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

Super Bowl?

I have heard so many people this year referring to Easter Sunday as the super bowl of Christianity.

I guess I get it.  Gives people kind of a frame of reference that they can relate to.  But, well really…

Easter stars the true Greatest of All Time, Jesus Christ, THE KING OF KINGS!

And, let’s see, for all eternity, He’s undefeated.  Every play, every movement of the defense, every breath of every player is controlled by Him.  Oh you think that Christians get killed, suffer persecution and ridicule, so they must be losing?  Not so, every jeer they endure, every moment they suffer, every drop oof blood they shed moves the offense closer to winning.  

Hypocrites, liers and cheats, money hungry con artists say they’re on the team but the deceit they clothe themselves in reveals who they belong to.  And it also reveals more clearly the patient, enduring, self sacrificing love of our coach, the owner, the GM, the quarterback, the captain (He’s all of them).

And if you’re keeping score, um, before you check, God can’t be scored on so we know the enemy is at zero.  And Jesus scores at will so after two thousand plus years, there’s quite a few points on the board.

Seriously, the only “points” God wants are people.  And we know we’ve lost too many, one would be too many.  But what we celebrate at Easter is not a win we might get someday.  He already won it.  He is the Victor and we are too, in Him.

Maybe the super bowl should call itself the eternal, ever glorified, final, debt releasing, all forgiving, culmination of human effort.

I don’t know.  Doesn’t sound right to me either.

What Are You Selling?

I’ve been involved with church for a long time at multiple levels.  I’ve done everything from preach to scraping gum off the undersides of chairs.  I’ve seen phenomenal leadership and some that was, well, less than…

I’ve seen street evangelists that were beyond weird.  Shoot, I’ve probably been the weird street guy and done so much of what I’ve done out of a sense of obligation.

Good christians go out into the streets and throw tracts at people.  They leave tracts instead of decent tips at restaurants.  They accost people at awkward moments and let them know “the way, the truth and the life.”

I’ve been on both sides of those conversations and never been successful.

Most of the time, I was more embarrassed than the person that I was talking to.  I was more afraid.

We sing the songs in church.  “How Great Thou Art”, “How Great is Our God”, so many others.  But what do I truly believe?

See, I know a little bit about Him.  And He actually is amazing.  What I offer to my friends and family is a King who will never leave them.  He doesn’t judge them or hate them.  He doesn’t condemn them for their choices.

Yes, He wants to heal.  He wants to bring life and peace and love.  He has a reason for why I’m here, why my life matters, why there has been pain and how I can do better.  And He promises to go with me through it all.

I can’t offer anything better.

No one can.

 

Please click on the link to check out Cory Asbury’s new album. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/reckless-love/1320253615