Merry Christmas – My wish for You.

 

Well, it is again the merry time of year.

Dec 24th, today. And this day we celebrate everything from family, to Christ. There is always something to be thankful for, and always something to regret. For those of you who are sharing family and friends, I advise you to pull out the Scriptures and take at least 30 minutes of your day to remind yourself that Love came down to mankind.

Just like willpower is usually not enough in itself to accomplish, so our separation from God is such that God himself sent our Messiah to honor both God and man. In Beginnings, we learn that God made us after the image of the holy ones. God also gave us choice.

To have someone stick around because they have no other options at the time might satisfy something in some people. But, when someone is staying with us because it is their choice, that is very very special. And we feel that special sense we call love. This is evident in our marital relationships, our deepest friendships, and especially with our God.

We make Him proud when we “worship” Him, His Son, and the Spirit of God sent to be with us for all time. We make Him proud when we do for others beyond a “call of duty”. Generosity toward someone else is another one of those things that will make the best feelings appear within us. Not doing something, so something will be done back. Going beyond that! Doing something good because we can, and we want to, and nobody will ever know but us, or if they do find out, still giving credit to another who taught us this fantastic generosity, loving enough to separate the classes, the colors, the ages, the differences, and finding similarity in that we are really all quite alike.

This year, I was introduced to several Muslim faith followers. None of which were radical. Conversation with one was an invitation to share our similarities. Conversation with the others were along the lines of – we were all engaged in education in order to help other people in their relationships. No, Jesus didn’t become the center of our conversation. Neither did Mohammed. But groundwork of friendship was begun so that we can later discuss salvation. You wouldn’t push too fast toward an exciting new date would you? Naaahh. If we can remember to love people, then influence them, we will have a lot less stress than otherwise.

See, this happened earlier, over the last 6 years, with some Jewish friends. Now I enjoy Passover more, and Hanukkah, and candles, and … Turns out most of them are Messianic. I even read a story of a group from a synagogue who took over a Christmas meal program for a Methodist church. Over 300 served by 3:00 afternoon. “Y’all go home & enjoy your holiday. We got this for you!” One of these ladies, I met through another close friend, introduced me to an easier way to understand the Hebrew language. Aleph-Bette has been a challenge & fun. I like reading. And I like reading the footnotes and explanations of wisdom scriptures from several sources, including Tanakh.

We have differences. God likes some variety. Look around. You know He does. SO whether family, spouse, neighbor, or affiliation, let’s learn to relish the diversity. Let’s learn to befriend, then debate. Let’s learn to play soccer rather than playing war. I don’t have all the answers to life’s questions. What I do have is love to give. What I can do is ask questions to learn more depth. What I can see is the heart of people. What I can hear, is what is voiced between the syllables. What I can feel is tremendous! My Gift to you this year would be to encourage everyone to enjoy each other. Take the challenge of giving your presence, listening with all you have, and learning all you can. People will find you much more interesting, and then listen more carefully to you, if you give them the benefit of being heard, and felt, and seen as worthy.

Merry Christmas to you all. Remember, You are a person of worth and value. I love you & God loves You.

Chuck

Love is kind, Love is patient, Love is the chief basis for relationship. Love is the Gift from God that we are to give to each other.
Love is kind, Love is patient, Love is the chief basis for relationship. Love is the Gift from God that we are to give to each other.

PASSION

Our search for meaning is for more than blind conformity.
Our search for meaning is for more than blind conformity.

It is my privilege to bring the word of God to you. When I had been invited to lead a service at St Mark UMC, I prayed, “God, What do your people need this morning.” Before I could even pull the Lectionary, He answered: Passion. Discuss Passion. So, first thing I do is grab a tool or two to look up every instance of the word, passion, in the Bible.

As I read each passage, it seemed to be all about how not to burn with passion. It was about giving up sinful passion for godly passion. My New King James translation really references the word PASSION in a derogatory sense. Sort of like passion is related to Worldliness as opposed to Holiness. I said, “God, I don’t think I need to sermonize about the evils of lustful passion. Christians understand that. Then Isaiah 51 popped out!

The Holy Bible, New International Version. Pradis CD-ROM:Isa 51: 1-2, 16.

