Beat Up

Someone I knew posted a video of a dog being smacked around by his owner while others watched and laughed.  I was angry at the abuse but I was rocked to my core.

I’m the dog.

No, I get it.  In my western, nicely appointed ranch house in a quiet neighborhood outside of the city it would be hard to see the abuses heaped on me.  I drive a working car.  I have nice guitars.  I have a good job.

I’m still the dog.

It’s not that I am suffering abuse right now, I guess.  Or that the abuses of my past are rising up to attack me.  I just saw the look on that dogs face and felt every blow that he took.

Why are you hitting me?  What did I do?  I must be bad but I don’t understand.

What makes it worse is that the hand that is on me seems like God’s.

I have these songs to sing that it feels like no one wants to hear.  I have these words that burn in my soul and no platform to speak.  I have this love to give and no one to share it with.  It feels like God mocks me with a message but gives me no one to pour it out on.

REALITY…

I would love to speak before thousands, but my voice is only heard so often by just one.  I sing and some listen.  I love like rain on dry soil, never there to watch the grass turn green, the flowers grow and blossom.

But it is enough.

It is the comparison of Psalm 88 with Psalm 89.

Psalm 88:14  O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?  Why do you hide your face from me?

Psalm 89:14  Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

Reality…

The punches I feel are real.  The condemnation and hatred come from a very real enemy.  But they are not from my God.  His promises remain true.  His love for me does not falter.  He will prove himself as faithful, no matter what.

My path follows who I believe.

And the abuser, in all cases, will stand before a righteous, Holy God.  And we will give an account for what we believe and what we did with our beliefs.

Reality

The Defensive Line

The chips are down, the proverbial crap has hit the fan, you are under attack.

Who do you run to?  Who’s got your back? 

When all hell is breaking loose in their lives, when they’ve lost hope, vision, purpose, who do they run to?

We have groups for everything; AA groups, Narcanon, men’s groups and women’s  groups, small groups, conferences and churches.

Who is your first line of defense?

I believe in accountability.  I believe in standing together in this fight we call life.  I think I just have a different take on who we should run to first.

Now the churchy answer is to say, “Jesus.”  But, for many of us, He has already provided the answer to our pleas. 

So here goes:

Husbands, your first line of defense is your wife.  I hear so much of the talk about how women can’t handle our issues, shouldn’t have to.  But who did God provide?  Your dealing with sexual temptation, business concerns, addictions, problems with no solutions.  Talk to her, open your heart to her first.

Wives, yep, he’s the one.  Your girlfriends, your bible study group, your counselor can not help you the way your husband can.  They can not bring truth, healing, life the way he can.

Young people, the TV, Facebook, your friends, YouTube, the lives of musicians, stars, sports heroes and politicians can not guide you through like a talk with your dad, your mom, grandma, grandpa.  No one, and I mean no one loves you like we do.

“Oh but you don’t know my . . .”

And the truth is, I don’t.  Our world is so broken, sin so pervasive, that the people we should trust are the last people we can trust.  People have abused me, manipulated me, hurt me.  And, that includes my wife.  I have done the same to her.  I have not often been a good dad or son.  I am human, the definition of untrustworthy.

But my untrustworthiness so often stems from my lack of vulnerability to the ones who can help me.  I can paint a picture for my bible study.  I can gloss the photo for my church.  I can get angry, cover, lie, protect myself  from so many.  They remain virtually unscathed.  It always damages the one I love most.

I want to turn it in its head.  Stand back to back, shoulder to shoulder, eye to eye with her.  I want to make her strong, let her beauty shine.  And I will never do that by hiding myself from her.

We face this fight together.  We are only safe in each other’s arms.

Side note:  please do not stay in a situation where you are being abused.  Get help, get healing, then seek restoration.

Devoted to God

Everybody remembers the story of Jericho.  How the people of Israel marched around the city for seven days and seven times on the seventh day.  The walls fell down and the people had an easy victory over a very strong city.

God had commanded that the city be “devoted” to God.  The people couldn’t keep anything for themselves.  Anything living was to be destroyed and all valuables given to God.  It was to be complete, no excuses or exceptions.  

