Friday, September 28, 2012

Keep What Ya' Got By Giving It All Away

That's the title of a song by ex-Stone Roses singer, Ian Brown.

It's also a really good song.

But I particularly like the title.

I'm not sure if Ian Brown knows it or not, but Jesus said the same thing.

People didn't get it when Jesus said it.

They still don't get it today.

Our minds don't seem to naturally bend in that direction.

When Ian Brown sings it we hear it. But hey, it's just a rock song. Who cares what it means.

When the Church says it, it riles folks up and makes them secure all their stuff and complain that all the Church wants is their money.

There's a whole neat story in three of the gospels, where Jesus encounters a very, very rich young man, who has a bunch of money, servants, possessions, etc. 

The young man initiates the conversation and wants to know how to receive eternal life.

(What do you get the man who has everything?) lol!

Jesus makes the statement: "You know the commandments", and he replied that he had kept them faithfully since he was a boy. (It really wasn't a question, but we rarely listen that intently to God).

The next thing Jesus told him, as recorded in Luke 18, is curious:

"(22) And when Jesus heard it, He said to him, One thing you still lack. Sell everything that you have and divide [the money] among the poor, and you will have [rich] treasure in heaven; and come back [and] follow Me [become My disciple, join My party, and accompany Me]."

In the flesh it's a losing proposition. In the Spirit it's a win.

The young man's response?

"(23) But when he heard this, he became distressed and very sorrowful, for he was rich--exceedingly so."

He saw it totally in the flesh.

Now, there's a lot of speculation about this passage. 

It causes some to get their shorts all bunched up. 

I don't get caught up in all of that stuff. 

I see this confrontation at a point in history as biblically and spiritually significant, and not dumbed down into dollars and cents.

Jesus was really saying that the young fellow needed to put to good use the fortune he had and that he would gain by that. Not lose.

He was sort of saying, "Keep what ya' got by giving it all away."

You'll never lose or become less for following Jesus. Things may change. But you won't lose.

If you understand that like I do this morning, then you are in a very select minority. 

We should establish a society or something.

Remedially it can be explained as "paradoxical".

Jesus is a paradox, so it stands to reason that He will teach paradoxically.

Jesus is not interested in subtraction and division, but addition and multiplication.

He wants us to add and multiply as well. 

We see giving away as subtraction because we don't understand the principles of Jesus.

He sees giving away as a means of us becoming more. Addition. Multiplication.

We are so afraid to trust Jesus. We are afraid to give it away because we think we will be left as beggars.

Never be afraid to give it all away. Your wealth is not contained in your material. 

Your wealth is in Jesus, and He will increase your life and make you rich in areas that you never dreamed.

My prayer today is that there would be unparalleled trust in Jesus Christ with all that you have and all that you are. There is freedom in release. It takes an incredible leap of faith to get to where you can trust Jesus with everything. And I mean everything. Yourself, your family, your finances, your possessions, your home. Could you place it in His hands today? Or will you walk away dejected like the Rich Young Man did? These are the watershed moments of our lives. These are the moments that shape not only who we are, but who we will be.

Be blessed in all you do today!

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Tombstone Territory

My all time favorite Western is Tombstone, which features a pretty decent attempt by Hollywood to portray the days of Wyatt Earp, the OK Corral, and life in Tombstone, Arizona with some historical accuracy.

I look for a deeper existential relationship between the characters and me as the audience. 

This movie was chock full of examples.

For instance:

Wyatt Earp: "What makes a man like Ringo, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?"  

Doc Holliday: "A man like Ringo has got a great big hole, right in the middle of him. He can never kill enough, or steal enough, or inflict enough pain to ever fill it."  

Wyatt Earp: "What does he need?"  

Doc Holliday: "Revenge."  

Wyatt Earp: "For what?"  

Doc Holliday: "Bein' born."


Gunslinger theology.

The hole that can't be filled. Insatiable lust of the flesh. Kill. Steal. Mayhem.

