Author Archives: NHannah

Religion or Relationship?

Jesus came to make the heart of God visible, knowable, and experiential to all humanity. If you want to know what God thinks or how he feels, just explore Jesus. He is the heart of God turned inside-out.  Jesus explains or exegetes the Father according to John 1:18. Absent from the Gospel narratives, which clearly portray Jesus, is any attempt to start a new religion. That’s not why Jesus came. His was not a new spiritual movement, but rather a fleshed-out example of what genuine relationship with God looked like.

Religion has a way of sucking the life out of relationship. The Old Testament is rife with relationship gone bad resulting in religion. Relationship is the practical outworking of being connected to heart-to-heart with Jesus. Relationship requires a 100% buy in with spirit, soul, and body. It requires all. On the other hand, religion is a cheap imitation filled with rituals, rules, and rote behaviors. All it requires is going through the motions. It is a “form of godliness, but denies the power of God.”

Religion is relationship without any heart. It is a check-list of do’s and don’ts, a psuedo belief that a human being can somehow be good enough, gain enough merit, or somehow deserve God’s love. The very thing most people are trying to earn, God has freely given to us in Jesus Christ. The cost of religion never satisfies the hunger of the human heart. It promises what it cannot provide and promotes what it does not possess.

Relationship reveals God’s heart little-by-little, moment-by-moment. It is far more than a glorious destination; it is an eternal journey into the heart of God’s infinite love. We tend to fall into religion, almost by default, but relationship is a passionate pusuit that results from a continual choice.

Religion or relationship? It depends on what you really want.

Happy Birthday America!

Happy birthday America! It’s been 241 years since you were birthed in the revolutionary belief that all men (and women) are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What an amazing experiment our founding fathers began when they agreed on the Declaration of Independence in the summer of 1776 and the Continental Congress ratified it on that first 4th of July.

What a grand experiment indeed! Their decision sparked a war of independence against the most powerful nation in the world at that time. A skirmish outside Boston became a shooting war that bloodied the soil of thirteen individual colonies and galvanized these sundry immigrants into one single nation. Blood may have purchased their freedom, but great wisdom and amazing cooperation secured it for the following generations.

That cooperation has failed occasionally along the way, yet that great wisdom has righted the wrongs and found a way to regain the cooperation. This is nowhere better seen than in the issue of slavery, which ultimately resulted in a great Civil War—a war between those united, yet divided states. Yet somehow, someway—the cooperation was regained and the nation endured and grew.

This nation has readily endured sending her young men and women to foreign nations to fight and even die, so that freedom would not be thing only we enjoy. We have cooperated with allies and have withstood dictators, megalomaniacs, and armies intent on world domination, refusing to turn our head to the plight of those who were weaker. Great wisdom and cooperation have been the resources that have galvanized this nation in the aftermath disastrous events like Pearl Harbor and 9/11.

Yet today, 241 years later, it seems partisanship and utter selfish stupidity has supplanted wisdom and cooperation. We are a nation divided by beliefs, political parties, morality, news media outlets, and a thousand other things. We can’t even agree to disagree. Instead, like little children who can’t get their way, we’ve taken our toys and gone home. Intent of getting what we can, canning all we get, and shooting anyone who gets close to our can. Our laws and our government are not working because neither side is willing to use wisdom and cooperate for the good of the nation. Instead, what’s good for a few tends to overrule what would be better for all.

And in this morass, we have turned away from our Creator. Our founding fathers never envisioned a country without Jehovah God. They understood he was source of the freedom they were willing to die for. He was the fountainhead of liberty that birthed this nation into existence. It is true they wanted no state church to dictate their worship, but read history and you will find they hungered to worship God Almighty. Yet, the wisdom of this age has defied his laws, in a  foolish attempt to legislate him out of power and existence. We have embraced the idols of multi-culturalism, perversion, hedonism, relativism, and socialism—and called that which were never gods, our gods. And in doing so, we have called good evil and evil good.

