No Reservation

I so often feel like I just don’t have a place.

I came to this life looking for a table.  I came to church wanting a seat.  I came to people wanting acceptance.  And in each case, I walked away feeling rejected, unwanted. 

I met Jesus and sensed His acceptance, His joy and loving embrace but the voices in my head were so loud.  I turned back to seeking the approval of humans.

So many years still looking, still wanting a seat.

It’s just not going to happen.

I hang out with lots of people like that.  Pretty sure everyone in my family feels that way. 

So to all of us I say there’s freedom in this. I can honor God without reservation.

Just as me. Just as you.

I can’t prove anything of personal value. My songs, my voice, my heart are rightfully judged as inadequate.

Doesn’t matter.

I can sing anyway. I can live anyway. Simply because He calls me to sing, to live, to be.

And maybe, if I do, it will inspire and free others to sing, and live, and be.

Bring On The War

If you are looking for who is behind the rebellion, look no further.  Who is against the deterioration of our freedoms.  We’re right here.

See we believe in a GOD who heals us, who saves us, protects us.  We don’t fear disease, governments, vaccines or ANYTHING!  we know who has redeemed us, who holds us in the palm of HIS hand.  The reality is we are beyond your touch.

Does this sound like arrogance?

It’s not.

We know our failings, our weakness, our brokenness. We celebrate it. Because we know who saves us, who heals us and holds us.

We are fearless!

We are CHRISTIANS!

You Can’t Get There From Here

Not sure how the joke goes…

Something about a guy asking for directions and an old guy making that statement.

I feel depressed and frustrated. 

Life always feels so distant from what I wanted it to be.  Happiness, contentment, peace, joy, love seem so elusive, mirage like in their ability look so close, appear as possible, only to evaporate as I grasp at them.

I try to be a better husband, better father, better man.  I try to love more, hate less, not cuss.  I try to help, not complain, not be a jerk.

But I fail.  Over and over.

I talk to God.  “Can’t you make me better?  Can’t you make my faith stronger?  Can’t you make me want to try?”

And I hear Him say, “you can’t get there from here.”

All religions (including “christianity”) are based on the idea of trying harder, becoming “better” people.  And they all fail.  We hold up saints and monks and zealots and clergy as examples of how religion succeeds, ignoring the reality and embracing the legends we’ve made up.  Destroyed and disillusioned when we find out they were human after all.

And most watch us and shake their heads, knowing we pursue a lie that no one can attain.

You can’t get there from here.

Can’t we just backtrack?  Go back to the good old days?  Maybe there are multiple paths, maybe all religions have the same ultimate goal.

But the cross stands over us.  Not as a way to make us be better but simply to open a door.

Paul said his righteousness was as filthy rags (menstrual cloths to be precise).  The prophet Isaiah agreed.  Our best efforts, though nobly given, don’t make a crack in the wall that separates us from what God intended.

Somehow, I have a feeling that the lonely single mom, the addict, the father who worked everyday in a nowhere job, all the “losers” that pursued Jesus, through failure, through the valleys may receive a heartier “well done” than all the preachers combined. And when we stand before Him, there will be no shame, no disappointment, only a realization that He was always there, always with us.

I’m still sad that I’m not “better”. But, I think I’ll quit thinking about me so much and just fix my eyes on Him.

Is Anything Too Hard…

“Behold, I am the Lord , the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
Jeremiah 32:27 ESV

I wonder if you’re like me.

I don’t think I have trouble believing that God can do anything. I believe He actually parted the Red Sea, raised a shepherd boy up to be king, sent angels to surround an enemy army, calmed the stormy seas, fed the five thousand and conquered sin and death.

I just don’t believe He can use me.

It’s easy for me to see Jesus working for and with others. I particularly love to see my wife and her ministry and hear how God is speaking through her into the lives of young people.

