The Sacrifice

Deuteronomy – the second giving of the law.  We get bored with books like this.

I’m not bored.

Chapter 13 talks about the possibility that someone might try to entice you to follow other Gods.  It may be a false prophet, but it may be the wife you love, your son or your daughter.  Should they try, there is only one choice, they have to die.

On paper, this sounds fine.  Nothing comes between me and my God.  But then I hold my beautiful grandchildren.  I laugh and feel that sense of pride as I watch my sons becoming men.  I kiss my wife and talk with her.  Should they lead me from my God, could I kill them?  Could I be the first to pick up a stone and throw it at them?

I don’t think so.

That’s probably what happened, what happens.  Something has a little more wow, a little more yeah than the stuffy gods of our religions and we move, imperceptibly at first but our hearts are drawn away.  And we would never confront this with a ferocity that would kill those we love.  

So God is sacrificed.  But in the end, so are our children.

I’m not trying to get you to kill your kids.  I think what God, through Moses, is trying to say is that I need to take it seriously how I lead them, that I lead them.  The same admantiam will that would stone my child is what I need to sacrifice my self, my flesh.  The same ferocity that attacks the sin in others is what I need to attack the sin in me.

Either I lay my life down or I lay theirs down.

I look at my body, my finances, my talents and it is obvious that I am no paragon of self-discipline.  But the blessing is, I’m not dead yet.  And God is calling me.  Calling all of us.

“He is no fool who give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”  Jim Elliot

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.

 

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Trying

I love working with my son.

Mind you, he drives me crazy sometimes.  It’s possible that I drive him crazy, too.  But, I doubt it.

We were working on reflooring the one bathroom in our house.  After tearing up the old flooring, we both looked at the bare wood before us and then glanced at each other as if to say, “what do we do now?”

“Have you ever done this before?”  Nope!  Neither one of us had done that type of flooring.  And so we walked away from it.

A day later, I put in the floor and put in the new toilet.

Here’s a secret that most people that do remodeling won’t tell you.  We haven’t always done or ever done what you might want us to do.  What you are asking for probably could be done by you almost as well as it can be done by me.  The only difference between us is that I will try it.  Most of what I have learned, I learned first by doing it wrong.

I still make mistakes.  If you look closely, you will see imperfections in most of what I do still to this day.

That’s ok.

And it’s ok in life too.

Most of the experts we praise in life still make huge mistakes.  They are flawed.  They fail.

It just doesn’t stop them.

So, are you looking at something that God wants you to do?  Are you seeing something in front of you that you know is doomed to failure, simply because your hand is in it?  Are you afraid of your future?

Yeah, I’m not actually talking to you right now.  I’m talking to me.

Feel free to listen in.

Jump.

Fly.

Try….

My Purpose, My Calling

We hear a lot about hearing God’s call, following God’s calling for you, receiving the call to ministry, finding your purpose in life.  Are you looking for that dream job, the career of a lifetime.  Well hold on to your seats kiddies!

I have the answer for those who are searching.  And if you thought you found your calling and now feel unfulfilled, I have an answer for you too.

I know, who knew such wisdom rested in this earthen vessel but, prepare to be amazed.

Your calling, your purpose, your life’s ambition is fulfilled in following the same call that Jesus yielded to.

Your purpose, my purpose, your calling and mine, is to die.

Well that just sucks!

Yeah, I wanted something cool and amazing, preferably center stage and that paid well.  Second best would be something behind the scenes, you know, nobody sees you but you’re making things happen.  Those on stage depend on you.  You are needed.

But then I looked at Jesus.  His calling wasn’t to do miracles, though he did some of those as well.  His purpose was clearly not to be king, or even start a religion.  He stated that his purpose was to “do the will of the Father.”  And the final act of that was to give his life up.

I saw “the Passion of the Christ” one time.  As I watched what happened to him, I cried.  I balled.  And I kept asking why?  Why would he do that for someone like me?  Why would he do that when he knew how I would receive it?  How I would throw the shit of my sin on the priceless gift of his love?