And wisdom and cooperation have become about as rare as the dinosaurs. The politicians of Washington, the financiers of Wall Street, or the media moguls who broadcast coast-to-coast and around the world have no answer. That’s because the answer is not found in “what I want or the group I represent wants” but rather in wisdom (which can only come from God) and cooperation (which can only come when each of us are willing to see someone else as more important than we are).

Will this nation survive and stick 250, 300 or 500 candles in her birthday cake? I hope so, but this I know—it will not happen without wisdom and cooperation and “me the people” must once again become “we the people!”

Want Ad: Servant Leaders Needed!

One of the greatest paradoxes of leadership is: The greatest leader will be the greatest servant. There is no dichotomy between leader and servant, in reality they are synonymous. A real leader is a genuine servant.

There are many who have assumed the title “leader” today in business, media, and political America. They’ve spray painted it on the choice parking spots, stenciled it on doors, plastered it across websites and Facebook, and embossed it on letter heads and calling cards, but they are the only ones who think they are leaders. A leader has followers. If you can hear clearly the chirping of crickets as you march through your achievements pursuing your goals, it is likely no one is following you. And—if there’s no one following you, regardless of what your card, website, or signage says, you are not a leader.

Leading is an honor that is earned by serving others regardless of whether or not those you serve ever follow you. Leaders serve regardless of whether their service is received, appreciated, or acknowledged. Service bends the knee and the back, joining those who grease the gears, shovel the nasty stuff, and sweat genuine sweat. True servants, who lead, are not afraid to bend low, wade through the muck, or lift up a fallen comrade. And in their service, they rise to leadership.

Leaders are not born—they are developed over time as they grow through their willingness to serve others. Leadership is not a gift or a talent—it is earned through serving. If you are unwilling to do what you would ask or expect another to do—you are not fit to lead!

Titles are sold cheap and positions often go to the bidder willing to pay the asking price. Honor, respect, and trust are not commodities bought or traded on the market. They are the warp and the weave of the invisible fabric that protects and promotes a true leader. High character, strong morals, and unwavering beliefs are the enduring resources of a genuine leader. Standards don’t change when the cultural or political winds do. Leaders don’t lead by checking the wind—they lead by drawing strength from who they are and what they believe. Leaders are not swayed by the wind—they stand fast in the face of the wind.

We desperately need some leaders, men and women, who are more interested in serving others than achieving their personal agendas or the agendas of those who’ve paid for their offices and appointments. We don’t need Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, black or white, male or female, or a thousand other things competing for dominance in a country slowly swirling its way down, around and aroun in the toilet bowl of history. We need leaders who will serve. When the servant leaders arise, rest assured—the rest will follow. Otherwise, we will disappear and fade into pages of history along with all the other causes, groups, and nations who were led by “leaders” who would not serve!

Show me a person willing to serve anyone at anytime and I will show you a man or women destined to lead!

WhiteFire Scavenger Hunt Stop #

Welcome to the WhiteFire Publishing Scavenger Hunt! If you’ve just discovered the hunt, be sure to go back to stop #1 and collect all the clues in order. Once you have them all, you’ll have uncovered a secret message. Turn that in at the final stop for a chance to win one of THREE amazing prize packages!

 

  • The Hunt begins at Roseanna White’s site
  • Take your time! You have all weekend to complete the Hunt—entries will be counted until Monday June 26—so have fun reading all the posts along the way and getting to know each author
  • Lots of extra prizes! Many of the authors are featuring unique giveaways as well, for even more chances to win!
  • Submit your entry for the grand prizes back at Roseanna White’s blog.

 

From: Nelson Hannah

This scavenger hunt is a great way to become acquainted with some fabulous writers and equally fabulous people. My experiece with the WhiteFire family has been wonderful. At one time, I was the only guy among a host of talented ladies, yet they have welcomed me, encouraged me, and prayed for me at every turn.

