Tuesday, August 15, 2017

THE EPISTLE OF JAMES - MIDWEEK BIBLE STUDY BEREAN BIBLE CHURCH

What follows is a Bible study I am leading at Berean Bible Church in Knoxville TN. If you are in Knoxville and do not have a church home, we would love for you to join us.  I will add to this post each week until the study is completed.  I hope it is a blessing to you!  Please feel free to leave comments or questions in the comment section, I enjoy hearing from readers.  God Bless

WEEK 1
AUGUST 16

JAMES


The book of James is possibly the first New Testament epistle. Many believe the book was written as a rebuttal to Paul's message of hyper-grace and see James as the antithesis of antinomianism, a doctrine mistakenly attributed to the Apostle Paul. Antinomianism is basically the belief that once salvation is secured by faith, believers are exempt from any moral obligations of the law. Paul did not teach this, in fact, Paul clearly taught against this idea: Romans 6:1-2 - What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
This epistle cannot be a rebuttal to the teachings of Paul because in Acts 15 we see the Jeruslem council headed up by James concluding Gentile believers were not required to observe Jewish Law.

Who is James – General consensus is James was the half brother of Jesus. A very small number of people attribute this writing to the Apostle James the son of Zebedee, the brother of the John. This James was martyred early in the life of the church. According to Acts, James the brother of Jesus was the leader of the church in Jerusalem.
Clement, a first century contemporary of Peter and Paul named James the brother of Jesus as the “bishop of bishop's, the bishop over Jerusalem.” We find Clement mentioned by name in the book of Philippians: Philppians 4:3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Jude mentions that he is a brother of James in the opening line of his epistle and we find a list of Jesus' brothers in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, we see a list of Jesus' brothers with both James and Jude mentioned. Interestingly, James' name is realy Jacob, but anglicized by the tranlators of the KJV.

The salutation is written specifically to the 12 tribes of Israel in the dispersion. The dispersion took place shortly after the stoning of Stephen. Acts 8 mentions the scattering of the Jewish believers. Peter's epistles were also directed to the scattered Jewish believers and also dealt with some of the same themes as James. There are some who believe the epistle is written to Tribulation saints due to the mentioning of the 12 tribes. We do not see a complete mentioning of the 12 tribes of Israel after the Babylonian captivity until the 144,000 Jewish evangelists drawn from the 12 tribes found in Revelation. The parallels to Matthew 25 also lead some to this conclusion. We will look at these parallels as we look at James' instructions for taking care of the poor.

Though many misinterprate the purpose of this epistle, the generel purpose is to show how beleivers ought to behave in response to salvation.


  1. V. 1 – As stated above, James is writing specifically to the believing Jews dispersed among the Gentile nations. In the first century, the dispersion was a factor of 2 events. First, the Jews who remained abroad after the Babylonian captivity but maintained their faith and observed the holy days in Jerusalem. On the day of Pentecost, many of these foreign Jews became believers and went back home with their new faith. The other factor of the dispersion was after the stoning of Stephen, many believing Jews fled Jerusalem for fear of the Jewish leaders. I believe this letter is written primarily to the first group while Peter seemed to be writing primarily to the second group.
  1. v. 2-3 – By the nature of these Jews professing faith in Jesus, they became double outcasts in their homeland. Already, they were excluded from much of public life because they were faithful Jews living in pagan cultures and now, upon returning home, they would have no longer been accepted in their Jewish communities. Sadly, much of the persecutions experienced by these new converts would come from friends and family.

As believers, we are living in a world governed by a philosophy opposite of what we are called to live by. We are called to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us and to put others first. Often the others we are called to put first are people who are opposed to what we believe and people who, in a worldly sense, add no value to our lives. By nature of our living in opposition to this world's methodology, we often find ourselves facing hardships that unbelievers do not normally encounter. These hardships serve as trials. What does a trial hope to accomplish – it proves or disproves a matter. In our case, it hopefully proves our faith and as verse 3 indicates, creates steadfastness. The word for trial is pirasmos meaning to put to proof and the word for steadfastness is hupamone meaning hopeful constancy. So the idea we get is that we will suffer hardship as a method of proving our salvation and teaching us a constancy of faithfulness regardless of our circumstances.

When we learn of a man who is able to look over the rail of a ship at the depths where his children lie at the bottom of the ocean and he is able to pen the hymn It Is Well With My Soul we meet a man who has been proven through hardship and found constant in faithfulness. This is the kind of faith we want to find in ourselves.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

THE BABY FACED MADMAN - KIM JONG UN

     This week, once again, the U.S. intelligence community realizes an underestimated threat is now serious business.  The Obama administration, whether through ignorance or outright collusion, underestimated the treat of ISIS, referring to it as a JV team.  Then, When Kim Jong Un  of N. Korea posed with a photo of what he claimed was a nuclear bomb, U. S. intelligence scoffed, calling the bomb a disco ball.


Previously, Kim Jong Un was considered a harmless mad man, nothing more than a paper tiger.  Un, like a weak child on the playground calling out insults and threats to the bigger stronger kids was simply ignored as irrelevant.  This week, the weaker kid showed up to the playground armed and dangerous, and the big kids are finally taking notice!

     Suddenly the memes mocking Un's weight are not quite as funny...  Well, maybe they are still a little funny: 



     The bottom line is, Kim Jong Un is a serious threat to the U. S. and it's allies.  Alaska and Hawaii are at immediate risk, Hawaii projects an 8-12 minute notice of imminent attack.  

     A preemptive strike could raise the ire of China and spark World War III.  A delayed response could lead to a tremendous loss of life and an unprecedented attack on U. S, soil.  Dealing with Kim Jong Un  is not like dealing with a reasonable leader who is concerned with the well being of his people.  Un has no loyalties, as demonstrated earlier this year with the assassination of his own brother.  

     The Christian response is to not hate this man, but to pray for him.  We need to pray for our leaders to exercise wisdom and courage and pray for Kim Jong Un's soul.  Should Un set off a nuke in America, he will undoubtedly be receiving a one way ticket to the judgment seat of Christ, courtesy of the U. S. military. 

     It is time for us to pray for peace and security for America and intervention from God.  Jesus tells us in Luke 18:27 - What is impossible with man is possible with God.  So, while it may seem an impossibility that someone like Kim Jong Un could be saved and turn form evil, it is not too great a thing for God to expose Un to the Gospel. Of course it is up to Un as to what he will do with the truth, but we can pray for him.

