I STILL Do Not Go to Church!

1 Corinthians 3.16 “Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” 

2 Corinthians 6.16 “…we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

I realize that many who see this will say, “Oh come on, relax. Don’t be so obnoxious.”

I get it. Yet I wonder, do you think that words meant something to Jesus? Do you think that the choice and use of words was important to Him?

There are times in life when words SHOULD mean something specific.

When I stood with Gayle on November 29, 1975, our wedding day, I had already told her I loved her.  It had passed from “I like you” to something more. And when Dean Simpson asked me to repeat after him my wedding vows, I did NOT say, “I might”, I said “I DO.” 

Do you believe in Jesus as your Savior and Lord? I think this question DEMANDS a precise answer. “I think I do” will not be enough. “I might” will not be enough.

I do not know how I grew into this “mess,” but words have become increasingly important to me over the last decade or so.

One of my “pet peeves” is to point out phrases we humans use that I find “interesting.”

One of them is the common response you hear from a receptionist at an office. He or she will often say, “May I ask who’s calling?”

And my reply is, “Yes.”

There is almost always a pause as I wait for them to ask me, “who’s calling?”

Here is another one.

Certainly you have heard, and many of you may even use this one, “I’ll be honest with you.”

Okay. Think about this. A person has been talking with you for a few minutes. They have shared some information with you. You have been listening. Then, the phrase “I’ll be honest with you” is inserted and they share something else.

Now, what does this mean? Does this mean that everything, or most everything that they had just told you was “not honest?”

Come on now! This is one of the most worthless phrases humans use! Or, maybe they really mean it.

I will confess, “I HAVE NEVER USED IT!” And I won’t!

Imagine Jesus using this!

I do not have time or space here to fully explain the Hebrew use of language. If you are interested, you can study this philosophy on your own. Suffice it to say, the Hebrew language is a concrete language. It is not abstract. In other words, if I said to you, “You turkey!” then you would probably sense you I was joking with you about something kinda dumb that you did or said. In Hebrew, however, that is not the case. In Hebrew, I would LITERALLY see you as a turkey.

There is a big difference.

Some of you have already heard me talk about the word “lucky.”

When I was coaching, often someone would say “good luck, coach.” For many years I would just say, “thank you.” Then I began to get convicted. YES, CONVICTED!

To say that I am lucky, to me, is a slap in the face of my LORD! Nothing happens in my life that does not come by way of Jesus. There is no luck involved! Nothing happens by chance!

So I began to reply in this manner. “Thank you for your encouragement, but I am a Christian and I do not believe in luck.”

As you can imagine, the “good luck coach” greeting soon diminished!

I just want to speak truth.

And this brings us to this blog’s theme. I still do not go to church.

Like many or perhaps all of you, I have had hundreds – if not more – of people ask me “where do you go to church?” over the years. I must confess that I myself have asked folks the same question. (FULL DISCLOSURE HERE)

But many years ago, like with using the word “lucky,” I became convicted again.

IF I AM THE CHURCH (well, part of it) THEN HOW DO I GO TO CHURCH!? The church goes to church?

To me, this is not Biblical. In fact, to say I “go to church” reinforces the error that it is the building that lives and is important, not people.

Some have remarked with the hope, in this current “crisis” we find ourselves in, that many believers will get a new sense of what “the Church” really means. Since we are not physically gathering together, the importance of the building is greatly diminished.

I met with the other elders of our local congregation the other day at our building. One of the brothers remarked, “it sure seems lonely doesn’t it.” And I thought, “Well, yes it is. And there are massive cathedrals all over the world, and million dollar buildings across the United States that sit empty.”

But “church” has continued. And maybe, just maybe, the church is flourishing in a way that other believers in other countries have experienced for years under persecution. The “underground church” in China for instance. And other times and places where “the church” has been driven into isolation.

So when sometime says to me, “Where do you go to church,” it becomes a little awkward, but I have to explain that “I do not go to church.” I fellowship with other believers at Franklin Covenant and in a home meeting in Sylva, but I do not go to church.

Jesus says the truth. “Wherever two or three are gathered together in My Name, there I am.” (Matthew 18.20)

The church exists in a locked jail cell. The church exists around my dining room table. The church exists in a submarine or space shuttle.

The church has no walls, no boundaries. It has no heating and air conditioning. It has no sound system (other than my voice!) The church is not confined or defined by brick, metal or mortar.

The church is a living organism! WE ARE THE CHURCH, the TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD!

The same is true when someone says “Your church.” What is “your church” doing for Sunday morning these days? Or, doesn’t your church meet just off the Highlands Road?

But it has never been “my church.” I do not have a church. It does not belong to me.

So when I reply that “I do not have a church,” it sometimes makes for awkward conversation, but to me, it is an opportunity to SPEAK BIBLICALLY, which is to speak TRUTH.

The church belongs to Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, I am not going to judge you or try to “correct” you in your own use of language. So please do not change anything you say (or do) because of me. This is where I am in my walk with Christ. You are where you are.

But, I STILL DO NOT GO TO CHURCH!

And that is enough, for now.

 

A Cure For Cabin Fever; or Cavelife 2020

1 Samuel 22.1

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam.

Here we are, holed up at home. The corona-virus continues its silent, stealthy, steady spread, seeking somebody to succumb. (HOW’S THAT FOR ALLITERATION?)

Considering our present circumstances, I’ve decided to share the essence of a message I first shared in 1992. The implications of today, the spring of 2020, should be obvious.

I think there are lessons here that we can learn from the life of David that can help us focus on the things that matter. Eternal things. Things that are true. In fact, we don’t need a virus scare to benefit from the Word of God.

In other words, I am going to choose to focus on truth, and that, my friends, is a cure for cabin fever.

David had just killed Goliath, and people were singing his praises. Most experts place David’s age at about 16. Jealousy rises up in King Saul. He becomes determined to kill David.

David flees for his life. He finds safety in the cave of Adullam. It was apparently a large cave, for soon David’s brothers and his father’s household join him, making a total of about 400 hundred men. (1 Samuel 22.1-2)

But, responding to a word from the prophet Gad, David soon flees to the forest of Hereth. Saul, “spear in hand’ (1 Samuel 22.6) continues his relentless pursuit.

The chase continues. David moves on to desert strongholds and the hills of Ziph. From there to the desert of En Gedi.

You get the picture. God had chosen David. Anointed David. Gifted David. Used David.

While Saul was a “head and shoulders man” (he was tall) David began as a small, simple shepherd boy.

Every Christian is called by God. Whether we realize it or not, each of us has been chosen, anointed, gifted. Maybe not like David. We do not all have the same gifts.

But here we find ourselves “chased” by a certain “king.” Slowly we have retreated to our places of safety. To our caves, to our forests, to our deserts. We have fortified ourselves with toilet paper, face-masks, and hand sanitizer.

David, for all his victories, all his anointing, all his giftings, still came to a place where he felt overwhelmed. Where he feared for his life. Where he wondered if God would really deliver him. Where he wondered if he would ever escape “cavelife.”

I guess you could say he had moments of “cabin fever” or “cave fever.”

Read his words from Psalm 143

O Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me: my heart within me is dismayed.

