Do we ever stand amazed by the fact that God promises us. Not amazed by what He promises but by the simple fact that He promises. And He is true to His promises.
I’m not sure we get it, and this may offend some people, but God doesn’t owe us a thing.
I watched a movie that portrayed the gods of Olympus as needing our prayers, our worship. Without our recognition, the gods decay, grow old and lose their power.
It is not this way with my God.
If I pray to Him, I join myself to His will. If I don’t pray, only I lose His blessing, His purpose in my life, He is unchanged. If I sing, if I worship, He is glorified in my life, but His character, His person remains unaltered.
So, why does He promise? Why does He say that He has blessings and hope for my life? He could say nothing, let what He has done, on the cross and throughout creation, be enough. But for Him, it is not enough.
What a Father, a daddy, we live for? He wants us to know that we can depend on Him, that His thoughts are for our favor. All because He loves us. All because we are His children. He promises to prove His strength, His almighty power in our lives. He promises to prove Himself to us.
He didn’t have to. He didn’t need to. Oh, but I’m glad He did.
The once joyful, smiling little boy sat by himself in the room. His tears would not fall anymore though the loneliness, the utter, desperate loneliness was a palpable wave. It roared over him, surrounded him, crushed him beneath its suffocating weight. Daddy would not be coming home anymore.
She was a beautiful bride. Their smiles, their kisses, the warmth and joy they had felt seemed inexhaustible. Children had blessed their home and life had moved on but there wTas love, so much love. She had known that things weren’t great, harsh words, tempers, problems. But it had not prepared her for his words. “I’m leaving.” The other woman, the lies, the betrayal sent her reeling into an abyss that had no bottom, the hole she fell into closed also.
The old man lay in bed, a confusion of tubes, beeping monitors and smells that assaulted his senses and further disoriented his feeble hold on reality. He had been strong. He had worked hard and provided. He had been a father, a husband, a friend. Now, his only companions rolled him over, spoke in harsh tones, complained over his accidents (a humiliation beyond description) and then left him too. Where was everyone? Where was God?
I have no answers to these all too common issues. I could say that Jesus is the answer, which is true. But it is false, just the same. “Jesus will take away your pain. He will heal you.” True but lying in its intent. “He will not put you through more than you can bear,” quoted from scripture but so deceitful in real life.
Lay down your stones. I am not a heretic.
We make the truths of scripture, of life, a lie when we look at those truths as quick fixes, easy answers. Jesus does heal but it takes time, and faith. It is often a process where further pain is revealed. And what we can bear depends greatly on your perspective. It is also a function of failure and further attempts, unbearable initially, bearable upon revisitation.
We want the preacher to give a message that sends us home, patched up, ready to face the world. We want the show to make us feel better, good again. We want the miracles, the lottery, the breakthrough that makes our problems go away. And often they exist to cloud the reality of our journey.
You are not abandoned. God is there. Jesus did die to heal you of all your hurts and fears. But we must walk with Him. If it takes yelling and cussing, do it. HE WILL NOT ABANDON YOU! If it takes opening your heart up again, do it. HE WILL NOT ABANDON YOU! You will be hurt again. You will feel pain. Feel it. Know that you are alive. You are not abandoned.
In the end, and along the way, as you hold on to Him. You will see that He is good. His love really does endure forever. And you were not, are not alone.
We stand in a court where all are condemned. We stand before a judge who sees every motive, every flaw, every lie, every pretense. There is no jury of our peers, no technicality or loophole. We have no defense for we know as we enter, if we’re truthful with ourselves, that before a Holy, Righteous God, that we will never be good enough. Our best days, best thoughts, greatest triumphs are written on toilet paper when compared to Him.
But just before the gavel falls, we hear the simple words, “Father, this one is mine.”
It just stops me when I know this truth. I know I will write, but I sense my unworthiness, how very unfit I am, to attempt to express what this means.
“This one is mine.”
Hebrews talks about Jesus, “Who, for the JOY set before Him, endured the cross…” Not to go beyond scripture, but we should realize that He endured more than the cross. He left heaven, the throne room of His Father, to come to earth as a baby. He endured a life of hard work and discipline under the hand of a human father and mother, where kids could bully Him and tease, the indignity of colds, viruses, disease, and crushed fingers may have touched Him. But he endured. He had a goal, a prize to win.
And that prize was us. Me! You!
He considered us worth it and He still does.
We go through life wondering where He is in this mess, questioning what He will do to help us through our misery. We see the hurts of this world and the brokenness that pervades everything human and wonder how long He will allow it. But these are the wrong questions to ask.
He set us free, released us from a life of condemnation. The question should be how long are we going to allow the brokenness, the misery. How long will we wait before we realize that there is an answer to every need, a victory for every defeat.
