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.

Are You Pregnant?

How many know that when a kid asks you this question…

And you’re not…

And you’re a guy…

It may be time to start eating less and exercising more?

Now she was just a little girl.  She had seen me leading worship for a while and I think was actually trying to be nice.  That doesn’t make it better.  It really makes it worse.

When I was a kid, I was always the smallest.  I couldn’t get bigger no matter how much I ate.  I started lifting weights and running and could not gain any muscle, any bulk to save my life.  I graduated high school weighing 130 pounds and looking like a concentration camp victim.  By the time I went into the army I had grown a couple of inches taller and now weighed a whopping 140 pounds.  I ate like crazy but still could not gain any significant weight, still was smaller built, wiry and tough but still one of the smallest guys in my unit.

Then I got married.

Weight gain is not the issue anymore.  Now I’m pregnant.

Life is so full of twists, turns, things that we don’t see coming, things that sometimes don’t make any sense.  We can try and try to change things, change who we are and end up disappointed, angry, bitter, depressed.

Or we can laugh.

And yes, I mean laugh when we lose our job.  We can laugh at injuries and sickness.  We can find the humor in devastation.  See the amazing miracles that make any of us survive.  We can even laugh in the midst of divorce, abandonment, great sorrow.

It isn’t an Effie Trinket style, “smile and the world smiles with you” attitude.  It is a choosing to see the blessing, the gift, the silliness, the ridiculousness that is life.

And really, I do look kind of pregnant.

Where do we go from here?

He walked alone from the shop in that part of town that no “good” people talk about.  He watched the movie, looked at the magazines, stared at the pictures on the walls.  And now, he walked alone.  He walked in shame.

Where would you go if you were him?  What would you do now?

I talk to so many people, so many well meaning people, that have a thousand answers for what he should do.  He should give up, it’s just what guys do.  He should find a new relationship that “satisfies” him more.  He should go to church, join a group, pray a prayer, listen to music, think about what he’s doing.  And that’s just a short list.

There are good and helpful things on this list.  There are things that need to be done.  And this doesn’t just apply to guys addicted to porn.

In Exodus, the people of Israel were told to go into the promised land.  But then they heard the spies report.  “There are giants.  We’ll all be killed.”  And the people rebelled and refused to go in.  Then God rebukes them and says they will all, all that rebelled, die in the desert.  Then they’re sorry.  Please forgive us, they say.  We’ll obey you now, they say.  But God told them no.  They went anyway and many died in the battle that occurred.

The long and the short of this problem is that they, and we, are trying to fix ourselves.  Jesus died on the cross to set us free from the power of sin and death.  He came to give us life, “and life more abundant.”  We go our own way and the only solution to the problem is to stop going your own way.

Couples divorce because they fight and there seems no way out.  Teens run away because they hate their parents control and there seems no way out.  And people remain bound to sin because they can not fix themselves.

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Stop making your own decisions.  Stop finding your own way.  Stop listening to every voice that shouts in your ear.  Seek His face.  Seek His will.  Find Him again and let Him choose your paths.  He can heal.  He can restore.  He will help you.

And you’ll know where to go.

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.

“Without delay he called them…”

This is only a small part of what Mark 1 talks about but it jumped out at me.  It could be worded another way, “Without hesitation, he called them.”

I often wonder why God picked me.  I know that, right now, I’m writing.  I’m speaking out for Him, sharing LIFE with others.  But, I’ve spent most of my walk with Him just being a punk.  When He first called me, I fought Him tooth and nail, cussing at Him, telling Him “no”.  And now, by the age of fifty-one and in the world’s eyes, I’m past my prime.  I should be thinking about retirement, taking it easy and dying.  I shouldn’t even be trying to minister, that’s a younger man’s game.  And, I’ve been told, no one wants me at this point.

Maybe you’re hearing those types of words too.  “You’re divorced.  God doesn’t use divorced people.”  You’ve been in jail, God can’t use you.  You aren’t a virgin.  You aren’t smart.  You aren’t pretty.  You aren’t successful.  You have no money.  The list goes on and on.

And yet you are a christian.  You have put your faith is the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  And though you get afraid sometimes, you believe that God loves you and you trust Him.

Do you know that God did not look at you and wonder whether you would be worth the monumental investment He was about to put into you?  Do you know that God looked at you and without hesitation said, “This one is MINE!”  Do you realize that He sees your end from the beginning and knew everything about you before it ever occurred and still chose you to be His child?

Yeah, I need reminded too.

What Happens Inside?

The lottery millions soar.  Your friend gets divorced.  A teen commits suicide.  Thousands across the world die of starvation.

There may be no outward response to situations like these.  And often, because of our experience or the relative distance there may be no inward response either.  But make no mistake, something happens.  And to top it all off, you, I get to decide what happens.

Examples:

The lottery soars.  Do you go buy a ticket?  Wish you could buy a ticket?  Dream about what you would do with the millions?  Allow the seed of bitterness to touch on your finances, God’s provision?  Question the goodness of your Savior?

Your friend gets divorced.  Do you chalk it up to the world, our evil days?  Do you wish you could dump the spouse that you argue with?  Allow guilt to seep in about all you didn’t do?  Put up a wall to keep a fallen brother or sister distant?  You may not know that you’ve even responded in these ways but you do notice your hardened heart, a closure in you spirit.

A teen commits suicide.  Do you fear for your own children?  Do you protect them, control them, hinder them?  Do you question their commitment to God?  Condemn their inability to deal with life, problems, reality?  Do you fear your own inability to cope, to see a way through your present?  Do you blame their parents, their choices, their schools, their peers?  

Thousands die.  Do you develop phobias and compensate for them?  Do you allow yourself to be desensitized to their needs?  Cocoon your heart and mind from the pain of SEEING their suffering?  Trash the cries for help, the pleas for money?  Do you settle?  “I’ve done as much as I can.”

I’m asking myself these questions.  Not to condemn myself, though that may not be entirely inappropriate.  But I wonder, is what happens inside of me the same thing that happens inside my King?  Do I respond to those around me the way my Savior would?  It will cost me.  It will hurt.

But what happens inside of me if I won’t let them in?