Can’t Help Myself 

I decided to step out in faith recently.  I was going to trust God to catch me or die in the attempt.  I can see that God is catching me.  I will start working for my church in a week.  We have paid all our bills though I have had no work.  But, there are still scary things looming on the horizon.

I don’t recommend that everyone just quit their job.  I do recommend spending lots of time reading the bible, talking to Jesus, serving Him and people.

Listen.

What I’m finding in this process is that I love Him more.  I want His voice, His presence more and more.  I want to learn more and grow more.  I want to share more.  

Yesterday, when it came time for the offering, though we have so little, I wanted to give.

This is not natural for this stingy old heart.

I’m not bragging.  This came out of what God put inside, it didn’t come from me.  

I love to worship, that is normal for me.  It has been a temptation to want to manipulate God (yeah, I did this) by my worship.  I wanted to win His favor by showing Him how much I love Him.

There is a quietness, a peace that has entered the worship of my King.  That is not normal for me, but it is so good.

I don’t know what you think of all of this.  I certainly have my times of crankiness, of fear and doubt.  I don’t know where we’re going.  But, I’m starting to enjoy the ride.  I’m excited about the journey, excited about the future.

I can’t help it…

Demons

According  to Josephus (Jewish historian), Jews were able to cast out demons in the name of Solomon.  I didn’t know that.

So when Jesus asked, “And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.” ‭‭(Matthew‬ ‭12:27‬ ‭ESV‬‬), they could have said by Solomon.

OK, before I lose all of you, let me explain.

Today, I was reading Matthew 12 and became intrigued by two questions.  Could, and can people cast out demons without Jesus?  And, is Jesus referring to demons cast out by other means or demons cast out by any means when he talks about them returning to the person and making him worse?

Yeah, that’s how I spend my free time…

Sounds intellectual (or just weird) but there is a burning question that is at the bottom of it all.

Can I be free?

Demons can refer to literal spiritual entities or addictions, habits or mental predispositions that govern our behavior.  And I want to know if we can ever be really free.

If there is another way to freedom than the name of Jesus and, by association, His cross, then it might be good to pursue it.  Jesus wants all of me and the cross is just painful.  And if, even through Jesus, those demons might return to us, what is our hope?

I have only read bits of Josephus.  I am no intellectual giant or prophet or philosopher.  But I hear Peter when he faced the Jews.

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Nothing else can save us. What are we being saved from?  Saved from death.  Saved from fear.  Saved from slavery.

Saved sounds like free to me.  The only freedom I’ve ever known is through Him.

The same answer applies to all these questions.

Only through Jesus can anyone be set free and only by remaining in Him, and being filled up by Him, can we remain free.  Psychology, religion, drugs, meditation, positive self talk can all be useful tools, but the demons will return.

But not to a life surrendered to Him.

Not to a heart and mind and soul that is surrendered to Him!

Send Them Away

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬

His first disciples seemed eager to send people away.  Before Jesus fed the five thousand, before he placed the child on his lap, the followers of Jesus first sought to send them away.  Let them find their own food.  Let them find acceptance and love from less important people.

Both responses were rebuked.

“You feed them.”

But they couldn’t.  They didn’t have enough.  And they were right.  Not in their hands and not in their hearts, truthfully they did not have enough.

“Don’t hinder them.”

No question of whether the disciples had anything to offer here, and children smell a fake a mile away anyway.

Now I’m not writing to rebuke anyone, but to ask a question.

Are you hungry?  Come to church, come to God’s word, come to His heart.

Are you lost and hurting?  Just come straight to Him.  His people can help you and those who know Him best help the most.  His word, the Bible, is rich in healing and talks so deeply of His love.  But come to Him.

Seek His presence, listen for His voice.

All He is asking, right now, is for you to come.

Ridiculous

It makes me laugh to hear it now.

For years the accusation from satan has been to point out what a ridiculous person I am.

And it’s the truth.

When I cheer for someone, I sound like I’m angry (apparently) and I yell till I’m hoarse.  When I sing in worship, I get kind of pitchy, I often sing harmony and I sing till I’m hoarse. I’m overweight but dance and jump.  I laugh out loud, in church, with people watching.  