There is no explanation for why that my mind can comprehend.  But he accepted that price.

And now he calls to me.  He beckons me with his scarred hands, with the love, that held him to his purpose and to the cross, shining over me.

How will I answer him when He longs to take me through the cross?  How will I submit when it is more than my salvation that is at stake, when it will cost me everything?

“Not my will but yours, Lord.”

Infection

I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom and addiction.  I mean, once someone is free why would they ever return to their addiction.  Why do so many addiction programs fail to set people free in the first place?

Here’s my theory…

The heart that is not pursuing God can not be set free.

So only Christians can be free from addiction?

Yep.

So why do so many Christians struggle with addiction?

Because they stopped pursuing God, or never really started.

Going to church is not pursuing God, though it is a part.  Just like reading the bible, praying, worshiping, studying, memorizing.  They all have the potential to draw us closer to God but none can make us pursue God.

And maybe you’re like me.

I love God and want to pursue Him but fear hinders me.  I would love to blame others, my mom and dad, my wife, my job, my church to name a few.  But, I really can only blame myself.

Water is refreshing, life giving.  Food provides nutrients and tastes yummy.  I love milk.  I love chocolate.  But not after any of it has been sitting out for thirty days.

A wound will heal due to natural bodily processes if the infected tissue can be removed, drained, replaced.  But if it can’t, it will become gangrenous, poisonous.

That is what our lives are like.  We were designed to pour into others.  We were not designed to bury guilt and shame.  We were created for community, not isolation.  We came into the heart and mind of God with a specific purpose that can only be recognized as we are connected to Him.

God has invested so much in us through His word, the leaders He has given, the very life of Jesus given to us, the presence of His Holy Spirit inside of us.  We can live with what many would consider reckless abandon.

Or we can be an infection.

Unity

So much divides us.

We weather the political storms.  We weather the divisiveness that surrounds marijuana, homosexuality, our favorite teams, our favorite music group, our state, our culture.

Our individuality makes us unique and sets us, intentionally against the rest of the world.

I like punk rock.

I am a Christian.

I like chocolate and blueberry and Mexican and Chinese and Thai and Italian.

What can unite this diversity?

The world will say that Jesus divides us.  He says that he is the only way.  He says that no one comes to the Father (that would be God) except through Him.  He says that He is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE.

If you don’t know Him, unity becomes difficult because we all say that we know the way.  We can define truth for ourselves.  We can determine our own morality, our own way of living.

But we can’t.  Oh my people, my friends, we can’t.

We are too selfish.

What can unite us?

It is called the cross.  He laid his life down for us, gave it up.  We lay our lives down for each other.  We love beyond reason, beyond self-fulfillment.  We submit ourselves to something greater, to something transcendent.

That is our only hope, our only bright future.

Image result for strength in unity images

Such a Gringo

His dad has a video of Chito running across his backyard, trying to jump the fence into his pool.  He slips several times and on the last attempt slips so bad that he slams into the fence.  I also see him climbing a rope, hands only, getting to the top and slipping.  He didn’t fall, just scared us all to death.

And here I am crying.

I think he would tell me I’m being a gringo.

He would then tell me he found the perfect woman to marry because she cooks just like his mom, only now he can’t marry…

…’cuz he’s in heaven…

I think he would describe his accident with less fear than I presume.  I think he’d say something like, “man I was flying and then bam, I was in heaven.  It was sick.”

He would laugh at our tears, but only a little.  He’d tell us all to wear crazy shirts at his funeral.  Do something stupid like have jumping contests over chairs or off the stage.  And then he’d tell us to worship.  Worship with all our hearts.

He loved to worship.

I need to quit being such a gringo.  Because I think he’s right.

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I Can’t Feel

Last weekend I lost a very dear friend of mine.  I have not recovered.

My mind, my head feel full, pressured, blocked.