   No matter what unfolds in the coming days, we must remember that God is securely on the throne and no weapon formed against us can stand, spiritually speaking. Now is not a time of fear but of courage!

Friday, July 28, 2017

SEX AND THE BODY OF CHRIST

     
     Sex is not a new human obsession - the earliest writings and even Egyptian hieroglyphs illustrate man's ever present pursuit of physical pleasure.  Beside the necessity to pro-create and continue the human race, sex is fun.  Throughout history, men and women have sacrificed all they had on the altar of sexual pleasure.

     Great men of high integrity have been ruined by unrestrained sexual conquest: David with Bathsheba comes to mind.  Families, lives, and reputations have been ruined by one night of indiscretion. Ministries have been toppled while men and women of high standing in the Christian community have been destroyed because of unrestrained sexual impulses.  

In the Bible, not only were whole cities destroyed due to illicit sexual sin, but the entire earth was flooded because angels couldn't restrain themselves from sexual behavior with human women! (for more on this CLICK HERE) Why - because sex is fun and the ultimate expression of intimacy.  

     America experienced a sexual revolution that began in the late 60's and has culminated to our anything goes society of today.  The message: "if it feels good, do it!" becomes a modern day motto of sorts.  "Safe sex" is taught in schools as early as kindergarten and the message of abstinence is scoffed at as ridiculously old fashioned. 

 The news is filled with the sexual misadventures of Hollywood stars and political figures making the rest of us feel as if we are somehow not normal for living monogamous or celibate lifestyles.  We are taught in schools we are evolved from animals thus, we can only expect to act like animals, mating at will.  

The church's attitude toward sex has been less than consistent, as well.  Conservative churches are quick to attack the homosexual movement, while turning a blind eye to pre-marital sex within it's walls.  We just expect dating heterosexuals to have sex or cohabitate. Maybe it is just easier to ignore and we fall back on the wimp's favorite passage when confronted with sin, "judge not..." 

     Sexual purity is essential to a healthy church and a healthy relationship with God.  Romans 8:1  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Condemnation is not the issue, living a life pleasing to God and obeying the commands of scripture are the issues. My intent is not to shame or condemn anyone, my intent is to point out hypocrisy in the church while warning against falling outside God's will due to sexual sin.  

     Sexual sin, like all sin, separates us from God and restricts us from His blessings and provisions.  Sexual sin, like all sin, hinders our ability to serve God effectively. 
 1 Thessalonians 4:3  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;  

1 Corinthians 6:18  Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 

    God loves you and does not set boundaries in order to restrict you from fun, He sets boundaries to protect you.  In the case of God's commands against sexually immoral behavior,  we are protected from disease and complicated entanglements within relationships.  A study cited in the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law named pornography and sexual freedom as two of the main contributing factors to violence against women.

   God offers forgiveness and power to overcome the desires and temptations of sexual sin. 
 1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 


1 Corinthians 10:13  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 

     Do not allow sexual sin to derail your spiritual life.  God designed you for so much better!  It is never too late to repent and live in purity.  


Sunday, July 9, 2017

LIVING NOW HERE OR LIVING NOWHERE - IT'S UP TO YOU

          Are you missing out on today while living for the mystery of tomorrow or in the shadows of the past?  Are you living for a goal?  Do you focus most of your time and resources on a desired result that may or may not manifest?  Are you reveling in a past success or victory?  Are you prisoner to your past, haunted by tragedy or failure? The past is gone and the future, if we are honest, is a complete mystery.  The only true reality is the here and now.

     Brennan Manning, in his book Ruthless Trust, introduced the concept of living in the Nowhere.  Not pronounced no-where, but now-here.  One of life's greatest dangers is missing life itself by living outside tangible reality.  Now-here is tangible reality.  Now-here is when you make life changing decisions.  Now-here is where you live.  The past is unchangeable and distorted by time where memory either glamorizes and sanitizes or casts crippling blame and shame.  Tomorrow may literally never come and is filled with incalculable variables for which even the greatest minds cannot plan.  The past and the future do not exist, there is only now-here, you can live now-here or you are living nowhere.

    A man was given one day to enjoy the beach, desiring to leave his mark, he frantically built sandcastles until evening. He looks over all his hard work and seeing how much of it has been washed away by the tide, realizes he not only wasted his time but failed to enjoy the beauty of the sea, the salt air on his face or the sound of the ocean's roar.  The man had one opportunity to enjoy what was before him and he squandered it in a worthless pursuit.   

     Like the man given one opportunity to experience the beach, we are given one opportunity to experience life.  Much of what we pursue as important will be washed away by the tides of time.  Working and planning for the future is necessary and wise, ignoring the now-here while working and planning is a tragic waste of the beauty and wonder with which God surrounds us. 

 In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon looks over his life and laments on how he wasted his time.  Solomon, the wisest and arguably wealthiest, man who ever lived, missed out on the simple pleasures afforded by daily life because he consumed himself with working toward future goals. He concludes: Ecclesiastes 3:12-13  I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;  also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man. 

God gives us life, people around us, and tasks to perform, He desires us to enjoy these things while we are in the midst of them. God gave us taste buds to enjoy a good meal, the sense of smell to experience a beautiful perfume or scent of a rose, eyes to behold the wonder of a rainbow, a storm cloud or the face of someone we love. The Bible tells us that enjoying the journey is God's gift to us.  
    Balance is always wise, living as if there is no tomorrow is dangerous and foolish.  Plan and work toward the future but not at the expense of the Nowhere.  Live in today as you look towards tomorrow.  Love in today as you plan for the future.  Bask in the beauty of where you are now even as you are progress to a new destination.    

Thursday, July 6, 2017

FINDING PURPOSE IN TRAGEDY

     
Abel had it pretty good.  He seemed to enjoy favor from both his earthly father, Adam, and his heavenly Father, Yehovah.  Abel's life was cruising along nicely and then... tragedy struck!  Tragedy struck for Abel when he realized his brother was about to kill him.  Tragedy struck when Adam and Eve discovered that their son Cain killed their son Abel.  A seemingly senseless tragedy, serving no purpose except to plunge two parents into grief at the loss of two sons, one murdered, the other banished by God Himself.  

DOES ANYTHING REALLY SERVE NO PURPOSE?

Psalm 119:89-91  Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.  Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.  By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants. 