All the elements needed to paint a grim picture of the human condition.

Thank goodness I wasn't that bad.

Yeah, that's what everybody thinks.

We're never as bad as the worst person we can think of.

But, if we really want to take that dog for a walk the discovery might be less than palpable. 

Basically... in a nutshell...a hole is a hole.

The hole is bad. What you stuff it with is worse.

The hole is emptiness. For lack of a better explanation, it's the center of a person. Where the heart and soul of man should be. What makes him tick. The lack of emotions and personality. 

Deadman walking.

Ever meet a "soulless" person?

I have. 

It creates a chill. It makes small hairs stand on end. It causes goosebumps. It's plain unnerving.

Looking into eyes that don't look back.

A spiritual black hole. Sucking in everything that surrounds it.

Nothing can fill it. It just keeps inhaling everything that it fancies. It's voracious.

The emptiness of man is not always filled by murder and mayhem. 

Sometimes it's filled by carnal appetites.

Overeating. Binge drinking. Drugs. Sex. Porn. Power. Money. Manipulation.

Sometimes it's filled by Jesus. Jesus plus.... well... just you.

Our church sign says "You + Jesus = Real Life".

Once Jesus fills you stay filled. The appetite is satiated.

Rom.15:13 - "May the God of hope fill you...".

What's filling you today?

Is it Jesus?

... or...?

My prayer for you today is that it is Jesus who fills you, and that you are so filled with peace and joy and happiness and prosperity and love and... everything else that's wonderful and beautiful and good, that there would be no room for anything else! Be blessed in Him today!

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

High Noon

One of the great classic westerns of all time has to be "High Noon", starring Gary Cooper as a beleaguered town sheriff who all alone has to face a gang of outlaws out to kill him.

The entire town had deserted him. Even his wife.

Maybe that's why the movie theme song, "The Ballad of High Noon" contained the words, "Do not forsake me oh my darling."

Well, in the end she didn't. She came back to actually save her husbands life. 

It's the stuff a good Hollywood oater was made of.

It's also the stuff real life is made up of.

In real life we need someone who is not going to desert us in times of need and peril. We need someone who will save our life. We need someone who will love us unconditionally.

If we are fortunate we will find a partner in life who will provide all of that and more.

If we are more than fortunate we will recognize the ultimate Provider that we have in God.

David saw it. Even in the midst of all his difficulty.

In fact, he had written a song about it a few thousand years ago that contained the same basic element of the High Noon ballad.

David wrote the words "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Lord."

Psalm (or song) 38:21 - "Do not forsake me, Oh Lord! O my God, be not far from me!"

Marshal Will Kane's wife Amy got on the train out of town with the intention of deserting her husband. Will Kane never felt more alone. He never felt more loved either when she returned to help him.

How often have you felt alone?

I mean really alone.

More alone than when a spouse or parent or friend deserts you.

Desolate. Abandoned. Marooned.

That's the feeling we get when we can't feel the presence of God.

David felt it and cried out. Again and again and again.

David was resigned to one thing however.

In verse 15 he says, "But for You, O Lord, do I wait; it is You, O Lord my God, Who will answer."

David, even with all his problems and shortcomings, knew what side of his bread the butter was on.

He was willing to wait.

I have had to wait. You have had to wait. All God's children must wait.

When we learn to do that. When we learn that waiting on God does not mean abandonment by God. When we can get to the place of hope not hopelessness. We grow.

I have found that waiting on God is well worth it.

Even when the circumstances seemed dire, I waited. And waited. And waited.

Suddenly there comes the breakthrough as vivid and majestic as a sunrise after not having seen the sun for weeks.

You just know it's God.

The wait is over.

The reward is sweet.

Waiting for a sweet reward today?

It's coming.

It is you O Lord my God who will answer!

Do you know that today?

If you do the reward will be sweeter when it comes.

