Weak one

I finished the first week of my new job.  I work as a custodian for my church and am so blessed to be there.  It is a dream come true and just the tip of the iceberg for what God wants to do in and through me.

Not all fun and games though.  I heard no angel voices.  I sweated a lot and got pretty dirty through it all.  We did not sit around in worship and prayer.  We actually had to work.  You would be amazed at how much prayer and worship can happen when you’re kneeling in front of a toilet.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I have not found myself growing stronger in this process.  I see clearly and feel keenly the sins that have hindered me over the years.  I know that I am nothing without Jesus.  I sense the pride and selfishness that seems to hide around every corner.

But there is joy in living for Him.  There is contentment in knowing that I no longer have resources but His are inexhaustible.  There is strength in knowing that I have decided to follow Jesus.

“Strength made perfect in weakness…”

“When I am weak, then I am strong.”

All for the glory of God.

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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.

Coward

I can be totally immobilized by fear.

Seriously!

The one time I went into combat, we heard shots in the distance and I laid down and went to sleep.

When I know that my family must have the best from me, that I must make the decision to stand and be counted, I lock up.

Fear can just paralyze me.

Today, I found myself feeling that way.  Locked up, couldn’t think.  My wife grabbed my hand and prayed.

She prayed for courage and wisdom and her prayer went straight through me, into me, surrounding me.

Was it her voice?  The words she chose?  The touch of her hand?

Those were ingredients in the process, I’m sure.  But they can’t take credit for the power that welled up inside me.

Jesus loves me.  He loves my wife and family.  He’s on my side and He actually doesn’t care how perfect I am.  He knows me.

As Paul said, we find that His strength is made perfect in our weakness.  We seem surprised by that.  Like, maybe it shouldn’t be that way.  Maybe His strength should show up when we are strong, when we are doing great, when we are on fire.

But, His Kingdom is much more like a wife who holds her failing husband’s hand and admits the need for more of Him.  

His Kingdom is more like He’s at the center of it than we are.

And in that, even I can be brave.

I Got Nothin’

Have you ever noticed how good God is about removing the superficial constructs that define our lives?

Let me explain for those who are less intelligent than I am.

Yeah, I said you’re not as smart as me.  What of it?

You got a problem with me being smarter than you?

Silly… I know….

I have, for a long time, believed that my intelligence would get me somewhere.  That my abilities as a manager, a problem solver, a musician, would land me a dream job where I didn’t have to work so hard.  I believed that if I put my heart into something, I could accomplish anything.  I truly believed that, because of my work ethic and people skills, I would be desirable to have on anyone’s team.

Lately, I’ve been delivering packages.  I haven’t gotten paid yet.  I’m still in training.  It’s hard work.  I get sweaty and dirty.  My muscles are sore and weak.  And I don’t know if I’ll ever amount to anything.

No one cares if I’m smart at times like this.  No one wants my personality or giftedness.  And I feel like I have nothing left.

Dear christian, dear person who is seeking God, you will wonder at times why we are here.  You question the existence of God and, in the same breath, question your purpose here.  You wonder why God can remain so silent and distant.  But the end of me is where He begins.  When I have nothing, I find my King.  I am weary and find I still have strength.  I am discouraged and find that I still stand, move, breathe, live.  I am undone and find that I still love.  It is not from me.  It is the proof, the undeniable, living, breathing evidence of a God who notices me.

Can I worship when I have nothing left?  Oh yeah!  I can’t help myself.

Courageous, Prepared, Unified

I was reading in Judges.  The Bible is such a great book for seeing things new every time you go through it.

Many of the stories in this book I have never seen correctly before.  Think about this, in every case, Israel sins and God allows a nation to come and oppress them.  We hear about their vast armies and how the Israelites cried out to God to set them free.  It is automatically assumed that these are powerful nations that Israel was just not strong enough to handle.

And nothing could be further from the truth.

Consider Gideon and the army that he faced.  They were a force of 135,000 men.  Certainly a formidable problem unless you consider that when Israel came into the promised land they had over 600,000 fighting men.  But that is what sin does, it makes us incapable of handling the things that we should be able to handle, even humanly speaking.  When we sin, we don’t look to help others or stand together because we’re too busy hiding our shame, pursuing our addiction, pushing God out of our lives.

