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.
Can I believe what I want to about Jesus? Can I make Him my own? Does it really matter how or what I believe, as long as I am sincere?
I think it does.
In the human body, in cells, in life there are things that create what I call a dynamic equilibrium. Electrolytes, proteins, fluid, oxygen, and many other things are constantly flowing in and out of cells. Too much pressure on bones and they break, no pressure and they atrophy. Nutritive intake is a balance needing levels of salt, sugars, proteins, fats and a wide variety of micronutrients. An excess of any one part of this creates an unhealthy organism. Too much exercise is bad, too little is bad. Fun without discipline has adverse effects, as does discipline without fun.
What does this have to do with beliefs about Jesus? What is the dynamic equilibrium where God is concerned?
We know God is love but is that all we need to know about Him? He is holy. He is truth. He is so many things that if looked at broadly shows a perfect tension that must be maintained for us to have an accurate idea of our King. He is sovereign but He allows free will. He intervenes in humanity and yet allows evil to continue. He lives inside us but is too big for the universe to contain.
I spend time enjoying certain attributes of God, tasting certain evidences of His goodness. But He is more.
And though I can never fully KNOW Him, it matters to me and to Him that I know Him well.
It’s not that I want to degrade what scripture says or think that my wisdom supersedes the truths of God’s word. I just want to make it personal….
So, I cover my head with the gel of salvation. Not as an ornament, a decoration, but as a protective layer between my mind and what is shouted at me from the world. My feet are fitted with the boots of the Gospel so that I run and dance and move to bring the Light of Jesus to a lost and broken world. All that I am, all that I carry is held by a buckle that proclaims God’s truth, whether I like it or not, in the face of the lies of the enemy. I plug in to my amplifier of faith that stand between me and the voices of doubt and fear. In His truth, by His word, I can declare that He is to be trusted, His promises do not falter. And I raise up my guitar of the Spirit, my voice that proclaims what God has declared in His word. I fight against the hosts of hell with God’s gifts and armor. And through Him, I can not be defeated.
Saul tried to clothe David in armor that did not fit him, tools that would only hinder him as he stood before the giant. God does not clothe us this way. He fits us uniquely for our calling in this world and we stand ready, not because of formulas or cliched ideas but because He has made us ready. It is by His power, His Spirit that we stand under the weight of the world, the weight of our weakness and fragile souls. We stand and say, “WE CAN NOT BE MOVED.”
And the hosts of darkness run in fear because it is God who shines through us.
“Though a thousand fall at your right hand and ten thousand fall at your left, it will not come near you…”
I deal, daily, with children who have lost their fathers. Some to sexual sin, some to alcohol, drugs, fear, anger, bitterness. Some have died in war, senseless accidents, disease. I get to see, first hand, their hurts, their brokenness, the fear that reveals itself in so many ways.
Has God gone crazy? Has He forgotten us? Why are these children hurt so deeply, so permanently through no fault of their own.
And just to be clear, some of these children are no longer children.
Can I take a simple message to deal with the age old argument of pain and God’s sovereignty? I don’t think so. The arguments are too complex and emotions run to high for platitudes and cliches. But I can tell you this. God has not abandoned us or neglected His duty, His promises.
We sing a song called “Light Up the World (Desperation Band)” that contains the line, “I’m gonna believe that churches will become Your hands and feet.” I know that God has not abandoned His children because I’m still alive. You’re still reading this post.
See, we can say that nothing can be done to help all the hurting in our world. We can say that it is too much to ask for me to lay down my life for the cross of Jesus. But, that doesn’t heal the losses, the torment. We can say that we are too ruined to be of any use, to bring any healing, but that won’t mend our hearts or stop the bleeding.
God made us to be His Body. His blood runs through our veins. His thoughts course through our neural pathways. And we are alive. This is such a gift, such a responsiblity to not look at each day in the light of what will happen to me, but to see it as an opportunity to affect our planet. To be light, to be salt, to bring truth, to bring love, what an amazing adventure He calls us to.
I would like to say that the problems in my life have a deep psychological meaning, that they stem from the abuse that I experienced as a child or financial struggles that I face today. It would be convenient to say that the distance I feel with God is due to fatigue or the stress put on me by my family. But the reality is I’m a sinner.
My title for today is intended to be a play on words associated with the book, “Where is God when It Hurt.” It is not intended to disrespect that book or the very real hurts that many experience and cope with.
But that isn’t my problem. I just seem to do the wrong thing over and over again. I am blessed by God and know His presence so closely that I sometimes sense His physical touch on my shoulder, my heart. He has healed so many hurts from my past bringing forgiveness and new life. And yet, I still fall.
Does He leave me during these moments of weakness and failure? Does He stand back and “tsk, tsk”, shaking His head in disappointment that I can’t get things right? And why did He choose me to be His child, His son, when He knew I’d be this way?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. I know He must let us go to walk on our own like a parent takes their hands from a toddler, knowing it will fall but knowing more that it will never walk if it doesn’t fall. I think there is an element of disappointment in my wilfulness and self-serving independence. But there is, more so, an element of pride and joy over my tenacity and daily return to Him for strength and purpose. And, though I truly don’t know why He chose me, I can rest in the fat that He did. He knew everything and still scooped me up into His arms and called me His own.