I am a Southern boy in passionate pursuit of God’s heart. Everything I write is from that perspective. My book No Plan B: Discovering God’s Blueprint for Your Life is road map to help every reader find God’s ultimate promise” and walk it out. God really does have a plan for your life and no wrong choice, bad decision, or tragic turn can change that. His gifts and calling are irrevokable.

Religion has sold all of us a bill of goods, but genuine relationship with God sets us free to be everything He has envisioned for you. Perhaps you’re pursuing what you think is Plan B due to some mistake you’ve made in the past. Perhaps you’ve given up on God’s calling in your life because you feel unworthy. Be encouraged, God only has one plan for you and it is a perfect blueprint for making you the masterpiece he created you to be. There is no Plan B!

Please add your name to my blog role and join me in pursuing God’s A Plan for our lives!

Here’s the Stop #11 Scoop:

You can order my book No Plan B at https://www.amazon.com/No-Plan-Discovering-Blueprint-foreword/dp/1939023343

 

Clue to Write Down: “Promise”

 

Link to Stop # 12, the Next Stop on the Loop: Rachelle Rea Cobb https://RachelleReaCobb.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need the full list of stops?

Roseanna M. White

 

All finished? Submit Your Entries!

On Being Truly American

I am a Southern boy, born and bred in the land of sweet tea, grits, and high humidity. My drawl may be slow and drawn out, but I too speak the King’s English just like they do in Boston, but without the extra “r” in words that have no “r’s,” or in sunny California, but choosing “y’all” over “you guys” every time. My “i’s” are long, and sometimes, depending on what part of the country I’m visiting, I have to spell the word “ice” instead of asking for it so the waitress knows I’m talking about frozen water instead of a posterior body part. I refer to all soft drinks as Coke’s instead of pop, but I prefer a Diet Dew.

I am proud of where I come from. I have never once in my life been ashamed of my birthplace. As my wife’s grandfather used to say, “It’s the best place in the world.” I know there are folks who think I should be, but I’m not! On the other hand, from time to time, I have found myself ashamed of some of the things my neighbors have said or done down through history. But, let’s be honest, stupid people are spread thick like peanut butter across every nook and cranny of this whole wide world. Every generation, nation, culture, or people group has its own share of stupid people. As Forrest Gump says, “Stupid is as stupid does.” But stupid is an individual trait that is sometimes catching, like a bad case of diarrhea. Perhaps I shouldn’t use the word “stupid,” (or for that matter diarrhea).  My granddaughter tells me it’s a bad word according to her mother, who stares at me every time I say it with an icy glare that could freeze antifreeze, but it does communicate my point.

My ancestors were immigrants just like yours were if you live in this country. They came from somewhere else—looking for an opportunity to make a living, build a family, follow a dream and worship God freely. My people were soldiers, sharecroppers, peddlers, and coal miners who worked long days for little or no money. They were honorable men and women, doing what it took to survive and thrive in a land filled with opportunity. They were not perfect. They did not do everything right. But—they were just people—so where yours.

I am an American. I still get a lump in my throat when I see the flag or hear the swell of the notes as the national anthem is played. I don’t determine my value based on my ethnicity, color, or country of ancestral origin. And neither do I determine the value of anyone else that way. I don’t refer to myself as Scottish-American, African-American, Arab-American, Italian-American, Jewish-American, or any other of the million and one places you can leave and make your destination America. The “where” my ancestors came from does not determine who I am or who I will be. Take away my skin and my blood is red just like yours. Cut me and I bleed just like you do. Call me a name or shoot me the finger and I want to punch you just like you would if you were on the receiving end.

Regardless of where you come from, what you call yourself, or what you believe, we are all connected—by origin and by destiny. All of us are the descendants of one single couple. God didn’t create a community on a cul-de-sac with all the colors of the rainbow. He simply created one couple and conveniently left out the explanation of their color, ethnicity, and national origin. In other words, your guess is as good as mine. It is after all, a guess. So why waste any more time postulating and prognosticating about it. We are, after all kin—brothers of different mothers and sisters of different misters.

