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

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Do you believe?

What started me on this journey of writing over these years was a belief that our real struggle in life is in what we believe.  Not what we intellectually assent to, but what we believe in our core.  I have sought to write about things that challenge the way I feel about the circumstances life throws at me.

I believe that this journey has lead me to a deeper place of faith,  a place where what I believe about my God, what I know about His love for me, is greater than it was three years ago.

So what do I do with that?

How do I act and live and love in return if He loves me so much and believes in me as much as He does?

I have learned to be bolder, to act as though I have power and life to give to my world.  I protect myself less and others more.  I am learning to do ridiculous things, request things pray for things that I have no business doing or asking for.  I find myself leading more and following less.

My knees are still knocking, and my heart still beats to fast.  I still remind myself that I’m too old, too broken, too stupid, too worthless, but I move anyway.  I hear the condemnation from my enemy and the ridicule from those who are broken like me, but I step out.

What’s coming next?  I’m not sure.

But, I believe.

Something About Him

The waves crashed against the sides of the boat as it floundered against the raging sea.  The men in the vessel turn and yell at the one who is sleeping in the stern.  “Save us!”  They cry.

We often treat Jesus like our buddy, one of the “guys” in our life.  I like thinking of Him as my friend, someone I can talk to.  And He is.

But if He is less than God Almighty, if God is less than God Almighty, why do we expect Him to fix all our problems?  If we know Him as Lord of all, King over all creation, why do we fear the tempests that surround us?

In one sense, it is admirable to me that the disciples knew to cry out to Him.  Yet He rebukes their lack of faith because they did not see Him in charge of the winds and the lightening WHILE THEY WERE STILL VISIBLE.  We can see God’s love and power when He takes problems away and question Him so deeply while they remain.

But, His authority never changes.  His power, His sovereignty is not diminished because we can’t see the way through.  His glory is no less evident when He chooses to “sleep” through our struggles.

If we could glimpse His great love for us, the love that conquered sin and death for you and me, we would see that His inaction, His lack of overt displays of power are really evidence of a heart that believes in us and knows what is best for us at all times.

“Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.”

Prepped to Party

Joshua 4

How do we face our future?  How do we deal with our past?

Joshua and the people of the nation of Israel were getting ready to cross over into the land God had promised to them.the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant step into the water and the river stops.  It doesn’t just stop. It backs up about twenty-three miles, during flood stage, for hours. Roughly two million people crossed over while the Jordan river waited.

Joshua, under God’s direction, does something odd then.  He sends back twelve men, one from each tribe, to pick up a large rock to use as a memorial.  In all of the Jewish history, you only see this a few times.

Today may be a day of struggle for you.  I know that, in our house, not much feels like it is going right.  I’m not sleeping very well.  Doors are staying shut, promises are unfulfilled.  We try and try but it just doesn’t seem to be worth it.

I don’t want to hear about the silver lining.  I don’t want to hear about staying faithful, God’s testing, learning patience, or any other cliché of Christianity.  I want my family to quit hurting.  I want there to be peace and healing for them.

Funny thing is, God wants the same thing.  You know God, the God, the one who created universe.  The being that even in His human form could speak to waves and have them obey.  The one who, with a word, defeated vast armies, fed thousands, turned sorrow into joy.

Yeah, that guy.

He wants peace and healing for my family too.

So I check my heart.  Am I prepped to party or am I waiting to be let down?  Am I trusting His timing, His goodness, His love and mercy or looking at the price of gas, the politicians in debates, the anger of Muslims, the brokenness of my life?

“My ways are higher, my thoughts are higher…”  God says this in the book of Isaiah.  

It’s true.

So I’m going to trust Him.  And get ready to watch miracles happen!

You’ve Got To Kick A Little

Anger is so often a negative force in our world. Children abused, battered women, humiliated men, gangs fights, murder, war, all because someone loses their temper.

But, it doesn’t have to be bad. Anger can be used in positive ways. Protection against legitimate threats, rescuing from foolishness, a call to live for truth. When Jesus drove the people out of the temple, I don’t think he was pleasant to be around.