Isa 51:1 “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn;

Isa 51:2 look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many.

Isa 51:16 I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand —I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, to all who accept Me, ‘You are my people. ’ ” (Italics are my addition.)

As I prepare to write, I ask God for guidance. Although I have spent much preparation time in research, reflection and meditation, I pray to write for you, the audience; not for recognition, fame, or honor of my Self. Contribution to others is one of the highest orders of feeling fulfilled as a human. And it is enough for me to be filled by helping others find relief in their inquisitive lives. What this translates as, is that Trusting in God, the Holy Spirit will take my words and allow you to hear the message that Spirit has for you. Step out on Faith! Chuck, Don’t be “Jonah”. Don’t wimp out. Do your best for Me, your Jesus. The Holy Spirit will control, interpret, deliver, what is heard.

So, I thought more. Don’t we call the week of Easter, Passion Week?” Why do we call it Passion Week? Because, in that week, emotions were all over the place. Jesus did much to ready his followers. Jesus prayed as passionately as He ever prayed. Have you, can you remember, the last time you prayed with real passion? Maybe, it was about a dying spouse, or child. Maybe it was about a sin you thought could never be forgiven. Maybe it was for justice, or fairness to prevail in a situation you could not control. I guarantee if you ever prayed so hard that sweat was pouring from your brow, it was about something you were passionately, or emotionally involved.

I have the honor of communicating with thousands of people each year. And though the Bible warns against worldly passions, I find that too many of us do not have enough expression of passion. Are we becoming too passive as a society? Have we been raised so well by the systems of “status quo”, of being so much a part of an “In Crowd”, of conforming to scholastic rules of conformity, that we find it uncomfortable to be very passionate? Or to enjoy the passions of others who might or might not think, act, believe, follow, as we.

Life without passion is a life without meaning.
Life without passion is a life without meaning.

 

How shall we influence others without expressing our drives in emotionally charged meaning? To be intellectual is one of the ways toward wisdom. To feel empathy for others shows compassion. But it is the passion of belief which will influence. It is our passion which charges forth both change and tradition, when persuasion must determine outcome. God gave us our passionate emotions to enjoy, to feel alive. All we need is to properly use and direct them!

As Jesus neared his death, Jesus taught His followers as passionately as He ever did. His teaching became more direct. (Luke22:39-46) He put emphasis on servant leadership. (John 13: 3-17) He showed, taught, love for each other and for Him, as the most important part of becoming one with Him, as He was one with the Father. (John 17: 9-26, Luke 21:33-38) He set the stage to end any bickering they might have among each other. (Mark 10: 35-45) He set them up to receive, understand, become passionate about the Love of God through the Holy Spirit. Did it work? (Acts 2) I’d say yes. At Pentecost, Peter told this timeless story of salvation, through Jesus, with passion. (Acts) How many became believers? The disciples and apostles settled disputes that could have, and did try to, split the believers such as: “Circumcision” among Gentile conversions. (Acts 15: 1-29) Sticking with your spouse who might not believe in the Way. (1 Corinthians 7:10-23) And holding onto the Truth, though others may distort or abandon that Truth. (2 Thessalonians 2) Love conquered. Passions persuaded.

Jesus gave His life during that Passion week. Jesus showed us victory over death, (Luke 24) although, His enemies were more passionate in their opposition, than ever before. (Luke 19: 45-48, 20: 20-26) The whole world was passionately forcing history just the way God was planning. Listen to the crowds screaming, “Crucify Him”. Close your eyes and listen to Jesus tell God, “Forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” When Jesus said, “It is finished.”, He sealed the rule of Satan as forever doomed. The difficulty is not over, but the final outcome is determined. Difficulties arise, so we can be passionate. Jesus died, Jesus atoned, so that I, and others like me, Jew and Gentile, the lost sheep, could be found. (Luke 15:1-7) The stage was set, the sacrifice was made, for forgiveness of sins all the way through to us today. The sacrifice of Isaac, son of Abraham was not necessary, except as a test of faith. God has never called us to put our children “through the fire”. (Genesis 22: 1-19) But, The sacrifice of Jesus, Son of Holy God, Conceived by the Holy Spirit, was very necessary. (Rev 5) It was the ultimate gift of God, so that we who believe in His Gift might be able to have relationship with our God.