My prayer today is for you in the midst of the struggle. If you are feeling alone. Deserted. Abandoned. High Noon has come and gone and there is no relief in sight. It's a dry and lonely place, but God has not deserted you. He is waiting with you. The right time is just around the corner and the reward will be sweet! Hold on. He will never leave you nor forsake you! He is in the fire with you today and will soon lead you into a glorious place. Wait. Trust and wait. Most of all, expect!

Be blessed in your day today!

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How Deep Is Deep?

How deep should we go? I'm talking about with God.

This is not a question easily answered.

Lot's of variables.

If God's in it, as deep as He is willing to take us.

If God's not in it? 

Shallow waters.

Sadly, way too much of the Church moves in shallow waters.

Religious ritual is often mistaken as "going deep" in the Word and Wonder of God.

I know. I lived it.

When I fist became a disciple of Jesus Christ I was one of those people who hungered and thirsted for God.

That may have been true in the beginning, but it eventually changed into chasing after religious favor.

I fell in love more with being a Christian than being in love with Christ. There's a difference.

My family of six at the time were at the church every time the doors were unlocked. Two, sometimes even three services on Sunday, including coming back at night for the 6:30 service. Every bible study, every class, every event. I volunteered for everything. Eventually I even crowded my schedule further by enrolling in preparatory classes to enter the ministry.

It appeared that I was going deep, but I was for the most part in shallow waters.

What ends up happening if we are not careful, is that we start projecting our shallow expectations on others, and when they do not measure up to our ideal, we start to look at them through a jaundiced eye, and not the way God sees them.

The Church can produce that in people. Especially pastors.

Some folks are never going to get too deep. They just don't crave that depth with God.

Skin deep.

Some are like batteries. 

Die Hards.

Most I fear just struggle along on the waves and try to squeeze God in between the rest of the days activities.


Jesus made this observation:

Matthew 5:6 (Amplified Bible) - "Blessed and fortunate and happy and spiritually prosperous (in that state in which the born-again child of God enjoys His favor and salvation) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (uprightness and right standing with God), for they shall be completely satisfied!"

Note the adjectives.

Fortunate. Happy. Spiritually prosperous.

My favorite: "completely satisfied".

Who in their right mind, being aware of the alternatives, would not want to be completely satisfied?

No one. Unless they are not in their right mind.

What then is the right mind? I know a lot of people who aren't completely satisfied in life, and they seem pretty much sane to me.

The right mind is the mind of Christ. The mind that seeks to be upright and upstanding before God.

It's not contingent upon religious observation, but on a heart turned over to Christ.

It's not how many events or classes you attend. It's not based in trying to impress the pastor or the congregation. 

It's not the size of your tithe check.

It's about your hunger and thirst for the heart of Jesus Christ.

You're being cheated if you are being taught anything less.

Let me say that again. 

You're being cheated if you are being taught anything less.

How's your life in Christ today?


Or deep?

Sink. Float. Swim. Which one are you doing?

My prayer for you today is that you would be completely satisfied. Jesus wants nothing less for you today. He wants you to be completely satisfied. Anything less is unsatisfactory. Anything less is unacceptable. Anything less and you are cheating yourself. You can find it in Christ today.

Be blessed!

Keepin' it real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Monday, September 24, 2012

Is It Possible That I'm Not As beautiful As I Think I am?

The cast of Seinfeld make me laugh, but they provide enough examples for deep spiritual analysis to last a lifetime.

If your a fan you'll recall today's dialogue.

Jerry: What's the matter?

Kramer: It's over! 

Jerry: What's over?

Kramer: Me and Lola....

George: The woman we bought the wheelchair for?

Kramer: Yeah, she dumped me! 

Jerry: She dumped you?

Kramer: She dumped me! She rolled right over me! Said I was a hipster dufus. Am I a hipster dufus?

Jerry & George (hesitatingly): ... no...

Kramer: Said I'm not good looking enough for her. Not good looking! Jerry, look at me, look at my face, huh, am I beautiful? George, am I beautiful?

