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.

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…

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!

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.