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.

Why Must We Suffer?

We are in the throws of raising twin baby girls.  I’ve been working a lot of third shifts and no one in the house is sleeping very much (I get more than anybody).  We’re a bunch of zombies and cranky zombies at that.

Why?

It seems like a loving God would make children sleep more, at least more consistently.  And twins!  That’s just cruel.

But it got me thinking.  I love my wife more than anybody in the world.  And, in large part, that’s because we’ve been through hell and back together.  We have suffered, even at our own hands, but done it together.

I think that the reason children are so difficult to raise when they are first born is because it immediately binds our hearts to these little blessings.  If it were easy, if we had a nanny, if we ignored their needs, the strings that tether us to each other would be weakened and easily broken in the storms ahead.

I’m pretty sure that’s why God allows suffering in the world.

I’ve heard so many using that argument to prove He doesn’t exist.  I’m pretty sure that it proves His existence and the type of God He is, that he puts us in a crucible that draws us to depend on Him completely and never want to stray from His side.  I’m pretty sure that we see Him more clearly and love Him more because of the suffering He allows.

Yeah…

No doubt!

The Dust of Managua

We came back from Nicaragua this past weekend.  I have since walked through airports, through streets, through work and my home but I can still see the dust of Managua on them.

I don’t ever want it to go away.

You of course can’t see this but as I typed those last words I stopped for a minute.  

I’ll never be the same again.  I’ve breathed the air and felt the heat of the sun.  I’ve washed in their water and eaten their food.

And I’ve talked with the people.  

The children, the precious children have invaded my heart.  Their hunger for Jesus, their poverty and sorrows, their laughter and yes, in some, their anger have wrecked me.

It is good.

We go through life unaffected by those around us.  We see them but don’t know them, often don’t even want to know them.  And this is wrong.  It is just wrong.

We are made in the image of God and part of that image is love.  We have taken that off our hearts in the attempt to protect ourselves, to shield our souls from the dangers of this world.  And we are worse because of this.

The dust of Managua will fade from my shoes.  The memories will fade and life will go back to normal.  It is part of our humanity.  It is part of living.

And the only real solution is to let the memories change me.  Let them make me risk again, open my heart again, love again.

Don’t Quit

As my head emerged from the water, I knew I was in trouble.

Stupidity, meanness had brought me to this place of cold and death.  Pride and humiliation had combined to make me step off the bank into the icey depths.  But, I don’t think I thought about dying until I resurfaced and saw them standing on the bank.

It dawned on me then that my brother had maybe been in the same situation all those years before.  He had stepped into a November river, been shocked by the cold, and then died.  Maybe he saw us figuratively standing on the bank.  He certainly died alone.  Maybe he saw nothing but his pain.

For me, the sight of my children there, watching me die, was enough to bring me back, to not submit to numbing lethargy, to not give up.  I swam back to the bank and pulled my soaking wet, frozen body out of the water.

I know God gave me strength.  I know I had a choice.

I think maybe there is someone out there who needed to hear this story today.  Someone addicted, someone struggling with pride and fear, with stupidity and anger, that just needs to hear, “Don’t quit!”

Pride and fear, being stupid and mean toward others are forms of quitting.  So is giving in to addiction.  Love, courage, understanding, humility, kindness, they take work,strength that is beyond our human frame.

God will give you strength.  You will have to choose.

I know I need Him every second of every day.  I know I have a choice, every second of every day.  So I say to you, and to myself.

Don’t quit.

Let God Write The Story

I know a man who has failed time and again.  He is so sure of his failing, he can not allow success.  If things are going well, he simply forces failure on all he is trying to accomplish.

Let God write the story.

I know an old man who has betrayed his wife, his children, many times. The guilt and condemnation he feels over all the hurts he has caused, the overwhelming shame that darkens every day, tell him he can not be loved.

Let God write the story.

The woman who had an abortion so many years ago.

The teen awaiting sentencing.

A child bound in slavery of a type no one should ever face.

Let God write the story.

We don’t believe that He is, sometimes.  We want to help Him.  Maybe just skip ahead to the good part.  Or just read the last page and close the book.

But, if we let Him, He can write something amazing.

It will have pain.  It will be terrifying at times.  It is a God story after all.

