In John 21, Jesus challenged Peter to honestly evaluate his love. What (or who) captured Peter's heart when it came to love? Did the miracles captivate Peter? What about the meeting with like minded friends? Maybe it was the miracles or the ministry? Jesus clearly identified Peter's weakness as he challenged Peter's focus. Three times he asked Peter, "Do you love me?" Three times Peter answered, with the third response taking on a different approach. The deeper look into his own heart compelled Peter to ask himself some serious questions we asked in the morning message. If you have found your way to this post, you have hopefully decided that you want to spend a little more time at the table, digesting the serving the Holy Spirit provided Sunday. (If this verbiage is confusing and you haven't listened to Sunday's message, consider going to www.vimeo.com/AlanPermenter to find the message from May 3, 2020.
This week would you look deeper by asking these questions? Search the scriptures for answers and consider leaving some comments about what the Lord teaches you this week.
1. Whose leadership am I following? How do I know whose leadership I am following? Well, I thought that one way I could know would be to take note of what I spend my time reading and listening to during this pandemic. Am I listening to and reading from news reports, government sites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter? Or am I looking to God's word? Am I listening to godly teaching? The one I follow is the one who is leading me.
2. Whose lifestyle am I modeling? During this quarantine, most of us have stayed home, which actually lets us look even deeper into our lives. We can't evaluate lifestyle by the places we are going, the folks we are hanging out with, etc. The typical evaluations are no longer relevant. Instead, I want to look more deeply to see what lifestyle I have been living during the stay at home order. Have I totally forgotten my physical well being? Have I spent time helping others and/or reaching out to those who may need a friend? Have I disregarded responsibilities? Have I been angry, snappy, sad? The lifestyle I model communicates who I really want to be like.
3. Whose love am I reflecting? Lots of blame gets thrown around during times like these. Whose fault is it that the virus came to the US? Who is to blame for the economic situation? The lack of unemployment checks? The reports from the media? Why would he leave his house without a mask? Why would she feel the need to wear that to Publix? Why would .... You can likely feel in the blank. Jesus reflected Compassion and Conviction. The world reflects a love that is self serving and me centered. Whose love are you reflecting?
Take these questions and spend the entire week asking the Lord to give you answers. Search scriptures. Call someone and talk about it. Pray hard. Use this week to dig deeper to make sure that the one you love is the One who loved you first.
Do you remember the song, Heart Of Worship? It first appeared on the worship scene late 1990's and early 2000's. Maybe you've never heard the song at all. If you are interested in listening, click on this link. The song takes us into a reflective moment of what worship truly means. Romans 12:1-2 come to mind.
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
A contemporary worship service introduced me to the song, Heart of Worship. Lights, cameras, and staging surrounded the band, and as they went from upbeat sounds into this thoughtful tune, the lights dimmed to prepare our senses for what would come next. A quiet space encompassed the crowd as coffee cups settled nicely onto the floor. Hands began to be raised as voices lifted words of praise and affirmation to the God of Creation that our worship was really about nothing other than being in His presence. Pure intent tells me the song was meant to create a movement among God's people of focusing more on the Creator than the created environment in the room at any given moment. What happened?
History certainly repeats itself, and the historical struggle in the church over worship provides another example of the cycle. Over the last twenty years, we as God's people have been blessed with worship music, creative arts, and powerful messages that engage our minds, our bodies, our emotions, and sometimes our souls. Crowds gather regularly to connect with one another, to join in singing, and to hear challenging teaching from God's word. Or at least they used to gather. That was before COVID 19. The way things used to be. One generation's story to tell a new generation. A front porch pondering as folks remember what it was like "in the good ol' days." Large buildings turned into convention centers or museums much like we see when we travel to Europe - or when we used to travel to Europe. We are at a moment in time that will be a pivot point, a reference point, a new chapter in the virtual school books of the future.
Could the introduction of the song Heart of Worship during another pivotal time in history (Y2K) have been a prophetic foreshadowing or even a warning that we as Christ followers desperately need to connect with the Holy Spirit on more than a physical and emotional level? Could the Spirit have been calling us into a deeper relationship with Him that we somehow missed? Instead of letting the music fade and all be stripped away, we created flashier sets, bought more lights, tuned more instruments, added more flair. Instead of bringing messages from God's word that helped us grow deeper, we filled the space with words about happy marriages, fulfilling our dreams, fighting against society's evil. What if we heard the call for a more intimate relationship with Christ and have settled for a pornographic mockery of what it really means to worship Him?