It's a funny scene. On television.

In real life it's downright sad.

"Am I beautiful? Am I? Am I beautiful?" 

Somewhere in there is a desperate cry for help. For validation.

However, it gets downright scary when the person who is asking the question is really trying to get you to agree with their over the top self-grandizing assessment of themselves in all their glory!


Rampant narcissism. It's worse than rampant B.O.

And it's at epidemic proportions.

Never have people with so little to say of value been so listened to by so many.

Never have so many with so little going on in their lives been so revered by so many.

What in the world is happening here? Insanity is the new normal.

Something is radically wrong friends when "Octo Mom" is getting her own TV show.

I have to touch base multiple times daily with the One True Source of normalcy to keep perspective.

What does Jesus have to say about this?

"Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

Love myself? Isn't that the problem here? People loving themselves too much? No, it's loving ourselves too much and never letting it spread outwards.

Jesus would never tell us to enter into a narcissistic love relationship with ourself. 

That's left up to the psycho babbling self-esteem boosters.

Here's another term that follows on the heels of narcissism. Self-esteem, or better yet, "low" self-esteem.

Good grief, we don't need more self-esteem, we esteem ourselves to highly already.

What the world needs is a dose of "Christ esteem."

Back to Gal. 2:20 again. - "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."

Self put to death. On the cross. With Jesus. We died. He lives. I'm still dead. See Jesus . Not me.

The complete and total antithesis of self-esteem and narcissism.

More of Him. Less of me. I must decrease so that He may increase. John the Baptist knew that. He turned all his followers over to Jesus and backed out of the picture.

There is no sin apart from selfishness. All sin is rooted in selfishness. Lose yourself in Christ and offending God goes away.

Run your ego past Jesus and see how it stands up.

My prayer for you today is that you would see your beauty in Christ because He thinks you're beautiful. Know that He loves and adores you today and I guarantee it will be enough. There is no need to chase after the world for selfish gain when the Master and Creator of the universe thinks you're special!

Be blessed today and pay it forward in prayer!

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Friday, September 21, 2012

Get Over Yourself

When you get this, you really get it. It flows over you like a wave. Wraps around you like a warm blanket.

It makes you feel well. Excited. Like you have really discovered something.

I'm talking about when a particular truth of God is revealed to you in all it's clarity.

Clear. Concise. Weighty. Deep. Profound.

I remember when I found out I'm a weakling. Cowardly. Lazy. Irresponsible. 

I'm really not "all that". I'd like to think I am. But I'm not.

That's the reality of it. In truth it's who I am.

I had to be put back in touch with that. I had been thinking maybe I was a lot of things I'm really not.

I had to get past me.

I forgot where all my success, strength, happiness, joy, peace, comfort, bravery, etc. really lies.

It's in Christ, and I realized that I have been robbing Him of the credit.

2 Corinthians 12:10 (Amplified Bible) - "So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak ]in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength)."

Take pleasure in? Are you kidding me? I've spent my life trying to escape those things.

I've even twisted the Word to say the opposite. 

Check out verse 9: - "But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!"

I think there is a portion of the church today that is full of false bravado. Sort of like beer muscles.

We have become afraid to express our weakness, and therefore never become strong.

Spiritual anemia.

Paul's words have been hijacked. If Paul's been hijacked then so has Christ. And that ain't good.

Is His grace really sufficient for you today? 

Do you really believe that the weaker you are the more perfected God's strength and power is in you?

And here's the kicker... can you, without fear, reservation, or embarrassment (that's the big one), declare your weakness before others?

It does not come without penalty. The world will look at you as something to devour. Even some in the church will look at your weakness and not the strength of God.

I think we like to pay lip service to the weakness, but when the chips are down we will not be as bold as Paul.

Paul kicked and screamed against his thorn in the flesh, and then he had a little parlay with God.

God essentially told him, "Paul, you're a human weakling, and you always will be. The difference in you is that you have Me. That is where your strength will always be. It's something I do for you and everyone who believes in Me."

