Why Worry?

Worry seems to be taking over my life.  So many things that I can’t control.  So many things that are happening that I don’t like or want. I’m glad that God has brought me past the point of becoming angry over so many things.  But I still worry.

I hear people telling me that worry accomplishes nothing.  That worry is a lack of faith.  That things I worry about will most likely never happen.  All of it true.  And all of it is the underlying reason why I worry.

I worry because there is nothing I can do.  This in itself is a humanistic belief that I have stood on for way too long.  I can fix this. I can make this better.  But I can’t and so many of my efforts make things worse.

I worry because I don’t think God will do anything.  His timing is so off from mine.  I see problems escalating – no job, no money, bills unpaid, lose house, starving family – and He seems unmoved, unfluttered.  And sometimes, despite my prayers and fasting, despite my cries for help, He appears silent.

I worry because the things I worry about may not happen.  I’m old enough to know that there are consequences for bad behavior, that sin is still at work in this world, that people do stupid things, that I will fail again and again.  What I am not experienced enough to know is what those consequences will be, what destruction sin will visit on those I love, who will die because of stupid, ridiculous actions, what will be ruined because of me.

I love in Hebrews 12 when it says, “… we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” I can’t control much of anything in this world.  But I can do that.  Fix my eyes on the one who is strong enough, wise enough, patient enough, wonderful enough.  When I don’t understand, I can fix my eyes on the one who does and choose to believe that He loves me.

And when I can’t fix my eyes on anything because I’m too afraid, too discouraged, too defeated, I can trust in Him to lift my eyes up, pour His Spirit into me, and make me a warrior once again.

Because He does love me and He’s not finished with me yet.

No Other Gods

The commandment was given, “you shall have no other gods before me.” Did that mean you could have other gods after Him?

There is a word that appears from time to time in scripture that is often translated as idols or household gods.  Rachel was sitting on them when Laban caught up to them after the fledgling nation of Israel fled from his domination.  She had stolen them and they were important enough to cause the death of whoever had stolen them.  We see them again being used to disguise the bed after David ran away from the Saul’s murderous intent.  The Hebrews were called on to put away their gods during times of revival.

All these godly people with idols in their homes?  What were they thinking?

At least one explanation seems to be that these were carved images of the God, Yahweh, Jehovah.  People want a symbol to go with their beliefs.  They want something they can hold in their hands, press against their chests.  We need something we can see to talk to, to trust in.

A.W. Tozer said that heresy becomes worse the closer it comes to the reality of God.  And there is nothing that defines us more, that guides us more, than our beliefs about God.  We are to be warned that holding on to an image, even of God, that is not God will only destroy us.

It shocks me that the man after God’s own heart, David, would allow an idol in his home.  It appalls me that I have done the same thing.  I allow images of God in my heart, in my mind, that are not God.  They are images of a God that is softer, friendlier than the true God of heaven.  This one ignores my rebellious heart, glosses over the black places inside of me.  And at the same time, I carve out an image of a God who hates me, wants to hurt me, is pleased when I fall on my face and my life is in ruins.

I live to know You, my King.  I exist to bring You glory and honor.

But it must be You.  I can not build up some image of a god who is less than You.  My finite mind can not contain the whole of who You are and so must refrain from the arrogance of claiming to know much of anything.  Teach me, guide me knowing that without Your touch I would also create an image of myself to worship, an image of my heart, not Yours.

“Well that’ll never work!”

The world is going to tell you how you can’t, how you won’t, how it’s impossible.  It will point to all your inadequacies, all God’s inadequacies.  They will make sure you remember prior failures, dreams that died, hopes crushed.  And, in case you haven’t given up yet, they’ll make you aware how little you can change, how dumb the idea is and how tired you already are.

That’s the world.

It always makes me laugh to hear people talk about God and His rules.  The picture is painted of a God that looks down sternly on His children, waiting to zap them if they get out of line.  His angry look is intended to keep us from sinning and doing anything stupid.

Anger is usually pretty poor at keeping evil at bay and, can I get real here for a second, He knows us.  Do you think He envisions us never doing something stupid?  Nah!

He is our creator God.  He is creative.  He created imagination, intuition, dexterity, intelligence.  And He put it in our hearts.  He put inside us a warrior’s heart, a couragious heart, and a curious mind.  Those things have to be knocked out of us.  Questions come naturally, not rule following.

