Waiting On A Starry Night

Christians and prayer are a strange combination. We are ones who trust in an omnipotent, all-loving God and yet believe in our ability to manipulate the system.

Even when He says no.

I often think about my son that died. He wasn’t technically my son, but he was still my son. It hurts so much still that he is gone.

I prayed the prayers, sang the songs, believed in God’s power to heal. But, he still died.

He is still gone.

So what good does it do to pray?

I believe that our prayers move the heart of God, that our approach to God calls out the armies of heaven on our behalf. I believe that amazing, miraculous things happen when we pray.

But wait! There’s more! (TV infomercial voice)

I can’t manipulate or coerce the Great God that I serve. Shoot, my attempts to manipulate and coerce my wife are failures at best. And she’s just a human.

But I can join Him. We can talk.

That’s why I like the imagery of waiting on a starry night. I come out of my house amd look to the sky and see a God who is so much bigger than me. He surrounds me. He surrounds my whole world, figuratively and literally.

And I look to Him. My eyes, my heart, my prayers are open.

More an act of rest, don’t you think?

Home

There’s a passage in the Bible (Matthew 7:21 ff) where Jesus is talking about a sad scene from heaven.

The picture is this: people coming before God and telling Him about all the great things they have done for Him. And His response will be to say, “go away, I never knew you.”

It got me thinking.

A close second on the saddest events of that time will be this: I arrive in heaven and God allows me in. He even says, “I know you.” And I realize as He speaks that I don’t recognize His voice. I don’t know Him.

Some would say that it isn’t possible but I don’t know.

If it’s possible to prophesy, cast out demons, do mighty works in God’s name and still end up in hell, all because we never really had a relationship with Him. Then I think it’s possible to have entered into a relationship but allowed the voice of fear, the voice of the world, the voice of condemnation and shame, my own voice to be so loud, so dominant, that I never really listened to Him.

I want to be one that hears His slightest whisper, that seeks His voice in every situation, that stops long enough, is quiet long enough for Him to speak.

And it’s going to come down to the choices I make today.

The best scene will be Him saying, “I know you.” And me falling in His arms and saying, “Hi dad!”

Like I just got home.

Warrior God

Oh, I need to rant a bit more!

I watched a couple of episodes of “Warrior Nun” amd it just makes me want to cry.

Literally!

Here’s what I know so far.  The halo of an angel is embedded in a person and it gives them special powers.  Should the halo fall into the hands of Satan or his minions, heaven will fall.  This power has been given to someone who has been abused and neglected by the church’s orphanage, who wants nothing to do with God or any authority.

I understand that this is all based on a graphic novel, not the bible.

But, COME ON!

First off, the halo is a symbol of God’s glory.  Its power, light, authority is wrapped up in God himself.

And second, the idea that anything, ANYTHING, can stand against God’s power, His person, His Kingdom is beyond ridiculous. 

James says that the “demons believe and shudder.”  (James 2:19)

So the biggest, baddest demon gets a thought about God and it scares the poop out of him.

Not to make light of it, but a pitched battle between God and all the power of hell and this world?  He wouldn’t even break a sweat.

My point is not to vilify a silly TV show. It is to raise up our courage. “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

Believe it! Act on it!

Let the demons come.

I have God’s armor!

All I Can Say…

I watched “the Good Place.”

In fact, I’ve watched several shows that depict God, Christianity, Christians and religious zeal.

We’re bad!

And I don’t mean a little bad.

Well, some are just weak-willed sheep. They plod through accepting whatever, questioning nothing. Pathetic. Extras in the scene.

But most pictures presented are downright evil. Murderous, hateful, vile.

And God, my King and Hero, is presented as, for the most part, simply not really there. Humans doing whatever they want. Demons having the real power, the real authority over humanity.

And we sit back, silent.

No, don’t start bashing the movies, the shows. They only glorify what they have been taught.

We need real Christians, living out the love of Jesus, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, moving by faith in the Holy, beautiful, amazing, one and only GOD.

It might even make a good movie.

Do You Believe?

So many questions…

So many unknowns…

I sing about God’s “Reckless Love”. I played “Walk By Faith” with passion on my guitar. So many songs.

Now I’m just embarrassed.

I think a year from now, when we sing those songs, they will mean something different than they did last year.

