Things are getting hot!

20121213-193909.jpgIf you’ve been somewhat observant over the last 10-20 years, you will have to agree there have been a number of changes in the church, especially here in America.

I’ve been around a few years, and have heard all kinds of remarks about the problems in today’s church. “Too much liberalism in our pulpits.” “Music’s too loud.” “If I wanted music like this I’d visit the neighborhood bar.” “Too much compromise!” “No Sunday School or Sunday evening services.” This and that, one thing then the next. On and on and on and on…

But I really don’t consider any of those issues, even though they may be true, the biggest problem facing the church.


I’ll say it a different way. In my opinion, there’s something far more damaging to the church than liberalism, more damning to the soul of man than loud music, and destructive to our mission than not having a Sunday evening service. It’s this:

We’ve become too familiar with God.

Shall I explain? One definition of the word “familiar” is “common, everyday occurrence”. In other words, we’ve become so used to being around Him there isn’t any sense of awe. The church has lost the “awe”! How? By inserting our plans, programs, and earthly thinking into what we used to rely on God to do! As a preacher, we’ve learned how to “manipulate” the audience (watching our show) so they’ll respond like we want them to. And then we call it being anointed.

It is impossible to really be “anointed” without the Fear of God in your life. Hebrews 1:8,9

We can have “worship services”, go through the list of the latest “charts”, get the glory-bumps on us, shout a bit, listen to a sermon, shake a hand or two, get in the car and go right back to where we were before “worship”. No sense of awe! No change in attitudes! Just go through the motions, try and get the market share of tithes and offerings, put out the best programs to attract the masses, and hope God sees fit to bless the work of our hands!

A couple verses from Hebrews come to mind as I write: “Our God is a consuming fire…” and “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

“Brother, I think you’re getting a little legalistic.” Maybe so, the Lord will be the Judge, but I don’t think so. I love the Lord, love to worship, preach, shout and “have church” like the rest. I think it’s important to do things the best we can. But “familiarity with God”, where He is an after-thought in all our activities, is dangerous! Here’s an example:

Working in a foundry, pouring hot iron that’s 2700 degrees, you must never lose your sense of awe or respect for it. Though it is your “friend and partner”, creating strong castings, etc, you must respect it. You don’ need to fear it, just respect it. You cannot become too familiar, as if it doesn’t matter how you treat it, because that’s when you get burned! I know!

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and it causes you and I to depart from evil. Familiarity with God minimizes the fear and awe of God we desperately need in the church. The fear of God would clean up our thoughts, our actions, our mouths, and our “worship” would be pure. Our sermons wouldn’t be powerless or reliant upon the latest gadgets available but would be filled with the Spirit of God and shake us to our knees!

Mark it down, though. The Fear of God is rising, whether we want it or not. The Holiness of God is becoming more and more evident. It’s time we quit thinking of God as our “bud” or “pal”, but reverence Him as Lord of ALL. He IS a consuming fire, and the heat is rising!


20121208-171231.jpg My wife and I watched a special on TV the other evening. It was the group RAIN, the Beatles tribute band, on IPTV. I really enjoyed watching the group and listening to the songs. What a talented bunch of guys!

Toward the end they played the song “Imagine”. As a teen, I loved it. Before I met Jesus in 1975, I even agreed with the song’s premise. But something’s happened to my “imagination” over the last 37 years. It hasn’t become narrowed, boxed in, cramped, or anything like that. In fact, my imagination has expanded to where I can imagine a world far greater than this one. I can picture in my mind’s eye a time when a lion will lie down with a lamb. I can fathom a heaven so grand it will take eternity to explore it all. And I can dream, in living color, people from every kindred, race, and tribe surrounding the Throne of God in endless worship!

What I am still having a hard time comprehending though is the love of God. How could it be that the God of the Ages, the Creator, Father God, would love me enough to give His best for me at my worst? How could He love me without placing conditions on that love? Oh, sure, there are conditions to entering heaven, to walking with God, etc. But He loved me, and even forgave me, in and through Christ, while I was rotten to the core!

