You Won’t Let Go

I have felt so, incredibly sad lately.

And then today….

Sometimes, when you come off a good day, it can be such a let down that you lose sight of what is real.  I love our youth group, our youth pastor, our youth worship team.  And when I get home, I am practically buzzing.

I want to stay in that moment.  Those times when God is close and what is right seems possible.

But, I don’t.

I go to work in the morning and face the fight.

Today was tough.  I feel such a burden for the people around me and yet feel inadequate to reach them.  One of them has taken it upon himself to turn me away from God, wanting me to join in sex talk, rude gestures, a changed mind.  Today, he told me that he sees me as a homosexual.

I told him I see him as a Christian and accepted his challenge.  Whoever caves to the will of the other loses.

The voices in my head started in.  How I’ll lose.  How foolish I am.  How stupid.

And then God rose up.

I don’t want you to think I’m brave.  I’m not.  I don’t want you to think I’m amazing.  I’m not.

But when God rose up inside me.  I sang out.

“Even in the battle you are with me, I will not be broken in the fight.  You will go before me and behind me.  You’ll never let me go.  You’ll never let me go.” (Cory Asbury – You Won’t Let Me Go)

That’s the reality.  That’s what is true.  I will fight for the heart of this friend.

And let all hell tremble!

 

The Defensive Line

The chips are down, the proverbial crap has hit the fan, you are under attack.

Who do you run to?  Who’s got your back? 

When all hell is breaking loose in their lives, when they’ve lost hope, vision, purpose, who do they run to?

We have groups for everything; AA groups, Narcanon, men’s groups and women’s  groups, small groups, conferences and churches.

Who is your first line of defense?

I believe in accountability.  I believe in standing together in this fight we call life.  I think I just have a different take on who we should run to first.

Now the churchy answer is to say, “Jesus.”  But, for many of us, He has already provided the answer to our pleas. 

So here goes:

Husbands, your first line of defense is your wife.  I hear so much of the talk about how women can’t handle our issues, shouldn’t have to.  But who did God provide?  Your dealing with sexual temptation, business concerns, addictions, problems with no solutions.  Talk to her, open your heart to her first.

Wives, yep, he’s the one.  Your girlfriends, your bible study group, your counselor can not help you the way your husband can.  They can not bring truth, healing, life the way he can.

Young people, the TV, Facebook, your friends, YouTube, the lives of musicians, stars, sports heroes and politicians can not guide you through like a talk with your dad, your mom, grandma, grandpa.  No one, and I mean no one loves you like we do.

“Oh but you don’t know my . . .”

And the truth is, I don’t.  Our world is so broken, sin so pervasive, that the people we should trust are the last people we can trust.  People have abused me, manipulated me, hurt me.  And, that includes my wife.  I have done the same to her.  I have not often been a good dad or son.  I am human, the definition of untrustworthy.

But my untrustworthiness so often stems from my lack of vulnerability to the ones who can help me.  I can paint a picture for my bible study.  I can gloss the photo for my church.  I can get angry, cover, lie, protect myself  from so many.  They remain virtually unscathed.  It always damages the one I love most.

I want to turn it in its head.  Stand back to back, shoulder to shoulder, eye to eye with her.  I want to make her strong, let her beauty shine.  And I will never do that by hiding myself from her.

We face this fight together.  We are only safe in each other’s arms.

Side note:  please do not stay in a situation where you are being abused.  Get help, get healing, then seek restoration.

Point Man

I never did it in combat.  I was the commander’s radio operator and was usually somewhere in the middle of the column.  But in training I sometimes got to be the point man.  And, at least in training, it was something I was good at.

The point man, for those of you that are civilians, is the guy that is in front of the unit.  He has to see what is coming before it becomes a problem.  For example, I was leading a fire team through some pretty heavy brush.  I rounded a bend in the trail and saw movement.  I didn’t see a person, or the whites of anyone’s eyes.  I just saw movement that was out of place.  I called a halt and we were able to take out an ambush.

Sometimes people ask me why I want to be up front, why I want to lead worship.  Do I crave the attention?  Do I have to be noticed?  I know my heart is “desperately wicked and deceitful at all times”, but I don’t think my desires are centered around self.

I think I like being the point man.