The whirlwind named Saul had driven David into hiding. David’s circumstances were dangerous. Feeding 400 men was a daily challenge, and this went on for months.

But the question for David, as it is for us, is this. “Am I going to be dictated to by circumstances, or by God?” Yes, you might argue, these circumstances were “part of God’s plan” for David. You might argue that COVID-19 and all the resulting circumstances are “part of God’s plan.”

I “get it.” I have read the part of the Bible where it says that “all things work together for my good.” I believe that.

But I also realize that I am sometimes all too human. David was. Here, in Psalm 143 he exhibits his humanity. He hopes for a good result, an early deliverance. And so do I.

I don’t know any professional spelunkers. But some of you have explored caves. Dark. Wet. Cold. Bats. Creepy things. Here was the king to be, the anointed, the called of God, often miserable in a cave. His spirit overwhelmed. His heart desolate. His life “crushed.” His soul persecuted.

Maybe some of us feel like that. Breathless. Depressed. Discouraged. Confused. In a dark cave with no easy way out it seems. David said “my heart is desolate, dismayed.”

The Bible reads like The New York Times.

But, there is an answer. A way out even while trapped!

Psalm 143.5-6

I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

I remember.

In the midst of the storm, it is easy to forget all God has done for me. So I concentrate on “the days of long ago” and the days of not so long ago.

Twice that I know of He saved my life. I fell into a well 120 feet straight down just before my 5th birthday. There was about 3 feet of water in it.

Not a scratch. It must have been angels that cushioned my fall.

My salvation day. September 29, 1973.

The day I first saw Gayle!!

The birth of our 4 children.

So many amazing moments. Special times that my Father gave me. Things I never thought I would do. Places I never thought I would see.

The day I led someone to Christ. The day I became a grandfather.

I could go on.

Yes, dark clouds pass over my life from time to time, but not a sparrow falls to the ground without my Father knowing it. And am I not more precious to Him!

I muse. I meditate.

I have a friend who, when things get a little out of whack, takes a long walk trough the woods, or paddles out to the middle of the lake. He drives along a stretch of road that is familiar, and forces himself to concentrate on the beauty around as if it is the first time he has ever seen it.

Look up at a starry sky. The budding of spring trees. The delicate intricacies of the flowers.

“Lord, if You put all those stars in place and called them by their names, and the majestic beauty around me, then You are bigger than my problems!” HOW GREAT THOU ART. HOW GREAT THOU ART!

I consider.

“And when I think, that God, His Son, not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in. That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.”

Then sings my soul, my Savior, God, to Thee!

I spread out my hands.

The actual Hebrew meaning of this is, “I stretch forth my hands like a little child waiting for his father to pick him up.” There is not a father alive who can resist that.

My soul thirsts for You.

A dried up, cracked lake is begging for water. A soul isolated in a cave is begging for release.

This is the process. When I have eliminated the power of circumstances that are challenging me, I rediscover that truth that I am a child of THE KING. I open myself to my Father once again, anew, fresh.

So, even though our present circumstances are trying, and they may get worse, I choose today, the joy of the Lord, for that is my strength!

Well, enough for now.

2020 Vision Pt. 3 Be on the Alert

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe is me!” I cried, “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?” And I said, “Here am I, send me.” Isaiah 6.1-8

How many “parts” can 2020 vision have? I was thinking 52. As I write today we are in mid-March, nearly 1/4 of the way through this year.

In part one, we discussed “Where Are You,” an attempt to encourage us to evaluate our walk with Jesus. Every “trip” has a starting point.. Then came”Looking for a City,” which is our destination. So we’ve entered into our spiritual GPS our beginning and our end. Now a few words about the middle.

God gives us life. I did not ask to be born. My birth, my life, my days are all a gift. Every breath, every heartbeat is a gift. It is often said about an injured athlete that he or she is “day to day.” Well, aren’t we all?

Today is my 24,647th day of life. Some of those 24,647 days have been awesome, amazing, wonderful, treasured. Some of been forgettable, wasted, lost. But most days are in the middle. Most days seem to be much the same – not particularly exciting or bad – just ordinary, plain. Another day of work. Another meal. Another night’s sleep.

I recall seeing a Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin joyfully exits school on a Friday afternoon. Then by sunset, he is absolutely depressed. His mom asked why. Calvin said that he could not possibly enjoy the weekend because Monday was only 2 days away.

I don’t think that was ever God’s plan, but if you are like me, it just seems to be –human nature to look on the dim side. To see possible darkness up ahead and let that rob you of the joy of today. And, for a while now I have been trying to focus every day on appreciating and enjoying each day as a precious gift – a gift to me from my Father. After all, this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in IT.

IN Mark 6.21 there is a Greek word that only occurs once in the entire New Testament. It is the word “eukaron,” translated as timely, opportune, convenient or strategic. There in Mark it is used to describe the day of the banquet when Herod had John the Baptist beheaded. It was a strategic day, a convenient day.

We have significant days like that. Memorable days – days we can re-live in our memories. Ask people of my generation where they were on November 22, 1963 and nearly all can tell you something like this: I was in the 6th grade and Mrs. Greer came into the classroom to tell us that President Kennedy had been shot.

Or 9/11.

There are other days that may stand out. Your day of conception! Your birth! Your first days of school (well, I don’t remember it, but mothers tend to)

1st day of high school. I do remember that day because I went into the wrong room thinking I was in 1st period but saw quickly that these people looked very much older than me.

13th birthday (a teenager!!) 16th birthday (I can drive! I can be free!) 18th birthday (I am legal! I can vote!) 21st birthday (really legal!) The day I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior. The day I was Spirit-baptized. The day of my wedding. The births of my children.

Some of these days I knew would happen in advance. I could plan for them. We started planning our wedding months in advance. For days like these, excitement builds (or maybe anxiety!) People gather. We celebrate. We take pictures and videos. Those are one-of-a-kind days.

But most days are not like these. Most days are rather ordinary, and a few (well, hopefully a few) we’d rather forget.

In 1948, a show aired on network TV that lasted in different forms for 66 years, until 2014. The show began with the words “Don’t be surprised if sometime, somewhere, someplace, when you least expect it, someone steps up to you and says “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera.”

Candid Camera utilized a myriad of practical jokes. We’ve heard the term, practical joke. But what is it? A practical joke is one that causes the “victim” embarrassment, perplexity, confusion and/or discomfort.

Many of us have perhaps played a practical joke on someone, or had one played on us. And, usually, after our initial embarrassment or confusion we find a way to laugh or smile.

But sometimes – sometimes – a day unfolds on us from above. Isaiah had a day like that. When he woke up that morning I don’t think he had any clue as to what he would experience that day. It started out like any other day. The routines of the morning.

But it was to be a strategic day. An opportune day. A life-changing day. A day Isaiah would never forget. I day that, perhaps, he would come to wish that he could experience again and again.

Isaiah’s response is the response that we all should have when we look into the face our the Lord Almighty. “Woe is me!I am unclean! My sin is great. I cannot stand before You.”

You might call this embarrassment. You might call it confusion. You might call it discomfort.

But I can assure you of this one thing. It was NOT a practical joke. God meant business.

Thanks be to God! His mercy! His grace! His lovingkindness! The cross touches our lips and stamps pardon on our souls!

