Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Habits of this Highly Effective (but lost) Church Lay Leader: Manipulation and the Inner Circle (Part B: Making Friends in High Places)

"Hear, O Israel! The Lord, Your God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord, Your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul and all of your might. " - Deuteronomy 4:4-5 (ESV)

Last week, we discussed a familiar text that runs throughout the entire Old and New Testaments. We found that in the New Testament, Jesus added the second greatest commandment of "loving your neighbor as yourself." As a matter of clarification, most scholars believe that Jesus was actually referring to two key pieces of Judaism - The Ten Commandments, and a familiar daily prayer called the Shema, which is the text found in Deuteronomy 4-5.

I believe that last week's lesson comes easy to some of us simply because God has made us in His image and has created us with the desire for affection. Because we are imitators by design and we learn so much by imitation, our desire for affection comes with the ability to mirror what is given to us. So, even in a fallen world, a fallen people can almost grasp the idea of showing affection toward others to some degree or another. Having said that, however, it is not until we are able to love God that we are able to love others the way that God loves them (unconditionally.)

So, this week, we're going to talk about Loving God Fully.... with all of our heart, soul, and might.
But that's the second half of the Shema. Let's first discover some truths about the first half.

As I said before, this was (and still is) a familiar daily prayer for Judaism. It is recited morning and evening, and it is the first prayer recited at the end of every worship service. The main point of this prayer is that God alone is God and He is King.

The literal translation of the first part of the Shema (according to Wikapaedia) is as follows:

Shema - Listen, or hear and do (according to the Targum, accept)

Yisrael- the people of Israel or the congregation of Israel

Adonai- often translated as "Lord", read in place of YHWH (*Adonai was a personal name for God)

Eloheinu- our God (this is the same as Eloheim, which is translated THE LORD in all caps in the Old Testament)

Echad- this word has a dual meaning in Hebrew - it means both the number one (1) and alone.

With the Shema came two things: a premise and a promise. The premise was that it was a given that God is KING and that we must accept that as fact. The promise came with it was that if you were to keep this particular commandment all of your life, life would go well for you and you would multiply greatly. (Deut. 6:3)

The commandment was found in the second half: loving the Lord Your God with all of your heart, soul and might. This was to be taught to their children (v.7), hung on their doorposts and on their gates.

So what kind of love is this???

Matthew Henry's commentary says that this kind of love is a sincere love, not just in word, saying we love Him when our hearts aren't with Him, but "inwardly and in truth, and finding solace in Him." He goes on to say that this should be a "strong that is carried out with great ardour and affection." The idea here is that God - and only He - should have our entire beings.... our all! This is a love reserved only for Him. It is higher than any love for any other.

In addition, we are to know God, so that we can share Him with others. When we love God with our minds, our thoughts are centered on Him. We cannot think without considering Him in the thought. His thoughts become our thoughts. The mind of Christ becomes our mind as we grow to love Him and know Him more fully each day.

This is a nothing held back kind of love. It is a following hard after Christ in all that we do! We leave nothing for another. And we wouldn't dare chase after anyone but God! He is IT! He is the God of above all gods... The King above all Kings and the Lord above all Lords! He alone is God and there is absolutely no other.

There is no Higher God.
There is no Higher King.
There is no Higher Lord
There is no Higher Name.
There is no Higher Way.
There is no Higher Desire.
There is no Higher Agenda.
There is no Higher Life.
There is no Higher Design.
There is no Higher Plan.
There is no Higher Path.
There is no Higher Passion.
There is no Higher Love.

Not even one.

And there is none who deserves our Praise except Our God! It is in Him Whom we live, move and have our being. (Acts 17:28) It is He Who brings us (the followers of God) together in one Body, the church.

From a personal view, this is where the rubber meets the road. Quite simply: we either love God fully, or we don't love Him at all. We're either going to love God and obey Him and desire nothing and no other but Him, or we have placed someone or something above our desires for Him... and bowed to another god. If we, as the Bride of Christ, have set our affections on another rather than on God Himself, then we have committed adultery with Our Heavenly Bridegroom! And if we give credence to other circumstances or other things that are not of our God, then we are not being faithful to the One Who has been Faithful to us!