He promised He will never leave me or forsake me. He will never leave you. He is right there with you in the storm. Even when we’re stupid.
When I started out with Jesus I had this idea of what I would look like later in life. I knew who I would marry and the children we would have. I believed that I would train horses and work on a farm or camp setting. It would have to be outside because there was no way I could stand not seeing sunshine or feeling the wind on my face. I would be an evangelist that spoke to large crowds and droves would come forward at my altar calls. I would sing and write songs that sold millions with people all over the world knowing my name. I am so ashamed to write this down and since this is a blog and not a book I will stop there. You get the idea.
Wow, I was supposed to be great!
I did not marry the girl. My children do not look like or act like how I envisioned. I have not trained a horse in 20 years. I work in an environmentally controlled setting where I may not see the sun for days during the winter and only feel the wind when I walk out the door. I have never spoken to large crowds and have led only a handful of people to my Jesus. I have written songs that very few people have heard and have yet to sell one of them. And I’m a nobody.
But here is a good place. Oh I see that my “dreams” didn’t come true. I didn’t dream big enough. My plans all failed because I had me at the center. God’s plans worked out just fine.
My wife is so precious and better than I ever could’ve hoped for. My boys are taller, stronger, more talented than I could’ve imagined. My daughter has a heart, a compassion that takes my breath away. I am involved in research and get to lead kid’s in worship. I belong, key word belong, to a church that teaches the truth and lives for Jesus and His kingdom. And I am priviledged to be allowed to share my life with you.
I am convinced that the critical issue for people that would follow God is not what we will do, what we will accomplish for Him. There is so much dissatisfaction, so much disappointment in following that motivation. The addictive behaviors that ruled my life for so many years were really the result of wanting to do more, wanting to be more and knowing that I could never measure up (hence the need to “feel better”). What has brought healing and life to my crusty old soul was coming to a place where I am content. Content that I am loved and that God will do what He wants with me. Content to serve Him and be His child. Content to let Him be God!
I’m not sure how I got here. I know I’ve got other places I still need to be. But Lord, this is good!
I have been overwhelmed and grateful for the responses to this blog as people have poured out their sympathy for me and the struggles that I’ve gone through. My concern for this, and I am concerned, is that you’re not hearing what I am saying.
I know, I know. A good author should let the words speak for themselves. The message each person gets will be and should be different as God speaks through what I say to give a particular word or thought that pertains individually. However, the commiseration is unfounded and I would like to clear the air on this.
What did I lose by walking this path with my Jesus?
1) Self-reliance – I am not nor will I ever be adequate to handle what comes my way. I should never again tell Him, “I got this. I’ll take it from here.”
2) Fear – Because I am not dependent on me, or man, life’s circumstances, fate, I have nothing to fear if something goes against what I had planned. I “rest in the shadow of the Almighty”.
3) Condemnation – God doesn’t look at me like, “why aren’t you doing better? Why can’t you do anything right?” He actually looks at me with pride and joy (even still, this is hard to believe) because of my heart for Him. I am His child.
4) Hatred/Bitterness – I don’t have to react to what people say or do to me. This is tied to fear and condemnation because my defensive reaction to those stimuli illicited the response of hatred. I can love because I am free to love. Fear and condemnation bind me, enslave me to addiction, to selfishness, to confusion.
I have lost nothing in this fight except the years I wasted doubting my Lord. But even those are redeemed as I rest in Him today.
Soon after the military I got married and we began having children. Our first was a little girl and within the space of 5 years we had added 3 rowdy boys. I was also going to school full-time, working and involved in church. A full roller coaster for the beginning of a marriage.
I tell you this, not to share all that was good and bad about those years, but to give a backdrop for where I was spiritually. So much going on, so many blessings, struggles, adventures, stresses but it wasn’t enough, never enough.
I also began applying for pastor positions with depression and anger following each rejection, each “unanswered” prayer. Nothing was enough, no one was enough and I so often turned on God questioning His concern for me, His trustworthiness. This pattern has continued for many years. Many, many years.
I knew the gifts that God had given me. I had a good understanding of my level of intelligence. Being a father and husband had both bolstered my confidence and humbled me in ways that no other experience can. But I was incomplete. I held a place of emptiness that nothing could fill, nothing could take away.
How can a person accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord, walk with Him, pray and believe in God’s sovereignty over all and yet live in a way that demonstrates little but fear and self-reliance. I have heard so many times the phrase, “Jesus is not Lord at all until He is Lord of all.” But in my heart I knew that, more than my confessions of Him and more than my broken dreams, He was my Lord. Somehow, there was a disconnect.
Please don’t misunderstand, during all of this time, I continued to lead worship, bible studies, teach sunday school and encourage youth in their day to day walks with God. I spoke from an honest heart of who I knew God to be. How can I worship with my whole heart, sensing His presence and honoring Him with my life, my voice, my song and still doubt everything He does.