Hungry

I pretty much start every post with a feeling of needing to apologize.  My understanding of so many things is very limited.

This one is no exception.

Being an overweight person makes anorexia such a foreign concept but it plays into what I want to discuss.

So…  Sorry.

God has been hitting me with an idea from several sources so I feel the need to share.  I have some thinking that is just messed up.

A person that is healthy doesn’t treat food like a checklist.  The variety and tastiness of a healthy diet is not something forced, something that must be coerced.  It is actually a joy.

But then we look at our spiritual diet.

I was starving so I forced myself to read a verse out of the Bible.  I was overwhelmed so I threw out a ten second prayer.  I feel surrounded by problems, attacked on every side so I went to church and left as soon as the preacher said “amen”.

We have all been in that place where we feel like we can’t even get off the floor.  We can’t lift our hands in worship.  The songs won’t come.  There are no answers to prayer and no one seems to be listening.  The words on the page mean nothing.

The condemnation that religion would heap on us in those moments is a lie straight from the pit of hell.

But to stay there, or to never step into the fullness of a relationship with our Father, is equivalent to anorexia. Patterns of behavior based on false images, unhealthy concepts of who I am, and who I should be.

And we are dying when we should be so alive.

And so, like the anorexic, we have to force ourselves to eat, spend time in the Word and talking to God, until our taste for food returns. We have to spend time with people, many who are struggling just as much or more than we are. We have to look beyond ourselves and the absolutely screwed up view we see. Then reach out a hand – one to our healer, one to someone who needs healed.

We need to be hungry.

We need to be thirsty.

And start eating.

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.

Heavenly Warfare

There’s a lot that I wouldn’t want people to imitate about my life.  But one thing I do that I wish on others is my prayer in the morning.  It goes something like this.

“OK, time to gear up.  Helmet of salvation, got it.  Belt of truth, ready.  Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, on.  Breastplate of righteousness, check.  In my left arm, shield of faith and right arm, sword of the Spirit.  Let’s go!”

I’ve never been one who wanted to use formulaic prayers or wrote memory to reach out for God.  But, in case you weren’t aware, we are at war.  Every day lives are lost, friends are wounded, children are held captive.  And we often walk into it with no word of God on our heart, His Spirit quenched within us, no praises on our lips and no thought of standing in this fight.

We go into it with nothing on.

That’s just stupid.

God is good and He has promised great things for us.  We can live in victory, setting captives free, fighting and winning.  But we better gear up for it.  Arm yourself and raise the war-cry of Jesus.

Don’t worry about being smart or strong.  Don’t give a thought to your abilities or power.  He’s enough.

HE IS ENOUGH!!

Is This Thing On?

I have heard so many responses from people hearing my pain that I feel like I have to say something.

I have had pain in my life.  Not everything has been easy, comfortable, fun.  THANK YOU, GOD!

To my parents (who read this):  you weren’t perfect.  Shocker!  Let me start with you.  Do you know that I watched you having devotions every morning?  In your failures, you sought God, you prayed.  You stayed in pursuit of God, even when you weren’t perfect.  That is a gift.  You read stories to me of Jesus.  You had me practice.  You were faithful, through the storms.  You had me read, a lot.  You made me go to church, to youth group, to missionary meetings, where I could see a real God at work.  Do I wish you would have behaved better?  Yep!  Probably about the same way my kids want me to behave better.

Now for the rest of you:  I get to play music.  I have people from multiple places around the world who listen to me and what I write.  These two things just blow my mind.  Totally unworthy, but there it is.  This past Sunday, I got to watch as 5 and 6 year old children raised their hands in worship.  Tonight, I play bass for our youth group and stand in awe of a God who is changing a generation.  I wouldn’t trade my life, my pain for anything.  GOD IS GOOD!

I share my doubts and struggles because they are voices that have ruled my life for many years.  I share my pain because I know that others are walking with me.  But those voices aren’t the only ones I hear and we are stronger as we walk together.

Please don’t feel bad for me, ever, for what I’ve been through.  Share your stories with me.  I bet we’ll find similarities.

And, I bet, if we look at Jesus and listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice in our lives, we’ll see what satan meant for evil, God meant for good.

And HE WINS!

The Power of Being Clueless

I was reading again the story of Joseph and his dreams in Genesis 37.  It is one of those moments that makes you smack your head and go, “what was he thinking?”  I have heard people talk about his arrogance, how God used his brothers to bring him down a notch or two.  He can be seen as someone who thought he was above his brothers.  After all, he gave a “bad report” about them.