I want them to. I want my heart to go beyond the lip service I have given to God’s greatness. I want my life to have gone beyond what’s popular, beyond being a nice guy.

And for that to happen, I have to suffer. I have to boldly live out the miraculous. I must step away from safety, the false protection that I have raised up around me.

I have to believe.

Pushing It

I’m sick.

No, I’m really sick.

Breathing is difficult.  Head is spinning.  Photophobia.  Coughing.  Influenza.

How did this happen?  I rarely get sick.

I’ve been working as a janitor, a custodian for a church.  One of my jobs is to clean the carpets with a big extractor (carpet cleaner).  It is self-propelled.  Pull the trigger and steer basically.  Only trouble is it doesn’t go very fast.  I can’t tell you how many times I catch myself pushing it.

And do you want to know how much effect my body has on pushing a heavy machine that is set to go a specific speed.

Zero.

I have been doing that with God, with my life.  Pushing and pushing to see things happen.  Working really hard to get some where, to make things happen.  Trying to be a good husband, a good dad, a good servant, a good man.

Pushing it.

Influenza.

Broken immune system.  Fatigue.  Depression.

Today, I picked up my guitar and sang for no one but God.  I played, not to practice, but just to spend time with Him.  In my impatience and scattered thoughts, I had about a fifteen minute window with Him.

It was good.

I’ve been pushing too hard and too long against a life that won’t “get better”, circumstances that I can’t change, a past that won’t go away, a God who is immovable.

Here’s what I can do.  Be grateful for the good life I have.  Accept the circumstances of my life as a product of my decisions AND the Grace of God on me.  Forgive my past and let it go.  And ask what He wants instead of telling Him what I want.

And I can rest and cough and shiver and ache…

And heal.

The Stinky Kid

I’ve been practicing something for several days now but I’m not sure if I’m improving.

Bob Sorge (if you don’t know him, get to know him) does a seminar on “Secrets of the Secret Place”.

Well don’t watch it now.  Listen to me first!

Anyway, in one of the sessions he talks about asking for the sprinkling of Jesus’ blood over yourself so that we can come boldly before the Throne.  He asks you to imagine it and then imagine yourself crawling up between God and Jesus (who is at the Father’s right hand).  Highly recommend all of Bob’s stuff.

So, like I said, I have been practicing this.  I wake up and say, “God, sprinkle me with the blood of Jesus Christ.  Wash me, clothe me in your righteousness.  Now I come boldly to you.  You move people out of my way so that I can come up and sit with you.”

The funny thing is, I feel like the stinky kid.  You know.  The one you went to school with who didn’t take baths often enough.  The one whose clothes were old, out of style, torn and dirty.

See, I crawl up next to my Dad but then I turn around and cuss at somebody.  I still get angry and selfish and pout and whine and throw tantrums.

I wonder how I can have the audacity to do that when I’m sitting right next to the Holy One, the Righteous One, the Majestic One.  But, I still do.

I was talking to God a couple of days ago.

I said, “God, if you want, I can just go.  I know I’m stinky.  I know I’m bad.”

I just felt His arms wrap around me and heard Him say, “I don’t think you’re stinky.  I have washed you.  I have clothed you in righteousness.  And you’re mine.  Just stay right where you are.”

OK, if you really want me to, I’ll stay.

“I really do.”

The First Stone

There are so many debates flying around and accusations laid against Christianity and our response has been so misguided.

I, of course, will now add my wisdom and insight to clarify everything for everyone.

Yeah…

I’ve heard many times, over the years, the phrase, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”  These are the words of Jesus and we love pulling them out when we’re confronted by someone for doing something wrong.

The story is about a woman who was caught in adultery that some religious jerks wanted to trick Jesus with.  They knew that Jesus was kind to prostitutes, to tax collectors (worse than prostitutes if you’re setting up a scale) and sinners.  He claimed he was there to heal that type of person but the Hebraic law stated she should be stoned, well her and the guy she committed adultery with, ummm…

Anyway, they thought that because of Jesus’ kindness, he would contradict the Law and let her go.  And I think that’s how we want to use his words even now.  Couple of problems though.

He could have thrown the first stone.  He was “without sin” and was God in the flesh and holy and all that.  He could have killed her and been “right” to do so.  No denying it, she had sinned.

