars to do so.  We pay to see them do it each time we go to a movie.  We pay people to be actual hypocrites.

The world doesn’t see it that way.  They are highly praised for their ability to transform into the character they are supposed to be portraying on screen, not mocked and scolded for acting like something or someone they are not.  They are given awards by their peers and groups that deem them worthy.  Millions of people basically worship these charlatans.

Look, I am not anti-movies.  I enjoy a good super hero flick like the next guy.  I get into action movies and the like.  I find myself yelling at the characters on screen (when I’m at home) because they are walking into a trap.  I’ve cried, rather I had something in my eye,  near the end of The Return of the King when Aragorn tells the Hobbits, “My friends, you bow to no one.”  Just thinking about it gives me the chills.  If that scene doesn’t choke you up, then you are cold-hearted and we can’t be friends.  Yet it’s all a sham.  Fake.  Every bit of it.

Even movies that are based on true events still embellish things to make them more emotional or entertaining.  I think every movie my wife and I have watched that was based on true events, I always say to her after its over, “I wonder how much of that actually happened.”  We want to believe it all happened because it was a good movie.

Emotions are so volatile, aren’t they?  Think about it…these people are rich beyond our comprehension because they can manipulate our emotions.  Honestly though, that’s the mark of a good actor/actress.  They can, temporarily, make us believe that they are someone else…and we love them for it.

It’s not that way for Christians is it.  The world sees us at church on Sunday and/or Wednesday, and then if we act or do something slightly less than Jesus-like, we are the ones deemed as hypocrites.  We are the ones deemed as fakes.  If we don’t live up to what their expectations are, then we are nothing less than frauds using religion as a crutch.  Is it true?  Are we hypocrites?  We sure can be and there are millions out there I’m sure who are.  However, as the old adage goes, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.

The real problem with the way Christians are viewed by others and themselves, is that there is no comprehension as to who we really are.  Are we sinners or saints?

The standard answer by far too many Christians would be, “I’m just an old sinner saved by grace.”  There in lies the problem: the self-identification of still being sinner.  For a real Christian, you were an old sinner.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  This is a very simple concept with very deep contextual meaning.  Without digging too deep, when you believe on Jesus (as stated in Romans 10:9) you are now in Christ.  When you are in Christ, your old self – it’s ways, desires, etc. are passed away.  They have perished, they are no more.  You are now something new – unprecedented, fresh, recently made.  That means you are no longer a “sinner”.  You are now a saint.

For far too many Christians, the concept of being a saint is completely asinine and incomprehensible.  Yet who did Paul refer to as saints in scriptures?  Average Christians.  Almost every time he begins one of his writings to a church, he refers to those people as saints.  In general, Christians are referred to as saints many other times as well.  Sainthood is not something waiting for a select group of people as some religions would have you to believe.  It is something a Christian is here and now, despite what they act like.

The image that God sees you as, is who you really are.  It doesn’t matter how you “self-identify”.  A Christian is a saint, not a sinner.  Do we still sin?  Sure.  Everyone does and we’ll continue doing so until we die or Jesus comes again.  However, sinning does not make a Christian a sinner.  Our actions do not dictate who we are.  Our beliefs do.  How? Glad you asked.  The key lies in John 16.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.  And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on meOf righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

These are prophetic words that Jesus spoke referring to the time period post-ascension.  (Notice I didn’t say post-Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit was originally given as the “born-again” experience to the disciples right before Jesus ascended up into Heaven.  It was the baptism of the Holy Spirit that was given at Pentecost.)  Although reprove is normally seen as a negative thing, here it also has positive connotations.  Jesus tells us the Holy Spirit will reprove (also meaning convict) the world, referring to the inhabitants, of three things: sin, righteousness, and judgment.

The only sin people are truly guilty of now is not believing on Jesus.  The scriptures tell us that Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world.  He was literally punished for every single person who has and will ever sin.  Your actions are no longer the problem, your beliefs are.  However, what I really want to focus on is that Jesus said the Holy Spirit would also reprove the world of righteousness.  He would find people guilty of being righteous.  How?  Because He (Jesus) ascended up to Heaven.  He even told His disciples that if He didn’t go away, the Comforter would not come.  Who are the recipients of the Comforter – the Holy Spirit?  Those who believe on Jesus, a.k.a. Christians.

If then, we continue to follow logic, if Christians are now found to be righteous (not due to their physical actions), how then can they still be “sinners”?  Answer: they can’t.  Again, will we still sin?  Yep.  It would be impossible for us not to.  Yet that doesn’t change who we really are.  If your belief in Jesus had never changed, then your position with God hasn’t changed either.

Many years ago, I had an experience with God that transformed my life.  When it happened, it was like a veil had been lifted from my eyes, and I saw for the first time, how I was really living.  At the time, I didn’t understand what had happened, but when I was questioned by my then best friend, the only words I could muster for him was, “Something has to change.”  I knew something was different inside, but I couldn’t figure out what.  So I started reading my Bible.  No one told me to, I just figured that what I should do.  Eventually, the thought came to me that I should probably go to church.  So I did.  Again, no one told me to.  It just “seemed” like the right thing to do.

I would imagine that people would say that’s when I was born again.  It wasn’t.  However, I got to the point that I was convinced that if I would’ve died previous to that, I would’ve ended up in hell.  And that’s exactly what I was telling people.  Then one night I was lying in my room thinking about the goodness of God and I had a revelation.  God showed me that I had been born again at a very young age.  I actually do remember the moment it happened.  Nothing really spectacular happened, but I just remember believing – really believing – that Jesus was raised from the dead.  It was something that I never stopped believing.  Even the worst moments of my life, I always knew He was there.  Anyway, at that moment, God showed me that I was wrong.  I wouldn’t have ended up in hell because I never stopped believing.