And we can stand! Only by grace and mercy can we enter and stand before Him. Only by the blood of the Lamb. Stand face-to-face before the God of creation – My creator. And there. in the Light, all things become shadows, all the things of earth grow strangely dim.

And then, and only then, can we be equipped and empowered to do that which He has called us to do.

Isaiah did not initiate this encounter. God did. God came to Isaiah. He came to Isaiah with a mission, with a job that needed to be done. God needed a human.

It was a strategic day in Isaiah’s life. It was a strategic day in the life of the world.

And what about Abraham? We find him in Genesis chapter 12 living peacefully among his family and friends in Haran and then one day – one day – God speaks to him. God needed a man.

Moses is going about his daily routine in Exodus 3, pasturing the flocks in Midian. And one day – one day – as he is heading up a mountainside, he sees a bush on fire. But this bush does not burn up. Moses could have walked on by, but his curiosity got the best of him. So he approaches the bush and then the Lord God called his name. God had a job, and He needed a man.

Moses, like Isaiah, hid his face, but God said, “I am sending you and I will empower you with everything you need to face Pharoah and liberate My people.”

And you don’t need Paul Harvey to know the rest of the story.

Gideon? In Judges 6 we see Gideon, hiding in a winepress to thresh wheat. And one day – one day – out of the blue, the angel of the Lord, sitting under an oak tree, calls out “the Lord is with you, mighty man of valor.”

“Who, me?”

Again, God came seeking a man for a mission. And with that mission would come God’s anointing.

How about David? Just a teenager tending sheep. David was not looking for fortune or fame. He is putting in a day’s work when one day- one day – he finds himself in the presence of the king and then slaying Goliath.

Samuel, Nehemiah, Rahab, Noah, Samson. One day going about their daily lives – just one of a 1000 – and the next moment face to face with the Lord in a life changing encounter.

Mary. Just another day, planning her wedding, washing clothes, combing her hair. And in walks Gabriel. And the young girl, selected out of all the girls in Israel by the Lord Himself, responds to His call, and is empowered to deliver the child who would one day deliver her.

The disciples? Casting their nets. Fishing. Collecting taxes. Laboring. And one day – one day – Jesus speaks to them.

Saul? Breathing fire and seeking the persecution of the Lord’s people. Until one day – one day – off the horse he went!

What do I do between Where I Am and Looking for a City? Between my starting point and my destination?

I am faithful to what I know. I am faithful day by day to His Word. I walk in Truth and holiness. In righteousness. I am faithful in my marriage, in my relationships, at work. I am true to my place, my calling. I grow and seek to be fruitful in the place I am planted. Ecclesiastes 3.10-11 says “I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. He has made everything appropriate in its time.”  

And Paul, writing in Colossians 3.17 “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God our Father through Him.”

I am not looking for some special, heroic deed or call of God. I do not look around at the situation I am in and say “God must be trying to tell me something.” No! God is always trying to tell me something! He and I live together. I in Him and He in me. I live before an audience of one.

I don’t need one more meeting to get ready. I don’t need one more sermon. I don’t need one more day of fasting. Jesus says TODAY! There may not be a tomorrow!

By being faithful each and every day to His calling – to what I know – I encounter the living Lord.

Would I like to have an Isaiah moment? An Abraham moment? A burning bush? A voice from above?

No one knows the day or the hour. I don’t know when, or if, I might experience that moment. There might be a day when somewhere, someplace when I least expect it is a burning bush, an angel under an oak tree, a Gabriel in the room, the voice of my Father.

I want to be on guard. I want to be awake. I want to be on the alert. I want to be found faithful.

It might be a vision, it might be a dream.

So Lord, if you see fit to surprise me one day, here I am, use me.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Well, that’s enough. For now.

2020 VISION: Part 2 – LOOKING FOR A CITY

In Part 1 of this 2020 Vision, we determined (or tried to encourage) our starting point. Although I do not own a GPS system, I have used Mapquest. In order for this to function, you need a starting point and a destination. In our “spiritual GPS” we also need a starting point. “Where Are You?” Where are you in relation to your current place in your walk with Jesus? In regards to your fulfillment of His wonderful plan for your life? Are you functioning in your gifts and callings? Are you – in this hour – where He wants you to be?

Having established the answers to these questions (and others) we now discuss our destination. We are a people “looking for a city.”

Genesis 10 gives us the background on a man called Nimrod. Nimrod was the great grandson of Noah. Nimrod was a builder of cities, like Resen, called the “great city” and Babel. Nimrod was also renowned for his ability to hunt, for a proverb sprang up, “like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.”

Wherever Nimrod went, people followed. His cities became filled with citizens. He had a “formula” you might say.

All of us, to some extent, try to “build” around our ideas, our impressions, our truths. Business people try to build a clientele. Stores want to expand.

We spend our lives looking for some place to settle in, spiritually, geographically. Some truth around which we build our lives. Some group with whom we are like-minded. It is human nature to want to settle down. It is a God-given desire to look for a city.

Babel is perhaps Nimrod’s most famous city if only for the verses dedicated to it in Genesis 11. 1-9. You know the story. The citizens there decided to build a tower that “reaches the heavens.” A tower so high and mighty that would “make a name for themselves.” It was to be a tower made of tar and brick, instead of mortar and stone. And God confused their language and scattered them. The tower was never completed.

Read these verses from Matthew 9.16-17 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”         

All the wine in Europe is useless unless it has some container to hold it. A container, be it a vat or a bottle, gives the wine definition, shape, form. We identify new wine, symbolically, with Holy Spirit. And so what Jesus is saying is that when new wine flows, it MUST have new new containers, new forms. The old ones must change. All our “towers,” all our institutions, all our congregations must be ever poised to change as Holy Spirit moves in us.

Sadly, it is also man’s tendency to resist change. Here in Genesis, the Word says that at Babel, they tried to use brick and tar. Bricks are man-made. Bricks are not natural. Tar is like glue. 1 Peter 2.48 tells us that we, God’s people, are “living stones, choice and precious to God.” And we, are being built up into a spiritual house. A city.

Paul echoes this in 1 Corinthians 3.9 where he calls us “God’s building.” And again in Ephesians 2.20-22 that we are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”   

Bricks were never God’s way. Anything man-made, however great it may seem for a moment, will crumble to dust under God’s mighty hand. He will not share His glory.

Morticing is messy work. It takes hammer and chisel. Some want a little dab to do them. But God is notching His people. It is His building method. And He desires – requires – living stones.

Nimrod would have made a name for himself. And any person, or group, or denomination that tries to build its own tower, will find its tower, eventually, crumble. So too will those who seek to perpetuate themselves and refuse to recognize the move of the Spirit.

Anytime we seek to preserve self we are operating in the flesh.

There is a great difference between making a name for ourselves, and receiving one.

Jesus says in Revelation 2.17 “to him who overcomes, I will give a new name, written on a white stone which no one knows except the one who receives it.”

Building a tower is risky business. Trying to build a round a truth or a revelation can put us in a precarious position. You can fall off towers. Others may try to push you off. And the higher you are, the greater the fall.

You’ve heard of Trump Tower. Sears Tower. Eiffel Tower. The Tower of Pisa.

