Land of the Free

Shameless Plug:  Don’t miss the video at the end

I love my country.

There are a few things that can bring me to tears every time.

The sight of a baby being born.

The thought of my Savior dying on the cross to save me.

The words and melody of the Star Spangled Banner.

“Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

It sends chills up my spine.

Freedom is something that we talk about so much in this country.  Freedom of religion, freedom from religion.  Freedom of speech.  Sexual freedom.  Freedom to choose your own identity.

Lately, we are debating the freedom to go to the bathroom in whatever location we choose.  Seems to have fallen from the lofty ideas that it originated from, but, that’s where we are.

Side note:  Any man who chooses to exercise their right to go to the bathroom in the ladies room while my daughter or wife is in there, better be ready to go through me.

Anyway…

As I have watched these debates, and various other debates throughout the years, it would appear that we are running from freedom, not to it.  Sexual orientation, pornography, drugs (marijuana, opiates, whatever), hate crimes and hateful song lyrics do not release us.  They and the other ideas that surround these arguments do not bring freedom.

I have many friends that are mired in these things that speak, sometimes so eloquently, about the freedom they are experiencing.  But, it’s all eyewash.  It’s all smoke and mirrors.

Satan has been doing this since he first made contact with humanity.  “You can throw off God, be God yourself.  You’ll be free if you disobey His commands, run from His love, despise His perfect design.”

And for all these years, we’ve believed satan’s lies, and the lies we now tell ourselves.

I know slavery.  I now know freedom.  Real, healing, blessed, calming freedom!  God never wanted slaves.  God never designed us to yield to anything or anyone but Him.

We can still be the “Land of the Free”, and it doesn’t even matter where we call home.

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Porn and Abortion

Natural design, intended design have been on my mind lately.  Looking at a thing, an animal, a person’s design tells you many things.

The recent, overwhelming availability and use of pornography and abortion have been weighing on me too.  And I’m seeing some similarities that are warning me.

I hate when I sound like a lecturer in college.  Intellectual, no heart, discussing, objectively, the facts regarding the tools used to destroy marriages, families, children, babies.

The original, intended design for love, for sex, for marriage, was to touch, to relate, to bring life.  The act of falling in love was surrounded with connection, with intimacy, with bonds that could not, should not be broken.

These two, the great sins of the twent-first century, go against that design.

In times past, we had adultery, we had the, “ripping open of pregnant women,” lust and murder were fully developed.  But all of them require touch.  A simple thing called touch.

Now we can have sex with someone without ever coming into contact with them.  There is no possibility of disease, or pregnancy, or life.  We can take the act of Alex and remove the possibility of ever holding a child, teaching them, protecting them.  We can have what we want without any of the responsibilities, the repercussions, the relationship.

And we are worse for this.

We walk through our neighborhoods disconnected, our jobs and our churches with no friendships, no connection, no touch.

And we are worse for it.

We were never designed for this.  We were never intended for this.

Put down the remote, put down the magazine, the technology, the knife that is destroying us all.  Hold her hand, hold the child, hold the life God gave you.

Make your life count.

Hard to Hear

The average age of a victim of incest is five to eight years old. Thousands of girls under the age of twelve have been raped. The age of children introduced to pornography may be as low as eight years old.

Facts, verifiable statistics are hard to come by.

Here’s what I know. First sexual experience at 6. Introduction to pornography at age ten. Victim of molestation at age seven. And I was raised in the church.

I have been convicted of how week my prayers are concerning our children. I see our efforts in kids ministry, my efforts in kids ministry, as anemic, at best, in dealing with the realities of their lives.

I didn’t even look up statistics on child abandonment or divorce. I had heard enough.

I call on you all to pray for our children. I ask you to get involved in their lives. And as ministry leaders, I ask that you go beyond making Jesus easy to understand, kid friendly. I ask you to go beyond prayers for grandma and the pet hamster that they love. As worship leaders, go beyond singing and playing.

What is happening to our little ones is so damaging. We must rise to their defense. And, we must give them more of Jesus, a real Jesus that lives for real in their really messed up lives.

Zealous

So, in Nehemiah’s day, the people of Israel are rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. They were literally working and fighting for their lives at the same time.

Baruch , son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section (Nehemiah 3:20)

Now, I would think that this would be a given, for everyone. The enemy was out there and they weren’t just aiming for Baruch. They were all in this together. So what made this one guy stand out?
Fast forward to today.
We are surrounded by humanism, satanism, witchcraft, pornograhy, gambling, divorce, infidelity, alcoholism, selfishness and so many other things. At the heart of it is a force of evil, not trying to show you a good time. The goal of satan and his allies is your death.
Where do you stand? That’s critical. Do you believe in Jesus or not?
Then, you might want to look at how you’re standing. There are people that are counting on you, looking to see who you are. They want to know who you are, what you’re made of, what you believe. And it will mean so much more if you actually believe what you say you believe.
And, on a side note, it is interesting to me that the one who is zealous is named Baruch.
Praise. I think it may be saying to us that those who really believe can’t BE anything but people who worship.
And hey, in battle, it seems to often help to stick close to the crazy ones.
Be worshipers. Be crazy! Be zealous!!

To The Last Man

What do you do when you’ve lost all hope?