I can imagine what some people would think about that.  You’d accuse me of heresy.  You’d say I’m giving people a license to sin.  People don’t need a license to sin.  They’re sinning just the same without it.  You could take that and say that it doesn’t matter how you live.  Well, it does actually.  Even though my actions didn’t dictate my eternal destination, my life would’ve been considerably less miserable had I lived differently.  Besides, if you really want to take that concept and say that you can live like the devil and still go to heaven, I question your salvation.  If you really have an understanding of what that means, you won’t want to go out and sin.  I didn’t live like I did because I knew I was going to heaven and I wanted to get away with as much as I could.  I’ll say it again – if that’s your mentality, then question your salvation.

Is Jesus supposed to be our example?  Yes.  We are supposed to strive to be as our Master.  Even Paul told the church at Corinth that they should follow him, as he follows Christ.  One of the definitions of “as” is described “to the same degree”.  Paul did not expect the Corinthians to follow him unless he was modeling Jesus.  Were there times that Paul didn’t live up to Christ-like perfection?  I guarantee it, and that’s not taking into account his past life before his encounter with Jesus.  Paul was a human like us.  He struggled with the same temptations as we do, as Jesus did.  We may have no recorded history as to his failures post-conversion, but to think that he lived perfect after Damascus is delusional.

That being said, as I mentioned at the beginning, a hypocrite is someone who acts like someone they are not.  A real Christian who acts like a sinner is being a hypocrite.  Yet it’s when we attempt to act holy, that’s when people accuse us of being hypocrites.  I was acting like a hypocrite for well over a decade before I got the revelation of who I really was.  Since then, I’ve attempted to act as the person I know God has created me to be.  Have I done that perfectly?  Nope.  Will I ever?  Nope, and neither will anyone else.  But that doesn’t change who we are and Who we need to be like.

I guess it’s not too far off when people accuse Christians of being hypocrites.  We certainly do fill the role well sometimes.  They just tend to call us that at the wrong times.  It’s a good thing that God sees us like He does and loves us despite ourselves.

Over the Legal Limit

585479204I’m not real proud of my past.  I sure didn’t do some of the most honorable things.  Getting drunk on regular occasions were one of those things…sometimes to the point of black outs.  The usual Friday and/or Saturday night consisted of some type of alcohol.  Surprisingly, I never had to take a breathalyzer or sobriety test…probably because I refrained from driving while under the influence, except for once which I paid a dear price.  I look back and wonder how I survived sometimes.  Obviously by the grace of God.  Believe it or not, I was saved back in those days.  I truly believed that Jesus was the Son of God, that He died for my sins, and that God raised Him up on the third day.  I had no idea what that really meant, but I believed it nonetheless.

One thing I can attest to, a drunk will never admit when they are drunk, but it’s not hard to tell when someone is.  It’s not rocket science.  The dictionary defines being drunk as affected by alcohol to the extent of losing control of one’s faculties or behavior.  I’d say that’s pretty accurate.  They no longer have anything that inhibits them from acting in ways or saying things that they would normally refrain from.  That usually results in regret the next day, if they even remember what happened the night before.

 “Let all things be done decently and in order.” – 1 Cor. 14:40 KJV

Contextually, Paul was correcting the Corinthian church in regards to how they were operating chaotically in the gifts of the Spirit in their services.  Things were out of control.  I almost wonder if their church services were more of a competition than anything.  If one person had a word of prophecy, then someone else had a better one.  If one person started speaking in tongues, then four more people joined in.  When someone tried to interpret, someone else would correct them.  Bottom line, things were not happening as they should’ve been, otherwise there would’ve been no need for correction.

I have seen footage of church services – or “meetings” – gone awry and I wonder if they mirror what the Corinthians were doing.  I’m not talking about little things where maybe the speaker got off on a rabbit trail, or they extended the music portion an extra 15 minutes.  No, I’m talking about how people are acting like they are not in control of themselves – writhing around on the floor, laughing uncontrollably, those kinds of things.  I have been a first hand witness to some of those things and something never set quite right with me.

People claim it’s the Spirit of God moving and however the Spirit moves, you move.  You hear things like, “I just couldn’t stop ______.”  Fill in the blank with whatever action you “felt” the Spirit was moving you to do.  People will say they were just “drunk in the Spirit”.  This is where Christians will use Ephesians 5:18 and these verses from Acts 2 to justify their “uncontrollable” behavior.  That is a blatant misrepresentation of those verses.

The verse in Ephesians is supposed to be a contrast, not a similarity as many preach.  He’s telling them, and us, we shouldn’t be getting drunk.  Remember the dictionary definition earlier?  You’re telling me that the Spirit of God, the one that set the universe in perfect motion, caused you to lose control of yourself?  Sorry, I’m not buying it.  God does not possess people and make them do things, nor does He the opposite.

If you do some homework, you’ll find that being drunk was a shameful act in the Old Testament.  It was NOT something to be proud of.  So why on earth would we act that way and claim it’s the Spirit of God?  Peter tells us to be sober and vigilant.  Read what Paul told the Church in Thessalonica:

But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.  But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

Be what?  Sober – calm, collected in spirit – temperate.  Strong’s concordance says it means to abstain from wine.  So tell me again that you’re “drunk in the spirit”?