The down side of being the point man is that the enemy will see you first, shoot at you first.  You carry the weight, the responsibility for all the lives in your unit.  If you’re good, people live.  If you aren’t, people die.  Simple as that.  

If I can lead people to worship the King of kings, people live.  If I can focus all attention on His presence, the movement of His Spirit, people live.  If I am attuned to His voice, speak and sing yielded to His leadership, people live.  And yes, I will take the shot, if it saves their lives.

As worship leaders, we face attacks that others never see.  We deal with issues and problems that others never think of.  Our prayer life has to be tightened, our time in the word more disciplined, our submission to His will more constant, or people will die.

So to my fellow point men (and women), I salute you.  “Be brave, be strong, for the Lord our God is with you.”

What an awesome privilege to serve and lay our lives at His feet!

http://youtu.be/BAGZ7c8V9SM

I Make My Stand

i had to write.  I had to write, right now.  I was sitting in church and God broke through and I just had to tell you.

In the military, they refer to “taking a hill”.  There are strategic advantages to being on a hill, particularly specific hills in a given terrain.  The problem is that if a strong enough force comes against you, they can surround the hill and there is no way to escape.  It may cost some lives but the enemy doesn’t care because, once the hill is taken, they have the advantage.  

That is what I saw this morning during worship.

I haven’t been able to do what I thought I would do.  I haven’t experienced some things that I wanted to.  But right now, on the hill of kid’s ministry, at Radiant Church, in Richland, MI, my hill is surrounded.  My kids are facing the divorce of their parents, pressures from school, the world shouting messages of compromise and fear and hate.  My kids are wondering if Jesus is real, whether there really is hope, a future.

And, just like the military, sometimes we don’t pick the hill, the hill is picked for us.  Running from the hill seems like an option, but it’s not.  The enemy will take you prisoner, the enemy will hurt you.

So I make my stand.  I am here now.  This is the fight that was brought to me.

Does this speak to anyone else?  Do you find yourself in a place of frustration, unfulfilled dreams?  Can you hear me in this struggle if I tell you to fight where you are?  Dreamers look to the future, they look for possibilities and opportunities, but miss what is often right in front of them.  Keep dreaming!  Keep believing!

But stand!  Pray!  Fast!  Speak the truth!  Love!  Worship!  Yield to Jesus!

STAND!

http://youtu.be/cAQ61KH7qRc

Reality Check

He stood off to the side with his pal, though, for the life of him, he had no idea what he was doing there.  He was no criminal, no gangster or thug.  He certainly was no cop, no undercover narcotics officer, no remote affiliation to the DEA.  He was just a man.

They had the initial meeting an hour ago and now stood waiting, reminiscing over times from childhood, when they had last seen each other, when they had last been friends.  By chance, just meeting again on this day, at the worst, or maybe the best moment.

Two goons came up and stood before them.  “Mr. Dozer wants to talk wit you,” was all they said but they were looking at him, not his friend, not the armed policeman.  They were talking to him.  The guns in their hands allowed for no argument.

With quaking heart and watery knees he followed, coming to stand before the leader.  Sinister malice poured from the man wh stared at him now.

“You got your choice.  See we don’t know you, don’t know why your here.  That makes me nervous.  So you get to choose.  I can kill you now or you can take a test.  You pass the test, I let you in my gang.”

As he spoke, the two thugs were handed clubs.

“We’ll give you a chance, you don’t have to ace this.  But every wrong answer is going to cost you.”  They all smiled, the thugs tapping their clubs meaningfully.

He knew he would be caught if he answered wrongly.  He knew that he didn’t know enough to answer correctly.  Good chance that he was dead, no matter what.  So he did the only thing he could think of.

He sent up a silent prayer.  Then, reached out and grabbed a handful of hair from the man before him.  He pulled downward as hard as he could and kneed his enemy in the face.  Then, in one fluid movement, he drove his elbow into the bas of the man’s skull and killed him.  It took two seconds, at most.

Then, as the shock of what happened held them, he turned and walked away, seeming to disappear before their eyes.

My story is intended to remind you of two things.  With our enemy, there are no right answers, you cannot escape him, cannot outwit him.  He is really only interested in hurting you.  But, as the strength of Jesus, His resurrection power, flows through us, we can defeat our enemy and his schemes.  We can walk away untouched because of the life that is in us.  We don’t need to be afraid.  

