The Passion of Jesus

God has really been stirring me up concerning my passion for Him.  I am beginning to sense a new fire in my spiritual life as I seek the Lord and His ways.  I have been studying various characters from the pages of scripture and see a real zeal for God in the lives of King David, the Apostle Paul and many others.  However, the most passionate person I find in all of the scriptures is the Lord Jesus Himself.  I see great passion in His cleansing of the temple and His ministry to the sick and demon possessed.  I see great passion in the fact that He came to save broken people like you and me.  Jesus is our model for a zealous, passionate Christian life.  As I have taken a fresh look at the life of Christ, I find His passion is centered in three areas:

Jesus was passionate about his relationship with God the Father.  Jesus said in John 5:19, “The son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do.”  Also, in John 5:30, Jesus said, “I can of myself do nothing.  As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent me.”

Jesus was passionate about His prayer life.  In Mark 1:32-35, we find an amazing story.  Jesus is healing the sick and casting out demons in Capernaum.  In the evening, the entire city comes to the house where He is ministering to the people.  He must have prayed for thousands of people far into the night, yet we find these words in verse 35: “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place and there He prayed.”  It is hard for me to believe that Jesus didn’t at least get a good night’s sleep after all that ministry.  But Jesus found it necessary to connect with His heavenly Father in prayer in order to “recharge His spiritual battery.”  We find this same scenario throughout the New Testament as Jesus approaches His prayer life with great passion.

Jesus was passionate about people.  The whole idea of the incarnation is about Jesus’ willingness to clothe Himself in flesh and journey after His lost and dying people.  Jesus loved us so much that He poured out His very life-blood for a rebellious people that only deserved death and separation from a holy God.  Jesus’ passion for people manifested itself in two ways. Jesus spent years training men that would take His place in proclaiming the gospel after He went back to the Father.  Jesus ministered unceasingly to the masses of diseased and demonized people that the religious leaders of His day simply ignored. jesus passion

Jesus is still full of passion today.  He is in full fellowship with His father in heaven.  He tirelessly intercedes for you and me as we live our lives on this earth.  Jesus is also still issuing invitations to a lost and dying world to accept Him as Lord and King.  He is continuing to train His church to reach out to this current generation.

I encourage you, as we move into the Easter season – let the passions of Christ become your passions.  t your relationship with God be red hot.  Spend time in prayer cultivating that special relationship.  And finally, reach out to the lost and hurting around you that so desperately need the Savior.  May our lives be filled with the passion of Jesus!

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The Mercy and Grace Connection

I had mercy and grace mixed up for years. I used them interchangeably as if they were the same concept. But Mercy and grace are totally different from each other but work together to meet the needs of God’s people.

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Mercy is God’s not requiring payment for sin. Mercy sets us free when we should be held accountable. Mercy comes as a result of God’s amazing love and grace. In a personal example, I have received mercy several times from police officers that stopped me for a traffic violation but didn’t give me a ticket. I was guilty but I didn’t have to pay for my “crime”. Thank God for Mercy!!

In the basic form, grace simply means favor, but God’s grace is much more than that. Charles Capps says “grace is God’s willingness to use His ability and power on our behalf even though we don’t deserve it.” My own definition of grace is “Gods power, wrapped in God’s favor and energized by God’s love. “
In short: Grace is the power to change!

Without God’s mercy, we simply die in our sins and are heard from no more. But mercy keeps us alive and connected to God so that grace can do its job of changing us.

Hebrews 4:16 clearly shows the mercy and grace connection: “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” When we have a problem or need in life, we are clearly instructed on what to do.

1. We boldly enter into God’s presence because of what Jesus has done on the cross. God’s favor toward us as His child enables us to walk right into His presence.

2. Once in God’s presence, we ask for His mercy in our situation. Maybe we have messed our life up big time or maybe we are under attack from the devil, but we need mercy in either case. We ask for mercy and we receive it. If we have sins to confess, we do so and receive mercy in the form of forgiveness.

3. Now we are ready to be empowered by grace to see our situation change by the power of God. Maybe we receive a scripture that builds our faith or God sends a person to minister to us. But grace provides answers and power to change our situation and grow our spiritual lives.

It is my prayer that we all realize that mercy and grace are just a prayer away. As we face life’s problems and seek do God’s will, the mercy and grace connection will empower us to experience victory in our everyday lives. Plus, we will be ready to meet the needs of those around us. Thank God for His wonderful gift of the Mercy and Grace Connection.