If we are to believe scripture, everything has purpose. If we are to believe scripture, God is not only sovereign, He is a God of order.  If we are to believe scripture, man has free will and is not a creature of order.  So, by the power of deductive reasoning, we can conclude: man is chaotic and allowed to freely choose chaos and disorder by a God of order and the tragedy wrought by the chaos of man is somehow used by God to bring about His stated purpose and order.  Seems paradoxical, but somehow it works.

WHAT MAN MEANT FOR EVIL, GOD USES FOR GOOD

     Many Jewish families were living, working and flourishing in Germany.  Everything was going along fine and then...tragedy struck.  Adolph Hitler nearly eradicated European Jewry.  God used this great tragedy to re-establish the nation of Israel, a fulfillment of prophecy.  In the midst of tragedy, most living in concentration camps had no sense of God's purpose, only hopelessness.  God's purpose was always in play, however.  Like a master chess player matched up against a novice, every move the novice makes ultimately serves the master's victory.  

WHAT'S THE POINT?

    Above are two tales of tragic events.  At first, purpose may not seem apparent in the events of the first murder.  Cain believed he could extinguish the light of God's truth by extinguishing the light bearer, in this case, Abel.  God's purpose was to prove the light of truth is bigger than any one man.  For more on this topic, CLICK HERE  God is a God of purpose and order, no tragedy catches Him by surprise, nor can any tragedy thwart His plans. CLICK HERE for my post: Where is God When...?



  The above verse tells us all things are God's servants.  All things work together for the purposes of God, even tragedy in our own personal lives.  The question is not always "why did this happen?"  The real question is, "How will God be glorified in this, and what is my role in His glorification?"  God, being all knowing, calculates every possible choice and action of chaotic man, employing  a counter measure designed to use even the efforts of evil men to fulfill His plan for mankind.  That is true power, that is true sovereignty. That is a God worth serving!


Saturday, June 24, 2017

IS GOD SAFE? NO, BUT HE IS GOOD!

 
        Is God good?  Yes, but is He safe?  That is the question we must ask ourselves before we step out and serve the Creator of the universe - Jesus Christ Almighty.  In C. S. Lewis' masterpiece of literature, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, the character Aslan represents Jesus our Lord.  Upon finding out she was a bout to meet Aslan and he was a lion, Susan asks "Is he - quite safe...?" The reply she received: "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe.  But he's good.  He's the king I tell you."  If you are looking for safe, look elsewhere -  hell was made for wimps.  If you are looking for good, Jesus Himself said, "there is none good but God."


     God calls us to:  2 Samuel 10:12  Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him." The good God of Scripture does not want to use us in comfort zones or "safe spaces".  The God I serve calls me out of my comfort zone on a regular basis!  The God I serve requires courage.  In sharing my frustration with a friend this week, he reminded me, "You've gotten comfortable dude, God doesn't want you to be comfortable." 

     I think one of God's favorite question from His children is one borne of frustration: "What more can I do Lord...?"  God's response must be, "I thought you'd never ask!  Let me show you!  Come on, let's go do this together!"  This is where the fun begins.  Look at all the cool things God's servants got to do in scripture: Noah got to sail around the world, David got to slay a giant, Jonah got to see the inside of a fish and lived to tell about it, Daniel got to spend the night with a pride of lions, Peter got to walk on water, Elijah got to fly to heaven in a chariot of fire, and Ezekiel got to go for a ride with God in a... well I am not entirely sure what he is describing in Ezekiel chapter 1, but it seems awesome!  So awesome Ezekiel could not speak for the next seven days.  The point is, serving God is an adventure and it is not always easy and it is certainly not safe.

If you are looking for adventure and fulfillment check out the path Jesus marked out for you from foundations of the earth. Serving God will not be easy, safe nor comfortable but I promise - IT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND!

Related post - WHAT IS GOD'S DIRECTION FOR MY LIFE

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

WHAT IS GOD'S DIRECTION FOR MY LIFE? - FOLLOWING PILLARS OF CLOUD AND FIRE

   


Have you ever felt adrift? Have you ever felt as if your life was directionless or that maybe you were running ahead of God, or falling behind? How do you know if you are walking with God or off on some rabbit trail? Can we even know what direction God wants us to go?


During the Exodus the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, but there was purpose in their wanderings. God was accomplishing His work in them and in others through them. To the outsider looking in, it appeared the Israelites were meandering lost with no clear direction. This prompted Pharaoh and his army to attack and ultimately die in the Red Sea. The Israelites were not meandering aimlessly, they were following God's direction.

The Israelites had a physical manifestation of the presence of God, a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

Exodus 40:36-37 Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up.

Exodus 13:21 The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.


Today, the church has a physical manifestation of God to guide us. We have the Holy Spirit indwellingThe key for us, as believers, is knowing God to the point we are able to sense His leadership in our lives. God is a personal being and to say He merely desires relationship with us would be a gross understatement. All we can know about God is found in scripture but to truly know God requires building a relationship. God initiated contact with us, He gave us a perfect world to live in - we messed it up. He gave us leaders to follow - we rebelled against them. He gave us His written Word - we allow it to collect dust on a shelf. He sent us His Son - we killed Him. He sent us His Holy Spirit - we disdain His influence.


As a society, we have worked hard to misunderstand and misrepresent God. We have attempted to re-create the creator in order to justify our own will and behavior. God has SO MUCH MORE for us than just knowing about Him. How can we expect to know what God wants from us if we do not know God. I cannot trust direction from someone I do not know, much less believe the direction is authentic. Take the time to know God, spend time with Him in prayer, worship, fellowship with other believers. Seek out discipleship. Only after you know God can you truly know His plan for your life.

Friday, June 2, 2017

WHY SHOULD GOD CARE WHAT I DO?

  Image result for why does God care what i do        
      
Why should God care what I do?  Is God some petty control freak who demands my obedience in order to placate His ego?  What am I to God that He should even be aware of my existence in the vastness of all creation?  What difference does what God thinks about me even matter... I mean, really, who cares!?



     God cares.  God cares because He craves fellowship with His creation.  God cares because He desires to bless me and provide my needs and to pour out His Spirit upon me and then use me to reveal His great love to others.  God cares because God is love.

