inSpire Discipleship

Psalm 1:1-3 – in-SPIRE DISCIPLESHIP

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Here are three questions that may help you determine if you are Intentional in your Discipleship: 1) Who in your daily life do you emulate; 2) How much of an impact does Jesus and the scriptures make on your day to day decision making; 3) Who do you help bring closer to Jesus in your words and your actions? 

 

First, who do you emulate or who are you like? There’s a phrase: You become like those with whom you spend time? Jim Rohn, entrepreneur, said it this way:  You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Who are your five? How do they live? What do you talk about? Do you see yourself growing in your faith because of the time you spend with them?  There’s a saying that keeps me on track: It’s always noisier in the shallow end. Living with those who are not disciples is living in the shallow end. For them, there’s always something to complain about; a reason to be hurt; someone to blame and to talk about. It’s exhausting and it never leads to Discipleship. Paul wrote to Ephesus: Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.  Being a disciple, one doesn’t stand for that kind of talk. What would it be like to say to someone who is speaking ill: Oh my, we don’t talk about others that way. Remember, too, your silence when someone is saying negative things is like agreeing with them. It’s always noisiest in the shallow end.  In the deep end, the Discipleship end, you will find yourself with people who desire to move out to where they can’t touch bottom; that’s where you work on your skill and spiritual gifts with God and with each other. It’s your choice: noisy shallow end or discipleship in the deep end.  Who do you hang around most? 

 

The second question: How much of an impact does Jesus and the scriptures make on your day to day decision making? So if we are to mimic or live like those who emulate discipleship, the One to spend the most time would be Jesus, right?  Think of His ministry and how it started: Matthew 3. After Jesus’ beautiful baptism, He is immediately taken to the wilderness.  After forty days, Satan comes to Him and offers Him something to eat. Verses 3-4 says: “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Where does Jesus go in the midst of his challenging moment…He goes to scripture.  Deuteronomy 8:3 says:  He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. You see, Jesus planted in His own heart the words of scripture. As disciples, we learn from Jesus. His teachings like: love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, show us how we are to live as disciples. There comes a peace when we live intentionally as disciples following Jesus’ teachings and listening to and reading the scriptures. Remember, if your Bible is falling apart you probably aren’t!  Find time to read and drink in the scriptures. Start with Luke or with Philippians or, there are 150 Psalms. Start there. The Psalmist wrote in the first Psalm: …but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. As you listen to the Holy Spirit through your readings and through the good people you are hanging around, something happens. 

You will live differently.  You become intentional and able to help others to see Jesus, disciples who make disciples!

 

This leads to the third question: Who do you help bring closer to Jesus in your words and your actions?  After Jesus leaves the deep and dark time in the wilderness, the first thing He does in ministry is invite others to come and join Him. They were the ones He shepherded into knowing eternal life with Christ. We are called to shepherd, to help to make Intentional Disciples for the sake of their Eternal Life and to in-SPIRE HOPE. Christians have been doing this for millennia! You see you can’t “do faith” alone and you can’t “do faith” when you are busy or frantic! We all need someone who will disciple us and someone who we can disciple. It’s like being Paul or Timothy and Elizabeth or Mary.  Friends, connecting with others and helping them to in-SPIRE others is what Jesus did! This is living in the deep end!

 

Being an intentional disciple is about who you hang out with; about living like Jesus and about helping others along life’s path. Will you emulate those who are living in the deep end? Will you spend time with Jesus and the scriptures? Will you expect that God is going to transform you in a way that others will be shepherded because of you?

