Pushing It

I’m sick.

No, I’m really sick.

Breathing is difficult.  Head is spinning.  Photophobia.  Coughing.  Influenza.

How did this happen?  I rarely get sick.

I’ve been working as a janitor, a custodian for a church.  One of my jobs is to clean the carpets with a big extractor (carpet cleaner).  It is self-propelled.  Pull the trigger and steer basically.  Only trouble is it doesn’t go very fast.  I can’t tell you how many times I catch myself pushing it.

And do you want to know how much effect my body has on pushing a heavy machine that is set to go a specific speed.

Zero.

I have been doing that with God, with my life.  Pushing and pushing to see things happen.  Working really hard to get some where, to make things happen.  Trying to be a good husband, a good dad, a good servant, a good man.

Pushing it.

Influenza.

Broken immune system.  Fatigue.  Depression.

Today, I picked up my guitar and sang for no one but God.  I played, not to practice, but just to spend time with Him.  In my impatience and scattered thoughts, I had about a fifteen minute window with Him.

It was good.

I’ve been pushing too hard and too long against a life that won’t “get better”, circumstances that I can’t change, a past that won’t go away, a God who is immovable.

Here’s what I can do.  Be grateful for the good life I have.  Accept the circumstances of my life as a product of my decisions AND the Grace of God on me.  Forgive my past and let it go.  And ask what He wants instead of telling Him what I want.

And I can rest and cough and shiver and ache…

And heal.

Victory

I heard God speak to me this morning.  Well, I didn’t hear an audible voice, though I’m not opposed to the idea.  I just heard Him speak to my heart.

Galatians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or even imagine…”

I have often prayed for victory, victory over addiction, victory over depression, victory over anger.

Today, God spoke to me about how low my sites have been set.

See, He said He could do better than I can even imagine.  And not a little better!  He said He could do A LOT better than I can ever ask for.

I think He would like to have me ask big, dream big, live big in victory.  Then He could do more than I ask, more than I dream.  He could make my life more than what I’ve ever hoped for.

For me I think that looks like not praying to lose weight but praying that God uses me to breathe life into those who are insecure, who see themselves as something less than how God sees them.  It looks like not praying for victory over lust but praying for the freedom of all those in bondage, praying that my life and witness would be used to break the chains of any addiction.  It looks like not praying that my family would be safe and loving but that my family would burn with such a passion for Jesus that the gates of Hell would tremble when we walk into the darkness.

I can say that I’m afraid of what prayers like that would bring.

I’m going to pray anyway.

Opposite Attraction

I come to this with some fear and trembling.  So do me and your pastor and your family a favor, if you’re not going to read the whole thing, stop here.

Still with me?

Ok, good, let’s move on.

“He’s a coward,” the lie came whispering.  I was thinking about a pastor, one of my pastors, and that is what I thought.  It felt so real, so true.  I felt myself agreeing, believing it.

Now, maybe he isn’t the bravest man alive, but anybody who knows anything about the pastors at my church know that they are not cowards.  Especially when it comes to the Word of God.

So why did I think and start believing what I knew wasn’t true?  Did it make me look better, feel better about my place in life?  Or was it just from the “father of lies?”

Does it matter?

It was a lie.

What is the advantage or who gains an advantage by my belief a lie?  

We get these thoughts from time to time.  In marriage we can get them a lot.  

“He’s a bum.”

“Why did I ever marry her?”

And to these lies, and the ones like them that surround everyone I meet, I like to apply the principle of opposite attraction.

It works like this.

“That pastor is a coward.”  I pray to the opposite.  “God, I thank you for his boldness in standing for you.  I stand with him as he fearlessly lives for you.”

“Why did I marry her?”  The opposite, “thank you for bringing her into my life.”

Here’s the hard part, sometimes it isn’t actually a full out lie.  But make no mistake, a truth that leads us to hate someone is never a complete truth.

“He’s unfaithful.”

“She hates me.”

Oh precious, broken heart, be drawn to the opposite.

“Raise him up to be faithful.  I believe You are working in him to give his heart completely to You.  You are making him a man of God.”

“She is loving and blessed.  I believe You are softening her heart to love despite the hurts she has endured.  You are creating a woman of God who trusts completely in You.”

And in praying to the opposite our hearts can be drawn to the possibility of the opposite.  Our anger and fear dissipate in the presence of the God who says, “all things are possible.”  Our trust is placed in the only one we should ever completely place it in.  And the noise of all the lies diminishes.

