Name the Shackles

NAME THE SHACKLES

Who am I to do such a thing?
 
I’m not good enough.
 
I don’t have what it takes.
 
Someone else would do it better.
 
When you have visions of great things you’d like to do for God, are your visions followed with thoughts like those above? If so, you are not alone. Those are the kinds of statements made by some of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament, just before God used them to do incredible works. Men like Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah were normal people of faith being unshackled to do amazing things empowered by an awesome God.
 
I believe it is one of the tasks of faith to name the shackles that bind us and keep us from the things we would like to do for God. In naming them, we identify the reality and pry apart the grip they have on our lives. What is keeping you from doing something for God that you have dreamed of but never taken steps toward?
 
EXCUSES. If you are like me you get defensive when someone identifies your perfectly good reasons as ‘excuses’. We need to be honest with ourselves. Are we making up excuses so that we do not have to experience the potential of failure as we try to do something great for God? 
 
I don’t know how to speak because I’m only a child. – Jeremiah 1:6
 
SHAME. Maybe we think that if we try – and fail – in service to God that somehow this is a terrible thing. Jeremiah preached for forty years without a single recorded positive response to his messages. He struggled, but he didn’t quit trying. 
 
I’m a man with unclean lips, and I live among a people with unclean lips. – Isaiah 6:5

SIN. The biggest shackle of all. We feel unqualified because we wrestle
with sin – and maybe one ‘besetting sin’ – that just won’t go away. As we attempt to glorify God in our lives how easy it would be for someone to point out our flaws. They could paint us as a hypocrite. Sin takes feelings of shame and rationalizing excuses and forms a weapon that destroys our hearts.

Who am I… What am I supposed to say? – Exodus 4:11,13

 
I encourage us all today to stop letting our shackles keep us from an exciting journey of faith. Yes, we need to name our shackles and identify them as weapons – weapons our enemy is using to diminish our work for God.
 
No weapon fashioned against you will succeed, and you may condemn every tongue that disputes with you. This is the heritage of the Lord’s servants, whose righteousness comes from me, says the Lord. – Isaiah 54:17
 
Read again the powerful armor God has provided every Christian to withstand the weapons of the enemy in Ephesians 6:10-18. Remind yourself of the power of the cross and the assurance of the resurrection to defeat sin and give you new life. Ultimately everything we do for God is not controlled by our hands. He uses us in ways we couldn’t have guessed. His surprises keep us attentive as we walk by faith.
 
We will be gin to notice that we are not, by our efforts, directing God’s work. When we walk by faith we are falling into His works in such a way that the old excuses, shame, and sin are remnants of the shackled life that is now free. 
 
Be mindful that no one does this perfectly. Don’t ever let a failure keep you from taking the next step with God. He’s never used anyone who wasn’t a failure in some respect or another. Remember that you do not have to see the end of the story, you just need to walk in the story. 
 
We live by faith and not by sight. – 2 Corinthians 5:7
 
Thanks for reading, John Dobbs

Increase our Faith(fulness)

Increase our Faith(fulness)

Tim Archer

It was one of those moments. Jesus challenged his disciples to show forgiveness to others, even if it means forgiving them seven times in one day. The disciples saw the challenge and responded: “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5)

I’m not entirely sure what they hoped to get from Jesus, but I suspect they recognized the gap between Jesus’ teachings and their own abilities.

So Jesus responded by saying that faith doesn’t have to be huge; even a tiny amount can move mountains.

Then he told them a parable:

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’ Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” (Luke 17:6-10)

I think he was saying, “You don’t need more faith; you need more faithfulness.”

In other words, theirs wasn’t a head problem. It wasn’t an intellectual need. It wasn’t even a lack of commitment. What they needed to do was put their faith into action. Or, more specifically, put their faith into obedience.

Hebrews 11 is the great chapter on faith. We read about Abel, Enoc, Noah, Abraham, Sara, Isaac, Jacob, and the rest. In almost every case, when we read about their faith, we read about something they did. We see their faith in their faithfulness.

Faith is more than an emotion. It’s more than an intellectual exercise. It’s something that you can observe. Faith is belief in action. Faith is being willing to listen to God and follow his lead, no matter what.