In regards to the verses in Acts 2, I don’t believe they were caught up in uncontrollable, hysterical laughter or any such thing.  It’s clear that Scripture tells us people heard them speaking in multiple languages that were not their native ones.  (You can read about that here in Part 3 of my series on tongues.)  They were NOT acting drunk.  That was just people trying to explain away what was happening.  I also believe they were also trying to discredit the disciples, by spreading rumors that they were drunk at 9 in the morning.  Think about it: If people thought that followers of Jesus were ok with drinking wine – getting drunk –  that early in the morning, then that was further proof to the Jews that Jesus was not the Messiah and it would be easier to convince others of the same.  Read the first thing Peter told them in Acts 2:14-15

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.

The first thing he told the people was that they were not drunk! I believe it angered Peter, and rightfully so, that people were equating a move of God with being drunk.  He specifically wanted them to know that they had not been drinking.  I believe Peter had a “how dare you” moment.  Know what I mean?  When someone says or does something so disrespectful, that you just can’t believe what you heard or what just happened.  I believe a little righteous indignation rose up within him and he was going to make sure they knew what was what.  Yet Christians today brag about being drunk in the spirit.  I think that if Peter was in some of the services or meeting which these things have happened, he’d have something to say about it and it wouldn’t be encouraging the behavior.

What I find odd, is hat the same Christians that get “drunk in the spirit” will also preach 4 verses down from Ephesians 18, that states “Abstain from all appearance of evil” as their basis for telling others that Christians shouldn’t drink alcohol.  Do you see the obvious conflict here?  Don’t actually drink alcohol, but it’s ok to act drunk.  Excuse me while I bang my head against a brick wall.  That make no sense.  First, and I’m not getting into it here, but it’s not a sin to consume alcohol.  It’s a sin to do so when you cross the line into intoxication.  Regardless, if you’re going to say that drinking alcohol is an appearance of evil (which it’s not), then you had better say the same about acting drunk, which really would be an appearance of evil.  I know how that sounds and I’m not apologizing for it.  It’s the truth.

Don’t mistake my judgment of these incidents as unbelief.  I believe in the gifts of the Spirit as outlined in 1 Corinthians 12.  I totally believe speaking in tongues is for us today.  I also believe we should be experiencing good heath and prosperity.  I believe God is good and that every perfect gift comes from Him.  I just don’t believe we should be acting in these types of ways and calling it God.

Was there a move of God that people experienced, but didn’t know how to describe or handle? Sure.  Did people get so caught up in the emotional side of things that they allowed their feelings to dictate their behavior?  Probably.  Can laughter be contagious?  Absolutely.  Is it possible many others joined in even though they really weren’t experiencing anything because they didn’t want to be “left out”?  Definitely.

Should our entire fellowship as a church be scheduled down to the minute?  No.   Should we never laugh in church?  That’s not what I’m saying either.  I totally believe that God can, and has, changed the course of many services and meetings.  If God is truly moving you, as a leader, a different direction, then you better go that way.  However, when things begin to seem disorganized and disorderly, that’s when we’ve moved over from the Spirit, into the flesh.

The flesh enjoys indulgence, no matter what it is.  Anger feels good to vent.  It feels good to gorge out on your favorite food.  When you’re in a certain mood, you want to enhance the felling, so you listen to songs that reinforce your emotions at the time.  If someone is experiencing the death of a loved one, we weep with them.  Compassion moves through us and it’s a natural reaction.  The opposite is also true.  When we are around others who are joyful and they begin laughing, it’s easy to begin laughing with them.  If  more join in, it’s probably going to spread throughout the entire group of people.  Emotions, good or bad, are both highly contagious and powerful.

It’s no different when we get into services that begin to manipulate our emotions.  We want to continue in it because it feels good.  I’ve been in many services where I would’ve loved the music to continue all morning  because I “felt” the spirit moving strong.  I’m not saying it’s wrong to experience emotion, but we just can’t let emotions dictate our behavior, no matter the atmosphere.

Thankfully, we have been given a fruit of the Spirit called temperance.  I like the dictionary definition of this word: moderation or self restraint in action, statement, etc.  Many translations use the word self-control.  In control of one’s self.  A Christians should NEVER use the phrase, “I just couldn’t help myself,” or any other like it..  It’s just not true.

The lost the only ones the have the potential to get away with statements like that.  They don’t have the Spirit of God inside them.  They don’t have access to the attributes listed in Galatians 5:22-23 like we do.  Can they control themselves?  If they really want to, but we have an advantage.  We have the same spirit inside of us that raised up Christ from the dead.

It doesn’t matter what you felt the Spirit moving you to do, you – as a Christian – always have a choice and you are always in control of yourself.

Playing Church

playgroundI will admit I don’t have a very diverse church background.  I’ve only regularly attended five different churches in my short lifetime thus far.  One was a Lutheran church when I was a very young child, one was just a simple Evangelical church when I was an adolescent, two have been “non-denominational, and the one I attend now is borderline “non”, but more closely aligns with the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention).  It’s by far the smallest one I’ve ever been to.

The largest one I’ve attended was living in Branson.  It’s where I grew the most spiritually and I definitely learned a lot of practical life lessons while I was there.  When I moved back to my home town, I went back to the church I had been attending before I moved.  One day I was having lunch with one of the leaders there and he asked me about attending church there in Branson.  I don’t remember much at all about that conversation, but I do remember specifically telling him, “They don’t play church.”

