Monday, October 29, 2012

If I Only Had A Heart

Mark 12:30-31 (Amplified Bible) - "And you shall love the Lord your God out of and with your whole heart and out of and with all your soul (your life) and out of and with all your mind (with your faculty of thought and your moral understanding) and out of and with all your strength. This is the first and principal commandment. (31) The second is like it and is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these."

I can't do this.

I remember myself thinking that at one time.

"I can't do this."

I was right. I couldn't do it.

And neither could you.

In our own strength we cannot fulfill these commandments of Jesus Christ.

This is why we need God. 

We cannot love God, ourselves, or anybody for that matter without God.

1 John 4:19 (Amplified Bible) - "We love Him, because He first loved us."

This is why we are able to love.

We can love Him, our own selves, and others because He took the first step toward us.

Love is always the first step, and the reason for all the steps after.

Love initiates, love keeps it all flowing.

My heart was stone. He softened it to flesh.

It was a rocky soil, He made it fallow to receive His love.

Ezekiel 36:26 (Amplified Bible) - "A new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."

I was a Tin Man before that. A "clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous....junk."

Useless. Rusting away. Ready for the scrap heap.

Now there is a beating heart of flesh softened by the Spirit of God.

Tin Man's new heart was tested and proven when it started to break at Dorothy's farewell.

"Now I know I've got a heart -- 'cause it's breaking."

Yes, it breaks, but it keeps us in touch with God.

In my humble opinion the breaking heart, and the sometimes overwhelming feeling of helplessness that accompanies it is our tangible link to God.

Maybe it's different for you, but I know there was a time when it didn't break and I was far from God.

It breaks today and I sense a closeness to Him I wouldn't trade for all the cold hearted stoicism in the world no matter how much money it brought with it.

How's your heart today? Warm? Beating? 

Is it breaking? I hope so. There is much surrounding you that will cause it to.

Get in touch with it. Embrace it. It's the heart of God in you.

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Friday, October 26, 2012

Trying Or Trusting?

In the matter of your relationship with God, particularly as far as your salvation goes, trying doesn't cut it.

If you are trying too hard, or not hard enough, the entire action one way or another is futile.

How many times have I heard the words, "Pastor, I'm trying."

Well then stop it.

Stop trying. It will never get you anywhere.

What are you "trying" to accomplish anyway?

Are you trying to improve your old nature before God?

Why? He provides a new nature.

Are you trying to become more righteous?

Why? Our own righteousness are as filthy rags.

He gives us the righteousness of Christ.

Are you trying to do more for God?

God has endeavored to do for you.

Are you trying to improve your behavior?

Our salvation depends on believing, not behaving.

Are you trying to develop your character?

It's not sufficiency of character, but the sufficiency of the sacrifice.

Are you trying to develop a sacrificial existence?

Trust in the finished sacrifice.

Are you trying to attain?

Jesus has atoned.

On and on it can go.

Trying versus trusting.

Religion versus salvation.

You can't work your way into it. You can't buy your way in. You can't knock on enough doors, write enough tithe checks, attend enough church. You can't read enough bible passages, feed enough poor, house enough homeless, confess enough sins. 

There is only one way.

Acts 4:12 (Amplified Bible) - "And there is salvation in and through no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by and in which we must be saved."

Nothing else gets the attention of God more effectively than the name of Jesus Christ.

"It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead..." (vs.10)

No other way. None. Nil. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Zero.

So tell me. Why are you trying?

Why not just yield?

Give yourself over?

There is no trying involved in that.

Just do it.

Right now.

Do it.

Say it.

Jesus, I am yours. All of me. I now belong to you.

Say it.

Say it and then leave it alone.

It's His work, not yours.

Let yourself be His work instead of trying to be His project manager.

I'd love to hear how that works out for you.

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Unthought Known

Some might be thinking, "Pastor must really be tired this morning, he got the title backward!"


It's the known we sometimes don't think about.

Maybe seldom think about.

Or never think about.

I am reminded of when the disciples were on a boat during a sudden squall.

