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.

Demons

According  to Josephus (Jewish historian), Jews were able to cast out demons in the name of Solomon.  I didn’t know that.

So when Jesus asked, “And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.” ‭‭(Matthew‬ ‭12:27‬ ‭ESV‬‬), they could have said by Solomon.

OK, before I lose all of you, let me explain.

Today, I was reading Matthew 12 and became intrigued by two questions.  Could, and can people cast out demons without Jesus?  And, is Jesus referring to demons cast out by other means or demons cast out by any means when he talks about them returning to the person and making him worse?

Yeah, that’s how I spend my free time…

Sounds intellectual (or just weird) but there is a burning question that is at the bottom of it all.

Can I be free?

Demons can refer to literal spiritual entities or addictions, habits or mental predispositions that govern our behavior.  And I want to know if we can ever be really free.

If there is another way to freedom than the name of Jesus and, by association, His cross, then it might be good to pursue it.  Jesus wants all of me and the cross is just painful.  And if, even through Jesus, those demons might return to us, what is our hope?

I have only read bits of Josephus.  I am no intellectual giant or prophet or philosopher.  But I hear Peter when he faced the Jews.

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Nothing else can save us. What are we being saved from?  Saved from death.  Saved from fear.  Saved from slavery.

Saved sounds like free to me.  The only freedom I’ve ever known is through Him.

The same answer applies to all these questions.

Only through Jesus can anyone be set free and only by remaining in Him, and being filled up by Him, can we remain free.  Psychology, religion, drugs, meditation, positive self talk can all be useful tools, but the demons will return.

But not to a life surrendered to Him.

Not to a heart and mind and soul that is surrendered to Him!

All Righteousness 

Righteousness is a word that gives me a curiously unpleasant feeling inside.  My mind immediately goes to self-righteous people and to my own lack of righteousness.

I have never done many things “right.”

I was reading today in Matthew 3:13-17 and there’s something I don’t understand.  Jesus said he wanted to be baptized to, “fulfill all righteousness.”  But he never sinned, from the moment he was born till the day he died he never ever sinned.  Seems like that would “fulfill all righteousness” better than getting dunked in the water.  And John’s baptism was for repentance, he was calling people to turn away from the things they were doing wrong.  He even challenges Jesus on this, basically saying, “what do you have to be sorry for?”

I know I’ve done wrong, a lot.  Why is this story there?

Maybe, just maybe, I need to see how Jesus laid down his life before he ever did anything.  Sure, he gave up his life to complete his work on the earth.  He was a miracle worker and teacher by then, a certified leader, a rabbi.  But God didn’t even call his son to ministry until after Jesus laid down his will, his life through the act of baptism.

Many of us want to be used to do something great for God.  I certainly do.  What am I holding onto? What am I unwilling to submit to?  What can I just not lay down?  It is likely the same thing that is keeping me from freedom, binding me to depression, holding victory and peace just beyond my reach.

And I’m sick of it.  I’m tired of holding on to what is actually killing me.

I’ll never be righteous but I’ll step closer as I open my hands.

Land of the Free

Shameless Plug:  Don’t miss the video at the end

I love my country.

There are a few things that can bring me to tears every time.

The sight of a baby being born.

The thought of my Savior dying on the cross to save me.

The words and melody of the Star Spangled Banner.

“Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

It sends chills up my spine.

Freedom is something that we talk about so much in this country.  Freedom of religion, freedom from religion.  Freedom of speech.  Sexual freedom.  Freedom to choose your own identity.

Lately, we are debating the freedom to go to the bathroom in whatever location we choose.  Seems to have fallen from the lofty ideas that it originated from, but, that’s where we are.

Side note:  Any man who chooses to exercise their right to go to the bathroom in the ladies room while my daughter or wife is in there, better be ready to go through me.

Anyway…

As I have watched these debates, and various other debates throughout the years, it would appear that we are running from freedom, not to it.  Sexual orientation, pornography, drugs (marijuana, opiates, whatever), hate crimes and hateful song lyrics do not release us.  They and the other ideas that surround these arguments do not bring freedom.

I have many friends that are mired in these things that speak, sometimes so eloquently, about the freedom they are experiencing.  But, it’s all eyewash.  It’s all smoke and mirrors.

Satan has been doing this since he first made contact with humanity.  “You can throw off God, be God yourself.  You’ll be free if you disobey His commands, run from His love, despise His perfect design.”

And for all these years, we’ve believed satan’s lies, and the lies we now tell ourselves.

I know slavery.  I now know freedom.  Real, healing, blessed, calming freedom!  God never wanted slaves.  God never designed us to yield to anything or anyone but Him.

