AWARENESS

What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.  –  Abraham Maslow   

Something finally started to sink in today and it’s this: We (I) need to be thankful in the hard things that life brings us and the difficult people we must interact with each day, for these are the measuring sticks for us to gauge just exactly where we (I) currently are along the path to becoming like Jesus.

Because He is our goal, right? To live like Jesus lives, and to love like Jesus loves is what each and every Jesus-follower is moving toward, isn’t it?

Well lately, it been very apparent to me that I have a long, long way to go. But now, instead of grumbling, mumbling, and complaining all the time about the tough things and problem people in my life, I can thank GOD for these since they provide me with the opportunities I need to develop and mature in the places I am weakest.

AWARENESS is the first step towards change!

Ignorance is bliss…

Ignorance is bliss; Knowledge is brutal.  Salvation is free; Discipleship is costly. Thus, these become matters of awareness and want-to.

Awareness of GOD; Awareness of others; Awareness of myself.

The Want-to learn; The Want-to grow; The Want-to change.

Knowledge requires responsibility and Discipleship demands accountability.

To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. Matthew 13:12 

But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone who has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required. Luke 12:48

PRIDE and ARROGANCE… A Crumb from Ezekiel 31

On June 21 during the eleventh year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, this message came to me from the Lord:  “Son of man, give this message to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and all his hordes:

“To whom would you compare your greatness?  You are like mighty Assyria, which was once like a cedar of Lebanon, with beautiful branches that cast deep forest shade and with its top high among the clouds. Deep springs watered it and helped it to grow tall and luxuriant. The water flowed around it like a river, streaming to all the trees nearby. This great tree towered high, higher than all the other trees around it. It prospered and grew long thick branches because of all the water at its roots. The birds nested in its branches, and in its shade all the wild animals gave birth. All the great nations of the world lived in its shadow. It was strong and beautiful, with wide-spreading branches, for its roots went deep into abundant water. No other cedar in the garden of God could rival it. No cypress had branches to equal it; no plane tree had boughs to compare. No tree in the garden of God came close to it in beauty. Because I made this tree so beautiful, and gave it such magnificent foliage, it was the envy of all the other trees of Eden, the garden of God.

 Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because Egypt became proud and arrogant, and because it set itself so high above the others, with its top reaching to the clouds, I will hand it over to a mighty nation that will destroy it as its wickedness deserves. I have already discarded it. Ezekiel 31:1-11

 

It’s sad how prosperity and success so often result in pride and arrogance; and equally sad how poverty and suffering can result in grumbles of victimization and contempt. This is true for individuals, organizations, as well as nations. When things go well for us, we like to take the credit; yet when things go wrong, we look for someone or something to blame.

We have nothing in life – nothing on planet earth and beyond – that hasn’t been given to us. Our breath, our intellect, our ingenuity, our energies – all of these have been provided to us by Almighty GOD. We have done nothing to earn or deserve His blessings, His abundances, His provisions, and His protection. These are only and all grace to us from Him.

We should all be thankful, grateful, and humble because of this. We should be singing His praises and sharing His bounty all the day long – letting the whole world know how awesome and great and generous GOD really is. And to top it off – He has given us salvation from our sins through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of His Son, Jesus, the Christ!

Oh praise Him! Oh praise Him!

BUSINESSMEN and BEAURUCRATS, or SHEPHERDS?

Here’s the deal…

We live in a culture with an excess of churches – with new ones starting up and old ones closing their doors each and every week. A large portion of these congregations are vibrant and thriving, yet far too many fall into one of two extremes which has become quite typical of the western church. One extreme is dead and dying; the other extreme is gimmicky and goofy. And these two extremes usually follow one of three distinct organizational structures: The Corporation, The Cult, and The Co-Op – and these three structures can be found in either of the two extremes.

The Corporation Church is run like every other big business in the U.S.A. It has a Type A Senior Pastor who steers the ship where he wants it to go with all the normal business functions of branding, budgeting, and boasting found in every corporation. Under the Senior Pastor is a plethora of “yes”- men and women who pacify the Senior Pastor’s ego and together form their own “Board of Directors” consisting of subordinate pastors, elders, deacons, and coordinators who develop protective cliques in order protect their positions and promote their programs – most of which are foolish, frivolous, and fruitless in their efforts to develop people who display Christ in their lives and relationship.