 

I just love being your pastor! Joy, joy – Pastor Alexis

 


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inSPIRE Worship

We live in an amazing era. We are surrounded by more information than at any other time in human history—literally at our fingertips! There is virtually no fact or information that you cannot look up on the internet…And yet we seem unable to translate all that information into making our lives more meaningful—and we all tend to struggle with the whole question of meaning in life. That’s not a question you can “Google” or look up on the internet and expect to find an answer in 30 seconds or less. This idea in Rev. Alan Brehm’s blog is so true.  There are no “quick fixes” to a meaningful life. In a world that vies for our attention every moment we are awake, what is a Christian to do?  In a world of chaos (whether global or personal) Christians may have only one stance we can take and that is to worship.  According to Webster’s Dictionary, 1828 Edition (these old definitions are rich with imagery), Worship is: to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission. True worship, in other words, is defined by the priority we place on who God is in our lives. This is what we strive for at Cason, to live Passionate Worship in a way that in-SPIRES HOPE. I read recently: The more we get on with celebrating who and what we are in Christ, the less consumed we will be by chaos and the more committed we will be to Christ-likeness in the world and for the world. It’s like saying, whatever is going on in my life or the world, my first response is going to be Worship God, celebrating all He has done, is doing and is about to do!

 

The shepherd king David and all the song writers of the Psalms understood this! We see it clearly in Psalm 111. If you read Hebrew you would see that this Psalm is a song…a poem really. Rev. James Limburg is a scholar and writer for the Westminster Bible Companion Series. He calls Psalm 111, “The ABC’s of Theology” (remember theology is simply the study of God). The reason is that Psalm 111 is 22 lines long and divided into 10 verses (Psalm 112 is the same – often called the “twin.”). Here’s the really neat part. Each verse is an alphabetic acrostic — with each half-verse beginning with a succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet, from alef to tav (in English from A to Z). Isn’t that cool? Still, as cool as the structure of the Psalm is, the real value comes with the content.

 

This Psalm glories in the permanent reality of the coming Messiah, Christ’s promise in the crucifixion and His resurrection still a millennia away for the Hebrews. This Psalm is a beautiful reminder to the Hebrew people of what God has done for them in the Exodus. It reminds us of how God provided, protected and showed mercy in the wilderness. And even more, what God will do for those who study His Word and follow Him as He sends them the Messiah. These verses remind us that “once-and-for-all” God’s purposes for each generation are clear markers of His love for us!  

 

Our response…Worship! Worship in fear of our “awesome” God (verses 9 & 10). In the 21st century, most often when we think fear, we think scary or harmful – something we need to get away from or overcome. In the Old Testament, our Hebrew brothers and sisters understood that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. So to fear the Lord is a good thing that nurtures us and calls us to maturity in the faith and in wisdom. The word “fear” in Hebrew is a synonym for love or something/one to cling to or to serve. It is about being in the presence of the Holy One! When we enter into a relationship with God, it is right to fear Him – to love Him and cling to Him.

 

So at Cason, when we talk about the pillar, Passionate Worship; what we are talking about is more than showing up to service or the amazing music or the amount placed in the offering or volunteering to usher.  Oh yes, these are all expressions of worship, but they do not define all that worship is! In the end, worship is about God. Worship is about where we place our attention and priority, not only on Sunday but each day. Worship takes our eyes off the busyness of life and fixes our eyes on Jesus. Indeed, the world can distract us and cause us to prioritize just about everything above our Worshiping God with Passion.  However if we would only listen to the Psalmist and heed the Word: The good life begins in the fear of God— Do that and you’ll know the blessing of God. His Hallelujah lasts forever; think of how our lives at Cason and each of our lives would change! My prayer is that we would worship God at Cason with such passion that we would in-SPIRE HOPE that begins with the good life of fear in the hearts of those who are seeking!

 

I just love being your pastor! Joy, joy – Pastor Alexis


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inSPIRE Hope

Philippians 3:13b-16a – in-SPIRE HOPE

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. 

Amidst apprehensions of days, weeks, months to come, it would seem easy for the church and Christians generally to run out of gas. The times seem difficult to in-SPIRE HOPE in anything or anyone, make plans, and dream. It’s like a tension between what is and what will be. And yet, we haven’t run out of gas and we won’t! The future is wide open for Cason to in-SPIRE HOPE in the name of Christ Jesus! 

