You Can’t Get There From Here

Not sure how the joke goes…

Something about a guy asking for directions and an old guy making that statement.

I feel depressed and frustrated. 

Life always feels so distant from what I wanted it to be.  Happiness, contentment, peace, joy, love seem so elusive, mirage like in their ability look so close, appear as possible, only to evaporate as I grasp at them.

I try to be a better husband, better father, better man.  I try to love more, hate less, not cuss.  I try to help, not complain, not be a jerk.

But I fail.  Over and over.

I talk to God.  “Can’t you make me better?  Can’t you make my faith stronger?  Can’t you make me want to try?”

And I hear Him say, “you can’t get there from here.”

All religions (including “christianity”) are based on the idea of trying harder, becoming “better” people.  And they all fail.  We hold up saints and monks and zealots and clergy as examples of how religion succeeds, ignoring the reality and embracing the legends we’ve made up.  Destroyed and disillusioned when we find out they were human after all.

And most watch us and shake their heads, knowing we pursue a lie that no one can attain.

You can’t get there from here.

Can’t we just backtrack?  Go back to the good old days?  Maybe there are multiple paths, maybe all religions have the same ultimate goal.

But the cross stands over us.  Not as a way to make us be better but simply to open a door.

Paul said his righteousness was as filthy rags (menstrual cloths to be precise).  The prophet Isaiah agreed.  Our best efforts, though nobly given, don’t make a crack in the wall that separates us from what God intended.

Somehow, I have a feeling that the lonely single mom, the addict, the father who worked everyday in a nowhere job, all the “losers” that pursued Jesus, through failure, through the valleys may receive a heartier “well done” than all the preachers combined. And when we stand before Him, there will be no shame, no disappointment, only a realization that He was always there, always with us.

I’m still sad that I’m not “better”. But, I think I’ll quit thinking about me so much and just fix my eyes on Him.

Pain

Why do we have pain?

Let’s back up and differentiate between physical, externally induced pain and emotional pain, that which is inflicted on our sole, our identity.

On a clinical level, physical pain can be treated, healing can take place, the pain can be tolerated. And often, pain has to be overcome for healing to occur.

Emotional pain ismore difficult, if not impossible to diagnose and treat. Despite what it says on their signs and in their pamphlets, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists, along with their array of drugs, represent a pitiful arsenal against the issues we face today.

There is commonality in that physical pain can produce deep seated emotional pain and emotional pain can cause very serious physical pain.

But why did God allow it? Why do we have pain?

I want to know because I see so many people doing really stupid things, wasting insane amounts of money and resources, and causing more pain than they could ever hope to heal, all trying to make it go away.

I have pain of my own that I can’t seem to ever overcome. And it is nothing compared to what millions face every day.

The short answer is that it’s because of the fall. Adam and Eve sinned so we have pain. But if we make it so simplistic, it leaves us with the only solution being to, “suck it up.”

The exciting thing for me in asking this question is that I know my God. My King is a healer. My Lord is moved by every tear, every broken and contrite heart. When a child dies through abortion or cancer or abuse, no one sees it more, feels it more, knows it better.

The issue of pain is often and the center of the atheist’s arguments (knowingly or unknowingly). So it seems like we need to understand it better.

I want to hear back. Why do you think we have pain?

Surprise Me

We want to know.

None of us really like surprises.

Oh sure, birthdays, Christmas, something special waiting.

Some say they enjoy the surprises of a scary movie. The horror waiting in the closet, the monster jumping out and eating someone.

We can appreciate the stimulus from the safety of a theater or our couch. We certainly would not like it if it was real, if it was really happening to us.

We want to know, to be prepared, to have assurance of victory.

So then I read in Numbers how, as the children of Israel get close to the Promised Land, God invites the to send out spies to check things out.

I wonder why He did that when He knew they would get scared and ruin everything.

Sure, they would want to know, to be prepared. And, a couple guys actually benefited from that. But most were overwhelmed.

Now I look at my life. How I have let fear and the magnitude of a task overwhelm me. I still want to know, to hedge my bets, minimize my risk.

And He won’t tell me.

He doesn’t give me the “plan”. He doesn’t let me know that I’ll be safe, that I won’t get hurt, or fail. He promises good things. He assures me that He’s right there with me.

But, it’s not enough.

So today I want to try something new.

Lord Jesus, surprise me!

I would like to know, to be prepared. But You know. You’re prepared.

Help me to be faithful. Help me to honor You. I open my heart to you. I trust you.

Surprise me!

Smartest Guy In The Room

When I was young, I thought I wasn’t very smart.  Read through the bible a few times and got my degree and, all of a sudden, I’m the smartest guy in the room.

Then I meet a kid who is explaining advanced differential equations to a PhD. I hear a pastor saying to his staff that God has revealed himself to the pastor in a way that they couldn’t handle.

May not be the smartest, but I’m not the dumbest.

Only then do I realize that my arrogance, the arrogance I see revealed in others and our collective intelligence is pitiful in comparison to the true smartest guy in the room.

Yet I hold on to my pride, my shame, my fear, my self-sufficiency and rage against my God who sees through it all. And then find myself on my knees, claiming dependence, my desperate need of Him.

And, He sees through that too.

I can’t argue people into heaven. I can’t impress them with my intellect, my giftedness, certainly not my spirituality. I have no delusions about condemning others or criticising their efforts to understand.

But can I introduce you to my friend? He’s funny and amazing. He really wants to meet you.

And He is super smart!

You can ask Him anything.

Smiling

He walked by me.

I smiled and said hello.

But he isn’t one of the people I like. He isn’t a hard worker. He doesn’t make me laugh. He does things I dislike or don’t agree with. He is different.

And so my smile was fake. The hello was fake.

GOD NO!

It is my belief that, if we could see things clearly, one of the most deleterious effects of this pandemic is the loss of the smile. Covered up by a mask, socially distant.

So when I don’t have a mask on and I see someone, please God, let my smile be real!

I know I have stresses and things are not easy right now. But I am a man of God, called to LOVE OTHERS because You first loved someone like me.

It’s not so hard. I want it to come naturally. Even for a scruffy old man like me.

Help me smile.

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.