Spiritual Musings from an Educated Redneck

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To Hike Or Not to Hike (A Leg That Is)

 [Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet] Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.  John 13:5

Recently, my son Zack was playing in a golf tournament and his wife Ashley traveled with him.  So, I took care of their dogs.  Three or four times a day I went by to let them out to exercise, eat, and do their business.  These two dogs couldn’t be more different.  Jango is a 145 lb. Great Dane.  He’s a gentle giant. When he walks up to me his head is as high as my chest.  Linus is a…..well we aren’t sure.  He’s a mixture of who knows what, but it all adds up to about 8 lbs. and maybe 10 inches of height.  We call Linus the escape artist dog because he can always find a way to get out of the backyard.  Then it’s off to search the neighborhood for him, or it’s a neighbor knocking on the door bringing him home from wandering the streets.

So, one afternoon I went by to let them out in the backyard.  I stood at the door and watched as Jango, the Dane, hiked a leg and did his business.  That’s good because he’s big as a horse and it wouldn’t be pretty if he did it inside!   Then little Linus did what dogs do.  He went over and hiked his leg over where Jango had gone and he did his business!  It was as if to say, “You may be bigger than me but I’ve still got something to say!”  Jango was watching these goings on and obviously wasn’t very pleased.  So then Jango walked over, hiked his leg over the top of Linus, and peed all over him!

That was it!  Game, Set, Match!  For two reasons really. One was, by this time both of them were out of ammunition.  But the real reason was,  “How could Linus top that?”  He couldn’t.  Now I had a mess.  Linus obviously had to be washed off before he could come back into the house.  So I gave him a quick bath beneath the water hydrant.  When I had finished that task I had time to ask myself, “Why would Jango hike his leg and pee all over little Linus?”  The answer was simple when it came to me.  Because He could!  He’s bigger, taller, and Linus couldn’t do anything about it.  He did it simply because he could.

Isn’t it interesting, that kind of behavior isn’t only the way of dogs, it’s the way of people?  Jesus often caught the disciples arguing over which one of them was going to be the greatest in the Kingdom.  One time the mother of two of them even came to Jesus asking for Him to elevate her sons (James and John) to positions of power!  Mama’s boys……

That precipitated Jesus gathering the disciples around Him and giving them these words, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20: 25-27)

Then on the night Jesus was arrested, and in less than 24 hours was to be crucified on a Cross, He took a towel and washed the disciples feet, thus demonstrating what He had told them.  In so doing Jesus was saying, “Greatness isn’t demonstrated by peeing on someone’s head (even if you can) but in washing their feet.”

Think about that the next time you are tempted to “hike a leg” over someone else.

We have a million ways by which we pee on people’s heads don’t we?  We ignore them.  We look down upon them because they haven’t achieved our status in material things, education, career, or any number of things.  We just hike our leg and pee all over them.  Why?  Because we can, just like Jango.

So remember, greatness is demonstrated by washing someone’s feet when you have the power to pee on their head.

Diggin’ In the Donkey Dung

“The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  Luke 19:10

This week-end I went to the my 40th High School Reunion out in Monahans, Texas.  It was a bittersweet experience for me.  It was good to see old friends I hadn’t seen in years.  But the walk down memory lane through the town was in some ways for me more like A Nightmare on Elm Street.  You see I didn’t come to know Christ until the middle of my senior year.  Before that I was a street kid and frankly wasn’t worth much at all.  So I had nearly 18 years of memories outside of Christ on those streets and only about four months of memories in Christ before I graduated and left.

On Friday afternoon those in our class of “72” who had been in choir gathered in the old choir room with Mr. Mills, our old choir director and told stories and he directed us through a few old choir pieces.  One of them was the beautiful four-part arrangement of The Lord Bless you and Keep You.   For me to have been in choir at all was a strange thing in itself.  It was only because a friend from elementary days encouraged me to try out my senior year.  We had been close friends in elementary school but later when I went completely South we didn’t see much of each other anymore.  But he, in an attempt to drag me out of the life I was in, encouraged me to get in choir.  He said its lots of fun and lots of girls.  That was enough convincing for me.  Little did I know that God would use that choir to bring me to the Savior.  It was in that choir that I connected with the friends who, along with their families, would love this street kid into the Kingdom of God on December 31, 1971.