I’m not sure why the last two matter but I’ve been told it’s inappropriate.

I think the accuser is often honest in what he says.  He just doesn’t want to acknowledge God’s perspective.  It’s like that with lots of things.  And he isn’t the only one saying it.

We say it to ourselves.

I’m ugly.

I’m fat.

I’m stupid.

No one could ever love me.

So that’s two voices speaking the same truths.

And there are other voices too.

Ha!  But it doesn’t matter.

We have heard how God says He loves us.  We “know” he says we are beautiful, precious, worthy.  And we know that’s not true.

But here’s the thing, and I hope I’m saying this right.  God’s lies are more true than anybody else’s truth.  How He sees us matters more than anyone else’s opinions.

I’m not there yet.  And if I try to convince myself of God’s truths it turns into ego and religion.  I think the only thing I can handle right now is looking at Him more than I look at myself.

And He is beautiful!

And I’ll just accept that I’m ridiculous…

And keep dancing!

Time to Change

I think it’s time for a change.
I’ve been the bitter worshipper long enough and God has been way too good for me to rest there.

Let me elucidate.

I’ve been married for almost twenty seven years and in that time have given her so many reasons to leave, to give up. But she still loves me.

I’ve made so many mistakes.  Failed over and over again. Yet found the strength to stand.

Others have “failed” me, rejected me, disappointed me. But the gates of my heart are still open. 

I have yelled at God, fought Him at every turn.  And despite that, He holds on, He will not give up!

I’ve been bitter but God is changing me.

The tumors of fear and addiction have been removed.  The cancerous lies of Satan have been exposed and treated with the healing power of His great love.

I’m done with being angry.

I’m having too much fun being alive!

All Righteousness 

Righteousness is a word that gives me a curiously unpleasant feeling inside.  My mind immediately goes to self-righteous people and to my own lack of righteousness.

I have never done many things “right.”

I was reading today in Matthew 3:13-17 and there’s something I don’t understand.  Jesus said he wanted to be baptized to, “fulfill all righteousness.”  But he never sinned, from the moment he was born till the day he died he never ever sinned.  Seems like that would “fulfill all righteousness” better than getting dunked in the water.  And John’s baptism was for repentance, he was calling people to turn away from the things they were doing wrong.  He even challenges Jesus on this, basically saying, “what do you have to be sorry for?”

I know I’ve done wrong, a lot.  Why is this story there?

Maybe, just maybe, I need to see how Jesus laid down his life before he ever did anything.  Sure, he gave up his life to complete his work on the earth.  He was a miracle worker and teacher by then, a certified leader, a rabbi.  But God didn’t even call his son to ministry until after Jesus laid down his will, his life through the act of baptism.

Many of us want to be used to do something great for God.  I certainly do.  What am I holding onto? What am I unwilling to submit to?  What can I just not lay down?  It is likely the same thing that is keeping me from freedom, binding me to depression, holding victory and peace just beyond my reach.

And I’m sick of it.  I’m tired of holding on to what is actually killing me.

I’ll never be righteous but I’ll step closer as I open my hands.

I Quit

I quit my job last week.  I still don’t have a job.  We have no money (well, very little).  I have only sent out one application for a job that I might not get.

This is a picture that I would not want to paint for anyone, and certainly did not want to paint for myself.

Everything is wrong except the part where I tell God that I’ll obey Him.  Now it has taken me a while to obey Him, but I did it in the end.

I tried to work up an emotional frenzy to decide to obey.  I became angry and bitter, largely because I wanted an easier path to obedience.  I wanted assurances that obedience wouldn’t cost me more than I could afford, or that there would be a payoff I could see before I chose to obey.

Yeah, faith in God doesn’t work that way.

I knew the stories of the priests stepping into the raging Jordan River, the worshipers, not the soldiers, that lead the charge into battle, Ananias going to meet with the murderous Saul of Tarsus.  But I really wanted an easier path, one with less risk involved.

In the middle of it, when I am experiencing the turmoil of fears and a peace that is beyond understanding, do I get to see God.  Worship is different and has taken on new meaning, and that is good.

I don’t want my praise, my prayers to be lying platitudes to a God I don’t believe in.

I want to fly.