Of course, we must enter the future with thoughtful tools and imagination! This time more than ever, we need to pray for each other, our church leaders and for the leaders of nations around the world. We must commit to living faithfully, with our eyes fixed on Jesus. Paul said it in Philippians 13: One thing I do, forgetting what is behind and straining forward to what is ahead. Another translation puts it this way: Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things before. The vision of the runner is great! After all, who turns to look back when they are running a race? Good runners keep their eyes fixed on the goal ahead. For the Apostle Paul, the goal was to live out a life that reflected our Risen Lord; to share Jesus’ life, His power, His vision and His work in the world. The goal is to in-SPIRE HOPE!

But we do look behind us, don’t we? It’s tempting to dwell on the past. We must be careful that it doesn’t drain us of our positive energy and zest for life! Oh, we must regard the past with respect and caution. Visit the past and learn from it; and even, draw strength from it. However, we must be careful that it does not overwhelm, trap, or harm us. That kind of baggage will destroy you. Ever heard the saying: live with your back to your past? 

And here’s a thought: your past can affect other people’s future! You know the ones; you can see their burden on them before they speak.  It’s like a badge somehow. And as much as we minister to them, they still hold on. That kind of wallowing in the past will drain HOPE from everyone. As a pastor, I have seen whole congregations dwelling in the past and making decisions from past hurts. Now, this is not to say that we should not share our burdens.  Life is hard and we as Christians should bear with one another. The past that I am talking about is that which we refuse to let go of. The past that brings a person to a place where they refuse to forgive or be forgiven!  For them, life stops at that pain and everything that occurs after it is barely living. 

Now don’t get me wrong, looking forward and not dwelling on what’s behind is crazy difficult!  I think about the Apostle Paul, formerly Saul, before his conversion. He should have lived out his life in shame and failure, haunted by his previous career as an agent of the temple in Jerusalem, charged with hunting down, arresting and bringing Christians back for imprisonment and execution. Think about Stephen.  Paul could have mentally re-lived the scene in which he gave orders for stoning Stephen to death. He could have re-heard the sounds of the crowds and seen the fear that swept over the faces of the believers. Paul could have re-lived this event day after day for the rest of his life. 

But Paul experienced the healing power of the Cross.  He experienced the healing power of turning to Christ and finding forgiveness. God had plans for Paul and could not possibly have wanted him to get stuck in his past. For Paul there was something greater to be gained by moving ahead and not lingering in the past. That is alsotrue for us. There is simply nothing to be gained by going back to past hurts and refusing to get over them. However, by forgiving and pressing forward, we gain a greater Christ-likeness. We gain strength, maturity, understanding, and patience. We grow in wisdom and faith and give both our offenders and ourselves the opportunity to learn from the past and be better in the future. Imagine the victory…the Hope! God wants a future for you! For me! For us!

Cason, where are we going? What are our goals and priorities?  Our Church Council and our in-SPIRE team are making plans! We are investing our time, energy, financial resources and talents in this brave new way of living! We were saved to be used by God. We are saved to do good! God has a particular plan for Cason, just as He had for Paul and the Philippian Church! We must decide: Will we live in the past?  Or will we look heavenward to the prize and live as forgiven people, bringing as many with us as we can, as we at Cason, in-SPIRE HOPE!

 

I just love being your pastor! Joy, joy – Pastor Alexis


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Revive Us Again

Ephesians 3:14-21

Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
 
The prayer before us from Ephesians was intended to be overheard. In generation upon generation, the church has handed this text on to us. All through these verses, we understand that the prayer was for the church community and not just individuals! And, as a church, especially a busy church like Cason, it is imperative that we check in with ourselves along the way to be certain that God is not losing our center spot in ministry. For, indeed, in our busy-ness, we can easily lose sight of God Who makes our hearts His dwelling place and intends to fill our hearts with Christ’s Jesus’ love and power…

a love and power that is a sheer and utter gift, not a reward for merit. But alas we do forget at times that God’s dwells in us…

There’s a little book, full of God, that Rev. Guy Sayles reminded me of. The book by British Scripture scholar and translator J.B. Phillips is: Your God is Too Small. I remember, as a kid, the book sitting on my dad’s shelf. Dad and Carol Cullen are the two champions I know of J.B. Phillips. Phillips writes that: “The trouble with many people today is that they have not found a God big enough for modern needs.” Sayles reflects, “If Phillips was writing today, he might title his book Your God is Too Small– a nd Too Distant. He might say: ‘The challenge for many people today is finding a God who is big enough to embrace the world and close enough to fill their inner emptiness.’” …alas we do forget, don’t we?
 