My hands, as I write, feel numb, thick, unwieldy.

My heart, oh that feels.  But what?  As I hear his voice in my head, his laughter, see his goofy smile and remember the stupid, silly things he said and did.  What can I allow it to feel?

I break down in tears over and over again and then laugh.  Then I am so angry and embittered.  Not at God, not at this young man, not at myself even.  I think I’m just angry at life.

What a crazy thing this life is.  So strong and binding…

So fragile and transient…

I’ve seen the pictures of birds on the internet, the swallow that feeds his dying mate, the protection of a pod of dolphins.  I don’t know what they’re feeling, what is happening inside them.  Maybe we are unique in the depths of our feelings, the strength of the attachments we are capable of forming.

Maybe we aren’t…

But I know enough of all of us that, if we let ourselves, we all enjoy living, we love life.

That means that when it is taken, when it is ended too quickly, when it is ended at all, a part of us dies too.

So, maybe how I feel right now is a gift from God too.  Maybe the hurt that I can’t feel, and the hurt I can’t allow myself to feel are all part of the evidence that, as stupid and ridiculous as I am, I’m alive.

Whatever…

I only know that I would rather feel this loss and know love, know friendship, than to set my heart aside and truly never live.

I can feel.

The Let Down

So you found out you’re human?  “Normal” has come back to haunt you and you thought you’d never see it again.

I’d tell you to suck it up and quit whining but since I’m talking to myself, it seems kind of pointless.

Why do we seek God, or feel like we’re finding God in the emotional highs of conferences, worship nights, church services or mission trips?  There’s always the let down.  We thought we had a handle on things, that we had gained a better perspective, a cleaner heart, a mind that could understand, an improved me.  But then life comes back in and proves us unfaithful, shines the spotlight on how weak, how inadequate we are.

Yeah.

I’m going through that right now.  I’m home from Nicaragua after seeing and experiencing God in so many tangible ways.  But, I’m still just me.  I still can’t be a pastor, my business is still failing, my family still has the same issues.  I still work in a factory.

But, that is not what defines me.

We need the highs, not as an addict needs a buzz, more like an inventor needs a lightning bolt, more like a good night’s sleep, more like a kiss from the person you love the most.

Maybe you’re like me.  The voices calling you failure, the evidence that weighs against you, the darkness that seems to cover you make you believe that that is who you are, the limits you must accept.

God would tell you, tell me something else.  Not that we can experience highs all the time but that we are more than our humanity, more than our weakness.  He would have us know that He is more also, more than we can possibly imagine.

The let down just reminds us that we can never get too much of Him.

A Mile High

I’m way up in the air right now.

I’m not talking about physically.  Well, ok, I am flying over what appears to be the Carribean and parts of Mexico or maybe that’s the Pacific.  

I don’t really know.  I’m not sure I care.

I’m looking down on the bluest water you’ve ever seen with tiny puffballs of clouds doting the sky.  We’ll soon be landing in Panama ending the second leg of our journey to Nicaragua.  We’ll then launch our ministry into the heart of the capital beginning the end of satan’s tyranny over this country.

Oh, I’m flying alright.  God’s presence is surrounding us in these cramped, little airline seats.  The heat is already kicking in as the fire in my soul begins to blaze.

In this moment, I see the man I am, the husband I’ve been, the father, the friend.  I see my failing prayers for what they are and my life for what it has been.

And I know I can do better, be better, love more.

But this airplane will land.  I’ll meet the ground again and life will go back to normal.

Ah, but will it?

See, my God (oh I love those words), MY GOD can do anything.  

My God can crush this heart of stone.

My God can heal.  My God can restore.

My God can awaken the warrior in me.

And then what? 

Oh, I won’t be flying.  I will still not know exactly where I am or how I’ll reach my destination.

I just know I’m coming for my freedom and joy.  I’m coming for my family.

And destroyer, thief, killer, I’m coming after you.