Spurned Love

23 May

My mind drifted today to spurned love. I’m not talking about that which occurs between lovers. No, friends and family members who won’t let you near them when they are struggling. Efforts to express your love and support get cut short or cut off. Something within them or integral to the problem erects barriers. They don’t want to hear your counsel. A hug smothers them. They’re certain they can work it out by themselves. It hurts being force to watch from a distance.

I can relate to them. I’ve used my turtle shell a number of times, too. I wonder how many times I reacted that way to Mom and Dad. Were there times when they would have made a big difference in outcomes if I had let them in? Did I hurt them by my actions? Surely it’s so; that’s the way those things work.

I never doubted my mom’s love for me. I had convinced myself that Dad’s chemistry lacked love. Not until years after his death did I begin to see the times Dad reached out to me with the only way he knew how to express love. Unfortunately, I wanted to receive it in different ways. His efforts missed my expectations and demands. Near the end of his life, we reconciled and love for one another grew, but most of my life held a great void. I guess if I could be granted a do-over, understanding how Dad tried to say he loved me would be on my list to choose from.

No matter which side of the communication a person is, both sides hurt when love cannot be expressed. As I look back at the previous void in my life, I am comforted to see Dad’s love was there for me.

Through this muse, I discovered a deeper appreciation for this passage in Matthew 23:37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”

Israel had been waiting for millenniums for the promised Messiah. When He stood in front of them, they rejected Him. He didn’t come in the way they wanted. They had a long history of rejecting God’s word to them. Because His communication fell flat—dead on arrival—for their purposes, they doubted God’s love for them or that He even existed. They reasoned that maybe the gods of other nations had more to offer. But still, God continued to love them and desired their nearness.

How many times when I didn’t sense God’s nearness could I say I was unwilling to draw near? How many times have I rejected His comfort because it wasn’t how I wanted it or because I thought I had to overcome the struggle on my own? In short, how have I spurned His love?

“…the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” That is such a beautiful image of God’s love and intimacy He wants with me and with you. I’m planning to bask in this thought this week. I hope you join me.

My “What If…” Answer

16 May

Hey, everyone. Thanks for the comments on “What If.” I was hoping for more input and more detail, but we will go with what we got. You probably wondered (maybe a little bit?) what took me away from my normal posts. Here it is.

I came across this article the other day: “Ten Reasons Why Millennials Are Backing Away from God and Christianity” http://fxn.ws/2pvd3vN. The report comes from the Pew Research Center, and it gives us much to consider. The article is a bit long, but not terribly so. I hope you take the time to read it through to its conclusion. (After finishing my blog—otherwise you might not make it back here.)

I believe the condition of American churches shows that numbers is not the answer. The millions of Christians are losing the battle for souls today, but it took only twelve men to turn the world upside down two thousand years ago. We need to rediscover and experience what they had.

My thoughts on Pew’s list:

1. Millennials are diversified and show very little brand loyalty in any areas of life. The pet doctrines we have allowed to separate the body of Christ has strengthened the argument and belief that there is no one truth. My truth is not your truth, they say and justify their lack of need for the church. Prescription: “If my people will humble themselves, turn from their wicked ways, and pray…”

2. The condition of the family impacts the church. Losing our grasp on what God designed in relationships contributes to the breakdown of the family. Loss of honoring father and mother spills over to dishonoring God. When our preferences are a substitution for convictions, we give the world license to take the Lord’s name in vain. Prescription: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.

3. Failure in the first two became fertile ground for this conclusion: “the only true truths are claims that are divorced from any supernatural context and impose no moral obligations on any human behavior.” The strength with which this stand is being pushed on America is nearly militant, or as the report says: enforce secularism. Prescription: Remember our first love as the church in Ephesus was challenged.

4. The church has a lack of genuine, consistent examples. We say “Jesus is the answer” with our lips, but “I’ll handle this myself” in our ways. The great 19th century evangelist D.L. Moody said, ““The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him.” He made it his goal to be that man. Imagine what changes could be made if every Christian chose to trust God in everything. Prescription: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”

5. Millennials see no need to be a part of any one church. Generations ago public service announcements on television reminded people to attend a place of worship of their choice on Sunday and that a family that prays together stays together. A pastor a few years ago said “Too many Christians try to see how far away from Jesus they can be and still be called a Christian.” Prescription: Fear the Lord, draw near to Him and resist the devil.