Dr. Sayles goes on to say: Many of us do have a god who is too small. Without knowing it, we have substituted a puny and punitive god for the great and gracious God revealed in the history of Israel and in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This substitute god is limited, narrow, and does nothing surprising or amazing…boxed-in by our preconceptions. This god is stingy with mercy and has only enough love for “our kind of people”–our nation, our race, our social class, our orientation, or our denomination. This god of our own making is predictable, safe, and boring. I would agree with Sayles that such a god is hardly worthy of praise! Too often, the only thing crucial we expect from God is, well…some “thing.”
 
So here is my question: Do we expect our God, in the presence of the Holy Spirit to Revive Us, Again? Do we anticipate that those who are lost causes in our lives (even ourselves) to be restored, redeemed, and transformed by the mighty compassion of God in Christ Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit? Do we expect like the Apostle that the One who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, is wanting to do more at Cason? Are we ready to be entrusted with revelation by the Holy Spirit that all people who desire to Will

F ind and Know the Love of God through Cason’s ministry? Our God is not too small or too distant.
I pray that God’s great love will leave us breathless with astonishment and as Paul prayed that we would know beyond knowing, the breadth and length and height and depth of love. Everyone is included! May everything at Cason, what we do and who we are, radiate with a redeeming grace which envelops all shame and guilt and shines with a dazzling glory which fills every shadowy corner! This is what the Cason is entrusted with…that we love all people because Jesus loves all people! The Holy Spirit will heal us and give us joy and power and love. We, not as individuals only, but as the church must say, “YES” to Jesus and His love for all of humanity!
 
We have a vast, loving, and powerful God who is “at work within us.” To that God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.”
 
I just love being your pastor! Joy, joy – Pastor Alexis
 

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What In The World Is Going On?

Romans 8:26-28

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

 

An organization in Montana offered a bounty of five thousand dollars for every wolf captured alive. Two hunters decided to head for the hills and make some money capturing wolves. Day and night they scoured the mountains and forests, searching for their valuable prey. Exhausted after three days of hunting without success, they both fell asleep. During the night, one of the hunters suddenly woke up to find that the two were surrounded by a pack of fifty wolves, their eyes flaming and teeth bore. At once,
 

he called to his friend, “Hey, wake up! We’re gonna be rich!”

 

This is no time to be optimistic! We are surrounded in our nation by devastation: fire, windstorms that destroy crops, pandemic, racial unrest – and throw in political tensions for good measure! What in the world is going on? How in the world are we to survive this era? Has the Apostle Paul lost his mind? “…in all things God works for good?” It almost sounds like fantasy! Our economy is nearly crippled, our mental health and physical well-being are at risk and we hardly know who or what in this world to believe! Even good people that we love are saying things that cause deep pain!
 
We can’t help but be in our heads and be anxious! Inundated with too much media, it feels like we are surrounded by a pack of wolves preparing to pounce. Still the Apostle Paul, who was clearly under persecution and in peril of death for much of his ministry, had something more to say…something different to offer…something to believe in beyond the horrors of this age. The world is not going to change (though I do think that when we get hold of this pandemic, we will feel some relief). Even so, if we put all that we have and all that we are into this world, we will continue to suffer.
 
The Apostle Paul offers an alternative…an escape…a way to pull our minds and hearts and spirits up onto higher ground. Paul reminds of the power of the Holy Spirit! That Divine Presence in our lives that draws us to a fresh reality. The reality that we are loved and adored by God who is just and kind and has a plan that is beyond us (Isaiah 55:8-9)! He has not forgotten or left us to our own devices.
 
