#SB50 And Wisdom from the Sidelines

Football in grassLast night, millions of Americans watched as the Denver Broncos marched to a very well-deserved victory over the Carolina Panthers. Both teams were the champs of their conferences, and had great seasons. However, in the end, only one team can stand at the podium and accept the Vince Lombardi trophy. Congratulations to the Denver Broncos for being the Super Bowl 50 Champions!

Being that we are at the end of another football season, I thought I would share with you a quote by the late, great Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys…

I don’t believe in team motivation. I believe in getting a team prepared so it knows it will have the necessary confidence when it steps on a field and be prepared to play a good game.

Mr. Landry knew what success looked like. As the coach of the Cowboys for 29 years (an NFL record), he led them to the Super Bowl 5 times, winning the Vince Lombardi trophy twice. With a reputation for being calm and in control, he knew that the secret of success was not hyping his team on the day of the game, but preparing them ahead of time through consistent practice and discipline… preparation that would carry them to success on the field.

This is a great lesson for all of us as 21st-century Christians. To survive, thrive, and make a difference in today’s world, it’s not enough to show up at church on Sunday, go through the motions of a spiritual pep-rally, get an ecclesiastical “shot in the arm”, and think that is all there is to the Christian life. Don’t get me wrong… gathering together with our brothers and sisters in Christ is VERY important, but living an overcoming life in Christ is SO much more. It takes personal time in prayer, time in the Word, and time alone with God in worship and meditation. Paul knew, not just the importance of thoughtful and disciplined preparation, but the consequences of failing to adequately prepare when he said…

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. ~ I Corinthians 9:24-27

As you set about a new week of school, work, and play, now is a great time to get into the practice and habit of time in the Word, prayer, and seeking God’s face. Start today, and watch the difference it makes in your attitude and outlook.

Coming Back from Extinction

 

Sprout 2

I recently saw this interesting story online.

In 2008, while on an archaeological dig on the Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin, archaeologists unearthed a small pot which they estimated to be approximately 800 years old. Upon opening the ancient artifact, they discovered a bunch of seeds. Several years after the discovery, some students in Winnipeg decided to plant the seeds, and to everyone’s surprise, something grew: A species of squash that had been previously classified as extinct! The species has been named “Gete-okosomin”, which means “big old squash” in the Menominee language. Efforts are now underway to ensure the future survival of this miracle of nature.

Wow! What an amazing discovery. But more than that, what an incredible lesson we can learn from this tiny seed…

These seeds were approximately 8 centuries old. To put that into perspective, during approximately the same time in history that these seeds were being buried…

  • Genghis Khan was being declared Great Khan of the Mongols  (1206);
  • King John was signing the Magna Carta  (1215);
  • The Crusades were in full swing;
  • Thomas Aquinas began to write Summa Theologiae  (1265);
  • Marco Polo was born and traveled throughout Asia.

Just think… these seeds — long forgotten and thought forever lost — were witness to the times we can only read about and imagine. These small capsules, preserved for centuries underground, hold the key to a life and species thought gone forever. These seeds, held in a simple pot, survived heat, cold, flood, and any other number of natural occurrences to reveal the promise of new birth at this point in history.

So… what have you done with your seed? Where are your dreams and aspirations buried, waiting to be discovered? What are the promises that you had believed were long dead and forgotten?

We serve the God of life. We serve the Author and Finisher of our Faith. We serve the One who sees the end from the beginning, knows our hearts and minds, and can sympathize with our weakness, pain, and broken dreams.

When we think it is over — finished — He sees the hidden promise; the seed sown in faith, be it financial, time, energy, or other of our resources.

What we see as too old, He sees as aged to perfection — ask Abraham and Sarah.

What we see as not enough, He sees as the right number — ask Gideon.

What we see as insufficient, He sees as abundance — as the little boy with the loaves and fish.

We have all heard the Scriptures regarding “seedtime and harvest”. My friend Jentezen Franklin was once delivering a message at Abba’s House, and he put it a different way. He talked about “seed… t-i-m-e… and harvest”. He explained that when a farmer sows seed, it takes a while for the seed to germinate, sprout, grow, and bear fruit. Some seeds take longer than others. All too often, we want to sow a seed and see an immediate harvest. That is not the way it works in the natural, and oftentimes, not the way it works in the spiritual either. Once we sow, if we attempt to harvest our seed before its “due season”, we will reap little to nothing. Sometimes, we may not see the harvest of our sowing for months, years, or decades. Sometimes, our harvest may come to fruition for someone else. Paul understood this in his letter to the Corinthians…

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now, he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. ~ I Corinthians 3:6-8

Sprout 1To see an abundant harvest, it takes obedience, patience, persistence, and faith. It takes sowing seed into fertile ground that is going to receive that seed, and allow it to spread its roots and grow. It takes faithfulness as a sower, and faith in the ONE who will give the increase, Whose word will never return void, but will accomplish what He has said.

