I Can’t Breathe

Worship is one my favorite experiences in Christianity.  We have an awesome worship team at our church, excellent musicians, hearts that love Jesus with all they have, lights, big screens.

But lately, I can’t breathe.

I sing but I’m afraid to pour it out, to let go.

I am going through a season where I don’t have enough.  We pay the bills.  We even get McDonalds or Chick-fil-A sometimes.  But we are just surviving, no money to dream, no extra to give when we see a need.

And it’s all my fault.

I thought…

I thought.  I thought.  I thought.

But things didn’t turn out the way I planned.  Dreams I hoped for died.  And it feels like everyone has turned away from me as I lay wallowing in the ashes of those fires.

It changes worship.

“You’re a good, good Father.”  Why Lord?

“Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”  Where are you, my God and King?

Our big, fancy mega-churches with comfy chairs and temperature controlled sanctuaries can’t take away the pain of what seems like abandonment.

I think about churches around the world.  Some hiding, many so small that the world will never know they existed.  Churches where believers die at the hands of government or suicide bombers, or apathy.

I think the beauty of the bride, the church of Jesus Christ, shines from a queen, not a princess.  A princess has everything perfected for her, protected for her.  A queen stands with her King, fights beside Him, rules with Him, dares with Him, suffers and dies with Him.

Our churches can give the illusion that we are all princesses, that we are safe and comfortable as we lift our hands in praise.

But that isn’t what is real.  What is true is that many that walk through the doors can’t breathe.  Life has kicked at beaten every bit of joy and peace out of us and we can’t see a way out.

That is where our life is found.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself take up his cross daily and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Blessing will come, through the cross.  Peace and joy will come, through the cross.  Life, real life will come only through the cross.

I can breathe, through the cross.

Unity

So much divides us.

We weather the political storms.  We weather the divisiveness that surrounds marijuana, homosexuality, our favorite teams, our favorite music group, our state, our culture.

Our individuality makes us unique and sets us, intentionally against the rest of the world.

I like punk rock.

I am a Christian.

I like chocolate and blueberry and Mexican and Chinese and Thai and Italian.

What can unite this diversity?

The world will say that Jesus divides us.  He says that he is the only way.  He says that no one comes to the Father (that would be God) except through Him.  He says that He is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE.

If you don’t know Him, unity becomes difficult because we all say that we know the way.  We can define truth for ourselves.  We can determine our own morality, our own way of living.

But we can’t.  Oh my people, my friends, we can’t.

We are too selfish.

What can unite us?

It is called the cross.  He laid his life down for us, gave it up.  We lay our lives down for each other.  We love beyond reason, beyond self-fulfillment.  We submit ourselves to something greater, to something transcendent.

That is our only hope, our only bright future.

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A Fatal Beauty

I love the song by Jared Anderson called “Beauty of the Lord”.  To think of my God in the terms of a lover, to see my King as the one I want to hold me forever, to have my breath taken away by His presence, His love, are things that I want to have inside me.

But be warned my friends, His is a fatal beauty.  His beauty has, at its center, the cross of Golgotha.  His admonishment in Matthew 16:24 is not a clever play on words.  If we want to love Him and follow Him, we must take up our cross daily.  Isn’t it strange that to live in victory we must accept the cross.

A fatal beauty is someone who is so beautiful that it will break your heart.  It is someone who will cause wars to be fought, alliances to be broken, acts of chivalry and courage to rise up.  It is a beauty that should consume our thoughts, our lives.  The love that was poured out when Jesus came as a baby, took on humanity, lived with us, spoke to us, died for us, captures a beauty that goes beyond the physical.  But it is no less fatal.

My God, Your beauty is beyond what I can understand or describe in song, in poetry.  I long for the words to tell You what You mean to me but I get lost in repetitions, in cliches.

The only thing more amazing to me is the fact that in me, in us, in Your bride, You saw a fatal beauty too.

Holy!

Hágios – different (unlike), other (“otherness“)

Holiness is something we attribute to God.  It carries the idea of reverence, perfection, divine.

He is different, unlike anything else in the universe.  Trillions of stars, planets, molecules, atoms, cells, living creatures but there is only one God.  It is, in my opinion, the greatest evidence of His loving nature.  Paintings and popular culture would show a holy god as someone who would look down on all those beneath him, condemnation exuding from his icy stare.  But the reality is not the same.

His holiness can’t be assuaged, it can not be circumvented.  You can not call Him God without an understanding of His complete holiness.  But to see Him as something other than perfect love, misses the depth of His holiness.  Man’s idea, my own ideas, of perfection carry feelings of hatred, of disgust, of alienation and abandonment.  But these realities, the reality of Hell, was not birthed from God’s holiness but from rebellion, our rejection of Him as God.  Condemnation is a creation of our sin, and the pride that says, “I will set myself up as God.”

True holiness is coupled with the idea that we are not something “other”, not “different.”  We are created in His image but not Him.  Therefore, that holiness is complete only in capturing, training, redeeming what is unholy.

Maybe you are thinking that I’ve lost my mind or that this is some intellectual discussion that doesn’t matter to everyday life.

God called us to “be holy as I am holy.  Be “other” just like Me.”  And we scoff at this knowing full well that we can never be perfect.  We can’t get it right so why even try.  But I think we miss life, miss His love, miss His joy by adopting that attitude.

In my prayers today, I want to take the attitude that I CAN enter in to His holiness.  I can find His “otherness” by entering into His presence.  I can be like Him as I give myself to Him.  I can experience life by laying my life down on His cross.

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