As I visited with Mr. Mills that afternoon, who had retired years before, and thanked him for his part in it all he said, “You know James, your life proves the maxim that goes, “When you come across a pile of Donkey Dung, just dig deep enough and you’ll always find a donkey!”  Just keep digging till you find the donkey.  I knew what he meant about me being the donkey but it put me to thinking over that afternoon and night. What about the dung?  What was that?  And besides that, “Who dug through all of that dung to find this donkey?

The next morning was Sunday and about 40 of us gathered for our own little worship service where I led the worship with my guitar and one of those guys who had led me to Christ shared a short message.  All night long I had been pondering Mr. Mills’ statement and at the end of that service I stood up to share what had come to me about it.  I told them what Mr. Mills had said and then I said, “The thing that hit me is that it was none other than Jesus who was digging through all that donkey dung looking for the donkey that was me.  I was buried deep and hidden well.  How thankful I am that He had a big shovel and didn’t quit digging till He found me.”  The motto of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is “We always get our man.”  Jesus’ motto is “I always get my donkey.”  And He does.  No matter how much dung he has to dig through, Jesus always gets His donkey.

He told us that much didn’t he?  Luke 19:10 “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  You could translate that, “The Son man came to dig out donkeys covered up in a pile of donkey dung.”  You see we’re all buried beneath a pile of donkey dung called sin.  We all need a savior to get out the shovel and dig deep to find us.  That’s what Jesus does.  He digs in the donkey dung till he finds His donkey.  Thank you Lord Jesus for taking that shovel in your nail-scarred hands and digging down to this donkey.

James M. Reeves, DMin.

Senior Pastor, Celebration Fellowship

Author:  Refuge

Life Change for Couples

Website James@JamesmReeves.com

I’m Mad as Hell

“It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain.”  Exodus 32:19

I just got the phone call that young Jay Menifee, age 24 was found dead in his apartment.  We don’t know yet if it was the “Money Shot” that intravenous drug users refer to when they purposely overdose to end their life or if it was accidental.  Jay was a drug addict that we had been working with for the past year and a half.  He had a little daughter not yet in kindergarten. When the call came in I was driving down the street.  I felt like someone had hit me in the gut with a sledge-hammer.  I had to pull over for 15 minutes to cry and mourn.  Once they started the tears wouldn’t stop.  He had been doing so well from where he was when he came to us nearly two years ago.  He had been sober.  He had gotten a good job with a friend of mine in the HVAC business and was doing a good job. He had a natural aptitude for mechanical things.   He had gotten his own apartment.  He was involved in church.  Now he is dead and I’m mad as hell.

I’m not mad at Jay.  I feel a deep sense of loss and sadness for Jay.  Such a young life with so much potential wasted.  I feel sadness for his little girl who won’t have her daddy to watch her grow up and who won’t be there for her at those crucial times of her life.  That is my sadness.  No I’m not mad at Jay.  Some might say, “Well James why are you so upset?  He was just a low-life drug addict who got what he had coming to him.”  No, he was a human being for whom Jesus died and he was a very very sick person.

I’m mad as hell at the worthless vermin who peddle the drugs!  I’m mad as hell at the scumbag that sold the drugs to Jay.  Right now I would give a great deal to have just five minutes alone with him in a locked room.  I’m afraid only one of us would walk out of that room.  Is it bad for a pastor to say that or even think it?  So be it.  I guess I’m just not a very good pastor because I mean it with everything that is within me.

The next week when we held Jay’s memorial service it was a packed house.  People got up and spoke and as people are want to do they spoke a lot about good memories of Jay and there was even laughter.  I understand the need for people to do that but something was boiling up in me.  Then as I sat there, waiting for my time to get up and wrap the service up, Jay’s little girl wandered over to me, put her arms around my neck and hugged me.  That sent me over the edge.  Her daddy should have been there for her to hug and he wasn’t.  He never would be again. In fact, one week ago he had been a living, breathing being, and now he was nothing but a pile of ashes.

I stood up and said, “I’m mad as Hell.”  This thing here tonight is a pig pure and simple.  A nasty, smelly pig.  No matter how much lipstick we put on this pig its still a pig.  This is a pure tragedy, and nothing we say or do is going to change that.  I have nothing tonight to feel good about, to laugh about, or to smile about. This is a pig and it’s a huge tragedy.