So have faith.

Sow your seed.

Give it to Him.

Believe.

Trust that your good seed sown in faith — regardless of how old — will bring a harvest and reward that will have meaning, purpose, and fruit, both in this life and the next.

Fame, Failure, & Finding Your Focus

Through the Looking GlassJohn Wooden was the great basketball coach at UCLA. During his tenure, he won 10 NCAA championships in a 12-year period, including a record 7 in a row. He once made a statement I really like. He said…

Talent is God given. Be humble.
Fame is man-given. Be grateful.
Conceit is self-given. Be careful.

Sometimes when we see success in an area, this is an easy saying to forget. We tend to begin believing the accolades of those around us, cease to be careful with regard to getting “a big head”, and we forget where our success and talent come from. Once we begin to “believe our own press”, and think we have achieved our position under our own steam, we walk on perilous ground. In Proverbs 11:2, a wise man wrote…

When pride comes, disgrace follows, but with humility comes wisdom.

God is the giver of all good things. He exalts, and He brings low. We all go through seasons in life. If you are in a season of humbling, learn the lessons God is trying to teach you. If you are in a season of success and advancement, stay humble. Never forget where those good and perfect gifts come from. Keep your focus forward, and your eyes fixed on Him. HE will never fail you.

I leave you with this, another great quote from Coach Wooden…

You can’t let praise or criticism get to you.
It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.

Find Extreme Favor

  
This year at our Fresh Oil New Wine Conference, our theme is EXTREME FAVOR. In the tough times in which we live, with political and social unrest in our world, and terror and uncertainty on every side…

What does it take to have extreme favor in your life?

How can we have extreme favor with God?

Join me March 6-10 as I welcome some very special guests… Perry Stone, Rabbi Curt Landry, Tommy Bates, Randy Caldwell, Ronnie Phillips, Jr., Dwain Miller and more.

We also welcome back Susanne Cox for our Women’s Luncheon on March 9.

It’s time to get off the sidelines and into EXTREME FAVOR!!!

You can register online by clicking here.

For more information, please visit http://www.abbashouse.com/fonw

I hope to see YOU at Fresh Oil New Wine 2016!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

KS12499Tomorrow, we will celebrate Christmas — time with family and loved ones, opening presents, soaking-in the laughter of children, and eating way too much. It is a time of joy as we celebrate the Greatest Gift… Jesus.

As we observe this holy day, let us remember the words of Isaiah, uttered nearly 700 years before the Child, born of a virgin, lay in a manger in a stable on a Bethlehem night…

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 9:6

From my family to yours, may you have a merry and blessed Christmas, overwhelmed by the true Spirit of Christmas!

Pastor Ron

Christmas Bells Still Ring

KS12503It is an unseasonably warm December (even for Tennessee) as I write this blog. Yet in spite of the weather, the Christmas season is in full swing — the music, the lights, the decorations, the frantic shopping, the live nativities and musicals at houses of worship — the usual season build-up until December 25th. Except for the lack of heavy coats, scarves, and winter hats (and yes… snow), everything says “it’s Christmas-time in the city.”

Unfortunately, in many corners of the world (and the United States), people seemed to miss the “Peace on Earth” memo.

Radical Islamic groups like al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Hamas continue to blaze a path across parts of the Middle East in their quest for a caliphate and a revived Ottoman Empire. These barbarians are wiping out cities, destroying historical artifacts from past civilizations, raping and slaughtering the inhabitants of these regions (many of whom are our Christian brothers and sisters) — all in the name of their false religion.

In recent months, Islamic terrorists have brought their particular brand of jihad to places like Paris, France, San Bernardino, CA, Chattanooga, TN, and others. And while world leaders are calling out this enemy by name, our own “leaders” can’t seem to form the words “Islamic terror”, instead chasing the “windmills” of climate change with a passion that would make Don Quixote proud.

The battle for our culture has been taken to the streets because of racial division, vilification of law enforcement, disrespect for military personnel, marginalization of our Judeo-Christian heritage, and immorality in the name of gender-equality and marriage equality. Places like Ferguson, MO, Baltimore, MD, Washington, D.C., and the United States Supreme Court have become the stages where these tragedies of rebellion and ungodliness have played out.

“Pastor, you paint a bleak picture for Christmas. Are you going somewhere with this???”