Faith leads to action. I can believe that a man is a doctor, yet still have no faith in him. But if I do have faith in a doctor, then I will follow his instructions. It is no special credit to me if I do what the doctor tells me to do; it is merely a symbol of the faith that I have in him.

If you’d like to have greater faith, then I believe the key is to take what faith you have and put it into action. Find ways to serve others. Tell people about what God is doing in this world. Meet needs and better your community.

Because you may not need more faith at all; you might just need a bit more faithfulness.

Timothy Archer has coordinated the Spanish-speaking Ministries for Hope For Life / Herald of Truth Ministries since 2006.  Tim’s latest book, Church Inside Out, helps churches motivate their members to be actively ministering to the community around them. You can follow Tim’s personal blog at: http://www.timothyarcher.com/kitchen/

Terry Rush Retires Today

Terry Rush and Me in November 2015

The news is that Terry Rush is retiring after 40 years as Senior Minister at the Memorial Drive Church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma today. Like thousands of others, I mostly knew Terry via the International Soul Winning Workshop as I attended over the past three decades. Terry came to town to tell us about Jesus and he did so with such passion and energy!

How many years did we go dragging to Tulsa Workshop wondering if we should continue in ministry and return home with the flame reignited! Terry Rush is one of those who continued to keep us aflame with the love for Christ and his mission to love and save humanity.

I’ve always admired Terry for his easy way of talking to strangers, reaching out to celebrities, and being a sports icon at St. Louis Cardinals. Surely you are already reading his blog regularly (LINK).  His books and film series have been a gift to the brotherhood of Christians who follow him.

Surely this is a bittersweet day for our brother, but I know he will receive many well-deserved accolades. His heart for ministry is so vivid in something he wrote on his Facebook page a few days ago:

Great days are ahead. Provision from God will be over the top. But today…and a few days ahead I will continue to cry. It’s within these tears of loving NOW that I will use them as telescopes to see the future wonder. I’m not thinking the fun stuff is over. I never have. So if you wouldn’t mind, I will cry just a bit….no….quite a bit. I’m the luckiest man I ever met…really.

This is the last Sunday of his ministry on staff at Memorial, but certainly not the last day of his influence for Christ. I’ve been blessed with many mentors and influencers in ministry and Terry shines brightly on that list. I just want to say to Terry, I love and appreciate you. You can’t know how much your outreach to me has meant … after Katrina… after the death of our son… after all.

I asked a few friends if they might want to join in with the RushFest today. Here’s what they had to say to Terry:

I have learned much from Terry, most of all that God can work in special ways with those who open themselves for His use. – Carl Ferril, St. John, Kansas

Thank you for the blessing you have been to the brotherhood! – Danny Dodd, North Little Rock, Arkansas

When I was putting my book, A Common Bond, together, Terry was one of the preachers I reached out to. I knew his wisdom and encouragement would be a blessing for others desiring to proclaim the Good News. I’ll never forget how he told me that for years he preached for the Church of Christ but then one day he decided to preach for the Christ of the Church. I love that and think of it often when writing or counseling. Thank you Terry for the influence you’ve had on me and countless others. – Paula Harrington, Calvert City, Kentucky

Terry was instrumental in helping me discover and understand “grace” theologically and practically. – Douglas Young, Teague, Texas

Terry encouraged me when I wanted to give up, he gave me wisdom when I needed it most. – Trent Tanaro, Spearman, Texas

I grew up in Tulsa, but didn’t worship at Memorial, however I heard Terry every year at the Workshop. I’ll never forget when he spoke to a couple hundred soon to be 5th graders about being leaders at our schools. I got his baseball card there, and thought he must be the coolest preacher ever. Terry loves all people and especially ministers. He has been and continues to be an encouragement to my family. He will visit and listen to any young minister seeking advice. He is a preachers preacher. – Chris Rampey, Stuart, Oklahoma

Though we had never met, Terry reached out to me at the very lowest point in my years of ministry. He offered me simple but sincere encouragement. He told me he was praying for me…and I knew he meant it. I have seen him to be a man of grace, even showing kindness to those who treat him spitefully. – Tim Parish, Lebanon, Tennessee

Terry’s smile was always infectious; his preaching style and antics endearing. More than anything, Terry has always been a breath of fresh air and extraordinary encouraging. I have been blessed by him and his ministry. – Les Ferguson, Jr., Ridgeland, Mississippi