But, I have a temper. I don’t obey. I spent too much time in the Army and in factories for my mouth to say the right things. I get depressed and fearful. And, well, it all boils down to the fact that I just don’t obey.

Since I was a child my mantra has been, “you can’t tell me what to do.” With everybody!

God says “jump” and I say, “now wait a minute…”

I don’t want to be this way. But then God says “jump” and I say, “oh, I can’t do that!”

Why did He choose me?!

His voice speaks into my heart then.

“But child, I did choose you. It was not because of how great you were or what I thought I could accomplish through you. I chose you because I love you. Whether you ever DO anything for me or not.”

I feel sad. I stress and struggle and feel like such a disappointment.

What I need to do is rest!

In the end, it’s all about Him. He lifts me up. He accomplishes His will through me. He makes me willing and able. No glory belongs to me, all of it is rightfully His.

The greatest pastor, musician, evangelist, whatever deserves nothing of the glory that we give them (even if they think they deserve it). Because without Him, we are nothing.

So if you are like me, quiet your heart and the voices shouting their condemnation. “Fix your eyes on Jesus…”

Trust Him.

And rest.

Included

I just woke up from a really great dream.  It’s 5am.  I’ve had four hours (maybe) of sleep. 

But, I had to tell you about it!

I am a Yankees fan. Love the Yankees! Love baseball! But really love the Yankees!

My all-time favorite player, the one I personally put above every other player that played the game, is Derek Jeter!

The captain!

In my dream, I was on the field when Derek told the team he was retiring. People were stunned and saddened but we all knew it was time. Everyone was shaking his hand and letting him know we were behind him.

But the part that amazed me was that no one questioned why I was there. I talked with the players and coaches just like it was something normal.

I knew I was part of the team.

That’s what I want when I stand before Jesus. I know I won’t be the center of attention. I don’t want to be.

I also don’t want people looking at me like, “who’s he? What’s he doing here?”

That would be awful.

But standing there with great men and women of faith. Knowing that I DON’T compare, but knowing I’m accepted just the same.

That I was on the team!

Wow!

THAT will be a great day!

Pain (part 2)

You would never know it if you saw me, but I was and am a nerd (sarcasm). I was one who got bullied way more than I bullied. And when the opportunity presented to gain power so that I could hurt others rather than be hurt, I said yes, no questions.

Even when it was saying yes to evil.

Now I see shows like The Order and all things Harry Potter. I’ve heard the arguments.

They all fall flat when I see the pain in this world.

I know there are normal people out there who are unaffected. But I KNOW that there are those who will be affected. Who want their pain to cease so badly they will pursue magic, Halloween, fear, the demonic. Those that a scary movie will cross a line to something darker.

And heaven help us, as parents, our defenses will be so compromised and weak, our belief in Jesus will be so lukewarm and apathetic that our children will have no where to turn.

Pain

Why do we have pain?

Let’s back up and differentiate between physical, externally induced pain and emotional pain, that which is inflicted on our sole, our identity.

On a clinical level, physical pain can be treated, healing can take place, the pain can be tolerated. And often, pain has to be overcome for healing to occur.

Emotional pain ismore difficult, if not impossible to diagnose and treat. Despite what it says on their signs and in their pamphlets, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists, along with their array of drugs, represent a pitiful arsenal against the issues we face today.

There is commonality in that physical pain can produce deep seated emotional pain and emotional pain can cause very serious physical pain.

But why did God allow it? Why do we have pain?

I want to know because I see so many people doing really stupid things, wasting insane amounts of money and resources, and causing more pain than they could ever hope to heal, all trying to make it go away.

I have pain of my own that I can’t seem to ever overcome. And it is nothing compared to what millions face every day.

The short answer is that it’s because of the fall. Adam and Eve sinned so we have pain. But if we make it so simplistic, it leaves us with the only solution being to, “suck it up.”

