The Weight of the World

I deal with depression from time to time.  Things don’t always seem to go the way I want them to.  It can feel so heavy as to be unbearable.  I remember the times that taking my life was a better alternative than facing one more day.

I have looked at Jesus.  I have scoffed at the verse that says he was tempted in the same way I am tempted.  He never knew failure.  He never knew guilt and shame.  And because of this, I minimized his sacrifice on the cross.

He died.  Many people during the Roman occupation died, suffering for longer than Jesus did.  They were beaten too, mocked, humiliated.  It becomes a common theme when a ruling force ceases to value life, to respect something other.

I have looked at it differently this year.  God has been teaching me.

I know what it feels like to be rejected for a job, a ministry position, a loved one.  He knew the rejection of every person he had come to save.  They didn’t want him.

I know shame and failure from my own sin.  He knew the shame and failure of being the King of Creation and being nailed to that cross.  At some moment, though he knows all things, must have hoped that his love, his miraculous power, his wisdom and grace should have been enough to reach the world.  But it wasn’t.  His closest friends denied him.

And then I think about the weight of what I carry, the burdens I carry.  Then I multiply by the number of people living right now and add that to those that lived before, knowing that I am not alone in what crushes me.  And in that moment on the cross, I see him lifting that weight.  Not just the weight of the crossbeam of the cross but the weight of guilt and shame, the weight of failure and sin, the weight of hatred and lust and fear and every sin under the sun.

I see my Hero standing up under what would crush the rest of us.  And not only did he lift it once, he carried it and HE DEFEATED IT!!!

Amazing, truly awesome!

He did it all to set us free from it.  No one could do what He did.  I can not loose the chains that have bound me.  But He can, He did.

I don’t even know what the proper, appropriate response to this should be.  My singing, my dancing, my bended knees, my clapping and every note I could ever play, my life is not enough.

I will give it anyway.  It is all that I have.

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Control Kills Compassion

One of the worst moments of my life…

He came up to me all smiles.  I was a young dad and to me his look was pure guilty.  He was three years old and you know how they are.  I immediately questioned him.

“What did you do?”

He continued to smile.  The same smile I have grown to love as he has grown into a man.  But at the time…

“What did you do?”  I asked again.

Smiles.

“Son, if you don’t tell me, I’m going to have to spank you.  I need you to tell me.”

Smiles.

So as a strong father who demands respect and wants his children to grow and honor God.  I spanked him.

My wife then came out of the house.  “Why did you spank him?”  She asked.  “He wouldn’t tell me what he did,” I replied.

“He wanted to show you that he just dressed himself for the first time.”

Good job dad!  Great work!

So I’ve been thinking about that lately and how it changed my parenting, changed me as a person.  I’ve been looking at my struggles and the things that weigh down my heart and here’s what I’m seeing.

The more I try to control the outcome of any situation, the more my heart dies.  I see people in leadership as enemies.  I see peers as competitors.  I see people under me as just that, beneath me.

Why?  Why would I do that?  Why can’t I trust God with outcomes?  Why must I push and grasp and worry and listen to so many lies?

Pry my fingers off my life Lord!

Break the hold that sets me on the throne and you out the door!

Free me from my desires and set my heart on You!

I need that.

I Stand Up Front

We were brand new to the church.  None of us knew anybody, none of us had ever been inside before.

“Where do we sit?” Came the whispered question.

I don’t know what possessed me, what inspired me, but it was life-defining.  In the second that passed between the question and my answer, I made a decision.  I would never be one to sit in the back.  I did not ever want to be one that let others be the example while I played at church.  I would be one to let people see, I meander really see me.

There has never been a thing of pride in it.  I already knew my addictions, my failures, my issues.  I was not standing up front so that people would see my attempts at perfection.  I only knew that I was going to be fully invested in the one who died to save me.

Since that time, I have not stood up front on many occasions.  The shame of who I am, the mistakes I’ve made, takes its toll.  I have desired a place where no one would ever see me again.

Ah, but my King, my glorious one, He calls me out.  He stands with a hand outstretched, beckoning.  “Join me, live the adventure.”