You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. There’s a great big family of dreamers in the earth and heaven. Their imagination is seeded with God’s Word. They imagine a world where all things are possible to those who believe. They dream of a place where God does exceedingly, abundantly above our imagination.

As for the love of God, I’m still working on that. But this I’ve learned; just because I can’t figure it out doesn’t make it untrue, or not as real. So in the meantime, I’ll keep on imaging, dreaming, and experiencing The One Who is beyond comprehension. I’ll thank Him for the privilege of knowing Him as much as I do, and keep searching to know Him more.

And I’ll do it for all eternity!

Imagine that.

Pictures Paint…Choices

Slaughterhouse 4“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters” (James 1:12 – 1:16 NLT)

So she seduced him with her pretty speech and enticed him with her flattery. He followed her at once, like an ox going to the slaughter. He was like a stag caught in a trap, awaiting the arrow that would pierce its heart (Proverbs 7:21- 7:23 NLT)

The power of encouragement is evident in the above scriptures. Both James and Solomon are warning and encouraging the reader to pay attention, don’t get caught off guard, and make wise choices. The choices one makes will determine whether they live or die; it’s that serious.

 Slaughterhouse 5 Slaughterhouse 2Take for example Solomon’s words: Pretty speech, flattery, whatever was needed to get the young man to follow, that’s what she used. Prey on the weak spots which, for most men, are their eyes and ego.

What a descriptive word: like an ox going to the slaughter. I worked at a meat packinghouse for a while in the 80’s. Never worked the kill floor, but “visited” there once. Wow. Picture the animal as it’s poked and prodded into the livestock trailer. Have you ever followed one down the road? Whew! Now see it as the trailer backs into the gathering area, is poked and prodded more, is herded through a narrow gate, onto the kill floor. Its head is bashed with a stun gun, legs are manacled, body lifted above floor as it hangs by its hind feet. Then the knife and flow of blood; flowing, flowing, flowing until the last drop of life is pooled on the floor.

This is the picture Solomon had in mind.Slaughterhouse

Remember, though, the picture was intended to warn, to encourage, young men (and old men) to watch their step, guard their heart, and stay clear of the slaughterhouse. Not an easy feat, these days. Bombarded on every side, voices and images flash before us endlessly. But the Lord will give you the strength to overcome; ask Him, believe Him, and turn away from the kill floor.

For those who’ve already been a participant in the packing house regimen, God, through Jesus, is the God of restoration and new life. Repentance is the key that unlocks the door, removes the shackles, and even causes the dead to live again. 

I know…

jumping calf


“an act or instance of uniting or joining two or more things into one”

There are several aspects involved with defining the word “union”, but I think it’s really important to understand the “uniting” concept.

Usually I write about “spiritual” truths, and though this post will primarily apply to labor unions, there’s still a spiritual application to understand.

Whether with marriage, labor, or church, the concept of “uniting” to form one unit (union) out of two or more is the same. Each person that is “uniting” brings to the union all their strengths and weaknesses, answers and questions; in short, who they are and all they are. The union becomes a covenant relationship of sorts.

One major reason for uniting is support. Support FOR each one FROM each one in the union. The strengths of some support the weaknesses of others. Where one succeeds, all succeed. If one fails, it affects all in union. And though there may be personal preferences (which we all have) the success of the union takes precedence.

I have belonged to several labor unions throughout my life, I’ve been married for over 40 years, and I’ve been a Christian (in union with Christ) for 37 years. Each union requires my complete support and allegiance, otherwise the union is in jeopardy.

A few years ago while working for the Postal Service as a Station Manager, I messed up and forgot to do one of my duties. As I sat in front of my boss, answering for my actions, I was in shock by the lack of support I was getting. Finally I said, “I might as well go back to the carrier union; at least I’d get better support!”

