Thirsty?

Thirsty_original

I read recently that an estimated 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Their bodies are not getting the water they need. Is it any wonder so many feel tired and sluggish. The body needs water to function properly.

Sounds like we are living in a thirsty society. Many are physically thirsty, but I believe even more are spiritually thirsty.

In the Gospel of John we read the story of Jesus and his encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well.

John 4: 4 He had to go through Samaria on the way. 5 Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. 7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” 8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.

9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.[b] She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

In this story Jesus is not just looking for a free glass of water. He is trying to get this woman to see her need, her spiritual thirst. He was telling her that He was the only thing that would satisfy her thirsty soul . He was the living water.

In John 7:37-38 Jesus invites us all to come and get a drink of this soul satisfying water.

John 7: 37-38 ……Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

This scripture also tells me that after we have come to know Christ we should become a source where people can find the living water that they need.

Perhaps our society itself is so spiritually thirsty, in part, because so many Christians are themselves “spiritually dehydrated.” Before we can refresh others we must get a big drink of Jesus for ourselves.  We must make it a point each day to thoroughly hydrate our souls by spending time with Jesus in the Word and prayer.

Isaiah 12:3  With joy you will draw water
    from the wells of salvation.

Friends, don’t go around tired and spiritually dehydrated. Start your day with a big glass of Jesus and then go out and give a thirsty world a drink.

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I Love This… Bar???

man_at_bar-300x225Just a few miles down the road from my house is a little bar. It is not a restaurant/bar, it is a bar, a place that serves drinks for thirsty people. When I pass by this bar it is usually always packed. When I pass by churches they are usually not.

I wonder why the bars seem to have an easier time putting people on the barstool than we do in the pew. Is it just because they serve alcohol? Or, are the people frequenting the local bar actually looking for more than just a strong drink. Perhaps the words to a popular country song by Toby Keith can give us some insight. Toby writes:

“I Love This Bar”

We got winners, we got losers

Chain smokers and boozers

And we got yuppies, we got bikers

We got thirsty hitchhikers

And the girls next door dress up like movie stars

 Hmm, hmm, hmm I love this bar

We got cowboys, we got truckers

Broken-hearted fools and suckers

And we got hustlers, we got fighters

Early birds and all-nighters

And the veterans talk about their battle scars

 I’ve seen short skirts, we got high-techs

Blue-collar boys and rednecks

And we got lovers, lots of lookers

And I’ve even seen dancing girls and hookers

[Chorus:]

I love this bar

It’s my kind of place

Just walkin’ through the front door

Puts a big smile on my face

It ain’t too far, come as you are

Hmm, hmm, hmm I love this bar

I’ve seen short skirts, we got high-techs

Blue-collar boys and rednecks

And we got lovers, lots of lookers

And I’ve even seen dancing girls and hookers

 What this song tells me is that the bar is perceived as a place where regardless of who you are, regardless of your station in life, regardless of your baggage or past mistakes you are welcome. It is a place where you can be honest about who you are including all your warts and scars…and you will still be welcomed and accepted.

It occurred  to me that the church has allowed the local bar to steal our identity.

 Rev. 22:17 says, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

 It seems that the world is selling some things that we should be giving away freely…love, acceptance, a place to belong.

 My vision for Souls Refuge Church is to one day stand in the pulpit and look across the congregation and be able to say,

 “We got winners, we got losers

Chain smokers and boozers

And we got yuppies, we got bikers

We got thirsty hitchhikers

 We got cowboys, we got truckers

Broken-hearted fools and suckers

And we got hustlers, we got fighters

Early birds and all-nighters

And the veterans talk about their battle scars

 Blue-collar boys and rednecks

And we got lovers, lots of lookers

And I’ve even seen dancing girls and hookers”

 Each and every one accepted, each and every one loved and each and every one given the opportunity to come to know Christ and find a brand new life. Everyone offered a free drink from the water of life, Jesus.

I want everyone of them to walk out the front door of Souls Refuge Church singing…

I love this church

It’s my kind of place

Just walkin’ through the front door

Puts a big smile on my face

It ain’t too far, come as you are

Hmm, hmm, hmm I love this church

Turn Some Pages

ImageThis week while working on our new old church building my new friend Roger and I had the radio tuned in to the local classic rock station. We are both old school rockers at heart and we had a great time talking about how good music was back before you had to be “pretty” to get a song on the radio.