6. All questions of morality are totally subjective. Every action is viewed as preference and dependent upon situational ethics. It truly is do what is right in your own eyes. Prescription: “Let your light (your convictions, your knowledge of the truth, your intimacy with Jesus, your confidence in His promises) so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

7. Skepticism is considered lofty intellectualism so they conclude there are no answers. Their ears are closed to Jesus’ words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Prescription: hunger and thirst (hotly pursue) after righteousness (which can be found only in intimate relationship with Jesus).

8. Atheism has moved into the cool- or in-crowd. Don’t think for an instant I think Christianity should be the cool thing. As Kyle Idleman so superbly pointed out: Jesus is not wanting fans; He seeks followers. Prescription: Turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow Jesus.

9. I won’t paraphrase this one from Pew—a secular research center. Their wording says so much more than I could: Our new God: Tolerance by Thy name. Anyone who attempts to stand on a principle faces harsh backlash of criticism from others. Prescription: speak the truth in love.

10. The common nature of the age bracket falls in line with the trend. This one-to-two-decade period is stamped with a sense of invincibility and drive for autonomy. Throwing off supreme authority of God becomes easy after accepting the trends in the first nine. Prescription: totally surrender to Jesus’ authority in your own life and let it be seen.

I have suggested bits of scripture as steps, but I must tell you I don’t think we can achieve any success unless we have the same power of the Spirit the early church had. Taking these steps shows those around us, the spiritual powers in the heavens, and yes, even the Lord that we mean it. I want to leave you with one quote from the article that should speak to every Christian.

“But in addressing the spiritual attrition rate of young America, it must be admitted that a prayerless, powerless church peddling versions of ‘Christianity lite’ share in the blame. God only knows the degree of our complicity, and also the time when we’ll be concerned enough to change direction.”

What if Christianity began with today’s American churches?

9 May

Have you ever played the “What if…” game? Perhaps in the solitude of your thoughts? Well, here goes. What if the church in America were responsible for launching Christianity for the first time? Send me your thoughts and I will post them here. I can even post them anonymously, if you want. You can write your ideas in the comment section or send me an email at charley.charleshuff@gmail.com.

Be creative. Have some fun with this. I want to hear what you think before I share my thoughts.

I limit your imaginations only by asking you think of the American church as a whole, not just your own congregation. Beyond that, you can place the church back 2000 plus years or leave it in the current era.

How does the American church spread the gospel? Will it be effective? How do you think it would take hold? What obstacles does the church face? How does it overcome? What persecutions will it face? Where will the church be in 100 years?

Feel free to answer any other questions you might think of.

Ready? Set? Go!

Walk with the King Revisited

2 May

It’s hard to believe three weeks have passed since I posted Walk with the King. I don’t know about you, but I have been trying to follow my exhortation, and it has made a difference. At least there has been a change in me. Because of it, I want to ask your help on something. But before I do, let me explain what I’ve noticed since that blog.

I have identified four key words in my internal shift: confidence, freedom, purpose, and peace.

Confidence:
After all my years on earth and in positions of leadership, I realized the depth of truth in saying I don’t need to worry about messing up. The all-wise God in me rejected any feelings of inferiority. I could stand tall in my identity in Christ.

Freedom:
The increased confidence and the truth it is based on gave me greater freedom. Even if I would make a mistake, my identity is secure. I am His; He is mine. I’m in Him; He’s in me. He loves me no matter what. What others think of me is immaterial. I can’t explain how applying the simple phrase everywhere I went made these old truths more real. I can only say it did.

Purpose:
I don’t know what I expected to happen when I took my eyes off my mission and put it upon God’s purpose. I didn’t anticipate even more freedom. By mission, I am talking about going to the store to pick up that gallon of milk my wife sent me for. Stopping to get gas for the lawn mower. Taking care of the little ones while the wife runs a quick errand. Any goal or project before me that demands attention. I discovered the perfect form of multitasking. These other things can easily be done along the way of fulfilling God’s purpose.

