Essence of Truth

Over the last week, I am reading a series of books reflecting current social/psychology/philosophy, positive psychology, Biblical worldview, physiology of the brain and the affect of all the mix on mind/body/soul/spirit/relationships/culture. Each of these books is based on competent research and evidence based exploration over the last 40 years. There is a common thread to which they point – a balanced person, healthy, finding happiness/joy requires a disciplined attention to correcting dysfunctional thinking, right nutrition, spiritual regimen, and healthy-supportive relationships. Correction takes a target, a set of truths to which you correct your focus and basis of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and beliefs. Correction takes lifetime discovery.

Of course, each has a different slant on the truth to which we need correcting. The purpose of most of these tomes is not to purport the truth to which we correct but the biological, psychological, spiritual, social, and cultural reasons we need to do it to be healthy. A couple have a portion of truth base they are proposing. Both of these are Biblical. One explores truth in relation to cultural improvement and the other to personal and intra-personal relations.

The slide of Christianity to send people to the “licensed counselor”, who is required by the state to have no truth is interesting. The slide was to give up having answers and give in to the culture of no answers. It was not just Christianity, but the state, the education system, media, and the arts. This slide that started strong in the 1960’s has resulted in a culture with no boundaries and no target besides self fulfillment and material abundance. We have reached that target as a culture with the strongest economy registered, the undeniable military top position, and bigger houses, cars, televisions, and techno gadgets.

“The very essence of your words is truth; all your just regulations will stand forever.” Psalms 119:160 NLT

Simultaneously, we have reached an epidemic level of depression, anxiety, violence, anger, abuse, addiction, and suicide. We have more and yet we have nothing because nothing is our target. We are vacant and self centered. Our leaders are vacant and self-centered. The golden rule of do unto others what you would have done unto you does not apply anymore. It has been replaced with do what you can get away with and acquire what is theirs.

Islam is the fastest growing religion because they have a target and are unashamed to publish it. They are focused. People are looking for focus onto which they can build happiness.

The problem is not culture. The problem is that Christianity needs to believe it’s own truth, live it, and promote it with compassion and graduated understanding. It needs to engage with truth and live it. First, it needs to clean house. It needs to believe and live the truth. The disgusting proliferation of abuse and vitriolic judgement in Christianity is a violation of truth. Christianity does not believe in truth anymore and it shows. It has slid to “come and stay as you are” and “come and treat God like a sugar daddy”. That is not His designed and created truth. He calls us to come to Him and conform to Him.

Every one of the writer/researchers points to a need for spiritual truth as a balanced approach to reaching a settled heart and mind. They approach from a mix physiological, psychological, sociological, philosophical, cultural-political, or theological viewpoint. All render the judgement that a disciplined correction of dysfunctional thinking to truth and a spiritual base and positive supportive relationships is paramount. And these are the major items we have given away in our culture.

Truth is relevant. Maybe we want it to be relative. But it is relevant and necessary. None of us understand it all. But the core is discoverable and meaningful. We may disagree on the truth and need to respectfully examine the disagreements and establish our boundaries and focus based on the truth we understand. We will be the better for it.

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

Ephesians 4:11-16 NLT

https://www.bible.com/116/eph.4.11-16.nlt

Have a Great Thanksgiving!

What is so great about giving thanks to God?

A friend brought me a book this week by Dr. Amen. His groundbreaking research in neurophysiology is incredible. One of his recommendations for repairing physiological brain issues? Gratitude and Spiritual Connection

This is a common theme in positive psychology and in the Bible. An attitude of gratitude to the Creator God is powerful, restorative, and health inducing.

Some of our key presidents like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and others understood this and promoted it.

Personally, I think the “pardoning of the turkey” is a lame wandering away from one of the most powerful helps we can give our nation. It is fun, but it is not helpful.

In a time when depression, anxiety, violence, and alcohol and drug usage are epidemic, we need real solutions that bring joy. Money does not bring joy. Houses and cars and things do not bring joy. We need them, but that are not sources of mental and emotional wellbeing from which we have a good life. The U.S. is at an all time economic engine euphoric high and people are suffering an epidemic loss of joy.

So get some Thanksgiving to God generated this week. Take a few moments to list what has gone well this year and thank Him, the Creator God and Father of our Lord, Jesus, the Christ.