How about Calvinism Tower? Baptist Tower? Charismatic Tower? King James Bible Tower? Covenant Tower?

Are we perched on some tower today? Think you are safe and comfortable in the city of your own little revelation?

Abraham caught God’s vision. Abraham seemed quite content where he was. He had wealth, family, security. But God showed him a land, a nation, a city. Abraham had built up an accumulation, but God saw in him a man willing to “move into a new wineskin.”

Like Abraham, we should never build anything that we cannot fold up, round up and move. Abraham dwelt in tents. He became a pilgrim, a sojourner.

Hebrews 11.8-10. “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking for a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”     

The city of Babel is a rubble heap, a nearly forgotten memory. But the family of Abraham, the pilgrim, the man looking for a city, gave us Moses, Joshua, Elijah, David and the Messiah. And he is still giving to the world.

When the towers are gone, when the bricks of man have crumbled, when the tar has melted, the family lives on. The living stones through whom God lives and manifests Himself is growing into that city.

A pilgrim may do a lot of wandering, but he has direction. He has a goal, a destination. His GPS is set. A wanderer on the other hand, has no direction. He is aimless. Both are on the move, but only one is going somewhere.

Every one of us qualifies as either a wanderer or a pilgrim. Israel left Egypt as a pilgrim people, but due to their disobedience became wanderers. Have we, too, started off this great journey full of promise and hope? Full of a Savior who set us free from our bondage, and blessed us with every necessary for life and godliness? And now, like the Israelites who refused to believe the report of the spies who saw the land of milk and honey, yet also saw the giants, but said we can defeat them – are we going to enter a new bondage – the bondage of disbelief – the bondage of weariness?

Have we lost sight of that great promise that Abraham saw and gave his life to? Will we veer away from our destination? Will we, having started off with our foundation firm, stumble toward the finish line, or even find ourselves or a path or our own making?

May it never be!

Let us, like the host of brethren before us, continue to faithfully and joyfully pursue “Mt. Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” (Heb.12.22)

In Genesis 28 we find Jacob having a dream about a ladder let down from heaven. He saw angels walking up and down. He awoke from that dream, set up a stone pillar, poured oil on it and called it “the house of God.”

For 400 years, Jacob’s descendants believed that that area around the pillar was God’s house.

Generations later, God took Moses and showed him a plan for a tabernacle which could be pitched in the wilderness, folded up and moved from place to place. No longer did Israel look to Jacob’s rock as God’s house. Now they turned to the tabernacle of Moses.

Years passed. Along comes David, who desires to build a more permanent dwelling, greater than the tabernacle. So he makes plans and when he dies his son Solomon builds that temple. And God fills it with His Shekinah glory. No longer did Israel worship before a portable tabernacle.

But even though it was a building of majestic splendor, it was not to be the fullest revelation of the house of God.

Jesus. Jesus is the fullest and greatest manifestation of God’s house, the chief cornerstone of a many membered corporate house that God would build (and is building) out of His living stones. FOR HE DWELLS IN US!

And as God purges out, through His morticing action, all darkness within us, the day will come when our brilliance will be like the stone of crystal clear jaspar, and as we are changed into a holy people, without spot or blemish we see ourselves becoming not just the house of God but the city of God – that city which we seek.

Well, that is enough, for now.

 

2020 VISION: WHERE ARE YOU?

It just seemed fitting that 2020 vision and the year 2020 go together. Maybe it is that, as  I age, time seems so much more important to me. My relationship with Jesus seems more vivid, more important, than ever before. In the culture we live in, with all its fog and uncertainty, lies and deception, we need more than ever to be lucid. To have our eyes opened, and fixed, on truth.

And so the genesis of these messages lies in Genesis, 3.8-10: “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”   

Adam thought he’d play a little game of hide and seek. Now if Adam, like dirt, can’t hide from intensified Tide, how is he going to hide from God Almighty? And why was he hiding?

Fear.

He and Eve had made a mistake, a huge mistake. They had listened to Satan’s lying voice and yielded to temptation. It is like someone wearing a coat with 50 pockets, and I am free to explore 49, but I am told to never open or try to look in the one. Well, like most of us, suddenly I am not interested in the 49.

Disobedience brings fear. Fear makes you hide – hide from people, hide from what you were created to be, try to hide from God.

So God comes walking – seeking Adam. Looking for His masterpiece, His workmanship – man. (Yes, God created human life, and has endowed us with value)

IF WE ARE TO HAVE 2020 VISION, WE MUST KNOW OUR STARTING POINT. A GPS (which I do not own) needs both a starting point, and a destination. In this message, I am focusing on the starting point.

Adam, Ayekba, where are you? I don’t need to tell you that is it certain that God knew exactly where Adam was. The question is, did Adam know where Adam was? Whether it was a giant Sequoia or a scrubby jack pine is not the issue. For the question applies to every human on earth. Where are you? God wants us to know.

Adam embodies the mystery of all human life. From the beginning it was God and Adam. When God speaks to Adam, He speaks to us all.

Adam where do you stand in this world?

Adam, where is your place in  history?

Adam, what have you done with your life?

Adam, what are you doing with your life?

Adam, have you thought about tomorrow?

Adam, where do you stand in relationship to ME?

It is the first, and perhaps greatest question that can be asked. It is the question that we all need to contemplate and answer. Today. Now.

Am I the son, the daughter that I am meant to be?

Am I the man, the woman, that I am created to be?

Am I the brother, the sister, the friend, the companion, that I am called to be?

Am I living in the fullness of what Christ has provided me?

Am I walking in holiness, faithfulness? Walking in hope and victory?

Am I using the gifts and talents that the Lord God has graciously allotted me?

Or am I hiding behind some tree thinking I can fool or trick Him? Hiding in fear. Hiding in shame. Hiding in apathy. Hiding in despair. Living a half-life.

Today, yes even in this moment, Jesus is “walking in the cool of the day,” calling my name. He is seeking me! He wants me to see clearly. To go from 20/2million to 2020.

He wants us to know that He created us. He values us. He loves us. And He will walk the garden seeking us even as we run and try to hide from Him. (But He knows when you are sleeping – He knows when you’re awake!!)

I CAN BE THE SON, THE DAUGHTER I WAS CREATED TO BE!

I CAN BE THE MAN, THE WOMAN I AM MEANT TO BE!

I CAN EXPERIENCE THE ABUNDANT LIFE OF JESUS!

Now we know that Satan has a plan for my life. John 10.10 tells us that “the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” 

Like that “havoc” guy on TV ads, our enemy is constantly on the prowl. Yes, he would kill us if he can. He would steal my hope, destroy my peace. Disrupt my confidence. He would force me behind a tree, cowering in fear.

But my God, my Jesus, has another plan. His plan includes eternal life through Jesus Christ my Lord. But His plan also includes my life on earth. A plan for my good. A plan of freedom, of love, of hope, of joy. A plan of righteousness.

Yes, Bill Bright, God does indeed have a wonderful plan for my life!

Where am I? Where am I? Isn’t it time to get focused, and stay focused on Him? Isn’t it time for my eyes to have and maintain a fixation on Jesus? Isn’t it time to leave the tree once and for all?