I might as well say this now, I am not against the local Church.  I think it’s a scriptural thing that we meet together locally, with other believers.  We need to fellowship, and hear the word preached.  These are good things.  Playing church is not.

So what do I mean when I say “playing church”?  You should have a pretty good idea what it means.  Children like to play dress up.  Children like to play make believe.  Children like to play hide and go seek.  A lot of Christians like to play church.  Make sense now?

I know that sounds like a harsh rebuke, but it’s the truth nonetheless.  However, I’m not referring to the group of people you think.  Many people go to church simply because it’s “what you do on Sunday” or on major holidays.  Many go to simply soothe their conscience because of how they lived the previous week.  I can get past that type of hypocrisy.  The ones I’m talking about are the real holy rollers.  They, more often than not, play church.  Church for them is generally a social gathering under the disguise of religion.

You see, these people claim to know the word.  They don’t tell you that you have to be there every service, but it’s implied.  They shift their duty of service to missionaries overseas so they don’t have to get their hands dirty locally.  They all walk and talk like each other.  Their “small groups” only contain members of their own church.  It’s all about attendance and retention.  They are more internally minded.  Everything just seems picture perfect.  They are so preoccupied with “doing church” that they neglect BEING the church.

Be honest with yourself as a leader or a general “member” of a local church.  Do the people around your table all walk and talk like you?  Are you all somehow connected relationally or geographically?  Does your leadership table generally answer questions how you want to hear them?  How challenged are you by those closest to you?  Are you easily offended or defensive of someone who shares different views than you?  How often do you share your platform with someone of a different background/church affiliation?  Are the decisions you make conceding change in your church affected at all by trying to make the most people happy?

Those questions should reveal some indication if you’re playing church.  The things I want to touch on from here on out are obviously found in scripture, but are hardly ever discussed or (I doubt very much) put into practice.  Now, I realize that some of those things that the various writers said to the Churches of their time were specific to that particular group of people at that time.  However, there are many things that are applicable to the way we should be doing church today.  I’m going to go through a few things and you tell me if you’ve ever seen these things happen in a Church today.

  • 1 Timothy 5:20 – Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

When was the last time the leader of your church stood behind the pulpit, pointed the finger at someone, and called out their sin before the entire congregation.  Yet ins’t that a pretty clear instruction of what Paul is suggesting to Timothy?  Does this passage mention that should happen in a church?  Not specially, but it doesn’t have to.  Paul had trained up Timothy to be a leader, one who Paul even instructs on how to handle an Elder in need of rebuke.  I believe that it’s applicable to how the Church should operate.  Now, I’m not saying that every week, the leader of the Church should spend an hour rebuking every person in the congregation for every little thing.  There is a balance here.  I believe that there would be occasions for it.  Sometimes people need to be called out on their sin publicly.  It’s too easy to sit behind closed doors in a “counseling” session and act like you’re sorrowful and repentant.  You can pull the wool over one person’s eyes, but it’s little more difficult to do so in front of a room full of your peers.  Some people are only sorry if they get caught.

  • Matthew 18:15-17 – Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Ok, this is pretty heavy too.  Here, Jesus is talking about something that happened between two believers.  I don’t think anyone would do any of this.  What I want to focus on is “tell it to the church”.  It does NOT say “tell it to the pastor behind closed doors”.  Sorry folks, when Jesus says the church, he means in front of all.  That is similar to what Paul told Timothy.  What’s even more powerful, Jesus tells you how that person should be treated if he doesn’t listen!  Tell me the last time a “church” did that.  Hmmm…I’m wiling to bet never.  You realize this statement is coming off the heels of when Jesus told us what to do if our hand or eye offend us.  Cut it off.  Not literally, but we are to deal with sin swiftly and severely.  Which is exactly how He told us how to deal with a stubborn offender.

  • 1 Corinthians 5:1;5;11 – It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wifeTo deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

I know I’ve chopped together some scripture, but go read the entire chapter for yourself and you will see I’m not taking things out of context.  First, Paul says to basically excommunicate the person who was committing fornication with his stepmother (disturbing, I know).  There are things that Paul has no tolerance for.  We should be the same, despite the fact the world wants us to tolerate everything.  What’s more shocking to me is that in verse 11, Paul tells us not to associate those whom are called BROTHERS that are indulging in sin.  If someone is a “brother”, that means they are in Christ.  That’s right.  Those who have believed that Jesus was raised from the dead and have confessed him as Lord.  We are to cut them off from fellowship.  We don’t.  We coddle them.  We hold their hand.  We rub their back and say everything is going to be ok.  Can’t find that in the Bible.  Now this example that Paul gave was very specific to the Church at Corinth, but it’s still a clear guideline of how to deal with certain behavior.

Before you start throwing other scriptures at me in an attempt to discredit or prove me wrong, I’ll go ahead and give you one: 1 Peter 4:8 – And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.  That’s all great and everything until you look up the word “cover” and it’s the same in Matthew 10:26.  Go ahead and see for yourself.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter what scripture you try to use, it doesn’t change the truth of the ones I’ve presented.  Unless you’re comparing New Testament scriptures to Old Testament ones, scriptures don’t necessarily cancel or negate each other.  Besides, these are instructions to the Church as a whole, so these scriptures need to be taken literally.  Am I saying that they need to be carried out every single time Christians meet for fellowship and breaking of bread?  No, but they can’t be ignored either.  I’m not ruling out compassion, sympathy, or charity.  I totally believe there is a balance to  the scriptures.