We can still be the “Land of the Free”, and it doesn’t even matter where we call home.

I’ve Got Nothing 

I can be angry, kind, lustful, peaceful, joyous, morose, and a whole gamut of things that don’t make any sense or seemingly even fit together.  

So can you.

I bring skills and experience, life and wisdom.  There are actually some things that I am pretty good at (I know!  Shocker!)

So do you.  So are you.

But really, compared to God’s strength, wisdom, greatness, purity, holiness, love, I have nothing.  I am nothing.

Today, we hear so much about a child’s potential.  That if they put their mind to it, they can do anything.  That if we come together in world peace and tolerance, we can fix this world.  If we read this book, attend this conference, change our perspective, we too can be happy and fulfilled.

In medical terms we refer to this as Taurus faecus.

I bring nothing.  I am nothing.  I have nothing.

And then our world changes.

We come to the cross of Jesus, our Savior.  We lay our nothing down.  We submit our hearts to Him.  We ask Him to live through us.  And then, we experience real freedom, real power, real love.

REAL FREEDOM!

Not the horror of addiction, the stringing together of feel good moments that leave us empty.  Not the shaky, broken foundation of my strength, my control of my world and its circumstances.  Not the selfish, me-centered, fearful heart of my passions.

REAL FREEDOM!  REAL POWER!  REAL LOVE!  And with them, REAL PEACE!

I’ve got nothing.  Praise God, my life doesn’t end with me!

The Open Wound

She was my favorite mare. A tall, beautiful, good-natured bay that did nothing but throw beautiful foals. And there she stood, trembling in agony, staring, blindly at the wall in front of her. Everyone could see the problem but no one knew the cause. Her left shoulder had a grapefruit sized swelling but there was no visible wound.

At last, we decided to lance the wound. We weren’t sure how she would respond since this would only increase her pain, but we had to try. Carefully, we cleansed the area, her head sinking lower despite our gentle efforts. The scalpel was poised and the drawn over the center of the swelling. Her head came up sharply and then relief spread over her whole body as a fountain of foul smelling infection poured from the wound.

From what we could determine, she had received a small puncture wound that remained undetected. The bacteria had invaded and a little wound turned into a life-threatening problem.

We deal with this so much in the westernized church. Sin, addiction, a spiritual wound remain hidden. Good Christians don’t act that way or have problems like that. Don’t talk about it. Don’t ask for help.

Do you want healing? Do you want freedom? Do you want peace? Find someone you trust. Find some group or a friend who will stand by you and bring your problems out where they can be seen.

As my good friend says, Satan works in the dark, not Jesus. Let his light shine on you, in you. As the infection leaves, there will be pain. But, the relief, the peace, the joy that replaces it is beyond imagining.

A little bit of chicken-fried

I really don’t mean any disrespect to the Zac Brown Band, but I take issue with this song.

For those of you who are not familiar:

A little bit of chicken fried
Cold beer on a Friday night
Pair of jeans that fit just right
And the radio on
I love to see the sun rise
See the love in my woman’s eyes
Feel the touch of a precious child
And know a mother’s love

I’m not into country. I like some of the songs and really don’t like some of them. I heard this one lately and got kind of angry.

I thank god for my life
For the Stars and Stripes
May freedom forever fly, let it ring
Salute the ones who died
The ones who give their lives
So we don’t have to sacrifice
All the things we love

Like our chicken fried…..

That’s where I get mad.

As a veteran, I want to think that the sacrifices of our soldiers, the greater sacrifices that have been laid down over the years, mean more than a chance to have chicken and beer. I would want the lives that were paid to purchase more than an opportunity to listen to the radio and watch sunrises.

Then I think of Jesus sacrifice. Did He die so that I could be happy, be good, be content, be safe? I think it was more than that. I think He wanted an army of saints, a bride for Him to love, a way to touch the world He created.

Am I living that?

Or do I just want some fried chicken?

The Empty House

I’ve read “The Hunger Games” series multiple times and am reading them again now. It is interesting to me that, even though I know what’s coming, I still react so strongly to so many of the scenes.

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭12‬:‭43-45‬ ESV)

My reaction to these words is just as strong. One particular phrase stands out from the rest. “It finds the house empty…” In my opinion, this is one of the saddest commentaries on the human condition. If we remove all vice, take away all spiritual influences, in and of ourselves, we have an empty house.

For those of you, like me, who have known so much emptiness, I submit that there is a better choice than order, than rules, than religion. What Jesus offers is so much more, more filled, more true, more life.