For me to have 2020 vision in this year 2020, I must see myself for who I am and where I stand today. I must make a self-assessment. I must be brutally honest.

I must know – beyond all doubt – that my Father seeks my good. He seeks to liberate me from every hiding place. He seeks to set me free from everything that would make me want to skulk behind a tree.

So knowing where I am, I can then – confidently – approach HIS THRONE OF GRACE – knowing that HE IS FAITHFUL TO FORGIVE AND CLEANSE – and restore me in every possible way.

Then, and only then, can I walk in His amazing, awesome, magnificent plans for me. I can please Him.

I can have 2020 vision.

Well, enough for now!

 

What Now, My Love?

Gayle and I had the pleasure of hosting Brother Joe Ewen for 2 nights recently. Joe is from Scotland, and God has gifted him with prophetic insight. I asked Joe if he had ever met Derek Prince. If you are not familiar with Derek Prince, here is a little about him.

Derek, from England, had a major impact on Christianity in the 1970s and 80s. He still does, although he passed in 2003, the broadcast of his teaching still today reaches worldwide in over 20 languages. Derek often came to Franklin, NC. I was privileged to hear him many times.

Joe said, “Yes, I was Derek’s taxi driver.” He had hauled Derek around Great Britain a couple of times. Joe said he did this just to be near Derek, to perhaps gain something from him.

Then the name of my favorite Bible teacher came up, Bob Mumford. Bob was also a powerful (still is!) teacher of the Word who was influential worldwide and in my life.  In fact, I was present at a conference in Montreat, NC in 1974 and heard this with my own ears. Billy Graham, who lived there in Montreat, was invited to the platform to address the crowd of about 3000 people. Billy Graham said, and I quote, “Bob Mumford is my favorite Bible teacher.”

Once again, Joe told me that he had also been Bob Mumford’s “taxi driver.”

So now I am proud to say that I have been Joe Ewen’s taxi driver!

Joe was at our local fellowship for 2 days of teaching on the prophetic last fall. It was a tremendous weekend. So this is my response to that weekend of renewal and encouragement.

I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to allowing a mighty word from the Father slip away. It is kinda like so many “new year’s resolutions.” (which I stopped many, many years ago) How long do they last? I once started out abstaining from all desserts but then I went over to Alice Marie Pendergast’s house and she had a pie in the oven. I came to covered dish, and Fred Crane had one of his famous cakes there. Oh the shame. The guilt! The condemnation I have felt over breaking my promises to God!

But that is in the past. It is today that concerns me. What am I going to do – what are we going to do – now? I don’t want ANYTHING God has spoken to me to slip away.

Read these words from Isaiah 60.1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”

And again from 2 Corinthians 4.6-7 “For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.”

This was the prophetic word to us. Arise. Shine. Your light has come. The LIGHT has come.

The light has come to me. It is bright. It is focused and directed on that area of my life that has been dormant. On that area of my life that has been asleep. That has been neglected. That has been complacent.

That which may have been left for dead. That situation which I thought could never be changed.

CHILD OF GOD- ARISE! ARISE IN FAITH. PROCLAIM THAT THE DOOR IS OPEN! THE GATE OF POWER! THE GATE OF HEALING!

Jesus would say to me – to us – in this hour – WHAT NOW, MY LOVE?!

Do I believe that my Father is speaking? And if I do, then I must – I must now do something. I have to open my doors – the doors of my mind. The doors of my spirit. The doors of my soul. I must release doubt, fear, and unbelief. GOD’S WORD IS NOT A SUGGESTION! God gives PROMISES, and COMMANDS.

When our children were young, and learning discipline, we had the “2 time” rule. It may sound strict to you, but it was what we decided on. If we told one of the kids to do something, we were only going to say it twice. After that, well – you better start looking for a cushion!

HOW MANY TIMES MUST GOD SPEAK UNTIL WE MOVE!!!!

How many times have I been stirred by a word, a retreat, a leading, only to let it slip away after a few days, or even hours? It hurts to think about it.

WHAT NOW, MY LOVE?

“And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.” The glory. The majesty. The power. The almost unspeakable awesomeness of our God.

Paul writes in Romans 8.11 “If the Spirit of Him who raised Christ Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Jesus from the dead will also quicken (give life to) your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”    

The same Spirit who raised Jesus LIVES IN ME. And His glory has risen — not just on you — but IN YOU.

When Stephen was being killed in Acts 7, as he was dying he saw Jesus- Jesus who is seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenlies – standing. STANDING! Standing to receive Stephen.

Something has broken loose. The doors are open. Apathy has been smashed. Glory has risen. Light has come.

Don’t you feel the mountains tremble! Don’t you hear the oceans roar? We can see that God, You are moving. A might river through the nations. SWING WIDE YOU HEAVENLY GATES! OPEN UP THE DOOR. LET THE MUSIC PLAY.

Jesus is saying, What Now, My Love? Earnestly, tenderly, but urgently, Jesus is calling. He has spoken. We have heard. Now we must respond. And keep on responding.

“Behold I stand at the door, and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him.”  Rev. 3.20

Lord, I hasten, I run to the door. I will arise. This is my part. This is the action I must take.

I am not going to just crack it open, with the safety chain attached. NO. I will swing it wide.

I don’t know where and what the future will look like. But I know this. If my Lord Jesus is in command, I I know He is, then I do not need to know. Just to the future’s His forever!

Well, enough, for now.

To Play My Best For Him (part 2)

Three times in the past year, I have shared from 2 Samuel 6. Each time the “twist” has been a bit different, but basically the same essential message.  Here’s 12-23 (sorry, it IS necessary)

“David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness. And so it was, that when the bearers of the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouting and the sound of the trumpet. Then it happened as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. So they brought up the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent which David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And when David had finished, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts.  — But when David returned to bless his household, Michal came out to meet him, and said “How the King of Israel distinguished himself today in the eyes of his servants’ maidsas one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself.!” So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the Lord. And, I will be more lightly esteemed than this and will be humble in my own eyes, but with the maids of whom you have spoken, with them I will be distinguished.”

And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.    

The Philistines has captured the Ark and had taken it to Ashdod, placing it in their pagan temple of Dagon. Now after 20 years, David and his army had recovered it and now it is coming home.

David is so excited. He dancing and leaping and probably shouting – full of joy – celebrating with all his might. He has thrown off his royal robes. He is down to his “undergarments.”

David is “clicking his heels.” Carrying on with abandonment. Focused on one thing. The Ark of the Covenant – the Ark of Father, is home at last.

And I say – again – when we see what David saw, when we feel what David felt – when we are so absorbed in the presence of God as David was – we’ll do what David did!!

But Michal- his wife, daughter of Saul, sees him, looking through a window. And she despises him for his actions. One translation says that she accused him of acting “vulgar.”

She was his wife. I suppose you might call her Queen Michal. Her opinion mattered.

But this is the presence of God we are talking about!

Several years ago, I was at a meeting at the Inn of the Last Resort (Christian Training Center International) in Franklin, NC. Charles Carrin was the speaker that night. Now, if you know me, I tend to be rather stoic and reticent about most things. Rather unemotional. My attitude has been, “I may see other people fall under the power of the Spirit, but no one is going to push me down!”

