Name Above All Names

Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Our worship is directed at someone we are hardly capable of understanding.  Here is a person with the strength, the power to rule the world.  He is capable of annhialating the planet with the force of His word.  Should he command it, our own bodies would cease to function and we would be undone – both physically and mentally.  His presence causes demons to shudder and cry out. 

Yet, in all this, He is the embodiment of love.  He would take a child and bring them into the center of our focus.  He reminds us that to be first you should be last.  He tells us to love our enemies and pray for people that hurt us.  His greatest commands are to love.

Then He turns to laying down our own lives.  Didn’t He save us so that we could live?  Now, He commands us to take up our cross and follow Him.  Not just letting go of what we want and live for but taking up His “mantle” of self-sacrifice, self-abasement, putting ourselves in the place of humility, of peace.

And what does He want from us?  To make us look like Him, act like Him, little pictures of God in the flesh working and squirming and eking out our existence here.  In a world that is certifiably crazy, He wants us to be sane.  He wants us to bring joy.  He wants us to be open and honest.  He wants us to be alive.

He is impossible to follow.  I CAN NOT be like Him for He is perfection and I am so flawed.

Tie me to You, Lord.  Bind me to Your life, Your ways.  You promised and You never break Your promises.

The Need for Speed

We hear so much about our rushing mentality in today’s world.  What is wrong with us that we can’t slow down and enjoy what’s around us?  I see the point but….well…BORING!!!

No, no!  I get the, “Be still and know that I am God,” thing.  Its just that I’m not dead yet.  I’m ALIVE!  That means movement.  If you look at things on the cellular level, we are in constant frantic motion.  If you consider our thought processes and nerve impulses, we’re like a super computer on steroids.  And, I don’t know about you, but when it comes to worshipping my Lord, the One who loves me, who died for me, who created the universe, who “holds all things together,” I can’t sit still.

Don’t get me wrong, God commanded us to be still – that was from Him.  And we need our moments of quiet where we stop and consider, sitting in awe of His majesty.  But He also commanded us to GO!  He didn’t mean trudge out into the world with your Eeyore face and force people to serve Jesus.  He meant go with all the love and excitement that cannot be contained in one small vessel.  Go and pour out His love and compassion, His healing and truth into a world that desperately needs His touch.  Go as young and old people who know Him for who He truly is and can no longer sit still.  Let our churches, our homes be a launching pad for the rockets that God created us to be and LIVE!

So take a minute and sit still….

Good, now get out there.  It’s gonna’ be AWESOOMMMEEEE!

Stop Being A Jerk

A simple command that doesn’t require too much thought.  Added to this is hearing it from God.  Not the start you want to your day.

I was complaining.  Again.

Things go wrong in my life.  Things that I thought would happen just don’t happen.  I struggle with sin.  I fall and get back up.  And then I wrestle with depression and guilt.  I feel so distant from my wife, my kids, my God.  Why Lord? 

Then I’m swearing at the guy who just cut me off.  I’m angry and sullen all day at work, every moment wishing I could quit this place and do something meaningful.  And the really sad part is that this is a familiar pattern.  I swing on this pendulum fairly often and you’d think I’d just get off this ride, but no.  Here I am again.  Wondering why God hasn’t come through for me.  Questioning why God allowed me on this earth.

Then His answer comes.  He actually couched it in terms that I won’t use here because I don’t want to offend.  But he speaks to me through words I can understand and relate to.  His voice was no less loving than at other times.  There was nothing of disappointment or condemnation.  He was just being straight with me.  I love that about my King.

And what is the truth?  I was being a jerk.  I know better but I was pouting, having my little temper tantrums, saying things that do not honor him, hating.  And what do I expect?  A miraculous light to shine down on me and all bad attitudes, imperfect thoughts, humanity is removed.  The saint, who is Matt Hawkins, shines forth in glory.  And all that is, was, wrong can be laid squarely at the feet of my choices.  So make different choices.

Satan will tell you (he tells me) that you can’t choose.  You are stuck in a pattern that you can’t break free of.  One of the many wonders of worship is that it is a time to make another choice.  We sing to our God because of His greatness, His power, His love.  But inherit in that worship is the idea that we are changed by His presence.  We become something greater having been with our God.  His glory shines through us.