One day while I was varnishing some trim, a chorus from one particular song caught my attention. I believe that God has endowed every person with gifts and talents and even though a person may not be serving Him, there are times when they can say or write some profound things. The line that jumped out at me was from an old REO Speedwagon song, Roll With the Changes” and the chorus says:

“So, if you’re tired of the same old story, oh, baby, turn some pages 

I will be here when you are ready to roll with the changes, baby 

Roll with the changes”

I had this song stuck in my head all week long and I instantly knew there was a sermon in the making.

As humans we do not have the ability to remember every single day of our lives. We can only recall seasons or chapters of our lives. Our lives are in a constant state of change and even if we do nothing, time itself waits for no one and some things will change whether we like it or not. But, I believe there are times when God Himself will break into our lives and call us to change, to “turn some pages.”

For true change to happen there must first be a desire and a willingness on our part to seek and allow change. We must come to a place where we are “tired of the same old story.”

Sin really is the same old story over and over…fun for a season…heartache and misery in the end. Regrettably we often allow sin to run its course in our lives before we are willing to seek change. I know this from experience. Thankfully God has promised that “He will be there when we are ready to roll with the changes” that He has planned for us. He has a plan for each of our lives and he stands waiting for us to allow him to begin to write new and better chapters in our lives. We do not have the ability to truly turn the page on our own. We need him to give us a brand new life and a brand new start. Jesus died for us so we can “turn some pages” and begin anew.

Yesterday at Souls Refuge Church several people “turned some pages.” It was the most important page they will ever turn.  They accepted Jesus as their Savior and became Christ followers. Their decision will affect every other page of their lives. Jesus was there waiting when they were ready. Now He calls to them…

Keep on rollin’ (oh, yeah) 

Keep on rollin’ 

Roll with the changes (keep on rollin’) 

Keep on rollin’ (oh, yeah) 

Keep on rollin’ 

Oh, now roll with the changes (oh, baby) 

Keep on rollin’ (oh, baby) 

Keep on rollin’

The Straw of Despair

despair.001

For the last few weeks at Souls Refuge Church where I pastor, we have been trying to learn more about the person of Jesus. In studying His personality we have talked about His playfulness, His willingness to interact with others, His gentleness and His fierce intense resolve to fulfill His purpose here on earth. We have watched Him live, laugh and love. We have watched Him face down devils, demons and scariest of all, the religious crowd. During His week of passion we see Him enduring betrayal, false accusations, intense mental and physical attacks, torture and finally crucifiction. Through it all He never wavered, never bowed, never stumbled, never failed. He silently took all the abuse that mankind and evil could dish out and He stood. Isaiah describes it like this:

Isaiah 53:7-9 (Message)He was beaten, he was tortured,
    but he didn’t say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
    and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence.

As Christians we know that Jesus endured all of this for us. His pain and His suffering was deservedly ours, and yet He bore it for us.

In Matthew 27:45 we read that Jesus finally broke his silence, and seemingly finally broke under the weight of his torment.

Matthew 27:45 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 46 At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

After all that He had endured what was it that finally caused Him to cry out? What was that “last straw” that finally broke Him completely? I submit to you it was the same thing that often breaks us and sends us over the edge into moments of despair. Abandonment.

I have learned over the years that I can endure some pretty tough situations as long as I know I have God on my side. It is in those moments when I entertain thoughts that perhaps God has left me, perhaps I have sinned too much, perhaps he has tired of my continual shortcomings. It is when I listen to the voice of the enemy that whispers “He has left you, your one true hope is gone!” It is in these moments that despair floods my soul.

But what could ever cause Jesus to feel this kind of despair. He knew what the word of God said. He was the Word! He knew the everlasting love of the Father, he was of the very same essence. And yet, he cried out in despair. Why?

In that moment Jesus suffered the greatest punishment of all, abandonment, separation from God, separation from all hope. The truest definition of death is eternal separation from God. It is what we are all destined for but for the grace of God. At that moment the sins of the world were placed upon Him, the wages of sin which is death was meted out and for a moment God the Father turned away.

2 Corinthians 5:21(ESV) 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The Father allowed the Son to endure what was meant for me. Jesus experienced the ultimate curse, the ultimate punishment…separation from God, abandonment, total despair so that I never will. As a Christian no matter what I ever face on this earth, the one thing that I will never experience is a moment without hope. Despair is defined as absolute hopelessness. Despair has no place in the life of a believer. We are never without hope. We have Jesus!