So I was standing along the edge of the crowd as Charles prayed for people. Many were falling down under the power of the Spirit. Then, he caught my eye and motioned for me to come forward. I did, and “plop”, down I went. He had barely – barely- touched me.

I laid there quite a while. The I roused myself up into a sitting position. I sat there for some time as well.

Soon a lady fell – very close to me. I did not know her. I watched as she was “laid to rest.” Not more than 2 seconds later, she reached up and adjusted the collar of her lovely white sweater.

Instantly, Charles Carrin knelt down to her, took her arm, and said something I wont’ forget. Something profound.

“Oh, don’t be so proper.”

Why do I fond that profound? Because as quickly as Charles said that to her, Holy Spirit spoke this to me,

“You cannot fix your eyes on Jesus and at the same time be self-conscious.”

After a moment chewing on that word, (and I invite you – friend – to chew for a moment or three) I looked around and saw Sally Fesperman laying on the carpet.

Many of you know Sally. And if you do, then you obviously know her well dressed she ALWAYS is. Looks like a model (which, I think she had been) even when doing yard work. Never a hair out of place. Meticulously dressed. Make-up perfect.

But on this night, Sally Fesperman was an absolute mess. One shoe was off. One arm was flung over a man’s leg. She was oblivious to her appearance.

And I thought – which one of these pictures do I want to describe me? Total, absolute fixation and abandonment to Jesus – or self conscious, prim and proper.

David told Michal. “You ain’t seen nothing yet! I will celebrate and I will become even more undignified than this!. I will risk humiliation even in my own eyes.”

And Michal, David’s wife, had no child until the day of her death. Why is this verse in there?

When we stiff-arm God. When we refuse to join in. When we remain a spectator, instead of a participant. When we become a critic instead of a celebrator. When we fail to understand that HE IS WORTHY and GIVE HIM THE GLORY DUE HIS MIGHTY NAME – then a barrenness comes to our spiritual lives. Our joy leaves. Our excitement dissipates. Apathy sets in. Bitterness grows.

It is time that I – time that WE – get out of the house of Michal and into the street where the river is flowing, where the wind is blowing, where the fire is burning.

To bring our gifts before the King in celebration.

So come – come as you are. Come to the waters. You who have no money, come buy and eat. Delight yourself in the Lord!

And when we bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord, Jesus will smile at you, just as he did at the little drummer boy!

Well, enough for now.  Oh, one more thing. Let’s make this our 20/20 vision.

To Play My Best For Him

There are many wonderful Christmas songs that I never tired of hearing or singing. O Holy Night, Silent Night, Joy to the World. Many “secular” songs that are timeless. The Christmas Song, Silver Bells, I’ll Be Home for Christmas.

But the very worst – the worst – Christmas song (YES- I know – maybe you’ll respond to this!) is The Little Drummer Boy. The version that is most popular has 23 “parumpapumpums” in it. That is about 22 too many! I turn it off every time. My hands move toward my ears.

 

But. But. I decided to look more closely at the words. And when I get beyond the parumpapumpums, the words are marvelous.

Come, they told me a new born King to see

Our finest gifts we bring to lay before the King

So to honor Him when we come

Little baby, I am a poor boy too

I have no gift to bring, that’s fit to give a King

Shall I play for you, on my drum

Mary nodded, the ox and lamb kept time

I played my drum for Him, I played my best for Him

Then He smiled at me, me and my drum.

In the beginning there was a sense of awe. These newly converted, water baptized, Spirit-filled believers were full of awe. Acts tells us that they were in awe at the mighty signs and wonders that God was doing in and through them. There was an air of expectancy. They wanted to be together. They did not want to miss a thing. At any moment something spectacular might happen. And they continued together in one mind, and in gladness and sincerity of heart, with joy.

When I first trusted Christ and was Spirit baptized some 46 years ago, I began attending a little meeting in Cullowhee at WCU. It was just about 10 or 12 college students, and a couple of professors. We met on Saturday nights in a house. Here we were, 18-19-20 year old students using our Saturday night in worship and study while the rest of the campus was “out and about.” I’ve been there. Many of you have as well.

How I looked forward to that meeting. I did not want to miss it. There was such anticipation. We started calling it “Saturday Night Live.” We were getting to know our Savior, and with each chorus, each Scripture song, we seemed to grow closer. More in love. We were young. We were foolish. We came early and stayed late. It was a celebration.

Then. I got married. Then I got a job. Then I had kids. Then I had responsibilities. Then I got busy. I “matured.” And the excitement, the anticipation began to wane. And, then I discovered that many times I found excuses to skip.

What happened? Obviously God moved, right? He changed, right? Well we know the answers to those 2 questions. It’s all on me.

The closest pattern to New Testament worship meeting guidelines that I can find is in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14.

1 Cor. 14.26 “When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”

Paul writes in chapter 14 and verse 26 “When you assemble”. When you assemble. Just this Sunday morning I was “assembled.” And in this assembly there is the possibility that EACH ONE has something. to give. Something to offer. Something to strengthen the Body. Jesus revealing Himself in and through the Body.

Did I – did you – enter “the assembly” today presenting ourselves to our Father as a living sacrifice, making ourselves available to Him. Did I come with gladness and sincerity of heart? Did I come with anticipation? Did I bring my drum – my gift – and “play my best for Him?”

Paul continues, in verse 6, to say that God works all things in all persons. To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. One has a word of wisdom, another has a word of knowledge. Another has faith. Another has a prophecy. Another effects miracles.

Surely there is a mistake!!

I have no gift to bring! I am just a poor boy! I have nothing fit for a King! I am not part of the “each one.” I am excluded from “all.”

If this is my attitude, then I may as well turn my face away from Jesus and call Him a liar! The drummer boy was poor, but he had a drum. And so do I.

AND —I can rediscover my joy. My anticipation. My excitement.

When you assemble! Each one! Holy Spirit in me. Same Holy Spirit in you!

There are many different meetings that we can attend. I guess all are good. Bible studies. Prayer groups. Women’s meetings. But there is normally only one corporate meeting per week for most of us. It should be special. It should be something I do not want to miss.It should be something that produces awe, because at any moment God could and might do something unforgettable.

And what have I brought? Maybe I only have a little bitty drum. A broken tambourine. A rusty gift that used to be vibrant in me. So I say today, to myself first, and to you, that we should refocus ourselves on this time together. I COME TODAY WITH WHAT I HAVE. LORD, USE ME IF YOU PLEASE. WHAT I HAVE I YIELD TO YOU, AND IF YOU DESIRE TO MINISTER THROUGH ME TODAY TO STRENGTHEN SOMEONE THEN I WILL BE BLESSED AND HONORED.

I OFFER YOU MY DRUM. I WILL PLAY MY BEST FOR YOU  – TODAY.

And in my spirit, I believe that the Lord Himself will smile at us, when we come together offering what we have and believing that He delights in seeing His church built up.

So create in me a clean heart. O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Restore unto me the joy of salvation.

 

Well, enough for now. I have more to add. But maybe another day.

i

 

 

NOW IS THE TIME I MUST SING

Let’s lay the corners of the puzzle first.