He, because of love, chose not to.

Second problem, we want to compare our actions with hers.  She sinned, I sin and no one is allowed to judge me for it.  That’s what we would say.  But we’re different.  She didn’t deny what she had done, didn’t want anyone to say it was ok.  She knew what she deserved.  She held on to no hope because she knew she was condemned.

Our actions more closely resemble the thief on the cross.  No, not the one that Jesus said would be with him in paradise.  The one who said, “if you’re the son of God, save yourself and us too.”  Mocking Jesus, hurling accusations against his power and identity.

Weird that Jesus didn’t talk to him at all.

He didn’t want to repent, didn’t want to honor God and submit to His authority.  He just wanted to be allowed to continue living, doing whatever he wanted.

Jesus still stands there, holding out his hand of forgiveness and love, acceptance and restoration to those who ask for it.  Who want Him more than their own lives.

But He is holy, He is God and will not accept less than His best for us.

I have no hope but Him.

The Scepter

In the book of Esther there is a scene where the chosen bride goes before the king at the risk of her life.  In that kingdom, to go before him uninvited could bring an immediate execution.  She enters and he extends his scepter and she is welcomed into his presence.

I can’t get this picture out of my mind.

I was praying this week and saw it so clearly in my mind.  Only I was Esther.

And I think there are others out there that need to hear this.

I approach God with the idea that I could die, that he could judge me, hate me, reject me.  And in one sense, it’s all true, if I ignore the character, the nature of Jesus, the person of my Father King.

But in the story, you never get the sense of even a moment of hesitation.  It wasn’t like this human king even had to think a bit.  She enters and is accepted.

So am I.  So are you.

It’s not that we don’t deserve the shame we feel, the condemnation, the rejection.  But because of the cross, because of the blood of Jesus that makes us clean, we are accepted without question, without hesitation.

And do we get accepted so that we can go sit in the back and be quiet?  Ha!  Do we get accepted so that we can wait our turn as other “more important” things are dealt with?  Not at all!

In a very real sense, God pauses his usual activity to hear us, to spend time with us.

I don’t know how that works since I’m pretty sure if God took his hands off the universe for a second it would crumble.  But with all that he has to do in this world, his attention shifts dramatically to us, to me.

I know myself to be a fairly silly person, angry and emotional about some pretty trivial things sometimes.  I make requests of God that probably I should be embarrassed to even be thinking about.

But guess what?  Not only does He accept me!  Not only does He listen to me!  He also wants to hear what I’m asking.  He wants to know what I think I need.  And before I can even ask, He is promising me the Kingdom!

So why do I, how can I ignore Him?  Ever?

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)

Beat Up

Someone I knew posted a video of a dog being smacked around by his owner while others watched and laughed.  I was angry at the abuse but I was rocked to my core.

I’m the dog.

No, I get it.  In my western, nicely appointed ranch house in a quiet neighborhood outside of the city it would be hard to see the abuses heaped on me.  I drive a working car.  I have nice guitars.  I have a good job.

I’m still the dog.

It’s not that I am suffering abuse right now, I guess.  Or that the abuses of my past are rising up to attack me.  I just saw the look on that dogs face and felt every blow that he took.

Why are you hitting me?  What did I do?  I must be bad but I don’t understand.

What makes it worse is that the hand that is on me seems like God’s.

I have these songs to sing that it feels like no one wants to hear.  I have these words that burn in my soul and no platform to speak.  I have this love to give and no one to share it with.  It feels like God mocks me with a message but gives me no one to pour it out on.

REALITY…

I would love to speak before thousands, but my voice is only heard so often by just one.  I sing and some listen.  I love like rain on dry soil, never there to watch the grass turn green, the flowers grow and blossom.

But it is enough.

It is the comparison of Psalm 88 with Psalm 89.

Psalm 88:14  O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?  Why do you hide your face from me?

Psalm 89:14  Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

Reality…

The punches I feel are real.  The condemnation and hatred come from a very real enemy.  But they are not from my God.  His promises remain true.  His love for me does not falter.  He will prove himself as faithful, no matter what.

My path follows who I believe.

And the abuser, in all cases, will stand before a righteous, Holy God.  And we will give an account for what we believe and what we did with our beliefs.

Reality