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.

I Think He’s Dead…

No, I’m not.

I’m tired.  I’m discouraged.  I’m beat up.  I’m hurt.

BUT I’M NOT DEAD!!!

Do you realize the freedom and power in those words?  And, the pervasive truth?  The world, satan, my own flesh would like me to act as though I’m dead, to lay down, quit, give up, stop fighting the battles you’re never going to win.

But I’ll tell you a little secret.  Come closer.  I don’t want anyone to hear this…..

I’M NOT DEAD!!!  I’M GOING TO WIN!!!!

I bet you’re wondering how I can say this in the face of monumental decision catastrophes and an almost maniacal adherence to failure.  The absolute truth is, my life is not dependent on me.

Some people, probably none that would ever read this blog, charge forward knowing every decision they make is the right one.  They write books on “being a better you” and “making the most of every opportunity”.  Some even add the aspect of faith to their claims.  “Step out in faith” with the claim that you can ask for anything and God will give it to you if you have enough faith.

I’m not like that.  I’m a coward where God is concerned, and typically, only step out on faith in myself, which is ridiculous since I’ve proven singularly untrustworthy.  But God…

Another powerful set of words… BUT GOD!

God is good.  He takes this heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh.  He takes my head of stone and replaces it with something more functional also.  He takes every failing effort, every step in the wrong direction and uses it to bring glory to Himself.  He takes my striving, pitiful offerings and uses them, divides them, shares them with hearts that can weed out the useless drivel and find nuggets of love and truth.

And even if He doesn’t, hear this, listen please, I’m not dead.  He hasn’t given up on the potential that He saw in me when He called me to be His kid.  He has given me another second to live, to breathe, to touch, to speak.

He’s given the same to you.

PS:  Missed blogging for a week because of crazy work, church schedules.  My apologies.

Bitterness of the Soul

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.

If You Don’t Go With Me

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Moses was given the opportunity to get what he wanted.  He was told he could go into the “Promised Land”.  And, he could go right now.  He refused and forever forfeited his chance.  See, there was a catch.  God told him he could go but God would not go with him.  Moses, rightly, refused saying, “If You don’t go with us, we’re not going anywhere.”

Peter echoed this in the New Testament.  Many of Jesus’ disciples deserted Him on one occasion.  This prompted Him to ask His closest friends, “What about you, will you leave me also?”  Peter replied, “Where else can we go?”

I’ve often wondered at the twists and turns of life.  Why did this decision came at this time, this opportunity presented itself at that exact moment?  It was what I wanted, what I thought I needed, but could not take because of the timing.  I also sensed, rightly, that God was offering but would not be in it, would not go with me.

Does God tease us, tempt us with good?  Does He ask us to forfeit forever our dreams and desires?  Though I know He won’t tempt us to sin, I believe He does present us with options to force us to ask the questions of ourselves.  What is more important?  Who is most important?

So what if I choose to go without God?  What if I would say that I’m taking the opportunity to get what I want whether God comes or not?  I was given a picture of what that would look like.

Jar full of honey, sweet golden honey.  Inside, mixed with the golden goodness you could see feces, dead flies, undefinable floating matter.  Then I was told to drink up.  “No thank you!”  Getting what I want without God turns life to horrible, grotesque, vacuous nightmares.

But the deepest nightmares, if God is with me, become my dreams come true.  With Him, I receive, “exceedingly, abundantly beyond anything I can ask, or even imagine.”

My Whole Life is Yours

I sang these words yesterday, with a full heart, hands raised.  Today my arms are limp and my heart is heavy.  But the truth is still the same.  I am Yours, Lord.  All of me, all of my life is Yours to do whatever you want with.

Maybe it isn’t obvious, but I don’t have this thing figured out yet.  Life happens so fast.  I adapt and move, and then move again to adapt to more.  Most of the time, I feel lost, overwhelmed.  I look at the story of the lost sheep and how the shepherd goes looking for him.  I can’t help but wonder how he gets lost over and over again.

I think about Mr. Incredible when he says, “Can’t the world just stay saved, for once?”  Jesus, do you ask that about me?  Yes, my eternal life is secure in Him.  But what about my days here?  Can’t I just stay saved, for once?

Living for Jesus is not for sissies.  It is not for the faint of heart, those that desire security and comfort above all.  It is more akin to riding a wild horse and the tighter your hold on it, the wilder the ride.

One of the things I learned from training horses is that the body’s natural tendency, when stressed, is to stiffen.  Picture a board trying to move with the animal – not going to happen.  Then think of jello, oozing down around the saddle, pliable, connected.  I tend toward the board but God keeps squishing me to jello.