Well, that’s where they sent me. Back to support. Back to the union.
(I really want to thank all my union brothers and sisters for their support, and for welcoming me back to their ranks.)

Being in union is more than paying dues, bills, or tithes. It is supporting one another for the benefit of the whole. So be it!

© 2012 Jan Grace

The Chef’s in the Kitchen…it’s pudding time!

It’s called banana pudding, not bananas with pudding, vanilla wafers and bananas, or even vanilla extract and friends!

Now a recipe may have a main ingredient or two, like in banana pudding, but there are no “big chiefs”. The amount of each ingredient may vary, but every ingredient is necessary. As the pudding is created, everything is mixed together to make something all the ingredients individually could never make, even if they fasted and prayed for 40 days straight! Any ingredient, by themself, is just that; they are by themself. Regardless the amount of “schooling”, or the “heritage” they have, or even the “size of their cupboard”, they are only what they are and cannot be anything different unless mixed with something else. I’ve heard more than one box of wafers cry out, “Fill me without measure!”, yet the only One anointed without measure is The Chef. The ingredients must not think more highly of themselves than they should, and must realize they NEED each other.

Jesus prayed in John 17 for His Church to be one, AS He and the Father are one.

The Lord has all the ingredients to make up His “pudding”. There are bananas, milk, wafers, etc; prominent players and groups of players that are very evident. These are the churches and individuals who seem to be anointed to be “out front”. Then there are others, the supporting cast if you will, that aren’t very appealing to those around them. These are those within the Church that have smaller rolls, maybe believe a little different, do things a little odd (anyway, that’s what the banana told me), and have a hard time mixing with others. Actually, none of the ingredients can mix themselves! Even the best banana in the bunch cannot peel itself. And who really wants to take a knife to their hide and divide what they have just so someone else can be blessed! Don’t expect that from a vanilla wafer!

But the Lord is trying to get the ingredients together! I realize each one likes to hang out with their own bunch, or be in groups where the spoon is not so cold or harsh when it stirs, but you can’t taste the pudding if the ingredients are segregated.

I’ve recently been hanging around various and sundry ministers and ministries and this thought came to me: many are content to join with others when they have time and when they are with people who “taste” the same as they do. They keep to themselves, or their “own kind”, and fail to realize the flavor isn’t the same without them. Also, by keeping apart from others, they will rot or grow stale before they ever become what the Chef has in mind. 

There’s a verse in Hebrews 12 which says, “everything that can be shaken will be shaken.” Allow me to paraphrase-“The Chef has gotten the mixer out of the drawer and has plugged it in!” Kind of a scary thought, to be in the Lord’s mixing bowl. But what a joy when it comes time to lick the beaters…

As I said earlier, the Chef is moving in the Kitchen. He’s pulling the ingredients out of storage and cracking some eggs, cutting some bananas. The salt’s getting pinched, the flour sifted, and everyone is smelling the vanilla! The heat is rising on top of the stove and soon, very soon, the Chef will pick up each ingredient and use them AS HE SEES FIT.

This would be the best time to yield, to be ready to mix it up. For your finest hour is at hand; His Hand.

Are you getting hungry for Banana Pudding?


Soon, the ingredients will be removed from their place of storage. The bowls, pots, and cooking utensils will be placed on the kitchen counter. Eggs will be cracked, milk poured, bananas peeled and sliced. Stirring and pouring, stirring and cooking, pouring and chilling…ummmm

I’d like to invite you all over for dessert…

But right now it isn’t ready. The ingredients have been available but for some reason they haven’t been mixed together.

Funny thing about the ingredients: by themselves they are fine. I mean, I like bananas and vanilla wafers. Egg yolks are okay, and milk is refreshing; but vanilla extract, flour, and salt, alone, ick!

I’ve often wondered why these ingredients have been kept apart when they were made to be mixed together. The world just isn’t the same while they are apart, sitting in the cupboard or the fridge.

