Are We Good?

Temptations wax and wane.  Sometimes they’re overwhelming.  Sometimes, well, they’re easy.  It’s like he’s not even trying.  

This is not one of those times.

Interesting what our enemy says to us that gets us.  For me, one of the best weapons seems to be the reminders of just how wicked I am.  How much of a loser.  How much of a failure.

It would seem like that would have the opposite effect.  Particularly when addressed to someone who likes a fight as much as I do.

I learned two things that I really despise while I was in the Army.  The first is where someone tells you that there’s only one more mile to go when there are eight.  The second is like it.  It’s when someone tells you the end is twelve miles away when it is two.  I just want honesty.

The first one lies by saying you’re almost there when you aren’t.  The second lies by saying it’s too far.  

That is what satan’s voice says so much.  Pointing out all my weaknesses, all my inadequacies, he runs the reel of how I’ll never make it, I’ll never be worth anything.  And so I just want to quit, to give in.

The reality is, to the world, to most people, I am a loser.  But then I look in my God’s eyes.  I hear his voice in the bible that I read.  I realize that I am chosen.  I am called.  I am loved.

Have you ever noticed that, if you can’t see, stepping in mud, on a cupcake or in dog poop all feels about the same.  If you turn on a light, you can see what it is, wash it off and walk on.  If it’s mud or a cupcake, and you’re marching for the King, don’t worry about it.  If the accuser throws some crap in your path, it never has to be something we hold onto.

Wash it off.  And, walk on.

Now I know I’m making light of what can be so heavy to bear, so crushing to face.  But our armor is on, our weapons are made for “pulling down strongholds.”  And we serve a King who cannot be defeated.

So yeah.  When satan accuses, when my own heart condemns me, wash it off.  Wash it off with what Jesus did.  Wash it off with the Word of God.  Wash it off by resting in the “peace that passes all understanding.”

Wash it off and walk on.

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The Sacrifice

Deuteronomy – the second giving of the law.  We get bored with books like this.

I’m not bored.

Chapter 13 talks about the possibility that someone might try to entice you to follow other Gods.  It may be a false prophet, but it may be the wife you love, your son or your daughter.  Should they try, there is only one choice, they have to die.

On paper, this sounds fine.  Nothing comes between me and my God.  But then I hold my beautiful grandchildren.  I laugh and feel that sense of pride as I watch my sons becoming men.  I kiss my wife and talk with her.  Should they lead me from my God, could I kill them?  Could I be the first to pick up a stone and throw it at them?

I don’t think so.

That’s probably what happened, what happens.  Something has a little more wow, a little more yeah than the stuffy gods of our religions and we move, imperceptibly at first but our hearts are drawn away.  And we would never confront this with a ferocity that would kill those we love.  

So God is sacrificed.  But in the end, so are our children.

I’m not trying to get you to kill your kids.  I think what God, through Moses, is trying to say is that I need to take it seriously how I lead them, that I lead them.  The same admantiam will that would stone my child is what I need to sacrifice my self, my flesh.  The same ferocity that attacks the sin in others is what I need to attack the sin in me.

Either I lay my life down or I lay theirs down.

I look at my body, my finances, my talents and it is obvious that I am no paragon of self-discipline.  But the blessing is, I’m not dead yet.  And God is calling me.  Calling all of us.

“He is no fool who give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”  Jim Elliot

Beat Up

Someone I knew posted a video of a dog being smacked around by his owner while others watched and laughed.  I was angry at the abuse but I was rocked to my core.

I’m the dog.

No, I get it.  In my western, nicely appointed ranch house in a quiet neighborhood outside of the city it would be hard to see the abuses heaped on me.  I drive a working car.  I have nice guitars.  I have a good job.

I’m still the dog.

It’s not that I am suffering abuse right now, I guess.  Or that the abuses of my past are rising up to attack me.  I just saw the look on that dogs face and felt every blow that he took.

Why are you hitting me?  What did I do?  I must be bad but I don’t understand.

What makes it worse is that the hand that is on me seems like God’s.

I have these songs to sing that it feels like no one wants to hear.  I have these words that burn in my soul and no platform to speak.  I have this love to give and no one to share it with.  It feels like God mocks me with a message but gives me no one to pour it out on.

REALITY…

I would love to speak before thousands, but my voice is only heard so often by just one.  I sing and some listen.  I love like rain on dry soil, never there to watch the grass turn green, the flowers grow and blossom.

But it is enough.

It is the comparison of Psalm 88 with Psalm 89.

Psalm 88:14  O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?  Why do you hide your face from me?

Psalm 89:14  Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

Reality…

The punches I feel are real.  The condemnation and hatred come from a very real enemy.  But they are not from my God.  His promises remain true.  His love for me does not falter.  He will prove himself as faithful, no matter what.

My path follows who I believe.

And the abuser, in all cases, will stand before a righteous, Holy God.  And we will give an account for what we believe and what we did with our beliefs.

Reality

Super Bowl?

I have heard so many people this year referring to Easter Sunday as the super bowl of Christianity.

I guess I get it.  Gives people kind of a frame of reference that they can relate to.  But, well really…

Easter stars the true Greatest of All Time, Jesus Christ, THE KING OF KINGS!

And, let’s see, for all eternity, He’s undefeated.  Every play, every movement of the defense, every breath of every player is controlled by Him.  Oh you think that Christians get killed, suffer persecution and ridicule, so they must be losing?  Not so, every jeer they endure, every moment they suffer, every drop oof blood they shed moves the offense closer to winning.  