It was less than a year ago that I got the call about Shane Higgins.  Shane wasn’t a drug addict like Jay.  Shane was an alcoholic.  He abused the legal drug of alcohol.  He did it in fact to the point that the organs of his body shut completely down and he died.  He was 39.  We had worked with Shane for about six months before he went back out to his drug.  He was dead three months after he left us.  My own father died the same way at the ripe old age of 41.  Shane outdid him by two years. Shane was the first alcoholic I ever met who beat my dad to the grave simply from the abuse of alcohol.  Shane was no doubt a top-notch, professional, git-er-done alcoholic in order to accomplish that!

I guess the call today reminded me of the sadness and loss I felt when I got the call about Shane, and perhaps my own father when I was just 18 years of age.

It reminded me also that I guess I’m mad as hell at so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ who treat the legal drug of alcohol with such a cavalier attitude while it wreaks havoc on families and individuals in our culture many times more than illegal drugs.

That’s the dirty little secret that most don’t want to talk about.  But it’s legal so we scream about our “freedom” to drink socially and the Shane’s and the Jay’s of this world who will “die if they drink” don’t get a whole lot of support from us.  We are exercising our “freedom in Christ” after all and if you have a problem with it then sorry.  That makes me mad as hell!

James M.Reeves, DMin.

Senior Pastor, Celebration Fellowship, Ft. Worth, Texas

Author:  Refuge (How Hospital Church Ministry Can Change Your Church Forever)

Life Change For Every Christian

Life Change For Couples

http://www.jamesmreeves.com

When “It” Happens

James 1:2 says, “Consider it all joy my brothers when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance and let endurance have its perfect result that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.” In I Peter 1:7 the Scripture, speaking in the context of trials, says they are like the purifying process of gold when it is melted.  The dross comes to the surface and can be skimmed away and the gold is made purer.  So trials purify our faith.

I guess the question is, “Why does Scripture say trials, struggles, and difficulties are actually good for us?”  Because they reveal the weak places in our faith. Recently I was in Colorado trout fishing with three friends.  We were way back in the wilderness fishing in a high mountain lake, 22 miles by dirt road from the nearest blacktop.  There was only one small store anywhere around.  But to get to it we had to go across a small bridge that spanned a tributary.  The bridge said, “Three ton limit.”  There we sat.  The truck we were in was 4.5 tons by itself and we were pulling a loaded trailer that added at least another ton!  Did we turn around?  Nope!  Not on your life.  Not us!  Couldn’t pass up a risky challenge!  Across the bridge we went.

Since I am writing this you can guess that the bridge held.  It was actually strong enough to withstand more than the sign said.  But what if we decided to put the bridge to the test and loaded rocks in the truck and trailer and drove over it again.  Then if it stood we loaded more rocks!  Eventually it would have failed.  What would happen then?  Well, besides us going into the river, truck and all, the engineers would come in to inspect the bridge and discover the place where the bridge had failed.  Then when they re-built the bridge they would address that weak place and the second bridge would be stronger than the previous one.  All as a result of the failure.

In fact, the history of the engineering of bridges is a story of failure, discovery, and re-building.  With each failure the engineers study, learn, address the weakness, and rebuild.  Each time the next bridge is stronger and better.

That is the story of trials in the believer’s life.  Each one that comes puts us under stress and sometimes the stress is enough that failure is the result.  We break. That failure reveals a weakness.  So we admit and address the weakness.  We re-build.  And when we do we are better and stronger than we were before.  That is the endurance of James 1.  That is the purifying of the gold of I Peter 1.

Someone once said that trials will either make you “bitter or better.”  What about you?  Since your last trial are you bitter or are you better?  It all depends upon who you look to doesn’t it?  If you look to yourself and others you will probably become bitter.  If you look to Christ and ask, “How can you teach me from this,” you will be better.  We all have pain.  Don’t waste your pain!  Let Christ grow you through it

Here’s to better!

James M.Reeves, DMin.