I pondered more. I wondered, if passion is within all of us, even if our passion is somewhat wrong, maybe we just need to redirect it. Maybe we need to understand its power. Maybe that was what the scriptures meant. Maybe I didn’t fully understand what Passion meant. So I went to a dictionary. Passion: 1. Obsession, infatuation…maybe these are the wrong ways to direct passion. 2. Fervor, excitement, zeal, enthusiasm, ardor, delight…Now this is how I view passion!

What are we passionate about in our 21st century lives?

I once listened to a TV preacher who went into great detail of how you’re  supposed to whip your arm around like a lasso, and whoop like a dog when there is a kickoff.  He spoke about the passion of being a GA Bulldog, at an away game, or at a home game. Lots of passion!. Ditto Pro Football? Music? Does your favorite song raise the hair up your arms? Do you have songs that raise your spirits? Spouse? Does your spouse send chills up your spine when he, or she, touches the small of your back, or spends kisses on your neck? Careers? Do we love our jobs? Are we devoted to our cause? Do we feel most important while doing those jobs? Movies? Do you watch your favorite movies over and over again? Do you know every actor & actress, and even what is happening in their personal lives, maybe more than you know what’s going on in your life?

DO we feel silly when we get together, or see a news segment, for a “StarTrek” weekend with everybody dressing up like film characters? Somebody must be really passionate, huh? DO we feel uncomfortable by promoting new, or existing, products and services at work? Your livelihood often depends on how much passion you have in your work experience. DO we feel arousing emotions, maybe we shiver and get excited, as our spouse pays us that special attention we really crave? DO we feel movement with our music? Do you find it hard to sit still? Do you start tapping your feet, shimmering your shoulders, and nodding your head, with the rhythm, the mood and the beat? DO we feel silly painting our faces, singing cheering chants, or standing, jumping up in excitement, when our football team makes a great play?

I have to ask myself, “Why can I get so passionate over hobbies, career, or entertainment, yet feel silly, embarrassed, funny, less passionate, about the story that saves lives? About Love that changes lives? About Faith that keeps my life in better shape? About Mercy that Saved me?

We discover who we really are when we challenge ourselves to emotionally evolve.
We discover who we really are when we challenge ourselves to emotionally evolve.

 

What drives our passions? None of these passions are necessarily wrong. Passions are God given emotions that we can channel as we see fit. We have God given abilities to choose and to follow our passions. God wants us to have passion. How do we know? Remember the letter written to the Laodiceans? Jesus reveals to us, through John’s vision in Rev 3: 15-16. “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were either cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” (You have no passion.) You are sitting back, thinking you are fat, happy, satisfied and your work is done. I want to throw up. Rev 3:19 – “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20- Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and dine with him, and he with Me. 21- To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat with My Father on His throne.”

Let’s explore more example of the passions God wants us to exhibit. How many of us have taken any Spiritual Gifts Inventory, through church, or Internet? (1 Corinthians 12:1- 13:13, Romans 12:6-8) How are we using our gifts? Are we passionate in our pursuit of these gifts? Are we doing everything we do as if we are doing it for our Lord? (Colossians 3: 18- 4:2)

When we allow our emotions to back up our gifting, we expose passion in positive light. Things happen! David was passionate. When Goliath was on that battle scene, cursing God and God’s people, it was passion that took David into that valley with his sling. Passion that came from his prior experience, and skill, and his zeal. Surely, almost every soldier in Saul’s army had more war experience, was physically stronger, probably larger. But, they displayed no passion, while waiting for battle. They hesitated. (1 Samuel 17: 1-58)

What could you do with David’s kind of passion? Age could not hold you back. Not young, nor old. Education could not hold you back. Not too little, nor too much. Economics could not hold you back. As His child, God has given you that kind of passion. You just need to awaken it! Don’t fear going it alone. Just like the other soldiers rushed the Philistines, after the death of Goliath, others will join your leadership example, to strengthen you, support you, to make your passion a part of theirs.