Peace:
Isaiah 26:3 explains this discovery the best. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you (NASB). Confidence, freedom, and sense of purpose ushered in additional peace. That in turn bolstered confidence which fed into more freedom and purpose.

Have you a story?
I hope you took me up on the challenge. I would like to hear from you what you experienced. As the blog tagline says, my purpose in it is to support positive change. How excellent it is to support one another as we share our own stories.

I Want Your Help:
Now, the thing I want your help on: I want to have my own sign-off along the lines of Dr. Cook’s. I can’t steal his, but I believe there is a short way to express my emphasis. Help me turn this thought into a simple catchphrase:

Because He is always with me because he is in me, He enters every room I enter. My reason for being there is one thing, but remember He has a purpose He wants to accomplish through me.

I look forward to hearing from you, either sharing your experiences or help on my phrase (or both). That’s where the second part of Cook’s phrase comes to play: Be a Blessing.

Remember, if you don’t want to miss seeing my posts, click on the follow this blog button on the right to receive a gentle notice in your email. Thanks.

He Knows Me?

18 Apr

There I stood racking my brain for any forgotten encounter to account for what had just happened. A dignitary called me by name, gave me a hug, and thanked me for the work I was doing. I hadn’t thought about my work causing me to be recognized or singled out. I had a job to do. I did it as best I could. I looked for positive results at the end of the day. As I saw it, I did little or nothing to make me stand out in the workforce. But something had put me on this person’s radar. Plus, our connection deepened to a first-name basis friendship as the years went by.

I had never imagined personally knowing an important person before, let alone having that person initiate and maintain a relationship. I take that back. In my youth, I had entertained such fantasies, but I recognized them as fictional dreams that would never materialize—that is, except for one.

For the past months, my blogs have had a personal relationship with the Creator, the God of gods, King of kings, and Lord of lords as a common thread. I know some of you question whether that is reserved for people with special traits. I know because I have felt that often myself. Some stories in the Bible lend themselves to that conclusion. But the overall message of the Bible refutes it. And strong evidence proves it wrong.

I want to share one piece of evidence with you today. To be more precise, it is forty pieces combined into one book. James Stuart Bell has assembled forty accounts of God’s intervention in the lives of forty nobody-special individuals. The book, Gifts from Heaven: True Stories of Miraculous Answers to Prayer, encourages readers with the awesomeness of God coupled with the fact that each of us are special to Him. Look for it on line or in your local bookstore. You will even find one of my stories in it.

I don’t how or why Bell settled on the number of stories to include, but I see a relevant connection with the number forty. In Scripture, forty stands for testing. Israel wandered in the desert for forty years before entering into the promised land. Jesus fasted forty days in the desert before starting His ministry. The forty stories from unimportant people testify Jesus touched the writers’ lives in a miraculous event. They echo David’s exhortation in Psalm 34, “Taste [or in this discussion: test] and see the Lord is good.”

The stories also confirm Jesus’ words when He said the Father knows the number of hairs on our head. I can’t imagine any minutia more detailed than that. We don’t serve an impersonal God. He loves us all and doesn’t play favorites. It wasn’t the elite of Israel whose hair He counts. Jesus said that to nobodies like us and includes us today. And as we just celebrated Sunday, He’s alive and wants to show how personal He can be with you and me.

Here is a link for Bell’s book. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0764217860

I want to invite you to email me your story of when Jesus proved His intimacy in your life. Read through the last several posts of mine to see the common thread, and send me your testimony that I can share.

Don’t forget to click on the link to follow this blog if you have not done so before.

Remembering What Resurrection Sunday Is

15 Apr

I confess. All the years I have spent “up north” and have passed through the changes is worship music, my favorites are irrevocably Southern Gospel–especially good quartets.

Recently a video clip popped up on my screen as something I might enjoy. I want to share it with you as my Happy Easter greeting. It has extra meaning for me as I listened to so many of the singers captured in this video when I was young and still in southern Illinois. And, most of them are now on the other side of the lyrics. They have transitioned from having hope for being reunited with loved ones to standing with them in the Lord’s presence.