Was it pride that made him give a bad report or were his brothers doing something wrong that deserved a less than positive response?  Was it temerity that caused him to share his dreams?  What would have happened if he had kept it all to himself?  What if he feared his brother’s anger and retaliation so much that he said nothing at all?

Here’s my take on this; Joseph was oblivious.  He was so clueless (though, no doubt an intelligent guy) about how others would perceive what he said.  He hadn’t developed the filter that would allow him to understand how others would take what he shared.

And it was a good thing.

He shared his dreams and God’s will was done.  He gave a bad report and God’s will was accomplished – for an entire nation.  He served, was a slave, and the lives of his family were saved.  He took what came and was made the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.

Fast forward a few thousand years to me, today.  You’ve read my posts and seen a bit of my struggle.  The underlying issue is I want to know what’s coming.  I want to know why I face my issues.  I want to know what doors will be opened and when.  All these questions that I want answered.

But I’m clueless.

In light of what Joseph went through, not a bad place to be.

Charge!

I am tired.  Overly so.

I’ve been sick for the past  week and a half.  I still am working 50+ hours a week.  Worship was great this past weekend but also exhausting.  I am “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.”

Now it feels a bit melodramatic for me to quote this concerning my life of relative ease, but I’m feeling it.  Family, finances, future are huge concerns that seem to weigh on me every day.

And I know I’m not alone.  Many people wonder what is going to happen next, politically, in the world, at schools and jobs.  No one is exempt from wondering how everything is going to get paid for.  And, every family has their nut cases.  Now you’d think that I wouldn’t be worried about that one, since I’m the nut case but imagine the pressure I must feel in trying to protect and guide my children away from my socioneuropathy (I made that word up I think).

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

We don’t lose heart.  No matter what happens to our outward body, Jesus, as we fix our eyes on Him, is renewing us day by day.  And in us, God is achieving an eternal glory.  A beauty and power that will out shine our darkest days.

I’m not willing to walk timidly into my day.  I am not cowed by the circumstances and trials.  God is working a victory in me, in you.

Charge!!!

My Shield

“Take up the Shield of Faith!”

I have heard this in many sermons and books.  We have cute little costumes for our children and muddled ideas in our heads.

“Take up the Shield of Faith!”

How do I “take up” an idea so elusive as Faith?  What kind of protection is a faith such as mine?  And just so we’re clear, this is the one piece of armor that appears to be totally mine.  It is my faith in my God that protects me from the darts of the evil one.  So why even hold up what is shaky and weak at best?

The shield that Paul is referring to in Ephesians was probably the shield that came to be known as the door shield, interestingly enough.  It was a large shield, two feet by four feet, made of heavy would covered by animal hide and then iron.  In the Roman phalanx, it became an almost impenetrable wall that nothing could get through.  It only worked well in the phalanx since this was dependent on the group all sticking together and becoming, virtually, a moving fortress.

So wait, let me get this straight.  The shield carries the idea that it protects against what would try to get in and works only when we stick together.  So my faith, what I protect myself against the lies of the devil with, is a door that I can open or shut that was never intended to be worked out by myself.  But how do I define, develop, build this shield so that it is functional and powerful?

By asking the questions.  “What do I believe about God?  Who do I think that God is?  What has Jesus done for me?  How does He see me?”  Questions like this and the answers that we find in the Bible are what build and develop our faith.  And, to clarify once again, answers to these questions that don’t come from the Bible will define our faith too, and are the reasons why so many of us have such weak shields.

Hold on!  Then my faith doesn’t come from me alone.  It is developed by what God reveals Himself to be through scripture and my relationship with Him.  My faith, what I am protected by, is the sum of all my failings and victories, confusion and resolution, doubts and answers that I have seen in my walk with my Lord.  How He has brought me through, the truth that I see as He has lead me.

So maybe it is not just my faith, but His Faith in me that work together to protect me, that serves as a door to my life.

What will I let in?  What has He let in to move me, grow me?  And, do I believe what He says?

He already has said He believes in me.

The Breastplate

The Kardiophylax as it was called in ancient times is far different than the ideal we have of medieval armor.  The breastplate that Paul had in mind, when he spoke of them in Ephesians, was a round plate the simply covered the heart.  The name means “heart-guard.”  So, in other words, he was saying, “Guard your hearts with righteousness.”

I have heard people, over the years, talk about being covered by God’s righteousness.  Protecting our hearts, not with our own righteousness, but with His.  But again, I see a partial truth in this.  I guess I’m being convicted of my own responsibility in life.