I don’t want to hold on.  I don’t want to be stiff, unyielding.  Crush me, mold me, touch me my God.  For I have no joy, no peace, no life without You.

http://delightfuloak.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/leahs-story/

Melodies

At the tender age of five I began my singing career.  For forty-six years I have been singing in front of people and almost all of it Christian music.  It is so easy to know the tune, know the words, know the keys to hit or the valves or the strings to push.  But to not know the God, that creates a different melody.  Each note, the tone and tenor of each note is altered by the fact that God is not in it.

Jesus came and saved me.  I sang a new song and talked with Him each day and for long times I sang in front of no one.  I worshiped, leaning on the kitchen counter, playing my guitar to the cat, dancing with my babies around the living room or up and down the stairs.  And Jesus was there, the melody was good.

I would sing for people from time to time also, wanting so much to be noticed, wanting to be heard, recognized.  The melodies were good but they were wrong.  God will not give His glory to another.  He does not share the focus with us.  So no one noticed, no one cared.

It is good for God to not let me continue that singing praises to myself.  It is wonderful that He holds me, and chastises me as His child.  What would I do if He gave me what I wanted?  “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but forfeits his soul?”  I, of course, would have liked to find out how God would have redeemed me from a popular life rather than my life of anonymity. But, would I have been saved?  He pursued me but in my lack I found only Him.  That is good.  That is my need.

I sing now for children and watch as they dance before Him.  I play and move to His movement in my heart.  Though my voice is old and I am often tired.  I find joy.  I find peace.  The melody is better than any I have known.  The harmonies of my sons, their finding of their own melodies for the king, is strong and amazing.  And, in it all, I know and am known by my King.

I give You my song of thanks.  Thank You!

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!

Be The Man!

 

Who wears the pants in your family?

 

It’s easy to look at life, at your job or ministry, your family, and question what is going on.  I spend so much of my time asking God why something is happening and what it means for my future.  I want to be happy and fulfilled in what I do.  I want to be a man of faith, a good husband, a loving father.  My family should see me as a voice of truth and reason in this crazy world we live in.

 

But all the while there is this dark undercurrent that I share with so few.  I am a failure.  I can’t do things right.  I am stupid and a disappointment to myself and my King.  He gifted me with so much and all I can do is complain, not trusting Him with everything I know that He is always good.

 

So the cycle continues, dominated by fear and anger, I push others away.  I want something so badly that I lose sight of others, I lose sight of God.  And in those moments of blindedness, I fall, I lose, I hate.

 

So what is the answer?  Is there an answer?

 

This is what I think.  My priorities are screwed up.  When I lose focus it is conjoined to putting good things above God things.  And what are the God things?  Number one is my wife.  Then comes my family.  This is not a cliche.  This is not a marriage seminar.  This is just reality.  Are things out of wack?  Then I’m not putting God first and His priorities are not defining my priorities.  And for all you pastors, leaders, ministers, deacons and elders, God does not care what you are doing as much as who you are loving.  God doesn’t care how big your church is as much as He cares about you cherishing the woman He gave you to walk through life with.

 

So be the man.  Lay your life down.  Sacrifice your life.  Give up your will, your plans, your dreams.  Trust in the God who knows you and holds you in His almighty hands.

I’m talking to you, bitter worshipper.  And God, I’m talking to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be The Man!

 

Who wears the pants in your family?

 

It’s easy to look at life, at your job or ministry, your family, and question what is going on.  I spend so much of my time asking God why something is happening and what it means for my future.  I want to be happy and fulfilled in what I do.  I want to be a man of faith, a good husband, a loving father.  My family should see me as a voice of truth and reason in this crazy world we live in.

 

But all the while there is this dark undercurrent that I share with so few.  I am a failure.  I can’t do things right.  I am stupid and a disappointment to myself and my King.  He gifted me with so much and all I can do is complain, not trusting Him with everything I know that He is always good.

 

So the cycle continues, dominated by fear and anger, I push others away.  I want something so badly that I lose sight of others, I lose sight of God.  And in those moments of blindedness, I fall, I lose, I hate.

 

So what is the answer?  Is there an answer?

 

This is what I think.  My priorities are screwed up.  When I lose focus it is conjoined to putting good things above God things.  And what are the God things?  Number one is my wife.  Then comes my family.  This is not a cliche.  This is not a marriage seminar.  This is just reality.  Are things out of wack?  Then I’m not putting God first and His priorities are not defining my priorities.  And for all you pastors, leaders, ministers, deacons and elders, God does not care what you are doing as much as who you are loving.  God doesn’t care how big your church is as much as He cares about you cherishing the woman He gave you to walk through life with.

 

So be the man.  Lay your life down.  Sacrifice your life.  Give up your will, your plans, your dreams.  Trust in the God who knows you and holds you in His almighty hands.

I’m talking to you, bitter worshipper.  And God, I’m talking to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am a Saint

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 AM A SAINT