Luke 19.37-40  — And as He was now approaching, the near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all of the miracles which they had seen, saying “Blessed is the King Who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” And He answered and said, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out.”

1 Peter 2.9 — But you are a Chosen Race, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, a People for God’s Own Possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him Who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

Hebrews 13.15 — Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.

John 4.23-24 — An hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

There’s a story about a small boy sitting by his parents in a morning worship service (NOT YOUR congregation!!) Like most small boys, his attention was neither easily captured not readily held. So he began looking around – all over – for something to look at. After counting all the bald heads, the cell phones, and tattoos, his eyes fell on a bronze plaque on the wall. It had stars, letters, and the outline of an American flag. He nudged his mom and pointed to it, “What’s that?”

She replied, “That is in memory of all those who died in the service.”

There was a long pause. Then, with a sense of concern, nearing panic, he said, “Which service, morning or evening?”

All of us (again, never at OUR meetings) have attended worship services that began at 11:00 sharp and ended at 12:00 dull. (but not OUR congregation, we start at 10!)

My brethren, may it never be! However, we are in a battle. Galatians 5.17 tells us that the flesh sets itself against the spirit. We have an enemy. This enemy does not want us to proclaim the excellencies of our Lord. This enemy does not want us to offer the fruit of our lips – the praise due His name. This enemy does not want us to be true worshipers, who worship in spirit and truth.

There is a reason it is called the “sacrifice” of praise. We have to take action. We have to open our mouths. We have to speak.

Worship is a verb! Worship is more than a church meeting. It is more than singing songs. It is more than praying. I can attend a meeting, but did I worship?

Worship is an encounter with God – a living celebration in which we are in the presence of and drawing life from the Lifegiver. It is a dynamic encounter with the living Lord in which we offer Him the adoration, honor and glory He rightly deserves, and at the same time we enjoy His presence and are transformed by Him.

Like those around the throne in heaven that we see in Revelation 4, when we see Him face to face, we say HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is the Lord God Almighty, Who was, and Who is, and Who is to come, worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory, and honor and power.

The Old Testament tabernacle had 3 sections, the Outer Court, the Inner Court, and the Holy of Holies. I certainly do not have space here to describe the entire scope of the tabernacle and its meanings, both literal and symbolic, but I do need to say this.

The Outer Court is where you enter. It is in the Outer Court that you wash your hands – you “come clean”. You ask Holy Spirit to reveal your sin. It is here that you are washed in the blood of the Lamb. You are forgiven, and you receive assurance of that cleansing. Indeed, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Hallelujah.

So we proceed into the Inner Court. After being washed, what can we do? What should we do? We can and should REJOICE! Shout it from the mountaintops. Proclaim the excellencies of Him Who called us out of darkness. Yell, scream, brag on HIM. Give Him honor. Give Him glory.

We enter His gates with thanksgiving in our hearts. We enter His courts with praise. He has made me glad.

Yet why are so many of so quiet, so reluctant? We yell, scream, stomp, pull, and cheer for our favorite sports teams. we go to games and get so excited. Sometimes we even jump out of our seats. We sit on the edge, anxious for the next play, full of anticipation.

We go to concerts and holler and clap. We want to get as close as we can to the stage. We pull out our cell phones (well, I don’t!) and wave them in the air. It is so nice. We take selfies so folks will know who we’ve been in the presence of (well, I don’t!)

we go to movies and get so caught up in the drama. We cry. It is so touching.

Yet if anyone – anyone – who ever lived deserved the greatest applause, the loudest cheer – if anyone deserves to be hollered at, chased after, and yelled for – I say it is Jesus Christ!

He is the most exciting, the most dynamic, the greatest. There is none like Him! He deserves more than some little polite golf clap! Our excitement and enthusiasm for Him should surpass the sum total of everything else we enjoy in our lives.

In 1 Samuel 16 we see King Saul haunted by an evil spirit. Verse 14 tells us that it terrorized him. Verse 16 brings the solution. “Now command your servants to seek a man who is skillful on the harp and it shall come about that when the evil spirit is on you the harp shall be played and you will be well.”  So they located David and sure enough as David played Saul was refreshed. What caused the evil spirit to depart” Praise and worship. You see, IF YOU BUILD A THRONE, HE WILL COME! And there, we enjoy the divine exchange. We give up our ashes, mourning and heaviness, and He gives us beauty, joy, and the garment of praise.

Later in 2 Samuel we find David, now king, leading the procession bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem after many years of absence. David is so thrilled by this that he begins leaping and dancing. He is completely uninhibited, before the Lord, and all the people. Most of them, including his wife, are embarrassed. Miriam leads the way in publicly rebuking him for “making a fool of himself”.

But let me say this. When you see what David saw, and you feel what David did — when you are so focused on and thrilled by the Father, you’ll do what David did!

Like David did in Jehovah’s sight, we will dance with all our might!

You see, praise is His address.

Now, the Holy of Holies.

In Luke 7.36-50 we have Jesus invited as a guest to the house of Simon, a Pharisee, for a dinner engagement. We see Jesus “reclining” at Simon’s table. Then uninvited, a woman – an immoral woman – enters.

Please read the passage for yourself.

Here I want to point out 5 things about this woman.

There is desire and recognition. She recognized her own need and then was birthed a desire to locate and go to Jesus. She investigated. She searched until she located Him. She knew of Him, maybe she had previously been ministered to by Him. But certainly we can say that she knew enough that all that mattered was to find Him and be with Him. To be in His presence. His presence, where healing is, where forgiveness is, where restoration is, where lives are changed.

Next, she came prepared. She brought with her a vial of costly perfume. She did             not come empty-handed. She is making a sacrifice – a sacrifice of praise. She is                 entering with thanksgiving. She is pouring herself out – like David – for Him.

She is focused and uninhibited. She enters this house uninvited. But no one is               ever uninvited to the presence of Jesus! She throws herself at His feet. She                       disregards everything and everyone else. “And the things of earth grow strangely         dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” When we enter the Holy of Holies, it is                 just Jesus and me.

And what does Jesus do?

He recognizes her.  Jesus does not pull away. He does not rebuke her for who she is or what she is wasting. He does not tell her that this is the wrong time and she is inn the wrong place. No. He gives her His personal attention. As she focuses on Him, He focuses on her.

Next, Jesus is provoked to respond. He desires to minister to her, and as He knows the innermost parts of her being, He is able to pinpoint her need.

And we can be convinced that Jesus also came prepared. Are we not worth more than the lilies of the field and birds of the air? How He longs to love His children. When we come into His presence, when we worship Him in spirit and in truth, all the power of God meets us.

Lastly, Jesus is also uninhibited. Jesus was invited to this house – the house of Simon the Pharisee. There were other “important” people there. Jesus COULD HAVE thought, “This is the wrong time, the wrong place; what will they think of Me; would it be rude to ignore the one who invited Me?”

But He did not. This woman meant business. She had dared enter the Holy of Holies. And so did He! It is never the wrong time. It is never the wrong place. Whenever and wherever I am, there He is.

And then there is Simon. The religious man. The worship meeting attender. He wanted no part of this sinner. She disgusted him. Further, Simon’s reaction to her shows that he really wanted no part of Jesus either. “You gave Me no water for my feet; you gave me no kiss; you did not anoint My head with oil.” In other words, Simon extended none of the common courtesies that a guest should have expected and was common in that era.