Our time at home during this pandemic and economic shutdown challenges our belief system. John 20:24-29 tells the story of Thomas wanting his own experience with Jesus. He refused to settle for the experience of his friends. Jesus received Thomas and allowed him into his personal space. Oh I long to be in Jesus' personal space. From posts on social media and comments in other places, many in the body of Christ are waiting for the gatherings to resume before engaging with the Spirit. Many spiritual journeys are on hold. What could happen if the Lord allowed this shutdown to continue until He got our attention? What if gatherings were closed until we realized that worship is not about where we gather or who we are with? What if the music, the media, and the messages are more of a distraction than a help? What if the Lord is wanting to speak into our hearts and is trying desperately to get into our lives through the noise? What if we lived in a place where worship gatherings were always prohibited? Are we only able to worship because we were born in a free country? Would we be able to know God if we lived in Asia or the Middle East where the noise would invite possible death?
Working from home, schooling from home, and finding ways to occupy our time during this stay at home part of our lives does not always mean quiet time. We still may have to work to find time to be still. Now is the time. Revival and renewal can start today right where you are in your chair, on your porch, by your pool, in your yard - wherever you are. If we would pour ourselves into being living sacrifice and meet the Lord in a personal way without the distraction of everything else around us, revival would begin. And then what if your neighbor did the same thing? And then her neighbor? And then his neighbor? Now it's your neighborhood. Then your community. Then your church even in various places. Perhaps this time in history can become known as the Bug That Brushed Casual Christianity to the Curb.
Romans 8:28 "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose." (ESV)
Several years ago, Laura Story recorded a song called Blessings. Feel free to take a moment and click on the word "Blessings" to hear the song again. The chorus resonates in my heart.
'Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
Parenting discovered me unprepared for the task ahead. Ideal dreams and hopes for what family could be like were much like The Andy Griffith Show and The Waltons. When we would watch these shows as a family, I would wonder how Andy captivated Opie to the point of doing his chores willingly. I would ponder how the Walton children could have so little and embrace life so wildly. Now that I'm older I realize that scripting, directing, and television salaries contributed to much (ok, to all) of the world we entered as Mayberry burst into our home and as Walton's Mountain beckoned us to a quieter time.
We used to partner alongside other parents and study the lessons of James Dobson, Chip Ingram, Ted Tripp, and The Rethink Group to train us to be better parents, engaged in our kids live, and teaching them to love the Lord with all their heart, their soul, their mind, and their strength. We had big plans that somehow never played out as well in our family room as they seemed to play out on screen.
Insert COVID 19 into our lives a few weeks ago. Everyone gathered at home leaving middle school, high school, and college behind. Online classes became the new norm. Virtual teaching took the place of the kitchen table, and virtual coaching with business planning dominated my home office. Life got very interesting very quickly.
One of the blessings of living in Florida during this time of Stay at Home orders commands our attention. Sunny weather, warm temperatures, and steady breezes paint the day and find a way to help us relax outside for what often becomes extended moments in time. Our back porch has become our new place for meals, and in addition to some other ideas we have instituted, we have shared practically every meal together as a family for the last several weeks. Talking to one another has become comfortable again. Sharing about our time with the Lord has become encouraging and challenging. Laughing together, watching someone's favorite movie, and talking about what we are learning during this time highlight blessings that we somehow had forgotten. How often had I taught and been taught that having family meals around the table was paramount to a healthy family? How many times had we actually made that lesson a reality - until now. Until a tiny bug sent everyone home and pushed us to do what we should have been doing all along. Connecting with each other about things that matter. Eating together. Relaxing. Celebrating that the "trials of this life" may really be just "mercies in disguise" after all.