The exciting thing for me in asking this question is that I know my God. My King is a healer. My Lord is moved by every tear, every broken and contrite heart. When a child dies through abortion or cancer or abuse, no one sees it more, feels it more, knows it better.

The issue of pain is often and the center of the atheist’s arguments (knowingly or unknowingly). So it seems like we need to understand it better.

I want to hear back. Why do you think we have pain?

Bad Reputation

Insert Joan Jett video here.

I’ve heard multiple people how they were in line or walking down the street or some such scenario.  In the story they run across some foul-mouthed person (probably worked in a factory or paper mill) and they set them straight.  That language offends me or my children or a lady or something.

I keep thinking about that idea in the face of our current world situation and I’m trying to figure out how to justify it.

Right now, our world is crying out.  So many are afraid. So many angry, depressed, lost. We calling on the government, on health organizations, on doctors to save us.

They aren’t calling on Christians.

The reputation that we have is one of judgment, condemnation, short-sightedness, stupidity, well, you get the idea.

And on the part of many Christians, we want to point them to Jesus, to the bible as the answer to the world’s problems.

I don’t know about you, but I get the feeling He’s pointing the finger back at me.

We get this mystical idea that He’ll move in world events, change the heart of the president, sway the vote, remove the sickness, eliminate sin and poverty.

That’s not actually how He tends to work.

Oh sure, He CAN! But…

He invaded the earth. His Spirit invaded the budding church. And He left! But He left His Spirit in us.

This leaves me short of breath, heart pounding. That means when He said ‘go’, He meant me. When He said He would be with me, it was AS I was going.

So I need to GO!

We may have a bad reputation. But if we go, with the love of Jesus burning bright inside us, maybe we can shine it up a bit.

Surprise Me

We want to know.

None of us really like surprises.

Oh sure, birthdays, Christmas, something special waiting.

Some say they enjoy the surprises of a scary movie. The horror waiting in the closet, the monster jumping out and eating someone.

We can appreciate the stimulus from the safety of a theater or our couch. We certainly would not like it if it was real, if it was really happening to us.

We want to know, to be prepared, to have assurance of victory.

So then I read in Numbers how, as the children of Israel get close to the Promised Land, God invites the to send out spies to check things out.

I wonder why He did that when He knew they would get scared and ruin everything.

Sure, they would want to know, to be prepared. And, a couple guys actually benefited from that. But most were overwhelmed.

Now I look at my life. How I have let fear and the magnitude of a task overwhelm me. I still want to know, to hedge my bets, minimize my risk.

And He won’t tell me.

He doesn’t give me the “plan”. He doesn’t let me know that I’ll be safe, that I won’t get hurt, or fail. He promises good things. He assures me that He’s right there with me.

But, it’s not enough.

So today I want to try something new.

Lord Jesus, surprise me!

I would like to know, to be prepared. But You know. You’re prepared.

Help me to be faithful. Help me to honor You. I open my heart to you. I trust you.

Surprise me!

Smartest Guy In The Room

When I was young, I thought I wasn’t very smart.  Read through the bible a few times and got my degree and, all of a sudden, I’m the smartest guy in the room.

Then I meet a kid who is explaining advanced differential equations to a PhD. I hear a pastor saying to his staff that God has revealed himself to the pastor in a way that they couldn’t handle.

May not be the smartest, but I’m not the dumbest.

Only then do I realize that my arrogance, the arrogance I see revealed in others and our collective intelligence is pitiful in comparison to the true smartest guy in the room.

Yet I hold on to my pride, my shame, my fear, my self-sufficiency and rage against my God who sees through it all. And then find myself on my knees, claiming dependence, my desperate need of Him.

And, He sees through that too.

I can’t argue people into heaven. I can’t impress them with my intellect, my giftedness, certainly not my spirituality. I have no delusions about condemning others or criticising their efforts to understand.

But can I introduce you to my friend? He’s funny and amazing. He really wants to meet you.

And He is super smart!

You can ask Him anything.