Senior Pastor, Celebration Fellowship, Ft. Worth, Texas

Author:  Refuge (How Hospital Church Ministry Can Change Your Church Forever)

Life Change For Every Christian

Life Change For Couples

http://www.jamesmreeves.com

To Drink or not to Drink – The Question of Alcohol

“But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” I Corinthians 8:9

I often get the question, “Why does Celebration Fellowship ask everyone in leadership to totally abstain from the use of alcohol.”  It’s a good question and one that deserves an honest and well thought-out response.  In essence we do it out of love for the person for whom social drinking is not an option.  That includes the alcoholic, who is either still in his/her addiction and is seeking sobriety, or the recovering person who has been sober for years.

You see, we are a church who actively reaches out to the addicted person.  We strategize to reach them.  We go after them.  We welcome them into our midst and then help them live in victory over the things that have completely destroyed their lives, and so often the lives of their loved ones.  The truth is, they are in every church.  Even yours.

There are some things we know.  One of them is that anyone can become an alcoholic with enough practice.  One of my dear friends, and mentor, who has enjoyed over 20 years of sobriety after nearly 40 years of alcohol abuse, replies when asked how he became an alcoholic with simple words: “Practice, Practice, Practice.”  In other words, “I worked hard to destroy my life and family with alcohol abuse.”

But we also know that a percentage of the population doesn’t have to work at it much at all.  They have a genetic, inherited, pre-disposition toward addiction.  For them it doesn’t take very much practice at all before they are into a full-blown addiction.  Medical science has made huge strides in recent years to help us understand that truth.  In some of us there is a switch that gets flipped early on in alcohol use.  Once that switch is flipped, we experience a craving that quickly gets out of control.

We ask all of our leadership to abstain so that we can stand in support and solidarity with our brothers and sisters in our midst for whom an occasional drink is not an option.  For them it is very simple.  If they drink they die.  One drink is too many and twelve or twenty are never enough once they get started.  Our stance is an act of love not law – an act of freedom.

A number of years ago we had a young man come to our church who had years of substance abuse in his past.  He and his wife experienced a great deal of growth after years in our fellowship and he is now the pastor of a church in another state for which we were the sponsoring church.  A couple of years ago he was involved in a training program through a large, well-known church that actually encourages social drinking as a means of ministry.  After a morning training session this young pastor was at lunch with several of the staff of the church and fellow trainees.  He was the only one not drinking a beer at lunch.  One of the church staff asked him why he wasn’t drinking.  He replied, “You don’t want me to drink.  I wouldn’t stop with just one and before it was over I would have torn this place down.”  He is a hulk of a man and anyone who has seen him would have known immediately that he has the ability to make good on that promise.

That afternoon the senior pastor came into the training session because the word had spread. He asked the young pastor about his stance on alcohol.  This was the young pastor’s response.  “Well if I take your encouragement and drink with you, as I said, I won’t stop with one. Then if I go home and beat the crap out of my wife are you going to accept responsibility for that?”  The senior pastor had a blank look on his face and couldn’t give a reply. Neither did he re-examine his position on the casual use of alcohol.

When my young pastor friend told me of that encounter it brought all kinds of images from my own childhood of watching my alcoholic father “beat the crap” out of my mother.   Far too many adults I know today have those same images in their minds.  Sadly enough, many of them have gone on and repeated the pattern.

So back to our original question, “Why does Celebration Fellowship ask all of its leadership to abstain from the use of alcohol?”

Out of love.

We do it out of love. We want to be able to answer when asked by the alcoholic, “Do you drink?” with a simple “No, I don’t.”  When asked why, we want to be able to say, “Because I love and care about you.  I want to stand by you and with you in your sobriety.  I know your life depends upon total abstinence even if mine doesn’t but I stand with you.  This is a choice I make freely out of love.”

When a Christians personal freedom to drink becomes more important to them than the good of the brother or sister who must abstain in order to live, something is really amiss.

We know everyone doesn’t agree with our position on this issue, and that’s ok.  Each one must decide before God for themselves on this and ultimately their accountability is to God for the attitude of their heart not to man.  I am ok with the position I have come to.  I pray that it honors the heart of God for the hurting and that it is an encouragement to the person who is learning to walk in sobriety one day at a time.

James M.Reeves, DMin.

Senior Pastor, Celebration Fellowship, Ft. Worth, Texas

Author:

Refuge (How Hospital Church Ministry Can Change Your Church Forever)

Life Change For Every Christian

Life Change For Couples

http://www.jamesmreeves.com

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