Underwear

In Christian circles, we talk a lot about the “Armor of God.”

You know, “helmet of salvation, sword of the Spirit, feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel.”  Those things.

But, I was thinking lately that some of the “armor” hasn’t been sitting so well in my fight. Belt of Truth getting a bit tight, Breast Plate of Righteousness beginning to chafe.

Sorry, my metaphors are silly and intentionally trying to be humorous.

The reality is that if we solely concentrate on the armor, we miss something.  There are other aspects that we have to choose, things we must look for and put on.

“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Now, most people will tell you as you live for Jesus, the Holy Spirit naturally brings out these “fruits of the Spirit” in our lives.  I would suggest that they are attributes that you have to choose, to clothe yourself with along with the armor.

In the military, you learn pretty quickly that, to protect your feet, you need good boots.  But first, you need clean, dry socks.  If you wear a sweaty, nasty t-shirt for too long, you’re going to get chafed (and you smell really bad).  And, if you don’t change your boxers from time to time, well….

And, the idea of not having these items is not something you should choose!

Is it sacrilege to compare the Fruits of the Spirit to underwear?

I think it’s biblical.

When you lift up your sword, make sure you put on love.  When you hold up the shield, make sure it is also wrapped in faithfulness.  When you put on the belt, make sure it is over the garment of patience.

And if all this leaves you cold, 1 Peter 5:5 says, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another…”

Now, I’m ready for battle.

And I think I look pretty killer, too!

Cheers!

I was in church this past Sunday and listening to some awfully good preaching by the way.  For a moment, I was distracted by the noise coming from our children’s area.

Coincidentally, the preaching was about our responsibility to pass our faith on to the next generation.

I listened to the noise and the word and was glad I go to a church that is passing on the faith.  We keep it real and actually believe in the God that we talk about.

That’s a good thing.

But then I hit a wall of seriousness.

See, we can talk all we want to and believe all we want to, but our chances are silenced if we don’t capture the hearts of mom and dad.

This Sunday is Father’s Day.  And I want to put a challenge out there.

I want to be a better dad, love my family more.  And that won’t come by my believing less.

That means I need to start praying miraculous prayers for my kids.  I need to start believing and speaking about my amazing God to my kids.  I must start living like I trust Him with my whole life, not just bits and pieces.

My kids are all adults now.  Psychologists would probably tell me that I’ve lost the opportunity to influence them.  And maybe in some ways they’re right.

But we’re not dead.

There’s still a new day every morning where I can laugh because of the joy of Jesus in my heart.  There is still beauty to witness and love to share.  There is still the miraculous to experience.

Together.

And once we start cheering, we simply join ourselves to the chorus, the cacophony of victory that is only beginning to swell in God’s Kingdom!

I Can’t Breathe

Worship is one my favorite experiences in Christianity.  We have an awesome worship team at our church, excellent musicians, hearts that love Jesus with all they have, lights, big screens.

But lately, I can’t breathe.

I sing but I’m afraid to pour it out, to let go.

I am going through a season where I don’t have enough.  We pay the bills.  We even get McDonalds or Chick-fil-A sometimes.  But we are just surviving, no money to dream, no extra to give when we see a need.

And it’s all my fault.

I thought…

I thought.  I thought.  I thought.

But things didn’t turn out the way I planned.  Dreams I hoped for died.  And it feels like everyone has turned away from me as I lay wallowing in the ashes of those fires.

It changes worship.

“You’re a good, good Father.”  Why Lord?

“Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”  Where are you, my God and King?

Our big, fancy mega-churches with comfy chairs and temperature controlled sanctuaries can’t take away the pain of what seems like abandonment.

I think about churches around the world.  Some hiding, many so small that the world will never know they existed.  Churches where believers die at the hands of government or suicide bombers, or apathy.

I think the beauty of the bride, the church of Jesus Christ, shines from a queen, not a princess.  A princess has everything perfected for her, protected for her.  A queen stands with her King, fights beside Him, rules with Him, dares with Him, suffers and dies with Him.