How did the people of God come to the place where they have temples in their cities to other gods?  Asherah poles set up in the center of their towns?  I think we see an answer in how God picked the three-hundred that He used to defeat Gideon’s enemies.

Are you afraid?  Tricky question because anyone who faces off with satan and his legions better not be cocky or deluded.  I think the question is better asked as, “do you have courage?” God asks Gideon to do something, later on, if he is afraid, which he immediately goes to do.  Fear is not the sum of the problem.  “Ask them if they are trembling with fear,” God says.  They could go home if their fears affected them physically.  Fear elicits two types of responses.  Either it weakens your resolve or solidifies it.  It either brings confusion or focuses your mind and energy.  It either makes you a coward or courageous.  Don’t mistake courage for lack of fear.  Courage is the resolve to act in spite of our fears.

Are you prepared?  Ten thousand were courageous enough to face the enemy but when asked to take a drink only three hundred remained.  Foolish courage makes us take foolish chances, like drinking in such a way that we aren’t prepared for an attack.  We’re told that satan is a “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” But we don’t spend time in God’s word.  We know he is a deceiver, an accuser, but we don’t live in prayer, walk in prayer.  No wonder they, and we, get our rear-ends kicked so often.

Are you unified?  What we also don’t see so clearly is that the oppression that Israel faced wasn’t nation wide.  It was a pocket here and then another pocket over there.  Gideon’s fight happens to be in the center of Israel, but in this, other tribes are not even called on till later in the story.  Judah, Benjamin, Simeon and Ephraim were all close to where this is happening but are not involved in the fight.

We do this too.  We say, sometimes inwardly, sometimes outwardly, “glad I’m not the one being attacked.  I feel bad for what that family is going through but sure am relieved it isn’t me.”  And we lose the unity of the body.  We are strong in unity, in community.  We are weak and ruined when we fight on our own.  To be sure, there is the message of God’s victory not being dependent on our strength.  We don’t accomplish God’s victory for Him.  But He put us together to function together.  I should not have to wait for you to call me when you are under attack.  I should be fighting beside you every day.  That is why we are called the body of Christ.  We are supposed to act like the Church.

Israel in history, and the church of today is often defeated because we allow fear to rule, we do not stay ready and we don’t fight together.  But we have no other hope of victory.  We can not succeed in God’s call for our lives if we will not put on courage, prepare for the fight and stand together.

I Have the Power

He turned the corner and caught her eye.  She smiled at him, so inviting, so brazen.  It was late with no one around, and so he went to her.  She met his embrace, returned his kiss…

But she was not his wife.

And so, though the scene played out in his mind for a moment, he walked away.

Do not take this post as tempting.  Do not take this message as arousing.  This is supposed to be taken as a punch to the face.

Too many are holding on to thoughts like these.  Too many are crying out to God for help, for comfort, for strength.  All the while, nestling sin in the warmth and fetid waters of their humanity.  And this isn’t just for guys.

All of us face the lies, the sickening honey of the affair, the betrayal, the compromise.  But we have a power that no one can take away.  We have the strength to do one thing.

Walk away.  Leave.  Put it down.  Let it go.

Or better yet….RUN!

New Birth

I was there for the birth of each of my children.  I cut the cord on three of them, the miracle of my second son being the only one the doctor took a hand in.  To this day, when I watch a birth in classes that I took, read about it in a book, see it faked in a movie, I am moved to tears.  I can’t explain it.

The heroism of the mother as she endures the pain, the amazing anatomy that God created that affords such safety and environmental control that then changes so drastically, the structures of the umbilicus and placenta, and the beauty of the closed eyes, the shocked reaction to this world, the struggling, grasping little hands, all play on my heart and mind.

Scientifically, it is strong enough evidence to refute evolution completely.

Emotionally, I can’t get over the promise, the amazement, LIFE!

As I have previously stated, I’m struggling with forgiveness.  I am weighing the pros and cons of letting go of what I can’t control, the hurts done to me, the hurts I have done to others.  And it strikes me that it is has many similarities with giving birth.

Hear me out ladies.

The pain involved (you definitely get honors on the physical level girls), the contrasts of relaxing and pushing, the mess, the despair, the fear, the hope, the strength, the courage, and all to bring new life.

To abort this process, to keep this life inside, to deny the pain and difficulties, is to walk hand in hand with our enemy.

In life, in birth, in forgiveness, we all have a choice.

CHOOSE LIFE!