I hope you enjoy this and remember Easter is more accurately called Resurrection Sunday. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSE5PuX63vc

And, if you liked that one, I’m sure you will love this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5740m6F6kg

Walk with the King

11 Apr

The other morning a memory of a radio speaker’s sign-off surprised me when it interrupted my thoughts. The interruption capture my thoughts for two reasons. First, the memory reached back almost forty years. Dr. Robert A. Cook, President and later Chancellor of Kings College in New York recorded daily meditations. I didn’t catch every broadcast, but most. Each one faithfully ended with “Walk with the King today, and be a blessing.”

His content was always encouraging, uplifting or challenging. I could sense his arm reaching around my shoulder and giving it a gentle shake, squeeze, and pat with his sign-off tagline. There were days when I listened just to hear him say it.

Hearing but not hearing

While it ministered something to me, I heeded it no more than I did the Sunday School chorus I sang as a child:

“Wa-a-l-king with Je-e-sus.
Walking everyday
All along the way
Wa-a-l-king with Je-e-sus
Walking with Jesus alone.”

Why? Because I never experienced that close of a relationship with Jesus. I questioned if that was even possible to experience His nearness through every mundane minute. Over the years, I have seen individuals who appeared to have it, but not me. Twenty-four/seven Christianity stayed far from my reach. I fell in line with the mindset of many others: be the best I can be on Sunday mornings in church and hope for the best for the rest of the week.

Turn around thinking: facing where I’m going

I’m in a different place now, which is the second reason the tagline pirated my thoughts. It’s real. Those nine words capture what has been the center of my writings for the past three or four years. Living in the kingdom, becoming kingdom people. The scripture verses I read that morning made Cook’s words jump up and down with excitement.

“17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding[c] being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” (Ephesians 1:17-19, NKJV).

That describes a very different walking with Jesus than I had experienced. Hear the calling—wooing—of the Lord with these verses. Matthew 6:10 “Your kingdom come.
Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” He taught us to pray that. He also said in John 14:13-14, “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”

Paul adds in Ephesians 2:4-6 “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” When we look at the verses surrounding this passage, we see Paul’s subject wasn’t what we are to expect after we die. Paul wanted the Ephesian church (and by application you and me) to know our daily lives are to reflect our spiritual position.

Starting a new approach

I am embarking on a phase in my walk full of unknowns. (Again.) I choose to review these verses every morning. I will remember that Jesus, in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwelt, lives in me. Think of the implication! When I walk on the street, enter a room, or stand in line at a store; I purpose to remember I am an ambassador for the Lord’s kingdom. With that in mind, I want to ask Him what He has to give to anyone near me. And I will ask the Lord to help me believe He will achieve His purpose in spite of me.

Don’t imagine me attacking everyone with tracts spelling out the pathway to salvation. Some may need only a smile, forgiveness and understanding instead of judgment and condemnation, or a helping hand without saying a word. I am asking Jesus to help me see individuals in a crowd. That’s the first obstacle I have to overcome—to crawl out of my shell. I then need Him to show me the ones who need to see God’s kingdom come and His will be done in their lives–in the here and now. And I need His wisdom to know how to serve that person.

Preparing for restarts

Lastly, I ask Jesus to lift me up and put me back on this path when I fail. Stepping out of His grace and back into my selfish ways is never to be permanent. It’s never to be constant. John in his first letter reminds us that Jesus is always ready to forgive us when we stumble and fall from His grace. More than that, He is faithful to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Paul says Jesus works in us to change us from one [level of] glory to another. No adventure lacks obstacles and setbacks. That’s part of what makes adventures adventurous. The problems are there to strengthen us to learn and to overcome.

If you are already on this adventure and can share experiences and encouragement, please do. What has helped you keep imitating Christ focused in your mind and heart as distractions and irritations bombard you? How do you keep alert when you are in a time when life is smooth and soothing like a lullaby?

If you want to join me in this challenge, I ask you to let me know in the comments section below. We can work to support and encourage one another.

Don’t forget, if you don’t want to miss future posts of mine, simply click the follow this blog button on the right. To borrow from Dr. Cook: Until next time, walk with the King today and be a blessing.

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