What if we understood our present harassment and difficulties of body, soul, and mind as opportunities? (Now, don’t shut me down, yet). Paul says in Romans 8:18: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For creation waits in eager expectation… What if the truth is that God is fighting for us and along with us? What if the Truth is that if we are to turn off the screens and sit and listen (maybe with a pen and paper…remember those writing tools), that we would hear deeper! Maybe the real question is, do you trust God or not? Jesus promised us His presence in the person of the Holy Spirit; the One who comforts us; who speaks up for us; who guides and directs us and who is our conscience. We are not alone.
 
Later in verses 26-28 Paul reminds us: And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. The Holy Spirit is far broader than just helping us pray for those things which we cannot put into words. Our world, our country, our community and own being is nearly at a breaking point of disillusionment. And the Spirit is here! Some things simply cannot be put into words—any words or any language – native, foreign, or angelic. It is at these times, when our humanity is stretched beyond the breaking point, the Holy Spirit ministers on our behalf, communicating for us the deepest longings and desires within us.
 
So, as your pastor and your Spiritual leader, I want to ask you to stand firm in what you know to be true. Remember what God has already done in your life and in the lives of the ones who have influenced us to create the greater good. Living in the Spirit of God and walking in His light is a true phenomenon in these turbulent days and it is what the world needs to see us do. Romans 8 begins by telling us that we live in no condemnation and closes by reminding us of no separation. The victory of the Christian is absolutely certain, for the matter is in God’s hands.
 
All-Mighty God who has a way of using our enemy’s tactics for the building up of His Great Kingdom! The wolves are surrounding us…what an opportunity to become rich in the presence of the Holy Spirit! Come Holy Spirit!
 

With more love than you know! Joy, joy …


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Power That Gives Us Hope

22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’   Acts 27:22-24

 

If you haven’t made it to worship at 11 am yet, I want to encourage you to attend via facebook or through the website.  The account of Paul prior to the shipwreck of the Alexandrian ship is amazing.  You will find a 6-minute audio version of Acts 27 that I hope will stir you enough to read more!  By the time you read this, I will have read through Acts 23-28.  The text is challenging, amusing, intriguing and exciting.
 
I have read the scriptures my whole life and still when I come across passages like this, I wonder, “How did I miss this ‘good stuff’ before”.  I have determined that with age and experience, the scriptures become more and more alive to me.  I am especially grateful in this tumultuous season of our lives that the scripture and all the reading and studying we can do is at our fingertips.  The talented and bright minds of scholars and archaeologists have taken so many of the questions out of reading the scriptures.  I took a look at Right Now Media (go to casonumc.org and sign up if you haven’t already) and am intrigued by two of the studies in Acts.  Let me know if you would like to have a study in Acts beginning mid-August for several weeks.  For now, I have excerpted a time line from A Calvary Chapel Pastor, Chuck Smith’s Blue Letter Bible blog that I think will be a tease that I hope will cause you to open to Acts 26-27 (Good Stuff!).
 

Pastor Smith begins with this background:

Paul was rescued by Lysias, the captain of the Roman guard from the mob that was attempting to beat him to death in Jerusalem on the temple mount.  He was taken into protective custody by the Roman government and sent under special guard to Caesarea for his protection, where he appeared before the governor Felix who held Paul a prisoner for two years, more or less, as a political pawn.  When Festus became the governor in Felix’s place, who had been replaced by the Roman Empire because of his corruption, Festus served Paul’s case and began to give Paul the run-around saying, “Are you willing to go to Jerusalem and answer these charges?”  Paul said, “I appeal to Caesar.”  Being a Roman citizen, Festus was obliged to send him to Caesar, but he had a problem.  The problem was this: he could not really send him to Caesar without legitimate charges being made against him, and there were no legitimate charges.  And so, he explained his problem to Herod Agrippa who came to pay a courtesy visit, and Herod Agrippa said, “Well, I will hear his case.”  The whole idea now of Herod Agrippa hearing Paul’s case is that there might be made formal charges to send with Paul as he made his appeal unto Caesar.