The Cult Church emerges from a particular charismatic, ego-centric personality who is able to coerce and convince   others to follow his/her agenda – usually promoting it as something new, novel, and necessary. He/She is often a self-proclaimed prophet, apostle, evangelist, or healer who is somehow able to make some people buy into his/her means, methods, and manipulations.

The Co-Op Church is usually formed by a group of dis-grunted church-goers who are fed-up with the bureaucracy and/or rigidity found in many current religious denominations and congregations, who break away and form their own “house-church” which then grows over time and becomes another local congregation of its own. The Co-Op Church is led by lay-people at first, but then they who assign one of their group as their pastor, after he/she gets a on-line, mail-order ordination certificate. Soon thereafter, they become a Corporation Church or a Cult Church depending upon their pastor’s leading style.

For the most part, irregardless of structure, the Church in the United States has become small, shallow, and weak in the impact and influence it havs upon the culture. The Book of Revelation describes seven distinct local congregations (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea) and the specific positive and problem areas that were keeping them from experiencing common union (communion) with Christ and communion unity (community) with one another. Maybe we can learn a few things from them to help us continue our reformation efforts and begin to love and life more like Jesus. For here are some of the results of the no salt, no light form of Church we are today:

  • It is a Church that is small in love for Jesus and one another; but is large in its love for itself and the self-promotion of its personalities, properties, and programs. (Ephesus)
  • It is a Church that is shallow in it’s understanding that suffering with and for Christ is a very normal and expected part of being a Jesus follower; but is deep in making it’s style of Christianity comfortable, convenient, and compliant in every way, shape, and form by attempting to make everyone (but GOD) happy and promoting Christianity as all fun and games. (Smyrna)
  • It is a Church that is weak in regards to what it will tolerate when it comes to “acceptable sins” such as the three G’s of greed, gluttony, and gossiping, as well as heterosexual sex outside of marriage; but is strong in standing against the sins which it deems to be the worst on the list such as homosexuality, abortion, and other societal crimes. (Pergamum)
  • It is a Church that is small in Godly, Biblical leadership as many congregations seek Type A personalities to pastor their church; but is large in giving preferences – and even positions of leadership – to people just because they are wealthy, beautiful, powerful, influential, and/or persuasive, and who infect the body with false teachings and practices. The problem with this is that a good Shepherd, must first and foremost be a good follower of Jesus; and most corporate CEOs (which is what most churches are looking for) are ego-driven, domineering, and determined to do things their way, rather than GOD’s way. (Thyatira)
  • It is a Church that is weak in it’s mindset that “bigger is better,” “growth means GOD’s approval,” and “large equates to alive”; but is strong at incorporating all of the tools and tactics of sales, marketing, and branding into manufacturing “weekend experiences” which come with all the glitz, glamour, gadgetry, and gimmicks of Hollywood and Wall Street combined. These “experiences” are nothing more than fleshly fabrications trying to tickle the fancies of attendees while offering a facade of what Christianity really is. (Sardis)
  • It is a Church that is shallow in discipleship – developing and displaying Christ in us; but is deep in promoting and protecting it’s programs which it believes are new and novel,yet have been and are being done a thousand times over near and far. The Church in the United States is weak in the concept of waiting on GOD and utilizing the power of GOD. Instead, the church today takes matters into our own hands believing we have the answers within ourselves to fix and solve what is wrong. (Philadelphia)
  • It is a Church that is passive, impotent, and a product of the culture. It is lukewarm, like “milk-toast”, and indifferent. The Church is not preserving the culture, seasoning society, and generating thirst for Jesus like it should be. It is not pointing out the way, offering the truth, and modeling the life that is truly life. (Laodicea)

The criteria’s and characteristics that make for good church leadership are not the same as that for corporate America. Businessmen and Beaurucrats do not make good Shepherds of the flock, but rather make good companies, corporations, towns, cities, states, and nations. Shepherds must major in sacrifice, service, and sharing – which is what the Good Shepherd, Jesus, modeled The Church needs to change it’s thinking (repent) again on what it is , what it does, and why it is here.

DEDICATION, DISCIPLINE, AND DETERMINATION

It is astonishing the amount of dedication, discipline, and determination that we display toward our electronic devises – our phones, tablets, computers, IPods, watches, gaming systems…                                                                                                  Just imagine what might happen if we would place this same amount of time, attention, and tenacity into our marriages, families, and other important relationships? What if we actually looked at other people with such focused interest and persistence? What if we studied and listened attentively to those people who are presently around us – whether they be our spouse, our children, our friend, our neighbor, our co-worker, or the people next to us in line, or on the elevator, train, bus, boat, or airplane?