Terry is Love. Kindness. Gentle. And, Faithful. He is above all, God’s man who listens to his Father continuously through the rough waters and the calm seasons. Terry is a preachers pastor. He offers help to the weary, beaten down, on the end of the rope preacher. Terry may be retiring from the weekly preacher duties, but I can assure you, he will continue to inspire countless thousands every day, whether it is his blog or simply seeing someone in the community where he lives. Terry is the face of Jesus! – Brian McCutchen, Sparta, Tennesee

When I think of Terry, the word “generous” comes to mind. He is always giving…always pouring himself out to people that many of us would never have noticed. The fruit of his ministry will last for generations as Terry has invested in so many people in such a selfless way. We owe our brother Terry a debt of gratitude. – Matt Dabbs, Auburn, Alabama

Terry brings to mind, for me, the verse that goes, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11) He seems to know what to say, and how to say it, and when. – Keith Brenton, Eureka Springs, Arkansas

When I think of Terry I think of the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy patience, gentleness are embodied in this servant of the Lord. I am so grateful to have been blessed by him from the time I was a student in the late 1980s to the present. We are all better because the Lord sent us this gift. His life has been an offering to the glory of the Father and we have reaped the rewards. Thank you Terry. – Bobby Valentine, Gunnison, Colorado

I’m sure this doesn’t do more than scratch the surface of heartfelt thanks and warm regards for a brother we all hold in high esteem. I love you and your family, Terry. New adventures ahead!

Thanks for reading, JD.

The Light of Faith

The Light of Faith by Jennifer Rundlett

We all can get burned out from time to time…

and our once full throated song can become a half-hearted tune that we push through as we become absent minded about the glorious light of our faith.

How can we cope with these times of the “doldrums” in our walk with God?

How can we encourage the sweet wind of the Holy Spirit to blow through us to re-kindle our inner fire?

Our faith is a precious treasure, a gift that should be nurtured in the best of times, so we might thrive, but also so we might navigate the storms ahead without losing our way.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you O God. ~ Psalm 42:1

Claude Monet (French, 1840 – 1926 ), Rouen Cathedral, West Façade, 1894, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection

This week, as I was considering the images of our faith, I was attracted to Claude Monet’s series of paintings on the Rouen Cathedral.

Monet was the founder of the 19th century French Impressionism movement. He was controversial for his time because he became fascinated with capturing on canvas the effects of light on one subject. To do this, he left the sanctuary of his studio and went directly to the outdoors to experience the changing effects natural light would have on a particular scene.

The National Gallery of Art describes this series of paintings as Monet’s desire to capture the “effects of light and weather” and he does this by painting the facade of this church some 30 times over many months as he rented rooms across from the Cathedral in late January of 1892 and stayed until spring.

Claude Monet (French, 1840 – 1926 ), Rouen Cathedral, West Façade, Sunlight, 1894, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection

This got me thinking about how many ways we use the word light to represent our faith and how our understanding of it can change over our lifetime.

  • Light represents seeing
  • It can also symbolize hope
  • A knowledge of a great truth…something that defines us and gives us purpose.
  • Our understanding of Light, gives us an impression of God.
  • Our attention to the light can fill us up until we overflow
  • Experiencing the warmth of God’s light tells us we are loved by our creator.

What do you think of when you talk about God’s light?

Claude Monet (French, 1840 – 1926 ), Rouen Cathedral, West Façade, 1894, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection

When I look at these paintings, I’m impressed and inspired by the thought of his devotion to capture the beauty of the light day after day.

Like Monet, I believe, that often what it takes to thrive in our spirituality is to stop-look-and listen- every day.