He clarifies what won’t work but it’s actually a pretty short list.  It can be summed up in two statements.  “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” And, “love your neighbor as yourself.”  This does not inhibit creativity, it frees it.  It channels it in healthy directions.  It moves it to bring life, not destruction.

My picture of God, at least the one I’m trying to wrap my mind around, is of a God of laughter who looks down at His kids, amazed and enjoying the myriad ways we show His love.  He opens His hands to bless as we move in His Spirit.  He casts down the walls, the hinderances, the enemies that stand in our way.  He miraculously intervenes to show His glory and power.  He enters to make what should be impossible, not only possible but completed, finished, accomplished.

Do you dream?  Do you believe?  Listen to Him.  I hear Him cheering you on!

We Give You

I write because I want to share what Jesus has done for me and through me.

I sing because I can’t seem to stop.

I laugh because God brings so many wonderful, silly, amazing things into my life.

I tithe because I don’t think this stuff is mine.

I practice because I want to get better.

I don’t quit because I know, one day, I’ll get through.

I pray because I know God hears me.

I read because my mind can’t slow down, can’t hear God’s voice.

I wait because Jesus is worth waiting for.

I don’t understand.  I hurt.  I get confused.  I can’t hear, can’t see, can’t believe.  But, God will make things clear.  He will show the reason for why, the purpose behind everything.  And I will trust Him, because He is ALWAYS faithful.

Do Not Doubt

“This kind can come out only by prayer.” Mark 9:29

The father saw his tortured boy.  He asked for help and none came.  It went on for years.  Then Jesus – how many of you love those words – then Jesus came and healed.

“Why couldn’t we drive this demon out?” The disciples asked.  They had come to see God’s power in their lives and were perplexed, maybe a bit discouraged that this time the regular things hadn’t worked.  The tried and true formulas had failed.  And mind you, these were people functioning under Jesus’ authority.  Consider this too, the demon shrieked as it left the boy.  This is evidence of a hold that perhaps even Jesus had to increase his efforts to break (increasing on the infinite is something I’m not sure about but at least consider the possibility).

In my last post, I talked about walking away from temptation.  I even expressed in terms that may seem angry at those who don’t walk away.  I don’t apologize for that but hear me as I give credence to what I said.

I was introduced to pornography at the age of ten.  I have lived in that addiction for over forty years but now know freedom.  Yes, and I do mean real freedom.  I still am tempted.  I am still a male.  But I am free.

All the formulas and ideas, from praying and accountability, the gimmicks that so many claim to stand on, never worked for me.  Prayer and accountability are important but I can tell you, if you do it to overcome sin, you are putting the cart before the horse, as they say.  They become gimmicks, and often make things worse, because the end goal is not deepening your relationship with Jesus, but making yourself a better person.

Jesus didn’t die to make you better.  I’m sorry if that bursts a preconceived notion, but it is true.  He invites you into His kingdom, not so you will shape up (He loves you just the way you are).  He invites you because you are His child.  And to overcome sin, for you to overcome sin, was never His goal.

“IT IS FINISHED,” He cried on the cross.  He already overcame sin.  In your life, in mine, sin is conquered.

I can hear you (hear myself) at this point.  “Bull  —-!”

“This kind can only come out by prayer.”

Do you seek freedom?  Do you want healing?  Let go of everything.  Give up your dreams, your hopes, your passions and turn to Him.  Don’t tenaciously clutch your life in your hands, all of your life.  Learn thankfulness, gratitude, for what God has done and is doing in and through you.  Then look to Him.

Do not doubt. . . NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!

Fields of Gold

What happens in a marriage of two people who can’t live apart but then find they can’t live together?

When I met my wife, she took my breath away.  I couldn’t believe she answered the first letter I wrote to her, picked up the phone the first time I called.  I was shocked when she said she loved me.  When we kiss, my heart still skips a beat.

I’m writing this now but still neglect to let her know.

We almost didn’t make.  We almost ended it.  I walked away to live alone, to have my own way.  I spoke so many words of hate and anger.  I broke her trust and blamed her for every failure.

Do you know why I love my Jesus?

HE WRITES MY STORY!  HE COMPLETES EACH CHAPTER!

Satan would tell you that you write your own life.  We would close the book with pages still blank, with pictures unpainted, with songs unsung because it all gets so hard.