Don’t grab the pen.  Don’t rip out the pages.  Don’t speed read over the details.

It’s a good read, a beautiful picture.  Let it capture you.  Let Him capture you.

Let God write your story.

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.

“I am only a man…”

I’m not sure if it’s true, but the saying is, “the greatest trial of man is the praises of the people around him.”

I stopped at the library yesterday to read books and play with my grandson. He was having a tough day and just needed to get out of the house. While we were there, I saw one, then two, then several of the kids that go to our church. I am their worship leader so I often have children coming up to me, some that I don’t even know.

Children are such loving creatures. They were delighted to see me and let me know that they knew me. Their smiles were so beautiful as they let me know that I go to their church. We talked a bit and then they moved on to wherever their minds and a building full of books would take them.

I love to see them, to talk with them, hear their laughter, be blinded by their smiles, but I am joyfully reminded that I am only a man. In Acts 9, Peter refused the reverence of Cornelius with those words. And inside, I refuse the temptation to think that I am something more than I am.

As worship leaders, as ministers to the church, we can hear the affirmation of those around us and see ourselves as “above” them, more important, special, blessed by God. We are blessed to serve as we do. But it carries a weight, a responsibility that we can not carry and don’t deserve.

It is a great place to be where you love what you do. It is sweeter still to rest in the hands of the one who placed me there, knowing that it is His glory that is evident, not mine.

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.

Laish

Of the tribes of Israel, there is none that leaves a blacker mark than the tribe of Dan.  Interesting that the name means “Judge” but I’ll leave that for another post.

Israel was sent into the promised land to clear out the inhabitants because of the evil they were doing.  Sexual immorality, greed, child sacrifice being high on the list of their offenses.  But there appears to be one notable exception, the town of Laish.

I don’t know much about them, their practices, their religion.  The bible tells us that they were quiet and secure, and had wealth.  It would seem that, from the narrative, that they were to be left alone.  But to Dan, a tribe that had forsaken God, they were a gold mine.

We know that Dan had not “come into their inheritance” yet.  Seems an innocuous statement but it reveals a complacency, a lack of faith.  Israel had been told to go in and possess the land.  They had been there many, many years at this point.  And yet Dan still didn’t have their inheritance.  It can be surmised that this was due to their lack of faith.  The area that was allotted them was “too difficult,” so they went looking for another.  They wanted an easier prize.

Our struggles with addiction, our anger with God over “not coming through” smell a lot like the tribe of Dan.  And the evil, the sad horror of the sins we commit as we take the “path of least resistance” mar the name of Jesus and separate us further from His will.

What seems impossible to you?  What exhausts you just in thinking about it?  What feels so overwhelming that you can’t bear the weight of it?  Know that you have a choice.  Know that you want what only God can handle.  And know that, everyday, innocents die when we choose to not step out in faith.

It may sound like I’m condemning.  To my shame, I spent 40 years addicted to pornography.

This is a battle cry!  Fight!  Go save them!  Stand up!  Live!  That is the life of faith.

I Am the GREATEST!

Humans, particularly musicians, are walking contradictions.  Monumental insecurities followed by and mixed with untenable pride.  What are we thinking?

What am I thinking?

I work with children and so have a constant reminder of who Jesus says are the “greatest in the Kingdom.”  Most of the time, I see their fears and constant search for something to build themselves on.  I see their amazement at insignificant details and boredom with so much that I think is important.  And I come to the end of myself.

The truth, the sure truth is that I don’t know who I am.  I can not tell you how important I am to the accomplishment of God’s plan on this earth.  I can not see the power He has placed in me.  I can’t touch the heavens or plumb the ocean depths.  I don’t understand.  I can’t….

But He knows me.  He sees.  He understands.  He can.  He is the GREATEST!

If I spend too much time on trying to figure this out, reason it out, see the plan, make the deal, order my day, I become God.  If I rest, if I trust, if I look to Him, He becomes God to me.  I can find my place and know His presence in my moments.  What I consider essential falls before His majesty.  What I build my life on shatters in the storm of His might and glory, the end of me, the beginning of Him in me.

What awe and wonder, excitement and peace are ours when we take our eyes off ourselves.

I am not the Greatest, but I’ve met Him.