What is your choice when you’ve done everything and all you hoped for is gone?

What do you do when all have betrayed you and you’re left alone, unwanted, unloved, forgotten?

The problem with the TV generation, the movie, Hollywood, Super Hero people who live their lives through the stories they see on a screen is they never know what to do.  When real life happens and things don’t go as planned, when there is no reset button to push or magical potion to fix all the problems, those that have not lived real life will lay down.  They will give up and let death take them.

Dylan Thomas said, “Do not go gently into that dark night.”  His stanzas speaking of there being more to do, to live, to “rage against.”

And in the light of this promiscuous culture, the family decimated by media, divorce, infidelity, pornography, addiction and abuse, it can seem that our hope, the promises we stand on, are awfully, woefully thin.

God’s love is not absent.  The power of the Holy Spirit has not waned.  But our reliance, our grasp of who He is and who we are in Him, is pitifully weak.

“Do not go gently into that dark night.”

So, though at times my hope is lost, I will stay in His word.  Though, at times, my faith is built on sinking sand, I will put on my helmet, my belt, my shoes, my breastplate, my shield and my sword.

And though I am bloody from every battle I’ve been through, I will rage against these giants and say, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty…This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of satan’s army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in America.”

And with my dying breath, I will let my children know, the children of my blood and of my spirit, that the living God reigned in me and I was His, will be His, forever.

Stand with me, by your prayers, your love, your worship, your sacrifice.

Laish

Of the tribes of Israel, there is none that leaves a blacker mark than the tribe of Dan.  Interesting that the name means “Judge” but I’ll leave that for another post.

Israel was sent into the promised land to clear out the inhabitants because of the evil they were doing.  Sexual immorality, greed, child sacrifice being high on the list of their offenses.  But there appears to be one notable exception, the town of Laish.

I don’t know much about them, their practices, their religion.  The bible tells us that they were quiet and secure, and had wealth.  It would seem that, from the narrative, that they were to be left alone.  But to Dan, a tribe that had forsaken God, they were a gold mine.

We know that Dan had not “come into their inheritance” yet.  Seems an innocuous statement but it reveals a complacency, a lack of faith.  Israel had been told to go in and possess the land.  They had been there many, many years at this point.  And yet Dan still didn’t have their inheritance.  It can be surmised that this was due to their lack of faith.  The area that was allotted them was “too difficult,” so they went looking for another.  They wanted an easier prize.

Our struggles with addiction, our anger with God over “not coming through” smell a lot like the tribe of Dan.  And the evil, the sad horror of the sins we commit as we take the “path of least resistance” mar the name of Jesus and separate us further from His will.

What seems impossible to you?  What exhausts you just in thinking about it?  What feels so overwhelming that you can’t bear the weight of it?  Know that you have a choice.  Know that you want what only God can handle.  And know that, everyday, innocents die when we choose to not step out in faith.

It may sound like I’m condemning.  To my shame, I spent 40 years addicted to pornography.

This is a battle cry!  Fight!  Go save them!  Stand up!  Live!  That is the life of faith.

Do Not Doubt

“This kind can come out only by prayer.” Mark 9:29

The father saw his tortured boy.  He asked for help and none came.  It went on for years.  Then Jesus – how many of you love those words – then Jesus came and healed.

“Why couldn’t we drive this demon out?” The disciples asked.  They had come to see God’s power in their lives and were perplexed, maybe a bit discouraged that this time the regular things hadn’t worked.  The tried and true formulas had failed.  And mind you, these were people functioning under Jesus’ authority.  Consider this too, the demon shrieked as it left the boy.  This is evidence of a hold that perhaps even Jesus had to increase his efforts to break (increasing on the infinite is something I’m not sure about but at least consider the possibility).

In my last post, I talked about walking away from temptation.  I even expressed in terms that may seem angry at those who don’t walk away.  I don’t apologize for that but hear me as I give credence to what I said.

I was introduced to pornography at the age of ten.  I have lived in that addiction for over forty years but now know freedom.  Yes, and I do mean real freedom.  I still am tempted.  I am still a male.  But I am free.

All the formulas and ideas, from praying and accountability, the gimmicks that so many claim to stand on, never worked for me.  Prayer and accountability are important but I can tell you, if you do it to overcome sin, you are putting the cart before the horse, as they say.  They become gimmicks, and often make things worse, because the end goal is not deepening your relationship with Jesus, but making yourself a better person.

Jesus didn’t die to make you better.  I’m sorry if that bursts a preconceived notion, but it is true.  He invites you into His kingdom, not so you will shape up (He loves you just the way you are).  He invites you because you are His child.  And to overcome sin, for you to overcome sin, was never His goal.

“IT IS FINISHED,” He cried on the cross.  He already overcame sin.  In your life, in mine, sin is conquered.

I can hear you (hear myself) at this point.  “Bull  —-!”

“This kind can only come out by prayer.”

Do you seek freedom?  Do you want healing?  Let go of everything.  Give up your dreams, your hopes, your passions and turn to Him.  Don’t tenaciously clutch your life in your hands, all of your life.  Learn thankfulness, gratitude, for what God has done and is doing in and through you.  Then look to Him.

Do not doubt. . . NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!