Our churches can give the illusion that we are all princesses, that we are safe and comfortable as we lift our hands in praise.

But that isn’t what is real.  What is true is that many that walk through the doors can’t breathe.  Life has kicked at beaten every bit of joy and peace out of us and we can’t see a way out.

That is where our life is found.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself take up his cross daily and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Blessing will come, through the cross.  Peace and joy will come, through the cross.  Life, real life will come only through the cross.

I can breathe, through the cross.

Self control

I’ve been thinking about the fruit of the spirit lately.  Is it shown in my life, my heart?  Do I show the evidence of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control?

Hmmmmm…..

I question my self on all of them.  People tell me that I show love, peace, kindness, faithfulness.  But shoot, only in baseball would that be a decent percentage.  Sometimes, I see evidence of joy, goodness, self-control.  Well, self-control is almost never.

I tend to be one that does whatever, says whatever comes to mind and most of the time it is in the face of reason and good sense.

I see others like me but wow, what is the deal with the lack of control?

Then there is the opposite extreme, those who are extremely self-controlled.  They do not let anything get beyond their  control.  If they don’t see a way through, they just won’t go.  If they are not assured of a predictable outcome, they will not move.

I don’t think that was what Paul was talking about in Galatians.

Can I just start with saying, “God I’m struggling.”  I need more self control.  In the battle of life, I can choose to obey, choose to yield my heart.

But, the truth is, I don’t see it.  Even Paul, the apostle said, the good that he wanted to do, he didn’t do.  The “law of sin” working in me.

I think I’ll submit myself to you.  I think I’ll let you be in control.  I’ll obey when you speak.  I think I’ll worry less about being the perfect Christian and trust my life to the perfect Christ.

And, maybe in my heart being yielded, I’ll find the strength to be something that shows my Lord and Savior.

Asherah

I don’t feel so good right now.  I feel ugly, fat, numb, so, so sad.  I think I’ll take a trip down to the old Asherah pole.

Throughout the history of early Israel there was a goddess named Asherah that was worshiped along with the worship of God.  Solomon had her images set up in the temple.  Religious prostitution was the normal practice in worship of this deity.  And it was a constant downfall of the nation.

I often wonder how it came about.  What caused the nation to succumb to the temptation to follow this idol.

God’s word is demanding.  Life for Him will cost you everything, it really will.  I mean everything!  Can I say it a little louder?  It costs you everything!

You don’t keep your money for yourself, or your time, or your love, or your sex.  You are supposed to be fully devoted to the one who died for your sins.

But, that’s too heavy.  We need a little levity, a little self in there.  And it costs us, we lose.

Jesus gave everything to win our hearts.  He wants us to love Him back, totally love Him.  He is worth it.  Life for Him is worth everything.  Trying to feel good will only leave you feeling empty.  Living for Him will bring love, joy, peace, all that we truly want to live for.

It’s His promise and He never breaks His promises.

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.

All the Glory

I can’t write without Him. I can’t play without Him. I can’t sing without Him. I can’t love without Him.

He is Jesus!

It isn’t just a trite saying. I’m not trying to Impress my religion on someone, or impress with my holiness (ha! If that was even possible). It is just science.

The explanation for the chemical pathways, the presence of enzymes, neural functions and higher emotional and intellectual processes has been understood, in part. And yet, there is still so much that can not be explained. And the more we understand, the more questions it raises. We are left with a feeling that all life is miraculous. The fact that any life is possible is just a miracle.

I have seen the evil of this world. The fact that we have not annihilated our own species is a miracle. The hope that we can fix ourselves is misplaced. This country, America is a miracle. And we are not alone. Even in the poverty of what we would call third world nations, there is love, there is joy.

So to You, my God, my King. For not giving up, for loving us and pouring out your spirit in us and through us, I give You all the glory. I give you all my praise and honor!