 

And so, as we get into Chapter 26, we find that Herod Agrippa, who is the great-grandson of Herod the Great, who ordered the murder of the children at the time of the birth of Christ, who was the grand-nephew of Herod Antipas, who had ordered the death of John the Baptist, the son of Herod Agrippa I, who had put James to death and had imprisoned Peter. Herod Agrippa II, and Paul is now standing before him there in Caesarea to declare his cause, and the idea is that they might formulate charges against him to send with him as he goes to Rome.

 

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself.”  Then Paul stretched forth his hand and answered for himself.  Now, we usually see portrayed in the Roman court are, “Friends, countrymen,” you know, and you usually see them with a wave of the hand.  And evidently, Paul had probably picked up this Roman custom.  So now, appearing before Agrippa, Paul said, “I count it a privilege, Agrippa.”  So he stretched forth his hand to answer for himself.  He said, I am really happy, King Agrippa, to be able to explain to you today the things that I’m accused of by the Jews: Especially because I know that you are an expert in all of the customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to listen to me patiently.

 

And so it was true that Herod Agrippa had become a real student of Jewish law and of Jewish custom, and he was noted for his vast understanding of the Jewish religion.
 
Friends, the richness of the scriptures will continue to change your life.  My prayer is that you will read and be encouraged by the words of Luke in the Acts of the Apostles.  Let’s plan to begin to study this marvelous book in weeks to come. 
 

Joy, joy from your pastor who loves you and loves serving God at Cason!


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A Kiss From Jesus 2

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.                                                                                                                    Ephesians 4:29-32

 

We don’t have long to live on this earth.  I’m already through nearly two thirds of my life (and am in no hurry!)  While I’m still breathing, I want to respond to God’s love!  For years, Jesus has been giving me kisses…important reminders that He watches me and He adores me.  He’s seen me through flat tires and surprise gifts; rejections and approvals; partings of friends, moves and changes; and, unexpected quiet times where He whispered in my ear encouragements, challenges and love.  These are just some of the ways that I have received kisses from Jesus.  And so, in the time that I have left on this earth, I want to help others feel kisses from Jesus, too.  As Paul says later in Ephesians 4, I want to: build people up according to their needs and showing kindness and compassion and most assuredly forgiveness – to show them GRACE.  One thing that I have learned,  I can’t get Jesus kisses if I have in me what members of the church of Ephesus had in them: unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage and anger; gossip and backbiting; or, a brawling spirit, slander and malice on these lips.  It is impossible to recognize kisses from Jesus when our hearts are ugly with regret, hurt and malice.  I definitely prefer the kisses from Jesus. 
 
To my surprise kisses from Jesus was not only my idea. A Christian artist penned a song about kisses from Jesus.  In 2005 John Mark McMillian, wrote “How He Loves Me.”   The evening he wrote it, he learned that one of his closest friends, Stephen, was killed in a car accident.  He felt so close to God that he began to wonder what it was like for Stephen when he went into Jesus’ arms that night.  The song is a love song…a poem, between God and us: It simply says that Jesus is jealous for us.  How He loves us.  Oh how He loves us oh how He loves.  And then there is the second verse: So we are His portion and He is our prize.  Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes.  If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.  –  Don’t you love that?  And then these words…So heaven meets Earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest.  I don’t have time to maintain these regrets.  When I think about the way that He loves us. Take a moment to listen to it: CLICK HERE.
 
Thousands were divided over the verse: “So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss…” Some said it was so weird that in newer versions, that particular line is changed.  But I wasn’t ‘weirded out’ because I had been getting kisses from Jesus for years.  That kind of affection from Jesus shines light in me!  That kind of pure love from my Savior reminds me that this weary, hostile world is not all the life I have to live, that I have eternity with one who adores me. 
 
I’m going to die and you are too!  But we are not dead yet!  So, in the meantime, what would it be like to give Jesus kisses indiscriminately, extravagantly and with total abandon!  This is called GRACE!  Not because they should have it but because you can give it freely!
 
Some time ago, I heard of a missionary returning stateside, who had a two-day layover in Germany during the early years of the Nazi occupation.  It was late December, and while out walking, he happened through a Jewish ghetto.
 