They were struggling to get the boat to the other side as the winds were making the waves difficult to work the oars through.

The Word tells us in Mark 6:48: "And having seen that they were troubled and tormented in [their] rowing, for the wind was against them, about the fourth watch of the night [between 3:00-6:00 a.m.] He came to them, walking [directly] on the sea."

Often times, maybe in the midst of the worst of trouble, He comes to us. Even when He is the farthest from our mind.

Nothing prevents Jesus from doing that. 

Not our failures. Not our thoughtlessness. Not our weak faith. Not our stubbornness.

Not even self centered laziness.

He will even walk on water during the worst storm to get to you.

Not too many folks I know will get up at 3 a.m. to pull someone's fat out of the fire.

It's tough to recall Jesus when we are only hearing or reading about Him less than an hour per week.

He quickly fades in the lives of some and becomes...

The "Unthought Known".

You know He's out there somewhere, but He's more like background music. It's playing, but you're not really hearing it.

The noise of life drowns out the still small voice.

Maybe it's time for an adjustment.

The way we make time for Jesus.

We can change how we allow external interruptions to interfere with our time spent with Him.

I mean, He knows you're there, and He will go the distance to let you know that.

Be blessed today! Think about Him!

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Can Handle This

I like famous last words.

"It's cool. There's only a few of them." (Gen. George Armstrong Custer)

"That doesn't look too bad. How big can it be?" (Captain Edward Smith, RMS Titanic)

"That hemlock tea recipe you gave me is absol......." (Socrates)

"I can handle this." (Anyone who ever thought they could handle "this")

Whatever "this" might be, if you find yourself even thinking that "it" needs handling, chances are you probably can't.

Things that need to be "handled" generally need to have help in doing so.

I think that probably the most often repeated famous last words are "I can handle this."

Imagine if everybody heeded my response to that this morning.

Them: "I can handle this."

Me: "No you can't."

I could embellish that a bit, but then it would become advice.

Maybe some long, drawn out advice like Jerry gave George on Seinfeld:

"You know you really need some help. A regular psychiatrist couldn't even help you. You need to go to like Vienna or something. You know what I mean? You need to get involved at the University level. Like where Freud studied and have all those people looking at you and checking up on you. That's the kind of help you need. Not the once a week for eighty bucks. No. You need a team. A team of psychiatrists working round the clock thinking about you, having conferences, observing you, like the way they did with the Elephant Man. That's what I'm talking about because that's the only way you're going to get better."

That's called "advice without substance". Or, suggestions that don't work, but make us feel like we have helped.

But hey! Why worry? You can handle it. Right?

I could hope that someone at their computer this morning is reading this and taking a deep sorrowful breath saying to their self, "No, I can't. I really can't handle it. I need help."

There's all kind of difficulties that can arise that we cannot, absolutely cannot handle ourselves.

Sudden health crisis, financial burden, job loss, relationship strain, substance abuse, depression.

Crisis in faith.

You don't need poor advice. You need supernatural intervention.

You don't even need faith. Yet.

You just need to be desperate enough to finally see that your needs are beyond your own fixing.

That your needs are beyond anyone fixing them for you. Admit.

Yes, that's right. There is no knight on a white steed. No magic bullet. No mantra. No talisman. No shaman.

The bottom line (which oddly enough is generally recognized when we hit bottom) is God.


I chuckle when I hear some "unchurched" folks say, "My problems need the wisdom of Solomon to solve."


Proverbs 3:5-6 (Amplified Bible) - "Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. (6) In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths."

Remember I said you don't even need faith (should yours be waning this morning)?

All you need is desperation, desire, and determination. Not to solve your problem, but just to turn to realize you need something outside yourself.

Just make up your mind to seek God.

Faith gets built or restored later. He will suppy even that.

Remember, Jesus died for you when you were a sinner, not a faith filled believer (Rom. 5:8).

God doesn't ask your mouth to write checks your soul can't cash.

He just asks to give Him a shot.