Turmoil is replaced by peace.  Depression is replaced by power.

Hate is replaced by love.  

Get Back On

I don’t want to make excuses.  This season has just been tough.  September 10th will be forever etched in my memory.

So much of what has been in me has been sadness and hurt.  So much of what I write has been depression and anger.

Are you in a difficult time?  Has the world come unraveled?

Yeah, I get that.

My dear people, my friends, can you see God’s goodness?

A while ago, I saw the movie “Saving Private Ryan”.  In the beginning they show, in very realistic ways, what it was like when the Allies attacked the beaches of Normandy.  The chaos, the death, the horror.

The thing that has amazed me ever since is the overwhelming question of how?  How do you run off a boat into that hell?  How do you run toward gunfire that is ripping people apart around you.  Once you find a spot where you aren’t being shot, how do you move from that relative safety?  How could you, how could any sane person do what they did?

I have no idea.

But they did.

And we are called to also.

I fear for my country and what the future holds.  And in this season, I’m a bit gun shy.  I don’t want to get up.  I don’t want to move.  But I have to.  You have to.

Get up.  Move.

In Jesus name, take the hurt and fear that you carry and lay it on the cross.  Take the pain that you’ve been through and rush the guns of satan that have destroyed so much.  Stand!  Pray!

We will stand together, you and me.  And through it all, we will find again, that God has been good all along.

Do Nothing

I’m reading in Joshua, just started.

So if you don’t know the story, you’ve at least probably heard about the battle of Jericho.  The people of Israel marching around the city and finally the walls fall down.

I saw it in a different light this morning.

The story begins with Joshua sending two spies into Jericho who are hidden by a woman named Rahab.  She agrees to help them if they will in turn spare her family.  She says something really interesting.

“I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”

What amazes me is that they had all this fear but they didn’t run away.  They didn’t throw rocks from the city walls.  They didn’t attack in an effort to go down swinging.  They stood there.

Paralysis….

God used it against Jericho.

Satan uses it against us.

Paralysis through depression, through fear, through guilt and shame

Just stay still and maybe all the problems will go away.  Drink and feel better.  Do porn and feel powerful.  Drugs and feel nothing.

Comatose…

Hey, I’ve got an idea.  Are you failing, making mistakes, ruining everything?  Don’t quit!

Are you sad, lonely, afraid, filled with guilt and remorse?  Don’t quit!

No, I won’t fill you with clichés about the answer is just around the corner.  Your dreams will come true if you just push a little further, though I think there is some truth to that.

Moses pushed all the way to the border of the promised land and died.  Others have been martyred, betrayed, forsaken and when all hope was lost, they were shot to pieces.

It doesn’t change the goodness of God.  And it doesn’t change the fact that the worst thing you can do is give up.

Don’t give up!

In Defense of Judas

Oh, we hate Judas.

What a thieving, evil betrayer.

He took what he had learned about Jesus and only wanted to use it for self-advancement.  He stole from what belonged to others when given the responsibility of taking care of others.  And when it all came crashing down, he chose suicide over repentance.

What a loser!

As pastors, leaders, teachers in the church, we would never let our ideas, our goals supersede His.  We would never use our positions to get what we want at the expense of others.  We would never cling to our will when it was obvious that our will was wrong.  We would never choose to give up rather than repent.

Yeah….

And another thing, did you ever notice how Satan will use you to do something bad (and yes we do get to choose).  Then, after we have failed, he casts us off.  He shouts out the accusations, brings on the shame and guilt.

What would it feel like to know that you had sentenced the son of God to a horrible, painful death?  Would I be able to repent?

Lord, I repent right now.  I have betrayed you and wanted me more than you.  I have been angry and depressed because I put my life above yours.  I have despaired, brought death and guilt on me and my family.  Satan will not have his way in my home.  I will not have my way in this home.

You are Lord.

Cling to Me

We’ve heard the story on Easter Sundays how Mary went looking for Jesus body in the tomb.  What she was the empty chamber, two Angels and a person she thought was a gardener.  In one of the sweetest moments in scripture, we see her fear and despair turn to wonder and joy as she recognizes the voice of her Lord.

Her response was completely natural.  She hugged Him.

But He has to push her away.  I always wondered about that.

“Jesus said, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’””

‭‭John‬ ‭20:17‬ ‭MSG‬‬

I’ll admit, I don’t understand this.  The only thing I would want to do, the only thing I still want to do is hold onto Him.