Appalled by the poverty he saw there, he took what funds he had and spent it on chocolates — sort of a Christmas present, if you will, for children who had all but forgotten what it was to laugh, or even smile.  When he telephoned home for more money in order to travel on to America, his superiors frankly found the request incredulous.
 

“You did what?”

“I bought chocolates for the children,” the missionary said. “It’s Christmas after all.”

“But they’re Jewish. They don’t celebrate Christmas!”

“Well, I know that,” he insisted, “but they’re still children, and children like chocolate.”

“For God’s sake, man, they’re not even Christians.”

There was a long pause. And finally the old missionary answered, “Yes, but I am.”
 
You know when you have given the perfect kiss from Jesus?  When you can walk up to, text, call or email the meanest person you know and say, I love you!  Now that’s a great big wet kiss from Jesus!  Not because they deserve it but because you can give it freely!  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the power to be a part of changing a life with Jesus kisses.
 

With more love than you can know…kiss – kiss

 

Pastor Alexis (Oh, and joy, joy too!)


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A Word to the Wise

My son, if you receive my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you seek for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding

Proverbs 2:1-6

 

I wonder if Socrates read Proverbs.  He sure seemed to when this story was penned about his understanding of wisdom. It goes like this:

A proud young man came to Socrates asking for knowledge and his wisdom. He walked up to the muscular philosopher and said, “O great Socrates, I come to you for wisdom.” Socrates recognized a pompous numbskull when he saw one.  He led the young man through the streets, to the sea, and chest deep into water.  Then he asked, “What do you want?” 

Wisdom, O great Socrates,” said the young man with a smile. 

Socrates put his strong hands on the man’s shoulders and pushed him under. Thirty seconds later Socrates let him up. “What do you want?” he asked again. 

Wisdom,” the young man sputtered, “O great and wise Socrates.” 

Socrates crunched him under again.  Thirty seconds passed, thirty-five.  Forty; Socrates let him up.  The man was gasping. “What do you want, young man?” 

Between heavy, heaving breaths the fellow wheezed, “Wisdom, O wonderful…” 

Socrates jammed him under again Forty seconds passed.  Fifty; “What do you want?” 

Air!” the young man screeched. “I need air!”

 Socrates responded: “When you want wisdom as you have just wanted air, then you will have wisdom.” 

I don’t know how many times, I have chosen other things (sometimes good things) over the better thing, wisdom.  If I do not monitor myself, I am prone to waste good time doing things that may not be helpful, useful or even kind.  It’s like gasping for air but asking for something more!

Honestly, sometimes I feel like kicking myself because I get caught up in peoples’ messes that I have no influence over.  The time I spend, often trying harder than they, is fruitless and in the end, I end up gasping with no more knowledge and understanding than when I began.  The truth is that I need Proverbs like chapter 2 to keep me turning to God!  The first six verses, especially, are like a prayer that any of us should pray often!  Some who live deeply seeking after God say that in order to be able to live a godly life, we must take these first six verses seriously:  Receive, Ask (listen), Seek!  These are the conditions of wisdom.  I love what Chris Tiegreen says: Modern hearer of the Word often hear so much truth with so little change in our lives.  We hear a sermon…or we read a Christian book, and even through the message may be powerful and true, we’ve often forgotten it within a matter of days or even hours.  Why?  One reason is that we don’t take the time to meditate on what we hear. (Walk with God, July 3)  If we receive into our being the wisdom of God and apply it to our heart we will not only do the things that are right, our character will change and we will live right more supernaturally  (I’m not sure any of us can live right naturally – according to our own abilities).  Paul tells us in Romans 10:10:  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.  To receive, ask, seek and gain knowledge plus understanding gives us the condition for wisdom.  Wisdom is a gift from God, He planted deep within us.   As we uncover the secrets of through our prayers, the scriptures and in study together; the wisdom that God has put in us will spill out of us like sweet honey in our lives and the lives of others! How much do you want wisdom?  Is it as much as you want air?

I sure love being your pastor!

 

Joy, joy

 


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