But not God, not my King.

He writes the harmonies.  He composes the lyrics and melody, with minor chords, sevenths that don’t make sense, dissonance and resolution.  He colors the canvas with grays of shadow and yellows of sunshine, blending colors, striking lines where definition and boundary are needed.

He writes my story.  And He will bring me, has brought me to healing and hope.

He brought me home.  He heals the wounds.

He gives me fields of gold.

Thank you, my love, for walking them with me.

Snake Tails

OK, I admit it.  I’m a little strange and my imagination gets the better of me sometimes but humor me for a bit.

Moses receives the call to go get his people free.  He balks and turns into a whiny little coward. One of the signs he was given to prove that God had sent him was that he could turn his staff into a snake.  I love the detail that’s given, “Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. (Exodus 4:3 – NIV)”  Then God tells him to pick it up, grab it by the tail and pick it up.

Now, some of you may be snake charmers or Steve Irwin look-alikes, but for me, that’s where I’d be questioning God.  Whoa, Lord, can’t I just give a command?  And, I can see God’s humor in the snake coiling up and facing Moses.  Moses reaches out his hand and the menacing reptile hisses and spits at him but doesn’t bite.  Moses finally works up the courage to touch the thing and it immediately straightens and turns into wood.

After this experience, and the hand turning to leprosy trick, you’d think that Moses would be set to go.

But, he’s like me.

The wonder of God, His amazing attributes, His holiness, his power and voice in my life, often remind me that I’m nothing.  I am left knowing the limited resources that I possess and the stark reality of my consistent failure at life.  Whatever confidence I may hold onto evaporates in His presence.

We sing in our worship of being “undone” in God’s presence.  Though we criticize Moses for his responses, I would submit that they are entirely appropriate.

Ah, but what we feel inside is not the end of the story is it.  Despite what he felt, Moses still had to reach for the snake.  Despite his resistance, he still had to go.  Beyond all hinderance and obstacles, he still stood before Pharoah, he still spoke, he still was used to set his people free.

Maybe you have some snakes in your life.  I know I do.

Grab that tail.  You can do it.

A Cry for Help

I walked through the halls of my barracks, a Pepsi in my hand.  At the time, I usually either had a Pepsi or a beer.  Out of no where two guys jumped me.  You have to realize, I knew both of them.  It is still strange to me that they would attack me, knowing that I knew them.  And it is more strange to me that they would attack me over a can of pop.  But, attack me they did.

“Give me that.”  The one in front said, while the one in back grabbed me.

That was enough for me.  I did two smart things in the next moment.  First, with my free hand, I reached down and grabbed the leg of the one behind me, pulling up hard and sitting down hard.  The second thing I did was yell, “Schrantz!”

Now, my attackers were both bigger than me, stronger than me.  But they weren’t bigger than Schrantz.  And Schrantz, for reasons I will never understand, was my friend.  At the sound of his footsteps pounding down the hall, both guys disappeared.  It was magical.  I don’t even remember how the one underneath me got free.  I just remember that the next minute found them gone, vanished into thin air.

I thought of this during a time where I am struggling once again with attackers who seem bigger, more powerful, than I am.  I remember this just in time as I face, again, my greatest enemy.

It is not a guy thing.  It is not even particular to any one ethnic group or geographical location.  One problem so many of us face is the unwillingness to cry for help.  We view it as weakness.  We don’t want others to know our sins, our failings, our humanness.  So we try to fight on our own.  Even in churches surrounded by people we attempt to overcome satan and his forces, our flesh, our surroundings all by ourselves.

This is ridiculous.  It needs to stop.

In the Army, we each had our “Ranger buddy”.  The guy who we knew had our back.  The guy who, when everything went bad, stood beside you.  You covered them too and jumped in whenever they were in need.  There was no thought of convenience or time, no consideration of what might happen to you.  Because we worked under the knowledge that we would all face situations that were bigger, meaner than our ability to cope with, we just helped, we stood for each other, we survived.

Don’t go it alone.  Find that brother, that sister that will cover you, that you can cover.  They ARE there.  Don’t listen to the lie.  Don’t be afraid of the burn, the betrayal.  Find someone and stand together.

Cry for help!

Brothers in arms
Brothers in arms (Photo credit: John Wang Photography)