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The Only Thing That Works

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Some of the most miserable people I know are “burned out” Christians.  They begin their new lives in Christ as shooting stars, full of life and joy.  They share the gospel with great joy and brighten up every room they enter as the Holy Spirit empowers them.  However, as the weeks turn into month, some new Christians become bitter and discouraged.  Their cheerful commitment to the Lord turns into dry obligation.  Some become outwardly hostile towards other Christians and church activities, while others slowly drift away from Christian fellowship and their life in Jesus.  On the other hand, other new Christians enjoy steady growth and continued delight in serving the Lord.  I have watched these two types of Christians develop over the years and have tried (usually in vain) to help the struggling ones find peace and renewed commitment to Christ.  As I have prayed and studied regarding this problem, I have come to the conclusion that the answer is very simple:  the spiritual life of a Christian hangs on a single commandment.

 In I John 3: 22-23, we find these words, “And whatever we ask, we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.  And this is His commandment that we believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another just as He gave commandment.”   This simple two part commandment is the very essence of the Christian life – we trust Jesus with our lives and we love other Christians.  Obviously, the outworking of this commandment can take a lifetime to achieve, but with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God as our guides, we can live in trust and love. 

 Could you imagine a group of Christians, whether a church, a ministry group or even a family that did everything they could to live by this commandment?  There would be no church fights.  There would be no control issues because of manipulating or “guilting” of others.  There would be no posturing for position.  Backbiting and gossip would cease.  Every person involved would serve and love their brothers and sisters above their own interest.  The Word of God would take precedence over denominational or personal preferences.  People would serve the body of Christ and share their faith with others because they wanted to not out of obligation. Plus, we would receive what we asked from Him because we kept that commandment.

 If we consider the life of Jesus during His time on the earth, we can see that this is the way He lived.  He trusted God explicitly, even in the face of the cross.  He ministered in gentleness and love to people as they sought out His miracle working power.  He trained his disciples by actively engaging in ministry with them as their living example.  He issued specific but simple invitations to those in the crowds to follow Him in a deeper way.  Many men and women took up that challenge while others chose to hang on to their self-life.  He didn’t berate, patronize, manipulate, or try to convince those that rejected him of the error of their ways – He just loved them.

 In light of what I’ve written above, I am going to conduct a 30 day test in my own life.  I am going to do my best, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, to operate my life and ministry on this commandment.  I am going to actively trust Jesus in all my affairs.  I am going to commit to a lifestyle of loving other Christians (particularly those that hurt or disappointed me), not just as an obligation due to my job as a pastor.  I will continue to speak the truth of God’s Word, but only in love, never in condemnation.  After 30 days, I figure things will be so good that I’ll just live this commandment from now on.  If it sounds good to you too, why not try it with me?  The results should be amazing!

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Brother Lawrence and the Moonshiners Part 2

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“So, how come you boys are losing sales around Cat Creek?” bellowed Big Ed.  Edward Benton or Big Ed as the locals called him was a master moonshiner.  He had stills all around the backwoods of Bessemer and had come to Cat Creek and taught the locals how to make the best moonshine whiskey in the state of Alabama. Of course Big Ed took a 20% cut for his instruction and oversight.  “So tell me. Why are you boys losing business?” Ed said quietly with a menacing stare.  “It’s the preacher,” offered Jimmy James.  “Yeah, Jimmy’s right said Betsy.  I met that preacher about a month ago when he and that boy preacher of his first showed up.  I even had my scatter gun pointed right at his nose.  I didn’t figure he’d hurt nothing but saved folks don’t buy moonshine and he’s got a bunch of ‘em saved.”  “Is that so?  Well, I got a little surprise for your preacher” snarled Big Ed.

 “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost” said Brother Lawrence as he dipped Joe Favor in the cool waters of Cat Creek.  As Joe broke the surface grinning, the small crowd erupted with shouts and applause.  Another sinner had made Jesus Lord and joined the little congregation of 30 or so believers.  Joe dried off as the group walked the short distance up to the Old Bethlehem church building where a hot meal was waiting for them.  After the meal and a time of hymn singing, Brother Lawrence preached about the second coming of Jesus and two little boys gave their hearts to the Lord.  The people left that night with great joy.

 As Brother Lawrence gathered up his Bible and notes, he noticed a couple of the men waiting to speak to him.  Charlie Jones spoke up first, “Pastor, me and Slim have been talking and we believe we should have a Saturday night meeting in Town.  I lot of folks can’t come this far to hear you preach but if we took the meeting to them….”  “Yeah”, Slim said excitedly.  “I already asked Principal Henry if we could use the school and he was fine with the idea.”  Brother Lawrence smiled broadly as his blue eyes danced.  God was answering his prayers.