Yes, I am… to Cambridge, Massachusetts… Christmas Day, 1863… to the desk of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

LongfellowFollowing the tragic death of his wife, and the wounding of his son during the American Civil War, Longfellow hit one of the lowest points of his life. It was on Christmas Day, 1863, that he penned the poem, Christmas Bells… his poem from which the song I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day was later born. This Christmas poem also painted a pretty bleak picture, of a nation in conflict and hopelessness…

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Yet in spite of the tragic tone in this poem, it concludes on a note of triumph…

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

We serve a living God. He is not dead. He is not asleep. He is not unconcerned, disconnected, or apathetic about the affairs of men. He is loving and kind. He is holy and just. He is a God of grace, mercy, and righteousness. He is the Christ-child, born in a manger in Bethlehem, heralded by angels, adored by shepherds, worshiped by kings, followed by fishermen, revered by the regulars, and reviled by the religious. He was considered both Rabbi and rebel, was beaten by sinners, nailed to a cross by unbelievers, and raised to life again by the God of the universe.

He is the risen King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, and the Savior of the world.

One day, He will return.

One day, all will be made new.

One day, peace on earth will be a reality.

One day, we will understand the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, because on that day…

Every eye will see him (Revelation 1:7);

Every knee will bow (Philippians 2:10);

Every tongue will confess (Philippians 2:11)…

Jesus is LORD.

KS12499

 

It’s A Wonderful Politically Correct Life

It’s THAT time of year. The time of tinsel and lights. The time of Christmas trees and trimming. The time of carols, peace on earth, and good will. It’s the time for…

It’s A Wonderful Life!

GB3No matter how many times we view it, it seems that every year, viewing the Frank Capra/Jimmy Stewart classic is as much a tradition of the season of Christmas as decking the halls, drinking egg nog, or wearing ugly sweaters. No matter how many times we see the image of George Bailey running down the snow-filled streets of Bedford Falls, screaming to people, buildings, and other inanimate objects, it gives us hope to know that George will discover the deeper meaning of Christmas, that he will learn a lot about friendship and the love people have for him, that his life does matter, and that Clarence does get his wings.

And we learn all of this, and leave our seats with a warm and happy feeling of hope and joy — not just for George, but for ourselves as well — all the while leaning heavy on the spirit of Christmas, and ignoring…

Political correctness.

Regardless of your political persuasion, the vast majority of people who watch It’s A Wonderful Life (and for that matter, most other Christmas classics) are forced to ignore a fair amount of what we would now term “political correctness”. We have to ignore portrayals, dialogue, and stereotypes that fly in the face of our 2015 social sensibilities. We tend to overlook these things for a variety of reasons…

“Well, that show was filmed a long time ago.”

“Culture was very different then.”

“It’s the season of good will… let it slide.”

GB1“So what are you saying Pastor??? Are you saying that we should crack down on George Bailey, Santa Claus, Frosty, and Rudolph???”

Not at all, and quite the opposite. What I am saying is that maybe we have allowed political correctness to run amok. Maybe we should take a long, hard look at what we consider politically correct, and stop wasting our time fighting over things that matter not an iota while the world goes to Hell. Maybe we should cut each other the slack in January through November that we afford George, Sam Wainwright (“hee haw!!!”), Uncle Billy, and even Old Man Potter in December. Maybe the fact that we are less offended in December lies less in a spirit of good will, and more in the fact that we have become a culture that works very hard to be offended, and go out of our way to wear every offense like a badge of honor. We have become perpetual victims, moving from offense to offense, looking for the next people group we can turn into the next victim and downtrodden minority.

Are there legitimate poor and afflicted in this world?

Absolutely.

My point is that the person waiting in the wings, stirring up dissension, and cashing in on the next “soapbox of social injustice” is probably not a crusader for a cause… they are more than likely simply a voice of division and disharmony and simply cashing in.

The Bible cautions us…

Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry,
For anger rests in the bosom of fools…

Also do not take to heart everything people say,

Lest you hear your servant cursing you.
For many times, also, your own heart has known
That even you have cursed others. ~ Ecclesiastes 7:9, 21-22

Fools show their annoyance at once,
    but the prudent overlook an insult. ~ Proverbs 12:16 (NIV)

Sure, there are things we need to take a stand for… TRUTH being chief among them. But when we go into every situation intent on being offended, we probably won’t be disappointed.

GB2Honestly, we would do well to rediscover the ability to laugh at ourselves. Proverbs 17:22 says that a merry heart does good, like a medicine… But when the offense is legitimate or grave, we should probably step back, take a long look at the situation and our motives, and ask if our offense is better fought through confrontation or prayer.

Then take it to prayer.