How can we get so far from that?

Well, for me I was beginning to revel in God's favor in my life. I realized that I had a boastful attitude about it. I was smug. Oh, maybe it didn't appear that way to others, but in my quiet spirituality I sometimes felt superior over others who didn't appear to have the favor of God upon them.

I was becoming a Pharisee who would look at the wretch pouring his heart out to God in all his sins and be thinking somewhere deep in my spirit that I am glad that I am much more favorable to God. Not consciously, but certainly it was in there somewhere.

Nothing wrong with boasting about God, but make sure you are boasting on Him, and NOT your ability to lay claim to God. There is a difference and the wrong choice can be fatal.

So...yes...I am weak. Anything I am, or ever hope to become, rises and falls on His grace toward me. I am nothing, and He is everything.

My prayer for you today is to not lament over your weaknesses and shortcomings, but to allow God's all sufficient grace to flow over you and fill you. Allow Jesus to pitch His tent over you today! Therein lies your strength and power to overcome and conquer!

Be blessed!

Keepin' it real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Thursday, September 20, 2012

These Are The Good Old Days

I tend to measure everything existentially now days. Not religiously (thank you Jesus for freeing me from that). If that means being genuine, then I'm that. We need a genuine Christianity. I don't like the generic media generated greed based religious definition. It doesn't represent the Church I serve, or the Christ I love.

The popular religious form of Christianity is narrow, malnourished, religious, and anemic. It's just a historical representation as one of the three major world religions. It always seems to be in competition.

It lacks.

I always notice that many times the emaciated church refers to itself as in the past. That we need to "get back" to the "way it was." I used to think that until I realized the church that is entertaining that line of reasoning essentially is not the church at all. It is the malnourished, anemic, starving shell of what the Church is. To be clear here and not confuse, there is THE CHURCH, and there is the sham version. The sham version gets all the press. It tickles the senses. It entertains.

Measure it against the ideal of "without spot or wrinkle" and you tell me.

If the Church is the living organism I believe it is, and that it is eternal and comprised of the Living Stones which are the "true" believers in Christ, then it can't be "the way it was", but has to be "the Way it is"!

The shriveled up misrepresentation of the church is sad. It's a spiritual good 'ol boy network propagating and keeping alive an erroneous and deceitful network of messages and dog and pony shows. Circus Maximus. Shiny objects that attract. Comedians with phony baloney credentials passed on by others with phony baloney credentials. It's an infectious disease that's not fooling God.

It's closer to a pyramid scheme than a church. It's being bought and sold in the market place to the highest bidders. It's Enron. It's AIG. It's a failure. It's bursting at the seems with greed and avarice.

A wise man once said, "The garbage is getting piled so high on Calvary that we can hardly see the Cross!"

When it comes to the Church, the Way it was is the Way it is. It IS the Way. The Way is Jesus. In other words, it's alive and functional. It's just not the one that most people ever get to see. We don't have to "get back" to anything. The true Church of Jesus Christ has never been less than it ever was. 

John 14:6 (Amplified Bible) - "Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me."

It's a simple yet concise creed. He is everything. 

Look here:

John 15:5 (Amplified Bible) - "I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing."

There it is. The way we are, not the way we were. If the Way is the way, then the Way is the way it is. The way it always has been. The way it always will be. Now and forever.

Apart from Jesus we are nothing. Never have been. Never will be.

I am in Him so I really am. Existential? So be it. But it's real.

I love being me. The same person I always have been, but redeemed in Him. A better version of reality.

I suppose that's what Jesus really meant when He said we have to love ourselves in order to love our neighbor (each other). Anything short of that is a total abject failure.

My prayer for you today is that you are vibrantly and completely attached to the Vine. That your fruit is abundant, and that you are in vital union with Him! Run it all past Jesus today, and be blessed!

Keepin' it real,

Pastor Kevin <><