 The next Saturday the Old Bethlehem Church Congregation met at the 6th grade classroom at 6 pm sharp.  They arranged chairs and put Brother Lawrence’s little speaking stand in front of the long middle blackboard.  The school room was typical of that time – blackboards on one side and windows on the other.

 The meeting started in typical fashion as the boy preacher led the singing while old Ned played the guitar.  The new folks from town seemed to fit right in.  After the singing Brother Lawrence began preaching the good news of Jesus but nobody seemed to notice the silhouette of Big Ed holding a twelve gauge shotgun while peering in the open schoolhouse window.

 When the shot rang out the people screamed and began diving for the floor.  Chalk dust and gun smoke filled the classroom. Big Ed surveyed the situation fully expecting to see Brother Lawrence lying in a pool of blood.  To everyone’s amazement, Brother Lawrence still stood in front of the blackboard with shot gun pellet holes all around his head.  Not a single pellet had touched him.  Ed stared in total terror.  He then began crying out, “It’s real!  It’s real! God is real and my sins are before me!”  Ed threw the shotgun down and ran into the building where he fell on his knees before Brother Lawrence.  The tears flowed as Ed confessed his sins and cried out for God to save him.  Brother Lawrence knelt down with Ed and prayed him through to a miraculous conversion.  The people shouted, danced and hugged each other.  Jesus had protected Brother Lawrence and saved Big Ed!

 I heard this story as a twelve year old boy sitting at the feet of my grandfather Lawrence G. Nunnally Sr.  Eleven churches were established during his ministry.  Brother Lawrence was a man of faith that endured many hardships to preach the gospel.  He has alwaysbeen one of my heroes.  I share this story with you to strengthen your resolve to share the gospel even when circumstances are difficult.  God bless you!

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Brother Lawrence and the Moonshiners

“So just what do you think you are doing?!” said the large ugly woman holding the shotgun on Brother Lawrence.  “Me and the boy preacher are going down to open up the old Bethlehem Church so folks in these parts can worship the Lord”, stammered Brother Lawrence as he looked down the blue steel barrels.  “Well alright then.” snarled the large ugly woman.  She lowered the gun as she and her sons tromped back to their miserable looking little cabin next to the rain soaked dirt Road.  “Just preachers not revenuers…” She muttered.

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The year was 1928 and Brother Lawrence Nunnally felt like God had called him to this rural Central Alabama area called Cat Creek.  All the churches had closed due to moon-shining activity and multiple murders. It seems the Christian folk just packed up and left since there were few jobs in the depression stricken back woods anyway.  Brother Lawrence knew that God wanted him to plant a church in that area whether the moonshiners liked it or not.

The two travelers sloshed a couple more miles through the mud before coming to their destination.  The old Bethlehem Church building had been abandoned for several years but seemed to be in pretty good shape.  Even most of the rough wooden pews and a few workable kerosene lanterns were still in the little faded white building. The two men made a couple of straw brooms from the abundant underbrush and got right to work sweeping out the old church building.  After tidying the place up, they pitched the tent the boy preacher had been lugging along with him and made a meal of the corn bread Lawrence’s wife Lilly had sent along with them. It tasted pretty good along with the creek water behind the church building.  After the meal, Brother Lawrence and the boy preacher rested and prayed until service time.

That evening at 7 pm, Brother Lawrence started the service with a few old gospel hymns and then began to preach his heart out to the empty pews.  The boy preacher shouted “amen” and “hallelujah” as Brother Lawrence offered an altar call to the emptiness.  Brother Lawrence and the boy preacher retired to the tent, had a little cornbread snack and went to sleep after praying for the community.

The next night was a carbon copy of the first night except Brother Lawrence caught a glimpse of a few folks listening outside in the darkness.  A man, a woman and two small children actually wandered in and sat on the back pews about midway through the sermon on the third night. After the sermon was over, the man responded to the invitation and was gloriously saved.  Brother Lawrence baptized the whole family in a deep spot in the creek the next day.

Over the next few weeks, the little church building was packed with seekers and around 25 souls were saved.  Brother Lawrence discipled the little group for another couple of weeks until trouble broke out with the local moonshiners – but that’s another story for another time.

I heard this story as a twelve year old boy sitting at the feet of my grandfather Lawrence G. Nunnally Sr.  The boy preacher was his young assistant that traveled with him as he raised up churches in rural Alabama.  Brother Lawrence was a man of faith that endured many hardships to preach the gospel.  He has always been one of my heroes.  I share this story with you to strengthen your resolve to share the gospel even when circumstances are difficult.  God bless you!