Maybe you have trouble feeling passion. Maybe you had it once, but something happened to take away that drive. Look at the story of Moses. He grew strong, with every advantage the household of Egypt’s Pharaoh had to offer. And, he had his own Mother to nurse him. Then, thinking he was defending justice, he was found to be a murderer and fled for his life, to Midian, for years. After a time, an angel of the Lord appeared to him. Told him he was on Holy Ground. Gave him a non-consuming burning bush to see. Told him that the great God of the Universe was sympathetic to Moses’ cause. Gave Moses the right to right the wrong….and Moses made excuses. It took a lot of effort to re-make a passionate leader out of Moses. But with encouragement, Moses worked his way back into the passion he had before. And we can too. (Exodus)

Maybe, you started off too fast and, like me, put more than your foot in your mouth. Maybe, you were zealous, and then lost that zeal, maybe because family or friends, or even children or parents, told you your ideas were stupid. Impossible. Never been done by anyone, or someone, like you, before. Maybe you had difficulty, or failed at several projects. Maybe, God knew your timing was not right until now! Personally, I went from being a “know-it-all” to a “please don’t ask me” and Like Moses, had to regain confidence I held as a young man. It has taken over 25 years. If a man, like Chuck, (who is embarrassed by his divorces, his failures, and his inabilities), can concentrate on the strengths God inspires, (instead of the weakness of his human nature), is returning back to himself, renewing his abilities, (albeit, greatly altered and enhanced with severe doses of humility), then God can bring passion for Him back into your life too.

Take what the Spirit is gifting you, Take it now, where you are in your life, and add passion. Open your heart and mind to dreams of God’s using you for the kingdom that you will share. You are a person of worth and value. Your God loves you. And your God wants you to love you. And your God wants you to take that love, and passionately apply it while sharing that love.

The passions of my best mentors, and my memories, both good and bad, are driving me onward. Not onward as a Cowboy store owner. Owning the store is not the goal. The Cultured Cowboy store is a means to reach more people with a message of love and hope and compassion. Over the Internet, I reach them in the comfort of their homes. In store, I reach them behind the hat counter. I reach them while doing little leather projects. I open the door to conversations about love, faith and mercy by first helping them in our everyday world. THEN, as I try to help them with solutions to needs they have in this world, I entice them to search for more God in their lives.

Do not dare think you can find happiness just to live a “normal” life. You are God’s child. You can take passion into your everyday, and turn every day into something much more special! Who needs normal, when we can live with passionate excitement?

Some how, some way, God has brought us into a search for ways that we can best help the people He sends our way. All the experiences and events of life, good and bad, spiritual and worldly, have contributed to bring us to this point in time. Some how, some way, I am and have been able to understudy some of the world’s best psychologists, coaches, ministries and consultants, so that I can relay ways that improve the lives of others.

Combining the knowledge and experiences of my mentors and myself, with the passion for life that is God within me, God’s Holy Spirit leads me to mentor you and as many as will read these articles, or lead others to them, into a closer relationship with God and family and friends and co-workers. Take our faith, add works driven by our faith, drive them with God gifted passions, and the result is relationship.

Speaking in front of you is one of the gifts that God has graciously given me. But touching the lives of millions of readers is something God has done, probably, in spite of me. Why should a little “Mom & Pop” store in Greenwood, SC ever have International reach? It is really not just boots nor saddles. There are lots of buy buttons all over the Internet, if stuff is all people want. I don’t have buy buttons. Ya gotta call, or email. There’s gotta be some kinda human contact. It sometimes drives me crazy, but… To be a small touch of God. To tell about His mercy and grace. To tell His children that there is hope in their lives too. Not just hope for horses and rodeo, but in their real, total lives. To be passionate. Passion makes the difference. You can spread God around, as thick as peanut butter, while living your everyday life.”

– This paragraph was written several years ago in a newsletter. The newsletter info became a speech, and a sermon. And now, it offers how we can, in our every day life, incorporate our belief, our faith, our passion, in aspects that far outreach the doors of Sunday services.

The conversations, questions and thoughts shared with tens of thousands of store customers led me to search for more meaningful answers to their true needs. I am finding better means of relating through the many hours of life coaching curriculum. Consultation as a business adviser often leads to how people can better balance their life stages and their life zones. Every time I can help with the lives of clients allows that much more experience to be shared with other clients. The means of communication today allow for huge, massive influence. Whereas, before, limitations of time and location seriously enveloped abilities.

