One Ticket Please

I like tickets.  I used to keep the stubs from movies that I really liked or concerts that I had been to.  My favorite are free tickets because, well, I’m cheap.

This was not that kind of ticket.

This was the kind that you get for not wearing your seatbelt on Memorial Day weekend when there are extra patrols cruising the boulevards.

And it was not free.

Grrrr face.

Today, I paid that ticket and as I walked into the courthouse offices I was struck by how many nice people there are.  The officer at the x-ray, metal detector station was very friendly.  The people going in and out were friendly.  The person that I paid my money to was friendly.  Truth be told, I was stinking friendly.

Mainly because I was wearing my church t-shirt and it wouldn’t be good for me to be a jerk wearing that.

As I walked away I was talking to God about how much I had to pay.  I had hoped that it would be $45-$50 for a seatbelt infraction.  It was not.  His response was so Godly, “Remember, my God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  That’s Philippians 4:19 for anyone interested.  Yep, right there in the Bible.

“But I got a ticket for doing something I shouldn’t, that’s not included God.”

But you know what, my Daddy says He loves me so much that He can even take care of my mistakes.  Not so I can do whatever I want but because He loves me.  He walks with me through everything.  He wants me to succeed.

On the flip side, there’s my tithe.  That’s where I pay 10% of my income to my church to help them and honor my King.

I was afraid this week to pay my tithe because I knew what my bills were.  But by God’s grace, I did it.

That was a ticket too.  And one I liked a whole lot more.

In both circumstances it is about trust.  One was an obligation and one was an invitation.

And if I trust, I get to watch the performance of a lifetime.  My God, who created universes, my Lord and Savior, who conquered death and the slavery of sin, wielding His hand of mercy and generosity and touching my heart, my soul, my finances, my family as His glory is revealed.

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Trojan Horse

Most people know the story of the Trojan Horse.  The long battle between Greece and the city of Troy that ended when Greece appeared to have abandoned the war and left the gift of a huge wooden horse.  Unknown to the Trojans, the “gift” was filled withe soldiers who, in the middle of the night, came out and destroyed the city.  It is a story of trickery, heroes, love, death.

As I came to work for the church and periodically since then, I saw myself as that horse.  What were they thinking to let someone with so much evil inside him into the building, near women and children, unsuspecting old ladies?  I hear the accuser, see him laughing and pointing.  I catch myself dwelling on the stories of others who have served and damaged so much with their lies and hidden sins.

It’s all true.

But my God!  My God!  He is The Redeemer!  He is the Healer!  He is the Mighty God!  The King of Kings!

And in His will and with His power, I am a Trojan Horse!  

No one would suspect a chubby, old man.  No one would think that a washed up, foolish, grandpa janitor would carry the life and love of Jesus Christ.  No one would think that someone like me can have the Holy Spirit of the Living God flowing through his veins and bringing Him to those that need Him so much!

HA!

But I do.

And in that way, we are all Trojan Horses.  Paul said, “we carry this treasure in earthen vessels.”  As we carry the life and love of Jesus into this broken, hurting world, we are broken and hurting.

But we are being healed.

Satan is counting on our human nature to fail, to hurt others, to be selfish and hateful.  God is counting on us to let Him live in us and through us, to love and heal, to restore and bring hope.

And today, I get to choose.  You get to choose.  What will you carry inside you?  Who will you carry into your world?

And let the enemy of God Almighty beware!

Control Kills Compassion

One of the worst moments of my life…

He came up to me all smiles.  I was a young dad and to me his look was pure guilty.  He was three years old and you know how they are.  I immediately questioned him.

“What did you do?”

He continued to smile.  The same smile I have grown to love as he has grown into a man.  But at the time…

“What did you do?”  I asked again.

Smiles.

“Son, if you don’t tell me, I’m going to have to spank you.  I need you to tell me.”

Smiles.

So as a strong father who demands respect and wants his children to grow and honor God.  I spanked him.

My wife then came out of the house.  “Why did you spank him?”  She asked.  “He wouldn’t tell me what he did,” I replied.

“He wanted to show you that he just dressed himself for the first time.”

Good job dad!  Great work!

So I’ve been thinking about that lately and how it changed my parenting, changed me as a person.  I’ve been looking at my struggles and the things that weigh down my heart and here’s what I’m seeing.