When God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai, the very first words out of His mouth were, "I am THE LORD Your God Who brought you out of Egypt. You shall have no other Gods before me." (Exodus 20:2-3) He is a jealous God. (Exodus 20:6) But His love is steadfast toward all who love Him and keep His commandments. (Exodus 20:7)

This is a full-throttle love, dear readers. This is the kind of love that transcends any other love. It does not find itself lurking in the shadows or waiting on someone else to move you. It is the all out, sold out, fired up, flipped out, crazy kind of love. And it cannot be found anywhere else but in the person of Jesus Christ! And it is all about Him, all for Him, and cannot be found without Him!

Got your heart revved up for God?? Or is He God at all to you??? Check your heart.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Note from Bitsy....


I am typing this on a borrowed computer, as mine has finally had to go into the shop for repairs beyond what we could do at home. I honestly believe that, in the infamous words of Spock, "It's dead, Jim." But I won't know until our dear friend, Wayne has a chance to take a look at it. Needless to say, I wanted to let you know that tomorrow's post will be post-poned until we are able to discern what we will do next with my computer situation.

I will have a computer soon, but it's just a matter of whether my current one can be repaired or I will need to purchase a new one. As crazy as this sounds, I would rather keep this one because I am in the middle of saving for a rather costly mission trip next summer, and would rather not have to buy any big ticket items between now and then, if at all possible. While I have already managed to earn or save about half of the cost of the trip for next summer, it is still going to take quite a chunk out of our household budget in order for me to go. So, I am all for the cheaper option and for repairing first. If it has totally given up the ghost, then I guess I will want to see if we can salvage the stuff from the old hard drives and put them on the new computer as a backup.

Oh, and while I have your attention, I also wanted to tell you that I have felt the impression of the Lord to write a part B of last week's post, so stay tuned. This will stretch out our series a bit longer than we had planned, but that's okay... God's ideas are always better than ours! Amen???

As we approach the Thanksgiving Holiday, dear friends, I want you to know what a blessing you are to me! Thank you for your overwhelming support for the blog! I think I am still just in amazement that people actually want to read my stuff! Did you know that in just eight months of blogging, we've had nearly 1700 hits to the blog site??? And did you know that nearly 400 of those hits have come in the past 4 weeks??? I'm blown away by that! WOW!

God bless each of you this week... And I promise, I will be back soon to continue our series.

Much love,


Monday, November 16, 2009

The Habits of this Highly Effective (but Lost) Church Lay Leader: Manipulation and the Inner Circle (Week 3)

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." - John 4:23

Well, well. We've made it to week three together! Thanks for hanging out with me thus far. Before I get into this week's topic, I want to tell you that last week was a topsy-turvy one at our house. My husband had an emergency heart catherization following what we thought was just going to be a routine stress test on Wednesday. No doubt, many of you, who are regular readers and know me personally already know that, but for those who were not aware, he's recovering well.

God is still in control, even when there are rough circumstances. We are very thankful that God has provided us with a great family doctor who made a great call, and a very attentive stress test tech who stopped the test at the first early signals. Your prayers for a continued recovery for him and for peace in my already chaotic world would be greatly appreciated.

So... Let's review a little bit: In week one, we talked about being real before God and before His people. We want to make sure that we have a real relationship with God through Genuine Surrender, and are not just fulfilling religious practices. We also want to drop those masks that we sometimes wear as believers in front of other folks... Last week, we learned to communicate with God by learning to pray the way that Jesus taught us to pray in the Model Prayer.... and not by pre-conceived notions that we may have learned by observing others.

Now, let's talk about this week's topic relative to our horizontal relationships. Over and over in both the Old and New Testaments, God instructed His people with regard to how to treat people around us. And there is a recurring theme. It was first introduced in Deuteronomy 6:5: "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." This same command was given four more times in the Old Testament (three more times in Deuteronomy, and then again in Joshua), and in all four of the gospels.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest of the commandments was, He responded with this same Old Testament quote, then He added, "and love your neighbor as yourself." Three of the four of the gospels record a version of this same quote from Jesus. You can find it in Mt. 22:37, Mk. 12:33, and Lk. 10:27.