Maybe you’re wondering what this has to do with Christmas.

I have friends who struggle with depression and addiction.  These are good people who are hurting deeply with seemingly no way to freedom, at least no lasting way.  There are friends who have lost brothers, children, parents, who face every holiday knowing they will never be able to see their loved one again on this earth.  There are women and children, and yes, men too, who face this season as slaves of human trafficking.

I have no easy answers, no quick fixes for these overwhelming problems.  

But I can tell you where to start.

You see, Jesus has “ascended”.  Jesus rose from the dead, conquered sin and death, and is now “seated with God”.  It is perfectly acceptable for us to cling to Him now. 

We can go to Him in worship, not just seeking an emotional high.  We can tell Him our problems.  We can open our hearts.  We can fall on our knees.

When we hurt, we close off, push people away, protect ourselves.  Jesus ascended so that we could and would cling to Him.

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.””

‭‭John‬ ‭12:32‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I know that when I get to heaven I want to spend the first million years like a kid wrapped around His daddy’s leg.  I think He is inviting me, this Christmas, to start living that way now.

Bipolar

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by episodes of an elevated mood known as mania, usually alternating with episodes of depression.

Worship leaders, worshipers in general, tend toward a spiritual bipolar disorder.  We seek the high of the presence of the Lord, the rush of His power as we lift up His name, the joy that overwhelms us as the congregation is broken and healed, hands lifted, tears flowing.

And then, we walk out the doors.  We climb in our cars and go home.  We fight with our spouses and isolate ourselves from our children. We turn to our instruments for comfort, for solace.  We look at our bank accounts, our jobs, our bills and do the math.  We go through the motions of quiet time and study.  And never, never feel fulfilled.

So we seek the next high.  Concerts, CDs, Youtube, a new job, a new high.

Life can be so difficult.  And, the medical world would seek to level those moods, shorten the swings from mania to depression.

I would question, within myself, in everything I do, I would question myself as to what is causing those swings.  What is the scaffolding that holds up the pendulum?

Do I feel a rush as I see myself praised for skills, for passion, for service?  Do I hear the words of affirmation and pin them on me?  Do I look to salve my wounds, my bruises, my hurts?  Do I wish them removed, uncleansed, untreated, unhealed?  Do I want my life more comfortable, more at ease?

Or do I simply need more Jesus?

The crash of waves that surround the holy moments of worship, in prayer, in song, are a normal result of our encounters with God.  Can you imagine meeting with the King of the Universe and being unmoved?  Can we hope to rest on the pinnacle of His touch on our lives with no opportunity to need Him again?  That would not be natural, not living.

The former leads only to hurt, for the structures that uphold it disintegrate beneath the weight of Him.  But if He holds it up, being the trussing, the lights and the sound within us, the fall will come, the waves will crash…

and we will stand.

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

If you can’t be inspired by a quote from “Cool Hand Luke,” you must be dead.

I debated the title for a bit this morning.  Should I call it “fear” or “depression”.  Neither seemed right.  What is true when we face fear, depression, frustration, defeat is that we are not communicating.

The cascade works like this:  We encounter a stress, a negative event of some kind and are forced to respond in some manner.  The typical response to an unknown, particularly one that comes as some sort of threat, is fear.  Our outward reaction may include lashing out, verbally or physically.  We may weep or become defensive.  These are the extremes of course.  We may show no outward response at all.  This can be worse for if we have no ability to respond, no freedom to express we will internalize the event.  Anger and fear turned inward cause frustration and depression.  And if event happens on top of event we can have a deterioration that has truly horrible ramifications.

I am talking scientifically about something that is so damaging to ourselves and those we love.  But we have a hope.  Peter said to, “Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you.”  I take that to mean that my God has big enough shoulders to carry my problems.  He is my Dad enough to listen to everything that I bring to Him.  Even if I say it wrong, He still hears my heart.  If I’m disrespectful to Him, He is able to correct me but still handle my fears.  If I rant and rave, He is able to perceive my intent through all the noise.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not advocating spittin’ and cussin’ at the God who spoke stars into being.  That’s just stupid.  What I’m saying is, He knows you (and me) even though we are stupid.  He sees past our flesh, our willful, sinful nature to the precious child He created.

So talk to Him.

I meant now.

Stop reading and go talk to Him.

Sheesh!