But something is happening in the kitchen. The Chef is moving things around in preparation for a final cooking experience; an experience I do not want to miss.

I’ll finish this story in just a bit…in the meantime, start preparing your taste buds!

Go ahead, chuckle along with God

oopsToday I had the privilege of preaching at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Des Moines. My great friend Dr. James Wright is the pastor. The Lord gave us His grace and anointing and it was a productive time for the Kingdom of God.Funny that The Lord can anoint someone to preach who can’t seem to handle opening those individual communion cup/wafer combos! God’s man of faith and Holy Ghost power standing in front of the congregation acting like he just woke up after being asleep for a hundred years.

After I preached it was time for communion. They have a special way they serve communion in the church, which includes having all the deacons, deaconesses, ministers and pastors wear white gloves. After all the elements were served, the pastor had everyone eat the wafer.

I couldn’t get mine open! I even took off my gloves, but, no good! Instead, I opened up the part for the juice. But I kept trying! Meanwhile the pastor had moved on with the ceremony and it was time for the juice. It took a minute or two, but I finally was able to drink my juice after the rest were finished.So it’s now time to pick up the empties, but wait! I still have a wafer to eat! A person doesn’t take half communion, especially one of God’s “powerful preachers”! So I keep at it and about the time the deaconess gets to me for my “empty”, the top opens up, wafer lands in my hand and the empty cup flips up into the air and lands in the collection plate sitting by the communion trays! In front of God, the deacons, deaconesses, ministers and all!

I got such a chuckle out of the whole thing. (My wife was trying not to laugh as she watched me struggle with the communion elements). What made me smile was I felt The Lord got a kick out of it as well. You see, I really don’t think The Lord sees us as “powerful men and women of God”, or Doctor so and so, Apostle Doodad, Prophet Never Wrong, or anything like that. I think He sees us as His kids who are just trying to please Him.

Ever see a kid play “grown-ups”? Cute, isn’t it? That’s how I sometime feel The Lord must see us.

Don’t get me wrong. The Lord anoints us for a purpose, not for playing games. Kingdom work is serious stuff! But maybe, just maybe, we could have a greater impact, relate with people a little better, if we could see ourselves the way God sees us…

…as people who sometimes can’t get the communion wafer paper off.

And then, allow ourselves to have a good chuckle, along with God.

Forgive me, I have sinned


Forgive me, for I have sinned.

I’ve been as guilty as the next person. As a matter of fact, I have just plain out and out sinned! “Oh no, brother, what have you done? Have you become trapped in pornography, or started smoking? Maybe you’ve started drinking again…”

No, something more serious than that, I’m afraid.

You see, I am someone who has talked about others, made them the butt end of jokes, and have helped sow discord when I, as a follower of Jesus, should have been sowing unity. I have secretly, and not so secretly, wanted certain people to fail because I don’t agree with their philosophy. I have spoken disparaging words against them and have failed to follow the words of Jesus completely by not praying for them.

You may say, “how could you act so bad?” “I thought you were a Christian!” “And you had the nerve to write a book about the power of encouragement!”

I’m sorry that I have let each one of you down. I let The Lord down, as well.

Most importantly I let President Obama down, along with his staff. Just because I don’t like his policies is no excuse for not praying and believing God for him. When I was a pastor I’m sure the congregation didn’t agree with all my opinions and decisions yet I expected them to pray for me anyway. No difference.

Joseph had a tough life, the children of Israel had it rough as well. Sometimes there were good rulers and sometimes the rulers were rotten. Daniel is an interesting study, as he said to the heathen king, “O king, live forever!” The early church had horrible persecution yet Paul told them to pray for their leaders.

I repent of my Obama jokes, posts, etc. My choice, now, is to be part of God’s solution rather than part of the problem. God HATES those who sow discord, and speaking ill of leadership is sowing discord.