So make a different choice.  And stop being a jerk.

Holy, Holy, Holy

Holiness conjures up several ideas to include perfection and some sort of stoic reverence.  It can carry the idea of judgement and bitter disdain as well.  But I am intrigued by Holiness.  Throughout the bible we are given many titles for God that describe His attributes.  But, there are very few things that God says that He IS.  I would submit, bearing in mind my vastly limited understanding of God, that His lesser, external attributes stem from the greater, internal self-descriptive adjectives.  He is the “I Am.”  He is “the Lord.”  He is “Love.”  He is “Holy.”

Holiness is found not just in His actions, though these too are holy.  It is a part of His character that He is untainted by sin.  Within Him and through every pore of His being there is nothing but purity and perfection.  But His holiness is a natural extension of His love, as is His love being a natural extension of His holiness.  We have tried to understand Jesus’ crucifixion in terms of God’s holiness being compensated for by God’s love , which is scriptural but a poor understanding of this will cause us to miss the mark.  His eternal nature, His love and holiness never saw His creation as being capable of coming close to Him.  I don’t believe for a second that the angels in heaven come close to God’s holiness, though they are perfect.  I am of the opinion that had we never fallen in the Garden, there would still be a need of some redemptive act by God to bring us closer to what He is.  But His holiness is just as relational as His love is.  His holiness sought the audience of those that could understand and appreciate at some level the cost and value of God’s holiness.

As we worship, as we sing our songs and dance before Him, we should see Him for who He is.  His holiness should bring us to silence and awe.  It should leave us breathless in His presence and lead us to a greater depth in our celebration.  The High and Lofty One has come to meet with us.  He is Lord!!

My Grace is Sufficient

When Paul penned these words I often wonder what He meant.  We don’t know what the “messenger from Satan” was.  We don’t know why God left it there, didn’t remove it.  God just says, “My grace is sufficient.”  And how does this apply to our existence?

We infer from the fact that the problem was not removed that and the use of the word sufficient that God is saying something to the effect that, “my grace will be enough.  Just enough but you’ll make it through.”  We assume, drawing from our own experiences, that God does not make it so that we can live triumphant lives but lives that will keep us from Hell, lives that will, some how, some way, bring Him some measure of Glory.  Is that what Paul was talking about?  I think not.

The point of our existence has never been, nor will it ever be to show our greatness, our perfection.  So why do we think that we must attain holiness to be worth scrutiny?  We hide our lives because of imperfection and feel shame at all our mistakes.  We hear and take to heart every story where God’s name is dragged through the mud by some leader’s indiscretion, the revelation of some human’s poor living.

“My grace is sufficient,” tells me that we are known to be insufficient.  His perfection made perfect in my weakness tells me that I am weak (shocker).  So I say, look at my life.  Dissect my attitudes and incompetencies.  In them you will find revealed a Lord and Savior that is “sufficient” beyond our wildest dreams and hopes.  He is enough to bring triumph from despair.  He is enough to bring wholeness where only brokeness can exist.  He is gracious enough to LOVE what is unlovable.  HE IS GOD!!

How Did I Get Here?

When I started out with Jesus I had this idea of what I would look like later in life.  I knew who I would marry and the children we would have.  I believed that I would train horses and work on a farm or camp setting.  It would have to be outside because there was no way I could stand not seeing sunshine or feeling the wind on my face.  I would be an evangelist that spoke to large crowds and droves would come forward at my altar calls.  I would sing and write songs that sold millions with people all over the world knowing my name.  I am so ashamed to write this down and since this is a blog and not a book I will stop there.  You get the idea.

Wow, I was supposed to be great!

I did not marry the girl.  My children do not look like or act like how I envisioned.  I have not trained a horse in 20 years.  I work in an environmentally controlled setting where I may not see the sun for days during the winter and only feel the wind when I walk out the door.  I have never spoken to large crowds and have led only a handful of people to my Jesus.  I have written songs that very few people have heard and have yet to sell one of them.  And I’m a nobody.