I remember when I played football I was given equipment.  The shoulder pads belonged to the school, as did the helmet, the jersey, the cleats, everything.  But it was mine.  It stayed in my locker, that also belonged to the school.  I had to wash it and ask for repairs when it was broken.  It was mine and I wore it that way.

Do we so much look at whatever is good about us as being God that we accept our weakness as our own?  I can’t accept that the ever-present fact of my weakness is the reality when I am clothed in His righteousness.  I am strong because I have made His righteousness my own.

And don’t think for a second that I consider myself perfect, sinless, even Godly apart from Him.  But if I separate myself from His righteousness, I formulate excuses for my behavior.  And that just won’t fly anymore.

The breastplate was designed to protect as you moved forward.  It had no protection if you turned your back to the enemy.  So as I move toward the high calling of my Lord, my heart is covered, kept in tact by His righteousness alive and well in me.

The heart of the warrior moves me to LIVE THIS!

Salvation

Ephesians 6 and 1 Thessalonians 5

“I just got saved!”

“Are ya saved?  Are ya washed in the blood of the Lamb?”

Those who aren’t “saved”, who don’t attend church regularly or listen to Christian radio, podcasts, television, or get flyers in the mail don’t know what we’re talking about.  I don’t think many of us do.

Our thought goes like this, “I was lost in sin, dying – no, already dead – separated from God.  Then, I accepted Jesus into my life and was snatched from the fires of hell, cleaned up and given to God.  Saved.”

Whew!  I am so glad that this is true.  But it isn’t the end.

It is interesting to me that over and over again in Psalms David praises God for salvation.  He was saved from many disasters, his own bad choices, enemies, betrayal.  In Ephesians 6, Paul talks about the Helmet of Salvation.  Then, in 1 Thessalonians 5, he talks about the helmet of the HOPE of salvation.  We are admonished to work out our salvation.

I am not arguing for either side of the eternal security issue, whether praying the prayer of salvation seals you for all time.  I’m talking about what do we do with the fact that God saved us.  It is apparent to me that it is not a one time event as we suppose.  I’m saved, check it off the list.  Our salvation is a defense and, I would suggest, a weapon that we are supposed to use every day of our lives.

Are you stressed?  Remember, wrap your mind around your salvation.  Are you attacked?  Think on, meditate on your salvation.  Are you depressed?  Let the salvation of the Lord renew your mind.

God didn’t save us and then leave us.  He walks with us every day.  Our salvation wasn’t just a one time gift (though what a gift it was).  It is ours for eternity to use, to hold on to, to rest in.  To GLORIFY God for!

Mighty Man of Valor

The nobody was found threshing grain in a winepress, hiding for fear of what the enemy would do to him.  His first words in return were complaints, questioning the goodness, the presence of God in his life.  His first act was to buy favor from God that God had already, freely, given, that the angel burned up with the touch of his staff, I might add.  His first act of “heroism” was to desecrate the gods, the idols, of people of his town.  Maybe even the gods that he had been worshipping up to this point.

I have been called a man of valor.  So have you.  Persons of valor, should we choose to be gender neutral.  But what do we do in reality?  We hide from our enemy.  We work out formulas, gimmicks, tried and true methods of praying down strongholds and breaking off chains, developing support groups, fasting and attempting to coerce the God of the universe to move on our behalf.  But we have been called, already it is declared over our lives, to be mighty, to have valor.

Tony Stark is confronted with his greatest challenge.  But first he asks to give him a suit of armor, um, just like the one hanging there in front of him.  Captain America is embattled and stops to send a message back to the scientists to give him strength.

No, no, no, no….

I feel so inadequate to put this into words.

You are mighty.  You are brave.  Act on it.  Praying for strength to face a temptation that you really want to cave into is messed up.  Asking God to protect you from satan’s schemes and the evils of this world is backwards thinking.  You have your armor.  You have the strength.  The Holy Spirit is alive and well inside of you.  Rise up in courage, fearless in your faith.  And though you fall, get up again, and again, and again.

My body can be hurt, killed, destroyed beyond recognition.  But my soul can never be defeated, will never be subdued.

What is strange to me is that there are those who will not, WILL NOT yield to God, living their lives in service to satan.  They are conquered by their enemy, the one who hates beyond reason or intellect, the one who would torture, would destroy every particle of their lives.  Their souls, their spirit defeated with no one to defend them.  But God would ask us to yield to Him, in essence turning the field of battle over to the unconquerable King, who then asks us to join His forces as we route our foe.

We yield and He sets us free.

Amazing!  Too wonderful to believe!  Too much for my heart and mind to understand!

Jesus, work on me till I get it!