     Recently, a couple who is very dear to me began fostering a young child who, by all indications, was most likely abused. The child seems a bit distrustful  of men.  The foster dad desires a relationship with the child and is excited when the child responds to his kindness. Slowly, he is building a relationship with the child and every positive response from the child absolutely lifts his heart.  I believe this is how it is with God.  Our desire for Him lifts His heart!  We are hurt by people because people are broken and we distrust God because He becomes one more person who has the opportunity to let us down or take advantage of us.  

    God is not human and not bound to human weakness and sin.  God is not selfish or self serving that He should harm us, not even inadvertently, for His own agenda.  Everything in all of creation screams of God's love for us. Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

     Know this, God not only loves you, He exults over you... this means, when the Creator of the universe thinks of you, He is jubilant!  Imagine, the Lord of all creation jubilantly singing over your very existence!!  

God became a man (Jesus Christ) and died in our place in order to restore fellowship with us, even though we were not interested in fellowship with Him.  God cares about our behavior because it is often harmful to ourselves and/or others and hinders our ability to receive all He has for us.  

Why should God care what I do?  Because He wants what is best for me, He wants to reveal His great love to me and He wants to reveal His great love through me. That's why God cares about what I do!

     

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

WHERE IS GOD WHEN...

       One of the most asked questions during tragedy is "Where is God?"  When the bottom falls out, we wonder, "where is God?" When our expectations are not met, or we fail, or when we are the victims of the neglect and sin of others, or when things just do not go as planned, we ask, "where is God?"  

     So often, we are lied to and told, if we live by a certain formula of obedience and we do just the right amount of good deeds and practice just the right amount of religious observances, life will be, not only smooth, but prosperous.  Jesus told us life would be tough.  Jesus is not looking for followers who want a nice easy life, He is looking for people like the Apostle Paul who are willing to suffer hardship, deny self and go without basic comforts for the sake of the lost.  

    Sadly, many abandon God, feeling betrayed because expectations were not met.  If I do good, good things happen, right?  Not necessarily, after all, what is the minimum amount of good I must do in order to "release" blessing in my life.  Thankfully, our relationship with Christ is not based on our performance, for if it were, we would all be in trouble. Even if there were some magic Good Meter measuring my deeds, how would I know if I were doing enough good in order to receive the amount of comfort, health and wealth I desired?  What if I were able to work to the blessing and knew just the right amount of good I needed to do in order to get what I wanted?  Would my motive cancel out my action since it is selfish at the core? The question is moot, I am called to deny myself, pick up my cross and follow Christ.  I should have no expectation of an easy life in the flesh. 

  As Christians, we must remember, we are called to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. The Bible tells us: one day we will share in the glory of Christ, we will rule and reign with Christ and we will live in an environment where there is no danger, sickness or tears. Gratification deferred must be our mindset as we set our hearts and minds on Christ. 

     The key to getting though adversity is acknowledging this is not our home.  At home, I want to feel, well...  at home! I want to be comfortable, happy and secure.  If I view this life as home, I have certain expectations, demands even. I want what everyone else has, I want wide open roads clear of obstacles, I want instant gratification!  If I recognize my home is in heaven with God, when I recognize just how fleeting this life is in terms of eternity, I am able to experience the joy of the Lord in any circumstance or situation.  If we lose sight of the big picture, we will get lost in the weeds of life and lament our situation. As we stay focused on the prize, hardships here only serve to make There look so much better.  

    So where is God when life takes, what we believe to be, a wrong turn?  Right there with us, just like He was when we were on top of the world.  Where is God, He is on the throne and in control and working all things together for good for those who love Him.  Without the guidance of God's Word, we will forget these truths,  as we abide in Christ and continue in His Word we will know exactly where God is and we will yearn to be with Him in glory!


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

TO HELL WITH HER, SHE'S ALWAYS BEEN THAT WAY!

   
 "She's always been that way."  This was a community's excuse used to ignore the plight of a Muslim woman in a Muslim country living in filth.  Recently, a good friend of mine returned from a mission trip to a Muslim country.  To protect my friend, I will not reveal his name, nor the country he visited, as he plans on returning. What I will reveal is the miracle which took place in the life of a poor woman, neglected and abandoned by her family and community.  

    As my friend related this story to me three nights ago, I felt compelled to share it here.  In a small, run down, trash filled house in the Middle East, lived a woman whose life was changed by the name of Jesus Christ.  This poor woman was living in squalor as trash completely covered the floor of her home.  This was not trash as one would envision, this trash was rotten chicken parts, food refuse, and other bio nastiness.  The woman herself was confined to a single chair from which she was physically unable to get up due to infection eating both her legs.  Food was brought in but no efforts to care for the woman's other needs were made.  As the woman sat in her own filth, unable to rise from her chair, surrounded by rotting refuse, my friend inquired of the community as to why no one lifted a finger to help her.  

     "She's always been that way," was the response.  "She's always been that way," was the excuse to ignore the horrible plight of a fellow human being in need.  "She's always been that way," was reason enough to allow a woman to exist in terrible pain from infection and remain trapped in filth.  Not only did the community not help this woman, they were clear that no one else would be permitted to help her either.  My friend's hear broke for this woman and as he prayed for an answer to her situation, God clearly spoke to him about praying over her in the name of Jesus Christ.  My friend went to her home with food and asked permission to pray with her.  For a Muslim woman, in a Muslim nation to allow an American Christian man to pray with her is a miracle in itself.

    My brother in Christ prayed over this woman, in the name of Jesus, asking God to intervene in her life.  The woman thanked my friend and he left.  Days later, my friend returned and found that some of the trash had been removed from the home.  After being prayed for, the woman received a visit from her family who began to move some of the trash out of her home.  My friend dropped off food, prayed the name of Jesus over the woman again and left.  The next time my friend dropped by, all the trash was removed and the woman had received medical treatment for her infection.  My friend shared Jesus with the woman, dropped food, prayed with her and left.  The last time my friend saw this woman, she was sitting outside in the sun for the first time in a very, very long time.  She was overjoyed, shared her gratitude and faith in Christ with my friend and a few days later she died.  The woman is in the presence of God, right now, because someone did not accept "she's always been that way," as an excuse to write her off.


    All around us are people who seem hopeless. No one is a lost cause.  How many people do we fail to reach out to or think are beyond reach because, "they have always been that way?"  By labeling someone as "always been that way", we find an excuse to ignore needs and basic human kindness.  The guy addicted to drugs, "he's always been that way", the gal who is reckless and promiscuous, "she's always been that way."  The man who has a terrible disposition and seems to derive pleasure by making those around him miserable, "eh, he's always been that way."  Writing someone off as having always been that way is spiritual laziness at best and damnable neglect at worst.  What is really being said is, "To hell with them, they've always been that way." 

