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.

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

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.