Here is George Washington’s take on the concept of Thanksgiving Day. He did not make it a national holiday, that happened later. From wikipedia

The First Presidential National Day of Thanksgiving[edit]

In Congress, Elias Boudinot introduced a resolution to create a joint committee to “wait on the President of the United States, to request that he would recommend to the people a day of public prayer and thanksgiving,”

The resolution was opposed by Anti-Federalists, who opposed increased power of the central government. Chief among the opposition were Aedanus Burke, and Thomas Tudor Tucker. Burke was of the opinion that the holiday was too “European.” He “did not like this mimicking of European customs, where they made a mere mockery of thanksgivings.” Burke was referencing the fact that at thanksgivings, both sides of a war often sang Te Deum, a hymn of praise. He was objecting that both the winners and losers in a war gave thanksgiving. Tucker however, felt that the federal government did not have the power to propose a day of thanksgiving. He was of the opinion that “If a day of thanksgiving must take place, let it be done by the authority of the States.” Tucker also worried about the separation of church and state, as in his opinion, proclaiming a day of thanksgiving was a religious matter.[10]

In the end, the resolution passed the House and the Senate, and a committee of Elias Boudinot, Roger Sherman, Peter Silvester, William Samuel Johnson, and Ralph Izard delivered the message to Washington on or before September 28, 1789.[10] President Washington noted that “both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested [him] ‘to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer.'” It was formally declared on November 26 to “be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”[11] President George Washington made this proclamation on October 3, 1789 in New York City.[12][13]

On the day of thanksgiving, Washington attended services at St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City, and donated beer and food to imprisoned debtors in the city.[14]

Text[edit]

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best. Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

What? Unity?

What is this all about? What is unity?

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:11-16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The conversation became tense once unity entered. At a leadership conference a few younger men and I discussed discipleship and Biblical expression of faith. One asked me what projects busied me. I spoke of an upcoming gathering of four varied congregations for worship. Two of the men looked at me disgusted. Both told me they thought unity was not needed in the kingdom. It was shocking to me to hear such an attitude at a Christian conference on leadership. Many others at the table shook their heads in agreement with the two. For a moment I thought I had been beamed into another dimension. In fact, I had. The dimension of selfish Christianity, which is not a Christian value.

Where does selfish Christianity live? It lives in denominational and independent isolation chambers. And it violates the heart of Christ. Earlier in Ephesians 4 we are told to pursue the spirit of unity in the bond of peace. Pursue means chase. It is not something we wait to happen. It is something we pursue to make happen.

Some people believe that Jesus will automatically return to earth once every language and people group has heard the gospel. Let’s consider something much more significant. What? That is right. There is more.

The job of the Holy Spirit is two fold. One to draw all men to Christ. Second to bring them together as one, as a bride. Who wants a bride with a leg in one room and a head in another room and a body in a third room? Really? That is what we look like many times. The Kingdom is to be brought together as one. It is Jesus’ primary prayer in John 17. That they may be one even as the Father and the Son are one.

Get it? Unity is not optional. It is the preparation of the Bride (us) for Christ.

Unity events develop strength in the Body, the Bride.

For years, I have worked on unity events. That conversation at the table did not deter me at all. Well, I have never gone back to that leadership gathering. There were several other indicators of selfish Christianity that permeated the group. It is hard enough to work on a tough area without being surrounded by violent ignorance of the Bible posing as Biblical scholarship. I pray for those trapped, but I don’t embed myself in it.

Yesterday was a great unity event in North Texas. Several churches of unlike disposition worshipped together. They shared styles of praise and enjoyed each other. I am proud of the many who came and participated with worship led by groups unlike themselves. That is pursuit of unity. That is the Christian mandate of Jesus in John 17 and throughout the letters of the New Testament. Not all could stay the entire time, but what a joy for those who stayed as long as they could and the ones that could stay the entire time. These are the seeds of unity planted across the county. It only takes a few seeds to produce great crops.

There is no way to describe the closing worship time as we praised in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. More so, we praised from across many expressions of the Kingdom as one in Christ. That is power. That unleashes the Holy Spirit to do His awesome work.

We can’t develop unity every day. We must each as members of local congregations pursue the vision and commission of Christ for us. Yet, we must find time to develop unity in our prayers, study, and fellowship. It is not an option. It is a mandate of Christ as strong as baptism and being filled with the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s Supper and a life of holiness. If He is Lord, then He is Lord of all.

If you believe in missions and evangelism, then you must believe in unity. The work of the Holy Spirit to draw people to Christ moves to the work to develop us into a life of dedication and separation and unity. In many ways, unity is a work of sanctification. We are separated to be joined in family under one Father, one Lord, and one Holy Spirit and one Body.