I realize that this may come off as harsh, but it’s been far too long since the Church has acted like the Church.  Smith Wigglesworth comes to mind quite often when I consider how the Bride of Christ has waned.  I say this because too many local gatherings have become like rock concerts and social gatherings that are hardly distinguishable from their pagan counterparts.  Should we have fun in Church?  At times, yes.  Should we go all out in praising God during Church?  Sure thing.  Yet what has happened is that now if we dare present a challenging message or something that reveals our sin, people walk away.  Too many people want something to make them feel good no matter what and don’t you dare peek into my private life.  Smith knew the value of tough love, but tough love is only love if it’s spoken in sincere truth.

It’s sad for me to think that if we did any of the things that the Bible instructs, people would walk out by the droves, even if you showed them multiple scriptures to back it up.  Why?  People don’t want the Bible to get in the way of how they act or what they believe.  People want to play church.

One of my top 5 favorite scriptures is found in Galatians 4:16:

Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?

I do not think you understand the power that is contained in that question.  In Galatians 3:1, Paul basically called the church in Galatia stupid for how they were thinking and behaving.  Our current dictionary defines foolish as someone lacking good sense or judgement.  First can you imagine how a local church would act if the leader got up and accused the congregation of being foolish?  Telling them they are being stupid?  We can’t because no one would dare do it.  Do you know what that equates to?  The leader don’t love them enough.  That’s right, if you don’t tell someone the truth, you don’t love them enough.  Paul loved the church at Galatia enough to risk losing them.  That’s what’s so powerful about that scripture above.  Love will risk all.

Paul risked everything he was to the Galatians because he loved them.  He risked them alienating him, hating him, because he told them the truth.  You realize the model Paul was using…the same one as Jesus.  Jesus risked all not only for us, but for the Jews when He was on the earth.  He told people the truth no matter what it cost Him.  He lost some of his own followers because of the truth He presented.

What are we willing to risk for the truth?  How strong is our love for others?  Do we love others enough to tell them the truth or do we “love them too much” to tell them the truth?  If your answer is the latter, then you really don’t love them at all.

In these dark times, however no darker than before, we must ask ourselves some questions:  What are we willing to risk to really be the church?  To actually act like the church?  The answer to those questions will either continue to withhold or release the power of God to bring Kingdom changes to this earth and usher in the second coming of our Lord Jesus.

Family can sometimes be the most difficult people to deal with.  As the body of Christ, and members in particular, whether Baptists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Catholics, etc., if Jesus is our Lord, then we are all connected – we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are all part of the same family.  We are all to love one another as Jesus loved us.  He loved people enough to tell them the truth regardless of what it cost Him.  Paul did the same.  Isn’t it time we followed suit?

Bride, it’s time to get off the merry-go-round, hop off the swing, and make it your last trip down the slide.  Tear down the fences.  Grab the dozer and the backhoe.  Dig like you’ve never dug.  Lay the foundation and begin to build the Church the way it was intended.

When Truth Hurts

I remember years ago when Facebook was the big thing.  Not that it still isn’t, but for many younger people, Facebook isn’t their first go-to, it’s Snapchat.  For quite some time though, Facebook was the major player when people wanted to share something with the general public.  In particular, it was “LMS for truth is” or something to that effect.  For you older folks, LMS stands for “like my status”.  The whole point to that was anyone who in fact, liked that particular update, the poster would write on the liker’s wall a piece of truthful information that the original poster thought of the liker.


You may be utterly confused by now.  I’m almost confused now.  Let’s try it again with a realistic scenario.  I post on FB, LMS for truth is.  You like my status.  I now post to your wall with something like, “Truth is…you’re a lot of fun to be around and we should hang out more often.”  Pretty simple.  Pretty shallow if you ask me.  From my limited knowledge, and yet even many would agree, most “truth is” comments were vague and fake.  They were generally some eye rolling puff piece, not the real truth.  Why?  Because sometimes the real truth hurts.

I’m not saying that the poster of LMS should have ripped the liker apart, but every time I saw the scenario, it was always weak.  To be honest, I saw a lot of them because I had a lot of the teenagers from my youth group as friends, so they would do it and their friends would do it and they would like their friends’ statuses.  I actually preached a sermon called “Truth Is” talking about that very thing.

Most of us were taught at a very young age, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  Sorry (not sorry) that was a terrible piece of advice.  Now, if you say anything remotely “un-nice” people go ballistic.  They simply cannot handle anything less than stellar spectacular positive feedback no matter how wacko they are acting.  They want you to confirm that anything they do is ok because it makes them happy.  That’s sad, because often times what needs to be said may not seem nice, and that’s ok.

If the truth never hurts, then I can guarantee you that you are constantly getting lied to.  We all need to hear things that don’t give us warm fuzzies.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a difference between being downright mean, and what the Bible calls “speaking the truth in love”.  That latter phrase was taken from Ephesians chapter 15.  In context, Paul was speaking to the Church at Ephesus, but in large, it was a message to all Christians.  It was instructions on how to grow into the Body of Christ as God intended.

Every type of growth is accompanied by pains.  Physical growth spurts that children go through causes pain.  Emotional growth can cause pains.  Why should it be any different when it comes to spiritual growth?  But how do we grow spiritually?  Through correction.