Perhaps you were able to join our worship experience via the website Sunday. If not the service will remain in place for a few more days. During the message we spent time talking about Psalm 91. Would you take time to share your experiences with finding clarity from God's word during these confusing times? Perhaps share a verse with us that we can meditate on together. Last week I posted a blog at www.fromtheporch.org. If you have a moment click on the link and share some comments here. At the end of the link is a book I highly recommend. The book is written from a therapy perspective and contains some raw and challenging illustrations of folks who have been through trauma. You might find some strong language in the book and some approaches that you might not necessarily agree with. I'm recommending the book because if helped me at an important time in my life and not as a book that is a spiritual guide. Be encouraged friends.
Well dear friends, here we are on Tuesday morning still practicing physical distancing and wondering when all of this might come to an end. Sunday morning's online service didn't quite go as I had planned, but hopefully many of you took the time to experience a Sunday evening time of worship. You had to engage a little more than normal by clicking a few buttons, but hopefully you figured it out. I heard from Mrs. Betty, from Dorothy and Jeremy, and a couple of others that the service finally came through. We will certainly try again next week since it looks like we won't be gathering at least for one more Sunday. Maybe by Palm Sunday all of this confusion will be over.
Perhaps you struggled on Sunday. I certainly did. I have always tried to be transparent, and I will not stop now. Sunday I felt tremendous defeat because I could not stop myself from thinking how I had let you down by not having everything easy for 10:30 am. I know I could not control the technology issues, yet still Satan's forces screamed "LOSER!" into my Spirit. Then, our family did what hopefully some of you did and watched the service from Gateway Baptist Church in Irmo, South Carolina. I hope you will click on the link www.fromtheporch.org to learn what God taught me Sunday.
You all are special to me and to my family. We can't wait to be back together. Please reach out and let me know how things are going. You are loved!
My dear friends, social distancing stinks. Instead of posting two blogs, I will occasionally provide a link to another blog that I have restarted that has a wider audience. Will you join with me in relationship over these next few days as we learn to love each other in new ways? Click on the link below to take you to my blog for today. You are loved. You are valuable. You are wanted.
Growing up in small town Mississippi taught me several realities. One of the realities is that for many Christ followers, the church is a destination. As a church body gathered together, we have talked about the importance of gathering together and the danger of anchoring our relationship with Christ to the gathering. You might remember that as we have been inviting the Holy Spirit to train our hearts to long for Christ we have been reminded that even in the early church, the church was a passage way, or a fulcrum, that helped turn people from an old life to a new life in Christ. The church is defined by the believers who make up the body, and as the body gathers together a full expression of our worship and allegiance radiates in worship to God. This gathering, though, is not the end result of our faith. Knowing Christ fully is the end result of our faith. Glorifying God is the end result of our faith. Notice Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 13:12.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV
One day we will know Christ fully, and the days we live now are days filled with wonder, challenge, joy, and sorry on that journey to knowing Him fully. Christ followers around the world daily face persecution and hardship on their journey toward knowing Christ. Gathering together is impossible for many of our brothers and sisters in other places. In the United States, we are faced with a temporary limitation as we consider what our government leaders and medical leaders have asked our society to do in an effort to contain the new virus that seems to have captured the world for a time. This temporary limitation does not have to defeat us, though it may discourage us. Together we as a body of believers can turn the table on the virus and its affects by capturing the moment instead. This opportunity is our chance to show the world how real the Holy Spirit is in our lives. Not gathering as a large group does not have to diminish the influence we have with friends and family in our community and beyond. Let's join together to be the church in the world over the next few days and weeks. I am reminded of what happened in the early part of Acts. Would you consider stopping for a moment, reaching for your Bible, and turning to Acts 8:1-8?(www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+8%3A1-8&version=ESV) A persecution against the church in Jerusalem caused the church to scatter to regions all over the world, just as Christ as told them in Acts 1:8. The church gathered became the church scattered. From that scattering, a worldwide movement of the Spirit took hold, and the message of Christ could not be contained any longer.
Could it be that God will use a temporary scattering of His people to spark the revival we have been longing for and praying for? Could it be that God will use you during this time to reflect His character so brightly that others will see the difference Christ makes? We could respond in fear and frustration, in disgust and defeat. Or we could respond in victory and in hope that the resurrected Christ is not limited to a building or to our weekly gathering. Will you embrace this time to personally develop your walk with Christ, to know Him more fully, and to honor Him more authentically? Check back to this site for various resources and helps during this time. Most of all, turn to the Word of God. Seek His face. Let others see Jesus in you.