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.

You Call Me Lord

You call me Lord and you say that you love me                             But I can see your disguise                                                                You want the victory that I can give to you                                                                                   But you don’t yet realize                                                                                                           That I must be conqueror, ruler and King of you                                                                       Savior in the midst of your strife                                                                                           Comforter, counselor, Prince of Peace                                                                               Creator and giver of life

How many know that if God wakes you up to these words, you would do well to pay attention?  Now, I had written the lyrics for this song some thirty-three years ago and have sung them from time to time.  But, for the most part, despite the catchy tune, the words are a little to convicting and I haven’t played it in a very long time.

But God reminded me of it.

I would like to think that He wanted me to tell you the words, to convict you, to let you know who He is.  It would be nice to think that I’ve grown to where I preach at someone else.

Not today pal.

So again I ask myself, what do you want to be?  What should I look like when I’m all grown up? What type of man do I want to be known as?  Do I want God bad enough to want EVERYTHING He offers?

I want my legacy to be a life lived for Jesus.  I want to live as a warrior for my King.  I want those around me to know me as a servant, someone who loves deeply and puts his life on the line.

And, I want to know my God.  I want to believe in Him in a way that goes beyond my words.  I want His life, His plan, His love.

The Year of Jubilee

In the Old Testament there was a law that every fifty years all debts were cancelled, all slaves were set free.  It was supposed to be a time of great celebration.  But it was lost.

It was a pretty “normal” practice for those that would get themselves into debt to pay off the amount owed by becoming someone’s slave.  There were regulations written down for how it was supposed to work, amount owed years till Jubilee, stuff like that.  But, the wealthy of the land forgot about it.  Owed money meant slave for life.

Satan has taken this attitude toward people all over this world.  “You sold your body for that moment of pleasure.  You sold your heart for what was promised.  You gave away your birthright as children of the King to have your own way.  Now you’re mine.”  And we go through our days never expecting victory, never expecting freedom.

I’m just one small guy.  I don’t know how it all works.  I don’t know what year it is on the Jewish calendar.

But in Jesus name, I’m calling for a year of Jubilee.

God has set me free.  The debt I owed to satan and the weight of the condemnation he sets over me is cancelled.  Captives, slaves are no longer bound to him.  I am no longer bound to him.

And I know this, I speak with the authority of God Himself because He never created us for slavery to addiction, He never designed us to live for another.  He spoke us, each one of us, into existence for freedom, for joy.  He brought us from our mothers to live for Him and there is no greater freedom than this.

We just have to live it.

Snake Tails

OK, I admit it.  I’m a little strange and my imagination gets the better of me sometimes but humor me for a bit.

Moses receives the call to go get his people free.  He balks and turns into a whiny little coward. One of the signs he was given to prove that God had sent him was that he could turn his staff into a snake.  I love the detail that’s given, “Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. (Exodus 4:3 – NIV)”  Then God tells him to pick it up, grab it by the tail and pick it up.

Now, some of you may be snake charmers or Steve Irwin look-alikes, but for me, that’s where I’d be questioning God.  Whoa, Lord, can’t I just give a command?  And, I can see God’s humor in the snake coiling up and facing Moses.  Moses reaches out his hand and the menacing reptile hisses and spits at him but doesn’t bite.  Moses finally works up the courage to touch the thing and it immediately straightens and turns into wood.

After this experience, and the hand turning to leprosy trick, you’d think that Moses would be set to go.

But, he’s like me.

The wonder of God, His amazing attributes, His holiness, his power and voice in my life, often remind me that I’m nothing.  I am left knowing the limited resources that I possess and the stark reality of my consistent failure at life.  Whatever confidence I may hold onto evaporates in His presence.

We sing in our worship of being “undone” in God’s presence.  Though we criticize Moses for his responses, I would submit that they are entirely appropriate.

Ah, but what we feel inside is not the end of the story is it.  Despite what he felt, Moses still had to reach for the snake.  Despite his resistance, he still had to go.  Beyond all hinderance and obstacles, he still stood before Pharoah, he still spoke, he still was used to set his people free.

Maybe you have some snakes in your life.  I know I do.

Grab that tail.  You can do it.

Victim or Victor?

Thracian peltast 5-4th century BC. Drawing - b...
Thracian peltast 5-4th century BC. Drawing – ballpen on the white paper by Dariusz t. Wielec. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Victim, a slave under someone else’s control and dominion.  Unable to make decisions for themselves they accept abuse and criticism, they allow others to ruin or bless their every moment.  When things go wrong, it is easy to blame and silently accuse those above them for they see no fault in themselves.  At best they are petty and useless in their rebellion, often succumbing to passive aggression to show their anger and hurt.

 

Victor, the person who stands and fights.  Interestingly, even in our movies, the hero does not conquer without receiving his fair share of wounds.  He just “wants it” so much that he or she will push past the pain, the injuries, to rise above the evil that they face.  To receive no wounds, to not get dirty, sweaty, tired or hurt is unrealistic.  We can’t relate to those heroes.  They are not honored or loved because they are not worthy.

 

The victor fights against the abuses hurled at them.  When they fail, and they do fail, they accept the fault that they played and fight on.  They go beyond the criticisms they feel, not because of pride but because they love, they value something greater than themselves.  There is nothing passive about their behavior, their attacks on their enemies.  And they openly accept that they may die in the conflict.  So much better to die fighting than to die on an altar to some master of hate.

 

So which one am I?  I get to choose.  I get to choose everyday, every second.  What will I be?  Will I accept?  Will I lay down in the mud and be trampled?  Will I give up, give in to what others have for me?  Or will I choose to put my armor on, choose to lift my sword and shield, choose to FIX my eyes on Jesus?  He is the only one who would choose victory, real victory for me, for my life, for my family, for my friends, my brothers and sisters.

 

But, He leaves it up to me to decide.

He leaves it up to you.