We talk in worship about giving our lives to God.  We talk about Him being our King, our Lord and Savior.  We sing our songs and then live however we feel like.  I have personally lead worship and then come home to look at porn, disrespect and verbally abuse my wife.

We read the Bible and pray in the morning and call it our “devotions”, but is it?  Is it devotion to give a part of my life, my heart, my being?  Can I hold a part back for myself, gripping on dark, unseen places, and call myself devoted?

I don’t think so.

The greatest commandment is “to love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, soul, mind and strength.”  I think that means I get nothing.  It is all given to Him.

And in giving all to Him, devoting myself completely to Him, I find Him worthy, I find Him greater, I find Him to be love poured out for me.

Clear and Present Danger

With the phenomena of a variety of movies and literature over the years, free speech is a common theme as people argue over the merits or issues revolving around a particular theme. Free speech is touted as a catch phrase basically allowing people to say whatever they want. But there are limits on this, certain “tests” that the Supreme Court uses to determine whether a document or rhetoric is protected by the first amendment.

Now, I’m not a lawyer. I’m not a judge. I did serve once on a jury. But since most citizens are considered capable of that duty I hardly think that qualifies me to speak. Ah, but speak I shall.

When movies are made to celebrate abuse, sexual, physical abuse, I think it fails the clear and present danger test. When pornography promotes child molesting, incest, bestiality and other forms of degradation and depravity, I think it fails this test. And if it doesn’t fail it for the Supreme Court, it should for us as human beings.

We have a scriptural mandate to think on whatever is pure and holy and true and noble.

So what should our response be as movies are released, as books hit the shelves?

We worship. We sing. We speak the truth, in love, with mercy and grace. That is what sets us apart. That is what the world needs, the love that will heal its wounds.

There is a clear and present danger, and we are armed and fit to conquer it.

Hard to Hear

The average age of a victim of incest is five to eight years old. Thousands of girls under the age of twelve have been raped. The age of children introduced to pornography may be as low as eight years old.

Facts, verifiable statistics are hard to come by.

Here’s what I know. First sexual experience at 6. Introduction to pornography at age ten. Victim of molestation at age seven. And I was raised in the church.

I have been convicted of how week my prayers are concerning our children. I see our efforts in kids ministry, my efforts in kids ministry, as anemic, at best, in dealing with the realities of their lives.

I didn’t even look up statistics on child abandonment or divorce. I had heard enough.

I call on you all to pray for our children. I ask you to get involved in their lives. And as ministry leaders, I ask that you go beyond making Jesus easy to understand, kid friendly. I ask you to go beyond prayers for grandma and the pet hamster that they love. As worship leaders, go beyond singing and playing.

What is happening to our little ones is so damaging. We must rise to their defense. And, we must give them more of Jesus, a real Jesus that lives for real in their really messed up lives.

To The Last Man

What do you do when you’ve lost all hope?

What is your choice when you’ve done everything and all you hoped for is gone?

What do you do when all have betrayed you and you’re left alone, unwanted, unloved, forgotten?

The problem with the TV generation, the movie, Hollywood, Super Hero people who live their lives through the stories they see on a screen is they never know what to do.  When real life happens and things don’t go as planned, when there is no reset button to push or magical potion to fix all the problems, those that have not lived real life will lay down.  They will give up and let death take them.

Dylan Thomas said, “Do not go gently into that dark night.”  His stanzas speaking of there being more to do, to live, to “rage against.”

And in the light of this promiscuous culture, the family decimated by media, divorce, infidelity, pornography, addiction and abuse, it can seem that our hope, the promises we stand on, are awfully, woefully thin.

God’s love is not absent.  The power of the Holy Spirit has not waned.  But our reliance, our grasp of who He is and who we are in Him, is pitifully weak.

“Do not go gently into that dark night.”

So, though at times my hope is lost, I will stay in His word.  Though, at times, my faith is built on sinking sand, I will put on my helmet, my belt, my shoes, my breastplate, my shield and my sword.

And though I am bloody from every battle I’ve been through, I will rage against these giants and say, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty…This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of satan’s army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in America.”

And with my dying breath, I will let my children know, the children of my blood and of my spirit, that the living God reigned in me and I was His, will be His, forever.