Now, I'm not sure about you, but if the God of the Universe says something, I generally give it a lot of credence... Especially, if it was said over and over and over again... and then Jesus said the same thing on the earth later. Kinda makes it a no brainer, huh? At the very least, He gave the same instruction over and over again.... as if the repetition would somehow help it to sink in.

But stupid humans that we are, we just don't get it sometimes, do we? The people of Jesus' day certainly didn't. And I'm not so sure that we're not a lot like them...

Let me show you what I mean. Take the story of the Good Samaritan. Turn over to the book of Luke, Chapter 10, beginning with verse 25. If you don't have your own Bible handy, I've printed this parable of Jesus here for you from "The Message:"

25 Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus.
"Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?" 26 He answered, "What's
written in God's Law? How do you interpret it?" 27 He said, "That you love
the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and
intelligence - and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself."
28 "Good answer!" said Jesus. "Do it and you'll live." 29 Looking for a
loophole, he asked, "And just how would you define 'neighbor'?" 30 Jesus
answered by telling a story. "There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem
to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes,
beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. 31 Luckily, a priest was on
his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the
other side. 32 Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the
injured man. 33 "A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the
man's condition, his heart went out to him. 34 He gave him first aid,
disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey,
led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. 35 In the morning he took out
two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take good care of
him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill - I'll pay you on my way back.'
36 "What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man
attacked by robbers?" 37 "The one who treated him kindly," the religion
scholar responded. Jesus said, "Go and do the same."

No doubt, if you have been in Sunday School at any point in your life, you've heard this story. There was a Jewish man going to Jericho down a very familiar highway and along the way, he was beaten by robbers. A couple of guys pass by on the other side and do NOTHING to help this poor guy that had been beaten, stripped naked and left for dead on the side of the road. But a Samaritan saw him and came to his rescue...

Funny that in verse 29, one of the religious teachers (a lawyer, actually) was looking for a loophole... He wanted Jesus to "define neighbor." Sound familiar??? Aren't we always looking for some way to escape the ways that God has called us to love other people?

Allow me to give you a modern day picture of the characters in the parable of the Good Samaritan and perhaps you will actually see the way that God intends for us to love and care for one another and for those around us.

The Samaritan in Jesus' day was a half-breed, hated people. The Jews despised them. To call a Jew a Samaritan was to equate them with being evil, being a devil! In our modern-day world, the modern day Samaritan would likely be the kind of person you would find residing in your local ghetto... He was considered a hoodlum of the worst kind!

The Jew who had been beaten by robbers would be like a person who had been beaten by gang members, and left for dead on the side of the Interstate.

The folks who passed by were priests and worship leaders. These were the religious folks who were more concerned about following the law, than about rendering aid. This would be like you and I, though we saw the body of the person on the side of the road, driving past, without stopping to help, or calling for an ambulance.

That the Samaritan took it upon himself to pay for the Jewish man's well-being was an understatement! He basically gave the caregivers everything he had on his person and told him to send him the bill if he needed more! Bear in mind, he was not at all a wealthy man. What he gave for the care of this young man was beyond sacrificial. I've heard it said that "True sacrificial giving is not 'giving what they need', but rather 'giving what I need." That is precisely what happened here.

Ok. So how does that translate to our everyday lives, as we learn to love those around us?

Can I share a personal opinion/observation here? I honestly believe that there is an attitude that has crept in among believers these days. We, the church, have become hateful, dogmatic, legalistic and down-right mean when it comes to dealing with folks outside of the church. We have become so bitter, angry and defensive that we cannot possibly be useful in winning people into the kingdom of God. When we are confronted with the truth of the type of behavior God requires of us as His child, we simply respond with, "I'm not Jesus, and I'll do as I want!" We have simply forgotten the mercy and grace extended to us by Christ at the cross... and we often fail to extend that same grace to others.

News flash: People are hurting all around us in our churches, in our communities, in our families, in our world... All of them need our love and support. And that's not to say that we should only render aid to those who may look like us, dress like us, smell like us, behave like us or talk like us. (See the book of James, Chapters 1 and 2.) The priest and Levite in Jesus' story should have been, by all rights and means, the Jewish man's heroes! After all, they were from his same religious background and were probably from his hometown. And yet, they ignored him. But the Samaritan (the most hated kind of guy on the planet) went out of his way and took pity on him. He met his needs and treated him with respect, in spite of the fact that the same type of care probably would not have been extended to him, had the shoe been on the other foot.