2 Corinthians 4:8(KJV) 8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

Ps 42:11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Jesus lives. Despair is defeated. Hope springs eternal and life is worth living.

We’re the Autolites!

I find myself at a very strange place in life. At 48 years old I feel like I should be in the middle of an established career, beginning to see the fruits of years of hard work, enjoying the stability of middle age and building my nest egg for retirement. Instead I find myself starting all over, planting a new church from scratch, helping my wife start a new business, trying to learn new skills.

The last two years were filled with hard work that was seemingly for nought, numerous betrayals by people I had respected and a realization that everyone you love doesn’t always love you back. My soul is wounded, my mind is confused and my body is tired. I find myself questioning my past decisions and struggling with numerous “what ifs.” Self pity is never far away and bitterness could make an appearance at any moment if I were to leave the slightest crack in the door.

Having said all of that, baring my soul all, I have one more thing to say.

“I FEEL GOOD!” (sung in my best James Brown voice). I have an abiding peace in my soul and an unexplainable confidence that God has got me right where he wants me.

I have never been one to be satisfied with the ordinary and the status quo often bores me. God knows me well and has kept things pretty lively over the last 26 years of traveling with Him. As I write this a scripture comes to mind.

Jeremiah 33:3 Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

Times of transition are often God’s way of revealing to us new things, leading us to new experiences, and showing us things we never dreamed of before. Life is in the living of it and not just in the attaining of stuff. Real life is in experience not just existence. I want to go toe to toe with life for the full 15 rounds and smile when the final bell sounds.

God today I call on you, I know you will answer me. Show me things I never knew before. Amen!

So to my friends who have prayed for me, my foes who have celebrated my impending demise, and the majority of the world who has not had the pleasure of meeting me yet, let me leave you with words of that great theologian, the Autolite Spark plug, “Hey, we’re the Autolites, so go pull the plug on someone else!

My Little Hannah Faye

Today is a very special day. Today my baby girl turns 18. From the moment she was born she has been a joy to my life. When she was a baby she hardly ever cried and she would awake with a smile on her beautiful little face. Eighteen years later and she is more beautiful than ever and still smiling. She simply shines where ever she goes.

She has a gentleness and grace that can’t be taught and a passion for life that is inspiring. She is tender as lace yet tough as leather. She has the beauty of her mother, the sweetness of her sister and the fire of her father. Independant, opinionated and driven. Artistic, contemplative and wise beyond her years. She is my little Hannah Faye.

It’s Only Rock & Roll But I Like It!

Well it is that time of year again. Time for our annual three-day pilgrimage to the land of the Texas Rangers, Six Flags, giant malls, too many restaurants, (So much food and so little time!) and loud Christian Rock music. We will be heading out this Friday and I don’t know who is more exited, our youth group or me!

Now I know that this is supposed to be an event for the “youth” but it is also one of my favorite COG sponsored events. There is something amazing about being in a room with a few thousand Jesus worshipping teenagers. Every one should experience it at least once in their lifetime. There is also the extra added bonus of getting to hear some great Chirstian bands.

In my younger, pre-Jesus days I spent a lot of my time attending various other “festivals” in and around the Dallas metroplex. Events like The Texas Jam, The Rock and Roll Superbowl and various other gatherings aimed at reaching that wild eyed, hormonally charged generation called teenagers. In those days I, like most other youths was searching for something to satisfy my wandering lonely soul.

I had the opportunity to see some of the biggest “Rock Gods” of my day. You might say that I worshipped at the altar of such greats as The Boss, ZZTop, AC/DC, Ozzy, Journey, Aerosmith, Rush, Foreigner, Santana…the list goes on and on. (As far as I know the COG did not sponsor any of these events.) 🙂

I even tried out some of the Country deities like Merle, Hank jr., Gary Stewart and Alabama. I am ashamed to admit that once I even stooped so low that I actually went and saw Christopher Cross live. (Yeah, I know I was one sick puppy.) 🙂

I saw some great “shows” but I never found what I was truly searching for.

For an old headbanger like me this weekend is a chance “rock on” and still retain at least a little bit of pastoral dignity. (Hey, I gotta do it for the kids.) For many teens this weekend will be a chance to find what they are looking for. Please pray for Winterfest.

On second thought, it really is much more than Rock and Roll and I absolutely………….LOVE IT!