Hypocrites, liers and cheats, money hungry con artists say they’re on the team but the deceit they clothe themselves in reveals who they belong to.  And it also reveals more clearly the patient, enduring, self sacrificing love of our coach, the owner, the GM, the quarterback, the captain (He’s all of them).

And if you’re keeping score, um, before you check, God can’t be scored on so we know the enemy is at zero.  And Jesus scores at will so after two thousand plus years, there’s quite a few points on the board.

Seriously, the only “points” God wants are people.  And we know we’ve lost too many, one would be too many.  But what we celebrate at Easter is not a win we might get someday.  He already won it.  He is the Victor and we are too, in Him.

Maybe the super bowl should call itself the eternal, ever glorified, final, debt releasing, all forgiving, culmination of human effort.

I don’t know.  Doesn’t sound right to me either.

Married Up

My brain gets stuck on things and then once again, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

See, I’ve listened to great marriage counselors and speakers who talk about how they “married up”, married someone who was out of their league.

Always, it is a guy.  I’ve never heard a woman say this.  Of course, I’ve also never heard a woman say, “he married up when he got me.”  That would be weird.

Now, as someone who married up, I find myself still having a problem with this.

What is the end result?

OK, so your husband is an idiot.  He’s a loser.  He can’t do anything right.

Oh wait, your wife is perfect.  Walk in shame next to her.

Yeah, I know, overly dramatic, but here’s the problem.  God gave us to each other.  I don’t believe he ever goes, “well, this one is great but I can’t find a good match for them.  Guess I’ll just give them this one.”

I’m pretty sure that when God brings two people together, he’s stoked because he is bringing the best for both people.  Even with all their faults and issues, they are RIGHT for each other.  RIGHT!  Each is blessed to be with the other.  The world is blessed because they are together.

It really is amazing.

So yeah, I married up.  I would never claim to be better than her.  But maybe I should see myself as perfect for her and step it up a bit.

Unauthorized

One of the strangest and most disturbing stories (to me, at least) in the bible is in Leviticus 10.

Yeah, Leviticus.  Old Testament.  Laws out the wazoo.  Skipped by many.

No, it is not all boring.

At least it wasn’t boring for Nadab and Abihu.  They were the sons of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel.  In line to become high priests themselves after their father dies.  And nothing tells us they were bad guys.  However, they offered “strange” fire at the altar.

This story has been told for, literally, thousands of years to show how we better not mess up or God will “get” you.  Screw up and you are fried.  And I’ve always wondered, what the heck did they do that was so bad?

Understand, Aaron, good old dad, made an idol for the children of Israel to worship.  Didn’t die.  Later on, some other sons of the high priest Eli were drinking on the job and having sex with women that came to the temple.  And they, well ok, they died too but way after the sinning started.  And Caiaphas, don’t even get me started on Caiaphas.

The explanation given needs to be looked at in a couple translations:

NIV – Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said: “‘Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’”

ESV – Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” 

So what it sounds like is, if you are approaching or already near God, don’t screw up, cuz then he’ll GET YA!

Wait, that’s not right.  I thought those who were close to God or trying to be close to God got a little grace.  You know, kind of a mulligan, because we’re friends.

And shoot, if we don’t get that mulligan, why get close to God?  I know for a fact I’m going to fail badly.  Probably better if I just keep some distance between me and the big Guy.  That’s what the children of Israel did when Moses got the Law in the first place.

“You go talk to Him.  We’ll do what you say, but you have the relationship.”

After walking with God for a while, I’m starting to see how I’ve looked at God that way.  I’m starting to see what is meant when we say, “God IS love (emphasis mine)!”

So how do you justify frying to guys for unauthorized fire.

The fire in question was intended to light the censers that held the holy incense.  Incense, burning incense, has always been a symbol of prayer, even in other cultures.  And the fire was only supposed to come from the altar of sacrifice.

The fire of my prayers is supposed to come from a heart and life laid down on the altar.

I want to be a better husband, a better father.  I have dreams and hopes that are yet unfulfilled.  I want to see my family, my church, my friends and brothers, my city, state, country following Jesus, living for Him completely.  I pray for healings to take place, miracles to be seen, truth to be revealed, love to triumph over hate in all its forms.

So what fires my prayers?

The warning isn’t that God will kill me.  The warning is that I will lose my place near Him.

I’d rather die.

What Are You Selling?

I’ve been involved with church for a long time at multiple levels.  I’ve done everything from preach to scraping gum off the undersides of chairs.  I’ve seen phenomenal leadership and some that was, well, less than…

I’ve seen street evangelists that were beyond weird.  Shoot, I’ve probably been the weird street guy and done so much of what I’ve done out of a sense of obligation.

Good christians go out into the streets and throw tracts at people.  They leave tracts instead of decent tips at restaurants.  They accost people at awkward moments and let them know “the way, the truth and the life.”

I’ve been on both sides of those conversations and never been successful.

Most of the time, I was more embarrassed than the person that I was talking to.  I was more afraid.

We sing the songs in church.  “How Great Thou Art”, “How Great is Our God”, so many others.  But what do I truly believe?

See, I know a little bit about Him.  And He actually is amazing.  What I offer to my friends and family is a King who will never leave them.  He doesn’t judge them or hate them.  He doesn’t condemn them for their choices.

Yes, He wants to heal.  He wants to bring life and peace and love.  He has a reason for why I’m here, why my life matters, why there has been pain and how I can do better.  And He promises to go with me through it all.

I can’t offer anything better.

No one can.

 

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