Do you want to be healed?

We all have a sin sickness.

That thing that, despite our best efforts to conceal it, proves to us how messed up we are.

No one gets to escape it without the blood of Jesus Christ covering us.

No one.

It’s not enough to get saved, to find Jesus.  I’m sorry if you think it is.  I found Jesus and really all it did was open my eyes to my desperate need for more of Him, more of the Spirit, more of God’s leading and power.  I needed Him to HEAL me.  And I found, we have to want healing.

Not want like, “I want a breakfast burrito.”  More like, “I’m suffocating and I want air.”

In the jails, there are so many that from youth have been told the lie that they are just bad people.  In the bars, there are so many that believe they are not worthy of love, incapable of commitment.  The druggies, the prostitutes, the gays, the gamers that all believe that they can not hope for anything different.  That is just who they are.

Yep I lumped all those together.  Addictions, struggles, issues, whether society accepts and approves of them or not, have similar obstacles to overcome.

Oh, and in case it’s not obvious, porn, alcohol, affairs, work, temper tantrums, hate, control, arrogance are just a few of the others that fit into the same ideas.

The story in the Bible (John 5) goes that there was a pool where an angel would “stir the waters” (whatever that means) and the sick person who got in first was healed.  Jesus comes along and sees a guy who has been there for thirty-eight years.  His question hits me.

“Do you want to be healed?”

Jesus offers healing.  We offer excuses.  I want to be better, stronger, healthier, problem and struggle free.  But if solutions are presented, we see only impossibilities.  I’m not strong enough.  I can’t do it.  I’m just a failure.  It’s who I am and I don’t even need to change.

Jesus offers healing that comes in the form of wholeness, peace, joy, strength, victory.  And no addiction, no chosen lifestyle offers anything that compares.  And I know I need more of those things.  I want healing.  Now I just have to want it bad enough to submit myself to the authority of the one who offers it.

I’m tired of the sickness.  I sick of being sick.  I’m tired of the fight against my selfishness and self-actualization.

I just want Him.

Victory

I heard God speak to me this morning.  Well, I didn’t hear an audible voice, though I’m not opposed to the idea.  I just heard Him speak to my heart.

Galatians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or even imagine…”

I have often prayed for victory, victory over addiction, victory over depression, victory over anger.

Today, God spoke to me about how low my sites have been set.

See, He said He could do better than I can even imagine.  And not a little better!  He said He could do A LOT better than I can ever ask for.

I think He would like to have me ask big, dream big, live big in victory.  Then He could do more than I ask, more than I dream.  He could make my life more than what I’ve ever hoped for.

For me I think that looks like not praying to lose weight but praying that God uses me to breathe life into those who are insecure, who see themselves as something less than how God sees them.  It looks like not praying for victory over lust but praying for the freedom of all those in bondage, praying that my life and witness would be used to break the chains of any addiction.  It looks like not praying that my family would be safe and loving but that my family would burn with such a passion for Jesus that the gates of Hell would tremble when we walk into the darkness.

I can say that I’m afraid of what prayers like that would bring.

I’m going to pray anyway.

Jesus Wins

I have felt such heartbreak over things in this world.  Suffering, human trafficking, divorce, pornography, wars, racism…

How long, oh Lord?

I listened to a song yesterday.  It is one of my all-time favorites.  And I needed the reminder.

See, Jesus isn’t shocked by racism, though it breaks his heart too.  He’s not overwhelmed by the cruelty of man, our propensity for violence and our exploitation of those weaker than ourselves.  His voice is not silenced by the tumult of evil.  His light is not dimmed by the darkness on the horizon.

Remember, oh my soul, He wrote the story.  He placed the characters and set the stage.  His death on the cross culminated in His declaration that, “IT IS FINISHED.”  

So do I live from His victory or do I wonder every day whether the darkness will win.  Will satan ever be able to defeat the church of Jesus, the Holy Spirit inside us, His resurrection power?

Not even remotely!

Jesus wins, has already won.  You can bet your life on it.

