Never too Far

First off, thank you to those who expressed to me how they miss it when I don’t write.  It can be easy to listen to the lies that say my writing doesn’t matter, I don’t matter.  I have appreciated the encouragement.

I was praying the other day and realized that I had once again turned to complaining.  This is all too common.  Strangely common also was that this was during a worship service.

I know!  I shouldn’t be complaining during worship.  It just seems that so often when I am declaring His greatness it step right into wondering why my problems feel so difficult and why can’t He do something about them.

And really, maybe it is a bad thing, complaining in worship but in one sense, I’m “ok” with it.  For me, the whole idea of falling on my knees, raising my hands is a coupling of two ideas.  One is God’s greatness.  The other is my complete dependence on Him as His broken, flawed, desperate child.

Anyway, in the midst of worship, in the midst of complaining, a theme arose around Psalm 23.  Different parts of it came out but I got stuck on “your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (verse 4).

I haven’t read a commentary on this so maybe I’m seeing it wrong, but I think a rod is for whacking and a staff is for yanking.  I mean, the rod is what was used to smack the sheep if they weren’t moving along or going in the right direction.  The staff is like the shepherd’s crook that has a hook on one end, which I think is used to pull a sheep back.

I’m not finding a lot of “comfort” in these ideas.  I said something to that effect to my King and He said, “find comfort in knowing I will never let you go too far.”

So, in the immaturity I show, the messed up marriage that I am half of, the ineptitude of my parenting (and now grandparenting), in my complaining and anger and fear and distrust of my Lord, He will prod, He will yank, He will guide me always back to Him.

I would run.  Life seems so hard sometimes.  But, He promised He would complete me.  And, as much as I am “me” (more so), He is God.  I’m not so bad He can’t handle me.

 

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This Is Your Cue

Waiting in the wings of life for our chance to step out on to the stage can sometimes feel confusing.  We keep hearing the lines that lead up to our part but when we start to step out the Director grabs us by the collar and seems to hiss, “not yet.”  We see others step out.  We hear the laughter, the applause and yes sometimes the boos and heckling but we just want to have our shot.  We want the chance to see what we’re made of, whether we can hold the audience or crash and burn for all to see.

So often I look at my life and feel that my talents are wasted, that I am unseen.  And yet, I feel this pressure, this calling to do more, to be more for God’s Kingdom.  The two appear to be mutually exclusive.

No one sees me.

You must be seen.

I have wondered and been fairly ticked off at my King and this universe that seem so unfair in their expectations and the opportunities provided.

But, then I see the curtain pull back.  It doesn’t pull back from the stage I’ve been staring at.  It opens up to the heavens.  I realize that the director I was listening to was not THE DIRECTOR but just me stealing that throne, running a play with no understanding of the script, no power to manipulate the characters, the props.

What shocks me is that as the spotlights pan over this stage as it is revealed, I realize that we’re all on stage.  We’re all “on”, right here, right now.

Shakespeare said that all of life is a stage.  And as a worship leader, I have heard for years that we play to an audience of one.  It is only now, in this moment of my life, that I feel like I’m beginning to understand the depths of those truths.

I have one audience and He is sitting on the edge of His seat with full expectancy of how great I will be as the part He has written for me.  But I have to see it.  I have to see every mundane, stupid, silly, useless, amazing moment as a gift that I give back to Him.  I have to see every breath as a chance to sing, to dance, to live for Him.

Nothing else matters.  Not position, not fame, not money, not power or sex or “love.”

Jesus Christ!

The Scepter

In the book of Esther there is a scene where the chosen bride goes before the king at the risk of her life.  In that kingdom, to go before him uninvited could bring an immediate execution.  She enters and he extends his scepter and she is welcomed into his presence.

I can’t get this picture out of my mind.

I was praying this week and saw it so clearly in my mind.  Only I was Esther.

And I think there are others out there that need to hear this.

I approach God with the idea that I could die, that he could judge me, hate me, reject me.  And in one sense, it’s all true, if I ignore the character, the nature of Jesus, the person of my Father King.

But in the story, you never get the sense of even a moment of hesitation.  It wasn’t like this human king even had to think a bit.  She enters and is accepted.