I want to encourage you to commit to a regular time of devotion to our Lord. Here are just a few ideas of things I have discovered along the way that rejuvenated my devotional time:

  • Rise early: Easier said than done, but try going to bed earlier so you can set your clock an hour earlier to spend time in prayer and devotion with our Lord. If the tasks of your day keep rushing in, make a quick to do list, then set it aside. It will be there when you are done and your time in prayer will help you remain in God’s peace as you enter your day.
  • A special place: whether it is in your home or office, create a special devotional space and fill it with items that will help you look forward to your quiet time with God. Perhaps you will light a candle or maybe you will have your special mug and favorite blend of coffee, these things can heighten your senses and help you relax allowing you to become more present as you attend to God’s voice.
  • Keep a prayer journal: I have always struggled with maintaining regular prayer practice, until I started writing my prayers. Now it is more of a conversation. I allow myself to write in a free form flowing in and out of prayer and regularly making note of where I noticed God in my day. You can also jot down Bible scriptures or favorite quotes. I’m always amazed at how writing something down helps me to hardwire the passage and meditate on a personal meaning for me.
  • Amazon Wish List: Start a wish list on amazon of all the books you would like to read. Anytime you hear about a book from a friend on Facebook or Twitter you can automatically add it to your list. Goodreads and Spotify are also wonderful social networks that can help you find recommendations for books and music to keep your devotional time fresh and inspiring.
  • Silence: Resolve to ask God questions and follow it by a period of silence…you will be amazed at how God will speak to your heart and open your eyes to new insights, discoveries and people all around you.

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” ~ Isaiah 26:3

Solitude is the practice of being absent from people and things to attend to God. Silence is the practice of quieting every inner and outer voice to attend to God.” ~ Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality p. 161

“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry we do not lose heart…For God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4: 1, 6

Like Monet, may we attend to the light of our faith so that we might notice all the beauty and all the little details of His divine love in our lives each day.

 “To me the motif itself is an insignificant factor…What I wanted to reproduce is what exists between the motif and me. ~ Claude Monet 

May God’s light and peace be with you, J


Jennifer Rundlett, founder of God thru the Arts ministries, maintains a presence in the community with her active lecture and concert series highlighting the spiritual connections throughout the arts. Author of My Dancing Day: Reflections of the Incarnation in Art and Music, and The Joyful Sound: Reflections on the Life of Christ in Art and Music she regularly posts devotional blogs on God thru the Arts at http://www.jrundlett.wordpress.com and has been a speaker at the Pepperdine University Bible Lectures in Malibu CA, Tulsa Workshop in Tulsa OK, David Lipscomb University Summer Celebration in Nashville TN, Rochester College Streaming in Rochester Hills Michigan and Fort Detrick Prayer Breakfast in Frederick Maryland. Here are just a few words about her latest book The Joyful Sound: Reflections on the Life of Christ in Art and Music

This book is filled with beautifully written devotionals that will move you through the life of Christ, awakening your senses and your faith. Enhanced by poetry, musical selections, devotional prayers, and journaling suggestions, this book will rejuvenate your private prayer, Bible class discussion, and enhance your journey of spiritual formation.

“Through art and music [this book] engages your soul and senses. Enjoy and embrace this profound and passionate experience.”

—RICHARD BECK, professor of psychology at Abilene Christian University and author of Reviving Old Scratch

“The Joyful Sound is both a walk through a gallery of art masterworks and a refreshing, reflective journey through the soul—lovely and transformative.”

—DAVID HAZARD, author of Rekindling the Inner Fire series.

“Jennifer Rundlett invites us to experience the stories of Jesus through the arts, and provides a rich resource and guide for visualizing, embracing, and hearing those stories in fresh and new ways. If you want to feel the stories of Jesus anew, practice the exercises in this book and learn to sing a new song.”     —JOHN MARK HICKS, professor of theology Lipscomb University and author of Come to the Table

Important Links:

http://www.godthruthearts.com

http://www.jrundlett.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/godthruthearts/ 

https://www.createspace.com/6338838

(Use Blog Tour Discount code: 4SRV37GX to receive $8.00 off my book at the Create Space eStore)

Caption #1 Rouen Cathedral: Facade Morning Effect, 1892-1894 Claude Monet, oil on canvas, Museum Folkway Essen Germany.

Caption #2 Claude Monet (French, 1840 – 1926), Rouen Cathedral, West Façade, 1894, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art Washington D.C.

Caption #3 Rouen Cathedral, West Façade, Sunlight, 1894, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art Washington D.C.