We can try to fix ourselves. We can try to be good people, kind and loving. And some people are really nice people. But, it’s empty. And satan will fill that void. We can try to be religious, even Christian religious, but, it is empty. IT IS EMPTY!

Jesus said he came to give us life. He called it an abundant life. He is the only way to get it.

The only way.

From Salvation to Slavery

The story of Joseph in the book of Genesis is one of my favorites. How he was spoiled and hated, sold as a slave, honored, betrayed and then honored again. When he finally reveals himself to the brothers who hate and abused him he says an interesting thing.

“Come closer to me,” Joseph said to his brothers. They came closer. “I am Joseph your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But don’t feel badly, don’t blame yourselves for selling me. God was behind it. God sent me here ahead of you to save lives. There has been a famine in the land now for two years; the famine will continue for five more years—neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me on ahead to pave the way and make sure there was a remnant in the land, to save your lives in an amazing act of deliverance. So you see, it wasn’t you who sent me here but God. He set me in place as a father to Pharaoh, put me in charge of his personal affairs, and made me ruler of all Egypt. (‭Genesis‬ ‭45‬:‭4-8‬ MSG)

God meant for their time in Egypt to be a salvation for many. So why is it that it turns into slavery for them? What happened over the years that made them, allowed the people of Israel to accept the position of slavery.

Exodus tells us, “A new king came to power in Egypt who didn’t know Joseph. Exodus‬ ‭1‬:‭8 MSG)”. So why didn’t the people leave? I guarantee this didn’t happen overnight. I am guessing that there were political, economic tremors that had been felt and discussed for years. And I’m betting that the Israelites knew about it, saw it in the way they were treated, felt it in the stares of their neighbors.

So why didn’t someone remind them that this was never intended to be a permanent solution, this place was never supposed to be their home?

How about you and me? Are there things in your life, habits you’ve developed, places you go, a job that you took that at first helped you, at first provided comfort and help, but now you are a slave to it? Now you feel you can’t get free.

The people in Egypt had to be set free in amazing, miraculous ways. They went through 400 years of misery before they were free. You don’t have to wait for a Moses. You don’t have to wait for miracles, and you don’t want to.

You have a choice.

Give Glory to God!

The battle for Jericho has begun but it is hardly a battle.  The walls have fallen and the people of the city are panicking.  You run with your spear, stabbing and slashing at any who are in your way.  Though you are not a trained warrior, you have seen battle before and this does not compare.  All that you see is blood and death and blood lust in everyone’s eyes.  And you kill, and kill again.  Women, children, old men, babies, it doesn’t matter.  They all must die.  You are a rational, down-to-earth kind of guy and this all seems so crazy.

You have been going from house to house with others but for the moment find yourself alone.  Your friends have been grabbing things and taking them to a pile outside the city to give to the priests.  After taking several things yourself you find that it just seems a bit unfair.  You enter one last house and there find a robe, some silver and a little bar of gold.  The battle is ending and  instead of taking the things to the priests, you take them home.  You feel guilty but justify it because of your family’s needs and it really wasn’t much so no one will mind.

A couple of days go by and you’re on to the next town.  The guilt and shame of what you’ve done gnaw at you but now you feel the fear of knowing that if you say something, you’ll just get in trouble.  Joshua sends three thousand men to attack a small town and when they return, thirty six of them have been killed.  A warning bell is going off inside of you.  Maybe they died because of what you have done.  A rumor is flying around the camp that the battle was lost because there was sin that someone was hiding.  You almost mention it to your wife.  Your best friend sees you and asks what’s wrong.  Something tells you it would be better to confess and clear your conscience but now you feel trapped.

The next morning, the tribe of Judah is called out.  As the whispers pass between neighbors, you find your heart beating heavily and your palms are sweating.  Your clan, your division, your family and finally you are called out and it is too late.

“My son, give glory to God.”

You confess everything and though you are afraid, you feel free from that guilt, that bondage.  You are lead to the edge of the camp and look to see your wife crying as she stares at you.  Your children are crying too and looking at you to help them.  The people, your neighbors and friends gather around you and you watch as a stone strikes the forehead of your son and he falls to the ground.  Stones are hitting you too but you no longer feel anything.

The story of Achan, told in Joshua 7, is one of the saddest stories I see in the bible.  And it is the story that best fits what happens with pornography and men today.  And I am wise enough to know that church leaders, worship pastors, deal with it everyday.

I call you to not wait till God brings out this hidden failing.  Don’t wait till your family, your life, the life of your children are destroyed by this sin.  Bring it out.  Confront this.  Confess it.  Find a brother to walk through your healing.  Believe that you can still be that hero for your wife, your children.

Give glory to God.