So am I.  So are you.

It’s not that we don’t deserve the shame we feel, the condemnation, the rejection.  But because of the cross, because of the blood of Jesus that makes us clean, we are accepted without question, without hesitation.

And do we get accepted so that we can go sit in the back and be quiet?  Ha!  Do we get accepted so that we can wait our turn as other “more important” things are dealt with?  Not at all!

In a very real sense, God pauses his usual activity to hear us, to spend time with us.

I don’t know how that works since I’m pretty sure if God took his hands off the universe for a second it would crumble.  But with all that he has to do in this world, his attention shifts dramatically to us, to me.

I know myself to be a fairly silly person, angry and emotional about some pretty trivial things sometimes.  I make requests of God that probably I should be embarrassed to even be thinking about.

But guess what?  Not only does He accept me!  Not only does He listen to me!  He also wants to hear what I’m asking.  He wants to know what I think I need.  And before I can even ask, He is promising me the Kingdom!

So why do I, how can I ignore Him?  Ever?

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)

Cheers!

I was in church this past Sunday and listening to some awfully good preaching by the way.  For a moment, I was distracted by the noise coming from our children’s area.

Coincidentally, the preaching was about our responsibility to pass our faith on to the next generation.

I listened to the noise and the word and was glad I go to a church that is passing on the faith.  We keep it real and actually believe in the God that we talk about.

That’s a good thing.

But then I hit a wall of seriousness.

See, we can talk all we want to and believe all we want to, but our chances are silenced if we don’t capture the hearts of mom and dad.

This Sunday is Father’s Day.  And I want to put a challenge out there.

I want to be a better dad, love my family more.  And that won’t come by my believing less.

That means I need to start praying miraculous prayers for my kids.  I need to start believing and speaking about my amazing God to my kids.  I must start living like I trust Him with my whole life, not just bits and pieces.

My kids are all adults now.  Psychologists would probably tell me that I’ve lost the opportunity to influence them.  And maybe in some ways they’re right.

But we’re not dead.

There’s still a new day every morning where I can laugh because of the joy of Jesus in my heart.  There is still beauty to witness and love to share.  There is still the miraculous to experience.

Together.

And once we start cheering, we simply join ourselves to the chorus, the cacophony of victory that is only beginning to swell in God’s Kingdom!

One Ticket Please

I like tickets.  I used to keep the stubs from movies that I really liked or concerts that I had been to.  My favorite are free tickets because, well, I’m cheap.

This was not that kind of ticket.

This was the kind that you get for not wearing your seatbelt on Memorial Day weekend when there are extra patrols cruising the boulevards.

And it was not free.

Grrrr face.

Today, I paid that ticket and as I walked into the courthouse offices I was struck by how many nice people there are.  The officer at the x-ray, metal detector station was very friendly.  The people going in and out were friendly.  The person that I paid my money to was friendly.  Truth be told, I was stinking friendly.

Mainly because I was wearing my church t-shirt and it wouldn’t be good for me to be a jerk wearing that.

As I walked away I was talking to God about how much I had to pay.  I had hoped that it would be $45-$50 for a seatbelt infraction.  It was not.  His response was so Godly, “Remember, my God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  That’s Philippians 4:19 for anyone interested.  Yep, right there in the Bible.

“But I got a ticket for doing something I shouldn’t, that’s not included God.”

But you know what, my Daddy says He loves me so much that He can even take care of my mistakes.  Not so I can do whatever I want but because He loves me.  He walks with me through everything.  He wants me to succeed.

On the flip side, there’s my tithe.  That’s where I pay 10% of my income to my church to help them and honor my King.

I was afraid this week to pay my tithe because I knew what my bills were.  But by God’s grace, I did it.

That was a ticket too.  And one I liked a whole lot more.

In both circumstances it is about trust.  One was an obligation and one was an invitation.

And if I trust, I get to watch the performance of a lifetime.  My God, who created universes, my Lord and Savior, who conquered death and the slavery of sin, wielding His hand of mercy and generosity and touching my heart, my soul, my finances, my family as His glory is revealed.

School

I woke up yesterday morning and seriously wished I could go back to sleep.  I had school to go to.