The more I try to control the outcome of any situation, the more my heart dies.  I see people in leadership as enemies.  I see peers as competitors.  I see people under me as just that, beneath me.

Why?  Why would I do that?  Why can’t I trust God with outcomes?  Why must I push and grasp and worry and listen to so many lies?

Pry my fingers off my life Lord!

Break the hold that sets me on the throne and you out the door!

Free me from my desires and set my heart on You!

I need that.

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.

Do you believe?

What started me on this journey of writing over these years was a belief that our real struggle in life is in what we believe.  Not what we intellectually assent to, but what we believe in our core.  I have sought to write about things that challenge the way I feel about the circumstances life throws at me.

I believe that this journey has lead me to a deeper place of faith,  a place where what I believe about my God, what I know about His love for me, is greater than it was three years ago.

So what do I do with that?

How do I act and live and love in return if He loves me so much and believes in me as much as He does?

I have learned to be bolder, to act as though I have power and life to give to my world.  I protect myself less and others more.  I am learning to do ridiculous things, request things pray for things that I have no business doing or asking for.  I find myself leading more and following less.

My knees are still knocking, and my heart still beats to fast.  I still remind myself that I’m too old, too broken, too stupid, too worthless, but I move anyway.  I hear the condemnation from my enemy and the ridicule from those who are broken like me, but I step out.

What’s coming next?  I’m not sure.

But, I believe.

Prepped to Party

Joshua 4

How do we face our future?  How do we deal with our past?

Joshua and the people of the nation of Israel were getting ready to cross over into the land God had promised to them.the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant step into the water and the river stops.  It doesn’t just stop. It backs up about twenty-three miles, during flood stage, for hours. Roughly two million people crossed over while the Jordan river waited.

Joshua, under God’s direction, does something odd then.  He sends back twelve men, one from each tribe, to pick up a large rock to use as a memorial.  In all of the Jewish history, you only see this a few times.

Today may be a day of struggle for you.  I know that, in our house, not much feels like it is going right.  I’m not sleeping very well.  Doors are staying shut, promises are unfulfilled.  We try and try but it just doesn’t seem to be worth it.

I don’t want to hear about the silver lining.  I don’t want to hear about staying faithful, God’s testing, learning patience, or any other cliché of Christianity.  I want my family to quit hurting.  I want there to be peace and healing for them.

Funny thing is, God wants the same thing.  You know God, the God, the one who created universe.  The being that even in His human form could speak to waves and have them obey.  The one who, with a word, defeated vast armies, fed thousands, turned sorrow into joy.

Yeah, that guy.

He wants peace and healing for my family too.

So I check my heart.  Am I prepped to party or am I waiting to be let down?  Am I trusting His timing, His goodness, His love and mercy or looking at the price of gas, the politicians in debates, the anger of Muslims, the brokenness of my life?

“My ways are higher, my thoughts are higher…”  God says this in the book of Isaiah.  

It’s true.

So I’m going to trust Him.  And get ready to watch miracles happen!

There’s A Lion in the Room

Let’s say I brought a lion into your house for a visit.

Let’s say the lion is quite large.

It’s ok though.  The lion is trained and responds to my commands.  It can be very friendly.

Do you want to feel it’s fur? Would you like to see it do tricks?  It will even play with you.

Wouldn’t that be fun?  Of course, it would be frightening at first.  I mean, this is a really big lion.  It could eat me without even tasting me.

All this hinges on your trust in me.

If I have proven myself to be a liar, you wouldn’t let me in the door with a little lion.  If I have proven myself weak, unable to control a house cat, you can’t trust me with a huge lion.

I have heard people talk so many times about men being jerks, women being crazy, teens being irresponsible, disrespectful.  It has usually been someone who has been hurt and, out of their hurt, they say hurtful things.

Two questions:

Are they acting according to their nature?  Men and women and teens, all humans have various tendencies, some trained, some instinctive.  They will act according to those tendencies with a fair amount of regularity.  Sometimes they will sin, do bad things.  Sometimes, sometimes they are just behaving the way they were designed.

Which brings me back to the lion.  Lions will act like lions.  Humans will act like humans.

Do you trust the trainer?  Do you really believe that God is in control?

Don’t hate men.  Don’t be exasperated with women.  Don’t look down on teens.

Trust God.