The Weight of the World

I deal with depression from time to time.  Things don’t always seem to go the way I want them to.  It can feel so heavy as to be unbearable.  I remember the times that taking my life was a better alternative than facing one more day.

I have looked at Jesus.  I have scoffed at the verse that says he was tempted in the same way I am tempted.  He never knew failure.  He never knew guilt and shame.  And because of this, I minimized his sacrifice on the cross.

He died.  Many people during the Roman occupation died, suffering for longer than Jesus did.  They were beaten too, mocked, humiliated.  It becomes a common theme when a ruling force ceases to value life, to respect something other.

I have looked at it differently this year.  God has been teaching me.

I know what it feels like to be rejected for a job, a ministry position, a loved one.  He knew the rejection of every person he had come to save.  They didn’t want him.

I know shame and failure from my own sin.  He knew the shame and failure of being the King of Creation and being nailed to that cross.  At some moment, though he knows all things, must have hoped that his love, his miraculous power, his wisdom and grace should have been enough to reach the world.  But it wasn’t.  His closest friends denied him.

And then I think about the weight of what I carry, the burdens I carry.  Then I multiply by the number of people living right now and add that to those that lived before, knowing that I am not alone in what crushes me.  And in that moment on the cross, I see him lifting that weight.  Not just the weight of the crossbeam of the cross but the weight of guilt and shame, the weight of failure and sin, the weight of hatred and lust and fear and every sin under the sun.

I see my Hero standing up under what would crush the rest of us.  And not only did he lift it once, he carried it and HE DEFEATED IT!!!

Amazing, truly awesome!

He did it all to set us free from it.  No one could do what He did.  I can not loose the chains that have bound me.  But He can, He did.

I don’t even know what the proper, appropriate response to this should be.  My singing, my dancing, my bended knees, my clapping and every note I could ever play, my life is not enough.

I will give it anyway.  It is all that I have.

Let God Write The Story

I know a man who has failed time and again.  He is so sure of his failing, he can not allow success.  If things are going well, he simply forces failure on all he is trying to accomplish.

Let God write the story.

I know an old man who has betrayed his wife, his children, many times. The guilt and condemnation he feels over all the hurts he has caused, the overwhelming shame that darkens every day, tell him he can not be loved.

Let God write the story.

The woman who had an abortion so many years ago.

The teen awaiting sentencing.

A child bound in slavery of a type no one should ever face.

Let God write the story.

We don’t believe that He is, sometimes.  We want to help Him.  Maybe just skip ahead to the good part.  Or just read the last page and close the book.

But, if we let Him, He can write something amazing.

It will have pain.  It will be terrifying at times.  It is a God story after all.

Don’t grab the pen.  Don’t rip out the pages.  Don’t speed read over the details.

It’s a good read, a beautiful picture.  Let it capture you.  Let Him capture you.

Let God write your story.

I Stand Up Front

We were brand new to the church.  None of us knew anybody, none of us had ever been inside before.

“Where do we sit?” Came the whispered question.

I don’t know what possessed me, what inspired me, but it was life-defining.  In the second that passed between the question and my answer, I made a decision.  I would never be one to sit in the back.  I did not ever want to be one that let others be the example while I played at church.  I would be one to let people see, I meander really see me.

There has never been a thing of pride in it.  I already knew my addictions, my failures, my issues.  I was not standing up front so that people would see my attempts at perfection.  I only knew that I was going to be fully invested in the one who died to save me.

Since that time, I have not stood up front on many occasions.  The shame of who I am, the mistakes I’ve made, takes its toll.  I have desired a place where no one would ever see me again.

Ah, but my King, my glorious one, He calls me out.  He stands with a hand outstretched, beckoning.  “Join me, live the adventure.”

So once again, I stand up.  I move to the front where I am undistracted by the eyes that might see me, the ears that might hear me.  I am focused on the one I came to meet with, the one I came to worship.  

And maybe, just maybe, someone will see a slightly chubby, old man, and they’ll think about how silly I look, how lame my dancing is.  They’ll listen for ever every off-key note I hit.