I’m amazed at how little we actually interact and communicate with the people we are with right now. You know, good old person to person, face to face, eyeball to eyeball contact. It’s vanishing, and nobody seems to notice or care.

It’s odd. It’s scary. It’s sad.

THE SPECTRUM OF…FEMININITY AND MASCULINITY

There is a line. At one end is absolute femininity, at the other end is absolute masculinity. You, I, and every person on planet earth falls someplace – at our own unique point on this line. There is no right or wrong place to land – only our own place. This is who we are right now. Men and boys have some combination of masculine and feminine traits. Women and girls have some combination of feminine and masculine traits.

Then GOD said, “Let Us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” So GOD created human beings in His own image. In the image of GOD He created them; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:26-27

GOD is neither male nor female, GOD is GOD. But GOD’s image, His likeness includes both masculine and feminine traits. Together, male and female, represent a better image of GOD than male does alone or female does alone.

Different people depict different styles of femininity and masculinity. Consider these females: Oprah, Madonna, Ellen, Miley Cyrus, Hillary Clinton, Danica Patrick, Taylor Swift, Serena Williams, Gisele Bundchen, and Queen Latifah. Now consider these males: Payten Manning, Justin Bieber, Barack Obama, Franklin Graham, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Anderson Cooper, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kanye West, Tiger Woods, and Gov. Chris Christie.

Where on the line do you fall in the Spectrum of Femininity-Masculinity?

<—————————————————————————————->

Femininity                                                                                                       Masculinity

 

Many factors have shaped and influenced this for all of us. The environment we were raised in as a child; the male and female role models and mother-father figures we had or didn’t have; the experiences we have gone through; our own distinct personalities; and our individual bents, leanings, and desires. Thus, based upon these factors, we all have certain people we relate best to; those we feel most comfortable being around; those whom we fit in with the easiest; and those we find ourselves attracted to.

Yet here’s the dilemma. Our uniqueness – our individual expression and presentation of our femininity and masculinity is one thing. Sexual activity is another thing. So why do so many people force these two things into the same package? Why can’t we leave sexual activity in the one place it was created for and should be reserved for, in marriage = one man + one woman. Sexual activity just doesn’t fit or belong everywhere and in everything we have forced it into. Human beings can survive and even thrive without being sexually active. Friendship is a wonderful invention in and of itself, that doesn’t need to be complicated or coerced through the madness of sex.

Thinking, feeling, and being different doesn’t demand that one must make it a license nor an excuse to twist, pervert, and change the truth about one’s self. But rather, it is a call and a challenge to develop and display one’s own style of femininity and masculinity – wherever it my fall along the spectrum – in a way that is honorable, respectful, dignified, tasteful, and fun. Boys are boys; girls are girls; men are men, and women are women – and each of these come with some standard operating procedures.

The greatest expression of love is to deny one’s self – through sacrifice, service, and sharing. But we live in a society where everyone is defining his/her self and his/her happiness through their sexual thoughts, feelings, and behaviors – which are being called love and confused as love.

Then He (Jesus) said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

Jesus asks us to deny ourselves, rather than to defend ourselves. So let’s admit it, each one of us is a mess. Let’s invite Jesus into our lives and allow Him to re-make us into our true selves. Over time Jesus can and Jesus will change all the things that are in us that are not of Him and not like Him. I personally don’t know what that means for you, as He has His hands full with the work He is doing in me.

A Crumb from II Peter 3 – GOD Is Not Late

Verse 9

GOD isn’t late with His promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining Himself on account of you, holding back the End because He doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.

 

Verse 15

Interpret our Master’s patient restraint for what it is: salvation. Our good brother Paul, who was given much wisdom in these matters, refers to this in all his letters, and has written you essentially the same thing.

 

Verse 18

Grow in grace and understanding of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ. Glory to the Master, now and forever! Yes!

Waiting is hard. Being patient is even harder. But it’s going to be well worth it. Jesus is coming back! And when He comes, O what a day it will be! We can’t fathom it right now. Our minds are unable to comprehend a time when all people will be right with GOD. So wait and witness of Jesus! Be patient and proclaim the Good News of Salvation that is offered and available for all people everywhere! Grow in His grace and give Him thanks and praise!

GOD is not late. Jesus is coming!