In short, we need to remember that we are able to extend this kind of love to folks because that same type of love has been extended to us in Christ. We were the outcasts of His kingdom... we were the ones without hope... we had lives filled with sin... And the Holy God of the Universe showed us His love and extended His grace toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) The type of love, mercy, grace and forgiveness extended to us at the Cross is the same kind of love that we should extend to others. We love because He first loved us. (I John 4:19)

I like what the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the church at Colossae (Col. 3:11-14, from The Message) as a way of dealing with people in general:

11 Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and
outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on
everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. 12 So, chosen by
God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you:
compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. 13 Be even-tempered,
content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and
completely as the Master forgave you. 14 And regardless of what else you put on,
wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Well said, Paul. Well said.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Habits of This Highly Effective (but Lost) Church Lay Leader - A Series:Communication (Week two)

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." - John 4:23

We've been talking for the past couple of weeks about being the kind of worshipper the Father seeks. Last week, we discussed the topic of genuine surrender before the Father, and being real before Him and with one another regarding our decision to become a Christ-follower.

Speaking of being real with one another.... After last week's blog was posted a dear friend commented to me that there was a point that she wished I had addressed and that was the masks that believers wear. Before I go on with today's thoughts on communication, I wanted to address this mask quickly. This is the mask that we put on when things aren't going so well, but we continue to pretend that things are just perfect... and refuse to be real with fellow believers or with other people period. She is completely correct with this.

You know, I think sometimes that we (as Christ-followers) convince ourselves that we have to portray perfection when it comes to living the Christian life. I think it's (in a wacky way) one of the ways that we believe that we are "witnessing" to others, when we put on the mask of perfection... That it shows "the world" that God takes care of us... and that even though we may be having a day that is not a good one, we throw up that "everything's fine" mask.

My late father-in-law was a prime example of this. He suffered from kidney disease and was on dialysis three days a week for about seven years, prior to his death. During the last several months of his life, if I asked him how he was doing, he would often answer with an exuberant, "I'm fine!" But often, he would be sitting with his head between his hands or his knees... and we knew better. So, I finally learned to respond to his answers with, "is that really the case, or are you fibbing to me?" And he began to start speaking truthfully to me.

Let's learn to be real with one another, and drop the masks... Relationships deepen as we learn to get past the surface with one another. And we don't get past the surface if we have on masks or build up walls of protection around us. Just sayin'.

Okay. Onto the new stuff... This week, we're going to be learning to grow our relationship with God when it comes to communication. This area is probably the hardest and truthfully, can be the most awkward part of our relationship with God, and yet, it is so vital that I honestly believe that its absence leads to much of our woes when it comes to knowing God as His child.

I had the worst time with this. I always felt like my prayers were always made of rubber... They just bounced right off the ceiling! So, when I did pray, I tried all sorts of things to try to convince God to listen to me.

And let's face it. We may as well admit that it's hard to talk to Someone that you haven't seen.... and most especially when so many others question His existence (and those same folks would quickly commit you to the nearest looney bin if they caught you talking to what they believe is yourself!) And can you imagine the same kind of response from those same folks when you have claimed to have heard something or learned something from God???? So, more times than not, I just kept my mouth closed when it came to praying privately. Of course, with me, when it was all about showmanship, I would pray publicly.... Go figure on that one. But then I was all about appearances.

Now, I went through all sorts of style adjustments when it came to public prayers as a lost church member. I can remember a particular deacon of the church I went to as a teenager praying over the offering every Sunday. And that guy would clear his throat every time before he prayed, then he would basically pray the same prayer week after week. He also used about a thousand "thees" and "thous" so, I thought that put him right up there with God Himself. So, whenever I listened to other people clear their throat before prayer, I wondered if that was something we were supposed to do. (I don't know that I ever did that. But I thought it was kind of unusual.) Then, I wanted to be next to God, too, just like Deacon So-and-So, and so I used a thousand "thees" and "thous" as I prayed.