     "They've always been that way" may be just the lie Satan will use to keep believers from reaching out to a lost soul in need of salvation. "Always been that way," may be the very lie used to send a person God loves to hell.  Not everyone will respond to the Gospel message, not everyone will change and turn to Christ, but, don't be the person who stood by and watched a life go down the drain.  

    If you are a believer, and you are reading this, chances are, someone cared enough about you to share the Gospel and lead you to Christ.  Per chance, God is placing a lost cause person on your heart right now, someone who has "always been that way."  God loves them and so should you - now... what are you going to do about it?

Saturday, April 29, 2017

METAL MISSION OF KNOXVILLE

     One day, when Jesus was walking in a large crowd, a woman, afflicted many years with an  illness, longed for healing from the Messiah.  Knowing she could not get his attention in such a large crowd, the woman did all of which she was capable, reaching out, she touched the fringe of His garment.  Previously, I had written about this dear lady and her faith.  CLICK HERE to read  When I wrote about this lady and her faith, I had no idea that God would, almost two years later, use this passage of scripture to launch a ministry
 

     For the past three or four years, I have been trying to fit into a mold that is not me.  I cut my hair, took out my earrings and, for the most part covered my tattoos with more business type attire.  For the past few years, I have felt like a fish out of water.  Over the past few months, I began to realize, I am not being true to the person that God has allowed me to become and am attempting to fit into what society finds acceptable.    

      My family and I went to the Punk Rock Flea Market in Knoxville, an annual event held at a local tattoo parlor.  This is not a mainstream event and most of the vendors and shoppers are somewhat fringey.  Plenty of tattoos, piercings, various colored hair in interesting styles and people who were very nice and enjoyable to talk to. This began a stirring in my heart as I considered the story of the lady above, grabbing the fringe of Christ's garment.  I wondered, who is reaching out to this segment of society?  As we are currently planting house churches in Knoxville, I felt led of God to start a fellowship that would be welcoming to those on the fringe of society, so to speak.  With nothing but a burden on my heart, I had no idea where to start.

     I shared this with my wife, who is also not a traditional looking church goer, with pierced nose and tattoos, and she was immediately engaged.  We began to pray.  We began to share this vision with others and others shared their desire to reach out to those not served by traditional church, for various reasons.  I shard the idea with my friend Victor and he shared with me his desire to minister with his world renowned band Place of Skulls.  Victor had contacted churches and offered to play outreaches, all to no avail.  We began to pray.  As we prayed, we realized that we both had the same desire to reach the lost and minister to believers who are less traditional.  As we kicked around different ideas, Skyler, my son in law became as engaged as Victor and I and together we prayed our way into Metal Mission of Knoxville.  

     Special thanks goes out to Pastor Brian Smith of the First Heavy Metal Church of Christ in Dayton Ohio.  Victor and I conference called with Pastor Brian and he gave us great guidance and encouragement and sent us a goody box filled with t-shirts and outreach material.  Up to this point, we had no official name and were, with permission, partnering with Heavy Metal Church.  Pastor Brian was gracious enough to allow us to use his logo and bus in our promotional material.    
    On March 28, 2017, about a week after we agreed the name Metal Mission of Knoxville, we had our first outreach event.  Fearing the unknown, we prayed that God would fill the Open Chord club.  We were astounded to see a standing room only crowd.  Place of Skulls played a 30 minute set, I spoke for almost 20 minutes and Place of Skulls rocked the place out with another 30 minutes of hard driving, God honoring music.  The response was more than we could have hoped for.  Many people came together behind the scenes to help make the night happen, from prayer warriors to Metal Missionaries putting posters up all over town. 

     The lady who grabbed the fringe of Jesus' cloak  was on the fringe of society, herself.  Suffering for a bleeding illness, she was considered unclean and would not have been  welcome to approach a religious figure, let alone dare to speak to or touch one.  God saw her need and honored her faith by healing her.  She may have been an outcast to mainstream society, but God loved her and her needs mattered.  Many churches do not welcome people with long hair, tattoos and piercings or denim and leather.  Even churches with a policy to welcome everyone do not necessarily know how to minister to or even relate to those outside the mainstream.  Where can these people go to serve and have their needs met?  Metal Mission of Knoxville hopes to be that ministry. 

     MMoK has immediate opportunities to serve in the homeless community of Knoxville.  Just about every Romans 12 gift of the Spirit is needed to run this weekly outreach.  MMoK does not expect people to transform overnight, we believe the work of the Holy Spirit convicts and transforms the heart of the believer. MMoK does not ignore or excuse sin, either.  Opportunities to learn and grow exist through home churches and local churches who see the value of such a ministry.  Pastor Bryan Glass of Berean Bible Church has been very supportive and engaged.  MMoK also has discipleship opportunities available, with a 6 month intensive program that confronts real life issues head on.  

    Metal Mission of Knoxville is not about being cool or gimmicky,  MMoK is about being real.  Being real with God, being real about who an individual is in Christ and being real about the transforming power of the Gospel.  Come check us out on Facebook to learn more: https://www.facebook.com/Metal-Mission-of-Knoxville-1405236649523179/

Life can be tough as hell sometimes, but Jesus Christ is tougher then Hell!


Saturday, April 22, 2017

IS SOCIAL MEDIA HARMING YOUR TESTIMONY?


        Double minded Christianity is destroying the testimony of the church.  Failing, as all humans do is one thing, a lifestyle of sin or continuing in a defining sin is quite a different matter.  Many believers struggle in matters of faith as each is at varying stages of growth and maturity.  The bottom line factor is: are you more submitted to God or the pleasures of the world?



Colossians 3:8-10  But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 

     Social media is the great bearer of souls.  For some reason, many people feel perfectly comfortable posting a spiritually sound and uplifting meme one moment and a foul language ridden, sexually crude comment the next.  We live in a world where we can learn everything we need to know about someone by spending five minutes looking through a Facebook page or perusing a Twitter account.  

    There was an age when people built relationships by spending time together, conversing, sharing a meal.  In twenty first century America, I can find out what movies you like, what music you listen to, what you believe, (or claim to believe) and what type of causes you are interested in.  I can find out who you love and you hate, who you admire and who you despise.  I can know, not only your political affiliations, but how you stand on almost any political or social issue. All his can be accomplished with out ever speaking or meeting in person.  Every post, every like, every share, every retweet, every follow reveals who you are, how you think and whether or not we would get along, if we ever actually interacted face to face.  