All Righteousness 

Righteousness is a word that gives me a curiously unpleasant feeling inside.  My mind immediately goes to self-righteous people and to my own lack of righteousness.

I have never done many things “right.”

I was reading today in Matthew 3:13-17 and there’s something I don’t understand.  Jesus said he wanted to be baptized to, “fulfill all righteousness.”  But he never sinned, from the moment he was born till the day he died he never ever sinned.  Seems like that would “fulfill all righteousness” better than getting dunked in the water.  And John’s baptism was for repentance, he was calling people to turn away from the things they were doing wrong.  He even challenges Jesus on this, basically saying, “what do you have to be sorry for?”

I know I’ve done wrong, a lot.  Why is this story there?

Maybe, just maybe, I need to see how Jesus laid down his life before he ever did anything.  Sure, he gave up his life to complete his work on the earth.  He was a miracle worker and teacher by then, a certified leader, a rabbi.  But God didn’t even call his son to ministry until after Jesus laid down his will, his life through the act of baptism.

Many of us want to be used to do something great for God.  I certainly do.  What am I holding onto? What am I unwilling to submit to?  What can I just not lay down?  It is likely the same thing that is keeping me from freedom, binding me to depression, holding victory and peace just beyond my reach.

And I’m sick of it.  I’m tired of holding on to what is actually killing me.

I’ll never be righteous but I’ll step closer as I open my hands.

Cling to Me

We’ve heard the story on Easter Sundays how Mary went looking for Jesus body in the tomb.  What she was the empty chamber, two Angels and a person she thought was a gardener.  In one of the sweetest moments in scripture, we see her fear and despair turn to wonder and joy as she recognizes the voice of her Lord.

Her response was completely natural.  She hugged Him.

But He has to push her away.  I always wondered about that.

“Jesus said, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’””

‭‭John‬ ‭20:17‬ ‭MSG‬‬

I’ll admit, I don’t understand this.  The only thing I would want to do, the only thing I still want to do is hold onto Him.

Maybe you’re wondering what this has to do with Christmas.

I have friends who struggle with depression and addiction.  These are good people who are hurting deeply with seemingly no way to freedom, at least no lasting way.  There are friends who have lost brothers, children, parents, who face every holiday knowing they will never be able to see their loved one again on this earth.  There are women and children, and yes, men too, who face this season as slaves of human trafficking.

I have no easy answers, no quick fixes for these overwhelming problems.  

But I can tell you where to start.

You see, Jesus has “ascended”.  Jesus rose from the dead, conquered sin and death, and is now “seated with God”.  It is perfectly acceptable for us to cling to Him now. 

We can go to Him in worship, not just seeking an emotional high.  We can tell Him our problems.  We can open our hearts.  We can fall on our knees.

When we hurt, we close off, push people away, protect ourselves.  Jesus ascended so that we could and would cling to Him.

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.””

‭‭John‬ ‭12:32‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I know that when I get to heaven I want to spend the first million years like a kid wrapped around His daddy’s leg.  I think He is inviting me, this Christmas, to start living that way now.

No Victory Here

Anyone who follows me, do you find yourself wondering if I messed up . . .

Again. . .

Doesn’t bother me.  I would be thinking the same thing.  Knowing what I know about humanity and our capacity for making huge claims and blowing it.  Knowing what I know about myself, my utter stupidity and huge rebellious streak.

My enemy, our enemy, knows our weaknesses too.  He sees my failures over the years.  He reminds me of them daily.  He points out my flaws, my shortcomings, my shame.

But I have a King.  How amazing to know that I have a King, a Hero,  a Savior that has chosen to twist my life into the threads and fabric of His kingdom.

His name is Jesus.  THE Prince of Peace!  THE GREAT I AM!

My freedom, my life, my victory is already secured.

The idea that I can be defeated.  The belief that, because of me, I will be a failure.  The hope that satan and his hosts cling to, that I will fall.

No.

You will have no victory here.

http://youtu.be/nZiiW2tLxEU

Who gets the credit?