Proverbs 3:12 gives us that guideline and it’s reiterated in Hebrews 12.  Now, I want to be clear that the LORD no longer chastens us by physical means.  If we mess up, He does not cause tragedy or physical harm to us in order to teach us something.  His correction now comes through His word as written in the Bible, it can come through the preaching of the  Word, or through someone close to us who is willing to risk the relationship in order to tell you something you may not want to hear.  Let me give you an example:

When I was living in Branson, MO, I attended Faith Life Church.  Infrequently, Brother Moore’s wife, Phyllis, would preach a message.  For whatever reason, it would seem like I always got a “spiritual spanking” when she did.  Her sermons would quite often correct me to the point I’d almost hunch down in my seat because I knew I was about to hear something I didn’t want to.

There was one night in particular that opened my eyes.  I was sitting near the front of the church, with probably 800-1000 people behind me.  I honestly don’t remember what she said exactly, but it was something like this, “Who in here is dealing/having a problem with _______?”  I put the blank because I really don’t remember what it was, all I know is I raised my hand because I figured half the people in the room would too.  Her next words jolted me into another level.  She said, “Well, I guess only three people here are going to get help.”  You simply cannot appreciate the tone she uses when she preaches unless you’ve heard her.  Anyway, my eyes bugged out of my head.

“Three people, that’s it????  Great, now everyone knows I have been struggling.”  That was my initial thought until it sunk in.  First, I guarantee more than three people needed help that night, but the other 797 weren’t going to get it because they were to proud to admit they needed the help.  Second, it was a turning point for me.  I knew at that moment, I was growing.  I was growing because I had been willing to accept the correction I had been needing.  The LORD was using Sister Phyllis to help me grow spiritually.

I think back to that night quite often and I’ve told that story during many sermons to the youth, because it’s such a powerful moment in my life and it’s a perfect illustration of the Scriptures I mentioned above.  Look at this in Hebrews 12:11 NLT:

No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

It stung, almost quite literally, during those sermons I sat through.  Up until that last one, I felt quite beat up sometimes.  It was painful.  It wasn’t enjoyable.  However, it was necessary and it was in love.  I needed to grow, and because He love me, He corrected me.

2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”  Now before I get accused of taking Scripture out of context, I realize that Paul was speaking to the Corinthians about their repentance because of his letter.  However, there’s a principle here that is applicable to our live when it comes to correction.

When someone genuinely speaks the truth in love, I believe it brings a Godly sorrow.  Because when the truth hurts, and it will, it can be upsetting.  I was not the happiest camper in the world during that time.  In fact, to be completely transparent, I could have sat down and cried at any given time for no apparent reason…in fact, there were times that I did just that.  Yet every time I did, I picked myself back up and pressed on.

The sorrow of the word that Paul says works death, is just the opposite of what I experienced.  It’s my belief that the sorrow of the world is condemnation.  Is a killer and it’s not from God.  Read Romans 8 if you don’t believe me.  It is the opposite of what God wants us to experience when we are corrected.

I’d like to give you a little secret when it comes to correction.  You probably didn’t pick up on it in my story, but here it is: Humility.  You must receive correction with a dose of humility.  A proud person cannot and will not accept that they need to change anything.  If I had been too proud to put up my hand at that moment, I believe I would have set back my growth even longer.  I know that I would have had another opportunity, but as the saying goes, why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?

That moment is as fresh in my mind as the day it happened.  I’m glad that I don’t remember what is was that I raised my hand for.  It gives the enemy nothing to condemn me with and I know that I’ve gotten the correction I needed.  I realize that it took a period of time for God to work me to that point, and I’m so thankful He did.

Ever since then, I’ve looked at correction a little differently than maybe most people.  I don’t want to say that I encourage it, but when I feel that little twinge inside, I know precisely what it is and I am thankful for it.  It still stings, but it’s a good sting.  Kind of like when you put peroxide on a cut.  It stings, but you know it’s for your own good.

So, when the truth hurts, let it.



Taking Sides

LineInSandSooner or later, you will be forced to take a side.  You can try to stay neutral all you want, but the time will come when you will have to decide between two opposing forces.  No one can stay neutral forever.  Besides, not taking a side, is weak.  It the cheap way out.  Deep down, I don’t believe that someone can be truly neutral.  They may say they are in an attempt to not offend someone or hurt some feelings, but I really think at any given juncture, everyone has a preference.

Say you get in the middle of a disagreement with two friends.  They look to you and ask you what you think.  Most people would probably throw up their hands and tell them both that you’re not taking sides, when you know good and well what you think.  You just don’t want to make one of them mad.  Scaredy cat.  Maybe you do speak your opinion, and it’s a third point of view.  Maybe you really do think that, or maybe you say that just so you don’t take a side.

Sometimes it’s a simple one.  Do you want chocolate or vanilla ice cream?  ”  Oh, it doesn’t matter,” you say.  Don’t lie, it does.  You really do want one or the other, but for whatever reason, you’d rather be a pacifist.  When you’re sitting there eating the one you didn’t want, in your head, you’re thinking, “I’d rather be eating the other flavor.”

Maybe you’re not choosing because you want to prefer the other person and not influence their decision.  Say you’re married and your spouse asks you where you want to go eat, Chinese or Mexican.  You really prefer Chinese, but you tell them what ever they choose is fine.  That’s not a bad thing, but in reality, your answer could have went like this, “I prefer Chinese, but if you’d rather have Mexican, I’m good with that too.”  I would bet that most people wouldn’t answer like that.  Typically, we all like something over the other, but we refrain from choosing for a myriad of reasons.