    Social media also reveals your heart... Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms will reveal more of your inner being than you can imagine.  Twitter and Instagram are especially telling as much of what is posted on these is quick and impulsive.  A hundred harmless posts and tweets, every few days, adds up to a great deal of personal information, inadvertently shared.  People are looking and paying attention.  Ministry opportunities will be gained and lost based on social media posts.  Future employers are looking as well.  Before I conduct an interview, I look.  

    The point to all this is, do not be double minded.  Social media will expose you!  If you are committed to the cause of Christ, then be committed all the way.  1 Corinthians 10:31  So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 
This includes sharing your thoughts on social media.  Think about what is posted and ask, "will this honor or dishonor God?" God makes it clear in scripture, He does not tolerate double mindedness - Revelation 3:15-16  "'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth." Part of being real with God is being honest about who we are.  Pretending to be holier than we actually are will almost always end in embarrassment.  Trying to seem cool and trendy is just as lame on social media as it is in person, few people are fooled.  

     If you are a church going, Bible reading, Jesus spouting Christian, be ever so careful what you like, share and post.  Be a consistent witness for the cause of Christ.  Do not flaunt your liberty at the expense of someone else's stumbling.  If you think it might be wrong, it probably is.  Honor God and do not give anyone a cause to accuse you of sin.  


    
     

Friday, April 14, 2017

JUST AS I AM - JUST AS YOU ARE


   While I listened to Maximus by King James today, a cover of the old hymn Just As I Am moved me in an amazing way.  As I listened to this metal'd up, bluesy, version of a classic hymn, I could not help but ponder the vast greatness of God vs. my seemingly insignificant place in the universe and God's infinite and personal love for me. I felt incredibly minuscule and overwhelmed by love at the same time.  Just as I am - this is how God wants me to come to Him. In all my weakness, in all my fear and in all my inadequacies, God loves me.  
 

     I do not need to clean up my act in order to come to God and accept Christ's love and sacrifice, nor do you.  The clean up comes after I submit myself to His will through faith in the cross.  The clean up is not by my might, nor by my power, but by God's Spirit.  Zechariah 4:6  Then he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. This is an amazing promise. This is liberating.  This is something I can grasp and understand.  

     In the song Just As I Am, the call is simply as it sounds, come as you are.  This means God wants you and your personality.  God wants to change destructive practices and attitudes but He does not want  to give you a spiritual lobotomy.  Each person experiences life in such a way that life shapes us.  Our genetics coupled with our environment serve to make us who we are.  Each is unique in style and substance.  God wants to use you, not some watered down generic version of you.  

     One of the biggest traps we fall into is trying to conform to what others think we should be or look like, rather than what God thinks.  God will reveal the changes that are necessary, and yes, there will be changes in behavior and attitudes as God draws you toward holiness in the sanctification process.  Change is a partnership between you and the Holy Spirit. 

     Won't you join me as I stand before the living God, just as I am, recognizing I have nothing to offer but what He has given me and allow Him to transform you, from who you are to what He wants you to be?  


Check out legendary guitarist Rex Carroll and King James on this moving rendition you probably never heard before:










Wednesday, April 5, 2017

WHO IS THE DISCIPLE JESUS LOVES - GO LOOK IN THE MIRROR

   
      Have you ever experienced true love and favor that you know you did not deserve?  Have you ever felt singled out for favor by someone who made you feel important?  Most people know what it is like to be singled out for ridicule or to be simply ignored.  To be singled out as special, for most people, is rare, and even more rare is being singled out as special just because you are you and not for something you have accomplished or have to offer. 


    In his Gospel account, John the Apostle refers to himself as the disciple Jesus loved.  At first, this may seem a bit arrogant or prideful, however, in the context of understanding God, this is a very accurate statement.  In fact, this is a statement that any born again believer in Christ can make!  I am the disciple Jesus loves...


     I have nothing to offer Christ but the abilities and desires He has given me.  I possess no astounding talent and have no amazing capacity to love others.  The Bible tells us all good things come from the Father.  Therefore, if there is any good in me, it is there because God placed it there.  Yet, bankrupt of any natural ability, I am the disciple Jesus loves.  God does not necessarily love me because of who I am, but because of who He is.
    YOU are the disciple Jesus loves!  If you were the only one in the world, Christ would have died for you.  Society makes us feel inadequate, our failures based on human effort make us feel unworthy, our interaction with other broken people make us feel unlovable, yet... we are loved, individually by the King of all creation. 

     Do you want to see the disciple Jesus loves?  Go look in the mirror and know you have eternal value to the One who matters most, Christ the King!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

CONFORMING VS TRANSFORMING - BEING WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST

 
   How does a ministry balance "come as you are" invitations to Christ with the Biblical call for transformation?  In our multicultural, all inclusive, tolerance based society, this can be a difficult road to navigate.  Do we insist upon immediate repentance of blatant sin or do we recognize a process of sanctification?  Can a guy with a purple mohawk or a gal with multiple face piercings grow in Christ inwardly and still look the same on the outside.  Where do we draw the line on "acceptable sin"?  What is acceptable sin and is there even such a thing?  

      As society becomes more and more "tolerant" of, well, basically everything, how does the church, especially in the context of evangelism, respond to today's culture with a message of God's holiness and remain relevant?  A big trap to avoid is, when we call others to holiness, we do not consider ourselves the model for holiness!  Jesus Christ is the model of holiness.  When a guy who grew up in an upper middle class home, in an upper middle class neighborhood goes to a seminary after college and then falls into a pastorate in an upper middle class church he has a much different life experience than most people to whom he will minister.  This upper middle class pastor, who probably spends most of his adult life in a coat and tie, may believe the appearance of an average upper middle class person is the appearance that best represents holiness. The only problem is, Jesus never addressed hair style and clothes.  

    The Bible clearly tells us men should not wear women's clothes and women should not wear men's clothes. Where the Bible speaks on tattoos and piercings, it also prohibits the eating of bacon, shrimp and lobster...  Unless you are practicing Judaism and relying on the Law of Moses for salvation (which cannot be done) these prohibitions do not apply, anyway.  