In other words, Simon desired a form of religion, but with no power, no love. Simon wanted Jesus in the room, but had no interest in getting close. Simon wanted an “outer court” experience, but wanted no part of the Holy of Holies.

Simon’s worship was shallow; hers was extravagant. Simon stiff-armed the Lord; she eagerly embraced Him. Simon’s “applause” was a finger clap; hers was a “thunder-clap!”

When I look into Your holiness, when I gaze into Your loveliness; when all things that surround become shadows in the light of You. When I’ve found the joy of reaching Your heart, when my will becomes enthroned in Your love; when all things that surround become shadows in the light of You.

And I close with this, the inspiration for the title. And thanks once again to Bill and Gloria Gaither.

“If the rocks would cry out, should His praises die out then the stones must keep silent as long

As long as I’ve breath for the singing, His  praise will keep ringing and I will keep singing my song

Keep silent ye mountains, ye fields and ye fountains

For this is the time I must sing

It’s the time to sing praises to the Rock of the Ages

For this is the time I must sing”

Whew! Enough for now!

 

NO REGRETS

And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men., knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Colossians 3.17, 23-24

Today is important because it is the only day like this you will ever have. Today’s game, today’s meeting, today’s conversation. It is a unique creation, and a gift.

John Denver may not have had many things right in his life – I am not in a position to say – but he did get this one right.

“Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine, I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wine. A million tomorrows shall all pass away, ere I forget all the joy that is mine, today.”

Today. Yes, today.

This may be a somewhat bold statement, but I assert that the church in general. and each fellowship in particular, is handicapped to some degree. We see signs outside stores that say “Handicapped Parking”. Why? These spaces are reserved for individuals  who in some way do not have “all their parts” working properly.

There is a verse in 1 Peter 2.9 that says, “you are a chosen generation. a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

That would be us. Chosen. Royal. A Race. Holy. Peculiar.

Peculiar here does not mean weird, although I will admit that some of us, and even I at times might have deserved that adjective. Rather, it means “to be one’s own.” We are God’s own. We belong to God. We are His possession.

Peculiar also means particular, meaning pertaining to a single person or thing – something private or special or unique to that person. An example would be my fingerprints, or handwriting style.

With this in mind, look at 1 Corinthians 12.27. “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”   

Anyone born of God is individually and particularly a member of the Body of Christ. And, each of us is unique, so much so that no one else in the Body can do something exactly as we would, or say it exactly the way we would. Each of us has a calling uniquely our own.

Paul teaches here in 1 Corinthians that everyone has a place and a function. Just as the members and various muscles, joints, ligaments, organs and systems and cells of the human body has a specific and particular – peculiar function, so do we.

Not all are apostles. Not all are prophets. Not all are pastors. But notice, in verse 28 of 1 Corinthians, another “ministry.” Here listed among the more “dramatic” or noticeable ministries are HELPS and ADMINISTRATIONS.

Now, who is in the ministry of helps? How about anyone who helps? The babysitter in the nursery, the sound technician, the chair arranger, the bathroom cleaner, the doughnut “getter.” You may never have the windows of heaven open and hear a voice “thou art a sound technician!” But you may hear the words in your heart, GET INVOLVED!

You want to find your gifting? Well how about start that journey by pitching in. By assisting. By getting your hands dirty and working up a sweat. BE AN AARON OR HUR ASSISTING MOSES. They held his hands up in the air and as long as they did, Israel prevailed.

We need anointed building cleaners. Anointed greeters. I want someone anointed to care for my child. Every job in the Kingdom is important. IF YOU ARE IN THE BODY OF CHRIST YOU ARE SPECIAL, AND EVERY JOB IS SPECIAL. Whether you are called to preach or clean, lead or help, it is all important to God and we are called to DO IT AS UNTO HIM.

We are born with a pre-ordained gifting from Father to minister in the Body. The elders will only give account for their gifting, not anyone else’s. Someday I will give an account for what I did with my gifting(s).

Read Acts 20. 25-27. Paul says, “And now, behold, I know that you all, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day, that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.” 

NO REGRETS! Paul, before the Father, and before men, can say that he is confident that he had fulfilled his gifting. He did not give 95%.

Here are some results from a recent Gallup poll concerning the work ethic in America.

1 out of 4 job holders confessed to working at less than full potential

50% said that they don’t put any effort into their work that is above what is required

75% said that they know they could be more effective

60% said they don’t work as hard as they used to

We are handicapped. I am handicapped. And I am handicapping you because I am not completely fulfilling my part. Lord, forgive me!

This is the spirit of the world creeping into the church. Or maybe it crept out of the church into the world.

In Luke 13 we have the “parable of the barren fig tree.”  Here, the vineyard owner (God) goes to the fig tree 3 years in a row and although the tree is alive, healthy and full of beautiful green leaves, it is barren. Alive, but no fruit. Born again! Sins forgiven! Fruitless!

Notice that the owner (God) regularly inspects His tree for fruit. 3 years in a row. Yet, after all this time, when He should expect some fruit, there is none. At last, He is upset, and rightfully so. Everything that should have been done for this tree had been done. The other trees around it are bearing fruit. All had been treated the same. He is ready to cut it down.

God is saying to me -PHIL WOODY, HOW LONG ARE YOU GOING TO DRAG YOUR FEET? HOW LONG ARE YOU GOING TO OCCUPY PRECIOUS SPACE? WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO USE THE GIFTS I GAVE YOU?

But thanks for the vineyard keeper (Jesus). He is the Keeper of the Body. He is Head of His Church. One day He will present the Father with the Bride, and she will be spotless.

Listen to His voice, “Leave it alone, Sir, for one more year. I will dig around it some more. I will fertilize it. One more year, Sir.”

We should all rejoice for mercy. Mercy. The longsuffering of God.

There are times when I know that I’m not working to my potential. Times when I’m doing the bare minimum. Too many minutes and hours of each day when I forget that in reality, I live in the presence of AN AUDIENCE OF ONE.

How easily God could “show up” for inspection and see little if any fruit in my life. And, considering the importance of the hour, plant another tree in my place.

But I hear Jesus say, “Father, give Me some time, give him another chance. Holy Spirit can make something out of this one.”

And it is time for me to rise up and say, NO MORE WOULDA, SHOULDA, COULDA. It is time for me to rise up embrace today. To embrace my place. To embrace who He made me to be. To embrace the gifts and talents He gave me. Not to wish I had something else. To be all God has chosen me to be.

There is a Jewish parable about Moshe, a humble shoemaker, who after dying, finds himself about to meet his maker. He is worried, and begins to utter laments and excuses for his failure to have made more of himself in life.

An angel appears to Moshe with this advice. “When you are in His presence He will not ask why you were not Moses or King David or Elijah; He will ask you why you were not Moshe the shoemaker.”

The point of life is not greatness. The point is to be all you can be, to be faithful to your God-given portion. Your own peculiarity. To be able to say, when it’s all been said and done, I have no regrets. To live – today – knowing that I gave my all to Him Who gave me all.

Well, enough said. For now.