Then the time came when we were taught about conversational prayer. That would be where we learn to talk to God like He is our very best friend. That worked well, but I found that it didn't settle well within my heart when I was mad at God and I called Him some of the names that I would have called one of my friends in the same situation. There was a lack of respect there that got lost in translation....or at least in my mind, it did. So, I mixed it up with the occassional "thees" and "thous" again. I think it made me feel like maybe that would make God listen to me...or something. I dunno. (Nevermind the fact that I didn't know His Son...)

Oh, and then there was the guy who began his prayers with "Master." So, guess who I began to copy this time when praying publicly???

So, anyhow, all of these big words and long public prayers were boosting me up everywhere (or so I thought) but with God. His ears were pretty much turned off by them. And so, He didn't bother to answer them. There wasn't anything to answer, truthfully, if you came right down to it. When it came to public prayer, I had center stage, and my prayers were all about showing off.

And then there were the prayer requests that became pry-er requests. You know, the ones where when sharing a "request" in a small group where things turn to gossip, or we try to correct the situation in prayer ourselves by giving a "solution" to the person's problem in our talks with God, rather than speaking with the person and giving scriptural advice. Yep. Been there and done that one, too.

My life was filled with all sorts of things that caused those prayers to bounce off the ceilings:

Unbelief. (in both senses, as a non-believer, and as a believer who fails to believe God)
Wrong/impure motives.

So, then the private prayer life, which I told you earlier was pretty much nul and void, was useless to me. I didn't spend time talking to God... If there was a God, I had already come to the conclusion that He wasn't going to pay attention to whatever kinds of useless drivel I gave Him and there wasn't anyone else around to show off for. So, why bother???

And, in all honesty, I have to say that every believer I have ever spoken with has had a real struggle at one time or another with some of the same issues, with regard to the private prayer time. Forgive my candidness here, but the only way that I can tell you how to learn to pray is to learn from The Rabbi of Nazareth, Who gave us the tools for effective prayer in Matthew 6:1-14. These are familiar verses, no doubt, so let's read them from The Message this time, to get a fresh perspective on what exactly Jesus was trying to say.

"Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding. When you do something for someone else, don't call attention to yourself. You've seen them in action, I'm sure - 'play-actors' I call them - treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that's all they get. When you help someone out, don't think about how it looks. Just do it - quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out. And when you come before God, don't turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what's best - as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You're in charge! You can do anything you want! You're ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others."

'Nuff Said???

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Habits of This Highly Effective (but Lost) Church Lay Leader - A Series: Dressing for Success (Week One)

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." - John 4:23

Last week, we introduced a ten-week series on being the kind of worshipper the Father is seeking. If you are just joining us, you may read that introductory post here:

Since I have now made myself entirely vulnerable to the world wide web by sharing some of my most in-most thoughts from my days before my genuine Surrender to Christ, I have to admit that the idea of going deeper in the weeks ahead is a little scary to say the least. I am not so much concerned of what you may think of me for sharing this, as I am more about pleasing the Father than I am about pleasing you guys these days (more on that later.) I certainly don't want to give some of you ideas for being your local church's pest, either! (Although, I have to admit that I am not sure I ever lost that title... even after genuine Surrender. God is still working on me... Amen?!? )

So, here we are. And I guess you're probably wondering what in the world I am going to tell you about my thoughts relative to "Dressing for Success (Putting on the Sunday Game Face...)" Well, the first thought that crossed my mind was the thing that I was the most guilty of before becoming a Christ-follower.

Are you ready for this???

Phoniness. As we'd say in the South, I was made of pure-i-o-d phoney baloney! I was guilty of wearing the plastic mask of religion inside and outside the church house whenever it comes to talking about religious topics or being around "religious people." I was always concerned about "appearances." There was more of a real desire to impress people and to please them than to be real, and please God. So my junk stayed hidden.... at least I thought it was... and I went to great efforts to keep it hidden from the folks in those Christian circles. I didn't want them to get the wrong impression of me.

