Cheers!

I was in church this past Sunday and listening to some awfully good preaching by the way.  For a moment, I was distracted by the noise coming from our children’s area.

Coincidentally, the preaching was about our responsibility to pass our faith on to the next generation.

I listened to the noise and the word and was glad I go to a church that is passing on the faith.  We keep it real and actually believe in the God that we talk about.

That’s a good thing.

But then I hit a wall of seriousness.

See, we can talk all we want to and believe all we want to, but our chances are silenced if we don’t capture the hearts of mom and dad.

This Sunday is Father’s Day.  And I want to put a challenge out there.

I want to be a better dad, love my family more.  And that won’t come by my believing less.

That means I need to start praying miraculous prayers for my kids.  I need to start believing and speaking about my amazing God to my kids.  I must start living like I trust Him with my whole life, not just bits and pieces.

My kids are all adults now.  Psychologists would probably tell me that I’ve lost the opportunity to influence them.  And maybe in some ways they’re right.

But we’re not dead.

There’s still a new day every morning where I can laugh because of the joy of Jesus in my heart.  There is still beauty to witness and love to share.  There is still the miraculous to experience.

Together.

And once we start cheering, we simply join ourselves to the chorus, the cacophony of victory that is only beginning to swell in God’s Kingdom!

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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.

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.

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.

Not Joseph

I hear the testimonies…

People who were put in hard situations and remained faithful.  Diamonds forged by the pressures of adversity.  Gold refined by the fire of tribulation.

Yeah, that’s not me.

I came to Jesus from difficulty.  Truly encountered him and have seen my response to betrayal, illness, fears and sorrows.  And I always choose wrong.

In one sense, though many things are going so well, I feel the desert around me.  And I’ve still been choosing fear and bitterness, depression and anger.

In the comparison with Joseph’s life, I’m the guy that slept with the wife and probably got impaled (did they have worse executions).  If facing the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, I’m the coward crawling on the floor, worshiping the lie of another god.

Yet God chose me, and not only did He choose me, He is still choosing me.

And He didn’t choose me to just get me out of hell.  He chose me for a purpose, a calling, something amazing.

What amazes me even more is that He walks with me!  Not sidestepping when I fall in the faeces.  Not waiting for me to clean myself off.  He is with me every step, in every pit, never letting go of me.

So that leads me to today.  Another day to choose.  Another day to live.

He’s not giving up on me.

Maybe I won’t either.

Hard to tell since I’m not Joseph…

I think I just heard someone rattling some keys…..

Maybe it’s the baker and the cupbearer…

 

Needing encouragement?  Check out Cory Asbury and any of his music!

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.

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.