The election is over! That doesn’t mean we just give in to every policy that our leaders come up with, but it does mean we do what God said in His Word. Pray. Believe God can change a heart, change a nation. Speak life, unity, peace, righteousness over our leaders and nation. We cannot speak ill and ugly of someone we carry regularly to God in prayer.

Righteousness exalts a nation. Prayer prepares the way for righteousness. May we be one nation under God.

How long can you keep it inside?


Though it is natural for a train to be inside a train station (at least for a season), it is not natural for a train to run through a wall! So much power, force, ability, and usefulness can, if not controlled, inflict much destruction upon others or other things.

Our heart and minds are like the train. God has created us with the ability to use our power, force, ability, and usefulness to benefit one another and bring honor and glory to Him. But if not controlled, or governed by His Word and love, what was designed for good can destroy!

You see, though we may act like we are wonderful, loving, helpful, holy and God-fearing, if our spirit and mind is out of control (not governed by His Word and love), we will eventually self destruct, run off the track and through the wall! What we think about, we become. What we become will not be hidden, for truth cannot be concealed forever, whether good or bad; and what we become, we beget…

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”(Philippians 4:8 – 4:9 NKJV)

I know plenty of people, church going people, who are so full of bitterness, unforgiveness, envy and jealousy that it’s dangerous to have them open their mouths about anything. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Their train is off the track and they cause destruction wherever they go!

“Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6 NKJV). With truth controlling our inward parts, the power, force, ability, and usefulness will be a blessing rather than destructive, to those around us. It will come out the right way, through the right door, and not through the wall.

Whatever’s on this inside will be revealed. Make sure what’s in you stays on the track of truth. When the time comes for the train to come out it will bless others and honor God.

Who in the world are YOU?

20121129-005935.jpg I was visiting with my pastor today, sharing with him about the direction the Lord seemed to be pointing my wife and I. During our conversation I heard myself say something that really registered with my spirit. Something known as true in my head, but had finally made its way to my heart.

Value. My value. Now don’t misunderstand me, I didn’t just realize I was the most important person in the world. No, what opened up in my spirit is why I am valuable. What’s so special about me? Who in the world am I?

All my life I have placed my value on my grades, my friends, my things, my job, my music ability, etc. When I was in third grade I started taking piano lessons, like my older brother. My motive? I wanted to learn to do something better than him, get more positive attention, add some value to my life.

Even when I received Christ as my Lord and Savior, my value seemed like it was wrapped up in what I did. Music and leading worship, teaching, pastoring a church, prophesying; on and on I could go about the things that seemed to make me valuable. A least, in my eyes.

Now there’s nothing wrong with doing those things, especially when the Lord anoints you to do them. What’s wrong is this. What happens when I can’t do those things anymore? What happens to my value? Do I really listen to the Lord and follow His direction if He’s leading me to do something that doesn’t “add to my value”? If I get my value, my self-worth, from what I do, chances are I will keep trying to do that thing regardless of whether it’s the right thing to do or not. And, if the things I do seem to get old and mundane (losing their ability to give me the value I “need”), after a while my eyes and heart can wander to places that will feed my need for “value”; places that only bring destruction to my life or someone elses.

So it hit me today. It registered deep within my spirit; my value is built into me by my Heavenly Father. “What can a man give in exchange for his soul”, Jesus asked. He also said, “you are more valuable than the sparrows.” The Psalmist said, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

The truth in this revelation is so freeing! Regardless of a title, position, a gift, an anointing; I am valuable because God thinks so. Yes, I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me. Yes, I am more than a conqueror through Him Who loved me. Yes, greater is He Who is in me than the one in the world. But my value is not it in those truths. Those are extra!

I am free to be me. God so loved ME! Who am I in the world? Me! Nothing I do, good or bad, will add or subtract from my value! It may affect my ability to be useful, or trusted, but my value is eternal!

And you are YOU! Valuable enough to your Maker to give His best for you.

Value. Built into every one of us.

Built by God.

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