Goodbye Judy

Eddie and Judy Lewis

When I graduated from Magnolia Bible College in 1985 I moved 8 miles west from Ruleville, Mississippi to Cleveland. I worked for the Cleveland Church of Christ as a Campus Minister at Delta State University and as the Youth Minister for the church. The preaching minister at the time was Eddie Lewis. As a 21 year old recent college graduate with a new job I really thought I knew a lot. What I didn’t know was that I had stepped into a goldmine of mentoring under the influence of Eddie and Judy Lewis.  They were a marvelous team as they reached out to others in the church. It took me a while to realize this, but as I look back now I can see God’s hand in having me in their shadow and gaining life and ministry lessons from them that still serve me today. I think as long as I live I’ll always hope to be the kind of man that Eddie is. This is even more vivid as I’ve watched over the past six years as he has cared for his wonderful wife Judy as she traveled down the darkening road of dementia. But that was not the Judy that I knew.

Judy was perceptive. When you talked with her she often unearthed a perspective or feeling that you had not identified yet. This served her well as a counselor both in a professional setting and in informal conversations.

Judy was compassionate. Like most compassionate people, Judy had lived through a lot of her own heartache and troubles in life. I often marveled at how someone who had so much to deal with early in life could be such a sunny and bright person. She genuinely cared about the person in front of her, no matter who they were.

Judy was funny. She had a ready easy laugh – and if I can say this in a kind way – she was at times loud and vivacious!  Fun to be around because of her great sense of humor and desire to bring happiness to others, Judy had some (searching for words here) funny voices with which she would express things that brought many a smile. I can remember funny games that Eddie and Judy led at gatherings that had everyone in stitches.

Judy was unafraid. If there needed to be a hard conversation, she was ready to have it. It would be done with class and kindness. But it would happen – and often with a good resolution because of her determination to iron out anything that had created an issue. In addition, they ministered in a time when very few couples were doing marriage enrichment seminars for churches where both the husband and the wife spoke. These were tricky waters to navigate but they both cared about the family and withstood criticism from some in order to help the most.

It was during the time I was in Cleveland when an unexpected issue developed between my father and me. It was something I couldn’t do anything about. At the time I was still single and didn’t have the blessing of a spouse to lean upon. Depression settled in and I needed help. Eddie and Judy were there to be a blessing to me … a light in my darkness.

When the Lewis’ moved from Cleveland to Greenville and then on Germantown, they left behind friends and admirers who were impacted by their positive and uplifting ministry.

That’s why today, the day of Judy’s funeral, there are people all over Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Louisiana who are wistful today as they ruminate over memories of Judy. Her daughters and their families have endured a terrible loss. If there is any comfort it comes from two things…

Judy lived life to the fullest, a woman of faith and family, leaving a heritage her family can be proud of.

Judy is released from the darkness of memory loss into the brightness of God’s caring presence.

Until we meet again, goodbye Judy. God’s blessings and comfort to Eddie, Angelia and Christie and families.

Obituary for Judy Lewis

Thanks for reading, JD

Don’t Skip Confession

 

Don’t  Skip  Confession

The old prayer acronym is helpful: ACTSS. The letters stand for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication, and some add Submission.  In one of my prayer journals I have that written across the top of every new entry just as a reminder. Truthfully if I’m not mindful, prayer can become nothing much more than a list of things I want God to do for other people. In the ACTSS formula I’m reminded to include other important things as well … but even so I’m tempted to skim over the ‘Confession’ with a generic statement of confession that could be made by a monkey if he could talk, “Father, forgive me of all of my sins, I know they are many.”  Not only does He know that, he knows them by name.

Do you?

There is a reason why we are often fairly generic in our confession of sins to the Father. It might be because we are ashamed of what we have done or thought or neglected. But it also might be because we don’t want to think about our sins or we are unwilling to repent of them.

What happens when we fail to confess our sins to God?

*We are glossing over something that is powerful enough to destroy our relationship with God.

*We actually end up making light of the very thing that Jesus bore when he was crucified – our sins.

*We typically fail to address those items in our life and so they continue on, often in terribly destructive ways.

*We rob ourselves of the power of God to help us overcome and defeat the things that are weighing us down.

*We destroy our testimony as we continue on in sin without repentance. How will others ever believe they can overcome if we do not, by God’s strength, overcome the sins in our own life?

Do we really believe that God will forgive us? Do we believe that nothing we do

will cause him to love us less? Don’t we understand that his love is based on his nature and not our performance? Timothy Keller wrote, “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Keep on Praying, JD