But here is a good place.  Oh I see that my “dreams” didn’t come true.  I didn’t dream big enough.  My plans all failed because I had me at the center.  God’s plans worked out just fine.

My wife is so precious and better than I ever could’ve hoped for.  My boys are taller, stronger, more talented than I could’ve imagined.  My daughter has a heart, a compassion that takes my breath away.  I am involved in research and get to lead kid’s in worship.  I belong, key word belong, to a church that teaches the truth and lives for Jesus and His kingdom.  And I am priviledged to be allowed to share my life with you.

I am convinced that the critical issue for people that would follow God is not what we will do, what we will accomplish for Him.  There is so much dissatisfaction, so much disappointment in following that motivation.  The addictive behaviors that ruled my life for so many years were really the result of wanting to do more, wanting to be more and knowing that I could never measure up (hence the need to “feel better”).  What has brought healing and life to my crusty old soul was coming to a place where I am content.  Content that I am loved and that God will do what He wants with me.  Content to serve Him and be His child.  Content to let Him be God!

I’m not sure how I got here.  I know I’ve got other places I still need to be.  But Lord, this is good!

What Has It Cost Me?

I have been overwhelmed and grateful for the responses to this blog as people have poured out their sympathy for me and the struggles that I’ve gone through.  My concern for this, and I am concerned, is that you’re not hearing what I am saying.

I know, I know.  A good author should let the words speak for themselves.  The message each person gets will be and should be different as God speaks through what I say to give a particular word or thought that pertains individually.  However, the commiseration is unfounded and I would like to clear the air on this.

What did I lose by walking this path with my Jesus?

1)  Self-reliance – I am not nor will I ever be adequate to handle what comes my way.  I should never again tell Him, “I got this.  I’ll take it from here.” 

2)  Fear – Because I am not dependent on me, or man, life’s circumstances, fate, I have nothing to fear if something goes against what I had planned.  I “rest in the shadow of the Almighty”.

3)  Condemnation – God doesn’t look at me like, “why aren’t you doing better?  Why can’t you do anything right?”  He actually looks at me with pride and joy (even still, this is hard to believe) because of my heart for Him.  I am His child.

4)  Hatred/Bitterness – I don’t have to react to what people say or do to me.  This is tied to fear and condemnation because my defensive reaction to those stimuli illicited the response of hatred.  I can love because I am free to love.  Fear and condemnation bind me, enslave me to addiction, to selfishness, to confusion.

I have lost nothing in this fight except the years I wasted doubting my Lord.  But even those are redeemed as I rest in Him today.

A House Divided

Soon after the military I got married and we began having children.  Our first was a little girl and within the space of 5 years we had added 3 rowdy boys.  I was also going to school full-time, working and involved in church.  A full roller coaster for the beginning of a marriage.

I tell you this, not to share all that was good and bad about those years, but to give a backdrop for where I was spiritually.  So much going on, so many blessings, struggles, adventures, stresses but it wasn’t enough, never enough.

I also began applying for pastor positions with depression and anger following each rejection, each “unanswered” prayer.  Nothing was enough, no one was enough and I so often turned on God questioning His concern for me, His trustworthiness.  This pattern has continued for many years.  Many, many years.

I knew the gifts that God had given me.  I had a good understanding of my level of intelligence.  Being a father and husband had both bolstered my confidence and humbled me in ways that no other experience can.  But I was incomplete.  I held a place of emptiness that nothing could fill, nothing could take away.

How can a person accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord, walk with Him, pray and believe in God’s sovereignty over all and yet live in a way that demonstrates little but fear and self-reliance.  I have heard so many times the phrase, “Jesus is not Lord at all until He is Lord of all.”  But in my heart I knew that, more than my confessions of Him and more than my broken dreams, He was my Lord.  Somehow, there was a disconnect.

Please don’t misunderstand, during all of this time, I continued to lead worship, bible studies, teach sunday school and encourage youth in their day to day walks with God.  I spoke from an honest heart of who I knew God to be.  How can I worship with my whole heart, sensing His presence and honoring Him with my life, my voice, my song and still doubt everything He does.

It made no sense – still doesn’t.