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.

Included

I just woke up from a really great dream.  It’s 5am.  I’ve had four hours (maybe) of sleep. 

But, I had to tell you about it!

I am a Yankees fan. Love the Yankees! Love baseball! But really love the Yankees!

My all-time favorite player, the one I personally put above every other player that played the game, is Derek Jeter!

The captain!

In my dream, I was on the field when Derek told the team he was retiring. People were stunned and saddened but we all knew it was time. Everyone was shaking his hand and letting him know we were behind him.

But the part that amazed me was that no one questioned why I was there. I talked with the players and coaches just like it was something normal.

I knew I was part of the team.

That’s what I want when I stand before Jesus. I know I won’t be the center of attention. I don’t want to be.

I also don’t want people looking at me like, “who’s he? What’s he doing here?”

That would be awful.

But standing there with great men and women of faith. Knowing that I DON’T compare, but knowing I’m accepted just the same.

That I was on the team!

Wow!

THAT will be a great day!

Pain (part 2)

You would never know it if you saw me, but I was and am a nerd (sarcasm). I was one who got bullied way more than I bullied. And when the opportunity presented to gain power so that I could hurt others rather than be hurt, I said yes, no questions.

Even when it was saying yes to evil.

Now I see shows like The Order and all things Harry Potter. I’ve heard the arguments.

They all fall flat when I see the pain in this world.

I know there are normal people out there who are unaffected. But I KNOW that there are those who will be affected. Who want their pain to cease so badly they will pursue magic, Halloween, fear, the demonic. Those that a scary movie will cross a line to something darker.

And heaven help us, as parents, our defenses will be so compromised and weak, our belief in Jesus will be so lukewarm and apathetic that our children will have no where to turn.

Bad Reputation

Insert Joan Jett video here.

I’ve heard multiple people how they were in line or walking down the street or some such scenario.  In the story they run across some foul-mouthed person (probably worked in a factory or paper mill) and they set them straight.  That language offends me or my children or a lady or something.

I keep thinking about that idea in the face of our current world situation and I’m trying to figure out how to justify it.

Right now, our world is crying out.  So many are afraid. So many angry, depressed, lost. We calling on the government, on health organizations, on doctors to save us.

They aren’t calling on Christians.

The reputation that we have is one of judgment, condemnation, short-sightedness, stupidity, well, you get the idea.

And on the part of many Christians, we want to point them to Jesus, to the bible as the answer to the world’s problems.

I don’t know about you, but I get the feeling He’s pointing the finger back at me.

We get this mystical idea that He’ll move in world events, change the heart of the president, sway the vote, remove the sickness, eliminate sin and poverty.

That’s not actually how He tends to work.

Oh sure, He CAN! But…

He invaded the earth. His Spirit invaded the budding church. And He left! But He left His Spirit in us.

This leaves me short of breath, heart pounding. That means when He said ‘go’, He meant me. When He said He would be with me, it was AS I was going.

So I need to GO!

We may have a bad reputation. But if we go, with the love of Jesus burning bright inside us, maybe we can shine it up a bit.

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!

Too Loud

I married a girl who leans toward the shy. I grew up in a family that talks loud, argues loud, laughs loud. The only time I’m quiet is when I’m really angry (or I’m asleep).

Over the years, one of her chief complaints is that I talk too loud.

Bear that in mind with the following:

As the world becomes more fractured and divided against itself, we need to be louder.

And be prepared, as the voice of love, the voices of truth and grace and joy in the middle of trouble speak out, the world will say it’s too loud. They will want you to join their voices of hatred and anger and condemnation.

They may even tell you to be quiet or face the consequences.

Jesus said we were to, “be of good cheer,” because He overcame the world. And we overcome, “by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) and the word of our testimony.” Revelations 12:11

I’m tired of the rhetoric. I’m sick of the way it eats at me.

And I live for the King.

Too loud?

‘Bout to get louder!

Election 2020

I used to wish I had a large audience for this blog, forum for deep discussion, encouragement, healing. I know some people listened, received, but it was very few.

Tonight is no different.

As I watch the election unfold, I realize that nothing I say can alter the outcome, no one will change their opinions on masks or presidents.

But maybe, just maybe, you can hear this.

I confess I have been fearful these past few days and tonight, as I was praying, I told God about it. He gently reminded me, “do not be anxious about anything” – Philippians 4:6. He reminded me of one of my favorite songs.

He spoke to me about his promises. “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

And ended by bringing me back to the place where He is my everything. No matter who is president, no matter where we are with a pandemic, or as a country.

He is enough.

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.

Are We Good?

Temptations wax and wane.  Sometimes they’re overwhelming.  Sometimes, well, they’re easy.  It’s like he’s not even trying.  

This is not one of those times.

Interesting what our enemy says to us that gets us.  For me, one of the best weapons seems to be the reminders of just how wicked I am.  How much of a loser.  How much of a failure.

It would seem like that would have the opposite effect.  Particularly when addressed to someone who likes a fight as much as I do.

I learned two things that I really despise while I was in the Army.  The first is where someone tells you that there’s only one more mile to go when there are eight.  The second is like it.  It’s when someone tells you the end is twelve miles away when it is two.  I just want honesty.

The first one lies by saying you’re almost there when you aren’t.  The second lies by saying it’s too far.  

That is what satan’s voice says so much.  Pointing out all my weaknesses, all my inadequacies, he runs the reel of how I’ll never make it, I’ll never be worth anything.  And so I just want to quit, to give in.

The reality is, to the world, to most people, I am a loser.  But then I look in my God’s eyes.  I hear his voice in the bible that I read.  I realize that I am chosen.  I am called.  I am loved.

Have you ever noticed that, if you can’t see, stepping in mud, on a cupcake or in dog poop all feels about the same.  If you turn on a light, you can see what it is, wash it off and walk on.  If it’s mud or a cupcake, and you’re marching for the King, don’t worry about it.  If the accuser throws some crap in your path, it never has to be something we hold onto.

Wash it off.  And, walk on.

Now I know I’m making light of what can be so heavy to bear, so crushing to face.  But our armor is on, our weapons are made for “pulling down strongholds.”  And we serve a King who cannot be defeated.

So yeah.  When satan accuses, when my own heart condemns me, wash it off.  Wash it off with what Jesus did.  Wash it off with the Word of God.  Wash it off by resting in the “peace that passes all understanding.”

Wash it off and walk on.