In the words of the old hymn, “Bind us together, Lord, bind us together. Bind us together as one.” It isn’t just about our home group or local congregation, it is about the Body. The BIG C church that is bigger than our denominational group, independent spirit, or local church. It is about JESUS, who is bigger than us all.

What a day that will be!

Settled

Then God said, “Shall I keep back from Abraham what I’m about to do? Abraham is going to become a large and strong nation; all the nations of the world are going to find themselves blessed through him. Yes, I’ve settled on him as the one to train his children and future family to observe God ’s way of life, live kindly and generously and fairly, so that God can complete in Abraham what he promised him.”
Genesis 18:17‭-‬19 MSG
https://bible.com/bible/97/gen.18.17-19.MSG

When God chose you to be His and your responded, it is settled. Get that! It is settled. He selected and settled on you. There is no more decison to be made. Walk it out and enjoy the settledness.

Release – Sunday 24th 2.30pm

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. ‘ James 5:16

https://my.bible.com/bible/59/JAS.5.16

Prayer is the channel of ultimate release of the God component of reality into full effectiveness.  Often we undermine the design of God through a lack of prayer.

Prayer is effective when coupled with faith.

This Sunday November 24th at 2.30 many congregations rise to prayer and praise in the community square in Gainesville.  You should expect the Lord to do something valuable and substantial in your life at this time.  This is not about meaningless drivel, but effective and powerful intervention of the Lord of Heaven and Earth.

Event Details for Sunday

Come expecting the miracle presence and power of the Holy Spirit to intervene in your business, your life, your home, your workplace, your church, your health, your government, and all that has effect on your daily living.  Come expecting.

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Finish Well at the Well

Finish Well at the Well:

This season, I have relaxed to watch a little football. Dallas and OU. What a mix. This is not my norm. Usually, I watch finals and bowl games but nothing in the season. The last two OU games are football at the finest. The favored team gets behind and pulls the game out in the last two minutes. Whew… That is like the old days of Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys.

In the last quarter, the announcers kept commenting how the OU offense had been on the field so long they might lose strength. They forgot the courageous Baylor defense had been on the field all that time also with no rest. Eventually, I believe the conditioning and sheer force of will to win in OU prevailed. It was a monumental struggle. It is a game for the history books and a quarter to be watched over and over. It speaks to us. No one lost that game, the clock just ran out.

And it is an analogy we all need. This morning I pray for those who are in the last minutes of a down and out situation. You have been favored before. You have seen success. It has all worked for you and now it seems to all be crashing. Or you have never seen the success you wish and here you are against the wall again.

Questions rake your mind and heart.

Where is the God of my prior success?

Why is this happening to me?

Is there any reason to persist?

Why not just give in and lose the game?

Haven’t I done enough in life?

I encourage you to finish well. Finish well. Dig into the well of reserved strength. A life of prayer and persistence has given you a resource of the Holy Spirit that will get you through this.

Jeremiah pointed out that we abandon the source of our strength too quickly and look for other solutions. The Lord is the source of our strength and our portion forever.

When I was a child visiting my dad’s relatives, my two aunts Willy and Helen lived out on a remote farm. The well water was not good. The neighbor down the road, George, had sweet well water. He would hitch a mule to a sled and bring large bottles of this sweet water to them. I remember the hot Summer riding that sled down the dirt road to his house and dipping into the water fresh at the well. It was cold and sweet and refreshing. Even today over 50 years later, I can smell the heat and the dirt and the mule and the sweet water and hear him, “Heeyah”, to the mule.

That is like the Lord’s fountain of life. When you are pressed to the max and turn to His well, you will never forget. You will go back. Go back to the well.

“For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭36:9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

https://www.bible.com/114/psa.36.9.nkjv

““For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭2:13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

https://www.bible.com/114/jer.2.13.nkjv

Turtle on a Post

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up.
Proverbs 12:25 HCSB

Ever felt like a turtle on a post? No way to get your footing? Stranded without a friend?

That feeling is insane. It drives heart and mind into a dither. Life can be like that.

That is when you need a friend. Someone who cares enough to take you out for a good steak dinner and laugh with you is a Godsend. A friend who meets you all the way at your doorstep instead of halfway to theirs is precious.

Be a friend to a stranded turtle. Don’t judge, correct, confront or constrain. Express kindness and companionship. They will find their footing. They need a friend.

Selah.

Pastor Phil