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Zombies Among Us!

Zombies!  They seem to be everywhere in modern entertainment. We see them lumbering along mindlessly in their violent quest for human flesh in books like Zombie Survival Guide, TV shows like AMC’s The Walking Dead, or full length films such as The Night of the Living Dead or World War Z.  

zombieWell, I would like to announce to you that zombies are REAL – at least in the spiritual world.  In Hollywood’s world, mindless bloodthirsty Zombies have been infected by a virus that turns them into dead yet animated creatures.  In the real world, spiritual zombies have been infected with the disease of sin and rebellion toward God.  Hollywood’s zombies are the stuff of legends and creep shows.  Spiritual zombies are walking among us.

Hear these words from the Holy Spirit: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” Eph. 2:1-3 NKJ

Sounds like zombies to me – spiritually dead people mindlessly and violently pursuing the flesh!  I have been there as the spirit of Satan influenced me in my quest to satisfy the physical and emotional needs of the flesh.  I lived the life of a man that only wanted to please his own desires with little regard for others.  Even though I was well educated, had plenty of friends and looked like a pretty good guy, I was a spiritual zombie.

So how do we deal with zombies? In the books and movies, zombies are usually killed by a sharp blow to the head or a bullet to the brain.  Even so, spiritual zombies must experience a mind change (repentance) in order to receive the cleansing, renewing grace of God that has been furnished by the blood of Jesus.  Every spiritual zombie can die to the lust of the flesh and be changed into a spiritually alive vibrant child of God by accepting Jesus as Lord.  2 Cor. 5:17-19 (NLT) puts it this way, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!   And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.” 

We will each have zombie encounters on a regular basis as we experience un-dead sin infested creatures lumbering through our lives, workplaces, communities, churches and families. Rather than fear the encounter, we should show the zombies the love of God and share the message of salvation as we seek to help them leave their zombie lifestyle and be reconciled to God.  After all, we children of God were once zombies too!

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The Amazing Life Skill of Consistency

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Have you ever wanted something so bad it drove you crazy? For me it was my first car. However, cars don’t just fall out of the sky, do they? Buying a car requires consistency in thought, planning and finances.  Consistency is a life skill that brings success in all areas of life.  Want to be a business person, a nurse or a musician?  The life skill of consistency is key to your success.  Consistency works for us when we find the right action to take in a situation and repeat that action until success springs out of our efforts. A consistent person is always the same in their approach to life. So back to the car story…

When I was 14 years old, I dreamed of having a new car. I talked to my father about my dream and he said, “Son, I will buy you half of any car in the world. Get to work, earn your half and we’ll go car shopping.” I got a part time job sweeping up a huge warehouse and worked every Saturday at the minimum wage of $1.25/hr., the going rate  back in the 60’s. I put most of my money in a savings account after giving 10% to my local church and keeping out a little to spend. After I turned 16, I did yard work, more warehouse work and later worked in a clothing store. I saved as much as I could. While in college I worked 20 hours a week between classes and on Saturdays.

By the time I was 20 years old in 1968; I had saved $1500 (about $10,000 in today’s economy). I went to my dad and said, “I’ve got my half of the car money”. He verified that he had his half and off we went with $3000 on a mission to purchase that new car I had dreamed of for 6 years. We went to the Chevrolet dealer first and looked at Camaros. My father was an excellent business man and a fine negotiator. The lowest price we could get out of the Chevy dealer was $3200. We walked out. Next we went to the Pontiac place and I fell in love! The object of my affection was a brand new green 1968 Pontiac Firebird with white leather upholstery and bucket seats. My father saw the look in my eye and got to work negotiating with the sales team. He finally traded at $3000 even including tax, tag, title and a full tank of gas. I drove that green Firebird for many years before selling it to a family member.

My process of consistently working toward a stated goal took 6 years but it paid off. That same life skill of consistency has served me well over the years. I was successful in business, and successful (along with my wife Ann) in planting and pastoring a growing church in our community. We also raised two quality sons through God’s grace and our commitment to consistency.

Jesus was a model of consistency. He said, “The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” John 8:29. Proverbs has good instruction in verse 10:4, “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent (consistent) makes one rich.”

What is the dream of your heart?  Consistency can turn your dreams into reality.  My prayer for you is that you will first recognize those areas in your life where more consistency is needed. Secondly, I pray that God’s grace and your own decision to embrace consistency will open a pathway to your dreams.  Your own “green Firebird” is waiting for you!

 

 

 

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