If you're honest you will recall that you have placed your confidence and trust in a lot more ridiculous things than the concept of God helping you.

So, why not God?

Really. Why not?

Do you have another hot prospect cooking to solve your problem this morning?

No matter how good and promising it might look, you don't. Your hot prospects have landed you in desperation.

All you really have is a God who loves you and will help you if you give Him the chance.

Stop counting on yourself to deal with it. You can't.

God can. God wants to. God will.

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Lifestyle Determines My Deathstyle

My Lifestyle Determines My Deathstyle.

That catchy little phrase can be attributed to James Hetfield. Poet, musician, noted headbanger.

I figure it goes down a little easier if I just don't blurt out right away that it comes from a Metallica song.

(*Gasp* He listens to Metallica? I don't know if I can trust him anymore). Heh-heh.

Seriously. This is as true a word that was ever spoken.

How you live will generally determines how you die.

Even just in the flesh it's bad. Real bad.

Chances are that if you smoke a few packs a day for a long time you will more than likely die from some tobacco related illness. Cancer, emphysema, heart disease.

If you drink too much your liver and brain function will suffer.

Eat too much and your arteries will clog and your heart will give out under the stress.

What does the bible have to say about this?

Let's look at Paul's letter to the Galatians 6:7-8 - "Do not be deceived and deluded and misled; God will not allow Himself to be sneered at (scorned, disdained, or mocked by mere pretensions or professions, or by His precepts being set aside.) [He inevitably deludes himself who attempts to delude God.] For whatever a man sows, that and that only is what he will reap. (8) For he who sows to his own flesh (lower nature, sensuality) will from the flesh reap decay and ruin and destruction, but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."

Whatever we sow, that is what we will reap.

Sow to the flesh and watch it decay before your eyes.

Sow to the Spirit and reap an eternal benefit.

Metaphorically, whatever we plant that is what will grow and what we will pick.

You will not delude God on this nor circumvent His will.

Plant corn and don't expect peas to grow. It won't. It's a natural agricultural law that God created (Gen. 1:12). It cannot be changed.

Neither can these.

Give cheaply but don't expect to prosper greatly.

Ignore God but don't whine that you feel neglected by Him when you suffer through one of your "spells".

Reject the hand of fellowship but don't complain that no one calls you or you don't have any friends.

Stand before Jesus someday but don't be surprised when He says, "I don't recognize you. Depart from me."

You have picked what you planted.

Plant scorn and be scorned yourself.

Plant discord and live a life of strife.

Plant lies and be the victim of liars.

We reap what we sow.

Physically and spiritually.

Our lifestyle definitely determines our deathstyle.

Plant peace and be at peace.

Sow generously and meet your commitments.

Know Jesus and He will know you when the proper time arrives.

There are eternal consequences and benefits.

To be known by Jesus and gain eternal life and to thwart eternal death.

Bottom line: what you do or don't do in this life effects where you spend your eternal life.

Your lifestyle determines your deathstyle.


Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Monday, October 22, 2012

Who Was That Masked Man?

"A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver... Awaaaaay!"

A legendary hero and no one ever knew his name.

We never even knew what he looked like.

He didn't care. It wasn't about him.

It was about everybody else.

He was the Lone Ranger.

Ever notice that anytime we have a figure like him it's always fictional?

Batman. Superman. Green Hornet. X-Men.

It has to be fictional.

Nobody real is willing to labor in obscurity. Everybody wants their 15 minutes of fame.

Everybody wants the warm fuzzies and the slaps on the back.

Everybody want to be sure they aren't being cheated out of their share of fame.

Everybody but Jesus.

When we create a figure we can admire we label it a "superhero".

Not Jesus. He rejects any such notoriety or labels. 

We tried naming Him the "Superstar" once.

It probably made Him nauseous.

The kicker is, who do we think served as the original concept for what has become every child's fantasy?

Most of the superheroes we have created are Christocentric. They are generally "types" of Christ.

They are the beacons of hope in the midst of hopelessness, generally indestructible, good and pure through and through, always there in the nick of time, and at the end evil is defeated and all is well again.