And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.  And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.” – Luke 9:49-50 KJV

Just to digress for a moment, here is a guy that was doing mighty works in Jesus name and the disciples got bent out of shape about it because he “wasn’t part of their group“.  They even tried to make him stop.  Jesus didn’t care for that and he told them why.  Unfortunately, in today’s church, many look down upon their fellow Christians because they aren’t part of their group.  So much more could be said about that, but back to the point.

If you’re not for Jesus, you’re against Him.  That’s powerful stuff right there.  That principle came out of Jesus’ mouth more than once.  He said it again in Matthew 12:30 – “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”  Whatever you’re not for, you are against.  Even if you’re not taking sides between two friends, you are now against them both.  There is no neutral.

Honesty, I’m a black and white kind of guy.  I really don’t like operating in the gray area, so I can get on board with that principle.  I think Jesus was the same way.  He didn’t operate in the gray areas.  He plainly took a side every time.  Even when He spoke in parables, they were meant to be taken a certain way.  He was unwavering no matter the situation.  Even when his disciples got a little concerned that Jesus was rocking the boat too much (read John 6:51-67), He didn’t get wishy washy.  I read Jesus reply in verse 67 as an ultimatum.  It’s as if he told them if they didn’t like what He had to say,  His reply was, “You know where the door is.”

It’s sad to say that many Christians have sided against Jesus and they don’t even realize it.  I don’t mean to say that they’ll end up in hell or anything like that, but they certainly haven’t sided with God where they need to.  Case in point: Acts 5.  Go ahead and read it.  The answer Peter and the other Apostles gave the council was, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”  Oh, if only we were so bold.

We should be teaching in Jesus name everywhere we go, no matter where we are.  Even our children should be doing the same in schools and we should be encouraging it.  You might be thinking, aren’t we supposed to be submitting the earthly ordinances?  Aren’t we supposed to obey the laws of man?  We are to an extent.  If an earthy law directly violates a Biblical principle or command, then we should be disobeying.  We should be obeying God rather than men!

If a man made law tells us we can’t pray in school, then we should pray anyway.  Man cannot and should not dictate when and were we speak to our Heavenly Father.  Will there be repercussions?  Absolutely, and that’s exactly what we’re afraid of.  Christians bend over backward to comply to all sorts of ungodly laws.  In doing so, we have taken a stand against Jesus.  Think again about what He said.


Think real long and hard about your life and judge for yourself where you have inadvertently taken a stand against Jesus.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty as anyone else.  Yet that has no bearing on what the Word of God says.

Here’s another great example.  I won’t post the entire block of scriptures, but the one below is taken from 1 Kings 18:

And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. – v.21 KVJ

Or how about this from Joshua 24:

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. – v.15 KJV

Despite those being Old Testament scriptures, I believe the principle remains the same today, since Jesus himself reiterated it.  We are to be serving one God and one God alone.  Yet we have bowed down to many other gods when it comes to our morals and convictions.  We refuse to stand and take a side because we are afraid of the repercussions.

We, as Christians in America, have no idea how good we have it.  I’m sorry, but getting made fun of or kicked out of something because we stand for God should not be counted as persecution.  Read up on Paul’s “light afflictions” or take a real look on what ISIS is doing to Christians.  THAT’S persecution, which Jesus said we will experience.  All that really happens to Christians in America is we get our feeling hurt over the color of a coffee chain’s cup.  Suck it up.

There are more examples in the OT of men that stood up against the mainstream and stuck their neck out despite knowing what would happen to them if they did.  God protected them in miraculous ways.  I believe that can happen to us today if we truly, deeply, believed and stood firm.  That’s not to say that there still won’t be those who will die for their beliefs as there were in the Bible.  There are real threats to those who stand firm in the name of Jesus, but there are far too many more that will never face that situation simply because of their geographical location and social standing.

Despite the lack of real persecution in America today, it does not change the truth of God’s word.  Even though the only type of person it seems acceptable to deride and flat out make fun of are Christians, more times than not – it still doesn’t come close to touching real, authentic persecution.  The day and age in which we live, Jesus needs us to take His side now more than ever.

Even if it’s with shakey knees, sweaty palms, and a weak voice, we must take His side.

When Opportunity Knocks


Throughout my years in the workforce, I’ve had quite a few different jobs.  I really do have the utmost respect and admiration of those who hold the same position for decades with the same company/business.  That’s never been me.images

Let me expound for a moment.  I am not a slacker by any means.  In fact, in nearly every job I’ve started, the company has wanted to promote me fairly quickly into a management/lead role.  When you are promoted quicker, and over those who have been at the job longer, you have to come to the realization that you are meant for leadership.  I don’t say that to brag.  I am just confident in what God has placed within me.

For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.  But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another. – Psalm 76:6-7 KJV

Opportunities have seemed to present themselves to me when things are going good.  If I didn’t look at it correctly, I’d get quite frustrated thinking I’d made the wrong decision.  It’s easier to leave a job when things are going down the toilet and you are fed up with what you’re doing…but when things are going really well?  That’s a whole different story there.  It makes a decision to leave really difficult when you have no reason to leave.

Maybe I’ve made the right decisions along the way, and maybe I’ve jumped ship too soon.  However I can tell you that I’ve always believed in my heart that I was doing the right thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t taken every opportunity that’s come my way, but with each transition I’ve made, I did so with the mind that I was bettering my situation and knowing it would allow me to grow in different areas that I needed growth.