1. My thoughts, my actions, my replies, my joys, my hurts, do they mirror my Jesus or my world? Next time you see something bad happening, something you react strongly to, consider your response and see if it looks and sounds like Him.
2. Despite what political pundits, doomsayers, rebels and rappers say, what do you see when you look at the world? I’m not a pollyanna. I don’t believe in the “power of positive thinking.” But, I do believe in a God who is King of kings and Lord of Lords. He is not thwarted by bombs or laws. He remains unchanged despite all human agendas and natural catastrophes. He does not bow to the greatest leaders of any era or bear the commands of any power in the universe. But, they do bow to Him. And He is good. HE IS GOOD! His love endures forever. He can be trusted. And He has put so many beautiful things here for us. Do I see them? Am I even looking for them?
3. When things go wrong, when I fail, when all seems lost, where do you run? And, I do mean run, move quickly, pursue without a thought for the consequences or repercussions. We all run somewhere. Alcohol, romance, pornography, work, music, drugs, church, Jesus, gods, Satan, hate, bitterness, the list goes on. All places to run to where we demand, we make proclamations, we decide the outcome. Oh yes, you can run to Jesus with the idea of Him making you feel better. You can go to church to get your fix of feel good. What we are called to is the cross. We are told to bring everything, our desires, our hopes and dreams, our failings, our lives and lay them at His feet, lay them at His cross. “I am crucified with Christ and I know longer live…” A shout of triumph over all that would hold us, all that would enslave us. But we seldom go there when we feel lost and defeated. We rarely look to that serpent lifted up when the poison of this life has entered our veins. But we can. We must.
“Daybreak” by Matthew Hawkins is available at smashwords.com. Click on this link to learn more and to order:
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.
Anger seems to be such a default response in me. Consequently, I deal with depression, fear, anxiety, addiction. They go hand in hand. I constantly battle with bitterness.
I am no longer charming, or young. I never was tall or good looking. I’ve never been able to “sell” myself. I have ear rings and a tattoo mainly for one reason. I wanted to shout to the world, “accept me for me, not for what you want me to be.” And have, for most of my life, dealt with the subsequent rejection that ensued. See, I was the black sheep of my family, always in trouble. In church, I was the one who asked too many questions, raised too many doubts, didn’t take things by faith. In school, I didn’t accept authority just because of their position. Respect was something you earned from me. Friendship, trust, were things that were not given to many. What seems so laughable to me is that I was accepted by many, part of many groups, but always as one on the fringes. I was a jock but not one that excelled, in the clique but not. I was a brain but of lesser intelligence. I was a druggie that no one ever saw take drugs. I was on the fringes but too close to the cliques to be a real part of the fringe element too. Friends with everyone but friends with no one all at the same time.
So much bitterness has come from this, and I think I was not alone in this. I turn that bitterness on God. Every lost opportunity, every chance that I didn’t take, was because He wouldn’t let me in. “Yes, you can be a Christian, but I can’t really use you for anything great. You just don’t fit the mold.”
Now, the reality is that many who are in leadership are looking for a type. Young, charismatic, super-talented, years of experience wrapped up in someone who just graduated. I had been told that, even at the age of 30, I was too old. Now, some 21 years later, I am done for sure and no one will even listen to me. I have been told that, should I take a more public role, it would actually hurt the efforts to attract the younger crowd. Statistics are quoted, there is documented evidence.
And with all that, I can’t walk away.
See, the God that I serve doesn’t look on the outside. He looks at my heart. He sees past all the anger and fear and calls me to walk with Him. And He isn’t done with me yet. Amazingly, He is still in the business of using me even though I fight Him so much. He knows my issues and has decided that I shouldn’t be tossed, I have a purpose in His kingdom. I can’t fathom this because I have actually made a pretty concerted effort to get Him to reject me too. Bitterness does that.
He just continues to love me, to heal my brokenness, to hold me to Himself.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. I have a feeling that there are many, many people who feel the way I do.
Bitterness be gone. I’m choosing to trust….and rest.
Could I share with you all the thoughts that run through my mind? Would you hear me and know me better if you could see the murder, the depravity that wells up inside of me on a daily basis. I think not. I lead worship and pray with men. I am overcome by God’s presence and His power in my life. I talk with Him, hear His voice, walk with Him through my days. But still fail and struggle and wrestle and whine and pout and ….
Satan whispers in my ear, shouts to my heart, “You are a loser. You will never matter. Your life does not and will not make a difference to anyone. When you die, you will simply disappear and no one will mourn your passing or notice your absence.” He goes on for a while and I’ll not bore you with all that he says. But understand, it is a lie.
Does he say things like this to you? Does his voice of condemnation crush you with its lying truths? Do you see in yourself the hopelessness of your life and know that you have failed.