Stand with me, by your prayers, your love, your worship, your sacrifice.

He Held My Hand

My friend.

We had walked together for what seemed like so short a time, and now he was dying.  Cancer had come back with a vengence and he was hurting so bad.

I had an accident the day before and my hand was broken.  I was in pain myself but nothing compared to what he was going through.

So, as he was dying, he asked to take my hand, to hold on to his friend for a little while and ease the pain a bit.  With each wave of agony he faced, he would squeeze so hard.  Then he would release as the fury of that silent monster would abate.

And I took the pain.  Not because I’m a hero, not brave, not strong.  I took it because he was my friend.

I look at my hand from time to time, seeing the flaws in the healing, knowing my hand was never the same again.  And I realize that’s why God put us together, all of us.  When we hurt, we often cause pain to others, we create deformities, broken places.  But it is our honor, our priviledge to share in these sufferings.  It is not the time to isolate, to reject, to protect yourself – barring the abusive relationship to be sure.  As we are hurting, we share in the pain, allowing ourselves to be hurt.  Yes, laying down our lives.

It is how we see Jesus.

“All Things Work Together…”

What a crock!

I know it’s scripture but, seriously, what a crock.

Raised in an abusive, dysfunctional home.  Molested as a child, repeatedly.  Bullied, ridiculed, demeaned.  Rejected by many that I needed, really, truly needed to be loved by.  Marginalized by the church as a rebel.  Looked down on for how I question things, the questions that I ask, the inherent flaws that must be present in a person who questions God.  Every time I asked for something, it either came across as being arrogant, thinking I deserved it, or as weak, lacking confidence.  So many opportunities stripped away, even when I had the necessary skills, the drive to do what needed done, all because of some ambiguous, not-the-right-fit kind of reason.

“More than conquerors…”

Really?

Broke all the time.  Can’t sell a book.  Can’t buy a full-time ministry position.  My job doesn’t like me.  I can’t get promoted.  I’m not even sure my wife and kids like me most of the time.

Now maybe, no one who reads this can relate to what I’m saying.  But, I bet, if you look down deep, everyone one of you has had questions, doubts about the validity of the two scriptures that I quoted.

Is God working all things together for my good?

My heart breaks over the abuse of children, sex-trafficking of people, slavery, bullying, loneliness.  I can’t see a person sitting alone in a room without wondering what’s going on inside them.  When I hug the son of a single mom, I want them to know that they are loved, they matter, they are not rejected.  When I pray, I hear the voice of my Father, my Daddy as His great, loving heart weeps over the brokenness of this world.

Through addiction and defeat I have seen the power, the relentless juggernaut of God’s passion for the healing, restoration, discipline and release of His warriors.  I have tasted His desire for all people to be free.  FREE!  Not bound by rules and decrees.  Not robots with mindless movements and subjugated wills.  FREE and ALIVE human beings.

And I have found freedom.  I have come to see the walls torn down, the strongholds broken, the infections lanced, drained and healed.  I have seen my heart of stone restored to a heart of flesh.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

It is true.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

IT IS TRUE!

All because HE LOVES US!!

A Primal Scream

I see teen suicide, unwanted, unmarried pregnancies, abuse, loss, addiction, homosexuality up close and with all their realities.  I see marriages die all too often in the ravages of pornography, busyness, neglect, fear.  I see the cries of the children, the broken hearts of the parents, the families and lives that will never, ever be whole again.  And from inside me comes a scream, visceral, angry, hated and hating, yet born out of love.

“STOP”

“Please stop hurting each other.  Please stop hurting yourselves.  Please just listen and love.  Come to me and I can heal you.  Come to me and let me ease your pain.  Let me assure you of my love, my blessing, the promises I have for you.”  Then I realize that the scream I hear, that is inside me, is the voice of my Lord, my Savior.  And, he is not just speaking to others, He is speaking to me.  He speaks against the lies of false freedom.  He cries out against the paths that promise fun and excitement but end in death, in destruction.  He calls out with hope and life, peace and goodness.

Will I listen?  Can we hear Him through all the noise that surrounds us?  We’ve got to.  I’ve got to.

To order “Daybreak” by Matthew Hawkins please click on this link:

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