I consider my self to be very blessed when it comes to the leadership positions I’ve been given.  The current position is one that I’ve been entrusted with much, by people who had no knowledge of me prior.  They sought me out and offered me a job that has given me the freedom to do with the business as I see fit, with little to no interference by the business owners.  I still answer to them if need be, but in the end, I really answer to God.

Many times as a leader, I’ve had a different type of opportunity arise.  One that didn’t cause me to consider leaving, but rather made me examine my integrity.  This type of opportunity always knocked when I did something wrong.  It offered me chance to admit my mistakes, make excuses to justify my screw ups, or cover it up out of fear of consequences.  I’d love to say I’ve always owned up and admitted what I did wrong, but sad to say, I’ve done all three.  I will say that in the years since my encounter with God, I’ve done a much better job of the former, rather than the latter of the three.

Speaking of leaders who make mistakes, the Bible is FULL of them.  One in particular that I’d like to touch on is Saul.  It either eludes minds, or for whatever reason, we skip over the fact that Saul was given a unique opportunity.  He was God’s first choice to rule as King forever.

And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.” – 1 Samuel 13:13

Did you really catch that?  Saul, and his descendants, were meant to rule forever…God’s original plan was not David!   This is some very deep stuff to consider.  God knew what Saul would do, yet David was second choice.  David, as I talked about it in my previous writing, was the only man in scripture to be referred to as being after God’s own heart.  But David was God’s second choice?  I can speculate all I want and scholars can debate it till the end of the age, but we will truly never know why.  In fact, it’s hard to even fathom why.  Some will play the “God works in mysterious ways” card, but not me.  I hate that card, but that’s for another time.  Moving on.

Even though the LORD knew what Saul would do, there are two things God did for Saul that we need to think about.  The first thing: God still gave him the opportunity to lead.

God gave Saul the chance to lead.  He did so knowing that Saul would do wrong.  That should speak volumes for us.  There are many people who think that they’ll never get the opportunity that they seek and desire because they think they’ll screw it up so, “God would never give me the opportunity.”

Think about Moses for a moment.  God called Moses to lead His people and He did so in a miraculous way that was never seen before and has never been seen again.  How did Moses respond?  By killing an Egyptian and fleeing out of fear for his life.  Yet who ended up leading Israel out of Egypt?  Moses.

Think about Jonah.  God called Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh.  How did Jonah respond?  He jumped on a ship in an attempt to hide.  We all know what good that did him.  However, in the end, who walked into the city of Nineveh and gave them a word of prophesy?  Jonah.

God knew what both of those men would do, yet he gave them the opportunity to lead regardless.  How encouraging is that!  Just like Saul, God did not withhold anything from them, despite knowing their future mistakes.  (I will definitely be talking about that in the future.  There’s so much more contained in that truth.)

The second thing we need to consider is: God gave him the opportunity to repent.

God gave Saul the chance to repent.  Let’s read what his response was in 1 Samuel 13:11-12:

“…Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.”–   1 Samuel 13:11-12

Here’s how I can hear Saul saying it in modern terms, “The people were freaking out!  You were no where to be found!  Something had to be done.  You left me with no other choice!”  My, oh my.  Blame shifting, panic, fear…this from a man that was God’s first choice.

If you continue reading in 1 Samuel 15, it appears as if God is willing to give Saul a second chance.  Yet Saul does his own thing once again.  He blatantly lies to Samuel in verse 13:”I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”  

Liar, liar, pants on fire!  He was to “smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”  That sounds pretty harsh, but because Saul did his own thing, Haman (a descendant of Agag the Amelek king) nearly got the opportunity to perform genocide on the entire nation of the Jews.  (Read the book of Esther.)

When given the second opportunity to repent, Saul’s response was, “ I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.  Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord.”  Nothing but more excuses.  No sincerity and no real sorrow.  How do I know?  David would never have been king.

There is no doubt in my mind that if Saul had answered differently from a sincere heart of repentance on either occasion, God would’ve left him on the throne.  His mercies and faithfulness didn’t just start in Lamentations, they were there from the beginning.  Jeremiah knew it and David experienced it.  Saul was extended the same mercy, but rejected it.

One of the most profound things I said to a youth group once (and I had them repeat after me) was, “I suck at being righteous on my own.”  Because I do.  Because you do.  Because Saul did.  Isiah referred to self-righteous acts as “filthy rags”.  Look it up if you want to know what it means.  I can tell you it’s not pretty, but that’s exactly what pride is.  It’s exactly what kept Saul from fulfilling his destiny.  Don’t let it do the same to you.

So how do you know when you’ve gone too far?  I’d say you’re probably safe if you’re even asking that question, but if you really are concerned about it, honestly and truthfully examine what you’re answer would be if you were in Saul’s shoes.  Would your answer be one of real sorrow and from a desire to do the right thing?  Or would you apologize just to get out of trouble, thinking that you were never wrong from the beginning?

Saul allowed something to dictate his actions.  He allowed something to rule his life.  Saul let one thing take precedence over a lifelong opportunity.  That one thing was pride.

Pride has the ability to do irreparable damage.  Pride is associated with the devil.  Pride is probably the only thing that will keep you from fulfilling God’s call for your life.  Pride will deafen you to the sound of opportunity knocking.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 – ESV

I’ll say it again: If you have a sincere desire to please God, regardless of where you are in life and despite the mistakes you’ve made or are currently making, you are not too far gone.  The humble will never cease to hear opportunity when it knocks.

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