Sunday after Sunday, my little plastic mask went on. And the games that came with my little mask were played. You would have thought it was Halloween every single Sunday. I was a master at showmanship! And hidden behind that mask of religion was a monster that I had created to near perfection! Most days, I thought I managed to score points on the God-scale in my mind. After all, I had been in the church most of my life. I knew the drill. And I had been there nearly every time the door was open. I had learned what worked and what made my pastors and my teachers proud. (And I was the biggest "Church staff groupie" you ever saw!) I could speak the language of Zion with the best of them. I knew the Bible. I had memorized scripture. I was also in all sorts of leadership roles in not only my local church, but for our denomination, as well. I knew the stuff! And I knew it well. Bottom line... I WAS THERE TO PLEASE EVERYONE BUT GOD. But I didn't know JESUS. And that was the biggest displeasure where God was concerned.

The truth is that even with all of the things that you would think that would make me be a genuine follower of Christ, I would have gotten it. But there was this other side of me that had some really seriously rotten issues with sin. Seriously habitual sin. And while I won't get into the gory details of all of that, I will say that I could just about justify (to myself) everything that I did with, "But God, it's me... Can't you cut me some slack here?" I was so steeped in religion and religious tradition, that I took no ownership of my own human condition.... I couldn't bring myself to believe that I could sin... or that I might be lost. And yet, the stench of my sin was growing stronger each time I put on the church mask and showed up on Sunday morning and took my place in the choir or orchestra or Sunday School class.... I could tell you all about my church... I loved that place. But I couldn't tell you about my Jesus or anything specific HE had done in my life. There were no specific changes that had taken place in me that I could definitely say happened because of the relationship I had with God. I could tell you plenty about my church, and even a lot about my denomination. But nothing about Jesus changing me.

Several years ago, I was in a Church Training Class, when I learned the passage in Ephesians 6 regarding "Putting on the Full Armor of God." I knew each piece - the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, the shield of faith, and the feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. I probably have those out of order. But I am not really going to point out those to you so much as I am going to ask you to take a look at the list. You have probably read this list before...

Do you notice something missing in light of the previous paragraphs?

Right! There's no mask of religion in the list!

In fact, Jesus scorned the religious folks of His day over and over. He called them, "Hypocrites."
That word, "Hypocrite" comes from the Greek word, "uJpovkrisi", which means, "stage-playing or acting." In the Old Testament, there is no Hebrew word for Hypocrite, but it is implied, as a way of conflict between life and insincere worship.

So, how do we drop the mask? If we're to be the kind of worshippers that the Father seeks, then there are some things that need to happen:

Genuine Surrender needs to take place before God...and then you need to admit that before His people. This takes a lot of courage. Especially if you have been in the church for a long time. Believe me. I know what that's like. It was rough, having to stand before a congregation that had actually voted to send me to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to become a Singles minister and only to come back later and tell them, "Guys, I just now became a believer." Not an easy task. But I decided that it wasn't them that I needed to please. It was God Whom I needed to please from henceforth. And I had to let the chips fall as they may.

As long as you remain hidden behind the masks, you will never have the kind of heart that God is looking for as a worshipper. This is the very first step in having a relationship with Jesus. And honestly, only you and God know what kind of relationship you have together. Sometimes I think it's a good thing that others can't know our hearts. But I also know that those who are genuine in their relationship with Jesus usually have a strong desire to please HIM alone.... and not so much about pleasing others... They generally let the chips fall where they may. And if we happen to please the others by pleasing God, that's great and fine. But the ultimate purpose is to please God. No one else will do.

I think the Apostle Paul is a pretty good example to follow when it comes to talking about the having courage when it comes to the getting real part of Surrender. Remember before Paul had his encounter with Christ on the Road to Damascus, he had been a persecuter of the Church and had been torturing Christians. Can you imagine the response of those believers toward him when they found out that he had a real encounter with the Lord??? Can you imagine the fear of the folks who discipled him??? I am sure that they finally relaxed after they read his writings... After all, the truth came out of him when he was jailed and beaten and left for dead... He was REAL.

We can see some evidence of this when Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, Chapter 13 and gave some really great truths for Christian living. He summed up the chapter in verse 14 with, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires."

Again in Colossians 2:12-17, Paul wrote, "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Paul had gotten it. Question is: have you???? Are you real??? Was your own surrender genuine??? And have you announced that before God's people? Or do you still wear the masks, Sunday after Sunday, hoping and praying that no one finds out who you really are? Truth is, God knows who you are. And He loved you enough to not allow you to stay that way....

Will you bow the knee in Genuine Surrender???