     So purple mohawk guy, pierced face gal,  sleeved young man, Jesus loves you, hair dye, hardware, tattoos and all. God's purpose for you may very well include your less than traditional appearance.  

    Blatant sin, which we could categorize as sin that leads to death, should be addressed and dealt with as soon  as possible in the life of a new believer.  If a person is truly surrendering his life to Christ and not merely looking for "fire insurance" against hell, there should be some immediate repentance of blatant sin.  If someone is coming to Christ for salvation, chances are he is well aware of the fact there is blatant sin needing to be dealt with and are seeking God because of that sin in the first place.  

     The early church fathers instructed the non-Jewish believers to abstain from sexual immorality, eating of blood, eating strangled food and food sacrificed to idols.  We see a Biblical precedent in the book of Acts where people involved in witchcraft and sorcery immediately gave up their evil practices and burned their books and other associated items.  So, yes, there are behaviors and lifestyle choices that are absolutely incompatible with the Christian life, and no, this is not an exhaustive list of what we can and cannot do.  

     Discipleship is the key to all of this, teaching the new believer about the role of the Holy Spirit in convicting conscience about sin and the role of the Holy Spirit in helping us overcome the desire to sin.  This helps us avoid, all together, the question of "acceptable sin".  In truth, there is no such thing as acceptable sin, however, there are certain things that are sin in the life of one and not the other.  To a drunk, having a beer is sin, to a person who has no compulsion or desire to be drunk, relaxing with a beer probably is not a sin.  Where the Bible speaks clearly, we should obey and where the Bible is silent, we ought to pray and seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit before we attempt to remove every perceived speck from our neighbor's eyes. (for more on the topic of specks and beams, CLICK HERE) 

     Come as you are evangelism is absolutely legitimate, but, a remain as you are message is just as wrong as saying "change so you look like me".   God will change the new believer from the inside out, dealing with bad and dangerous behavior, not necessarily general appearance.  So, the message should be, "come as you are, expect God to transform you and your life, but, be the person God has allowed you to become, because He has use of you whether you are more comfortable in a sweater vest or a leather vest". Matthew 6:33  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

SERVING WITH JOY AND NOT COMPULSION

   
  Why is the Western church in such disarray?  Spiritually speaking, one of the most deadly practices we find in the church is compulsory service and observances.  Compulsory service has an appearance of godliness, but in reality is worthless and hollow. How many come to church begrudgingly, slogging through the worship songs with no thought given to words sung nor to the One sung to?  How many paltry dollars are dropped in the offering plate out of a sense of obligation or coercion?  How many zoned out heart and minds sit through  a carefully prepared message from the Word?  How many think they have done their duty for God by suffering through yet another church service or performing some religious task?  This is why the church is dying in America, too many people are pretending and not enough are truly committed to what they claim to believe.

     In 2 Chronicles 30-31, we find the Hebrews celebrating Passover, properly, for what may be the first time in 250 years.  Though they celebrated it a month late and not all the people were ceremonially clean, the hearts of the people were wholly dedicated to God and His glory.  So joyful an event was the 7 day festival, the people decided to celebrate for another 7 days.  After they celebrated, they willfully and joyfully went through the land and destroyed all that brought dishonor to God.  The Hebrews did not begrudgingly quit doing things they enjoyed for fear of retribution or punishment, they genuinely desired to honor and please God with their daily lives. God's wrath on the nation was temporarily averted because the people served Him with their heart, rather than out of obligation.

     Coming to that place, where we are desiring to please God, not just trying to avoid punishment, is part of maturing in Christ.  When we repent from bad habits and attitudes because our hearts are truly convicted by our love for God, this is real Christianity.  When we simply attempt to live by a set of rules because the rules seem to be what Christians are supposed to do, we are deceiving ourselves and opening the door for self righteousness.  True obedience and discipleship start with a change within.  Inward change does not begin with outward subjugation to a given set of dos and don'ts. There is no joy found in compulsion, only a sense of duty and obligation that can bring stress or pride, both destructive.  

     Authentic change can only come by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ.  Attempting to live a holy life without the supernatural empowerment of the Holy Spirit is frustrating at best and self destructive at worst.  It simply cannot be done.  Religion is a system of order and compulsory behaviors designed to bring us closer to God.  Religion is empty and without power.  Relationship draws us closer to God through knowledge and understanding of His word and desire to please Him.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

LOVING THE DEAD - BECAUSE CHRIST LOVED US WHEN WE WERE STILL DEAD

  
  What can the dead do?  If a person died in front of you, would you attempt CPR or take some other action in order to help revive them, would you shout at them to wake up before it is too late, or would you just ignore them and walk on by?  Spiritually speaking, Christians come in contact with the dead every day.  What is our response? I hope we remember that we were once spiritually dead and now have the responsibility to share life.  

Ephesians 2:1&4-5  And you were dead in the trespasses and sins... But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

In the Christian community, we know we are to love one another, and how we do that varies more or less.  Sadly, it is often more less, but we know better.  How the Christian community relates to those outside the church is a different matter.  Perception is king and pop culture portrays the church as narrow minded and bigoted, perceiving the average Christian as a hatemonger.  One of the biggest obstacles we face is our own rhetoric and behavior.  Legalistic congregations and even some parachurch organizations have been known for some outrageous behavior.  So called Pastor, Fred Phelps, and the antics of the his Westboro Baptist Church comes to mind, when we speak of "hate filled" Christians. 

     While clowns like Phelps (oh, was that less than loving? Jesus called the religious hypocrites worse) give a black eye to the Christian community, there are myriads of believers quietly working in outreach ministries demonstrating the love of Jesus.  This is who we need to be.  This is how we overcome the stereotype of bigot and hater.  This is the Great Commission.  


     Pastor Bob Beeman is an example of a guy who gets it right: 




     
    Loving one another is behavior oriented, not words or platitudes.  The guy who tells his wife "I love you" and then smacks her around does not love his wife, he loves himself.  True love may never say the words "I love you" but is demonstrated in actions of good. Those who are lost in sin need to know God loves them. We must endeavor to love by considering others better than ourselves. Our behavior toward those dead in sin may be the difference between them finding salvation or remaining alienated from God. Find someone to bless today and tell them you love them by your actions not your words! 
      

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

POWER TO OVERCOME- WE ARE MORE THAN CONQUERORS!