In business, I have done just about everything wrong that can be done, short of suicide.  So, I find myself, at the end of said decisions and practices, trying to do things differently.  Part of that process was getting out of bed.

I knew that I was going to make more mistakes.  I was going to fail more.  But I also knew, I couldn’t let it stop me.

So I got myself out of bed.

Alone, I walked out of the house and went to the job site.  I checked everything I could on my equipment and started up the first motor.  Then I filled up the water tank and started mixing ingredients.

Blah…  First problem.

Take equipment apart, clean everything, put it back together and start again.  Restart first motor and remix ingredients (to the tune of a couple hundred bucks down the drain).  Start second motor that ran for about five minutes and then died.

Fortunately, at this point, help had arrived.  We spent an hour or so diagnosing and then taking apart the carburetor and cleaning out bad fuel and gunk.  Restart motor.  Mix other ingredients and then we’re ready to go.

Ummm…

Why is everything going wrong?  The product looks wrong, the pumps keep shutting off.  We mixed things right but it ain’t right.

Shut down everything.  Check everything.  Start up again.  Lose more money.  Get more frustrated and discouraged.  Don’t quit.

Live with the thought that what I am fighting through now was caused by the poor decisions I made before.

But, don’t quit.

Product still doesn’t look right or feel right.  Just keep going.  Pumps shut off.  Reset and keep going.  When things look real bad throw it away and keep going.  Observe, criticize, listen to each other, help each other, ask questions, adapt, change, keep going.

Mistakes, yep.  Messy, yep.  Professional, no comment.

Job done, yep.  School.

I’m hoping someone needs to hear this today.  We think that God’s will is determined by how easy it is, how blessed, how “open the doors are.”  I don’t think so anymore.

It’s the downfall of scripture.  Abraham wasn’t even Abraham till he was like 90 years old.  Moses didn’t start his ministry till he was 80.  David didn’t become King till he was past 40.  Jesus, even Jesus, had to wait till he was 30.  That’s a lot of time to do things wrong before you do anything right.  And yes, I’m suggesting that maybe even Jesus made mistakes as he “increased in wisdom and in stature.”

Are you feeling broken by your past?  Does the weight of all you’ve done wrong, the mistakes that you’ve made, make you feel like it will never get any better?

Don’t quit.  That’s number one.  I’ll say it again, DON’T QUIT!

Let yourself be human, fail, get discouraged, ask questions, learn, keep going.

School never ends.

I Can’t Breathe

Worship is one my favorite experiences in Christianity.  We have an awesome worship team at our church, excellent musicians, hearts that love Jesus with all they have, lights, big screens.

But lately, I can’t breathe.

I sing but I’m afraid to pour it out, to let go.

I am going through a season where I don’t have enough.  We pay the bills.  We even get McDonalds or Chick-fil-A sometimes.  But we are just surviving, no money to dream, no extra to give when we see a need.

And it’s all my fault.

I thought…

I thought.  I thought.  I thought.

But things didn’t turn out the way I planned.  Dreams I hoped for died.  And it feels like everyone has turned away from me as I lay wallowing in the ashes of those fires.

It changes worship.

“You’re a good, good Father.”  Why Lord?

“Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”  Where are you, my God and King?

Our big, fancy mega-churches with comfy chairs and temperature controlled sanctuaries can’t take away the pain of what seems like abandonment.

I think about churches around the world.  Some hiding, many so small that the world will never know they existed.  Churches where believers die at the hands of government or suicide bombers, or apathy.

I think the beauty of the bride, the church of Jesus Christ, shines from a queen, not a princess.  A princess has everything perfected for her, protected for her.  A queen stands with her King, fights beside Him, rules with Him, dares with Him, suffers and dies with Him.

Our churches can give the illusion that we are all princesses, that we are safe and comfortable as we lift our hands in praise.

But that isn’t what is real.  What is true is that many that walk through the doors can’t breathe.  Life has kicked at beaten every bit of joy and peace out of us and we can’t see a way out.

That is where our life is found.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself take up his cross daily and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Blessing will come, through the cross.  Peace and joy will come, through the cross.  Life, real life will come only through the cross.

I can breathe, through the cross.