The Let Down

I recently got to talk to Jon Egan. He has written some powerful worship songs and is truly gifted in what he does. He and a couple of his friends were at our church, just spending some time ministering to the people in our worship ministry.

It was good.

Now, two days later, I’m up at 4 AM getting ready to go to work.

I was excited. I could hear the voice of God speaking to me, encouraging me in all that I do with the kids at our church. I was inspired with new ideas, reminded of old ideas, and just sensed God’s presence with me.

Then I returned to the work of scheduling, song choices, technical difficulties that need to be addressed.

The inspiration that God gives us, the moments when we see Him so clearly, do not replace the disciplines of walking out His calling, the daily grind of taking up our cross. But in the discipline, the work, the habits of faith and joy that can only be developed over years, we find the reality of His truth, His love, His faithfulness.

I have known those who would try to string together enough “God moments”, worship experiences, inspired teaching to keep themselves at a spiritual high for weeks. They would always crash. Just like chemical or physical highs, they are never meant to be sustained. Our bodies do not do well looking for the next “fix”.

Look for the mountains in your walk with Jesus. They are powerful, emotional moments that awaken us. Then walk through the valleys. Love the moments of each day. Breathe in, breathe out. Live.

He is with you.

Dance, Dance

Why do we lift our hands in worship?  Why do we sway to a waltz and tap our feet to the beat of a drum?  Why do we clap our hands and stand in appreciation of a performance, a person?

I come to worship, at times, with a heavy heart.  Troubles often seem to surround me and the last thing I want to do is lift my hands. When I was younger, I thought it was fake to sing and praise when there was nothing inside.  I thought God would appreciate my honesty with Him.  Maybe He did.

I think He appreciates a yielded heart more.  I think He looks on my heart and sees me lift my hands.  He knows my circumstances and my worries and takes note that I pursue Him.

There is a physical aspect of worship, a discipline of doing what needs to be done, that positions us to hear, to receive, to obey.  And God honors that.  We want the emotion, the high of sensing His presence, of knowing His goodness.  But, this often comes on the heels of submitting our wills, our intellect, our reason and our hope to Him.

In some churches, raised hands are considered inappropriate, clapping hands are not seen as reverent.  I find the opposite true in my own life.  I can feel my heart so broken and weighted, and, in the act of dancing or pointing to Him, feel the weight lifted, the healing begin.  In the act of raising my hands, I sense my soul becoming still.  “Be still and know that He is God,” doesn’t necessarily refer to being physically still, but an inward stillness.

I am older, not skinny, a ridiculously uncoordinated, goofy, little man.  And if I am seen as undignified, I will stand with king David and say, “I’ll become even more undignified than this…,” FOR HIM!

Boo Hoo!

Motivation 008Today is one of those days where I hear the voices telling me no one’s listening.  They whisper to me about mistakes, about failure.  They remind me how weak I am and tell me to quit trying.  I do not even want to write today.

I let you in on a little secret though.  I hear everyday from people around the world.  I have been walking in victory, storming the gates of hell.  I’m seeing break through in other’s lives.  I’m enjoying, and watching in amazement, the growth and strength of my children.

And yet, today, I’m discouraged.

I’m not God, so I can’t speak very authoritatively on this, but there is a purpose to my discouragement.  I don’t want anyone to spend even a second feeling bad for me.  I think God lets these moments in to see why we’re doing what we do.  For me, I sometimes live to see comments and likes, to see new followers and hear new voices.  But that isn’t why I do this.  It isn’t why I sing or play guitar.

I need reminded that the reason for my life is that I would live to serve Him, to know Him more, to see His light burn brightly in others.  I sing because I love Him.  I move and breathe because it is all I can do to repay Him for what He has done for me.

I don’t know how I would do it, but I would hope that if no one ever read anything I wrote, I would hope I would write just the same.  If my hands were broken, my guitars taken away, my voice silenced by disease, I want my life to be one of worship to my Jesus.  I want my heart to drip with joy and forgiveness seeping from me like nectar from a flower.

It is all I have to offer.

Let it be enough.