Our humanity gets in the way so much. We want our truth, our stuff, we want, we want, we want.

One of my favorite (insert sarcasm) things to hear is, “well, there’s nothing you can do about it.”  Oh, and my other favorite, “it is what it is.”  A passive acceptance of what should be changed, an apathetic outlook that takes what the world gives and rolls over and dies.

I hate when I see it, especially in me.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭37-39‬ NIV)”

When the apostle Paul penned these words, they were not idle, religious rhetoric .  He said it so that, as we faced life’s insurmountable problems, we would know that there is more to us than meets the eye.  Because of the love of Jesus inside us, the Holy Spirit inside us, the power of prayer inside us, there is nothing we can’t conquer.

Sometimes, we have to get mad.  We have to say, “enough!”  We have to determine that, even if it kills us (and make no mistake, satan wants you dead), we will not quit, we will take our eyes off of our own pain and fight for those we love, we will believe God and trust Him fully.  We have to raise our hands in worship even when nothing inside us wants to or even feels capable.

We can always kick a little…

On Wings Like Eagles

I flew to Georgia this morning, 5:00am to be precise. We came down the runway looking at thunderheads all around us and lightning at our one o’clock. That’s pilot lingo for almost straight ahead. I was riding in the copilot seat and had complete control of the aircraft. Well…, I could have except that the pilot would’ve yelled at me and been really ticked.

As we flew into the storm in our small plane (a Cessna 340 if you’re interested), rain hitting the windscreen, the wind buffeting us all over the place, I questioned, internally, the decision to not climb as quickly as possible and get us out of the mess. I don’t know why. Maybe it had something to do with fuel conservation. Maybe a rapid ascent would have put us in greater danger.

I’m not a pilot, so I can only guess at his thought processes.

What he did do was what he called threading the needle. The major cloud formations had gaps between them. We climbed to about 8000 feet nod flew between them. We were hit with violent turbulence, rain, ice and darkness. And, we came through unscathed.

We often talk about going through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23), but don’t understand why. Developing character, patience, Godliness, seems ridiculous in the face of difficult, overwhelming circumstances. We are scared, hurt, broken, defeated and the only solution that makes any sense to our minds is, “GET ME OUT OF HERE!!”

What would have happened to me and my fellow passengers if I would have grabbed the controls?

I’m not God, neither are you. I don’t know much, neither do you. Can you, will you trust Him today?

Will I?

No Turning Back

“I have decided…”

Today, I have a decision to make. Will I let God be God in my life? Will I see the storm around me and take my eyes off Jesus? Will I trust Him or me? And it is a choice. I can begin my day declaring the faithfulness of my God or worrying about my future. I can look into His word and believe it to be true or I can trust my own faulty intellect and wisdom.

“…to follow Jesus.”

He is the way, the truth and the life. There is no other name that saves us. He is the Alpha and the Omega.

“Though none go with me…”

I can’t trust others to lead the way, though God is faithful to put His soldiers to walk beside me. He will provide teachers to guide me but I must look to Him to complete His work in me. I must see Him and Him alone as the “Author and Finisher of my faith.” And when everyone seems to have abandoned me, a lie that satan has used for a long time, I will trust Jesus to reveal the angels that guard me, the prophets who have not bent their knee to Baal, the Timothy that is still serving at my side.

“The world behind me…”

I don’t come to Jesus empty-handed. I come to Him clutching the pain of my past, the cares of my present, the worries of my future. I come to Him with a mind filled with the enemies lies, a heart broken by the history of man’s bad choices, and my own stupidity. I come to Him and lay all that down. And before Him, I CAN let it go.

“The cross before me.”

Letting go of myself hurts. “Dying to self,” is what the world considers ridiculous. Laying my will down is something my heart rebels against. How will I protect myself? How will I get what I need? How will I have a life worth living?

I have had enough of me, Lord. I have seen the fruit of my efforts, the results of my plans and I am done with it. I want You. I want the power of Your resurrection, the victory of Your crucifixion, Your glory revealed in me.

I want You!

No turning back…