 
  Struggling through life is not what God intends for His children.  No, this is not a "God makes everything great" post, this is a God makes everything bearable post.  Just like everyone who breaths air, you and I will go through tough times.  Walking with Jesus gives us the power to overcome in adversity.  Notice we do not overcome adversity, we overcome in adversity.  Overcoming does not necessarily mean our problems go away, it means we are not destroyed and it means we can flourish while in the midst of adversity.

     The Bible tells us: 1 Corinthians 10:13  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. God gives us the ability to endure.  Jesus withstood the face to face temptation of Satan in the wilderness.  Jesus endured because He focused on the Word of God. Though Jesus is God, He chose to limit Himself to manhood in order to save man.  As a man, Jesus learned scripture the same way we do, He studied it and memorized it.  Jesus is an example to us, in His humanity.

     The same power Jesus had to endure hardship is available to us, as believers in Christ.  1 John 4:17  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 
 Some wallow in self pity rather than seeing adversity as an opportunity for God to manifest His power.  God has imprinted us with His very image.  This sets us apart from the rest of creation. Even the angels are charged with serving mankind:  Hebrews 1:13-14  And to which of the angels has he ever said, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"?  Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? 

     Know God loves you and know He promises to never leave you nor forsake you.  All the power of God and is available for sustaining us when life gets difficult.  When tough times come, pray and seek His comfort and strength.  God my not change your circumstances but He will change your perspective.  God uses adversity in our lives to empower us for His service and to prepare us for His blessings. God also promises us peace and joy regardless of circumstances.  Romans 8:37  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  God's design is for us to flourish and grow, even in the midst of hardship and difficulty.  Give Him the opportunity to demonstrate, not only His power, but His great love for you.  


Friday, March 3, 2017

REDISCOVERING WORTH - A TALE OF 3 MOTORCYCLES


    I remember a time when I was given 3 motorcycles that had been left in an abandoned storage facility.  None of them ran, nor were they titled.  At one time, these bikes came off an assembly line with hope and promise.  Each bike was crafted with a specific purpose in mind.  All three bikes were good for transportation and fun.  Each bike went from the factory to a person entrusted with it's care, maintenance and proper use, ensuring each bike fulfilled it's destiny.  Somewhere along the line, these bikes each became neglected and mistreated by the person entrusted with their care.  Each bike apparently malfunctioned because of improper care.  These bikes had no power of their own to maintain themselves properly, yet when they no longer worked as designed, they were declared worthless by their caretakers.  Mishandled, these bikes became erratic in their behavior.  The owners were either abusive, negligent, or simply not equipped to own and maintain a motorcycle.  As each motorcycle began to "misbehave", none of the owners seemed willing to take responsibility, all three owners told these bikes, once their pride and joy, they were worthless.  All three owners cast these bikes out and abandoned them because they did not meet expectations.  Possibly having a bike was not exactly as they had envisioned.  


     As outcasts, these bikes sat in an abandoned storage pod with other cast offs and broken items deemed worthless by those entrusted with their care.  As so often is the case, these broken cast offs found their way to each other. Now, obviously, these bikes are inanimate objects without thought of feeling, but for the sake of analogy, imagine these were sentient creatures with the power of thought and emotion.  Imagine what the neglect, misuse and dissatisfaction of the owners would do to these bikes.  Imagine what "life" was like for these three as they are declared worthless by those who should have loved and cared for them. Imagine the hurt and bewilderment as they are abandoned and left as if they never existed.  Imagine how that would sit together, yet alone, year after year believing they somehow failed or stewing in anger and feeding off of each other's misery.  

    Sadly, and devastatingly so, there are many people who have this same story.  Babies born with God given purpose and design, often  to parents who are excited and hopeful, yet ill equipped and selfish.  Some are born into hostile environments where they are unwanted from the beginning.  After a life of neglect, abuse and improper parenting, many of these babies grow up resentful, rebellious and worst of all, hurt... deeply hurt.  Broken by the ones entrusted with care and nurturing, these broken children grow into broken adults.  Because of behavioral issues or attitudes born of bad parenting, these broken children are declared worthless or "troubled".  Cast aside by society, many of these naturally gravitate to others who have been similarly treated and worse behaviors and attitudes manifest. When a person believes he is worthless, he is without hope and behaves worthlessly.  

      Mainstream society and church shuns those with tattoos, piercings and multicolored hair.  It becomes easier for people to ignore those who are different and pretend no problem exists. The broken and distrustful often gravitate to the fringes of society and the mainstream church seems content to leave them there.  What mainstream society and churches do not realize is that those with the hardest shells often built those shells in response to deep harm caused by those who were entrusted with love and care.  A hard shell ensures no one else gets in to cause harm.  Jesus came to seek that which was lost, is that not what the church is to be doing also?  We cannot just build a building and start preaching and expect people to show up, we have to go to where the people are.  What we have is a message of hope, the message is worthless if it is not shared.  

     Thankfully, the story of the motorcycles does not end with abandonment in a warehouse.  Two of those bikes were actually able to fulfill their original purpose and intent.  One was worked on and able to run and given to a family member, another was given to an immigrant who needed transportation.  These bikes were not able to rebuild themselves or suddenly start up and ride off into the sunset, they needed help and care.  Once they received the help and care necessary, they were able to fulfill the role for which they were designed.  So many people are just like these bikes, not ever realizing that they have potential or that anyone even cares about them.
  
     If the church is not willing to go to the fringes of society to rescue the lost, there will be no rescue of the lost.  And  by the church, I am not talking about the First Baptist Church of Whatever, I am talking about you and me, the Body of Christ, fulfilling our calling and purpose.  No one is worthless, no one is forsaken of God, so why is the church content with allowing whole segments of society believe they are worthless and forsaken?  Part of the reason is this kind of ministry is messy.  Our cookie cutter ideas of what faith and sanctification should look like does not match this kind of ministry.  We too often think salvation should come with a suit, tie and a haircut when sometimes salvation means new tattoos and different t-shirt.  

       Like many people, these bikes were made with care and specific purpose, but, due to the negligence and mistreatment of others, sat in obscurity.  There are many people who, though fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving creator, were mistreated and neglected, cast aside and forgotten, or simply ignored. This mistreatment often leads to poor choices which only serve to magnify feelings of alienation.  The church cannot... must not, ignore those who are hurting or deemed worthless by holier than thou hypocrites. The church, which is you and me, must step up and step out and seek what was lost and what was cast aside and what was deemed worthless by corrupt and sin addled society.