We need to fight.

Zealous

So, in Nehemiah’s day, the people of Israel are rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. They were literally working and fighting for their lives at the same time.

Baruch , son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section (Nehemiah 3:20)

Now, I would think that this would be a given, for everyone. The enemy was out there and they weren’t just aiming for Baruch. They were all in this together. So what made this one guy stand out?
Fast forward to today.
We are surrounded by humanism, satanism, witchcraft, pornograhy, gambling, divorce, infidelity, alcoholism, selfishness and so many other things. At the heart of it is a force of evil, not trying to show you a good time. The goal of satan and his allies is your death.
Where do you stand? That’s critical. Do you believe in Jesus or not?
Then, you might want to look at how you’re standing. There are people that are counting on you, looking to see who you are. They want to know who you are, what you’re made of, what you believe. And it will mean so much more if you actually believe what you say you believe.
And, on a side note, it is interesting to me that the one who is zealous is named Baruch.
Praise. I think it may be saying to us that those who really believe can’t BE anything but people who worship.
And hey, in battle, it seems to often help to stick close to the crazy ones.
Be worshipers. Be crazy! Be zealous!!

When to say when…

When is it ok to call it quits?  When do we get to take a break?  It can seem like a constant fight, constant struggle when you are in ministry.  You have pastors and leaders over you, leaders with you and people under you and at times your at odds with everyone.

When can we step back and reassess?  When is it good to question what you are doing?

Never, always, sometimes, I don’t know.

Let’s take a look at the battle weary soldier surrounded by the enemy, fighting for his life.  Not the time to call it quits, I think.  The temptation is certainly there.  Just give up, let them shoot you and be done with it.  But there are others around you, a purpose inside of you.  That is where you must know what you are fighting for.  This is the time to scream at yourself and in the face of fear, “MOVE OUT!  Get up, get going, fight!”

You might not know this, but one of the hardest times is when the “battle” is over and there is a time of peace.  Our purpose, our calling can seem so clear when we are fighting.  Then it all evaporates when there is a lull.  Time to take a break?  Yes.  Time to look for a new fight?  Yes.  Time to get some feeding and rest?  Yes.  Time to reassess, question, listen, get into God’s word?  Yes.  Because, as a soldier, you know the enemy will be back.  You know that it is only a matter of time.  Time to call it quits?  Please hear me.  Check your wounds.  Be honest with your brothers and sisters that hold you up.  Ministry can cut deep.  This is no place for wimpy christians.  We will get beat up and we have to have those around us who can honestly tell us when we’re to bloodied to continue.  We need bandages, ointment, stitches, breaks reset, tourniquets from time to time, people to lean on, just like any warrior would.  Know the medics in your life, and if you don’t have any, find them – be them for others.

And yes, in the end, there is a time when we pass the sword, the staff, the mantle, the fight onto those who can continue.  But let that be at the end.  Don’t see it until you’ve got no more fight to give.  Many are leaving, giving up before it is time.  Don’t.

“It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus.”  So the hymn says.  Live more.  Love more.  Fight more.

Don’t give up.

Heavenly Warfare

There’s a lot that I wouldn’t want people to imitate about my life.  But one thing I do that I wish on others is my prayer in the morning.  It goes something like this.

“OK, time to gear up.  Helmet of salvation, got it.  Belt of truth, ready.  Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, on.  Breastplate of righteousness, check.  In my left arm, shield of faith and right arm, sword of the Spirit.  Let’s go!”

I’ve never been one who wanted to use formulaic prayers or wrote memory to reach out for God.  But, in case you weren’t aware, we are at war.  Every day lives are lost, friends are wounded, children are held captive.  And we often walk into it with no word of God on our heart, His Spirit quenched within us, no praises on our lips and no thought of standing in this fight.

We go into it with nothing on.

That’s just stupid.

God is good and He has promised great things for us.  We can live in victory, setting captives free, fighting and winning.  But we better gear up for it.  Arm yourself and raise the war-cry of Jesus.

Don’t worry about being smart or strong.  Don’t give a thought to your abilities or power.  He’s enough.

HE IS ENOUGH!!