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!

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.

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.

 

Please click on the link to check out Cory Asbury’s new album. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/reckless-love/1320253615

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…

I Quit

I quit my job last week.  I still don’t have a job.  We have no money (well, very little).  I have only sent out one application for a job that I might not get.

This is a picture that I would not want to paint for anyone, and certainly did not want to paint for myself.

Everything is wrong except the part where I tell God that I’ll obey Him.  Now it has taken me a while to obey Him, but I did it in the end.

I tried to work up an emotional frenzy to decide to obey.  I became angry and bitter, largely because I wanted an easier path to obedience.  I wanted assurances that obedience wouldn’t cost me more than I could afford, or that there would be a payoff I could see before I chose to obey.

Yeah, faith in God doesn’t work that way.

I knew the stories of the priests stepping into the raging Jordan River, the worshipers, not the soldiers, that lead the charge into battle, Ananias going to meet with the murderous Saul of Tarsus.  But I really wanted an easier path, one with less risk involved.

In the middle of it, when I am experiencing the turmoil of fears and a peace that is beyond understanding, do I get to see God.  Worship is different and has taken on new meaning, and that is good.

I don’t want my praise, my prayers to be lying platitudes to a God I don’t believe in.

I want to fly.

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.