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows the triumph of great achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place will never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
– Theodore Roosevelt

So I keep replaying the end of the Super Bowl in my mind as I listen to those on both sides of the fence, those disappointed with the failure of the Seattle Seahawks, those amazed at the triumph of the New England Patriots.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles…”

Reality check: a 3-6 inch difference in either the placement of the ball or the angle of the receiver and Pete Carroll becomes an instant genius, a skilled coach and strategist. Tom Brady is trounced for his two interceptions. Seattle is the greatest team in the history of the NFL. Ok, maybe not the last one.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…”

That ‘s what I love about the quote from Teddy. We don’t deserve any credit. Our criticisms of what should or should not have been done are silenced. Our insight and blather are just that, so much Taurus faecus.

“who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming…”

In our criticisms, we take on the voice of our enemy. He is the one that condemns and ridicules our every decision. He is the one that keeps us from moving as we second guess ourselves and live in fear of failure.

“… but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows the triumph of great achievement…”

What is your dream? I think we offend God more by asking too little than from asking too much. He is our Father. He knows every hair on our head and every dream in our heart. He knows better what we can do in Him, what He can do through us. He calls us to it.

“… and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place will never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

You may fail, but what will He accomplish in your failure. You may win, it is His desire for you. People may laugh at you, question your sanity, outright fight against you.

Just get in the arena.

A Fatal Beauty

I love the song by Jared Anderson called “Beauty of the Lord”.  To think of my God in the terms of a lover, to see my King as the one I want to hold me forever, to have my breath taken away by His presence, His love, are things that I want to have inside me.

But be warned my friends, His is a fatal beauty.  His beauty has, at its center, the cross of Golgotha.  His admonishment in Matthew 16:24 is not a clever play on words.  If we want to love Him and follow Him, we must take up our cross daily.  Isn’t it strange that to live in victory we must accept the cross.

A fatal beauty is someone who is so beautiful that it will break your heart.  It is someone who will cause wars to be fought, alliances to be broken, acts of chivalry and courage to rise up.  It is a beauty that should consume our thoughts, our lives.  The love that was poured out when Jesus came as a baby, took on humanity, lived with us, spoke to us, died for us, captures a beauty that goes beyond the physical.  But it is no less fatal.

My God, Your beauty is beyond what I can understand or describe in song, in poetry.  I long for the words to tell You what You mean to me but I get lost in repetitions, in cliches.

The only thing more amazing to me is the fact that in me, in us, in Your bride, You saw a fatal beauty too.

What kind of fight is in you?

Being an averaged height person, I always liked to quote, “it ain’t the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.”

So many things come at us.  They attack and tear, condemn and hurt, messing with our faith, our hope.  And those hurts are so real, so painful, so overwhelming.

When Paul said, “We wrestle not with flesh and blood…” He wasn’t minimizing the damage we withstand.  And because the tools, the weapons wielded by our enemy, so often are flesh and blood, it becomes confusing.  We all know the broken places inside us though.  We know the reality of the emptiness we feel in betrayal, in tight fisted words.  We know the bruises of anger and hatefulness.

So what do we do?  what do we do?

I guess, right now, I’m turning that question around.  What do you want to do?  I’m asking myself, what do you want to accomplish?

Do I want the fights that I can “handle”?  Do I want the warfare that my wisdom and strength can conquer in?  I don’t think so.  Because just like those fights, temporal, worldly, so often meaningless, my victories will be the same, temporal, worldly, meaningless.

I want a God fight.  I want a war that only He can win.  I want a marriage that only He can secure.  I want a life that only He can bless.  I want to conquer enemies that dwell in the eternal, that war in the spiritual, that destroy not just the body but the heart and soul of my people.

I will be a warrior that fights by His rules, that wears His armor, that conquers in the name, the almighty name of Jesus Christ.

The size of the fight in this dog, is God sized, is Holy Spirit sized.

Come at me bro’.  Enemies of the cross – you don’t stand a chance!

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.