So once again, I stand up.  I move to the front where I am undistracted by the eyes that might see me, the ears that might hear me.  I am focused on the one I came to meet with, the one I came to worship.  

And maybe, just maybe, someone will see a slightly chubby, old man, and they’ll think about how silly I look, how lame my dancing is.  They’ll listen for ever every off-key note I hit.

Or, they’ll not see me at all.  They’ll sense the Spirit I invite, the Spirit we all invite, and they will be set free.

Who will I be?

I was set free from addiction more than a year ago.  After close to forty years of struggle and shame, of hiding and depression, I was released to a new world.  Often the whispers come at me to return, to quit fighting.  The problem with the whispers is that I recognize their end game, I see them for what they are.

I like being free.

But, why was I released.  I still can’t get a job as a pastor.  I still have not fully recognized the calling that God placed on my life.  I still work a dirty, low-paying job at a factory.

Do you ever see yourself from God’s perspective?

When I was young, I wanted to be an Airborne Ranger.  These are the guys with the dangerous missions behind enemy lines.  Hard charging, never quit, crazies that will not back down, will not die.  The ones who are willing to go where no one else wants to, no one else can.

I don’t have the tab.  I’m old, chubby, scruffy.  But, I think, in the spiritual realm, I have become a Ranger.  A never say die light in a dark, cold place.  Sniping with words of love and peace and strength.  Deep in enemy territory with my sword and my life and not much else.

I know there are other people like me, willing to lay down their hopes and dreams, their lives, to reach out to those around them.  Living as lights in factories, on construction sites, plumbers, electricians, mechanics.  All living in the world but not being a part of it, no compromise.

I want to be where I am.  I want to sing for my children, lead worship, teach the band to love and serve.  And I want to go back into the enemy’s strongholds and kick his rear end.

Who will I be?  I don’t know.

I kind of like who I am.

Do Not Doubt

“This kind can come out only by prayer.” Mark 9:29

The father saw his tortured boy.  He asked for help and none came.  It went on for years.  Then Jesus – how many of you love those words – then Jesus came and healed.

“Why couldn’t we drive this demon out?” The disciples asked.  They had come to see God’s power in their lives and were perplexed, maybe a bit discouraged that this time the regular things hadn’t worked.  The tried and true formulas had failed.  And mind you, these were people functioning under Jesus’ authority.  Consider this too, the demon shrieked as it left the boy.  This is evidence of a hold that perhaps even Jesus had to increase his efforts to break (increasing on the infinite is something I’m not sure about but at least consider the possibility).

In my last post, I talked about walking away from temptation.  I even expressed in terms that may seem angry at those who don’t walk away.  I don’t apologize for that but hear me as I give credence to what I said.

I was introduced to pornography at the age of ten.  I have lived in that addiction for over forty years but now know freedom.  Yes, and I do mean real freedom.  I still am tempted.  I am still a male.  But I am free.

All the formulas and ideas, from praying and accountability, the gimmicks that so many claim to stand on, never worked for me.  Prayer and accountability are important but I can tell you, if you do it to overcome sin, you are putting the cart before the horse, as they say.  They become gimmicks, and often make things worse, because the end goal is not deepening your relationship with Jesus, but making yourself a better person.

Jesus didn’t die to make you better.  I’m sorry if that bursts a preconceived notion, but it is true.  He invites you into His kingdom, not so you will shape up (He loves you just the way you are).  He invites you because you are His child.  And to overcome sin, for you to overcome sin, was never His goal.

“IT IS FINISHED,” He cried on the cross.  He already overcame sin.  In your life, in mine, sin is conquered.

I can hear you (hear myself) at this point.  “Bull  —-!”

“This kind can only come out by prayer.”

Do you seek freedom?  Do you want healing?  Let go of everything.  Give up your dreams, your hopes, your passions and turn to Him.  Don’t tenaciously clutch your life in your hands, all of your life.  Learn thankfulness, gratitude, for what God has done and is doing in and through you.  Then look to Him.

Do not doubt. . . NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!