You may not like our president or the congress, but I’ve lived long enough to realize that is the case with most presidents and most congresses. You may not like my politics and I may not like yours. But we—not you alone or me alone—are Americans. Our destiny—not yours alone or mine alone—is bound up in to our unity of purpose and our mutual respect for one another. I may not agree with you and you may not agree with me, but we desperately need each other—if for no other reason than to maintain the unique diversity of this great country. This nation was founded by a coalition of folks who came from different places and different beliefs with little in common and countless things they disagreed on except they were tired of being told what to do by an absentee king whose only interest was their tax money. In fact, the only thing they had in common was an insatiable desire to be free.

Freedom necessitates diversity. It requires all the cultures of the North, the West, the East, and yes, a whiff of the South thrown in for spice and good measure. It demands a multiplicity of races, beliefs, and politics who disagree, but find a compromise that works for all of the people most of the time rather than a few of the people all of the time. Freedom that works for only a handful is not really freedom at all. It is slavery dressed up in a cheap Halloween costume.

I celebrate my Southern culture and upbringing. I revel in the beauty and the majesty of the state in which I was born. I take joy and pride from where my people originally hail from. I feel comfortable speaking the King’s English in my own regional dialect. And I could live off grits, gravy, fried chicken, collards, and buttermilk biscuits. But I can’t be an American without you. You see, I don’t make America—America. And neither do you! It is only together—in you and me with all our differences on display—that America exists and freedom can reign.

Freedom: No Option but Vigilance

True freedom requires eternal vigilance. It is rarely lost in a moment. Instead, it is in the systematic erosion of a multiplicity of moments where genuine liberty vanishes. Countless men and women have sacrificed their time, their treasures, and even their lives to guard this God-ordained right purchased in blood. The cost of this freedom should arouse in each of us a strong sense of its value. Once lost, rarely is it regained in its original form.

I am privileged to enjoy this freedom, purchased through the sacrifice of others, and I am eternally grateful for the gift they have bequeathed to me. My great-great-great grandfather fought valiantly against the British in the War of 1812. My great-great grandfather fell in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, killed by a cannon ball in the last months of the Civil War. My grandfather was an Army doughboy in the Allied forces that assaulted the seemingly impenetrable Hindenburg Line and ultimately broke through and gained victory in World War I. And my own father served in both the Pacific and the Atlantic Theaters as a seaman in the U. S. Navy during World War II.

I am the recipient of their sacrifice and this truth became a reality to me as I stood on the deck of a cruise ship making the imgrestransatlantic crossing from South Hampton, England to Boston. It was a similar path that drew the Pilgrims and my own Scottish ancestors to this country in a desperate desire to worship, work, and live in freedom. They made this treacherous passage in the bowels of overcrowded and unprotected sailing ships, totally dependent on course of the currents and whims of the wind. Theirs was a life-or-death gamble—mine, a 17-day vacation.

unnamedDuring the crossing, I retraced the ancient trails my father (John Olen Hannah) had taken over 70 years earlier. It was there in the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic, off the eastern coast of Iceland, where the swirling black waters covered with crisp white foam bury their secrets that I began to understand the sacrifices of his generation and those who preceded him.

My father was a quiet man who spoke little of his war-time experiences. Two things I knew—he had been a part of the naval cleanup crew after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and he had served aboard a Submarine Chaser (SC), as he called it, in the freezing waters off Iceland. Twenty-two years earlier, I had stood upon the USS Arizona Memorial in Oahu, watching the imprisoned 50 year-old droplets of oil eerily seep to the surface from the fatal wound of that entombed battleship, and wondered at the horror he must have witnessed as the mayhem and the carnage of the tangled wreckage washed over his own mind.

But on this day, in the North Atlantic, as I stared into the same bluish-black water he had surveyed seven decades earlier, I begin to grasp a bit of the incalculable price my father had paid. His job was to find German U-boats by visually locating their periscopes as they surfaced in that endless, frigid wasteland of murky salt water. I imagined what it might have been like to search this never-ending watery abyss, and realized rather quickly, it would have been virtually impossible. The chances of the U-boat locating the SC were multiple times greater, yet my father stood his watches and did his duty. He was vigilant. How do I know? I am here—enough said.