Or, they’ll not see me at all.  They’ll sense the Spirit I invite, the Spirit we all invite, and they will be set free.

Punishment

(My friends from New Life will recognize the input from Dr. Michelle Anthony and her book, “Spiritual Parenting”)

Why do we punish our children?  Why does God punish us?  Why do we punish ourselves?

Many of us have lived in a culture of shame and condemnation, for years, for generations.  We see God on His Great White Throne of judgement, glaring down on His rebellious children, waiting for the moment they fail, so that He can strike us down.  When He doesn’t kill us, we think He doesn’t see us.  So there is no comfort in His lack of action either.  We crave boundaries, rules that we can follow and earn favor with.  To be left in an apparent vacuum creates confusion and stress.

Can I start this saying, “be still and know that He is God.”

Our goal in punishment is to make the act of our disobedience so painful that the sinner never wants to sin again.

And this never works.

Did you hear me?  IT NEVER WORKS!

People get good at covering their shame and guilt, gold-plating their failures and molding the rules to their advantage.  But guilt and shame, hatred, fear are all tools that satan uses, not God.

Always with God, the goal of punishment is healing and restoration.  He seeks to expose the hidden brokenness so that the root of our torture can be removed, so that His love, His Spirit can fill the emptiness.

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:7-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

To order Dr. Anthony’s book, click on the link below.

http://www.davidccook.com/catalog/Detail.cfm?sn=106559&source=search

Give Glory to God!

The battle for Jericho has begun but it is hardly a battle.  The walls have fallen and the people of the city are panicking.  You run with your spear, stabbing and slashing at any who are in your way.  Though you are not a trained warrior, you have seen battle before and this does not compare.  All that you see is blood and death and blood lust in everyone’s eyes.  And you kill, and kill again.  Women, children, old men, babies, it doesn’t matter.  They all must die.  You are a rational, down-to-earth kind of guy and this all seems so crazy.

You have been going from house to house with others but for the moment find yourself alone.  Your friends have been grabbing things and taking them to a pile outside the city to give to the priests.  After taking several things yourself you find that it just seems a bit unfair.  You enter one last house and there find a robe, some silver and a little bar of gold.  The battle is ending and  instead of taking the things to the priests, you take them home.  You feel guilty but justify it because of your family’s needs and it really wasn’t much so no one will mind.

A couple of days go by and you’re on to the next town.  The guilt and shame of what you’ve done gnaw at you but now you feel the fear of knowing that if you say something, you’ll just get in trouble.  Joshua sends three thousand men to attack a small town and when they return, thirty six of them have been killed.  A warning bell is going off inside of you.  Maybe they died because of what you have done.  A rumor is flying around the camp that the battle was lost because there was sin that someone was hiding.  You almost mention it to your wife.  Your best friend sees you and asks what’s wrong.  Something tells you it would be better to confess and clear your conscience but now you feel trapped.

The next morning, the tribe of Judah is called out.  As the whispers pass between neighbors, you find your heart beating heavily and your palms are sweating.  Your clan, your division, your family and finally you are called out and it is too late.

“My son, give glory to God.”

You confess everything and though you are afraid, you feel free from that guilt, that bondage.  You are lead to the edge of the camp and look to see your wife crying as she stares at you.  Your children are crying too and looking at you to help them.  The people, your neighbors and friends gather around you and you watch as a stone strikes the forehead of your son and he falls to the ground.  Stones are hitting you too but you no longer feel anything.

The story of Achan, told in Joshua 7, is one of the saddest stories I see in the bible.  And it is the story that best fits what happens with pornography and men today.  And I am wise enough to know that church leaders, worship pastors, deal with it everyday.

I call you to not wait till God brings out this hidden failing.  Don’t wait till your family, your life, the life of your children are destroyed by this sin.  Bring it out.  Confront this.  Confess it.  Find a brother to walk through your healing.  Believe that you can still be that hero for your wife, your children.

Give glory to God.