While I read articles that inform the world of mental health that at some time, 1 in 4 people will need help overcoming an issue, I feel huge feelings of growth and contribution and significance, in obtaining certifications, and in participation of helping people have more positively directed passion in their lives, their relationships. Especially in opening avenues of possibility, allowing them to develop close relationship with their Maker.

In the same way He has sent His servants to bring me closer to Him, I am on a mission to become servant to bringing you closer to understanding why and how you are important. We sing, “Just as I am”. But to feel like you are growing closer, you need to grow. No one stays “just as I am”. We grow or we die. Amazingly, by sharing our relationships, we gain strength, confidence and life. We remember more easily when we teach. Practice enforces feeling. So there is an importance in teaching and sharing our faith. The more love we give, the more we feel the love!

The more I can teach you, in method and substance, to teach those you influence, the more you will come to understand the concepts that are taught. It is not enough to learn and to miser the education. It is the passionate goal of those who teach me, that those whom I teach can also carry onward the tradition. And I share this passion!

God says the meek will inherit. (Matthew 5:1-12) Meek. Not arrogant. Meek. Not Lazy. Meek. Not Indifferent. Meek. Not weak. Passionately Meek. Passionately serving others. Not serving because you have to do it. Serving because it is the best feeling you will have on this earth! Passionate service brings you emotionally closer to your God. This is passion that is better than eating all you can at a family Thanksgiving feast. (I find myself wanting to say it is at least as good as the passion God created through two becoming one in marriage. And I mean even better than the honeymoon.)

How? Because through your passion, you rise to a challenge. With properly directed passion, know you have given your best. And even if it seems like something fails, or is coming about sooo slooow, there is nothing better than knowing you passionately did your best for God. Maybe, your efforts are making a difference you can’t readily see. (Paul and Barnabas split over Mark. Looks like a horrible split, as we read when it happened. But the Kingdom of God grew faster than if they stayed together. Everyone involved was passionate for God’s cause. Though the passions divided, God used all their emotions for good. And they all reconciled later.

Passion led to Grace. Accepting Grace through Jesus as Messiah, is God’s best offer to try to get close to God. We will never, in this life of learning, find a better way of being good enough for Him. God gave us Jesus; we have an advocate. We have the best of the best attorney to plead our cause before God. We can have an insider’s track. We have God’s Son representing us. The whole of scriptures is story after story of a passionate God who wants relationship with the creation he called “Very Good”.

Still scared? Still doubtful? For reassurance, for support, for geometric progression of love, your Passion can be shared… Proverbs 27: 17 “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Spiritual gifts are to be shared and executed among the strengths of each other.

We lean upon and learn from each others’ gifts. Passionate Christians cajole each other into what is right. Passionate Christians challenge each other into what is right. Passionate Christian friends not only support each other, but become accountability partners. And through this passionate interactivity, we become more useful to our God, and to Jesus, and to our selves.

How many here can believe with heart, and mind, and soul, and body, that God is the great IAM. The great Alpha & Omega. The One who created, and the One who wants you close to Him, because He created you? (Deuteronomy 6: 4-9, Matthew :26-30)

Now…What are we going to do with our passions? Our rights as sons and daughters of the Most High God are to share. Pres Kennedy once stated, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” I passionately challenge you: “Ask not what your Father, Son and Holy Spirit can do for you. Ask what you can do for the kingdom of God.” (Ask & It shall be given, Luke 11:5-13)

BENEDICTION: Jesus told us, and I am paraphrasing, “I have been given power over heaven and earth. Go, because you have the rights to use the things I have taught you. You have the gifts of the Holy Spirit within you. You have the backing of the love of God surrounding you. Passionately give, all you have opportunity to give, the passion, the reason for life, the truth, the way, just as I have taught you through these scriptures. And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

We are the bridge God builds to invite Love to our world.
We are the bridge God builds to invite Love to our world.

 

References:

The Holy Bible, New International Version. Pradis CD-ROM:Tit 3:3.

Paul instructed us through his instructions written to Titus. Tit 3:3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

Tit 3:4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,

Tit 3:5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

Tit 3:6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,

Tit 3:7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Tit 3:8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.