As we cruised through those waters, I realized my life, my accomplishments, and all my hopes and dreams come true were the result of his sacrifice. He left his family and his home so I might have a home and enjoy my family. He assailed war-time impossibilities so that I might enjoy all of life’s possibilities. He sacrificed his own personal freedom—ten years of his life—so that I might live free throughout my life. I stand on his shoulders, and it is humbling.

True freedom has a cost and those of us who enjoy it should strive to remember those who purchased it and guard their purchase vigilantly. It is their legacy to us—our inheritance. And if we are to be true to those who have gone before, we must leave the same freedom intact to the generation that follows, or we will have wasted our inheritance and failed miserably. Failure was not an option to our ancestors, and thus, it cannot be for us.

To Explain or Experience? That is the Question

There is a hunger, a craving in all of us for something more. Something we can’t explain or describe. This longing is a desperate need that can’t be satisfied with facts, figures, or fickle fantasy. It won’t be met with any of the alternatives we, as desperate human beings, have attempted to substitute throughout our generations of habitation on this earth. No—power, position, prestige, money, sex, food, drugs, idols, and a thousand other endless, empty pursuits simply lack the power to quell the gnawing pangs of an internal hunger generated from the very genesis of our DNA. Blaise Pascal, a 17th century mathematician and Christian philosopher, summed it up this way: “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are…”

 This is not a “me” or “you” problem—this is a human problem. This satisfaction, this craving and helplessness as Pascal calls it, is etched in the primordial memory of our consciousness. The problem is no created thing can scratch this infernal itch and we can’t seem to remember what or perhaps who can.

That is—except God. Pascal provides the solution to the unanswerable question and the insatiable internal appetite: “…Since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”  This abyss in our soul and spirit needs far more than you or I can cram into it—we need God.

We were created by God for God. Let that sink in for a moment. God needs nothing so he did not create us out of a need. No, he created us out of desire. A desire fuel by an unconditional love he longed to lavish on created creatures made in his likeness and in his image. God desired that his heart be experienced—that is known intimately.

Sadly most of us have spent our entire Christian life in an attempt to explain God in a way we can understand. We demand rational explanations, deductive arguments, and laboratory experiments, which are finite at best and flawed at worst, to explain the infinite. We preach three point sermons with revelation, application, and illustration on things we cannot comprehend, or teach in-depth, perhaps inept lessons on things we have no real clue about, or worse, we write endless articles, papers, and books with seven steps to this and twelve steps to that when we are totally out of step in our flawed, yet limited approach. Yes, God did give us a brain to think with, but he also gave us five senses, an impassioned soul filled with emotions, and a spirit that can only receive communication on God’s personal frequency. God is not looking to be explained. He never explains his omnipotence, his omnipresence, or his omniscience. He simply declares it or demonstrates it. So why should we think we can explain him. No, God is intent on our experiencing him.

Perhaps this kind of thinking frightens you to death. Perhaps it sounds dangerous—you know that right brain stuff oozing into good, solid theological thinking. Perhaps you have been trained not to trust your emotions, and because of this, have shut them off completely in your pursuit of God. Instead you have chosen to be dependent on rational, intellectual, and cold, hard objective facts and figures to gratify that voracious hunger. So how is that working for you? Have the fangs of your ravenous soul stopped gnawing? Has your heart stopped longing for something more? Are you still cramming things that don’t fit in that God-shaped vacuum?

Stop the explaining and begin the experiencing. You can use your brain, but realize you are far more than a brain—you are a spirit, soul, and body with a brain, not vice versa. Psalm 46:10 (KJV) says, “Be still and know that I am God…” To paraphrase this powerful statement—stop cramming everything you can into an infinite abyss and allow an infinite and immutable God to satisfy that ravenous desire he’s hard-wired in you.  Be still—stop explaining! And know—start experiencing!