Jesus Wins

I have felt such heartbreak over things in this world.  Suffering, human trafficking, divorce, pornography, wars, racism…

How long, oh Lord?

I listened to a song yesterday.  It is one of my all-time favorites.  And I needed the reminder.

See, Jesus isn’t shocked by racism, though it breaks his heart too.  He’s not overwhelmed by the cruelty of man, our propensity for violence and our exploitation of those weaker than ourselves.  His voice is not silenced by the tumult of evil.  His light is not dimmed by the darkness on the horizon.

Remember, oh my soul, He wrote the story.  He placed the characters and set the stage.  His death on the cross culminated in His declaration that, “IT IS FINISHED.”  

So do I live from His victory or do I wonder every day whether the darkness will win.  Will satan ever be able to defeat the church of Jesus, the Holy Spirit inside us, His resurrection power?

Not even remotely!

Jesus wins, has already won.  You can bet your life on it.

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Trojan Horse

Most people know the story of the Trojan Horse.  The long battle between Greece and the city of Troy that ended when Greece appeared to have abandoned the war and left the gift of a huge wooden horse.  Unknown to the Trojans, the “gift” was filled withe soldiers who, in the middle of the night, came out and destroyed the city.  It is a story of trickery, heroes, love, death.

As I came to work for the church and periodically since then, I saw myself as that horse.  What were they thinking to let someone with so much evil inside him into the building, near women and children, unsuspecting old ladies?  I hear the accuser, see him laughing and pointing.  I catch myself dwelling on the stories of others who have served and damaged so much with their lies and hidden sins.

It’s all true.

But my God!  My God!  He is The Redeemer!  He is the Healer!  He is the Mighty God!  The King of Kings!

And in His will and with His power, I am a Trojan Horse!  

No one would suspect a chubby, old man.  No one would think that a washed up, foolish, grandpa janitor would carry the life and love of Jesus Christ.  No one would think that someone like me can have the Holy Spirit of the Living God flowing through his veins and bringing Him to those that need Him so much!

HA!

But I do.

And in that way, we are all Trojan Horses.  Paul said, “we carry this treasure in earthen vessels.”  As we carry the life and love of Jesus into this broken, hurting world, we are broken and hurting.

But we are being healed.

Satan is counting on our human nature to fail, to hurt others, to be selfish and hateful.  God is counting on us to let Him live in us and through us, to love and heal, to restore and bring hope.

And today, I get to choose.  You get to choose.  What will you carry inside you?  Who will you carry into your world?

And let the enemy of God Almighty beware!

Opposite Attraction

I come to this with some fear and trembling.  So do me and your pastor and your family a favor, if you’re not going to read the whole thing, stop here.

Still with me?

Ok, good, let’s move on.

“He’s a coward,” the lie came whispering.  I was thinking about a pastor, one of my pastors, and that is what I thought.  It felt so real, so true.  I felt myself agreeing, believing it.

Now, maybe he isn’t the bravest man alive, but anybody who knows anything about the pastors at my church know that they are not cowards.  Especially when it comes to the Word of God.

So why did I think and start believing what I knew wasn’t true?  Did it make me look better, feel better about my place in life?  Or was it just from the “father of lies?”

Does it matter?

It was a lie.

What is the advantage or who gains an advantage by my belief a lie?  

We get these thoughts from time to time.  In marriage we can get them a lot.  

“He’s a bum.”

“Why did I ever marry her?”

And to these lies, and the ones like them that surround everyone I meet, I like to apply the principle of opposite attraction.

It works like this.

“That pastor is a coward.”  I pray to the opposite.  “God, I thank you for his boldness in standing for you.  I stand with him as he fearlessly lives for you.”

“Why did I marry her?”  The opposite, “thank you for bringing her into my life.”

Here’s the hard part, sometimes it isn’t actually a full out lie.  But make no mistake, a truth that leads us to hate someone is never a complete truth.

“He’s unfaithful.”

“She hates me.”

Oh precious, broken heart, be drawn to the opposite.

“Raise him up to be faithful.  I believe You are working in him to give his heart completely to You.  You are making him a man of God.”

“She is loving and blessed.  I believe You are softening her heart to love despite the hurts she has endured.  You are creating a woman of God who trusts completely in You.”

And in praying to the opposite our hearts can be drawn to the possibility of the opposite.  Our anger and fear dissipate in the presence of the God who says, “all things are possible.”  Our trust is placed in the only one we should ever completely place it in.  And the noise of all the lies diminishes.

Turmoil is replaced by peace.  Depression is replaced by power.

Hate is replaced by love.  

Unseen

I work as a custodian for my church.  It is giving me a unique perspective on humanity and the God who loves me.

A good worker looks for places that no one sees and cleans them too.  They know that even if a guest comes in they will feel and possibly smell the hidden dirty places.

That is so much like our lives.  And reveals so much about our King.

He is THE KING, but He is also a good janitor.

We have so many dirty places.  Shame and fear, brokenness and discouragement, guilt and addiction often hiding beneath the chrome and porcelain coverings of church and religion.  We don’t want the Holy one to see, to touch the stains and decay of what we have hidden.  We wish He’d just stay off in His lofty temple, just be a statue on the wall.

But I see Him differently now.

I see Him pulling on some jeans, taking out a wrench, a screwdriver, a scraper and a rag.  He turns His cap backward and gets down on the floor beside me and my mess.

And if I let Him, oh if I just let Him, He pulls off the covers, exposes the dirt and urine and feces that I have held so close to my heart and He cleans me.  He scrapes away the build up of years, washes me with His tears and with His blood.

The KING, the righteous, holy King of Kings, washes me clean and I am free.

He wants to.  He loves to do that for us, in us.  It returns us to what He made us for in the first place.

And for us, we must let go of our pride and self-sufficiency.  We will have to show Him things that we like but we know He doesn’t.  We will have to let Him remove the things that are killing us, heart and soul, body and spirit.  And we will have to let Him make us live again.

Some of you know what I’m talking about, the slow, pervasive suicide we call our existence.

It will have to go.

But try to imagine being alive, truly alive.  Mornings that you don’t dread, challenges you don’t fear, people that you pour into rather than protect yourself from, running, flying rather than limping and crawling through each day.

That is what can happen when you let Him in.

He sees the unseen.  

Just let Him in.

Weak one

I finished the first week of my new job.  I work as a custodian for my church and am so blessed to be there.  It is a dream come true and just the tip of the iceberg for what God wants to do in and through me.

Not all fun and games though.  I heard no angel voices.  I sweated a lot and got pretty dirty through it all.  We did not sit around in worship and prayer.  We actually had to work.  You would be amazed at how much prayer and worship can happen when you’re kneeling in front of a toilet.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I have not found myself growing stronger in this process.  I see clearly and feel keenly the sins that have hindered me over the years.  I know that I am nothing without Jesus.  I sense the pride and selfishness that seems to hide around every corner.

But there is joy in living for Him.  There is contentment in knowing that I no longer have resources but His are inexhaustible.  There is strength in knowing that I have decided to follow Jesus.

“Strength made perfect in weakness…”

“When I am weak, then I am strong.”

All for the glory of God.

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!