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!

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)

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.

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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Jesus Wins

I have felt such heartbreak over things in this world.  Suffering, human trafficking, divorce, pornography, wars, racism…

How long, oh Lord?

I listened to a song yesterday.  It is one of my all-time favorites.  And I needed the reminder.

See, Jesus isn’t shocked by racism, though it breaks his heart too.  He’s not overwhelmed by the cruelty of man, our propensity for violence and our exploitation of those weaker than ourselves.  His voice is not silenced by the tumult of evil.  His light is not dimmed by the darkness on the horizon.

Remember, oh my soul, He wrote the story.  He placed the characters and set the stage.  His death on the cross culminated in His declaration that, “IT IS FINISHED.”  

So do I live from His victory or do I wonder every day whether the darkness will win.  Will satan ever be able to defeat the church of Jesus, the Holy Spirit inside us, His resurrection power?

Not even remotely!

Jesus wins, has already won.  You can bet your life on it.

Opposite Attraction

I come to this with some fear and trembling.  So do me and your pastor and your family a favor, if you’re not going to read the whole thing, stop here.

Still with me?

Ok, good, let’s move on.

“He’s a coward,” the lie came whispering.  I was thinking about a pastor, one of my pastors, and that is what I thought.  It felt so real, so true.  I felt myself agreeing, believing it.

Now, maybe he isn’t the bravest man alive, but anybody who knows anything about the pastors at my church know that they are not cowards.  Especially when it comes to the Word of God.

So why did I think and start believing what I knew wasn’t true?  Did it make me look better, feel better about my place in life?  Or was it just from the “father of lies?”

Does it matter?

It was a lie.

What is the advantage or who gains an advantage by my belief a lie?  

We get these thoughts from time to time.  In marriage we can get them a lot.  

“He’s a bum.”

“Why did I ever marry her?”

And to these lies, and the ones like them that surround everyone I meet, I like to apply the principle of opposite attraction.

It works like this.

“That pastor is a coward.”  I pray to the opposite.  “God, I thank you for his boldness in standing for you.  I stand with him as he fearlessly lives for you.”

“Why did I marry her?”  The opposite, “thank you for bringing her into my life.”

Here’s the hard part, sometimes it isn’t actually a full out lie.  But make no mistake, a truth that leads us to hate someone is never a complete truth.

“He’s unfaithful.”

“She hates me.”

Oh precious, broken heart, be drawn to the opposite.

“Raise him up to be faithful.  I believe You are working in him to give his heart completely to You.  You are making him a man of God.”

“She is loving and blessed.  I believe You are softening her heart to love despite the hurts she has endured.  You are creating a woman of God who trusts completely in You.”

And in praying to the opposite our hearts can be drawn to the possibility of the opposite.  Our anger and fear dissipate in the presence of the God who says, “all things are possible.”  Our trust is placed in the only one we should ever completely place it in.  And the noise of all the lies diminishes.

Turmoil is replaced by peace.  Depression is replaced by power.

Hate is replaced by love.  

Can’t Help Myself 

I decided to step out in faith recently.  I was going to trust God to catch me or die in the attempt.  I can see that God is catching me.  I will start working for my church in a week.  We have paid all our bills though I have had no work.  But, there are still scary things looming on the horizon.

I don’t recommend that everyone just quit their job.  I do recommend spending lots of time reading the bible, talking to Jesus, serving Him and people.

Listen.

What I’m finding in this process is that I love Him more.  I want His voice, His presence more and more.  I want to learn more and grow more.  I want to share more.  

Yesterday, when it came time for the offering, though we have so little, I wanted to give.

This is not natural for this stingy old heart.

I’m not bragging.  This came out of what God put inside, it didn’t come from me.  

I love to worship, that is normal for me.  It has been a temptation to want to manipulate God (yeah, I did this) by my worship.  I wanted to win His favor by showing Him how much I love Him.

There is a quietness, a peace that has entered the worship of my King.  That is not normal for me, but it is so good.

I don’t know what you think of all of this.  I certainly have my times of crankiness, of fear and doubt.  I don’t know where we’re going.  But, I’m starting to enjoy the ride.  I’m excited about the journey, excited about the future.

I can’t help it…

Time to Change

I think it’s time for a change.
I’ve been the bitter worshipper long enough and God has been way too good for me to rest there.

Let me elucidate.

I’ve been married for almost twenty seven years and in that time have given her so many reasons to leave, to give up. But she still loves me.

I’ve made so many mistakes.  Failed over and over again. Yet found the strength to stand.

Others have “failed” me, rejected me, disappointed me. But the gates of my heart are still open. 

I have yelled at God, fought Him at every turn.  And despite that, He holds on, He will not give up!

I’ve been bitter but God is changing me.

The tumors of fear and addiction have been removed.  The cancerous lies of Satan have been exposed and treated with the healing power of His great love.

I’m done with being angry.

I’m having too much fun being alive!

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.”

Grateful

Life has been interesting for the past several months.  And I just have not been able to write.  Several times I have been inspired but couldn’t get myself to face the keys.  I have concentrated on the difficulties and ran the risk of missing so many blessings, not least of which is the arrival of my twin granddaughters, Anna and Rebecca.

So, today I was thinking about the children of Israel.  Well, ok.  I was thinking about Paul and reading in Philippians.  Paul is in prison and makes the statement, “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

I contrast this with the Israelites who have just been delivered from the hand of Egypt.  They are finally free and they respond with complaining and demands.  I get the one about water a little bit.  I mean they’re in a desert.  But demanding food, complaining about starving, hold on a second.

This is an agrarian society.  They raised animals and had throughout the history of the nation.  They had stripped the Egyptians of their wealth and taken their flocks with them.  But all they could see was what they didn’t have.  They wanted their cake and eat it too.

I can hear their hearts.  “What if I get to where we’re going and have nothing left?  What if something happens, gotta’ prepare for the worst?  I don’t have near as much as they do, so I’ve got to save all I can.”

Sounds like insurance sales.

I have to hoard.  I have to protect.  I have to prepare for contingencies.

Fear, unbelief, selfishness.  A Jedi craves not these things.

Wait…. What?

I mean a Christian craves not these things.

We serve a lavish God.  We serve a God that blesses greatly.  He loves us so much that he bankrupted heaven to redeem us.

Paul says in Romans 8 that, “if God is for us, who can stand against us?”  And the greatest prize is something no one can take away.  “Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.”

I have been so ungrateful, so bitter and fearful.

But, God is good!  Oh so good!  Help me see it Lord.