Sounds kind of like Jesus to me.

There's just one twist.

We make movies about Batman and Superman.

We revile and crucify Jesus.

We don't believe He is who He says He is.

(We) being society in general.

Yet, the consequences for the disbelief of the only One who actually has the power and the willingness to make a difference in society is a suffering so great that it will last far beyond when the last action hero is drawn in a comic strip.

Here's what Jesus says in His straightforward and truthful way:

John 8:24 (AMP) - "That is why I told you that you will die in (under the curse of) your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He [Whom I claim to be--if you do not adhere to, trust in, and rely on Me], you will die in your sins."

Superman can't get us out of that one. Even Batman needs to hear this. Wolverine can just tuck in his claws and pack it in.

There's a real Hero is in town.

We know His name. He doesn't wear a mask.

He is available and accessible.

Everyone else is a cheap knockoff.

So Lois, who are you going to call?

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Friday, October 19, 2012

"We Must Be In Heaven, Man!"

That's what Wavy Gravy said at Woodstock when the concert turned into a disaster area.

Rain and shortage of food made the rock and roll phenomena a mess of such proportions that Gov. Nelson Rockefeller was threatening to send in 10,000 National Guard troops.

Chip Monck told us when the rain and wind came and the towers were swaying to, "Hold on to your neighbor!"

Wavy told us all that "breakfast in bed for 400,000" was going to be provided (not steak and eggs, but good food) and that we needed to take care of our neighbor.

He also said, "There's always a little bit of heaven in a disaster area."

I wonder if he realized how close he had come to the Kingdom Of Heaven?

If there was anything about what he said that disqualified him from the truth it's that he didn't go far enough.

There's a whole lot of heaven in every situation.

And everybody wants a piece of it for various reasons.

The following passage has been considered a difficult one.

Matt. 11:12 - "And from the days of John the Baptist until the present time, the kingdom of heaven has endured violent assault, and violent men seize it by force [as a precious prize--a share in the heavenly kingdom is sought with most ardent zeal and intense exertion]."

It's not so difficult once we understand the elements of the verse and what they actually mean.

The central thought deals with the violent seizing of the Kingdom of Heaven (not the Kingdom IN Heaven).

We tend to read that with the understanding that it would be a bad thing and that the violence is evil.

In the interest of space here let me just say that "violent" can also mean "energetic", and that the gospel has been sought after energetically by both those who see the truth in it and want to live by it, and by those who see the power of it and want to turn it to their own personal gain and profit.

The precious prize for the drug addict for instance is deliverance and restoration both physically and spiritually.

The precious prize for the TV huckster preacher is turning truth to dollars and cents to line his pockets.

The gospel could be said to have "suffered violence" in both scenarios.

One good. One bad.

"We must be in heaven, man!"

Well, sort of. 

We do get a glimpse at times because God chose to bring Heaven to earth when Jesus was born.

I think Wavy caught a glimpse of it at Woodstock. Perhaps many of us did. 

Anything that had to do with peace, love and brotherhood certainly had the Kingdom of Heaven quality attached to it.

It's not perfect. It's not perfect because it's still the earthbound version.

Someday it will be perfect because it will actually be Heaven.

I'm not sure how much of it will resemble Woodstock, but I do know there will be a lot of love and peace there.

I went back to Woodstock recently and walked the grounds with my wife where the concert took place. I went to the museum as well. It gave me warm feelings, that for one weekend, as imperfect and misplaced as it was, a half million people tried to live some fashion of what was loosely viewed as "heaven".

Perhaps Wavy will get the chance to repeat those words for real someday.

"We must be in heaven, man!"

Oh yeah.

Like the old hymn says:

When we all get to Heaven,What a day of rejoicing that will be!When we all see Jesus, We'll sing and shout the victory! 

Spend some time in Kingdom thought today. Even in the midst of your own personal disaster area contemplate that there is a whole lot of heaven in there with it!

Reach out and hold on to your neighbor.

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><