Good. We all need to be humbled from time to time.
Now, stand up. Put on your armor. Lift up your sword. Shout out this battle cry.
“I AM A SAINT!!!”
“GREATER IS HE THAT IS IN ME THAN HE THAT IS IN THE WORLD”
We are His children, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. We are not condemned for our sins were paid for on the cross of Jesus Christ. We stand covered by His blood, washed clean, filled with the Holy Spirit. Warriors of the cross that live victorious who overcome the evil one by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony. This is truth. This is the reality that cannot be removed or shaken by anything other than our unwillingness to believe it.
I’m not sure what that is but it sounds wonderful.
I run, helter skelter, through my day. I push and pull, coerce and manipulate. I believe in myself (at least part of the time) and know my potential and capabilities. I get to work early almost every day, participate in meetings, advise and pray. But sometimes I think my only motivation is that I will somehow get noticed, my value will be seen and I’ll be promoted.
I fret over every red light (even after all that I’ve prayed over and written about). I struggle so much with seeing every road block as an attack against my dreams and aspirations. I’m angered by every rude driver and exalt over every time I get in front of the pack (usually through my own acts of rudeness). I have fear about my days, my family, my job, the worship team, the church and the world.
Isaiah wrote that, “You keep him in perfectpeace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Ah, but once again, I see it, hear it, out of context. I want to think that I trust Him because I talk to Him every day. I want to believe that my mind is stayed on Jesus because I consider him, pray to him. Verse prior – “He sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.” Verse 5 and 6 then says, “For he has humbled the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. 6 The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.”
But I don’t want to be under the needy. I don’t want to be humbled and laid low. I think I’ve been pretty clear that I want to get ahead in life. I want to be successful. And all too often, I don’t want to accept my need for God’s armor to surround me. It is amazing to me that we see hear in Isaiah 26 the same use of salvation as a protector that is seen in Ephesians. I’m convinced that part of my struggle is that I lose sight of the fact that I still need salvation. That asking Jesus to come and live in me was only the beginning of saving me. I will further assert that Jesus didn’t die on the cross just to keep me from burning in hell. I was redeemed to renew the relationship God always intended between us. I was bought and paid for by the blood of my Savior so that others would know Him and love Him too.
And what is a better way to reach them than the evidence of Him living in me.
Let’s face it. We all would like to know what Perfect Peace is.
I’m driving down the highway this morning. It’s early. The sun isn’t up yet and there’s very little traffic on the road. I see him approaching, though there’s very little time between when I first notice the headlights and the beginning of him riding my bumper.
I don’t want to be that guy.
A friend of mine is in a custody fight for her children. Her ex doesn’t want the kids but he doesn’t want to pay child support either. The courts have it all worked out so that the kids are hurt, no one wins, no good will come of it.
I don’t want to be that guy.
Last night my wife criticized something I was working on. I lost my temper and spoke harshly, unlovingly to my bride of twenty-three years.
I don’t want to be that guy.
Funny that the more I stand for me, protecting myself, living for myself, the more I become like that guy.
I want to be the guy that stands up and shouts the praises of his God. I want to be the guy that loves beyond reason, beyond hope, not for what he gets but for what he has the priviledge of giving. I want to be the guy that would die for his country, unapologetically but without arrogance – American. I want to be the guy that you can trust, you can count on, you would die beside. I want to be the guy that is a good friend, a strong man, a holy warrior for the cause of Jesus Christ.
Funny, but it seems the closer I hold on to Jesus, the more I become the man I want to be.
The warriors faced each other across the battlefield. Opponents that had seen each other before and knew well each others weaknesses and strengths. This was the time. This was their battle. Quickly, they closed the gap between each other and brought their swords to the ready. With a cry our hero raises his sword and drops it to the ground. He falls to the ground and begins doing pushups, counting out…1…2…3…
That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard and yet we do it everyday. Our battle is in everyday life, the meeting, our coworkers, the internet, timelines. These are the things that test our faith, that prove our heart toward God. This is where all that we’ve trained for comes in to play. So, DID WE TRAIN?
This is my shout to me. Did you train today? Did I prepare myself for the hits I would take today? I know I did not.
I guarantee you that the 5 minutes I read the bible and the little bit of time I spent in prayer will be inadequate for my day today. And this was a good day.
I guarantee something else, when porn splashes across my computer screen it will be too late to start thinking about scripture that I should be reading.
That’s why Paul admonishes us to “put on the full armor of God.” Our worship and devotion, our service and sacrifice can win this war for our lives but we need to start before the battle is joined. Our stamina, our ability to stand will decrease if we only use it in our struggles. And make no mistake, Satan would rather deal with a couch potato than a Navy Seal Christian.
And on that, I will leave you for today. I’ve got some training to do.